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Narelle Oliver is the author-illustrator of a number of award-winning children’s picture books including: The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, The Hunt, Sand Swimmers, The Very Blue Thingamajig, Dancing the Boom-cha-cha Boogie, Home, Fox and Fine Feathers and Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen.
Narelle was born in 1960 and grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, in a family who spent every spare moment pursuing interests in visual and performing arts. While studying for a Bachelor of Education degree, Narelle majored in design and printmaking. Then followed several years teaching at the Queensland School for the Deaf, living and breathing picture books and sign language. Narelle also tutored in Language and Children’s Literature subjects offered by the Faculty of Education at the University of Southern Queensland before beginning her first picture book, Leaf Tail (1989).
Narelle's most recent work is the picture book Don't Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen! which won the Children's literature award in the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards. The illustrations in this highly appealing and humorous book were created using collage and photographic elements combined with Narelle's favoured linocut prints.
Narelle's picture book, Fox and Fine Feathers was launched by the Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce (August 2009) and also appeared in the Governor-General's televised Australia Day address 2010. This contemporary Australian fable was awarded Honour Book for the 2010 Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Awards. It was also short-listed for the 2010 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards.
Home won a NSW Premier’s Literature Award (2007) and was part of the first birthday celebrations of the Brisbane City Council Brisbane Square Library where it is featured as part of the interior design.
A number of Narelle’s picture books have been inspired by natural environments she has explored, and a continuing interest in natural history – especially adaptation of animals to their specific habitats through camouflage or other physical characteristics such as beak shapes. In other titles, the story and illustrations have been informed by various mathematical, social, mythical and historical concepts.
Most of the illustrations in Narelle’s picture books have been undertaken using linocut prints and linocut rubbings often combined with other media such as coloured pencil, water colour, pastel, collage and even photography – depending on the feel required for the story.
The style of the linocuts has also varied in keeping with the essence of each story – from intricate realistic images revealing camouflage to the eclectic old-world style suited to medieval mermaid stories, to the bold mambo-inspired creatures in later imaginary works. Most markedly different are the collages of linocut rubbings and hand-coloured photographs created to capture the lightness and movement of the birds in contrast to solid city landscapes in Home.
The original illustrations from Narelle’s picture books have been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions throughout Australia, including The Literature Centre, WA, Dromkeen Children’s Literature Centre, Vic., Books Illustrated, Vic., and the State Library of Queensland.