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

Friday, 27 March 2020

Keeping Connected

In these challenging times creative and alternative options are needed to ensure children continue to connect with authors and illustrators as excellent role models and mentors in their own creative processes. Victoria Ryle starts a conversation.

In her first post in January 2020, CBCAT president, Leanne Rands provided an overview of the Readers and Creators Program, the Federally funded support for Tasmanian authors and illustrators to engage with readers in schools. I planned to write this blog post about the importance of recognising the children as creators in the context of this program, and the possibilities for the adult creators (and others) to be the readers. I had hoped to write about the plans we were making to offer professional learning to support authors and illustrators new to the program to maximise the opportunities for children to be creators in their own right. But in the last two weeks, we have all seen so many of our plans turned upside down and put on hold as we, the Tasmanian community, rally to do our bit to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

jscreationzs @ freedigitalphotos
Instead, in response to the steep global rise of the virus we face a different steep curve – that of learning to master the art of online presentations, for keeping connected (Smith, 2020) with children who may be in schools but more likely at home, experiencing the frustrations of face to face isolation from their peers. How can the Readers and Creators Program support them in these changing times? How can we best provide a platform for children as creators when we are not face to face with them in the classroom?

Well, I believe there are a multitude of answers. On the positive side, the challenges we face have opened up opportunities for some exciting conversations around how authors and illustrators might address the above – watch this space. In particular there is a groundswell of authors wanting to share their work and their love of books to support children at this difficult time. I came across this nice example this week in The Guardian (O'Donnell, 2020). Then head to Oliver Jeffers’ website to experience is instagram initiative for a story book a day.

The Bee Book by the children of the
Goodwood Community.
40 South Publishing
In a future blog post I hope I have an opportunity to share more initiatives that recognise children as active participants, makers and creators in the world of books – some from my own experience publishing books by children as authors. For now, I will leave this post with a plug for the delightful ‘The Bee Book’ created by a group of children aged 5-12 at the Goodwood community Centre. 

O'Donnell, J. 2020, March 26. 'One big virtual love-in': How children's book authors are creating online sanctuaries. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/mar/26/one-big-virtual-love-in-how-childrens-book-authors-are-creating-online-sanctuaries

Smith, E. (2020, march 24). 5 ways to keep human connections when moving learning online due to coronavirus. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/5-ways-to-keep-human-connections-when-moving-learning-online-due-to-coronavirus-134351

Victoria Ryle
Vice President, CBCA Tasmania

Friday, 20 March 2020

Can You Grow a Love of Reading?

Teacher and Literacy Coach, Emma Nuttall, shares her love of reading to consider how, as adults, we can help children develop similar passions and engage with texts of all sorts.

I love to read. The stack of books on my bedside table often tumbles onto the floor, not dissimilar to my zucchinis trailing out of the garden beds! Some books remain unread, but I can’t bring myself to move them to the bookshelf, thus deeming them read. The array of books ranges from gardening tips (companion plants is one of the latest topics), education texts, novels, children’s picture books, recipe books and pottery guides. They know my face in the local bookshop and rub their hands with glee as I enter – mostly to share their own love of books, but also for the ringing of the tills!

In the classroom, when I scan the topics on show during reading time, the range is not dissimilar to that found in the local library – Wings of Fire (Tui T Sutherland) is popular in my class – get them talking about the series and they just can’t stop. 
Scholastic trailer for the Wings of Fire series.

The range of non-fiction delights: it’s science this year - volcanos are popular, as are weird and wonderful bugs.

Holes, by Louis Sachar,
published by Scholastic.
Last year’s class novel had us on the edge of our seats. Holes (Louis Sachar) had them begging to miss their break, to sneak another chapter. The engagement, the excitement – I recognised it.

But not everyone feels the same. I know this all too well and I take it upon myself to create this feeling in them, for them. My book hunts turn to finding books for that child with the love of motorbikes and fixing things – what would they love to read? Then there is the child who wants to read the latest fantasy series, but can’t bring themselves to open the cover. For many it’s the words, it’s a challenge. For these children the struggle is real and I sense their discomfort, an awareness that they are missing out.

Blueback, by Tim Winton,
published by Penguin.
How do we grow a love of reading? Mine was handed down to me. An inherent love that I discovered at a very young age, through gentle nurturing and a home filled with books. I’m grateful for this and believe strongly that in sharing it, we can build it in others. We read to them, we surround them in texts, we make our love of reading visible, we bring the books to life and scaffold learning so as to allow access to the powerful texts for all learners. Reading Blueback (Tim Winton) to a group of 12 year olds, draws even the most reticent readers in.

In answer to my own question, yes, you can most definitely grow a love of reading. It takes time, just like the garden. Sometimes it needs protection from the self-doubt; sometimes it needs a gentle hand to support the new growth; sometimes it just needs a nudge in the right direction. But yes, it most definitely can be grown. And all you need is a good book to do it.

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

Friday, 13 March 2020

Golden Words

Monica Reeve, residing on the north west coast of Tasmania, is an enthusiastic early childhood and art teacher. Her latest endeavours as a children’s author and illustrator have also been inspirational for her students.

Writing a children’s book was something I had never planned to do, and would definitely not have been on my “bucket list”, even if I had one. I perceived authorship and illustrating to be a level well beyond my capabilities – a distinguished vocation reserved for super intelligent, literary creatives - not a 40 something, middle class, part time artist with sporadic moments of inspiration.

Immersing myself into early childhood and art teaching over the past 20 years, provided exposure to literally thousands of inspiring children’s books. During a conversation with an esteemed colleague at the commencement of a new school year, she posed a question – “why aren’t you writing children’s books?” I was flattered to think that she saw me as capable of such a task; however, without a clue as to where to begin, I simply shelved it as a nice idea.

Then it happened…

During the stillest hours one night I awoke with a start, reliving a close encounter with a huntsman spider from the evening before, I began to think of the rhythmic movement of all things creepy crawly in my night-time back yard. Within 2 hours of tapping away on my smart phone under the blankets (so as to not wake my other half), I’d written a manuscript! The next morning, I nervously shared the story with my family who encouragingly agreed there could be something in it.

Collage techniques in Bug Soup Beat © Monica Reeve
As an art teacher in a primary school, I had the perfect audience to test-run Bug Soup Beat along with the cut-paper illustrations I had begun to craft. The kids loved it, some clapped and one even told me to bow after I’d finished reading it. It was such an honour and inspiration to have my works accepted by those who I’ve spent my career aiming to inspire.

One lunch time, floating on a high of newly discovered creative potential, I was crossing the school yard, when a student ran up to me. Beaming from ear to ear she held out a hand folded bookish wad of paper, and it was then that I heard those golden words – “Mrs Reeve, I’ve started writing a book too”.

My second picture book, Pecking Order?, was launched in November 2019.

Bug Soup Beat (2019) and Pecking Order? (2019) Published through 40 South Publishing.
Illustration style - cut-paper collage (nothing digital!)
Monica Reeve
Tasmanian Artist, Author & Illustrator

Visit Pigment: Monicas’ online shop @ https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/PIGMENTmonicareeve
FB: Pigment – Monica Reeve @mydailydraw 
Instagram - pigment.monicareeve

Friday, 6 March 2020

CBCA Notables for 2020

Maureen Mann, a past judge and coordinator of the CBCA Book Awards, shares some personal strategies she employs when selecting titles on the Notables list. Maureen poses some pertinent questions to help you get started to engage with this wonderful array of titles and invites readers to share their own processes.
The Notables list was released Tuesday 25 February 2020 and I do hope you have already seen it. What are the Notables? They are the books which the judges have voted the best from the 517 entries into the 2020 Book of the Year Awards, organised into categories. Each list includes the shortlisted titles but they haven’t yet been announced. It also includes books which have strong merit in some way, but don’t quite reach the quality of the Short List. If you haven’t seen the Notables list yet, visit the CBCA website and explore the section under Book of the Year.
Eve Pownall title.
I was a little disappointed in how few I had read from any of the categories. So, now begins my search. How do I choose from this exciting list? My first place to look is Libraries Tasmania. I have to prioritise because I can’t place holds on everything I want.
Older Readers title.
This year, though the Picture Book category is my favourite genre, I started with Older Readers. I am always very aware of how much my choices are determined by the covers: design, colour, font and image. I know I am attracted by book covers which have a lot of blue, whether it be the font or the image. There are a lot of blue covers across all categories in this year’s Notables list. Are you aware of what attracts you, when faced with a shelf of titles? It’s even harder when all we can see is the spine. Font and colour become even more important. There are several Older Reader covers which just don’t appeal to me at all, but I recognise this bias in myself.
Younger Readers title.
When choosing what I place a hold on I like to try new authors, that is, the ones which are new to me. There are several well-known children’s authors included in the Notables list, but many new or relatively new authors too. How many authors on this year’s Notables list have you not read before? What titles do you think the judges should have included?
Picture Book title.
The Book of the Year Short Lists will be announced on 31 March 2020. It’s always fun to try to predict the judges’ decisions and then to work out how and why they made those choices. I know I will have my own short list before the official announcement. I also know I will be disappointed when my favourites have not been included. However, the process is rigorous, so I accept the decision. The ensuing debates are always interesting and good for Australian children’s literature.
Early Childhood title.

Which books do you think should be included on the Short List in each of the categories?
PS The covers shown are the 6th listed title in each category. No other reason!
Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Editor’s note: Watch out for notification of forthcoming meetings to share your thoughts on the shortlisted titles and other notable favourites.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Thoughts from a Book Launch

Lyndon Riggall, a long time contributor to the CBCA Tasmania blog, writes from a new perspective - as an author at his first book launch. Congratulations Lyndon for this heartfelt post and your first forays as a published children's book author.

I must, by now, have been to a hundred book launches in my life, and I have loved every single one of them. Still, there is a side of the table that I belong on, and it does not feel like this side. The nerves are the same as any anxious wait where the crowd meets the writer, but here, with a pen in my hand, the experience begins anew every minute. I keep going, gradually learning to breathe and not to shake. For years, the local newspaper has insisted on calling me an “author” despite the fact that I have never been published anything beyond articles in the occasional magazine. Today, I still don’t feel like an author. But the books beside me with my name neatly printed on a hardback cover appear to be suggesting otherwise…

I am at the launch of my first picture book, Becoming Ellie (created in collaboration with artist Graeme Whittle), which is held at Launceston College in a huge hall packed with people. 

Lucinda Sharp of 40 South Publishing, Graeme Whittle, and Lyndon with the real Ellie. 

Photo by Kate Tuleja.

I was sure that the event would either be wildly underattended or draw a huge number of people, and I am very pleased to say that the latter is the case. Although Graeme and I bring an equal measure of friends and family along, the signing line nevertheless feels like one of those dreams you might have where every face from your past appears in front of you: here, a family friend I haven’t seen in a decade or more, there, a teacher who taught me in primary school. It could be argued that we write books because it is not possible to share everything person-to-person, or as John Green has argued, “a writer is someone who would love to tell you a story but doesn’t want to look you in the eye.” I am reminded in this moment that stories are also, actually, a celebration. Sometimes, they bring people together.

I have had lots of moments since then that make the nine-year-old inside me, with his dreams of being a writer, screech with delight. Becoming Ellie is on a shelf at Petrarch’s Bookshop. Becoming Ellie has covered its publication costs and is turning a profit. Becoming Ellie is available at the state library and is listed on Goodreads with me as an official Goodreads author. Chief among the highlights, though, are hearing people discuss it at a party, where they do not know that its writer is behind them scoffing a handful of Doritos, and a woman who stands at the sales desk at the Tasmanian Craft Fair, laboriously reading the entire text in front of me. As she completes it, she reaches not only for her wallet but also for a tissue, drying her eyes and declaring, “Well I have to buy it now, don’t I?”    

A page from Becoming Ellie. © Graeme Whittle.

As I continue to sign, unsure if by the end of the night I will be able to remember my own name, let alone anyone else’s, I reflect. I love book launches, and I have been to more than I could ever hope to count…

But I still think mine was my favourite.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston, Tasmania. Becoming Ellie, his first picture book and the story of a greyhound searching for a new identity, was created with Graeme Whittle and released at the end of 2019 at Launceston College by Lian Tanner. You can find Lyndon on Twitter @lyndonriggall or at his online home http://www.lyndonriggall.com. For more on Becoming Ellie visit http://www.becomingellie.com.au.

Images are © and used with permission.