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

Saturday, 16 March 2019

And furthermore: Part 2 of A Consequence of Censorship & Positive Action

Join Paul Collins as he continues his post from last week to raise concerns about students' access to great books and library services to encourage a love of reading and literature.

Is it any wonder that children are finding that reading is no longer relevant to them or easily accessible?

Kids love to read when shown a book that suits their interests. A librarian directs kids to the books they love and encourages reading for pleasure. The education system has a high emphasis on testing, but libraries are a testing free zone where they can just choose what they want to read and relax and enjoy the story without question. Although teachers have certain books they read to the class for pleasure (and parents need to be seen reading for pleasure at home, as well) it is the librarians who are subversive. They push the boundaries and encourage kids to do the same with their reading and thinking.

Finally, I’d give weight to the above by pointing to the sales and popularity of the Tree House books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, and authors such as Roald Dahl and David Walliams. They break all the rules – there is violence and the children get into fights with bullies. They are gross and naughty and the kids ignore adults. But kids can’t get enough of them.

Kids can distinguish between fantasy and reality; they want to escape the confines of the endless rules and regulations. So we need to give them more variety of these kinds of books, rather than less. Give them books that explore these elements on an even deeper level; they are up for it. Forget the sweet stories that don’t challenge them.

And stop censoring reality!
Paul Collins

Do your children have access to a school library staffed by qualified professionals? Paul's post highlights a growing downturn in library services. Read on to hear from Holly Godfree and find out about a current campaign to highlight this issue. Consider how you can add to the momentum to bring school library services to the forefront. 

Join the new national Students Need School Libraries campaign in a coordinated push to reinvigorate school libraries to become what students need them to be. In a strategic change of tactics, we’re targeting the general public. We’ll show them why strong school libraries are so important for students in the digital age, alert them to the fact that many school library services have been quietly decimated and give them the tools and support to raise this issue with principals and politicians. Our vision is that every student has access to a dynamic, well-resourced school library run by qualified library staff. 

This year, the campaign is focusing on developing state/territory-specific goals because each place has a slightly different situation. Many state-level school library associations will be leading the charge around Australia, but Tasmania, NT and the ACT do not currently have state-level organisations. This means that we’re looking for a few pass
ionate individuals to put their hands up to coordinate the campaign in those locations. We’ve got a committed team in Canberra and a local leader in Darwin. Might you be the person to step up for Tassie? Please use the ‘contact us’ page on our website to express your interest. The students of Tasmania need you!

Tune into our Students Need School Libraries YouTube channel, explore the full playlist and watch some of the short films we’ve created to support local community action.

Find out more about School Library Campaign: This is our moment at studentsneedschoollibraries.org.au including direct links to follow us on Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram.  
Holly Godfree

Paul Collins is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing, an independent Melbourne publisher. He also runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and is the author of over 140 books for children and young adults.
W: fordstreetpublishing.com
W: creativenetspeakers.com
W: paulcollins.com.au
T: @fordstreet
FB: https://www.facebook.com/fordstreet

Holly Godfree is a teacher librarian in Canberra, the campaign coordinator for Students Needs School Libraries
E: snslcampaign@gmail.com
W: https://studentsneedschoollibraries.org.au/
T: @NeedSchoolLibs
FB: https://www.facebook.com/StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries/
I: https://www.instagram.com/studentsneedschoollibraries/

Monday, 11 March 2019

A Concerning Consequence of Censorship - Part 1

Paul Collins, successful publisher and author, draws on over 40 years in the industry to share his thoughts on some recent trends in publishing that have consequences on children's access to books. This is the first of a two part discussion that demonstrates Paul's passion and commitment to bring a breadth of reading experiences into the hands of young readers. It also prompts us to pause and think about how outside influences are controlling choice and access to books.

When children lose interest in reading, we need to look for reasons why.

I believe the Internet is the main contributor to this problem. Social Justice Warriors were once dim voices, which 99.9% of the world ignored. Now, alas, due to social media, they have a voice that is growing exponentially louder. Those of us who I like to think of as being the level-headed ones have become so browbeaten that we are losing our voice to combat the censorious pressure groups.

A book can now be whipped off the shelf because of a solitary complaint, as was Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow at a Tasmanian school I visited. Mind you, we can also blame the downfall of libraries and librarians in schools for this. Parents used to see the librarian about such things, not the principal. They would be directed to the school council approved policy on library acquisitions. With regards to Scarecrow – it’s an adult book and not YA – so it would depend on the school council’s policy on stocking those kinds of books. Secondary schools usually have a committee that deals with these sorts of complaints and a set procedure for withdrawing a book, whereas these days most primary schools don’t even have a librarian, let alone a committee.

Australia’s censorship ‘rules’ are nowhere near as oppressive as those in the US, but when Australian educational publishers have a co-pub deal with a US publisher, they must adhere to their rules, rather than ours.

Take a look at some examples of political correctness and ‘inclusiveness’ that are turning many children’s books into dreary pap.

When I submitted The Vampire Kids to an educational publisher, it was rejected outright. The publisher obviously hadn’t read the book because she didn’t realise it wasn’t about vampires at all, rather it was about kids dressing up as vampires. But never mind that, it was about Halloween and in the US education school system that’s not on. (As an aside, I changed the title to Tricking, but in the US that’s prostitution so when it was finally published it was called Tricksters.) In another book I had children around a campfire, holding their hands out to warm themselves as I had done as a scout. The illustrator had to redraw the picture because the editor felt the kids were too close to the fire.

Meredith Costain wrote four Barbie books and one character was suntanned as she was an outdoor community worker. The US editor crossed that out and wrote in the margin ‘sun abuse’. In Errol the Peril she was told the kids could only set up their tent within sight of their grandparents’ farmhouse on their camping ‘adventure’ for safety reasons, and they weren’t allowed to light a campfire because they might burn themselves. In yet another book she was told that an adult male wasn’t allowed in a scene with kids unless they were related (despite statistics indicating that children are more at risk of sexual abuse from relatives than they are from strangers).

Two well known Australian illustrators were required to alter their work: one was asked to draw a nappy on the bare bottom of a toddler dancing under a sprinkler, while the other had to remove the udder from a cow. One has to wonder what the absurd reasoning is here. Perhaps nudity!

Try writing about dinosaurs and some publishers will point out that this evolutionary theory is controversial. Another no-no is challenging a teacher’s authority in the classroom. This also applies to bullies (definitely no fist fights in educational books!), or anger in general, as these are not positive traits. Some cultures associate owls with death, so stay well clear of our nocturnal friends, and forget Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas because not all children celebrate them.

Gone are all the good things in life such as lollies, popular soft drinks, fatty stuff like chips and hamburgers. No, they’re to be replaced with nutritional foodstuffs like yoghurt, kale and fish.

Whereas censorship was once confined to educational publishing, it’s now moved into the realm of trade publishing. Recently, Amélie Wen Zhao’s YA fantasy novel, Blood Heir, received great pre-publication reviews. But now the Twitterverse trolls (and to a lesser extent some Goodreads reviewers) have started in on her on grounds of racial insensitivity, forcing her to postpone publication of the book. There’s no room to go into this here, but you might like to read a critique by AJA Hoggatt, which basically debunks a lot of the criticism levelled at this book.

And all of this is happening in a world where kids can type ‘porn’ into a browser and watch the worst there is to offer. Where large numbers of computer games are all about mayhem and killing and where music from rappers exhorting the values of being anti-social and downright murderous can easily be streamed for free.

Censoring books to the point where children are not interested in reading them is only harming them more, as reading gives kids the skills to determine fake news, be thoughtful, empathetic, and to become more aware of the issues of the world. Without these skills kids are way more vulnerable on the Internet.

It's time to stop censoring reality! Next week discover a powerful force for championing kids' rights to read.

Paul Collins is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing, an independent Melbourne publisher. He also runs Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and is the author of over 140 books for children and young adults.

W: fordstreetpublishing.com
W: creativenetspeakers.com
W: paulcollins.com.au
T: @fordstreet
FB: https://www.facebook.com/fordstreet

Sunday, 3 March 2019

One Careless Night

This week’s blog describes a prelaunch of Christina Booth’s new book on the thylacine, One Careless Night, which was held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in the Main Gallery on Sunday February 17 at 1 pm
This was a free event, pre-booking was required through trybooking, presented by TMAG and Black Dog books and a limited print run of pre-release copies of the book was only available on this occasion, prior to the actual publication date of June 1. This was a part of the museum’s Discovery Day event. https://www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/One-Careless-Night-9781925381856

The title refers to the journey of the last thylacine in captivity. The author’s note at the end of the story explains:
The last thylacine in captivity ‘…died one freezing night at the Hobart Zoo because her keeper left her out of her shelter.’ This occurred on ‘… 7 September 1936. This is now the date of National Threatened Species Day in Australia.’

A slideshow of the picture book with images and music, composed by Thieron Booth, Christina’s son, ran for about 20 minutes before the event actually started, which allowed the diverse audience to settle into the serious mood that Christina’s wonderful story brought with it. She was ably assisted throughout the proceedings by husband Michael.
Maryann Ballantyne of Black Dog books (Walker imprint) introduced Donna Rawlins, Christina’s art director on this project, who officially pre-launched the book. They celebrate 15 years association with Christina Booth from the first showing of her portfolio to them. Donna Rawlins is a very experienced illustrator and author, who greatly admires this book, which Christina has been writing and illustrating since 2006, wanting to show the world not just the thylacine but also other native animals.
Donna stated: “This is a story bigger than any of us can afford to ignore”.
One of the saddest facts behind this true story is that between 1901 and 1936 there were activists who sought to protect the thylacine. Zoos worldwide wanted specimens for their collections. Permission for this to happen was given on July 10th 1936, 39 days before the death of the last thylacine in captivity.
Christina presented One Careless Night, reading the whole story aloud from the screen so that we could all share illustrations and words better together, and the atmosphere of loss created by the soundtrack. She acknowledged the great assistance she has received from TMAG in her research into this amazing native creature
This was followed by a drawing activity, where Christina demonstrated how to draw the thylacine, providing sheets with instructions and blank sheets on a clipboard with 6B pencils in order for members of the audience to draw their own. During this hands-on demonstration she discussed the mystery of the thylacine, how as a child she was told that if she ever met a thylacine, she should hold onto its tail - it can’t turn around then as it has a partially fused spine so the spine doesn’t break when it bites down on its prey. The thylacine also hunts in early morning and late evening and so falls into the category of animals that are called ‘crepuscular’. Her illustrations are drawn on the computer, but she uses the same techniques as when drawing on paper. 

To see more examples of her work see: https://www.christinabooth.com/books.html
About her ideas see link to CBCA blog post from October 2018

Image from Newsletter Volume 5 Issue 5 (December 2018) (NCACL)

Christine Donnelly
Assistant Social Media Coordinator, CBCA Tasmania.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Discover IBBY – At Home and Abroad

Join Dr Robin Morrow AM as she shares a life-time passion and long-term commitment to The International Board on Books for Young People. 

IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) was founded in 1953 by Jella Lepman, who believed that books could build bridges of understanding and peace after the destruction of World War II. IBBY now has 75 National Sections all over the world.

In some countries IBBY is the sole or major children’s literature organisation. Here in Australia, as the CBCA sponsors Children’s Book Week and the major awards, IBBY concentrates especially on international matters, showcasing Australian books to the world though activities such as nominating writers and illustrators for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and selecting outstanding books as IBBY Honour Books. For the first time ever in Australia, you can see an exhibition of Honour Books from every IBBY country, together with all Australian Honour books since 1962 (the first one being Tangara by Tasmanian Nan Chauncy)—as an accompaniment to the CBCA conference in Canberra. For an annotated list see the IBBY Australia Honour Books List 1962-2018 (PDF).

IBBY works towards the right of every child to be a reader, a reader with access to books with high literary and artistic standards, including those in their own language. See what IBBY does worldwide at http://www.ibby.org/. The Children in Crisis Fund helps children affected by natural disasters, civil disorder or war, working to replace or create libraries/collections of appropriate children’s books and provide bibliography, the therapeutic use of books and storytelling. IBBY Australia has donated to this work, such as in Japan after the tsunami, in Gaza to rebuild destroyed libraries, and with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Such work reflects the basic tenets of Jella Lepman, and makes me proud to be a member of this worldwide body. And there are wonderful rewards through friendships forged through IBBY, especially if one attends an international Congress. The most recent was in Athens, and the next is to be held in Moscow in September 2020.

Life sized bronze statue of Hans
Christian Andersen in Malaga, Spain,
a favourite holiday destination.
Can you see the ugly duckling?

IBBY Australia, with national president Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright and an executive committee including Nella Pickup of Tasmania, is in excellent hands. After ten years as president, I am happy to have moved to a different role, as a member of the international jury for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, sometimes referred to as ‘the little Nobel Prize’ as it is given to a writer and an illustrator for their lifetime work. Although I have served on many judging panels, including CBCA and Premier’s Award, this is a responsibility that can feel daunting . . . but as the first Australian judge since the 1980s when the late Dr Maurice Saxby served on the panel, I take courage from his example and like to think he is giving his posthumous blessing to the work. 

In Tasmania, an International Children’s Book Day event will be held on 2nd April, the very day of Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. I recommend that you attend if possible, learn more about IBBY, have a lot of fun and help raise money for the Children in Crisis Fund.

Dr Robin Morrow AM
National EC/ Treasurer IBBY

Editor's note: A quiz night! What a great way to show off your children's literature knowledge (or lack ;-(. Bookmark the date and book a place or table. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Tidy is a four-letter word

A timely follow on to last week’s post as Nella decides that following Marie Kondo’s advice to limit her book collection to the bare minimum does not suit her (and I think many readers) love of books. In response, Nella has identified some of the titles recently added to her To Be Read (TBR) pile and no doubt the best of these will remain firmly planted on her shelves.
 I read and dismissed Marie Kondo’s comments on books over 3 years ago. I have more than 30 books by my bedside – not 30 in the entire house!  Now that she is a Netflix celebrity, her initial comments have drawn condemnation from book lovers all over the world, she has moderated and provided a context for her views.
Two reports for you to look at if you wish to investigate decluttering:
and now her change of tune….
Just as well Ms Kondo, as my 2019 TBR bedside pile will soon include these new Australian junior fiction titles.
Melody Trumpet by Gabrielle Tozer (Harper Collins) January  
As the daughter of global music superstars, Melody Trumpet was supposed to be extraordinary - a melodic genius to carry on the Trumpet legacy. But, as was discovered when Melody screamed her first out-of-tune note as a baby, this wasn't to be…
Ms Tozer has written 3 YA novels; this is her first junior fiction title.

47 Degrees
by Justin D’Ath (Puffin) January  

A fast-paced and poignant novel of survival by Justin D’Ath that draws on his own experience of escaping the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Find out more on Justin D'Ath's website.

Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables on the Lookout by Tim Harris (Puffin) February

The fourth title about Australia's favourite teacher. If you haven't met Mr Bambuckle find out about his adventures on Tim Harris' website.

The Dog Runner
by Bren MacDibble
(Allen & Unwin) February

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape?
If the previews are correct, this will be just as moving as her award-winning How to Bee.  (PS She has written a YA title In the dark spaces under the name Cally Black – a CBCA honour book.)

Scorch Dragons: Elementals #2 by Amie Kaufman (HarperCollins) March release of the sequel to Ice Wolves, an epic middle-grade fantasy series about a world where powerful magical shapeshifters are locked in a conflict that has spanned generations.

And last but not least . . .

One Careless Night by Christina Booth (Walker Books) April 
The hauntingly beautiful story of Australia's last thylacine (Tasmanian tiger).
FYI: There is a preview launch at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on February 17. You do need toprebook. Read about this on Christina’s news page at https://www.christinabooth.com/news.html and watch the breathtaking trailer.
Nella Pickup - reader

Saturday, 2 February 2019

2019: A Year for Reading

Lyndon is determined to find time to read, to tackle his reading pile and seek inspiration from you – his reading colleagues. How do you find time to read?

Some people don’t believe in goals, or resolutions, or To Do lists, or any number of organisational systems of day-to-day ambition. And that’s okay, of course, but it’s actually one of my favourite parts of each year to sit down on New Year’s Eve and discuss what I have planned for the months ahead. In the final hours of 2018, one answer was obvious: a return to reading. I had recently joined author John Green’s “Life’s Library” book club, and one member spoke in the online forums about committing to reading a book a week in the previous year, an aspiration he narrowly managed to achieve. I was inspired. As a newly minted teacher, I often tell my students—particularly those wanting to achieve in the realm of creative writing—that it is essential that they read, both for study and pleasure. Yet we, as their teachers, regularly bemoan the “lack of time” to read in our own lives, and build small piles like log stacks beside our beds, promising ourselves that Summer will see us conquer them, yet usually failing to do anything more than add height to this increasingly domineering health and safety hazard. It’s often a matter of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, and it has started to bother me.

The time, I realise, must be there—or at least it is for me. My paper lists of all that I read and watch on television are steadily growing, but the “watch” list (which includes full series and films) is progressing at a much faster rate than my reading one. Fiction and non-fiction are a delight when we can carve out a corner of the world and fall into them with full attention, but they are not typically the “bite-size” chunks that we find so easy and engrossing in newspapers, the internet, and on social media. I suspect that part of the challenge is sustaining focus. Marie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, and the star of the new Netflix sensation Tidying Up caused a small riot on the internet when she suggested that the average person should have approximately thirty books on their bookshelf. Of course, the furor was misguided—Kondo’s fundamental principle is to keep only objects that “spark joy” when you hold them, and that could be any number of books. Perhaps more interestingly, I think we can apply this principle to our time as well—I found myself considering the fact that reading definitely sparks joy for me, while other pursuits (such as mindlessly browsing the internet) could provide the space in my schedule for the quiet imaginative reflection I crave.

Gaston figurine
I say all of this because I know that I am not alone. A Google search for “I don’t have time to read” garners six billion results. So I’d love to talk to all of you about this very modern conundrum. Specifically: what are your reading habits? Do you explicitly make time for reading, or simply take it as it comes? What encourages and inspires you to read? Do you have tips and tricks for making reading a daily habit, and how many books do you hope to read in 2019? Share with me in the comments below, and hopefully we can inspire each other. I hope that 2019 is a wonderful year for you, full of hot tea, soft armchairs, gentle light, and stories that spark the most potent joy imaginable.

Happy New Year, and happy reading.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and new English teacher who has just begun his first year in the classroom at Launceston College. You can find him at http://www.lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.