I first discovered her when I read her nonfiction book The Secret World of Wombats. Funny and informative, this book and How High Can a Kangaroo Hop? have become my favorite primers on these iconic Australian marsupials. Her famous picture book Diary of a Wombat and its sequels are now my go-to gifts for baby showers.
Jackie French writes a lot of historical fiction sent in Australia as well. The Miss Lily series is set in the years before and after WWI and tells the story of the forgotten women who helped fight the war. It combines Downton Abbey-type social situations with espionage, depictions of life at the front, and meditations on what it means to be a woman. The series includes two novels and a Christmas short story so far. She also writes historical fiction for children and young adults, including the Animal Stars series, the Matilda saga, A Rose for the Anzac Boys, Nanberry: Black Brother White, and many others.
I discovered that Jackie French has a fascinating origin story too. Her first manuscript, the book of short stories Rain Stones, was read for an unusual reason. As she explained in a 2009 interview: "My manuscript was pulled out of the pile because it was the messiest they'd ever seen—badly spelled (I'm dyslexic) and with all the 'e's written in biro. My wombat had been leaving his droppings on the keyboard and the letter 'e' no longer worked."
For anyone needing more reasons to explore Jackie French's work, check out her website or find her on Twitter.