'This book exists to remind us who we are' - Emily Child, author of 'Listen to Your Diddalum'

04 June 2020 - 10:56 By emily child

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 OK with being a little all-over-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 calibre.

 This book exists to remind us who we are without all the fake, scary, competitive stuff.

If in doubt ... Diddalum!