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

Saturday 19 December 2015

A Christmas Journey

Many of us are fascinated by trains and travelling by train, especially those of us in Tasmania where we no longer have passenger trains. Adults dream of the iconic rail journeys of the world. Children are no exception though their wishes tend to be less exotic and there are many who just want to be a train driver.

So, after spending quite a lot of time over this past year using regular train services in England it seems a good idea to reflect on some wonderful picture books. I have limited myself to this genre though I could venture into titles for more advanced readers: think of the Harry Potter series and the Hogwarts Express, the Adventures of Paddington Bear which start from the iconic station after his arrival from darkest Peru, Murder on the Orient Express or On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells. And so many others.

Many of these titles will now be out of print, but fortunately not all. Here are some of my favourites and there’s no priority in this listing.
Whistle Up the Chimney by Craig Smith and Nan Hunt. Mrs Mack throws some pieces of wood from an old railway carriage onto her fire and she suddenly has an express train in her chimney. A great piece of fantasy.
Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg. Beautiful illustrations and simple storyline. A young boy joins the Polar Express on Christmas Eve on his way to the North Pole. There, as recipient of the first gift from Santa, he chooses one of the bells from the reindeer. This is the bell which rings “for all who truly believe”.

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen. This is the story of the train that travelled for more than 80 years taking supplies to the people along the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. At Christmas, Father Christmas was on board and everyone along the line anticipated the arrival of that special service.
The Little Engine that Could. Various editions. This has not lost any of its delight since its first publication one hundred years ago. The engine doesn’t think it can get up the hill but those around convince him that he can. The repeated phrase “I think I can” is great to encourage child-reader participation as well as teaching children the power of perseverance.
Oi! Get Off our Train by John Burningham. A young boy drives the train which various animals try to board, citing all the reasons that they are becoming endangered, while others try to reason why they should not be allowed. It’s a good introduction to animal conservation, aided by Burningham’s mixed media illustrations.
Peggy by Anna Walker. Peggy gets lost when she goes exploring in the city. When she suddenly becomes homesick she follows some bright sunflowers which lead her onto a train and after they disappear she turns to the pigeons to help find home. This book relies on illustrations rather than many words to tell the story.

Bob the Railway Dog by Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean. Based on the true story of a dog who travelled the trains in South Australia in the 1880s. Although he was adopted by one guard, he did enjoy train hopping, so that the whole railway system looked out for him. McLean’s illustrations capture the locations and especially Bob’s character.

And to finish: The only information book I am going to mention. The Train Book by Dorling Kindersley traces the history of trains from the earliest beginnings to the most modern bullet trains. Lots of pictures with as much information as the most avid enthusiast could want.

Please let us all know which books you would include in this list.

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

CBCA Tasmania Executive send all our readers our very best wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas and for a prosperous and productive 2016. We hope that you find some wonderful summertime reading under your tree.

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer

Patsy shares her newly found reading interest in The Lunar Chronicles series of YA scifi/fantasy. 

The topic of this blog today is partly the result of a comment from a friend, and partly the result of my September jaunt to Western Australia. Why?

Well, my friend and I like to talk about new books – for any audience – and she mentioned The Lunar Chronicles. And what has a trip to Perth to do with it? I was booked to return to Sydney on the Indian-Pacific train and really needed to take something to read which would fit into my tiny on-board case; this spurred me to familiarise myself with my mini-tablet and its capacity to download books. So I have the Chronicles on my tablet and have managed to read most of them in the last weeks.
There are actually five Chronicles so far: Cinder (published 2012), Scarlet, Cress. Fairest, and Winter. I have to admit I have yet to read Fairest – it didn’t seem right to read that before Winter was published, as it appears to be outside the main narrative of Cinder’s adventures.

The series is loosely based on some well-known fairy tales; Cinder of course is Cinderella, complete with Ugly Sisters; and Scarlet is Little Red Riding Hood (you’ll have to work out the others for yourselves). But its timeframe is futuristic, with six political entities on Earth (the Eastern Commonwealth, the African Union, the European Federation, the American Republic, the United Kingdom, and Australia together make up the Earthen Union) and one on Luna; with spaceships, cyborgs, shells, and androids (one of whom, Iko, is my favourite character in the Chronicles….).
Those of your secondary school students who enjoy a rollicking, adventure-studded romance would enjoy these stories; all the loose ends are tidied up by the end of the series in a very satisfying manner. I have just one question though – how do cyborgs actually go about their daily life processes?

The stories have been published in audiobooks, book, and e-book format, and are available from LINC Tasmania in various formats.

Patsy Jones
CBCA(Tas) treasurer, retired librarian, retired teacher

Editor's note: Fairest provides an entertaining prequel to the highly engaging Lunar Chronicles series. Marissa Meyer also maintains a great website for fans.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Book Trailers – A great way to add to your ‘to read’ list

This year I seem to have spent more time than usual exploring book trailers. Previously sought to promote books to students to whet their reading appetites, my focus in 2015 has been to source these for educators to support Book Week activities and to provide professional learning to educators on using book trailers in the classroom and skilling students to create their own as a personal response to their literature readings.

Just like movie trailers, a book trailer’s major aim is promotion – to provide a tease, inspire curiosity and introduce a new release so that the viewer wants to know more – to view the movie, or to read the book. Authors and publishers are employing trailers with increasing regularity to promote new books. See Random House’s latest promo for the Ranger’s Apprentice series for a taste. 

Trailers more often target the young adult market, as witnessed with the spread of book trailers created for the CBCA shortlisted titles this year. Author Darren Goth created a trailer for his wonderful book Are You Seeing Me?

Although promotions are also created for younger readers, there tends to be more retellings than book trailers on offer for this age group; such as this clever modern take off of the timeless Goodnight Moon.

The Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Awards take book trailers a step further by combining a series of trailers into one long preview and celebration and present it as if you are at the movies. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic challenge to see taken up in Australia. Check out the 2015-215 SSYRABooks.

Some books raise questions in the reader’s mind that can be turned into provocations through the book trailer medium. Earlier this year, as I read The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew, my mind could visualise the different elements that I could harness to create my own book trailer. This riveting speculative fiction story begged me to express my response visually. Have a look and see if it teases your interest. Do you want to read it?

If this post has inspired you to dabble your toes in the creative pond, there are many tools available to support you in the process. Educational Technology & Mobile Learning is a good place to start with suggestions for excellent tools, apps, and tips to create educational book trailers. For some commentary on three different tools that I have used, seek out my early explorations into book trailers on JB on not Just Books

Jennie Bales
Adjunct lecturer for Charles Sturt University, and your editor, having fun writing a post instead of publishing someone else’s.