The co-creators of award-winning children's book Leonard the Lyrebird have launched their follow-up book - Lilah the Lyrebird - just in time for Christmas.
It's a mix of celebration and relief for author Jodie McLeod from Bullaburra and illustrator Eloise Short from Katoomba after crowdfunding and producing their second book in one of the most challenging of years.
"It was a huge risk creating a book in the middle of a pandemic, but I had so much faith in the story and in Eloise's talent that I just knew we could make it happen," said McLeod.
As with their first book,Lilah the Lyrebird is set in the Mountains, with Short's illustrations featuring many of the region's iconic landmarks and animals.
"Local families and visitors will recognise plenty of the Blue Mountains' natural wonders in this book," said McLeod, whose original aim for writing the stories was to help children connect with the natural world.
"When kids see their world reflected in art and storytelling, it ignites their imaginations and strengthens their connection with their surroundings," she said.
It was this impact on young readers that saw Leonard the Lyrebird win the Royal Zoological Society of NSW's Whitley Award for Best Young Children's Book in 2019, with judges remarking the book "is a great example of how a children's story can not only entertain, but educate and encourage young readers to discover more about our unique animals."
Lilah the Lyrebird aims to do the same in a story about friendship, courage, self-belief, and the main character's search for meaning behind her mother's advice.
"I'm sure we've all heard some wise words from our parents that only make sense when we're older," said McLeod. "This story follows Lilah as she figures that out and, in the process, discovers some truths about herself and what she is capable of."
Having written the story just after the bushfire season of 2019-2020, McLeod felt it important to weave a bushfire theme into the plot.
"The Blue Mountains can't endure all of that and then not see it reflected in our art," she said. "[The bushfire theme is] beautifully handled in this book and the resilience of the animal characters mirrors the positive mentality of the Blue Mountains community."
As well as being a great Christmas gift for children, McLeod and Short feel Lilah is their way of giving back to Blue Mountains families: "to say 'thank you for your support' and 'here's to you' for making it through such a huge year."