Author James Foley. Picture: Mary Mills

As a Year 7 student, James Foley won third prize in the Statewide Make Your Own Storybook Competition. This year, Foley made the presentations himself as an award-winning professional writer and illustrator.

"I felt honoured presenting these awards," Foley says, "I really feel I have come full circle."

Many West Australians would recognise the work of the young cartoonist when they read their Quokka magazine each week. Foley began drawing for the magazine in 2003 and in seven years he drew more than 300 full-colour cartoons depicting everything from the spectacular to the suburban.

In 2006, Foley completed a degree in behavioural science. But when he was studying primary teaching in 2001 he found himself playing around with story text and drawings.

From this experimentation evolved the story of his latest picture book title, In the Lion, a comic tale of a little boy doing extraordinary things in a time of crisis. This little boy, Richard, visits the zoo with his parents and his naughty twin siblings. People and animals begin to go missing, with the lion getting fatter and fatter.

Richard has to take the toothbrush into his own hands to try to save the day.

The book is wonderful for reading aloud to youngsters. The illustrations are almost an adjunct to the story and young readers love to discover the happenings behind the text.

"I wanted the text and pictures to complement each other but not tell the same story," Foley says. "They are almost individual but when they come together I find they create a bigger and better whole."

The best part of his creative work is working with kids at schools and libraries. He has worked with young indigenous artists through the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, as well as in country schools through the Rural Development Australia Sharing Stories comic project. "I'm always amazed at the natural enthusiasm that children bring to drawing, especially when they draw just for themselves and don't care if its 'good enough' or not."

This year Foley has found his diary filled with school workshops as far afield as Kalgoorlie and the Cocos Islands, but he finds that his aim is always the same. "The main thing I want kids to know is that if they want to be a writer, illustrator or cartoonist, it's possible."

The West Australian

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