Two iconic Australian children’s books are celebrating their centenary in 2018: The Magic Pudding, by Norman Lindsay (1879–1969), and the first of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie series, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Adventures Wonderful, by May Gibbs (1877–1969).
Norman Alfred William Lindsay was born in Creswick, Victoria, the fourth of ten children (five of whom became artists). A blood disorder had kept Lindsay confined indoors for the first few years of his life. To pass the time he taught himself to draw, and from an early age he displayed outstanding artistic ability. The Magic Pudding is Norman Lindsay’s first and best known children’s book, written in part to settle an argument about whether children liked to read about fairies or food.
May Gibbs is one of Australia’s most treasured illustrators, artists and children’s authors. May Gibbs was already an established artist when she published her Gumnut Babies series of books at the onset of World War I, followed by the highly successful Snugglepot and Cuddlepie series, commencing in 1918. While living in Western Australia as a young child, Gibbs was captivated by the beauty of the Australian bush and it's said that this contributed to the genesis of her flora- and fauna-inspired characters.
Both stories feature in the Children’s Bush Classic stamp issue, which will be released on 21 August 2018. Designed by Mary Callahan, the stamps focus on the original publications of 1918, featuring first-edition typography and original illustrations. The muted colours provide a historical feel, and the tones of the Australian bush are evidenced in the stamp typography.
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
Filled with larrikin, sing-song language and lively black and white illustrations, The Magic Pudding is an icon of Australian children’s literature. It has been translated into several languages and has never been out of print. The story has also inspired a puppet show, full-length movie and opera.
Divided into “slices”, this iconic tale concerns a cantankerous pudding named Albert. Albert is magic in the sense that no matter how much of him is eaten, he will regenerate. Being eaten is Albert’s only enjoyment in life. Bunyip Bluegum (a Koala), Sam Sawnoff (a penguin) and Bill Barnacle (a sailor) are members of the Noble Society of Puddin’-Owners. However, when the nasty pudding thieves (a possum and a wombat) attempt to capture Albert, chaos ensues. Albert’s bad temper gets the better of him, when he is arrested and put on trial for pinching the Mayor. However, Albert and his owners manage to escape the turmoil, settling down to a quiet life in a backyard treehouse, complete with a “Puddin’ paddock” where Albert can shout at passers-by.
Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Adventures Wonderful by May Gibbs
May Gibbs’ first full-length book, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Adventures Wonderful, tells the whimsical tales of two little gumnut foster brothers who set out to see a human for themselves. They've heard that humans are strong and fierce. After making new friends, and escaping some potential foes, they witness a human rescuing a possum caught in a trap. They realise that even humans are capable of kindness towards little bush creatures like themselves.
Upon its release, Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie instantly captured the hearts of Australian readers – the first edition selling more than 17,000 copies and the second and third editions selling out almost immediately. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1940) went on to become an icon of Australian children’s literature and has never been out of print.
The product range accompanying this stamp issue includes two postal numismatic covers, The Magic Pudding and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, featuring coins from The Royal Australian Mint. We are also releasing The Magic Pudding licensed stamp pack and Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie licensed stamp pack containing 16 Children’s Bush Classics stamps and lively illustrations in the stamp tabs.
Harper Collins will be publishing a new edition of The Magic Pudding in September this year. The State Library of New South Wales is also planning an exhibition in October to mark the centenary, and the Norman Lindsay Gallery in Springwood will be holding their annual Pudding Day on Sunday 14 October, with a centenary theme.
Recently, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie celebrated their 100th birthday up in lights as part of Vivid Sydney 2018. The magical projection on the sandstone façade of historic Customs House was a crowd favourite, as visitors joined Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and their stalwart companions on their journey through the Australian Bush on an adventure to visit the big city. A range of beautiful licensed homewares, collectables and fashion collections is being released throughout 2018. In celebration of the Children’s Bush Classics stamp issue, a free set of Mail Art templates will be available for download from https://www.maygibbs.org/news/may-gibbs-inspired-mail-art, encouraging fans of all ages to embrace the art of letter writing.
See also Australia Post’s letter writing resources for students. Plus, for those interested in the bourgeoning Mail Art community (creating artistic envelopes in which to send your mail), you can display your creations online by joining Australia Post’s Mail It Forward initiative. Message @auspost on Instagram. #mailitforward #mailart
The Children’s Bush Classics stamp issue will be available from 21 August 2018, online, at participating Post Offices and via mail order on 1800 331 794, while stocks last.
The illustrations in this stamp issue are used with the permission of the copyright holders:
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: © The Northcott Society and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance 2018
The Magic Pudding: courtesy of H, C and A Glad
This article was produced at the time of publication and will not be updated.