2020 NSW Premier’s Booklist

I’m honored to learn that Arabella and the Magic Pencil has been included in the 2020 NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Booklist. The NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge is an Australian program that aims to “encourage a love of reading for leisure and pleasure in students and enable them to experience quality literature”. The accompanying booklists give children a wide range of quality books to choose from as they attempt to read 20-30 books, depending on age, between March – August 2020.

For more information about the challenge or to see the official booklists by age group, visit the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge website.

Interview with Shaney Hyde, Illustrator of Arabella and the Magic Pencil

Shaney Hyde is the talented Australian artist behind the charming illustrations in Arabella and the Magic Pencil. She brought Arabella and her magical world to whimsical life. Shaney agreed to give us a behind-the-scenes look at how she created the illustrations and what lead her to illustrate.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in a lovely coastal town on the Mornington Peninsula. I have three gorgeous boys, Liam, Josh and Ben. They are my inspiration and often my best critiques. My working place is in a section of our family room which I wish I could say has a sea view but I only have to walk up the road to see one! When I was a little girl, I was always drawing and creating things, reusing odds and ends from around the house and garden to make imaginative small worlds. 

I always knew I wanted to work with children and have been an Early Childhood Educator since forever. I share my love of nature & the outdoors, literacy and art with the young children that I teach. I continue to learn from them each day with their curious minds and fresh outlook on life. Since emerging into book illustration, I feel so lucky to share my process with the children and realise that illustrators and artists are privileged to share different emotions with them through beautiful books. Illustrating children’s books has been a long held dream so I’m thrilled to have illustrated such a magical story for my first one!

2) How did you create the illustrations for the book?

The illustrations in Arabella and Magic Pencil are hand painted with watercolours and grey lead pencil. Stephanie’s imaginative and elaborate story line allowed me to play with different ideas to visually express the story line with added layers; like a story within a story. For example, I came up with the little crowned bird character to illustrate Arabella’s one wish that she receives each year by Royal decree. I named him ‘wish’ in my mind and he appears in each page as Arabella’s companion as if to provide a mutual level of friendship and emotional support. I fell in love with Arabella early on and even made a cloth doll version of her as part of my creative process. She sat on my desk as I developed the illustrations for the book. I love how Stephanie has invented a confident character that independently solves her own problems using her creativity driven by her underlying feelings of sibling love.

3) Who are your favourite artists or illustrators and the inspirations for your artwork?

My favourite artists are the masters, Klimt, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas. Modern day; Mirka Mora and of course, my mum. She is a painter and pastelist and my greatest mentor. Her words of wisdom to me are; to work hard, keep sketching, imagining, creating, keep learning my craft and to stay true to myself with no pressure to perform

Illustrators: I love so many… (a wide range; accomplished and emerging ) Freya Blackwood, Alison Lester, Anna Walker, Maurice Sendak, Helene Maggison, Beatrix Potter, Lynley Dodd, Caterina Metti, Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen., Tull Suwannakit, Catherine Rayner, my list could go on… 

My inspirations are from nature, cute animals, and seeing the joy in the little things each day. I create illustrations in a whimsical style to make people smile.

4) What is next for you and where can we see more of your work?

Currently, the original paintings I created for Arabella and the Magic Pencil are being displayed in an exhibition at Antipodes Bookshop in Sorrento, Victoria in Australia. To promote the book, I’m doing primary school visits, story and activity times in the school holidays at local Bookshop’s. It was fun creating paper dolls of Arabella and Avery which are available for download on the EK books website. My illustrations are also published on greeting cards for boutique gift shops. (my current range is ‘Yoga for Wombats ’ & ‘ Echidna and bird series). My dream is to keep illustrating picture books whilst teaching wonderful young children, hopefully, inspiring them to read, draw and create. 

See more of Shaney’s artwork on her website: hydenseekdesigns.com

Her portfolio can be found on the ASA Style File website: https://asastylefile.com/illustrator/shaney-hyde/

World Read Aloud Day – Feb. 1, 2018


World Read Aloud Day is just around the corner and as an aspiring children’s author, I love the idea of celebrating the joy (as well as many other benefits) that comes from reading together with a child. It’s also such an easy event to participate it — all you need is a book, your voice and some time. But if you want to plan something special, here are some helpful links to create a memorable World Read Aloud Day event.

First, why not register at LitWorld.org, the founders of #WorldReadAloudDay and show your support?

If you are a teacher or librarian, check out how Microsoft is supporting the day with #WRADSkype by connecting classrooms around the globe to share stories live.

This year, World Read Aloud Day coincides with Harry Potter Book Night. Download the Harry Potter Book Night Planner for everything from games and activities, event space decoration ideas and even pre-made tweets to announce your event.


Authors can participate in Skype sessions with classrooms by signing up to Kate Messner’s list and being listed as available for short readings on World Read Aloud Day.

It’s not only about the kids. Join Care UK to find a senior home in your area and read or discuss favorite books together.

There are local events happening with authors and bookstores around the world. Check for local listings and feel free to add to the post with reading events in your area. Here are just a few to join or to find some ideas for your own celebration…

There is so much going on! I’ll be reading Lost and Found by Sharon Powers, the second book in the My Sea Buddies adventure series, with my six year old. Let me (and the world) know what you’ll be reading for World Read Aloud Day in the comments.

Happy World Read Aloud Day!



Help create a school library for kids that don’t have one

Reposted from Z is for Zambetti Blog. Great timing for Children’s Book Week!

Help! PS191 in NYC needs a library

Today I found out that my school is lending a helping hand to a neighboring school by hosting a book drive to help create a school library. How great is that?

So, in the interests of spring cleaning, my local friends – not-so-local friends can help out, too – won’t you give a book to a school?

Without further ado, from MV4NY and the amazing PS166 PTA:

Spring Break is a great time for cleaning out your book case

From May 9th-20th, the PS 166 PTA has organized a Book Drive to benefit PS 191 — an under-funded public school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The school enrolls students in Pre-K through Grade 8, and has very limited resources from within the school community.  For this reason, the school has existed without a library and learning center for years.  As a Title 1 school, the large majority of students at PS 191 come from low-income homes, and 50% + of the kids qualify for free lunch.  What’s remarkable is that this is the case for hundreds of kids living just blocks away from us.

So, today, let’s build a library together and give the children of the school access to books that will help them at school, and beyond.  Please know that you will be bringing a great gift to a local school.


I’m going to be donating the pile of wonderful donated duplicates I’ve been hoarding in my library supply closet (and a few of my own beloved books, too). Because PS166 already *has* a library. PS191 deserves one, too.

Actually, ALL schools do. But you meet big goals by taking one step at a time. Think global, act local, right?:-)

Won’t you lend a hand with me?

Source: Help! PS191 in NYC needs a library

You can also send donations directly to the school at this address:

Damaris Carrion, Parent Coordinator at PS 191 – Museum Magnet School
210 West 61st Street
New York, NY, 10023

I’ll be donating a pack of books and thought I’d share this opportunity to spread the love of books to children in need.

Warm wishes,

Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin now on Kindle Unlimited

To kick off Children’s Book Week (May 1 – 8), I’m excited to announce that the Kindle edition of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin is available for FREE to lots of Amazon customers. Here’s what that means to you, dear readers…

Own/Buy the Paperback Edition –> Get the ebook for FREE
Have you previously bought the paperback edition of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin? Thanks very much! Now you can get a copy of the Kindle edition for free. Just go to Wally’s detail page on Amazon (here http://amzn.to/1SSrNRj) and you’ll see that Amazon remembers your purchase and you can download the ebook in one click. The offer stands for future purchases of the paperback as well.

Read the Kindle edition for FREE with Kindle Unlimited
Are you a Prime member or subscriber to Kindle Unlimited? Good on ya. That means you can now read the Kindle edition of Wally for free too because Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin is now part of the Kindle Unlimited library. Just click the “Read for Free” button on Wally’s Amazon detail page (here http://amzn.to/1SSrNRj).


Lend a friend a copy of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin
Want to lend your Wally ebook to a friend? Great, thanks again. Now Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin is available through the Kindle Lending Library, so share away.

Have any questions about how to download your free ebook edition of Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin? Just let me know and I’d be happy to help.

Warm wishes and Happy Reading!