Travelling through 2018.

The year started with workshops at the Brisbane City Council libraries as part of their fabulous Summer Reading Program.

The Lion in our Living Room felt right at home with their ‘Go Wild with Summer Reading,’ theme.

It was a great opportunity to meet many young readers, as well as a chance to see some of the other workshops and performances that featured in the program.

These photos were taken at The Brisbane Square Library on January 10th.      




At this point I decided to make the most of my theatrical backgrounded and turn my presentation into a fully-fledged performance, with specially composed music, and a greater level of audience participation.

I put my head down and after quite a few weeks of writing and composing I had a 35 minute children’s performance ready to go.

During this time I had a few book signings at our wonderfully supportive local bookshops, Annie’s Books on Peregian and Sandy Pages Bookshop in Coolum Beach. I really appreciate these opportunities to talk to children and their parents, and to share my books with them.



During a book signing at Written Dimensions, I was fortunate to meet a Story Dog team. Story Dogs assist children with early literacy by providing a non-threatening and enthusiastic canine friend to read to in school. I hope to be able to work with Story Dogs in the future.

I seem to have a lot of dogs in my life as our family are part-time foster careers of Smart Pups, assistance dogs in training.

‘Romancing The Stars,’ a speed dating children’s literacy event, was held on February 23rd where I was a participating author. It was a lovely informal night where I got to meet many other children’s authors and hear directly from them about their stories and beliefs.

During this time, the team extraordinaire at Affirm Press were preparing our next picture book, The Bear in our Backyard for print. Here is a little peek of Briony Stewart’s gorgeous illustrations.

I count my lucky stars that I get to work with the phenomenally talented editors at Affirm Press, Davina Bell and Clair Hume, and see the beautiful books they produce such as The Silver Sea by Alison Lester and Jane Godwin with the children at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.

It was also exciting seeing The Lion in our Living Room being shared in schools by teachers using the teaching notes provided by Lamont Books and the Australian Standing Orders.

Finally I got to share my new performance based around the characters in The Lion in our Living Room with children. It was enormous fun, and so rewarding to see the children’s delight. I was thrilled with their level of involvement and I wish I could show you all their little faces!

The Lion in our Living Room was included on the reading list for International Read to Me Day. This is a day where authors assist in reaching the goal of each child having a book read to them everyday. I presented to the very enthusiastic students at the Cooroy State School on March 19th.

Now, it is just two days before the release of my new picture book, The Bear in our Backyard, a special celebration of mums and the small and magical moments they create each day.

I painted a new backdrop for my ‘Bear,’ performances and I can’t wait to share my first presentation in two days time!


Sharing ‘Ella Saw The Tree’ by Robert Vescio

Today, children are bombarded with so many distractions in life i.e. television and video games that they can lose focus on what is really important. I wrote Ella Saw The Tree to encourage children to slow down and appreciate their surroundings. With this book, I’m hoping children will be open to explore as they learn about their world.

Ella Saw The Tree is an entertaining story about mindfulness and living in the moment. It teaches a simple but important lesson. By taking a moment to slow down and really appreciate your surroundings even the simple things can be surprising and fun.

 One windy day, as Ella is swinging, she is showered by leaves. When she looks up, Ella sees a tree in her backyard … has it always been there? And why is it crying? It’s not until Ella carefully and attentively takes the time to – smell, listen, feel and look – that she discovers the tree in her backyard, as if for the very first time. By slowing down and experiencing new sensations, Ella learns to appreciate the simple things in life.

 We often tell our children to ‘pay attention’ but we don’t often teach children HOW to pay attention. This story does that in a fun way. By taking information from all their senses, children are able to explore as they learn about their world. This is what mindfulness is about, ‘sensing’ what’s happening not thinking. It helps them notice their feelings before making a decision – a way of caring for yourself. Mindfulness can increase happiness in a child’s life.

For example, a child walking through the bush is able to explore all the wonders around them i.e. trees and leaves etc. Everything is a new experience, full of discovery, fresh with a beginner’s mind.

Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. We spend so much time thinking over stuff that happens, or worrying about things that might happen in the future, that often we forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.

 Mindfulness can help treat people with anxiety and depression. When a person is mindful they are focused on the present moment, not worrying about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in the future, concentrating on what’s happening around them and to them and not being judgemental about anything they notice.

When you’re mindful it gives you a clear head, slows down your nervous system, lets you relax and helps you cope with stress.

Ella Saw The Tree will delight all readers. Teachers and parents alike can use this story as a starting point for discussing the concept of engaging all senses and being mindful of the little things in life.

For children, reading this book will open new perspectives on the world and being present in the moment. This is a great book to be shared with children of all ages.

Ella Saw The Tree is available now from Big Sky Publishing:


The Inspiring, Insightful and Entertaining Janeen Brian.

Janeen Brian’s enthusiasm for children’s literature is contagious. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Janeen at the Noosa Library, as part of the First 5 Forever program.image-2

The large crowd of children were engrossed with her fun-filled story, “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur.” Together the children got to, “sniff and snuff about… shake about the place… tap… stamp,” and slide in the “mud!” The parents were delighted that all this excitement happened without any of the children getting dirty at all!

image-1I was particularly fascinated to learn about the illustrations for, “I’m A Dirty Dinosaur.” The wonderfully talented Ann James had in fact, used actual mud to paint the mud scenes. The effects she has created have quite a textural beauty with leaf prints, brush and line work, scratch reveal and the irresistibly fun splatter technique.

Janeen went on to describe how in her following book, “I’m a Hungry Dinosaur,” she once spotted a curious child testing if the sprinkles and chocolate overlaid in the book were actually edible.image

While the children engaged in activities, Janeen talked further about her career as a writer and her passion for child development. As a young child she remembers with great sorrow the lack of books available to her. She recalled crying at the conclusion of, “Ping The Duck,” as she feared it would be the last book ever read to her as a young child.

It is this innate longing children have for stories, and the multitude of benefits that flow from them, that has spawned the First 5 Forever program. This program recognises the developmental benefits towards self-esteem, communication, learning preparedness, imagination, and bonding that children derive from having books and stories read to them – particularly in their most receptive first five years.

Janeen’s book, “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur,” has been chosen as one of the books in this program, as well as winning the accolade of Speech Pathology Book of the Year in 2014.

Janeen spoke of her life experiences that led her to her love of rhyme, rhythm, and meter. She spoke of the wonderfully rewarding moment when the rhythm, pulse, resonance and pattern of a piece is absolutely right.image-1

Janeen recalled how in her most recent novel, “Yong, The Journey of an Unworthy Son,” she urgently rang her publisher for a last minute edit when she decided the word, “he,” simply had to be removed from a sentence.

So a big thank you to Janeen Brian for her beautiful, rhyming, rollicking, and rhythmic words, that delight the young, and the young of heart.


Interview with Aleesah Darlison


Today I had the immense pleasure of meeting the talented Aleesah Darlison, author of more than thirty books and novels for children and teens.

Aleesah Darlison Headshot 2015 HI RES

Aleesah was inspiring, informative and generous with her knowledge, and I had the opportunity to ask her some questions specifically about children’s picture books.

EM:  I started by asking Aleesah what do you find most rewarding about writing for children?

AD:  For me, it is the opportunity to share my stories and ideas that can influence or excite children, especially the animal stories. Also, having my stories brought to life by talented artists and illustrators, is very rewarding.  The illustrations lift my stories visually which helps me to share them in a very different way. So essentially, it is the interaction with the children and the artistic side of picture books that I find most rewarding.

EM: On that topic, how does it feel to see the illustrations for your book for the first time?

AD: The illustrations are like a gift to me, it is so exciting when the first illustrations come through. There is a lot of joy, it is like opening a present. I have just had the draft illustrations come through for a book called “Free.” This book is about a boy in a wheelchair, who connects with an osprey and wants to be free of his physical difficulties like the osprey. The illustrator has included this gorgeous little beagle which I hadn’t written into my story. Instantly I thought the dog was beautiful and it has added this emotional depth through its interaction with the child. At one point he sleeps with the dog and it almost brings tears to my eyes, especially considering I had beagles when I was a child. It is incredible how illustrators can connect with you, and often in unexpected ways.

BSP Stripes in the Forest_FINAL_Aleesah  Darlison_080316_LOW RES

In “Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine”, illustrator Shane McGrath cleverly illustrates the stripes of the animal hidden behind palm fronds and ferns as camouflage. It is incredible how much work an illustrator can put in to the book, from exploring the bush to researching ideas that lift the story visually and creates 32 pages of surprises for the author and the reader!

EM: What advice would you give to aspiring picture book authors?

AD: Write every day, read every day, immerse yourself in the industry, get to know other authors and illustrators, and connect. We all talk the same language whether one is aspiring, emerging or established. And never give up.

EM: Do you feel that picture books have a big impact on the lives of children?

AD: Books definitely have a big impact on children and the number one impact is (or should be, in my opinion) enjoyment. We really need to focus on enjoyment instead of forcing curriculum components, as this can sometimes destroy or limit the beauty and joy of a book. So books should be fun and children will connect with that.

The theatrical aspects of musicality, rhythm and rhyme engage children. Books that can be sung or performed with actions are extremely important and tend to entice young readers back for a second look.

EM: Do you have any specific examples of how your books have influenced children?

AD: There seems to be this innate connection between children and animals, it’s quite incredible. With regards to my “Warambi” book, children will come up to me and say, ” We have little bats, we love bats, we’ve seen bats!”.Warambi HB Cover _hi res

And with the older novels such as The Totally Twins series, which features identical twins who have very different personalities, the children reading it can connect with the difference in personalities they might have with their siblings or friends. For fantasy novel, children seem to love that escapism and the access to magic that it gives them. I have a book that deals with anti bulling as well, which is great in schools, as kids can see how to act or react in certain situations where they might be challenged or tested by others. I do like to keep my stories light, though, so even if there is a moral the children are not necessarily aware that it is there in the story.

EM: How do you strike a balance between entertainment and delivering an underlying message?

AD: When we first start out as authors we often have a message that we want to trumpet out to the world, but you have to peel it back a bit because kids are smarter than you realise. They will get it and will work out that message pretty quickly. Usually quicker than adults do, which keeps us on our toes.

EM: Do you have a favourite picture book and what is it about this book you love?

AD: I love them all! I’ve read so many great picture books. I love “Pig the Pug,” he’s gorgeous, and “Fearless,” by Colin Thompson and illustrator Sarah Davis, they are such beautiful, funny characters. It terms of my own work, the picture book that I’m really thrilled about is,” Stripes in the Forest.” I love the images. They match the scenes and themes of the story so well. I’ve read it to children a few times already and I still get a lump in my throat in the sad parts. It is quite a serious, emotive story and I’m very proud of it and the story behind it, so I think I’m on the right track with that one.

EM: Thank you Aleesah for your thoughts and insights. I was particularly fascinated by how appreciative you are of the illustrations bringing your story to life.

Further information about Aleesah Darlison and her books can be found on her website

Feluga_Tully Festival_3_March2016


Why I Love Children’s Books

What is there not to love about children’s books? I have always been caught in their spell. As a child I would spend the holidays copying the pictures from my favourite books. Picture books offered me a world of creativity, imagination and unlimited possibility. This seed of inspiration has stayed with me for life.
As a young child I was so inspired by May Gibbs’ charming gum blossom babies, that I planted my very own flowering gum two metres from our back door. In my child’s mind I did not think to check the potential height of this tree, and ten years later, when the tree towered above our little house, it had to be cut down.
Perhaps I should have also taken more notice of the wicked Mrs. Snake, as it was through the same back door, that I once brought in a ‘beautiful’ snake I had found in the bushes to show mum. Her scream quickly showed me that she was not impressed.
 Now, as an adult I am extremely fortunate to once again dive into the world of children’s picture books. In 2011, I illustrated ‘Were You Still Dreaming Ruby?’ by Steve McGlaughlin. One of the many delights of this project was the opportunity to conduct book readings and craft activities with local children. We were warmly welcomed by bookstores including, Berkelouw’s Book Barn Eumundi, and The River Read, as well as local kindergartens. It was a joy to see the children’s creativity and imaginations come alive through story; the joy of children’s picture books for all generations.