ALMOST 70 years ago Australian children fell in love with a little platypus called Shy.
The character, created by prolific author Leslie Rees, is set to win a new generation of hearts with the release of the 21st century edition of Shy the Platypus.
With its strong conservation message, humour and gripping plot, the classic children's book has earned high praise and sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Renowned children's author Mem Fox recently described it as "the best Australian children's book ever written".
Leslie's daughter, Lake Macquarie resident Dymphna Rees Peterson, will host the local launch of the book at Toronto Library this Saturday, May 12, at 10am.
She will be joined by her daughter Christiana and granddaughter Natasha.
A photographer, Ms Rees Peterson has included some of her nature pictures in the book.
"When I was a child we had great times around the dinner table discussing books and coming up with names for Dad's characters," she said.
"He was passionate about the Australian bush so it came naturally to him to write about it. He wrote Shy in 1944, at a time when there were very few books about Australian wildlife."
Dymphna's mother Coralie was also a writer. She met Leslie while studying at the University of Western Australia.
He was the editor of the university magazine, she was the sub-editor. Love blossomed and both won postgraduate scholarships to study in London.
At 26, Leslie became a theatre critic on the West End.
"He was a cocky young colonial offering his opinions on the world's best productions. Mum was a foreign correspondent for several Australian newspapers," she said.
When not working, the Clarke Reeses would pass the time discussing books with famous writers such as James Joyce and W B Yeats.
The pair later returned to Sydney where Leslie took up a 30-year post as drama editor for the ABC. In his spare time he published almost 50 books.
Being the daughter of two adventurous writers was not always easy, Dymphna said.
When she was nine her parents set off on a 10-month adventure to write a book about hitchhiking in remote north Australia.
With no phones, Leslie and Coralie didn't learn that Dymphna was gravely ill with pneumonia (often fatal in those days), until she was released from hospital.
Dymphna is philosophical about her parents' choices.
"Some people wonder how they could have left their children for such a long time. But this was their work. They had to get copy, and going off on adventures was how they did it. They didn't have a car and they went to remote, dangerous places so they couldn't take us," she said.
"They were such good parents when they were home, lovely people and great fun. We were so involved with all the writing of the children's books and it was such a rich childhood."
Dymphna said the latest edition of Shy was dedicated to her father's eight great grandchildren.
"They love hearing it read. Shy has well and truly stood the test of time. It is beautifully written and is all about the life cycle and other enduring themes.
"When we launched it in Canberra at the National Library a man came up to me in tears and said that this story had changed his life and led him into a career in conservation."
Leslie died in 2000 and wrote his last children's book at age 92.
¦ To RSVP to the Toronto book launch, phone Maclean's Booksellers on 4959 2550, or email email@example.com