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

Friday 21 December 2012

A Christmas List

As a teacher I have often been asked by parents and my students, “What books should/ ought/ must my child/I read?”  Usually I have answered this from a literacy point of view and replied, “What the individual finds interesting, since boredom or lack of interest is the biggest turn off for a beginning, developing, young, or even established reader”.  Alternatively my response has been to provide the latest list of CBCA shortlisted or notable titles, since keeping up with the latest trends is important.  Children especially dislike stories, characters and language that are outdated. Have you been watching the first James Bond films on TV?  How clichéd and outmoded in fashions of all types these relics seem.  The humour is wet, the clothes are most notably different, the action is tamer and dare I say it, Sean Connery doesn’t seem quite so suave. And talk about sexist!  Quite unobtrusively and without us noticing, our culture and society morph over the years, diminishing the vibrancy, relevance and appeal of many previously acclaimed books, stories, music and films.  This is of course one of the tests of a classic. If a work retains its application to current life and values, then it has that ‘je ne sais pas’ that makes it a literary work.  But even classic literature has its draw backs.  Usually one has to be a very dedicated reader to plow through some of the classics in their original form, hence the many adaptations and rehashes of these important reflection and representations of humanity, some good and some bad!  
As a child my first introduction to ‘the classics’ was through the monthly comic I was allowed. While my brother opted for ‘The Eagle’, a boys’ comic about spaceships and intergalactic adventure, I read my way through “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Jane Eyre”, “Macbeth”, and many more.  I wish I had kept them because only now in my mature years do I realize they probably formed the basis of my future as a reader and, I like to think, a person fairly well -versed in English literature.   Now such publications are called graphic novels and are easily accessible via the net but I must confess I’m not au fait with the quality of these more recent publications.
As I prepare my Christmas list for this year I have been thinking about how important it is for children to at least know but preferably read certain stories. Irrespective of any personal religious beliefs, how important is it for each of us to know the story behind Christmas or indeed many of the Bible stories?  How much does a person miss out on if they don’t understand about their Achilles’ heel or about ‘being a Scrooge’ or perhaps ‘ a Romeo’?  Reading is not just about sounding out the letters or knowing the meaning of each word. That is the literacy.  It’s also about access to that deeper understanding of the ideas, inferences, implications and allusions; in other words the literature.
So perhaps over the next few years, in my grandson’s Christmas stocking will be the best adaptation of Bible stories for children I can find; at least Dickens’  “A Christmas Carol”; definitely some myths and legends; some traditional nursery rhymes; some updated Peter Rabbit; “Wind in the Willows”; “House at Pooh Corner”; a series of graphic novels of the classics; Aesop’s’ Fables; Kipling’s “Just So Stories” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” at least, as well as the latest CBCA Book of the Year winners.  That should keep him well read and reasonably informed.  And what I have missed out, I’m sure others will add to my list.
Carol Fuller
PS  There is a little book called “Don’t Leave Childhood Without…” published by Specialist Children’s Booksellers that provides an excellent guide to the essential reading  to which I am alluding.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

The truth about ‘Peggy’ (or: Choosing picture books for Christmas)

When talking with some early childhood teachers recently we began musing about what gives a book ‘kid appeal’ in this electronic age?
We used Peggy, by Anna Walker (Scholastic Books, 2012) as a test case. Now, Peggy is a black chook whom we first meet peering out the window of her ‘small house in a quiet street’. With gentle pastel tones and varied image framing, the author/illustrator engages us with Peggy’s daily routines – until, one blustery day, Peggy is swept up over the rooftops, into a bewildering city environment. She does ‘see things she’d never seen before’, but is greatly relieved to find her way back home – although, later, she ‘sometimes caught the train to the city’.
So, why does Peggy work so well with children and adults alike?
·         Peggy is an endearing character
·         She goes on adventures that engage readers and listeners emotionally in her journey
·         There is quirkiness in having a chook as the star of the story
·         The changing visual perspectives keep our eye curious and connected to the story
·         The picture text tells a tale way beyond the sparse word text, requiring viewers to unpack the humorous visual asides
·         &, it’s good fun!
I guess, the message is, when choosing picture books for children, whether for the classroom or under the tree, keep in mind the need for:
·         Humour and action
·         A story with enough tension to make us want to find out what happens
·         A word and picture story that’s worth re-visiting.
Works of great literary merit deserve accolades, but they won’t all necessarily win a chuckle of delight from a receiving child.
While every child is different and ‘age rules’ are somewhat risky, here is a rough guide:
Infants and toddlers tend to enjoy a book with one main character, a straightforward story and fairly literal illustrations, like Alison Lester’s Noni the Pony (Allen & Unwin, 2010).
As they turn 3 & 4, children are likely to expect books to entertain, so The Tall Man and the twelve babies, by Tom Niland Champion, Kilmeny Niland and Deborah Niland might hit the spot.
As they enter school, children are often ready for a ‘real story’ with many characters and more complex dialogue, such as Louie the pirate chef, (that’s ‘chef’, not ‘chief’)by Simon Mitchell & Ben Wood (Working Title Press, 2010).
Then, youngsters enjoy the zany and absurd such as Jackie French & Bruce Whatley’s Queen Victoria’s Underpants (Angus & Robertson, 2011) and Aaron Blabey’s ‘dark’ but intriguing titles, including The ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon (Viking, 2011).
What then, I hear you ask?
Well, I’m dedicated to getting children ‘hooked on books’, so I try to connect them with novelists I think they’ll like and titles that will make them want to read the series – starting with Tolkien’s The Hobbit as a pathway to the Lord of the Rings, the Our Australian Girls series (Puffin Books) and/or the fantasy novels of Isobelle Carmody, Lian Tanner and Emily Rodda.
And get ready to read to, read with and talk about good books to build that love of reading for life!

Jenni Connor


Friday 7 December 2012

Two holiday games for the book lover

At this time of year, I usually go out and buy a couple of summer videogames, but having recently watched the Wil Wheaton hosted web series TABLETOP about tabletop gaming, I  decided that 2012 was the year of the boardgame for me. I was surprised to find that actually a good boardgame is not that expensive, and if you shop around you can buy a good one for half the price of something new for the Playstation 3. On top of that, my collection is distinctly book-themed, including the Lovecraftian ARKHAM HORROR, and the backstabby boardgame iteration of GAME OF THRONES, pleasantly designed prior to the arrival of the TV show, and as such featuring all-original artwork.

As we approach the holiday season, many of you might be looking for unique gifts for the bookworms amongst your family and friends, or alternatively for something fun to bring out once you've pulled all the crackers and everyone is too full to leave the table. With that in mind I thought I'd take the liberty to recommend two storytelling boardgames that have popped up in my travels, and which can be enjoyed by adults, and many children too.

Dixit is a storytelling boardgame in the purest sense. Designed in France, it is noticeable because it is playable in any language. There is nothing to read--all the stories are made through the playing. The box DIXIT comes in contains a set of 84 gorgeously and enigmatically illustrated cards, with beautiful artwork by the artist Marie Cardouat (Google her, you'll soon discover what I mean). After all of the players are dealt a hand, one player takes the role of storyteller and chooses a card, describing it in one sentence. Each of the other players picks a card of their own that they feel might confuse the others at the table, given the storyteller's description, and the cards are shuffled, revealed, and each player votes on which one they think might be the storyteller's. If you trick the other players into voting for your card, you earn points. If you are the storyteller and people vote for your card, you earn points too.

Sounds simple, right? If you describe the card really bluntly, you'll win. There's the catch. The beauty and delight of DIXIT comes down to one simple rule: the storyteller gets NO points if everyone guesses their card correctly. So as storyteller, you ideally want every single person at the table to identify your card, except one. How do you do that? Subtlety, reference, metaphor... you decide. You're the storyteller, after all.

If DIXIT sounds a little bit too sweet for you, and you're a bit more of a Lemony Snicket family, there is always GLOOM. GLOOM is a card game heavily centred around the Victorian world of the penny dreadful novel, in which each of the players takes control of an unfortunately positioned family. As play progresses, cards are drawn, and the player's aim is to bring about as much misfortune to their own family as possible, hopefully ending in their untimely demise. As much as there are cards that say things like "bitten by a rabid dog" however, there are positive cards, signifying donations by surprise benefactors, or a trip to the circus, that you can use against the more distraught members of the other player's families, in an effort to bring them back up in their happiness.

The fun of GLOOM is not just in its whimsical cruelty and blessing, but also in the fact that as you play cards, you narrativise the game in progress. Through the strategic placement of events, a unique and hilarious story unfolds every time, as each player explains the sequence of actions that, for example, caused the twins in their family to become trapped on a train.

For a game so predicated on the miserable, it's actually a hilarious, creative, and extremely enjoyable experience to play GLOOM. For those with a sense of humour verging slightly more towards the macabre, it's bound to be a hit.

Keep me posted in the comments below about your thoughts on these games if you have played them before, intend to play them, or how they are received if you do decide to buy them. I'd also love to know if you have any book-themed or storytelling boardgames that you'd like to recommend yourself. I'm always on the lookout for more.

Other then that, it only remains for me to wish you all the joy that the next few weeks might bring, including, perhaps, one or two games, and more than a little reading.

Lyndon Riggall

Sunday 2 December 2012

Save the books!

Recently I read an article saying that 10,000 copies of the original version of Good night, Sleep tight by Mem Fox had been pulped. (Interestingly it has recently been republished with illustrations by Judy Horacek.) Then I read that 20 of the 55 books that have won the Miles Franklin Award are out of print. (Admittedly, some have dated badly.) I wonder how many wonderful books go out of print or are remaindered long before they should be – all for the want of enough “someones” to promote the book?

What can we do? The first and most obvious task is to keep these titles in print. Ensure you keep buying those special books and share the joy/wonder as you give them away as gifts. Read and follow up on the recommendations made by our bloggers and all the generous souls who review books in magazines, on websites and blogs. Thank the wonderful people who run activities such as Readers’ Cup which introduce readers (and judges) to books they may not have chosen for themselves. Spruik the books you love –your passion might be the encouragement needed for someone to open that book.

Last week, Maureen mentioned some wonderful newer books that deserve a place in everyone’s library. And here are some others...

Sue de Gennaro Pros and cons of being a frog (Scholastic)
Corrine Fenton Hey Baby! (Walker)
Anna Fienberg & Stephen Michael King Figaro and Rumba and the Crocodile Café (Allen & Unwin)
Rose Foster The Industry (HarperCollins)
Morris Gleitzman After (Viking)
Gus Gordon Herman and Rosie (Viking)
Christine Harris and Ann James It’s a miroocool (Little Hare)
Pip Harvey I’ll tell you mine (UQP)
James Moloney Tamlyn (HarperCollins)
Amanda Niland & Christina Booth I wish there were dinosaurs (Windy Hollow)
Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart Bushland Lullaby (Scholastic)
Jan Ormerod & Carol Thomson Looking for Rex (Little Hare)
Emily Rodda The Third Door (Scholastic)
Karen Tayleur Love notes from Vinegar House (Black Dog)

Sunday 25 November 2012

Grandparents get up to date! - by Maureen Mann

This term I have been teaching a course on modern children’s literature (especially Australian), at the Launceston School for Seniors. It’s been extremely successful and I have decided to repeat it next year, though the content will change. The students are all enthusiastic readers but, until recently, haven’t read any of the wonderful books available at the moment. We really do have a fantastic selection of titles published around the world for young people of all ages.

The course has been planned to introduce the participants to a wide range of recent publications. Some of the activities have included looking at past books entered in the CBCA Awards, visiting a bookshop, reading new-to-student titles from the library and over the last 3 weeks browsing through some of the 2012 entries lent to us by Tasmania’s current Book of the Year judge. These last few weeks has given each of us the chance to read the most current books. Here are some of the picture books (which I have enjoyed) from the entries so far.

The Gift by Penny Matthews and Martin McKenna.

The small, plain brown bear sits in a toy shop, surrounded by special Christmas toys. One by one the other toys are bought but bear remains until late Christmas Eve when a small child falls in love with him. McKenna’s digitally created illustrations use a lot of white space and show the bear with all his emotions. It’s a wonderful heart-tugging book, and will especially appeal to those who collect Christmas stories.

Alex and the Watermelon Boat by Chris McKimmie

This story grew from McKimmie’s experiences during the 2011 floods in Brisbane. Alex has to go outside, though forbidden to, when his favourite stuffed toy hopped out the window. Using his watermelon boat to search, he sees the calamities of the flood. McKimmie’s easily recognisable illustrative style uses a wide range of techniques and materials which he lists at the back of the book. I love it.

The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood

The young girl is so mad not to receive her requested bright red backpack as her first school bag. Instead it was a terrible suitcase but the narrator discovers that her bag has many adaptations that she didn’t expect, leading to a wide range of adventures. A multi-layered story.

Show Day by Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean

Matthews and McLean have again collaborated to produce a great book, appropriate for any part of Australia where agricultural shows are held. Many child readers will resonate with the story.

Bush Bash by Sally Morgan and Ambellin Kwaymullina

This is a counting book, combined with a song-like refrain and an I-spy element, using Australian animals. Kwaymullina’s brightly coloured illustrations reflect her Aboriginal heritage.

Pooka by Carol Chataway and Nin Rycroft

The family loves the stray dog that turned up on their doorstep, though Grandad keeps reminding everyone not to become attached. The narrator becomes depressed when Pooka’s owner collects her but bounces back when Pooka and her pups visit. Great use of white space and vibrant illustrations.

The Queen With the Wobbly Bottom by Philip Gwynne and Bruce Whatley

The queen doesn’t like her wobbly bottom and unsuccessfully offers rewards to change it. The poet comes along and teaches her that she is loved. A fun story which shows that praise can go a long way. It’s a great example of verbal and visual texts complementing each other. Whatley’s illustrations are not what we might expect.

Tom the Outback Mailman by Kristin Weidenbach and Timothy Ide

This is a fictionalised account of Tom Kruse, mailman along the Birdsville track from 1936 to 1963. A great way of showing city kids what life along the Track can be like. Lots of scope for further investigations.

Owl Know How by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles

Cloud Town has begun to sink into the branches of a tree, so the friends make a machine to produce owls who life the town back up into the air. This book will be a great addition to school libraries with its illustrations created from 3-dimensional felt, cardboard and recycled materials.

Good Night Sleep Tight by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

Skinny Doug is babysitting Bonnie and Ben who do all in their power not to have to go to sleep. Fox has combined her signature repetitive refrain with traditional nursery rhymes to create an excellent bedtime book.

Sunday 18 November 2012

The Books We Took On Holiday - by Rachele Carnevale

On the train to Osaka!

In March this year our little family embarked on a three month trip of Japan and Europe.  Although we needed to pack as lightly as possible it was essential that we included a selection of picture books for our 16 month old son, Roman.  The prerequisites were that the books be light (therefore paperback) they must be tried and tested favourites (we had no room for duds) and there must be a couple of specific goodnight ones.

We put all of the possibilities on the floor, came up with a long list and then whittled it down to about ten titles.  These included golden oldies such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Meg and Mog, Harry the Dirty Dog, Hop on Pop, Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack and Mister Magnolia - as well as more recent titles such as Penguin by Polly Dunbar, When the World is Ready for Bed by Gillian Shields and Maisy's Bedtime.

We also purchased an iPad for our travels on which we carried our Lonely Planet guides, a few e-books for Roman (Green Eggs and Ham and Moo by Matthew Van Fleet) and some animated adaptations of the Hairy Maclary and Maisy stories.

Osaka Ryokan

The decision to take physical books, despite the additional weight to our luggage was one of the best decisions we made.  Although we sometimes got quite bored with the small selection, we always managed to keep up our regular bedtime story time routine - no matter where we were.  We had stories while on long flights, train trips, ferry voyages and in tiny hotel rooms.  This regular routine not only comforted Roman and helped him go to sleep every night in the ever changing locations, but gave us a feeling of normalcy too.

The iPad was used in different situations, when Roman would get bored or grizzly on long trips by plane, train, bus or ferry.  However, rather than the e-books he much preferred watching the animations of familiar stories and the couple of episodes of Playschool we had put on the iPad.  We were so grateful to Maisy and Hairy Maclary on some of these trips.

Shinkansen to Kyoto

We had a couple of interesting book experiences on trains - one in Finland and one in Japan.  While travelling from snowy Helsinki to snowier Tampere in Finland, we were booked onto a carriage specially designed for families with small children.  This is the best idea ever! Not only were there lots of small kids, a mini train in the carriage for them to play on and a slide, but a whole bookshelf full of picture books too!  Despite the books being in the Finnish language, we had a lovely time looking at all of the pictures and making up the stories.  It was such a novelty for us to be looking at new books rather than our own scruffy selection. 

While travelling on a local train in Osaka in March, Roman, tired and grumpy (having been on the rails for hours since leaving Nagasaki), was in urgent need of entertainment.  Luckily, I had had the foresight to pack a couple of books in our bag and whipped out The Tiger Who Came to Tea.  It worked like magic!  As I was reading it to him I noticed that he wasn’t my only audience - the other passengers on the train were also listening.  I felt like a twit but tried to focus on Roman. Afterwards, a smartly dressed Japanese businessman came and chatted to us.  He said that he and his family had lived in Scotland a number of years ago and that he had read the same book to his children and they had loved it too.  It was such a lovely connection to have made.

As we travelled we picked up some more books to spice up our story time collection and weigh down our luggage.  We found a good English language selection of children's books in the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya.  We bought some Curious George and Clifford titles there, amongst others.  We also bought books in other languages, including Japanese, Finnish, French and Italian.  Luckily, we already knew many of these stories word for word, such as Goodnight Moon (or Bonsoir Lune in French), otherwise we just made the stories up!  We always left the price stickers on the backs of the books we purchased overseas so we will always remember where we bought them.

Coming home to Roman's book collection was so exciting, there were so many choices, it felt like such a treat, and then visiting the library again and borrowing more was fantastic.  We were in book heaven after having such a small selection for such a long time. We still read our well travelled treasures regularly and they always remind us of the fun we had reading them on Roman’s great big overseas holiday.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Open Spaces spark wondrous Imaginings! by Christina Booth

Bruce Whatley

Australian Society of Authors Open Spaces Retreat for Picture Book Creators, Sydney, 2012.

When we think of a retreat the word quiet springs to mind: personal, solitary time to work, reflect and consolidate. You might even have time to be guided by another, take long strolls to clear and sort your mind.

So what happens when a group of picture book creators meet in Sydney for a retreat? Plenty, but a lot of what we traditionally consider retreat essentials are reinvented and not a lot of quiet is had!

Picture book authors and illustrators (not unlike most authors and artisans) are cave dwelling creatures that work mostly in isolation and solitude. The ticking deadlines are our constant companions and the niggling domestic routine often oversteps its boundaries into the creative caves we have established, so when a retreat for picture book creators is offered then we must expect the unexpected, rules to be broken or adapted and noise and mess to be created.

What a treat. The ASA (Australian society of Author) invited us to move into the wonderful Hughenden Hotel in Woollahra, Sydney (near Paddington) to join them for a four day retreat of treats and experiences we could never achieve by ourselves.

We started on Thursday at lunch time. We were an awkward gathering of some strangers and old friends rabbiting around portfolios and samples and making small talk, nervously wondering what the next few days would bring and how much of our creative souls we were going to have to share. 

Twelve of us poured over the work of others, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’, recognising pieces from books old and new and putting faces to the names of those who have them on covers.

We began the sessions by introducing ourselves, our work and what we wanted to achieve from the weekend. What inspiration and wonder, it was hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed by the talent before us.

Then the work began. Hard work? We were thrown into the creative pit of art supplies, provided by Micador and told to PLAY! All afternoon, with someone sitting beside us to talk to, and talk we did. We drew with textas, crayons, painted, rubbed and coloured and experimented with goodies we had only admired on the art shop shelves, what joy.

After a quick freshen up and the removal of crayon from under fingernails we braved the heat (it was over thirty degrees for this Tasmanian who had left Tassie trembling in her jumper and coat) and we headed to the piano lounge for a gathering of Sydney ASA members and guests for pre-dinner nibbles drinks and a book launch. How spoilt was I? Part of the program was the launch of my new book with Amanda Niland, ‘I Wish There Were Dinosaurs.’ The launch was wonderful, the honours done by the talented Libby Gleeson. Very apt as she has been a great encourager on my journey as an author and had also tutored Amanda.

Off for a lovely dinner followed by guest speaker Tohby Riddle who shared the process and journey of creating his book ‘Unforgotten.’ The only negative was a visit from a very large huntsman who decided to walk across the wall behind Tohby during the talk making it hard for those of us arachnophobes in the audience to look up at the power point presentation).

Friday was an early start. Early breakfast (6.30 am)put on by the hotel to accommodate our busy schedule and then we were off to catch a bus. Laurine acted as Miss Clavel and had us all safely travelling to Bondi to walk the shoreline and experience the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition. We went early to avoid the crowds which were shoulder to shoulder by midday. We now understood the early start. For someone unfamiliar with most parts of Sydney I felt like a wild schoolgirl let off her leash. What beautiful beaches and scenery (including one or two life guards) and amazing sculptures, something I recommend you all to see.

Fish and chips by the beach then a bus trip back to the hotel ready for a drawing lesson from Bruce Whatley (or should I say Dr. Bruce). Bruce studied the effects of right brained drawing for his PHD and we were treated to a session of drawing with our other hand. Seeing as not all retreaters were illustrators this threw up a decent challenge but fun was had by all and much was learned about how much better our wobbly hands are compared to our preferred hand. If fun is measured by mess then the fact that a lot of us looked like chimney sweeps by the end was a good indication of a great afternoon.
Collaboration times were scheduled throughout the progam and they went from quiet, reserved discussions and the nervous handing over of ideas and manuscripts to a full group show and tell session by the end of the weekend. As we grew to know and trust each other with our ‘babies’ we entered into great discussions of hope and potential for our work. Brainstorming characters, solving lumps and bumps in texts and generally encouraging each other in our journeys we solved niggling problems, started our new story ideas and boosted each other’s creativity. Whilst every activity we did was wonderful, this aspect of the weekend was perhaps the most rewarding.

Saturday saw a few of us up early for a stroll to the Paddington markets. Then back to the hotel to catch a ferry of taxi’s to visit the Brett Whitely studio. Palpitations. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea but he’s one of my favourite artists and it was almost too surreal to find myself viewing an exhibition of his works in his personal space, sitting and watching a DVD about his life and work in his sitting room and reading his rants, raves and quotes scribbled in-between magazine cuttings and personal photos adorning his studio walls. When I first heard we were going, I turned very Victorian and felt quite faint. (I am still curious as to whether the set of false teeth adhered to his painting belong to the owner of the brain, also attached to the same painting).

Another taxi ride to Kirribilli Park overlooking the harbour for a gourmet picnic lunch (Miss Clavel still had us safely together) and a time to explore the wonderful rescue work of Wendy Whitely. The gardens are spectacular and are full of wonderful birdlife and curiosities, all created out of an old railway yard that was/is disused. Wendy is preparing for the inevitable battle that they will one day want it back but it has become a favourite place for Sydneysiders to enjoy, relax in and as happened on the day we visited, get married in. Wendy was there, busy working with her volunteers and stopped to chat with us as we ate lunch. Some more collaboration work in the dappled shade at the bottom of the garden and then a walk to the ferry for a ride from Luna Park to the Circular Quay added to our journey.

We then caught a bus home to the hotel and a revisit of the markets before a very special visit to the second Dr Seuss Gallery in the world. We were surrounded by the very wonderful and colourful world of Dr Seuss prints and were all tempted to make a purchase but alas, they were a little out of our reach. 

We can dream however.

Back to the hotel, freshened up and in our colourful gear we headed back to the piano bar for Tapas, Spanish spiced wine and our last night of sharing and collaboration. We were treated (again, as she played for us on Friday also) to the beautiful violin renditions of Fiona Stewart (illustrator of Sally Odger’s Bush Lullaby), such a talented lady, professional musician, sculptor and illustrator extraordinaire. We were also joined by the passionate and lovely Susanne Gervay (hotel owner and author) for a number of the get-togethers.

Sadly, such gatherings must come to an end and after packing and a last collaboration time over breakfast on Sunday, we said our farewells and headed home.

Quiet we were not, in solitude we did not find ourselves but filled to the brim, inspired, motivated, engaged and raring to go we are.

Thanks to the ASA, especially Miss Clavel (Laurine Croasdale) and to Ann James for organising a most memorable and fantastic four days. Something that will help light up our lonely little caves and keep us inspired.

Strangers no more.

Until next year....

Christina at her book launch

Monday 5 November 2012

Storytime at the Supermarket!

I have this morning presented the final Storytime at the Supermarket at Kingston, in the south of the state – a charming nearly-five-year-old and I read Kip by Christine Booth, I’m the best by Lucy Cousins, and a Big Book version of The little red hen. We enjoyed cock-a-doodle-doodling with gusto in all the right places; we noted that dogs who think they are the best can hurt their friends’ feelings; and we discussed where the Big Book version I had was not as good as our favourite versions of The little red hen.

One child wasn’t a very big audience, but it was enjoyable to share these stories while his mother and a friend looked on. Here in the south our audiences have been wildly variable in size, but there’s always been someone. I understand that experience in the north (at Prospect Plaza) has been much the same. We have been fortunate to have the support of the Kingborough Council at Kingston – Melissa has sent out digital copies of our flyers each month, and posted an A3 version in a few places. And we have been able to share a children’s activity space provided by the Council.

Storytime at the Supermarket was the brainchild of CBCA (Tas.) Inc. committee members in Launceston, to mark the National Year of Reading, and it has been successful in raising community awareness of CBCA activities. It’s taken time, of course, preparing a flyer to promote each session (on the first Monday of each month since March 2012), preparing a running sheet with lists of books chosen to illustrate a theme, songs and rhymes each month, and fronting up at the venue each session.

But all volunteers have enjoyed the process, and now the big question is, will we do it again next year? Melissa did ask me this morning, as I said good bye, if we planned to be available in the New Year. I had to say I wasn’t sure, but she knows how to get in touch if she needs some stories read!

Monday 29 October 2012

Imagination is alive and well - by Penny Garnsworthy

Recently I was approached to judge a short story competition for one of the region's festivals. 

As part of this competition, grade 5 and 6 students at two local schools were asked to write, and illustrate, what they thought the region would 'look' like in 20 years' time. How hard could it be, I thought to myself as I enthusiastically said yes to the suggestion. Within a few weeks I was presented with a huge pile of entries. And what I quickly came to realise was that when the competition was announced, no parameters had been set ... for anything.

One of the teachers had been kind enough to shortlist entries for their class which should have made choosing a winner, and runners-up quite easy. But because there were no parameters, one story comprised two paragraphs, another two pages. That was fine, and I simply ignored my usually strong desire to correct grammar and spelling, and read the stories as entertainment.

Another teacher hadn't shortlisted at all so I waded through those entries only to discover that half the entries were about the requested topic, and half were about entirely unrelated topics. However, as I had for the first group, I finally chose a winner and runners-up.

Then I received another surprise. Unbeknown to the organisers (and me too of course) a number of younger children had decided to participate in the competition. These were grade 1 students who illustrated their ideas in a range of formats and the spread them across anywhere from two to eight pages! Some of them had even added text and their teacher had kindly translated any words this poor judge may not undertstand.

Reading the stories was certainly a challenge, but also a delight and I had great fun! And there was one thing all the entries had in common. Imagination.

In 20 years' time, according to the entries, adults will have flying cars, kids will ride hoverboards to school, every person will have a personal robot, mobile phones will be holograms and trips to the moon will be commonplace (some on flying horses).

iPods and iPads will be the norm in every classroom and ... there won't be any books in school. Scary thought, isn't it?

Sunday 21 October 2012

Confessions of a Bookophile - Carol Fuller

I have loved books since I can’t remember. Suffice is to say that I still remember the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer book I was tearfully forced to leave behind in England as a small child when my family immigrated to Tasmania. A book read is a book to be owned, held onto, caressed and kept on display on a shelf, hence my small Victorian cottage is bulging at the seams with just about every book I have ever read.

But recently I have begun to question my obsession. After receiving over 800 books during the two years I was CBCA reading judge, and also being in two adult reading groups, involving therefore two books every month, plus the extra ten the focus books lead me onto, I really have had to rationalize not only the storage space but also, since retirement, the cost of this mania.

Firstly I have begun to use the library more. Next, secondhand bookshops have become the first port of call when looking for a particular book. Then finally if this fails and friends also can’t help, I will indulge myself and buy. The problem with the library is that for some reason the very book I want to borrow is NOT located at Launceston LINC, or everyone else in Launceston needs the same book and I have to wait at least three months before my turn comes. There is usually a date associated with my book group reading so timing really is important.

Last year I was travelling through Europe and when planning to be away for two months I knew I would need at least ten books to while away the long flights and rest times on the trip. The majority of my travelling was to be through foreign countries where finding books in English might prove time consuming. So here was another bookish problem. How could I possibly pack this number of books; sufficient clothes and shoes; allow for the odd purchase along the way and still come in under the thirty two kilo weight restriction imposed by airline companies?

Being a self confessed bookophile who just loves to hold a book in my hands, or admire them lined up on the wall to wall bookshelves in my study, I now have to confess that my thoughts and book acquisition habits are changing. I bought an ipad!!! This solved the travelling problem. At the touch of a button I downloaded all the books I wanted to read on my travels. Amazingly I realized that I could solve the library waiting list as well. This of course doesn’t eliminate the costs of reading but in many cases I can buy the book I want on line for less. I must confess this makes me feel very disloyal to my bookseller friends and I haven’t come to terms with that aspect of my new bookishness yet although the ipad option has not diminished that feeling that I must buy a book when I walk into a book store and that mysterious need still has me impulse buying ‘the real thing’.

And on the subject of a device not being conducive to reading in bed; I find the ipad much easier and lighter to hold in the prone position, especially with very long tomes.

After all this change of attitude, there was one book domain that I could not see altering for me and that was picture books. I am a very doting Grandmother of a child who just loves books and who has inherited all the beautiful books from my judging years plus more. His favourite book is ‘The Very Cranky Bear,’ by Nick Bland. In our eyes nothing could replace the hard copy held between us as we read for the hundredth time about ‘the jingle, jangle jungle on a cold and rainy day’. But wait, there’s more.

At the CBCA conference earlier this year, a colleague from my judging days asked had I seen the new ‘Very Cranky Bear’ app. Well two minutes later I was hooked. Our treasured book in all its exact pictorial and verbal splendour, on my ipad with even more exciting embellishments, like having it read to the pre-independent reader by someone other than grandma, Mum or Dad; music to enhance the mood, characters that move and shake to suit the situation, cards to collect for a surprise activity at the end and a microphone option that allows the small reader to read and record the story in his/her own voice. (He knows it off by heart but also knows which words go with which pages; good start to becoming an independent reader.)

Well that was a major change of attitude! Yes, there can be an electronic version of a picture book as equally appealing as ‘the real thing’, but I must say I prefer that the hard and electronic copy be used in tandem much like I would advise a teenager to read ‘The Hunger Games’ before seeing the film. Consequently the grandson now has ‘The Very Ichy Bear’, The Very Hungry Bear’ and ‘The Wrong Book’, (all by Nick Bland) in both hard and electronic versions.

I still haven’t reached the stage of believing that electronic books will fully replace hard copy books and I will continue to gaze at my bookshelves with love and satisfaction, but I am also beginning to appreciate the new dimension of pleasurable reading that technology affords us.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

World of Chickens - by Maureen Mann

While reading Penny’s editorial in the last newsletter about building her chook run, I thought it would be good to focus on some books about chickens. There are lots to choose from, so of course I am only going to include a selection.

Peggy by Anna Walker (2012)
I love this story and have done since my first reading. Peggy is blown away from home by a big gust of wind and finds herself on an adventure in the big city but also wants to find her way home.

Shutting the chooks in by Libby Gleeson and Ann James (2003)
The story of the trip, through the farmyard as it gradually becomes dark, to shut the chooks in for the night. Wonderful illustrations.

Chicken Licken (various editions)
This is an old favourite, also known as Henny Penny or Chicken Little. It’s a moral tale about a chicken who believes in the disaster that the sky is about to fall in.

Bear and Chook by Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay (2002)
The lovely story of the friendship between Bear and Chook: the supportive things that friends do for each other.

Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham (1997)
Created in Bob Graham’s cartoon style, this tells the story how Queenie is rescued from a lake by Caitlyn and her family, how Queenie is absorbed into the family life but is eventually returned to the farm.

Hattie and the fox by Mem Fox and Patricia Mullins (1986)
A hen sees a nose in the bushes but all the other animals aren’t interested. This book is a good example of Mem Fox’s signature use of repetition.

Mr Chicken goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs (2009)
Leigh Hobbs’ quirky vision of Mr Chicken visiting all the wonderful sights of Paris, when in fact he himself is one of the main attractions.

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins (first published 1971)
Rosie sets out on her walk, unaware of the fox following her and hoping to eat her for his dinner. She unintentionally takes him on an obstacle course before she returns home safely.

I wonder if your favourite is included here. Please tell us all about it if it’s not.

Saturday 6 October 2012

"Not so different from Harry" - Lyndon reviews A Casual Vacancy

What Fats wanted to recover was a kind of innocence, and the route he had chosen back to it was through all the things that were supposed to be bad for you, but which, paradoxically, seemed to Fats to be the one true way to authenticity; a kind of purity. It was curious how often everything was back to front, the inverse of what they told you; Fats was starting to think that if you flipped every bit of received wisdom on its head you would have the truth.
J.K. Rowling was right when she said in her Australian interview with Jennifer Byrne that she had promised us seven Harry Potter books, and she didn’t owe her readers anything. She might be wrong, however, if she thinks that what she writes after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will not be read through cracked and sticky-taped Harry Potter lenses, and that the now-adult readers of her original series can ever hope to conquer the insatiable desire to search for traces of the childhood friend they’ve now lost in everything that bears her name. Hogwarts casts a long shadow.
Rowling has certainly tried with The Casual Vacancy however, to make sure this quest is soon proven fruitless. There is no touch of Harry here, as all the wide-eyed wonder of her children’s series is quickly abandoned for bleak and bitter realism. Those who, like myself, had come to read the heavily guarded details of the novel’s release as an indication of a kind of an Agatha Christie or Downton Abbey-eqsue idyllic cottage drama, will soon see that there is more bubbling under the surface than simple political competition in Pagford. In fact, there’s everything; my friends Bill and Isobel have contrived a game - what crime doesn’t occur in The Casual Vacancy? (Hint: There aren’t many. Yes, probably not even that one.)
There is swearing too; lots of it. By page fifteen I had to put it down for a moment and take a breather. Was this really J.K. Rowling? It took a good while for me to de-tune my interior monologue, which was always calling back to Potter and trying to reconcile the two versions of Rowling as a writer. In the end trying to tie my portrait of Rowling together was fruitless - as hard as it might be, the only way to fully get to The Casual Vacancy is to push it away from Potter.
Once you grapple with the world that you’ve entered - so much more like our own, so much less like Rowling’s other England - after a gradual warm-up The Casual Vacancy is an incredible novel. Dark and tragic, by the three quarter mark it grips with the hardened intensity and oblivious midnight page-turning that only Rowling can. It’s the kind of book that could, and perhaps should, win awards bigger than the Smarties prize. There will be an inevitable backlash from people who were hoping for a more gentle novel of course, and expect many abandoned copies to show up in second-hand bins and opportunity shops, as popular readers realise that they were tricked into buying a literary text, but I think that what Rowling has done here is more important than pleasing her old fans - she’s proved that there’s an extremely serious heart beating beneath the smoke and mirrors of the Potter series. Some of us have been arguing it for years, but The Casual Vacancy proves it: Rowling is a serious writer. I’d like to see some of her contemporary hit-machines, like E.L. James (who recently outsold Potter with her Fifty Shades series), write a novel as intellectually engaging as this.
My biggest fear about The Casual Vacancy though, is that it will be hard to keep it out of the hands of kids. As a 22 year-old I can rightly insist upon reading it, having (arguably) grown up from my own Harry odyssey, but it’s difficult to imagine that a 12 year-old version of me that had just finished The Deathly Hallows wouldn’t attempt the same. School libraries, I hope, will be wise enough not to purchase it for their shelves, and parents are encouraged to be vigilant: The Casual Vacancy has lashings of sex, drugs, domestic violence and hip-hop. There is an ugly side to this sleepy village.
For mum and dad though, I think Rowling’s done it again. She’s a writer at the top of her game, and once the initial shock wears off, she’s proven she can make that adult leap that many British children’s writers - A. A. Milne and Roald Dahl as two examples - haven’t successfully been able to. This is not a novel that everyone will latch on to, but for those who do love it, it will be an all-encompassing love; the novel defines and explores the problems of an entire generation. For some, The Casual Vacancy will ring a truly resounding note, and hold a special place in their shelves and hearts. 
In that respect, perhaps it’s not so different from Harry, after all.

Sunday 30 September 2012

It's Monday! What are YOU reading? - by Nella Pickup

What have you read lately?” My mind went blank and I felt silly and ashamed. With wonderful publishers’ reps, a great request service at the library and a huge pile of books by the bed, I always have books to read. So here is the list of the books I have read (in print and in audio formats) over the last month.

Charlie Carter Omega Squad: Time Thieves (Pan Macmillan)
The first book in series following from the very successful Battle Boy series. A clever action-packed history lesson that will appeal to children aged 6-10 years.

Cathryn Constable Wolf Princess (Chicken House) due in November 2012
Orphaned Sophie Smith lives in a dreary boarding school in London, but dreams of adventure, of forests and snow. She can barely believe her luck when she and her friends land a place on the school trip to St. Petersburg in Russia. But things don’t go quite to plan once they arrive. A magical fairy tale adventure for girls aged 9- 13.

Gary Crew & Ross Watkins The Boy Who Grew into a Tree (Penguin)
A fable about nature and our relationship with it, and about the inevitable cycle of life.

Stephen Dando-Collins
Caesar the War Dog Random House
Caesar the War Dog is based on the true story of Australian military dog Sarbi and its experiences in Afghanistan, combined with the factual experiences of Endal, the devoted British dog who cared for his wheelchair-bound ex-serviceman master. For those who enjoyed Michael Morpurgo’s Shadow.

James Dashner Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time (Scholastic)
When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. First of a seven book multi author series with a multi-dimensional game at www.infinityring.com

Nick Earls & Terry Whidborne Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary (UQP)
When twins Al and Lexi Hunter stumble on an old dictionary, they are catapulted back through time and space, with only some mysterious pegs as clues. They travel through time to discover the origin of particular words. I enjoyed the concept and the humour but some children may need encouragement at the beginning. First in a series for children aged 9-13.

Elizabeth Fensham Matty and Bill for Keeps (UQP)
Matty and Bill’s adventures continue – helping a visiting English boy escape Isabelle Farquay-Jones, ensuring Bill’s dad Troy isn’t caught up in illegal activities and learning secret cultural practices. A warm story about friendship and growing up for younger readers.

Anna Fienberg & Stephen Michael King Figaro and Rumba and the Crocodile Cafe (Allen & Unwin)
A picture book in six chapters. The irrepressible Figaro, a dog, and his cat-friend Rumba get caught up in cat-napping adventure when they ride the Very Fast Train.

Anna Fienberg Louis Beside Himself (Allen & Unwin)
Louis loves words! His father would prefer Louis to learn wrestling techniques. When a burglar breaks into the house, Louis fails to protect himself and ends up providing a refuge for the intruder instead. A humorous and entertaining read for middle school readers.

Mem Fox and Judy Horacek Good Night, Sleep Tight (Scholastic)
The story of Bonnie, Ben and their babysitter and the traditional nursery rhymes he tells them at bedtime.

Kelly Gardiner Act of Faith (HarperCollins)
Set in Cromwellian London and Europe during the Spanish Inquisition – the story of Isabella Hawkins caught up in the writing, printing and disseminating of contentious books. Thanks to Jenni Connor for recommending this CBCA 2012 Notable title.

Morris Gleitzman After (Penguin)
Continues Felix's adventures in World War Two, where he faces perhaps his greatest challenge - to reconcile hatred and healing and to find hope when he's lost almost everything. If you loved Once and Then, buy this.

Jane Godwin & Anna Walker Today We Have No Plans (Puffin)
Weeks are frantic- swimming lessons, orchestra, library, netball and soccer, school lunches to prepare, notes to sign ... and then Sunday comes. By the creators of All Through the Year – on my Christmas wish list

Oliver Jeffers This Moose Belongs to Me (HarperCollins)
I’m not a fan but this is wonderful. As with his other books the moral seems to be presented for the reader while the main character doesn't really change his ways.

Catherine Jinks The Reformed Vampire Support Group (Allen & Unwin)
Not the usual sexy powerful vampires but a fun satire and a new look at the lives of vampires.

Diana Wynne Jones The Ogre downstairs (Pan Macmillan)
Two families were merged after remarriage. The ogre (the step-father) brought each pair of children a magical chemistry set. A spot-on portrayal of how children interact with adults, with hilarious and memorable mixups.

Julia Lawrinson Losing it (Penguin)
Four girls in Year 12 make a bet: to lose it before schoolies week – and preferably in a romantic, sober way that they won't regret. Graphic, embarrassing and hilarious; a serious story about choices and relationships. Highly recommended. 14+

Candice Scott Lemon Hubert and the Magic Glasses New Frontier Publishing (Little Rockets series)
Hubert has poor soccer skills until he gets glasses. Fast paced stories for children aged 7+

Steven Lochran Goldrush Vanguard Prime (Penguin)
It starts slowly, has too many Americaniams, and a reluctant superhero who is just a loser. Keep reading for strongly drawn characters - the terrific superheroes: Agent Alpha, Gaia, Knight of Wands and Machina; larger than life villains: Metatron, Overman and Major Arcana, explosive action and flashes of humour. This promises to be a popular series for middle school children and reluctant readers.

Marianne Musgrove The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge (Woolshed Press)
A soldier’s daughter, 13 year old Romola has often moved, so making friends is difficult. Sebastian is trying to find his father and stop his mum from remarrying. Romola is “corrupted” by Sebastian’s payback mentality learned from his reading about the extreme behaviour of ancient gods. Both find that revenge has unpleasant consequences. Story of family life with links to Legacy. Engaging read.

Lorin Nicholson The Amazing Bike Ride (Wombat Books)
This is a true story about a boy who decides to ride over the mountains despite his lack of vision. Aimed at children, this is an awesome story that will encourage every reader, young and old.

Sally Odgers & Lisa Stewart Bushland Lullaby (Scholastic)
A beautifully illustrated book of Australian animals with a gentle rhyme which will appeal to children and adults alike. (Tasmanian author)

Annabel Pitcher Ketchup Clouds (Orion) due November
Very different to the award winning My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. Zoe writes to a man on Death Row; her letters are a confession for a crime she committed, and to all intents and purposes, got away with. A story of teenage relationships intermingled with family problems; at times brutally revealing, an emotional read.

Tohby Riddle Unforgotten (Allen & Unwin)
The text is a simple poem. The pictures are thought-provoking. A book to be read and reread.
Emily Rodda The Silver Door (Scholastic)
Further adventures of Rye and Sonia in the world beyond the Wall of Weld. Highly recommended.
Veronica Roth Insurgent (HarperCollins)
An addictive sequel to Divergent, a bleak dystopian Chicago ruled by "factions" exemplifying different personality traits collapses into all-out civil war. The violence is graphic, grisly and shockingly indiscriminate.

Marcus Sedgwick Fright Forest Elf Girl and Raven Boy (Orion)
Elf Girl and Raven Boy are very different from each other, but they join forces to find out who is destroying their home.  Perfect for 8-12 year olds who love adventure, a touch of magic, or just a really funny story. 

Rebecca Stead Liar & Spy (Text)
A seventh-grade boy who is coping with social and economic issues moves into a new apartment building, where he makes friends with an over-imaginative home-schooled boy and his eccentric family. A delightfully quirky tale by a Newbery Award winner.

Laini Taylor Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Hodder)
A story of star-crossed lovers – in this case an angel and a demon. Powerful, emotive and brilliant writing. Looking forward to the sequel in November.

Vikki Wakefield All I ever wanted (Text)
A brutally honest slice of life on the other side of the tracks. A CBCA 2012 Notable. Looking forward to reading her next book Friday Brown.

The adult reads:
David Baldacci Divine Justice (Macmillan)
The usual action packed good guy versus corrupt government officials.

Anne Bartlett Knitting (Penguin)
A chance meeting sparks a friendship between two very different women – recently widowed Sandra, a rigid academic, and Martha, a knitter with her own secret store of grief. Anne Bartlett is currently an author in residence in southern Tasmania.

Chris Cleave Gold (Sceptre)
The story of two cyclists, who are competitors for a spot in the Olympic Games team and what drives them to succeed. Thankfully, not as horrifying as The Other Hand.

Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis Boy in the Suitcase (Soho Press)
Do you remember her Tasmanian visit in 2006 with her excellent fantasy series - Shamer’s Daughter? This is the first English translation of a crime series starring Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, and a compulsive do-gooder. For fans of Wallander and The Killing.

Lynne Truss Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door (Fourth Estate)
A rallying cry for courtesy.

Currently reading Lian Tanner’s Path of Beasts (Allen & Unwin) and listening to Catherynne M. Valente The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Corsair). Wonderful so far. Looks like I’ll be purchasing the sequel.

It's Monday! What are YOU reading?