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

Monday, 22 December 2014

In praise of poetry

How often do you share poetry with a child?

As I was changing the sheets on my bed a week or so ago, I was rather taken aback to realise I was muttering to myself as I did so:
‘Mother, make my bed soon, for I’m weary wi’ hunting and fain wald lie down’

I guess it’s easy to see the connection between the task and the poem, but what I had to consider was whereabouts in my memory that line came from… A little thought reminded me that it was part of the English Literature 1 course I undertook as part of my BA in Melbourne – our elderly lecturer (the Professor at the time) did love the Anglo-Scottish ballads and would read them aloud to us in his quavery voice (which became more quavery as the emotion of the ballad took over, so much so that he’d have to wipe his eyes and his nose on the edge of his academic gown... and then he’d clean the blackboard with the edge of the same gown!).

So I had to go and find my copy of The Oxford Book of ballads and read ‘Lord Randal’ over again, which led to another ballad, and another – the bedmaking did get done eventually though!

But that led me to mull over the place of poetry in our culture (and of course in other cultures). Children do love to hear poetry read to them – it doesn’t matter if the vocabulary is not your everyday vocabulary, or if the constructions are strange to our everyday ears. Who uses ‘fain’ in their daily contact with others? But the word and others like it will stick in the memory and be recognised the next time they’re seen or heard.

Nicola Bayley edited a delightfully illustrated poetry book, The necessary cat, (Walker Books); your cat-loving audience will revel in this, and it’s a great introduction to various poets – Keats, Wordsworth, Butler Yeats, Belloc feature in it. The poems were not written especially for children, but the subject matter ensures that they will be enjoyed.
 
Michael Rosen selected a well-illustrated set of poems which was published as Classic poetry (Walker Books again), and these are drawn from an even wider range of well-known poets writing in English, and some not so well known – Shelley, Byron, Rossetti, Frost, Sandburg, Wilcox.

And then there are books of poetry written specifically for children. Edward Blishen and Brian Wildsmith collaborated to produce the Oxford book of poetry for children, and Neil The new Oxford book of children’s verse. And what about the tried and true Oxford book of children’s Verse (Iona and Peter Opie)?

Last but not least, how about Old Possum’s book of practical cats?

Have a look in your library and see what you can find next time you need to calm a potentially noisy child or two – I am sure you (and they) will enjoy a poetry reading.



Patsy Jones

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Books that Changed the World

Recently I came across a reference to a novel by Mrs Humphry Ward. Robert Elsmere was a highly successful novel about a clergyman, who begins to doubt his Anglican faith after reading the German rationalists, and who develops a view of Christianity based on social commitment. Many thought it to have far greater influence on religion than Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
 
I thought about other books which have “changed the world”. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin fuelled the antislavery movement; Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath led to legislation favouring farm workers and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl is a reminder of racial persecution.

I wonder how many Australian children’s books could be included in this list – My Place by Nadia Wheatley & Donna Rawlins?  Or is it no longer possible for a single book to influence large numbers of people? What do you think?

Richard Pickup


P.S. Mrs Humphry Ward was born in Tasmania in 1851.  She was the granddaughter of Thomas Arnold (headmaster of Rugby School) and was the niece of the poet Matthew Arnold.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Reviews – my book filter

Four or five of the 230+ books I’ve read so far this year were duds.  Why so few?  Because I read books recommended by real people – some are my friends, others are those wonderful people who write considered, thought provoking and well crafted reviews in quality journals such as Magpies, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Reading Time Online and Viewpoint.

Thanks to many tireless contributors and particularly to two recently deceased champions of children’s literature Jo Goodman and Maurice Saxby, I’ve been introduced to many authors whose works have enriched my life.

After 22 years, Viewpoint on books for young adults has produced its final issue.      As well as the author interviews and long reviews from some of Australia’s best reviewers, Viewpoint included reviews from school students. I will miss this journal.

Nella Pickup
 

Thank you book reviewers everywhere. If you have a favourite review journal why not post a comment and share with our readers. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Power of Publication

I’ve heard adults talking about how gratifying it is to have their work published, so imagine how powerfully gratifying and motivating it is for a student. This week’s blogpost gives a voice to a student, Charlotte Walker, who describes her experience writing a poem and how it felt to have it published.  Helen Rothwell

Charlotte Walker, published poet.
Charlotte Walker, is a sixteen year old, Year 10 student at Glenora District School. She wrote a wonderful poem, in response to a class writing task, that her teacher suggested be entered into the 2014 Write As Rain competition for students’ short stories and poetry. While Charlotte was not a finalist, she did have the thrill of being the only entrant from her school and having her poem published in the 2014 Write As Rain book.
Competition details can be found on the Write4Fun website.

Charlotte, what was the task you were set to undertake?
My class were asked to write a ‘dark’ poem on a gothic theme. We brainstormed vocabulary and then I expanded it with my key ideas. I thought group brainstorming would be a boring, babyish activity, but it was a useful process I could apply to my writing.

What challenges did you face when writing your poem?
It was difficult to keep the ideas flowing and know if I was editing the poem properly, so the meaning wasn’t lost. I was also worried when I experienced blanks in my imagination.
I was motivated to write the poem because I wanted to challenge myself and prove that I could do it. I realised that writing a poem I’m happy with takes more than just writing in class, so I kept thinking about the poem long afterwards. I spent a lot of time at home, where it was quiet, just thinking.
I thought my vocabulary skills were good but not extraordinary. I chose words that really connected to me and meant a lot. I ready my peers’ poems and was given helpful feedback from my teacher.

How long did it take you to draft and edit the poem?
It took four weeks to write and edit, during class time and at home. The poem took longer to write than a narrative because I had to think so intensely about every word I used. In total it took eight drafts and five edits.

Did you know much about poetry before you wrote your poem?
I occasionally read war poetry in class and we had deconstructed poems to discuss their structure, but it was not the usual genre I write in. I knew that you express your feelings deeply in a poem and it is a more concentrated form of writing.

How do you feel about having your poem published in Write As Rain?
It has made a big difference to my confidence and made me more open and calm in class. Before I had my poem published, I was too shy to put myself forward. My classmates were really shocked because they didn’t think I had it in me to write something of that quality. Now, students come to me in class to read their writing and give them my impressions of their work.
Since I had my poem published, I find that I’m more confident writing at school and I spend about three hours a week, at home, writing in my own time. Being published has definitely helped my other school work, for example, my science procedural writing. I feel my phrasing has improved too.

Do you think there is a connection between your reading and writing?
I read a lot and feel I am a good reader. I like mystery books and books with dark themes. I also enjoy spending time in our school library, where we have a good selection of books. If I didn’t read as much as I do, I don’t think I’d have the vocabulary I needed to write my poem.

GOTHIC POEM
Trees standing tall
Cold wind blowing
The flowers are lifeless, drained
The shadows recede
Sun breaks through desiccated limbs
Dear sister, eternally still
Dewy grass comes to life where you lie.

Cold wind brushes her rosy cheeks
Lush green dress like the grass that grows
Brown hair
Twists, twines
Flows like a river
Down her face.

Dark shadow in the distance
Dusty clothing
Tall, thin
Seeking, silent
Chalk white skin
Hair like the thorns that cover the land.

As the moon rises
From day to night
My lover standing in the moonlight
Tonight is the night
We will become one.

As I turn
Rosy cheeks turn to chalk
Green dress turns black like burnt grass
Fangs appear
Relying on the one who created me
For my source of food.

                                                                 Charlotte Walker

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Christmas Cheer


With Christmas moments away I thought I would share with you some of my favourite seasonal stories for children of all ages. Surprisingly, although not that old, some do appear to be out of print or hard to find. A search of your local library or school library hopefully may unearth some of these treasures.

On angel wings by Michael Morpurgo
The special, secret flight of a shepherd boy, guided by the Angel Gabriel, to the nativity scene. 









The fourth king: the story of the other wise man by Ted Sieger
The tale of the fourth king and his journey, with his camel Chamberlin, towards the star heralding the birth of the King   of Kings. Based on an animation of the same title.


Applesauce and the Christmas miracle
by Glenda 
Millard and Stephen Michael King
An Australian setting for a local miracle in the peak of the bushfire season as observed through the eyes of Applesauce, a pig.




Two books by Kevin Whitlark that are a bit of fun for children and pet lovers are twists on the traditional 12 days of Christmas: Twelve dogs of Christmas and Twelve cats of Christmas.


Enjoy the lead up to festive season, and remember the gift of books for young and old.

Tricia Scott






Sunday, 16 November 2014

Who Needs to Travel?




I have recently finished studies in travel writing and my first goal is to write about the fantastic attractions we have here in Tasmania for young people. And I wondered if there were any travel guides just for kids - well there are.


Lonely Planet who, as you would know, recently voted Tasmania as one of the 10 best places to visit in the world, has a publication called The Travel Book. It is part of their ‘Not for Parents' series ‘for budding travel lovers 8 and up.’ And instead of recommendations about the best hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, this book tells kids where they can see Platform 9 3/4 in real life; why New York Taxis are painted yellow and even whether the ancient Romans wore underpants. 101 Cities for Kids is another terrific book, full of activities and sights for kids in family friendly cities around the world.

So what about Australian children’s books that feature adventures in unique and interesting locations around the world?


In Australia we have Alison Lester’s Are We There Yet?; Roland Harvey’s To the Top End: Our Trip Across Australia and Katrina Nannestad's Red Dirt Diary. There are of course many, many more.








Overseas we have the wonderful Mr Chicken books by Leigh Hobbs set in Paris and London; Ruth Starke's Captain Congo series set in Abyssinia/Ethiopia, India and Canada; Geoffrey McSkimming's Cairo Jim series set in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Pompeii and Cambodia (to name a few); Justin D'Ath's Extreme Adventures series set in India, Borneo and North America (and other places) and Richard Newsome's Billionaire series set in Britain, India, France, Rome, Greece and the USA.
 


Who needs to travel, to experience exotic locations? Just pick up a children's book and immerse yourself in exciting cultures and breathtaking scenery around the world. Better still, read it with a child!


Penny Garnsworthy

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Book an Adventure



CBCA(Tas.) Inc. is thrilled to support the wonderful

Book an Adventure : Bruny Island Children’s Literature Festival

planned for 15 – 18 January 2015 at Adventure Bay (where else!) on Bruny Island.

Planning is proceeding most successfully with wonderful children’s literature creators such as Norman Jorgensen (The last Viking), James Foley (In the lion), Wendy Orr (Nim’s Island), Lian Tanner (The Hidden), Peter Gouldthorpe (Ice, wind, rock : Douglas Mawson in the Antarctic), and Diane Wolfer (Light Horse Boy) already signed up to be part of the Festival

Want to know more?  Visit the website www.bookanadventure.org.au to discover all the latest news on the program, and subscribe to the Festival newsletter at http://eepurl.com/7z7Z9 .



 The Festival will be launched at the Kingston Beach Digital Hub at 11 am on 2 December this year, after which bookings for the program will be available to be made on the website.  Your invitation to this launch is above.


It’s not just CBCA (Tas) Inc. which is supporting this Festival either!  Carmen Bateson, cheese maker at the Bruny Island Cheese Company, is leading a Cheese Making Workshop from 1 pm to 5 pm on Sunday 23 November at the Adventure Bay Hall.  There are still a few tickets left (go to the Book an Adventure website to make a booking) and profits from this opportunity to expand your culinary skills go to the Festival.

Jessie Mahjouri







Sunday, 9 November 2014

Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize. But What Does that Mean for Tasmanian Writing?

In beginning this blog post, I hope that you will forgive me yet another entry that discusses children’s literature only circuitously. It is, I hope, another digression that is not wholly out of place, and I know that some excellent recommendations from our experts to get your Christmas shopping in full swing are no doubt on their way! But there has been some excellent news in Tasmanian writing recently—news that I think has much broader significance than in the sphere of adult literature alone—and I think it is important and wise that we recognise and celebrate it.
 
Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, has won the Man Booker Prize for 2014. The Booker is one of the world’s premier literary awards, and many would argue that it is the prize of most significance, surpassing even the Pulitzer in its scope and worth. For the adults among us, allow me to offer a sincere and glowing recommendation for Narrow Road. It’s not an easy read--in the sense that is harrowing and upsetting, rather than difficult to comprehend—but it is startling, beautiful, and easily Flanagan’s best work to date (this accolade alone in my mind should be praise enough to make it worth picking up). I have been surprised by the number of people I have come across who have told me that they are utterly delighted by Flanagan’s win, but haven’t yet read the book. My advice would be to take the Booker acknowledgment seriously. This is seriously special reading.

Now that we’ve discussed that, however, I’d like to think about what this means more broadly, by tying it in with my recent experience assisting students with their English Writing folios at a pre-tertiary level. Firstly, the good news: there are still great writers in our schools, producing work that can make you laugh and cry, and leaves you in no doubt that the future will produce more wonderful stories. There is a problem I continue to notice in schools, though, and which I expanded upon in a recent post on my own blog at
http://www.lyndonriggall.com, called “The United States of Story.” That problem is this: through media saturation, students have come to believe that the realm of narrative—the place where stories take place, always—is America. Hordes of students who have never been there can be caught placing even the most generic school scene in the middle of New York rather than in the schools they have actually grown up in.
 
The CBCA in its role as champions of locally produced children’s literature, has fought hard for years against the notion that good stories come from and represent a place that is not, and cannot be, Australia. It is part of what makes writers like Flanagan so unique and special; their stories capture the spirit of places where they live—wild landscapes that are not literary clich├ęs. But still, we continue having to fight the Hollywood-ising of stories. It’s not a new problem, and it’s not going to go away in a hurry while these are the narratives that spew out of our televisions and cinema screens on a daily basis.

There is an exciting edge to all of this, however, and that is this: Richard Flanagan winning the Man Booker prize proves that Tasmanian literature has worldwide significance. Books like The Narrow Road to the Deep North inform our culture at a state and national level, certainly, but it is when they are recognised on the world stage like this that we should be really excited. Our students and our writers need to ditch sanitised and empty depictions of the United States—not because stories set in America cannot be valuable or beautiful, as they certainly can and are—but because we need Tasmanian stories.

When students look at me skeptically as I try to explain this to them, wondering why on earth anyone outside of here would have any interest in our tiny little island, I will tell them about a little boy from Longford, and how he made it big, telling Tasmanian stories to the world.
 
Lyndon Riggall

Monday, 3 November 2014

Expect the unexpected: Lian Tanner delivers again…



Before we arrived at the Founders’ Room, Salamanca Place, Hobart this morning for Lian Tanner’s launch of Sunker's Deep, the second book in her Hidden series, we had been warned to expect the unexpected and we were not disappointed!



But what else would you expect from an internationally acclaimed children's author who has also been a playwright, teacher, professional actor, freelance journalist, editor, and tourist bus driver?





Ably assisted by marvellous MC Mel King, puppeteer and actor, the audience was led though games and story teasers that were perfectly pitched to engage and enchant Lian’s besotted fans, little and big!  We were also treated to wonderful reviews by some of Lian’s most impartial critics, including Gus and Max, who rated Sunker’s Deep 10/10! 

And as with the 2013 launch of the first novel in the series, Icebreaker, again the lucky door prize proved to be very less than lucky (for details of last year’s launch http://liantanner.com.au/the-hobart-launch-of-ice-breaker).  But luckily our plucky 2014 prizewinner was eventually returned safely to the bosom of her family, despite being forced to walk the plank by the despicable Chief Engineer Albie.



And who would have thought that this latest title in Hidden series, aimed at middle- and upper-primary readers who love adventure, suspense and strange worlds, was inspired by Lian’s visit to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where she fell in love with a German submarine known as U-505.  She became besotted with the idea of writing a story set in a submarine after joining a tour which enabled her to experience life aboard this sub in the days leading up to its capture, when it was prowling off the coast of West Africa on a hunt for American and Allied ships, terrorising the Atlantic Ocean as part of a massive U-boat campaign that almost altered the outcome of World War II.

But enough of the background chat!  I’ve got a shiny new copy of Sunker’s Deep waiting to be read… Can the Sunkers and the Ice Breakers put aside their differences and work together? Or will the Devouts finally catch up with them all?

When I’m finished will I agree with Gus and Max’s 10/10?   If you’ve read it, tell me your score and which Lian Tanner book is your favourite.





Jessie Mahjouri

Monday, 27 October 2014

Spot the difference: The next chapter


 

Further to my April post http://cbcatas.blogspot.com.au/2014_04_01_archive.html, the foreign language picture book collection has grown since a recent journey to Japan.  Always with an eye open for popular children’s books in foreign languages, Japanese book shops did not disappoint – but Spot was harder to find.

My forays were based in Tokyo and my first bookshop browse found numerous popular English language titles. The most notable: The Giving Tree and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But not one Spot book could I spot. Loath to go away without one Japanese title, a mini version of Eric Carle’s greedy caterpillar was purchased and easily stowed.

But now I was on a mission and that night logged into the trusty iPad and searched for the largest Japanese bookshop I know – Kinokuniya. And found it! In Tokyo! Just a few train lines and subway stops away.  

Kinokuniya is 6 storeys high, with each floor focusing on a particular genre of book. Naturally, signage is in Japanese and helpful shop assistants kept directing us to the foreign language floor. In the end we caught the elevator to the 6th floor and worked our way down. And on the 4th floor we found the children’s department. Joy J

There were a few challenges. There were many, many books – shelves of them – most with only their spines showing. We scouted around until we located a large section of translated books. There were The Giving Tree and the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and the recent rerelease of The 3 Robbers amongst many others. But no sign of Spot.  A young non-English speaking shop assistant came to help.  With some dramatic dog like actions, tail wagging and ‘woof woofing’  (wondering if dogs said ‘woof’ in Japanese) the light dawned and she took us to the non-fiction pet books. We took her back to the translated section and tried a different tack. I picked up The 3 Robbers and without being able to read a word of Japanese, correctly identified the author’s name on the cover. The sales assistant said “Tomi Ungerer’ with a delightful accent. I then wrote down ‘Eric Hill’ on her notepad, ‘woofed’ and she laughed. A light bulb moment. Off to a senior sales person, a computer search, and back she came, straight to the shelves, flicked through the spines and pulled out two Spot books.

And yes, I bought both. I have added Japanese versions of Where’s Spot and Who’s There Spot? to the collection. A successful, and hilarious, day’s shopping. And as a matter of interest, both books were in hardback and were priced at around $12 each. Books in Japan are affordable and highly valued.




Jennie Bales

Monday, 20 October 2014

Congratulations Patsy Jones!

Our congratulations go to Patsy Jones from the CBCA Tasmania branch, who has been nominated for the Senior Australian of the Year Award!


Read about Patsy's achievements at: 

Post apocalyptic/dystopian fiction



The Weekend Australian's Review recently published an article entitled, ‘Worlds without end’ by Rosemary Neill which ‘investigates the psychology behind popular culture’s latest obsession’.  It is an interesting discussion about modern teenagers’ fascination with dystopian fiction, namely, ’The Twilight series’, ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’ and most recently ‘The Giver’ and ‘The Maze Runner’.

Having read Neill’s article and stimulated to think about my own far from teenage fascination with this type of fiction I have to say that post apocalyptic/dystopian stories are not really ‘the latest obsession’.  The interest has been there a long time if my literary experience is anything of a measure.

I have been long term fan of post apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. My earliest recollection of this type of story where the protagonists had to deal with the end of society as we know it was ‘On the Beach’ by British-Australian author Nevil Shute which was published in 1957, although I didn’t read that until I was in my early teens in the sixties.  I also seem to remember a film or even a television series.  Another story which dealt with the disintegration of society, where the characters struggle to survive in a fractured world, was Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’, published in 1951, which I listened to as a radio series in the early sixties. Then as a very young, inexperienced teacher of secondary English I encountered ‘Z for Zachariah’.  This is a post-apocalyptic survival story by Robert C. O'Brien (pen name of Robert Leslie Conly).  It was published in 1974 and was very popular with my grade 9/10, then C and B class students.  We had some great times playing revolutions and nuclear survival games. All this was during the post WW2 cold war era when nuclear warfare was a real possibility and therefore the inspiration for lots of novels and films.  

Then I experienced a lull in my acquaintance with YA PAD fiction. Perhaps someone else can fill in the gaps for me. Except of course I shouldn’t forget John Marsden’s series ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’, first published in 1993.  At this point I think there was a slight change in the genre from the nuclear or extra-terrestrial  destruction of society to a more politically created chaos like a war, invasion, climate catastrophe, or social reorganisation.  Whatever the reason for the changes, nuclear threat was no longer the basis, mirroring I guess the real world situation.

During my stint as a CBCA reading judge I came across a plethora of books in this genre which gave me an amazing re-introduction to how this genre has developed.  Apart from the series by Meyer, Collins, Roth and Lowry I read Glenda Millard’s ‘A Small Free Kiss in the Dark’, Sean William’s ‘The Changeling’, S.D. Crockett’s ‘After the Snow’, and Joss Hendley’s ‘The Wish Kin’ to name a few.

Recently, courtesy of Village cinemas, I did find something from my gap years.  Showing at the local cinema was ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry , the book of which I’m told has been around since 1993. Here I broke my self imposed rule and saw the film before I read the book.  It was an interesting experience to do it that way round. But why I did it that way will be my next blog.

Carol Fuller


Monday, 13 October 2014

Inside Story

CBCA member Gay McKinnon has put together this event, kindly housed by Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, for you all to enjoy.  It's not every day we have the opportunity to see and hear such a variety of authors!

The Gruffalo celebrations




I'm in the UK at the moment, enjoying the autumn weather but also looking forward to returning home and being part of the Tasmanian springtime.

We have recently visited friends who live west of London and we spent part of our time together walking in Wendover Woods, a wonderful 320 hectares in the Chiltern Hills managed by England’s Forestry Commission. It’s criss-crossed with walking, bike and horse trails and includes many areas created for families.

Imagine my delight when I came across the Gruffalo trail. Over the summer, there’s been a path along which have hung images of the characters from the books. Wendover is now one of fifteen Forestry Commission sites in England which are celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo – as well as the Gruffalo’s Child – by hosting a large wooden statue of the Gruffalo. Each one has been carved in a different position.  In Wendover, he stands on a hillside looking out over the treetops towards the valley below.  A sign beside it says “Oh help! Oh No! Don’t climb on the Gruffalo”.

What a wonderful way to celebrate such a milestone! All the Gruffalo trails (and there are some sites without a statue) across the country started October 3 and continue until February 2015 which is an excellent way to encourage families to get outdoors during the winter months.


Wouldn’t it be fantastic if one of our iconic children’s books could be celebrated in such a way! Which one would you choose?



Maureen Mann


Sunday, 28 September 2014

School Days

 Despite frequent comments from students that they don’t “like” school, many do like books set in schools and even more so if they are part of a series.

Some of my favourite school based reads include Looking for Alaska (John Green), Lev Grossman’s The Magician, Maureen Johnston’s The Name of the Star, and Maggie Stievfater's Ravens Cycle series. My recent reading includes these newer school based books.

Esme Kerr The Glass Bird Girl (Knight Haddon series) Chicken House

This eloquent book has an old fashioned feel to it which will appeal to girls aged 9+ who like stories where school girls are school girls and where adults can be mysterious and duplicitous.  Her blind grandmother can no longer look after the orphaned Edie.  Instead Edie is sent by her awful uncle to Knight's Haddon School to keep an eye on Anastasia. The Russian princess is the daughter of one of the uncle’s clients.  Mysterious things are happening and someone is trying to undermine Anastasia. 

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare Iron Trial (Magisterium Series) Random House

This fantasy (as do many fantasies set in schools) bears similarities to the Harry Potter series but ignore those initial doubts as the twists and turns will leave readers anxious for the next instalment.  Alastair Hunt tells his son, twelve-year-old Callum, to fail the selection tests for the Magisterium, a training school for mages. But Master Rufus chooses Callum anyway; if he cannot learn to contain his magic within the first year, the magic will be bound.

Pip Harry Head of the River UQP
 
The story is told alternately by brother/sister twins - both in the school’s firsts rowing team. Pip Harry describes the anxiety caused by parental expectations very well. Someone is bankrolling the use of steroids to ensure the rowing team wins. Cris, the brother, takes the drugs and is therefore a cheat, but Cris is always there to support his sister. Leni, on the other hand, is not so likeable; she is determined to be the stroke and captain, yet has to learn how to be part of the team.


Any suggestions for recent school stories?

Nella Pickup

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Madi projects

Vervet monkeys


At the launch
In 2011 a Madi (South Sudanese) colleague, Sarafino Enadio, and I were sharing office space. I was aware he had been in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and had applied to come to Australia because it was too dangerous for him to return to Sudan.  In speaking of his childhood Sarafino explained that the children were responsible for guarding the crops in their families’ garden plots.  It was such a great story I suggested we write a bilingual picture book. I’d had some experience of creating bilingual texts when I was publishing manager of IAD Press in Alice Springs and was already committed to the idea of cultural maintenance and cross-cultural collaborative writing.  The aim of the book would be to show Madi children what life had been like for their parents in Sudan, to introduce some Ma’di language into texts Madi children could share with Australian children, and to send copies of a predominantly English-language book to school children in the Madi homelands.  English is now the language of education in the new republic but most of the extant educational material is in Arabic.

So the aims were cultural maintenance; celebrating Sudanese culture, giving Madi children here pride and visibility, helping to promote cultural interchange with their Australian classmates, and actively assisting Madi families in South Sudan to get an education.

When I Was a Boy in Sudan, based on Sarafino’s narratives, was the first book.  We quickly decided, on the basis of gender equity, that there should be a companion volume, When I Was a Girl in Sudan. The narrator of the girls’ book was Paskalina Eiyo, one of the few Madi elders in Hobart - a wonderful story teller, dancer and singer who told stories enthusiastically, in English at times but mostly in Ma’di.  Sarafino translated them for me. 

We received an initial grant from the Australia Council to create the ms of the first book.  Using the tape transcripts of Sarafino’s and Paskalina’s narratives, three Tasmanian writers, Julie Hunt, Anne Morgan and I, created the print texts. 

We decided to ask Madi children in Hobart to create the illustrations.  To that end we held a workshop with the Madi community.  They enjoyed the workshop immensely and Sarafino and I conducted a follow-up illustration workshop with Madi girls, at the conclusion of which we realised that the Madi children were unable to create authentic illustrations because most of them had never seen their homeland!  We then invited professional children’s illustrator Gay McKinnon to create the pictures.  At her request professional book designer Julie Hawkins donated her time and skills to design both books. 

I went to Melbourne to speak with Allen & Unwin editors, who assured me the picture books were not a commercial publishing prospect, and I also visited the Victorian Education Department’s multicultural materials resource centre in Carlton to look at similar books and to discuss publishing with them.  Chris Gallagher, Tasmanian Writers’ Centre (TWC) director, also researched publishing possibilities.  Finally we decided TWC would seek funding to publish the books, under the imprint Anzoa Books. (Anzoa in Ma’di means joy.)

The issue of creating authentic illustrations for the picture books, and ensuring the narrative in the novel is true to life, given that the writers and illustrators had never set foot in Sudan, became more pressing as we continued.  In the end I decided it was necessary for me to go to South Sudan, on a self-funded research trip.  Sarafino agreed to accompany me, despite his misgivings about returning to face traumatic memories.  On the positive side, it was a chance for him to see family from whom he had been separated more than twenty years earlier.  It was a challenging trip, and both financially and emotionally taxing, but it enabled us to complete the projects successfully and authentically.  For Sarafino it was particularly confronting and traumatic as we revisited war-torn places, but emotionally gratifying for him to be reunited with family.

TWC gained further grants for publication, printing and distribution of the picture book project in 2012 and 2013, from William Booth Foundation, Tas Regional Arts and the Tasmanian Community Fund.  Our projects, which were initiated by an interest in social justice and with the goal of creating educational tools and materials, have also, we feel, created books with strong artistic values and depth and value as Tasmanian literature.

Paskalina dancing


Fetching water in the morning

Terry Whitebeach