What kind of child was I?

That’s the question I asked while discussing character concepts for my picture book Alexandra Rose and Her Icy-Cold Toes, which will be published in early 2020. Since the book is based on one of my childhood experiences, illustrator, Katharine Rattray from Kat & Fox, turned to me for inspiration when it came to illustrating the main character, Alexandra Rose.

“She’s a mischievous little girl, about four years old, with a cheeky face and messy hair,” I said. “Brown hair, brown eyes, freckles … but please give her longer hair.” I always wanted long hair.

And then I sent her two photos – the one above, which is of my sister and I, and the one below.

Preschool me – aged four.

It took a few tries, but eventually Kat came back with this gorgeous illustration – presenting mischievous Alexandra Rose:


Isn’t she gorgeous? I’m biased, I know. But do you see the resemblance to me? Not that I’m saying I’m gorgeous … okay, let’s just stop this here.

All this got me thinking about what kind of young child I was … way back in the day. What did I like and dislike? What were some of my quirks? Just for laughs, I thought I’d share 20 insights about the little me (which will lead me to next week’s blog post about childhood memory and inspiration):

  • My favourite colour was yellow until I was about five and was relentlessly teased by a boy called Gareth: “Oooooh, your favourite colour is yel-low. That’s stupid”. I should have come back with something cutting like “Ner” or “You are” but didn’t think of that until later, like all my best comebacks. I’ve never liked the name Gareth since then. (Sorry to all the nice Gareths out there. It’s not you, it’s me.)
  • The colour red liked me. Mum found me covered in red paint when I was a toddler (yep, she thought it was blood) and I decorated my grandmother’s walls with red lipstick once. That was a one-time mistake. Smacks on the bum were still a thing then.
  • I liked to read A LOT. My love of reading was evident from a very young age, when I scooted around on the floor on my potty with a magazine, according to my mum. Say no more. But for those wondering, no, I don’t read on the loo.
  • I was a sensitive soul with a hint of drama queen. My mum rolls her eyes when she reminds me of the time I came screaming up the road, feelings all out of sorts, because I’d been asked to go home for lunch. She thought I was dying, but as I explained, my feelings were simply very, very hurt.
  • I was an incredibly active toddler and little girl, always running or bouncing, never sitting still. Not even on the potty, it seems. I’d jump off swings mid-air, or run right to the edge of things or walls and get yanked back by the scruff of my neck (or dress). My mum credits me with keeping her so thin after I was born.
  • At five, I wanted to be a nurse, a Sunday School teacher, and a grandmother, according to a drawing I did in the back of a book. There’s a photo of me with a Christmas tree growing out of my head wearing a nurse’s costume and holding a medical kit my mum made. For the record, I did teach Sunday School many years ago, I tried nursing and learnt quickly that it wasn’t my skillset (it didn’t help that at age 15, on work experience, I was sent in BY MYSELF to change a poor elderly woman who had soiled herself and mistook me for Satan), and grandchildren don’t seem to be on the horizon any time soon.
  • I was a massive chatterbox. Apparently my aunts weighed up whether my sister E or I were the biggest chatterbox and I won, hands down. Things changed in high school. I was described as ‘the shyest girl I know’ by someone in my high school yearbook. I’m more introverted than extroverted (but in small groups, I can be an extroverted introvert). Nowadays I’m always found on the edges of big groups and at parties (cameras come in handy here), and yet I am comfortable interviewing on stage.
  • I wanted to be on television shows Romper Room (just to prove to Miss Helena that I was real even though she couldn’t see me through her magic mirror) and Humphrey B Bear. Later, I wanted to be part of the Young Talent Team and I practised my singing skills into the hoze nozzle (when it was off, of course).
  • I wanted to play the clarinet but had to learn recorder. Later, my mum made me practise in the outside laundry. I don’t think that’s a compliment.
  • I thought Crystal was the most beautiful name for a girl ever. I wanted to be a Crystal.
  • I loved playing Barbies and schools. I’m embarrassed to admit I enjoyed being the teacher too much and there were many occasions of tears when my “students” (the younger kids in my street) got bored and ran off to do something more fun than writing on a blackboard.
  • I wasn’t a picky eater but I hated Vegemite (which made me un-Australian) and hated Liverwurst (which made me nicht-Deutsch).
  • Did I mention I really wanted long hair? Tresses, actually. I wanted long, glossy tresses.
  • I loved painting pictures of purple television sets in Year 2. I got a bit fixated on it. Every Friday in art class, I painted a television. I was quite good at them by the end of term.
  • I cut my sister’s hair in a terrible bowl cut. I asked, she said yes (she was two) and there you go. My mum has never let me forget it.
  • I also made my sister eat soap (she thought it was a Vitamin C tablet), made her sit on a peanut butter sandwich, and I reckon that’s about all the mean things I did to her. No, you can’t double check. You’ll have to take my word for it.
  • When I was six, I had a crush on a boy which meant I did his spelling and mine one day when he was absent, earning him a gold star for handwriting and 100% for spelling and me a coloured star and 100%. I was crushed that I didn’t get a gold star but that didn’t stop me bribing my two-year-old sister to kiss him for me in exchange for Cheezels. OK, that was another mean thing.
  • I understood the concept of time very well at five. My weary aunt says she asked me to stop talking for five minutes, so I did, and spot on five minutes off I went again.
  • I hated the number eight. Something about the sound jarred. But it was also a challenging time at home, so I think that might have cemented my dislike for the number.
  • I was convinced that there was princess blood in my veins and I had a thick scrapbook filled with pictures of Princess Diana. These days, my husband calls me “Princess and the Pea” because I find every invisible bump in bed that exists, but also because in his mind, I am a princess.

What’s one thing about your little-you you’d like to share?



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

4 Responses

  1. Some delightful insights there, Monique! 🙂 And the illustration is delightful too…

  2. I love these snippets of a young Monique. The illustration is gorgeous and I’m sure my granddaughter would love this book. Little me was so long ago I’m having trouble thinking of anything quirky to mention. I was very quite. I never said much but I used to take everything in.

    1. Thank you, Veronica. It’s interesting when you look back at your past what you remember, or as you say, don’t remember.

      Alexandra Rose is such a cutie – I’m so looking forward to seeing the rest of the illustrations.

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