Picture Books with World Dementia Month in Mind

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September is Dementia Awareness Month, an important initiative providing Australians with further knowledge and understanding of how dementia affects individuals, their families and carers. The theme for this year is ‘You are not alone’; a sentiment that aims to help those impacted to feel supported and empowered even in difficult circumstances.

Dedicating their time and energy to raising awareness of the topic of ageing grandparents or other family members is a passionate group of Australian children’s authors and illustrators. Their personal, heartfelt stories of hope and compassion continue to provide encouragement, optimism and inspiration to many children and families confronting change and illness in the ones they love.

imageDebra Tidball‘s When I see Grandma fits perfectly with the theme of ‘You are not alone’ on several levels. It is a poignant story of a little girl who brightens the dreams of her grandmother in an Aged Care Home. With gorgeously illuminating illustrations by Leigh Hedstrom, this book includes both heartwarming and practical strategies for creating, and rekindling fond memories.

Debra states, “When I see Grandma shows children interacting in a space that is not usually thought of as child-friendly – an aged care home. If parents of young children can see beyond the sadness of their own experiences and take their children to visit aged relatives in this setting, it can provide an enriching experience for all.”

She further relays, “Research shows that people with dementia and their carers are significantly lonelier than the general population. The children in When I See Grandma share very simple things they enjoy with their gran and the other residents – like reading, singing, and playing peek-a-boo, all giving the message, in a very natural, easy way, that their grandma is not alone.” Debra wrote the book to “let families know that they are not alone in their experiences and to encourage families to keep connections with elderly and ailing relatives so that they too, know that they are not alone.”

More on the book and a Boomerang Books interview with Debra Tidball can be found here.

In a recent article, Debra provides enlightening guidance for children and parents on reading to grandparents. Find it on the Wombat Books blog here.

Wombat Books, February 2014.

imageLucas and Jack focuses on the power of memory to establish close bonds between a boy and his Grandpop. Divinely illustrated by Andrew McLean, and gently written by Ellie Royce, this book is a fantastic medium “to start conversation, memories and stories flowing.”

Ellie explains the power of listening. “As a picture book about older people’s stories, it [Lucas and Jack] encourages the listening which often leads to such enriching connections being formed.” Read the full article here.

More on Ellie Royce’s book and a Boomerang Books interview is here.

Working Title Press, June 2014.

imageVictoria Lane (Thieberger) is the author of Celia and Nonna, with timeless illustrations by Kayleen West. This gentle book embraces the hard realities of dementia and adapting to change, but at the same time highlights strength, togetherness and faith in the ones we love.

Victoria encourages readers to find ways to accept and manage these often confusing times. “It is so important to keep children involved and informed, whatever changes are happening in the family… Celia finds her own delightful way(s). I hope that Celia and Nonna will help to start a conversation with children when a loved one is affected by dementia or old age.”

The full review and Boomerang Books interview with Victoria Lane is here.

Ford Street Publishing, September 2014.

imageDo You Remember? by Kelly O’Gara and Anna McNeil is a comforting, poignant story of memory and togetherness of a mouse and her grandmother. The celebration and the gradual fading of those memories are gently portrayed using the child’s artwork as a medium to remind her grandmother of her own rich and wonderful stories. This book shows a beautiful way to support and encourage children and their elderly grandparents to preserve and strengthen their bonds.

Wombat Books, February 2015.

imageHarry Helps Grandpa Remember, authored by Karen Tyrrell, and illustrated by Aaron Pocock, is a story of compassion, humour and hope. Young Harry provides a forgetful, confused and lost Grandpa with cleverly integrated coping and memory skills. Here is a book that gently introduces “children to the realities of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.” Find out more about the book here.

Digital Future Press, April 2015.


Alzheimer’s Australia also has resources to help provide reassurance to families. Another website to explore is Dementia in my Family, where you can find most of the above picture books listed in the resources section. Click here for more information on dementia and loneliness.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

Ellie Royce makes History with ‘Lucas and Jack’

Along with a staunch group of Australian literary professionals, Ellie Royce is a strong advocate for promoting encouragement for families to connect with older generations, share love and facilitate the power of memory. Her latest picture book is one in a line up, not only involved in initiatives to create awareness of ageing people and dementia (Dementia Awareness Month), but also as a nominee for a prestigious award. Find out more about her gorgeous book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ and her significant contribution to the community in our captivating interview!  

I love Ellie Royce‘s passion for writing and the power of words. Combined with her absolute dedication to working with the elderly, her first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ is a notable example of an award-winning piece of literature.
imageWith its delicate, picturesque style charcoal and watercolour illustrations by Andrew McLean, and gentle, endearing story, ‘Lucas and Jack’ represents connection, value and affection. The intergenerational bond between a young boy and his Great Grandpop is tightened after forming a relationship with another resident at the nursing home; Jack. When Lucas waits alone for the visit to end, it is Jack’s presence that ultimately gives Lucas the gifts of perspective, curiosity and appreciation. Jack is able to open Lucas’s eyes to the once beautiful and intriguing pasts of other elderly people, including detective Leo, ballerina star, Evelyn, and himself as a young farmer. His Pop may be wrinkled, old and frail, but with Lucas’s newfound regard he sees a once hard-working ice delivery boy. Now Lucas will have to wait until his next visit to find out more about Pop’s childhood adventures.
‘Lucas and Jack’ drives home the importance of engaging with and being empathetic to our ageing loved ones, particularly at difficult and confusing times. Royce cleverly integrates charming dialogue with prompts for readers to investigate the life stories of, and form further attachments with their own grandparents and great-grandparents. This heartfelt tale is a valuable addition to any home or classroom setting. A sincere delight!
     

imageCongratulations on your first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards! What does this honour mean to you?  
Thank you! I was so excited to hear that “Lucas and Jack” was a shortlisted book for this award. I am thrilled to have been able to collaborate with a gifted illustrator like Andrew McLean and I understand that a “picture” book is very much like a jigsaw puzzle as in all the pieces both text and illustrations are vital in telling the story so neither one is more important or works without the other BUT…. I have to admit I am a word geek. I adore words, I adore learning new and old words, making up words, reading and writing with them, sharing them, playing with them. So for me, having a story shortlisted which promotes literacy and speech is a massive honour, a truly magical experience.  

Who or what inspired you to write this story?
As an author who works in an aged care facility I was inspired by the fascinating life stories of my residents. I see their photos of them as dashing young things and hear their stories on a daily basis and it really fires my imagination! So often we make a presumption about people based on what they look like – in the case of “Lucas and Jack” it’s older people but this also applies to people with disabilities and people of other ethnic backgrounds- the list goes on. I would often see residents’ younger visitors hanging around outside, not engaging or interacting with their relatives because all they could see was what was on the outside, the wrinkles, the hearing aid, the wheelchair and the gap seemingly too wide to be able to connect. “Lucas and Jack” simply shows that each of us has at least ONE thing in common- we were all young once. Also that if we share our stories we can find connection with each other.
The characters in “Lucas and Jack” were inspired by real residents, some of whom have now passed away.  It’s been a real thrill for their families to have this book to share with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, keeping family history and family stories alive. It’s been a real thrill for me to be able to create that opportunity for them.  

You are an active member in the aged care community. Can you tell us a bit about the work you do for the elderly?
I’ve worked in aged care for almost ten years. For five of them I was the person who received that first phone call “I need help to find out about aged care, Mum/Dad/I have been told I can’t stay at home anymore” or variations on that theme. What a privilege to have a job where you can help people who are confused, frightened, grieving and  feeling so many other emotions! My day was made when someone left my office saying “Thank you, now I understand how it all works. I’m so relieved.” As a communicator, there’s almost nothing better. When I say almost though, I have to say that the role I have now which is Communications Coordinator and engagement officer where I run our newsletter, website and social media outlets and liaise closely with our Lifestyle team to source and develop projects which allow our residents to connect with community, participate in arts and creative experiences that engage and inspire like storytelling (funny about that!), art exhibitions and intergenerational groups as well as running arts based programmes for our dementia specific residents to find out which strategies enhance their quality of life is the “dream job.” The only thing that could top it is if I were a full time author. But even then, I think I’d miss the day job, it’s such a rewarding and exciting area to be involved in.
A tiny vignette of my day springs to mind where recently I was able to facilitate access to audio downloads of classic books for a very academic and bright lady who is confined to bed, unable to move or verbally communicate  easily.  When she heard the first words of “Pride and Prejudice” the look of pleasure on her face brought tears to my eyes. It’s a small thing to us, but to her it is her whole world. Again, what a privilege!    

image‘Lucas and Jack’ emanates a beautiful message of celebrating and cherishing the ‘stories’ of elderly people and forming bonds with grandparents. What do you intend your readers to gain from engaging with your book?
I would love to see “Lucas and Jack” of course offering a good read, an enjoyable experience. But also I hope that the book will pave the way for the readers to share their own stories. I would love to think that after reading “Lucas and Jack” a young person will look at an older person, frown, wonder and ask the question “What did YOU do before you were old?” or “What was it like when you were a kid? Did you do the same stuff as me? What games did you like? What was school like?” and the floodgates of sharing, laughing, crying, remembering, honouring and connecting will open.
Because stories aren’t just stories are they? They’re bridges to things and ideas like empathy, literacy,  resilience, imagination and perhaps most important of all in today’s world they are bridges BETWEEN things and people who think they are too different to ever be able to connect.
There’s a great quote by Roslyn Bresnick-Perry “It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.”  I hope “Lucas and Jack” builds bridges between people.  

The sense of nostalgia and livelihood in ‘Lucas and Jack’ are expertly and gently portrayed in the illustrations by award winning illustrator Andrew McLean. How do feel his pictures best compliment your words? What was it like to collaborate with him?
Oh my goodness how does one express what a magical experience it is for your words to inspire such incredible responses from an illustrator? It really did feel like magic, watching the development from his roughs (ha, roughs? I couldn’t believe he called them roughs; they were gorgeous!) Perhaps that’s another reason why I love the picture book form so much. They are such evocative and beautiful images that resonate so much with everyone who sees the book. I was incredibly lucky to work with Andrew.  

World Dementia Awareness Month is held throughout September. Please explain the purpose of this initiative and how you are participating in raising its awareness to the public.
This year’s theme is “I Remember”. I’m excited to be collaborating with a fabulous group of Australian creators, both authors and illustrators to showcase their books about ageing and dementia for September’s World Dementia Month. The helplessness and confusion a growing number of children face when confronted with the decline of an elderly relative prompted these local literary professionals to create stories to provide encouragement and hope to families. Each of the unique and beautifully illustrated stories is based on personal experience and offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances. The power of memory and remembering as a way to sustain a loving connection is a common thread and ties in perfectly with the “I Remember” theme for 2015.
imageAlong with “Lucas and Jack” we have Celia and Nonna (Victoria Lane and Kayleen West, Ford Street Publishing) where Celia brings memories of happy times spent together with her grandmother into Nonna’s new aged care home by making pictures and paintings to fill the walls. The grandchild mouse in Do You Remember? (Kelly O’ Gara and Anna Mc Neil, Wombat Books) uses artwork to honour Grandma’s memories. In When I See Grandma (Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom, Wombat Books) Grandma’s memories are brought to life through her dreams as the granddaughter shares with her everyday things she enjoys doing and in Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, (Karen Tyrrell and Aaron Pocock) Harry shares coping skills to help his grandpa boost his memory and confidence.
These stories are humorous, at times poignant and always heartfelt. Our hope is that they will inspire and encourage children and families who are grappling with change and illness in those they love.    

You write in a range of genres, including children’s and young adult books. Do you have a preferred genre? What do you love about writing for younger children?
I would have to say that I really, really love the picture book art form. I believe stories can change the world, I truly believe this and one of the most marvellous manifestations of story for me is the picture book. It can encompass any concept no matter how complex in a simple way. It is possibly the purest essence of story and if you want o know why, try telling a really good story in 495 words!
It also speaks to both sides of our brain, with text and illustration. I have two daughters, one who is a language child and one who is a visual. Picture books were the bridge between their learning styles which gave us the opportunity to share so many wonderful experiences as a family. Because it speaks symbolically through pictures as well as through words, a picture book resonates within our souls, speaks to our conscious and unconscious mind and stays with us in ways that other forms of story don’t. Younger children really ‘get’ this. They enter into the storytelling experience and totally become one with the story. It’s a beautiful thing!  

Besides writing, what other pastimes do you enjoy?
I love art and photography, to read, listen to music, work in my vegie garden, cook (then eat), sit around and yak with my daughters, spend time at the beach, to rummage for vintage treasures and to laugh. Laughing is good.  

What were your favourite books to read as a child? Any that have influenced you as a writer?
I find that everything I have ever read sometimes pops up to surprise me as a writer!  I suppose the most important influence is that I aspire to create the same magic for my readers that I experienced (and still do). 
One of my favourite books was and still is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. In fact I recently read it again and every word still fills me with pure crystalline joy. It is an exemplary, beautiful piece of writing. It’s delicious and joyous and fun.   
I was an Enid Blyton child from day dot. I loved Pip the Pixie, Mister Pinkwhistle , The Magic Faraway Tree (er yes I am rather old hahaha!) followed by Famous Five, Secret Seven and then the boarding school books. I also loved everything Roald Dahl wrote and CS Lewis’ “Narnia” series. How can I pick just one? Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Peter Pan! I also loved “The Railway Children” by Edith Nesbit, “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” by Margaret Sidney and the “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner. I grew up with “Anne of Green Gables” and “Little Women” and here I fear I must stop because I’ll go on for hours. I was very lucky to have been encouraged to range widely and omnivorously with my reading as a child.  

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I have a lot of half- finished work badgering me to get on with it at the moment! A couple of picture book texts are doing the rounds of publishers, a few stories are on their way to The School Magazine, two middle grade novels are yelling at me for attention right now, phew! I would love to not have to sleep; it would really increase my writing time. I admire those writers who get up at 3 am to write before they start their day and I may yet become one of them when my need to write becomes stronger than my need to sleep, probably in summer. In winter I hibernate a bit. So stay tuned…..  

Thank you for answering my questions, Ellie! It has been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your work!  
Thank you for having me :).

‘Lucas and Jack’ (available for purchase here), published by Working Title Press, 2014. Teacher notes available here.

Visit Ellie Royce’s website and facebook pages.

Visit Alzheimer’s Australia and World Dementia Month Aged Care Online, or World Alzheimer’s Month for more information on this initiative.

Doodles and Drafts – A not-so-BLAH Blog Tour with Karen Tyrrell

In the time I spent crewing at sea, I endured several disabling bouts of seasickness. Once established, it’s a difficult malaise to throw off. The one thing that helped (besides boxes of seasick tablets) was knowing that others were suffering as well, often far worse than I. Have you ever encountered that? Symptoms (of nausea) miraculously evaporate in the presence of one who is experiencing worse than you. It’s empowering in a uniquely weird human kind of way.

Bailey Beats the BlahA similar change of physical and mental state occurs in the young protagonist in Karen Tyrrell’s debut picture book, Bailey Beats the BLAH.

Tyrrell noted for her work on speaking up and out for mental health awareness, is keen to tackle the issues surrounding the mental well-being of our young people. Depression and its associated ills can plague children as young as six, undermining their self-esteem, confidence and emotional security.

Karen TyrrellNobody readily embraces the discord change and upheaval produces and being friendless at school can be a catalyst for such dread. Bailey experiences not only this but a myriad of other anxieties and fears accumulating in a colossal feeling of BLAH.

‘Sad days’ become his norm. Self-dislike, apathy, paranoia and discontent appear his closest companions, even after Fuzzy, his dog, tries to intervene. We eventually learn that all Bailey really wants is a friend, someone to share his solitude and banish his despair. Turns out, the new kid, Tom, is more prone to ‘seasickness’ so to speak, than Bailey. Forgetting his own discomforts or perhaps recognising the need to help Tom overcome his, Bailey allows Tom into his world. Together they find a common link and forge a salving friendship.

‘Dramatically speaking, intent is everything’* and Tyrrell’s unabashed use of force-filled verbs leaves no doubt as to the degree of sadness weighing so heavily on Bailey. The leaden seriousness of Bailey’s situation is thankfully beautifully balanced by the cartoonisque illustrations of Aaron Pocock.

Aaron Pocock at work
Aaron Pocock at work

His upbeat portrayal of Bailey has busloads of eye-popping kiddie appeal while the use of bright colours and thoughtful visual detail allows us to feel all of Bailey’s glumness and pain without being overwhelmed by it.

Bailey Beats the BLAH’s no frills approach and design ensures there is no ambiguity in its message to young readers and carers: that we can all suffer bad, sad days no matter whom or how old we are, but we need never suffer alone.

Perfect for 4 – 8 year olds, this picture book will be useful as a discussion tool in counselling and early education situations.

Digital Future Press October 2013

*The Art of Racing in the Rain-Garth Stein

Bailey Beats the Blah launch Oct 2013Embracing the cause to share important life messages through the medium of picture books, I was honoured to officially launch Bailey Beats the BLAH with Karen Tyrrell and a colourful cast of characters at the Black Cat Book Shop recently and managed to pull her aside to answer a few quick questions. Here’s what she had to say…

Q Karen, this is your first picture book. What prompted you to focus on the mental well-being of children as its topic?

When I was a teacher, parents at my school harassed me until breaking point. Luckily I recovered, becoming a mental health advocate, passionate about teaching resilience skills. After the success of my breakthrough memoirs, ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness and ME & HIM: A Guide to Recovery I wanted to create a picture book to empower kids with bounce-back-ability.

Q You’ve worked for many years as an educator of children. Is Bailey’s character, based on anyone you know personally or from you own experiences as a child?

I’ve taught many kids like Bailey. Sad, stressed-out or withdrawn kids are becoming far too common in our over-stressful and pressurized world.

Q Is Bailey a character you see tackling other kid issues in future picture book stories? What’s next for Bailey?

I’m developing MORE picture books to empower children to live happier, healthier and more functional lives.

Q What’s on the draft table for Karen Tyrell? More self-help, another picture book?

I’m working on two mental health books: A chapter book for mid-graders plus a fiction novel for teenagers. Both books encourage young people to deal with their mental health issues they encounter at home and at school.

Q If you could pass on one golden piece of advice to kids like Bailey who are suffering BLAH days, what would it be?

Don’t suffer alone. Reach out to others: your friends, your family, your teacher to help you overcome those BLAH days.

Kids, you hold within yourselves all the POWER you need to stamp out the BLAH.

Q What’s one thing on your non-writing wish list you’d like to tick off?

My dream is to return to school as an author-teacher, to share Bailey Beats the BLAH, helping children and their families to turn their BLAH into ha-ha-ha!

Thanks Karen for sharing your dreams and passion with Boomerang.

Why not join Karen as she bops around the cyberphere on tour with Bailey. Scroll down for a chance to win a great prize or two. Simply leave a comment and you are in the draw to win!

Bailey Blog Tour & Book Giveaway

3rd Nov http://www.creativekidstales.com.au/authors/pitch-ya-book/pitch-ya-book.html

4th Nov http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

5th Nov http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au

6th Nov http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

7th Nov http://www.robinadolphs.com/blog/

8th Nov

9th Nov www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au

10th Nov

11th Nov http://squigglemum.com

12th Nov http://www.nickyjohnston.com.au/blog/

13th Nov http://nccparentsplace.wordpress.com/

14th Nov http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/

15th Nov http://natashatracy.com/topic/bipolar-blog/

16th Nov http://buginabook.org/category/childrens-books/

17th Nov http://www.writeawaywithme.com/blog/

18th Nov http://angelasunde.blogspot.com

Bailey Beats the Blah Book Giveaway

WIN: Copies of Bailey Beats the Blah, a signed Bailey artwork by illustrator Aaron Pocock and a picture book assessment with chief editor at Book Cover Café.

Leave a comment on any of the 16 hops on the Bailey Beats the Blah tour Nov 3rd -18th. The more comments you leave the MORE chances to WIN.

WINNERS announced on Nov 20th at www. karentyrrell.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – Searching for magic with Donna Smith and Jazmine Montgomery – The Magic Glasses Blog Tour

Jazmine Toy DectiveI’m not sure if it is the sleek, bug-eyed appearance of the title character, her sleuth-full occupation or just her name that appeals so forcibly to me, but there’s something about this new Literacy Ladder Reading Series title, Jazmine Montgomery Toy Detective, by Donna M Smith, that I just love.

Aimed squarely at 6 – 8 year old emergent and confident readers, this chapter book is brimming with mystery, mushroom elves and magic.

Jazmine Montgomery is a girl with a passion for solving dilemmas and is regularly called upon by her school and friends to locate missing toys. Operating from her backyard office (aka the cubby house), Jazmine has a litany of devices she uses to deduce the whereabouts of toys missing in action, but perhaps her most useful is her set of magic glasses, after which the first book in this series is titled.

When she is unable to find an errant iPad borrowed from school, Jazmine and her trusty side-kick, Yap (aka the shaggy pet dog) must use the glasses to relocate the iPad in time for school. If she doesn’t, she not only risks detention but her reputation as a detective as well. Who hasn’t gone through this kind of trauma just minutes before the first school bell of a morning?

The Magic Glasses illosYoung readers, especially those of the little-girls-with-large-aspirations variety, are sure to get a kick out of the first in this series. It might even have a few checking under their fruit trees for the tiny villages of  mushroom elves, like I did!

Each book includes super sleuthing tips and (elf) character descriptions which are perfect for coaxing fledging readers into the magical world of reading alone with confidence.

Donna M SmithTo celebrate Jazmine’s awesome success as a Toy Detective, today I welcome her creator to the draft table, author and publisher, Donna Smith. So grab a big bag of jelly beans, settle back and get comfy.

Q: You have published a varied selection of work for children Donna, including short stories, picture books and Haiku poetry. Name a stand out piece that you are most proud of and why?

HopscotchYes Dimity, some of my work is varied. Thank you for asking about the various genres I have written. I have also been fortunate enough to have had several text books published and course content for the Adult Education sector. Choosing one piece is difficult as I love them dearly for various reasons. Mr Bumblebottom which appears in the ‘Hopscotch’ anthology holds special significance, not only was it one of the first stories I wrote but it evolved over the course of two years whilst my eldest son Timothy, was at three and four year old kindy. This took place about seven years ago. Timothy really did not want to go to kindy and so I told him there was a magical dragon that would sit in his pocket throughout the day and he would take special care of him while he was a kindy. Over time, Timothy named him and told me what colour he was and lots of stories about how he felt happy at kindy when Mr Bumblebottom was there too. So over the two years while Timothy attended kindy, Mr B as he was known became an important part of the family. When Timothy started school, I whispered to him as he went into class for the first time that Mr B was in his pocket and he replied, ‘Mum, I am a big boy now shhh.’ I will say he did appear from time to time in need. So this story is quite special and at present I am working on it to be launched as a picture book.

Shadow at Cape naturalisteA Shadow of Cape Naturaliste, also holds special significance as it was the first story accepted by a publisher. At that time, I replied to an ad for stories at least 2500 words which must be historical fiction and a ghost story. I relished in the research process and found the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse on the Western Australian coast line has quite a haunted past. So, I wrote Harry’s Lighthouse (as the title was back then). It was published in Australian Chillers’ anthology in 2009. A few years later I decided to re-tweak it for a slightly younger audience and it became A Shadow at Cape Naturaliste. I love this book, the cover is perfect. The photograph depicts what I had imaged it to be exactly and the size is a perfect companion. This book has done well in grade three- six classrooms and is also available it the lighthouse gift shop.

Billy cart race derbyBilly Cart Derby is a really exciting, fast paced, giggle of book starring Jaz, TJ and Ben who participate in a billy cart race at school as a fundraiser. Jaz, TJ and Ben are based on my three children Jazmine, Timothy and Benjamin. What is interesting Dimity is that I wrote this book when Jazmine was in grade 1 (now grade 6) before Ben was even born. I wrote a draft based on a dress up day I attended at school where I saw a grade 6 girl wearing a billy cart. I thought it was fantastically inventive. So the story started to take shape about a billy cart race at school which was based on fundraising but during the race they had lots of mishaps. After the initial draft a couple of years later, I was pregnant with Benjamin and I decided to wait until he was born (to see if he was going to be a boy or a girl) before I completed the final draft so I could include all three children. I ended up waiting until Benny was in kindy and developed his own little personality and character so as I could make teh characters true to their real personalities. I just love the story so much. Children just find it hysterical. Billy Cart Derby is currently used in classrooms grade prep through to about four. Actually a grade three class used it last year during their narrative study. Billy Cart Derby has coloured glossy billy cart race track maps in the front of the book along with character illustrations. This book is currently undergoing production to be made into an interactive picture book, which is illustrated of course. I plan to write more about Jaz, TJ and Ben’s school adventures in the future.

Delightfully Haiku is also very special as it was my first poetry collection but, more importantly it was also a dedication to my nephew Marshall who was born sleeping in August 2010. It has received wonderfully positive reviews over the past couple of years which lead to being invited to participate in the Japanese Festival since it began in 2010. I have attended each year since and enjoy holding haiku poetry workshops throughout the day.

A Christmas TaleA Christmas Tail was born several years ago when my daughter’s Victorian doll house (which stands 1.2 metres tall) became home to a beautiful family of wooden dolls which my daughter still loves to play with. Over time we furnished the doll house, put lighting in, pictures on the wall, even a tiny grand piano sits in the living room. The idea of a story evolved. A Christmas Tail was co –written with Helen Ross, a very talented children’s writer and former primary school teacher. This beautiful picture book was illustrated by Aaron Pocock, a well known Brisbane artist who did a fantastic job bringing the story to life. A Christmas Tail kicks off a book launch tour in November so keep your eyes peeled for more information regarding that.

Jazmine Montgomery – Toy Detective series is based on my daughter Jazmine. Jaz tends to see magic in everything even at almost 12 (in a few weeks). I love the idea that not everything can be seen and just because we can’t see it on the surface doesn’t mean that it’s not real or it’s not there. Jazmine Montgomery has many case files that she will be sharing in the future. The Magic Glasses is book one in this new series.

It is really hard to pick just one book. My books hold special meaning and significance for myself and my family.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the character Jazmine Montgomery?

JM is based on my daughter Jazmine, who possesses a beautiful innocence and ability to see magic in everything. Jaz will be 12 in a few weeks and is still very much a little princess.

Q:What was the best thing about writing Jazmine Montgomery and the most difficult?

The Magic Glasses illos 2I think the most difficult aspect of writing the first of this series was the evolution that took place. I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago and after editing with Sally Odgers, it was discussed the possibility that an aspect of the story could outdate quickly. The original story was about a red scooter that was lost. Once it was decided that this may not work as well as something which was just flooding the market and being implemented in schools (such as the iPad), I had to re-write many sections to fall in line with iPad concept. Therefore this story evolved and underwent many visits for ms assessment by Sally before the final story was complete and Sally began the editing process. We worked on this story for quite some time before it was just perfect. I then contact Sharon Madder and was just delighted with her illustrations. Sharyn was wonderful to work with and I am really happy with the final result. Another difficult aspect of this particular book was the layout. I really wanted to incorporate the stars which appear around the pages, I had to create each individual star and place each one exactly where I wanted it to appear, this was very time consuming. Then my design team headed by Sylvie Blair, converted this in InDesign to make each star digital and keep the placement the same. This process was quite tricky, time consuming and expensive however, I am really happy that we kept at it as it turning out really well. It really sets the book off, particularly for the target age group. So this book has taken quite some time to produce and get just perfect. But well worth it. I must credit Sally Odgers as it was her idea of the stars on the page! Thank you again Sally.

Q:You have aimed this chapter book series for younger primary aged children, what motivates you to write for this age group?

My children I think Dimity. My children Jazmine 11 (she reminds daily that there are not many sleeps until she is 12!), Timothy 10 and Benjamin 7, inspire me every day. Our library at home is a favourite room in the house, it contains many, many picture books, early chapter books and novelettes. We read these sorts of books most often. I have had a few funny looks after purchasing an arm full of children’s books and then nestling down to read them in a cafe. I have surrounded myself with these sorts of books primarily because of the ages of my children, therefore it just happened that way. I am excited however about my next book, Benjamin and the Castle of Tomorrow which I have been writing since 2009. It started as a 2500 chapter book, and just became longer and longer. Sally said to me ‘don’t worry just keep writing.’ The book now some 25000 words has visited Sally’s desk more times than I can remember and has been a journey in its self.

Two trips to England to study castles and medieval culture, I took medieval literature electives during my Arts degree and submitted a draft as part of my final portfolio assessment in my children’s literature unit. I have also studied endless waterfall locations and waterfall photography, dragon myths and written under Sally’s guidance for the past four years. The story is metafictional and something I am very excited about. I am very happy to say- the story is complete and the editing process is now underway. So, I guess Dimity this will be a different genre again! Ben’s story, as Sally and I refer to it as, after all these years will be out next year.

Q: Have you or your children ever come across elves or fairies in your garden?

Of course Dimity, magic is everywhere. Just smile on the inside and out!

Q:What can we expect from Jazmine Montgomery in the future?

Jazmine Montgomery has an exciting collection of case files which has solved and worked on with her companion Yapps and the Mushroom Elves. Their next adventure sees them at school trying to solve the mysterious case the missing counting beads in the preps class.

Donna GraduationQ: What is on the storyboard for Donna Smith?

I graduated with my Arts degree in April this year. My main stream was Educational Psychology and Writing/ Literature. My youngest son has been struggling at school with a learning disability so I decided to attend Monash Uni earlier this year and complete their one semester course in Education Support/ Teacher Aide course with the aim to help Ben as much as I can. I have just completed PD training in Cued Articulation and really enjoy helping in his class two mornings a week. It has six years now that I have being doing classroom help with my children since they started school, however now I am helping in literacy intervention which I really enjoy. I was deciding whether to continue study in literature, however due to our circumstances with my son and recent further diagnosis, I have decided to continue study next year in the Masters of Special Education with a major in Literacy Support. As I also manage Jelli-Beanz Publishing, I am busy with a catalogue of titles which have approved contracts by various authors. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to become a team leader at the Victorian College of Literary Arts which will see me working literacy invention programs, which is exciting. And my writing? Helen and I are currently brainstorming Peter’s next adventure, Jazmine Montgomery’s next case file will emerge and Benjamin and the Castle of Tomorrow will be released next year. Mr Bumblebottom will take flight as a picture book and Billy Cart Derby will be skidding into the interactive app world! Gee wizz, a cup of tea somewhere in there would be nice too!

Q: Just for fun, do you have a favourite Jelly bean? What is it?

Oh yes, I love Jelly beanz, my favourite is black! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a rainbow jelly bean?

Mug of beanz(Oh yes! But black is my favourite too!) Thanks Donna and good luck with EVERYTHING including nabbing that cup of tea some time soon.

Jelli-Beanz Publishing Blog August 2013

Check out the Book Trailer for The Magic Glasses. Buy the book here.

Be sure to visit Jazmine as she zips around on the rest of her Blog Tour with Donna Smith.Jazmine Toy Dective Launch and blog dates Aug 2013