Annie’s Snails is all about a young girl finding pleasure in the little things in life. Do you think it’s important for children to be adventurous and discover interesting things (like snails) on their own?
Yes, adventurous play is so important, and sadly not something many children are allowed to do. No one wants a child to have a serious accident, but I believe (loosely) unsupervised play fosters creativity and imagination. Children need space to test their bravery and learn to set personal limits. I loved making cubbies as a child; in long grass in the neighbouring paddock, in backyard trees, under sheets drying between chairs. Part of the attraction was that I was in a private space of my own, where I could make up the rules and daydream. As adults I think we need to respect that. Children who aren’t allowed to take risks have no opportunity to learn resilience and this is such an important life skill. During school visits when I show early drafts of stories, I always tell students that technology is great, but that my “ideas” arrive when I’m away from screens, usually when I’m out in nature, often walking our dog in the bush or at the beach. I’m fortunate to live in a regional town, but small micro systems with great creatures can be found in small parks, alongside footpaths, even in the back of some kitchen cupboards!
What books did you read as a child? Do you think about the books you liked as a child when you are writing now?
I enjoyed a wide range of books as a child, but I particularly loved animal stories; Dot and the Kangaroo, Bottersnikes and Gumbles, The Muddle-Headed Wombat and Charlotte’s Web. Then in middle primary I read stories like; Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Call of the Wild.
Normally I don’t often think about those stories, but I’m currently researching “Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature” for my PhD on a scholarship from UWA, so I’m re-reading many of those old favourites and discovering many wonderful new animal stories.
You have visited a lot of schools and libraries to talk about your books. What’s the best question you have been asked? What’s the strangest question?
Most schools and libraries do a lot of prep and students are fired up ready when I arrive, so the strangest question was when children asked if I was the relief teacher! It was during a tour, there had been staff changes and school upheavals since the booking. Even the office had no idea who I was, but once we got started, it was a lovely session. The best questions are those that surprise me.
What do you hope readers will take away from Annie’s Snails?
Not all families are able to have a dog, cat or pony. I hope young readers who yearn for a pet will be inspired to look around them to find unusual creatures that could perhaps be their pet for a day.
The story also celebrates the power of imagination. An upturned washing basket or an old box can be so many things. I’d love young readers to be inspired to make their own pirate ships and become brave explorers.