For nearly a century children have been inspired by her works, taken into a fantastic world where everything around them came alive. It was her extraordinary sense of delicate storytelling mixed with an intense love of Australian nature that still fascinates us to this day. When you pick up a May Gibbs book, or see one of her illustrations, you instantly know it’s hers, such is the beauty and uniqueness of it.
Her rich life is wonderfully captured in the book More than a Fairy Tale, containing early illustrations and paintings as well as drawing on her influential work with the suffragettes.
May Gibbs came to Australia at the age of four. Even as a child May drew and painted, encouraged by her parents. She studied art, both in Western Australia and in England, before settling in Sydney to follow a successful career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
Her most famous book, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, was published in 1918. Her bestselling series featuring the Gumnut babies, their friends and their foes, established an enduring mythology of the Australian bush for generations raised firmly on traditional European fairytales.
In 1955, she received an MBE for her contribution to children’s literature.
May Gibbs died in Sydney on 27 November 1969, but her legacy to children lives on. Gibbs bequeathed the copyright from the designs of her bush characters and her stories to Northcott Disability Services and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. The residue of her estate was left to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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