Gabrielle Wang, Australian Children’s Laureate
“A winged beast had lifted him high in the air. Everything was tiny – the people, the houses, even the mountains. He found a dream trail and followed it in. Now he was looking down upon a golden pavilion floating on a bed of mist.” (The Hidden Monastery)
Gabrielle Wang is the perfect choice for Australian Children’s Laureate 2022-2023. She has ‘earned her stripes’ over many years of creating quality books and interacting with thousands of children. With her Chinese-Australian heritage and understanding of two cultures, she will be the perfect ambassador for diversity, a focus she intends to emphasise.
Her theme for her two-year term as Laureate is ‘Imagine a Story’ because of the importance and power of story. Story develops empathy into understanding others and can provide a safe guide through life’s situations and hurdles.
Gabrielle’s books are distinguished by their integration of Chinese culture, philosophy and mythology. Her body of work is notable for its children’s and middle-fiction novels, of which my absolute favourite is the fantasy, The Garden of Empress Cassia, with its secret drawers in the antique wooden cabinet and drawings in pastels that become a portal into the mysterious garden. Other standouts I have read are The Pearl of Tiger Bay, a magic realist story where the children become the agents for conserving the Pearl, an old hotel; The Hidden Monastery, a mystical tale set in a monastery in a rainforest; The Wishbird, who must mend the broken threads of the world; The Beast of Hushing Wood and a Ghost in my Suitcase, which has been made into an acclaimed play by Barking Gecko Theatre.
Over the years in my role as a consultant to independent bookstores, I have been aware of how children love the Poppy and Pearlie Stories, historical fiction, in the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series.
Her YA novel, Little Paradise, is also historical fiction; she has written a picture book, The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, illustrated by Sally Rippin, and is currently working on a graphic novel, Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon (May 2022).
Trained in graphic design and having an affinity with those children who prefer to have the written text in novels broken up by illustrations because of her own reading experiences as a girl, Gabrielle has been illustrating all her recent books. She will give children in her upcoming workshops as Laureate the opportunity to explore art and, as a highlight, draw their own Chinese Dragon, the ruler of weather and water.
Her ‘Follow the Dragon’ tour begins at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne on March 29 2022.
Humble as always, Gabrielle told me, “I was taken completely by surprise when the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation first contacted me. I am indeed thrilled to be the recipient of such an honour.”
My full interview (upcoming) with Gabrielle Wang as Australian Children’s Laureate will run in the Weekend Australian on 26th March, 2022.