Jackie French

Andrew Daddo

Jackie French’s writing career spans fourteen years, 38 wombats, 120 books, translations into eighteen languages, 8 genres, 3,721 bush rats, the odd award (well, actually, they’re not that odd), six possibly insane lyrebirds, assorted Burke’s Backyard segments, radio shows, newspaper and magazine columns, theories of pest and weed ecology and 27 shredded back doormats. The doormats are the victims of the wombats, who require constant appeasement in the form of carrots, rolled oats and wombat nuts, which is one of the reasons for her prolific output … it pays the carrot bills.

Jackie wrote her first children’s book Rainstones in a desperate attempt to earn $106.40 to register her car, while living in a shed with a wallaby called Fred, a black snake called Gladys and a wombat called Smudge. It was described by the editor at HarperCollins as the messiest, worst spelt manuscript they’d ever received. The ‘messiest’ was due to Smudge the wombat, who left his droppings on the typewriter every night; the spelling was due to the fact she is dyslexic. She recommends that all fledgling writers misspell their first book with a wombat damaged typewriter – at least that way it stands out of the pile!

Jackie is one of the few writers to win both literary and children’s choice awards. Hitler’s Daughter won the 2000 CBC Book of the Year for Younger Readers, the UK Wow! Award and has been listed as a ‘blue ribbon’ book in the USA. Other awards include an Aurealis (scifi) Award for Cafe on Callisto and ACT Book of the Year for In the Blood.

Jackie’s loves include wombats, the bush plants and gardening. She and her husband run an experimental farm which includes growing Australia’s largest collection of different fruits in a self sustaining system that takes about ten minutes work a week. Jackie also has a deep fascination with history (which is evident in many of her novels) and is currently working on an eight volume history of Australia, starting at 60,000 BC.

The true story of the stroppy wombat who lives under Jackie’s bedroom, Diary of a Wombat(illustrated by Bruce Whatley), has become Australia’s most awarded children’s book – and broke all picture book publishing records for the number of copies sold in its first year! Among the many awards received for Dairy of a Wombat are: 2003 Koala Award, 2003 Yara Award, 2003 Cool Award, ‘Best Picture book’ and ‘Funniest Book’ 2003 in the US Cuffie awards, Best Picture book in the US Publisher’s Awards, the 2003 ABA/ Neilson Data Book of the Year and a 2003 CBCA Honour Book listing. Diary of a Wombat is now galloping across the rest of the world, while Jackie and Bruce have continued their successful collaboration with more picture books, Too Many Pears!, Pete the SheepJosephine Wants to Dance and Baby Wombat’s Week.

Jackie’s other books include A War for Gentlemen (an historical novel for adults) Rocket Your Child into Reading (a book on learning difficulties, and how to get all kids reading), To the Moon and Back (a history of Australia and the journey to the moon, written with her husband Bryan Sullivan), Tom Appleby, Convict Boy, My Dad the Dragon, My Uncle Gus the Garden GnomePete the Sheep (illustrated by Bruce Whatley) They Came in Viking ShipsThe Secret World of WombatsThe Fair Dinkum Hostories series, Lessons from a Werewolf Warrior, The Camel Who Crossed Australia and A Rose For the Anzac Boys(an Honour Book in the 2009 CBCA Older Readers’ Book of the Year).