Out of the Box: The Art and Life of Emily Rodda

Out of the Box: The Art and Life of Emily Rodda
The online launch of Jon Appleton’s downloadable PDF, available free from Noon on 12 March 2024.

Celebrating Emily Rodda and the NCACL

When I researched and wrote my memoir of my long correspondence with Robin Klein, the world was in lockdown. I happily reread her books at home in London, but when it came to research, I emailed Belle Alderman for help. She kindly scanned and emailed me copies of Robin’s letters to me from the NCACL archives. I couldn’t have written Letters from Robin without her help.

Out of that book, came an itch to explore Emily Rodda’s career. As you know, I’m sure, she is one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers for children, winner of many literary awards. She has also become a kind of unofficial ambassador for the promotion of the joys and advantages of reading. She has an international reputation, especially for her multi million selling Deltora Quest series.

Beyond the books, there were crossover points with Robin Klein’s life, and with my own too.

So I began reading and rereading Emily’s books – those under the Rodda name and her real name, Jennifer Rowe – and writing about them, to create a portrait of her life from childhood onwards and career and how one has influenced the other. I’ve explored questions of identity, duty and creativity, themes that recur in her stories, and included some publishing history too.

I set myself a deadline of having the book ready this year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first publication of her first book, Something Special.

This time, I knew I could do my research in person. And I couldn’t wait to get back to Australia. I went to interview her at home in the Blue Mountains. And I went to the NCACL for two days to immerse myself in the archives she donated to the collection. In dozens of boxes were letters from publishers and readers, full manuscripts, notes for stories, marketing material like stickers and bookmarks, rough illustrations and glossy cover proofs. Each book has its own folder (or several folders!) where you can see its evolution from the initial idea to the final typeset pages. I was also able to inspect the various editions of her books in the library as well as translations copies from all over the world.

Out of the Box: the Art and Life of Emily Rodda is the book that resulted from my research, and it’s available now – for you, to read, for free on my website. Here’s a link.

It’s a gift to Emily’s readers but also to the NCACL, in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Two anniversaries to celebrate at once. Two formidable contributions to Australian children’s literature. Please join me in saying: Hip hip hooray!

Jon Appleton