Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 10.27.10 PMAn invitation to take part in this year’s Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in the United Arab Emirates was an opportunity to meet and create art with Arabic children. Sharjah is the cultural capital of the UAE and this event is a stellar showcase for celebrating children’s literature – with over 200,000 visitors!  The eleven-day event is held under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah. His aim is to create a culture of book-loving citizens – what an amazing initiative! @sharjahbookauthority


Panel Session



Francis Tharakan

During the Festival, I ran hands-on workshops, readings, a panel discussion on Heritage in Children’s Literature with the lovely UK author, Swapna Haddow, and Kuwaiti author, Latifa Batti, and a school visit to the Delhi Private School in Dubai – all with the goal of inspiring children and young adults to enjoy reading. Extra bonus: The volunteer for my school visit turned out to be a celebrity  – the actor/photographer, Francis Tharakan. Here’s a link to his latest. He’s the Careem (Uber) driver.


Doodle Wall


Make Your Own Picture Book

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The Festival was attended by many award winning international authors and artists from around the world, I was honoured to meet creators from Russia, India, Canada, UK, Pakistan as well as the terrific Australian contingency including my very own Aussie husband Mark.  We all had the unique experience of presenting at the festival, staying in the same hotel, sharing rides and meals, sightseeing and shopping and lots  and lots of laughs with Sabeena Kanik (India) and Cindy Lane, bonding us for life.


Beth, Cindy, Fatima and Liudmila

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We got wheels! With Sebeena Karnik and Cindy Lane










A visit to the heart of Old Sharjah and lucky enough to wander into the Sharjah Heritage Days Festival.

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My henna hands!

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Sightseeing at the top of world. The Burg Kalifa -the tallest building in the world (at the minute) with Cindy Lane and Beth Cregan!


The Burg Kalifa – tallest building in the world!







This was the year to hold a newly hatched baby sea turtle.

Baby turtle The year for my Dad to hear stories.Dad The year to walk the Great Wall of China.Great Wall of China The year to sit in my 1st grade classroom seat again.

Cliffside Park School #3 The year A is for Australia was released.A is for Australia The year to see a giant prawn. Giant prawnThe year to tour Kentucky, Broome, Darwin, Melbourne, New Jersey, Adelaide, Maryland, Sydney, Kalgoorlie, School of the Air and beyond.

Freshwater BaySchool of the Air


The year Midnight was released in the USA. KentuckyThe year one cried seeing the Grand Canyon for the very first time. Grand CanyonThe year to hike the Chiricahua mountains.Chiricahua mountains The year to present at festivals in China, India, Australia and the USA. Booker Festival PuneChengdu, ChinaPrinceton Book FestivalThe year to see baby pandas.IMG_3186

The year to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. WinslowHappy trails for 2016!

Children’s literature in India is blossoming. Parents and teachers are starting to appreciate the importance of books and reading for pleasure in their children’s lives. Festivals like Bookaroo are a testament to this growing understanding. Bookaroo’s mission is to bring children and books together in a borderless world and we need to celebrate the passionate founders: Jo Williams, Swati Roy and Venkatesh! It’s the first children’s literature festival held in India and has now expanded to over four cities – Delhi, Srinagar, Pune and Goa!   I was incredibly lucky to participate at my second Bookaroo Festival, this time held in Pune. 

The main festival is preceded by Bookaroo in the City, an outreach programme where authors/illustrators were taken into local schools. Visiting local schools is always a highlight for me, but going to a NGO (non-government school) and working with underprivileged kids is like mainlining to the core of my heart.






There is nothing in the entire world more gratifying then to give time and support to these children. Getting an education in India is not taken for granted, especially for girls. When you see their eagerness to learn and how precious the opportunity to go to school is to each and every child from the earliest age, there is nowhere in world you’d rather be. To find out more, please check out the Peepal Foundation.

Then it was onto the main Festival where I conducted five sessions over two days.  On the Doodle Wall, the children drew themselves and pasted their portraits onto a gigantic train. Within minutes the train was full of happy faces, ready to chug off on travels through India.



It’s easy to feel like a celebrity with so many journalists keen to interview authors and illustrators for the numerous daily print newspapers. The best rock star moment (and 15 minutes of fame) was when we needed the help of security to make our way through a crowd of eager children wanting autographs. Bring it on!


My participation at the Bookaroo Pune Festival was made possible by a Market Development Grant through the Australia Council for the Arts.

Imagine a 16th story library. Fill it with publishers, educators, agents, parents, librarians, authors and illustrators from all over the world. All gathered to celebrate, learn and share knowledge at the most dynamic and fastest growing literary festivals – the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC).

I was honoured to be one of six selected delegates from West Australia to present at this year’s Festival. There were many wonderful moments…

…being on a panel moderated by children’s book historian, Leonard S. Marcus. If you haven’t seen his landmark exhibition: The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at The New York Public Library – move it up to #1 on your bucket list as it ends in September.

The panel was shared with Junko YokotaDirector of the Center for Teaching through Children’s Books. Coincidentally, she is a coauthor of four college textbooks that I’ve illustrated: Children’s Books in Children’s Hands. Even though Junko and I have worked together for the past twenty years, we only met in person recently.To round up our panel was Mariko Takagi, an author and book designer extraordinaire.

Another best bit was conducting an all day masterclass alongside the charming Spanish illustrator, Javier Zabala. We hope all attendees went away with new skills and loads of inspiration. I look forward to seeing your illustrative published work in the near future.


I wish to thank writingWA for their support in making this opportunity possible. Thank you to the WA State Government through Department of Culture and the Art for their recognition of important cultural exchanges such as the AFCC. And of course thank you to the National Book Development Council of Singapore for the initiative of bringing Asian content to the world’s children.