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

Friday, 15 September 2023

The Reading Journey

Booksellers play an important role in connecting children to great literature and I am always amazed at how widely read they are and their depth of knowledge on  new and classic publications. This week, Holly Cooper, from Petrach’s Book Shop, shares her experience in matching books to readers and suggests some personal and popular favourites.

A certain look appears on the faces of children as they enter a bookshop. It’s a look that will never stop bringing me joy, no matter how many years I spend behind the counter. It’s a look of awe, of anticipation, of elation. It never fails to make a bookseller smile, because we know that wherever they may be in their short yet full-to-the-brim lives, there will be a book just for them.

There are the babies, who, admittedly, care more about how the book tastes than the contents. Their parents look at us apologetically, but of course we don’t mind: ingestion of books still counts whether they’re being read or being eaten.

Then there’s the toddlers, whose wide little eyes light up at the sight of a book all about their latest obsession: ballerinas, tractors, dinosaurs, farts. This look is often followed up by one of desperation, claiming that this one book is all they’ve ever wanted in their entire lives. Yes, even more than that Lego set they saw earlier.

There are the kids who are new to reading independently, who may still hesitate over the tricky words, but are learning that their imagination is their most powerful tool. These children are discovering that books will always be among their most treasured friends.

There are the schoolkids who come in with their own savings, so excited to be able to buy a book all of their own with the money they earned mowing mum and dad’s lawn. They hand over their crumpled $20 note, and in that moment, that book becomes the first thing that’s properly theirs. 

Then there are the young adults, who have big futures and even bigger emotions. Don’t we all remember the feeling of being so utterly convinced that our favourite authors were the only ones to really understand us? Of course, we now take comfort knowing that every emotion we’ve ever felt has been felt and written about by someone before.

Some personal favourites:

All of the Factors Why I love Tractors
by Davina Bell, Harper Collins.

For younger children this is a fabulous rhyming story with glorious illustrations, an absolute go-to for reading aloud to kids.

Cat on the Run by Aaron Blabey, Scholastic Australia.

Perfect for lower primary from the author of the amazing Bad Guys series, the first in a brand new series that is just as funny as Bad Guys but with the Cat of Death as the central character.  What’s not to love?

Millie Mak the Maker by Alice Pung, Harper Collins.

Targeting upper primary readers, this is a beautiful story from one of Australia’s most loved authors.  Mille Mak has a superpower - she can turn everyday things into something new!

Tomorrow When the War Began
by John Marsden, Pan Macmillan.

For young adult readers this is an oldie but a goodie and one my personal favourites. A brilliant action-packed start to a series that has remained in print for over thirty years, and for good reason.

Perhaps, as children, we don’t understand how the trajectory of our lives will be mapped out by the books we read. They become our secrets, our confidantes, and our homes. These books will always fill us with a sense of nostalgia when we re-crack those spines and breathe in their glorious old book mustiness. 

So here’s to you, kids. May you always find wonder within the pages of books, and may you all continue to bring joy to those of us behind the counter. What a magical journey you have ahead of you.

Holly Cooper
Bookseller and lifelong bookworm.
Petrachs' Book Shop: 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/petrarchs

Editor’s note: Love Your Bookshop Day is on the horizon, celebrated this year on Saturday October 7. Head to a bookshop near you and tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience booksellers have to help connect young readers to great books. Keep bookshops alive!

Saturday, 2 September 2023

Picture Books for Older Readers : Insights into Endpapers

A previous post reviewed the exciting new database Picture Books for Older Readers produced by the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL). This week, Dr Belle Alderman AM, a Director at the Centre, hones in on the contribution of endpapers and how they contribute to the literary engagement and interpretation of sophisticated picture books. Read on to discover how endpapers play an integral role in the storytelling process and also witness the breadth of search possibilities in the database.

On the 30th of June 2023, the NCACL launched its adventurous new database, Picture Books for Older Readers (PBOR). The accompanying flyer, Champions Picture Books for Older Readers, describes these books’ characteristics, how they might be used and their potential audience. 

Some consider picture books are for pre-readers and developing readers. Not necessarily so! Fans of picture books know that the audience is much wider. Firstly, consider what these books are about. Here are a few of the over 300 PBOR searchable subjects in this database: anxiety, betrayal, death, detention centres, environmental destruction, grief, homelessness, refugees and war. These are not your usual fare for young readers. Secondly, the jacket covers, and particularly endpapers, frequently suggest sophisticated, multiple interpretations. It is possible to easily find such discussion.

One exceptional and often under-utilised feature of the PBOR is the long search bar at the top of each web page of jackets. It says, ‘Search by Title and Annotation’. This enables searching for particular words thus diving deeply into annotations for this collection. The annotations are typically 250-350 words in length. They astutely capture the essence of each book in content, intent, style, design and art, including endpapers. 

This targeted ‘free text’ search resembles lateral thinking. The search is capable of illuminating deeper meanings and drawing comparisons between seemingly different but possibly similar concepts. To illustrate this point, a search for the word ‘endpapers’ on the PBOR retrieves 77 books. 

What, for example, might we glean from reading about endpapers in just of few of these 77 books? Such endpapers might, for example:

  • hint at a story deeper than the words alone convey;
  • engage the reader in understanding the story in a certain way;
  • contradict the story and suggest a different meaning;
  • resolve, interpret or open a new way to understand the story; and
  • offer an alternate interpretation of the images. 

There is an additional consideration when working with PBORs. Adults will recognise that a young person’s ability to think laterally can offer different interpretations than those made by adults. Below are 10 books chosen from the 77 results from the ‘endpaper’ search, including a brief excerpt from each annotation. Such annotations lead readers to consider just some of the rich interpretations possible through studying endpapers. 

10 Titles Featuring a Brief Discussion of Endpapers


Abela, Deborah. Wolfie: An Unlikely Hero. Illustrated by Connah Brecon. Penguin Random House Australia, 2017.

The endpapers feature snippets of iconic images from well-known fairy tales encouraging readers to remember their favourites. Hunting for the many visual jokes in Brecon’s illustrations adds immensely to this fast-paced, humorous romp through familiar fairy tale worlds.’ From the annotation

Barbalet, Margaret. The Wolf.  Illustrated by Jane Tanner. Viking Penguin Books Australia, 1991.

‘The Wolf’ is a modern gothic tale about confronting fear. ‘The Wolf’ was one of the first picture books for older readers published in Australia. Its use of visual symbols and metaphors make it a valuable tool for demonstrating visual literacy and understanding literary techniques.’ (From the annotation)

Base, Graeme. The Worst Band in the Universe. Viking, 1999.

‘The front endpapers provide a three-dimensional style map of these worlds, and Base’s trademark intricate and eyepopping details fill out this invented universe.’ (From the annotation)

Clarke, Maxine Beneba. When we say Black Lives Matter. Lothian Children’s Books, 2020.

‘The message of this book is strong, but not too strident although it is necessarily political. The endpapers offer a montage of artwork reflecting protests.’ (From the annotation)

Hathorn, Libby. Way Home. Illustrated by Gregory Rogers. Random House, 1994. 

‘The endpapers appear as crumpled grey paper followed by pages of charcoal and pastel drawings in muted grey, dark green and terra cotta. These crumpled paper endpapers foreshadows both the theme of the story and the way in which street people are ‘thrown away’ by society.’ (From the annotation and Lawrence Sipe and Caroline E McGuire, 2006)

Huxley, Dee, Oliver Huxley & Tiffany Huxley. My Brother. Illustrated by Dee Huxley. Working Title Press, 2016.

‘The endpapers guide the reader’s emotional response from beginning to end. Initial endpapers are light yellow with a bird flying in the bottom right corner, perhaps searching. The back endpapers are a brilliant yellow with orange paint splotches giving warmth and serenity’. (From the annotation)

Rawlins, Donna. Waves: For Those Who Come Across the Sea. Illustrated by Mark Jackson and Heather Potter, Black Dog Books, 2018.

‘The book’s design, particularly the use of the endpapers, gives a clear dateline of the various stories and is a clever and original lead into the book.’ (From the annotation)

Sworder, Zeno. My Strange Shrinking Parents. Thames & Hudson Australia, 2022.

‘The endpapers are exquisite, filled with drawings of a large variety of teapots giving a sense of hearth and home as a place of love and comfort.’ (From the annotation)

Watkins, Ross. One Photo. Illustrated by Liz Anelli. Penguin/Viking, 2016.

‘The endpapers are particularly significant. The front pages are filled with family photographs from earlier times while the back endpapers’ photographs refer to their life after the loss.’ (From the annotation)

Wild, Margaret. Woolvs in the Sitee. Illustrated by Anne Spudvillas. Penguin 2006.

‘The cover and endpapers of ‘Woolvs in the Sitee’ are arresting and immediately engage the viewer. There is the title to ponder, a haunting jacket cover one liner — ‘they spare no won’ — plus endpapers that feature a scribbled animal in grey on glossy black. Prepare to wonder and question what this story is about as no answers are given and many interpretations are possible’. (From the annotation)

This small sample of titles in the PBOR database reveals that endpapers offer additional interpretations of stories. Endpapers tell their own stories just as people of all ages will have their own interpretations of these. This overview of one aspect of the PBOR—endpapers—is designed to provoke all ages to see, read and interpret picture books for older readers in perhaps new and unanticipated ways. 


CBC New England Northwest Sub-branch. (2020, April 20). Booked in! 2020: Endpapers in children’s books, a selection.


Lamond, M. (2018, April 17). Endpapers: Gateways rather than pathways into picture books.


Sipe, L. & McGuire, C.E. (2007, November 7). Picturebook endpapers: Resources for literary and aesthetic interpretation. University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education 


(highly recommended reading)

Staake, B. & Held, K. (n.d.). The art of the end: A visual celebration of the book endpaper.


Parsons, G. (200, August 3). Under the covers: The unique story of the endpaper in picture books. Picture Book Den: Passionate about Picture Books.


By Dr Belle Alderman AM

Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc

Friday, 25 August 2023

Celebrating Book Week – Engaging with Books and Humans

Hutchins School engaged in a range of exciting activities in the lead up to, and then ongoing throughout Book Week. It is wonderful to see such a strong reading culture celebrated across the school. 

Critical Evaluation of Shortlisted Titles (our version of Shadow Judging)

Our Book Week celebrations begin mid-Term 2 with the introduction of our Critical Evaluation unit, which begins with exploring the question, ‘what makes a good book?’ Our younger students focus on the Early Childhood shortlist, while older students build on their knowledge of different kinds of non-fiction to hone their evaluative skills by examining the Eve Pownall shortlist.

Students explore this inquiry question through the examination of previous shortlisted books and current notable books.  Through this exploration, students design their own criteria; generally they come up with something along these lines:

Criteria for ‘what makes a good picture book?’

  • Story – a problem, a solution, a sizzling start and end, makes you feel something (happy, sad, excited)
  • Language – descriptive, interesting
  • Illustrations – detailed, interesting, help tell the story

Criteria for ‘what makes a good information book?’

  • Information – detailed information, sources are listed
  • Layout – book is presented in an interesting, creative and attractive manner
  • Visuals – book includes clear, detailed and attractive visuals to support the text

These criteria then underpin our exploration of the shortlisted books and students vote in the Hutchins Choice Awards shortly before Book Week.

Book Week Celebrations

Our Book Week celebrations take place across the week and are centred on children engaging with quality books and engaging with one another in book sharing, discussions and celebrations. 

Some examples of this year’s offerings included:

Pop Up Readers – During Book Week, we had over 25 guest readers, including staff from all areas of the school and Senior School students, ‘pop up’ in classrooms to read stories.  This is super simple to set up; send out an editable timetable of the week for readers to nominate their available times and class teachers snap up a match.

Senior student reading to a younger class ©

Story Walks with Fahan – Our younger students were lucky enough to visit a local school, Fahan, for the morning, where they listened to stories read by older students and participated in challenges as they walked through the gardens to listen to other stories.

Hutchins and Fahan students enjoy an outside storytelling session ©

Drop Everything and Read – At designated times throughout the week, students and staff were encourage to ‘drop everything and read.’

Buddy Reading – Across the week, there were several times for students to meet with their buddies to share stories together.

The Great Book Swap – This event is always a hit in schools and there are plenty of winners; families can declutter their bookshelves, children can buy ‘new-to-them’ books and we are able to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Great Book Swap raises funds to support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation ©

Book Buying Excursion – A highlight of our Tasmania Reads celebrations was taking a small group of students to a local bookshop to select new books to purchase for the library.  This event was such a success that we decided to repeat it for Book Week.  Choosing to spend part of our library budget in this way provides incredible ownership by students over the collection.

Exciting purchases made for the library ©

Creator Presentations and Workshops – Thanks to the CBCA Tasmania’s Creator Workshop program, we were fortunate enough to have Daniel Gray-Barnett visit us for a day during Book Week.  Students loved hearing Dan’s yet-to-be-released story and learning about his illustration process.  Keen writers and illustrators were invited to participate in small group workshops with Dan where they were guided through several writing and illustrating exercises.

Daniel Gray-Barnett engages students in the writing process ©

Staff Book Club – Earlier this year, as part of our Tasmania Reads celebrations, we launched a staff book club.  A couple of times a term, we meet and share books about a particular theme.  For our Book Week catch up, we all shared books related to the 2023 Book Week theme, Read. Grow. Inspire.

Announcement of Hutchins Choice Awards – This happens in an assembly and there is great excitement when students hear the books that were favourites in each year levels.

Book Week Quiz – On the first day of Book Week, each class received a 25-question quiz that students worked on across the week, drawing on their knowledge of the 2023 shortlisted books and other well-known books.  On the final day of Book Week, teachers were emailed a final bonus question, before students raced their completed quizzes to the library.  This was the first time I’ve run an activity like this and it certainly created a spark amongst the community (bribes may or may not have been offered in students’ quest to find the answers!)

You’ll notice that dress-ups were not mentioned in the list of celebrations.  Yes, we did have a dress-up day, but this was certainly not the focus of our Book Week celebrations.  Moving forwards, we will move to a model of having a dress-up day every second year, with a different book-focused creative celebration for families to get involved in on the alternate years.

During regular library lessons, our focus was on engaging with the 2023 Book Week theme, Read. Grow. Inspire., and providing time for students to simply enjoy the power of a good book.  

Anna Davidson
Junior Teacher Librarian, Hutchins School
Twitter - @davidsonteach
(avid reader (mad for Middle Grade Fiction), dog lover, yogi, nature lover, tea drinker)