Exciting things are happening at the National Library of Australia with a new exhibition commencing on the 22 August. This week Dr Belle Alderman AM shares insights into this exciting collaboration with the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature and a taste of what’s happening during the exhibition which runs until 9 February 2020. A calendar event for Canberrans and visitors to our national capital.
Design adapted from: Koala Shape Book,
(Sydney: John Sands Ltd., 1931), nla.cat-vn4272738
It’s story time! TheNational Library of Australia and the National Centre for Australian Children’sLiterature have collaborated to create Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature. This exhibition is a celebration of the creative art of Australian stories written and illustrated for young people. Featured are the oldest, newest, most-loved and greatly admired children’s authors and illustrators over time. Three years in the making, this large exhibition features some 270 items including First Nation stories and themes of family and friends, humour, environment and animals, imaginary worlds and adventure.
Special features include the NCACL’s unique strengths—the creative process. Here is the jacket cover for The Eleventh Hour illustrated by Graeme Base, artworks and dummies revealing emerging ideas for Max and Silver Buttons by Bob Graham, doodles and sketches for Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester and artworks for Waltzing Matilda created by Freya Blackwood. Shaun Tan has loaned works showing his creative process for the mesmerising The Arrival and the moving story of The Lost Thing. Earlier contemporary favourites include a rare preliminary artwork for Gum-nut babies created in 1915.
The National Library is sharing treasures from its manuscript collections of authors and illustrators creating in the mid-20th century. Pour over the manuscripts for Ash Road by Ivan Southall, The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson, the Silver Brumby stories by Elyne Mitchell, works by Joan Phipson and Margaret Horder, then savour the manuscript of My Place, a contemporary classic written by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Donna Rawlins.
Rarely seen and an unforgettable gem is A Mother’s offering to her children (1840) Australia’s first published book for children. This copy reveals the coloured in, neatly handwritten, signature of its young reader.
Outstanding items include original artworks by Goobalathaldin (Dick Roughsey) for The Rainbow Serpent (1975) featuring alongside Jeannie Baker’s relief collage works of art.
Enjoy one of Australia’s most successful picture books, Possum Magic (1983) and Mem Fox’s manuscript with that unforgettable post-it note indicating publishers rejected this now world-famous story many times. The inimitable Mem Fox again gives us Where is the Green Sheep? embellished with several of Judy Horacek’s illustrations.
Who is not a collector of favourite mementoes? Throughout Sharing Stories is a large collection of ephemera inspired by children’s books. Look out for collector cards with lenticular covers, map for Deltora Quest, 750-piece puzzle for May Gibbs, board game, posters, plates, theatre playbills, plush toys, souvenirs, stickers, door hanger, badge, fabric, bookmarks and calendars all immortalising Australian children’s books.
Sharing Stories engages children in this exhibition through panels inviting them to think creatively about objects on display. A children’s playroom offers opportunities to watch Story Box Library films of story readings of favourite stories on exhibit with the added enticement for children to create their own stories and artworks.
Story Time is an exhibition to linger in the memory especially personal favourites. Visitors will want to return during its five-months’ showing from 22 August 2019 – 9 February 2020. There is a personal memento—Stephanie Owen Reeder’s Story Time Stars, a ‘companion’ book to the exhibition, ideal for sharing with the entire family. Here are 60 favourite children’s book characters from The Magic Pudding (Norman Lindsay) to Mr Huff (Anna Walker) appearing over the last 100 years. Story Time Stars concludes with short essays on two of Australia’s major collections of Australian children’s literature, the National Library of Australia and the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature.
Dr Belle Alderman AM
Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc (NCACL)
Editor's note: Check back in to the NLA website for updates and forthcoming children's literature related events.