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

Friday, 31 July 2020

The Heart of the Bubble


A timely follow on from last week’s post on our current dystopian reality, this week, discover a new book tackling the impact of living in lockdown. Highly acclaimed children’s author/illustrator Trace Balla has just self-published The Heart of the Bubble - a story with 2020 vision set in the time of corona.

THE HEART OF THE BUBBLE is a heart-warming, family-friendly story of life under lockdown in Australia, suitable for anyone & everyone who needs their heart warmed right now.”

Trace Balla’s usual editor Elise Jones of Allen and Unwin writes “Trace’s new graphic novel with Allen &Unwin, LANDING WITH WINGS, came out *just* as the pandemic shutdown happened.” Goodbye launch, goodbye 1 million events supplying financial stability for the next ages...

 

So, what does she do? Makes a WHOLE NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL in record time, gets legendary publisher Erica Wagner on board as editor, and self-publishes it!!

 


This is the story of a family’s unexpected reconnection during the corona pandemic “lockdown”. The young girl Bimbi leads her parents from isolation to gradually adjust and reconnect with her, each other, neighbours and the outdoors… to slow down and rediscover what really matters. Bimbi manages to create a sense of community with her neighbours and those she sees regularly on their walks in the parklands. The story is filled with humour as well as poignant moments portrayed in a gentle way. There is also a sense of hope as a portrayal of how they come out the other side of the pandemic, changed to a new way of being.


 

Trace sees the book as a stepping stone for kids doing their own exploration and stories about this time. It’s a conversation starter for kids as there doesn’t seem to be a lot around that speaks to families apart from news which is not necessarily what parents want their children exposed to. She hopes to give the kids and a general audience some small gift of inspiration for another way of being with the current crisis… exploring what we can do as opposed to what we can’t do... 

 

Teacher notes are available, and schools can contact Trace for bulk discounts, with ebooks being especially easy to give big discounts.


Trace Balla

Author and Illustrator
W: 
http://traceballa.yolasite.com/

FB: @TraceBalla https://www.facebook.com/TraceBalla/


Editor's note: All images © Trace Balla

Friday, 24 July 2020

I’ve lost my bookmark!

Join Tasmanian author and illustrator, Christina Booth, in a post that navigates the waters of a pandemic world to bring hope and inspiration to her fellow creators and consumers of story – we all have a story to share – but need to make sure we don’t lose our place in the process.

I’ve written about stories before. How important they are, how they bind us all together. Well, I haven’t changed my mind, I never will, but right now I believe they are more important than ever. Because the binding that stories do, will bind us back together, as groups and friends and communities but more so, as individuals.

We all seemed to have woken up in a dystopian novel. A strange science fiction world, a disaster movie world. We wait to wake up from this crazy existence, something story tellers have used to build their amazing and far-fetched stories on for many years, yet, in the blink of an eye, we are all wrapped between the covers of a book we can’t put down or even bookmark for a quick respite to a sunny holiday resort.

It has been difficult for everyone, more so for some. I, myself, moved house amidst all of this chaos to a new city with two adult children moving back home as well. It is still feeling quite surreal. So how do we keep ourselves together? How do we tell our stories when we feel that everyone is struggling with their own?

I suggest we do it as always, we pen them down, write a letter even if it is to ourselves for the future (I was asked the other day what would I warn my younger self of if I had the chance? I answered, “Just don’t get out of bed after March the 1st,  2020!”). We can tell our stories in whatever way we want. And in the future, who knows, these may become the amazing foundation for books and articles and reports, the beginning of a new age.

I wonder what you have all been doing to keep in touch with your fellow story tellers. Has Zoom zoomed into your life? Amazing, exhausting, and weird, but a life saver I must admit. I can cuppa with friends I couldn’t even see before the virus, but it has made us aware of the possibilities.

SCBWI East NewZealand: SA mini conference participants

SCBWI East NewZealand: Shaun Tan talking about process to participants

As an author, this I how I have kept in touch with other creators. Many Zoom meetings, even an online conference or two. There have been amazing short workshops and at the end of July, I am attending my first overseas SCBWI conference in LA!! And I don’t need a passport or a second mortgage to get there.

I have discovered that doing manuscript critiques are much more effective doing them face to digital face than writing up screeds of notes that can easily be misunderstood. A conversation about a story is so much more open to growth and evolution and understanding.

Christina Booth participating in the SCBWI Tasmania PitchFest 


I believe that stories are healing. Listen to others, reading stories that make us feel normal or allow us to escape the fear or drudgery or loneliness. I know that they can help us when we tell our stories and add them to the melting pot that will help others in return. Putting it out there can help lighten the load. Perhaps it is paint on paper, pen on iPad, poems in a notebook, a song discovered in the shower. All stories help to bind the damaged parts of our hearts and minds and souls. Even if we do not put them on public display, they are still important.

I wish you all the very best in your journey through this strange new world. Take care, stay safe, tell your story and enjoy the opportunities to listen to those of others. Laugh and cry and smile through it with each other.

Christina Booth
Tasmanian author and illustrator

W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

FB: Christina Booth Books https://www.facebook.com/Christina-Booth-Books-113682115389375

Speaker bookings: https://www.christinabooth.com/bookings.html

Editor's note: Christina has a strong web presence and her site is a great starting point to explore her books through the book trailers and readings she publishes online.

Are These Hen's Eggs book trailer



Friday, 17 July 2020

Connections

This week, Emma Nuttall explores the power of story to connect readers in numerous ways. This post is sure to help readers make their own connections to particular shared moments and texts.

We read for pleasure. To gain knowledge. To seek out a deeper sense of self. To understand the world around us. I wonder if we also read stories as a means of connecting with others?

In the classroom setting, we talk about making connections as a comprehension strategy. We talk about connecting our own lives and experiences to texts; connecting texts to other texts; and connecting the text with the world around us.  We use connection as a tool for engaging with the text and deepening our understanding of what we are reading.

But do we fully appreciate the power of stories to connect with others? To build and deepen relationships?

A carefully chosen class novel has the power to bring the group together. Reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen during the learning at home period, forged a bond within the dispersed class group. The bond grew out of the shared understanding of the lead character’s turmoil. The group quickly became empathetic to his plight and lived his experiences together as one, despite the distance between us. The process, the story and their mutuality strengthened the bond of the group and deepened the children’s understanding of the text. Connections were realised.

My adult book group is a group bonded by shared experiences of motherhood and friendship. Discussions occur throughout the reading process, each of us itching to determine where the friend is in the book, eager to discuss, to share, to connect with our own lives and experiences. In doing so, we are also deepening our friendship through the shared experience. Deeper connections are established.

Bedtime reading rituals strengthen and deepen the parent-child bond. My recollections of Jack and the Beanstalk repeatedly told to my much younger self when I needed it most, even now bring about a sense of calm. I now turn to stories with my own children. The shared experience that bonds, that calms, that takes us to a place of contentedness and togetherness. Connections are born.

And what of the as-yet-untold story? The made-up story, created together? On a class walk a class group were challenged to make up stories, using their surroundings as inspiration, to share with their younger buddy during the walk.

“What was the purpose of that task?” we discussed on return to school.

The initial discussion was around the power of drawing on our surroundings as a creative writing technique.

One voice piped up, “To help us to build a relationship with our buddies.”

Next time you curl up to read your favourite story, consider the powerful connections you will make in sharing it.

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, Avid Reader and Parent of readers

Editor's note: Can you think of a book that has helped a child make a special connection? Please share as a comment.

Friday, 10 July 2020

How Absolutely Everything Else Can Feed your Writing

Rebel by Dawn Meredith
Tasmanian children's and young adult author, Dawn Meredith, provides a suite of suggestions and diverse ideas to stir creative juices to help the writing flow.

Ever been stuck with writer’s block? Ever felt the terror of the tyrannical empty page? Ever had a deadline that seemed to gallop towards you, while you fumble about trying to put together something decent, with that despairing thought that you won’t make it?

These are some of the challenges we face as writers. Because we’re human and not perfect. Neither are we machines that can churn out top notch writing with little effort.

Writing is a creative process. It’s the process that’s important. We live and breathe and dream through our story development as it evolves. It is a part of us.

But occasionally, something goes wrong.

Of course, there have been gazillions of articles, books, even songs written during, and about, Covid 19. And there are creatives who struggled to produce a single thing during lockdown. I know people in both camps. But it’s not just about achievement – it’s about fulfillment. Satisfaction. Expression. Creation. Why else would we put ourselves through this, at times, nightmarish thing we do called writing?

Over the twenty years I have been writing professionally, I have developed some strategies for dealing with those dark times when nothing seems to happen, or I just seem to produce rubbish. Intrigued? Here goes:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Guilt is a marvellous passion killer. Self-doubt does not improve your confidence. Accept this is happening but try not to fear it. Everyone goes through this at some point in their career. Even the world’s highest selling author of all time, James Patterson, had to develop some very randomly creative ways of getting through the blocks.

  2. Ask yourself – besides writing, what do you love to do? From surfing to sewing, gardening to garage sales, there is something you love to do that relaxes you. Write a list! Here’s some of mine – Gardening, drawing, knitting, quilt making, pottery, playing the piano, singing along with my favourite bands, walking on the beach collecting bits and bobs, tip shops and op shops, going for a walk on our farm to a favourite spot, playing with my handsome cat Harry, going for a family drive to somewhere I haven’t been before etc. Note, some of these things aren’t strictly ‘creative.’ Who cares? They relax you, free up your brain space, release feel-good hormones into your bloodstream, take you out of your stress for a while.

  3. Watch a TV show or film and analyse what makes it well written or poorly written. Is it predictable? Is that a good thing? What don’t you like? How would you write the characters/scenes/plot your way? Watch your favourite TV show or film and jot down why you love it so much. What’s the best scene? How do you feel when you watch it?

  4. Get your hands in the dirt. Even if you aren’t a gardener! Did you know we humans have the capacity to smell a certain bacteria in soil five parts per trillion? It’s the smell you detect after rain. We are connected to this Earth. We are meant to touch it, grow things in it, appreciate it. Even if you just buy a nice-looking plant, some potting mix and a pot, or a small citrus tree. Whatever. Connect with the Earth! Connect with your natural surroundings, physically, not just visually. Be a part of your planet. Breathe deep. Imagine it replenishing something inside you.

  5. Cut some flowers from your garden and bring them inside where you can admire their beauty and smell their fragrance. What smells do you enjoy? What smells would your characters enjoy/repel them?

  6. Search the internet for images of your characters or setting. Print them out and blu-tack them to the wall. Think about their features - what is unusual or special about them? How cool would it be if they were real? What do you think is their biggest personal flaw? Best asset? Worst nightmare? Dream come true?

  7. Research deeper. Get lost in another world for a while. Go off at a tangent, down an internet rabbit hole. Even if you write non-fiction, this can be loads of fun! I spent a whole day researching weird cultural practices from around the world. It helped me figure out a new race I am writing about, get to know them better.

  8. Talk to your target audience kids, about what they love to read and why. What don’t they like? What’s the best book they’ve ever read?

  9. Go through your old photo albums.

  10. Revisit the music you loved as a teen.

  11. Bake something delicious.

  12. Go for a swim/run/skateboard/walk/kayak.

  13. Think about what your characters like to do as hobbies. How does it make them feel? Or is it unpleasant and a duty?

  14. Re-read your favourite books from childhood. What did you love? Why did you keep reading them?

  15. Write down 10 ridiculous, completely mad situations that fall into your brain, i.e.: your character falls down a rabbit hole, gets abducted by a giant squid, suddenly starts growing and doesn’t stop, grows facial hair in 30 seconds, falls off the edge of the planet, finds out they are part mammoth/ancestor was a turkey etc. Complete and utter nonsense, BUT something in there will spark off an idea you can use. Make it fit your story, force your characters to deal with this random element. Try it! It works for James Patterson!

These are just a few ideas. Maybe one of them will appeal to you. The main thing is to enjoy the process. We put so much of our personal selves into the creative process; our thoughts and feelings, our past, our hopes, our surroundings, our observations. It’s not just about producing something at the end, it’s the rich journey.

However wiggly and unexpected the road.

Dawn Meredith

W: http://dawnmeredithauthor.blogspot.com/

Editor’s note: Discover the wealth of stories Dawn has written and published on her website.

Friday, 3 July 2020

All emotions allowed here

This week, Victoria Ryle hones in on supporting young readers in difficult times to enrich their reading and writing endeavours and exemplifies the value of creative mentors to guide the process.

 

With sadness I read in The Guardian this week, that one of my early teaching mentors, Margaret Meek Spencer died in May . She was a champion of powerful texts in support of children becoming literate and the news sent me back to find my old dog-eared copy of How Texts Teach What Readers Learn. I particularly like its concluding sentence: "What we have to realise is that the young have powerful allies in a host of gifted artists and writers to help them subvert the world of their elders" (Meek, 1988, p. 40). Now more than ever do we need our young to subvert the world of their elders, given its current parlous state.

 

In this time of Covid-19, the book as a tangible object is an important counterweight to screen time when so much of our lives are conducted online. With this in mind, a group of artists as part of ArTELIER, a professional learning program for artists in Tasmania, were drawn to the idea of publishing a book that allowed children and young people to express some of their feelings. The first publication, by younger children, All Emotions Allowed Here is a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of one group of children aged 5 to 12 in an extraordinary time. The book encourages families to talk about what matters at a time of change and uncertainty and builds resilience. It also provides space for other children to add their own thoughts and feelings. Visit the ArTELIER website and view Leanne McLean, the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, read part of the book, find out more about the project and purchasing options.

 

 

The second project, in a zine format, offered a group of young people aged 14-24 a paid opportunity to attend a series of three professional development workshops with writer, Danielle Wood, graphic novelist Josh Santospirito and illustrator Liz Braid. The resulting publication All emotions allowed here: How can I find normal when I’m living in a social tragedy? is a mix of artworks and writings offering a direct glimpse into young peoples’ lives as changed by this pandemic.

 

Being forced into the online space by the Covid 19 lockdown, has offered a fortuitous opportunity to think about new models of reaching children. Kids’ Own Publishing  has recently launched Kids’ Home Publishing, a quirky series of animations, author mini-workshops, and read-alouds of books created by children and sent in for the delightful Brigid to read in the Kids’ Own Book Cubby each Friday over the next few weeks on their Youtube channel. They say they are yet to receive any Tasmanian books, so spread the word amongst the families you know…and grab this opportunity.

 

 Margaret Meek believed children should have access to the best writing, in the hands of skilled writers and artists who knew how to engage readers in powerful ways. But she also understood that “understanding authorship, audience, illustration and iconic interpretation” (Meek, p. 10) are a vital part of developing literary competencies. Children may not always be highly skilled; however, they are frequently engaging communicators.

 

Reference

Meek, M. (1988). How texts teach what readers learn. Thimble Press.

 

Victoria Ryle

PhD candidate, UTAS, Education

Find out – or contribute to – my research at https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/survey

Friday, 26 June 2020

Pearl and Dooley – Sally Odgers



I first met Sally as a visiting author to my school in Launceston some 30 years ago and she continues to write, inspire others to put pen to paper and hit the mark for her young and YA readers. This week Tasmanian author Sally Odgers introduces two of her favourite characters – Pearl and Dooley.



I gave a fair bit of thought to what I might write for the CBCA Tasmania blog. In the end, I decided to tell you about two of my characters. Pearl, the Magical Unicorn, trotted into being a few years ago and continues to forge her way along with her best friends Olive and Tweet. Pear is kind and friendly, with just enough vinegar in her nature to make her human…even though she’s actually a unicorn. When I set out to write about Pearl, I had to cover the fact that she doesn’t have hands. That sounds self-evident, but writers sometimes forget such details. Seriously, no matter who or what your protagonists are, always bear in mind their physical limitations and probabilities. Pearl isn’t especially big for a unicorn but she can’t go for a trip in her friend Olive’s ogre-boat. She just won’t fit. Neither could she turn the pages of a book.


Pearl stars in her own series, published by Scholastic.


The second character is Dooley. He’s especially dear to my heart because he lives on a farm at the foot of Dooleys Hill in Latrobe, where I grew up. There are sometimes limitations to publishing stories set in Tasmania, (is that somewhere in Africa?) but in this case I was invited to submit a Tasmanian story for the Aussie Kids series. To write Meet Dooley on the Farm, I hied back to my childhood, and to the things my children and grandchildren have enjoyed also. Dooley is a happy-go-lucky boy whose mainlander cousin, Sienna, is coming to stay. Sienna is older, but Dooley has the home ground advantage. A night camping in the barn brings an unexpected challenge, but capable Dooley has it in hand.

The icing on my cake is that Christina Booth did the illustrations!

Sally Odgers was born in NW Tasmania and still lives there with her husband and multiple dogs. She started writing in the 1970s and now has over 400 titles published. As well as children’s books, Sally writes YA, crossover, romance, photo verse and how-to books for writers, and holds workshops and author talks. Her manuscript assessment and editing service has been running for around twenty-five years.

Sally Odgers
W:
https://sallybyname.weebly.com
E: sallybyname@gmail.com
OR affatheeditor@gmail.com

Friday, 19 June 2020

Reading in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter

A timely post from Lyndon Riggall reflecting on the power of literature to explore our own perspectives and views of the world. Read on to explore stories of celebration, history and hope.

 

Over the past few months on this blog there have been amazing and inspiring discussions of reading in the era of Covid-19, exploring challenges, opportunities and possibilities from the perspectives of families, schools, authors, artists, bookshops and publishers. It has reminded me that in turbulent moments that most maligned function of the printed word—“escapism”—can also be its most valuable.

 

Of course, escapism is only one function of writing. Sometimes, literature does the opposite, shining a light on something oh-so-real, be it celebration, history or hope. Coronavirus is one challenge that we face right now, but there are others, and I would like to give a signal boost in this post to a few children’s books that I have found offered me vital and valuable perspectives on the issues related to the #BlackLivesMatter, and internationally.

 

CELEBRATION:

 

Our Home, Our Heartbeat by Briggs, gorgeously illustrated by Kate Moon and Rachel Sarra, is a picture book adaptation of his song “The Children Came Back.” The book is, at its very core, a rich and joyous text that explores the power and brilliance of Australia’s Indigenous legends, providing a striking list of heroes for further research and contemplation. It is an inspiring piece of work, reminding us all of the important contributions these individuals have made to our society in a way that is both joyous and triumphant.

 

HISTORY:

 

Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu—the gorgeously minimalistic yet striking junior counterpart to his adult text Dark Emu—is an eye-opening, concise account of the past leading to Australia’s colonial occupation that argues for a change in the once-dominant narrative of this country that Aboriginal Australians were a hunter-gatherer society. It’s subtitle, A Truer History, beautifully sums up the book’s mission: to correct the assumptions of the past and reveal the reality of sophistication behind Australian culture before European occupation. By turns challenging, saddening and eye-opening, Young Dark Emu pulls the veil from the colonial narrative of our past while offering startling alternatives to the common misconceptions of life in Australia under the care of our First Nations people. 


HOPE:

 

In a similar vein that recognises the importance of these messages on a wider societal level, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is a manifesto by two stunningly insightful writers, cataloguing the realities of an American context while offering hope for the future. A “remix” of Kendi’s non-fiction text for adults, Stamped explicitly claims its status as “not a history book” on numerous occasions, and is instead a deeply practical, thoughtful and rousing call to arms. It is lyrically presented with lines of poetic phrasing that come at the reader with an almost physical force, and which can surely only be the recognised as the product of the deepest truth-telling. As a declaration for change, Stamped leaves a powerful mark.

 

* * *

 

We live in a time in which there are no simple answers and uncertainties around every corner. We turn to literature to hide, yes, but sometimes we also turn to literature to reveal, and to see ourselves. If you have any further suggestions for further reading that can inform and inspire us all around this topic I would love to hear from you below.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. You can find him on Twitter @lyndonriggall or on his website at
http://lyndonriggall.com. His latest picture book, Becoming Ellie, is available at http://www.becomingellie.com.au

 

Friday, 12 June 2020

2020 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City


This week guest author Verity Croker shares a prestigious writers’ event that fell before the pandemic closed international borders and cancelled conferences and events. Find out what happens when the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators gather together.

The SCBWI winter conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, 7-9 February 2020, was a truly inspirational professional development opportunity. 

Verity & Remy Lai

The first official event was the Golden Kite Awards Presentation Gala evening, where we were all encouraged to wear gold. The winners of the awards delivered very thoughtful and emotional speeches. The highlight was watching Remy Lai from Queensland win the Sid Fleischman Humour Award for Pie in the Sky, presented by Chris Grabenstein. It was a privilege to witness the atmosphere in the room when she was presented with this, and I felt very proud to be a fellow Australian. Congratulations Remy! After the Awards presentations, the attendees sipped bubbles and nibbled on chocolate-dipped strawberries, as we networked and perused the talented work in the Illustrators’ Portfolio Showcase.

On the Saturday, we had a full day, starting with the Welcome and Introduction by Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, who told us there were 840 attendees from 17 different countries. Next was the opening keynote by author Kate Messner who describes herself as ‘passionately curious’. My main takeaway was to consider: What do you wonder about? Does any of that scare you? Get close to the thing that frightens you, and write about it.

Intensive breakout sessions were next. I attended ‘Marketing your book: What to do, what’s effective, and what’s not’ led by Chrissy Noh, senior marketing director at Simon & Schuster. She suggests asking your publishers to share their marketing plan with you, and discuss with them how you can best supplement what they are doing to promote your book. She also stressed that with school visits, always indicate how your book fits in with their curriculum.

'Adapting your work for film, television, and media’ led by Lin Oliver and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (founder and CEO of The Gotham Group), was my chosen afternoon session. Ellen explained that you have to realise you are selling your work, and therefore in most cases you will not have meaningful creative input into the project, as distributors and producers want to make it their own. During this session we had the fabulous opportunity to present a one-minute elevator pitch with feedback from Ellen. Listening to her responses to everyone’s pitch proved a valuable insight into her world.

After the formal part of the day ended with a keynote from multi-award winning illustrator Jerry Pickney, we readied ourselves for the Networking Buffet Dinner, in which we were divided into regions so we could mingle with colleagues. Ours was an eclectic bunch with attendees from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada amongst others. Some connections made there continue.

The following day, the first event was an awards presentation for the Portfolio Showcase Awards, Narrative Art Award, Jane Yolen Midlist Author Award, Student Illustrator & Writer Scholarships, and the IPOC Women’s Scholarship. The first keynote was an agent and editor panel with Patrice Caldwell, Susan Dobinick, Connie Hsu, Kirby Kim, Alvina Ling, and Marietta Zacker, moderated by Lin Oliver. There was some agreement that graphic novels are wanted, as is non-fiction. It was recommended to read the last five years of published work, to follow your own compass, know your own ‘wheelhouse’, and don’t compare your journey with those of others.

My final intensive breakout session was ‘Voice, what is it?’ led by Nick Thomas, senior editor at Levine Querido, an independent children’s book publisher. Nick very generously offered us the opportunity to send him five pages of our works-in-progress before the conference, and provided us with very useful feedback. He also encouraged us to edit our work, keeping in mind his suggestions, and to submit to him over the next twelve months. What a fabulous opportunity! He said voice is what it’s like to be with you on the page, including the way you write, the way your character thinks and talks, how you show action, and how you describe setting and atmosphere. He said you must read widely, be authentic, and put in the work, always asking yourself ‘Why do I want to write this story?’.

The closing keynote was delivered by Derrick Barnes, whose book Crown is my favourite new discovery from the conference. This book and his other titles demonstrate the importance of authentic diverse books. His journey was encouraging, as at one point, even though he already had several books published, he entered a period of several years when he wrote twenty to thirty books that nobody wanted. Now, he is very successful. He asks himself, ‘What legacy do I want to leave?’, a key question for us all.


Verity Croker is the author of two young adult novels, Jilda’s Ark and May Day Mine, published by Harmony Ink Press, US, plus two middle grade chapter books, Cyclone Christmas and Block City published by Sunshine Books, NZ. Grammar Worksheet Workout, published by Knowledge Books and Software, is for school students, and Hot Pot is her debut novel for adults.


Verity Croker

Facebook: veritycrokerwriter
Twitter: @veritycrokerwriter
Instagram: veritycrokerwriter
Website: www.veritycroker.wordpress.com

Friday, 5 June 2020

Eve Pownall – The Person, the Prestigious Award & the Short List

Have you ever wondered who Eve Pownall was and why CBCA named an award for informational texts after her? Leanne provides background information on this special award that celebrates quality information writing and provides teasers on each of the six shortlisted titles for 2020.
Marjorie Evelyn Pownall was born on 12 January 1902 at Kings Cross, Sydney. Eve was a meticulous researcher, avid reader, and prolific writer. Her first major work was a social history for children, The Australia Book (1952), which was named by the Children’s Book Council as best book of the year.
She wrote Mary of Maranoa: Tales of Australian Pioneer Women (1959) and Australian Pioneer Women (1975). To research The Thirsty Land: Harnessing Australia’s Water Resources (1967) and The Singing Wire: The Story of the Overland Telegraph (1973), she drove to the outback. Eve organised ‘libraries in a box’ in New South Wales and presented educational programs on ABC radio.
Contribution to CBCA
A crusader for children’s literature, she was an early supporter of the New South Wales group that became the Children’s Book Council (of Australia). She helped to establish its journal Reading Time and the annual award for the children’s book of the year, and compiled a history, The Children’s Book Council in Australia: 1945-1980. In December 1977 Eve was appointed MBE and in 1981 she was the first recipient of the Lady Cutler award for distinguished service to children’s literature in New South Wales.
The importance of the Eve Pownall Award is presented in an article by Helen Adam (2015 Judge) in Reading Time:
 [The Award], “gives birth to a delightful challenge to authors and illustrators: to present information – educational material – in a way that brings to life this world of ours, times past, current matters, scientific and social understandings in a way that illuminates our world and leads readers to a deeper understanding of this world, and their own place and significance in it.”
2020 Eve Pownall Shortlist
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly AnimalsSami Bayly
The well-researched information highlights some unusual, highly adapted species that have evolved to have unique but rather unattractive features, many species of which are highly threatened. Each animal is featured with information sorted into logical areas of interest, including description, habitat, and diet.
Searching for Cicadas Lesley Gibbes & Judy Watson
A view into the world of the cicada, this stunning picture book engages and informs young readers through its unique melding of fact and storytelling. The story is about a child and a grandparent exploring the bush together, marvelling at the wonders of nature whilst listening for cicada calls and conducting their careful search.
A Hollow is a Home – Abbie Mitchell & Astred Hicks
An exploration of tree hollows and the creatures that call them home. Scientific information is presented in a simple and accessible way, with concepts and terminology well defined and explained. The book is a fun and informative peek into a hidden, yet vital part of nature.

Wilam: A Birrarung Story – Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrew Kelly & Lisa Kennedy
Wilam, meaning ‘home’ tells the story of ‘Birrarung’, the Yarra River. Bunjil, the wedge-tailed eagle, creator spirit of the Wurundjeri people, oversees the journey of the Yarra River from the natural habitats at the start of the river down to the urbanised habitats of the bay.
Young Dark Emu: A Truer History – Bruce Pascoe
This book argues that for 80,000 years, Aboriginal people were living in established agricultural societies in managed landscapes, reliant on Aboriginal astronomy. Farming and food supplies were determined by Emu Dreaming, the spaces between the stars of the Milky Way, where the Spirit Emu resides. Pascoe shows how the decimation of Aboriginal people and culture ensured that after 1860 all evidence of any prior complex civilisation was eradicated.
Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery – Tohby Riddle
This book explores the mysterious yahoo through newspaper accounts of white settlers, farmers, and their children’s encounters with the 'yahoo', 'hairy man' or 'yowie' from 1847-1944 along the Great Dividing Range. Riddle depicts the yahoo as friendless, bewildered, and frightened, like a wild animal. But children seem to pose no threat to him.


References
Adam, H., 2015. Who was Eve Pownall? Reading Time. http://readingtime.com.au/who-was-eve-pownall/
Eve Pownall Award. Children’s Book Council of Australia.  https://www.cbca.org.au/shortlist-2020
Roberts, J. (2012).Pownall, Marjorie Evelyn (Eve) (1902–1982). Australian dictionary of biography.  National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pownall-marjorie-evelyn-eve-15495/text26710
Leanne RandsPresident CBCA Tasmania
Editor’s Note: What a stunning selection this year and very hard to choose a winner. Do you have a favourite? I have three! With just one still to read. In case you missed it, check this detailed coverage of Young Dark Emu in the blog from 2019.

Friday, 29 May 2020

ISO Stories: Favourite heroes and heroines who have been there before us

Isolation and the associated focus of survival are common, long standing and popular themes in children’s and young adult literature and are under the spotlight due to social distancing and enforced lock downs. The stories explored in this week’s post by Felicity Sly are sure to spark memories and resonate with readers.
Our COVID-19 life had me recalling books I’ve read about surviving in isolation. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe), The Swiss Family Robinson (Johann David Wyss) and Lord of the Flies (William Golding) are all well-known classics. They present different perspectives on surviving in total or part isolation.
There are some survival/isolation stories that I remember fondly, and have stored themselves on my ‘mental favourites’ shelf. The first of these books was Ivan Southall’s Hills End. I believe it was read to me by a teacher (a nun) who no doubt would have made a career in entertainment as her back-up plan. Hill’s End tells the story of a group of students and one adult, who become isolated for a period of time by floodwaters. Ash Road (Ivan Southall) was read next, and as a child affected by the 1967 southern Tasmania bushfires, it didn’t take much imagination to picture their situation.
I am David (Anne Holm) and The Silver Sword (Ian Serraillier) were read about the same time, and tell the tale of young boys with a quest to reunite with families torn apart by war. These quests require them to travel great distances, decide who to trust, and then achieve some resolution of their plight. Morris Gleitzman’s Once series are a contemporary authors approach to these topics.
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell) and The Cay (Theodore Taylor) set these survival/isolation stories on islands, with the main characters having to also cope with the death of a companion…so from being in this together, to  having to do it solo.
Hatchet (Gary Paulsen) and My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George) set the survival in the wilderness. My Side of the Mountain is unusual in the isolation/survival stories mentioned here, in that Sam chooses isolation. He has the means to return to family/civilisation; he is prepared having studied survival techniques; and he is enjoying his lifestyle.


The book that had the greatest impact as a survival story was Z for Zachariah (Robert C. O’Brien). Perhaps because it was set in an alternative future, and one that had the potential to be our future. Ann must survival after a nuclear war impacts the area around her family’s valley. I believe that it was the first I had read to explicitly cover potential for sexual predation of a character.
The Life of Pi (Yann Martel) and The Road (Cormac McCarthy) also address survival in very different ways. My memory of reading The Road was more akin to reading a horror story than a survival/isolation story!
I was excited to discover that these books that I read between the 1960s and 1980s are all still in print.
Felicity Sly
Felicity is a teacher librarian at Don College & the CBCA Tasmania Treasurer
Editor’s Note: What a timely post – with so many titles that jogged memories of my own reading including the shortlisted Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble. Hatchet reminded me of the more recent I am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall and Lord of the Flies resonated with Geraldine McCaughrean’s fabulous and heartbreaking historical tale Where the World Ends. If you have some further examples - from the past and/or recent - please share as a comment.