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

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?

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Autism, Prime Numbers and Dead Dogs - Maureen's review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ... at the theatre!

I am lucky enough to have recently spent several weeks in London, over the Olympic Games period, looking after a friend’s flat. It was a great opportunity to visit some of the lesser-known London sights as well as indulge in music and theatre.

One of the most memorable things I saw was the National Theatre’s adaptation, world premiered in late July, of Mark Haddon’s challenging and entertaining The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, published in 2003. I loved the book, have very strong memories of it, so if you haven't yet read it I highly recommend it. Critics gave the stage production rave reviews and it became one of my must-sees. The relatively short season was sold out and the only way of getting tickets was queuing at the box-office first thing in the morning. I was lucky to get the last available ticket for the evening performance that particular night and I was so glad that I did so.

Here’s the synopsis of the play taken from the National Theatre’s website (http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time ). Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

The production was staged in a National Theatre venue with only about 300 seats and performed in the round, so each member of the audience was always close to the action and there was no real ‘front of stage’. Mathematical concepts are an important part of the book’s structure and were carried over to the stage. Seats, which were prime numbers, had an extra envelope attached to them – for interest not participation. The floor was a mathematical grid on which the character Christopher used chalk to emphasise some of his statements and at the end of the play came back on stage to explain a complex concept referred to. I had to keep reminding myself that Luke Treadaway, playing the demanding role of Christopher and on-stage for almost the whole play, did not have Asperger’s Syndrome and that all his behaviours had been learned for the production. He was brilliant. The rest of the cast were also excellent.

Now I am home again, I must go back to re-read the book and remind myself why it made such an impact. The theatre production certainly did.  

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Is it all about the money, money, money? by Maureen Mann

On my wanders in and through bookshops recently, I have particularly noticed the new book displays which retailers present to the public. Of course, I know, intellectually, that these are always designed to entice the shopper to buy the targeted title – as are all merchandise displays. The retailer may have different reasons for showing off certain titles than we, as purchaser, expect. Sometimes the retailer may highlight titles with a high profit margin because of astute buying or extra discounts from suppliers; or titles which though new are not selling well; or titles which are regarded as popular rather than quality literature, or even to clear old stock in preparation for new arrivals.

But on the other hand, have I always been aware of it? And are you? It’s great to be able to walk into a shop and have my (our) attention focussed on the glitziest display – whatever genre or format it might be. But does it mean that I (we) miss other things which might fulfil our need just as much? And do we miss seeing the most recent publications?

Recent visits to a couple of large multi-national bookshops have reinforced my view that as a shopper I need to look carefully at the stock and not rely on the retailer’s choices. On a visit to the children’s section of one particular store I didn’t see any ‘proper’ displays. There were books ‘cover out’ but very few of these were newly published. There were piles of titles with discounted/reduced prices, almost of which were definitely older publications. In itself, that’s not a bad thing, although it is if the shopper is not knowledgeable and thinks that they are buying new. It is also something which has even more impact in our digital age, particularly if online buyers rely on the website to ‘recommend’ titles.

So the old adage, “buyer beware” is sound advice for all of us. As is the need for each of us to make sure we keep up to date with what publishers are producing. And the best way to do that is to be a regular visitor to your local bookshop.

*What do you think? Are you influenced by book displays? Do you think they're all about the money? Having worked in the children's section of a book shop, I know I displayed the books I loved! But is it always the case? Let us know your thoughts!

Monday 3 September 2012

There Is A Bird On Your Head - Patsy Jones blogs about Mo Willems

3 September - my blog should be finished by now – what to write? What to write?

And then Rosemary (just after we’d finished a pigs and elephants Storytime at the Supermarket session with some lively three-to-five-year-olds) – said ‘What about Elephant & Piggie?’

We had enjoyed the story; the children had enjoyed the story; the grandparent and carer present had enjoyed the story; so I thought that was a good idea….

How many of you are familiar with this series, written by Mo Willems? He also wrote the Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus series and the Knuffle Bunny series, but to me, Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie (the pig) are totally the best.

The books are right for reading to and with pre-readers, and for first efforts with new readers. The language is simple, the vocabulary is limited, with a good proportion of phonics-based words that can be deciphered by ‘sounding-out’. The illustrations support the text, especially through emotions shown emphatically by the facial expressions and body language of Gerald and Piggie. And visual clues such as size of letters, bolding, and italicizing also assist in understanding the text.

But a particular advantage of these titles is the opportunity they provide to discuss the emotions and feelings shown by the characters, an essential part of the development of empathy in young children. For some children, it is not easy to ‘read’ the feelings of their peers, and the books provide plenty of scope for initiation of discussion of body language and facial expression.

And the books are witty and very funny – you will laugh out loud in parts of them and this will, of course, enhance your enjoyment of the reading session, whether it’s with your children, your grandchildren, or your students.

You can find these books in the State Library, so have a look at them. They may also be on the shelves of a school library near you.