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24 May 2010 ·


Last week was Education Week in Australia, and I went to two great schools: Cheltenham East and Amsleigh Park, as a Premier’s Reading Ambassador. Then on Thursday I went to our local school in a very different role: as a surrogate grandmother for Grandparents’ Day.

In our age-obsessed culture, my friend was anxious that I might be insulted when her 7 year old daughter invited me – but I was honoured, and even more so when I realised that the twelve year old sister also wanted me to visit her, though she’d been too shy to ask. It was a very moving day, and I learned a few interesting lessons in case I get the chance to be a grandparent again in the future (find out the name of the child’s teacher, and better yet, classroom number! so you don’t spend 15 minutes lost in corridors, reading every class list).

But as I reflected on it, I thought that authors in today’s world hold the place of storyteller grandmothers in traditional cultures: entertaining and passing on thoughts and reflections in the tales we weave, in the hopes that they will help our readers/grandchildren face the challenges in their own lives.

An honour, and a privilege.

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio