Discovering Adventure with Leila Rudge’s Picture Books

Her indelibly gentle style, warming tones, infallible use of mixed media, energetic and always gorgeous characters bounce from her pictures every time. Including titles such as Ted and Mum Goes to Work, illustrator Leila Rudge knows just how to capture the heart, soul and spirit of her characters in all of her books. Here are a couple of newbies to set you on course.

imageGiving preschoolers many themes and topics to explore, Leila Rudge‘s Gary, the racing pigeon, drives this adventure story home with its grit and determination. If he is a racing pigeon then why doesn’t he fly? That, we are unsure, but Gary finds other ways to get around. In similarity to Anna Walker’s Peggy’, this accidental hero breathes adventure and travel and no high rise obstacle will stop him.

The stories from the other pigeons and his scrapbook collection of mementos give Gary a sense of place in the world, even though he only knows his own backyard. Then one day he is mistakingly taken in the travel basket a long way from home. But how could Gary feel lost when he had already studied the city from back to front? Gary’s adventure concludes with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of inspiration.

imageI loved Gary’s accepting yet curious personality, and the way Leila Rudge has written his story with verve and sensitivity. Her illustrations are equally as charismatic and layered with their mixed collage and pencil drawings of maps, souvenirs and adorable racing pigeon outfits!

Gary is a sweet, charming story of passion and opportunity, and challenging one’s own abilities. I’m sure children from age four will be dreaming to accompany Gary on more adventures in the future.

Walker Books, 2016.

imageIf you ever want a book to test your dog-breed knowledge, your linguistic gymnastics and your wit, get The Whole Caboodle! Author Lisa Shanahan has lined up a beauty with this energetic and playful counting canine collection of cross-breed ‘oodles‘. And Rudge‘s illustrations achieve this characteristically zealous greatness in leaps and bounds. As the text bounces ahead, so do the characters across the softly-shaded mixed media, double page spreads.

The little dog (perhaps some kind of Terrierdoodle) wakes his peachy-pear, grizzly bear, fizzyjig, whirligig owner in a rush to visit the park. It takes from one to ten rollicking, rhyming, imaginative adjectives and dog breed terms to count from home, through the neighbourhood, across the fairground and in to the park.

With phrases like “Four tumbly-rumbly Goldendoodles” and “Six dizzy-whizzy Spitzoodles”, plus plenty of doggie shapes in the illustrations to find, The Whole Caboodle will certainly lead children from three into fits of giggles and thrills.

Scholastic Australia, 2016.

See Dimity‘s fab review here.

For more information on Leila Rudge visit her website and Facebook page.



When I hear the word ‘pigeons’, I immediately visualise dozen of birds flying around, crapping on the heads of famous statues. But there’s more to that word. ‘Pigeons’ also happens to be the name of a non-profit organisation dedicated to running literacy programs in Melbourne. Their latest project, Pigeon Letters, which saw primary school students teaming up with established authors to co-write stories, has resulted in the publication of an anthology. On Monday, as one of the participating authors, I went along to the launch of the book. And what a fantastic event is was! Excited kids, proud parents and assorted authors gathered together to celebrate this unique publication.

But let’s backtrack a little as I tell you about Pigeon Letters. This is the second year that the project has run, organised primarily by Lachlann Carter and Jenna Williams, along with their merry band of helpers. It’s an in-school letter writing exchange, linking primary school students (10-12 years of age) with established Australian authors (at varying levels of young-at-heart). Each student is paired with an author. Over the course of two terms, through a series of letters, the authors and students collaborate on the writing of a short story.

The pilot program in 2009 worked with a class of students from North Melbourne Primary School and 12 authors. This year, the program was expanded, involving a larger group of students, Class 5L from Footscray City Primary, and 21 authors and comic book creators. The result was a collection of 18 short stories and 3 short comics.

I was lucky enough to be one of the participating authors, along with:

The program is a terrific opportunity to enthuse kids about writing and for them to learn from people who are actually professional writers. And it’s a great opportunity for authors, as well. It gave me the chance to interact with a young person of the age that I write for. And it was a great learning experience for me. It was my first attempt at co-authoring a story. Me and my writing partner, Joel, crafted a World War II story called “Friend or Foe?”. Joel was the driving creative voice. He has an interest in World War II history, so he came up with story setting and concept. What started out as a traditional adventure story about a German soldier on a suicide mission, turned into a human drama about the effects of war. It is not the sort of story that I would have written on my own. So I owe a debt of gratitude to my young co-author for pushing my boundaries and getting me to think outside the square I would normally write in. I have no doubt that Joel has the potential to become an author in his own right, if he chooses to go down that path. And if he doesn’t… that’s okay too. He has, at the very least, had the chance to write a story, have it professionally edited and published in an anthology. A pretty fine achievement for one so young!

Copies of the anthology, Pigeons: Stories in the Post Volume 2, are available for purchase, with proceeds from the sale going towards future literacy projects. So, to buy a copy or to find out more about Pigeons, check out their website.

Are there any other projects like this running in Australia? If anyone knows of any, please, leave a comment and tell us about it.

And tune in next time for The Rosie Black Chronicles.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or run the risk of having a pigeon crap on you from a great height.