Story & photo Eve Jeffery
An Alstonville children’s book author who lived a childhood many would dream about has won a prestigious award for a story about a bird.
Most people in the northern rivers who have found a sick, injured or orphaned raptor would probably have at some stage ended up in Wendy’s kitchen.
Wendy Lawrence was born on tea and coffee estates in the western ghats of south India. These estates were surrounded by dense jungle – a wildlife paradise. Wendy had free range to see incredible wild animals such as elephants, tigers, leopards, bears, bison, pangolins and porcupines as well as birds and reptiles, including the magnificent king cobra.
The jungles had a lasting impact on her – a passion for wildlife and its habitats.
Wendy was also fortunate to have parents who loved the creatures surrounding their home and at various times took into care orphaned or injured animals including elephants and wildcats.
On moving to Australia and the northern rivers more than 30 years ago, Wendy continued her animal love and as one of a very few experienced raptor carers, she has been tending to sick, injured and orphaned owls and birds of prey for many years.
She has had many adult, as well as juvenile, Boobook owls that have needed help to return to the wild, and this was the birthplace of her new book, Boo and the Big Storm.
‘The Boobook is the smallest and most common of the nine species of Australian owl,’ says Wendy, who wanted to feature a bird found everywhere in the country. ‘It is mainly forest and wooded habitat bird, but it is also seen in towns and suburbs with lots of trees.’
A few years ago Wendy approached neighbour Glen Vause to do pencil mock-up illustrations from some photos she had taken over the years. Glen is a former Sydney illustrator who started out his career as a professional airbrush artist. In Sydney he got tagged as The Ol’ Master among the agency art directors and publishers thanks to his ability to render oils like the painters of the Renaissance and have them painted in time to meet the tight deadlines.
Together the pair worked on the book, which was published earlier this year and was recently the recipient of a wonderful award – an award that has special significance to Wendy.
Wendy sent a copy of the book to Birds Australia who, upon seeing the book, suggested she submit a copy to The Royal Zoological Society NSW.
The society were so impressed with the story that they presented Wendy and Glen the 2013 Whitley Award at a special ceremony at the Australian Museum in Sydney last month.
These Whitleys are a tribute to Gilbert Whitley, an eminent Australian ichthyologist. The awards are presented for outstanding publications that contain a significant amount of information relating to the fauna of the Australasian region.
Boo and the Big Storm was award winner in the Children’s Reader category.
‘It was wonderful winning an award, but even more wonderful that it was an award because of the animal content,’ says Wendy.
Wendy and her Boo book will be at the North Coast Kids & Babies Market this Saturday at Lennox Head and Wendy will do a reading of the book at the Mullumbimby library on November 29.
To find out more about Boo, visit the Boo and the Big Storm website.