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

Saturday 28 November 2015

George - a review

For You, 
For When You Felt Different  

In Reading Time, May 2013, Alyssa Brugman, referring to Alex as well, (2013), wrote: “Why aren’t there more YA books about transgendered, cross-dressing or intersex teens?  I don’t know the answer so I wrote one.”  Since then, there have been many books, some so completely dominated by the theme that the story is left behind. And now there is George by Alex Gino (Scholastic), a wonderful, sensitive, and honest story for younger readers.   

George is a girl who - biologically - was born as a boy.  When the school is looking for players to take part in a dramatisation of Charlotte’s Web,George wants to be Charlotte.  Her best friend Kelly and Scott, George’s gross, funny and accepting brother, help George be the person she wants to be. The novel deals with bullying and the school system and how individual teachers and the system respond to challenging situations. This may be confronting for some schools.  

Why is the story so powerful? The third person narration introduces George in female pronouns; this is critical to the way we read the book. George is not a boy wanting to be a girl, but a girl in a world where no one else can see it. It's an essential distinction. The story transcends theme informing our understanding of how isolated the Georges of the world must feel while simultaneously telling other Georges that they are not alone and that there is support. 

This is a heart-warming and engaging book should be in every library and school – for children to see themselves and for readers (young and old) to understand what it is like to feel different.

Nella Pickup
CBCA Tasmania committee member and avid reader.

Editor’s note: Read and watch an interview with Alex in theguardian. 

Sunday 22 November 2015

Children's Books and Adult Learning

How can collecting cards support kids reading and love of books? Find out in Penny's post as she intertwines disparate aspects of a personal passion - prehistoric times!

I write freelance educational articles for a number of magazines on the mainland. One of the articles for which I am commissioned in 2016 is for an issue about Prehistoric Times. I pitched an article about Ice Age Mammals as I had enjoyed a fascinating 3D movie at the Smithsonian in Washington DC earlier this year about this very topic.

What I didn't realise is that when this particular issue comes out in 2016, the fifth instalment of the Ice Age movies is also released. I had never seen the movies so I borrowed them from a friend and watched the first four. I admit I'm now a huge fan and coincidentally two of the animals I chose to pitch about are the mammoth and sabre-tooth tiger!

But what has this to do with children's books? Well, some weeks ago one of our major supermarket chains began yet another card collection campaign, this time called Ancient Animals. As I love anything ancient, I began to collect the cards each time I shopped at the supermarket until eventually I had a full set.

Of course then I had to buy the Activity and Collector's Album in which to put the cards. And now I have the most wonderful resource - a book full of information that is both educational and entertaining. And I even have cards for the Smilodon (the largest of the sabre-tooth cats) and the Woolly Mammoth.

It is encouraging to see that one of our largest retailers is promoting education for kids - and in book form - not an app or a website in sight!
And its exciting for someone like me to relive the joy of card collecting and learn something along the way.  

Penny Garnsworthy
Freelance Writer and Editor, Tas e-News

Saturday 14 November 2015

A Family of Authors and Illustrators

Peter Gouldthorpe – Tasmanian author and illustrator is a guest writer on our blog this week and shares with us his writing experiences with his daughter, Lucy.

2015 has seen two of my books published and they could not be more different if I had contrived them to be. One is fiction, the other is non-fiction; one is for the very young and/or early readers, the other is for older readers; one required enormous amounts of research and re-writing, the other came naturally; one has an incredible load of visuals and design whilst the other could hardly be simpler; one is intended to be warm and gentle while the other has its heroine killing Nazi soldiers with her bare hands. They are emblematic of my career, nothing if not diverse.

The White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake, was released in August and this month, Our Dog Knows Words, was unleashed and, strangely, I am not the illustrator. Instead it is my daughter Lucy who provides the pictures. The release of ‘Our Dog’ has a wonderful circularity for me because on the first day my wife Jennie went off to work, leaving a still breast-feeding Lucy and I home alone (no car, no phone and in the countryside), I asked her: “What will we do?” Her calm answer was to read books. It was during that time, as Lucy and I bonded over books, that I came to an understanding of the role they play in a child’s development and that perhaps as an artist maybe I could even make them. Jonah and the Manly Ferry was begun sometime after and remained my only fiction title as author until ‘Our Dog’, thirty-two years later.

Lucy now works in the film and television industry and it was while she was back home on a working holiday that she planted the seed for ‘Our Dog’. We were walking Otto off-lead when a passer-by commented on his exemplary behaviour and asked how we got him to be so responsive and I replied: “That’s because he knows words.”

Lucy declared on the spot that she would write a book about it, so we had the title long before the story! But she didn’t write it. About a year later, I did. Fortuitously, Suzanne O’Sullivan at Hachette rang to ask what I was going to do after I’d finished my book on Mawson. I sent her the manuscript fully expecting rejection but she thought it had legs. I explained that whilst I could illustrate the story, it was my daughter who had provided the inspiration and that she had expressed a strong desire to illustrate it. Suzanne went to Lucy’s illustrated blog, ‘The Earwig’ and came back enthusiastic. And now ‘Our Dog’ has been born. I think we have created the perfect little book for those parents and children who are just beginning their own relationship with books.

Footnote: Lucy is already working with Hachette on her next book. 

Sunday 8 November 2015

The Children’s Book Council of Tasmania - Being Involved

Helen Rothwell talks about her experience on the branch executive over the past year.

A year ago, I was looking at options to become more involved in children’s literature. I knew about the work of the Children’s Book Council of Tasmania because I’d been involved in the Book Week activities through my school and taken a keen interest in the talks by the Book Awards judge. I had also entered my school in the primary division of the southern Readers’ Cup competition for two years in a row.

I had not considered becoming a member of the Tasmanian branch executive or committee as I had always imagined that such positions would be very time consuming or akin to having a second job. Already having a full time teaching position, I was unable to invest large amounts of time on a committee or executive as teaching, well for me, requires extra work after hours.

After discussing my concerns with the lovely Patsy Jones, the Treasurer, it seemed as though the time demands would not be as onerous as I had imagined, and subsequently I was nominated and voted into the position of vice-president for 2015.

Well it has been a fantastic year. I have been warmly welcomed into the branch and felt supported every step of the way. I have put the time into the position that I could afford to and have never felt pressure when I have been unable to attend an event due to other commitments. Basically, I have been able to give to the branch in a way that was sustainable for my lifestyle and enjoyed the benefit of feeling I am feeding positive energy into supporting children’s literature.

This year has been a huge year for the branch as we have hosted a number of events to celebrate the life and writings of Nan Chauncy in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the CBCA as a national organisation. I’ve met so many new people who all have the same goal of coordinating and enjoying activities that endorse and promote books for children and young adults.
My area of particular interest has been the webpage and social media (in particular, Facebook). There really is not a set amount of work that the organisation needs to undertake in one particular year but rather the group decides how many events they would like to stage or support other organisations’ events.

I look back over the past year and compare my time as vice-president to other organisations I have been involved with over the years and found the most noticeable difference is that when I have been involved with other organisations, if I had an idea then people would nod their heads and then I would be left to do all of the work. At the CBCA Tasmanian branch, people gather to work with each other to make things happen. No one sits on the fence letting someone else work alone.

It is rare to be able to guarantee an experience another person can look forward to but I can attest to you having an enriching experience if you join with the amazing, dedicated and passionate people at the CBCA Tasmanian branch.

So, please consider nominating for one of the positions that will be vacated on Tuesday, 17th November; President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, Merchandise Manager, Newsletter Editor, Minutes Secretary, Website Liaison Officer or volunteer your services to the committee. The details of the AGM are on our website: www.cbcatas.org

Helen Rothwell is the outgoing Vice-President of the CBCA Tas branch and a grade 5/6 teacher in a government school.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Whatever Happened to The Read Quarterly?

This week I was really excited to receive an email from a friend directing me to a brand new project.  Launched on Kickstarter by champions of children’s literature Kate Manning and Sarah Odedina (who oversaw the publication of the Harry Potter series at Bloomsbury), it was a brand new quarterly magazine described as “a critical look at the culture of children’s literature, art and words, for an adult audience.”

The magazine sounded incredible. The first issue was coming out of the gate at full speed, with the initial instalment of a new story by Eoin Colfer called “Holy Mary,” and articles such as “The Loss of Innocence and its Impact on the Work of Beatrix Potter” by Eleanor Taylor, and “The Theme of Independence in Literature for Children Written in India” by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose. It looked beautiful, it sounded exactly like the sort of thing that I’m sure we would all adore, and it had a crossword.

It didn’t get off the ground.

The Read Quarterly made only a fraction of the money it hoped to receive to help produce its first 144 page issue in January 2016. That said, thankfully its creators haven’t given up.  As one door has closed, they have looked at the windows longingly and gone searching for a nice hard brick. The Read Quarterly website will share some of the articles they hoped to publish in the first issue, and build some momentum for a hopeful publication in the future. Drop in and see the quality and consider the possibilities.

I encourage you to keep your eyes on The Read Quarterly. To me, it sounds like a beautiful, absorbing and skilfully produced addition to the landscape of children’s literature globally. I want to live in a world where something like The Read Quarterly can succeed, because it will help us be better producers of children’s literature, better buyers, and better readers.

If you had not heard of it previously, then when The Read Quarterly comes back from the dead (and I firmly believe based on the calibre of the people involved that it is a matter of when, and not if, ) please support it. It is the sort of publication that could change the way that people perceive children’s literature, and the kinds of ways we talk about it and align it with the adult literary landscape. It is, I strongly believe, an inarguably good thing, and a good model of the sort of publication that might make waves here in Australia, too.  I only hope that next round we can see it get off the ground.

Lyndon Riggall, Author