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

Friday, 29 May 2020

ISO Stories: Favourite heroes and heroines who have been there before us

Isolation and the associated focus of survival are common, long standing and popular themes in children’s and young adult literature and are under the spotlight due to social distancing and enforced lock downs. The stories explored in this week’s post by Felicity Sly are sure to spark memories and resonate with readers.
Our COVID-19 life had me recalling books I’ve read about surviving in isolation. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), The Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss) and Lord of the Flies (William Golding) are all well-known classics. They present different perspectives on surviving in total or part isolation.
There are some survival/isolation stories that I remember fondly, and have stored themselves on my ‘mental favourites’ shelf. The first of these books was Ivan Southall’s Hills End. I believe it was read to me by a teacher (a nun) who no doubt would have made a career in entertainment as her back-up plan. Hill’s End tells the story of a group of students and one adult, who become isolated for a period of time by floodwaters. Ash Road (Ivan Southall) was read next, and as a child affected by the 1967 southern Tasmania bushfires, it didn’t take much imagination to picture their situation.
I am David (Anne Holm) and The Silver Sword (Ian Serraillier) were read about the same time, and tell the tale of young boys with a quest to reunite with families torn apart by war. These quests require them to travel great distances, decide who to trust, and then achieve some resolution of their plight. Morris Gleitzman’s Once series are a contemporary authors approach to these topics.
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell) and The Cay (Theodore Taylor) set these survival/isolation stories on islands, with the main characters having to also cope with the death of a companion…so from being in this together, to  having to do it solo.
Hatchet (Gary Paulsen) and My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George) set the survival in the wilderness. My Side of the Mountain is unusual in the isolation/survival stories mentioned here, in that Sam chooses isolation. He has the means to return to family/civilisation; he is prepared having studied survival techniques; and he is enjoying his lifestyle.

The book that had the greatest impact as a survival story was Z for Zachariah (Robert C. O’Brien). Perhaps because it was set in an alternative future, and one that had the potential to be our future. Ann must survival after a nuclear war impacts the area around her family’s valley. I believe that it was the first I had read to explicitly cover potential for sexual predation of a character.
The Life of Pi (Yann Martel) and The Road (Cormac McCarthy) also address survival in very different ways. My memory of reading The Road was more akin to reading a horror story than a survival/isolation story!
I was excited to discover that these books that I read between the 1960s and 1980s are all still in print.
Felicity Sly
Felicity is a teacher librarian at Don College & the CBCA Tasmania Treasurer
Editor’s Note: What a timely post – with so many titles that jogged memories of my own reading including the shortlisted Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble. Hatchet reminded me of the more recent I am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall and Lord of the Flies resonated with Geraldine McCaughrean’s fabulous and heartbreaking historical tale Where the World Ends. If you have some further examples - from the past and/or recent - please share as a comment.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Run on Empty or Adapt: Part 2 Authors and Illustrators

Paul Collins continues his insightful discussions on the book industry during the COVID 19 pandemic to explore the issues and challenges facing authors and illustrators. This perspective compliments the contributions of a number of local authors and illustrators throughout this challenging year.

As for authors and illustrators . . . it might seem obvious that they will be getting a lot of work done in 2020 in time for a bumper 2021/2022. However, as one illustrator told me recently, she’s been struggling to meet her deadline as she currently has seven family members confined to the house. That would certainly take some getting used to. Without schools and libraries, many creatives are in financial trouble – in fact, actors, musicians – most people across the arts sector, have suddenly lost their income. Unless they can find other work, I wonder how many are going to survive. Although I did see in the paper that an airline pilot has scored a job as a delivery driver – anything is possible where there’s a will. And Alec Baldwin is to star in Orphans, a world-first livestream play

Speaking of which, Dannika Patterson, author of Scribbly Gum Secrets (illustrated by Megan Forward), had planned a massive launch for the book. (Over 300 people attended her launch of Jacaranda Magic.) The second launch was all set to go when Covid-19 arrived. So she adapted and livestreamed her event. I hadn’t expected it to attract as much attention as it did. Here are her findings after the launch.
  • The 'Live' video organically reached 2.4K viewers.
  • Of these, 980 clicked in to watch the Online Storytime (about 350 devices tuned in live and the balance watched on replay).
  • Dannika had a lot of friends/followers tell her they missed it on the night but tuned in withe their kids over breakfast the next morning.
  • There were 641 engagements with the launch video (which means that people either hit 'like' or some other reaction, or made a comment.
  • Dannika's author page gained an extra 51 likes/follower leading up to during the event.
  • Engagement and replays are still listing. People in the USA and Europe tuned in to watch the replat for days after the online event. 

Michael Hyde (remember the fabulous Footy Dreaming) and Gabrielle Gloury created a trailer on a mobile phone. Their book, Girls Change the Game, is a choose-your-own adventure. It would have gone gangbusters with the AFLW season in mid swing. Regardless, their trailer on Facebook was shared 37 times and the online sales have been quite good. It prompted me to revise Ford Street’s YouTube channel which I’d not touched for years:
Michael Hyde digitally launches Girls Change the Game.

A number of authors have taken up video recording as they read their works aloud and then post online. There has been a great uptake of sites to deliver these. Reading@Home (QLD Department of Education) is one of many examples. Tune in to view
Michelle Worthington reading Glitch followed by Dimity Powell reading Pippa
It is great to see our authors getting the attention they deserve and taking advantage of the technology to share their creations with young readers.
Michelle Worthington and Dimity Powell feature on Reading@Home

Obviously, some creatives are very good at adapting. Those who aren’t might lose ground. And let’s face it, not everyone is tech-savvy.

But aside from the creatives and the booksellers, major publishers are doing it hard, too. Redundancies are rampant. Lonely Planet has all but shut its doors in England and Australia. Hardie Grant and Scribe were among the first Australian publishers to announce redundancies while other publishers such as Allen & Unwin and Thames and Hudson are cutting back the hours staff are working to reduce costs.

I’ve also heard on the grapevine that some major publishers are moving away from publishing local talent. It makes sense from a pure units-profit sense. If they purchase ANZ rights to a book with an overseas track record they skip the design/editing/author/illustrator cost. They still have the book, and at a hugely reduced price. I predict that many creatives whose sales once made them A-listers will gradually be seeking publication with the smaller presses. If librarians or the public want to support local product, they won’t be wholly searching the major publishers’ catalogues for it. 

While I write this I have notified my distributor, NewSouth, that four titles I had planned for May through to August will now be September and October books. Those micro presses which are still around in 2021 will have a bumper year, albeit one with more competition due to many books being postponed from 2020.

To end on an upbeat note, according to Nielsen BookScan (the industry’s sales monitor), trade publishers’ revenue is actually up 15% compared to the same time last year, with book sales up 36% compared to the same period.

I imagine the online sales have contributed to this result as people in lockdown are looking for ways to beat boredom. Perhaps it’s no wonder that puzzles have seen a surge in sales.

Paul Collins
T: @fordstreet
FB: Paul Collins

Editor's note: Some of you may have followed the fairly recent announcement of the 2020 Indie award winners and shortlist that demonstrates the importance of independent publishers in the children's book trade. A number of Tasmanian authors have also been active in sharing their works online and these have been promoted on the CBCA Tasmania FaceBook page. For creators reading this post, if you have a live reading or site to share, please add as a comment to this post.

Friday, 15 May 2020

From the blog: The Importance of Being Productive

Daniel Gray-Barnett, last year’s winner of the CBCA Award for New Illustration, reflects on how the current pandemic creates expectations but also affects work flow and creativity. Join Daniel as he shares some exciting new projects arising from enforced stay-at-home requirements and also acknowledges the importance of some down-time.

One consequence of Covid-19 I’ve noticed has been the pressure to be productive. Many people (myself included) are using this time to learn new skills, work on personal projects or hobbies and cross things off their to-do lists.

Understandably, there has been an increasing demand for online content and lessons, and along with it also comes the opportunity to take a more active role in teaching that I otherwise would have. Teaching is something that I’ve wanted to do for some time now and I’m excited to think about what skills and aspects of illustration and storytelling I would love to share with students.

One activity I’m working on is developing a workshop series where the students form picture book teams, each taking turns in the roles of author and illustrator. The aim would be to replicate the process of creating picture book stories together. It would be great for the students to see the differences in how people can interpret a text visually and also emphasise how the author and illustrators work on the book quite separately from each other. Fingers crossed, it could even lead to some future storytelling partnerships - maybe the next Mem Fox & Julie Vivas, or Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton?

Apart from the workshop planning, I’ve been working on a couple of picture book projects. Now that things are quieter during lockdown, I’ve had more time to focus on working on these books. I’m currently editing the text on my second picture book with Scribble, which has struggled a little from the pressure of ‘second book syndrome’, but I’m confident will reach a good place in the next few months. I’m also planning to start work on writing the sequel to Grandma Z this month.

A work in progress for a new project
- meet Alexander and his mother
Illustration-wise, I’ve been working on illustrations for a book for a small UK publisher about a young kangaroo family. The main character, Alexander, is a very neat and organised joey, who takes issue with his chaotic mother and her tendencies to hoard all manner of things inside her pouch. It’s a great story about family dynamics and finding independence. It’s also been a good chance for me to experiment with different mediums and techniques. I’ve been exploring with traditional mediums including coloured inks, pastels and pencils rather than relying on the computer to colour the pieces digitally as I have in the past. So far, the results have been pretty successful and I’m really pleased to have found another way to approach illustrations for my next picture books.

It sounds like I’ve been overly productive, but to be honest, there have been days when I can’t even bring myself to be creative with the thought of what’s going on. Other days, drawing and painting are the only things that help soothe and relax my mind. I think it’s equally valid to be as unproductive as you need to be - taking time out for yourself to catch up on sleep, video chat with loved ones, binge on a Netflix series.

Trying to work during lockdown is a reminder that for me, being unproductive is an important part of my capacity to be creative and productive. For every workshop or illustration project I’m working on, there’s also a day spent learning how to make pizza dough or finally getting through my pile of books next to the bed. There’s a lot more to our time than our work and getting things done. Being unproductive can be an important part of practising self-care and our work might be all the better for it.

Daniel Gray-Barnett

Author and Illustrator
T: @dgraybarnett

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Run on Empty or Adapt: Part 1 Publisher and Book Seller

This is the first of two posts that provide insights into the impact of COVID 19 on some of the stakeholders in the publishing industry. Living in the moment as an independent publisher, bookseller and author – Paul Collins returns to share insights and windows into the children’s book trade.

Paul Collins is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing. 
He also runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency. He has written over 140 books, mostly for Australia’s leading publishers including Penguin, HarperCollins and Hachette. His current book, James Gong – The Big Hit, came out in May 2020 from Hybrid Publishers and this interview with the author, by Narelle Harris, provides a great introduction to this awesome tale for primary aged boys.

These are interesting times for many businesses. Some might say adaptation is the key to weathering them. We’re seeing former caf├ęs/bars selling groceries, booksellers delivering books (some by bicycle!) and florists selling vegetables alongside their flowers.

Some businesses can’t adapt. Part of what I do, for example, is running a Speakers’ Agency. I had four literary festivals planned for this year and some fifty presenters booked for Voices on the Coast and other big name festivals around the country, and in schools and libraries. Everything has been cancelled. There is no coming back from that when your client base has shut down. I was to present at both KidLit and the CYA Conference. The latter will go digital later in the year and KidLit has at least shifted its conference to November. However, the good news is that a number of my speakers have stepped up to the mark and virtual workshops are now available. 

Luckily for me, my business model is quite diverse. I publish books as Ford Street Publishing and have managed to keep up a writing career, putting out three books in the past three years – two with Scholastic and one with Hybrid Publishing.   

However, most businesses encounter cash flow problems somewhere along the line. With Ford Street, every picture book I currently accept comes with an upfront cost. The author and illustrator receive an on-signing advance, the editor and designer also get paid when the book is complete. And there it will sit till the following year before release – so no income from that book for at least twelve months. There is no point in putting out books right now as bookshops are closing daily. My distributor also informed me that many of those who are staying open are holding off purchasing new releases and relying on the stock they already have. It’s no wonder that many major publishers are postponing their lead titles until 2021.

With so many books in the pipeline, I have taken the plunge and committed some of the books I have to publication in September and October. Again, it’s a cash flow decision. If I don’t schedule books for 2020, there will be no income for quite some time.

Good news for Ford Street is that Chris McKimmie’s I NEED a Parrot was shortlisted for the CBCA’s Picture Book of the Year. It seems some people still have budgets as it has back orders of around 800 copies – well below what that figure might have been had it not been for the pandemic. Regardless, it will help Ford Street weather these difficult times. Megan Daley gives it a great rap on her weekly reviews - it's the second of her 5 Fave Books this Week!

And there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It appears that many schools are sending their library books to students at home. Most schools, apparently, aren’t expecting those books back once school resumes. As the schools still have budgets, it makes sense that sales will boom once we’re back to normal.

Another bonus is that online book sales have rocketed. During one recent week I had fourteen books ordered online. At best, Ford Street would normally get around five online sales in a week. Some booksellers are saying their sales have gone through the roof. Whether this trend will continue beyond the pandemic is anyone’s guess. But as a micro press, I hope it does. Having a smaller distributor means many of Ford Street’s new releases don’t make it into the stores. This means no spontaneous sales – if the book isn’t on a shelf, it’s certainly not going to sell. But all of Ford Street’s books are online, so it’s certainly levelled out the playing field to a degree.

What’s important for all in the book trade is for the public to keep reading and buying books. Take the time to explore your favourite Australian bookshops online and be prepared to spend your dollars locally to keep the industry alive.

Paul Collins
T: @fordstreet
FB: Paul Collins

Editor’s note: Why not take the time checkout the offerings of Ford St and source some new reading material to entice children at home or as they return to school and the…library! Yay!

Saturday, 2 May 2020

A Quiz - Past Book of the Year Shortlists

How well do you know past Book of the Year Shortlists? This week is a challenge that will jog memories, prompt some in-house banter and discussion, hone search skills and provide the stimulus to remember – great titles and amazing stories from the distant and not so long ago past. Thanks, Maureen, for providing such an interesting and entertaining post.
While thinking about the changed date for this year’s Book Week, I wondered about past short lists. I found when I looked that there were many titles which have gone from people’s memory – or at least from mine – but I enjoyed looking at the lists and recalling many other favourites. I hope you have already discovered this link to past lists from 1946 onward. You will probably need it!

So here’s a quiz, based only on books included here: You’ll also possibly need to look at this year’s Short List
Answers are not included but they are all to be found at the above, apart from the ones which are personal choices. Hope you enjoy it.
1.     Which authors have titles in this year’s Short List as well as being on 2019’s?
2.     Who has had a title on the past 3 year’s Short Lists?
3.     When was the first Eve Pownall Award for Information Books granted?
4.     When did Nan Chauncey first win? For which book?
5.     How many times has Emily Rodda been listed for the awards? When was the first?
6.     When did Simon French first have a listed title?
7.     Bob Graham was first mentioned in 1986 and the last time in 2017. What are the titles?
8.     When was Colin Thiele’s Sun on the Stubble a Commended book?
9.     Who won the Older Readers category in 2015 and 2017?
10.  Who, and with what, won the first Younger Readers category (not Junior Book of the Year)? When?
11.  Christobel Mattingley was a well-loved author. Did she ever win a Book of the Year category?
12.  With which title did Ruth Park win a Book of the Year category? Which category?
13.  How many times did Pamela Allen have a category winner? How many times Highly Commended, Commended or Honour Book?
14.  Ron Brooks is Tasmanian. How many times is he listed? Which is your favourite?
15.  Which is the oldest title you remember?
16.  What title won the first Book of the Year in 1946?
17.  How many more times did that author feature?
18.  David Metzenthen is on this year’s Short List. Which of his titles first came to prominence in the Book of the Year awards?
19.  Shaun Tan won last year’s Picture Book of the Year. When did he win his first award? With which title?
20.  What title would you choose as winner in each 2020 Book of the Year category?

Maureen Mann
Past CBCA Awards Judge and avid reader and reviewer.
Editor’s Note: Wow, that list brought back memories – so many good books! For me it was from the 80’s onwards when I first moved into school libraries that I got hooked on Book Week and the awards. I have added one of my all-time most memorable books from that era – such a brave book in a time of political denial and it still stands out today.
1986 Highly Commended – Little Brother by Allan Baillie

Don’t forget to add your predictions for the 2020 awards (I am still reading them).

Friday, 17 April 2020

Australian Heroes, Pioneers and Adventurers Rediscovered: The Bounty of Australian Biographies

 The focus of this week's blog is biographies and the important part they play in the reading diet of young adults. This week Leanne shares the story of an extraordinary young Australian woman - Alice Anderson.  
A Spanner in the Works: The Extraordinary Story of Alice Anderson and Australia’s Only All-Girl Garage by Loretta Smith
Biographies have always been a great source of interest and enjoyment as l find delving into the lives of the famous, the infamous and the forgotten intriguing. Alice Anderson has been one of those forgotten Australian pioneers who deserve to be retrieved from the dusty annals of time and celebrated.
This biography is an excellent example of one woman’s extraordinary achievement in a previously ‘male dominated’ industry.
The author Loretta Smith has researched Alice’s life with a passion and impressive academic rigour, evident in the Notes for each chapter, and accompanying extensive bibliography.

A Spanner in the Works, Loretta Smith,
Published by Hatchette.
Alice’s life journey
From the end of the Great War and into the 1920s, Alice Anderson was considered a woman of 'rare achievement' who excelled as a motoring entrepreneur and inventor. Young, petite, boyish and full of charm, Alice was the only woman in Australia to successfully establish the first garage to service motor vehicles that was run entirely by women. She operated her garage, managed staff and trained women apprentices, without the financial backing of family or business partners.
“To be a garage  girl meant joining an elite team of capable young women led by a young woman with loads of personality and shrewd business sense…Garage girls tinkered with tools, got messy with oil and grease, and took to the road in a very public way” (p. 199).
In July 1918 Alice formed the first motoring club for women and established a driving school where women could learn, in a trusted, supportive environment, safe from male ‘scorn’ (p. 202).
She was a courageous adventurer who in 1916, ‘became the first woman to drive singlehandedly over the notoriously dangerous Black Spur [near Healesville]’ (p. 135). In 1926 accompanied by her friend Jessie Webb, Alice set off in a Baby Austin to navigate the 1500-mile journey from Melbourne to Alice Springs. She took on the challenge to prove that the smallest car off a production line could successfully complete the journey. The newspapers serialised and extolled their perilous adventures to the delight and amazement of their readers.

Unfortunately, less than a week after her return, Alice was fatally shot in her garage at the age of twenty-nine. Every newspaper in the country mourned her sudden loss. A coronial inquest concluded that Alice's death was accidental but testimonies at the inquest were full of inconsistencies. 
The legacy and impact of Alice's brief yet extraordinary life was limited by the attitudes and values of the subsequent era. Loretta Smith states:
“Tragically, any gains Alice had delivered to women in motoring in the 1920s had more or less evaporated by the 1950s. Anything to do with cars, other than driving, was acknowledged strictly as a man’s trade”. (p.319)
If we want our teenagers to become successful adults there is no better place to find positive roles models than in the lives of those who have changed our world for the better. Biographies have the capacity to expand the horizons of our students, challenge their perspectives and encourage them to view the world differently. Biographies can promote self-discovery through the experiences and stories of people they can admire and enable them to stand on the shoulders of giants.
In my view, A Spanner in the Works fits many of these criteria, it is a well-written and engaging book that will motivate teenagers, particularly girls, to discover the wealth of vicarious adventures and perhaps inspire personal possibilities.
Leanne Rands
President CBCA Tasmania
Smith, L. (2019). A spanner in the works: The extraordinary story of Alice Anderson and Australia's first all-girl garage. Hatchette Australia.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Help! I need a book. Now! #2

Continuing on from reading suggestions for younger children, this week Jennie and Nella look at online reading options for teenagers to keep them engaged and interacting with literature.

Getting started with digital literature
Source: AndreyKr, (2012).
Row of Audiobooks and Headphones.
Deposit Photos 
Online reading options for young adults are not as easily available than those for younger readers where texts tend to be shorter and lend themselves to retelling and video recording. One important consideration is age appropriateness as the teen market covers a broad spectrum of maturity – from 13 year olds just starting to test their reading wings with more challenging content through to 18 year olds who are mixing YA titles with adult reading material as well. For those with younger teens in the house it is recommended that parents and care givers actively support their children in making wise book choices. Reading Time and ReadPlus are terrific sources for detailed reviews and age recommendations. Common Sense Media mainly cover US publications and provide an age indictor; but also read the reviews to help you assess the content and themes.

Synch: Audiobooks for Teens is a summer audiobook program geared at teenagers 13+ (note that some titles are definitely for the upper end of this range). As this selection covers a diverse range of interests and maturity levels it is best to read the reviews carefully and listen to the sample clips first, especially with younger teenagers. Many adults will also find titles of interest. The program kicks off at the end of April with two free titles made available each week for 13 weeks. They are only available in the week that they are listed so it is best to sign up for their newsletter or follow on FB to ensure you get the updates. To access you must first register and then follow the instructions for downloading and setting up the required app, Sora (an Overdrive product). Some titles may have restricted access for those outside the US but in the last several years this has not been a problem.

Check-in with your school’s teacher librarian or library staff to find out if the school has an ebook collection available for borrowing. If so, then library staff should be able to provide a link to the school library’s online catalogue and required borrowing credentials for access. Due to the rapidly changing educational environment this may be an option that is currently being investigated by the school, so stay tuned for updates and future developments.

As per recommendations last week in Help! I need a book. Now! #1 make the most of the public library. For Tasmanian readers, join Libraries Tasmania if you need to, then start exploring the excellent collection of eBooks and eAudio titles available for download from the eLibrary. This virtual collection includes eBooks and stories; eMagazines and eComics; eMusic; eFilms and eLanguages if you wish to harness enforced home time to learn another language. There are many other online resources to explore from this page including a range of information magazines. Great for adults too!

Sometimes searching online catalogues can be a bit overwhelming so the following examples provide a taste of what is on offer. Here’s a few popular YA authors to get you started. It is worth noting that, in general, Australian publishers have been slow to take up epublishing particularly in regard to eaudio files. Many of the library’s offerings are from overseas but you might like to start by exploring these Australian authors as a sample.

On the 2020 CBCA Shortlist:Tristan Bancks – Detention – ebook and eaudio
Helena Fox – How it Feels to Float - ebook
Lisa Fuller – Ghost Bird - ebook
Malla Nunn – When the Ground is Hard - ebook
Vikki Wakefield -This is How we Change the Ending – ebook

Popular Australian YA authors
Sarah Epstein - Deep Water and Small Spaces (just released) – ebooks
Karen Foxlee - The Midnight Dress – ebook & eaudio and Lenny’s Book of Everything -ebook
Scot Gardner – Changing Gear – ebook
Megan Spooner – Hunted and Sherwood – eaudio
Amie Kaufman – Illuminae Files (trilogy) – ebooks; Auror Rising – ebook; Ice Wolves and Scorch Dragons – ebooks
Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner also collaborate –  Starbound trilogy – eaudio
Cally Black – In the Dark Spaces – ebook
Kate Forsyth has a number of ebooks for adults and teens

A Community of Readers
One downside of home isolation for avid readers is a lack of community to share the latest find, talk about great books, unpack characters, follow your favourite authors and to generally have a good yarn about the books you are reading. Looking up favourite authors online is a good start to see if there are any attached book communities (see editor’s note in #1 on Amy Kauffman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Instagram chat about Aurora Rising as an example).

Inside a Dog (State Library of Victoria) is a virtual meeting and sharing space for teen readers. Membership is free – find out what’s trending, read reviews and hook up with other teens and YA authors to discuss books. Just as a taste, there is a recent interview with Sarah Epstein talking about her new book Deep Water (listed above) . A Quarantine Reading Challenge has just begun – a great incentive to keep YAs connected to books and provide purpose and engagement within a teenage community. 

Publishers are stepping up in this time of literary isolation. Simon & Schuster’s Rivetted newsletter, presents a changing range of free ebooks to read each month, industry news in the YA market and a virtual bookclub. In April, City of Bones (Cassandra Clare) is one of the free books on offer and is also pegged for the virtual book club, starting on Instagram on 17 April. Readers get to vote from the free titles for the next bookclub and active participation and engagement is encouraged.

Free reading opportunities
Audible’s free reading options (to read online, not download) include Tween, Teen and Literary Classics (as well as some foreign language options if your children are learning another language). There are some great titles across these categories – contemporary and classic including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling), Cirque da Freak (Obert Skye), A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), Hollow City (Ransom Riggs), Talon and the rest of this compelling dragon series (Julie Kagawa) and Shades Children (Garth Nix).

Audio Literature Odyssey is a good source for classics for older students studying literature. The website is run by voice actor and writer Nikolle Doolin, and she narrates all the audiobooks on the website providing access to a series of engaging podcasts. She brings the pages of classic literature to life in this engaging literary podcast. The readings include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, , Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and many more. The collection is not vast and podcasts can be downloaded in chapters.

There are a number of sites offering free access to books and parents are encouraged to check these carefully as some may offer illegal copyrighted material or require the disclosure of personal information for on selling – take the time to read the registration and agreement pages. Many ‘free’ books are actually older titles and classics that are no longer under copyright and can be easily accessed in reputable and familiar sites such as iTunes  and Gutenberg.
The Tech Edvocate: Where can teachers find free audiobooks for their students? provides a useful article with leads to locating free audiobooks on services that you may already have access to through home subscriptions, or your school, or public library.
Gismo’s provides a compilation of free ebook sites for teens and audiobooks online.

Comical Options
Comics online tend to use are arrange of different software tools to facilitate reading and it is worth checking for any instructions before starting a book. Remember that Libraries Tasmania (and other public libraries) provide access to a large number of digital magazines and comicsMahnaz Dar (2020) provides an annotated list for middles school and teen readers in 19 Webcomics to Keep Kids and Teens Engaged that is well worth exploring. Read Comics Online includes superhero titles but is very heavy on advertising which disrupts reading.

Of course, there are more to be found. Please encourage your teenagers to read and share the online books that they discover and keep on reading.

Jennie Bales, retired teacher librarian, CBCA Tasmania Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator (i.e. the blog editor)

Nella Pickup, retired librarian, reader, member of National Executive - International Board of Books for Young People/IBBY Australia Inc

Editor’s note: If you can add to this list for teenagers please post a comment.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Help! I need a book. Now! #1

Oh no, the library doors have closed, at school and in the town, and you and your children’s reading choices have been exhausted. Join Nella Pickup and Jennie Bales over the next two weeks and tap into their collective wisdom to discover some great resources to build your virtual reading libraries and expand literature options in the household. This week the focus is on some general sites plus reading material for younger readers. Next week Young Adult offerings will be in the spotlight.
Diggersaurs Explore! by Michael Whaite.
Available @ Libraries Tasmania as an ebook.

If your family’s book collection is starting to be read out, here are some options for you.
For Tasmanian readers – if you are not yet a member of Libraries Tasmania, you can sign up online. Start at the home page  and head to Become a member today and then scroll down to the eLibrary link to get set up, find guides and start browsing. 

The library subscribes to Story Box Library which is a great resource for video readings. It holds an excellent collection of predominantly picture books, written by Australian and New Zealand authors. You can search for Story Box Library items in the catalogue. 

If you live elsewhere, connect with your public library to access wealth of electronic reading material. Don't forget to check your school library and contact the school library staff to learn about ebooks and audiobooks that may be available through the school portal that many students will be accessing for their daily learning.
Authors and Illustrators
Check out your favourite author or illustrator online.  Some you may not have come across yet include:

Some publishers and organisations have YouTube channels often with published authors and illustrators reading aloud their picture books

Characters and Series
Explore favourite characters and book series. 
Visit Jenbales Pearltress site for a collection to choose from.

Free to access collections
Audible is offering free stories for kids  – in a range of genres and grouped by interest level: Little Listeners, Elementary, Tween and Teen. You can listen to these directly online with no login required.
Storyline Online has recordings of many books being read aloud along with supplementary activities for each book.
Free Children’s Stories Digitised stories organised in collections: 3-5, 5-8 and 8-10. Stories are presented in video format, short and simple tales, often with a moral or message to be inferred.

Support for home schooling
For parents searching for books to add to the library or for some background knowledge in the titles that students are reading then take the time to investigate our Australian publishers. Most have regular newsletters and provide activity pages and/or teacher notes on many of their publications.  
  • Allen & Unwin Teachers Resources is just one example.   Check out CBCA Notables https://cbca.org.au/notables-2020 to find Australia’s best publishers and investigate from there.
  • Another great literature support is Reading Australia which includes reviews and curriculum linked teacher resources on many books.
  • The Little Big Book Club, based in South Australia, has been providing activities based on picture books for those aged 0-5 for 15 years. It’s well worth a look and there is a good chance that you have some of these titles on the bookshelf at home.
  • Why not ask isolated family members to read your children’s books via one of the many apps available; if possible, serialise by reading a chapter a day.
  • JB on not Just Books: @WWW - a collection of videos and occasional games grouped by curriculum subjects with several sub pages to explore.
Sea Museum. The Voyage to Van Diemen's Land. 


And to wrap up - Scholastic Australia shares two posters and a timely reminder for all of us on good hygiene practices.
Nella Pickup, retired librarian, reader, member of National Executive - International Board of Books for Young People/IBBY Australia Inc
Jennie Bales, retired teacher librarian, CBCA Tasmania Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator (i.e. the blog editor)
Editor’s note: If you can add to this list for younger readers please post a comment. Save suggestions for teenagers for next week.
Advance notice for a 7 April start: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are reading from Aurora Rising and running Q & A sessions starting this week on 7 April. Check Amie’s Instagram site @amiekaufmanauthor  to read the news on this: We're kicking off a readalong of Aurora Rising on April 7th, hosted by @misterkristoff and me! One way or another we're going to spend time with you! AND you can participate from anywhere in the world! Each week we'll read a chunk of the book, and then @misterkristoff or I will run a Q&A in our stories for 24 hours! Each section will steer clear of spoilers for what's to come, so if you've never read the book, now's the moment to join in!” Or read what Jay has to say about this Aurora Rising Read Along.