authors, Pass the Book Baton

Pass the Book Baton: Jackie French


It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Jackie French, photo by Kelly Sturgiss
Jackie French (photo by Kelly Sturgiss)

Today the book baton is passed to Jackie French. Jackie French is an ecologist, the author of more than 200 books, and the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate (and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year!).

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Sherryl Clark asked:

What are your best or favourite research tools for your historical novels?

Jackie answers:

Old letters, newspapers, advertisements, paintings of the time.

Old diaries are great. People don’t lie in diaries.

Archeology surveys on the ground or by satellite.

Inscriptions in pyramids.

Ancient Viking rubbish tips.

Depends on the book. Incredible fun, like the best detective investigation in the universe. You never know where the trails will lead. Plus you get to play in a dozen different times with no danger of dying of the bubonic plague or getting your head sliced off by Vikings.

You can check out Jackie French’s website for more about her and her books: Or read a 2015 Alphabet Soup interview with Jackie here

Riddle Gully Secrets by Jen BanyardAnd now Jackie passes the book baton to the next Friday visitor — Jen Banyard. Jen Banyard is the author of adventure stories, including the Riddle Gully series.

Jackie asks:

Why do you write?

Check in every Friday for mini interviews with children’s authors and illustrators. (While you’re waiting you can catch up on all the interviews in the Pass the Book Baton series so far!)


Jackie French: The Australian Children’s Laureate

Jackie French (Credit Kelly Sturgiss)
Jackie French (Photo by Kelly Sturgiss)
Jackie French has written more than 140 books — and she’s received over 60 awards in Australia and overseas. Wow! Jackie is also the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate. As part of her role, she has co-created the Share a Story calendar (you can download it!) and given each month a theme. June’s theme is HEAR A STORY, SEE A STORY, FEEL A STORY.
If you were an Alphabet Soup reader from long ago, you might remember that Jackie French was the very first author we interviewed in our print magazine! Today we’ve invited her back to answer three questions from  members of our Top Readers team.
How long does it take to write a book? (Celine, 12, WA)
Three months or thirty years, depending what answer you like best! I think about a book for at least three years before I begin to write, and many are based on ideas I have been thinking about since I was your age. The actual writing takes about three months, but then I rewrite and rewrite, and each book  takes a different amount of time to both think about, and write, or rewrite.
Has your son read every one of your published books? (Joseph, 11, WA)
I don’t think he has read any of them! Except maybe a few he has read to kids as bed time stories.
It’s hard to be a mum and a writer too. There were stories I told my son as his mum when he was small, and those were his stories, and I won’t publish them. But the private ‘mum’ and the public ‘writer’ are two different roles, and his schools were good at making sure he didn’t have to read or study one of my books. It’s a bit like being the son of a teacher — you need to keep the teacher role and the parent role separate. He said that people talk too much in my books, too.

Which one of your books did you enjoy writing the most? (Matilda, 9, WA)
Diary of a Wombat: I just had to watch her, listen to her, and write it all down — and supply carrots — then work out how to create a wombat voice, in English.  And every time I read the book I remember Mothball.

Do you live in Perth, WA? Jackie French will be at a public event at St Stephen’s School Library, 100 Doveridge Dr, Duncraig at 5pm on Monday 22 June 2015. (A small donation is requested towards the Laureate program as a door entry fee.)
If you don’t live in Perth (oh dear!) find out more about Jackie French on her website. And check out some great ideas and activities for HEAR A STORY at the Australian Children’s Laureate website.

Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

Meet a storyteller: Glenn B Swift


Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

Jackie French (the Australian Children’s Laureate) and Ann James have created the Share a Story Calendar. (You can download it for free.) The theme for June is: HEAR A STORY, SEE A STORY, FEEL A STORY.

Today we are celebrating HEAR A STORY with a visitor …

Glenn B Swift (photo)

Glenn B Swift is a Western Australian Storyteller. Glenn says his repertoire ranges from the historical to the hysterical, and includes material for pre-primary through to adults.

Glenn has performed in almost every public library in Western Australia, and his talents have taken him as far afield as South America and Iceland! (He has performed in the Reykjavik Public Library.)

We asked Glenn if he could tell us a bit about being a storyteller.

Where do you live?
I live in Fremantle, Western Australia, which is where I was born and went to school. It’s a port, and I often go the end of the breakwater at the harbour and watch ships come and go. I like their hugeness, and I like to think that one day I’ll just jump on one for the heck of going across the ocean for some days or weeks. Fremantle is lovely place , and  a hot-bed of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who are very welcoming to me as a Storyteller.

And how did you come to be a storyteller?
It started with a phone call. Well really, it started with some clowns. I had finished my training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique (a useful thing for actors and musicians) and was waiting for my teaching job to begin at WAAPA (performance school in WA) when I ran into friends working as clowns for Myer in the school holidays. The marketing lady gave me a job working as a clown, and then before the next May school holidays, phoned me up to ask if I was a Storyteller, because that’s what she wanted in the Children’s Book department for the holidays. I answered of course, that I was  a Storyteller! (How hard could it be?) I spent the next couple of weeks reading Grimm’s Fairytales (often in the bath) and working out how I would perform them and get kids to participate and play parts as well.

Do you write your own material or do you tell stories written by other people?
Both. I like to adapt a good narrative — so for upper primary, I’m happy to tell my version of some Roald Dahl stories which can be quite ‘icky’, I also tell my own ghost stories. I have adapted some classic fairy tales and other stories for telling (with audience participation) and for junior primary I create stories that work as a game for many players that involve words, noises, screams and responses. I quite like having a big group of junior primary screaming together. They love it, though the teachers can look a bit worried, until it stops as suddenly as it began …

As a storyteller, what are your most valuable skills or tools?
My voice, and my ability to do funny voices for characters. Also a sense of simple comedy, little tricks that make kids laugh. And very good stories!

What is different about an oral tale from a written one?
Without a book in hand, there is a direct connection in a story between the teller and the audience. It allows me to always know how the audience is going, and if i need to make changes in pace, volume or content.

Can we hear an example of your storytelling?
There is this one link to a piece on YouTube …

Do you have any tips for young storytellers?
Just get up and do it! Start with a simple story everyone already knows, like ‘The Three Bears’. You’ll be scared the first time that you might get it wrong, but having done it once, you’ll find it’s great fun, and you’ll want to do it again! Your teachers will be very encouraging.

You can find out more about Glenn B Swift and his stories (and storytelling!) at his website:

If you want to celebrate Hear a Story month, check out these great activities on the Australian Children’s Laureate site.