You may know Jackie French as the author of your child’s favourite book about wombats (Diary of a Wombat), or the brains behind your helpful recipes and gardening tips. As for me, she was the person who introduced me to Historical Fiction and the writer of my favourite books They Came On Viking Ships and Hitler’s Daughter.
I was lucky enough to have my childhood dream come true when I spoke to Jackie. She answered some quick questions on her favourite animal that doesn’t begin with a “W”, all the iconic Aussie things she hates and her number one gardening tip.
Dark chocolate is… one of the basic food groups. Recent research has indicated that actually perhaps 40-60 percent of the fat is not absorbed in the human body, so it has far fewer calories than you may imagine.
My favourite animal that doesn’t start with “W” is… humans. We must never forget that we are all creatures of this planet.
I never leave my house without… I live in the bush so I can leave my house without absolutely anything, and nobody except the wombat is going to notice.
The first thing I do every day is… not quite wake up, and that’s an art I have perfected. It means just lying there and very slowly becoming aware of all the smells and what’s in the garden, and whether my husband has put the toast on. This is something you cannot do as a parent; it’s a grandma’s pleasure.
I want my books to… make children love the world because when you love the world, you will fight for it.
My favourite book to read to my grandchildren is… the book that they have chosen themselves from the bookshelf.
My favourite childhood book was… there were too many. I loved Jane Eyre with an enormous passion when I was about seven. I grew up in a town with very little childrens’ books. The books I loved were books for adults because I didn’t have access to others.
I love being Australian because… every part of me is part of the soil that my feet stand on, the air that I breathe, the sense of the trees, the wings of the wedge tailed eagle above me, the sounds of the wombats mating at 2am in the morning. This country is who I am with a depth that words can never convey.
My favourite iconic Aussie thing is… possibly Vegemite. Are chocolate Paddlepops iconic Australia? Uluru definitely – I love red soil. It’s easier to list iconic Australian things I really, really hate. Cricket. Football. Surfing. It’s salty and it’s sandy.
The iconic Aussie things I really, really don’t like are… sausages barbecued to charcoal. Cricket. Football. Traffic jams. Waves that have got sharks in them. Surfing – I prefer rivers to beaches. Cricket again. I would add cricket several times. Sunbaking on a hot day. Going to any beach amongst a crowd of people. Fireworks displays. Cricket.
I used to like cricket actually but that was in the day when they served scones and jam and really nice sandwiches for afternoon TVs. But it has declined terribly. There was very, very good gossip too.
My number one gardening tip is… concentrate on growing things not killing things. Plants have survived without any help from humanity for a very long time. They’ll probably do quite well without you too.
Jackie French is an award-winning Australian author, ecologist, historian, Aussie national treasure and part-time wombat. She has three children, six grandchildren and lives in NSW. Keep an eye out for our full interview with Jackie in an upcoming issue of CHILD Magazines.
Words + Interview: Daisy Chein / Images supplied by Jackie