Category Archives: picture books


Book trailers are a wonderful way for readers to peek into a book and gain a quick understanding of what the story is about so they can then decide whether to buy/borrow and read.

James Foley and Fremantle Press created a cracker clip for my Light Horse Boy, and there are multiple clips linked to Lighthouse Girl (details below), however as yet, there are none for my other books. And so, my resolution for March, is to make at least one more book trailer…

There are two specific Lighthouse Girl clips on Youtube. I love the trailer that was created by Year 4 students at Rosalie Primary School in 2010 – great that it’s still out there…

Then there is my own first attempt at creating a trailer. It’s quite factual and a bit basic as far as clips go, but it gives a nice view of King George Sound and Breaksea Island.

There are many, many YouTube clips linked to the Little Girl Giant, a character which was inspired by the book, Lighthouse Girl (more details on earlier posts). Amongst the terrific clips below, is one posted by Tracey Timmins, the granddaughter of Fay (the lighthouse girl). It’s a crackly but close-up view of Fay as the Little Girl Giant at PIAF 2015. There’s also one that I posted, and others by people I don’t know.

The first waking up


Waking up to Edith Piaf      DSC_0245

A lovely soundtrack version clip linked to Lighthouse Girl is by Caddy Cooper  Her clip features a song that she wrote, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter which was inspired by Fay.

I hope that more clips of my books will appear soon. In the meantime, you might like to check out these clips by other WA authors and illustrators:

My Dead Bunny , The Last Viking Returns, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash,  A is For Australia, Zac and Mia,

This is just a sample, you will find more on most authors’ websites…


An Alternative to Red Hearts

Junior school teachers are probably helping their students make heart cards this week. As I walked past a mass of commercial ‘Made Somewhere Else’ heart stuff that may end up in landfill, I thought that a wonderful alternative present for a loved one, is a book celebrating love, not just romantic love… And that got me thinking about picture books with themes of love. Two favourites came to mind immediately; Old Pig (Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks) and Samsara Dog (Helen Manos & Julie Vivas).

I love both of these books. Both honour selfless love (perhaps that’s the best kind) and loss. Both are also anthropomorphic. I love animal stories too. Animal characters cross gender and racial boundaries. For me, they strip away the ‘trimmings’ and help young readers find the core of a story.

Love. There are so many other wonderful picture books on my shelves celebrating love; in glorious shades and forms. Great picture books like Old Pig and Samsara Dog can be read on many levels. Perhaps it would be fun to discuss different kinds of picture book love while the sticky heart card glue is drying…

Happy Valentines Day 🙂

* keep the tissues handy for these titles

Farewell 2015

The last day of the year: a time for reflection and forward planning.

Tucked in a holiday house in the hills behind Apollo with my family, its also a time for counting blessings; we’re all relatively healthy and we have homes to return to.

2015 has been a huge year for me with several highlights including:

  • Lighthouse Girl’s close link to ‘The Giants’ performance through the streets of Perth. Following the Little Girl Giant as she searched for The Diver was an unforgettable experience. My special pass enabled me to stand right beside the fabulous giants.
  • signing with Newman Agency. Clive Newman has some exciting ideas for reinvigorating some of my backlist and also new markets for new titles. More info soon…
  •  The Shark Caller’s acceptance for publication with Random House in mid-late 2016. The final edit is almost complete and I can’t wait to share this story with readers. 
  • the presentation of Granny Grommet and Me to the Duchess of Cornwall. I do hope those young royals enjoy hearing about Albany’s surfing grannies.
  • Moss Vale High School selecting Light Horse Boy to be the 2015 book that the entire school reads (all 700 students and staff) as part of their school book club.
  • Light Horse Boy being serialised over 10 weeks in The West Australian newspaper.
  • flying to Breaksea Island in a helicopter to be interviewed for Channel 9’s TV show, Destination WA
  • my daughter’s Masters graduation ceremony.

Thank you to the schools and libraries across WA and beyond who hosted me in 2015. I believe teachers and librarians are unsung heroes of literacy. They open doors to learning, empathy and understanding for children and teenagers – the extent of their influence may not be known for years, but they enrich our community in immeasurable ways. I’d love to see teachers and librarians honoured and appreciated more in 2016.

Next year:

In addition to the launch of The Shark Caller, for YA readers, I hope the illustrations for my picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin will soon be completed. The artwork so far is lovely.

My main aim at the moment is to complete my PhD research ready to submit before mid-year. Hopefully the next blog post will have an update on my progress.

I have school and library bookings in Albany, Busselton, Bunbury and Perth and plan to visit Sydney/Melbourne, Canberra and regional NSW. Please use the contact page if you would like me to come to your school/library.

Book Launch for Gabriel Evans

Annie's Snails coverBeing asked to launch a book is an honour, especially when the book is created by someone who has illustrated one of my books!

In 2013, Gabriel Evans brought Annie and her snails to life for me and he has since illustrated and written several more titles. Gabe’s website is a great place to find details and workshop tips: Gabriel’s website

Last night was the Albany launch of Gabriel’s new book,The Mice and the Shoemaker, a joyful reinterpretation of the fairy tale with sweet furry characters instead of elves. The book is a delight with intricate illustrations that will stimulate young imaginations.

The Albany Library was packed with fans and well-wishers and it was great to see so many young readers coming along to celebrate. Lockie from Paperbark Merchants was kept busy, but says he still has a few signed copies at the shop.

Clare Valley with her signed copy
Clare Valley with her signed copy

The book’s themes of kindness and generosity link to Christmas and best of all… The Mice and the Shoemaker has fun pop-ups. I love pop-ups!

Congratulations Gabriel and Five Mile Press on this beautiful book.


Jessica helping to launch Gabe's book

How to create a picture book

Both published and Aspiring and published authors and illustrators will be fascinated by this ‘behind the scenes’ peek of the process by Cate Sutherland, Children’s Publisher at Fremantle Press.

Children’s publisher Cate Sutherland discusses the trials and the triumphs of publishing children’s picture books.

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Kick off with Reading

Moss Vale High School have a fantastic program called Kick off with Reading. From what I can understand, it’s kind of like a whole school bookgroup, with every student reading the same book. What a great concept! I will know more soon because the book they have chosen this year is my Light Horse Boy.

harry reading

I’m feeling so honoured and can’t wait to meet the students and their forward-thinking teachers next week. Here is a teaser from The Southern Highland News.

More soon…


Hurrah for favourite book lists and hurrah for Jacqueline Harvey

IMG_4935Children’s authors and illustrators are a collegiate bunch. They often support each other and help new creators find a step on the publishing ladder. Organisations like SCBWI also offer ongoing fellowship and guidance.

Award-winning Jacqueline Harvey  continues this generous tradition. After being invited by Dymocks to recommend her favourite books by Australian authors, she nominates nine. And I was thrilled to see that one of Jacqueline’s favourites is Granny Grommet and Me, my picture book about surfing grannies illustrated by the talented Karen Blair.

jpeg grannycover

What a great way for Dymocks to support Aussie creators!

For many authors, unless initial sales are phenomenal, it’s hard to keep a title in a bookstore. After the first giddy months of a new release, when books are sold, they may not necessarily be re-ordered. Shops need to make space for new titles. If a book makes it onto a shortlist teachers and librarians feature it for Bookweek displays or other events, but there are so many books…

display surfboard

Publishers don’t always have time or funds to actively promote a backlist, so recommendations like this are helpful and can be a wonderfully eclectic mix. Looking at Jacqueline’s list, I was chuffed that several of her picks are also favourites of mine. I’m a Leigh Hobbs fan and so was honoured to be on a list with Mr Chicken goes to Paris. I also love Gus Gordon’s Herman and Rosie. Both books are quirky and fun, characteristics readers like about Granny Grommet and Me.

AM1_At_School_300pxJacqueline’s Alice-Miranda series is also quirky and fun with a strong and positive female heroine (like those real life Granny Grommets). Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief isn’t fun but the narrator (Death) could be described as quirky. Perhaps… It’s certainly an  amazing book. Definitely one of my favourites.

During school visits, I’m often asked about my favourite books. There are so many and the answer varies depending on what I’m reading. I’ve just finished Nicholas Shakespeare’s Oddfellows but how can I compare that with LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Stan Wakefield’s Bottersnikes and Gumbles (I loved those Gumbles as a child). Each of these titles made an impact on me.

So perhaps the best answer is to alternate replies, nominating great books which I feel haven’t had the attention they deserve. With that in mind, tonight’s favourite (Sorry Harper Lee) is Samsara Dog by Helen Manos, illustrated by Julie Vivas. If you don’t know this beautiful picture book, it’s worth finding. The multi-layered storyline about love, life and death presents Buddhist teachings on reincarnation and Nirvana in a way that’s accessible to readers of all ages. The illustrations are joyful – I particularly love Dog with the Bikers. Best of all, it’s a lovely story.

Book Cover:  Samsara Dog



Christmas Island

looking at artwork

After the busy Anzac Commemoration weekend in Albany, The Literature Centre had organised for me to visit Cocos Island District School the following weekend to give presentations linked to the 100 year Commemoration of the battle between HMAS Sydney and SMS Emden (more of that and their link to the Anzac convoy in the next post). An exciting outcome for me, was that Christmas Island District School asked me to visit them on the way…n

Teacher-Librarian Sharon Francis organised my visit (as well as early morning snorkelling, kayaking and red crab hunting!) and I was touched by the enthusiasm of staff and students who prepared for my visit by reading all my books and creating linked art works to decorate the school. There were posters everywhere.

3 4 8 photo 1 photo 2 photo 4 2

The students know almost everything there is to know about sea creatures, so Granny Grommet and Me and Scuba Kid were especially popular.

The Pre-Primary class began with a scene from Granny Grommet and created a story of their own – somehow a lot of pirates became involved…  pp pirates

Reading Roselle 2Between sessions I was excited to see the beginning of the red crab season (and the teachers shared another crustacean for morning tea). Thank you to The Literature Centre for organising my visit and to Principal, Ian Francis and his lovely staff for making me feel so welcome. I had a wonderful time at Christmas Island District High School.j