Cristy Burne

Author, editor, science writer

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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Maverick and Ralph…and Kellie Byrnes

I’m out and about with Russ the Bus, which is uber-exciting! I’m missing my own pooch, so it’s a perfect time to cue a huge round of barking to welcome back…

Dogs of the Rich and Famous!!!!

Today’s hounds are Maverick (the sook) and Ralph (AKA Destructo), assistants to Australian picture book author Kellie Byrnes.

Me and the boys.jpgAbout Maverick and Ralph

Age:  Maverick just turned 11 years and Ralph is almost 9.

Breed (or best guess): Maverick is a Border Collie x Heeler (with a mixture of other things thrown in, particularly Huntaway, Kellie thinks).

Ralph is a Kelpie x Blue Heeler (with perhaps some Belgian Shepherd in the mix, Kellie thinks, based on his big thick lion’s mane!).

Assistant to: Author Kellie Byrnes.

cloud+conductor+small.jpgKellie Byrnes is a children’s author, freelance writer, blogger, book reviewer and presenter. Her debut picture book, Cloud Conductor, was released in May 2018, and her next picture book, Yes! No. will be published in late 2019. Kellie also writes early readers and junior fiction novels, and is slowly working her way up to longer works!

Check her out on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

Help or hindrance?

“The dogs both help and hinder me in my writing,” says Kellie.

“As for helping, I come up with most of my story ideas and plot devices when I’m out walking them (many include dogs, of course!). If I’m having a problem with a manuscript, I take the boys for a walk and have usually sorted it out by the time I get back.

“I find that having a break from work, and hanging out and playing with them, clears my head and improves my mood, too. They’re always happy and loving, and it’s impossible to be cranky or stressed when they’re around, being playful and cheeky!

“Something that’s both a help and a hindrance is when I’m working on my computer at night and they’re inside, and think I should finish. If I haven’t stopped to give them attention after a while, they take it in turns coming into the office and bumping my elbow so that I can’t type, or pushing their heads into my lap and staring at me.

“Ralph also likes to give me a bit of a soft nip on the arm if I still don’t get the hint, or he ‘talks’ to me, making short little sighing, yipping sounds which get increasingly louder over time! Maverick also does a lot of sighing, sitting right at my feet, if I don’t get up!

“All of this distraction is a help though, too, because the dogs remind me to stretch and have a break and hang out with them more.”

Fave toys and games: Maverick’s favourite toy is a ball: “Any ball,” says Kellie, “as long as someone is throwing it to him. This is his favourite game, along with being chased, and wrestling!

“And since he’s a complete sook, he will take being patted and cuddled for hours on end. He thinks he is a lap dog, even though he’s 30 kgs. He still seems like a puppy in many ways!

Ralph’s favourite game used to be chasing after balls too, but he has bad knees now, so he’s not allowed. “He adores being given toys to tear apart though,” says Kellie. “His nickname is Destructo. Thankfully he is well behaved and doesn’t try to tear apart other things in the house (god help him if he touched my books!).

“Having said that though, when I bring home stuffed toys or puppets to use at school visits, and he sees them, he does everything he can to let me know he wants them!”



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“Remarkable and timely” “funny and informative”: reviews that make me smile

It’s only a week till I blast off with Russ the Bus into Newcastle and Gosford.
Wooo hoo! I can’t wait!

I’m really looking forward to meeting hundreds of kids and teachers and having a fantabulous time!

It’s also only five weeks till Christmas (!!!???!!!)

If you’re wondering how to give the gift that keeps on giving, give a book to a child you love.

And if you need some book suggestions, I humbly (not so humbly? :-)) present two recent reviews, below. (Want more book recommendations for kids? Check out this amazing event at the State Library of WA.)

Writers spend a lot of time alone in our own heads. We’re always wondering if what we’re writing will ever be read, or liked, or used to help inspire readers to live bigger, braver, more informed lives.

So THANK YOU to all of you who take the time to review our work and help get our stories and ideas into the hands of the young people we write them for.


And now, on with the book reviews… 🙂

Magpies review.JPGZeroes & Ones (2018)
In Magpies magazine

Despite its catchy title and attractive cover featuring a squat, colourful, friendly robot, it is the subtitle The geeks, heroes and hackers who changed history that really best sum up this remarkable and timely book.

Within its five detailed chapters, information is fed to the reader in a series of compact, information-rich fact boxes, with the author’s amusing, hip writing style being sure to resonate with young, switched-on readers.

She reminds them that this is their future and encourages and challenges them to decide how they are going to carry on the digital revolution which they will inherit.

It introduces and outlines the motivations of all the major players to date (e.g. Turing, Jobs, Assange, Zuckerberg, etc.) but more importantly explains how and why the inventions and computer advances which have developed in the last few decades have grown into the overarching behemoth of technology which we all share today.

The unusual combination of colours (black writing of difference sizes and fonts presented on alternating white and yellow background) is striking, and the few illustrations of photographs which accompany the text serve mainly to break up the information and occasionally to simply clarify.

Readership? As well as the obvious group—upper primary and lower secondary readers of both sexes—I would recommend this captivating book to everyone who has held a digital device of any kind in the past twenty years!

This intriguingly delightful book is utterly absorbing—and every so slightly scary!

Highly recommended.

Russ Merrin

Kids Reading Guide review

Off The Track (2018)
In Kids Book Review

Harry thinks he’s in for the worst weekend ever when he has to go hiking and camping. No phone to play with?!

Little does he know of the fun, scary, crazy adventure that awaits!

This is a funny and informative story about getting away from it all.

Kids Book Review 


Thank you!!!! And wish me luck with Russ the Bus!


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A Bibb Track adventure writing competition for young writers

DB_OffTheTrack_WEB 400x200.pngDo you know a young writer who’d love to try their hand at an exciting short story?

I’ll be judging a competition for young writers who’d like to win a signed copy of my latest novel for kids, Off The Track.

What you need to do:

Write a short story about your adventure on the Bibbulmun Track and send it in to for a chance to win.

Closes: 23rd November 2018
Word Limit: 500 words
Theme: Your Bibbulmun Track adventure
Prize: We’ll be giving away a signed copy of Off The Track to two major prize winners. Runners up will receive a special activity sheet, book mark and more. Plus, entries will be published on The Bibbulmun Track Foundation website.

With thanks to The Bibb Track Foundation:
I’m thrilled to be working with The Bibbulmun Track Foundation on this….

Off The Track was inspired by my family’s own adventures and blisters and marshmallows and hills and dales and uplifting fresh-air experiences on the track.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to hiking by my parents when I was just a kid, and my kids are lucky enough that we also take them hiking. The Bibb is one of our favourite places to go…

Real adventure, right on our doorstep. How lucky are we?!?!?

Bibbulmun Track Cristy Burne.jpg


UPDATE!!! Congratulations to our winners!!

The winners were: “A Hiking Adventure” by Tanika Schoeman and “Rocky Pool Trail Walk” by Adayna Fozdar.

Writing competition winners.jpg

I loved reading all the entries and I felt like I was walking the track with all the birds and fresh air and adventure. Thanks to everyone who entered! It was extremely close between all entries so congratulations to you all!
See you on the track!


How we hiked the Cape to Cape track: What we packed

Incredible scenery Cape to Cape.jpgIf you’re anything like me, you spend ages fretting and planning and making lists before heading out on holiday or travel. I’m perhaps at my most stressed in the hours before we leave.

To help me stress less, I have multiple lists.

There’s the Travel for Author Visits List, which includes plastic head, Tibetan bowl, scissors, oven mitt and stuffed quokka toy.

There’s the Car Camping List, for when you’re camping and have an entire car to carry stuff in.

And the Hiking Camping List, for when you need to carry everything you need on your back.

It’s this list I’m going to share with you today. We just gave it a good workout on the Cape to Cape track, and I thought it might serve as a double-check or maybe inspiration for What To Pack. I also find it useful for shorter overnight hikes 🙂 I hope you do too!



During the day

We hiked in quick-dry trousers, borrowed gaitors (thank you!), quick-dry shirts, wide-brim hats, sunglasses, shoes-of-choice, well worn in and socks-of-choice, as new as possible.

We also borrowed 65-litre packs and carried:


  • Tent  and fly – we borrowed my sister’s which was around 2.5 kg
  • Sleeping bags and self-inflating mattresses
  • Rainbird rain jackets, in case of rain/wind
  • Thermals top and bottom, for cold nights
  • Spare underwear
  • Warm jacket/s
  • Thongs for wearing after you’ve taken your boots off at the end of the day
  • Hand trowel and loo paper
  • Rubbish bag/s
  • Cape to Cape Track maps (we also had the guidebook, but read it before leaving – too heavy to carry both ;-))
  • Cash and credit card (for all those flat whites and gourmet cafe meals!)
  • Pen and paper, because I can’t live without them 🙂


Cristy Burne on Cape to Cape6.jpg

Hat from K-mart, jacket by Rainbird, dinner cooked with gas!

  • Plastic mugs/plastic bowls/plastic sporks
  • Small chopping board/pocket knife
  • Water bottles (we used leakproof On The Fly Nalgene for sipping along the way; and old PET bottles for storing extra water in our packs)
  • Gas cooker, spare gas, matches, spare matches (we used my dad’s old gas cooker, which was way faster (and smaller and lighter) than our usual trangia)(the same cooker he used to cook for us when we were kids hiking in New Zealand!!)
  • Pot and spondoolie from the trangia

Menu items

  • Breakfast: Muesli/powdered milk premixed in ziplock bags
  • Lunch: Flatbread, cheese and salami
  • Dinner: Angelhair pasta with 2-minute noodle flavours mixed in (we loved laksa!)
  • Instant coffee premixed with powdered milk and sugar in a ziplock bag
  • Snacks: Loads of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, Carmen’s muesli bars…more chocolate 🙂
  • Soups: Freeze dried miso (super-light, from Coles)
Toe socks.jpg

Life = Changed. Toe socks, baby. They are totes recommended. These are Injinji


  • Sunscreen
  • Mozzie stuff
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste/lip balm
  • Fixomull and scissors (I think this was made by God)(Warning: it does wear off if you get your feet wet, so bring more than you think you need)
  • Stripped back first aid kit: panadol/bandages/antiseptic cream
  • Head torch and cute 9V battery torch
  • Our phones, on aeroplane mode to save batteries (we used them as cameras, in case of emergency, and to coordinate food drops/pack swaps)

How much water to pack for a day’s hike?

We carried enough PET bottles to have 4.5 litres of water each, and we only filled these for the two nights we were rough camping on the side of the track: we didn’t want to run short of water for cooking, breakfasting, coffeeing, drinking, possibly spilling, possibly finding an empty water tank, etc. (All the on-track water tanks were full and delicious!)

I tend to drink a lot of water, but even I found 4.5 litres was more than required. Still, better safe than dehydrated and sick 🙂 And we were only carrying this much for a couple of hours at the end of the day.

With this much water on board, our packs weighed around 16 kilograms, so we were travelling pretty light, especially after we started eating some of that yummy food.

Our itinerary

Click here to see our itinerary for the Cape to Cape hike.

Any other questions?

If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch and I’ll try to help. If you do give the track a go, I’d love to hear what you think 🙂

What do you pack?

What else do you pack? Do you have any life-changing breakthroughs or clever hiking hacks to share? Please do! We’d never hiked with Injinji socks or used Fixomull before this hike. I’m always up for having my mind blown by cool hiking gear ideas!

Please comment to share 🙂 And thank you!

Cristy Burne on Cape to Cape3.jpg

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One year anniversary of wreck discovery

SS Macumba_2_Credit Marine National Facility.jpg

Sonar pulses were used to map the 40-metre-deep wreck, showing its broken bow. Photo: CSIRO Marine National Facility

Last October, I was lucky enough to cover the thrilling discovery of a lost wreck. One year on, let’s revisit the events of that time…

On August 6, 1943, two Japanese airplanes attacked the SS Macumba, a 2500-tonne merchant ship in waters north of Arnhem Land.

The ship’s engine room was hit, three crewmen were killed, and the boat sank, disappearing into the ocean.

For seventy-four years, despite many searches, its final resting place was a mystery.

Then, in the dead of night on October 4 last year, the mystery was solved.

Wreck mystery solved

On October 3 2017, the crew onboard the CSIRO research boat Investigator was given just twelve hours to find the Macumba. The vessel was passing by the spot where the Macumba had last been seen, and though many previous searches had uncovered nothing, they wanted to give it another try…

The crew used sonar pulses to search the seafloor in a grid pattern. By studying how the pulses bounced back to the top, the team could work out what might be on the ocean’s bottom.

After ten hours of searching, they spotted some “unusual” features. The ship turned for another look.


Shark about to attack dropcam_Credit CSIRO.png

A specialised drop camera was used to photograph the wreck—and this resident reef shark.  Photo: CSIRO Marine National Facility

Midnight success


“It was very early in the morning, about 1 am, so everyone was very tired,” says Hugh Barker, voyage manager onboard Investigator. “As soon as [the wreck] appeared on our screens, everyone was celebrating. It was quite special to be the first to see the Macumba in 74 years.”

The team used sonar to map the wreck, which was 40 metres down. They also dropped a camera to photograph it. They discovered the wreck was teeming with life, including “an inquisitive reef shark that seemed to be guarding the site,” Mr Barker says.

The wreck will now be protected as a historic shipwreck.

Frozen in time

Shipwrecks are like time capsules, says Dr Ross Anderson, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum.

“Everything on a shipwreck is frozen in an exact moment of time,” he says. “Shipwrecks, like all archaeological sites and heritage places, are tangible links to our past.”

Dr Anderson’s favourite wrecks are the HMAS Pandora, which ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, and the Batavia, Australia’s second earliest shipwreck, which was wrecked off Western Australia in 1629.

Items discovered on both wrecks help us understand how people lived hundreds of years ago.

And there’s still treasure to be found. “There are still many ships lost that were carrying bullion [like precious metals and coins] and other high value cargoes,” he says.

CSIRO research vessel Investigator_Credit CSIRO.jpg

CSIRO’s research vessel Investigator solved the 74-year-old mystery last year. Photo: CSIRO

Searching for treasure

Finding a wreck can be low-tech or high-tech. The divers who re-discovered the Batavia were shown where to look by a crayfisherman who’d spotted the curve of a giant anchor deep in the water.

The Pandora was re-discovered using a magnetometer, which measures changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. In this way, metal objects such as anchors and cannons often help us find lost wrecks, Dr Anderson says.

Other times, colour can point the way. If you’re keen on discovering sunken treasure, keep your eyes peeled for the green of tarnished copper, or the black of crusted silver.

This article first appeared in Crinkling News.


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Yeee ha! I’m jumping aboard Russ the Story Bus this year. Hope you can too!

I’m thilled to announce that I’ll be part of this year’s super-fun Russ the Story Bus lineup of children’s book creators…

This will be the second time I have toured regional New South Wales with an enormous automobile for company.

My first vehicular love was the Shell Questacon Science Circus semitrailer

…but perhaps this incredible bus can bust that record!


Stupedenous artwork by Sophie Beer, image by Prudence Upton

Part-library, part-artwork, part-stage and departing this week, Russ the Story Bus will tour schools in Greater Western Sydney, North Coast Regional and the ACT right through till mid-December.

Also touring with Russ, just to hold his metaphorical hand, if not steer his literal wheels, are Sophie Beer, who created the amazing artwork that adorns Russ’ sides, and a bunch of other fabulous children’s book authors and illustrators that make me swoon and wish I could stowaway for the whole tour:

Nicki Greenberg, Sandy Fussell, Jeremy Lachlan, Rebecca McRitchie, Martine Murray, Yvette Poshoglian and Damon Young….

And me!

We’ll be bringing stories, adventures, excitement, creativity and fun…and a whole bus-load of fabulous storybooks and children’s novels.

I’ll be touring for just one week of this epic journey – from November 26 to November 30 – and I can’t wait!

There’s more information on booking a visit for your school here. But you’ll have to be quick. This is Russ’ fifth year of touring, so if you miss out in 2018, try again for 2019.

And if you’ve been lucky enough to snag a booking—HAVE A BALL!

I hope to see you bus-side very soon!


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Kid power: walking for Telethon

This weekend is Telethon 2018! The perfect time to reprint this inspiring story about Scott Guerini, an ordinary kid who raises thousands of dollars every year for WA’s favourite fundraiser.

Marathon fundraiser

By Cristy Burne

Scott aged 4.jpg

Scott was four when he started fundraising for Telethon.

In July 2017, Scott Guerini finished his fourth fundraising marathon, launched his own book, and won a grant to inspire more kids to make a difference in the world.

“I’ve got my own motto,” Scott explains. “‘It’s easy to make a difference, what can you do?’”

Scott was four when he learned about fundraising in kindy. “It got me thinking, and the hardest thing I could think of was to walk into town from our farm, so I did,” he explains.

He’s since raised over $125,000 for Telethon, a Western Australian charity that pays for research into children’s diseases.

Are we there yet?

The walk from Scott’s farm to the town of Southern Cross, WA, is 25 km. As a four-year-old, he had to ask his parents every morning for two weeks before they’d let him try.

Scott’s mum, Nicole Guerini, remembers: “We said ‘no, it’s too far, you’re too little.’ It seemed like a really crazy idea, but he was really passionate about it.”

When they eventually said yes, Scott was ready. He finished the walk in eight hours and forty minutes, raising over $3000 for Telethon.

Scott has since completed a fundraising walk every year. He’s now 12, and finished his fourth marathon (42.195 km) on 15 July 2017, with a personal best time of eight hours and 45 minutes.

“My favourite marathon was when my little brother Damien walked it with me,” he says.

What’s it like to walk that far? “It’s painful, it’s also very painful,” Scott jokes. “It’s really a mental challenge.” Scott says knowing he’s helping sick kids and babies keeps him going.

Making a difference

Scott signing books at the launch.JPG

Scott hopes to raise more money from sales of his book, Did you know you can change the world, which was launched on 26 July 2017. Scott started writing and illustrating the book in January, but it became reality after Scott received an unexpected phone call from Terry and Dixie Prindiville.

Scott says: “I’d been talking about what I was doing on the radio, and they were listening. They just rang us up and said they wanted to help.”

The Prindivilles donated the money for Scott’s book to be printed, “so all proceeds from book sales can go directly to Telethon,” he explains.

Scott designed his book to be interactive and inspiring. “I deliberately chose non-glossy paper, so people can write in their own ideas.”

Spreading the word

In 2017 Scott won a $5,700 grant to run interactive workshops for kids in the October school holidays. Each workshop used Scott’s book to inspire participants to create an artwork about how they can change the world.

Mrs Guerini encourages other parents to let their children try “crazy” fundraising ideas.

“It’s led to this snowball effect,” she says. “That kind of money [$125,000] can create a real difference.”

This article first appeared in Crinkling News.

Thanks to Scott’s Great Walk for the photos–and the inspiration.