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

Friday, 20 May 2022

‘Decodable and Authentic’ – what does this actually mean?

An update to the Australian Curriculum (Version 9) has some interesting developments. Emma Nuttall provides a snapshot of one important addition that celebrates the value of quality literature to inspire young readers in their literacy development. 

‘read decodable and authentic texts using developing phonic knowledge, and monitor meaning using context and emerging grammatical knowledge’ (Australian Curriculum, version 9.0)

Is anyone else as excited as me about the inclusion of this content descriptor in the updated Australian Curriculum - English? This simple change in the Foundation and Year 1 curriculums has been greeted with great joy! Authenticity and accessibility in texts is fundamental to building strong literacy skills, as well as a passion for, and understanding of literature.

I’ve chatted here before about the gratitude that I feel towards authors for the wondrous and wonderful texts available. And I continue to be both amazed and impressed by the quality of texts available to be utilised to build both language comprehension and word recognition skills. 

As an educator, I get to ignite that passion for literature – I see that as an incredible opportunity that I feel most grateful for (I’m very grateful today, writing this, aren’t I?). Don’t get me wrong though, that opportunity also brings with it great challenge and responsibility. The responsibility of teaching a child to read is one that I take very seriously. The responsibility of enabling a child to experience the joys of reading is one that I take equally seriously. In order to do both, with our earliest of readers, we must provide them with exposure to rich, authentic and engaging texts that speak of wonder and sadness; mystery and joy; danger and excitement, as well as texts that children can access themselves from the beginning of their reading journey. And preferably, both.

What I have noticed recently is the availability of quality texts that are not only decodable and therefore accessible to our earliest readers, but also begin to introduce these concepts of awe and wonder in storytelling. We talk about decodable texts, as being texts that the reader can work out for themselves, using their knowledge of words and language. Now it remains obvious, that when the written text is independently accessible to a very early reader, it may not (and arguably can not) be as inspiring as books such as We Are Wolves (Katrina Nannestad, 2021 CBCA Book of the Year Awards Shortlist Book) or There’s No Such Thing (Heidi McKinnon, 2021 CBCA Book of the Year Awards Shortlist Book) due to the very nature of the literacy skills that our earliest readers have at the outset of their journey. 

But, fear not, we can provide these excitable young readers with both. Books that are decodable AND books that are authentic and engaging. And with this balance of provision, we will continue to see children that are as excited by their growing ability to access texts themselves, as they are about literature itself!

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, avid reader and parent of readers 

Friday, 13 May 2022

Book Week 2022 - SUN Project for Student Voice & Choice

An exciting new Book of the Year (BOTY) activity is being offered throughout Australia in 2022. 18 Tasmanian Schools have been accepted to take part in the Shadow Judging of the Book of the Year Awards. This project is called the SUN Project and the ethos of the program is that Young Voices are Welcome Here.

In Term 1 schools were invited to submit Expressions of Interest to participate in the Shadow Judging Project. 11 Tasmanian schools are being funded as a result of the successful CBCA National application to the Federal Government RISE program, which supports the reactivation of the Arts sector. An additional seven schools are being funded by the Department of Education/Federal Government Book Week Grant currently operating through CBCA in Tasmania. There are 115 funded schools throughout Australia and there will be many more schools participating as Self Funded groups.

BOTY judges have in recent years judged only one category of the Awards. Similarly, schools have nominated the one shortlist category they wish to judge. There is no limit to the number of students participating in each school, but only one set of votes per school group can be submitted. Each school will receive a complimentary copy of each of the six titles in their chosen category. Students, guided by their in-school facilitator and supported by a CBCA Tas mentor, will judge the entries against the same criteria that CBCA Judges use, and complete the same process that CBCA BOTY Judges complete: 

  • read the title, 
  • assess it against the 8-10 criteria
  • rank the titles 
  • discuss the title with the other Shadow Judges in their team 
  • reach a consensus for the Winner and Honour titles
  • submit their results

These 18 schools will receive the login to a website of resources, funding towards a Creator visit, and a login to Storybox Library.

The CBCA BOTY Winners will be announced on Friday, August 19 at noon. The SUN Project BOTY Winners will be announced on Friday, August 26. The participating students will have the double excitement of seeing which books the BOTY judges have chosen in comparison to their choices; and then how their choices have fared, against the consensus of the other Shadow Judging groups.

It’s not too late for other schools to be involved as self funded applicants in this project. Please visit the CBCA SUN Project website for information and to apply. 

CBCA Tas Merchandise offer can be accessed from our webpage and applications for CBCA Tas Membership and information about membership benefits are also available on our webpage.

Felicity Sly

Prior to her current position as Teacher Librarian at Don College, Felicity Sly spent 25 years as a Teacher Librarian in primary schools situated on the West and North West Coasts; and is a 2022 CBCA Committee Member and Treasurer.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Living the Dream

Excited to see conferences back on the 2022 agenda, Jennie spruiks the CBCA National Conference and a program to capture the imagination. You don’t need to dream if you attend!

The CBCA 14th National Conference is scheduled for June 10 to 12 – just a month away. The theme for Book Week and the conference, “Dreaming with your eyes open…”, is both enchanting and captivating – so many dreams can be realised through the pages of a book AND engagement with like-minded children’s literature enthusiasts. Have you looked at the program and considered attendance? 

Conferences have always been the icing on the cake in regard to professional growth. Traditionally these have been face-to-face events where attendees are immersed in a feverish buzz of excitement, provocations, affirmations and expanding horizons generated by the conference organisers, key notes, presenters, attendees and the trade – customised goods selected to entice us all to open our wallets (and slip out the credit card!) with opportunities to meet authors and illustrators and converse with the crème de la crème of our children’s literature creators and their publishers.

If you are ready to take flight and visit Australia’s capital then this conference has much to offer with a fantastic program and a stunning location – with an array of places to visit including many children’s literature related locations to feed the frenzy. However, if getting away is too hard, there is an alternative.

A positive outcome of a pandemic and lockdowns (Yes - they have prompted progress in professional learning) is that
a) most of us are now familiar with and comfortable connecting virtually and
b) organisations have lifted their game in offering quality virtual experiences that allow participants to connect from anywhere in the world and be part of the grand experience.
Admittedly virtual attendance does not generate the same buzz or hype generated during the social events, but it does provide access to the program! This conference offers a Live Stream Registration – a less expensive option with no added costs in regard to travel and accommodation and no major wardrobe and packing decisions to weigh you down!

“Dreaming with your eyes open…” offers a rich and varied array of speakers and discussion panels that explore the theme from many perspectives. Tasmanian presenters include Nicole Gill and Lian Tanner and they are well placed to explore the strong environmental theme that is threaded throughout the program and that has caught my interest. My curiosity has also been piqued by the session: ‘Opening up the big conversations through books’ with contemporary and important topics on neurodiversity, empathy and resilience and racism to be explored. Children’ literature again in the forefront of dealing with contemporary issues and concerns to connect and engage young (and older!) readers

Have a look at the program and consider your options if your curiosity has been provoked – you never know – I might ‘see’ you online or hear of your sojourn to the ACT after the event.

Jennie Bales

CBCA Tas Social Media Coordinator

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Personal narratives of children’s lived experience – in books

An interesting extension on previous work from Victoria Ryle, informed by her doctoral studies, that explores the importance of providing migrant and refugee children with opportunities to share their stories.

A recent article considers personal narratives of forced migration and refugee experience in children’s literature (Tomsic & Zbaracki, 2022). The authors argue for greater understanding of what is added by the children’s voices beyond the stories recounted by adult authors:

Publishing a child’s story validates their voice as well as refuting the more dominant and sometimes stereotypical refugee stories that circulate. […] [A]ll children deserve to share their stories and have their experiences validated and respected. While commercially published children’s literature can provide exposure to some of these issues, children’s actual stories are a distinct and direct means for children to see themselves in stories, as well as to understand what others may have experienced. And this is what children’s literature should embrace as a part of its genre; stories about children, written by children, to share with children. (Tomsic & Zbaracki, 2022, p. 15) 

© Image: Kids' Own Publishing

My doctoral research asks how educators purposefully publish books with, by, and for children. Here, I reflect more broadly on the role of publishing books to address directly important issues that affect children’s lives. Examples from my archive, for example, include children’s experience of homelessness in Ireland; identifying as a member of the Traveller community in Ireland; and the experience of starting school through the eyes of kindergarten and prep children. Sometimes this approach to publishing books tackles big topics from the ground up, such as gender equality by exploring friendship with pre-schoolers to counter future family violence. 

Valuing authentic insights of children, as shared with both child and adult audiences through publishing books has taken central stage in a number of recent projects here in Tasmania. My last blog in this space focussed on lockdown publishing while living in a pandemic. In 2021, the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children consulted with 156 children from across the State working with artists and arts-led approaches, to discover what was most important to children’s wellbeing. This consultation process informed the development of  When I Wake Up I Smile, a picture book guiding Tasmania’s child wellbeing policy and proving an effective communication tool to reach a broader audience attracted to this child’s-eye perspective.

A book in development in Ireland is giving voice to children’s experience of the care system in Ireland, through a book to be published shortly. Now I am involved in a similar publishing project in Tasmania that aims to highlight systemic issues faced by children in out-of-home care and increase understanding of their lives. Who better to understand their needs and priorities than a child with direct experience of out-of-home care? Young participants engage in an editorial process to raise valuable questions: whose book is it? How might space be shared with adults who have valuable oversight of facts and knowledge? Most crucially, who do the young people envisage will read their book and what are the messages this audience needs to hear? 

The point of publishing books with children in such a way is not to have all the answers, not to publish something perfect, but to engage in a genuine process of collective collaboration with groups of children and young people, to take creative risks and present the best book we can within constraints of time and budget.


Tomsic, M., & Zbaracki, M., D. (2022). It’s all about the story: Personal narratives in children’s literature about refugees. British educational research journal. 

Children’s books referred to in this article – by children:

Syrian and Palestinian children living in County Mayo. (2018). A strong heart: A book of stories and dreams for the future by Syrian and Palestinian children living in County Mayo. Kids’ Own Publishing Partnership.
Boe, W., Tu Tu, P., Chol, B., Qurbani, H., & Deng, D. (2018). Our world of colour. Kids’ Own Publishing.
From the children of CAN Carlton Homework Club Family Learning Programme. (2014). Our African family stories. Kids’ Own Publishing.
South Sudanese Refugee Children Living in Australia. (2012). Donkeys can’t fly on planes: Stories of survival from South Sudanese refugee children living in Australia. Kids’ Own Publishing.

Stories, memories, jokes and travel tips by Melbourne children. (2004). Kidsown journeys. Kids’ Own Publishing.

Related picture books – by adults:

Del Rizzo, S. (2017). My beautiful birds. Pyjama Press.

Kobald, I., & Blackwood, F. (2014). My two blankets. Little Hare.

Leatherdale, M. B., & Shakespeare, E. (2017). Stormy seas: Stories of young boat refugees. 

Annick Press.

Phi, B., & Bui, T. (2017). A different pond. Picture Window Books.

UNHCR. (2019). Forced to flee: Refugee children drawing on their experiences. Franklin Watts. 

Vass, C., & Huynh, C. (2020). Grandma’s treasured shoes. National Library of Australia. 

Victoria Ryle

Victoria Ryle is a PhD candidate researching co-publishing books with children at the University of Tasmania https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/

She is also the co-founder of Kids’ Own Publishing https://kidsownpublishing.com/about/ 

Friday, 1 April 2022

And the winner is….

The Ena Noël Award is IBBY Australia’s Encouragement Award for young creators of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The Award started in 1994, and Nella Pickup provides us with an overview and the 2022 recipient which has just been announced.

The nominated creator must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident and be under the age of 35 at the time the title (or titles) for which they are nominated was published. Many of the winners have become household names including Markus Zusak, Sonya Hartnett and Tasmania’s own Kate Gordon. Visit IBBY Australia for a complete list of recipients.

To be eligible for the 2022 Ena Noël Award, books had to be published in Australia between 1st July 2019–30th June 2021. The submission closing date was November 30th, 2021 and judging was completed by the end of January 2022. 

The judging panel comes from varied backgrounds in children’s literature – creators, editors, publishers, librarians and booksellers and usually from different states, in 2022, from Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. Panellists shared their notes and then met on Zoom. 

In 2022, the panel decided to release the shortlist.  These are the cream of young emerging Australian children’s and young adult book creators. Wish them a long literary future by purchasing their books.

Freda Chiu, A Trip to the Hospital (Allen & Unwin)

Kay Kerr, Please Don’t Hug Me (Text Publishing)

Gary Lonesborough, The Boy from the Mish (Allen & Unwin)

Jessica Miller, The Republic of Birds (Text Publishing)

Kamsani Bin Salleh, What do you call a baby…? (Magabala Books)

Kirli Saunders, Bindi Illustrated by Dub Leffler (Magabala Books)

And the Ena Noël Award medallist for 2022 is Gary Lonesborough, The Boy from the Mish (Allen & Unwin).

You can read more about Gary’s writing in this Kirkus review with Tom Beer.

Nella Pickup

CBCA Tasmania Life Member and IBBY Australia Executive Committee member

Friday, 25 March 2022

The Bungles: - A Journey of the Imagination

It is always intriguing to discover the inspiration behind stories as they blossom from an idea to into something tangible. This week, Irene Cowell shares an early collaboration in the creation of The Bungles.        

One morning “The Bungles” arrived, ready for action when I awoke. My husband, artist Ken Cowell and I had already discussed a collaboration: he would illustrate, I would write, a children’s Big Book. This book would be about our son, our first born, although he would already have been about nine years old. As a little child he’d been demanding; the human equivalent of a Perpetual Motion Machine, and just like one of his TV favourites, the 80’s character Monkey, “his nature was irrepressible.” He loved running away from me in very public spaces. One wintry day, when he was about three or four years of age, he ran fully clothed into the ocean. I was following, carrying a plastic ride-on toy he’d discarded. I waded in wearing my best boots, to pull out my very soggy child. As he grew older and began playing football, there was no need to chase him. We thought he was over the running game! That is until the day he “ran away”. The sad thing was we didn’t find the note he’d left until after his friend brought him home. But he hadn’t run too far. 

Why, you might ask, am I recounting these painful, slightly comical memories? It’s possible you’re even shaking your head at our ineptness as parents. But this is where the Bungles came from. We could imagine these potato-like creatures that would invade our hero’s home after dark. Each night of the week they would return, making more trouble, until mum’s arrival turned the chaos into fun.

Image from The Bungles. © Ken Cowell

The book with Ken’s joyous black and white illustrations was finished around 1988. I read it at school, children loved it. It took on a life of its own. I adapted the Bungles for teaching reading skills. We had fun singing the Bungles’ Song. We danced to it with our teddies so we could be naughty like the Bungles and “throw them down the stairs”. One of my Kindergarten boys returning a copy of the book he’d taken home told me with big expressive eyes, “Guess what, the Bungles came to my house last night!” I didn’t dare ask what they’d done. I used the Bungles to illustrate teaching techniques at a Literacy workshop. Later It morphed into “The Bungles- the Musical”, at a local schools’ concert. With Ken’s pop art props and a class of enthusiastic performers the Bungles came to life again.

Image from The Bungles. © Ken Cowell

No one ever questioned-“ Where did the Bungles come from?” Or- “What did the story mean?” But even though it was never articulated, the images and story of the Bungles was always met with enthusiasm. Recently I unpacked the slightly tattered original that had survived the move to another state and a very different time. The illustrations still had as much life in them as they had about thirty years ago. They could enthuse another generation of young readers. 

Some fun facts: As a teenager our son recorded himself on guitar and keyboard for the musical version. In the 90’s he was performing in a Punk Band. 

And just so you don’t have to ask…these days he’s a great Dad, and that ”irrepressible” grin can still be seen.

Irene Cowell
Author/illustrator of Y/A Fantasy
Rainbow Island Tapestry of Time, Forty South Publishing.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Back to Deltora

Join Lyndon Riggall as he ignites an old passion for a wonderful fantasy series that enchanted young readers as they followed stalwart characters on challenging quests across the dangerous lands of Deltora.  

On my birthday this year there was one present that definitely took me by surprise. Actually, it was two presents, given to me by my friends Georgie and Mitchell, stacked in strange rectangular shapes that looked like two small shoeboxes. When I opened them, I gasped at what they contained: a complete original collection of Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest 1, 2 and 3, as well as a few supplementary volumes. Something that had long been sleeping inside me was awakened.

I never owned the Deltora Quest when I was a child, though I remember scouring the school library shelves each week for the volume with the right number of gems or the appropriate sections of pipe to match where I was in Lief’s story. Key among the initial appeal of the books (and the reason that I treasure them so much now), was that they were gorgeous. A few decades on, when every year book covers seem to include less and less detail, the series stands out as being aesthetically astonishing, each part enfolded in a feature illustration by Marc McBride that slyly whispers of the dangers that lie within. As I have been revisiting the novels over the past few weeks, their timelessness is evident. They are complex, fast-paced and short enough that they always leave the reader wanting more. While Rodda has written so many books and stories in and around the world created here (including, of course, Rowan of Rin, the Rondo books and the Three Doors trilogy), I must admit that for me it will always be Deltora Quest that is her masterpiece. The world Deltora has seen enormous global success, from 18 million copies sold worldwide, to an anime series that ran for sixty-five episodes. There have been rumours of Deltora coming to the big or small screen in English for decades, but for me it is sometimes very special to have a work of this quality without a thousand adaptations, variations and merchandising opportunities. Deltora Quest doesn’t need to be brought to the masses with an enormous budget to be one our greatest fantasy series for children. Readers know the secret.

As a young primary school student, I ran to Deltora, and it has been exciting to see the door open once again and to be able to return. At the beginning of my own journey with the series, Deltora Quest was an exercise in simple adventure… I was breathless at the challenges faced by its heroes, trying to crack the puzzles and codes they came across before they solved them, simply enjoying the sheer wild fantasy that Rodda was creating. Now, I see the value of the messages hiding beneath the surface, too: the importance of working together, the fight to save the natural world and the need for leaders to stay in touch with their own humanity. For her part, Rodda seems to be in no way done with her creation. Her latest series set there, Star of Deltora, has only concluded in the last few years, while The Glimme, which was stunningly produced with her Deltora partner-in-crime Marc McBride, picked up an Honour award at the CBCA awards in 2020.

The first volume in the Deltora Quest series, The Forests of Silence, was released at the turn of the millennium, and as such it celebrated its 21st anniversary last year, with a new edition of the collection released in celebration. In the intervening time since my ten-year-old self first got his hands on the series, I am proud to state that Rodda’s work has lost none of its trademark sparkle or shine. It will always feel to me like a place half-forgotten in a dream; a memory lost in some unfathomable depth, like a treasure fallen into a dark lake. Some time before I had the confidence or the stamina to tackle such classics of fantasy as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, when even C.S. Lewis could be daunting, Deltora was waiting for me, its magic begging to be released. I will always be grateful to Rodda for her sharp writing that was never puerile, for the complexity of her ideas and for her love of challenge and adventure. I will always be grateful for my friends, who knew that you could turn thirty-two and still believe in the imagined places that mattered to you when you were a child. 

Once, in a school library, we counted gems on spines and swapped books like secrets. Now, I hold them in my hand once again, and with every turn of the page I am in three places at once. I am here, on my couch; I am there in my school library, lying on a beanbag with my feet in the air…

…And best of all, I am, again, in the land of Deltora, where adventure awaits.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and senior-secondary English teacher at Launceston College. His latest picture book, Becoming Ellie, was created in collaboration with Graeme Whittle, and he is also co-host, with Annie Warburton, of the Tamar Valley Writers’ Festival podcast. Lyndon can be found at http://www.lyndonriggall.com

Friday, 11 March 2022

Tyenna: Through My Eyes – Australian Disaster Zones

Julie Hunt, co-author of Tyenna, talks about the inspiration and key messaging in writing this first riveting title in a new segment of Allen & Unwin’s Through My Eyes series. Discover a unique wilderness in Tasmania through the eyes of Tyenna and be inspired to investigate this series further as future titles are published. 

Anxiety is the currency of our times; social media and endless news footage give us no respite from pressing contemporary issues: the global pandemic, climate-change-generated extreme weather events, civil unrest and war. How to help young people develop resilience, hope and agency is a question with which parents, educators and mental health practitioners grapple. Story offers one possibility. Stories of children facing and successfully navigating challenging events. 

Tyenna fits that brief as do all the Through My Eyes novels. The series was created by Lyn White with the idea of inspiring and informing young readers as they follow kids their own age into dangerous real-world situations. The first series looked at children in conflict zones and although I’m way beyond the target age group I can’t forget the main character in Emilio and everything I learned about crime in Mexico after his mother was kidnapped. The same goes for Shaozhen, a book from the next series which is about natural disasters. I could picture that village in China at the moment when the well ran dry, and feel what the character felt as he realised the implications. The stories are real, immediate and all too believable. 

Tyenna (2022) by Julie Hunt &
Terry Whitebeach.
Allen & Unwin

Our book is the first in a new series set in Australia. The story takes place in the summer of 2019 when a series of dry lightning strikes started fires all over Tasmania. No human life was lost and only a few buildings were destroyed but over 200,000 hectares of bush was burned, much of it in world heritage areas. 

Thirteen-year-old Tyenna loves pencil pines, bushwalking and hanging out with her best friend Lily. She arrives from Melbourne to stay with her grandparents in the Central Highlands of Tasmania expecting a fun summer holiday but the threat of fire changes everything and when she discovers a runaway boy hiding out and promises to keep quiet about his presence she finds herself facing a life and death dilemma. 

Floods, fires, droughts, cyclones – as the planet gets warmer what were once one-off events are becoming alarmingly frequent. Add Covid to the mix and we seem to be lurching from one disaster to the next. We are certainly in a climate crisis and this week floods on the eastern seaboard were declared a national emergency. The future is uncertain and it’s a difficult time to be growing up. How to allay fear and give young people hope?

Co-authors of Tyenna, Terry Whitebeach and Julie Hunt
© Image: Daniela Brozek

With Tyenna we tried to create a courageous and resourceful character who is torn between keeping her word and remaining loyal to her stalwart grandparents, a tense situation at any time but worse in the midst of an emergency. We hope the story will raise questions in the classroom and beyond, and will encourage creative thinking, both about immediate fire safety and in response to the pressing issue of climate change. We’re in the Pyrocene now, Tye reads in a text from her friend. To quote from the book: 

‘The Earth hurtling into a new geological epoch. So much change in just a few decades – time speeding up. It’s certainly sped up for Tye and whirled her into a brand-new life... It’s only a year since Greta Thunberg first protested outside the Swedish parliament, and now teenagers the world over are organising school climate strikes. Hope lies only in action – that’s the Swedish girl’s message. Tye agrees.’

We gave our character agency through engagement. She helps with the community response during the fires despite her own private crisis, and she works to repair the damage afterwards. 

The story has an upbeat ending. Tye plants a tiny pencil pine seedling, hoping it will not just survive but thrive. She has found her place in the world, working for the future and the challenges that lie ahead.

Julie Hunt

Tasmania children’s author

W: http://www.juliehunt.com.au/

Editor's note: Watch a brief but informative introduction to the book by the authors and read a review of Tyenna.