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

Saturday, 28 January 2017

In Search of my Favourite Book

An introspective post from Patsy Jones as she reflects on a dearth of books in childhood and tipping points for change with the entrance of the works of Hesba Fay Brinsmead leading to a working life surrounded by books.

Now that I have made it to the second half of my seventies, I find I spend quite a bit of time mulling over various past aspects of my life – no doubt this is not unique to me!

An invitation to a 50th birthday party, with the suggestion that a suitable gift would be my favourite book, has focused such reminiscence on books – what is my favourite book? Where do I start?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Queensland in the 1940s, attending a one-teacher school which was very Spartan in comparison to modern schools. No library of course (but the Queensland Education Department did make the effort of periodically sending boxes of cheaply-produced books out to be routed from one school to the next). And no library in the local town either.

So my reading was limited to what I could find on the shelves at home, to gifts from and loans from family and friends. And the expensive school in Brisbane to which I was sent at thirteen didn’t provide library services to students in the school itself. But at least the boarding-house attached to the school (of course, as a country kid, I was a boarder) did have two or three shelves of a very eclectic collection of books in one of the common-rooms – I think they were either donations or bought from secondhand bookshops!  Some very strange titles and subjects there as well….

And when I started work as a teacher in various Queensland primary schools the situation regarding access to books was little better.

It was not till 1964 when I was married, we moved to Melbourne, and I was working at Footscray High School, that I came into contact with a REAL LIBRARIAN! And this changed my life in many ways.

Now to the present day - over the last month or so I have been putting together a bibliography of material on Lake Pedder, for the new website. This has occasioned many sessions of retrospection as the time of the lake’s inundation in the early 1970s was an important time for me personally.

Two titles in this bibliography jolted my memory – the two books Hesba Fay Brinsmead (nee Hungerford) wrote about Lake Pedder. One is what we would call Young Adult fiction these days – Echo in the Wilderness - and the other has been accepted as non-fiction: I will not say the day is done.

Echo was published in 1972 by Oxford University Press, illustrated by Graham Humphreys, with ‘A tribute to Nan Chauncy’ opposite the verso. Pedder doesn’t get a mention by name at all, the lake in the story being known as Tara, but the relationship is clear. The jacket illustration, of a small plane landed on a sandy beach with mountains in the background, is a reminder of all the photos of just such a scene published at the time, and is supported by a map of Tasmania with added fictitious names. It is still, after nearly forty-five years, very readable, though I wonder how many of its readers now would make the connection with Lake Pedder.

I will not say the day is done is a different kettle of fish entirely. Published by a small independent publisher in New South Wales in 1983, it has an introduction by Geoff Mosley, a poem by Clive Sansom, and a foreword by Bob Brown, plus several black-and-white photos to give it credibility. But the text, as well as being poorly proofed, has an unusually dramatic style for a non-fiction publication – the quotation below will show you what I mean….

Doctor Dick Jones ….. was young, with a trained mind, and without fear. In himself, he had a trick of changing from a passive state to quick and vivid animation. It may have been a legacy of Celtic ancestry. There was something of the green-eyed satyr in him…

As well as Hesba’s publications on Lake Pedder, there are several more fiction texts for the teenage reader – her first (and best, in my opinion) was Pastures of the Blue Crane, published in 1964, in which issues such as racism and sexism are explored through a teenaged cast of characters. This won the Children’s Book of the Year Award in 1965 (this is where this blog completes its circle) and was the subject of enthusiastic praise in the Footscray High School staff room over several days. Librarian Susan ensured that several of us read it…. And of course I was one.

And how did it change my life? 

I’d never heard of the Children’s Book Council of Australia before (yes, I know my education was sadly lacking) but have since remained a strong supporter of the organisation.

When we moved to Tasmania and I found teaching jobs hard to get, I enrolled in the brand-new Diploma of Librarianship at the University of Tasmania and ended up, after some time, as the Senior Librarian for Children’s Services in the State Library here.

And I’m never at a loss for something interesting to read!

But I still don’t know what is my favourite book…..Do you? Will you share it?

Patsy Jones
Retired librarian and teacher

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Seriously Good Series Books

Jessica Marston discusses the joys of holiday reading with her children, aged 8 and 11, relating the books mentioned to the context of other titles in a series, and connecting clearly to other titles written and illustrated by the same creators.
In our house at the moment we are relishing the extra time that the Summer holidays have given us, especially when that means more time to spend reading together at bedtime. Some of the books my children, aged 8 and 11, received as Christmas gifts fall into the category of seriously good series books and it is those that I’m going to talk about today.
Let me start with Fizz the Police Dog Adventure series, written by Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Stephen Michael King.  You may remember their previous collaboration, Scary Night, which was an Honour book in the 2015 CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Awards.
This delightful four part series is written for the newly independent reader, but certainly contains enough interest, action and humour to also keep older and more confident readers engrossed.
In book one, Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts, our main character Fizz, a Bolognese (cute, fluffy ball of white), is not your average Police Dog breed.  From members of his own family to the other dogs trying out for the Police Dog Academy, Fizz is faced with many detractors along the way to achieving his dream of Police Dog status.  My 8 year old son and I found that his determination, quick thinking and ability to solve mysteries helped to make him an admirable and loveable character. From the illustrated character pages at the beginning of each book, to the short and snappy chapters, and the satisfying endings these books are 68 pages of fun and adventure that will appeal to a wide range of primary school children, and their parents. 
Another series title that my 11 year old daughter and I are enjoying immensely is book two in the Stella Montgomery Intrigue series, Wormwood Mire, written by another CBCA awarded writer, Judith Rossell.  This follow up to 2015 Honour Book for Younger Readers, Withering-by-Sea, is just as engaging as its predecessor.  We are taken along for a wild and unpredictable adventure as Stella is sent off by her disapproving Aunts to Wormwood Mire to be schooled by a governess, along with Strideforth and Hortense, Stella’s cousins whom she has not met until this time.  Needless to say the prim and proper education the Aunts imagined is far from the reality that Stella encounters upon her arrival at the derelict mansion.
We love that Judith’s beautiful illustrations share the same colour palette as the text, blue in book one and green in book two, adding to the exquisite presentation of these timeless hardcover novels, complete with ribbon bookmark.
My daughter and I have found these well labelled as an “Intrigue”; they certainly are, with both books keeping you guessing and on many occasions, on the edge of your seat.  They are definitely hard to put down and I highly recommend them.
One of the things I really love about these two series is that each title can be read as a stand-alone book, or enjoyed for its place in the series.  Both leave us wanting more instalments, though I’m not sure that this is the plan for Fizz.
I asked my children which other series books they would recommend.  My daughter lives for all things Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) so of course that is number one on her list, but she also includes Ruby Redfort (Lauren Child) and the Three Doors Trilogy (Emily Rodda).  My son lists his favourites as Weir Do (Ahn Do), The Bad Guys (Aaron Blabey) and Pixel Raiders (Bajo and Hex, hosts of the ABC’s Good Game SP show).
Which seriously good series books would you recommend?
Jessica Marston
Teacher-Librarian, Hagley Farm School (K-6)




Saturday, 14 January 2017

What will you pick?

Maureen takes a great idea, InkyBINGO, and provides inspiration to help you adapt it to your own reading needs.
Have you liked the CBCA Tasmanian FB page? If not, you won’t have seen a recent post shared from Inside a Dog, the State Library of Victoria’s YA page. It was called InkyBINGO:  a way to help people choose something fantastic to read. It may be outside one’s comfort zone, but a great way to choose new books over the holidays.
It got me thinking, which of course was the whole point. What would I choose for each of the sections? Which of the options would I change? So, my thanks to Inside a Dog and because I read more than just Young Adult, I want to include something for picture books and Younger Readers. But also my apologies for manipulating their idea.
However, rather than telling you what I would remove, here’s my list of topics I would consider including. What topics and their titles would you keep and what would you want to change? What would you choose for each of the options?
  • The best picture book of 2016
  • My favourite illustrator
  • Great for me, but not all reviews agreed
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • New (to me) author
  • Information book spectacular
  • Suggestion from someone else
  •  A book which references new areas: music, art or other authors
  • e-book
  • Humour
Which of the covers I have shown here fit which section? Have fun exploring your own and let us know what you would change or add as well as what you would choose for any section.
Happy reading!
Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Reading wish list for 2017

Do you have a 2017 reading wish list? Penny is starting hers and already facing dilemmas in making her first choices. So many good books to select from!

Here we are at the beginning of another year. The various festive celebrations have come and gone and life for most of us, is slowly returning to normal.

Like many of you I have plans and projects in mind for 2017, and I intend to find more time to read in 2017. Fortunately, one of my Christmas gifts was a Petrarch's Voucher so I picked up a copy of  their Summer Reading Guide and trawled through it with great interest, thrilled to discover that no less than seven pages are devoted to books for young people!

So, what to choose?

Well, one definite is The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest van der Kwast & Laura Vroomen which is set in Italy and is a 'dazzling novel about an Italian ice-cream dynasty, tradition, ambition, and the sensation of lemon sorbet melting on your tongue.'  But since my voucher will only cover the cost of two books, I now have a dilemma.

I love crime thrillers, so do I choose Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz or The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly? But I also love sci-fi, so young adult titles Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff and The Diabolic by S J Kincaid also hold great appeal. I read a lot of non-fiction too and Evolution: A Visual Record by Robert Clark is also a contender; as is the brilliant Wonderlands: The Illustration Art of Robert Ingpen.

Imagine having all these books to choose from. May we all have such dilemmas in 2017!

Penny Garnsworthy
Freelance writer

Editor’s note:
If you have read any of these, why not give Penny some advice – or share a “must read” title on your wish list.