What was your selection process for choosing which locations were included in A is for Australia?
My challenge was to represent all the states and to highlight Australia’s diverse and unique landscape. Some destinations were so incredibly iconic: Sydney Harbour, Uluru, and Bondi Beach, which made the decision easy. Some locations were difficult to choose because there were many amazing alternatives!
Each spread shows the unique features, activities and colours of the locations. How did you research each location?
I travelled to many of the places in A is for Australia so I could portray the scenes with accuracy, visiting interpretive centres, museums, and national parks. Back in my studio, I sorted through the enormous range of facts, photographs, travel brochures, stacks of research books and many online sources of information.By mixing authentic facts with personal experience and artistic licence, I endeavoured to create a vibrant portrait of our country that would appeal to children and readers of all ages.
You’ve lived and travelled all over the world and now live in Western Australia. What is it about Western Australia that makes you love to call it home?
West Australia is a far cry from New Jersey in the USA, where I grew up. My mother ran a travel agency and encouraged my love of travelling the world. Nowadays, I look forward to coming home to the wide-open spaces and the relaxed way of life in Australia. Within a few minutes from my house, I can catch a ferry to Rottnest Island or stroll alongside the Swan River. I often see dolphins, black swans and families catching prawns and crabs. One of my favorite pastimes is walking beside the Indian Ocean to Dog Beach, watching dogs of all shapes and sizes having the times of their lives.
What is your favourite place in Australia?
I can’t pick a favorite place – from the red dirt outback, to the tall tree forests to the pristine coastlines that go on forever – and there is still so much to explore.
What do you hope young readers will take away from A is for Australia?
A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian people, places and culture. I want readers to discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. Hopefully children will become intrigued and encourage their parents to take them to explore some of the locations in the book!
You have visited schools all around Australia to share your books. What is the most unusual experience you’ve had at a school?
A librarian at a school didn’t believe who I was. She was quite adamant that Frané Lessac was a man from the West Indies. She said, “You are not Frané Lessac and I don’t think it’s funny for you to go around impersonating him!”
What’s the strangest question?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Classroom ideas for A is for Australia are available here.