Category Archives: Picturebooks

Ella saw the tree – Blog Tour



Today I’d like to welcome Robert Vescio to my blog to help celebrate the release of his fifth picture book titled ‘Ella Saw The Tree’.

So Robert – what is your book about?

Ella saw the Tree is an entertaining story about living in the moment. 

One windy day, as Ella plays in her backyard, 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.

Ella Saw the Tree is a beautifully illustrated and captivating story that show’s children how easy it is to appreciate the world.Ella Saw the Tree_Cover

And what inspired you to write it?

My children are easily distracted with television and video games that it can be difficult for them to focus. We often tell our children to ‘pay attention’ but we don’t often teach children HOW to pay attention. So I wanted to write a story that does that in a fun way.

Also, parents have told me that they’ve seen their children read a book and realise they have no idea what they’ve just read. They’re there in person, but their mind is elsewhere.

Mindful awareness can teach children how to live in the moment and become more aware. By taking in information from all their senses, children are able to explore as they learn about their world.

I’m hoping this story will help bring mental health, wellbeing, better concentration and reduce anxiety.

Mindfulness can increase happiness in a child’s life.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment; an awareness of our moment-to-moment experiences in our everyday lives.

Mindful awareness can teach children how to live in the moment and become more aware. By taking in information from all their senses, children are able to explore as they learn about their world.

Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. 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 future, purposefully concentrating on what’s happening around them and to them and not being judgemental about anything they notice.

We spend so much time thinking over stuff that happens, or worrying about things that may be happening in future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.

When you’re mindful it gives you a clear head, slows down your thoughts, gives your body time to heal, lets you relax, helps you cope with stress and helps you be more aware of yourself, your body and the environment.

What do you hope people will take away from reading this story?

Ella Saw The Tree is an entertaining story about living in the moment. By using the senses to smell, listen, and feel, the simple act of seeing something like a tree can be surprising and fun.

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.

Ella’s teacher in the story is a tree. Ella learns to appreciate her surroundings by using her senses.

I’m hoping this book will help children to calm themselves down, resist focusing on negative emotions, be more aware and improve their capacity to pay attention to being in the moment.

The more present and mindful you are, the happier and resilient you will be.

This is a great book to be shared with children of all ages.

What has been your journey up to this point?

My picture books include,Jack and Mia (Wombat Books) listed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge, Barnaby and the Lost Treasure of Bunnyville(Big Sky Publishing), Marlo Can Fly (Wombat Books) listed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge, No Matter Who We’re With (IP Kidz) and I have more picture books due for release soon.

Many of my short stories have been published in anthologies such as Packed Lunch, Short and Twisted, Charms Vol 1, The Toy Chest and The School Magazine NSW.

I’ve won awards for my children’s writing including First Place in the 2012 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition and Highly Commended in the 2011 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition.

I am a Books in Homes Role Model and I enjoy visiting schools.

What is the most important thing about what you do?

For me the most rewarding part about being a picture book author is sharing my stories with children. Not only do I create fans for my books, but it’s great to see how I can make a difference in a child’s life.

I enjoy visiting schools because it connects kids to books and gives them an appreciation of the process involved in creating the books they love. It’s a much more powerful way than simply reading them.

Do you think picture books are important?

Most definitely. I love picture books because of the way they express emotions and ideas in simple ways. Picture books invite engagement – a connection. That’s why I enjoy writing picture books because it supports an adult-child conversation. The pictures help to initiate a discussion with young children and express their feelings. 

What is next for you?

My next picture book Eric Finds A Way (Wombat Books) and illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn will be released in July this year. It’s a wonderful story about believing in the ability to think creatively.

I also have another two picture books due out later in the year: Finn and Puss with EK Books, and stunning illustrations, by newcomer illustrator, Melissa Mackie and Bigger Than Yesterday, Smaller Than Tomorrow with Little Pink Dog Books and the very talented illustrator Kathy Creamer.

You can find out more information about Robert and his books on his website and Facebook page:

Thank you for having me on your blog, Jackie. It’s been wonderful sharing Ella’s story with you and your readers.

Thank you Robert and I wish you all the best with your lovely new picture book.

To continue with this blog tour please follow the links below…

Just Write For Kids:

Kids Book Review Giveaway:

Kids Book Review:

Emma Middleton:

Ella Saw the Tree_Flyer_1

Jumpy Kangaroo Book Launch Blog Tour – A Very Jumpy Tour!


05_Running To Plane


Welcome everyone to Tania McCartney’s Very Jumpy Tour celebrating the release of her new book Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo – A Journey around Canberra.


I’m going to kick off with a review of Tania’s book (complete with book giveaway) and then dive into a very telling interview.

Tania has got to be one of the busiest people I know!





Book ReviewRiley the Jumpy Kangaroo cover MEDIUM

Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo – A Journey around Canberra.

by Tania McCartney illustrated by Kieron Pratt

published by Ford Street Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-925000-03-0 (pbk)


What I love above Tania’s McCartney’s Riley books are the pictures tell a thousand words aspect. Gorgeous black and white photographs, each with a limited splash of colour, draw the reader in.

The cartoon characters superimposed over photos of the nation’s capital spice up each page not only with their colour but also with their cheeky expressions. The Kangeroo is particularly appealing reminding me, expression-wise, of Scooby Do!

IMGLiving in Anglesea I am very familiar with seeing kangaroos bounding about the streets which is why my favourite page is this one, is that you Tania sporting that gorgeous red bag?

This is Tania’s 5th book in the Riley series. It is a beautiful depiction of Canberra, a book every child will love to pour over. There’s even a hidden gnome to be found.






Book Giveaway…

As a gift to you for taking part in the Jumpy Tour celebration I would like to invite you to comment on this blog post between now and Sunday 4th August for your chance to win a copy of Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo – A Journey around Canberra.

The competition will run from Wednesday 31 July 2013 to Sunday 4 August 2013, 9pm AEST, and the competition is open to residents of Australia, over the age of 18 (mum and dad can enter on behalf of kids). The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.


Author Interview…


So Tania, Jumpy Kangaroo is the fifth book in your Riley the Little Aviator series. Why Canberra?


It’s Canberra’s birthday! I thought launching Jumpy Roo in the capital’s Centenary year would be a hoot. I also live in Canberra, and I think this town has some of the best sites and sights in Australia. It was so much fun to think up inventive ways for this jumpy kangaroo to pay visit to some of the very best.


Roo certainly gets around the capital – both old and new Parliament House, The War Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin, and she’s in and out of the National Library faster than a librarian’s stamp. Do librarians still have stamps?


I had a quiet laugh when I wrote this line and knew my publisher would come back and flag it (he did) but we decided to leave it in.


I think it’s so lovely for kids to learn about the ways of our past. I’ll never forget bringing home some carbon paper once—my kids went nuts for it. They couldn’t believe we used to use this! So I love writing text that makes our kids go ‘Huh? What’s a librarian’s stamp?’


And to be honest, ‘in and out faster than an electronic scanner’ just didn’t have the same ring to it.


Each new Riley book brings along with it the character from the previous book—in this recent case, it’s Grumpy Wombat from book four. With six intrepid animals now trailing Riley on his adventures, how do you envisage keeping track of this growing pack?


This has been a challenge from—oh, about book three. Kieron has come up with some inventive ways of stuffing the animals in bags and other vessels (like a kangaroo pouch!). Sometimes we only show a few animals at a time on each page.


Kieron and I have discussed ways to house the animals as the books continue. We’re tossing up a hot air balloon or some other vessel that can be attached to the back of the little red plane. Watch this space.


You’re launching at Floriade this year—and I believe there is going to be a very special treasure hunt?


Yes! A Rotary group runs Gnome Knoll—a popular spot in Floriade where kids (and big kids) can paint garden gnomes for a charity donation (all proceeds to Rotary Australia). The group have painted one of the gnomes in the image of Riley, and kids are going to hunt for him after the book launch. I think it’s going to be quite hilarious.


You’ve been a busy bee, with four new books launching between now and October. What are you working on now?


I’ve been wanting to write junior fiction for ages; have dabbled in it before, but rarely had the time to get my teeth into it. At the start of the year, I promised myself I’d carve out some time to do this—and I did.


Consciously carving out that time really works. I ended up writing two books (much to my surprise!) and I’m very excited about the second one, in particular—Ella McZoo: Animal Whisperer. Hopefully I can come back to Pass It On and talk about it when it’s published! (The subbing begins…)


Will Riley the Little Aviator feature in a junior fiction incarnation?


Not sure. My darling daughter, Ella, has been waiting years for her own book series, so this is the one I’ll be focusing on for a while now. Riley(my son) has been very spoiled.


My great love is picture books, so I can’t see myself straying from the genre for too long.


What’s next for you?


I’m currently expanding Kids’ Book Review ( with a new team and an exciting new initiative called The Literary Hub, so I’ll be spending quite a bit of time on that.


I have three picture books currently in production and have been penning some new work, concentrating on some really unusual book forms. This is something I have a real obsession with.


But my biggest focus right now is Book Week Month (17 – 23 August), so I won’t find time to pause until December, when I planned to take some forced time off (note the stress on forced). Book Week is always a huge time and takes a lot of prepping, so I’ll be writing workshops and presentations until I’m purple.


Lucky I love it so much, but I must admit I have my eye on December!

Book LaunchRiley the Jumpy Kangaroo cover MEDIUM


The Jumpy Roo book launch is being held at Floriade this year! Anyone living in or visiting Canberra on 15 September is invited along, but RSVPs are essential if you want a goodie bag and balloon! You can find out more here.


You can also visit the Riley the Little Aviator website ( to see updates, learn more about the places Riley visits, and see behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.


Learn more about Tania’s books at her website –


Blog Tour Schedule


Bound along with Roo on a Very Jumpy Tour! Monday 29 July to Thursday 1 August at the following destinations:



Full Blog Tour Schedule

Tania McCartney’s Blog



Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review


Interview and Review

Boomerang Books Blog






Children’s Books Daily




Instagram Book Giveaway

Posie Shoots


Review and Five Picture Book Writing Tips






Book Giveaway





Book Review

My Little Bookcase


Guest Post – Behind the Scenes

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog


Review and Author Interview

Pass It On


Author Interview

Elaine Ouston Blog







Author Interview and Review

Bug in a Book


Author Interview

Soup Blog


Sneak Peek

Tania McCartney’s Blog


Sharon McGuinness’ Blog Tour continues with a FREE book giveaway…


Today I would like to welcome Sharon McGuinness and Shannon Melville to my blog with their new book Coming Home which has been released to coincide with Mental Health Week.

Mental Health Week is all about raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the wider community.  A critical part of reducing stigma to support those with a mental illness (and their carers); is public awareness and an understanding that mental illness, like mental health, is part of the human condition.

Sharon tells a very personal story about how she came to write this book. Thank you Sharon for sharing your story behind the story.

My family knows depression intimately – for my late husband Greg and I, his black dog was an unwelcome participant in our marriage and family life, often lurking in the background, nipping at his heels on a regular basis. Early on, it was manageable, but in 2006 something changed – the black dog gained a firmer grip and in 2008 Greg began a regular pattern of hospitalisation. We would visit on weekends, but I would often visit by myself, travelling to Sydney and back to Thirroul on the train.

It was after a particularly good visit that the seeds for my book ‘Coming Home’ were sown. Greg had been upbeat, was looking ahead, making plans and I left him smiling. Travelling home on the train, the idea for the story started forming and I remember rummaging in my bag for my notebook. It wasn’t there, but I pulled out an envelope and began to weave our own experience into a new narrative. I never set out to intentionally write a children’s book about depression.

The story instead, found me.

Over the next few weeks I completed a rough first draft, using Greg’s garden as a metaphor for his mood, his roses as a symbol of hope.

The story revolves around Gemma, a young girl who is struggling to understand why her dad seems sad day after day. He sits alone in his unweeded garden – the metaphor for his mood and he seems to disappear from daily life – sinking into ‘another place’. Gemma wonders whether it is somehow her fault, did she do something wrong? Her mother is reassuring and explains that Dad is suffering from an illness called depression, which ‘you can’t see like a broken leg, but it’s there just the same’.  Gemma continues to involve Dad in her life and then one day, he begins to feel a change – his mood begins to lift.

The ending was how I wanted our own story to finish.

My online writing buddy, Jodie gave me advice, Sandy Fussell helped me finesse it some more and entering it in a competition gave me valuable feedback and the encouragement to continue.

During this time however, Greg’s illness worsened until in February 2010, he took his own life, unable to stand the torment of his illness. Our real story was not to share the same ending as the book after all.

It now seemed more important than ever for the book to have an audience. Depression affects one in five families – maybe the book could help explain depression to children and raise awareness, so I began submitting the ms to publishers.

Rochelle Manners of Wombat Books was interested, but admitted that the topic was ‘challenging’ to publish. She urged me to get the ms professionally appraised and I sought the advice of Dr Virginia Lowe who was able to help me with some final tweaking of the manuscript and provided a letter of recommendation. I also met with representatives of the Black Dog Institute, who read the manuscript and agreed to write a letter of support which would accompany the manuscript on its trips to publishers.  I resubmitted it to Wombat Books and Rochelle offered me a contract in February 2010. We agreed to publish in October 2012 to coincide with Mental Health Week.

Ironically I was relieved, thinking that the hard work was over.

How naive I was….the work was only just beginning! The task of selecting the right illustrator for the book would not be easy as I believed the illustrations would be more powerful if they were portrayed realistically.  The work of Shannon Melville – particularly her black and white drawings led Rochelle to the offering of a contract.

Shannon set to work and in October 2011, she had completed the first roughs and in May 2012 the final illustrations were ready, most taking between 10 to 15 hours to complete individually.  Shannon has been able to capture the essence of the text, with contrasting endpapers and the use of both black and  white and colour illustrations, while  the expressions on the father’s face clearly show the pain often experienced by those with depression.

All author royalties will be donated to the Black Dog Institute to help fund further research into depressive illnesses.

The book has become my way to honour Greg’s memory and while I gain satisfaction from its publishing, it will always be bittersweet.


Thank you once again Sharon for sharing your incredibly personal, bittersweet story. You have written a very important book, one that will help many families.


Now before I introduce Shannon I would like to offer readers the chance to receive a copy of Coming Home to help acknowlege Mental Health Week.

What you’ll need to do is tell me (in the comments section) how depression or mental illness has affected you, your family or someone you know.

I will put everyone’s name into a hat and draw one randomly. I will contact you if your name is chosen.



Okay so next I would like to welcome Shannon Melville. Welcome Shannon! Shannon has completed some questions that I’ve put together for illustrators appearing in PASS IT ON’s segment Illustration of the Week. These questions give us an insight into the workings of an illustrator. Thank you Shannon for sharing a little bit of how you work as an illustrator.



Please describe your chosen illustration

~What medium did you use?

Chalk pastel sticks and pencils

~How long did it take?

Approximately 10 hours

~What is it for?

Coming Home (Wombat Books); a picture book written by Sharon McGuinness. Publication date: 1st October 2012.

When did you know you had a talent for illustration?

~How old were you?

I remember the girl sitting next to me in year 1 copied my care bear drawing. It went on the school recipe book cover, so I guess you could say that was my first published illustration!

~How did you know? Did someone encourage you?

Both my parents encouraged me, particularly my dad who I recall creating oil pastel artworks with me on the back of his big old land valuation maps (around A1 size). My parents enrolled me in holiday and after school art classes. My dad was also gifted with art and I enjoyed seeing the work he created at night school in print making, painting, drawing etc. He always had lots of different art supplies for me to try out. My neighbour was a high school art teacher and I often knocked on her door to show her my latest work, she was kind to show interest and give me feedback. I always chose Art as an option in high school. Teachers and peers usually complimented me on my work or held my work up to the class.

Have you ever studied your craft at an institution of any sort?

~Which institution?

Central TAFE (now Central Institute of Technology, Perth)

~How long was the course?

3 years

~How affordable was the course?

More affordable than university for me (although I have also completed university studies). I had a casual job on the side to support my studies.

~Would you recommend it to upcoming artists/illustrators?

It was an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design (major in illustration). We only got to focus more intensely in illustration in the 3rd year. If you also want to learn Corporate branding, Advertising, Web design, Art Theory, Packaging design etc. then the course may interest you. The illustration lecturers were great though.

~Do you run courses or workshops yourself?

No, although I have taken children’s holiday art classes. Twice a week I work with people with disabilities assisting them to create artwork. I find this work very rewarding also.

What computer programmes do you use?

~Can you recommend any?

Corel Painter, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator.

Have you illustrated any books?

~How many books?

Yes 5, currently working on my 6th book about a platypus and after this I have 2 more contracts lined up.

~Do you have a favourite?

Little Good Wolf by Aleesah Darlison and Coming Home by Sharon McGuinness are very well written, they are talented authors, the stories are all so unique it’s hard to choose a favourite.

To be honest I am enjoying working on the illustrations for my current one about a platypus, as I really love animals and nature. Rochelle from Wombat Books is always happy for me to choose which medium I want to use, so for Boondaburra written by Natalie Lonsdale I am using gouache. I am finding it quite therapeutic using a paintbrush and it is tying in nicely with the watercolour course I am currently enrolled in.

~How are you usually commissioned? What is the process?

A publisher will contact me and ask me what I think about a particular manuscript and if I am interested in illustrating it. I then say yes or no (most have been yes so far though). I sometimes am asked to do a couple of character sketches which the publisher and author look at.

If they both think I am on the right track then the contract is sent out for me to read and sign and post back to the publisher.

~Do you have contact with the authors?

All of the authors I have worked with so far live in different states so I haven’t met with them in person regarding their manuscripts. Sometimes the author and I will exchange a few emails, but this is usually through the publisher, to make sure we are all kept in the loop about what is going on.

~On average, how long does a picture book take to illustrate?

It is hard to say as they all vary depending on what styles are required, how detailed and what medium is used. They can take anywhere from 3 months to a couple of years, although all the books I have illustrated have generally been done in less than 6 months. I may have the contract for longer, but depending on my workload and other deadlines I may not be able to get started straight away.

~Is it difficult working to deadlines? Does it interfere with your creativity?

It depends how many jobs I am working on at once. Sometimes it can interfere with creativity if I get too stressed. I find that I have to be in a relaxed mood to work well on my illustrations. I think it usually shows through in the artwork if it has been rushed or if the illustrator enjoyed working on it. Fortunately I have 2 dogs to walk / jog and a gym nearby to let out some steam when I need to. I usually find it refreshes me and helps me concentrate again on my work.

Who is your favourite Australian children’s book illustrator and why?

There are many but here are the ones I entered in my phone whilst I was at Pinerolo recently: Tony Oliver, Pamela Lofts, Mark Jackson, Emma Quay, Sarah Davis, Nina Rycroft, Anna Pignataro, Craig Smith, Beth Norling and Rebecca Cool.

What’s your website or blog address (if you have one)?

Winners of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards announced


How excited am I?

No I’m not a winner in the awards but the genre I write in is.

Hooray for Goodnight, Mice! 

Winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – children’s fiction category


Goodnight, Mice! is a gorgeous picture book written by Frances Watts,  illustrated by Judy Watson and published by HarperCollins.

A gorgeous picture book written in ……rhyme!


Kiss Dad once.

Cuddle Mum twice.

‘Goodnight, Mum and Dad.’

‘Goodnight, mice.’


Could it be, dare I hope that good old rhyme is back in fashion?

Looking around my office I can see books by Glenda Millard, Sally Odgers, Nick Bland, Doug McLeod and guess what – they all rhyme. Joy of joys!

The judges comments, also reiterate the importance of the rhyming story when they say…

Watts’s words sing with rhyme and repetition, making them excellent linguistic tools for small children…


Here’s some information about Goodnight, Mice! – It’s taken from the HarperCollins website.

Book Description

Kiss Dad once.

Cuddle Mum twice.

′Goodnight, Mum and Dad.′

′Goodnight, mice.′

It′s time to say goodnight — but the four cheeky mice skittering, scampering and scurrying to bed don′t seem very sleepy!

This warm, affectionate story is the perfect bedtime book for the whole family to share.

A CBCA Notable Book

Winner in the 2012 Prime Minister′s Literary Awards

Praise for GOODNIGHT, MICE!:

′the perfect bedtime book … told at a cleverly thought-out pace that should ensure a yawn before the final page … Illustrator Judy Watson′s detailed expressions on the four mouslings are fun, funny and rewarding upon further visits′ COURIER-MAIL

′an ideal bedtime read for parents keen on winding things down for the sleepy train. Squeak!′ KIDS-BOOKREVIEW.COM

′a story filled with warmth and family love … This is sure to become a book young children and parents will be happy to read again and again′ AUSSIEREVIEWS.COM

′utterly flawless use of rich and poetic language … a bedtime story to read aloud with gusto, to delight in and to savour. Very highly recommended′ SYDNEY′S CHILD

′this is a charming, funny and reassuring story for littlies to follow the going-to-bed ritual … Recommended′ MAGPIES

′Watts knows how to break up a story′s rhythm by using a refrain, making a story which will be read again and again. Watson′s mice are individuals and the many untold stories in the pictures will be pored over by avid three and four-year-old listeners.′ WEST AUSTRALIAN

Ages: 2+


So once again – a hearty congratulations from me and a great big cheer for the rambunctious, rollicking, rhyming, read.



Catriona Hoy’s The Little Dinosaur


Welcome Catriona and congratulations on another beautiful book.


As a science teacher, did you set out to write a book specifically for schools?


No, like all good writing, you have to start with a story and one that you feel close to or inspires you. I began writing The Little Dinosaur as a result of an interview that I did with Lesley Kool from the Monash Science Centre. She told many fascinating tales of Australian dinosaurs and her work as a fossil preparator. This inspired me to find out more about them and to visit the Dinosaur Dreaming site down at Inverloch. I wanted to write a story that would weave all that together into a readable and enjoyable narrative. So The Little Dinosaur is essentially a story that all dinosaur lovers can get their teeth into.



Are you still hoping that schools will use your book?


I’m hoping everyone will read my book and enjoy it. I like the fact that it’s about Australian dinosaurs and Andrew’s illustrations are amazing. However if I put my reviewers hat on and my teacher’s hat on, I can certainly see the curriculum applications. Looking at the National Curriculum it fits into the Earth and Space sub-strand really well at Year 4, where the look at how the Earth’s surface changes over time. Although it’s a picture book, it can be used at a number of different levels. It’s not anthropomorphic and the illustrations are all scientifically correct and there are lots of interesting facts about Gondwana and polar dinosaurs in the end pages. It would also fit under the Biological Sciences sub-strand at a number of year levels. The requirements, environment, structural features and adaptations of dinosaurs could be compared with today’s animals. It also fits under the strand Science as a Human Endeavour. The second half of the book looks at how a dinosaur is reconstructed based on fossil evidence. There are many people involved in that process, both volunteer and professionals. It’s a book that I hope will be a jumping off point for people to find out more about Australian dinosaurs. If anyone has the chance to visit the Monash Science Centre they have some terrific exhibitions and an interactive play area. The Museum is also a great place to visit.


Do you prefer writing science based books?


I like writing about what intrigues me. I enjoy the research process for science books but I also like to write silly or light-hearted things as well. My next one is about a little girls playing hide and seek with her mother. I had a lot of fun with that one.


Do you feel you have to be an expert to write stories about science?


I think it’s important to do your research and have your facts checked. I did a number of interviews with various people as a starting point and then began my research process. The hardest part was developing the narrative as I had fairly lofty aims. I wanted to tell a story about fossil formation, plate tectonics, fossil discovery and preparation, Australian polar dinosaurs…It did all come together in the end. Of course there’s a little poetic licence here and there but not too much. I then sent the manuscript to Lesley to look at and she was kind enough to point out some errors I’d made. Of course once Andrew Plant, dinosaur drawer extraordinaire, agreed to illustrate, I had an in-built fact checker. I do like my stories to be accurate but I always say I’m a story teller with a science background.


Where do you find your inspiration?


I think it’s important to live life, enjoy it and stories will come to you. The Little Dinosaur was different in that it began as a non-fiction article I was writing for an educational magazine. Most ideas occur as something that I think is funny or interesting. It often takes a long time for a story to come, so it’s good to have a number of ideas gestating at the same time.


Thanks for having me here today Jackie. I’m just back from the SCBWI conference in Sydney where I had a fantastic time and have come back rejuvenated and fired up. It’s been nice talking to you but…it’s school holidays and the natives are restless, lol. Although my year nine daughter tells me I’m too old to use lol and I mustn’t do it anymore. ROFL.


Thank YOU Catriona and I’m so jealous about your SCBWI trip – I know from past experience that the Sydney SCBWI conference (held every two years) is one of the most inspiring conferences to attend and I would recommend that any aspiring children’s author or illustrator put it on their to do list immediately.









The Little Dinosaur
Catriona Hoy & Andrew Plant

In a time before Australia existed, a little dinosaur with big eyes roamed the Antarctic forests, nibbling on cycads and ginkgoes. One day the little dinosaur fell and hurt her leg. She struggled to keep up with her herd. Time passed and the world changed, but the discovery of the little dinosaur’s leg bone millions of years later, meant her life would not be forgotten.

The Little Dinosaur combines dramatic narrative with scientific fact to tell a fascinating, poignant story.

By the team that created the 2011 CBCA Notable Book, Puggle.

ISBN 978 1921504 29 7
250 x 240 mm
HB 32 pp $24.95
Full colour


Picture: Sam Stiglec

Catriona Hoy was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia with her family at the age of seven. She began her career as a lab technician, but later switched to teaching. She combines writing for children with a job as a part-time secondary science teacher. Her books include The Music Tree, My Granddad Marches on Anzac Day and Daddies and Mummies Are Amazing. She and Andrew have collaborated before on the Working Title Press picture book Puggle, which was a 2011 CBCA Notable Book in the Eve Pownall section and shortlisted for the 2011 Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature.






Andrew Plant trained as a zoologist at Melbourne University, and works as an author, scientific artist, and a children’s book illustrator specialising in natural history. He has illustrated more than 130 books in Australia, the USA, the UK, New Zealand and South Korea, and has written and illustrated a number of his own titles, including Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? and Finding Dinosaurs. He has also directed, choreographed and designed 60 children’s theatre productions, and created murals for schools and museums.



The Little Dinosaur Blog Tour Dates


Wednesday June 6, 2012

Robyn Opie Parnell

Wednesday June 13, 2012

Sheryl Gwyther

Wednesday June 20, 2012

Tania McCartney

Wednesday June 27, 2012

Sally Odgers

Wednesday July 4, 2012

Jackie Hosking

The Little Dinosaur Launch Dates:

Tasmania Saturday 14th July, 2012
Fullers Bookshop, Launceston







Every week in PASS IT ON I hunt down an inspirational quote. Last week I included a quote by Harriett Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

Earlier that day, so last Monday (25th June) I received my copy of The School Magazine (Orbit) that contained a poem of mine called The Crows.

This poem had been accepted for publication five years ago, and while I hadn’t forgotten about it completely, it certainly wasn’t something that was on my mind and so came as a lovely suprise when it finally did arrive, rekindling that spark that I felt was beginning to fade. I think this is why I chose that particular quote because it really resonated with me and helped me to remember why I write in the first place, because I love playing with words, I love their sounds, their shapes, their ability to stir up emotions, their musicality, their beauty and their power.

As you know, earlier this year I received a Maurice Saxby Mentorship. I received this mentorship for one reason only – I applied for one. If I hadn’t applied I would have had no chance at all. I read another quote the other day, not sure who said it but it went something like…

To increase your success rate you must double your failure rate.

This is something that I think I had forgotten until quite recently. Appying for the mentorship was the first challenge I’d set myself in a long time. I’d been resting on my laurels, content with past successes yet knowing that I needed to take the next step if I was ever to realize my dream.

Another quote that comes to mind…

Nothing succeeds like success.

Which brings me to why I have written this post titled NEVER GIVE UP.

On Tuesday 26th June, I received a phone call. THE phone call. The one that we writers all dream of receiving one day. The one that takes your breath away, that puts jelly in your legs and tears in your eyes. The one that makes you so, so glad that you never gave up. THAT phone call.

And now I can call myself author!

So if any of you reading this have found yourself feeling less than enthusiastic about the direction in which your writing is going – step outside your comfort zone, do something different, something new, something scary. Allow yourself to feel vulnerable, allow yourself to fail but whatever you do… DON’T EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP!!



ISBN 978-0-642-27745-9; 297 x 210mm paperback; b&w and colour illus; $24.95 Category: Children's Non-Fiction Picture Book. Release date: April 2012


The day has arrived where I will be telling you all about Tania McCartney’s brand new book – Australian Story, an illustrated timeline.

Published by the National Library of Australia, Australian Story is an amazing accomplishment. I don’t know about you but when I try to get my head around the fact that the earth was created 180 million years ago – I get a case of the dizzies.

What I love about this timeline is the visual references that are attached to the ridiculously big numbers. It helps to ground you. The timeline is also a reminder that we, modern woman (and man) have only occupied this country for a spit. The indigenous Australians, in comparison,  have been around for 65,000 years. It really helps to put things in perspective.

When I received my copy of Australian Story I flipped straight to this page – can you guess why?



That’s right! Because that was the page that I came into the world – actually I’m surprised I’m not mentioned 🙂

Also in that year decimal currency is introduced to Australia, daily television news reports are received via satellite and a seven year battle for land title in the Northern Territory begins with the Gurindji Walk Off.

The timeline takes us from the year dot to 2010. The images, taken from the National Library of Australia’s digital collection are truly amazing.

Here’s another page that took my fancy. The year my first child was born. Twenty-six years later and Mabo recognises native title rights of Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.

It really is fun to visit the pages of your birth or your children’s births and see what big things happened in those years. It makes you feel a little bit special to see how we all fit into the Australian story.

Well done to Tania and everyone involved in the creation of this truly awesome book. Children and adults alike will cherish their copies as I will mine.

To visit the National Library of Australia’s Bookshop – click the following image…



And to follow Tania’s blog tour you can visit the sites listed below.


Monday 5 March


Blog Tour Schedule and Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review


Book Launch Party Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog


Book Giveaway

Alphabet Street


Tuesday 6 March


Book Review

Buzz Words


Australian Story Research Process



Book Review and 10 Reasons Why History is Exciting

Soup Blog


Wednesday 7 March


Australian Story Teaching Notes for Key Stage I

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog
Book Review and Teaching Notes Ideas for Key Stage II

The Book Chook


Book Review

Kids’ Book Capers


Image-Sourcing for Australian Story

Blue Dingo


Thursday 8 March


Book Review

Reading Upside Down


Book Review

Pass It On


Book Review

Bug in a Book


Friday 9 March


Book Giveaway



The Writing Process for Australian Story

Sally Murphy’s Blog


Book Review

Books for Little Hands


Saturday 10 March


Book Review

Kids Book Review


Book Giveaway

Posie Patchwork Blog


Book Review

Suite 101


Sunday 11 March


Book Review

My Little Bookcase


Book Giveaway

Australian Women Online


Blog Tour Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog







What you will find in this week’s issue (362) of PASS IT ON


Serena Geddes


In this week’s issue of PIO you will find an illustrator profile from Serena Geddes.

Opportunities for picture book writers and short story writers.

Information about upcoming events relevant to the children’s book writing and illustrating industry including an evening of enchantment with Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab and a book launch with Hazel Edwards.

You’ll find useful books, websites and blogs and book reviews from Deb Abela.

If you don’t yet subscribe to PASS IT ON and you’d like to take a look at a recent issue please do get in touch.

Happy Days…see you next week.

Jackie 🙂


Tania McCartney’s Blog Tour continues….


Today as promised Tania McCartney, author of the Riley series is visiting my blog. She will be sharing her self-publishing journey with us so sit back and enjoy…

There is a review of the book at the end of Tania’s story and a competition giving you the chance to win a copy of the book.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat Blog Tour

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat

My Self-Publishing Journey

Thursday 8 September

Pass It On

I’ve always written. One of my greatest treasures is my Grade 3 English book with the puppy dog sticker on the front – and a jumble of fantastical stories and glittery stickers inside. The bigger and more glittery your sticker, the better your work – and I still feel the thump of my eight-year-old heart when I run my hand over a particular sticker of some kids riding a 1960s ferris wheel, bespangled with glitz and covering a full half-page.

Hang literary awards – that sticker is one of my greatest literary achievements, ever.

Since my grade-three tales, I’ve spent many years writing in many genre. In 1995 I had my first book published with Hodder Headline (You Name It, a non-fiction adult book) and over the decades have had countless magazine and online articles published, but it was only since having kids that my attention turned to the children’s book genre.

I have a wee bit of an obsession with kids’ books, truth be told. I love the pictures. I love the stories that colour in our kids’ brains like an activity book and a box full of crayons. I love fun children’s books, traditional ones, magical ones, educational and just plain nonsense ones. I even love the smell of them.

But what a dream to actually publish your own children’s picture book. What a dream to see the contents of your head down on paper; flickable. What a dream to entrance and inspire children in any way, shape or form. But how to make this dream a reality?

I’ve received enough publisher rejection slips to pâpier maché the Outback. There’s been a lot of despair, frustration and tears shed in this writer’s lifetime, trust me, but forging ahead despite setbacks is relatively ‘easy’ because I love to write. I need to write.

In 2005, whilst on post in China with my family, I finally found myself in a position to write full time – and in 2008, I finished penning a picture book called Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing. I was tempted to send it to Australian publishers but after spending many years watching time slide away – with naught but “we’re considering, we’ll get back to you in 8-12 weeks” slips in the mail, I decided to do something out of the ordinary – I decided to publish myself.

The self-publishing process, at first glance, is most certainly overwhelming. Now that I have four successful self-published books in the bag, the single most frequent question I hear is “but how did you do it?”.

I must admit, when I first passed thought to self-publishing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, my head was swamped with an enormous ocean and there was that original, ambitious thought, bobbing in the centre of that ocean – a teensy speck amongst the galloping waves.

Where to start? Who what when where how?

So, I took small steps. I’ve written and edited countless articles and manuscripts and I have to say there is not much more valuable than the opinion of someone you respect. I asked some brutally honest people to read my manuscript and the feedback was good.

Shortly afterwards, I took it to the most important critics of all – the kids. The test audience reaction was also excellent. So far, so good.

Next was researching the target market. I needed to understand who the book was for (the English-speaking expat community in China was my initial focus, with Australian children a target for when I returned home), and what ages and what genre the book fell into. Because the project was so large and I was doing it on my own, my main focus was penetrating the expat community in China, and as a well-known family matters columnist and features editor for several English language magazines, I was fortunate to have a high level of exposure and marketing aid, not only in Beijing but other major Chinese cities.

I also needed to seek a niche. As a multi-media book combining scenic photos, graphics, photos of objects and cartoon illustrations, I knew the layout of the book was unusual. I also knew the travelogue style was unique and therefore felt confident it would attract attention in an oversaturated market. I honestly feel that seeking a solid niche is vital for new books to stand out.

Gathering the basics to actually publish the book was very straight forward. I easily sourced ISBNs, barcodes and the info required for my Cataloguing in Publication Entry data. All done by email.

Whilst waiting for these things to arrive, I sourced an illustrator online. I used a Canadian whose work was good but whose time management skills and demands sent me into a flying panic close to book launch time. Finding the right illustrator is absolutely crucial – not only for their talent and style, but for the author/illustrator relationship. I later found a new artist for subsequent books in the Riley series – and Canberra-based Kieron Pratt is an author’s dream (plus, he just happens to make me laugh hysterically on a regular basis).

Once I began working the manuscript into picture form, I found I needed to buy new software (Adobe Illustrator) in order to create print-ready files. Learning how to implement and use this software was vital, and I’m still learning how to use it effectively, four books later.

Whilst working on the book files, I began researching how to list my books with Nielsen Book Data and Global Books in Print, and began contacting both the media and literature organisations such as the Children’s Book Council of Australia, various state writing centres, the Australian School Library Association and others.

During this time, I located a reliable printer (in Beijing). Shopping around for the right one is crucial – and for my second and third Riley books, I sourced a fantastic Australian printer whose prices were highly competitive, without compromising quality.

I was very nervous about bringing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon home to Australia. I spent countless hours researching and implementing how to get my book into the mainstream market here, and was enormously grateful to be taken on by a major book distributor – Dennis Jones & Associates – who now carry all four of my self-published books.

Since releasing Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong (2009) and Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney (2010), I’ve tirelessly promoted all three of my Riley books at countless schools, libraries, clubs and events – not to mention online. This is vital for self-publishers and it really is full time work.

I began constructing teachers’ notes for my books, and wrote teaching modules on book writing and publishing, to be presented with book readings at schools. I even implemented a successful Writer in Residence programme at a Canberra school that mimicked the production of the book.

I was and still am ceaseless in my efforts to promote my beloved travelogue series. It’s been incredibly hard work, but I’ve always been driven by an insatiable desire to create educational, enchanting and beautiful books for children. When Paul Collins expressed the desire to take on Book Four in the series (Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne), I wondered if perhaps my self-publishing journey was coming to an end.

Letting go of creating, producing and publishing my own books is a bittersweet thought. I’ve loved every moment and have taken great pride in this intense and incredibly overwhelming journey, but I also know if I want to write more books, I need the time (and energy!) to write them. Having Ford Street take on Grumpy Wombat not only takes my work to a whole other level, it affords me greater time to write – and I’m already working on Book Five which will be set in Canberra and involves a very jumpy kangaroo.

Whether you are a published author or a hopeful newbie, the prime consideration in any publishing journey is to be prepared to work tirelessly and passionately to implement the birth of your work. Whether it’s via the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing slog, the dream is possible. Just don’t wake me up.

To see all of Tania’s self-published and published books, see


Book Review

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne

Tania McCartney, illustrations by Kieron Pratt, A$22.95, hardcover

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – A journey around Melbourne was such fun to read being a Melbourne girl. And Riley is such a cute character. Beginning his adventure making mud pies (I loved making mud pies) in his Nanny’s garden, the helpful soul is determined to find out why the resident, fleeing wombat is so grumpy.

Aboard his red plane Riley and co. fly around Melbourne searching for the grumpy wombat.

The book then continues with Riley’s red plane superimposed onto gorgeous black and white photographs of Melbourne and Victoria.

The Great Ocean Road

I was particularly fond of this one as I made the sea change about 12 years ago and adore having this view in my back yard.

Children will thoroughly enjoy gliding around in Riley’s red plane discovering the Victorian treasures not realising that they are absorbing a geography lesson as they do so.

And of course the book ends happily with Riley finding the wombat back in Nanny’s backyard, not grumpy in her burrow but lazing in the lap of luxury, in a brand new mud villa!

Too funny 🙂

Short Author Bio

Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is an experienced speaker, magazine and web writer, photographer and marshmallow gobbler. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.

Win a copy of…

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat

Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Join Riley and his friends from books one, two and three, as they zoom around the stunning sights of Melbourne in search of a wombat that simply needs a place to call home.

Featuring gorgeous black and white photos of Melbourne and surrounds, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat combines photos, illustrations, adorable characters, humour and an adventuresome storyline in a travelogue-style book that showcases Melbourne at its very best.

What do you need to do?

In the comments section…


Write a short poem or limerick about your favourite Melbourne spot.


My favourite will win a copy of Tania’s book, the 4th in the Riley the little Aviator series.


Good luck!

And thank you Tania for sharing your incredibly inspiring journey.


Inside this week’s issue of PASS IT ON


Christina Bollenbach

In this week’s PIO we profile illustrator Christina Bollenbach as she showcases an illustration from her picture book A Monster for Lukas.

We highlight the 2012 National Year of Reading ‘soft launch’ at Bialik College, in Melbourne with patron William McInnes,  Reading Ambassadors Alison Lester and Hazel Edwards.

We list 14 special events of interest to children’s writers and illustrators including festivals, books launches, blog tours and talks.

We include a writing opportunity for educational authors, two competitions and a number of workshops.

Dee White writes on whether or not to go to conferences and author Tania McCartney is profiled.

We include 5 new book reviews and list some very useful blogs and websites.

Tomorrow Tania McCartney will be visiting this blog as part of her Riley and the Grumpy Wombat Blog Tour where she will be discussing her self publishing journey.

I will also include a review of her book along with a chance for you to receive a free copy of Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne.

Once again I’d like to thank everyone who contributed industry news to this week’s PIO and if you are not yet a subscriber and would like to see a copy of this week’s issue please do get in touch. At 75cents/week you can’t afford to be without it.

See you tomorrow 🙂