In this post I introduce you to Narelle Oliver, a Brisbane-based author and illustrator. There is much to explore on Narelle’s site, including: information about her writing process and tips for would-be picture book authors; the research involved in creating her books, many of which are about nature; and illustration techniques that involve the use of linocut printing and rubbing, and other assorted media.
Narelle conducts workshops for children and adults. She visits schools to share with children the wonder of her books and talks to them about her writing and illustrating processes. When she visited “my” school she brought along first thoughts and illustrations for, and a dummy book of, The Very Blue Thingamajig, plus a soft toy prototype – and we all wanted one! She also brought a fox from the museum and talked about illustrating Fox and fine feathers. She read to the children, involved them in activities and gave them an experience of linocut printing. It was fascinating for both children and teachers.
Narelle talks about her workshops and sessions in this video.
While you can find a complete list of Narelle’s books here, I will share those I have on my bookshelf (in no particular order).
The Very Blue Thingamajig is as story about difference and acceptance told in a fun way involving mathematical concepts of patterns, counting and days of the week. The colourful illustrations made using hand-coloured linocuts are appealing, and children love to find the little bird who provides a secondary story throughout the book. On Narelle’s fun page you can colour and decorate your own thingamajig.
Dancing the Boom Cha Cha Boogie is a gorgeous tale of three little murmels who are washed out to sea in an arkel and arrive on a foreign shore where they are not welcomed by the resident snigs. They are imprisoned until when, the arkel is repaired, they are to leave. At night a young snig releases the murmels who teach the snig to have fun. In the end the murmels are accepted and stay happily in Snigdom with the snigs, learning from and enjoying each other’s company. This book is illustrated with hand-coloured linocuts.
Fox and fine feathers is a story of friendship, of looking out for each other and keeping each other safe. The attention to detail in these linocut illustrations coloured with pencils and pastels is amazing and accurately depicts the five creatures and the forest setting. Narelle has supported the story with information about the birds, their habitat and the dangers imposed by the feral fox, which is now a serious threat, along with other feral animals, to native species in Australia.
- Leaf Tail, Narelle’s first picture book, illustrated by beautiful linocuts, tells the story of a leaf tail gecko and the importance of camouflage to survival in the Queensland forest.
- The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, also illustrated with hand-coloured linocuts, tells of a squabble between five different birds, each professing its own beak to be the best. Finally clever pelican holds a contest that enables the birds to see that each beak is best in its own way. As well as a delightful story about wildlife, it also provides a springboard into discussions about, and appreciation of, differences.
- The Hunt is another beautifully illustrated wildlife story of camouflage and survival. The story is supported with information about its setting and the workings of animal camouflage and disguise. There are also black and white drawings showing where to find the animals camouflaged in each illustration. It is fun to see if all the animals can be found without referring to the guide.
Home, referred to in a previous post Home or away, is perhaps a favourite if only because it is based on a true story of a pair of peregrine falcons that nested at the top of a 27-storey building in the city of Brisbane. The birds, named Frodo and Frieda, fascinated a city and, for a while, had their own reality show “Frodocam”. The story, beautifully illustrated using a combination of media including linocut rubbings, collage, photographs, pencil, pastels and watercolours, tells of the adaptation of wildlife to new landscapes and environments.
Each of these books can be appreciated for its story or used as a springboard for discussion. The illustrations appeal to adults and children alike for the attention to detail and accurate representation of wildlife. The addition of supporting information encourages an appreciation for wildlife and their habitats and develops an awareness of the need for their protection. They would be a wonderful addition to any book collection and be much appreciated as gifts.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.