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Riverina children’s author, Katrina Roe, is launching her new wartime audiobook in Wagga Wagga on Remembrance Day.

Aimed at kids aged 9-12, When I was Twelve, is the true story of an entire childhood lived under the shadow of war. It’s about trying to be brave while growing up without your Dad.

Born in 1933, Katrina’s father, Nick Hutchins, was just six years old when his own father went off to war.

When I was six my father took me down to the bottom of the garden to have a man- to-man talk.

Now that there’s a war on, Daddy has to fight in France. You’re the man of the house now, Nicky,’ he said. ‘I need you to take care of your mother and your sister.’

When I Was Twelve tells the true story of Nick’s wartime childhood in the UK, as he shares his memories with his young grandchildren.

‘When I was young my father never talked much about his wartime childhood,’ Katrina explains. ‘Like many of his generation, they just ‘got on with it’. It was only as he got older that he reflected on the responsibility that came with trying to be the man of the house at age 6.’

‘It wasn’t until I had my own children that I realised what a huge sacrifice the war generations made. My Dad grew up without his father for all those years. They would put his photo in his place at the dinner table and kiss his photo goodnight at bedtime. When his father eventually came home, six year later, he was so thin my Dad didn’t recognise him. He said that’s not my father. My father is that man in the photo.’

Left behind during the evacuation of Dunkirk, Lt. Col. CDM Hutchins, was captured in 1940, marched across Europe on starvation rations and held captive in various German prisoner-of-war camps for five long years.

When I Was Twelve includes gripping first-hand extracts from his POW Diary. 

Hungry as I was I used to remove the meat out of my soup after seeing a gangrenous horses head being used for making it. One man had an eye in his soup and ate it. Ugh!

‘I never met my grandfather,’ Katrina says. ‘But when I visited my Aunty in the UK I read his POW diary and heard his voice for the first time. It was so clear to me that he wanted to share his story, he wanted it to be remembered. That’s why I included his voice in the book as well.’

When I was Twelve features the voices of four generations from one family: the diary of Katrina’s grandfather, first-hand narration by her father, writing and narration by Katrina, and Katrina’s youngest daughter Bronte also plays a small part on the recording.

‘I hope that kids are fascinated not just by the gory details, but also by the emotional heart of the story. It’s so important to remember that tough times do come to an end,’ Katrina says.

2019 Events

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‘My kids love Gemma Gets the Jitters… and so do I. It teaches children it’s ok to be afraid, and highlights what courage looks like.’

Dr Justin Coulson, Parenting expert & Author of 9 Ways to a Resilient Child

‘Katrina Roe wowed audiences at the Snowy Mountains Readers & Writers festival. Her writing journey was inspirational to kids and adults alike.’

Jack Heath, Children’s and YA Author

Our students loved meeting Katrina Roe and enjoyed learning about her writing and storytelling.  The children especially loved her book Lily’s Balloon as it had the beautiful message that your own loss could be someone else’s gain.  There will be a little waitlist for her books as we have already had quite a number of students asking to borrow her books from the Library!’

Maren de Rijk, Junior School Librarian, Arden Anglican School

‘Katrina’s ability to captivate and engage a class of preschoolers for over an hour is amazing.’

Helen Besestri, Snowy Moutains Readers & Writers Festival.

‘Our students thoroughly enjoyed Katrina’s presentation and even our youngest students were engaged the whole time.  Katrina involved the girls by asking them questions and developed their understanding of issues presented in her books.’

Gwyn Bromhead, Junior School – Teacher Librarian, Tara Anglican School for Girls

You were amazing!  The students were engaged and captivated by your fabulous stories. All the teachers present agreed it was a fabulous morning! Thank you and come again.’

Emma Cutmore, Kindergarten Teacher, Loquat Valley Anglican School
Sat Feb 210 am – 1pmPrepare ELCPrepare ELC Open Day
Sat Mar 239am – 1pmBeecroft Uniting ChurchState Election Market Day
Sat Mar 302pmSMBCSydney Children’s Omega Writer’s Gathering
Sat Jun 159am-1pmNewington MarketplacePop-up Markets
Wed Aug 2110amSt Stephen’s Preschool, NormanhurstBook Week Author visit
Wed Aug 211pm-3pmChrist Church Preschool, GladesvilleBook Week Author visit
Thu Aug 2210amCreative Learning PreschoolBook Week Author visit
Thu Aug 221pm-3pmChrist Church Preschool, GladesvilleBook Week Author visit
Fri Aug 23All daySouthern Highlands Christian SchoolBook Week Guest Author
Wed Sept 118.30amArden Anglican SchoolGuest author
Sat Sept 149am – 1pmBeecroft Uniting ChurchSpring Market Day
Sat Sept 143pm – 8pmEastwood Heights Public SchoolFireworks Fundraiser
Sept 28-29All dayBrisbaneWombat Books Professional Development Conference
Oct 12-13All dayEdmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre, MulgoaOmega Writer’s Conference& Caleb Awards
Nov 1610amMelrose Park Public SchoolMelrose Park PS Market Day & Fete
Nov 275.30pmThe Governor Hotel,  NorthRydeRyde District Mums Twilight Market
Dec 156pmThornleighThornleigh Carols & Markets

First reviews of Lily’s Balloon

It’s always a nerve wracking wait after you release a new book. What will the reviews be like? My worst fear is not getting bad reviews, but getting no reviews at all.  With so many books being released every month, it’s hard to get your book noticed at all.  

It’s been a few months since Lily’s Balloon was officially released and finally some reviews have been emerging.  

  1. My favourite was this one, on Episode Nineteen of the kids book podcast, One More Page

Nat Amoore’s review of Lily’s Balloon filled my heart with joy.  Here are just some of the lovely things she said about my book. 

Lily’s Balloon would be my idea of the perfect bedtime story. It’s gentle and calming and has this melodic feel to it. The illustrations are poignant, but subtle with a light touch. It almost feels like a dream as you read through it and the way it ends I feel like the kid could go to sleep dreaming of where the balloon might go next.”

“I just want to hug every character in this book!”  

“I really enjoyed this book because it’s concise and gentle and I can really imagine parents being happy to read this one over and over to their kids at bedtime. It feels like a snuggle up with your kid and doona kinda book.”

To listen to the full review and the rest of the One More Page Podcast, follow the link below.

2. Author and reviewer, Dimity Powell included Lily’s Balloon in a selection of Stories for the Soul: Picture Books that Tug at the Heart Strings on the Boomerang Books Blog.

“This is a touching story of hope, disappointment, and learning how to let go, exquisitely illustrated by Helene Magisson. Magisson’s elegant drawings pulse with colour and form. Each page is a landscape of solid textures, interesting shapes and gentle movement.  Mellow hues and generous white space allow the eyes to wander and discover more detail, like tiny ants crawling along a bending reed.

 Lily’s Balloon is a lovely marriage of imagery and words that demonstrates how lives and situations may be inextricably connected and suggests to children that they are not alone when it comes to facing life’s many disappointments.”

You can read the full review on the Boomerang Books blog.

3. The Children’s Book Council publication Reading Time was one of the first to review Lily’s Balloon.

“We share in a wave of Lily’s emotions, from excitement, disappointment, happiness and loss.  Amongst it all, the reader delicately experiences anticipation and wonder on a balloon’s journey of interconnectedness woven throughout the story.

The illustrations so beautifully and gently invite readers to connect beyond the diverse and unique characters; encompassing other living creatures and nature’s world around us. It’s a powerful message for children and adults alike, with subtle yet strong illustrations that Helene Magisson has so perfectly presented.”

Read Sonia Bestulic’s full review here.

4. Lucinda Gifford from Children’s Literature website Buzz Words Books had this to say about Lily’s Balloon.

“This is a gentle, philosophical book which guides us towards looking beyond ourselves to see the bigger picture. Lily loses her balloon, but her spirits soar as she watches it drift out towards the clouds, ‘dancing on the wind’.  The balloon’s journey raises the spirits of two other children, each unaware of the balloon’s overall ‘story’, of who it will encounter and what its future will be.

This is a perfect book for talking about how we are all connected, the deeper meaning of objects, and how our actions, and our journey, affect others.”

Here’s the link to the Buzz Words review.  

It lifts my heart to read and hear how warmly Lily’s Balloon is being received by readers big and small.