Telling Tales: Inside Australian Children’s Literature

Telling Tales: Inside Australian Children’s Literature
A panel held on 11 March 2024 as part of NCACL’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Christopher Cheng is the award-winning author of many children’s books published worldwide in print and digital formats. He writes children’s fiction and nonfiction as a full-time pursuit. His picture books include Bear and Rat illustrated by Stephen Michael King and One Tree illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

Christopher has worked as a primary school teacher, children’s bookseller and he established Australia’s first travelling zoo, the Zoomobile at Taronga Park Zoo. Christopher is co-chair of the International Advisory Board for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). He is a recipient of the Lady Cutler
Award for Children’s Literature. Christopher established the international peer voted SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, chosen by children’s book writers and illustrators, the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers. Christopher has been a Literacy Ambassador for the Federal Government’s Literacy and Numeracy Week initiative and is an Ambassador for the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc.

Ann’s earlier life as an art teacher is the foundation for her approach to illustrating books for children. In a career spanning 45 years, she has illustrated over 70 books, collaborating with many authors and publishers. In 1988, she and Ann Haddon established Books Illustrated, a gallery and bookshop, promoting Australian picture
books and their creators through exhibitions in Australia and overseas for 35 years.

Ann was a director on the Board of The Australian Society of Authors representing children’s book creators for 20 years, and a founding director on the Board of the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation. As an Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Ann has the wonderful opportunity to work with children in
some of the most remote and inspiring communities in Australia. Her interest in supporting and promoting creators of Australian children’s books has been acknowledged over her career. In 2000 she was awarded the Pixie O’Harris award and, in 2002, the Dromkeen Medal for services to children’s literature. Ann was the Australian illustrator nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2020. In 2016 Ann was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia.

Erica Wagner has worked in the publishing industry for over three decades supporting high quality award-winning books for children and young adults. She started out with Penguin Books Australia in 1988, then established Silverfish, a children’s list in 1999. She worked at Allen & Unwin from 2000–2020 and continues there part-time. She is the recipient of many awards including the first children’s book editor to receive the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship, recipient of the Dromkeen Medal in 2017, Pixie O’Harris Award given by the Australian Book Industry in 2021 and the Australian Publishers Association’s George Roberson Award in 2022.

As an artist, Erica exhibits regularly in solo and group shows around Australia. She is a sought-after mentor and publishing consultant, specialising in illustrated books and books by First Nations’ creators. Her own first picture book, Hope is the Thing, written by Johanna Bell, was published in February 2023.

Sally Allen has worked for over 20 years as a teacher in ACT public schools, including as a classroom teacher, EAL/D teacher, Reading Recovery teacher and as a release teacher within the school library. She completed her Master of Teacher Librarianship at Charles Sturt University in 2023, as part of the ACT Education Directorate teacher scholarship program that supported her to upskill and gain a formal qualification in teacher

Sally was drawn to being a teacher librarian after seeing the impact it made in schools. The teacher librarian advocates for children’s literature and encourages storytelling and reading across the whole school community. Sally is now a practicing teacher librarian, a role shared across the Narrabundah and Lyons Early Childhood Schools in Canberra, Australia.
Figure 1 Photo by Sister Scout © Sister Scout
© Sally Allen

In 2016 Ann was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia.

Photograph (C) Ann Haddon