story, science, technology and creativity

Fiona Wood: Inventor of spray-on skin

Fiona Wood cover 3D


The true story of Dr Fiona Wood’s childhood, early life and career.

Written by Cristy Burne

Published by Wild Dingo Press, 1 September 2020

ISBN: 9781925893281 (paperback)

About the book

– SHORTLISTED 2021 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards
– SHORTLISTED 2020 Australian Book Design Awards

An authorised biography of burns surgeon, inventor and Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Wood, written especially for ages 10+. An inspiring true story of spirit and stamina, generosity and courage. Narrative non-fiction. Part of the Aussie STEM Stars series.

This is engaging and inspiring narrative non-fiction for kids (and their adults – I think everyone should read this book!). It’s a book that inspires kids to be their best!

Sneak a peek at the first pages

Teaching notes and activity ideas for Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin

How I worked with Fiona to tell her story

1962 ish“There’s no point sending Fiona to university”

The daughter of fifth generation Yorkshire coal miners, Fiona Wood learned early the value of hard work.  But she is just as likely to be found with her fists up in the playground as with her head down in a book.

Encouraged by her parents to tackle everything from ballet to athletics, Fiona grew up tough, relying on her family, her nerve and her unwavering faith in the value of hard work. Teased by others for wanting more than her tiny Yorkshire village could offer, Fiona always felt different. 

But, inspired by her brothers, and powered by her parent’s sacrifice, Fiona never stopped working, never stopped striving for better, for more, for the chance to do her best if the opportunity ever arose.

Part rebel, part role model, Fiona has one vital thing in her favour: no one can tell her what she can and can’t do. If she sees a problem, she stands up to do something about it. She doesn’t let anything stand in her way, not bullies, not prejudice, not power, not fear. Over and again she proves her tenacity by standing up for what she believes in and what she knows to be right.

Aust Day 2005 134 (3)

The path Fiona chooses isn’t often easy, but it is the path towards her dreams, towards doing what is right and living her best life.

 From defending the weak and fixing the broken to fighting for her chance to become a medical student and work as a surgeon, Fiona’s story shows us the value of daring, hard work and courage to do what is right.

Hear Cristy read a free sample – As featured on ABC’s The Science Show with Robyn Williams.

Interview about the book on Alphabet Soup magazine.

Fiona with bookTeaching notes for Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin

Buy a signed and personalised copy

Order a copy from Crow Books  or Paper Bird and ask their friendly staff about arranging for me to personally sign and dedicate your copy to that special person.

Buy local

Chapter illustrationBuy online

Wild Dingo Press

Booktopia (Australia/NZ)
Angus & Robertson
Book Depository (UK)


“After reading your books and falling in love with Fiona Wood, [A] has been inspired and written her own Fiona Wood biography and has her Fiona Wood outfit all planned out for book week. So good to have inspiring role models for our girls.” Parent

“Biographer Cristy Burne takes us on a fascinating journey through Wood’s childhood and ongoing gender discrimination, her fight for a chance to study medicine, and the challenges she later faced as a surgeon…  This is an inspiring story for ages 10+ about standing up for what’s right and the power of persistence.” Writing WA

“[My child] read your book and honestly couldn’t put it down! She even took it to school to finish it because she couldn’t fathom the thought of not finishing it that day.” Parent

Australian of the Year“My favourite part about this story is that Fiona works hard on a study and she doesn’t give up because it reminds me that even if I have a bit of trouble with my sport in school, I don’t start giving up.

I still haven’t given up yet! Now what are you waiting for? Go read this outstanding book! I hope you enjoy this book!” Kobe, 9, Alphabet Soup Magazine

“Cristy Burne brings Fiona’s story to life, giving the reader insight into her childhood, celebrating her success and exploring the struggles and prejudice she faced throughout her professional career… Burne’s treatment of Fiona’s story balances the personal and the factual, making it accessible, while Fiona’s love of invention and discovery and her can-do attitude make her a strong role model, opening up a world of possibilities to young people. Perfect for a 10–13 readership” Books+Publishing

“Here’s the Thing: believe me when I say I am someone who has almost ZERO interest in science, I prefer Astrology to Astronomy, that sort of person. I sat down to read one chapter and ended up reading half of it. I finished it in two sittings.

The Review: I would best describe @cristyburne style as easy and engaging and full of emotion! Page 7 and I’m so invested I’m ready to bawl my eyes out! I just wanted to know everything about Fiona Wood. The story was so inspiring and so humanistic I forgot my aversion to science.

The Verdict: what a valuable resource for schools to have! I can’t wait to read the whole series, each one about a living Australian Star of STEM.”  @ShirleyonMarrs


“Fiona Wood was never afraid of bullies as a child and always protected others. Her story of fearlessness and self determination is conveyed beautifully by Cristy Burne… As momentum builds through a series of challenges, set backs and ground breaking achievements, we are left awe struck by Fiona Wood’s pioneering spirit. I couldn’t put this book down, hence my still being awake right now.

This true story gives detailed insight into how spray on skin was created, and how the power of positivity makes dreams come true and changes lives. There are some necessary tough moments to learn about in order to get the full story, but the author uses these moments to take us into Fiona Wood’s inner world where we learn how her willpower and self belief is to this day still saving lives.

There really are some very good people who come out fighting for a better world no matter the odds. Young readers will undoubtedly be just as enthralled, inspired and entertained as I was.” Simone Keane

page 1“Burne’s carefully researched biography of Fiona Wood is relayed to middle primary to lower secondary readers via an engaging text that celebrates the life and work of Fiona Wood…It is a story that transcends the factual in the ongoing history of plastic surgery.

Burne never talks down to her readers whilst delivering a clear introduction to her subject, keeping in mind the complexities that need to be addressed. This book should be in every school and public library as Burne goes where few writers do as it celebrates the advances of science and medicine.” Rayma Turton, Magpies magazine

A fantastic series that ticks all the boxes for both classroom teachers and teacher librarians, the Aussie STEM Stars series reveal the true heroes of the Australian scientific community using narrative non-fiction to enthral and educate its readers.

One of the first titles to be released, Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin written by Perth author and science communicator Christy Burne, tells the incredible story of a girl who dreamt of making a difference.

Her childhood set amongst the coal dust of Yorkshire with parents who worked hard to instil in their children the importance of doing their very best – grasp the nettle with both hands and don’t let go – and then her struggle with being a woman and mother in a male ego driven career, is a story worth reading.

There are times when significant events are glossed over, but I imagine that Fiona Wood’s life would be worthy of volumes. The events and aftermath of the Bali bombings are written in a compelling manner and young readers will be caught up in the action and despair of all those involved.

Fiona Wood is shown to be a woman of compassion, intelligence and strength. Her childhood fighting school bullies and the small-mindedness of many in her community provided a perfect apprenticeship for what lay ahead for her.

Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin will not only appeal to young girls dreaming of a life in science but also any reader who enjoys reading a story about a life filled with determination, adventure and compassion.

Heather Zubek

Cristy Burne Double Helix Fiona Wood Aussie STEM Stars reviewFiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-On Skin is a fascinating read. It’s about the plastic surgeon, Fiona Wood, and how she invented spray-on skin. She was awarded Australian of the Year in 2005.

This book gives you an insight into the life of a plastic surgeon, the work they do and how they do it. It’s incredible stuff! I learnt how some surgeries can take 10 hours to complete. That blew my mind!

Also, did you know that when operating on a burns patient, the operating theatre needs to be 32 degrees Celsius, because a burnt body can’t regulate its own temperature? That would be really hot for the surgeons and nurses.

From her childhood to her becoming a surgeon, this book takes you through each step of Fiona’s life. It will leave you amazed at how the daughter of a coal miner  became a famous surgeon, which proves that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

I really enjoyed this book. However, some of it is a little bit heavy. So, I recommend this book for readers aged 12 and over. 5 stars.

By Lana Goodall, kid reviewer for Double Helix magazine

‘This very interesting and well-written story makes compelling reading either independently or as a class novel. There are detailed teacher notes. There are also another four books in the Aussie Stem Stars series with more to be published in the future. Perfect for a school or public library.’ ReadPlus

Support the Fiona Wood Foundation

The Fiona Wood Foundation is dedicated to improving outcomes for people with burns. For more information or to help support the Fiona Wood Foundation’s life-saving work, please visit

Burns first aid

If you or one of your friends is burned, you can help by knowing what to do:

In a fire

Stop, drop and roll: Drop to the ground, cover your face, and roll away from the flames.

Five steps of burns first aid

For any type of burn injury:

  1. Remove wet clothing and constrictive jewellery.
  2. Cool the injury for 20 minutes under cold running water*.
  3. Cover the injury loosely with a clean wet cloth or towel.
  4. Keep the patient warm. (“Cool the burn, warm the patient“).
  5. Seek medical assistance.

*No cool running water? Wet two cloths and place them on the burn, alternating every two minutes.

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