Over the past week libraries, schools, and bookstores have been buzzing with excitement as readers of all ages dress up as their preferred book character and discover new favourites for Children’s Book Week.
Shelley Ware is a teacher, media presenter, artist, highly sought-after MC, and children’s book author.
Her latest, ‘We Are Matildas’ is an energetic picture book celebrating football, diversity, and team spirit.
It follows Jazzy who dreams of becoming a football star and playing for the Matildas one day. “She has a plan to get there . . . now all she needs is a team. This determined leader soon realises that being on the field with her friends is one of the best parts of the game.”
The proud Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu author says when she first started writing ‘We Are Matildas’ she had no idea the real Matildas would unite the nation as they have.
“I don’t think anyone did. I knew that it would be wonderful, because it was the FIFA World Cup, and it’s a world sport, and I knew it was going to be just fantastic, but I underestimated them for sure in how the country would embrace them, so it was just beautiful to see.”
Ms Ware is also an Indigenous Literacy Foundation ambassador and spoke to NIRS News about the importance of encouraging young mob to read.
“It’s fundamental, it takes you to different places, it helps you as a writer, it helps you connect to yourself as a person and grow as a person. Within our First Nations communities we’ve got children who aren’t getting access to books and as an ILF ambassador as well and just knowing that we’re getting books into remote communities so that they’ve got their hand on books, is just so important.
“My son connected to the wonderful book ‘Wonder’ and the main character Augie for years, years, he was like a real person, and he had empathy from there and he developed a lot of emotions just from reading, and it’s just one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.”
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Another Indigenous storyteller, the multi-award-winning illustrator Dub Leffler also offered some advice for budding artists wanting to get into the world of children’s literature.
“Sort your style out, get a style. And one thing you can do is you can have a go at illustrating other people’s books that are already out there, so put your take on it, so even if it’s a book cover, if you’ve got an idea for another book cover for one you’re reading, you just do your own version, but make sure that you have your own style so people can identify you.
“There’s lots of information on how to help your craft and just know that illustration is a bit different to just painting a picture.”
The Bigambul artist most recently collaborated with Gunai writer Kirli Saunders on ‘Our Dreaming’ – a children’s book that follows two echidnas as they explore a deep love and respect for country and incorporates the Gundungurra language.
Mr Leffler also mentors other Indigenous illustrators and says he’s always on the lookout for more.
“We actually need more Indigenous illustrators because we’re pretty thin on the ground, and all of us know each other pretty much.”
He told NIRS News, in the age of social media you can always reach out to your heroes.
“You can even reach out to me if you like, if you’re interested, and other illustrators.”