Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Michelle Wanasundera!

It is with great delight to be joined by the delightful author, Michelle Wanasundera, sharing her latest, heartfelt picture book, Ella and Star. A sensitive story touching on sensory processing needs, this tale is also full of adventure, friendships and adapting to change. When Bonny’s best friend moves away, a brilliant star brings about hope and the ultimate fulfilment a little girl could ever wish for. A beautiful sentiment, complemented with Nichole Wade‘s amiable watercolour illustrations that capture glorious details, heart and emotion.

Congratulations, Michelle and Nichole! Your book shines a light on the importance of friends, family and especially, therapy dogs! 🙂

About the Author

Michelle Wanasundera is a children’s book author and freelance writer and editor who is passionate about nature, family, and of course, storytelling. Living in the Blue Mountains inspires her writing, as does being a mum to her daughter Amali. Both of these were the main inspiration for her first published title, Bubbles and Puddles.

Michelle loves to write about nature and climate change, difference, multicultural stories, and just getting books into the little hands that need them most.

Please find Michelle at her website: michellewanasundera.wordpress.com

And on social media at Instagram: @michellewanasunderaauthor and Facebook: @michellewanasunderaauthor

Ella and Star is available for purchase at Little Pink Dog Books.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Me! Published by Little Pink Dog Books, and brought to life in more ways than I could have ever imagined by Nichole Wade.

WHAT is it about?

It’s about a little girl named Bonny, who finds the world a bit noisy. She loves her garden, loves studying all the small things she finds like baby spiderlings, and rescuing bugs from the pond. Her best friend next door understands her, in the way certain best friends just do. But then she moves away… and Bonny is awfully lonely.
A special someone arrives who helps Bonny get back into the world with comfort and confidence. You’ll have to read the story to find out who this cutie is!

What is your favourite part of this book?

I especially love when Bonny is hanging out by the pond with her new friend, I guess because it reflects my own home life here with my family and our own pond where we study the little fish and tadpoles, try to coax dragonflies onto a stick, save bugs fallen in like Bonny, and just soak up all of the pond life together.

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

Back in late 2018, I think. I met Kathy and Peter Creamer from Little Pink Dog Books at the CKT Festival in 2019 for a manuscript assessment and they liked this particular story. Revisions went back and forth for some time, Covid got in the way for a bit, and I signed the contract in mid-2020.

When is its release / launch date?

June 9.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

It came from a rough idea that my daughter, Amali mentioned on a car trip, about a star friend, and then some pondering over the importance of friendship. Amali, being an only child, meant I was always wanting playmates for her, and even though I tried to be fun, I’m still an adult! (Kids needs kids).
In my home, I guess I’m the one who needs quiet time (Amali is actually more like Ella) and empathising with and wanting to appreciate kids who prefer quiet activities rather than loud or group activities. With the publishers, we took this up a notch to bring some awareness to kids who suffer from sensory issues on a more intense level and wanted to show the benefits of the wonderful work of therapy dogs. I also wanted to highlight the beauty of nature that we can observe when we stop and watch and listen. It was a mix of things!
I feel though, the story just sort of wrote itself. I had a good feeling about it after writing it and I want to say to any fellow writers out there, if you get that feeling, don’t give up on that story. Keep sending it out until it finds a home.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

It touches on a lot of things that are important to me. My hope is that readers will feel comforted and seen if they feel the same way as Bonny, and that others will be more understanding of those who really feel the noise and activity around them on a more intense level. And also, children who feel this way, have their own unique way of seeing the world and we can learn a lot from understanding things from their perspective.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

Hopefully, for the reasons above.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

Nichole has captured my vision perfectly. The work involved, the detail, and the dedication to getting all the Aussie plants and animals just right (she’s from the US), still amazes me. I was very lucky to be in close contact with Nichole (not all authors have that luxury) and was able to send her lots of pictures of my garden (which the story is loosely based on) and she wanted to make sure it was perfect, right down to the gum blossoms, bark on the trees, and mix of Australian natives with European trees that are so common in the Blue Mountains where the story is based. She even cheekily added a cat on nearly every page simply because we both adore cats. She really has a talent for making every animal and little creature look so adorable!
I’m excited to be working on another book with Nichole, and am enjoying watching the early sketches come through.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

On Instagram and Facebook and from the generous reviews that are beginning to come in.

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

Creating a picture book is a total team effort. It involves not just the writing of the story and illustration, but the advice and belief of the publisher, and the many drafts read by family, friends and writer buddies (shout out to Sharna Carter in particular who read many drafts and encouraged me to find this story a home).
And then before the stage of writing the story, there are all these lovely people in the writing community who share tips for writing and submitting, those who organise events and opportunities where we can show our work (Georgie Donaghey), volunteers running critique groups (Susan Hili), and Facebook communities like the Duck Pond (Jen Storer) and Just Write For Kids (Romi Sharp) the Sunshine House Writers & Creatives group on Facebook (Zanni Louise), Buzzwords Magazine (Di Bates) and Pass It On (Jackie Hosking), SCBWI and the CBCA – I could go on!

Aw, thanks Michelle! You’re literally a star! Congratulations on your beautiful new book! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #ellaandstar #therapydogs #friendships #picturebooks

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