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

Saturday 21 February 2015

Bruny Island - A Unique Festival for the Children’s Literature Community

How do I sum up the Bruny Island Festival of Children’s Literature? Fabulous, fantastic, frantic and that’s just my f (un) -words. It was so much more on so many levels. Crossing from the mainland by ferry to Bruny Island was a stunning start. Lisa O’Riley Associate Publisher for Penguin and I followed the welcoming Marion Stoneman, events manager for the Tasmanian Writers Centre. We climbed the steep steps at the isthmus, the narrow strip between North and South Bruny. The views of ocean, steep cliffs and bush were breathtaking.

Bruny Island is a special place with the national park, rainforests, wildlife, farmland, cottage industries with berries and chocolates and cheese, pristine bays with sandy beaches and the extraordinary albino wallabies.  The authors and illustrators were star-struck when they witnessed an albino joey hopping out of his brown-grey mother’s pouch.

The Festival Convenor and award winning Tasmanian children’s author Anne Morgan had a grand vision. She would bring many of Australia’s major children’s authors and illustrators from Tasmania and all over the country to Bruny Island.  With the great support of CBCA Tasmania’s Jessie Mahjouri, Anne and Jessie embarked on the two year logistical nightmare of the first Bruny Island Festival of Children’s Literature. The theme of inspiring creativity for young people; author and illustrator presentations; professional development of Tasmanian authors and illustrators; engagement with community; and celebration of story underpinned the ethos of this Festival.

The amazing Viking duo of author Norman Jorgenson and author-illustrator James Foley of ‘The Last Viking’ fame, were flown from Western Australia to stamp this festival with Viking horns and all things Viking.  James and Norman led kids making Viking swords and helmets and having the best time ever. The building of the Viking ship was a community experience with local artisans building the boat, James Foley creating the Viking design for the head mast and kids and families charging along the beach for the great launch.  However the piece do la resistance had to be the huge metal fire-breathing dragon made by a local craftsman for the Festival.

The festival was so diverse. There was a film festival with screenings of Wendy Orr’s Nim’s Island and Return to Nim’s Island with an enlightening post film talk and Q & A by Wendy.  A performance of Anne Morgan’s play Captain Clawbeak and the Curse of the White Spot acted by locals parents and children who had the audience laughing and cheering.  An art exhibition launched by award winning Tasmanian author-illustrator Christina Booth at Lumeah Art Gallery with a lunch by the Country Women’s Association. How wonderfully Australian. A Literary dinner with authors Norman Jorgenson and Susanne Gervay inspiring an enthusiastically packed restaurant despite the dramatic storm that nearly blew off the roof. The storm also blew down the Festival marquees at Adventure Bay.

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) day in the quaint wooden Anglican Church in Adventure Bay was an extraordinary professional day,  Lisa Riley giving a publisher market report on the children’s publishing industry. The star line up of authors included award winning WA authors Norman Jorgenson, Dianne Wolfer; WA author-illustrator James Foley; award winning Tasmanian illustrators Christina Booth and Gay McKinnon; best-selling Tasmanian authors  Liam Tanner and Sally Odgers; Queensland’s wonderful author,  Sheryl Gwyther, NSW author Jodie Wells-Slowgrove, Victoria’s award winning author Wendy Orr, convened by NSW author Susanne Gervay.  Dianne Wolfer’s video about her acclaimed ‘Light Horse Boy’ was moving. However the stellar moment had to be when the acclaimed Tasmanian author Julie Hunt arrived with zucchinis. She grows them big on her farm. Very, very big. It led to quite a few jokes as everyone took them. Thankyou Julie.

Writers were privileged to have manuscript critiques from Lisa Riley who gave invaluable and detailed advice. 

There were so many special experiences. Breakfast at the Berry Farm was a gourmet indulgence of fresh berries and pancakes. The shared houses with authors and illustrators bonding and the fire blazing. The weather was chaotic with cold nights, rain, sun, winds. Brave illustrator Gay McKinnon went for a swim in the freezing cold bay. She was determined to do it as she’s a Tasmanian after all. No one else did. The delicious food made by the Men’s Shed who cooked up a storm in the hall for the festival go-ers.  The excitement of the kids with autographed books they bought from the author and illustrator stalls. The wonderful Hobart Bookshop who brought a ton of books to Bruny Island for the Festival. Loved the conversation with bookshop owner Janet Grecian about children’s books.

The volunteers did so much from driving the presenters everywhere from Hobart airport to the events in Bruny, setting up and hosting workshops and sorting the many issues that are part and parcel of such a complex 4 day festival. They were very tired by the end of the festival. Anne Morgan and Jesse Mahjouri were extraordinary.

Anne Morgan’s vision received support from Chris Gallagher CEO and The Tasmanian Writers Centre, Cultural Copyright Agency, SCBWI, CBCA, Events Tasmania, Kingsborough and others, making this festival accessible to children, families, writers, illustrators and community in regional Tasmania.
Thankyou for the privilege of being part of this celebration of the joy of story.
Susanne Gervay
Regional Advisor SCBWI Australia East & New Zealand

Saturday 14 February 2015

Handy reference guide for ANZAC Day resources

This year, on ANZAC Day, we observe the anniversary of a military event that has had a profound effect on Australian culture; the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. A timely reflection in “lest we forget”.

Mud and blood and tears is an annotated list of children’s books about war and conflict. It was compiled by Margaret Hamilton AM, Julie Long OAM and Rosemary Thomas to commemorate last year’s 100th anniversary of the commencement of World War I. The authors have collated and edited 176 book summaries to create a quick and easy-to-use reference guide. Many of the books have animal themes, to make a dark subject matter more palatable to students and enhance the connections they make to the material. There are books that will appeal to students from Kindergarten to Year 10: picture books, poetry, narratives and historical recounts. The book titles are listed by author, there are indices for titles and illustrators and each entry provides information on whether it is suited to older or younger readers, is non-fiction or a picture book.

I will be planning a history unit, for my upper primary class, on Gallipoli. To help me find engaging material, I will begin and end my search with this handy reference guide. The book is mainly aimed at educators (both at school and at home), librarians and collectors of children’s war literature. In the classroom, choosing the most relevant history materials assists students with their historical skills, knowledge and understanding, such as: the causes and effects of change, experiences of people in the past, comparing information from a range of resources and the effects of a key event on Australian society.

Why would this 48 page, soft-covered publication be a handy addition to your bookshelf? Well, if you’re an educator, then you will be impressed by the wide range of books that cater for all school grades and assist the delivery of History and Civics & Citizenship units with reading suggestions for projects or your class library. Librarians will find it useful to assist them to direct staff, students and historians to specific books and highlight gaps in their collections for future purchases for their library lists. Mud and blood and tears is also a great read for anyone who loves history. I read the ‘blurbs’ and found myself thinking: “I didn’t know that”. A copy of Mud and blood and tears can be purchased through the CBCA Tas website by completing this order form.
Happy reading. I’m off to buy The legend of the Light Horse; (noted on page 25) by Ian Jones. I can’t wait to see the maps and artwork!

Helen Rothwell

Sunday 8 February 2015

New Year’s 'Reading Resolution' – Have you kept yours?

This year I didn’t make any reading resolutions (other than one imposed upon me, to “weed” our home library). I did think of trying the Book Riot challenge until I decided what I was doing was fitting what I was reading to the challenge not choosing books to read because of it.

The best of this year’s reads so far:

Laurinda Alice Pung (reading copy supplied by Black Inc)
Shortlisted for the INDIE Book Awards 2015
Lucy is an inaugural scholarship girl at a prestigious private school. This is a story about bullies who are popular yet universally disliked, teachers who care more about achievement than about their students; people from impoverished suburbs who have more dignity than those who judge them - an exceptional story about a first generation immigrant.

Nona and me Clare Atkins (reading copy supplied by Black Inc)
Rosie and Nona had been friends/sisters as young children. Now it’s year 10 and they meet again. A remarkable debut about family, kinship, country, racism and identity.

All the bright places Jennifer Niven (reading copy supplied by Penguin)
I don't like the many comparisons to Fault in our stars or Eleanor & Park though I believe many fans will "enjoy" this book about suicide and mental illness told from the points of view of the main characters. Finch, who refuses to accept “labels”, is suffering from bipolar disorder and living in a dysfunctional family; Violet, the former perfect girl, is a grieving and depressed survivor of an accident that killed her beloved sister. Heartbreakingly realistic.

Egg and spoon Geoffrey Maguire (reading copy supplied by Walker Books)
A fantasy about an impoverished peasant girl and a rich girl as their lives collide with Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs. At times slow (like Mother Russia) but delightfully funny and insightful.

The jewel Amy Ewing (reading copy supplied by Walker Books)
At age twelve, Violet was taken to a holding facility to learn how to control her augury abilities and to be groomed to be sold at auction as a surrogate (a necessary commodity) for the rich women of The Lone City. This first in a series about power, political intrigue and survival has more layers than the pretty cover reveals.

The scandalous sisterhood of Prickwillow, Julie Berry, Piccadilly Press
A Victorian farce in the true sense of the word. Murder, mystery, school girls and romance - action packed humour.

How are your 2015 Reading Resolutions?
Nella Pickup


Sunday 1 February 2015

In Praise of Nonsense

Ten years ago (it shocks me that it was really that long!) Telstra had a very clever little advertisement that they used to use to plug their burgeoning broadband service. The ad featured a little boy in the back of the car completing his homework.

“Dad?” he asked his father. “Why did they build the Great Wall of China?”
The father at the wheel, visibly panicking, refuses to appear ignorant in front of his son.
“Oh. That was during the time of...errr… Emperor Nasi Goreng, and it was to keep the rabbits out.”

The boy happily records the answer in his book, and we are treated to a close up shot of him in front of the classroom, ready to give his report on China. He is, we realise, about to make an utter fool of himself. The message of the commercial is simple: take the pressure off yourself and get the internet, because the internet has the right answers. Making things up is bad.

I for one lament this obsession with empirical facts. When I was in high school I memorised Lewis Carroll’s fabulous poem, “Jabberwocky,” and it is one of the few things I can still remember with great clarity. Like Alice, I knew roughly what the poem was about, though not specifically what time “brillig” was, or what it meant to “gimble,” or even what a “jabberwocky” might look like (though plenty of films have come along and tried to fill my mind with their own versions of it now). Could you even write a book like Alice in Wonderland now and get it published? Would anyone even think to? Writers from Seuss to Shakespeare have gleefully made up words with abandon, yet I’ve been prone to argue over whether something is a “real” word before I accept it’s usage. And what is a “real” word, anyway? It seems to me that sometimes nonsense can be better than believability, because nonsense opens up our imagination. It leaves blank spaces for our minds to feel with beautiful images. In nonsense, we can dream.

I have had wonderful eccentric teachers who have convinced their students that they are the grandchild of Tutankhamun discoverer Howard Carter, or a witch who would love to take her young friends for a ride on her broomstick, if only they would wake when she visits them in the night! (They are always so disappointed.) Most of us have grown up with grandparents who enthralled us with stories that stretched our disbelief to its very limits. But didn’t we love them just the same? Didn’t we love silliness? Didn’t we want to believe, even if we knew in our hearts that it couldn’t be true?

So call this, if you will, in praise of nonsense. A call to nonsense. Let us make up words and tell far-fetched stories. Let us tell of the trees that spoke to us and told us their secrets, and the quenzifinas and the tantalopians that can sometimes be spotted racing like shooting stars in the shadows of the moon. Let us - just for the hell of it - imagine what might have happened if an emperor called Nasi Goreng built an enormous fence in China to keep the rabbits out.

In the modern world, the truth is easier to find than ever. Just for a moment, let’s embrace the wonder of a well told lie.

Lyndon Riggall