What I'm Borrowing: Samantha Wheeler

What I’m Borrowing is a blog series exploring our affection for libraries, loans, and sharing great reads. Each post we ask a Queensland writer and reader to tell us about their recent lending-loves.

This month we welcome children’s author extraordinaire Samantha Wheeler. Samantha’s gorgeous picture book Once I Munched a Mango was an author in the Stories for Little Queenslanders series. Many of Samantha’s books are about wildlife and the environment, except for Everything I’ve Never Said, which was inspired by her youngest daughter, who has Rett Syndrome and can’t talk. When not writing, Samantha enjoys walking her dogs and drinking tea with her donkey, and hopes her books will inspire everyone to speak up and make a difference. Her latest book is Devils in Danger (UQP, 2021).

Find a free digital download of the beautiful Once I Munched a Mango on State Library of Queensland's website 

Tell us about the last thing you borrowed from the library. How did you discover it? Did you return it on time?

That last question made me smile! Did I return it on time? It’s always a heart tug when the due date is looming and your pile of to-read books is bigger than you can possibly manage! And yet you love all the books and can’t bear to part with them.

The thing I borrowed from the library was a non-fiction book, from the University of Queensland, about children’s literature and the environment. The book is called Children’s literature studies, cases and discussions by Linda C. Salem. I borrowed it because I’m doing a PhD with UQ, looking at the way setting in middle grade fiction might help children feel more attachment to the natural world. It is so interesting – I’m loving it. 

Samantha is working on a PhD at the University of Queensland, examining middle grade fiction and the natural world

Do you remember your first library card? Can you describe the library you visited as a child?

Oh, yes, absolutely. I was born in England, and my older sister and I LOVED our regular library visits. We looked forward to them all week. Mum took us to the local Woolwich Centre Library, letting us hand over our own cards and organise the borrowing ourselves. There would never be a rush to choose. Plenty of browsing time. Then we’d put our books in their special cloth bag and carry them all the way home on the bus. More than how it looked, I remember how that library sounded and smelt. When you opened the door, a rush of over-heated air smothered you with the smell of old carpet and lots of well-read, plastic covered books. And it was silent. You didn’t even dare speak. Thank goodness libraries have changed a lot since then.  

What other items are you, and people in your house, borrowing right now?

My mum, sister and my sister’s kids are still avid fiction borrowers, mostly actual books, although my mum will occasionally borrow an e-book for her book club. My dad likes to borrow music CDs or DVDs whereas I mainly borrow non-fiction. I still read fiction voraciously, as does my husband, but mostly we buy the book … don’t really know why … just in case we want to read it again, maybe? 

Thinking about your own bookshelf, what is your favourite book to lend out from home?

Great question. I love offering people my favourite books! I’m always lending out A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Matt Haig's The Midnight Library and Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch.  

Samantha with a copy of Clare Bowditch's memoir about creativity, mental illness and girlhood  

About Samantha Wheeler

Samantha Wheeler worked with farmers and taught Science before writing her first children’s story in 2011. Her award winning books tackle issues around wildlife and the environment, except for Everything I’ve Never Said, which was inspired by her youngest daughter, who has Rett Syndrome and can’t talk. In 2020, Samantha was part of the State Library’s First 5 Forever: Stories for Little Queenslanders series and wrote her first picture book, Once I Munched A Mango. When not writing, Samantha enjoys walking her dogs and drinking tea with her donkey, and hopes her books will inspire everyone to speak up and make a difference.  

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