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Article  •  25 October 2022


Gabrielle Wang shares why being the Children's Laureate is better than she expected

Halfway through her time as Laureate, Gabrielle shares what she enjoyed in 2022 and what she is looking forward to in 2023.

The Australian Children’s Laureate is appointed every two years, with an influential children’s author or illustrator taking on the role. During the two years of their laureateship, the Children’s Laureate promotes the power of reading and creativity to young readers while representing Australian children’s literature as a whole, both nationally and abroad.

Last year, prolific author-illustrator and artist Gabrielle Wang was chosen as the 2022-2023 Children’s Laureate. With 2022 nearing its end, Gabrielle is about halfway done with her Children's Laureate, but there is still plenty to look forward to.

We caught up with Gabrielle to learn about her role as Laureate thus far and what 2023 has in store.

Her time as Australian Children’s Laureate

‘It’s been amazing.’ Gabrielle says of her year so far. While she knew it would be a wonderful experience, Gabrielle was initially apprehensive about all the travel and public speaking involved. Throughout her laureateship, however, she has found that the children she speaks to give back such great energy that she doesn’t actually find the many public speaking engagements tiring. ‘It’s been really fun. . . you put out energy, but students give back so much energy that it’s just wonderful.’

This year, Gabrielle has visited Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. She will visit Bologna in March for the International Children’s Laureate Summit held every two years at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Upon returning to Australia, Gabrielle will continue visiting other Australian states including Western Australia, Queensland, ACT and Northern Territory in 2023. Despite her busy schedule, the author’s friends and family tell her ‘you’re so busy, but you still look refreshed’. Gabrielle chalks it up to the positive reception she gets at her events, but her enjoyment of travel and talent for entertaining audiences surely help.

‘I’ve honed in my talks, and I know exactly what’s going to work,’ the author explains. ‘I’m not a verbal storyteller by nature. I’m hopeless at telling jokes. But I can see what works, and I can see these little eyes lighting up.’ True to her passion for art, Gabrielle also accompanies her talks with an activity where children draw Chinese dragons. ‘I know the dragon [drawing] works. . . hopefully, I’ve given them encouragement to do more drawing’.

Working on the road

Gabrielle explains that with the Laureate title comes many requests for events. ‘There are a lot of people who want you to visit them,’ she says. While all of it is enjoyable, Gabrielle nevertheless needs time to herself to continue her craft. In between commitments, she has found ways to continue working on her art.

‘Luckily, I draw on my iPad a lot, so I can draw in the airport, on the aeroplane, in the hotel,’ she shares. Even though it's very different from the old-fashioned paint and paper she typically uses, Gabrielle is grateful to be able to take her art with her.

While the iPad allows Gabrielle to continue making artwork digitally, the author-illustrator has found it more difficult to write while undertaking the laureateship. All writers have different processes, and for Gabrielle, it's essential to immerse herself in the world of the novel – an impossible feat when there is already so much on her plate.

‘I’m so glad that I had Zadie Ma finished and ready to go before I started all this travelling,’ she admits, referencing her latest novel Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon. 'Having a new book out also helped a lot I think – I promote the Laureate when I talk about Zadie Ma and vice versa.’

What’s next?

With one year down, Gabrielle is still looking ahead and is excited for what her second year as Children’s Laureate has in store.

With several different interstate trips on the horizon, Gabrielle is most excited about spending more time in regional parts of Australia. ‘They are the areas that don’t get children’s authors and illustrators coming to visit them,’ she explains. ‘I wanted to give them equal opportunity.'

As an artist, she also looks forward to speaking at art galleries. 'Because part of me is art; promoting and supporting it,' she says.

A big believer in magic, Gabrielle also hopes that for the duration of her laureateship she can help instil imagination and a sense of magic in children.

Her final wish for 2023 is a practical one: to avoid Covid. Despite travelling the country and giving talks to large crowds, the author has managed to remain Covid-free – talk about magic! 

Aside from that, she hopes that 2023 is as much fun as 2022 has been. ‘It will be more of the same, but I’m travelling further and will be away for longer. Hopefully, everything will mesh together nicely like it has this year!’


Want more? See all of Gabrielle's books here

Feature Title

Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon
Meet Zadie Ma, a girl who writes magical stories that sometimes come true. Can Zadie bring to life her most important story of all . . . the one where she finds Jupiter, the dog of her dreams? From the Australian Children's Laureate for 2022-23. Shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, and the Queensland Literary Awards.
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