'The Old Green Chair" is a richly illustrated children's book by Traudi Allen that tells the story of a decrepit chair, thrown aside after years of use that finds renewed life thanks to its positive attitude and a new owner's clever imagination.
Allen wrote the book as a modern family fable to help children learn the values of creativity, optimism and problem solving, among other life lessons.
"By bringing these ideas down to a fun and engaging level in the form of modern fables," Allen said, "even the tiniest tot can enjoy learning about them and seeing how they make life easier."
'The Old Green Chair" is the second in Allen's House Series of Picture Books for Children, a series of fables that communicate key lessons to children. Each book tackles important topics from conflict resolution to maintaining a positive outlook in ways that get families talking about valuable social skills.
'I think children's books tend to be either purely narrative orientated or purely lesson driven," Allen said. 'I hope that this book is first and foremost an enjoyable read. I would love it to be a favourite bedtime story, but one that also acquaints children with deeper life lessons."
Traudi Allen is a writer and art historian with a long record of publication. She has published books on some of Australia's most significant artists and art movements along with numerous articles, essays and reviews. She has lectured in art history and for many years presented interviews on art subjects for ABC radio. She is also currently completing a book of historical fiction for adults.
The Old Green Chair
Author: Traudi Allen
Illustrator: Rob Cowan
Question: What inspired the story of The Old Green Chair?
Traudi Allen: I had a close friend who was ill and another who was having a difficult time and I wanted to tell them that if they stayed cheerful and determined to improve their situation. It occurred to me that children need ideas like this just as much as adults do. Because everyone has a door where they live, I thought my readers could play with ideas like this by looking around their house.
Question: What do you hope young readers take from The Old Green Chair?
Traudi Allen: Another important part of the story was to say that if whatever you are doing isn't working try a different way of doing it. Also, I believe people of all ages can feel happier if they spend time among nature. The chair liked the sunshine and the lady who encouraged the birds to come to her house and both of these things gave it comfort when it was unhappy.
Question: What do you enjoy most about writing children's books?
Traudi Allen: I like being able to keep my writing clear and make my points in as few words as possible. I like the way children enjoy seeing the funny side of a serious situation and it is great fun seeing my stories come to life when the drawings are added.
Question: How important were Rob Cowan's illustrations to your story?
Traudi Allen: I wrote this story and the others in the series, The Knife and the Fork Go Dancing and The Squeaky Door, before looking for someone to do the drawings. Rob gave the chair the sort of personality I thought it should have. Not a silly one: a chair with ears, but a chair that bends and seems to move and react as if it has feelings. Rob has a good sense of humour and you can see how he adds cute and funny little things to the stories.
Question: What's next for you?
Traudi Allen: I would like to extend my series to include other ideas that will make children think about how life can be that bit better. I am finishing a novel for adults and I write about art. I am going to have a holiday in which I do lots of reading and walking with my handsome dog. Look out for him, his name is George and he appears in The Old Green Chair.
Interview by Brooke Hunter