There Was an Old Sailor

Last year, ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ was released with a fresh new cover. The original was published Feb 1 2010. I had planned a birthday celebration, but yano, things happened.

Old Sailor Kids Can     there-was-an-old-sailor new

As a belated Happy 10th Birthday to my rosy-cheeked sailor, I’ve attached a make-a-sailor-and-feed-him activity. At its simplest, there’s a bit of cutting out and a bit of glue or stickytape. But you could also add colour and texture – everyone likes a fancy bite or two!


I’d love to see what you make of him!

Anzac resources

Anzac Day is fast approaching and it’s going to look different this year, particularly for teachers and students.

‘Meet the Anzacs’ is a nonfiction narrative picture book about how Australia put together a first national army to fight in WWI. There are teaching notes here, and a video here

Meet the ANZACS

‘The Anzac Billy’ is a picture book story of a boy missing his dad, and the story of the filled billies that were sent to Gallipoli in 1915 from Australia and New Zealand. Teachers notes can be found here.

Anzac Billy cover 750

‘Haywire’ is a middle-grade novel about the Dunera, and the 2500 + internees she carried to Australia in early WII, told from the persepectives of two young teenagers caught up in the maelstrom of war.

Haywire cover small

Please contact me for more information.

Time travel

Today, I’m visiting Allison Tait’s Writing for Kids blog, talking about time travelling to the past.

I talk about what it was like to research Haywire, a novel set in 1939 and 1940, and the things that helped me ‘inhabit’ another world.

I don’t mention some of the things I got wrong and had to fix after a visit to Hay. For example, my character hides in a big roadside drain … except there are no drains like that in Hay. Not one!

And then there was the river, which I imagined as having boulders at the water’s edge. Oh, no, no, no. The banks were sandy – not a boulder in sight!

And we won’t even mention the internment camp fence – ah – fences.


Shorebirds Competition

Where I live, in Hobsons Bay, we have birds! Some stay around all year, others visit on their way north and south. Some live in the big park behind us, while others prefer the shoreline of river and sea and where the two mingle.

ANSTO is hosting a competition for primary students (yr3-6). Draw a shorebird, enter, and be in the running for prizes (over $4000)! Entrants will also learn more about some of our wonderful birds. Win-win!


And to get you thinking and drawing, here’s a red necked stint, a tiny bird weighing less than a TimTam that flies between Russia and Australia! That’s some flying.

You can see this pic and more info about red necked stints here.


How stunning is Melbourne’s autumn weather? It’s just about perfect (unless you’re trying to record a story reading in the back yard – then there’s just a bit too much sun for the glossed pages, and a few too many birds!)

Today on my walk, there were birds, flowers, chalked footpaths, bike riders, families and more than a few dogwalkers. There were plenty of bears to be hunted too.

And rainbows.


I found one, but I wasn’t looking. Then I found a sign that told me that there were ten rainbows in Edwards Reserve, one of our local parks. About then, I had to move outside the park fences (due to some newly-proficient bikeriders needing lots of space) so I didn’t find any more. But what a great idea!

Keep your eyes open when you’re walking. You never know just what you’ll find.

Look closely

Every year, about this time of year, I remember that I want to plant sunflowers because … well … they are just fabulous aren’t they? They grow so tall, so quickly. They follow the sun across the sky. They brighten up any garden. AND when fully grown, they nod, heavy with seeds. Look at the patterns!

And every year, almost without fail, I forget. I put notes in my diary. I put seeds where I have to virtually trip over them. And still I forget.

So here is a picture of a sunflower, not a petal in sight. Just seeds and where they were once held. This sunflower head was probably about 40 cm across and heavy, heavy with seed. The seeds are furry! You don’t see that from far away.


If you peel that black skin, you can eat the seed as you continue walking. At least that’s what I do.

What’s in your birdbath?

I love Autumn in Melbourne. The days are mild, the nights are cool. Blue skies are everywhere!

I have several routes for my daily walk and all are familiar. Yet, when I think about it, I notice different things each day. Sometimes there’s more walking and not-noticing, and sometimes there’s more noticing. It’s my thinking time, my not-thinking time as well as an antidote to too many hours sitting with a screen.

Without exception, everytime I remind myself to consciously notice things, there’s something new to see. Even if it is always there.

Today it was a bird bath. Not so unusual you say. Many front yards have birdbaths. I myself have a birdbath in my front yard. Two things generally occupy my birdbath. One: water. Two: birds.

My birdbath has not ever, to my knowledge been occupied by a lobster, a rabbit or shells.


Open your eyes, I remind myself. You never know just what you’ll see!

Be Curious

Yesterday, on my walk, I took a turn down a lane. We have a few lanes remaining in our suburb, although most have been closed/bought/built over. But a few have been maintained and are well used. They also have fruit trees with accessible branches, and the figs are ripening …

I digress. There I was, walking this lane. There are generally two types of sheds/garages visible. The garages are generally newbuilt and have remote control doors. Square, shiny, flash. The sheds are the opposite, dull, usually corrugated iron, often on a lean, with more holes and gaps than a piece of lace. In other words, no one was much fussed about their appearance.

Then there was this one:


It is different. It’s painted. Not yesterday, but it even looks like someone has patched the paint.

It’s still got the weeds, but someone has tried to make it look better. Why? It’s standing straight, it’s got a new chain. Hmm. I wonder what’s inside? It’s impossible to see. If it was something they were trying to hide, why would they paint the iron? It’s not big enough to put a car.

What would you put inside the blue tin shed? Why would you paint it?

On my walk today

It’s very easy to get caught in your own head, particularly as everything changes outside it.

Walking is my way of putting my world into perspective and reminds me that wonder surrounds me. It’s a wonderful writer’s tool also, reminding me to look closely, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. To find the story in everything.

I’m wary of promising something I can’t deliver, but at least for today I’m offering an insight into on way to capture details. They may one day be part of a poem, or a story, but that doesn’t really matter now. I just want to show the layering that contributes to meaning.

Those details can be interrogated to make a story. Maybe. But not now.

It’s a skill that needs practice. And I’m practicing. Here goes.


On my walk today I saw a man walking dogs.

Look closer

There were three dogs.


All were labradors. One was golden, one brown, the other black.


One had its own lead. The other two were on a joined-half-way-along lead.


I saw them twice. At the start of my walk, and part way through. The first time, the dogs were ahead of their walker. The second, they were behind.


About now, I got distracted by something else. And that’s okay.

But although three labradors are hardly enough, here is a picture I found. And that’s a whole other story …

Image result for walking three labradors

Marysville and beyond


I wasn’t quick enough to get photos before two of the three attending schools for our MARC Literature Festival had to board buses to return to Buxton and Eildon. So this cohort is Marysvile PS students.

As always, this is a wonderful festival, supported by Merrijig MARC, Marysville PS and the indomitable Libby and Lyn.


I presented The Anzac Billy and Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House to both my groups of P-Yr 3 students (and yes, there was some singing) and then we made Christmas chains. As you can see, they worked hard!


Me, Marjory Gardner, Corinne Fenton, Mark Wilson and Libby, all of us still smiling. Hard to believe this is our tenth MARC Lit Fest. Hope we can keep going for many years to come.


Took a little drive up to Steavenson’s Falls afterwards. Wonderful to see vegetation returning, although scars are everywhere.


King parrots joined us for afternoon tea at the bakery.


The Black Spur never ceases to put on a show, even through the dirty windscreen of a moving car.


At the opposite end of the same weekend, I had visitors at Younger Sun, in Yarraville. They’d been using Dingo to model making their own stories. They had very insightful questions for me about the writing of Dingo, several I had not been asked before. Then Patrick showed me Panda.


Wow! A fabulous story including foreshadowing and very sophisticated image-making. Congratulations to Patrick on a great story, and to the teachers at St Joseph’s. It was such a thrill to meet these three and their teacher. Thank you to them for visiting and to the wonderful Younger Sun for facilitating it.


Making their own stories and reading for pleasure. Spinning their own worlds as they head into secondary school. The future is bright.