The Stroogle

32 pages with colour illustrations. ISBN:9780975670101

What is a Stroogle? To some children, he looks like a strawberry, to others, a colourful chicken that hatched from a purple egg, to others; he's a 'way cool superhero'. Who are his parents? Well, that remains a mystery.

The first book, The Stroogle, is a modern twist to the classic ugly duckling story. The simple rhyming text leads the reader through an adventure of rejection, misunderstanding and sadness to friendship, courage and acceptance.

Unlike the traditional story where the swan grows beautiful and is subsequently accepted, the Stroogle is befriended by a rather drab looking mouse. He then has the courage to show his 'true colours' when he leads the mouse on a daring rescue of the garden gnomes from the much larger hungry fox.

The Stroogle was written and illustrated by Dr Cameron Stelzer during the year he spent working at the Natural History Museum in London (2002-03). He was inspired by the many weird and wonderful creatures the museum held in its collection.

The character evolved in Cameron's pocket sketch book and everything around him became part of the story. Street buskers became garden gnomes and even stuffed foxes and mice from the museum's collection found their way into the story. A well-timed visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens provided Cameron with all the garden and farmyard scenes for the book, and it was during a visit to Germany that he stumbled upon the perfect name.

"I discovered a small shop near the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich which sold only strudel: apple, raspberry, rhubarb, even spinach and vegetable - it had everything! Since my little character has an enormous appetite I wondered what would be an exciting name that sounds like strudel. I discovered the word strudel also translates to 'whirlwind' or 'eddy' which are appropriate descriptions for such an adventurous little round character. I played around with the letters and came up with 'Stroogle'."

Cameron worked on the final pictures for the book for six months and on returning to Australia the text was rewritten into its rhyming form. It was published in October 2004.