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

Friday, 23 July 2021

On County in Alice Springs

Wintering in Alice Springs, Maureen Mann has been investigating Indigenous literature celebrated in the area. Join her as she explores stories about Country and living in outback Australia.

Having spent some time in Alice Springs recently, (what a great place it is in winter), I have enjoyed looking at the range of indigenous stories from across the country. Some of the titles I recognise but many don't seem to have been widely stocked in Tasmania, which is understandable. One of the things which came across strongly to me, and it's obvious once it has been verbalised, is that each area not only has its own language, traditions and food, but that knowledge doesn't automatically transfer to another area. 

Here are just a few of the titles which caught my eye, not in any priority order and not all very recent.

Mum's Elephant by Maureen O'Keefe and illustrated by Christina Booth. I'm sorry I missed this publication last year. Mum has a precious elephant which shares much of her life. Why is it so important? Booth's illustrations keep the reader guessing. 

Coming Home to Country by Bronwyn Bancroft. With Bancroft's signature illustrations depicting the joy of coming home, especially to the creek and being on country.

The books by Dion Beasley and Johanna Bell: Too Many Cheeky Dogs, Go Home Cheeky Animals (which I'm sure you remember from the 2017 Book of the Year awards), Cheeky Dogs to Lake Nash and Back (an illustrated memoir) have featured prominently in several shops I visited. They show the fascination Tennant Creek artist Bell has with dogs and other animals.

Emus Under the Bed by LeAnn J Edwards describes the fun had at Auntie Dollo's house, connecting family and culture, using feathers, making damper and playing with baby emus. I love the cover.

Tell 'Em by Katrina Germein, Rosemary Sullivan and the children of Manyallaluk School in the Roper River area. Starting with the cover, the reader is shown how much there is to do in their remote community

The Seven Sisters by Reggie Sultan. The seven sisters are the 7 stars of the Pleiades in the Milky Way and some of the traditional stories about their visit to earth. Sultan is from the Central Desert region near Barrow Creek and has created wonderful illustrations.

My Country by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan has bright illustrations connecting a child to his place.

Main Abija My Grandad by Karen Rogers. This dual language book describes the relationship, love and teaching of culture and country by a grandfather to his granddaughter. A celebration of family.

The Oo in Uluru by Judith Barker. With Uluru having been one of our destinations I enjoyed this book playing on the sounds in the word.

Kunyi by Kunyi June Anne McInerney. This is Kunyi's own story and paintings of her life in Oodnadatta Children's Home in the 1950s. The illustrations are vibrant and alive and throughout the story is alive.

Thanks to Red Kangaroo Bookshop in Alice Springs for your help and conversations. It was a pleasure looking at these books and there are so many more I could have shared.

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader 

Friday, 16 July 2021

The Words That Set Us Free

This week Lyndon Riggall reflects on the importance of writers adding their personal stories to enrich the lives of others.

When I was Tasmanian judge for the Children’s Book Council—a role which seems a lifetime ago now—I noticed an interesting pattern that I still think about to this day. It seemed to me that books followed a sequence in which trust and security were gradually eroded over the years of life… parents, doctors, teachers and friends were—in early childhood reading—almost universally kind, reliable and to be depended-upon implicitly, but by the time readers hit the senior-secondary years, contributions to literature seemed to feel it necessary that even the most outwardly-trustworthy figure was a contradiction of secrets, complications and dangers. The certainty and safety of younger years of reading was—in a manner that I’m sure is both thrilling and frightening—systematically torn away.

Life, of course, is a mixture of good and bad, but this configuration raises some interesting questions about the nature of writing itself. Many of us seek escapism and safety from our reading, and I know a number of adults (and I count myself as one of their number) who even crawl back to children’s literature throughout their lives to bring comfort, solace and hope to their hearts in times of hardship. Yet Richard Flanagan wrote in the Monthly recently that “what is at stake – what is always at stake – is finally not being free to write but being free to write the unsayable, the thing not allowed to be said, to tear aside the shrouds of power and wealth and their accompanying conventions and orthodoxies, to describe what is.” Ultimately, it seems to me, it is through the evolving stories that we explore and experience that we learn such truths. As a growing raft of children’s books points to the relevance of such topics as climate change, the refugee experience, racism and gender diversity, we must remember that, as Lemony Snicket puts it, “All of the secrets of the world are contained in books. Read at your own risk.” Words set ideas free, but more importantly they set people free, and the moment when we recognise our world or our-selves in a narrative—a thought or truth that we had previously considered unknowable, or even unsayable—is the moment that writers and readers live for. Nevertheless, this takes courage in both the construction and the publishing… A courage, I hope, that we will continue to have, and to foster.

Everyone of us has a book inside us (or at least that’s what they tell us) and yet so many of us will take these unpublished tomes to our graves with us—another memento to line our coffin, another item on the bucket list that never gets scratched off. Imagine, now, all of those untold tales that pulse and rush under our skin like the blood in our veins; the letters flushing through us as if they are alphabet soup down a drainpipe, begging to be rescued and strung into words, into sentences, into stories.

Of course, they are our stories, and they deserve to be shared, and we should be proud of anyone brave enough to share them. And so, I send my love and gratitude and encouragement to all of our brave writers and storytellers—those who write for children, adults and everyone in-between—and I say thank you. Because you show us the way forward, the way that takes us from each new beginning to “The End,” simply by being brave enough to dare to set those stories free… and, in doing so, sometimes… 

... Even setting us free too.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. He can be found on his personal blog at http://www.lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.

Friday, 9 July 2021

Introducing Geoff Parton, and characters Ugo and Jack.

Now residing in Huonville, Tasmania, Geoff Parton introduces himself and reflects on how his childhood experiences have informed his writing through the book series and the characters of Ugo and Jack.

Parton, G. (2021). Ugo and Jack"
Book 1
. Olympia.

I was born in 1948. In those days, Duffy's Forest, Nth of Sydney where we lived, was mostly untouched bush with just a few scattered houses. It bordered Ku-ring-gai Chase, a name taken from the Guringai aboriginal people. It’s a large area of almost 15000 hectares of bushland. Today it is National Park but in those days it was just natural bush for anybody to explore. Meandering right through the middle of the park is Cowan creek, a beautiful tributary of the Hawkesbury River.

Living on a farm that bordered this enormous bush land was fantastic, somehow it seemed as though it all belonged to me! In those days, as a kid, I felt like an explorer, as nobody else had penetrated deep into these areas for well over a hundred years – it was my world. A six hour walk from the farm to Cowan Creek brought me to a place called Duffy's Wharf. It had been derelict for over 100 years, with just part of a sign left, which read, ‘ring bell for ferry.’ On the farm in the late 40’s and early 50’s, there was virtually no communication, we didn't have electricity or a phone, television was unheard, but we did have a radio which was everything.

Because I was free to use my imagination, I became open to all possibilities, some people might say I have a big imagination, it’s true and it’s all because of my closeness to nature. This enabled me to handle death and tragedy in a realistic way. A lack of education turned out to be my greatest asset, as it helped to open my ‘special door’ to the spirit world. I am not religious, but I know there is more than just the physical world we are in at the moment.

With this back ground and 72 years of dare I say it, wisdom, I have been able to write a series of 5 children’s adventure books. In UGO and JACK, Jack has an unhappy home life on a remote farm. His alcoholic father and bullying older brother make life miserable for him and his younger brother Billy. His only moments of brightness are an occasional escape to the beautiful wooded valley near the farm.

On one such visit a freak accident leaves him unconscious. Drawn into a strange but wonderful encounter with the spirit world, he meets a new friend Ugo at his home in Fire Fly Valley. An unexpected opportunity arises to explore the valley further and Jack is taken into a world of completely new dimensions where he can see things previously hidden. Wherever there is life he discovers, there is also a spiritual force and he learns that he can even change the future for generations to come.

Parton, G. (2021). Ugo and Jack:
Book 2. 

Books 2, 3, 4 and 5 are all different stories, but are still very much seamed together. The first book, Ugo and Jack was released  February 2021 by Olympia Publishers and book two was released in June. The novels, targeting 8 to 14 year olds, are full of adventure and excitement, they are uplifting and give purpose to life, when sometimes there seems there isn’t any! In describing his works Geoff states: “I would describe the books as being very different to the usual children's books being published today – they are raw and real. Life isn’t a fairy tale and I am sure children know that. In real family life, there are many aspects that parents want to keep hidden, but the kids, they know. We all have a public face so to speak.”

Geoff Parton

Editor’s note: Ugo and Jack books are available in  some local bookstores in Hobart, through Libraries Tasmania and online.

Friday, 2 July 2021

Graphic Novels: Not ‘just’ comics

Felicity Sly considers the value of graphic novels to support content based learning with some excellent examples that present scientific and historical information and language in a graphic format. 

Hosler, J. (2008).
Optical allusions
Available as free PDF

Caitlyn Forster, a Science PhD Candidate at the University of Sydney and retail sales assistant in a comic bookstore, wrote in The Conversation (April 19, 2021) that many characters in graphic novels are inspired by biology: Ant-Man, Spider-Man and Poison Ivy. When not being superheroes, Poison Ivy is a botanist and The Unstoppable Wasp is a teenage scientist. Animals have also been named after superheroes: a robber fly named Deadpool, and a fish named Wakanda after a fictional country in Black Panther. Optical Allusions by Jay Hosler, is just one of a number of graphic novels and comics that are created by scientists. 

So why offer a comic or graphic novel instead of a textbook? 

Whitley, J. (2017).
The Unstoppable Wasp

Forster writes that graphic novels and comics are engaging. Difficult concepts are developed through the course of the story, and whilst student’s knowledge acquisition was similar between reading a textbook and a graphic novel, the students who read the graphic novel showed greater interest in the course. Knowledge is ‘sprinkled’ as the story progresses, and readers can revisit panels, learning at their own pace. Hard to visualise and dangerous worlds can be explored in safety; such as plagues, cells and life cycles of plants and animals. At the end of each issue of The Unstoppable Wasp, Marvel comics include interviews with female scientists.

Spieglelman, A. Maus.

The website of common sense media lists some graphic novels that teach history. These include Maus (holocaust history), Slaughterhouse-Five (anti-war science fiction) and titles exploring the history of conflict in Poland, Syria and the USA. George Takei’s (Sulu in Star Trek) memoir, They Called us Enemy, recalls his internment in Japanese prisoner of war camps in World War II.

Tan, S. Los conejos
Find out more

CBCA 2021 Book of the Year artist, Shaun Tan, explores the problems faced by migrants in The Arrival. This book looks at the universal issues of being ‘other’ when all is unfamiliar and previous skills and status have no value. In The Rabbits colonisation is viewed from the perspective of those colonised. The Rabbits has been translated into Spanish; Los Conejos was donated by the Mexican government to schools, to help understand the concepts of colonisation and its effect on indigenous culture.

Greek, Roman and Norse Mythology, One Thousand and One Nights, Shakespeare and true crime have all found new readers in graphic novels. There are also a number of popular novels appearing as graphic novels: Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.


Common Sense Media (n.d.) Graphic novels that teach history. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/graphic-novels-that-teach-history

Forster, C. (2021, April 19). Heroes, villains … biology: 3 reasons comic books are great science teachers. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/heroes-villains-biology-3-reasons-comic-books-are-great-science-teachers-143251

Felicity Sly

Teacher Librarian at Don College in Devonport and CBCA Committee Member.

Editor’s note: A reminder to readers that graphic novels can be 'graphic' and may be written for a mature audience. Sites such as The Common Sense Media provide useful guidance.
If you know of other titles that support content learning please share in a comment.

FYI: Oakley provides an informative scientific review of Optical Allusions.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Blogger Email Notifications: Stopping soon

Alert to those that follow the CBCA Tasmania blog via email on Blogger. This service is being decommissioned by the provider (Feedburner) at the end of July.  You can stay up to date with our weekly blog posts with one (or all!) of these three options.

Membership email (https://www.cbcatas.org/membership/) sent to all members when posts are published

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Follow us on Twitter (@CBCATas)

Jennie Bales

CBCA Tas Social Media Coordinator

Friday, 25 June 2021

The Great Maternity Leave Project

New-to-the-scene Tasmanian author and illustrator team, Hannah Coates and Claire Neyland, on education, motherhood and self-publishing
A Home for Little Penguin.

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [front cover]

I was heavily pregnant and impatiently awaiting the arrival of my first child, when I started playing around with a few little story ideas.  I wrote and re-wrote a few drafts, adding a character here, removing an adjective there. But then baby Eddy was born, and the project went into hiding for a few months whilst I learned how to be a mother. It wasn’t until Claire was also on maternity leave from teaching and looking for a creative outlet that I remembered the tale about the Little Penguin I’d been working on. There was a picture hanging on Claire’s living room wall that I had always admired, and I was blown away once I realised that she had actually painted it. 

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [back cover]

What followed was truly a huge collaborative effort. Claire gave feedback on the text drafts, as well as encouragement and reassurance that what I had visualised was worthwhile pursuing. We visited the locations that would be depicted in the book (Douglas-Apsley Waterhole, Whaler’s Lookout, Coles Bay, Diamond Island). She sent me photos of her sketches and works-in-progress, wanting to make sure she created exactly what I wanted. In truth – she did better. 

 © Claire Neyland. Douglas-Apsley Waterhole [image]. A Home for Little Penguin 

Once we had a few images and a well edited manuscript, I set about looking for a publisher. What I found was that it is extremely difficult to crack into the oversaturated world of children’s picture books! There were only a handful of Australian publishing houses who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. In the end, we decided to self-publish. It was a risky decision, but we believed that we had created something good, and wanted to see it through. We loved the idea of being able to read our children something that we had created. We were lucky to have the support of Tasmanian Publisher Forty South; it was a good fit for us, because we still had a certain amount of agency during the editing, and Claire did a lot of the design work. 

I’m so glad that we backed ourselves. It has been a long and sometimes frustrating journey to get here, but it feels so unbelievably rewarding. 

A Home For Little Penguin is dedicated to our first children, Eddy and Kate. Now that we are both mothers of two – another project is certainly overdue!

© Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland 
A Home for LIttle Penguin [title page]

Hannah Coates

Storyteller & Bookworm

BIO: Hannah Coates is a Tasmanian storyteller, teacher and mother. She lives on the beautiful East Coast, where her love for the ocean inspires her in all things. A Home for Little Penguin is her first book. 

Editor's note: A Home for Little Penguin is available in local Tasmanian bookstores and online. All images used with permission from the creators.

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Thank you!

This week Emma applauds and celebrates the authors and illustrators who contribute a wealth of literature that explores such diverse and relevant matters for the lives, interests and learning of children and teens – and pure magic for teachers to engage their students.

No matter which subject area I am planning for; no matter which aspect of literacy I am trying to model - I firstly seek out a text. I start with a text because I know that I will find something that fits the bill. Something that will provide the ultimate provocation. That will spark joy and wonder. Something that will be a springboard for rich and powerful learning. Something that will tell the story I need to tell. 

And often in these searches (which incidentally I happily get completely lost in), I stumble upon a story or two that I didn’t even know I needed! And whenever this happens, I tuck it away for that perfect moment. Because it will come. 

I’ve recently been reflecting on this reliance, that we as educators have on texts to support our classroom programs. This reflection first began to bubble when the ‘Reading Wars’ were reignited in the media, as the Australian Curriculum review commenced; and as various jurisdictions around the country came out in support of phonics-based principles and practices. It got me thinking though, that regardless of what the media tout about a raging reading war – schools continue to rely on the rich array of texts available to us, as we strive towards confident, happy and successful readers. How lucky are we? The range of texts available, the content, the quality. The breadth of themes. The endless examples of authorial techniques. The vast vocabulary. The mystery and intrigue. The inspirational life stories of authors themselves. The sheer entertainment and the questions posed.


And for this, this rich array of classroom resources, I thank the authors. The magic and the inspiration, and not to mention the learning, that you bring to each, and every, classroom, every day, is most appreciated. Without it, I know for certain that my classroom would not be the place it is today. 

From all of us in schools - thank you!

Emma Nuttall

Teacher, reader and passionate advocate for children’s literature

Editor’s note: To discover some local Tasmanian children’s book creators represented in the images above, visit the CBCA Tasmania Creators page on the website and investigate how you can bring a creator into the classroom through CBCA Tas Workshops in Schools Program, supported by the Department of Education, Tasmania.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Publishing Books with Children: It's all about Wellbeing

 A unique publication by Tasmanian children is the highlight of this week’s post by Victoria Ryle. Find out about the project, the book’s launch and the affirmation these children received as published authors.

If anyone has read my previous blogs in this space, they will know by now that I am a passionate advocate for giving children a place at the table of authors – sometimes literally, as in the authors’ signing table!  I am reflecting on the most recent book launch I attended, of the most recent publication that I have had a hand in. When I Wake Up I Smile: A book of WELLBEING by 156 children across Tasmania, was created as part of a community consultation with children to codesign Tasmania’s first ever whole-of-government Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. It was launched just last month by the Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein, alongside the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, at New Town Primary School, one of seven schools involved in its production.

Cover of When I Wake Up I Smile

I would like to share a few special moments from this launch:

Firstly, the moment immediately after the young authors present were each handed their newly published book. The sight of a group of them, heads bowed over their copy, intensely reading, pouring through the pages, pointing at elements, nudging each other, making exclamations in recognition of particular words and images. How they completely ignored the adults standing around so focused on the task in hand – exploring THEIR book. At first quiet, before excited voices begin to chime out.

Secondly, the moment when the Premier, without speech notes, spoke with such respect directly to the assembled group of young authors, telling them about his first reading of the book, how moved he was by their words and pictures. He told them that it may just be the most important book he has ever read!

Thirdly, the moment when the Commissioner for Children and Young People congratulated the children on being published authors and pointed them to the signing table, inviting them to sign copies of the books for the VIPs, members of the press and other adults assembled.

The significance of these moments lay in the embodied responses of the young authors: their gestures, the expressions on their faces. No words were required to convey the affirmation they experienced in these moments.

Pages from When I Wake Up I Smile. © The authors

And that brings me to the main point of my post: being a published author offers up such special moments of affirmation for the child – from the tactile feeling of a newly printed book, to wearing the ‘hat ‘of a published author with all the accompanying ritual that surrounds book publication. As it happens, this particular book is all about wellbeing. As the back-cover blurb states: ‘This is a book by children, for children and adults. It gives an incredibly insightful and honest look from a Child’s perspective at what Tasmanian children want and need to be happy, healthy and secure and to have the very brightest futures Tasmania can offer them’. This validation of children as the experts on their own lives, reinforced through the launch celebration contributes significantly to a child’s sense of wellbeing and belonging in the world of books.

To conclude with the words of the Children’s Commissioner: “I am so proud of what the children have produced. It’s not just a ‘picture book’ – and a really beautiful one at that – it’s also an incredibly insightful and honest look from a child’s perspective at what Tasmanian children want and need to be happy, healthy and secure and to have the very brightest futures Tasmania can offer them.”

Read this book at your local library or you can view an electric version at https://www.childcomm.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-When-I-Wake-Up-I-Smile.pdf

There is also an accompanying resource for teachers, carers and parents:


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/