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

Friday 16 February 2024

Have you read…? Books to get hooked on!

This week, Launceston bookseller, Andy, shares some recent favourite reads to excite both younger and older readers.


Children’s summer holiday reading is done and hopefully they have enjoyed all of the Christmas books and are looking to try something new.  So here are some suggestions for every age and stage;


All the World Says Goodnight by Jess Racklyeft. Affirm Press 2024

Join Australian author and illustrator Jess Racklyeft and share her beautiful goodnight story with your little one as all the different animals go to sleep.


Fast, Slow. Let’s Go! by Sally Sutton & Brian Lovelock. Walker Books 2024

This is the way we skate along, skate along, skate along,
This is the way we skate along
on a sunny, funny morning.
Borrowing from the childhood perennial and favourite song 'This is the way ...', a happy group of children scoot, bike, bus, swing, sail, run and ride their way across town to join a birthday surprise.


The Beehive by Megan Daley & Max Hamilton. Walker Books 2024

An amazing look into the native stingless bee, the dual text results in a charming story alongside an abundance of fascinating facts.


It's finally hive day! Willow has been waiting all year for groundskeeper Tom to split the school's native stingless beehive in two so she can take home her very own hive. Everything needs to be just right to help so that the bees forage and thrive in their new home.


Rex: Dinosaur in Disguise by Elys Dolan. Walker Books 2022

Rex is king of the dinosaurs: carnivores want to be him and herbivores want to be eaten by him... That is, until a pesky Ice Age comes along and he winds up frozen solid in a glacier. When he wakes up, 65 million years later, human beings rule the roost – and if they get their hands on Rex, he'll wind up in a zoo. (Or, worse: a MUSEUM.)

Lucky for him, Rex isn't the only undercover creature in town. He's whisked out of danger by the one and only Bigfoot, who has been surviving among the humans undetected for years. Bigfoot and his friends show Rex how to get by in the humans' world, and soon there's only one thing left for him to do: GET A JOB.

But that's easier said than done ...


The Big Book of Little Lunch by Danny Katz & Mitch Vane. Walker Books 2024

Collecting all the original Little Lunch titles together - The Slide, The Bubblers, The Monkey Bars, The School Gate, The Off-Limits Fence and The Old Climbing Tree.  Discover these old favourites bound together with additional Bonus Stuff for hours of fun and laughter. 


Fifty Things to do with a Stick by Richard Skrein. Harper Collins 2023

Fifty Things to Do with a Stick will introduce you to the joy of making something out of almost nothing.  A must-read for anyone with an adventurous spirit, a yen to whittle and chop, and a desire to get out into nature and play with sticks! These 50 achievable ideas for making and playing with sticks – all with beautiful step-by-step illustrations.


The Observologist by Giselle Clarkson. Walker Books 2023

This is no everyday catalogue of creatures. It is an antidote to boredom, an encouragement to observe our environment, with care and curiosity, wherever we are.

An observologist is someone who makes scientific expeditions, albeit very small ones, every day. They notice interesting details in the world around them. They are expert at finding tiny creatures, plants and fungi. They know that water snails glide upside down on the undersurface of the water; not all flies have wings; earthworms have bristles; butterflies taste with their feet.

The Observologist puts over 100 small creatures and features of the natural world under the microscope, piquing our curiosity with only the most interesting facts. Subjects range from slugs, ants and seeds, fungi and flies through to bees and bird poop.


Legends of Norse Mythology by Tom Birkett. Quarto 2023

Legends of Norse Mythology is a fully illustrated encyclopaedia of Norse gods, giants, monsters and heroes featuring beautiful and otherworldly illustrations from Isabella Mazzanti and enchanting text from Old English scholar and Norse mythology expert Dr Thomas Birkett.


Countdown to Yesterday by Shirley Marr. Penguin 2024

When you mix-up time-travel with the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book you get a retro-cool book about love, loss and family where being stuck in the past may not be such a bad thing…


Spy Academy #1 – The Peak by Jack Heath. Scholastic Australia 2024

After thwarting a robbery, Nolan Hawker is invited to the world’s most dangerous school. At The Peak, he learns to crack codes, fly planes and deceive enemies so he can someday infiltrate the deadly anarchist group known as Swarm. But someone at the Peak secretly works for Swarm, and they have a plan—the kind no one walks away from. Can Nolan find the traitor before it’s too late?


Look my in the Eye by Jane Godwin. Hachette Australia 2024

running late

drop it off without me

I type drop what off? I don't know what Mish is talking about.

While I'm typing, another message appears. don't tell bella

But I am Bella.

The pandemic lockdowns have lifted and the three teens are eager to explore their newfound independence. But with the world opening up, there has been a rise in surveillance, from apps that track their movements to voice recorders and hidden cameras. It feels like everyone is watching them. But when does 'watching' become 'watching over'?

Do we have a right to know everything about those we love?


The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Hachette Australia 2013/2023

Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it's not a skill that she's ever taken seriously until the FBI come knocking…

What Cassie doesn't realise is that there's more at risk than a few unsolved murders - especially when she's sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. 

And when a new killer strikes, danger looms close. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive . . .


Not sure what to read next or need something similar to what you’re currently reading come visit us at the bookshop, we love helping to find your next read.

 

Andy works at Petrach’s Bookshop in Launceston, Tasmania is a great source to help you locate the just the right book.

W: https://www.petrarchs.com.au/

FB: https://facebook.com/301377573362009

I: https://www.instagram.com/petrarchs/ 


Friday 9 February 2024

Indian Picture Books and Cultural Diversity

Mark Macleod has been involved with children's publishing for over twenty-five years, as a lecturer, publisher, freelance editor and as an author of picture books for children, as well as poems for children and adults. This week Mark takes us on a journey to India to expand our cultural horizons through picture books.


For years Australia's minimal interest in South Asian cultures has been puzzling. Like Indonesia, countries such as India have been regarded by us as great places for a holiday, but literature, film, music? Strictly arthouse appeal. 

 

That's changing rapidly, though. The 2021 census records 673,352 Australians born in India; Hinduism and Islam are among the top 5 Australian religions; and Hindi and Punjabi among the top 5 languages. Getting South Asian children's books for your library collection can be challenging, but the rewards make it so worthwhile. 

 

A great place to start is Sydney's Lost in Books, with a website that includes children's books in 15 of the more than 400 languages in the region.  Some are dual language editions of UK and US books, but most are Indian originals. Another place to start is with Indian publishers' websites, or children's booksellers in India such as the wonderful Kahani Tree in Mumbai. 

 

One of the reasons I love Indian books is that small publishers such as Tulika, Tara, Pickle Yolk Books, Pratham and Duckbill maintain and celebrate cultural diversity. Twenty years ago, I would have said this about Australia, but with a few exceptions, the bigger that Australian mainstream publishers have become, the greater the sameness in what they now publish. The economics of mainstream publishing in a small market are depressingly simple.


The Indian picture book Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit by Amrita Das (2013, Tara), however, celebrates diversity in several ways. As the young narrator travels from her village to Chennai, she notices examples of both wealth and poverty, and begins to wonder whether the idealised memories of her own childhood were produced by a lack of clear vision. She notices the courage and pragmatism of people living with poverty and disability. Was life different when she was a child, or did she observe it selectively? Or are cities always different from villages? In Chennai she is shocked to see a girl with one foot, going about her business of selling fruit. "She's her own creature, I thought, she's walking around, she's earning and supporting her family.' All the exquisitely detailed images are rendered in Mithila folk art - one of the many Indian traditions under some pressure from mainstream western art. 

 

The empowering subtext of such books is not just inclusion, but sustainability. The rights and dignity of every member of a community are essential for a sustainable future. 

 

As Robert Frost said, 'No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.' I love the way the closure of Indian picture books such as A Walk with Thambi by Lavanya Karthik and Proiti Roy (2017, Tulika), or Machher Jhol by Richa Jha and Sumanta Dey (2018 Pickle Yolk Books) makes us completely rethink what we have just read. Karthik's narrator begins 'I took Thambi for a walk today' and the illustrator shows us a boy and a dog. They take a simple but exhilarating walk through the village, the bazaar, by the river, and it's only when they arrive back home that we realise the narrator isn't Thambi at all: Thambi is silently carrying a white cane, and the narrator is his unnamed four-legged companion. 

Finally, it's one of the ironies of Indian publishing  that although they are comparatively 'small', independent publishers can project enough sales to make confronting picture books viable. But Scholastic's Puu, by C. G Salamander and Samidha Gunjal (2018), shows that the courage of independent publishers is inspiring the mainstream too. The occupation of the young narrator in Puu is picking flowers. The rivers, the drains, are full of 'puu' - one of the Indian words for 'flower' - and the illustrations swamp the village in a froth of sweet pink. But gradually the reader understands that what she is collecting is only too well understood in English: her family's occupation is in fact collecting animal waste and the froth of flowers is a sarcastic metaphor. The kids at school avoid the narrator: only the dogs, pigs and flies seem to find her attractive. And the text never comments on the fact that her skin is darker brown than the other kids'. The final words of the text resist closure: 'Most people ignore me. But it's not like I care.' In the stunned silence that follows such a conclusion, Puu challenges us to think long and hard about social justice.

Visit Read Aloud by Scholastic India 
to discover further Indian picture books.

Of course there are playful books, silly books, beautiful heartwarming books, too, being published every week in India: I've chosen just a few which exemplify the diversity, integrity, and humanity that I feel Australian picture books are in danger of losing. If you are discovering Indian picture books for the first time, you're going to love the journey!

 

Mark Macleod

Mark's latest book for young readers is a collection of poems, The Secret Boat, illustrated by Hélène Magisson (2023, WestWords).

Saturday 3 February 2024

How do I Know Which Manga is Suitable for My Reader?

Why not set a goal for 2024 to explore different forms of children’s literature. Our first post for the year introduces manga, an increasingly popular form that crosses all ages and genres - many targeting adult readers. Felicity provides important information that identifies the diversity and breadth of the form to assist in choosing appropriate titles for children and young adults - and may whet your own appetite and assist you in locating a title for your own consumption.


It’s been a few years since the blog specifically addressed the world of manga (pronounced mun-guh). I was surprised to learn that manga has its origins in 12th Century scrolls, and the term came into common usage in the late 18th Century. In Japan, manga refers to all comics, cartooning and animation. In English speaking countries it is applied only to Japanese comics, with anime the term used for animations. Our school focus in 2024 is on the language that is required to access the curriculum. Manga too has a lexicon which may help us to identify suitable manga sources for our readers.


It can be challenging to know which manga is suitable for inclusion in library collections catering for our readers who are 18 and younger. The Japanese terms used to identify the genres is very specific, but this knowledge doesn’t seem to have transferred well to the western world. 



Shōjo manga is produced for females (under 18’s) and is usually a romance style. Josei is produced for adult women and may include pornographic content. It is also commonly termed redikomi in the western world.


Shōnen manga is produced for under 18 males and is often enjoyed equally by females. Seinen manga is produced for males aged 18-30 years. Seinen means ‘youth’ even though the western world would be more inclined to use a term young adult. Seeing the word ‘Youth’ on the cover of a manga book or magazine may indicate the content is for a much older age group. Seijin manga is often pornographic and/or violent.


There is even a special term to describe the book in which collected chapters of published manga are bound – Tankōbon.


Gekiga is the manga genre aimed at adult audiences: it has more mature themes and a more cinematic art style.


Dōjinshi are self-published stories, usually original but may also be the unauthorised use of recognised characters from other manga, to create additional stories or further develop a character. This style is akin to fan fiction.


Mangaka is the term used for the creator of the visual images in manga. They may also be the story writer.


I have tried to use these terms to search Booktopia, but without success (unless the word was in the title of the book). Their default is to list all styles as ‘Audience: General Adult’, unless the manga is specifically upper primary/lower secondary in content. I have also searched shōju manga and shōnen manga and there are many sites offering the 10/20/30 best manga. I checked if the bookstore Kinokuniya Australia enabled a search using the terms above, but as for Booktopia, results were only returned if Shōju or Shōnen appeared in the title. Unfortunately they don’t even have an ‘Audience’ rating on their site.

A selection of Youth titles available from Libraries Tasmania

I wish you well as you build a collection suitable to your clientele. In 2023 we had a student request the Beserk series, and I have just discovered that these are Seijin manga…it’s a challenge! A search on Manga in Microsoft Bing presents a range of images, book sets and subheadings to help you explore different styles and audiences. Another useful starting point is the Libraries Tasmania Search where, after searching for ‘manga’, the results can be refined by genre, audience and series. 

A selection of Children's titles available from Libraries Tasmania

Felicity Sly is treasurer of CBCA Tas and a recently retired/retiring Teacher Librarian.


Reference: Manga (2024) Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manga (Accessed: 01 February 2024). 

Saturday 16 December 2023

Welcome to #BookTok: Social Media and Cultures of Reading

The final offering to readers for 2023 is a compelling and thought-provoking post from Lyndon Riggall. Are you a BookTok user? 

Share a magic discovery or memorable find in the comments. 

 

Whether you love it, hate it (or perhaps have never even heard of it), it seems that the online community of BookTok is here to stay. For the uninitiated, BookTok is a subcategory of videos on the popular social media platform TikTok, a service where users upload short clips that their audiences scroll through in quick succession... a mix of elements of other social media and content platforms like Instagram and YouTube. If you have been into a library or bookshop recently, you will indefinitely see the influence of these influencers. In my own visits to local retailers in the past few weeks I have seen many stands of “BookTok Recommends” in the doorway, while Libraries Tasmania’s Libby App features an entire section titled “BookTok Made Me Read It!”

In general, most would argue that the existence of BookTok is a win for reading communities, representing what is ultimately a short form online book club that encourages people to read and discuss their reading with insight, depth and complexity. That said, the community is also inarguably powerful (and some would say too powerful). Videos tagged #BookTok have a total of more than 205 billion views, while in the recent Goodreads Choice Awards, the voraciously adored TikTok darling and New Adult Romantasy (two genre terms that BookTok has also been instrumental in adding to the industry’s lexicon) Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, beat second-place-getter Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer ten-fold (397,565 votes to 33,665). Even the very serious literary event of the 2023 Booker Prize livestream was hosted by 25 year-old BookTok star Jack Edwards. It seems that there is clear recognition that even the most highbrow reading events still need a real audience, and the organisers know very well where that audience is.


On a personal level, I find the BookTok community’s tastes to be fairly in-synch with my own reading. They like a book that challenges as well as entertains… championing such stories to devour in one delicious sitting and then re-read as The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, and R.F. Kuang’s spectacularly  = complex yet gripping Babel. While Penguin Books Australia has a strong—and at times hilarious—presence on the app, one danger is that Australian authors and their work feel a little like they fall into the background. The BookTok community are fans of Aussie writers Lynette Noni, Trent Dalton, Pip Williams and Nagi Maehashi from RecipeTin Eats,

but more often than not their most popular reads are consistently authors of the same ilk as a majority of their audience, and they will trend towards American writers even on this side of the pond. BookTok has been accused of toxic cultures of attacking writers (a recent reversal of publication by Elizabeth Gilbert, who announced a new novel which was considered by many responders to be culturally inappropriate due to having Russian protagonists, springs to mind), vapid reading habits, glossing over problematic story elements, and even elitism (“Oh, you’ve only read one book this month? Sorry, but you’re not a reader.”) One thing’s for sure: this phenomenon is not benign. It is impacting reading cultures, and doing so right around the world.


I think most of us have come to accept that social media—for all its distractions—is here to stay, and it is likely to remain a huge part of our own lives and the lives of our children. I very rarely accept that people “don’t have time” to read, but in a world in which the demands on our attention are myriad and aggressive, if BookTok sends someone to reading as a result of its existence, it’s hard not to see that as a win. I feel hopeful. While some of the criticisms of it are more than fair, the reading community that is emerging online proves that books are far from dead… BookTok recommends are a very respectable gateway to creating a reading wheelhouse of one’s own, and if you were stuck for what to buy someone this Christmas, a quick check of their age and what is getting buzz on BookTok certainly isn’t a bad place to start.

 

What a beautiful thought, that in an ever-growing corner of the internet there are still those who not only love books, but also share their enthusiasm for them with glee. I just hope that in all the excitement and noise online we can still remember that the heart of a reader’s joy is the same and as simple as it always was: those quiet moments of forging a one-on-one relationship between a reader and a writer, with words, stories and the imagination in the middle.

 

Lyndon Riggall is a writer, reader, and English teacher from Launceston, Tasmania. You can find him on social media @lyndonriggall and online at www.lyndonriggall.com. 


Editor's note: What a great post to round off the year! I trust that the offerings this year have inspired your reading choices, encouraged you to cogitate, helped you appreciate the creativity and brilliance of our author and illustrator contributors and engaged your passion for children's literature.


Seasons greetings to you all! We will be back in 2024!