IF YOU think the storyline in Phillip Gwynne's new picture book Small Town sounds a bit familiar, you'd be right.
After a visit to the students at Pyramid Hill College, the author decided the town's story would look great in book form.
“As I write books, I will often go on tours around to schools and talk to students,” Mr Gwynne said.
“I made the trip to Pyramid Hill to visit some Grade 5 students and I noticed there were children from different backgrounds sitting in the classroom.”
As he organised his visit with Pyramid Hill teacher Tracy Rogers, he began to familiarise himself with the town's interesting story.
“I chatted to Phil as I helped him set up for the day and explained how nice it is to work at Pyramid Hill College with its calm, family feel,” Ms Rogers said.
“I mentioned how we had welcomed several new families from the Philippines over the past couple of years and how that had breathed new life into a dwindling population.
“Phil was really interested in that story. Local farming businesses had finally been able to get the workforce they needed and our school had benefitted from upward trends in enrolments.”
Mr Gwynne began the process of bringing the town's story to life in picture book form.
“I dove into my research and began coming up with concepts for the book,” he said.
“As the book is targeted mostly towards children, I had to make sure the story would resonate and still make sense to them.
“That's why I revolved the story around a group of kids worried about their basketball team. A lot of towns would struggle without a sporting club and I feel like that was more relatable.”
The book centres around Milly, who lives in the town of Gong Gong.
While they learn about refugees at school, she decides the way to fix her shrinking basketball team and help the town is to write and invite refugees to town.
Once he had finalised his story, Mr Gwynne was given a few options for illustrators willing to take on the project.
“While the illustrators they'd given me were very talented, I was drawn to Tony Flowers, whose work I had seen around,” he said.
After agreeing to take on the project, Mr Flowers began work on the illustrations, using his memories of travelling country Victoria as his inspiration.
“Usually I would have travelled to see Pyramid Hill and remember how it all looks, but because of COVID-19, I couldn't,” Mr Flowers said.
“I went back and forth with the publishers and Phillip, getting their opinions and making sure it was perfect. We did get there and I'm really proud of what we created.”
While Ms Rogers hadn't seen the book yet, she knew the school was excited.
“I’m sure it will be well loved not just for its contents but also for the story of how the author visited our small town and had an idea for a story,” she said.
You can find more information or purchase the book online at penguin.com.au/books/small-town-9781760893484