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

Sunday 11 September 2011

To PD nor not to PD by CBCA Tas secretary and bookshop worker, Nella Pickup

The last few weeks I’ve had some interesting PD opportunities.

Recently Carol Fuller & I attended a lecture by Professor Len Unsworth “The literacies of image and languages and the new national English curriculum”.  I wasn’t sure what to expect – education speak and great long ugly words – yes, they were there in abundance but also an explanation/exploration of the visual choices authors make.

As with all PD, you must practise what you’ve learned. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to read graphic novels in the past. So I read an illustrated book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick (Scholastic 2007).  When first published, this was a ground breaking book - a unique work of art, of spare text, and of sheer imagination.  The illustrations are essential to the story.  Four years later, it’s still an exceptionally good read.

Next PD was to attend Ellen Forsyth’s Connecting with people: Twitter reading groups, scenarios for the future of public libraries and games.  I’d heard Ellen speak at other sessions.  She’s entertaining and energetic.  Luddite that I am, I just don’t get why people would waste good reading time to twitter about the books they’ve read.  ***

Then some professional reading.  An article about what’s on your bedside table made me reflect about the books I’ve just been reading.  Then I read one of Will Manley’s discussions about weeding.  “When you are weeding your collection, forget the printout that the head of circulation gives you. Circulation statistics do not tell the whole story.... Why don’t you start by looking for food stains? Books with food stains are so good their readers could not put them down even while eating.”

So here are my bedside table’s recent highlights and their food stain ratings.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan. Macmillan October 2011 ...

... is a toast burner i.e. you become so engrossed in the well crafted, sometimes blood chilling story, you forget about everything around you.

This is a page turning science fiction adventure thriller – first of the Sky Chasers series. Told through the alternating narratives of the kidnapped Waverley and Kieran, the victim of a Lord of the Flies style mutiny, it examines many important issues - survival, religion, politics, right versus might, the inviolability of the individual versus the needs of the whole community, the role of the charismatic leader and mob mentality.

The characterisation is brilliant – the villainous Anne Mather - grandmotherly, disarmingly sweet, until someone crosses her; Waverley - strong and steely character; Kiernan starts out as a cardboard cut-out hero (all dull and superior) but develops into a complex and broken young man; underdog and seemingly villainous Seth Ardvale is caught in a love triangle.

Pod  by Stephen Wallenfels Allen & Unwin July 2011

Food stains of great variety until you get to the Bathtub Man scene.

Another dystopian thriller. For 28 days giant spinning balls fill the sky.  They kill anyone who goes outside.  Josh (16 years old) and his obsessive compulsive dad are at home in suburban Washington; Megs, a 12 year old who lives in the back of a car with her mother, is trapped inside a multi storey car park. Food and water are running out – how will they survive?

Shift by Em Bailey Hardie Grant September 2011

Sorry – no food rating – too much of a roller coaster ride to eat.

Olive is a self imposed outsider with one friend: Ami. Olive watches the new girl, Miranda develop an unhealthy obsession with Olive’s former best friend Katie.  As Miranda begins to resemble Katie, Olive becomes suspicious and believes Miranda is a shape-shifter – sucking the life from people and then moving on.  But is Olive a reliable narrator? She fears the ocean, blames herself for her parents’ divorce, and talks cryptically about her past.

A mystery within a mystery shifting between psychological and paranormal, sinister and supernatural, horror and romance.

Straight Line to my Heart by Bill Condon. Allen & Unwin August 2011

Coffee, chocolate and (happy) tear stains.

A wonderful story about growing up and going with the flow.  Tiff has just finished school.  Work experience at the local newspaper is not what she expected.  Her life is filled with iconic Aussie characters, tough Reggie and his policeman son Bull, best friend Kayla, interview candidate Clarence  a 98 year old centenarian (read the book) and the awkward goofy yet lovable Davey.

And last but not least – a picture book.

The Carrum Sailing Club by Claire Saxby & Christina Booth. Windy Hollow September 2011

No food stains on my picture books!  But if there were, they’d be melted icy pole drips and sandy sandwich crumbs. A glorious celebration of summer at the beach.

*** As an avid Twitterer who sees reading as a sharing, communal experience as much as a personal one, and Twitter as a wonderful medium for connecting with other avid booky tweeps, website officer Kate Gordon wonders what other CBCA members think about the sharing of booky love via social media. And don't forget you can follow the Tasmanian CBCA branch on www.twitter.com/CBCATas!


  1. Hi everyone,
    I'm a children's author from Queensland and I'm coming to stay in your fair city for 5 weeks from the 30th September.
    Looking forward to catching up with my friends, Lian Tanner and Karen Brooks and I hope to meet some of your too while I'm in Hobart.
    Best wishes
    Sheryl Gwyther :)

  2. PS. Nella, your reviews are very interesting and useful. :)