Did you spend a lot of time at the beach (like Mia does) when you were a kid?
I grew up at Brighton, in South Australia, not far from the beach. I would walk or ride my bike there. The beach was a long stretch of white sand and it had a wonderful jetty. Once there was a kiosk on the jetty where you could buy ice creams. But it was destroyed by a storm. At the far end of the beach there were rocks big enough to climb and small enough to peer under. I made sandcastles and learned to swim at that beach. I also dreamed of being a mermaid. Sometimes my family had picnic lunches on a rug, beneath an umbrella. Usually it was just sandwiches, a piece of cake and fruit, but it felt special. When I was growing up, there were lots of kids in Brighton, and for many of us the beach was our playground.
In Aussie Kids: Meet Mia at the Jetty, Mia visits Granite Island and sees the fairy penguins. Is this something you’ve done yourself?
Yes, a long time ago. Perhaps there were more penguins on the island then. It was thrilling to spy them because I had never seen many animals in their own environment. I felt as if I was sharing their secret hideaways.
Do you have a favourite place in SA to take visitors? Did you have a favourite place when you were a kid?
There are many places I love. Probably, I would take visitors to the Fleurieu Peninsula. Victor Harbor is part of that peninsula. It is a beautiful town with lovely coastlines.
When I was a child we went to Port Victoria, on Yorke Peninsula, for our summer holidays. Long ago, sailing ships would arrive to load up with bags of wheat. But my memories were of giant-sized seaweed mounds, fishing from the jetty and running wild over cliffs from morning till night.
The Aussie Kids series tells stories from around the country. How important do you think it is for children to read about the lives of other Aussie kids?
When you’re a kid, you often think every other kid’s life is the same as yours. So reading about other children’s lives in Australia is both wonderful and important. Australia is a big country and children live in so many different environments. They might live by the sea, in the country, in suburbs, in cities or in the outback. How or where they go to school might be different; what they enjoy doing might be different, the animals, birds, trees and flowers can also be different in different places. And so, when kids read about other children’s lives, it helps them understand. But it can make them interested and curious as well. And that’s a good thing!
Mia does a really good job of being a tour guide in the book. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Ever since I was eight, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved being a teacher, but I’ve now been writing longer than I was teaching.
If you could live anywhere else in Australia, where would you live and why?
I don’t know of an exact place, but it would be somewhere close to both the countryside, as well as the coast. I love nature and so being close to the countryside is important. But I also need to be able to walk along the beach, watch the waves and smell the sea air.
The Aussie Kids series is perfect for new readers. What was your favourite series to read when you started reading chapter books?
Unfortunately, there weren’t any chapter books being published when I was growing up. At school, we all learned to read from the same reader. There was no school library and we only had a few books at home. One of them was a grown-up book called Ye Olde Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. When I was seven, I tried to read it. But it was too hard. Later, I read books by Enid Blyton.