Q&A with Wenda Shurety

Winter months mean shorter, chillier days and therefore, more inside time.  The toy cupboard is getting tired and exclaimations of “I’m BORED!” are more frequent…

Now, as much as I am tempted to channel Bandit and respond to claims of boredom with “Hello Bored, I’m Mum!” there is a more effective response. This month we’re taking our inspiration from the book ‘Backyard Magic’, written by Brisbane local Wenda Shurety and illustrated by Harriet Hobday. Join Tilly whose vivid imagination turns a backyard from mundane to magical! 

Keep on reading to see our chat with Wenda about the inspiration and process behind creating this book. Plus, we have a special winter discount for you!

1. We’ve heard that you’ve had a different career prior to writing children’s books. How did writing children’s books start for you?

I used to be a scientist, a cell biologist, and enjoyed researching cells. After my daughter was born, I would read to her every day. I loved how picture books could say so much with so few words and how the pictures complemented the story. Reading children’s books helped me to discover the joy of words again, and I soon started writing stories of my own. I realised I was a writer when I starting spending most of my day tapping away on my keyboard!

‘Backyard Magic’ published by Affirm Press

2. How did the story of Backyard Magic originate?

Backyard Magic originated from childhood memories. Our family didn’t own a TV until I was about 11 years old. So, my sisters and I would spend a lot of time outside in our backyard making up many games and adventures. Everything Tilly does in Backyard Magic, my sisters and I used to do, from cloud watching to making a lucky dip.

3. How did the process between you and Harriet work when creating this book together?

My publisher found Harriet Hobday for Backyard Magic, and I think she was a superb choice. First, the publisher sent Harriet my story, and she sent back some illustrations a few months later. I remember the first time I saw them; I was blown away. Tilly is gorgeous, plus Harriet chose an exquisite colour palette of teals, blues and oranges. I’m very proud of the final product.

‘Backyard Magic’ published by Affirm Press

4. In the book, there is a little bird on each page that is calling out ‘Til-lee, Til-lee’. How did the idea of incorporating the bird call with Tilly’s name and having a ‘hidden’ bird come about? Was the idea there before you saw Harriet’s illustrations?

When I wrote the story, I was looking for a girl’s name that sounded like a bird calling. I thought Tilly as ‘Til-lee’ was perfect. Also, I wanted children to search for the bird on each page, so suggested it to the publisher. I’ve always been a fan of ‘Where’s Wally’ books, especially as Wally’s girlfriend is called Wenda. Children love searching for things in picture books.

5. What did you enjoy the most about creating this book?

Holding it in my hands for the first time and looking through our beautiful creation—nothing beats that! Also, I remember the first time I read it aloud to a group of children. I loved seeing their excitement when they were looking for the bird on every page.

‘Backyard Magic’, published by Affirm Press

6. What would you like families to get out of this book?

Being a parent, I’ve noticed how children love screens and TV. I wrote Backyard Magic to encourage kids to turn off the TV or put down their devices and go outside to discover nature’s toy box and the magic of outdoor play. Outdoor play has many positive effects on children, such as stimulating the imagination, helping develop gross motor skills, increasing vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure and lowering stress and anxiety.

7. What’s coming up for you for the rest of 2022?

I’m excited to share that I have a new picture book coming out called ‘One Book Was All It Took’ with EK Books in July. Amy Calautti has done a fantastic job with the illustrations. It’s a fun story about actions and consequences and the awesomeness of libraries! https://ekbooks.org/product/one-book-was-all-it-took/?v=6cc98ba2045f

We love supporting Australian authors and illustrators and were so delighted to come across ‘Backyard Magic’. In this month’s membership, discover new eyes for sticks, clouds, stones and creepy crawlies and delight in our ‘fishing for magical pets’ game inspired by this fabulous book!

This is just one of the SIX fantastic books we have in our current membership. Plus, get 10% off for the whole 6 months when you join us in June with promo code 10OFF. Head over to the FOR FAMILIES page to join us today!

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Thanks again to Wenda and happy reading!