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

Friday 29 April 2011

What are you reading this weekend?

For me it is always a joy and an indulgence to have a weekend devoid of work. It's a rare treat and I always need a good excuse! This weekend, it is the wedding of a dear old (as in years known not years of age) friend of mine, down at Port Arthur. Not only will it be a beautiful occasion, in a gorgeous setting, and a chance to catch up with my very best schoolfriends, but it will also involve seven to eight hours of car travel. Which, seeing as I am not the driver of the family, will mean ... reading! Hurrah!

I intend to finish reading a "grown-up" book (one of only a handful I have read over the past year - children's and YA books being so much more fun), the glorious newie from Joanna Trollope. She is one of the few "adult" authors I will turn to the dark side for! Then, once I've finished that I will be re-reading a favourite of mine, Claudia Gray's Stargazer, in preparation for reading the next book in this really fantastic vampire series.

I asked the rest of the CBCA executive what they will be reading over the weekend. Carol, like me, is having a rare foray into grown-up fiction. Penny said, "It's a long time since I've read a book 'over a weekend' ... but ... I've just picked up Lian Tanner's 'The Keepers'. The cover design is one of the most original I've ever seen and I can't wait to delve into the pages and lose myself in another world!"

CBCA Awards Judge told me that she's having a sneaky weekend off from her "job" reading children's books. "I’m a Judge; I only read children’s books!" she said. "However, I am allowing myself to indulge every so often in John Banville’s The Untouchable"

As for our President, Patsy Jones? This is what she had to say about her weekend reading plans: "This weekend I am planning to indulge myself with reading Margo Lanagan – I’m in the middle of her latest collection of short stories, ‘Yellowcake’, and found a copy of a 1998 publication of hers, ‘Walking Through Albert’, in the State Library the other day – written for a younger age group, this one.  Comparing the two will be really interesting!  I also have a copy of ‘Zombies vs. Unicorns’ from the library, but as my thirteen-year-old grandson swooped on that the other day while he was having a sleepover and took it home with him, I’ll have to wait to read Margo’s story ‘A Thousand Flowers’ in that book .

Margo’s work is amazing –she can be so chillingly creepy.  I first read ‘Singing My Sister Down’ (from ‘Black Juice’) years ago but it can still send shivers up my spine when I think of it.  What sort of nurture and nature can combine to produce such an original and imaginative mind?

I wonder if three lots of Margo in a few days will be too much for me in one hit?"

Patsy, in my opinion, too much Margo is never enough. Ditto reading in general, and I can't wait to indulge in much of it this weekend!

What are you reading this weekend?

Monday 25 April 2011

Libraries, Literary idols and Chris Morphew

I grew up in libraries. My parents both worked as school librarians. I spent many a weekend, while they worked on their backlog of cataloguing, curled up in a beanbag with a pile of novels beside me, alternating between reading and making the tough decisions over which ones I'd take home. I had a limit of ten. If I took any more, everything else apart from reading – including homework, eating, music practise and talking to my family – would fall by the wayside.

To me, libraries were home. Books were friends. I was a shy, solitary kid with a very active inner world. I populated this world with the characters and places from the books I loved. To me, Terabithia was real. Narnia was just through the wardrobe door. Bilbo would come home one day from his travels and knock on my door and there really were witches with blue tongues and no toes lurking behind hedges waiting for me to walk past so they could pounce. I always walked to our neighbours' house very quickly.

I'll never forget the day Roald Dahl died. I was eight years old. I was on the bus to school and I remember the news of his death making its way around the schoolbus in hushed, sombre whispers. To a bus full of primary school aged kids, Dahl was a celebrity. His books were so popular at our school there was a waiting list for them at the library and a black market on the copies owned by students. I had my own copies of which I was fiercely protective, even though it had taken me several goes to make it the whole way through The Witches. It is still, to this day, the most terrifying book I have ever read. 
Many years later, I entered the family profession of librarianship and found myself in a school library. I discovered there are many authors who are treated with the same awe-struck devotion as Dahl was to us. Of course, JK Rowling is one, but there are many others. Anthony Horowitz; Christopher Paolini, Robert Muchamore, Angie Sage. Kids hanker for the next book in a series by any of these authors. They pester school librarians. They make fan fiction and art. These authors mean more to young readers than any Hollywood star could. And it's not just quiet kids who read. Mega-successful series like Harry Potter and Twilight have made reading cutting edge and cool – 20 years too late for me, I'm afraid!

Another writer whose popularity was immense was Chris Morphew. His Zac Power books caused a feeding frenzy amongst the grade sevens whenever a new one came into the library, and his Phoenix Files series did the same with the older kids. I became a bit of a fan myself after reading one to “see what all the fuss was about”. I'm very much looking forward to seeing Chris speak at the Tasmanian CBCA conference in May. I may go a bit starstruck!
I am so glad to see that there is a new generation of kids who feel like the library is their second home. Even though I don't work in libraries any more, I still feel drawn to them. I still often poke my head into the children's section and smile when I see young kids with huge piles of books next to them, making tough decisions. I know whichever books they decide to take home will contain new friends, new worlds, and new horizons for them to explore. 

Want to see Chris talk at the CBCA conference? Details can be found on the events page of the CBCA website!

Monday 18 April 2011

What are you reading?

It's a glorious sunny day here in Launceston - the perfect kind of day for a bit of al fresco reading!

I'm currently reading the glorious new book by Australian speculative fiction author, Marianne de Pierre's. Marianne is a very highly regarded author of adult speculative fiction. This is her first book for young adults. It is dark, decadent, hypnotic and magical, and is also definitely one for older readers (think Justine Larbalestier's Liar and you're probably in about the right age range).

The following blurb is from Marianne's website (http://www.burnbright.com.au/):

"In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.

When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?

Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark."

I am about halfway through this book and enjoying it immensely. The world de Pierres has created is so unique and spellbinding. I can't wait to finish it (and then it will be an impatient wait for the sequel).

Tell us, what are you reading on this gorgeous sunny day?