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

Monday 25 November 2013


With both adult children, a partner, and a toddler coming home for holidays, we can no longer rely on dumping books, computers, scanner, printers, etc from one room to another.  We have to reorganize and find more appropriate storage for books than the current stacks behind the door and even more difficult, we (OK, I really mean me) will have to stop buying so many books. 

Recent purchases include:
Don’t Look Now1   Paul Jennings & Andrew Weldon (Allen & Unwin)

Ricky is an ordinary boy with a quirky imagination who finds himself in tricky situations.  And he can fly.  But only if no-one is looking.  The first of a series with two amusing stories in each book; for readers from 7-11 years.

This Little Piggy Went Dancing Margaret Wild & Deborah Niland (Allen & Unwin)

A fun filled twist to the traditional tale and a wonderful read-aloud.  As each pig goes dancing, or swimming, or riding, or some other physical activity, the second pig always stays home, while the third enjoys a variety of delicious foods, the fourth has none, and the fifth gets back home, usually noisily.

I love Footy  Matt Zurbo (Windy Hollow) Tasmanian author

Football is not just about winning.  It’s about participating, having fun, friendship, and reveling in the game.  The inexhaustible unnamed boy, wearing a neutral footy jumper, loves playing; he can do anything when he touches a footy, even recovering from difficulties such as hitting a brick wall.  A delightful read.

Welcome Home  Christina Booth (Ford Street) Tasmanian author

A story about a boy and a whale, and about hope. A simple yet powerful text with stunning watercolour illustrations. Inspired by the birth of a whale in the Derwent River in 2010.

Nella Pickup

Monday 18 November 2013

Value adding enjoyment to reading

I recently completed the UTas reading groups survey which made me think about what it was, other than the book itself, that created that feeling of enjoyment when I read.

Sharing books with babies involves lots of physical contact with cuddles, activities like pointing and touching, and conversation about the pictures.  All this is mutually enjoyable for the small person and the reader.  At the monthly Reading in the Market Place at Prospect, I find myself sitting on a hard floor surrounded by a handful of little people.  Watching their faces as they hear the story and see the pictures is amazing.  How seriously they take the story, how solemnly they concentrate and then giggle or laugh at the pictures.  How eager they are to answer or ask questions or add information about what they see and hear. However there is one little girl who regularly attends these sessions but she has never shown any facial expression or volunteered responses.  But last time when finally it was just her and me on the mat she finally pointed to a picture, named a few objects and gave a smile.  I feel sure that she enjoys the experience and I know I certainly do.

As we become independent readers, a reading guide no longer necessary, how do we compensate for that interactive element so important to baby readers?   There are several ways perhaps.

Where and when we read becomes important.  The reader finds a comfortable place to ‘curl up with a good book’;  in a bean bag, on a lounge in the sun in summer, in front of a roaring fire in winter, snuggled in bed after a day of work or school.  Whatever the physical situation, the environment enhances the enjoyment of the intellectual activity of reading.

As independent readers at school, the system sometimes creates quite the opposite effect.  There are different types of group reading in schools.  At primary level teachers regularly read stories to the whole class allowing the children to find a comfortable position on the mat, lying on the floor with a cushion, head down on the desk.... The situation created is similar to that of reading to young children and many primary children really love to be read to. The secret here is to find a book that will appeal to a group of twenty five or more individuals.  Not easy but many primary teachers manage to preserve that feeling of added enjoyment by creating a comfortable physical environment.

At secondary level the opportunity to create that convivial atmosphere is more difficult. For a start sitting at a desk or table is a far cry from the comfortable reading environments a reader usually chooses at home and asking teenagers to ‘sit on the mat’ would be a disaster.  And who hasn’t experienced reading a book around the classroom, each student reading a few paragraphs in turn?  For the fast reader this is excruciating, for the hesitant reader, reading aloud is torture, for the one that reads ahead, like me, how embarrassing when your turn comes and you have lost the place!  But how else can a teacher be sure that every student reads the book?  One could question the validity of having set texts that everyone has to read but that is still the way the curriculum is designed in secondary and senior secondary schools.  So for many students the reading in the English curriculum becomes a turn off rather than an encouragement or a value added experience.  Some enterprising teachers have overcome these problems but some old habits die hard and some can’t be avoided.

So after school, how do mature readers seek to wring all that is possible from their reading?  Well perhaps some of the really dedicated readers join book groups.  Picture a convivial group sitting round a coffee table in comfortable chairs sipping coffee or perhaps a wine.  What better environment than that for adding to your reading experience. The opportunity to not only read a book, but then discuss it with fellow readers, is a fulfilling experience akin to watching the faces on those small children at the market place or cuddling your grandchild on your lap while reading a beautiful picture book.  When readers don’t agree about a book, the different perspectives that members bring to the discussion helps to broaden one’s appreciation and understanding of the book.  I have come to many a discussions not liking a book and left with a much more positive attitude and appreciation.  When readers do agree, the enjoyment of sharing relished events, characters, or insights makes the reading more valuable and agreement reinforces the validity of one’s own ideas and opinions. 

If adult readers gain significantly from discussion of books would younger readers find the same post- reading satisfaction?  Would informal book groups in schools at all levels provide added value for those students who love reading?  Would just reading the book, enjoying the contents and sharing the thoughts stimulated, without the onus of doing work on the book, encourage more young people to enjoy and voluntarily partake in reading?  I’d love to hear from young readers and teachers about this.

Carol Fuller

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Lian Tanner's new book

‘The day was so clear that she could see for miles.  There was pack ice everywhere, huge flat slabs of it that the Oyster swept aside with ease.  An albatross hung on the air, its wingspan twice as wide as Petrel’s height, and the wind fiddles sang in time with its swooping and rising.  In the distance a cloud of seabirds was gathering.  The beauty of it all snatched at Petrel’s heart and made her more determined than ever that neither she nor Fin would die today.’ (p. 199, Ice Breaker)

Lian Tanner
Lian Tanner’s new work, The Hidden Series, was initiated recently with the launch of the first in the series, Ice Breaker.  Anyone who had attended the launches of the books in her previous series for young readers, The Keepers, would have been expecting an entertaining hour or so of theatre – and we weren’t disappointed!

The stage is set
The venue this time was the Art Space in Salamanca, and Lian’s imaginative decoration of the space, in my opinion, outdid her earlier work in preparing for an event that would fire the imaginations of her young audience.  Many of these youngsters were dressed to fit the theme, and the d├ęcor echoed this.

MC and Reviewers discuss their responses 
Lian works very closely with groups of children in producing her material; this year it was Mt Nelson Primary School students who provided reviews of the book to be launched.  This close contact of author and audience is not only beneficial to Lian and her writing; it must be valuable indeed to the staff and students of the schools with which she works, and I congratulate her on her ability to form these links with local schools.

Petrel and Bratlings 
Members of a local group provided a short but lively dramatization of an early scene in the novel, where the Bratlings pursue and terrorise Petrel, the Nothing Girl.  Anyone who had not yet read the book was itching to get started, by this time!

All of us, on entry, were provided with a numbered ticket – mine indicated that I was an Officer and therefore belonged to Braid territory.  I might have been a Cook or an Engineer, of course, if I’d had a different ticket.  But my ticket, I was very happy to find, provided me with the second luck prize! But my pleasure soon faded when I found that the first prize winner and I were to be tied to the mast by an intimidating Engineer  –  “I’m too old for this!” I thought. ( I’m certainly pleased that no photos of my comeuppance have surfaced as yet!) 

The setting of the novel is grim, with two children who have grown up with hardly any experience of loving and supportive human interaction struggling to form an attachment and find a future for each other and their environment.  But the end is more optimistic, though the sequels no doubt will provide difficulties to be overcome.

Congratulations, Lian!


Saturday 2 November 2013

Remembering, not Celebrating

I cheered the day my son failed his Air Force medical.  So what if his engineering degree would have been fee-free? He would have been sent to fight and possibly die in a futile war.  I preferred him ill than dead.   

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire (Electric Monkey), a story about a young ATA pilot in World War 11.  For me, Wein’s Code Name Verity ranks with Markus Zusak’s Book Thief as one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.

With Remembrance Day looming, I thought readers might be interested in some books that refute the propaganda that war is glorious and honourable.  

In Kerry Greenwood’s Evan’s Gallipoli (Allen & Unwin) a 14 year old faces many dangers (and the ineptitude of the Allied military leaders) after following a mentally ill father behind enemy lines. On the journey to freedom, Evan finds ransacked villages, displaced people and learns that places such as Thrace, Bulgaria and Greece suffer because of the war. The Turks (and the reader) struggle to understand why Australians invaded their home to fight a German enemy.
Davide Cali and Serge Bloch’s The Enemy (Wilkins Farago) and Joy Cowley’s The Duck in the Gun (Rigby) are anti-war picture books with a simple yet powerful message.

In Flanders Field by Norman Jorgensen and Tasmanian based illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever (Simply Read Books) (sadly out of print), shows us a small act of humanity contrasting with the carnage and devastation of war.

Billy Mack’s War by James Roy (UQP) tells the trauma of a returned soldier, a victim of the Burma Railway. 

Suzanne Collins’ (of Hunger Games fame) Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front (Scholastic) is based on her own struggles as a young child when her father was fighting in Vietnam.

Of course, these books and many others such as Morris Gleitzman’s Once, Then, Now and After quartet (Penguin) and Ruta Sepetys’ Betweeen Shades of Gray show there is love and hope in the midst of despair. Maybe if our children and their children read books like these, we might be less likely to start another war.

Nella Pickup