Jean Erica Sherlock Lycett was born on February 15, 1926 in Sydney, the youngest of the three daughters of George Lycett and his wife, Margaret (nee MacLean). She went to Fort Street girls school on Observatory Hill, and had her first story, about a sick cow, published in the children's section of a Sunday newspaper when she was only 12.
After finishing high school, she went to business college to learn touch typing, which was useful when she became a writer. Then she enrolled in the National Art School.
She met Max Chapman on a blind date and they were married after World War II. They scrimped and saved to buy a block of land in Seaforth, where they built a house.
Chapman wrote ceaselessly, and her writing career took off when she began writing for the ABC's Kindergarten of the Air.
Her imaginative stories were so successful that Chapman was offered a place at the ABC's scriptwriting school, graduating in 1960, when she began working on Playschool, Let's Join In and Kindergarten of the Air. She was a scriptwriter for the ABC's children's programs for 25 years.
Chapman also began approaching children's publishers. Some early successes were followed by a long-standing association with Hodder & Stoughton (Australia). In the 1970s, it published Tell Me A Tale, a collection of stories, rhymes, songs and activities illustrated by Deborah and Kilmeny Niland, the twin daughters of the authors Ruth Park and D'Arcy Niland.
The hugely successful book was followed by Tell Me Another Tale and themed collections such as Pancakes and Painted Eggs and the Sugar Plum Christmas Book.
Chapman published 63 books in total and won several awards for children's literature.
Children and children's books were Chapman's life's work. She frequently visited schools and libraries to speak to her readers. She was a tireless worker for the Children's Book Council of Australia's NSW branch, was made a life member and was awarded the council's Lady Cutler Award for her contribution to children's literature.
She was also a member of the group that fought and won the battle to save Nutcote, the home of her fellow children's author, May Gibbs, in Neutral Bay.
In addition to her busy life as a writer, Chapman supported Max in his passion for veteran cars. They frequently travelled together on motoring trips and were active in the Veteran Car Club.
The pair travelled the world and she always had to visit children's book sites, including Hans Christian Andersen's house in Denmark and Beatrix Potter's house in England.
Jean Chapman is survived by Max, their children Gregory and Louise, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Her seventh great-grandchild is due in October and Chapman had already knitted and sewn pieces for the baby's layette.