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

Saturday, 17 March 2018

CBCA favourites from the Notables list

Tania provides her personal insights into some of the recently announced CBCA Notables for 2018.

With the CBCA long list having been announced recently, I was really thrilled to see my primary school library had the greater proportion of the titles, many of which had come through my standing orders supplier but quite a few which I had already identified at being on my hit list of “must get” books. So I thought I might talk about a couple of those.

Whatcha Building? written by Andrew Daddo, illustrated by Stephen Michael King.
This first came to my notice because it is illustrated by Stephen Michael King, and he is one of my absolute favourites. I love this story of a quirky boy who finds a way to reach his goals using imagination, politeness and persistence. And I love to watch the growing friendship between Davey and builder Bruce. Plus the illustrations are amazing! The large double spread page with the juxtaposition of real items used as a backdrop to the cityscape is very powerful and a fantastic jumping off point for children to use every day items in new and imaginative ways.

Koala Bare written by Jackie French, illustrated by Matt Shanks.
What a fun way to explain to children that koalas aren’t bears! Already classes have heavily used this book when they are studying Australian animals and it is fast becoming a favourite. The way the main character romps through the book destroying the myths that he is a bear and the havoc he causes by demonstrating his reasons why he’s not a bear are hilarious and resonate with the reader. This is a fun fiction title to use when studying Australian animals as a bit of light relief.

Nomax written and illustrated by Shannon Horsfall
As the owner of a dog who shares quite a few of Max’s traits, I loved this book immediately.  And I really enjoy the gentle joke on the last page as Max is so perplexed that the name on his dog bowl isn’t Nomax, which according to him is his name. Fun illustrations and engaging text will have the children giggling along.

Boy written by Phil Cummings and illustrated by Shane DeVries
What a delightful read with a lovely message about differences being strengths and how a different point of view on a problem can give a whole new perspective. The artwork is engaging, making the Viking village come alive, although there are some additions that make you smile…cacti? In a Viking village? I really love the double spread with all the characters pointing fingers at each other, each blaming the others. Children will really identify with this and hopefully take the message away that good communication and understanding of differences are good tools in conflict resolution.
Phil Cummins reading Boy

Exploring Soils: A Hidden World Underground written by Sam Grover, illustrated by Camille Heisler.
I saw a pre-publication review of this book and just knew it would be a fantastic addition to our primary school library. And it is! The lovely soft illustrations bring the garden and its processes alive, showing readers how soil isn’t just something we walk on but a microscopic world that we depend on for a huge variety of things. Once again, this is a great title to read to classes to increase their science understanding.
Dr Sam Grover talks about and shares her book on soils

Did you have some favourites on the long list?
Now all we have to do is wait with bated breath to see which books make the shortlist.

Tania Cooper
Library Technician
Ulverstone Primary School

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A review of The Cruel Prince

This week Pennii Purton shares her response to a recent read of Holly Black’s latest young adult addition to The Folk of the Air trilogy. Find out about The Cruel Prince in this review.

The Cruel Prince - author Holly Black  

Series: The Folk of the Air
Released January 2018
YA novel

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Prince Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe…

What is the book about?
Jude is the daughter of the runaway wife of a Fae general who murdered her mother and the man she thought was her father. The general, feeling obligated to raise the children, brings Jade and her sisters to a Fae land in the heart of the forest, brimming with monsters and wolves on the prowl, and raised her like a trueborn child of Faerie, despite not having a drop of faerie blood.

Jude grew up learning to keep her head down and pretend the fear away. She endured the contempt of the Fae, swallowed her fear and saw it through. She was the human girl who got pushed to the sidelines and always treated as an afterthought, when all she really wants is to belong.

Jude didn't fit into the boundaries they gave her. She didn't fit and the moment she stopped wishing she could and held onto the lingering bitter urge to make them all hurt, she learned that being ruthless in the face of great terror was her best revenge for being made to endure it.

The Cruel Prince is a delightfully dark, twisty novel containing drama, action, surprises, nastiness and the tiniest hints of romance. Then you get to the spying, secrets, betrayals, side-switching and just when you think you love a character, a plot twist comes along and you wish the character would vanish; and then you love them all over again. All the characters are complex and slightly flawed and nobody can be trusted.

I absolutely love this novel, the ending didn’t disappoint with a climax full of surprises and has left me desperate for the second book in the trilogy, The Wicked King, (due 2019). I can’t wait!!!

Pennii Purton
Library Technician, Reece High School

Friday, 2 March 2018

Big cats: Predators under threat

This week Jennie hones in on the plight of the world's magnificent felines to identify books that will help children appreciate, respect and care about the big cats that roam the world. 

To highlight and educate people across the world the United Nations World Wildlife Day celebrates and raises awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. Each year March 3 heralds a year long campaign.  In 2018 the spotlight is on “Big cats: Predators under threat”. Today and throughout 2018, take the time to introduce young readers to these graceful felines and build awareness of the threats they face.  Literature provides a wonderful medium to introduce the diverse range of feline predators, inspire awareness and initiate conversations with young readers. Many of the selections below can be accessed through your local library – why not make a pledge to explore big cats throughout the year.
William Blake’s classic poem ‘Tyger tyger’ provides a wonderful springboard and the video and musical rendition of the poem captures this powerful feline in all its glory.

In the Lion – James Foley
A young boy visits the zoo with his family, only to find an enormous lion is swallowing everything and everyone it can. Only the boy has the courage to stand his ground and stop the lion. Repetitive text and the expressions of Richard encourage young readers (and listeners) to join in and predict the outcome on each double page spread.  Great fun for preschoolers and youngsters but also an opportunity to discuss what a healthy lion should be eating!

Goodnight Tiger – Timothy Knapman & Laura Hughes
This quirky, funny bedtime story book is full of jungle animals and surprises. The vibrant illustrations are sure to delight children at bedtime. The animals in Emily's jungle wallpaper can't sleep, and they are bellowing and stomping and growling and keeping her awake! This is a great introduction to a number of jungle animals, including some big cats.

Tiger’s story - Harriet Blackford, illustrated by Manya Stojic
Tiger is a small, strong stripey cub. He lives in the forest in India. He walks quietly on his big soft paws and twitches his long stripey tail. An easy to read introduction to tigers through this playful cub.

I am a Cat – Galia Bernstein
A simple housecat named Simon encounters some bigger cats: Lion, Puma, Panther, Tiger, and Cheetah. Each of the big cats has something to say about Simon not being “cat” enough. According to them, he just doesn’t measure up. He doesn’t have Lion’s mane or Cheetah’s spots. He doesn’t sleep in trees like Panther or climb mountains like Puma. He’s small and fuzzy, not big and strong. But ultimately, Simon shows the big cats that he’s just like them . . . only smaller.

Several titles in the Adventures with… series introduce big cats and share an authentic story about the animal with considerable factual information conveyed through the story line and colour photographs.
Written by Jan Latta, Timba the TigerChipper the Cheetah  and Lena the Lion introduce young readers to three different big cats, how they live and threats they face. Each title also provides information on what we can do to help protect these endangered big cat populations.

The World Wildlife Fund has published a series of short novels for young independent readers. Look out for:
Snow Leopard Lost - Linda Chapman
Set in Mongolia, Emily's dad is helping to set up a new project to help endangered snow leopards in the area. On a half term visit Emily makes friends with a young snow leopard cub, Leo. But not all the villagers are pleased that the leopards are making themselves at home.
Tiger Tricks –Linda Chapman
Emily's mum is being sent to India to take photos of an endangered forest. Emily isn't expecting to meet any wild friends, so is delighted when runaway tiger cub, Bala, turns up! But the local people are less happy

The Snow Leopard – Jackie Morris
A beautifully crafted allegory representing life, death and renewal through the story of a girl’s dreaming and her transformation into a snow leopard and protector of life.  Set against the stunning landscapes of the Himalayas, the superlative illustrations of the nearly-extinct snow leopard offer a message of hope at a time when many of the world's wildest places are being worn away by human beings.

For independent readers Tiger Trouble by Justin D’Ath. Set in New Delhi, Sam and his family are watching big brother Nathan make his international cricketing debut when a young pickpocket steals Sam's backpack. Sam gives chase and runs foul of the boss of a pickpocket gang, who's also involved in the illegal trade of exotic pets, including tiger cubs taken from the wild. When a pair of cubs is to be smuggled through Pakistan to Iran, Sam and the young pickpocket, now his ally, set out in the cause of wildlife conservation to rescue them. Fast-paced action and animal adventures.

Tiger Tiger – Lynne Reid Banks
In this historical fiction novel, two tiger cubs are snatched from their native jungle and shipped to Rome. There they are cruelly separated, and one cub becomes the princess's adored house pet. The other, fiercer cub is trained to become the star performer in Caesar's bloodthirsty circus. Princess Aurelia detests her father's brutal 'sport', but must keep her feelings secret. The only person she can confide in is her slave, Julius, her tiger's keeper. But such a friendship is equally forbidden: should the Emperor find out, his anger would be terrible and his punishment severe. But friendship and love cannot be dictated, and neither tiger nor man is destined for a life in chains. This story is also available in audio for shared listening.

Don’t forget to spend time seeking out non-fiction titles as well. Often with stunning photographs, most contemporary titles also include information about the threats and actions to help preserve these magnificent feline predators. Some non-fiction reviews can be read on JB’s not Just Books blog.

Jennie Bales
CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator, adjunct lecturer for Charles Sturt University in the Med (Teacher Librarianship) course.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Readers’ Cup in Tasmania

This week Patsy Jones gives us a detailed overview of this wonderfully stimulating and creative competition as it is run in Tasmania. The approximate dates for this year’s southern competitions have been set for June, and the books chosen for each level carefully selected. The CBCA Tasmanian Branch March newsletter contains a detailed report of the 2017 inaugural Devonport Reader’s Cup.

I have just this week attended a meeting of persons interested in the 2018 Readers’ Cup* competition in southern Tasmania – schools entering the competition must have Institutional CBCA membership. The dates have been set for the two competitions (Grades 5-6, and Grades 7-8) in June, and the six books (a mixture of fiction, picture-books, and non-fiction) to be used for each competition were identified after much careful discussion as to their suitability for the task.

Here in southern Tasmania, CBCA members have been organizing and managing these competitions** since 2009 – so this must be the tenth year for us! Northern Tasmania also provides an opportunity for such an annual competition, and has done so for even longer – the northern competition is managed by the Tasmanian branch of the Australian School Library Association (ASLA). Last year the Devonport City Council planned and managed a very successful competition in the north-west, with strong support from primary local schools, and we hope that they will be planning another for this year.

Who here in southern Tasmania is involved in the management and planning of Readers’ Cup? Representative staff from interested schools, of course, but not just them – various parents and grandparents who derive pleasure from reading the quality children’s literature available here in Australia are prepared to carry out the necessary tasks, as are various CBCA members; which comes first, the love of children’s literature, or the assistance with the competition?

The questions to be asked in the competition are written and prepared by volunteers or invited community members who have read and carefully considered the books. An MC is needed to ask the questions at each session (and there have been some great MCs over the years – think Jenni Connor and Lyndon Riggall, among others). Two or three judges are needed to mark the answers on the quiz sheets, and to evaluate the creative work which teams present as part of the competition. And it’s very helpful if there’s a person who can add the data to a spreadsheet as the judges’ responses come in, so that the winning teams in each section (quiz, creative, and total) can be identified before everyone has to head off back to school ready to go home.

Without a suitable venue the whole activity would be impossible, of course, and interested and supportive schools volunteer their libraries or their school halls for the occasion.
Patsy Jones
Retired Librarian and teacher

*The original Readers’ Cup competition was held in Colorado, USA, and it was transplanted to South Australia in 1987. Several Australian states have adopted it since then.

**If you want to know more about the Tasmanian CBCA competition, find it on www.cbcatas.org , on the Events page.  Find out when there might be such a competition in your local area, and come along and enjoy the day. Of course, if you have read the books beforehand, your enjoyment will be even greater!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Morris the Laureate

This week children’s author Morris Gleitzman was announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate for 2018-1019 by the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance. Join Lyndon Riggall as he shares his delight with their choice of appointment.

Gleitzman knows how to hook his readers. I believe my first novel of his, Water Wings, was purchased at about the age of ten, and I couldn’t resist the guinea pig on the front cover, floating with inflatable armbands. From there, who could go past such titles as Misery Guts, Bumface and Adults Only? His collaborations with Paul Jennings brought together two titans of Australian literature in a series of projects as frightening as they were inspired in their strangeness. When I was at school, having a copy of Wicked! or Deadly was compulsory—and not because it was on any teacher’s list of recommended reading, but instead because it was dark, exciting, and felt somehow forbidden. I still have a library copy of Once I had to replace because it slid from my pillow and onto a lamp while I was eating dinner. For those unfamiliar, on the melted plastic cover is the image of a pile of burning books, and on my own copy the last five pages similarly exhibit the brown tinge of a novel that nearly joined them.

I share my love of Morris Gleitzman with my mum. After my initial introduction to Doug the guardian angel, Mum and I would listen to Gleitzman audiobooks on long car trips. Our favourite is still Two Weeks with the Queen. Although the novel was published the year I was born, I believe strongly (and in some ways, sadly) that it still holds up beautifully thirty years on.

Gleitzman’s greatest gift as a writer seems to be that he can capture the naivety of an authentic child’s voice without resorting to inaction. His characters make delicious assumptions about the world around them, concoct theories and test hypotheses. In the words of Miss Frizzle, they “Take chance, make mistakes and get messy.” Whether it’s landmines in Boy Overboard, Nazis in Once, or cane toads in Toad Rage, he deftly handles harsh truths with an innocence and humour that is the true heart of a child. As a young boy reading Gleitzman, it struck me that you could stuff up and still be a hero.

Gleitzman talks on his own website about his new appointment, and his quest to understand what it means to “go into bat” for Australian children’s literature. “Do you mean” he asked ACLA chair Ron Gorman, “roam the land engaging young readers in a celebration of stories and all the precious things they get from them while at the same time encouraging adults to think more deeply and perceptively about the transformative qualities of good stories for young people and if possible read a few of them aloud?”
“Yes,” said Ron.

Gletizman could hardly refuse. After all, by my estimation he’s been doing exactly that for thirty years already.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Gleitzman’s new appointment. Which of his books is your favourite?

Lyndon Riggal

Editor's note: Two Weeks with the Queen certainly has a treasured place in my heart. I have always envied Morris' creativity when it comes to titles - they are so clever, pertinent and memorable!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Showcasing Tasmanian children’s book creators

This month, Kingston LINC celebrates Tasmanian children’s book illustrators with exhibits by four locally-based artists: Shiloh Longbottom, Gay McKinnon, Andrea Potter and Rachel Tribout. Interestingly, three of the four exhibits are based on author-illustrator collaborations between a parent and child, and all are by creators embracing the challenges of independent publishing. Tasmania appears to be fertile ground for indie children’s book creators, with the success of Jennifer Cossin’s 2017 CBCA Honours book, the self-published ‘A-Z of Endangered Animals’ (later acquired by Hachette) demonstrating the high standards being reached. As well as enriching the publishing landscape with local flavour, independently produced Tasmanian books allow new and diverse voices to be heard, bridging gaps in an industry that can afford to publish only a small number of new books per year.

Illustration by Shiloh Longbottom
Illustration by Shiloh Longbottom
Author Steve Isham and his daughter, illustrator and designer Shiloh Longbottom, collaborated to create the elegant Elephant and the Dog. This African-themed picture book, produced as a fundraiser for the Mafunzo Project, was crowd-funded and money raised from its sales helps to provide training for medical and nursing students at the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The artwork is stylized, with delicate colour harmonies and strongly geometric forms.

Shiloh explains: ‘I work digitally, but my process begins with research (e.g. animal forms and expressions), then hand sketches. I scan in these sketches and work in Illustrator to add colour and texture. When it fits (and it often does), I use dramatic contrast in colour and composition. I think this helps to draw the reader/viewer in and become part of the illustrated world. In children's books, the naive and geometric style I work in appeals because it allows children's imagination to fill in the gaps.’

Illustration by Gay McKinnon
Artist Gay McKinnon collaborated with her father, light verse writer Ray Kelley, to create Of Man and Beast, a display of illustrated humorous verse for children and adults. A number of the poems draw on the tradition of Harry Graham’s 1901 Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, including A Disproportionary Tale, the cautionary story of young Bess who plays with her yoyo to excess. Others, such as Pocket Pygmy Possum Poem, are based on actual events and animal qualities. The illustrations are delicate hand-painted ink and watercolour sketches, distilled down to a minimum of lines.

Illustration by Gay McKinnon
Gay explains: ‘The verses mostly follow strict forms, requiring discipline and economy of words, so I tried to make the pictures the same. They need to be light and understated to catch the spirit of the poems without distracting from the playfulness of the words. They’re somewhere between an illustration and a cartoon.’

Illustration by Andrea Faith Potter
Fine artist and illustrator Andrea Faith Potter works in schools as a teacher, and with gifted children, leading her to consider directly the needs of her audience in terms of text, artwork and publishing platform. Having already illustrated two books by Jackie French, Andrea is now working towards creating her own picture books for iPad and other digital readers. Her soft, glowing paintings are created using watercolour built up in layers with coloured pencil and incorporate fantasy, science fiction, humour and adventure.

Illustration by Andrea Faith Potter
Andrea says: ‘I love illustrating stories that encourage children to imagine.’ Her exhibit includes originals of images created for two iPad picture books in progress, one of which (To Planet Earth) is written by her daughter Lana Faith Young.

The fourth display by French-Tasmanian author-illustrator and graphic designer Rachel Tribout is a lively mix of maps, sketches, images and props from her two books from the Captain Blueberry series, The Monsters of Tasmania and The Journey of Admiral Bolognaise. Rachel's colourful, multi-layered digital illustrations bring the Tasmanian landscape to life in a fresh and exciting way. The Captain Blueberry series is a mix of inspirations from Rachel's childhood, her personal interest and living in Tasmania.
Illustration by Rachel Tribout

'I see faces in everything so it's natural for me to imagine the landscape alive with giant creatures. The landscape here is dramatic and the constantly changing light means it's always presenting itself anew - especially Tasmania's coastline. I grew up in a continental place, which means that as a kid I didn't see much of the sea. The ocean is a mysterious and powerful thing and I love to imagine what scary creatures inhabit the depths.'

Illustration by Rachel Tribout

Gay McKinnon
Illustrator and CBCA Tasmania Newsletter Editor.

Editor's note. Many thanks to Gay for sharing this inspiring exhibition with readers. Please share with friends and family and encourage them to visit Kingston LINC.
The exhibition can be seen at Kingston LINC  from now until 28th February.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Nothing to fear, but fear itself?

This week Felicity provides a thought provoking post about the place of fear in children’s literature.
An article from The Vintage News appeared in my Facebook feed. It was about Der Struwwelpeter (Shock-headed Peter), a story written by Heinrich Hoffman, a C19th German psychiatrist, as a Christmas present for his 3 year old son. I have no memory of having read this book, but it is a book in which the main characters are children who end up severely punished, or dead. Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands was developed from Scissorman, one of the characters who meted out punishment in the story. I started thinking about which scary stories we now offer to our young readers, and whether these have value or are just for the thrill seekers.
Paul Goat Allen, a children’s book reviewer, and father to girls aged 3 and 6, lists five reasons why horror in children’s books are a good thing, in a Barnes and Noble blog. Firstly, it gets kids interested in reading. Think Harry Potter, with plot lines that became darker and scarier as the series progresses. Secondly, by exploring the dark side of humanity and fear, children learn more about themselves; their strengths and weaknesses. Next, there are life lessons to be learned: to keep themselves safe in their dealings with the world and people in it. Fourthly, they learn more about the world, about literature, and have vicarious experiences. Lastly, reading about these experiences are reassuring: kids can be scared, travel with the protagonist, and then close those experiences up and resume their normal lives. I recall that one of my children used to have me take the book we had just read (and that scared her) out of the room. It could sit on the bookshelves in the hallway, but just not those in her room. As an aside, Santa and the Tooth Fairy never visited their rooms either.
Margaret Wild, Sonya Hartnett, Nick Falks (a psychologist and children’s author) and John Marsden acknowledge the power of fear as a fertile ground for writers. Marsden likes to “crank up” the fear to engage readers and make the book a page turner. I recall these feelings when reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, turning pages for sneak peeks, and with my heart beating wildly, wondering what horrors would come next. Perhaps because the premise of The Road was all too a believable reality.
Hilaire Belloc’s poem, Matilda is one of the first poems I learned to recite. Matilda’s lies, saw her die when she was not believed when telling the truth. I loved the fun of the rhyme and the richness of the vocabulary: words such as strict regard, infirmity, gallant and frenzied. I recall finding Harry Potter #2: The Chamber of Secrets to be exceedingly scary. Nick Falks was terrified by Roald Dahl’s The Witches, as an eight year old. Beatrix Potter’s The tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly Poly Pudding turned me off reading the rest of the Peter Rabbit books until reading them to my children.
My children then introduced me to the world of Tim Burton: The Nightmare before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Perhaps a different sort of scary, because the images of fear are provided, rather than created in one’s imagination, but a fear they seemed happy to experience and explore. I believe Neil Gaiman has created one of the scariest stories in recent times, with his tale of Coraline, a ‘be careful what you wish for’ and the ‘grass isn’t greener’ response to Coraline Jones wish for a more exciting family. 

What memories do you have of being scared by a book you have read?

The Corpse Bride movie trailer

Felicity Sly
Teacher librarian, CBCA Tas Treasurer

Saturday, 27 January 2018

The Story of Ferdinand revisited

This week Chris explores a comparison between the 1936 picture book and the new release feature length movie 'Ferdinand'...

There are so many elements involved with comparing both forms of the story - I will attempt to keep it simple yet provide opportunities to explore some of these. This story is one that I have treasured since before I can remember.

The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936 and has been in print and popular with children and their teachers and parents for over 80 years. Ferdinand is a bull who has no ambition to fight in the bullring in Madrid, he prefers to smell the flowers in the meadows of his home.

At the time it was published it was very controversial as the link given shows, due not only to its subject matter but also the setting and the time. It became a runaway best seller, never having been out of print since.
It was made into a cartoon in 1938 by Walt Disney, the story line following the original very closely, with some characteristically humorous Disney touches.

The Ferdinand of the movie has many things in common with the original story, but the events would not fill a feature length movie as it stands, so the story has gained many characters, events and attitudes that are far from the original.

I went to see this movie with two friends, both experienced teachers who had known and loved Ferdinand’s story from childhood, as had I, and had all read it to many children over the years.
We were rather apprehensive about the movie experience, as we had read the following review by Sharon Brody from Cognoscenti but we went anyway.

There were, as we expected, quite a few shocks for us to weather but we three ultimately agreed on the fact that though this was in many ways a different story it was a retelling that fits in today’s world. We also enjoyed it very much. You might too!

Christine Donnelly
Teacher Librarian (moving into Publications) and avid reader