I am a self-confessed bookworm, I love them.
I love reading them, I love the smell of them, and I love the affect they have on my mindset when stress takes over.
I also love flowers, believe it or not!
So it would come as no surprise then, that May Gibbs is somewhat of an inspiration to me and many, many others!
May Gibbs was an Australian author who is most renowned for her books about Gumnut Babies, Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, the first book of the series which was published in 1918.
Gibbs drew her inspiration from the flora and fauna of the Australian bush. Her detailed drawings and gentle humour created a magical world that brought joy to children and adults at home, and to soldiers on the front.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie were boys and the main characters of the story, modelled on the appearance of young Eucalyptus (Gumtree) nuts.
The female Gumnut babies, however, have their hair, hats and skirts modelled on Eucalyptus flowers. (adorbs!!)
May Gibbs based some of the characters and scenery on the plants found in the bushland of Harvey, Western Australia, where she played as a child.
The "big bad" Banksia Men are the villains of the story and are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia "cones", with follicles for eyes and other facial features.
A bit more about May Gibbs
May Gibbs was born on 17 January 1877 in Sydenham, Kent, in England. Her parents, Herbert William Gibbs and her mother Cecilia Rogers migrated to Australia when May was only four years old – firstly to South Australia and then to Western Australia, settling in South Perth.
When May was 23 she returned to England, to pursue her studies of art, but after England didn’t take kindly to her Australian bush-inspired art, she returned to Australia in 1913 settling in Sydney, NSW.
May earned her living by providing illustrations for the NSW Department of Public Instruction, contributing to Lone Hand, and designing covers for the Sydney Mail. In 1916 she published Gumnut Babies, the first of the Gumnut books she wrote and illustrated.
May Gibbs also:
-Wrote many other books
-Designed postcards to be sent to soldiers in World War One
-Designed and sold book-marks, small calendars and other novelties with gumnut and blossom baby illustrations.
-Had a stamp made in her honour in 1985 depicting Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as part of Australia Post’ nod to 5 different Aussie children’s books and their Authors.
On the 27th November, 1969, May Gibbs passed away- leaving behind such a legacy in the way she dispersed her earnings.
Without having any children of her own, she sure made a huge imprint on so many children’s lives by bequeathing her papers and copyrights to the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services) and the Spastic Centre of New South Wales (now Cerebral Palsy Alliance) and the residue of her estate, valued for probate at £42,532, to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Her work was extremely popular and her book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918) sold 17,000 copies on its first release. It has never been out of print!
May Gibbs has been an inspiration to children and adults all over the world, but the beginning of her iconic Australian inspired illustrations and stories began right here in Australia.
The species she writes her characters about are found not only in WA where she started her stories, but right across the country so quite literally, the whole nation could relate!
Her imagination, catches our imaginations, long after she has graced us with her presence; If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading an iconic story from May Gibbs, I could personally recommend any of them to you.
Following on below, is a list of some of May Gibbs other titles which you may or may not have heard of:
I hoped you found Ms Gibbs just as fascinating as I do, I could seriously keep on writing about her and her endless stories and illustrations, however I do hope that I've captured her wonderful essence in this blog enough for you to become intrigued enough to enjoy or perhaps revisit some old books you indeed haven't read for a while!
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