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

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Refugee Week 17-23 June

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

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

Refugee Alan Gratz, 9781742997681, Scholastic, $17.99

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

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

Cicada Shaun Tan, 9780734418630, Lothian, $26.99

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

Janet Grecian

Avid Reader and Bookseller

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Rain, rain, rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Hickory dickory dash… It was read with great panache!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

National Simultaneous Storytime at Don College #NSS2018

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Three things I’ve learned about writing interactive fiction

Emily’s detailed description of the process of the writing and the wonderful experiences she had with all who advised, supported and instructed her shows a depth of feeling and intention to deliver a meaningful reading experience that is exemplary.

The first two books in my interactive fiction series, The Freedom Finders, are out now.  I’m currently working on the third one, and later this year will begin the fourth!  Each book follows the journey of a child migrant to Australia at a different point in Australian history.  As I’d never written interactive fiction before, and never been a published author before, I’ve learned a lot since I began!  Here are some things I wish I’d known then…
1.      Don’t repeat yourself
When I wrote the first book, Break Your Chains, I thought that readers would probably only follow one storyline through the maze of choices, until they reached a happy ending!  So, when scenes covered similar content, I replicated whole paragraphs. My editor immediately told me there was no way I could do that, because some readers would explore every possible path through the story and get bored when they encountered copied paragraphs again and again! That seems obvious to me now, but it wasn’t then. The whole plot structure had to be re-worked and many scenes vigorously pruned and re-written.

2.      Keep track of time
All interactive fiction starts off with a single scene, then choices and paths branch off from there.  Sometimes these paths meet up again in another shared scene down the track, and it’s important that the time-lines are congruent: that the same amount of time has elapsed for the character on each pathway, so that they can arrive at the same shared point in time.  I was pretty fuzzy about this to begin with, and gaily tossed around references to ‘spring’, ‘the rainy season’, or ‘months spent aboard the ship’ with nary a care for how many grey hairs this would cause everyone down the track as they tried to untangle these timelines! Now I am keeping a detailed timeline for each book that charts the months, seasons, major historical events, and story paths simultaneously. My editor is ridiculously proud of me.

3.      Community consultation is key
My publisher, editor, and I always knew it was going to be crucial to do thorough consultation with other cultural groups represented in the story.  But when I started writing, I could never have anticipated how much these relationships were going to end up meaning to me, and how much their input would shape the books.  When the Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Theresa Sainty gave the Aboriginal character Waylitja his name, I drove home nearly in tears: I felt like she’d named a part of me.  When my dear Somali friend Hani Abdile read the first draft of Touch the Sun and messaged me to say it was ‘just like being there’, I whooped and jumped for joy.  These were some of the highlights of the whole writing process, and these relationships give the books their authenticity. 
I’ve learned much more than these three things, and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, thanks to Allen and Unwin and all my fantastic mentors.
Emily Conolan
Teacher, Author and refugee advocate

Break Your Chains and Touch the Sun are already available, with two more titles to follow later this year.

Monday, 14 May 2018

National Simultaneous Storytime #NSS2018

Guest bloggers Sharon Molnar and Katie Stanley from Friends’ introduce this much-loved event and will contribute a follow-up blog post on June 2.

At Friends’ we participate as a whole school in National Simultaneous Storytime.  It’s a great activity that can easily involve students of all ages, as well as staff.
(used with permission)
This year’s book is Hickory Dickory Dash, by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood. It’s a fast-paced, funny read that students of all ages will enjoy. Here are some ideas on how you could participate:

Ø  Read it aloud – together, teacher-led, students reading, older students reading to younger students, etc.
Ø  Read it in a foreign language – organise for your language teacher/s to provide a translation that can be used on the day
Ø  Act it out!
Ø  Make up a new verse – this book, as well as last year’s book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, lend themselves beautifully to student extrapolation!
This year NSS will be held on Wednesday, 26 May at 11am.
You can register your school and have access to banners, activities and teachers’ notes, as well as online versions of the book.  There are also VIP readers if you don’t want to read it aloud yourself.
More information can be found at www.alia.org.au/nss  

Clemes Library display, 2017

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

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Creating colourful eBooks to stimulate problem-solving and imagination

Here Andrea Faith Potter describes her desire to write adventure stories where child characters can use their cleverness to solve their problems and help build resilience.

I love how adventure stories show children that characters can use cleverness to solve their problems. The reader sees how the characters get into a scary situation (not too scary) and survive it. I believe this helps children build resilience. I also love how imaginative stories with fantasy elements help children suspend their disbelief. We need this ability to be inventive and creative. Enid Blyton uses these elements in 'The Far-away Tree' series. Consequently, I have had a goal to create imaginative adventure stories for young children.

 Publishers have been interested in my books but they told me they publish domestic stories for children (under 8 years old) not adventure stories with imaginative characters. I know how important imaginative stories are to the development of children’s creativity, so I knew I had to find a way outside regular publishing. I was very keen to illustrate longer stories in colour, which is very expensive for print books. I therefore chose to create eBooks.

It has been a very interesting journey. I have explored many options and gained many skills but the biggest hurdle of all was finding a way to sell the eBooks in Australia. I could only get my books into Australian online bookshops if I went via the U.S. or Canada. I explored hundreds of options but each one had their own sticking point. It all looks so simple and promising until you get into the nitty gritty of it. I am hoping that one day there will be an Australian online bookshop that accepts eBooks directly from Australian authors.

In the meantime, my adult daughter, Lana (who has poems published in the UK and was shortlisted for the WA Premiers’ digital narrative award in 2012) and I are currently working on a series about imaginative sea creatures that clean up the rubbish they find on the ocean floor (pictured). We have enjoyed how eBooks have allowed us the freedom to create imaginative adventure stories in colour for a younger age group. I believe having a range of text types and book formats would enrich the Australian literary landscape and enable children to have diverse reading experiences.


Andrea Faith Potter
Teacher, Fine Artist and Illustrator



Illustrations on Instagram:


Selected Artworks on Instagram:

Editor's Note:
Andrea Faith Potter was featured with others on the CBCA Blog in February, Showcasing Tasmanian children’s book creators.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Again! Why Repetition is a Good Thing

Johanna strongly relates our joy of rereading our favourite books to the learning processes that children go through when learning to read with books that explain the world they know and the experiences they wish to engage in. We can all remember books that did that for us as children if we try.

My eldest son is about to turn 12, but when he was a toddler he would watch the same films and television programs over and over and over again. I cannot tell you how many times I watched the same few episodes of Bob the Builder or the film Wall-E in the first few years of his life. As a tween he now binges on basketball games, repeating shots and plays until he has them imprinted on his brain.

His younger brother followed the same pattern when he was small. We watched endless repeats of Pocoyo and Mouk on television and now, as a nine year old, he watches a season of My Little Pony and then starts again at the beginning. The same goes for anything dance related, as he aspires to be a famous ballerino.

And both of them do the same with books. Master 12 has read, and reread, Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Specky Magee books until he can recite them word for word. His brother has read Louisa the Ballerina books and The Secret Rescuers series many times. After wondering why they kept rereading and rewatching the same content, I did some research to give me a little insight.

One of the most pertinent points on this subject was made by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, who said rereading was not an “indulgence”, but an essential part of the reading process for children. As Lucy explains:

Adults tend to forget what a vital part of the process rereading is for children. As adults, rereading seems like backtracking at best, self-indulgence at worst. Free time is such a scarce resource that we feel we should use it on new things. But for children, rereading is absolutely necessary. The act of reading is itself still new.

Children are still learning the meaning of the words they are reading, as well as the meaning of the word in the context of the scene. And with that I was taken back to the time, as a grade 3 pupil, I read and reread a passage in a book to understand the meaning of the word “embrace”. Before that day I hadn’t heard the word, and so was struggling to understand what it meant in the story I was reading about dancing princesses.

After going over the passage several times my desire to know what it meant was so strong that I shyly asked my teacher, Mr Rowe. He pondered the question for a moment and then responded with “it’s like a cuddle”. At the time I remember thinking cuddle didn’t seem to fit the scene, but it gave me enough information to go on so I could understand the text better.

The other reason children reread and rewatch is that learning happens through repetition. When we learned to ride a bike we didn’t just know how to do it – we kept trying until we stopped falling off, wobbled less and less and eventually took off along the road, bike track or driveway. I can still rattle off my times tables and the odd Shakespeare quote for the same reason. In Zig Ziglar’s words, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment”.

So the next time my sons want to read the same book again, watch the same television show or play the same card game, I need to remind myself that this is part of their learning. And so it must be good for me too.

Johanna is a journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.
Johanna Baker-Dowdell

Twitter: JohannaBD