Leigh Hobbs

leighhobbspicold tom's holidaypicmr badgerpichorribleharrietpic


Leigh Hobbs, bestselling children’s author and illustrator, has just been announced as the Australian Children’s Laureate for the next two years.


Known for the children’s books he writes and illustrates, Leigh Hobbs is also an accomplished artist, painter and sculptor. Among the popular characters he has created as an author are Old Tom, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig, Mr Chicken, and most recently Mr Badger. Loved by children everywhere, the books are written with great humour.

In his role as Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs will promote the importance of reading, creativity and story in the lives of Australian children. He plans to “champion creative opportunities for children and highlight the essential role libraries play in nurturing our creative lives”.


Books by Leigh Hobbs are available at Leichhardt and Balmain libraries. Click here to access the catalogue.




Vale Kim Gamble

kimI had the great pleasure of meeting Kim a few years ago in the Blue Mountains at a workshop. He was a lovely man and a great illustrator. He had a lot of time and patience for me. I went from drawing stick figures and unidentifiable blobs to something okay in the space of a few hours. He will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered. Thank you Kim.  (KJ – 3/3/16)

This is one of many articles printed about him.

Kim Gamble, Tashi creator, dies at 63



February 20, 2016


  • Jacqui Taffel
  •  The Australian children’s literature world has been shaken by the death of Sydney illustrator Kim Gamble, who died on Friday aged 63.Gamble created the lively, elfin boy with the towering curl of hair and gypsy earrings, who looked nothing like the authors initially imagined, more than 20 years ago.”He is a bit weird but still, somehow, he fits in,” Gamble said of his creation.Since the first book appeared in 1995, Tashi has become an iconic children’s character with more than a million books sold in Australia and New Zealand. The stories have been translated into more than 20 languages, adapted for television and won international fans including Angelina Jolie. Elfin … One of Gamble’s many Tashi covers. Anna Fienberg called Gamble’s imagination “a magic gift which he shared with the world”.”He developed the deliberate silences left in the text, creating the world lying beneath. He extended the themes, feelings, light in the landscape, helping me discover what I had written.Gamble was 36 when he got his first professional illustration job, The Magnificent Nose by Anna Fienberg, published in 1991. He went on to draw pictures for more than 70 books.  “His empathy for children and childhood is untouched,” she added.When asked about the success of the Tashi series, Gamble said, “It’s very popular because he’s the smallest kid in the class and in every story he’s up against the odds … and he uses his head, he doesn’t fight to get out of the problem. I think kids really just enjoy how cleverness beats brawn.” Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/kim-gamble-tashi-creator-dies-at-63-20160221-gmz8zj.html#ixzz41nuc80Sz Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook
  • – with Nick Galvin
  • Gamble’s favourite book as a child was Moominsummer Madness, by Finnish writer Tove Jansson, and artists he admired included Marc Chagall and Odilon Redon.
  • Children’s literature specialist Judith Ridge called Gamble “one of the greatest children’s book illustrators this country has ever produced”.
  • “Working with Kim was like learning a new way to see. It was perhaps the magical appearance of Tashi that inspired us to go deeper into the mythical land of dragons, witches, giants, ogres … the world lying beneath.”
  • “I was so amazingly lucky to work with him for 20 years, making books together,” she said.
  • A self-taught artist, Gamble began drawing as a child, “For its own sake and to get things out of my system. As the youngest of four, whenever I was angry because I wasn’t getting my own way, I’d go into my room, take a sheet of paper and a pencil, fill the sky with jet planes and draw soldiers all over the ground. Then I’d attack them – zzzooomm BLAT! BOOM! BLAT! – with long fast lines and lots of squiggles. After 10 minutes, the ground was a mess of destruction and I’d feel much better. I also drew flowers, when I couldn’t contain my happiness.”
  • Gamble set the books in an Australian suburban backyard. Tashi’s friend Jack’s house was a blend of his own childhood home in Killara, a family home in Dungog, Anna Fienberg’s backyard and the home he built for daughters Greer and Arielle at Teralba.
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  • Iconic illustrator Kim Gamble, creator of Tashi, has died. Photo: Supplied
  • The much-loved, award-winning artist is known for illustrating the best-selling Tashi books, written by mother and daughter authors Barbara and Anna Fienberg.
  • Magical imagination … Kim Gamble at work in his Manly studio in 2006. Photo: Simon Alekna

Patricia MacLachlan – Legendary Children’s Writer

Q & A with Patricia MacLachlan

By Ingrid Roper |
Jun 24, 2010

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Patricia MacLachlan.

Patricia MacLachlan is the Newbery Award winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall and more than 20 other acclaimed books. She spoke to us about her new novel, Word After Word After Word, which is based on her own experience speaking in schools. MacLachlan also collaborates with her daughter Emily MacLachlan on picture books, including this fall’s I Didn’t Do It. MacLachlan was born on the prarie in Wyoming and now lives in Williamsburg, Mass., with her husband.

What inspired Word After Word After Word?

Article continues below.



PW Daily Tip Sheet

Quite a while ago I signed a contract with Harper to do a nonfiction book on writing, [focusing on] what it was like to be a writer. And my editor at the time said, why don’t you do what you do with kids in schools with your bag of prairie dirt that you carry around? Then when I came to writing it, I thought, UGH, this is so boring, I’ve said this over and over and over again to children, so I decided to write a fictional piece instead. So that’s how that came to be. And it’s also kind of my tribute to wonderful teachers and wonderful kids who are finding their voice in writing.

Your novel is so elegantly spare. How do you feel about writing shorter fiction versus longer works? Is it difficult to pack the same meaty wallop into a shorter work?

I think what happens is you write how you grew up. And I was born on the prairie and so everything is kind of spare on the prairie. And so I’m just used to writing in that way. Sarah, Plain and Tall was that way. And most of my fiction is. I like writing small pieces. Somehow it just suits me. My writer’s group laughs that I start to faint when I get to 200 pages—so that’s kind of a standing joke.

Why do you carry dirt from the prairie with you wherever you go?

I think it’s important to remember where I began. I know that when I talk to other writers, say writers from the South or writers from abroad, it’s where they begin as children that is important to them. And so I always carry the bag of prairie dirt around and actually every time someone who is a friend of mine goes to Wyoming or one of the Western places they bring me back another, so I probably have about 12 bags of prairie dirt now.


How did you craft these characters and formulate their writing in the novel? The two work so well in combination, and each of these characters’ writing does so much to resolve their inner struggles. How did that develop?

I have great respect for children. And I have great respect for their ability as writers. And I so enjoy the process of developing characters, But when I started to develop these characters, what was frustrating was that initially their writing, their poems, all sounded the same. So I really had to delve into their characters to create a unique voice for each of them. Interestingly, it was the character of Russell who emerged first as a distinct voice. He is the most disconnected of the kids and he approaches them as an outsider. And he writes about his dog, and gets them to listen. I believe what this novel shows is that we have so many different reasons for writing. And the famous author shares hers, but each of these children, and the teacher, too, express a different reason for writing.

Why do you write?

Each time I write a new piece, whether a novel, a picture book, a speech or anything really, it has so much to do with what I’m going through personally or a problem I’m trying to work out. When I wrote my novel Baby, my three children had all just gone out the door. And I don’t think you need to be a trained psychologist, although I am married to one, to realize I was dealing with how I felt about being a mother. And now sometimes I am working out how I feel about being a grandmother, which I think is such a special and amazing role.

In such a short novel you create such memorable characters. How did you come up with the teacher, the writer, the kids, the friendships, the parents?

I have a great reverence for old people and I like to create inter-generational stories. My father lived to be 102 and he was such an amazing, generous person right up until the end. When I look back on my novel Journey, I think you can see that. And I think children are rather like old people—they are so direct and immediate and they just don’t get as blocked as adults.

I wanted this teacher, Ms. Cash, to be a good teacher. I myself loved my time teaching and I am so impressed with the teachers I come across and work with in schools. And while the author and the teacher contradict each other about writing, this is a good teacher. She’s still learning, though, just like the kids. So I hope that respect for teachers comes through. Also I admire that she [Ms. Cash] takes a risk and starts to write herself alongside her students.

With the character of the author, I drew on my own experience in schools. I go to schools quite a bit because it gets me back in touch with children and the least powerful in our society. And children are so honest. Children always want to know how much money you make. They don’t mean to be rude, but they’re inquisitive and trying to work out what it means to do this for a living. And they want to know where I get my ideas. They are always surprised when I tell them how much editing and revising I do—that I work on the same words over and over and over. And, I always tell them to do something they really care about, and to appreciate that their teachers really care about teaching because they could earn a lot more money and work a lot less hard doing something else.

I am always surprised by what children tell me when I am in schools or giving speeches. I love their letters. I saved one from a child, on my refrigerator, and it says ‘Thank you for writing this book, it was the second greatest book I’ve ever read.’ I love that. And I always wonder what was the first greatest book this child ever read.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Oh, I don’t know. I usually just hope they find some piece that speaks to them. I hope that they take away something and I believe that whatever that is will be all their own.

With the characters in Word After Word After Word, I really liked this group of friends, and how kind they are to each other and understanding of the issues each of them face. And in particular I grew quite fond of Henry. He has such a good life and he loves his life.

Can you say a little more about your writer’s group?

We meet once a week and reach each other’s work and complain and talk about our processes. Jane Yolen is one of the many writers whom I admire and trust in my group. Our processes are all so different and we like to complain to each other and cheer each other. I think anyone else would think we lead such great lives so it’s nice to have each other as support and to vent.

Talk about your new collaboration with your daughter coming out this fall, I Didn’t Do It, the companion to Once I Ate a Pie. How did this partnership come about?

My daughter Emily rescues dogs, and our family has always had lots of dogs. At one point she told me these stories about dogs and we decided to write about them together and that became Painting the Wind. Our second book, Once I Ate a Pie, was so much fun and we drew on even more dogs we knew—dogs my son has in Africa, dogs we had lived with when they were children. I have two dogs now, terriers named Charlie and Emmett. My son in Africa inherited a house with seven dogs. My daughter has a hound, a white Pyrennes puppy that already weighs 125 pounds. We just used him in this new book, I Didn’t Do It. This one is a puppy book, and we were playing with the idea that a puppy doesn’t have a conscience. It’s very funny and playful and I think our best yet.

What is your typical writing day like?

I don’t know if I have a really typical writing day. I go to bed early and I get up very, very early, around 4:30 am. I like to get up early when the house is entirely quiet. I make my coffee first thing and the dogs are still asleep, my husband is asleep. I like to get to work before my mind is cluttered with the news. I do write throughout the day, depending on what I’m working or what’s happening, but the morning is my best time.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a novel for Simon & Schuster called Waiting for the Magic, about four shelter dogs, which is somewhat magical. This was a real departure for me; I wrote the voices of the dogs. Emily and I are going to keep doing picture books together but pretty soon I am going to be ready to quit dogs and get back to people.

What do you think when you look back over your career?

I hope I’m getting better. There is so much more I want to write. Sometimes I look back at my books and even read them and I think that I’m getting better. And sometimes I read something I wrote and I don’t even recognize it. I once read a newspaper article that quoted something I thought was rather insightful about the prairie, and when I looked more closely at it, I saw my name and realized that someone had interviewed me and it had been quoted. That was the funniest experience. So really I think about what’s to come more than looking back.

Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan. HarperCollins/Tegen, $14.99 June ISBN 978-0-06-027971-4


How Morris Gleitzman describes himself!

How would you describe yourself?
(Use language that’ll get high marks in a school project, please.)

A middle-aged bloke with not much hair and quite a lot of tummy who tries to explore every aspect of being human using only a notebook, a computer, his imagination and lots of nouns, verbs, prepositions, pronouns and articles. Plus a few adjectives and adverbs. And the odd metaphor, simile and s ubordinate clause.

If you want to learn more about Morris, go to the link on this blog…his website is pretty cool.

Matthew Reilly a big success at Leichhardt Library

From all reports, novelist Matthew Reilly was a big success at Leichhardt Library last night. A great crowd enjoyed Matthew’s talk and had their photos taken and books signed afterwards. He was entertaining and well received. Thanks Matthew for coming to our library and thanks Selina for arranging it….shame that I couldn’t be there! Check out Matthew’s website below and his books at our libraries.



Trivia: Dr Seuss – Facts that you may not know about our favourite Doc.

What was Dr Seuss’s last published book?Oh The Places You’ll Go! Published in 1990.
Which Dr Seuss book ears the warning ‘Take it slowly….this book is dangerous’? FOX IN SOX
Geisel began using the psudonym ‘Dr Seuss’ in his children’s stories. Seuss, of course, is his middle name, but why DR? His father wanted him to be a doctor. He was granted an honorary doctorate from his alma mater in 1956, but mostly just used the pseudonym to separate his career as a children’s author from his other accomplishments. He never had any children. He joined the Army during WWII. He married twice. The Butter Battle Book dealt with the nuclear arms race. The Lorax dealt with the environment. The Grinch put up with Christmas for 53 years before he decided to steal it. Bliss Street is the only other street mentioned in And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street. It was Seuss’s breakthrough story published after being turned by 28 other publishers. For more fascinating facts…..go to http://www.funtrivia.com


Children’s Authors’ Birthdays for December

December 5
Walt Disney, 1901
December 7th, 1947
Anne Fine

December 10
Emily Dickinson, 1830
Rumer Godden, 1907
December 11
William Joyce, 1957
December 13th
Tamora Pierce 1954

December 14
Rosemary Sutcliff, 1920

December 16
Quentin Blake, 1932
December 19
Eve Bunting,1928

December 30
Rudyard Kipling, 1865
Mercer Mayer, 1943