For children’s author Jodie McLeod, reading her new picture book to the kids at Lake Albert Public School was like coming full circle.
The former Wagga resident returned to her old primary school this week to share the story of The Black Cockatoo With One Feather Blue.
“It was such a buzz because I remember [author] Mem Fox visiting our school when I was really young and she read Possum Magic to us in the library,” Jodie recalled.
“I vividly remember just being wowed by hearing her talk about making a book, and so to now return and be the one up the front of the stage was pretty awesome.”
It was a childhood love for animals and writing that set Jodie on the path to publishing picture books.
After settling in the Blue Mountains, Jodie wanted to read some locally based stories to her two young daughters and realised that there was little available that celebrated the iconic location or its wildlife.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, well, I just better write one’,” she explained.
“I then saw a lyrebird for the first time in my backyard and those two ideas sort of sparked the idea for a children’s book.”
She soon set about writing Leonard the Lyrebird, despite receiving advice that birds did not make for good children’s books.
“A publisher once warned me against writing about birds in picture books because ‘they’re not cuddly’,” said the author.
“But I think they are the most captivating creatures with such curious behaviours and stories to tell.”
Fortunately, she ignored the advice and the book has been an award-winning hit.
“It shows the scenery of the magical place where we live in the Blue Mountains and to have that world reflected back to you as a child really just ignites fireworks in your brain,” she said.
“Families up there just love it, but of course, it’s a story for all Australian kids.”
Birds are now a running theme in Jodie’s books, including the follow-up Lilah the Lyrebird, and now the story of a clever black cockatoo and her quest to recover her special blue feather.
Beautifully illustrated by Eloise Short, it’s a story that celebrates friendship and kindness over possessions and it will be officially launched in Wagga at the library on Saturday.
“We’ve depicted a red-tailed black cockatoo in the book, and we chose the female because it has these beautiful yellow spots on its face and breast and the orange tail is just so spectacular,” Jodie said.
“Seeing them always fills me with awe and I think that’s the same experience for so many other people, so it made sense that it should be in a picture book.”
While Jodie has plenty on her plate promoting her new book, she has pondered the possibility of further feathered adventures.
“The number of fascinating birds out there is endless, so who knows,” she laughed.
“I do have a soft spot for galahs – their call is so nostalgic for me.
“But the crow is also ripe for a good yarn; what if you were the only crow in the place of many crows? There’s got to be a story in that.”
You can hear Jodie read The Black Cockatoo With One Feather Blue and pick up a signed copy at the Wagga Wagga City Library on Saturday (9 September) at 10:15 am.