Story Time (National Library of Australia)

Last weekend I went to the Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature exhibition at the National Library of Australia:

Seven Little Australians, The Magic Pudding, The Rainbow Serpent, and Where is the Green Sheep? are much-loved children’s books that have been read and shared over the decades. They are just some of the books featured in Story Time, an exhibition of Australian children’s literature from the colonial period through to the present day. It includes books for very young children through to teenagers, as well as other material associated with these stories. Get ready to venture into a kaleidoscopic landscape of words, pictures, people, places and animals as Story Time reacquaints you with old friends and introduces you to new ones.

Blurb on entrance to exhibit at NLA

This is a fabulous exhibition. The first exhibit is Australia’s first children’s book, A Mother’s Offering to Her Children by Charlotte Waring Atkinson (also known as Charlotte Barton), published in 1841.

A Mother’s Offering to Her Children by Charlotte Barton

The exhibition had drafts of books, such as this one from author Emily Rodda (real name Jennifer Rowe). Apparently when Jennifer began writing her Deltora Quest series there was little in the way of high fantasy for children. I wonder if she had any idea of how hugely popular this series would become?

Annotated proof of the first book in the Deltora Quest series

Below is the explanation for the illustrator of what should be in the images for the book Dinosaurs Love Cheese (2013) by Jackie French and below that one of the final illustrations.

Illustrators notes for Dinosaurs Love Cheese
Illustration from the book Dinosaurs Love Cheese

The last one I want to talk about is a wonderful book called Possum Magic by Mem Fox. Published in 1983 the book has been in print ever since. It tells the story of Hush, a possum (note to any American readers, different to an opossum), whose Grandma Poss has made her invisible to protect her from danger. They travel to seek a cure for the invisibility and sample foods, such as lamingtons and vegemite on their way.

This was the first of Mem Fox’s books. It’s hard to believe now, but it was rejected 9 times. Below is a page from her first draft along with a note from Mem about that first draft.

The first draft of Possum Magic – then called Hush, the Invisible Mouse

Definitely an exhibition worthy of a visit.

8 comments on “Story Time (National Library of Australia)

  1. Giggling Fattie

    October 29, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Wow!! That looks like such a great thing to go and experience! I’m super jealous! Thanks for sharing the pictures AJ! I love the drawings for “Dinosaurs love cheese” 😂

    • Thanks, GF. I haven’t actually read that book, but next time I’m at the library I think I’ll have to take a peek.

  2. Looks like it was a great exhibit.

    • I think I enjoyed it more because I was there by myself so could take as much time as I wanted. I usually like having someone with me to talk about everything, but this was one that didn’t need that.

  3. Oh, wow! Well worth a Canberra visit. I wonder how long it’s going? I bet the publishers who rejected Possum Magic are feeling like fools now. Such a gorgeous book!

    I got Where Is The Green Sheep? for reviewing when it came out, and loved it – who knew it would end up as a classic? And not only in Australia. I gave away my copy to a workmate with a small child.

    Jennifer Rowe(also once an editor of the Women’s Weekly) used to write crime fiction under her own name, with a heroine who was an ABC journalist, but her Emily Rodda books are the ones that matter.

    • Sue, it runs until 9th Feb, so plenty of time 🙂

      Wow, you got to review Where is the Green Sheep? I bought a pile of her books for the kids. I still have most of them because I’m struggling to part with them (kids don’t seem to mind, lol).

  4. That looks like a great exhibit! I love the annotations. It’s always fun to get a little peek behind the curtain!

    • It is fun. I enjoyed reading the annotations. One one manuscript there was a ladies name with a phone number – I wonder if it was a reminder to give her a call?

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