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

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Criminally good - Penny Garnsworthy on Artemis Fowl

Criminally good ...
That's the byline from Eoin Colfer's book Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony. In May I was fortunate enough to attend the CBCA national conference in Adelaide and privileged to meet one of my favourite children's authors, Eoin Colfer who hails from Ireland and was one of the keynote speakers at the conference.
I thought I had read all the Artemis Fowl books - not necessarily in order - but a review of the website http://www.artemisfowl.com/ (which is fantastic I might add) has in fact revealed I am two short. Plus (and Eoin mentioned this as he was signing a book for me at the conference) the final book in the series is due for release soon. What a sad day it will be when I read the last line of Artemis Fowl, The Last Guardian. And even sadder I should think, for Eoin. But then once I have read the remaining three, I'll simply start reading the series all over again, and this time in order.

But I digress ... Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old brilliant criminal mastermind ... well he was 12, and he was a brilliant criminal mastermind, but somewhere along the line Artemis grew up (as some of us do) and although still brilliant, he eventally changed from being a criminal into a mastermind who apprehends criminals. But these are no ordinary criminals; most of them aren't even human; they're armed, they're dangerous, they're technologically advanced and they live underground. And it is here the fun and excitement begins.

Colfer's stories centre on a crime, and the battle between good and evil. Sometimes that battle takes place here on earth, other times beneath us in the complex world of the fairies. But there's always a world to save. And although there's some violence, Colfer doesn't glamorise crime and young Artemis always has a lesson to learn. They're a great read, for all ages and I guess you could say his books are ... criminally good.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Convict Stories - by Maureen Mann

Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of enjoyable time doing some online research about Tasmanian convicts. Coincidentally – or is it cause and effect? – I have read several books with Tasmanian convicts as an important part of the tale. Here are two of them.

The first was an adult book, the challenging Vogel-winner The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson. It’s a complex story, set at the time of the Black Wars in Tasmania, about John Batman, farm-hand Gould, four downtrodden convicts and Black Bill, brought up by white society but retaining his traditional point of view . It gives an interesting version of the main character before he left his place of birth to establish Melbourne. It’s a heart-wrenching novel with black humour but elements of hope. Though adult in audience, it will appeal to some mature young adults.

I then followed this with the CBCA Younger Readers Short List Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French. It’s set in the first ten or so years of Sydney and is a great mix of historical fact combined with the author’s fictitious characters. The reader comes to understand life in those early years: the squalor as well as the hardships, corruption and the threats to and challenges for the Aboriginal population. It was a book which sent me investigating because I wanted to know more about that period of our history.

Historical novels for me create a sort of time travel, allowing me to visit another era. The successful ones mean that I have an improved understanding of the past and a personal recognition that I may not have fared very well had I been alive at that time. I come away from some of my research with the same feeling. What would the convicts I have been investigating think of what I am doing?

And now I have just finished Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder, written for young adults. This is pure fantasy, set in Garden a world established 11,191 years ago, with many similar elements to historical fiction but nothing to do with Tasmanian convicts. Rigg is able to see all the paths traced by people in the past as they move through the landscape. Umbo can transport people to the past and, if necessary, modify the future. Param can make herself invisible by slowing down time. It’s a typical fantasy quest where the main characters have to meet their challenges but the reader constantly needs to keep thinking because there are some complex paradoxes discussed. It’s long – 662 pages – so not for the faint-hearted, but a good book to make the reader think.