Merewether mother Renea Giles loved Beatrix Potter as a child.
Even now, after “all these years” she still recalls each animal and their characteristics with great fondness.
The reality was, though, that she was never going to be able to see the creatures other than in illustrations.
austen Which is why her children’s book ‘Where should Francis Live?’ deliberately features Australian animals.
“I’d have given my right arm to see an otter in my yard,” Ms Giles says.
“But that was never going to happen, so my animals are intentionally local.”
Ms Giles’ 32-page book is about a snail called Francis that outgrows his shell.
“He needs a new one and he needs to sort it out by bedtime,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
With the help of lots of friends (Australian animals) offering suggestions, Francis sets off full of hope to find a new home.
“He creates a checklist for himself,” Ms Giles says. “He wants something not too loud and not too high.
“He soon learns that just because a home is perfect for one person, it’s not for everyone.”
Resilience is also a theme the book touches on, according to Ms Giles.
“Francis gets to the point where he’s feeling so sad that he’s tempted to give up, “ she said.
“He’s only got until bedtime and as the sun’s going down he’s losing hope.”
The book features illustrations by fellow-Novocastrian Callum Foot, a talented young graphic designer who boasts a string of awards.
“I’ve known Callum since he was six-years-old when we moved from Queensland and he was bouncing on the trampoline next door, so it’s very special we have been able to now create this gorgeous book for kids together,” Ms Giles said.
“He’s done an amazing job from the very beginning. The illustrations are time-stamped from dawn to bedtime, with beautiful oranges and blues that reflect the time of the day.”
The published book began “a lifetime ago”, admits the mother-of-two.
“It was 20 years ago. I was living in Dublin with my husband, we were newly married. I think I was reflecting on the fact that we could have been living anywhere in the world.”
Pushed aside to prioritise raising children and moving to Australia, it wasn’t until Ms Giles’ husband surprised her with five copies of the book for her 40th birthday, that she rekindled her love for Francis the snail.
“He’d dug out the original hand-written copy and been working with Callum for 12 months,” she said.
“It was such a wonderful surprise.”
‘Where Should Francis Live’ will be celebrated at different Newcastle schools during Book Week 2021, August 21 to 27.