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

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Hey Diddle Diddle, You All Know the Riddle - It’s Time for a Story!

It is Library & Information Week in Australia and a highlight of celebrations is the National Simultaneous Storytime event – get involved by visiting your local library on Wednesday or initiating a shared reading in your home, classroom or LIBRARY!
This Wednesday the 24th of May marks the 17th National Simultaneous Storytime Event, (NSS) run by ALIA (the Australian Library and Information Association). 
It is such a difficult task to choose a book that has appeal to a wide enough range of children to fit the bill for NSS, and we have seen some excellent choices in the past with Pete the Sheep, The Wrong Book, The Very Cranky Bear, The Brothers Quibble, Too Many Elephants in This House and I Got This Hat, all created by talented Aussies who are well known to the CBCA.

What a great moment it must be to find out your book has been chosen for this wonderful event!  This year that honour goes to Tony Wilson and Laura Wood for their witty picture book The Cow Tripped Over the Moon; a wonderful take on the back-story of the classic nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle.
This story was of course an honour book in last year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Awards, and is a true celebration of resilience and the importance of having great supporters around you to achieve a dream.
The clever rhyming text makes Wilson’s book a fantastic choice for a read aloud as it flows so well, builds to an exciting climax and provides a satisfying conclusion despite the inevitability of the outcome!  Wood’s illustrations are just delightful in their comic additions to the story, providing much for the reader to enjoy. The Illustrator, Laura Wood, has shared some double page spreads on her website.
ALIA have put together a wonderful range of support materials to help engage children beyond the storytelling of the book, and again the fantastic team at Story Box Library have a brilliant rendition read by Eddie Perfect (Play School, Offspring).
Even if you can’t get to an NSS event on Wednesday, I encourage you to find some time this week to read this engaging tale aloud – even if it’s to the cat and the dog!  I’m sure they will think it such sport!
Jessica Marston
(Teacher Librarian - Hagley Farm School (K-6), mum, advocate of the power of reading aloud).
Twitter: @marston_jessica

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Combining Book Collections Leads to New Finds

Jackie explores the delights of sharing book collections as a pathway to discovering new titles. Blue Fin is the gem that she has just discovered through her husband's personal library. There’s sure to be more treats to explore!
One of the side effects of sharing a house with another adult is the combination of your separate book collections. For my husband and I this was mostly a positive experience as our tastes in books do cross over in places – so while I have to find room on the bookshelves for the Stephen King and military history collections that don’t enthuse me, I have also been able to find books I do like but haven’t read before (and of course there were a few duplications that were probably inevitable in two people who read at least some of the same authors.) Of course now our most frequently purchased item of furniture since our wedding is always a new book case . . . . but this is a happy outcome even if one day I hope we can progress to a new couch!
One of the real finds was that Norm owned a copy of Colin Thiele’s Blue Fin, which I hadn’t previously read. I enjoyed Colin Thiele as a child but for some reason this particular book had never come my way.
Blue Fin is a coming of age story set in the tuna fishing town of Port Lincoln in South Australia. Snook, at fourteen, finds that everything he tries goes wrong and it seems that he will never earn a place for himself or the respect of his father.
The struggle of the tuna fishermen is clearly portrayed as well as the tragedy that strikes when boats and crew fail to return. It is a hard trade both for the skippers and boat owners as well as the crew. Thiele also portrays the social minefields of adolescence as Snook tries to navigate the shifting currents of opinion at school, at his part time job at the cannery and within his own family house.
When Snook’s father reluctantly agrees that Snook can be part of the crew for his next (and possibly last if he cannot catch enough tuna) trip, neither he nor Snook can imagine how the next week will change both their lives forever.
If you haven’t read Blue Fin yet, it is highly recommended.
Blue Fin DVD cover image
Jackie Gangell

Editor’s note: If you have not had the pleasure of dipping into Colin Thiele’s extensive works, there is a useful bibliography at Equitainment: Author Fact sheet. This site also lists titles reproduced as films.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Sad but Maybe Happy Tale of Bunny & Bettong

An author’s perspective on author/illustrator collaborations
by Anne Morgan

You’ve just written Bunny & Bettong, your first picture book. It’s going to be a bestseller, you can feel it in your bones. CBCA Picture Book of the Year. International sales. Translated into every known language. But you need an illustrator, right?
As luck would have it, an Amazing Artist (AA) lives across the road from your best friend. Her whimsical wildlife images would be a perfect fit for your story. Better still, you’ve seen AA’s house. The veranda is falling down. Needs a paint job. Good omens. Bunny & Bettong could provide AA with the financial lifeline she obviously needs.
So, how should you, the Hopeful Author (HA) approach AA? After some deliberation, you decide on a courteous invitation, to be dropped in AA’s letterbox. 


Before dropping that letter into AA’s letter box, here are some issues to consider.

The ethics of asking an artist to work for no pay

A virtual mountain of picture book manuscripts are written in Australia every year. Imagine the mountain. Now picture a small rocky cairn at the summit. The cairn represents the relative number of children’s manuscripts that will receive a royalty-based contract in Australia every year.
Asking AA to provide a dozen or more illustrations without payment is the moral equivalent of taking your car to a garage because your brakes need fixing and saying, ‘I can’t afford to pay you right now, but I’ve just bought a Tatts ticket. If I win I will share my winnings with you.’
Your text may not be good enough to attract a publication contract. And major publishers choose their illustrators from their stable of experienced and award-winning illustrators. AA’s artwork may not fit their house style. And just because AA can paint doesn’t mean she can illustrate. Can she storyboard a picture book, finding the right fit for the text and images? Does she know what a gutter is in a picture book, and how to avoid it or work around it?
When you submit an unsolicited manuscript you are asking the publisher to invest thousands of dollars in editing, design, printing and marketing your creative work. To stay solvent and, better still, turn a profit in this alarmingly volatile industry, publishers are risk-averse, preferring to invest in tried and true winners rather than rank outsiders. That’s not to say a publisher will never contract a newbie author and illustrator team; but Bunny & Bettong would have to dazzle the socks off them first, and/or fit an identified publishing niche.
So, knowing this, you’re still keen on AA illustrating Bunny & Bettong. How can you be fair to AA and see your book illustrated by the artist of your choice? Here’s how.
AA will be far more willing to collaborate on the story if you offered to pay her for 1-3 concept illustrations. Then you can submit your text and concept illustration/s, with a recommendation that the publisher consider AA as a possible illustrator.


Is your text good enough for publication?
Publishers rarely reveal why they reject a manuscript; they are far too busy publishing their chosen manuscripts than to enter into dialogue with disgruntled authors. They might even think Bunny & Bettong is a corker of a story, but they have just contracted Squirrel and Potoroo, which deals with similar themes. They probably won’t tell you that, though.
Do your research.
When was the last time you read a modern Australian picture book? The CBCA awards are a great place to start, as are the winners and shortlists of other children’s book awards. Check out the shortlists over the years. Go to the children’s section of the State Library. Go to bookstores and read, read, read within this genre. Support the industry by buying children’s books. Check out the formatting. Themes and story structures, and how the text interacts with the pictures.
Invest in yourself.
Attend a workshop in picture book making
Author illustrator, Christina Booth, offers picture book workshops for adult writers and illustrators.
The Society of Children’s Book Writersand Illustrators (SCBWI) is an international professional organisation for writers and illustrators of children’s literature. You don’t need to be published to join, just serious about developing your career. SCBWI also runs peer critique groups and organises industry conferences and publisher assessment opportunities.
Children’sWriters and Illustrators (CWILLs) is a coffee networking group that generally meets at the State Cinema restaurant in North Hobart at 5pm on the Third Tuesday of every month. Contact Gay McKinnon.
Subscribe to industry networking e-zines
I recommend Buzz Words and Pass It On.
Get your manuscript critiqued or assessed
Some TAS-based services are,
      * Affordable Manuscripts, Sally Odgers 
      * Christina Booth
      * Tasmanian Writers Centre’s assessment service

Personal Case Studies in Local Author/illustrator collaborations

Of my ten published children’s books, eight of the illustrators have been chosen by the publishers. But I have also had the good fortune of collaborating with three gifted Tasmanian artists. Here are the circumstances. 
The Glow Worm Cave (1999)
This was my first published picture story, published in 1999. Aboriginal Studies Press had emailed to say they liked my text and suggested I find an indigenous illustrator, then submit a fully illustrated concept. I found an indigenous illustrator who, for reasons beyond her control, eventually pulled out of the project. I then came across the remarkable artwork of Belinda Kurczok, who was then only 17. I invited Belinda to supply concept illustrations to the publisher. Belinda’s illustrations won her a contract with Aboriginal Studies Press, despite the fact that neither of us are indigenous. The Glow Worm Cave was shortlisted for the Environmental Children’s Book of the Year 2000.

The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & Other Ecotales (2013)
I met Gay McKinnon at CWILLS some years ago (Book Chooks in those days). Gay impressed me with her artistic talent and her dedication to developing her new career as a children’s book creator. At that stage she was still seeking her first publication contract. David Reiter, publisher at IP Kidz, had expressed interest in my manuscript of recycled eco fairy tales. After discussions with David, I asked Gay if she was interested in submitting concept illustrations. Gay was awarded an illustration contract, and the Ecotales became a joint winner of the Environment Children’s Book of the Year (Junior Fiction) in 2014.

The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken (2016)
IP Kidz offered me a contract for this picture book in 2014. I recommended Lois Bury, another talented, but then unpublished CWILLS member. Lois submitted concept illustrations and was awarded a contract, and the book was published.


Do your research and invest in yourself. When your text is as good as it can be, you can approach AA with a letter of support from a publisher for the manuscript, and/or an offer to pay for concept illustrations.

What next?

For information on publishers, agents, submission letters, and other useful publishing advice, subscribe to the Australian Writers Marketplace online database.
If Bunny & Bettong doesn’t attract a royalty-paying contract, and you still have faith in your manuscript, there are other publishing options these days. You could try a partner publishing deal with a reputable business like LittleSteps.
Another popular option is self-publishing – but do be fair to your illustrator. Agree on a fair remuneration for AA. Then draw up a formal memorandum of understanding specifying ownership of copyrights and financial details of the collaboration. Then draw up your marketing and distribution plan.
Good luck with your writing.

Anne has an adventure a day at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island. She trained as an English, Drama and biology teacher and has a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University and a Master of Education Degree from the University of Tasmania. Her children’s books include the Captain Clawbeak series (Penguin Random House). The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other Ecotales, illustrated by Gay McKinnon, was a joint winner of the Environmental Children’s Book of the Year, 2014. Her most recent picture book is The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken, illustrated by Lois Bury. Her next title, Francie Fox, is being developed as an interactive e-book for Virgin Airlines.
Anne is the Coordinator for the Tasmanian chapter of SCBWI. Her website is www.annemorgan.com.au.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Finding a Home for Preloved Books

At some point, most of us need to weed our book collections, and make some hard decisions on what to keep and what to do with those preloved copies that others are sure to enjoy. Read about Patsy’s dilemma, and share any suggestions with a comment on her post.

In the last few months my grandchildren and I have been weeding my large collection of books. Many of those weeded are children’s books, ranging from books aimed at an infant audience, to those written for young adults. Some are picture books, some are non-fiction, some are fiction.

It seems that second-hand bookshops in Hobart don’t consider they have much market for children’s books, so despite having been able to unload a considerable number of adult books, I am left with several boxes of children’s books which I, my children, and my grandchildren have outgrown.

What should I do with these? Am I reduced to trekking about various Hobart charities and leaving them as donations? I would hope that I can find a better home for the majority of them, and wondered if readers of our weekly blog might have some suggestions.

Are there school libraries that might appreciate these books? I know that processing such material has its cost, and not all these books would be worth the effort to some libraries…. but still…..

Are there schools that would be glad to use these books as ‘swaps’ in the classroom or a similar activity, with no necessity for expensive processing?

Would Children’s Book Council of Australia (Tas) use them as stock in a secondhand book sale, if in fact such a booksale is planned for this year?

What else do you suggest?

If there is someone out there in Tasmania, who is interested, do let me know via the address below I am sure I could prevail upon one of my grandchildren to type up a list with names and authors of the books I have here, if anyone would like to request such a list. I have added images of some of the books to this blog to indicate the variety of titles I have available.

Patsy Jones
Retired librarian and teacher

Contact: Patsy Jones / Preloved Books
C/- PO Box 113
Tasmania 7009

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A Muse on Childhood Reading Experiences and Books of the Past

This week Gina reflects on the books she enjoyed as a child and considers there relevance today – can they ignite a passion for reading?

A year or so ago I read an article about whether young adults are still reading pre 20th century titles, an idea I have recently been pondering again. This, along with some of the titles featured in Flis’ recent blog, invited me to drift back to the stories I read and listened to as a child and contemplate some of the books my own children are reading today. Are there wonderful stories they are missing out on because have drifted into the past? Or are they all just outdated? (I like to think not.)

My earliest book memories are the classic Little Golden Books. I had a bedhead bookshelf full of them, which I used to learn to write by copying all the words underneath in the books. Oops, naughty me! I remember the magical delights of these and so many other colourful picture books, eagerly turning the page to see what was to be revealed next. So many of us will no doubt remember the mischief of Naughty Amelia Jane, the wonder of The Magic Faraway Tree and so many other Enid Blyton stories of adventure and magic.   

I particularly remember in primary school when a favourite teacher of mine would read aloud in class. I was utterly captivated by James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web, my imagination ignited by wonderful characters and the rich details of the worlds they inhabited, the thrill of being carried along with them on their journeys as page after page was read aloud. This is still one of my most vivid and profound memories of school. I remember the joys of stories being read aloud in my own children’s kindergarten class – all that fun of wiggling on the mat and calling out reactions.

I also recall being given books in my primary years as ‘Pupil of the Week’ awards. I still have my dear old copy of good old Pollyanna! Are we still giving children books as prizes these days? My children’s primary school does have a day a year, as part of Book Week, where they can bring in books they have outgrown and swap them for something new – this is such a great

idea! It gives children access to new pre-loved books, and I think it is access that is vital in encouraging children to develop a lifelong enjoyment of reading. It certainly worked for me!

I love that my own children still huddle under the doona with a torch at night to devour Tolkien, Rowling and all manner of stories when they should be asleep. But I feel that I am a lucky parent that my children love to read, and read widely. Perhaps they are lucky that both parents are avid readers, that I am an English and Writing teacher, and that they have ready access to a wide range of books both at home and at school. But sometimes they need a bit of a nudge, a suggestion to read something that was written a long time ago. 

What can we do to encourage our children – and others – to explore the magic of stories past? I like the idea of finding old books being an adventure in itself. Second hand bookstores, markets, garage sales and charity shops, along with the local library (including the old book giveaways!) can make the discovery of books, both new and old, a treasure hunt.

I’m also a big believer in reading aloud, and treasure memories of snuggling up in my bed with two little people either side of me to read hundreds of bedtime stories including We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Wide Mouthed Frog, The Rattletrap Car, the entire collection of Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl books and the Tuesday McGillycuddy adventures. Even my big kids in Year 10, 11 and 12 enjoy being read to. I am thrilled this year that a few of them, at least, are lovers of those dear to my own heart - Dickens, Hardy, Austen and Bronte, among others – but again, perhaps we have a role in making them aware of these and other authors, giving them a taste and hoping that a few more of them might follow a narrative trail into a whole other realm of books.

I am certain there is still a very important place for the novels and picture books of generations, even centuries, past – even if it is just to have a giggle with them at Dick and Fanny. If we can encourage our young people to read widely, particularly in this age of digital distraction, they can access so many more worlds of reading adventure!

Gina Slevec
Teacher, CBCA Tas Newsletter Editor

Saturday, 8 April 2017

On Representation in Children’s Literature

Guest blogger, Kate Gordon, is well known for her YA stories that present interesting and diverse characters in various Tasmanian settings – past and present. Kate is fascinated by identity and the importance of readers and characters being able to connect within the pages of the books and their stories.
When I was a kid, I never read books about me. Books about my experience. Books about people who were like the people I knew.
I know I was lucky. It wasn’t so long before my childhood that all children had to read was Enid Blyton with her lashings of ginger beer – a reflection of childhood that must have seemed bizarre to young people growing up a million miles away. And once you became a teenager? Well, YA books didn’t exist. Kids moved straight from The Faraway Tree to Far From the Madding Crowd.
I grew up in a time of great books for kids – I devoured Tamora Pierce, Judy Blume and, yes, Ann M Martin, too. And there were fabulous Australian books as well – Robin Klein, John Marsden, James Moloney, Isobelle Carmody …
But they weren’t about me.
I was a kid growing up in rural Tasmania. Not the outback. Not a mainland city. Wynyard. I couldn’t see kids like me anywhere in the books I read.
I was a quiet, shy, bookish, queer kid with severe anxiety and terrible dress sense. I was a bullied kid. I was a kid with an undiagnosed chronic illness that made me feel like a freak.
Where were the books about me?
Representation in literature is so important to forming a child’s sense of identity and belonging. If you never see yourself in the media you consume, how will you ever know that you are normal? That everyone is normal? Everyone belongs somewhere. The queer kids, the disabled kids, the trans kids, the fat kids, the kids with illness, mental or physical, the dark-skinned kids, the kids who wore hijab, the kids whose faces don’t look like the norm. It matters if a kid doesn’t see themselves anywhere.
It matters enormously when they do.

In my writing career I have striven to represent kids like I was. I’ve set all my books in Tasmania. I want Tasmanian kids to see themselves in literature. As I move into the next phase of my career it’s becoming increasingly important to me to foster writers to tell their “own voices” stories to show every kid that they belong and matter.
I’m working with Twelfth Planet Press, an award-winning Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) publisher, to start a new children’s imprint called Titania. 
We aim to publish books that have diversity and inclusiveness at their heart, but aren’t defined by it. We aim to reflect diversity of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity and religion within larger stories that could take us to the ends of the universe and back. These are not “message” books. These are books with rollicking adventures and strong, three-dimensional characters. These are books where the girls can save the boys and then go home to dinner with their two mothers. We aim to publish the work of people who speak from their lives and their hearts and have the talent and creativity to weave fantastic stories around their lived experience.

We aim to capture readers from their earliest forays into the marvels of books, and take them through to their teenage years. We aim to create readers.

Twelfth Planet Press is an award-winning publishing house that has always had a focus on thought-provoking work. Their Kaleidoscope anthology was a collection of
fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA with diverse leads. I’m proud to be working with them on this new venture.
I hope that there are some Tassie kids out there who have experienced comfort and a sense of belonging reading my books. I hope that Titania will take this further and help kids everywhere to understand how important they are; how normal and how magical.

Kate Gordon
YA author www.kategordon.com.au