Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Lift the flap and discover a magical staircase

Jennie has recently returned from her travels and some wonderful book and bookshop experiences. Join her adventures at La Alhambra in Granada and the Livrario Lello in Porto.

First up, the bookshop industry is alive and very healthy in southern Europe. A similar situation was reported on my last sojourn ('Spot'light on Italy) and we visited many bookshops on my recent trip to southern Spain and Portugal. Spanish tourist publications for children were of particular note - with books on major sites translated into different languages with highly engaging formats, illustrations and information for children (and elders :-) to buy as a memento to take home.

View of Sierra Nevada from La Alhanbra
A visit to the breathtakingly beautiful La Alhambra, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Granada in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (snowcapped) mountains shaped our itinerary for Andalucia and we were very impressed with the range of books on this historic site, and couldn't resist a lift the flap version to
add to the oh-so-small suitcase. 📕
Double page spread of
La Alcazaba (the fortress)

A visit to the Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, ranked as one of the top ten bookstores in the world, was an amazing experience in all ways. First up, you can't just walk in - there are too many people. Head next door to buy a ticket, leave your bag in a locker and then queue for entry. Fight your way through the crowds to look at books and.... climb the magical staircase. Famed for inspiring J. K. Rowling in her design of the moving staircase in
Hogwarts. But don't be fooled - this beautiful staircase is not wooden, but made of plaster and carefully hand coloured and painted to look like wood - I got the inside story during a visit to the Palacia da Bolsa where plaster is used to simulate wood, marble and stonework - very convincingly. This is an age-old Portuguese craft.

But I meander - a picture or two is worth a thousand words. Check out the staircase, stained glass ceiling and the people!

And in spite of the crowds, the service was superb. The Lello bookshop could not meet my search for a Portuguese edition of Spot, (stay tuned for that story later in the year) but they had many other translations of quality writers in the field - Australian, English and American. The sales assistant  morphed into a manager and we discussed the local trade and she shared a number of works from Portuguese writers and illustrators including some award winners from recent Bologna trade fairs. Her favourite was Ana Luisa Carapinheiro and there is an interesting interview to read to find out about this young and successful Portuguese author.

Every bookshop we entered had a children's section, some  extremely large and decked out as engaging reading spaces with sunken floors and bright colours. Most had the typical cheaper productions of fairy tales and classics and series fiction targeting primary age students, but there was always more - in English and Portuguese - displayed appealingly and begging to be read. The morbid, macabre and dangerous themes are just as popular with teen readers as they are in Australia.

One reason for the fairytales was the fact that Hans Christian Andersen frequented Andalucia and there is a very 'serious' bronze statue in Malaga - with a cheeky ugly duckling peeking out of his briefcase.

Jennie Bales
Dabbles in books, blogs and book depositories (AKA libraries)

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Non Stereotypical Children’s Literature

This week Felicity delves into literature that explores differences, from behavioural and physical, to more topical issues around gender identity. There is certainly a book to fit every reader.

In the past, non-stereotypical children’s literature was most likely to be focused on behaviours or physical characteristics associated with males and females: think The Story of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf/Robert Lawson), The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch/Michael Martchenko) and Crusher is Coming (Bob Graham).

In recent times, the above focus remains, but books about gender stereotypes are becoming more mainstream. It’s hard to believe that it is ten years since And Tango Makes Three (Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell/Henry Cole) about two male penguins, in the New York City Central Park Zoo, who hatched and raised a chick, was published and created a media storm. Red: A crayon’s story (Michael Hall) is also about identity: a blue crayon with a red label that struggles to meet expectations, until being given the permission to be himself.

The Rainbow Book List has been published since 2008. A committee consisting of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) and the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) of the American Library Association (ALA) review titles published in the previous 18 months, and select “quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through to eighteen years of age.” (Rainbow Book List, 2018). This provides a good source of books to inform your reading journey.

Many books in this genre (assuming this is an inclusive word to use in this context) have been written by a person with a close association with a gender diverse family member. Alex Gino, one such author, wrote George, the book that as a child, she would like to have been able to read. Carolyn Mackler, a young-adult novelist who lives in Manhattan, gave a copy of George to her 10-year-old son to read. She told him that it was about a transgender child and explained what that meant. After he read it, she asked him what he thought. “I said, ‘If you met George, would you be friends with him?’ ” she recalled. “And he said, ‘Mom, it’s her, and I would be friends with her if she was nice’.”

In the same article, Sam Martin says; “I never saw people like me in movies or books.” (Alter, 2018) These sentiments are echoed by Hannah Gadsby in Nanette (Netflix) when she talks about the introduction to ‘her people’ being the Mardi Gras, and them being ‘busy’. Readers deserve a greater range of gender diverse characters to illustrate what it is to be non-cisgender in our 21st Century world.

You probably have titles on your bookshelves, with gender diverse characters, existing alongside cisgender characters: Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chobsky) and Better Nate than Ever (Tim Federle).
Australian titles you may wish to explore are The Gender Fairy and A House for Everyone by Jo Hirst, where pronouns such as he, she and they are used, dependent on how the child identifies.

Alter, A. (2018). Transgenderchildren’s books fill a void and break a taboo. NYtimes.com.
Rainbow Book List. (2018). Rainbow Book Lists

Feleicty Sly
Teacher Librarian at Don College, Devonport and Treasurer of CBCA Tasmania.

Editor's note: Similar to Rainbow book lists, Australian LGBTQYA covers Australian transgender publications for teenagers.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Schoolwide Daily Reading

An exemplary model of practice in the essential teaching of and exposure to reading in both primary and secondary school, and sources of inspiration in keeping reading ever fresh and new…

 Learning to read is a fundamental part of every child’s education, but helping children develop a desire to read and laying the foundations of a life-long reading habit are arguably just as important. As Ray Bradbury is often quoted as saying “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” (Brainyquotes 2018)

So how do we encourage our students to read because they want to, not because they’re forced to?

One strategy is to allow them, within reason, to read what they want to. Stephen Krashen and Joanne Ujuiie (2005) tell us “Junk food is bad for you. Junk reading is good for you”, and Krashen (2015, p. 2) makes a compelling case that “Free voluntary… self-selected reading, generally fiction, of material of great interest to the reader...does not bring the reader to the highest levels of literacy development, but it provides the competence and knowledge that makes reading at the next stage more comprehensible.”

Another way is to help them see what choices they have by keeping books and reading visible. We can immerse them in a print-rich environment, hold book-related events and celebrations, host author visits, promote different genres, regularly read aloud to them, and make book reviews and recommendations easy to find.

The third element, of vital importance, is giving them time to read for pleasure, by ensuring that a class-based, sustained silent reading time is included as an essential part of every school day. Jim Trelease (2013), author of the bestselling Read Aloud Handbook, highlights the value of volume in the reading equation (p. 27). “The more you read, the better you get, the better you get, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it”.

We can be vocal in highlighting the importance of daily sustained silent reading in developing the next generation of readers and deep thinkers. We can strive to provide our students with as large and wide a range of reading resources as our budgets will allow. We can help keep class teachers up-to-date on what is available so they can use their knowledge of individual students’ interests to match them with books they are most likely to want to read. We can let our students see how much we value reading by sitting and reading our own book alongside them.

In the High School at The Friends’ School, our English Faculty teachers have committed to starting every English class with 15 - 20 minutes of silent reading.  Students choose their own book or magazine and have settled in well to this quiet start to their lessons.

In our Primary School, every Prep - Year 6 class spends 15-20 minutes each day on silent reading, at a time of the teacher’s choice. In most cases and within reason, students are allowed to read what they want - fiction picture books, novels, ebooks, non-fiction, magazines, comics etc. In some classes each student has a book box with a range of self-selected reading materials that they choose from each day. Other classes have a wide range of library materials and books from the teacher’s own collection in the classroom, and in every class, students also have access to the books they have borrowed in their library lesson or books they have brought from home.

Thanks for reading our thoughts.

Sharon Molnar and Katie Stanley
(Teacher Librarians, The Friends’ School)


Brainyquotes.com n.d., Ray Bradbury Quotes, accessed 23 June 2018

Krashen, S & Ujiie, J 2005, ‘Junk food is bad for you but junk reading is good for you’, International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, vol. 1, no. 3, Summer 2005, accessed 23 June 2018,

Krashen, S 2015, ‘Fact or fiction? The plot thickens’, Language Magazine, vol. 15, no. 3, 1 November 2015, accessed 23 June 2018

Trelease, J 2013, The Read-Aloud Handbook, 7th edn, Penguin, New York. (latest edition)

You might like to read these:

Carr, N 2011, The Shallows – What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, W. W. Norton & Company, New York.

Krashen, S, Lee, S & Lao, C 2018, Comprehensible and compelling: the causes and effects of free voluntary reading, Libraries Unlimited, Santa Barbara, USA.

Miller, D 2009, The book whisperer: awakening the inner reader in every child, Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

Miller, D & Kelley, S 2014, Reading in the wild: the book whisperer's keys to cultivating lifelong reading habits, Jossey Bass, San Francisco.

Ross, K, Mckechnie, L & Rothbauer, P 2006, Reading matters, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, USA.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Humour and the Modern Teenager

This week Leanne Rands looks at the lighter side of Young Adult fiction, in Humour and the Modern Teenager from three different perspectives …

Humour can help teenagers navigate life, which is not always easy, simple, or straight-forward. Books that reflect this struggle can indirectly support teenagers as they come to terms with the sensitive issues that concern them, especially those that are too emotionally stressful to deal with directly.
Teenagers enjoy stories that involve sarcasm and sexual references, as nothing is sacred when enjoying a good laugh found in a book. In fiction as in real life, humour can provide the glue for maintaining and developing friendships, empathising with people who live other lives, and providing the opportunity to be honest and outrageous together. The most popular stories reflect the accurate observations of teenager behaviour, attitudes and conversations, often featuring offbeat characters and funny situations, sarcastic or witty dialogue, and a tone of humorous but angst-filled desperation which teenagers appreciate. I have selected 3 examples of humorous books for teenagers.

Beauty Queens Libba Bray
When a plane crashes on a desert island thirteen teen beauty contestants headed for the Miss Teen Dream Pageant are stranded. These ‘princesses’ have to struggle to survive and combat the island’s diabolical inhabitants by working together despite their fierce competitiveness. Even though they have very little food and water, no access to the internet and are fast running out of make-up, they focus on practicing their dance routines in case they are rescued in time for the competition.  The book is a wickedly satirical humorous look at beauty pageants, reality television and teen pop culture as the glamourous castaways journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness.

An Abundance of Katherines John Green
Katherine V thought boys were gross
Katherine X just wanted to be friends
Katherine XVIII dumped him in an e-mail
K-19 broke his heart
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine who all dump him. In the wake of this debacle Colin, an anagram-obsessed child prodigy sets off on a road trip with his obese Judge Judy loving friend Hassan. With 10,000 dollars in his pocket and a feral hog on his trail, Colin is on a mission to prove a mathematical theorem he hopes will predict how long a relationship will last and demonstrate his genius. The experience challenges and changes Colin’s views on love, relationships and life as he realizes that his theory can only reveal the past because the future is unpredictable and dynamic. 

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator Josh Berk
Sixteen-year-old Guy, grieving his father’s death, joins a school Forensics Club hoping to find out about his father’s past and meet ‘hot’ girls. Overshadowed by his charismatic father, Guy had become an underachiever with a class clown persona. When he meets Maureen, an ambitious Goth girl, and finds a dead body he and the club members investigate and uncover a secret from his father’s past. This is a sardonic narrative with wisecracking humour, teenager insecurity and hilarious banter between Guy and best friends Anoop and Maureen.

There's no life without humour. It can make the wonderful moments of life truly glorious, and it can make tragic moments bearable.                                                                       Rufus Wainwright

Leanne Rands                                                                                                                 
President CBCA Tasmania

Ebscohost.com. (2018). Looking for a Good Laugh: Humor in Teen Fiction | NoveList | EBSCOhost. [online] Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist/novelist-special/201403-looking-for-a-good-laugh-humor-in-teen-fiction [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].

View all posts Lawrence Kutner, P. (2018). Humor As a Key to Child Development | Psych Central. [online] Psych Central. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/lib/humor-as-a-key-to-child-development/ [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Refugee Week 17-23 June

 Janet Grecian lists some ‘must have’ new titles to support Refugee Week. If you have other special recommendations to share with others, please respond to this blog post...

Room on Our Rock Kate Temple, illustrated Terri Rose Baynton, 9781742764108, Scholastic, $25.99
A clever book that can be read front to back, and back to front, each way offering a different take on refugees. Seals are the characters, sure to draw in younger students, who’ll find the message easy to understand: rejection or welcome.  Beautiful washed blue and green illustrations. Ages 5+

Refugee Alan Gratz, 9781742997681, Scholastic, $17.99

The children in these three stories are fleeing their homeland – Josef from Nazi Germany, Isabel from Cuba in 1994, Mahmoud from Syria in 2015. The stories alternate chapter by chapter for each child, tracing their danger-filled journeys from day 1 to the end: they are all seeking a refuge, a place to call home, and the drama and pain of their voyages will resonate with upper primary and high school students. Ages 11+
The Day the War Came Nicola Davies, illustrated Rebecca Cobb. 9781406376326. Walker, $24.99 
This is a poem by award-winning author Nicola Davies, written after the UK government refused in 2016 to give sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. A small child, on an ordinary day, family breakfast and school – then war comes, and her familiar life disappears. It’s a beautiful, unsettling book, written with such simplicity and logic, it’s impossible to read and not weep; a marvellous book to raise awareness about the plight of refugees, perfect for empathy about the painful reality, and for explaining issues to young children. And there is hope at the end. The illustrations are striking, in muted colours, and convey as much as the text the power of kindness and its ability to provide hope for a better future. Ages 6+

Waves Donna Rawlins, illustrated Mark Jackson and Heather Potter, 9781925381641, Black Dog Books, $27.99
Waves is presented as a non-fiction narrative: it tells the stories of children who have immigrated to Australia for thousands of years: other than indigenous Australians, everyone’s family has come across the waves. Each double-page spread is a child’s diary, starting with the story of Anak – 50,00 years ago – and ending with Abdul, in the 2000s. Pale sea-coloured illustrations, and stunning endpapers with a picture of each immigrant child’s boat to add to the overall impact. Ages 6+

Cicada Shaun Tan, 9780734418630, Lothian, $26.99

Another Tan must-have for all school libraries, Cicada can be read on many levels: the unnoticed, overlooked office worker – but I expand that to encompass the theme of refugees. The protagonist is a lonely, friendless figure, spending his life in thankless toil, until at last he is released – whether to death, or to return to his own country we can’t tell.  But the swirling richly- coloured endpaper, in contrast with the sombre preceding pages, promises a better place of some kind. Ages 9+

Janet Grecian

Avid Reader and Bookseller

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Rain, rain, rain

 Maureen’s post covers a wide range of books about rain, from the youngest to the independently reading, covering a range of cultures and genres from non-fiction through story to song.

What an essential part of our world is rain, with so much of our country suffering from a lack, and others parts of the world having too much. I had chosen this topic and I am now sitting listening to the rain after what seems like quite a long break without any. When I started investigating, there were fewer books than I expected with rain – rather than just weather – as their main focus.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham.
Francie and her mum travel home in the rain from Grandma’s, with Francie trying to find a name for her expected baby sister. Rain is not the most important part of the story but it is the visual and sound backdrop to almost every page.

Rain by Manya Stojic
African animals yearn for the upcoming rainy season, waiting for the ‘dry’ to break. They can all see, feel and hear it coming, then its arrival and finally the memory of it, being left first with verdant greens and finally with the slowly drying landscape again. Bright primary-coloured illustrations.

Mrs Noah’s Pockets by Jackie Morris and James Mayhew
Based on the traditional story of Noah and his ark, with pairs of animals – apart from the troublesome creatures which Noah wants to leave behind. Mrs Noah has other ideas and creates a magic coat with deep pockets into which she hides the unicorn, griffin and other mythical creatures. Mayhew’s illustrations depict well the ongoing rain and the eventual sunshine.

The Drop in My Drink by Meredith Hooper and Chris Coady
This is the story of water on our planet, its cyclical nature and the fact that it is a constantly revolving commodity. The irregularly appearing phrase “the drop in my drink” keeps returning the reader to the main purpose of the book: water, where it comes from, how it behaves, why it matters. It’s wordy for picture book format, but it’s fascinating.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick
Though rain is not an important theme in the book, Herrick introduces each of the title characters during a rainstorm. At the beginning, Hunter is a bully but slowly his better nature is kindled and he and others in the class work together for the better good of children less fortunate than themselves and for environmental issues. For me, rain is a metaphor rather than just a literal event.

What Makes it Rain? by Katie Daynes
This brightly illustrated ‘lift the flap’ book is a great introduction for young readers and looks at questions about weather and gives the answer under the flaps. It includes things like “How big is a raindrop?” and “Can I touch a rainbow?” It includes one of my pet peeves of anthropomorphic animals, but the content otherwise is great.

Rain or Shine by David Melling
The funny bunnies with their pogo-stick activities discover weather. The rhyming text, occasionally too wordy, is suited to younger readers. Again there are anthropomorphic animals, but they always appeal to the target audience.

Big Fella Rain by Beryl Webber and Fern Martins
Another title which looks at the change from the dry season to the wet, and how everything waits for the expecting change. The spare poetic language complements the illustrations which incorporate Aboriginal dot painting techniques showing the animals of the landscape and how they benefit from the changing weather patterns. I enjoyed her depiction of the rain.

Singing in the Rain based on the song by Freed and Brown; illustrated by Tim Hopgood
This book is hard to read for those who know and love the song, and I just want to sing it – even with my tuneless voice. The children all have rainbow coloured raingear which brings a bright element to each page. There is a CD with the song sung by Doris Day as well as a ‘read’ version and one with ‘turn the page’ prompts. Another with the ‘wetness’ well represented.

Drought by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Wonderful portrayal by both words and pictures of the cracked dry reds and endless blue of drought-affected land, as a child tells the story of the changes in her environment. French’s language is spare and poetic and Whatley’s pencil and acrylic wash illustrations are superb. Once the rain arrives, the paint drips down the page. ‘Who knew rain could dim the day?’

What titles have I missed? Any titles which are your favourites for the topic of rain?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Hickory dickory dash… It was read with great panache!

Following up their post of 2 weeks ago Sharon and Katie report on the actual event spanning all grades of their school with great panache… 
What better way to come together as a community than to share a story, and what better story to share than a rollicking, rhyming tale like Hickory Dickory Dash!

All three campuses of the Friends’ School participated in National Simultaneous Storytime.  At Morris Primary Years, vertical groups of Prep – Year 6 students collaborate on a number of tasks throughout the year. For National Simultaneous Storytime, Year 6 leaders read the story from their iPads, and helped their group create a new verse for the story. Each student then produced their own drawing to illustrate the extra escapades of the characters.  The verse was transcribed onto a paper clock face, hands were added to show the time and the drawings were glued to the outside of the clock. It was wonderful to see our Year 6s use the story to unite students from across the grades and to hear the laughter of our students plotting what else the characters could do.
In the High School, the event reflected the school’s international-mindedness and the story was translated and shared in Chinese, French, German and Japanese. In the library, Year 7s shared the story and had a great time creating and illustrating new verses. Students in a drama class created audio recordings of the book to practise oral story-telling techniques, and asked for critiques of their performances.

All of our Year 11 and 12 classes also participated, with some opting to watch Jay Laga'aia read the book on Storybox Library. In past years our Principal, Nelson File, has read the story to our Kindergarten students but this year found himself in front of a senior secondary Accounting class – an enjoyable but markedly different experience for all involved!

We love participating in National Simultaneous Storytime and look forward to doing so again in 2019!

Sharon Molnar and Katie Stanley are Teacher Librarians at The Friends’ School.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

National Simultaneous Storytime at Don College #NSS2018

Don College (Years 11 & 12) students studying for their Certificate II in Community Services (Focus on Children’s Services) used National Simultaneous Storytime as a focus for their playgroup, under the guidance of their teacher Renee Chettle.
On the 23rd of May 2018, the children’s services class from Don College participated in the National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS). NSS is an annual program organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). This program has been running for 18 consecutive years and all have been successful. Each year, a selected book is read at the same time on the same day in libraries, schools, pre-schools, child-care centres, family homes, bookshops and other places around the country. This program aims to promote reading and literacy. To date, NSS has had 686,324 participants and it has been run in over 6,129 locations.

The book chosen for this year Hickory Dickory Dash is an adaptation of the classic nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock. The themes in the book were the cat, mouse, and clocks and on Monday we brainstormed ideas on how we could use these themes to decorate our playgroup and come up with creative and fun activities for the children at playgroup.
At Don College, the Children’s Services class has been prepping for NSS for a few days prior. The Little Links Terrapin was decked out with displays and activities that were related to the book. On Wednesday the 16th, the class focused on creating the display and finding any activities that could be used in playgroup. The display was made with a large clock and coloured mice, and there was an area allocated to the ‘Play Room’ page of the book as we thought it would be appropriate to involve this page in our playgroup. The activities that were carried out on the May 25 included a treasure hunt, where the children had to find different objects and images drawn from the books around the playgroup yard. There was a 'pin the tail on the cat' activity that allowed the children to work together and help each other pin the tail on. Another activity was the creation of masks of cats and/or mice, there was the colour-in page of the black and white outdoor page, Hickory Dickory Dash puzzle, cat and mouse painting and bathtub slime.
The children had a heap of fun and it was a big turnout for our playgroup, keeping us educators busy at all times.  When it came to 11am everyone sat outside in the beautiful hot sun on chairs, bean bags and rugs and our three readers read the book “simultaneously” along with the rest of the thousands of Australians joining in. 

Taylah Lucado-Wells & Ava King
Don College Devonport (Years 11 & 12)

Certificate II in Community Services (Focus on Children’s Services)