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

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Christmas Reading! by Nella Pickup

Christmas – four days off work!  Of course the time will go quickly - trips to the airport, family commitments, cooking, eating and unwrapping gifts but most importantly there’ll be time to read.  As you can see my bedside pile of books could be considered overwhelming – what a delicious problem to have. What do I read first?

As book sales in Australia, UK and USA have dropped between 9%-12% (that includes online sales & ebook sales), authors have been busy producing wonderful picture books that are rallying cries in the defence of the printed book.  If you haven’t read them already, add these on your reading pile.

Katie Cleminson Otto the Book Bear (Random House)

Otto, the bear, lives in a book and is happiest when his story is being read. Otto is no ordinary book character; at night, he comes to life and explores the house. When he is left behind in a house move, Otto has to find a new home.

But the city is an awfully big world for such a small bear and Otto misses his warm book. Eventually, he finds the best possible home for a book bear, a magical place... a library.

Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood Look, A Book (Little Hare)

Two children walking through a run-down city find a book lying open, and face down in the dirt.  The dreary landscape becomes magical. Hens are large enough to carry the children as they chase a dog holding the book in his jaws, a sheet of corrugated iron and a sheet becomes a glider and a tea cup becomes a row boat. Reading a book can change your life.

Emily Gravett Again! (Macmillan)

A baby dragon cuddles up with Mum for his favourite going-to-bed story. It's about Cedric, a naughty dragon who annoys trolls and grabs princesses to turn into pies. As soon as the story is told, the baby asks Again! After a third reading Mum is very tired and baby is turning into a Cedric lookalike with incendiary consequences.

Don't overlook the end papers.

Meg McKinlay No Bears (Walker Books)

Ruby is creating her own book. She is tired of bears; they aren’t needed for a book, unlike ‘pretty things’, ‘maybe a monster’ and a handful of other ‘things’. Meanwhile, in the background, a friendly looking bear is determined to join in – and just as well as he saves the princess (Ruby) when she is kidnapped by a monster.

Colin McNaughton Have you ever ever ever (Walker Books)

A little boy is alone in a deserted playground, clearly unhappy. As he replies to the narrator, it becomes obvious he (like many of today’s children) is not familiar with many classical nursery rhyme characters. But in the distance Mother Goose is flying down towards him to lead him boy to a special place (a library) where he can meet new friends

Reeve Lindbergh Homer the library cat (Walker Books)

Homer’s quiet life is disrupted one day when a window is broken. After several frustrating attempts to find a suitable place, he winds up in the perfect spot.

Lane Smith’s It’s a book (Walker) has been rereleased in a midi format. Monkey is besieged by Jackass’s questions – no, the book doesn’t tweet, text, need charging or need a password; it’s book.

Happy Reading.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Universal Language - by Penny Garnsworthy

I have only recently returned from a glorious seven weeks in Greece, Italy and Paris where the history and scenery were magnificent and the food and wine were pretty good too. When we left I had visions of spending several of the twenty or so hours in flight catching up on my reading. But a lot has happened in the airline world since my last overseas trip and this time I found myself enjoying the inflight movies, educational television shows and interactive language programs. So unfortunately my reading tended to take a back seat. Having said that I did manage to read Ruth Rendell's A Judgement in Stone and the original Peter Pan by J M Barrie, via my Kindle.

In Rome I happened upon a book store (as one does) and found myself engrossed in the children's section. Many of the books were in English but never one to do anything in half measures I decided to buy some small and beautifully illustrated picture books in Italian, knowing my other half has an Italian/English dictionary at home. So it was I purchased Pinocchio (written by an Italian anyway), I tre porcellini (or as we know it, the Three Little Pigs) and Riccioli d'Oro e i tre orsi (Goldilocks and the Three Bears).

Then, having not seen Paris for thirty years I fell completely in love with that vibrant yet historic city and found myself using school-girl French at every opportunity. By day three I was confidently ordering coffee and croissants in the local language and finding that the staff in the hotel and in the stores could even understand most of what I was saying. And so it was I decided that when I arrived home I would once again seek to learn conversational French.

As I was wandering through Galleries Lafayette, one of two enormous department stores in the Opera district, I found myself in the book department (as one does) and it was there I found the most fantastic collection of children's books; hundreds of books I have never seen before published by publishers I have never heard of. But what a selection! The picture books were just beautiful and there were so many. How could I help myself?

And so, as I practice my newly adopted language, I look forward to reading a couple of classics: Blanche-Neige (or Snow White as we know it) illustrated by Nicolas Duffaut and Thesee et le Minotaure (or Theseus and the Minotaur) adapted by Christine Palluy and illustrated by Elodie Nouhen. I then decided that it was all very well to purchase picture books with limited text but that to really test my understanding of the language I should read a title that is little more challenging. And so L Frank Baum's Le magicien d'Oz was my final purchase and I can't wait to read it.

They say that music is the universal language. Well, perhaps children's books aren't far behind. Happy reading everyone!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Bending the Truth - by Jenni Connor

When I was younger and fresh from a History Degree, I couldn’t enjoy historical fiction; I felt like the authors were ‘bending the truth’. Now, it’s one of my favourite forms of fiction.
I first ‘met’ Geraldine Brooks when she wrote about the lives of Muslim women in Nine Parts of Desire (1994) and found her engaging talk at a writers’ festival soon after, entertaining, empathetic and insightful. When her novel, March (2005) won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006, it came as no surprise, revealing as it did Brooks’ amazing capacity to depict deeply personal stories against the backdrop of world events – in this case, the American Civil War which had been the setting for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

Then came her extraordinary tour-de-force People of the Book (2008) which employed the device of the history of an illuminated manuscript to explore pivotal points in the wider history of religion, intolerance and persecution.

This year, I’ve been immersed in Caleb’s Crossing (2011) set in the early days of pilgrim settlement in America’s Martha’s Vineyard. Told through the convincing, sensitive voice of the motherless Bethia, the novel charts the journey of the young indigenous Indian man who comes to call himself ‘Caleb’ so that he can gain an education and succeed in a ‘white coat’ world. The novel is underpinned by Brook’s usual meticulous research, but its real power arises from \the author’s ability to enter the lives of the people of the times and her complete mastery of the language of the day that is so strongly connected to culture and identity.

Interestingly, today’s younger readers and young adults are also often attracted to historical fiction. Jackie French’s Oracle, set in ancient Greece, her great Australian saga, A Waltz for Matilda which portrays the experience of a young woman in 1894 and The Horse that Bit the Bushranger, which is a playful fiction about meeting the notorious Ben Hall in 1865 are all popular.  The Our Australian Girl series titles (Puffin) starring Poppy, Letty, Rose and Grace are walking off the shelves in primary libraries. And Jane Caro’s Just a Girl is a compelling description of the crumbling House of Tudor, told though the eyes of adolescent Elizabeth 1.

 Older Readers who appreciate Australia’s migrant history are intrigued by Gabrielle Wang’s novels A Ghost in My Suitcase and Little Paradise which explore her Chinese heritage.

So, it would seem, ‘bending the truth’ is fine; the ‘truth’ is in the integrity of the storytelling.

Remember to bid on Kate Gordon and Christina Booth's Tasmanian Devil auction - less than two weeks to go! http://www.kategordon.com.au/devil-auction/

Thursday 1 December 2011

Help Save a Tassie Devil This Christmas - Kate Gordon

As you’ll be aware if you’ve read Thyla, the Tasmanian Devil features prominently in the story. As you may also be aware, the Tassie Devils are in a bit of strife, due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease. The following is from the website of “Save The Tasmanian Devil”:

Tasmanian devils with large facial tumours were photographed in north-east Tasmania during 1996. A decade later, we know these characteristics are consistent with Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
DFTD is a fatal condition in Tasmanian devils, characterised by cancers around the mouth and head.
DFTD appears to be a new disease that is restricted to Tasmanian devils. No affected animals were detected among the 2000-plus devils trapped by six biologists between 1964 and 1995.

As at February 2010, DFTD had been confirmed across more than 60% of the State. To date, no confirmed cases have been recorded west of the Murchison Highway.

DFTD is extremely unusual: it is one of only three recorded cancers that can spread like a contagious disease. It is spread between individuals through biting. 

Animals usually die within a few months of the cancer becoming visible. Tasmanian devils with facial tumours find it difficult to eat. Death results from starvation and the breakdown of body functions.
In diseased areas, nearly all sexually mature Tasmanian devils (older than two years of age) become infected and succumb to the disease. Juveniles as young as one year old can also be infected. This is resulting in populations with a very young age-structure in which females have only one breeding event, whereas they would normally have three.

Populations in which DFTD has been observed for several years have declined by up to 95% (approximate, due to low sample size in recent years), with no evidence to date of either of the decline stopping or the prevalence of the disease decreasing.

The Tasmanian devil has been listed as Endangered by the Federal and State governments, as well as the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). The Tasmanian devil is now wholly protected.

As you can see the situation is pretty dire, and I’ve been thinking for a long time about ways I could help. What I have decided is to run a charity auction. Those of who took part in the Authors For Queensland auction earlier in the year will know what an amazing result can be achieved from this sort of initiative.

I’ve joined forces with the amazing Christina Booth to put this on and together we have five wonderful auction items for you to bid on. They are:
  1. A signed copy of Thyla
  2. A signed copy of the very first hot-off-the-press Vulpi (the sequel to Thyla) – read it before anyone else does!
  3. A signed very rare hardback copy of Christina Booth’s acclaimed picture book, Potato Music
  4. A manuscript assessment of the first thirty pages of a Young Adult Novel, compiled by me!
  5. And the most wonderful prize of all, an original illustration from Christina’s beautiful Tasmanian Devil book, Purinina.
For more information on how to bid and donate, go to the Devil Auction homepage! Share the page with your friends, think about bidding yourself and help me raise much-needed funds for Tasmania’s beloved devils, and score yourself – or a loved one – a fantastic Chrissie present to boot!

- Kate Gordon