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

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Two Days With Alison Lester - by Patsy Jones

Alison signs books for her fans!

I was fortunate to spend two days with one of the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance’s 2012-2013 Children’s Laureates this last week – Alison Lester.

The Tasmanian CBCA Committee was contacted by the office of the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance (ACLA - http://www.childrenslaureate.org.au/) during the school holidays – Alison was coming to Tasmania at the same time as her Are we there yet? National Year of Reading (NYR) exhibition. She was to be here for four days 18 – 21 June, and would be working with children from the Margate Primary School, the Kingston Primary School, St Therese’s Primary School, and the Bruny Island District School in that time.

CBCA (Tas.) Inc. Committee member Carol Fuller volunteered to assist Alison for one day and I set aside two days to assist her, and arranged an evening with her for CBCA (Tas.) members as well. This was very well attended despite the short notice – two families made the trip down to Hobart especially to attend! We were interested to hear about Alison’s position as Children’s Laureate, after which she and Coral Tulloch discussed the origin and development of their joint publication, One small island, which is shortlisted for the 2012 Eve Pownall Award and has been awarded The Wilderness Society's 2012 Environment Award for Children's Literature, non-fiction section.

My two days with Alison were extremely interesting and enjoyable – but hard work! Alison appeared to cope with the work load very readily – I suppose her previous experience in working with schools and presenting her publications stood her in good stead!

During my day at Kingston, Alison showed children over the NYR exhibition based on her 2005 Picture Book of the Year, Are we there yet? , which will travel to every state during the National Year of Reading. The exhibition showcases the journals, maps, illustrations (both draft and final), and text which formed the basis of the completed book, published in 2004.

Alison conducted a story time session with younger students using Big Book versions of a couple of her books, and led workshops for some older Kingston groups. These workshops were very interesting for me, totally untutored as I am in watercolour skills. A demonstration of basic watercolour techniques and an opportunity for children to practise these techniques with supervision from Alison provided a wonderful experience for the fortunate children who were present.

On the following day at St. Therese’s, the older class group also worked on watercolour techniques and skills, and it was very impressive to see the quality of work completed from these students. Younger children enjoyed a story time session, while the middle group was pleased to see a slide presentation, with commentary from Alison, of her childhood and adult experiences as both beginner and accomplished illustrator.

During her time in Tasmania, Alison spent two days at the Kingston Library (where she worked with children from Margate and Kingston Primary Schools), a day at Moonah with children from St. Therese’s Primary School, and a day on Bruny Island. My time with her was spent at Kingston and Moonah, and the opportunity to talk to teaching staff and children was very valuable. The staff whom I met from both schools are to be congratulated on their enthusiasm and encouragement of the children’s interactions with Alison.

Alison with members of the CBCA

Patsy Jones

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