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Narelle Oliver (1960-) Biography

Personal, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1960, in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia; mother an art teacher; Education: B.Ed. (printmaking and design). Hobbies and other interests: Nature, conservation.


Author and illustrator. Queensland School for the Deaf, Queensland, Australia, former teacher; University of Southern Queensland, former tutor for faculty of education; University of Melbourne, May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust artist-in-residence, 2000. Exhibitions: Oliver's artwork has been exhibited in Australia at the Freemantle Children's Literature Center, Dromkeen Children's Literature Center, and the State Library of Queensland.

Honors Awards

Picture Book of the Year Award, shortlist, 1994, for The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, winner, 1996, for The Hunt; Eve Pownall Award shortlist, Environmental Prize, and Wilderness Society Award for Children's Literature, all 2000, all for Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia's Dead Heart; Picture Book of the Year Award honor book, and Eve Pownall Award honor book, both 2002, both for Baby Bilby, Where Do You Sleep?; CBC Notable Book designation, 2002, for Mermaids Most Amazing; BIBLY Award for Early Reader, 2003, and Young Australian Best Book Award shortlist for Picture Storybook, 2004, both for The Very Blue Thingamajig.


Leaf Tail, 1989.

High above the Sea, 1991.

Narelle Oliver

The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1993, Fulcrum Publishers (Golden, CO), 1995.

The Hunt, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1995.

Sand Swimmers: The Secret Life of Australia's Dead Heart, Lothian (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1999.

(With Gary Crew) The Well, Franklin Watts (London, England), 1999.

Baby Bilby, Where Do You Sleep?, Lothian (Port Melborne, Victoria, Australia), 2001.

Oliver reveals the secrets of the fascinating wildlife that lives in the harsh Dead Heart desert of central Australia in her self-illustrated Sand Swimmers.

Mermaids Most Amazing, Ommibus Scholastic (Gosford, New South Wales, Australia), 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2005.

The Very Blue Thingamajig, Omnibus Scholastic (Gosford, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.

What a Goat!, illustrated by David Cox, Omnibus Scholastic (Gosford, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.

Oliver's work has been published in Korean.


Award-winning Australian-based author and illustrator Narelle Oliver feels extremely lucky to have a career that she enjoys so passionately. The creator of the picture books The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay and Sand Swimmers, as well as a compilation of mermaid lore titled Mermaids Most Amazing, Oliver first became interested in children's books while she was working as a teacher at the Queensland School for the Deaf. Utilizing picture books in the classroom, and often creating them with her students, Oliver thoroughly enjoyed the process so much that she decided to write and illustrate her own.

Birds figure prominently in Oliver's books, such as The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, which finds a group of locals competing in a best-beak contest. In her humorous 2003 lift-the-flap book The Very Blue Thingamajig, a mysterious blue creature hatches from an egg covered with spots. While other thingamajigs are interested at first, they soon wander off; then the newly hatched creature begins an amazing transformation. At the end of the week the thingamajig rushes to show the other thingamajigs his new appearance, with surprising results. Reviewing The Very Blue Thingamajig in Aussiereviews. com, Sally Murphy called the picture book a "fun" read highlighted by Oliver's illustrations featuring "rich pastel colours." While entertaining, Murphy added, the picture book also provides young children with opportunities to count, learn the days of the week and gain "a gentle lesson on differences."

As Oliver noted in her profile posted on the Scholastic Australia Web site, her interest in the environment inspired her to begin a writing career. In the early 1980s, she traveled with her environmental scientist husband. "We explored many national parks on the east coast of Australia and I became convinced that there was a need for picture book stories about the many fascinating and less well-known Australian animals in their own unique habitats. I was especially interested in showing how these animals adapt to their surroundings, and using this idea as the basis of various story plots." "Most of the time I feel very lucky that something I enjoy doing so passionately is also my work," the author/illustrator added. "Coming up with a new picture book idea, and then creating it, is an irresistible challenge."

Biographical and Critical Sources


AussieReviews.com, http://www.aussiereviews.com/ (February 6, 2004), Sally Murphy, review of The Very Blue Thingamajig.

Scholastic Australia Web site, http://www.scholastic.com/au/ (May 12, 2004), "Narelle Oliver."

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