Colin Thiele

Prolific children's writer


Colin Milton Thiele, teacher and children's writer: born Eudunda, South Australia 16 November 1920; AC 1977; married 1945 Rhonda Gill (two daughters); died Brisbane 4 September 2006.

One of Australia's best-loved as well as most prolific writers for children, Colin Thiele's combination of realism, broad humour and strong emotional commitment won him success with readers of all ages. Drawing on his rural roots, his over 100 books also constantly argued the case for protecting the natural world against environmental threat. Suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis since 1955, he managed to remain creative and good-humoured to the end.

Born in Eudunda, a small town north of the Barossa Valley in South Australia, Thiele was the fourth of five children in a German-speaking farmer's family, and spoke English only at his tiny local school at Julia Creek. During his upper primary school years he went to live with two eccentric bachelor uncles, whose ghost stories told round the fire at night proved a strong later influence.

Completing a degree at the University of Adelaide in 1941, Thiele served in the Royal Australian Air Force in the Northern Territory and New Guinea before training as an English teacher. Starting off as a poet, he came to fame as an author with Storm Boy (1963). Later filmed, this powerful story describes the love affair between the isolated son of a beachcomber and an orphaned pelican. Ending sadly, it was the first of many rites-of-passage stories within which a child comes to maturity often as a result of confronting and finally overcoming dangerous natural forces.

Also successfully filmed, Blue Fin (1969) describes the tough life of children from tuna-fisher families. Often considered failures at school, they are shown here as skilled and courageous once at sea, with Steve, the young, neglected hero of the story, finally saving his bungling father's boat from certain destruction. This fine novel has never gone out of print.

Working his way up the educational system, becoming Principal of Murray Park College of Advanced Education in 1973, Thiele still maintained a prodigious output as a novelist, and as a radio scriptwriter. Some of his best as well as most clearly autobiographical novels were set in the Australian-German community of the fictional town of Gonunda.

The first in this "Barossa" series, which has been described as Australia's answer to Tom Sawyer, The Sun on the Stubble (1961) is crammed with outsize characters working hard in the day and drinking at night. The title figure in Uncle Gustav's Ghosts (1974) is now commemorated by a statue in the town of Eudunda that inspired his story. It was joined in 2000 by a statue of his author, sitting notebook in hand with Mr Percival, the pelican in Storm Boy, by his side.

In 1988 Thiele wrote Jodie's Journey at the request of a young fan who also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. It tells the story of a gifted young rider who has to put aside her dreams after discovering she has this crippling disease. Full of sympathy and respect for the courageous young heroine who never considers giving up, this is partisan writing at its best.

Nicholas Tucker

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary supply teachers required in Wisbech

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers ne...

PPA Cover Teachers Required in Doncaster

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Primary PPA Teachers required for wo...

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering