What is 'Listen to Your Diddalum' about?

Listen to Your Diddalum is a new picture book that explores your gut-feelings in the most incredible way. From local children's book aut...

Listen to Your Diddalum is a new picture book that explores your gut-feelings in the most incredible way. From local children's book author Emily Child and popular illustrator Maria Lebedeva comes this powerful yet light-hearted exploration of what it means to trust yourself and discover your identity. What is your Diddalum? Is it that funny feeling in your stomach when you're excited? Or is it exploding fireworks? Is it a slimy slug, or a fluttering butterfly? What is your Diddalum and how do you listen to it?

About Emily Child, the author:

Emily Child grew up in Johannesburg and moved to Cape Town to study Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is a full-time actress and daydreamer. If she is not working on stage or in film, she says she "can be found looking out of windows, wondering". Child’s first book Jeff and George and the Totem Pole was published in 2014 by Penguin Books and illustrated by Julia Anastasopoulos. Her latest picture book, Lucy & Mum’s Shoes, is based on a very real obsession with the sound of things and a wish that humans didn’t rush the process of growing up. Listen to Your Diddalum is her latest and most anticipated title to date. A sequel to Lucy and Mum’s Shoes is due out in 2021.

About Maria Lebedeva, the illustrator:

Maria Lebedeva is a South African illustrator working on children's books and other projects. Working as a freelancer in Pretoria, South Africa, she is a lover of picture books, traveling, and good coffee. She has written and illustrated her own children's book, Mu's Wolf Problem, and worked on several other projects as illustrator, such as Penguin and Bear. Her latest publication is Listen to Your Diddalum—a heart-warming tale that explores feelings for children in the most incredible way. Maria is represented internationally for illustration by S. B. Rights Agency.


Emily Child describes how she conceptualised Listen to your Diddalum:
When I was little and feeling insecure, sad or “not quite myself”, my Grandmother—Gugs (her real name was Stella, but we called her Gugs)—would sit me on her lap, bob me up and down and sing me the Diddalum song. The lyrics may have only consisted of a few words (variations of the word Diddalum), but the ditty’s might was incomparable. It immediately reminded me that I was loved, safe and okay with being a little allover-the-place sometimes. It made me feel brave and ready to take on the next moment.

As I grew older, I began to refer to my “inner voice” or intuition as my Diddalum. I use this term to help me make tough decisions in my personal and professional life. I am an actor and am often faced with work opportunities that are intimidating or unfamiliar (I assume this is the case with most professions). I have learnt in these moments to be still and “Listen to my Diddalum”. My Diddalum is the bold and honest sound inside that reminds me what I stand for and what makes me happy. It is my integrity. It is that piece of me that my Grandparents nurtured and were always proud of. I wrote Listen to your Diddalum in the hope that young humans can recognise their individual Diddalums, however it may present itself and use it as a tool to find strength and remain uncompromisingly candid with themselves.

I didn’t expect this book to come out as a kind of poem. I sat down one day, closed my eyes and tried to draw what my Diddalum was to me (I often write from images that pop up when my eyes are closed). I was surprised at how this story shaped itself. I also realised that I had never actually written down the word Diddalum. I grew up with the word and I say it to myself regularly, but I had never actually seen it on a page!

Figuring out the most accessible spelling for it was rather a fun game. It was tough knowing when to end this piece. When you feel close to subject matter, it is very easy to overindulge or “overeducate” in a children’s book. I challenged myself to keep it clean and specific in every way possible. On stage or in film, acting is about being specific and creating detailed images with one gesture or thought at a time. I tried my best to do the same with the images in this story.

This text lives in Maria Lebedeva’s extraordinary illustrations. Her work is uniquely inspiring and I am so happy and proud to have her as a teammate on this project! She has brought great quirk and elegance to this piece and it has been a privilege to work with an artist of her caliber.

This book exists to remind us who we are without all the fake, scary, competitive stuff. If in doubt…Diddalum!

• Sunday Times
• More coming soon…
• Imagnary House has twice been shortlisted for the Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publishers of the Year (2019 and 2020). See their latest books here.

Check out some of their latest books here: 



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Urban Craft Magazine: What is 'Listen to Your Diddalum' about?
What is 'Listen to Your Diddalum' about?
Urban Craft Magazine
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