Wandering Star: Available Now on Storybox Library

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Wandering Star, one of my all time favourite texts, is now available as a video for subscribers of Story Box Library. The story is read by teacher-librarian Michelle Nye (pictured above), from Hillcrest Christian College, which I have discovered has its own stable of horses. I clearly should have sent my daughter Elizabeth, to this school: she was the inspiration for this lovely story about a little girl’s magical adventures with her beloved horse, Wandering Star. (They even have a horse at the school that looks like Wandering Star.)

The story is written in verse, and the rhythm was deliberately chosen to mimic a canter. This rhythm creates a forward motion that makes it very easy to read aloud effectively. Stephen Michael King is always amazing, but I adore the illustrations he produced for this book: the mood is perfect, as are the colours, and I can’t think of anyone else who would think of drawing a flying horse from above.

This book is a perfect bedtime story for your horse crazy child (trust me, I had one). You can find out more about the Storybox Library performance here or follow this link to order your own copy of the book from  Booktopia.

Naughty Dragons: A New Series of Junior Novels

Anyone who has ever read my Lily Quench books knows that I have a thing for dragons, right down to having a dragon gargoyle on my roof. So it’s not too surprising that I should return to the subject for my new junior fiction series, Naughty Dragons, out this month from Hardie Grant Egmont.

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  Unlike the fantasy world of Lily Quench, these new books are set well and truly in the present. What happens to an ordinary family when two incredibly naughty dragons come to stay as part of a dragon rearing and education project? The title of the first book gives a hint: Dragon Mayhem! Graun and Fafnine, the naughty dragons are uncontrollable, unpredictable and very, very funny. From the moment they arrive at the Wards’ house, Ava and Jack are both completely devoted to them, and pitched headfirst into a roller-coaster of disasters.

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  The books have been illustrated by Simon Howe, who has previously worked with my friend, Sophie Masson on the picture book On My Way. Like Janine Dawson, who illustrated Lily Quench, Simon has a background in animation, and he has done some amazing work on these books, with black and white illustrations, full of life and humour, on every single page. (He really worked incredibly hard; I am so grateful to him for realising my characters so beautifully.) The illustration to the right is one of my favourites, from a scene where the naughty dragons go to the movies to see a 3D film called Mutant Dino. They find it quite inspirational (apart from the boring human kissing bits), and they also enjoy the smoked popcorn and volcano balls you see them eating in the illustration.

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  Dragon Mayhem! is already finding readers in the 6+ age group, and Simon and I were thrilled to get our first fan letter only days after the book came out, wanting to know if there would be more. The answer to that is yes—here is the cover of Book 2, Naughty Dragons Try School!, which will be out early next year. In their next adventure, the naughty dragons accompany Jack and Ava to the local primary school where they make friends, start learning to read dragon script on stone tablets, and tangle with some other dragons who are not quite so nice. They also make some interesting discoveries in the dragon toilets. I’m just finishing writing Book 3, so keep an eye on this blog for news about more of Graun and Fafnine’s adventures in the near future.

  Finally, I’d like to give a huge thank you to the wonderful May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust, which generously granted me a Creative Time Fellowship in early 2018. This series started life as a story I wrote during the month I spent in Canberra, and has grown into something unexpectedly large and exciting. Please take the time to find out more about the May Gibbs Foundation here.

A Universe of Stories

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Some very exciting news! Cheryl Orsini and I are featured creators in the new virtual exhibition by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, A Universe of Stories, Starring: the Book. This international exhibition showcases childrens books about books, libraries, bookshops and reading from around the world, some new, some old. Make sure you drop in on the exhibition.

2020 Update

Well, the last eight to ten months have been a bit of a disaster. I had flu, bronchitis, and then two serious accidents one after the other—breaking my shoulder in one of them, which meant I couldn’t work for quite some time. I spent the rest of the year madly catching up with the work I’d lost, and then straight after the book I was writing was submitted, I caught flu again, which turned into bronchitis! Anyway, I am back on track now, and praying I don’t go down with coronavirus.

I will be posting soon about an exciting new series being published at the end of this year. In the meantime, take care, and make sure you use any quarantine to buy and read lots of books!

Wandering Star, Review Roundup

Charmingly illustrated and told in elegant rhyme, this book is bound to appeal to little adventurers and little dreamers, especially those who love horses.

James Smith, Blog of Dad

Natalie Jane Prior’s gentle rhyme makes you feel like you are floating in a dream…enchanting illustrations by award winning author and illustrator Stephen Michael King complement the tranquil verse.

Shelley Stephens, Reading Time, April 2019

Wandering Star, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, out now

I had intended to write ages ago about Wandering Star, my new picture book, but the Dreaded Flu has struck our house. It is a really horrible one, and I urge anyone who has not had their flu vaccination to do so. (You really do not want to be as sick as my family has been for the last three weeks.)

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Natalie Jane Prior’s gentle rhyme makes you feel like you are floating in a dream…enchanting illustrations by award winning author and illustrator Stephen Michael King complement the tranquil verse.

Shelley Stephens, Reading Time, April 2019

So—my new book, Wandering Star, is out now! A picture book inspired by my daughter Elizabeth’s ongoing passion for horses, it has been brilliantly illustrated by Stephen Michael King.

It’s a common thing for picture book ideas to knock around in my head for many years before they actually end up being written. I had numerous false starts with this one, because I couldn’t find a way into the story I wanted to write. All through Elizabeth’s childhood, she wanted a horse more than absolutely anything—well, fact was, we lived in suburbia, we couldn’t afford one, and neither my husband nor I was particularly attracted to the idea of looking after one. (Dachshunds prepare you for most things, but not horses.) So it remained a dream, which I am sure Elizabeth will some day realise for herself; but I wanted to get that essence of actually “living the dream” across. As children, it is often one of the strongest emotional experiences we have, and it can be formational. Also, I have long believed that  the liminal zone between play and reality is the most powerful place a children’s writer can work, and this particular text is one where I particularly tried to explore that.

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In a rock pool I see 

something gold wink at me:

it's a pendant, the size of my hand.

I’m not a great fan of rhymed picture books, as I find that really good ones are few and far between. It was thus a big mental jump for me to realise that Wandering Star had to be written in verse for it to work, and it had to have a very particular metre to carry the horse and rider through to the story's logical conclusion. Once I had that gentle canter in my head, I was halfway there, but the text was still written in two chunks about a year apart (see if you can pick the seam). I often get asked by children how long it takes to write a book. In the case of Wandering Star, from beginning to end, producing 464 words took ten years, plus another two to see it through the publication process. But when it was finished, it was completely right: it’s the only book I have ever published without any editorial changes.

I’ve worked with Stephen Michael King before, (he did covers for all my Lily Quench novels, and we worked together on poetry anthology A Boat of Stars), but this is the first picture book we have done together. He was so tuned into what I was trying to do with the text, it was a pleasure to sit back and watch the illustrations coming in. I would like to draw attention this one, because it is so technically extraordinary (note that horses are notoriously difficult to draw, and many good illustrators quail when asked to do them). Here we have a flying horse, travelling over a city at night with a child on its back, all drawn from above. It is one of the most amazing illustrations that has ever been done of my work, and when I saw the rough, I was gobsmacked.

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We see mountains and valleys

and fabulous cities,

a whole shining world we can roam.

However, there’s one more picture I would like to finish with, and it’s the last one,  that takes us back to the very beginning, of a little girl and her horse.

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I hug my horse tight,

I kiss her goodnight.

I know I can always depend

On the one I love best,

above all the rest:

Wandering Star, my wonderful friend.

Live the dream, Elizabeth.

March News Round-Up: Raising Readers by Megan Daley and Book Links Romancing the Stars

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This morning, I was extremely excited to receive two copies of Raising Readersa fantastic new resource for parents, teachers and anyone interesting in helping children love books (which should be all of us). The book is written by Megan Daley, known to many as the brains behind the successful children’s literature blog, Children’s Books Daily; and I was thrilled to be asked to write a small piece for it on helping children grow up reading poetry. (If you’ve read the introduction to A Boat of Stars, you will know this is something I feel particularly passionate about.) Raising Readers is full of practical, specific and informed advice which will encourage even the most timid parent to get reading with their children.

Raising Readers is published by University of Queensland Press, and will be available from 2nd April, 2019. There is also going to be a launch for the book at St Aidan’s School on 4th April (which I will most certainly be attending). You can find out more about the book and the launch on Children’s Books Daily.


Also coming up very soon is Romancing the Starsa popular event from Book Links Qld. Every year around this time, Book Links Qld hosts a series of what organiser, Jenny Stubbs, calls “literary speed-dating” events with groups of  children’s authors and illustrators, all eager to meet readers and answer questions about their books.

This year, I will be appearing at the Brisbane event on Friday 15th March from 6.00-9.30pm, at St Joseph’s College, 2199 Sandgate Road, Nudgee. 

I’ve greatly enjoyed attending previous Romancing the Stars events and talking about my most recent books The Magic Bookshop and A Boat of Stars (books will be available for purchase at the event if you would like them autographed). For bookings, and a full list of the authors and illustrators who will  be attending, visit the Book Links Qld website.

A Boat of Stars CBCA Notable Book 2019 + Review in The Weekend Australian

A Boat of Stars, the anthology of new Australian children’s poetry which I edited with Margaret Connolly has been getting quite a bit of attention lately! 


Today, we received the wonderful news that it has been listed as a CBCA Notable Book for 2019, in the Early Childhood Category. A Boat of Stars includes new poetry and artwork from some of Australia’s top children’s writers and illustrators (full list here). I am also pleased that several of our talented contributors including Sara Acton, Tamsin Ainslie, Stephen Michael King and Margaret Wild have also been included on the list for books of their own. You can read the full list of Notables on the CBCA website

A Boat of Stars now has its own page on this website, which includes information about the book and its contributors, and an interview with Natalie Jane Prior and Margaret Connolly by poet Sophie Masson AM. If you are a teacher, remember you can download some helpful teachers’ notes by another of our poets, Lesley Gibbes, here.

Finally, in a wonderful review in The Weekend Australian, 16-17 February, Literary Editor Stephen Romei devoted a whole column to A Boat of Stars: a remarkable achievement for a children’s book. After agreeing with us that there should be more poetry books for children, he paid tribute to the talents of many of our contributors and described A Boat of Stars as "a book that should be in every school library. High praise indeed!

Gordon Raymond Prior, 1931-2018

It is a little while since this website has been updated. Sadly, this is owing to the extended illness and death of my father, Gordon Prior, on 24th August, 2018. 

Few people who met my father ever forgot him. He was a larger than life character, an imaginitive and gifted businessman and, more importantly, a kind-hearted and generous man who never stopped giving. My earliest memories of my Dad are of sitting on his knee in the evenings as he read me book after book after book. 

Never under-estimate the importance of fathers in helping children become readers.

November News Round-Up: The Magic Bookshop & Wandering Star

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It seems difficult to believe that we are now in November, and I have spent the day looking through proofs for a book that is going to be published in May, 2019!  My next book is another picture book, one which I am sure is going to appeal to many horse-loving children. The book is called Wandering Star, and it’s a bit different, because it is the first picture book text I have written in verse form. It’s also the first complete book I have had illustrated by Stephen Michael King, an illustrator whose work I have admired for many years. Stephen and I have worked together before, as he illustrated my poem, “A Boat of Stars”, included in the anthology of the same name which I edited with Margaret Connolly. Stephen’s illustration was used on the cover of A Boat of Stars when the anthology was published by ABC Books earlier this year; and many years ago, he also did a complete set of beautiful covers for one of the Australian editions of the Lily Quench series. You’ll be hearing more about Wandering Star over the months to come, but for now I am happy to share Stephen’s exquisite cover. The book will be published by Scholastic; its publication date is 1st May, 2019.

The Magic Bookshop, my latest collaboration with Cheryl Orsini, is now in the shops. If you have read either The Tales of Mrs Mancini, or our books about The Fairy Dancers, you will recognise the format: it’s a 48 page, fully colour illustrated collection of three connected stories. The format is particularly good for children who are transitioning out of picture books and into chapter books, because the stories are a little bit longer, but still have colour illustrations on each page. Cheryl and I have had a lot of success with this format in the past, and we really enjoyed working on this one, which is about a boy called Ben (named for my godson), whose grandfather owns a very mysterious bookshop. It’s a place where practically anything can (and does) happen, as you can see from the picture below. The metaphor of the bookshop as a portal into other realities is very resonant one, and has almost unlimited potential for a writer. With this in mind, a superb set of teachers’ notes (complete with magic tricks!) has been prepared by HarperCollins. It is available for download here.

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One of the things I have always appreciated about Cheryl's work is her use of colour. Each book has its own specific colour palette, and as you can see from the pictures included here, The Magic Bookshop is particularly rich and beautiful with lots of reds, yellows and dark blues. The illustration to the left comes out of a conversation we had very early in the process, when I was still writing the stories, and asked Cheryl if there was anything she particularly wanted me to include. She said she wanted to do some illustrations with lots of white rabbits. The result was a scene in the third story, “Magician” where Ben finds himself having to deal with a population explosion of bunnies in a theatre that appears behind one of the bookcases. (Needless to say, he manages to find loving homes for all the strays.)

  The Magic Bookshop is available now from your own magical, local independent bookseller, or click here to order a copy from Booktopia.

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