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

Monday 27 August 2012

Old Friends I'd Never Met: Lyndon Riggall on Why Reading The Classics Might Surprise you

There are some books you feel that you know without reading them.

For example, I knew who Bram Stoker was, and Mary Shelley, but why should I have to read Dracula or Frankenstein? I knew those stories through symbiosis already!

But when I began a class on Science Fiction and Fantasy through the University of Michigan on free education website Coursera a few weeks ago (I know! I just don't have enough to do, do I?) I found that both Dracula and Frankenstein were on the syllabus, and so I was dragged reluctantly back to the originals.

What I didn't expect though, was that these two novels were an absolute treat. Oh sure, I knew the basic premise of each one well enough, but nothing beats the original. Both texts had such eloquence of language, and each took me by surprise. Of course I had heard that Frankenstein was the creator, not the monster, but who would have thought that there would be no green hunk of flesh in sight, nor any neckbolts? No Igor, and no lightning re-animation either, though suggestions of a bride popped up sooner than I expected!

Dracula had most of the traits I'd come to anticipate and yet some of the most striking images of the novel had nothing to do with him. Lucy Westerna's childless death stayed with me as one of the most powerful sequences of the book, as she fed on the children of the neighbourhood, who, dazed, described her only as the "booful lady." And the psychiatric patient Renfield, driven mad by his psychic link with the Count was another highlight, his desperate pleas to his doctor to be given a cat,  even as he lures insects into his cell window with sugar and eats them. Where were these indelible images in my cultural consciousness?

We've all got a pile of classics we have put off reading because we feel like we know them already, perhaps musty second-hand paperbacks we haven't opened since we picked them up at a garage sale, or that beautiful deluxe edition that someone gave you because, well, it's influential and you should get to know it. Maybe now is the time to start reading, and see if you really know them like you think you do.

Monday 20 August 2012

Things I Learned From Books - by Penny Garnsworthy

Recently we drove around country Victoria and happened upon a curious shop called Steptoe and Son. You can imagine the incredible range of 'things' they sold, but they also had quite a selection of second-hand books. As is my custom, I browsed the shelves and came away with what I thought might be an interesting little book (and for the princely sum of $1).

As it turns out, this little hardcover book The Ancient World (by I Tenen M.A.) is far more than just interesting. As I started to read I just couldn't put it down. You see, I studied Ancient History at high school (and loved every minute of it) and this little book is the kind of text book I would have used then; packed full of well researched information, photographs and drawings.

From prehistoric and stone-age times to the Egyptians, the Cretans and the Persians to the Romans, it details everything in chronological order and in everyday language that, dare I say it, even a high school student could understand. And I was hooked from the very first page.

You probably know that people living in the Stone Ages used leather satchels to carry their water and milk. But did you know that when those satchels started to leak, they were most likely lined with clay? And this is how earthenware bowls were invented.

You have no doubt seen what we now call Lake-Dwellings (grass huts suspended on poles over the water) at various island resorts around the world. Well, did you know they were first built late in the New Stone Age and that historians have traced a long chain of them through the Swiss and Italian lakes, south-east down the Danube and north-west along the Rhine, through France and Belgium, in England, Scotland and Ireland?

And this is only the first chapter ...

Books can make us laugh and cry, they can entertain and they can challenge. But good books always have something to say, and we never stop learning from them.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Our Book Week Display

CBCA (Tas.) Inc. was thrilled when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) offered us the opportunity to install a display in the foyer of the ABC building at the Railway Roundabout in Hobart this year. So on the morning of 17 August, Rosemary, Helen, and Patsy, with the assistance of a couple of stronger, younger, fellows (one of them an ABC staff member), were busy setting up our display.

We managed to complete it in time to go home and wait for the email announcing this year’s CBCA Book of the Year Award winners, and are very pleased with the overall effect. The display will stay there until Monday 27th August.

So if you have some time this week, do call in and have a look. Our thanks go to all who provided display items, and to the ABC for the use of the space.

And congratulations to the 2012 Award winners from the Tasmanian branch of The Children’s Book Council of Australia!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

The Olympics, Peter Pan and a New Family Tradition - by Maureen Mann

Wasn’t it great to see that children’s literature had a section in the Olympic Games Opening ceremony! The whole evening was an excellent story-telling session, presented for the world to see. Did you miss the references? There was Peter Pan (published 1911) during the scene celebrating the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children. GOSH receives royalties from any adaptation in any format (audio, stage/film, print, toys etc) of Peter Pan -- a far-sighted decision by J. M. Barrie, and of Lord Callaghan who changed the 1988Copyright Act once the first copyright expired, 50 years after Barrie’s death. In the UK, copyright fees are now in perpetuity to GOSH though this is not the case in other parts of the world.But back to the Games Opening Ceremony. 

The organisers also had references to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (written by Ian Fleming, published 1964), Mary Poppins (by P. L. Travers, published 1934) and some of the dark elements of J. K. Rowlings Harry Potter series. JKR herself read some of Peter Pan. These are perhaps not the titles which I would have chosen but they fitted in well with the rest of the performance. Did you agree with the Olympic Committee’s choices? If not, what would you have included?

On the theme of story-telling. We have recently spent 2 weeks with Gabriel, our four year old grandson, and some of the best times were sharing stories with him. Of course, we had to read his current favourite books, largely dominated by dinosaurs. Another book we had to keep returning to, and one he has recently become ‘brave’ enough to read, was Sally Grindley’s Shhh! The first time I shared it with him, about 18 months ago, he ended up a quivering mess, brought on by the threat (from the book) of the giant getting him and the final words: ‘Quick! Shut the book!’ So the book was put away until he came across it again while we were there. 

Occasionally I regretted his new-found delight when I read it for the 10th or 12 time without a break. After the success of this title, we started including the concepts into our stories. There was a giant (of course) but Gabriel and several of his friends became characters, along with those from other traditional tales. Jack made a regular appearance, as did Hansel and Gretel and several versions of wicked witches.

Each of these sessions – in the car, at home before bed or breakfast or other odd times during the day – became a wonderful joint sharing time. Not only did we (as adults) put our ideas into the telling, but Gabriel had firm ideas who had to become part of the tale and how they would behave. He created a character list before we began. Of such stuff are great relationships made and oral traditions begun.

Monday 6 August 2012

A residency at ‘Pinerolo’, the Book Cottage - by Rosemary Mastnak

As a relative newcomer to the field of children’s book illustration, it is with a certain amount of temerity that I step over the threshold of ‘Pinerolo’ Book Cottage.

Walls are covered by originals from award winning illustrators, the bed room shelving chock a block with 3,000 neatly stacked picture books and folders of story boards and preparatory sketches for books in all stages of the production process are on display and accessible for the student.


Just a tad daunting!

Just inside the door a bookcase of first editions and rare books rub shoulders with a display of original matted and cellophaned illustrations.
Among the books for sale displayed in crates on a table I find several to bring home for the grandchildren.

Stacks of books waiting for reviews invade the kitchen and congregate around Margaret’s work space, ever increasing with each visit Max makes to the Post Office in Blackheath, or the courier’s knock.

Margaret gathered me up from Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains, with my shopping (the cottage is self catering), my little bag of clothes and an extremely heavy suitcase containing my sketch pads and equipment ready for a week of work.

And that I certainly did!

I find a routine essential for progress and to this purpose, arose early for a brisk walk along the Shipley plateau, accompanied by carolling bird song, in the crisp, breath- blowing air.

By the end of the week there were five white camellias in a glass, plucked daily from a road side hedge.

Breakfast and then to work by 9.00.

A desk and day light lamp, in a comfortable warm room, served as my studio for five days

Margaret came over from her elegant sandstone Italian-influenced home, (built by husband Max, also an ex-librarian as well as co-publisher of Margaret Hamilton Books), at 10am. It is no surprise to find an extensive library included in the design.

Some time would be spent discussing my pieces and progress was checked regularly during the day.

Margaret gave unstintingly and selflessly of her wealth of knowledge and experience in the book industry, always willingly answering my many queries, and showing me the intricacies of making a story board, something of which I had little knowledge.

From children’s librarian, bookseller, and publisher, a parent of a reader, and her long involvement with CBCA, one can see why Margaret is the most worthy recipient of many distinguished awards, including an Order of Australia for Services to Children’s Literature.

At lunch time we all sat together on the pleasant terrace in the sunshine admiring yellow breasted robins, honeyeaters, parrots and magpies that are regular visitors.

Then it’s back to the drawing board!

Margaret’s mentoring and editing services have been invaluable to me and it’s largely due to her help and encouragement that I now have two books ready to present to publishers.

During my time at ‘Pinerolo’, Margaret made me her prime focus and I am indeed indebted to the Copyright Agency Ltd. who funded this project to host 4 residencies for emerging and/or established children’s book illustrators in 2012.

Margaret, a great champion of the contribution made by illustrators, showcases 22 Australian Illustrators in her ABC Book of Australian Children’s Illustrators, published by ABC Books, 2005.

One of the highlights of my long career in children’s books has been the opportunity to work with illustrators on picture books. The whole creative process from manuscript to finished book is exciting, demanding and immensely rewarding”, she writes.

Thankyou, Max and Margaret for your care, kindnesses and expertise and for welcoming me so warmly to ‘Pinerolo, your little piece of Paradise.

Rosemary Mastnak July 30th,2011

To find out more about Pinerolo, visit www.pinerolo.com.au

Rosemary Mastnak