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Australia Literature and Language

What is some information about Jackie French's childhood?


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October 11, 2009 1:40AM

Jackie French was born in Sydney on 29 November 1953. She grew up on the outskirts of Brisbane and left home when she was 15. Her parents separated when she was 12, so she does not regard her childhood as having been "happy". Despite this, her parents keenly encouraged her to read, and her mother happily travelled with her on the Brisbane trams for miles to the nearest library to borrow books. Jackie quotes one of her greatest disappointments as discovering that different libraries tended to have the same books, so there wasn't much point in trying out a variety of libraries. Her grandmother also encouraged her love of reading by sending her lots of books by Australian authors. She devoured these, as books by Australian authors were not easy to find when she was growing up. She attended university at age 16 and "went bush" after she earned her degree at age 18.

Jackie French, by all accounts, was a fairly unusual child. She developed a love of reading and writing very early, learning to read from age 3, but was dyslexic, meaning her written work suffered from appalling spelling. Fortunately, her very first book (at the age of six) was so much appreciated by her headmistress that copies were made for all the children at her school - after the headmistress corrected her spelling mistakes. This first book was called Tresses and the Unghostly Ghost.

As a child, Jackie had an imaginary friend called Maria, who would tell her stories about an imaginary world. She enjoyed how her primary school teachers would let her tell stories to the class at the end of the day, and this encouraged her love of writing even more. Her stories from that time focussed on disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tidal waves.

Jackie French's favourite books as a child were Karalta, by Mary Grant Bruce, and A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh.