Wild wonderous words to help explore the world
Inspiring kids to get outdoors, and be active in the environment through relatable stories is something Mornington Peninsula based, award-winning author Andrea Rowe has always been drawn to.
From her professional copywriting days creating national park interpretation, environmental education resources and junior ranger kids club communications, she has firmly placed children in the centre of narratives set in the great outdoors, and championed their connection with nature and physical activity.
It’s no surprise that her first book, Jetty Jumping, has become an Australian modern classic and a best-seller. The book won the 2022 CBCA Children’s Book of the Year for Early Childhood and was described by the judges as ‘beautifully written and highly relatable’.
Jetty Jumping perfectly captures the challenges of childhood – and the joy of letting go – in a homage to summer in a coastal town. The book has since been shortlisted for the 2023 Australian Speech pathology Book of the Year.
Earlier this year, Andrea and illustrator Hannah Somerville released their much-anticipated second picture book, Sunday Skating, which draws children out into the streets and onto their skates to explore their town together. Once again, it’s a story that celebrates the outdoors, this time with messages of self-doubt, courage and friendship.
Both books have been published internationally across the UK, Europe, and in the new year, in the USA. Dubbed the Hardie Grant Children’s Book Dream Team, Andrea and Hannah seem to be onto a winning combination.
“I love working alongside Hannah,” says Andrea, “She creates such stunning images which really move the narrative along. I think we both come at stories from the same place of creative curiosity and celebration, the only difference is we use two different mediums to tell the story. It’s a wonderful partnership and I’m so grateful Hannah keeps saying YES to working on more books with me.”
Readers will be delighted to hear that ‘more books’ translates into ‘many more books’ for the duo. Andrea and Hannah have just announced they’re working on a third book in the Jetty Jumping / Sunday Skating series and this November they’ll be launching a very special Little World’s series.
“It’s a collection of early concept board-books that aims to inspire wide-eyed kids to become wild treasuring grown-ups. We start with In the Rockpool, inspired by my own love of rockpool rambling with my children and the intertidal and rockpool coastal discoveries I loved making as a kid too.”
Andrea added that “I wrote In the Rockpool during lockdown where I was fortunate to have rockpools within my five kilometres – I rediscovered the joys of taking our time to peer into miniature watery worlds.”
“It was a small step to combine my love of storytelling for children with my expertise in environmental writing to create books that parents and educators can reach for to ignite conversations and inspire interactions with nature. There’s incredible interest from bush kindergartens, outdoor playgroups and early educators to include books that reinforce respect for and curiosity with the environment. I’m thrilled that my publisher Hardie Grant is equally invested in these messages of environmental care and wild adventuring. I think we’ve created a series that is incredibly special, and recognises our wild places and I can’t wait to share the future titles soon”
Beyond the new board book series, Andrea has just signed two more contracts with Hardie Grant, including her first non-fiction picture book, Dogs with Jobs. And there’s an in-development picture book re-imagining the story of Melbourne’s Skipping Girl with Midnight Sun Publishing.
But it’s Andrea’s lyrical and nostalgic writing style that has gained her a firm following amongst picture book readers, booksellers, reviews and families.
“I get so many pictures and videos sent to me of how our books have become must reads at bedtime, and borrow at library time, or how schools are using them in their literacy circles as relatable books for young readers. There’s no greater joy than knowing that you’ve created a story that kids feel so connected with.”
A respected community contributor and literacy ambassador, Andrea has become the Ardoch Youth Foundation Writer in Resident for the Mornington Peninsula, mentoring children in low literacy rate schools, a mentor for the Mary Jane Lewis Scholarship program and Young Writers workshop facilitator for the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia. She has also been the founding President of the Peninsula Writers’ Club and advocated for, and coordinated judging for, the Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayors Short Story writing awards.
“Words do more than sit on a page; they encourage us to step forward into community, explore our environments and feel empowered to advocate for ourselves and others,” Andrea says. “I’m just grateful to be writing the words that so many folks of all ages want to reach for, or have had their curiosity and creativity inspired.”