May Gibbs travelling display at Penrith Library

It’s 100 years since May Gibbs’ adorable characters found their way into the homes and hearts of Australians, and Penrith City Library is celebrating with a free travelling display featuring May Gibbs’ iconic artwork until December 14.

May Gibbs was Australia's first full-time, professionally trained children's book author and illustrator, and the display features reproductions of some of her most beloved characters including the gumnut babies and the brothers Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. 

The gumnut babies became an instant hit when they first appeared on December 5, 1916, in a booklet published by Angus and Robertson, and the gum-blossom babies soon followed. 

The display explores May Gibbs’ early work, the characters of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia, her process and examples of how the war influenced her work. 

According to the State Library of NSW senior curator Alison Wishart: “Generations of Australians have fond memories of growing up with the gumnut babies and their friends, and passed the books they read as children down to their own children.”

“May Gibbs was a keen environmentalist and was also fiercely patriotic”, Ms Wishart said. “Not many people know that during the First World War she designed a series of postcards and bookmarks featuring her popular characters to send to the soldiers overseas.”