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

Sunday 30 November 2014

The Power of Publication

I’ve heard adults talking about how gratifying it is to have their work published, so imagine how powerfully gratifying and motivating it is for a student. This week’s blogpost gives a voice to a student, Charlotte Walker, who describes her experience writing a poem and how it felt to have it published.  Helen Rothwell

Charlotte Walker, published poet.
Charlotte Walker, is a sixteen year old, Year 10 student at Glenora District School. She wrote a wonderful poem, in response to a class writing task, that her teacher suggested be entered into the 2014 Write As Rain competition for students’ short stories and poetry. While Charlotte was not a finalist, she did have the thrill of being the only entrant from her school and having her poem published in the 2014 Write As Rain book.
Competition details can be found on the Write4Fun website.

Charlotte, what was the task you were set to undertake?
My class were asked to write a ‘dark’ poem on a gothic theme. We brainstormed vocabulary and then I expanded it with my key ideas. I thought group brainstorming would be a boring, babyish activity, but it was a useful process I could apply to my writing.

What challenges did you face when writing your poem?
It was difficult to keep the ideas flowing and know if I was editing the poem properly, so the meaning wasn’t lost. I was also worried when I experienced blanks in my imagination.
I was motivated to write the poem because I wanted to challenge myself and prove that I could do it. I realised that writing a poem I’m happy with takes more than just writing in class, so I kept thinking about the poem long afterwards. I spent a lot of time at home, where it was quiet, just thinking.
I thought my vocabulary skills were good but not extraordinary. I chose words that really connected to me and meant a lot. I ready my peers’ poems and was given helpful feedback from my teacher.

How long did it take you to draft and edit the poem?
It took four weeks to write and edit, during class time and at home. The poem took longer to write than a narrative because I had to think so intensely about every word I used. In total it took eight drafts and five edits.

Did you know much about poetry before you wrote your poem?
I occasionally read war poetry in class and we had deconstructed poems to discuss their structure, but it was not the usual genre I write in. I knew that you express your feelings deeply in a poem and it is a more concentrated form of writing.

How do you feel about having your poem published in Write As Rain?
It has made a big difference to my confidence and made me more open and calm in class. Before I had my poem published, I was too shy to put myself forward. My classmates were really shocked because they didn’t think I had it in me to write something of that quality. Now, students come to me in class to read their writing and give them my impressions of their work.
Since I had my poem published, I find that I’m more confident writing at school and I spend about three hours a week, at home, writing in my own time. Being published has definitely helped my other school work, for example, my science procedural writing. I feel my phrasing has improved too.

Do you think there is a connection between your reading and writing?
I read a lot and feel I am a good reader. I like mystery books and books with dark themes. I also enjoy spending time in our school library, where we have a good selection of books. If I didn’t read as much as I do, I don’t think I’d have the vocabulary I needed to write my poem.

Trees standing tall
Cold wind blowing
The flowers are lifeless, drained
The shadows recede
Sun breaks through desiccated limbs
Dear sister, eternally still
Dewy grass comes to life where you lie.

Cold wind brushes her rosy cheeks
Lush green dress like the grass that grows
Brown hair
Twists, twines
Flows like a river
Down her face.

Dark shadow in the distance
Dusty clothing
Tall, thin
Seeking, silent
Chalk white skin
Hair like the thorns that cover the land.

As the moon rises
From day to night
My lover standing in the moonlight
Tonight is the night
We will become one.

As I turn
Rosy cheeks turn to chalk
Green dress turns black like burnt grass
Fangs appear
Relying on the one who created me
For my source of food.

                                                                 Charlotte Walker

Saturday 22 November 2014

Christmas Cheer

With Christmas moments away I thought I would share with you some of my favourite seasonal stories for children of all ages. Surprisingly, although not that old, some do appear to be out of print or hard to find. A search of your local library or school library hopefully may unearth some of these treasures.

On angel wings by Michael Morpurgo
The special, secret flight of a shepherd boy, guided by the Angel Gabriel, to the nativity scene. 

The fourth king: the story of the other wise man by Ted Sieger
The tale of the fourth king and his journey, with his camel Chamberlin, towards the star heralding the birth of the King   of Kings. Based on an animation of the same title.

Applesauce and the Christmas miracle
by Glenda 
Millard and Stephen Michael King
An Australian setting for a local miracle in the peak of the bushfire season as observed through the eyes of Applesauce, a pig.

Two books by Kevin Whitlark that are a bit of fun for children and pet lovers are twists on the traditional 12 days of Christmas: Twelve dogs of Christmas and Twelve cats of Christmas.

Enjoy the lead up to festive season, and remember the gift of books for young and old.

Tricia Scott

Sunday 16 November 2014

Who Needs to Travel?

I have recently finished studies in travel writing and my first goal is to write about the fantastic attractions we have here in Tasmania for young people. And I wondered if there were any travel guides just for kids - well there are.

Lonely Planet who, as you would know, recently voted Tasmania as one of the 10 best places to visit in the world, has a publication called The Travel Book. It is part of their ‘Not for Parents' series ‘for budding travel lovers 8 and up.’ And instead of recommendations about the best hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, this book tells kids where they can see Platform 9 3/4 in real life; why New York Taxis are painted yellow and even whether the ancient Romans wore underpants. 101 Cities for Kids is another terrific book, full of activities and sights for kids in family friendly cities around the world.

So what about Australian children’s books that feature adventures in unique and interesting locations around the world?

In Australia we have Alison Lester’s Are We There Yet?; Roland Harvey’s To the Top End: Our Trip Across Australia and Katrina Nannestad's Red Dirt Diary. There are of course many, many more.

Overseas we have the wonderful Mr Chicken books by Leigh Hobbs set in Paris and London; Ruth Starke's Captain Congo series set in Abyssinia/Ethiopia, India and Canada; Geoffrey McSkimming's Cairo Jim series set in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Pompeii and Cambodia (to name a few); Justin D'Ath's Extreme Adventures series set in India, Borneo and North America (and other places) and Richard Newsome's Billionaire series set in Britain, India, France, Rome, Greece and the USA.

Who needs to travel, to experience exotic locations? Just pick up a children's book and immerse yourself in exciting cultures and breathtaking scenery around the world. Better still, read it with a child!

Penny Garnsworthy

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Book an Adventure

CBCA(Tas.) Inc. is thrilled to support the wonderful

Book an Adventure : Bruny Island Children’s Literature Festival

planned for 15 – 18 January 2015 at Adventure Bay (where else!) on Bruny Island.

Planning is proceeding most successfully with wonderful children’s literature creators such as Norman Jorgensen (The last Viking), James Foley (In the lion), Wendy Orr (Nim’s Island), Lian Tanner (The Hidden), Peter Gouldthorpe (Ice, wind, rock : Douglas Mawson in the Antarctic), and Diane Wolfer (Light Horse Boy) already signed up to be part of the Festival

Want to know more?  Visit the website www.bookanadventure.org.au to discover all the latest news on the program, and subscribe to the Festival newsletter at http://eepurl.com/7z7Z9 .

 The Festival will be launched at the Kingston Beach Digital Hub at 11 am on 2 December this year, after which bookings for the program will be available to be made on the website.  Your invitation to this launch is above.

It’s not just CBCA (Tas) Inc. which is supporting this Festival either!  Carmen Bateson, cheese maker at the Bruny Island Cheese Company, is leading a Cheese Making Workshop from 1 pm to 5 pm on Sunday 23 November at the Adventure Bay Hall.  There are still a few tickets left (go to the Book an Adventure website to make a booking) and profits from this opportunity to expand your culinary skills go to the Festival.

Jessie Mahjouri

Sunday 9 November 2014

Richard Flanagan has won the Man Booker Prize. But What Does that Mean for Tasmanian Writing?

In beginning this blog post, I hope that you will forgive me yet another entry that discusses children’s literature only circuitously. It is, I hope, another digression that is not wholly out of place, and I know that some excellent recommendations from our experts to get your Christmas shopping in full swing are no doubt on their way! But there has been some excellent news in Tasmanian writing recently—news that I think has much broader significance than in the sphere of adult literature alone—and I think it is important and wise that we recognise and celebrate it.
Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan, with his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, has won the Man Booker Prize for 2014. The Booker is one of the world’s premier literary awards, and many would argue that it is the prize of most significance, surpassing even the Pulitzer in its scope and worth. For the adults among us, allow me to offer a sincere and glowing recommendation for Narrow Road. It’s not an easy read--in the sense that is harrowing and upsetting, rather than difficult to comprehend—but it is startling, beautiful, and easily Flanagan’s best work to date (this accolade alone in my mind should be praise enough to make it worth picking up). I have been surprised by the number of people I have come across who have told me that they are utterly delighted by Flanagan’s win, but haven’t yet read the book. My advice would be to take the Booker acknowledgment seriously. This is seriously special reading.

Now that we’ve discussed that, however, I’d like to think about what this means more broadly, by tying it in with my recent experience assisting students with their English Writing folios at a pre-tertiary level. Firstly, the good news: there are still great writers in our schools, producing work that can make you laugh and cry, and leaves you in no doubt that the future will produce more wonderful stories. There is a problem I continue to notice in schools, though, and which I expanded upon in a recent post on my own blog at
http://www.lyndonriggall.com, called “The United States of Story.” That problem is this: through media saturation, students have come to believe that the realm of narrative—the place where stories take place, always—is America. Hordes of students who have never been there can be caught placing even the most generic school scene in the middle of New York rather than in the schools they have actually grown up in.
The CBCA in its role as champions of locally produced children’s literature, has fought hard for years against the notion that good stories come from and represent a place that is not, and cannot be, Australia. It is part of what makes writers like Flanagan so unique and special; their stories capture the spirit of places where they live—wild landscapes that are not literary clich├ęs. But still, we continue having to fight the Hollywood-ising of stories. It’s not a new problem, and it’s not going to go away in a hurry while these are the narratives that spew out of our televisions and cinema screens on a daily basis.

There is an exciting edge to all of this, however, and that is this: Richard Flanagan winning the Man Booker prize proves that Tasmanian literature has worldwide significance. Books like The Narrow Road to the Deep North inform our culture at a state and national level, certainly, but it is when they are recognised on the world stage like this that we should be really excited. Our students and our writers need to ditch sanitised and empty depictions of the United States—not because stories set in America cannot be valuable or beautiful, as they certainly can and are—but because we need Tasmanian stories.

When students look at me skeptically as I try to explain this to them, wondering why on earth anyone outside of here would have any interest in our tiny little island, I will tell them about a little boy from Longford, and how he made it big, telling Tasmanian stories to the world.
Lyndon Riggall

Monday 3 November 2014

Expect the unexpected: Lian Tanner delivers again…

Before we arrived at the Founders’ Room, Salamanca Place, Hobart this morning for Lian Tanner’s launch of Sunker's Deep, the second book in her Hidden series, we had been warned to expect the unexpected and we were not disappointed!

But what else would you expect from an internationally acclaimed children's author who has also been a playwright, teacher, professional actor, freelance journalist, editor, and tourist bus driver?

Ably assisted by marvellous MC Mel King, puppeteer and actor, the audience was led though games and story teasers that were perfectly pitched to engage and enchant Lian’s besotted fans, little and big!  We were also treated to wonderful reviews by some of Lian’s most impartial critics, including Gus and Max, who rated Sunker’s Deep 10/10! 

And as with the 2013 launch of the first novel in the series, Icebreaker, again the lucky door prize proved to be very less than lucky (for details of last year’s launch http://liantanner.com.au/the-hobart-launch-of-ice-breaker).  But luckily our plucky 2014 prizewinner was eventually returned safely to the bosom of her family, despite being forced to walk the plank by the despicable Chief Engineer Albie.

And who would have thought that this latest title in Hidden series, aimed at middle- and upper-primary readers who love adventure, suspense and strange worlds, was inspired by Lian’s visit to The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where she fell in love with a German submarine known as U-505.  She became besotted with the idea of writing a story set in a submarine after joining a tour which enabled her to experience life aboard this sub in the days leading up to its capture, when it was prowling off the coast of West Africa on a hunt for American and Allied ships, terrorising the Atlantic Ocean as part of a massive U-boat campaign that almost altered the outcome of World War II.

But enough of the background chat!  I’ve got a shiny new copy of Sunker’s Deep waiting to be read… Can the Sunkers and the Ice Breakers put aside their differences and work together? Or will the Devouts finally catch up with them all?

When I’m finished will I agree with Gus and Max’s 10/10?   If you’ve read it, tell me your score and which Lian Tanner book is your favourite.

Jessie Mahjouri