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

Friday, 3 December 2021

An anthem for all

Watch out for this forthcoming publication that celebrates our national anthem and is due for release at the start of the New Year. Tony Flowers shares the research and investigations undertaken to craft a broad and encompassing portrayal of Australia.


Two years ago, I was relaxing after a day of presenting to school groups at the Byron Bay Writers Festival when I received a call from my publisher with a new opportunity for me to consider.


Book cover [insert] - the Nomad on safari. Image © Tony Flowers

I was asked, 'How would you feel about illustrating the national anthem?'. After my initial hesitation, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if it was even possible to make the anthem into an engaging narrative. After all, this is a song that is girt by controversy.

After a few hours of scribbling away at my sketch pad, I became quite excited by the idea. One of the challenges was that the Australian Government holds the copyright for the anthem. I created a rough layout and submitted it to the prime minister and Cabinet to get approval to use the text. The biggest challenge lay ahead once this hurdle was passed: illustrating the national anthem without making it look like a cliché, a travel pamphlet or flag-waving festival to everything Aussie - green and gold.

Arctic sketch [insert] and finished version. Image @ Tony Flowers

My approach was simple; the book would celebrate the diversity of the Australian landscape and the diversity of people and lifestyles that make up our country. I would also have to include locations from each state. I wanted the images to feel more like a scrapbook of memories rather than a collection of picture-perfect iconic scenes. As a result, the finished book includes:
Images of the red centre.
The frozen ice of Antarctica.
Urban cityscapes.
Rural landscapes
Boats on the high seas.
And much more.

As I set about drawing up the illustrations for the National Anthem, I found myself weaving in friends, family, my motorcycle and my dogs into quite a few pages. There are so many dogs in this book; I jokingly think of it as having the alternative title of 'Advance Australia dogs' as there is a dog (at least one) on every page.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554. Image © Tony Flowers

The one image that I desperately wanted to do a site visit on was for the Uluru page. I had never been there, and I knew if I didn't go, my illustration would have been based on a bunch of cliché giant red rock style images. A window of opportunity opened up between rolling Covid lockdowns, and my wife and I flew off to Uluru.

Uluru trip Ceri and Tony. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers
Many of the wildflowers and reptiles that we encountered on this trip made their way into the illustrations, as did the purple colour tones of Uluru is itself. This was certainly a colour pallet that I wouldn't have used with having been there. On this trip, I also discovered that Uluru is the only place I have ever been so hot and dry that the flies drink the water from your drying watercolour painting!
Uluru trip drawing. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers

My hope for my version of Advance Australia Fair is that people are surprised by the fantastic and diverse landscape. We are more than a country of harbour bridges and red sand. Hopefully, younger readers will gain a clearer understanding of what the words of the anthem are about. I also hope people feel inspired to get out and see more of our country and its people.

Tony Flowers – Illustrator
Instagram: tony_flowers99


Editor’s note: Read a summary of the book and some historical background on the choosing of Advance Australia Fair as our national anthem. The book will be released on the 1st of January.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Reflecting Reality

One in five Australians live with a disability. The United Nations International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), held on 3 December each year, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. 


Australian books published in 2021 that are helping to achieve that aim include:


Cuckoo’s Flight by Wendy Orr, Allen & Unwin  (9+) 

Clio, the crippled granddaughter of Leira, the community wise woman, is highly likely to be chosen by the Lady as a blood sacrifice to ward off raiders that are approaching their village.  Orr’s earlier novels, Dragonfly Song and Swallow's Dance, also feature girls living with disabilities.


The Curiosities by Zana Fraillon & Phil Lesnie,  Lothian Children’s Books (picture book 6+)

Miro wakes one morning to find the world isn't quite the way he thought it was. When the Curiosities choose Miro as the one they nest on, Miro is led to discover all the marvels waiting in the shadows where no-one else looks. An allegory representing a neurodiverse experience.


Growing Up Disabled in Australia edited by Carly Finlay,  Black Inc Books  (YA+)

Forty writers with disability or chronic illness share their stories to present first-person experiences of people from a range of marginalised groups.
ARTS Hub Podcast: Carly Findlay on centring disability



100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze by Clayton Zane Comber, HarperCollins (YA)

Xander’s beloved Nanna asks him to create a list of 100 Remarkable Feats, ‘simply...list any act, small or large, that was remarkable for me [Xander] and would change my life for the better’. Xander is anxious, probably autistic, bullied at school and has no friends. Achieving even a few of the feats seems unlikely.


Paws by Kate Foster, Walker (9+) 

Eleven year old Alex’s best friend is Kevin the cockapoo, although what Alex wants most of all is a friend at school. As Alex is autistic, that is harder than he ever expected.


Skin Deep by Hayley Lawrence,  Scholastic (YA)

Beautiful Scarlett, permanently disfigured after a car fire, escapes to a mountain where her view on perfection is challenged by  new friend and his non-verbal autistic sister. 


Weekend with Oscar by Robyn Bavati, Walker (YA)

Oscar, Jamie’s younger brother, who has Downs Syndrome, leads a full life mainly due to the efforts of Mum. When Mum is suddenly called away and then doesn’t return, Jamie rises to the challenge  getting Oscar to his activities and appointments. 





IBBY Australia submits books for inclusion in the IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities list


Discover further examples in the following video with Carly Findlay sharing a range of texts for different ages.

Moreland City Libraries. (2020, December 4).
Carly Findlay-Growing Up Disabled in Australia

Nella Pickup

Retired librarian, member of CBCA Tasmania & IBBY Australia 

Friday, 19 November 2021

“Nothing about us, without us” Decolonising Your Library

A snapshot of some important considerations in assessing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature in the library collection.

I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Australian School Library Association and delivered by Sharon Davis and Bianca Brim from  Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) on decolonising the library. This webinar covered many aspects of decolonising libraries, but my focus is on literature  that is respectful and authentic of indigenous culture.

The key factors of identifying appropriate literature are: 

By Us: A title that is developed by Aboriginal people.
Bruce Pascoe, Sally Morgan, Nakkiah Lui, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) are creators whose works cover a diversity of genres: poetry, plays, history, non fiction and picture books. One particular favourite of mine is Going for Kalta by Yvonne Edwards, Brenda Day and Tjitji Tjuta (all the kids)

With Us: A title that is developed in respectful partnership with Aboriginal people.
Examples include The Story of Our Mob by Sally Dingo (spouse of actor Ernie Dingo) and the collaboration between Boori Monty Prior and Meme McDonald which produced my favourites: Maybe Tomorrow and My Girragundji.

For Us: A title that is developed on behalf of Aboriginal people(s).
I have been unable to locate titles that fit this category of appropriate literature…which I find to be positive. 

Books that are About Us and/or Against Us, where there has been no Aboriginal input and/or which present deficit views of Aboriginal peoples.

Indigenous publications should: be authentic; be a balanced perspective; have Aboriginal participation; be accurate and supportive of Aboriginal culture and exclude content of secret or sacred nature.

Some takeaway ideas: 

  • That any text that use inappropriate words such as ‘aborigines’, ‘those’, ‘their’, ‘them’ or describe the concept of ‘terra nullis’ are red flags to acceptability. 
  • That texts should not over-represent the role of the male in cultural practices.
  • AIATSIS are publishing a catalogue of appropriate indigenous resources. They are also happy to receive donations of inappropriate resources for their archive.
  • The NCACL (National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature) Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource catalogue should be used with caution as it includes resources that don’t fit the above criteria for appropriate literature.

Sites to visit for further information and support:

Felicity Sly is a Teacher Librarian at Don College in Devonport, and Treasurer for CBCA Tasmania.

Editor's comment:  The NCACL have provided a statement in regard to the rigorous processes taken to evaluate and select resources for inclusion in the Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource catalogue. 

-----------------------

The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc (the ‘Centre’) received a grant in 2020 from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment to create a database of Australian children’s books by and about Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Agreement signed with the Government required the Centre to incorporate the views of Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Their views were incorporated through their:

  • membership on the Reference Group leading the project
  • appointment as ‘Critical Friends’ who advised on books to include/exclude, Australian curriculum, cultural sensitivity, appropriate terminology and historical perspective
  • appointment as Contributors who selected, read, annotated, choose subjects and teaching resources for the books.

 

Dr Belle Alderman AM

Emeritus Professor of Children’s Literature

Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc

Friday, 5 November 2021

New release: Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths


Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths
Julie Murphy & Ben Clifford
CSIRO

Ben Clifford, Tasmanian illustrator, provides insights into his investigations of this tiny marsupial and the research undertaken to capture and enthral young readers through rich and detailed art work to illustrate Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths.


Published by CSIRO Publishing, Julie Murphy's story of the life cycle of the Mountain Pygmy Possum depicts a non-fiction tale of the good and troubled life this tiny creature deals with.

 

Until 1966 The Mountain Pygmy Possum was thought to be extinct. This tiny survivor lives high up in the harsh cold Australian alps building its nest, raising its young, feeding on seeds, bugs and berries. But most importantly its diet requires the scrumptiously crunchy and fattening Bogong Moth.


© Ben Clifford & CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth 

As well as hunted by foxes, feral cats and predators in the air, it also has another killer to contend with. Perhaps the most dangerous of all. Humans. For the Mountain Pygmy Possum to survive hibernation the Bogong moth is a major food source that humans are removing. However, probably like you, I do not delight in feeding on the moth at my local restaurant with chips and salad or sprinkling them on my oats. But I do like being able to see at night. Whether it's on the porch, working outside or leaving the light on for a visitor to arrive. Unfortunately these moths prefer those lights instead of their regular homes in the mountains where the Pygmy Possum is waiting to have a moth (or two) for dinner. But without this Bogong Moth, surviving the winter for the Pygmy is highly unlikely.


© Ben Clifford & CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth

The plants, fauna, landscapes and rock texture were a great match for me to illustrate. Billy buttons, alpine mint bush, yellow anemones and the twisted snow gums all have their place among the boulder fields. As we follow the Pygmy's cycle, the flowers and fauna are on display for the relevant time of year. I've researched for other titles I've illustrated so this was another learning experience. It adds to the fun of putting a book together.


© Ben Clifford& CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth


The 32 pages finish with an overview about the Pygmy Possum with diagrams and further information on how to contribute to keeping this little creature from extinction.


Many thanks to Julie Murphy and all those at the CSIRO.  


Ben Clifford

Illustrator

W: Ben Clifford Art http://www.benclifford.com.au/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/ben.clifford.art/ 

CSIRO: Teacher Notes available

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Narrative writing techniques

Do you have a preference for the way fiction is told? Do you have a favourite voice of a child narrator, from a book? Maureen Mann looks at the place of narrative voice to connect readers to the characters and events in a story. 


We Were Wolves by Jason Cockcroft
Walker Books, 2021

The narrative voice, or point of view, is how the author tells the story. When the author tells the story as though they are the main character, usually using the pronouns “I, me, we, us” and the present tense, the reader discovers the story through the perspective of this one character. This format has one disadvantage in that the reader only sees this one person’s perspective. This single point of view allows the reader to feel closer to the events, as well as developing empathy and compassion for those involved but it has the disadvantage that other events may happen and can’t be relayed if the narrator has not seen or experienced them. The boy narrator (unnamed) has a powerful voice in Jason Cockcroft’s We Were Wolves. 


The Right Way to Rock
by Nat Amoore
Penguin Books, 2021


The lens widens when the author uses multiple narrators all of whom relate their experiences, still using first person pronouns. The reader has a more complex view of the world being presented and because of this complexity, this style of writing demands more of the reader. Nat Amoore combines 1st person with stage directions, to widen viewpoint, in The Right Way to Rock. 




Is There a Dog in this Book?
Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books 2021

Less frequently, authors use the second person, which can be recognised by using the pronouns “you and your”. Many “Choose your own Adventures” use this voice.  The narrator can distance himself from the events at the same time suggesting that the reader can make decisions. Try Vivian Schwarz’s Is There a Dog in This Book?


The third person narrative uses the pronouns “he, she, it, they, his, her, their” and tells events looking in from the outside, but the narrator is not involved. This technique allows the reader to be removed from what’s happening. Third person limited is restricted to the knowledge, perspective, and experiences of a single character. J. K. Rowling uses this to effect in the Harry Potter series as does Jessica Townsend in the Morrigan Crow series. 

Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend. Hachette.

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Waywalt
Harper Collins, 2018

The third person multiple allows the author to use more than one person to tell the story, all presenting their unique perception of what’s happening. This allows greater complexity and change, but it can result in the reader becoming confused if the voices are not sufficiently distinct. Drew Waywalt harnesses this perspective very cleverly as he presents the voices of each pencil in the pencil box in The Day the Crayons Quit.




Mad Magpie by Gregg Driese
 Magabala, 2016


The third person omniscient is able to see everything, can be god-like in his/her knowledge and understanding and is not limited by having to present just one point of view.  This is usually used for traditional stories, myths and legends.  



What’s your preference? I haven’t included many examples, so would love to hear from you. Do you have some favourite recent Australian books which we could include? 


Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader 

Friday, 15 October 2021

A Convergence of Creative Minds

Join Christina Booth as she celebrates and reflects on the Hobart Writer’s Festival and the value of book creators joining together to fuel imaginations and ignite passions.


I loved reading the last blog post by the loveliest of people, Fiona Levings. If you haven’t already, make sure you do. Meeting your audience, especially in schools is, indeed one of the highlights of being a writer for children and young adults. Stories are wonderful, powerful things, alive and growing in directions we least expect. They are, in the hands of the creator, a new being, of huge potential and prospects. Beginning the life it is meant to lead, in the hands and mind of the reader, it grows and evolves into so many different things and follows many different pathways.


This past weekend I had the privilege to celebrate story with many writers, illustrators and readers at the Hobart Writer’s Festival organised by the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre. It was a lovely and engaging event allowing those pathways to meet. For creators to see some of the places their creations have travelled to, to meet the hearts and minds helping them to journey forward and for the carriers of the onward stories to meet with the origins of those stories. We became a melting pot of lovers of words and worlds, imagination, and visual narrative.


This year’s festival included a broad cast of creators who shared their craft and storytelling journeys with us all. The children’s literature scene was well represented, with free storytelling and activities ranging from readings to story yoga and drawing on the lawns of Parliament House. Amongst the first sessions of the festival was the Island of Curiosities panel, where award winning Tasmanian creators of stories for children who embrace our precious environment, flora and fauna shared with the audience their desire to empower children to discover the world around them and to champion it.

Christina Booth, Island of Curiosities panelist
© Jillian Mundy Photography, Hobart

A great opportunity to network with new and aspiring children’s creators as well as those well-established took place on Saturday afternoon. So many booked it was an encouraging and delightful time meeting new people, making connections, sharing our ‘book babies’ and realising the hope of children’s book creation as alive and strong on this very special island.


The weekend drew to a close with a final session for those interested in kid-lit with an absolute treat: a session with our current Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. Whilst Ursula was unable to attend in person, we are eternally grateful for Zoom, as it meant, whilst lock-downs are underway and travel is restricted, we were still able to be treated to her wisdom, insights and her delightful story of The March of the Ants (illustrated by Tohby Riddle, published by Book Trail Press), a story about what it is we need most when the trail gets tough, when we run out of hope or joy or energy to keep going. Story is what we all need, now more than ever and this story sums up why we need authors in schools, book festivals, meet ups with other creators and most of all, stories from us all to bind us together.


Happy reading and keep telling stories.

Christina


Christina Booth
Tasmanian author and illustrator

W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

FB: Christina Booth Books https://www.facebook.com/Christina-Booth-Books-113682115389375

Friday, 8 October 2021

Schooling the Creator

Fiona Levings shares her experiences as a visiting children’s book creator in two Tasmanian primary schools; sharing her work and inspiration in the development and publication of Now and Then, a fascinating historical fiction picture book title set in Margate. Fiona’s school visits were supported by the Workshops in Schools Program, a CBCA Tasmania initiative in partnership with the Department of Education Tasmania.


When I create a picture book I tend to think that I know it quite well.  How could I not?  I’ve spent countless hours ruminating on the words, working the character sketches, painstakingly composing each page.  By the time it’s printed I’ve read it, proofed it, checked it, re-checked it, read it backwards, forwards, out loud and probably upside down.  Then I take it into a classroom … and what I think I know about it suddenly becomes a minor part of a much greater whole.  When I share my book with kids they show me what I’ve really made.  

© Fiona Levings - sharing Now and Then with students

Bringing Now and Then into schools with the CBCA Creator-in-Schools Program has been an exceptional experience.  Being able to interact with kids, to see their eyes light up because I talked to them and took them seriously is a gift.  Watching them engage with my book, be inspired by it, recognise the parallels with their own lives, press their noses to the page to examine the detail of the illustration or triumphantly spot the easter eggs I hid for them is a joy.  A book that has less than 300 words can take up to an hour to read, such is the level of engagement, dissection and discussion.


In June I visited St Aloysious Primary in Blackmans Bay and worked with three separate Year 2 classes.  We had nice long session times and I thought I was safe but I still blew out because we were talking too much.  Fortunately, we had enough time in the schedule to start some drawing work together.  It never ceases to amaze me what 7- and 8-year-olds can come up with when you ask them to imagine how their future homes might look. Underground houses, offshore sea farms, moon bases and flying houses with robot dogs are just the beginning.


In Book Week I was honoured to be invited out to Westerway Primary, a school even smaller than the one attended by Doug in 1940 in Now and Then.  Westerway is a town that has seen many changes over the years and it was fascinating to talk to the kids, to hear their perspectives and tease out their vision for how they think their home town might continue to change in times to come.  Once again, they saw things in my book that I did not realise were there; in return Now and Then gave them a fresh perspective on the everyday history present in their world.   

© Fiona Levings - talking to students about book creation

The synergy of author and audience at a school visit is very special.  Both parties giving, both receiving; I love every minute of it. And I am so grateful, as a creator, to the CBCA Tasmania for the opportunity to learn about my book from these wonderful young muses.   

Now and Then, by Fiona Levings
Forty South



Fiona Levings
Fiona Levings is a Tasmanian-based author and illustrator of children’s picture books. Now and Then, published by Forty South Publishing, was listed as a notable book in the 2020 CBCA Book Awards. Copies are available in bookstores or online at www.fortysouth.com.au.



W: http://fionalevings.blogspot.com/

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/themoonbowmaker 

IG:  https://www.instagram.com/themoonbowmaker/ 


Editor's note- find out more on the inspiration and historical research behind the book in an earlier post by Fiona: Now and Then...And Then Again.




Friday, 24 September 2021

The Haven: In Defence of the School Library

Psst.  Have you noticed? Libraries are disappearing… fast. Lyndon Riggall shines a spotlight on a worrying trend with serious consequences.


When you are someone in the community who is known for their love of the written word, there are two things that people invariably want to talk to you about: e-books, and what is happening to (or has already happened to) their local school library.


The first conversation is a fairly simple one: yes, I love my local bookshops, and there is still something about books printed on paper. No, I will never get used to charging a book from a power point, which feels like a violation of some natural order. I agree, it does seem a reasonable trade-off for the advantage of carrying a thousand books in your pocket, and yes, changing the font size as necessary and the subtle lighting of the screen that can be enjoyed for nights on end without a headtorch on a camping trip, or next to a sleeping partner long into the small hours of the morning, is a revelation.

The second kind of conversation is less straightforward, and this is often because there is a kind of grief that comes with it. A school library, I am told, is shrinking. The teacher librarian has disappeared without fuss or furor, and now the building is open only if and when a teacher can make use of the facilities—the old doors creaking apart to dark shadows like the entrance to a crypt, literary tombstone stacked upon tombstone. In some cases, the library has shrunk, replaced by a series of trolleys, an in-class bookshelf, or a storeroom somewhere near the toilet block. Worse, occasionally it is already too late. The library, I am told, is gone. Schools—such big, unwieldy, unyielding places sometimes—can do this as quickly as taking a breath, and so in an instant it has instead become a classroom; two classrooms; three classrooms. Now, it is as if it was never there at all. A library ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with an almost inaudible “Shhhhhh.”


I have spoken many times on this blog, in passing, about the value of libraries, which have always struck me as the most absurd and inspiring of institutions: a building dedicated to the free access of information and story; perhaps one of the last bastions of a time in which we actively strove towards a utopian world where knowledge was available to all of us and we really could have something for nothing. Libraries, I accept, need to evolve to survive. I remember feeling a kind of shock and horror growing up on the day that banks of computers invaded the bookshelves, and the definition of what our library was, and who it serviced, expanded to include people who may visit the library every day and yet very rarely cracked the spine of a book, but each library—in both school and the community at large—was a safe haven. I have heard a hundred stories of the readers, the computer nerds, the misfits and the bullied who found solace in a quiet corner beyond the librarian’s desk. In some cases, its very existence can be life-saving.


The loss of our school libraries points to the simple and fundamental truth that humans have been living with for some (if not all) time: honestly, we have no idea what’s good for us. A library is a remarkable thing, but, like so many remarkable things, the hole left behind by its absence is often only properly and acutely felt when it is already too late.


I suppose the other side of this discussion is that I only hear about all of these libraries and what is happening to them because people are passionate. They feel, as I do, that a school without a well-stocked library is a mere shadow of what it could be… it is a house without its hearth; a body without a brain or a beating heart. Encouraging children to read, and to read with pleasure and enthusiasm, consistently and often, is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and I admit that with no hesitation (I might have mentioned it, but you know we have no idea what’s good for us). We need to use our libraries, I know, or we will lose them. Still, there is only one type of library that always fails in its mission to bring the printed word to the wider world, free and without favour, and which is dwindling with terrifying, heartbreaking, ever-increasing frequency, locally, nationally and across the earth…


The library that is no longer there at all. 


Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. He is co-host with Annie Warburton of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast, and in 2019 released his first picture book, Becoming Ellie, in collaboration with artist Graeme Whittle. Lyndon can be found at http://lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.


Editors’ note: Indifference and inertia are part of the problem. Become active and champion children’s rights to quality library services that will support their emotional, social and academic growth and well being. Visit Students Need School Libraries to find out more.