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Trace Balla

Author, Illustrator, Inspirational Speaker

Trace Balla loves to illustrate and write songs and stories, and inspire others in their creativity and awareness of the wonders of the natural world and the ample stories that surround us.

Her multi award winning books include Rockhopping, Rivertime, Shine and The Thank You Dish. Themes include gratitude, grief, slowing down, growing up, connecting with the land and its’ creatures, the joy of the outdoors and the lessons nature can teach us. She is currently working very slowly on a graphic novella set in central Victoria where she lives.

In 2020 Trace brought out two new books:
These titles are available in discounted bulk orders as an ebook, with teacher notes and activities. To learn more, you can visit

Trace enjoys visiting schools, festivals and community centres to inspire people of all ages and abilities with slide show talks as well as workshops. These include nature journaling, making graphic novels, mini books and story catching. Talks and workshops can be tailored to the group’s interests.

Where were you born?

Melbourne, the big city, on a very hot day.

What other jobs have you had?

I have a background in illustration animation, community arts, art therapy and have taught and facilitated many creative workshops such as bookmaking, literary therapy,  sketching in nature, basket-making, doll-making, animation, design.

What themes are recurring in your

Environmental themes and matters of the heart and soul.

What have been the highlights of your career?

What I love most is to inspire others’ creativity and love and care about nature. Creating “Rivertime” has been a milestone as I have made so many self published books and illustrated for others, but this is my first book of words and images with a publishing company. It’s in a lot of schools now, which feels great to know that plenty of kids get to share the experience I had on the river that inspired the book. Some of my animations have been highlights. The Earlybird, about the joy of commuting on a bike, won the environmental film award at the human rights film festival. I wrote the lyrics for The Trusty Rusty Bike which won kids’ song of the year, and I love hearing kids sing that song on their bike. It was even made into a school musical! Letters to Faraway Friends and Lilly and the Yellow Cake were two of the favourite animations I’ve made.

If you were a bird which would you be and why?

Oh, too many choices. Maybe a Great Crested Grebe, they look a bit wacky and they love to swim… and sometimes I’m a bit of a galah!
Or maybe one of those Bowerbirds, I’m a hopeless collector of junk.

Haven’t I seen you before?

Maybe spinning past on my bike, singing some song I forget half the
words of, or with my head buried in a book in the kids section of the library, or even up a tree!

In 2015 Rivertime has been short-listed as follows:

Winner, Readings Children’s Book Prize, 2015
Commended, CBCA Awards, Picture Book , 2015
Short-listed, CBCA Awards, Picture Book, 2015
Short-listed, CBCA Awards, Crichton Award for New Illustrators, 2015
Short-listed, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature, 2015
Winner, The Wilderness Society’s Environmental Award for Children’s Literature, Picture Fiction category, 2015

In 2017 Rockhopping has been short-listed as follows:

Winner, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017.
Short-listed, Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards – 8 to 10, 2016.

Also available –  Teachers’ Notes – Rivertime and Teachers’ Review – Shine


Trace spoke to three different groups of students: p-2, 3/4, and 5/6. Each group listened quietly and attentively. They were very engaged in her stories and photos. Students responded really well to Trace’s quiet, calm manner. She held the groups of 100 students at a time terrifically.

It was great having Trace speak. I think the students really enjoyed and benefited from meeting an author whose books they have enjoyed.

—J. Spencer, Preston North East Primary School, August 2017

Trace had such a lovely calm approach, that simply washed over our kids. They were captivated by her research and felt connected to the experiences that she shared. Having explored and created graphic texts themselves, our kids were particularly interested in Trace’s approach to planning. It was incredibly powerful to see how she transformed her own experiences into a most wonderful, detailed Australian story, Rivertime.

—N. Arnold, Literacy Coach, Yarraville West Primary School, September 2015

We were so happy to claim Trace as a ‘local’ following the shortlisting of her book ‘Rivertime’.
Trace visited us during Children’s Book Week and provided warm, engaging and inspiring sessions to senior primary school children.
Her vast array of beautiful images and sketches greatly added to the experience with both girls and boys alike asking many telling questions.

—T. Higgs, Bendigo Library, August 2015

Interesting and motivating session. Tracy built confidence and boldness… with her use of black ink.
Insightful slideshow… her positive attitude inspired me to pick up a paintbrush again!

—Participants in adult botanical drawing class, Horsham, Vic, June 2015

Absolutely brilliant and inspiring Trace! Your innovative approach to storyline cartoon childlike drawings – delightful – all credit to you! You managed to incorporate so much of this beautiful bush-area – the ecology, the indigenous culture, the unique flora and fauna – schools should welcome and treasure your material as it is an excellent springboard (of which you have obviously done so much genuine research,) authentic approach so wonderful!! Keep up the good work. – Trish retired primary teacher

—Trish, retired primary teacher, Horsham, Victoria, June 2015
You were absolutely amazing. The participants were completely engrossed. Hats off to you for taking such diverse ideas and putting them together. Thank you for a delightful morning of illustrating. Your session brought much joy to all of us.
—S. Roy, Bookaroo Festival of Children's Literature, India (online zoom cartooning session), June 2021

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