Irena Kobald was born in Austria and has a master's degree in Russian. By the time she came to Australia at the age of 26, she had picked up English while living in other countries.
She has worked in a wide range of remote schools in the Northern Territory, taught German in Queensland high schools and English as a Second Language to both adults and children, so her understanding of how language is acquired is both personal and technical, experiential and academic.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
My Two Blankets includes the themes of friendship, family, feelings, cultural diversity, integration, and social issues, to name a few. It succinctly describes what it feels like having to learn a new language. While the book falls into the category of a 'children’s book’, adults also find it highly inspiring due to its underlying messages of change, adaptation, loneliness, resilience, and rebuilding your identity in a ‘strange’ or new environment.
My Two Blankets was the 2015 Australian Book Council Picture Book of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, received a 'starred’ review for the Kirkus Prize (U.S.) and was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review (23/08/2015). Irena has completed over 250 presentations with My Two Blankets in 9 countries and 3 languages. While this is a great achievement, Irena considers this a 'work in progress'.
Irena's second book, The Dream Peddler, is a very personal story about a young man's battle with drug addiction.
'Remember when you held your baby for the first time? Remember the wishes and dreams you had for that baby? Every parent, no matter whether rich or poor, black or white, has those dreams.
Sometimes, no matter how hard parents try, these dreams do not work out because your baby, your child, is lured away from all you gave him or her by a peddler of very different dreams.
These dreams turn very quickly into nightmares. A seemingly never-ending nightmare that destroys everything that you once held dear and believed in. When this nightmare becomes reality, the only thing you can’t afford to lose is hope.'
Where Happinesss Hides
Taking part of a very special project, Irena was delighted to lend her knowledge and expertise into helping author Anthony Bertini and publishing house Dirt Lane Press translate their new book “Where Happiness Hides” into German. Available in over 35 different languages “Where Happiness Hides” is a story that captures child-like imagination on a journey through the things we need to hold on to in tough times – happiness, curiosity, resilience and hope. Check out Dirt Lane Press' website for more information on this heart-warming book.
“Irena worked with the Art Teachers and students across Year 7 to 12 presenting her ideas about bio-art. She was able to take the students on a journey, discovering their local environment, enabling them to create art from found objects within school grounds; ie. flowers and leaves.
These artworks were created in the school grounds and became ‘sacred spaces’ where other students could enjoy them. As part of our NAIDOC celebrations, Irena and a group of students created a heart labyrinth made of camellia flowers. Nearly a week later, the labyrinth was still intact and students went to walk in it. Irena is a wonderful woman. At all times she was cooperative and willing to contribute her time and talent in service for others. Her attitude and presentation were always first class. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Irena as an artist-in-residence.”
Ms Julieanne Rasmussen, Assistant Principal - St Joseph's College, Toowoomba.
”Exploring techniques with flora from within the local environment, Irena engaged our students in the creation of wreaths to commemorate ANZAC Day. Our students experimented with aesthetic design using buds, seed pods, nuts and flowers while our teachers learnt how to enrich contexts and embed visual arts in and across the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum. Thank you Irena, for engaging our students in this respectful acknowledgment of ANZAC Day in such a beautifully unique mode.”
Ms Gail Williams, Deputy Principal - Clifford Park Special School, Toowoomba.
“Irena opened the students’ eyes to the possibilities of creativity that Nature provides. Instead of seeing very little other than plants and trees, Irena led them through the journey of seeing what could be found in the leaf litter, often in abundance. These available items became the media pieces of bio-art. The creative ideas and processes, guided and developed, led to inspired pieces. The final part to the process, to walk away and leave the art work behind, was, perhaps, the biggest challenge to students; impermanence in a culture of ownership.”
Mr Chris Fitzpatrick, Teacher-Librarian - St Joseph's College, Toowoomba.