I had always wanted to go to Lord Howe Island and it was more amazing than I had imagined. To be able to get so close to birds was a real treat for me, and many of the seabirds were nesting at this time of the year. Sir David Attenborough has featured this unique island on many of his programs.
We snorkelled in crystal clear waters with turtles, reef sharks and lionfish, and climbed the 2 cloud shrouded mountains (I was so sore I had to walk backwards down steps for the next 2 days – but it was worth it, honest!) We saw up-close nesting red-tailed tropic birds, and delicate white terns. In the mist forest at the top of Mt Gower we met the LHI woodhen, which was the rarest bird on earth until recent intervention increased its numbers to 300 on the island.
About 350 locals live on the island and only about 250 tourists are allowed at any one time This is a unique island in many ways, and I felt privileged to meet the very community and environmentally minded residents.
After meeting the school kids to read my latest book ‘Invisible Me’ , I felt very privileged to be invited back later in the year to help them write and illustrate their own book based on their amazing island home.
It was challenging and hard work, but the kids were fantastic- I still miss them! Standard dress at the school is bare feet, and there were 30 kids from kindy to grade 6, and a couple of grade 7’s. They were enthusiastic and a joy to work with. I think I brought out some drawing and painting skills they never knew they had, and the results were amazing. I showed them how to draw birds and animals using shapes, which even the kindy kids did well. The pictures shown were done by 5 and 6 year olds. I have included a sketch of the shapes used to make the mutton birds- a very difficult bird to draw. Some people back here didn’t believe that the kids did them. The title ‘WHERE ELSE?’ was created by a 5 year old, Lucinda, and voted on unanimously. The children chose what was important and unique to them about the island (and there is a lot to choose from!) Then with only 6 weeks to get the book finished, I brought all the raw material back to Fremantle and spent hours with the graphic designer putting it together. As books normally take more than a year to complete, it was a hefty effort.
As I am familiar with the publishing process, I was able to organize the whole production from beginning to end. Then we decided to go back to LHI to present the books to the kids at their end of school presentation night. It was worth going just for the skits the kids put on. There are some great actors there! Overall, it was a great learning experience for me, and the book turned out great. It will be sold at the visitor centre on the Island, with all proceeds going to the school.
Thanks Lord Howe Island! Definitely going back there one day!