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

Monday, 30 March 2015

Nan Chauncy Award

This morning I have been meeting with Board member Jenni Connor, for further planning for the Tasmanian branch’s promotion of the Nan Chauncy Award for 2015. If you’re not sure exactly what the Nan Chauncy award is, go to http://cbca.org.au/nanchauncy.htm for more information about Nan and the Award.

What are we planning? 

We are kicking off with a ‘travelling suitcase’ exhibition, which will be available for display in interested public libraries in Tasmania. The first library to house this display will be the Hobart LINC, and, if all goes to plan, it will be available from late May in that library, so if you are a Hobart LINC user, be sure to look for it when you’re there. Where will it go next?  We don’t know at the moment, but we hope many of the forty-odd libraries which are part of LINC will put their hands up as potential homes for the exhibition. 
A couple of us are trekking round the opportunity shops in the Hobart area, looking everywhere to find suitable items to add to the CBCA(Tas) suitcase. I can understand the attraction of looking for specific treasures in such shops – there’s always something that brings back memories of my past life!

In June we expect to have John Marsden in Hobart for the weekend – ‘high tea’ with John will be an exciting opportunity for us all to get together to hear him speak about Nan. It won’t be long before our website is ready to take bookings for this, so watch for information on www.cbcatas.org.

Book Week is in August and that’s the time for a showing of the film of one of Nan’s books – They found a cave. You will be able to come along to the State Cinema and enjoy that, whether you’ve seen it before or not. And we’re still organising a showing in the north – you’ll see more on our website in the future.

Our final activity will be at Chauncy Vale itself – again the date is not set but we plan for early October.

And if you don’t think that’s enough for me and the other planners, add in the necessity to read (or re-read) Nan’s books. I’m on Mathinna’s People at the moment; Tangara and Tiger in the Bush have made their impact, and They Found a Cave will be next. The LINC has copies of all Nan’s works in Fiction Stack, available by request, and you can find pre-loved copies on the Internet if you look hard. No doubt you have your own copies at home too, and there may even be copies in various school libraries as well!

Patsy Jones

(CBCA(Tas) treasurer, retired librarian, retired teacher)

Monday, 23 March 2015

Engaging Children in History

For the past 12 years I have written non-fiction articles for Australia's leading children's school and educational magazines.

My passion is history and the articles, for children aged 8-14, range from the dinosaur tracks of Lark Quarry near Winton – to the world's first lighthouse, Pharos of Alexandria – to Orson Welles' 1938 broadcast of H G Wells' The War of the Worlds.

Over the centuries, young people have found themselves in amazing and often unthinkable situations. They have also made incredible discoveries. I love to research and write about history. And as much as I want to see children engage in history, I want to see them engage with other children who feature in that history.

So, I have written about the young Tutankhamen and the mystery of his death; a boy named YingZheng who became king at the age of 13 and later constructed the
Terracotta Army; and a young shepherd boy named Benezet who believed he received a message from God and went on to build the Pont d'Avignon. My next article is about the famous Lascaux Cave in France, where in 1940, four teenagers discovered nearly 2,000 paintings dating back to 15,000BC.

There is so much value in history. There are still amazing discoveries to be made and lessons to be learned. Making history interesting and inclusive for our young people can not only help build their knowledge and awareness, it will ensure they continue our exploration into the future.

Penny Garnsworthy
Freelance Writer and Editor, Tas e-News

Note: Articles pictured are from Pearson Education Magazines, The NSW School Magazine and HistoriCool.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Connecting with stories

“Every book is a clue about life… That’s how stories are connected. You bring them to life when you read them” David Whitehouse, The Mobile Library (Picador).

Alan Sillitoe’s Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Harper Collins) had a profound influence on me when I read it in my early teens. Not only because as child I had lived in England of the period, but also, because the Australian private school I attended forced me to run my non preferred distance in athletic events because the school would gain more points.

While discussing strong redemptive stories, someone, probably mischievously suggested I read Jeff Kinney’s The Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin). At the same time, I am reading Walter Mischel’s The Marshmallow Test (Bantam). Not a good combination.

I am told “reluctant readers” “love” The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My question is, in this narcissistic age, does this sort book do more harm than possible good? The character is so self-obsessed that to describe him as clinically narcissistic would not be extreme. If this character was real, he would become an evil adult. Some things are so tragic that they are never funny.

Seeing yourself reflected in stories can allow you to be become more comfortable with who you are. Sometimes, as Mischel points out, you should not be.

And for those who want Australian (and actually humorous) alternatives to Wimpy Kid, may I suggest you start with Michael Gerard Bauer, Tristan Bancks, Anh Do and Oliver Phommavanh?

Richard Pickup – reader, runner, former librarian.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Part 2: About the Lu Rees Archives

The Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children’s Literature began in 1974 with the aim of developing a national collection of Australian children’s literature. Why then? The Australian government gave $500 to each Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Lu Rees, then President of the ACT Branch, proposed to the other Branches that the ACT would be happy to start such a collection. All agreed. Now, 41 years later, the Archives holds over 26,000 books, including 3,200 in 53 languages, 445 research files on authors and illustrators, authors’ papers and manuscripts, illustrators’ artwork, audiotapes, photographs, rare books, journals, theses and ephemera. Enjoy a small sample of the Archives’ holdings through the virtual tour. It has grown into a national collection for all Australians for posterity.

ACT Branch members enthusiastically scoured school fetes, book fairs, garage and bookshop sales, family estates and library discards. They clipped newspapers and journals for items about Australian children’s literature. Shelves and cupboards in the homes of Lu Rees and Jill Gamble slowly filled. Then 1979 arrived with its International Year of the Child celebrations.

While others tossed around ideas for celebrations, Lu suggested collecting translations. What a good idea, but how would one go about this? Lu began a letter writing campaign. She wrote to authors, illustrators, and publishers. Where they could help they did. Translations flowed into the collection. The bulging collection outgrew its space. The public inquired how might they access this amazing collection? Space and access became priorities.

I enter the story at this point. As a member of the ACT Branch of the CBCA from 1974 and a keen academic at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education (now University of Canberra), I suggested locating the collection at the College. Space, resources and access could support the notion of a national collection. Negotiations began and through the enthusiastic support of Victor Crittenden, then head Librarian, the collection was formally deposited in the College in July 1980 and named the Lu Rees Archives at that time. Lu Rees offered her personal collection of 1,000 books and the 60 files on authors and illustrators as the beginning collection. The research files now occupy 23.9 linear metres.

That decision in 1980 supported the development of the Archives as a national collection. Through the Library’s efforts, the Archives gained deductible gift recipient (DGR) status in 1988 so that donations became tax deductible. The Archives became a tax-exempt charity. Authors, illustrators and children’s publishers donated their papers, manuscripts, artworks and business records thus strengthening the unique study and research aspect of the Archives. DGR status offered a financial incentive for philanthropists to support the Archives with such investments ensuring that Australian children’s literature is preserved and publicly available for posterity. In 2011, the collection was independently assessed as ‘significant’ and ‘unique’, and the following year the Archives’ collections were valued at $6,000,000.

In 2015 the Archives has reached another pivotal year with funding essential. The Archives has never received annual funding. The University of Canberra provides facilities, furnishings, cataloguing, computers and printers, consumables, expertise, and insurance, but no funding. From 1995 through 2014, the National Board of the CBCA provided funding when available for part-time staffing. The CBCA has now determined that it must put its resources elsewhere.

The Archives is raising its profile through social networking on Facebook, Twitter, and its e-newsletter along with an enhanced website. The Archives has rebranded and produced collateral, published its 40-year story, Showcasing treasures, and introduced a line of glassware related to its Pixie O’Harris artwork collection.

Over the last decade, the Archives has promoted its resources to varied and enthusiastic audiences. In 2013 our Showcase festival attracted over 1,600 participants, and in 2014, our Bob Graham retrospective exhibition engaged over 12,000 individuals. We have designed and delivered projects in retirement communities, Chinese language schools, preschools, day-care centres, primary and secondary schools and worked with numerous interns. We have partnered with Australia’s national institutions, as well as State and Territory organisations. We know that our national heritage of children’s literature deepens our understanding of where we came from, who we are and where we are going. We invite supporters of the Lu Rees Archives to join with us in securing our future.

Belle Alderman
Emeritus Professor of Children's Literature
University of Canberra

Editor’s note: What a fascinating account and fantastic array of merchandise for lovers of children’s literature. Online ordering is available for Showcasing treasures and the various etched glass products. Decisions!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Part 1: Nan Chauncy in the Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children’s Literature Inc

Nan Chauncy is one of Australia’s most-respected writers for children during the 1950s and 1960s. The Lu Rees Archives is proud to hold unique materials exploring this writer’s work and life.

Nan’s sixteen books for children were published between 1948 and 1969. The Archives holds all but one, Panic at the garage (1965). Translations during this time were unusual because Australian children’s literature was not widely known. For Nan’s books to appear in 13 languages then is a remarkable achievement. Both Tiger in the bush (1957) and Tangara (1960) appear in eleven different editions. Australian, American and British editions are in addition to these, plus many reprints. We hold 35 different editions and reprints of Nan’s books, but we are still looking for many of her translations as we only hold three in French, Portuguese and Slovakian.

Our research file on Nan complements her book collection and includes many published and unpublished items about her work. We are fortunate that Nan’s brother, Kay Masterman, lived in Canberra and knew Lu Rees well. He was very active in the Children’s Book Council of Australia ACT Branch and its national body. Kay created and collected many photographs documenting people, places and incidents in Nan’s life. He gave these to the Archives, and Lu Rees referenced each and arranged them in a photograph album. This album presents us with preservation challenges, but we have the negatives and duplicate photographs. Some of these photographs appeared in Berenice Eastman’s beautifully researched biography, Nan Chauncy: A writer’s life (2000). Conference proceedings, biographies, and critical essays all feature in our reference collection along with theses on Nan and all provide additional resources for study and research. 

Nan Chauncy’s research file occupies two large folders and includes correspondence, photographs, and other unusual items such as the handwritten talk entitled ‘Nan Chauncy: 1900-1970’ presented by Kay Masterman. This was delivered at a seminar held in Canberra on 9 March 1975. This talk has been recorded, with the Archives holding a digitised copy. It has also been published, in edited form, three times. The recording is part of the Archives’ historically important collection of digitised audiotapes. These cover the period from 1975 to 1998 and feature 112 authors, illustrators, publishers and critics talking about Australian children’s literature. These audiotapes, and digitised photographs of those speaking, uniquely record the development of Australian children’s literature during its growth period.

Who doesn’t enjoy pouring over images of people, times and places? Not only does the Archives hold her brother Kay Masterman’s photographs but also photographs from Walter McVitty, an individual widely respected for his knowledge of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is also fortunate to hold several important collections from Walter, including the Walter McVitty Photograph Collection. These cover the period ca. 1890 – ca. 1997. As a prolific writer about Australian children’s literature, Walter often took photographs or collected these from other sources to feature in his writing. His collection features nine photographs relating to Nan Chauncy. Walter also collected background material about authors for the many books he published. The Walter McVitty Research Collection holds three folders on Nan Chauncy among his 182 files on Australian authors and illustrators.

From this small sample of material about Nan Chancy, it is clear that the Lu Rees Archives offers important material, not just on Nan, but also on the entire field of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is not a static collection, as from time to time, new editions and additional studies appear. These then enhance the important place Nan Chauncy holds in the field of Australian children’s literature. The Archives is proud to hold this collection of unique material so that her work can be studied and enjoyed for all time.

Join me next week as I reveal how the Lu Rees Archives began, its milestones and achievements and future challenges.
Belle Alderman
Emeritus Professor of Children's Literature
University of Canberra