Jackie French

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Jackie French
Author Jackie French.jpg
BornJacqueline Anne French
(1953-11-29) 29 November 1953 (age 68)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
GenreJuvenile fiction, historical fiction, gardening books
Notable works
SpouseBryan Sullivan

Jacqueline French AM (born 29 November 1953 as Jacqueline French) is an Australian author who has written over 140 books and has won more than 60 national and international awards.[1][2] She is considered one of Australia's most popular and awarded children's authors, writing across a number of children's genres including picture books, history, fantasy and history fiction.[3]

She is also an author of numerous books on ecology, gardening, pest control, wombats, other wildlife and hens as well as fiction for adults. She is also a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines around Australia including the Australian Women's Weekly and the Canberra Times.[4][5] She also presented gardening segments on the long-running Australian TV series Burke's Backyard.[6]


French began writing Rain Stones, her first book for children, when she was 30 years old, living in a shed and in need of money to register her car. Her editor said it was the messiest and worst-spelt manuscript ever submitted (partly because Jackie was dyslexic, but also because the letter 'E' on her typewriter wasn't working because of droppings left on her keyboard by a wombat), but the book ended up being shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia award for the Younger Readers Book of the Year and the NSW Premier's Award.[7][8]

French's books include both fictional, factional and non-fictional accounts of Australian history including Nanberry: Black Brother White, Tom Appleby, A Day to Remember, created with Mark Wilson, A Waltz for Matilda, the first in an eight-volume series, The Girl from Snowy River, The Road to Gundagai, The Night They Stormed Eureka and Flood and Fire, both created with Bruce Whatley.

Her non-fiction books include the eight-book Fair Dinkum History series that covers 60,000 years of Australian history and is published by Scholastic[9] and Let the Land Speak: A history of Australia - how the land created our nation.[10]

A number of her books are also part of the Australia Curriculum, including Nanberry: Black Brother White, Flood, A Day to Remember (with Nark Wilson), Baby Wombat's Week (with Bruce Whatley), Pennies for Hitler, The Girl from Snowy River and the work she is possibly best known for, Diary of a Wombat, created with artist Bruce Whatley.[11][12][13][14][15]

Her most recent works include To Love a Sunburnt Country and The Beach they called Gallipoli (with Bruce Whatley), Fire (with Bruce Whatley) and The Hairy-Nosed Wombats Find a New Home (with Sue Degennaro). French's royalties for that book are donated towards wombat preservation and research.[16][17][18][19]

Her book Hitler's Daughter has been made into a stage play by Monkey Baa Theatre Company. It toured Australia in 2012 and in the United States in 2013. The play won the Robert Helpmann Award in 2007, the Drover Award in 2007 and the 2006 Drover Special Panel Award.[20][21]

Monkey BAA also turned her book Pete the Sheep, created with Bruce Whatley, into a musical, which toured Australia in 2014.[22]

Awards and recognition[edit]

French speaking on an Australian Human Rights Commission panel discussion, in her capacity as 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.

French has won more than 60 awards in Australia and overseas and a number of her books have been shortlisted for numerous Australian and United States awards.[2][23]

In 2014, she was awarded the Queensland Literary Awards Griffith University children's Book Award and the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Notable Award for Refuge, which was also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's History Award in two categories – Children's and Community Relations.[24][25] Her book The Road to Gundagai was shortlisted for the NSW Premier's History Awards,[26] and short-listed for the 2016 Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature, New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards.[27] Her novels Hitler's Daughter and To the Moon and Back have been awarded the CBCA Children's Book of the Year Award in 2000 and 2005, and Pennies for Hitler won the 2013 New South Wales Premier's Young People History Award.[2] Hitler's Daughter also won the UK Wow! Award, a Semi Grant Prix Japan Award and is listed as a blue ribbon book in the US.[23]

Diary of a Wombat, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, has been translated into 23 languages and is the only picture book to win the Australian Book Industry Award. It was also on The New York Times bestseller list.[22] It has also won numerous awards including the 2002 Booksellers Choice Award,[28] Canberra's Own Outstanding List Award for Best Picture Book (2003),[29] 2003 KOALA Awards, Best Picture Book,[30] The Children Book Council of Australia Books I Love Best Yearly Award (2008),[31] the 2003 ABA/AA Nielsen Book of the Year Award, 2003 American Library Association, Notable Book title, 2003 USA Cuffie Awards, Favourite Picture Book of the Year and Funniest Book, 2003, 2004 USA Benjamin Franklin Award, 2004 USA Lemmee Award, 2004 USA KIND Award and the 2007 Kids Reading Oz Choice Favourite Book Award.[32] French was the 2014-15 Australian Children's Laureate[33] and was a finalist in the 2014 Nib Waverley Library Award for Literature.[34]

She was awarded the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.[35][36][37] In 2016, French was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to literature as an author of children's books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy.[38] In 2016 she received the Australian Book Industry Awards Pixie O'Harris award.[39]

Personal life[edit]

French was born Jacqueline Ffrench in Sydney and grew up in Brisbane. Her parents divorced in 1967, and when her mother changed her surname from Ffrench to French, Jackie also did so.[40] In her early twenties she and her first husband moved to Araluen, near Braidwood, where she now lives with her second husband Bryan Sullivan. They have turned their property into a conservation refuge for the area's rare and endangered species.[41]

In 1996, her sister Wendy vanished. She is presumed dead but her body has never been found. In 2003, Wendy's husband committed suicide during an investigation into his wife's disappearance.[40]

She studied the behaviour and ecology of wombats for 40 years and is the director of The Wombat Foundation, which raises funds for research into the preservation of wombats.[22] She is also the ACT Children's Week Ambassador, 2011 Federal Literacy Ambassador, patron of Books for Kids, YESS, Speld ACT, Speld Qld, DAGS (Dyslexia Association Gawler), and joint patron of Monkey Baa Theatre for Young People with Susanne Gervais and Morris Gleitzman.[42][43][44][45]

French is dyslexic and wrote I Spy a Great Reader to help teachers and parents teach dyslexic children to read using varied and new methods.[3]


  1. ^ Galvin, Nick (15 December 2013). "Jackie French, laureate for good fun reading". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. ^ a b c The Library University of Canberra (October 2009). "A Guide to the Jackie French Papers". Loe Rees Archives.
  3. ^ a b Radio New Zealand National. "Australian Children's Laureate Jackie French". Nine to Noon.
  4. ^ Aliento, Willow (13 April 2014). "Jackie French on listening to the land and lessons from history". The Fifth Estate.
  5. ^ "Jackie French: Best plants for the barbecue". The Canberra Times. 13 December 2014.
  6. ^ Thompson, Peter (28 September 2009). "Jackie French". Talking Heads. ABC TV. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Jackie French". Australian of the Year Awards. Australian Government. 2015.
  8. ^ "Jackie French: Multi-award-winning author". Australian Writers' Centre.
  9. ^ "Scholastic Authors and Illustrators, Jackie French". Scholastic Australia.
  10. ^ Mitchell, Natasha (11 October 2013). "Let the land speak: how has the landscape shaped your family history?". Radio National. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  11. ^ "Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French". English for the Australian Curriculum.
  12. ^ "North Coast English Stage 1". GPS Library Resource Centre.
  13. ^ "Flood by Jackie French". Primary English Teaching Association Australia.
  14. ^ "Primary School Resources to support the Australian History Curriculum" (PDF). Australian School Library Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Text Choices for the Australian Curriculum" (PDF). English Teachers' Association Conference. 23 November 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 December 2014.
  16. ^ "The Beach They called Gallipoli: Jackie French and Bruce Whatley in conversation at the State Library of NSW". NSW Veterans. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 26 November 2014.
  17. ^ "To love a sunburnt country". Catalogue. National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ 100 Years of Anzac, Government of New South Wales
  19. ^ "The Hairy-Nosed Wombats Find a New Home Jackie French". Trove. National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ "Monkey Baa Theatre Company presents Hitler's Daughter, based on the novel by Jackie French". Teacher's hub. Harper Collins. 16 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Hitler's Daughter". Monkey Baa Theatre Company.
  22. ^ a b c Plater, Diana (24 November 2012). "A decade in wombat years". The Age. Melbourne.
  23. ^ a b "Jackie French". Australian Children's Laureate.
  24. ^ "2014 Queensland Literary Award Winners". Queensland Literary awards. 2014.
  25. ^ "Book of the Year Awards Notables 2014". The Children's Book Council of Australia. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014.
  26. ^ "2014 Winners and Shortlists". State Library of New South Wales.
  27. ^ "New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards" (PDF). SL Magazine. 8 (4): 35. Summer 2016.
  28. ^ "Booksellers Choice Award". The Children's Book Council of Australia. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010.
  29. ^ "Canberra's Own Outstanding List (COOL) Award Winners". Good Reads.
  30. ^ "Awards Night 2003". K.O.A.L.A. Kids Own Australian Literature Awards. 21 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Previous winners of the BILBY Awards" (PDF). Children's Book Council of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2015.
  32. ^ "Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French ages 3-7". Story Mama.
  33. ^ Warden, Ian (28 November 2013). "Jackie French: Australian Children's Laureate makes waves". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  34. ^ Herbertson, Lisa (7 October 2014). "Nib: Waverley Library Award for Literature winners short-listed". Wentworth Courier. News Local Sydney.
  35. ^ Maley, Jacqueline. "NSW finalists for Australian of the Year announced". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  36. ^ Mitchell, Georgina (25 January 2015). "Author Jackie French named Senior Australian of the Year". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  37. ^ Brissenden, Michael (26 January 2015). "Jackie French named Senior Australian of the Year". Australia: ABC Radio.
  38. ^ "Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia (A-L)" (PDF). Australia Day 2016 Honours Lists. Office of the Governor-General of Australia. 25 January 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  39. ^ "2016 Winners: 2016 Industry Award Winners". abiawards.com.au. ABIA. Archived from the original on 4 September 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  40. ^ a b Nikki Barrowclough, The escape artist", The Age, 3 March 2012, Good Weekend, p. 27
  41. ^ Schriever, Jordanna (8 May 2014). "Children's author Jackie French spreads the word on the worth of wombats". The Advertiser.
  42. ^ "The People Involved in ACT Children's Week". ACT Children's Week.
  43. ^ "Time to register for National Literacy and Numeracy Week". Independent Education Union of Australia. 7 February 2013.
  44. ^ "Festival of Children's Literature 2013, Jackie French". University of Canberra. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014.
  45. ^ "New ACT Dyslexia support". ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations. Archived from the original on 18 December 2014.

External links[edit]