Mena’s a corker

Author/teacher Rebecca Palmer and her talented protege Mena Banks with their new picture books.

A HERALD story about the felling of an historic cork oak tree in Mt Pleasant has inspired a budding young author into taking out first prize in a Children’s Book Council of Australia (WA) award.

When 11-year-old Palmyra resident Mena Banks read our story about the 130-year-old cork (“Not just a pop,” Herald, June 13, 2020), it seeded the idea for a storybook about standing up for what you believe.

Just a Tree is the tale of a young girl, a budgie with super powers and the residents of a country town who frustrate a bunch of frackers poised to chop down their own historic cork oak.

The climactic confrontation between protestors and a demolition crew turns into a picnic for everyone under the shade of the tree.

The book council judges said Mena’s picture book had a well-researched and topical issue which kept readers engaged right to the end.

“Your beautiful illustrations added to the appeal of the book. A heart-warming story,” they wrote before awarding her top spot for the year 5/6 category.

The win wasn’t Mena’s first brush with success at the book council’s Make Your Own Story Book competition, as she’d took out third place for a joint effort with her cousin last year.

Mena’s mum Jess Spaven reckons some of her daughter’s talent might have rubbed off from her teacher Rebecca Palmer, an author in her own right who’s first picture book is set to be launched at The Literature Centre in Fremantle this coming Tuesday, November 10.

“What I try to bring to Mena and her classmates in terms of their writing/storytelling is – don’t give up!” Ms Palmer said.

“Like many writers, I have had manuscript rejections and picked myself up off the ground, wiped away the tears, rewritten and resubmitted – sometimes to get another knockback.

“My students, including Mena, have watched this journey over the years.

 “I believe it’s good for children to see that trying to achieve your dream takes a lot of hard work – even for adults. It’s the journey that matters.”

Ms Palmer’s picture book Monkey Mind, is designed to start the conversation between children and parents/carers about taming the “inner monkey”, which is the anxiety that stops people from trying difficult things.

The Literature Centre is at the Fremantle Prison, and to attend Monkey Mind’s launch, send them an email at to let them know you’re interested.


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