Beloved children’s author Christobel Mattingley, died on Saturday, June 1 2019, aged 87, after several months of ill health.
Erica Wagner, Allen & Unwin Executive Publisher, Books for Children and Young Adults, says, ‘Her passing is truly the end of an era.’
Many of you will remember fondly her whimsical book Rummage that won the inaugural Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Book of the Year Award in 1982.
Christobel was a contemporary of Colin Thiele, Ruth Park and other giants of Australian children’s publishing and her books dealt with many significant issues including conservation, Aboriginal social justice and the plight of refugees — well before such themes became widely explored in children’s literature, and during times when they were actively considered to be unsuitable or not of interest to a child audience.
She’ll also be remembered for The Miracle Tree (1985) and The Angel with a Mouth-Organ (1984) widely regarded as children’s classics as are her more recent titles No Gun for Asmir (Puffin, 1993), the first in her trilogy about a Bosnian refugee family and Battle Order 204 (A&U 2004) about her husband David’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II.
In addition to her 47 published children’s books, Christobel wrote articles, film scripts, short stories, poetry and books for adults. Working with Aboriginal people for decades, Christobel wrote the landmark history Survival in Our Own Land (1988) and Tucker’s Mob (1993), since translated into four Aboriginal languages, as well as the acclaimed Maralinga, the Anangu Story (2009) written with the Yalata and Oak Valley Communities about the effects of British nuclear testing on their traditional lands and Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story (2016) which won the NSW Premier’s History Awards – Young People’s History Prize in 2017.
Susannah Chambers, Publisher at Allen & Unwin, says that working with Christobel was always wonderful – intense, funny and interesting.
‘I remember editing Battle Order 204 and hearing Christobel and David on the phone together, carefully discussing specific word choices. And travelling with Christobel to Oak Valley to work on the Maralinga book and seeing her energy, purpose and clarity in action, bringing people together and making lasting change. Her warmth and care made her much-loved, as well as much- respected.’