Debra Tidball

TAKING 5 WITH DEBRA TIDBALL (Author of 'The Scared Book')

1/ How did you come up with the idea for THE SCARED BOOK? 

I was pondering the colloquial use of the word ‘sick’ to mean ‘awesome’ and I started applying it to things, like sick music, sick shoes, sick book - and then I wondered - What if a book actually was sick? How would it feel and how could readers make it feel better, and over time sick morphed into scared and that's how we have The Scared Book. Who knows, The Sick Book might make an appearance yet.


2/ What were you afraid of when you were little? 

How long do you have? I was a real scaredy-cat!

I used to sleep with my sheets and blankets over my head and tucked in tight so that intruders wouldn’t find me and snakes and spiders couldn’t slither or crawl into my bed. It’s a wonder I didn’t suffocate! 

I was scared of going to the toilet in the middle of the night because I thought the Big Bad Wolf would be lurking in the hallway ready to pounce. 

I could go on, but you get the picture!


3/ What would be your dream children’s book collaboration? 

My dream collaborator is the one that ‘gets’ my manuscript and extends it whilst infusing it with a part of themselves. Both my illustrators have done this, and I think it is the mark of a great publisher to have the vision of pairing author and illustrator to bring a book to life.


4/ If you were a monster, what would your name be and what would you look like? 

My name would be Snugglelotte. I’d be purple because that’s my favorite colour; I’d be furry like a fluffy dressing gown so I’d be warm and people would want to cuddle me; I’d have 10 arms to juggling everything; an elephant’s trunk that could extend and retract and doubled as a mouth because I reckon that’d be pretty cool; lots eyes in a circle around my head so I didn’t miss seeing anything; and an ear, or two, or three.


5/ What’s your all-time-favourite children’s book (for the early childhood sector)?

This is such a hard question! When I was young it was the classics – I loved AA Milne’s poetry and Winnie the Pooh. And I was infatuated with the Beatrix Potter books, so much so that as an early teenager I made up many of the characters as soft toys. I still have Mrs Tiggy Winkle and I take her on school visits with me. 

But there are some gorgeous old and new picture books that make me laugh, or make me cry or sigh that I just HAVE to have – too many to mention. ‘Queenie the Bantam’ by Bob Graham is a family favourite, and anything by Margaret Wild I adore – have you seen her latest ‘The Sloth Who came to stay’? I love it! She writes with the perfect combination of heart and humour.



Debra Tidball is an author, social worker, blogger and children's book reviewer. Her first picture book, When I See Grandma, was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year and won the children’s book category of the CALEB award. Her second picture book, The Scared Book, is heaps of interactive fun with sneaky opportunities for kids to learn about conquering their fears.