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John Nicholson

John Nicholson

John Nicholson is an award-winning author with a passion for the built and natural environment and its impact on human society and history. He relishes the detailed research that goes into his books and is renowned for his attractive and accurate illustration of the world around us. Many of John Nicholson's books have been shortlisted in the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Awards.

John Nicholson graduated in architecture from Melbourne University in 1973. He worked as an architect, graphic designer and illustrator before beginning to write and illustrate children's books in 1990.

John lives in the Victorian bush with his partner Jenny and their daughter Freda in an idiosyncratic, solar-powered house they built themselves. He now writes and illustrates full-time and writes mostly non-fiction, believing that 'information books' can be as exciting and adventurous as fiction. Children turn to them for their intrinsic interest as well as for school assignments.

Favourite colour: yellow
Lucky number: 276
Favourite TV shows: Montalbano, Spicks and Specks
Interests and hobbies: reading, writing, drawing, singing, swimming, collecting old postcards, camping in the bush, crosswords.


On writing And illustrating:

The books that caught my imagination as a young child were about things that had really happened, about exotic places that really existed: explorers and adventurers, ships and trains, mountains, deserts and icy wastes. Today I’m aiming my books at kids who, like me, find the world of the imagination slightly unconvincing, but can be drawn into reading books by the drama of real life.

Describing the real world requires a close relationship between texts and pictures. Some things are best described in graphic form, others in words. Combining the two to the best advantage is a central challenge in my work.


Where do you do your writing?
I do my writing and illustrating in an octagonal studio attached to my house. My work table is a large bay window looking out across a deep valley to bush-covered hills. Some days I spend too much time just staring out the window!


What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m currently working on a series of books about transport and trade in early Australia. The first one, about the ways in which Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders traded in tools, weapons and boats before the arrival of European settlers is now available. There will also be one about cameleers and bullockies, another about steam trains and river boats, and so on.


What inspires you?
I’m fascinated by:
simple, accessible, practical, traditional technology
individuality and diversity
objects and tools made by hand and the decoration and symbolism that people wrap them in
the natural environment and our relationship with it.


School visits by John within NSW and ACT can be organised through Lateral Learning. Visit www.laterallearning.com or email bookings@laterallearning.com.au.

School visits within Victoria and all other states can be organised through Booked Out. Visit www.bookedout.com.au or email bookings@bookedout.com.au.


Books by this Author

Animal Architects

Animal Architects

Published: May 2005

Paperback edition of this beautifully illustrated, prize-winning, non-fiction book about shells, nests, mounds, bowers, galleries, dens and lodges - all the remarkable and complex structures that animals around the world build to shelter themselves and their young.

Australia Locked Up

Australia Locked Up

Published: February 2006

A clear, honest, thought-provoking account of punishment and imprisonment in Australia, from the 'open jail' of early Sydney to today's detention centres, by our most respected author/illustrator of non-fiction for young people.

Songlines and Stone Axes

Songlines and Stone Axes

Published: February 2007

A groundbreaking book for children about the fascinating networks of trade and ceremonial exchange in pre-European Australia. John Nicholson's lively curiosity, clear text and detailed illustrations and maps make this complex subject accessible to any age group.

Cedar, Seals and Whaling Ships

Cedar, Seals and Whaling Ships

Published: August 2007

The second book in John Nicholson's valuable Transport Trade and Travel series explores the developing technology and economy of Australia at the hands of the new white settlers: whaling, sealing, farming, timber-felling, ship-building, exploring and transporting goods by land and sea.

Kimberley Warrior

Kimberley Warrior

Published: February 1997

The story of Jandamarra - legendary Aboriginal 'freedom fighter'.

A Home Among the Gum Trees

A Home Among the Gum Trees

Published: May 1999

A survey of Australian housing

Who's Running This Country?

Who's Running This Country?

Published: February 2000

Now in paperback, this is a clear, readable explanation of the machinery of government in Australia and of the people and processes involved, written for upper primary and lower secondary students but likely to prove valuable to many an adult as well.

Fishing for Islands

Fishing for Islands

Published: August 1999

Now in paperback: a description of the boats used in South-East Asia and the South Pacific, from rafts to simple dugouts to double-hulled voyaging canoes to gloriously carved war canoes.

The State of the Planet

The State of the Planet

Published: August 2002

;Now in paperback.;A 'condition report' on the state of the world's environment, arranged in four chapters: earth, air, water, energy.;

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Published: August 2001

The inside story of a national icon.

The Mighty Murray

The Mighty Murray

Published: July 2002

A fascinating, multi-faceted account of Australia's greatest river system, past, present and future, with many stories about the people whose lives have been bound up with the Murray.;

Mighty Murray

Mighty Murray

Published: August 2005

A fascinating, multi-faceted account of Australia's greatest river system, past, present and future, with many stories about the people whose lives have been bound up with the Murray.

Wool, wagons and clipper ships

Wool, wagons and clipper ships

Published: February 2008

This third book in John Nicholson's fascinating series about Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia takes us back to the days of sheep stations as large as Scotland, bullockies slogging along muddy tracks, clipper ships racing each other to overseas wool auctions, cameleers in the outback, and Cobb and Co. coaches linking settlements around the country.

Steam, Steel and Speed

Steam, Steel and Speed

Published: August 2008

The fourth book in John Nicholson's fascinating series about Transport, Trade and Travel in Australia takes us back to the days of Australia's industrial revolution, with steam-powered railways, mines and factories speeding up travel and production of goods.

100 Years of Petrol Power

100 Years of Petrol Power

Published: April 2009

The fifth and final book in John Nicholson's Transport, Trade and Travel series for upper primary schoolchildren shows how Australia entered the Age of Oil, becoming reliant on petrol and diesel to power cars, trucks, trains, tractors, ships, machinery and aeroplanes - all essential to our economy.

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