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

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Hooked on Books! - Maureen Mann

Detail of illustration by Jane Tanner for The 1992 Little Arc Children's Calendar,
December image - Child reading with Dog and Teddy Bear, published by Allen & Unwin, 1991

I am lucky enough to be living in Launceston which has the excellent Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Amongst the many gems at the Museum at Inveresk, there is a wonderful touring exhibition called Hooked on Books: Australian children’s picture book illustrations from the collection of Albert Ullin OAM. It will be here till June 17 so there’s plenty of time to get in to see it. It’s been on the Australian circuit for several years but that does not take away any of the delights of seeing it in person. Give yourself lots of time to take it all in. I’ve been several times and have many more planned – I’m lucky enough to live close by and can go in for short periods at a time and therefore can focus only on a few pictures at a time.

Over 90 original illustrations are included, spanning publications of the past 30+ years and collected by Albert Ullin, the founding owner of The Little Bookroom in Melbourne. You’ll find a wonderful selection of Australian children’s book illustrators, recognising many of the books and their pages, even though some of them are now out of print and all but unobtainable, but will wonder why others aren’t represented. Tasmania’s Peter Gouldthorpe and Ron Brooks are there. Several John Winch illustrations took my eye because he is a personal favourite. I love the detail and occasional whimsy he gave to his illustrations. The publicity illustration is taken from Jane Tanner’s December illustration for the 1992 Little Ark Children’s Calendar – a wonderful study of child, teddy and dog reading together. Look for an early Jeannie Baker, an unpublished Peter Pavey, May Gibbs, Madeline Winch, Freya Blackwood, Robert Ingpen, Alison Lester, Andrew McLean and many others. Whose your favourite illustrator and why? Which ones do you not recognise but wish you had?

One of the great additions to this touring exhibition is the Please Touch section: a mini Little Bookroom where children are encouraged to read or be read to: a carpet for sitting on, cushions available and the original red chair from Ullin’s shop. The book selection here includes well-known titles featured in the exhibition. There are cabinets which hold not-to-be-touched signed copies of books, some of them showing the quirky dedications.

Come and enjoy it.

For more information about the exhibition, see the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery website.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Judging a book by its cover - Nella Pickup

I admit to being shallow. When I receive a proof with a bland beige cover or find that one of my favourite authors has an uninspiring cover, the book tends to go to the bottom of my pile..

Looking through my book shelves, I’m astounded at the many different versions of the same title. Would I have enjoyed Jasper Jones more if I’d seen the more realistic cover first?

Food stain rating – very messy as it took so long to finish

If you saw this cover, would you think it a fantasy romance instead of a CIA thriller/time travelling romance?

Quick light read – maybe some coffee stains between breakfast and lunch.

Is the word “wonder” always depicted in blue?

Don’t eat while reading Wonderstruck – you need booth hands to hold the pages open to see the detailed drawings.

Tear stains – an emotional read – look for it when it comes out in March

Great book but three teens running through a paddock?

Look along your shelves. What appeals to you? Are you more likely to have a book with water on the cover? Do you like realistic or stylised images?

Sunday 5 February 2012

Books and movies - by Maureen Mann

There’s always discussion as to whether the book or the film is better. It will never have a right answer, as it depends so much on the viewer and the reader. And we have many fabulous book-to-film creations to choose from. One of the most recent, apart from the Harry Potter series is Hugo, the 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s wonderful graphic novel called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. If you haven’t read this adventure, then do so. The illustrations are an essential part of the book but don’t be put off by its length: it’s a relatively quick read. The film is an interesting adaptation.

I started thinking about conversion of book to film after spending time in Canada with my young grandson who enjoys the many series on TV based on several all-time children’s classics. Some of his favourites are the adventures of Franklin (Pauline Bourgeois) and Max and Ruby (Rosemary Wells).  Which of our Australian children’s books, given unlimited production funds and a world distribution network being available, would convert well to pre-school series? We don’t have many titles based on one character which have been published. But in an ideal world …

I’m only going to touch on some of the wonderful Australian authors and illustrators who could be included in this concept. People such as Mem Fox, Margaret Wild, Ann James, Graeme Base and Jenny Wagner should be considered. There are lots of adventures which could result from adaptations of Bear and Chook (Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay) and which could include character and health education ‘lessons’: the concepts of sharing, caring and selflessness. Alison Lester’s Are We There Yet? would make a fabulous series about Australia without it merely becoming a travelogue. It could include similar elements to those that make the Dora the Explorer programs so successful: child interaction, I-spy events as well as basic geographic concepts. This is also the book which forms the basis of educational activities for under 12s as part of the National Year of Reading (Have a look what else is available at http://www.love2read.org.au/nyr-programs.cfm).

The Diary of a Wombat (Jackie French and Bruce Whatley) could introduce children around the world firstly to wombats and their eccentric habits including living in and near people, but also to our many unique Australian animals. This series could be extended to other Australian flora and fauna which do not co-habit areas with wombats. Mothball has such as strong personality that she could become an iconic creature.

Pamela Allen has several picture books which could be extended to create a mini-series of TV shows. There are lots of mathematical concepts which could be explored starting from the basis of Mr Archimedes’ Bath or Who Sank the Boat?

Just imagine some of Leigh Hobbs’ characters coming to life on the screen: Old Tom or Mr Badger, especially if Hobbs himself could be part of the production team. Hobbs has written many Old Tom adventures as well as 4 Mr Badger books (and more to come?). As his website says, ‘Old Tom is a barely house-trained lazy scruffy mischief-maker. With one bung eyes, a bandaged foot and assorted scratches, he creates havoc wherever he goes’. (http://www.leighhobbs.com.au/book9.html). What more could a production company demand! Both these collections are available in UK and USA which makes them even more universal than the ones which are essentially restricted to Australian audiences.

Those are my ideas. What do you think? What wonderful Australian children’s books do you think I have missed?