Dec 12, 2023

The Guardian: The best Australian children’s books of 2023

Composite of children’s books: Millie Mak the Maker by Alice Pung and Sher Rill Ng, What to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do by Davina Bell and Hilary Jean Tapper, The Perilous Promotion of Trilby Moffat by Kate Temple and Christopher Cooper, Who’s Afraid of the Light? by Anna McGregor, We Didn’t Think it Through by Gary Lonesborough, Royals by Tegan Bennett Daylight, Cub and Brown by Edwina Wyatt and Evie Barrow and Nothing Alike by Zewlan Moor and Peter Cheong

THE GUARDIAN: THE BEST AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2023

From picture books to young adult novels and nonfiction, one teacher-librarian picks her favourite read

As a mother of three primary school-age children, and a teacher-librarian, I read a ridiculous number of books with and to young people. I spend my days recommending books to children and hearing their views on the ones that have resonated with them. When I hear the pleas of “one more time!” after a read-aloud, or struggle to keep particular books on the library shelves due to student demand, I know that we’ve struck gold.

A commonly used analogy posits that books should serve as both windows and mirrors. I want to see the children in my life recognising themselves in the characters on the page, while glimpsing other ways of being, seeing and knowing through reading.

The small but prolific Australian children’s publishing industry produced many books of windows and mirrors this year, but my criteria for this list was simple: Which 2023 books by Australian creators were regularly requested by the children in my life?

Cub and Brown by Edwina Wyatt and Evie Barrow, Walker Books Australia

Heartwarming friendship tales

Book cover

Edwina Wyatt, author of the Magnolia Moon trilogy, has a flair for writing stories infused with whimsy and delight. Her latest offering is no exception.

Cub, an always-prepared boy scout, faces uncertainty when confronted by a bear in the woods. Brown, a bear living in a human house, becomes an unexpected companion. Their joint adventures delve into the nature of true friendship, overcoming irrational fears and honing outdoor survival skills.

Across 12 chapters, Cub and Brown exchange life lessons inspired by Cub’s scout guidelines in this charming exploration of camaraderie and personal growth.

 

Read the Full Guardian Article Here

Aug 04, 2023

Latest book: Cub & Brown

Published with Walker Books, August 2023

Cub loves exploring the Great Outdoors – he is prepared for everything.

Well, he tried to be. There are plenty of things to learn and tips to follow.

However, Cub isn’t quite sure what he would do if he ever met a bear in the woods.

So when Cub meets Brown, he finds that the outdoors, and the indoors, are full of surprises.

REVIEWS

Featured in The Guardian’s “Best Australian Children’s Books of 2023”. 

READINGS: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

“This heartwarming tale of adventure and friendship is irresistibly playful, steeped in humour, wit and a dash of whimsy – I was charmed from the very beginning. Cub and Brown is 12 chapters of sheer delight!

Cub, a boy scout, is well organised; he’s aware that preparation is the key to success in the great outdoors and so he’s keen to learn all he can. Bear, known as Brown, is prone to taking things at face value and misinterpreting the obvious, but he’s full of ideas, endlessly playful and he’s scared of rabbits! Together, Cub and Brown explore the woods over the summer, and discover the joys and (inevitable) conundrums of friendship. The conclusion is that life is overwhelmingly better when shared.

With delightful illustrations generously scattered throughout, this wonderfully humorous read aloud chapter book will entertain the whole family (and any classroom); highly recommended for independent readers aged 7+.”

– Readings

Read more here.

Mar 16, 2022

PODCAST: ONE MORE PAGE

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15/03/2022, 23:11 Episode 67 – The Magic of Childhood – One More Page Podcast

Liz interviews Edwina Wyatt

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Edwina Wyatt is an Australian children’s author. She grew up in Sydney and worked as a lawyer and a high school teacher before becoming a writer of books for young readers.

Her debut junior fiction novel The Secrets of Magnolia Moon (Walker Books) was awarded the CBCA Honour Book of the Year for Younger Readers, and shortlisted for the Readings’ Children’s Book Prize. She has received three CBCA Notables for her picture books.

Edwina divides her time between writing and working in youth mental health.

LISTEN TO PODCAST HERE

Jan 02, 2022

PAPERBARK WORDS: THE MAGIC OF MAGNOLIA MOON

Posted by Joy Lawn:

Edwina Wyatt writes as beautifully and with as much care for PaperbarkWords about her new children’s novel, The Magic of Magnolia Moon, as she does in her books. The Magnolia Moon trilogy (Walker Books Australia) is shaping up to be an exquisite and important body of work for children.

Edwina Wyatt writes about The Magic of Magnolia Moon:

The Magic of Magnolia Moon is the second instalment in the Magnolia Moon Trilogy Following on from The Secrets of Magnolia Moon (CBCA Honour Book 2020), Magnolia is now ten years old, living in Crocus Cottage with her family in the town of Thistledown. She is re-joined by the same cast of friends including her oldest friend, the moon, who whispers to her every night. However, there are some new additions: a red robin, Hetty, who makes a home in Magnolia’s feather-filled hair. And a ticking, tutting grandfather clock that nags her for being late to add to the fuss made by her creaking, groaning staircase.

As a way to navigate the world around her, Magnolia uses everyday magic to make sense and meaning out of life’s challenges. For Magnolia, magic is everywhere. Not the ordinary sorts of magic, but the quiet, rarer kinds that are easily missed. Like Dog Magic: when the dog outside the fruit shop looks you right in the eye. Or Potato Magic, when you eat a hot buttery potato after a very bad day, and all your problems melt away. Magnolia is enchanted by the most ordinary things. Like puddles and ponds. Hats and umbrellas. Pots of paint and bowls of soup. She finds magic in bubbles, peach pies, wild herbs and the ink from a pen. And by hanging upside down in the Wishing Tree on sticky purple evenings when the frogs are all full of song.

But some people do not understand Magnolia’s way of thinking, they do not listen and miss the magic that is right before their eyes. Sometimes Magnolia’s magic works in surprising, unintended ways, but sometimes she makes mistakes and it does not work at all. Like when the most magical boy that she knows loses his smile and his secret powers through his grief over his parents’ divorce. And when her best friend, Imogen May, gets a new best friend. Or when the bully at school says that magic is not real and is just for babies. Magnolia is forced to question whether she really believes in magic, or whether she, too, should give up on it. Ultimately, Magnolia discovers that Real Magic is the stuff you cannot see; “Like true love and kindness. Forgiveness, bravery and second chances.”

Continuing on with the episodic structure set up in the first book, each chapter is a little vignette and presents a new type of magic all within a gently overarching narrative with two subplots. Perfect for newly independent readers aged 7+ ready for a chapter book, or as a read-aloud for younger children.The book addresses themes of family, belonging, change, identity and friendship. As with The Secrets, I wanted Magnolia to have a new favourite book which informed her inner life and some of the themes. So just as she was captivated by the drama and high stakes of the Greek myths in the first book, in The Magic, Magnolia is inspired by her book of fairytales and she tries to make real-life connections with the stories she reads.

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia)

My favourite illustration by the wonderful Katherine Quinn is perhaps where we see Magnolia feeling as though she is lost in the woods with the Big Bad Wolf when she is being taunted by the school bully. I also love the illustrations from the midnight feast that goes wrong in the chapter Midnight Magic.

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia)

Whilst the books are not autobiographical, each book addresses some pressing question that is of interest to me at the time. For example, when I was writing The Secrets I was interested in change and what it meant, as I was experiencing a lot of change. In The Magic, I wanted to know if it was really possible to have a magical, enchanted life full of beauty and surprise in a world full of so much suffering, pain and instability. And in the third which is set to arrive in October 2022, I was interested in fear, anxiety and bravery. Also, in money and the true meaning of wealth and happiness. Magnolia asks the question, “Who am I?” when the world around her is telling her stories of who she is that do not ring true. Whilst these can all be read separately as stand-alone books, I look forward to them being able to be enjoyed as a collection.

Edwina Wyatt

The challenge for me with these books has been striking the balance between light and shade. Trying to keep it very dreamy, naïve and simple, without being simplistic. I wanted the books to cover big and complex themes but provide the reader with enough space to wade as shallow or deeply as they choose. I wanted to keep the language clear and unpretentious but also let myself play with words and not shy away from using odd metaphors and abstract ideas like the way time is represented. In other words, I didn’t want to be whimsical at the expense of truth. But did not want to let truth get in the way of beauty and innocence.

It has been so wonderful revisiting Magnolia’s world. It has certainly helped me to find a little magic – to stay open and curious to all possibilities. Even if it means looking twice or checking in the dark places under the table when it seems to be hiding.

LINK TO ARTICLE:

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt

Apr 07, 2021

WELCOME TISH!

 

TISH has arrived! Thrilled to be able to welcome this new junior fiction novel into the world.

 

 

MEET TISH

This is the exquisite tale of an imaginary friend, desperate to be loved and the children whose beliefs make him real – at least for now.

CBCA Honour Award-winning author Edwina Wyatt has created a heart-warming story of friendship, longing and courage. Once you know Tish, you won’t ever forget him.

REVIEWS:

“Edwina Wyatt is one of my favourite authors…Tish is a gorgeous story about imaginary friends with a bitter sweet feeling to it. That universal story of needing to be loved and have friends, and finding new friends, and saying goodbye to old friends. It’s absolutely beautiful, gentle and heart-warming and highly, highly recommended reading. Beautiful read aloud for 7 – 10 year olds.”

– Megan Daley (Episode 7, Your Kid’s Next Read Podcast)

“Highly recommended. A delightful, bitter-sweet story about the qualities of friendship, of searching, finding, saying goodbye and hello and learning to know oneself. 

Stories like Tish are important for children as they talk of the universal need to be loved, the process of trying to adapt, trying to please and the development of confidence in what is important to oneself in a friend. Tish represents unrequited friendship, gentleness, hurt and goodness. A beautiful tale!”– ReadPlus

“Edwina Wyatt writes with such a dazzling sense of wonder. I simply adore her descriptive language. The opening sentence drew me into the world of Charles Dimple and Tish and then I was hooked. This story is full of heart, imaginary friends, friendship and loyalty…A wonderful book to read aloud to a class or together at bed time.”– A Librarian Who Wonders

“A loveable middle-grade fiction about an imaginary friend who is looking to fit in and find his place in the world. A comforting book about friendship, loneliness, freedom and fitting in, especially in our formative years.”– Better Read Than Dead

“The perfect cosy bedtime story. Grab a blanket and your little one and enjoy this heartwarming book.” – The Chestnut Tree Bookshop.

“An imaginative, well-written story, this book will appeal to kids who might feel they are misunderstood or being sidelined by their friends’ behaviour. Tish could provide a comfort to them, especially those in the 7–12 age bracket.” – Bookseller + Publisher

Key Selling Points

*A jaw-droppingly gorgeous read about having the power to imagine*For fans of Katherine Applegate and Kate DiCamillo

*Written by the CBCA Honour winning author of The Secrets of Magnolia Moon and illustrated by debut French illustrator Aurélie Barbedette​

*Tish is the story of a lovable imaginary friend who is looking for his place in the world and finds it through his companionship with three different children who need him. It’s a story of friendship, goodbyes and longing, and a tale of having the confidence to believe

*Stunningly illustrated hardback edition making it the perfect gift

*Junior Fiction novel for ages 7-12

 

 

Oct 16, 2020

MAGNOLIA MOON AWARDED CBCA HONOUR BOOK OF THE YEAR

So.

This year I:
Turned 34;
Moved states;
Got a cat;
Lost a best friend – my horse, Axel;
Became a yoga addict (despite being a long-time yoga nay-sayer/eye-roller);
Wrote a novel;
Watched The Biggest Little Farm doco TWICE? (Have you seen this? On Stan. That Pig!);
Started composting;
Watched my country burn;
Watched my country fight over toilet paper;
Discovered that I DO like frozen peas and corn (it’s just those wretched little cubed carrots that I take exception to);
And was awarded an Honour by The Children’s Book Council of Australia. Wow. Gosh.

But the biggest thing that happened?
My son learned how to read.
I busted him one night, after lights out, reading a book that I wrote. Reading Magnolia Moon. Wow. Gosh.

Literacy is freedom, so they say. And this year, where we have all faced unprecedented uncertainty, and I have doubted my ability to navigate parenthood – because this is scary! Because I don’t have the answers! Because bad things do happen! But it’s all so darn wonderful! – I have been armed with books.
“Read this!” I can now say to him when asked to explain the inexplicable.

A door, a window, has been opened for my son. And it’s because of this community. Because of readers and writers and illustrators and publishers and editors and booksellers and book designers and the whole darn lot of you.

This year, whenever I have been scared, sad, lost, angry, happy, tired, lonely, bored, confused, and overwhelmed, I have picked up a book and returned home.

So.

Thank you to the CBCA for this huge honour, and congratulations to our Australian creators, on and off the list.  Let’s keep this life-long party going!

WATCH AWARDS CEREMONY HERE

#CBCA2020 @cbcaustralia

 

Jul 23, 2020

PAPERBARK WORDS: INTERVIEW WITH EDWINA WYATT

Inside the CBCA Shortlist with Joy Lawn

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated by Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia) is shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia in the Book of the Year: Younger Readers category.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is an appealing story about Magnolia Moon told in lyrical, engaging writing.

Congratulations on your CBCA shortlisting, Edwina, and thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords.

Where are you based and what is your background in children’s books?

It’s such a pleasure. Thank you for having me!

I am based in the Victorian high country. I am the author of six picture books, the first of which was published in 2015. The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is my first chapter book and now I am hooked!

Your character of Magnolia Moon is thoughtful and endearing. Could you please introduce her to us?

Oh, I am so pleased! That’s lovely to hear – thank you.

Magnolia Moon is nine years old and lives in the town of Thistledown. She has a curmudgeonly talking staircase, a best friend called Imogen May, a head full of twigs and feathers, and a special understanding with the moon. Magnolia is a romantic and curious child with a fascination in Greek mythology, a huge imagination and a love of nature. Her quirky way of looking at the world is uniquely hers and helps her find magic and inspiration in everything she does. Above all else, she is a deep thinker, a compassionate friend and a good listener – the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets.

What are some of the experiences that she is facing?

Magnolia’s life is changing: her family is growing, there is an angel at school, and her best friend is moving away. On top of that, people are sharing their secrets with her: problems or challenges they are facing. Magnolia has to come up with a way to help others solve their problems whilst maintaining their trust, all the while having her own secrets and big feelings to deal with. Some are funny secrets, some are silly and some more serious. But all are highly relatable for any child. Through helping other people, Magnolia has to develop her own values, question her assumptions and try to make sense of the world.

Why have you used an episodic structure?

While the book spans a year in Magnolia’s life giving the story continuity, each chapter is a separate entity, so it is perfect for that bedtime read when just a chapter is enough. This structure is also ideal for newly independent readers who are building their confidence and skills.

Using this episodic structure allowed me to drill down into the small micro-details of life. I also enjoyed the mental challenge of having to write ten tight little stories, all with a separate problem to be solved, that added up to one bigger story. Working this way also made the task feel more manageable, as I just told myself I had to make one neat little quilt square at a time and then could stitch it all together and make something substantial. I think it’s also a product of my picture book sensibility, where everything needs to be so tight and economical. It helped me keep control of the narrative and stopped it from going saggy in the middle!

Could you tell us a little about her friends and family?

There is quite a large cast of characters in the book, including:

Imogen May, Magnolia’s best friend, (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be a fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”, wishing trees, and talking crows); Mama Moon and Daddy Moon, Magnolia’s messy, musical parents; Grandma Moon, Magnolia’s eccentric, irreverent, insect-loving grandmother who lives with a menagerie of animals; Reuben, the angel-boy; Atlas, the family cat; Casper Sloan, the shy, reticent and slightly cynical new boy in town who has a porridge-eating basset hound called Bonnie, and always packs an ‘alphabet lunch’ in paper bag; and, of course, the magical moon.

What is the significance of some of your characters’ names?

 

Magnolia blossoms photo by izik (Creative Commons)

 

Magnolia flowers represent love for nature, beauty, perseverance, longevity, nobility and feminine sweetness. Magnolias also remind me of my family and favourite gardens. One of my earliest paintings at school was of a magnolia – my mum still has it framed on her wall.

 

‘Magnolia’ by Edwina Wyatt, age 12 (1998)

The surname of ‘Moon’ was also a deliberate choice, since I wanted my main character to have lunar, ‘moonish’ qualities. I had a lot of fun playing with those comparative passages in the book – they were some of my favourite passages to write.

When auditioning character names, much of it came down to how it sounded when read aloud. I spent a lot of time reading the book out loud to my dog, to make sure the rhythm was right. For example, I had to add the “May” onto “Imogen”, as the name alone didn’t have enough syllables to sound right when said in combination with Magnolia.

“Magnolia Moon and Imogen May” just sounded so much better than: “Magnolia Moon and Imogen.” Bonkers! I know.

You have used moon symbolism beautifully. Why have you featured the moon?

That’s so kind– thank you. I have a bit of an obsession with the moon. It’s a powerful symbol in art and literature and has such magical and divine feminine energy. And when personified, it offers some wonderful character traits to play with, since it is so magnetic, mysterious, cyclical and omnipresent.

I also didn’t want Magnolia to feel alone and burdened with all her secrets. By sharing her feelings and problems with something so big, it allows her to step back and get some perspective. In this sense, the moon plays a pivotal role as the ultimate secret keeper – keeping the secrets of the universe and representing the things beyond Magnolia’s control:

“The moon whispered back. It told her all sorts of things. About the oceans it moves, the stars that pass by. About what it’s like to be old and full of holes. To live so far away. But there were some things it would not tell Magnolia: secrets it wanted to keep. Such as what she was getting for her birthday. And why her brother Finnegan crawls backwards and not forwards. And why it was taking so long to grow up. It wasn’t easy being almost ten. And no matter how she prodded and poked for it to tell her, the moon only winked.” (page 151)

What is the significance of Greek myths to Magnolia?

These parts were such fun to write. The Greek myths arm Magnolia with the language and mental machinery to understand some of the situations she finds herself in. Viewing the world this way gives her courage and bravery, transforms the mundane into something magical and allows her travel in style when she would rather fly on a winged-horse than walk home from school.

The drama and high-stakes of Greek myths also helped display the brevity of Magnolia’s feelings. As whilst she is experiencing small, ordinary moments, to her they seem like great triumphs or tragedies as she feels things on such a grand scale.

What is your favourite flower?

This is such a tough question as I adore so many flowers. A gift from my mother, which she inherited from her own mother. Wisteria holds a special place for me and I managed to sneak a vine or two into the book. And I love magnolias of course! The white grandifloras are beautiful, but it is the more common pink and purple magnolias with the fuzzy little green slipper buds that I love the most (Magnolia Soulangeana).

As I write this, I currently have a vase on the kitchen table full of two favourites including stock (the most amazing perfume) and jonquils. I also adore lilac, sweet peas and hydrangeas. I have just finished planting out my spring bulbs and have been guarding them against attack from the chickens!

(I have shamelessly cheated on this question…sorry!)

(I love all these flowers as well, Edwina, so am glad you added more.)

How have you incorporated hope into the story?

I wanted this book to feel like a big old hug – a veritable hot mug of hope. Yet I never want to be didactic or pretend that I have any answers – because I don’t. The moon is used as a symbol of hope throughout the book and so is Magnolia’s ‘little red kite’ that dives and swoops in her heart. Magnolia also has to figure out whether she believes there is any point to having hope when she is faced with Casper Sloan’s rather resigned outlook. But Magnolia is convinced that we must always hope and says:

“That the seeds of hope can live in the darkest places – in the deepest holes and cracks of a broken heart. Fed by tears. Fuelled by courage. Wending their way towards the light until they bloomed inside. Growing into something new and unexpected.” (page 33)

Which of Katherine Quinn’s lovely illustrations is your favourite, and why?

I adore all of the illustrations – Katherine Quinn has done such an exquisite job. I am particularly fond of this image, though: Magnolia and Mama Moon dancing the Heel and Toe Polka on page 55, since it captures Magnolia’s spirit so well (and I love Katherine’s sneaky inclusion of snow drops in there which has significance in the story).

Heel and Toe Polka from The Secrets of Magnolia Moon Illustration by Katherine Quinn

What impact has being shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year: Younger Reader award this year had on you or this book?

It’s such a huge honour and a privilege, and also a great help. These awards help creators and publishers share what has been a labour of love, keeps the book alive for longer and helps put the book into children’s hands. The book has also been shortlisted for Readings’ Children’s Book Prize 2020, which is just so lovely and it means a great deal to me to have industry support.

It’s very encouraging, as it’s not a hysterical, fast-paced read full of action and dramatic tension, but rather a gently humorous and tender portrayal of friendship and family with just a touch of fantasy, that zooms in on the small moments in everyday life.  In this way I feel that it offers something unique for a different sort of child, a more reflective, and overlooked sort of reader who might be in want of a different sort of hero.

Also, very pleased that it has happened at this stage of my career, several years in when I understand the value of it, and have really had to work hard to establish my voice and learn how to deal with rejection and criticism. I realise how hard it is to get a book to break through, but by the same token, how important it is not to be too distracted by opinion. I now know how to keep my eyes on what’s important, how to stay in my own lane and focus on my job, which is to keep creating, and working as hard as I can to create the very best worlds that I can for kids to escape into. So that they can always find a friend, an adventure and a safe, magical place on the page.

Could you tell us about some of your other books?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a picture book just out recently (May 2020) called Sometimes Cake illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie. That’s a gorgeous little project and I can’t wait to introduce the two characters in this story: Audrey and Lion. It’s a story about finding joy in the smallest things and discovering that, even on the most ordinary of days, there is always a reason to have cake. It’s out now in Australia and the UK, published by Walker Books and to be released in the USA in March 2021 (Candlewick Press).

Some of my earlier work includes picture books Together Always illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (CBCA NOTABLE 2017, Early Childhood Book of the Year) and In the Evening illustrated by Gaye Chapman (CBCA NOTABLE 2016, Picture Book of the Year) published by Little Hare Books.

 

What are you writing or working on now?

I am very excited to say that Book 2: THE MAGIC OF MAGNOLIA MOON will be out late next year with the wonderful Walker Books. It is currently being illustrated and I cannot wait to see this project come together. I am busy editing this and polishing it up.

I have also just finished a new stand-alone middle grade novel which will be out early next year at this stage. More on that soon!

What have you been reading that you would like to recommend?

In terms of recent children’s fiction that I have read and adored, I highly recommend Beyond the Laughing Sky and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas.I also loved the “My Happy Life” books by Rose Lagercrantz, The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods and The Secret Library of Hummingbird House by Julianne Negri.

How can your readers contact you?

Do drop by and say hello via Instagram or send me an email via the contact page on my website: https://edwinawyatt.com.au

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is a beautiful hard cover gift book and a lovely work to share with young children. Magnolia is a well-rounded character whose imaginative nature is perfectly balanced with surprises and intrepidness.

Thank you for your wonderful responses, Edwina, and all the best with this novel and its sequel as well as your other books, Edwina.

 

Mar 31, 2020

MAGNOLIA MOON: CBCA SHORTLISTED BOOK

Very lovely to hear that THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON has been shortlisted for the CBCA  Younger Readers’ Book of the Year. Warmest thanks to the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Walker Books for this huge honour. And congratulations to all the amazing creators on and off the list, and the teams of passionate people who work so hard to bring our book babies into the world!

xx,

Edwina