Month: June 2019

A Quiet Girl called Mary

Recently I returned from Canberra at a children’s book conference where I saw Peter Carnavas dressed as a pirate, barefooted, patch- eyed and with a wicked sense of humour. Peter Carnavas, story teller was throwing lollies to his audience and playing with 2 other funny authors. Peter writes and illustrates books for children and the grown ups in their lives. He’s a gentle man, versatile writer, gifted illustrator, a father and adoring husband who lives in Flaxton on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Actually not far from me in Mapleton. I bought his picture story called The Children Who Loved Books and my grand children enjoy the pictures and ideas in the story.


Now Pete wears many hats – he visits school for workshops, he attends conferences for book launches, he loves libraries and he persists at his illustrating until magic happens on the page. That magic is seen in a picture book that I purchased in Canberra, A Quiet Girl. Mary, the main character is a girl who likes solitude, stillness and serenity. She whispers words and listens “to the soft sigh of the sleeping dog.” Away from her noisy family who are busy talking on the phone and playing music, Mary enjoys the senses of the world around her – ‘the tickle of the breeze and a fine thread of spider silk.’ These moments count for Mary. She likes to be quiet. But her parents hardly notice when she goes missing.


‘Have you been here the whole time?’

‘Yes,’ whispered Mary.

‘But we didn’t hear you, said Dad, until we were…’

‘Quiet,’ said Mary.

Peter has captured the soothing calm in this story by his pastel soft illustrations. A gentle soft green cover suggests nature, with birds on the inside and back covers. The use of white space emphasises the calm for Mary to experience. There are small words to suggest a quiet tone. Mary, herself is a cute girl who loves climbing trees, swinging and paying attention to beautiful things. The reader is drawn to her because there is such a contrast between her world and her noisy family. The final double spread clearly brings all the elements of design, layout and colours together to show a happy family.

Well done Pete! A magical story. With birds, animals and an everyday family.


In our busy digital/ screen age, it’s important to find those special quiet moments to read, notice plants, flowers and the earth. Books can connect our hearts, minds and souls to each other. A Quiet Girl successfully achieves this.



Recently my grand daughter Audrey and I spend an hour reading our own books side by side out on her deck. It’s nice. We even bring her bird out in the cage to feel the air and be close to us while we sit in silence. She’s at the age when we can do this together. My other gorgeous grand children who are under 4 snuggle up and demand my reading voice and time. What a treat!

Thanks Peter! You are a talented man who wears many creative hats – happy in libraries, out in the parks walking the dog, attending conferences, book launches and giving talks to school aged children. I am sure in the evenings when you are at home, you find time to sit quietly and read to your daughters. Like Mary in her own gentle way, you make a difference.

And Now They’re Laughing!

With more than 330 delegates attending the Children’s Book Council conference in Canberra, I was one of the fortunate ones to be present. The first weekend in June saw teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators mixing together to share their knowledge of humour in kid’s books. Lots of laughs. Jokes. Panel discussions with a twist and costume. Verbal explosions, the tragedy and comedy of humour, book launches etc.

Dyan Blacklock and Margaret Hamilton were the brilliant co-conveners of the conference. From Welcome to Country with Duncan Smith, Wiradjuri Echoes to the closing Great Debate on YA fiction is too serious, there was something for everyone.

Young Dark Emu with Bruce Pascoe, New Voices with Bren McDribble, Kelly Canby and Rebecca McRitchie, Making Funny Pictures with Michael Speechley and Matt Stanton made the morning of Day One a success. In the afternoon I attended the session called My Inner Duck and How I found it with Meg McKinlay, R.A Spratt (with a blowing horn), Adam Cece and Zoe Norton Lodge. They talked about humour as entertainment, a quirky and honest business of writing with light and dark shades. Adam shared his weird family background with a childhood of hip, funky and zany. Spratt mentioned it’s the way “her brain processes the funny and twisted.” All the authors love going into schools to read their stories and absorb new ideas for their funny narratives. The “randomness of kids,” says Meg is what she loves.

We celebrated Grug’s 40th birthday. There were auctions, book raffles, merchandise from CBC. Dymocks from Canberra sold many books. The trade stalls were filled with eager editors, publishers and inquisitive people like myself, signing up for prizes. Morning tea, lunches and afternoon teas were brilliant with opportunities to see book launches like the one with Playing with Collage (Walker books) by Jeannie Baker, with Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright, and Winston and the Wondrous Wooba Gymnastics Club by Tamsin Janu ( Scholastic).



Punchlines, Pirates and Alpacas was a real treat with Matt Cosgrove, Oliver Phommavanh and Peter Carnavas. Starting with The Elephant by Pete, the topic of how can a book about depression shed some humour? Well, it’s all about the lightness and moments in the illustrations that add to humour. The lads talked about funny names in books, family, friendship and amusing books they read as children. They also reflected on where are all the funny female authors?

With the slogan, Reading is my Secret Power, I imagine that humour can be a secret, magical and mysterious power that transforms a story, bringing questions, escape and truth to kids. Some of the authors mentioned about that we can’t bubble wraps kids today. There are confronting issues in life that young children face, so there can be a fine line between humour and sadness.

I managed to find the duckies from The Duck Pond ( Jen Storer) and met Tania McCartney whose picture books, Maime and Hip Hip Hooray were popular. A vibrant author/ illustrator, Tania has an excellent podcast called The Happy Book. Listen to it. Enjoy the banter and wisdom of the interviews. Grab a herbal tea.

On Day Two there were the independent publishing team with Rochelle Manners, Mark McLeod and Davina Bell. They each have a wonderful list of books to share, fantastic quality books that make an impression.

A highlight of the conference was the announcement that Paul Jennings received a lifetime Achievement Award recognising a long-standing contribution by an Australian citizen to Australian children’s books and a life time commitment to Australian readers. Well done Paul, who delivered a heartfelt thanks on the big screen.


I really appreciated the interview by Sue Lawson with Aunty Fay Muir, exploring our Nation’s Rich Cultural heritage. “Country” refers to Mother and we must look after the land. “First Nations” is the better way of saying Indigenous or even Aborigine. “Aunty/ Uncle” are terms that remind us to look after family. Aunty Fay encouraged us all to meet and talk to an Aboriginal person. Ask the questions. meet face to face. Get the kids involved.

From Strange New Worlds of Karen Foxlee, Rhiannon Williams and Eliza Henry Jones to Emily Rodda’s  ( awarded Order of Australia on Aust. Day 2019) brilliant presentation, the conference exuded brightness, talent and passion. I did not attend the conference dinner so did not hear Leigh Hobbs’s life as the Laureate. I do however, love his picture books and my grand children find them very funny.


Bravo to the team who put this conference together. It was a winner. Love you James Roy, Emily Rodda, Morris Gleitzman, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane,  Jeanette Rowe, Sonia Bestvlic, Allison Paterson, watch out for Allayne Webster ( Sensitive – YA novel) Zana Fraillon and Tamsin Jansu. Cheers for Michael Speehley with a new picture book on consumerism, The All New Must have Orange 430, and go get yourself a coffee and share a good, funny story with a child today.