At the CBCA Conference recently, I met a wonderful new illustrator, Anthea Stead. Anthea has recently been accepted to The Style File and she agreed to visit Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her art.

Anthea, can you tell us about your journey as an illustrator?

I had an art teacher in high school who believed in me. She suggested I apply for the Sydney College of the Arts – BA in Visual Communication Design, and I was accepted.

After 4 long years there I started work as an art director of magazines. 15 years and a lot of magazines later both here and in London I realised I was always placing illustrations in my mags, books, whatever, wherever possible.

I had been trying to turn every job into an illustration job and the natural progression was to finally leave magazines. I had been illustrating for other magazines on the side for years and it wasn’t enough.

I have a good friend Mo Johnson, who has 3 books published (including latest release is Noah’s Garden), suggested I turn my hand to children’s books. She has been nudging me ever since and I am very grateful for that.

Besides magazine illustrations I have done a mural for the Powerhouse Museum – Ecologic Exhibition and also illustrations for a circus exhibition there, a couple of book covers for The Australian Film, Television and Radio School and a small kid’s zodiac booklet. My holy grail is a children’s book.

Where does your inspiration come from and what’s your favourite part of being an illustrator?

My inspiration comes from artists, magazines, people, my dog, my daughter, anything. I love all of it, though I do love ‘colouring in’.

You were shortlisted in the CYA comp last year. Can you tell us about what you entered and what the judges said about it?

I entered in the ‘The Legend of Arlee Farley’ option. It was an illustration of a dragon who had her nails painted! The judges were all very positive with a few things for me to work on which I hope I have now sorted.

You have just been accepted for the Style File. Can you tell us what the Style File is and about the process involved in submitting?

The Style file was another Holy Grail for me. It’s  a website where you can find an illustrator quickly and easily and apparently publishers use this site to find new talent. You have to submit work and wait and hope they let you in!

You submit eight pieces in order of preference. I sent in a copy of the mural and few random illustrations from books in my head.

How would you describe the style of your work?

I guess its colourful, sometimes humorous and playful. It depends on the job.

Can you tell us about your workspace?

Well I am truly lucky as we renovated a year ago and I now have my own room to ‘play’ in. I get to look out at the trees and sometimes deer and horses snort and neigh as they go by. Is there a children’s book in that! Its also very messy, so I just look out the window.


When I was in Brisbane recently I was wandering through the Roma Street Parklands with a friend and her five-year-old daughter. As Sophie stopped to sniff every second flower and gazed around in wonder, I remembered what it felt like with my own children to watch them explore the sights, sounds and smells of a beautiful garden.

A garden can be source of comfort and discovery – a place to escape to – a place to wait and hope.

Today, I thought I’d talk about two beautiful new releases from Walker Books, both set in a garden, both with different messages of hope.


Noah spends hours playing in the hospital garden, inhabiting the world of his imagination while he waits for his sister to get better so she can come and play with him.

Noah asks with a child’s simplicity,

“When can Jessica come to my garden?”

“Maybe some day,” says Dad, spinning him round.

One of the things I loved about this book was its sincerity. It’s based on a true story, on family friends of the author who spent seven months living at a hospital after their daughter was born with a serious medical condition.

There is no sentimentality to this story and perhaps that’s what makes it so moving. The courage of Jessica’s parents and the resilience of Noah are a powerful combination.

Noah’s Garden is full of hope and love and a testament to the power of imagination.

The beautiful illustrations by Annabelle Josse bring light to a serious subject.

Published by Walker Books Australia, Noah’s Garden is for children aged three to seven.

All royalties earned by Mo Johnson for the sale of the Australian edition of Noah’s Garden are being  donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation in Melbourne.

A CHILD’S GARDEN: A STORY OF HOPE – written & illustrated by Michael Foreman

Written and illustrated by Michael Foreman, this garden offers hope of a different kind – hope for the future in the midst of poverty and war.

The boy in A Child’s Garden: a story of hope has no name; he is just “The Boy” and this adds to the story’s poignancy.

After war comes to his country The Boy is separated by a barbed wire fence from the hills he used to roam with his father.

When The Boy finds a tiny plant amongst the rubble it becomes his symbol of hope.  But he lives in fear that at any moment, the soldiers will discover his secret garden and destroy it.

A Child’s Garden: a story of hope is a beautiful story about the resilience of the human spirit.

The detailed but understated illustrations brought me right into the story and I felt the family’s hardship and felt my own spirits rise with The Boy’s hope.

I loved Mo and Michael’s picture books for their moving words, stunning illustrations and their themes of  courage and optimism.


A few weeks back I finished a May Gibbs Fellowship*, a creative time residency organized by the May Gibbs’ Literature Trust. It’s for children’s authors and illustrators, and during the Fellowship you get to spend ONE WHOLE MONTH away from home writing (or illustrating). One whole month without school lunches, sport’s training, dentists, vets, committee meetings, and the list goes on.

Of course I missed my family desperately, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have 16 to 18 hours a day to dream, plot and write – and of course READ!

I managed to finish writing an entire first draft of a new YA novel while I was there, blogged regularly, came up with a new book idea, and a name for another book – and of course READ. I also did eleven workshops at the State Library of Queensland, working with school groups, showing kids from years 5 to 10 how to develop heroes and villains for their stories.

All in all an amazing experience, but there’s more.  May Gibbs Fellows who stay in the apartment, leave at least one of their books behind in a special locked cupboard.

Opening the door was like going into a magical world, going back in time, back to when the authors and illustrators were in this very room creating many of the books that were now in the cupboard. It was inspirational to reflect on their experiences and enjoy reading some of the published works that had resulted from their Fellowships.

The varied collection included:

nudes & nikes by Dyan Blacklock

The Tuckshop Kid by Pat Flynn

By Jingo! by Janeen Brian and Dee Huxley

Hungry Ghosts by Sally Heinrich

A Matter of Cats by Elizabeth Hutchins

Something More by Mo Johnson

Boofheads by Mo Johnson

Outback Countout by Norah Kersh

Muck-Up Day by Ruth Starke

Nips X1 by Ruth Starke

The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang

Coincidentally, Little Paradise was the book that Gabrielle worked on two years ago for her May Gibbs Fellowship, and it was launched the day I started my Fellowship in Brisbane.

Exploring the world and works of these authors made me feel like a small child again, and I wondered if perhaps a book chest, secret book cupboard or even a book treasure hunt might be a way to inspire young readers around the home. It worked for me.


*Anyone interested in doing a May Gibbs Creative  Time Residency Fellowship can find out more information here: http://maygibbs.org.au/creative-time-fellowships/creative-time-fellowships/