Book People: Vale Narelle Oliver

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Beautiful Narelle…Narelle Oliver

You will be so missed by your family, so missed. I know only too well the grief cycle and you, my mum and I have discussed grief at length on many occasions over brunches that extend to lunches. You and I have shared so many stories over the years of your family and of mine – laughs, tears, frustrations and joys. We have shared gossip and news of the Australian children’s literary industry and together we felt we could solve all the problems of all the people involved if only they would put you and I in charge – ‘Narelle and Megan: CEO’s of The Australian Children’s Literary Industry’. You were one of my very first visitors in hospital after the birth of Ava, and have remained a strong force in her life. She will sorely miss your artistic advice, but you have left her, and the children of Australia, the inspiration of your beautiful books. You have agreed with Dan (AKA #backboy AKA my husband) that ‘The Very Blue Thingamajig’ was far too long a book to be read night after night…after night after night…and supported him in hiding it from our bookshelves when it was the only book Georgia wanted to read.

Puds Review with Surname Removed.
Ava’s first ever review (at 5) was of Narelle Oliver’s ‘The Hunt’
An Narelle/Ava Artwork from 'The Hunt'
A Narelle/Ava Artwork

Our families have come together for celebrations and commiserations and Norwex parties (ha!) and I will always be so forever grateful to have had you in my life and the lives my of my children. You, my mum, myself and Greg Rogers…those long lunches of wicked laughter are no longer. Mum and I shall share green tea and remember you…we’ll even take a reaaaaaalllllly long time to make the green tea, to properly recreate the scene. Narelle Oliver

Narelle Oliver was the talented author-illustrator-artist of many award winning children’s picture books, many of which are distributed internationally. My interview with her is here. Narelle Oliver’s published works are predominantly children’s picture books which she conceptualised, wrote and illustrated. Narelle Oliver’s books were often inspired by natural environments and she would undertake many site visits – taking photographs and sketches to ensure accuracy in her depictions of flora and fauna. Her illustrative technique of choice was linocut printing, often combined with other media, to create illustrations and artworks which are distinctive, meticulously crafted and visually stunning. Both my girls are lucky enough to have a Narelle Oliver artwork each, and over the years I have purchased a number of pieces for myself and my school library. Her ability to create textured tree bark, or a shimmering mermaids tail with sheets of lino, carving tools, ink and pencils was astounding. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year; CBCA Book of the Year for Early Childhood; CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books; NSW Premier’s Literature Award for Children’s Literature; Shortlistings in the Queensland Literary Awards and Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature. You can see her in print titles and add them to your home or school library here. I highly recommend them all…

‘Leaf Tail’ (1989)

‘High Above the Sea’ (1991)

‘The Hunt’ (1995)

‘Baby Bilby, Where do you Sleep?’ (2001)

‘Mermaids Most Amazing’ (2001)

‘The Very Blue Thingamajig’ (2003)

‘What a Goat!’ (2003)

‘Dancing the Boom-Cha-Cha Boogie’ (2005)

‘Home’ (2007)

‘Twilight Hunt’ (2007)

‘Fox’ (2010)

‘The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay’ (2011)

‘Sand Swimmers’ (2013)

‘Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen’ (2013)recently-updated29

So very, very many of us in the children’s literature community in Australia have very heavy hearts today and our deepest sympathies go to her beautiful family.

Some of my fav snaps:

Story Bridge Climb 2010|
Story Bridge Climb 2010|

narelle-oliver6 narelle-oliver7 narelle-oliver4 narelle-oliver5narelle-oliver8 narelle-oliver9

Thank you for the Spoonbill inspiration, the artwork, the friendship, the wisdom. SpoonbillNarelle Oliver

The Body Shop

The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this post. Narelle’s books are very well loved in our household. In fact, Fox was the first book we bought for our daughter while I was still pregnant. Narelle will be much missed, even by those who did not know her personally, but thankfully leaves us with many hours of reading pleasure.

  2. Megan, you have eloquently written with heart thoughts and memories of Narelle which so many of us are thinking at the moment. We will certainly miss her greatly.

  3. Thank you for these beautiful words.
    I feel very lucky to have met Narelle, and been her nurse for many years. It will always be a sincere regret of mine, though, to have missed the opportunity to have her autograph my copies of her beautiful books. Every time I saw her I remembered that I had left the books at home. In fact, we joked about my terrible memory. I am truly devastated by the news she succumbed to her illness, but am comforted by the way she lived her life and by all the lives she touched.
    Rest in peace Narelle. You will be sorely missed. xx

    • I had two more copies of Spoonbill to be signed and had fogotten them for the last three visits with her!!!

  4. I have all books in my personal professional library which have echanted me, my sons and now my grandsons. Not to mention the hundreds of children that I have lead them to in my school library
    I was once enthralled to share a workshop of The Hunt in which this incredibly talented lady generously shared her skills. My effort is an addendum in my copy of the book.
    Where can I get a copy of The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay? My copy was borrowed and not returned.
    Create on over a rainbow Narelle Oliver. Vale.

    • Sally – for a copy of Best Beak you can contact me through Megan Daley. Happy to that gap!
      Thanks to all for the touching postings. Greg Oliver (Narelle’s husband)

  5. The Queensland and Australian literary community have all lost such a lovely person and such a talented, warm and generous soul.

    I have been lucky enough to have had many special times and memories with Narelle and she touched everyone’s lives who knew her. Narelle has always been so supportive of emerging authors and illustrators and others and none more so than towards Speakers Ink, especially in our early days. Her warmth, cheeky humour and beautiful spirit will be missed.

    I am so very sorry to miss Narelle’s service and am sending my best wishes and thoughts to all from Europe where I am currently visiting.

    Helen Bain

  6. The Queensland and indeed the literary community around Australia will miss Narelle. I miss Narelle. Such a talented and generous soul who always shared her expertise so willingly and who encouraged so many others in their work. Narelle was especially supportive during the early years of Speakers Ink for which I will always be very grateful.

    Narelle touched everyone she met with her warmth, cheeky humour and generous spirit and I feel fortunate to have many treasured memories of her and the times we spent together.

    Narelle was special and will be missed by so very many.
    I am sending my thoughts and best wishes to all from Europe where I am currently visiting.

  7. Megan, I am with you. I know you have suffered a great loss here. God bless Narelle and her legacy to children and also God bless you and your mum on this. – Love XYZ

  8. Megan, thank you for enabling us to reflect on Narelle’s wonderful, creative life.

    As a teacher-librarian, Narelle’s books have been an important part of any school library collection. Over the years, Queensland Teacher librarians have had many opportunities to spend time with Narelle and share her love of writing, illustrating and teaching. She was so generous with her time and sharing her knowledge of her craft. Her contribution to children’s literature is outstanding, especially Australian Children’s Literature. She will be sadly, sadly missed.
    Linda

  9. What a wonderful tribute Megan. Love the pictures! I am still a little numb but feel very privileged to have known and worked with Narelle. She was an amazing person, so talented and so generous with her time. She touched many lives and I treasure the memories (along with my two ‘Leaftail’ prints). My grandchildren LOVE her books. Her books and many talks will leave a lasting legacy – her spirit will live on.
    Thea

  10. Narelle was so very kind and generous with her time and talents, and came to our school to work with our students making lino prints and their own little books. She herself offered to come just because they had written to her to ask questions about her books. Such a uniquely Australian and very accessible style of writing and illustrating; we have used and still use ALL of her picture books with our new Arrival students learning English and we use a class set of “HOME”. I remember first meeting her over a decade ago at the Somerset College Writers’ festival, when she was working so patiently and creatively with so many children there, in hands-on illustration activities. Words cannot express the enormity of her gift to us all, what a wonderful inspiration. We are very sad, and very grateful and honoured too, to have been touched by her. Lyn from Milpera

  11. I had the pleasure of attending many of Narelle’s workshops. She was an inspirational artist and early childhood advocate. In my own practice her style and creative humour has inspired me to a better teacher artist and human being..its an enormous loss to our collective communities.

  12. Narelle was a tutor of mine while I was doing my Diploma of Teaching at USQ (then it was the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education) in the late 80s before she had published her first book. Early in my teaching career she very kindly visited my class to talk about Leaf Tail. Since then she has spoken several times at schools and libraries where I have worked and festivals I have organised. The last time she visited my school I remember her cutting out pieces of artwork for “Don’t Let the Spoonbill in the Kitchen” in between sessions. We often reminisced about the good old days at DDIAE. I was so excited when I won a framed piece of her artwork at an orchestral presentation of one of her books at USQ. She is a wonderful, generous, talented lady who will be greatly missed.

  13. I have known Narelle Oliver since around 1992 and mourn the loss of this amazing woman, author and friend. I would like to honour her by dedicating a
    a school library to her memory. To this end, and I am making contact with Narelle’s wide literary friendship network seeking their support.

    The school is in Bhutan, in the Punakha Valley where I worked in July/August last year as a literacy mentor. You’ll find the details in the above attachment.
    Narelle was passionate about children’s literature and the environment – a library for the children of Lobesa in the land of gross national Happiness would be a fitting tribute to this remarkable woman. It’s a project that’s well under way – (2000+ books ready to ship); it just needs funds to freight it to Bhutan before the next monsoon season.

    Would you like to help make the Narelle Oliver Library a reality? Please contact me: Joy.vardy@optusnet.com.au or 38482597

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