Challenge cheer squad

Challenge cheer squad

Challenge cheer squad

The 2023 challenge was boosted by the support of an illustrious group of WA writers and illustrators.

The challenge cheer squad features some of the state’s most beloved authors.

The 16-strong squad provided support and encouragement to students participating in the challenge by:

  • hosting workshops in classrooms
  • narrating their titles for a virtual storytelling series
  • appearing as guests on the challenge podcast, Between our pages.

Find out more about our incredible challenge cheer squad below.


Aśka, (pronounced ‘Ash-ka’), is creative dynamite. A shortlisted graphic novelist, an ex-quantum physicist, and a hugely engaging and popular presenter.

Aśka is passionate about visual literacy and has published more than 10 books, comics, and graphic novels, including the CBCA Notable: Stars in Their Eyes, with Jessica Walton. 

Aśka is a recipient of several government Arts grants, prizes, and the May Gibbs Fellowship.
When Aśka’s not creating books, Aśka is traveling across Australia, teaching drawing-as-a-language to enthusiastic audiences of all ages. Sometimes, Aśka sleeps...

Chenée Marrapodi 

Chenée is a children’s author, journalist and podcaster. A love of storytelling led Chenée to a career in journalism, where she has worked for many years across television, online and radio news. 

Chenée's love of words is rivalled only by her love of dance and Italian culture. Combining these, One Wrong Turn is her debut novel.

She is assisted in her work by her writing buddy, muse and pet dog, Taco. While rumours of Taco being a horse are greatly exaggerated, he is indeed a ginormous, loveable, Great Dane.

Craig Silvey 

Craig is an author and screenwriter from Fremantle. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Rhubarb, was published in 2004. His bestselling novel, Jasper Jones, is considered a modern Australian classic. Published in over a dozen territories, it has won plaudits across 3 continents. 

Craig’s third novel, Honeybee, was published in 2020 and won Best Fiction for the Indie Book Awards 2021 and Dymocks Book of the Year 2020. Runt is Craig’s first novel for Younger Readers, which won the Dymocks Book of the Year for Younger Readers 2022, and Book Of The Year at the 2023 Indie Book Awards.

Cristy Burne 

Cristy is an award-winning internationally published author working on the intersection of story, science, technology and creativity. Cristy has worked at CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider!), at Questacon (as part of a science circus!), and has exploded sewage on her neighbour (by accident).

Cristy’s books have been shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards and the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award, won the WA Young Readers Book Award, and been recognised as Notable by the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

Cristy is passionate about science, creativity and adventure.

Dianne Wolfer 

Dianne is a bookworm who lives on the south-west coast. When she was little Dianne wanted to be the Muddleheaded Wombat, then Silky from The Magic Faraway Tree, then Jo from Little Women. Characters still inspire Dianne, but now she’s happy being herself.

Dianne writes across genres and spent 5 years studying anthropomorphism. She especially loves historical fiction and animal stories.

Nature also inspires her and story ideas bubble up when Dianne is snorkeling, swimming, beach walking or bushwalking. She’s very excited about cheering on this year’s challenge particpants.

Helen Milroy 

Helen is a born storyteller and a talented artist. A descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region, she was born and educated in Perth.  

Helen has always been passionate about health and wellbeing, especially for children. Helen studied medicine at the University of Western Australia. She is currently a professor at UWA, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Board Member with Beyond Blue and the AFL’s first Indigenous Commissioner. 

She is the author of numerous best-selling titles and is also known for her puppeteering skill when reading stories to children. 

Holden Sheppard 

Holden is an award-winning author originally from Geraldton and now based in Perth.
His debut novel, Invisible Boys ,won the 2019 West Australian Premier's Prize for an Emerging Writer, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and was named a Notable Book by the Children's Book Council of Australia. The novel is now in development as a TV series. 

Holden's second novel, The Brink, won the Young Adult Book of the Year Award at the 2023 Indie Book Awards and is shortlisted for the 2023 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

James Foley 

James makes picture books, middle-grade novels and graphic novels for children.

His award-winning picture book, Stellarphant, has been a worldwide hit. He launched his new graphic novel series in 2023 with the release of Secret Agent Mole. Book 1: Goldfish-Finger.

He started his career in primary school, drawing cartoons for the school newspaper and later became a freelance cartoonist, before turning his attention to creating children's books.

James lives in Perth with his wife Renae, their 2 kids, and a labrador called Frankie. He is a massive Marvel movie nerd and comes from a long line of queuing enthusiasts.

Josh Langley 

Josh was told he would amount to nothing in life, having failed high school (twice) and being unemployed for several years, but that didn’t stop Josh from becoming a multi award-winning radio copywriter and award-winning children’s author. 

Now his ground-breaking children’s books, programs and school talks are helping thousands of kids build self-acceptance, mental and emotional resilience, kindness, and empathy. His favourite food is Tortellini. 

Layne Dixon 

Layne is a writer and an activist for disability and inclusion. Since starting their advocacy journey in 2018 Layne has not only learnt so much more about the disability community, but also experienced many things that people their age won’t have the chance to experience. 

A couple years ago Layne was published in an anthology from the Centre for Stories. Layne's vision is to create an environment of inclusivity regardless of a person’s age, gender, beliefs, race, and disability. 

Mark Greenwood 

Mark is a history hunter. He enjoys searching for lost explorers and glittering treasure, delving into baffling mysteries and famous cold cases. His award-winning books include Jandamarra, illustrated by Terry Denton, the History Mysteries series, The Happiness Box and The Book of Stone.

Mark often teams with his wife, illustrator Frané Lessac, to produce well-known titles such as The Legend of Moondyne Joe, Ned Kelly & The Green Sash, Simpson and His Donkey and Midnight – the story of a lighthorse. Their latest collaboration is the Our Country series: Ancient Wonders and Where History Happened. 

Meg Caddy 

A self-confessed nerd, Meg wanted to be a writer from a young age.

Meg's fantasy novel, Waer, was shortlisted for the 2013 Text Prize and the 2017 CBCA Book of the Year Award, and their historical fiction, Devil’s Ballast, was shortlisted for the 2020 Readings YA Book Prize. 

They are currently undertaking a PhD in queer fiction. Meg lives with 3 horrible cats and one splendid small human. 

Norman Jorgensen 

Award-winning writer, Norman Jorgensen has a dozen books published. Much of his writing reflects his life-long love of history, including In Flanders Fields, which won Picture Book of the Year, and Jack’s Island, set on Rottnest Island during the Second World War. His Smugglers’ Curse books are exciting, action-packed adventures set in Broome, Fremantle, Albany and South-East Asia in 1896.  

The Last Viking picture books, both cleverly illustrated by James Foley, are stories about bullying and imagination and have also won numerous awards. 

Norman has worked in the book trade for much of his life and, in his spare time, he loves to read, travel and take travel photographs, especially of castles, battlefields, sailing ships and all the things that make history so exciting.  

Sally Murphy 

Sally is an author of over 50 children's books. She is passionate about writing, reading and speaking. 
Sally is also a mum, granny, wife, daughter and friends. While this all sounds like a lot of things to be at once, she still finds time to play with her kids and grandkids, read books, walk on the beach, swim and a million other things. She thrives on being busy. 
Sally has a doctorate in creative writing, and is a qualified and experienced teacher, having taught all ages from preschool to university level. Based in the South-West, she loves to speak to audiences big and small, close to home or around the world. In 2022, Sally was awarded an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her contributions to children’s literature and education. 

Sean E Avery 

Sean is a teacher, writer-illustrator, and designer born in South Africa; living in Perth. Locally, he’s best known as the writer-illustrator of best-selling children’s picture book, All Monkeys Love Bananas.

His last picture book, Happy as a Hog Out of Mud, won the 2022 WAYRBA Picture Book of the Year Award and his latest book, Frank’s Red Hat, is shortlisted for the 2023 Indie, WAYRBA, and CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award.

He is curious, enthusiastic and ready to work hard for the things he believes in.

Shirley Marr 

Shirley is an accountant by day and a masked children’s author by night. Her novel, A Glasshouse of Stars, based on her experiences of migrating to Australia as a child, won the CBCA Award for Younger Readers and the WA Premier’s Book Award in 2022. 

Shirley describes herself as having a western mind and an eastern heart and writes in the middle where both collide. She believes passionately about conveying messages of empathy, resilience and hope by sharing her personal stories through her writing.