Google have recognised the 136th birthday of the celebrated Australian illustrator and children’s author May Gibbs with a Google logo recreated using a range of her illustrations. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the uniquely Australian gumnut baby characters that are Gibbs’ most memorable contribution to Australian literature.
Cecilia May Gibbs was one of Australia’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators and is best known today for the iconic Australian children’s story “The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie” which tells the story of two gumnut babies and their escape from the big bad Banksia men.
Gibbs’ gumnut babies made their first appearance in 1913 on the front cover of Australian writer Ethel Turner’s book “The Missing Button” which Gibbs illustrated. Three years later in 1916 the gumnut babies entered Australian folklore with the release of Gibbs’ book “The Gumnut Babies” which was followed two years later by the unmistakably Australian “Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Wonderful Adventures.”
The conflict between her Australian bush characters and the environment in which they lived alludes to the deep love and understanding of the Australian bush that influenced her work. A retiring personality who shunned publicity, May Gibbs, through her books, aimed to engender in children her own love of nature. She died without having had children, in 1969, leaving her estate to UNICEF, the Spastic Centre of NSW (now Cerebral Palsy Alliance) and the NSW Society for Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services.