IMG_0847 2Illustrations and preliminary sketches, which accompany the story of Simpson and His Donkey, have recently been acquired by the State Library of Western Australia for its Peter Williams Collection of original artworks by Australian illustrators.
IMG_1173It was important that the original illustrations and accompanying materials were cared for and made available for future generations to explore the art and process of creating an illustrated story book. I am delighted that the State Library has already made them available as an exhibition in 2017.

CEO and State Librarian, Margaret Allen, said that the complete set of research documents, preliminary sketches and 17 original artworks showed the amount of detailed work required to create an illustrated children’s book. “The story of Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey, who together rescued 300 wounded soldiers at Gallipoli, is a tale of one of our beloved Western Australian ANZAC heroes.It is fitting that these illustrations which accompany the contemporary retelling of this important story have entered the State Library’s collection where they are available for viewing by visitors,” Mrs Allen said. Visitors can see the newly acquired illustrations in an exhibition at the State Library’s Story Place Gallery from 2 February to 27 April 2017.


For schools: School groups are welcome to visit the Simpson and his Donkey exhibition. The workshop, Digging up the Past – World War One, supports the exhibition and can be booked by calling one of education officers on (08) 9427 3202. A teacher’s guide will also be available.


Author Mark Greenwood and illustrator Frane Lessac answer our five questions (plus one) about their lives, careers and their book Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I.

About the book:
A True Story of Loyalty in World War I
author: Mark Greenwood
illustrator: Frané Lessac

First Thanksgiving

Frané and I have celebrated Thanksgiving in the US, the UK, the Caribbean and many other countries. No matter where we are in the world, we always manage to gather friends and family to share a special day of celebration.

This year our Thanksgiving will be in Australia. So what does an Australian Thanksgiving mean? Our maritime history is full of stories of the Dutch and Portuguese, French and English exploration. These days we have many refugees who embark on treacherous journeys by boat across the vast ocean. Stories like The Mayflower can help us all recognise that although times may change, universal needs – hope, respect, love, freedom and security – remain unchanged.

On September 6, 1620, one hundred and two brave souls began a long, dangerous journey on the Mayflower. Seeking a better life, the Pilgrims crossed thousands on miles of ocean to reach a mysterious destination – the new world we call America.

Thanksgiving is a lesson from history about a moment when people from different races and backgrounds forgot what separated them and rejoiced in what united them. It was about what defines us as humans – a sense of family and community, caring, sharing and a vision of a world where all live in peace and harmony.

It is universal celebration. So, no matter where you are in the world…Happy Thanksgiving.

Pilgrims Leaving England

Thanksgiving has always been my favourite day of the year. As a child, I had trouble sleeping the night before. I couldn’t wait to see all my cousins.

My childhood Thanksgivings were spent at Norman Cousin’s county house in Connecticut. This beautiful man continues to be a great inspiration in my life. Quotes by Norman Cousins. Our extended family was so large that it required four turkeys to feed everyone. Sometimes Thanksgiving was comparable to a United Nations meeting. Norman would bring home visiting dignitaries. People from many different cultures from around the world would share the celebration with our family. I remember the excitement when U Thant, Burmese diplomat and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, spent one Thanksgiving with us.

One of my fondest Thanksgiving memories is of a dozen cousins riding through the autumn forest along a dirt track on the roof, hood and bumper of a car – all of us hanging on for dear life. A cousin old enough to reach the car pedals drove with everyone singing and laughing.


Thanksgiving unites family and friends in a way no other holiday does….so we give thanks to Samoset, Squanto, Massasoit and the Wampanoag people – and to those brave Pilgrims, who set sail almost 400 years ago to seek a better life in their little ship, the Mayflower.

TEACHER’S NOTES click here.


A preview of the “Midnight”exhibition at The Literature Centre

It’s always a thrill to look back and follow the stages involved in preparing a book for publication.

– from its origin and inspiration to the extensive research involved.

– the ‘journeys of discovery’ that help balance creative interpretation with historical authenticity.

– the development of a storyline to the rough drafts and sketches.

– the creative process of the artist that leads to original art.

Midnight captures the bond between horse and rider, the journey to war and an important moment in Australian military history. The Literature Centre invites school groups to view this moving, thought-provoking exhibition – a perfect workshop for students in the lead up to ANZAC Day. Suitable for Year 3 – Year 7
To book go here:

We’ll be celebrating Midnight with an informal gathering at the Literature Centre on Open Day, Sunday, March 16th from 2–3.00pm. Join Gee Jay the light horse for an Anzac biscuit and a cuppa. For details, click on the invite.

There can be no better way to research than to follow in the footsteps of your characters. With Midnight, the first step was contacting Peter Haydon at Bloomfield Homestead in NSW, where Guy Haydon grew up and where Midnight was born. Mark and I shared our ideas about making a picture book based on their family folklore. To say the least, they were thrilled that we wanted to bring their family history to life for children. Ali and Peter Haydon warmly welcomed us into their home and generously gave us access to their archive room, where Guy’s war relics are preserved, along with his personal correspondence from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the desert campaign.

Inspiration for the first painting:






We walked through the fields alongside the Pages River where Midnight was born and traveled up to the high country where Midnight’s bloodlines still roam free. Here’s a photo of the broodmares taken at Scott’s Creek where they run in lush paddocks with plenty of space to rear their magnificent foals. The Haydon horses have a unique claim of being bred by the same family on the same property since the early 1830`s.

Then Mark and I headed off to Israel to follow the trail of the light horsemen and their various stops at wells for the three days leading up to the charge at Beersheba. This is a remote site where they stopped to water their horses.

Midnight’s story captured my heart. My greatest challenge was to capture the devoted bond between Midnight and Guy. I hope my paintings reflect a deep reverence for a light horseman and his beloved mare.

Here’s my process…from thumbnails to preliminary sketches to the final art:

In the fading afternoon light, on October 31st 1917, the mounted infantry division of the 4th and 12th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse took part in one of the last great cavalry charges in history. The capture of the wells of Beersheba, against a well-entrenched enemy, was a glorious hour in Australian military history. The audacious victory held the key to the Middle East campaign of World War 1, and led to the liberation of Jerusalem and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

as told by Mark Greenwood

The spark to write about the light horse and the charge at Beersheba came from a visit to a school in Queensland where I saw the famous photograph of the charge hanging in the school hall.

The photo, and the controversy surrounding it instantly intrigued me. I began reading many light horse books with a view to writing a story that would bring this moment in our history to life.

I’m drawn to little known slices of history where themes like courage and mateship play an important role in defining our past. So I began a search for a story within the story – I was searching for a tale of one horse and one rider among those brave 800 – a story that would give readers a sense of atmosphere and participation and excitement about that historic event.

And that’s how Midnight’s story found me!

I visited the Haydon’s Bloomfield homestead in the Hunter Valley, NSW where Midnight was born. I was graciously granted access to Guy’s letters from the trenches at Gallipoli and throughout the campaign in Palestine.

Then, together with Frané, we travelled to the scene of the famous charge and retraced the places where Guy and Midnight camped in the last few days leading up to the charge.

For me, going to the setting I’m writing about, where the historical event actually occurred, is one of the crucial stages in bringing history to life. It is a fascinating part of the process of writing about the past.


This book was inspired by the folklore of the Haydon family from “Bloomfield”, in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Riding his beloved mare, Midnight, Guy Haydon, a 25-year-old stockman, enlisted with the 12th Light Horse Regiment on 15th of February 1915.

Lt. Haydon was parted from his horse when he was sent to Gallipoli. When he returned to Egypt he was allocated another, but no horse could replace Midnight. Lieutenant Haydon searched for weeks amongst the thousands of army horses until he found Midnight with another regiment. Negotiations between the commanding officers of both regiments to swap horses eventually reunited the soldier and his horse.

During the battle for Gaza, Midnight remained continuously under saddle for seven days and nights – testament to the endurance of this wonderful horse, as well as to the care she received from Guy Haydon.

The Lieutenant and Midnight served together until sunset on the 31st of October 1917 when the 4th and 12th Regiments of Australian Light Horse charged the Turkish stronghold of Beersheba. Riding Midnight, Lieutenant Haydon was one of the first to leap the enemy trenches.

Midnight’s story is told in a simple prose style, accompanied by Frane’s vibrant interpretation in this poignant re-imagining of an extraordinary event in Australia’s history.

This story ends on a solemn note, but Midnight is a hero and her inspiring story is one that I hope many young Australians will read, just as we read about other heroes whose stories have contributed to our national myth-making.

History is about listening and sharing stories. I hope our Midnight will encourage readers to think critically about the tragedy of war. I hope the story will linger in the reader’s memory long after the book is closed.

Midnight – the story of a light horse published by Walker Books Australia.
US edition to be released in 2015 by Candlewick Press.
Buy online or in all good bookstores from February 1st, 2014