Helen Milroy’s latest picture book instills hope and encourages connection in the world

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She has always had a passionate interest in health and wellbeing, especially for children, which is why she became a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. In this Q&A the talented writer and illustrator tells us about her latest book.

Tell us where Owl and Star came from. Was it the story or the images that came first?

A lot of my stories come from kids and people I have known, and how they are represented by animal characters so they can have a broader reach. A lot of people are star gazers and have a natural fascination with the stars and the night sky. The owl, given his nocturnal nature and being such an interesting character, is well placed to be the representation for this group. The passion the owl has for his stars, and the determination and care he has for his friend helps us to understand our place in the universe and how we can look after our environment.

Owl and Star has such a hopeful message about friendship, teamwork and resilience. Why is this important to you?

Storytelling is a wonderful way to instil hope and connection in the world. A little bit of magic also helps us retain a sense of imagination and wonder. All of these elements are important parts of our own wellbeing and so important for our children’s development. All things are feasible in a story, but friendship, courage and kindness will always be rewarded in ways we may not have thought possible.

As a child psychiatrist, in what ways can storytelling help us to understand ourselves and one another better?

Storytelling can create empathy, problem solving, understanding of difference and social inclusion. It also helps us develop insight by learning for ourselves and making up our own minds rather than being told how to be. It can help us feel connected and gives us place, meaning and purpose in our lives.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Storytelling is the oldest form of learning and is as relevant today as it was many thousands of years ago. We have always lived our lives through stories and always will.

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