The Storyteller, Andrew Pratley

Emerald Beach local Andrew Pratley is a full-time primary teacher and father of five (with children aged 5 to 21). Away from the classroom, he loves to draw, paint and play the guitar, bass, harmonica, mandolin, drums, didgeridoo and ukulele. Oh yes, and he surfs whenever he can. All of this begs the question, how has he found time to publish his first children’s book?

“I’ve done it over a long while – little bits and pieces at a time and so now, to hold the finished product in my hands feels very rewarding. It motivates me for the next book.” Empty tells the story of a little girl who feels forlorn and alone. She embarks on a journey and discovers haunting and beautiful music that leads her to friendship. Shared joy and companionship bring about her purpose and fulfilment.

And while it was never his intention, all of the things Andy cares most about have become a part of Empty: relationships, children, music, the ocean and the beauty of the north coast (in addition to the beautiful illustrations in the book, drawings of the South Solitary Island Lighthouse line the inside front and back covers).

The Pratley Family
The Pratley Family by Erin Holliday from Hello Coco Studio

Andy is certainly well-equipped to connect with young readers, having engaged kids for years now – not only in the classroom but on screen too. Sure, a group of young teachers in coloured skivvies took over the world of children’s entertainment in their big red car but The Bunyips, which Andy was a part of many years ago, also had their time in the sun.

Andy has always loved coming up with silly songs and rhymes and finds them helpful in the classroom to engage kids. He believes it makes learning more fun and helps students remember things.

“Variety is the spice of life and it’s important to find something that sparks a child’s imagination. It’s an old fashioned tool that still works. If kids feel inspired and can see the point of wanting to learn, the path becomes much easier for them.”

Teacher, father, author, muso, artist, surfer. It seems variety keeps life interesting for Andy too. “I’m certainly not the greatest artist or musician or author but I like having a go and dabbling in different artistic ventures. I always encourage our five children to do the same.”

Andy explains to me his need to create and says he really misses it when there are lapses between creative endeavours. “Creativity brings me joy. I’ve been writing stories for years – this one just happens to have been published. It’s something I’ll continue to do and if I can bring joy or insight or happiness to someone else then that’s a bonus.”

Naturally, there are already ideas bubbling away for the next book and without giving too much away, expect themes of community, mixed families and multiculturalism to play a part. This lovely north coast family of seven is bursting with talent, and paintbrushes and musical instruments are always within easy reach. Andrew’s eldest son Toby is channelling his own artistic ability by making surfboards.

Empty by Andrew Pratley

Hopefully Toby’s busy working on a great new design for his dad given that surfing is Andy’s favourite way in the world to unwind. If only he could get out there more. As we wrap up our chat, he echoes the sentiments of many a surfer before him, “There’s always one more wave to catch.”

Find Andrew on Instagram & on Facebook. Empty is available now.

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