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Newcastle author gets the royal treatment


Newcastle children’s author Emily S Smith has received royal recognition, her latest book chosen by The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, to appear on her popular YouTube channel.

Smith launched How To Hug A Cactus at the IF Maitland Indie Festival on 29 May.

On Tuesday 19 October the book featured on Storytime with Fergie and Friends, a web series in which the duchess reads children’s stories, often with a heartfelt message or lesson for her young audience.

The Duchess has about 30,000 subscribers to her quirky show and attracts over 100,000 views for some of her children’s book readings, making the opportunity quite an achievement for local writer Emily S. Smith.

“I’m absolutely over the moon that How to Hug a Cactus was selected to be a ‘royal read,’ because so many people view Fergie’s Story Time videos,” Smith said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for my book to be shared on that scale.”

Joining fellow high profile children’s author’s Celeste Barber and Matt Cosgrove, who have also been hand-picked and promoted by the Duchess, Smith says she was blown away by the opportunity. 

“I was so excited when I found out that my book was chosen. I couldn’t believe it. I think I had to read the email a couple of times before it actually sank in.”

How To Hug A Cactus, published by Larrikin House uses rhyming verse to follow a young girl’s often disastrous attempts to hug her favourite cactus. 

Filled with humorous moments and ridiculous scenarios, it also promotes the importance of persistence, and continuing to try in the face of failure.

Smith is no stranger to global exposure, the early childhood educator had her first picture book Garbage Guts translated into Korean for the South Korean market. 

Garbage Guts was also included in a recent project by the Hunter Writers Centre which saw local authors have their picture books translated into Auslan for storytelling videos. 

It’s a been a busy year for Smith, despite the pandemic, with her next children’s book Kora Kerplunk’s Travelling Tongue due for release in February 2021.

“As cliché as it sounds, it really is a dream come true to get my story out there. I just feel so grateful to have these opportunities,” she said.

‘How To Hug a Cactus’ is illustrated by Aleksandra Szmidt and published by Larrikin House and can be purchased online or instore at Harry Hartog booksellers in Kotara or Green Hills, or ordered through any good bookstore.

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