Children’s book a tool to raise virus awareness

Sarah Milne’s first children's book bridges the connection between New Zealand and Australia...
Sarah Milne’s first children's book bridges the connection between New Zealand and Australia through the imagination of a young girl with a hearing disability. The idea came to her when she was pregnant with Ivy (now 4). Photo: Geoff Sloan
A new children’s book written by a Christchurch author is connecting Australia and New Zealand through a child’s imagination while also normalising hearing disabilities.

Kiwis and Koalas was inspired by Sarah Milne’s own life.

Although she was born in Christchurch, Milne learned to “walk and talk” in Melbourne after moving there with her family when she was two-years-old.

She’s been back and forth between the two countries ever since but has lived in Sumner for two-and-a-half years.

“I have a deep-rooted connection to Australia,” she said.

Pre-order now through the website Photo: Supplied
Pre-order now through the website Photo: Supplied
Although this is her first published book, Milne has always loved writing, taking part in writing competitions and classes since she was young.

It was when she was pregnant with her daughter, Ivy, and was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus, the first stirrings of a story about kiwis and koalas began to string themselves from words into sentences.

"The story about a girl with a hearing aid, pottering around in a garden with her dog, just living a normal life, begun swirling round in my mind."

This then connected with her own childhood and having grown up with "a bridge" between Australia and New Zealand.

"I could not have foreseen Covid-19, and I know right now for many, including myself, there’s this deep feeling and wish we could just go over there.”

Ivy tested negative for CMV at birth and knowing just how lucky she was, Milne said she did not want to take her healthy baby for granted.

"I had this level of survivor’s guilt,” she said.

"Whenever I saw other parents out with their kids in prams, kids who clearly were disabled due to CMV, I felt so guilty to just be able to walk away with my own positive outcome.”

Sarah Milne and her daughter Ivy. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Sarah Milne and her daughter Ivy. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Milne hopes Kiwis and Koalas will be a tool to help raise awareness about CMV and make a difference for those who suffer from the disease and their families, with a blurb at the back of the book detailing the disease.

"When you Google CMV, of all the stories shared by families, the first thing they say is why did no one tell us about this disease before?” she said.

"I want to help change this."

Milne grew up with a backyard leading to dense New Zealand bush. She used to "go and get lost and make huts."

"The girl in the story is told she is a little bit Aussie and a little bit Kiwi and the mum wishes they could build a bridge between the two countries," she said.

"The girl then goes to explore the bush and stumbles across a bridge, and her imagination and memory comes alive."

Milne is "really proud" of the response she has received from the deaf community.

"There are a lot of disability books out there that only reach a certain community,” she said.

"In this book, the disability is only really subtly part of the story. It’s not mentioned, it’s just how it is.”




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