Picture book lovers! We are counting down until our very exciting November party! ‘Food Glorious Food’!!


We will be celebrating everything ‘food themed’ in Picture Books with the super amazing Hazel Edwards. This talented Australian author is best known for the children’s literature classic ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ series. She also writes for teenagers and adults and has published over 200 books across a range of genre’s and subjects.


In  2001, Hazel was awarded the Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship. She travelled to Casey Station on the ‘Polar Bird’ ice-ship. This visit inspired a range of creative projects. These include the young adult eco-thriller ‘Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen’, the Picture Book ‘ Antarctic Dad’ and the memoir, ‘ Antarctic Writer on Ice’ Furthermore from this trip she was inspired to write classroom playscripts and literacy material.

Passionate about literacy and creativity, Hazel has mentored gifted children and proudly held the title of Reading Ambassdor for various organisations. She runs writing workshops and mentors inspiring writers online. Formerly a director  on the Committee of Management of the Australian Society of Authors, Hazel was awarded an OAM for Literature in 2013.

There is plenty more to read about Hazel! What an amazing accomplished author. I already have a huge list of questions to ask her at our chat!! . Check out her website for more info and some great resources.  Hazel can be also found on Facebook and Twitter. 


Here are the chat questions for Thursday night…so get your thinking caps on!!!

Q1. Share your favourite glorious ‘food’ themed picture book! (Show a pic!)

Q2. What is it about food in books that’s so entertaining?

Q3. What purpose does food play in books?

Q4. A foodie question! Which favourite food would you like to see in a Picture Book?!

There will also be plenty of time at the end to ask the amazing Hazel Edwards your questions !

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night the 2nd of November at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat!

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

Also don’t forget Aussies, we are now on daylight savings time! Here is a reminder for the chat times around the country!



 ‘Food is the sex of children’s books’

By Hazel Edwards


It might sound a little outrageous to say that ‘Food is the sex of children’s books’, but foody imagery is a way of writing which plays on the senses.

Food can be an important part of a picture book. But text also needs to leave room for the reader’s imagination, so ‘Special cake’ means different things to different audiences. Birthday cake? Icecream? Cake of soap?


Readers often know about my cake-eating hippo series, but are unaware of my other picture book titles, so I’ll include some here to share the crafting techniques and pay tribute to my illustrators.

Writing text for a picture book is the Rolls Royce of writing. I regard it as the area requiring the most skill. Quality matters. Every word counts. So there may be only a few hundred words across 32 pages, but the concepts and ideas need to be crafted. I prefer the term ‘choreographed’ to explain the balancing act of ideas.

I start with a quirky idea which has grabbed my imagination.

Like the concept in ‘Not Lost, Just Somewhere Else’ which was based on my excuse-skilled son always losing things, and then querying about the more abstract ideas of loss, like whether you could be lost if you were with yourself.


Since I think in abstract, not pictures, I don’t illustrate. As an author, I collaborate with an illustrator in a picture book and write an art brief of suggestions and reasons. But mainly I choose an illustrator with a sense of humour and let them draw on their expert skills. Or when I write a picture book for a specific child, such as one of my grandkids each birthday, I often use photographs.

Read to My Child is a Youtube site which shares picture books and ‘Who is Hiding’ which I wrote for my grandson Henry’s birthday is included here. Just Google it.

As a collaborator, I write the story first, but am willing to take out words if the artist is already covering that idea/concept in the illustrations.

Sub-text is vital. This is the ‘what is going on underneath’ the story, where the examples used indicate a bigger conflict. Sub-text is also what keeps adults reading, as a well structured children’s picture book will be universal and cross cultures and decades. The common themes are coping successfully with being different or ‘facing your fear’ which is what all the cake-eating hippo books are about. And why the big imaginary friend with all the answers is important.

Which of your picture books have food in them?

Most of them, because it’s a way of playing on the senses and especially taste and sight. I’ve never actually counted, but I’m often asked why I use animals so much. It’s a way of allowing a different viewpoint which is not a girl nor a boy.

However. ‘Stickybeak’ the mischievous duck with attitude is NOT dinner. Although there are have been great fan questions like:

‘Where was Stickybeak before he was a duck?’

My answer (after a bit of thinking) ‘Before he was a duck, he was an egg. And before he was an egg, he was an idea.’stickybeak

‘Oinkabella’ is a pig, but is never eaten.


Although ‘Antarctic Dad’ (illustrated by Kevin Burgemeestre) hasn’t much food inside, at the Tasmanian launch we had fabulous ‘white’ themed food including a meringue iceberg.

Often book launches have creative food linked to the titles.

‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ has a slight link to honey and a bigger link to the buzz of reading to classical music.

‘Snail Mail’ about the literate snail who could read-eat was always popular.

And the twist in ‘Fish and Chips and Jaws’ which is about goldfish pets, is that if you live above a fish and chip shop, best not to eat your pets’ relatives.

Some of my older picture books are out of print, but can be found in libraries or have been adapted into apps like ‘Feymouse’ (Blue Quoll) about a large and clumsy cat born into a family of highly talented mice. (which is actually my favourite picture book). It does contain cheese!


Why does the hippo eat cake?

For reasons of absurdity. Creativity is putting together two things which have not been in that combination before. Real hippos eat carrots.

In my memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’ I share some of the ‘behind the pages’ stories of what inspired some books. And many imaginative fan letters and hippo cakes which have been made by imaginative educators, librarians and students. (Easier to make a roof than a hippo shape!) I call it ‘literary speed dating’ when a character receives fan mail and the author has to respond in character.


Picture books provoke amazing fan mail which I always answer.

Which fan mail stays in your memory?

During a Territory Tales Web Chat in Australian Literacy and Numeracy Week, Katherine South Primary School responded:

Hi Hazel; Us mob think you are a good author because you have good books that make us happy. From Gus, Dontay & Vernon

That’s food for the author.


Useful links re Picture Books


Hazel Edwards website


For Aspiring writers: if you wish to create your own picture book, check out hints here:–your-pictures.html

In this Youtube clip Hazel explains how ‘Look There’s a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake’ has been structured.

Lunchbox food too!


Hazel Edwards OAM has published 202 books including ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ series currently touring as ‘Hippo Hippo the Musical’. ‘Hijabi Girl’ co-written with Muslim librarian Ozge Alkan about a feisty 8 year old who wants to start a girls’ footy team, is her latest junior book. A cultural risk-taker, Hazel co-wrote ‘f2m: the boy within’ a YA novel about trans youth. A believer in participant-observation research, Hazel has been an Antarctic expeditioner .She mentors ‘Hazelnuts’ writers and was on the Australian Society of Authors board.

‘Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author’ is her memoir based on anecdultery as a creative structure. Her books have been translated in ten languages and adapted for other mediums. ‘Difficult Personalities’ (PRH) co-written with Dr Helen Mc Grath is available in Russian, Polish, Korean, American and audio. Currently writing adult mysteries including ‘Celebrant Sleuth’.

Details about her picture books, reviews and activities are available at:





We were super lucky to have Jess Walton as our special guest for our October chat. The theme was ‘Diversity and Disability’ in Picture Books. One of the main points raised was the importance of children growing up and seeing themselves represented in books. Jess has written us this very awesome blog post on her own experiences…


Many people would agree that kids need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. Many would also agree that kids need to see the diversity of the world reflected in the books they read. Unfortunately, parents sometimes only think to act on the first of these statements; they seek out picture books that will reflect their own child’s life and experience and family. It’s only natural. I certainly sought out books for my kids that had two mums in them, just like they do. I looked for books with disabled characters because they have a disabled mum. I wrote a book with a transgender character because they have a transgender grandmother.

I’ve already observed the effect on my son and his peers, seeing no families like ours on TV or in books; my son asks why none of the kids on telly have two mummies like him, and he recently came home from childcare asking why some of the other children were insisting he had a mummy and a daddy.

So yes, making sure they see themselves and their family was my first concern, but it wasn’t my only one. For one thing, there are aspects of our childrens’ identities that we may not be aware of until they’re a bit older. I became disabled aged nine, and I had seen no positive depictions – no depictions at all – of disability in the books I’d read. I think it would have helped me to know that disabled people exist, that a disability is nothing to be ashamed or worried about, and that in fact it is an identity that a lot of people feel very proud of, and happy with.

My parents didn’t know I was bisexual when I was little, and my dad’s parents didn’t know she was trans. So reading books with LGBTI people, showing that they exist and are living happy lives as part of families and communities? That would have been helpful to both of us, as children. And to the parents reading to us too, perhaps.

Children shouldn’t only get that information in the form of an “issues book” when parents first become aware, or miss out entirely on seeing themselves in books until they’re adults. It should be woven into the stories they’re surrounded by as they grow up.

And most importantly perhaps, reading diverse picture books to all children, no matter who they are or may turn out to be, helps those children to live more happily and peacefully in diverse communities, and in a diverse world. It’s as simple as that. A lot of bigotry and bullying comes from a lack of understanding, and picture books are a great way to increase understanding. The ideas and values in the books we read as children stay with us throughout our lives. They become a part of us, and some books even become precious gifts that we pass on to our own children.

It gives me great joy to think that maybe my children, or other children out there reading diverse picture books, will feel a little less isolated and confused because the right books existed, and were placed in their hands as children. It gives me even more joy to think of those books being passed on to future generations.

Picture books are a way to introduce a love of reading, a way to improve literacy during childhood, and a way to entertain and bond with our children. They are also stories about the world, and by leaving things out of those stories, we send our children messages about what is and isn’t acceptable in our eyes. If we want our children to know that we are openminded, accepting people and that we want them to be too, thinking about the stories we choose to tell them matters. It really does.

I can’t wait to publish a story about a happy little girl with one leg, and read it to my kids. I’ll be writing it for them, and for a scared child who was about to have her leg amputated twenty-three years ago. I wish I could send it back in time.

Jess Walton.

You can find out more about Jess and her amazing book ‘Introducing Teddy’ at her website

create a hug


Rejoice fellow picture book lovers! It is only 2 sleeps until our awesome October chat! This month we are celebrating ‘Disability and Diversity’ in picture books with the wonderful Jessica Walton.


Jessica is the author of the groundbreaking picture book ‘Introducing Teddy’. The inspiration for this book began when she started searching for books that she could read to her young son that reflected the diversity in her family. She wanted books that encouraged children to be themselves, and to be accepting of others.

In Jessica’s picture book week meet the very loveable Teddy. This bear knows in her heart that she is a girl , not a boy……but will her friends understand? Will they call her Tilly instead of Thomas? A beautiful book about being yourself and being a good friend.


Jess is also a cancer survivor, amputee, queer, daughter of a trans parent, feminist and teacher. As well as picture books, Jess writes about disability, LGBTI issues, and the intersections between her disabled and queer experiences. She has also just been announced as a Write-ability fellowship winner!! Congratulations Jess! You can read more about Jess and her work on her website.

Here are the chat questions for Thursday night…so get your thinking caps on!!!

Q1. Share your favourite picture book that features disability or diversity (Show a pic!)

Q2. Why do you think it’s important that we have diverse children’s books?

Q3. How can we ensure that those who need to see themselves represented in books can find them in our collections?

Q.4 If you were writing a diverse picture book, describe your main character.

There will also be plenty of time at the end to ask the super talented Jessica Walton your questions !

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at 8pm for another #Picbookbc Twitter chat!

If you haven’t joined one of our chats before and wondering how it works head on over to our Welcome to the #picbookbc Twitter chat post!

Also don’t forget Aussies, we are now on daylight savings time! Here is a reminder for the chat times around the country!


Nicola 🙂