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

Saturday 17 December 2016

Tassie Books for Christmas

Join Lyndon as he celebrates a wonderful source of Tasmanian fiction and a means to support local talent.

We’re one week out from Christmas, and if you’re anything like me you still have a couple of gifts to get. You forgot someone, or what you were searching for was sold out, or - worst of all - you are suffering from a terrible case of the I don’t knows.

In that instance, when crunch time arrives and browsing shops in our spacious island state suddenly feels like being trapped on a crowded train somewhere on the mainland, the Celebrate Tasmanian Books and Writing Facebook group, now known as Tassie Books This Christmas, might be a lifesaver!

Nina Matthews (2012) Flickr CC
Tassie Books This Christmas highlights the great work of writers established and emerging all around the state. What more thoughtful present than something local, that will mean an enormous amount to the recipient as they read about their home (or your home!) and will also mean an awful lot to local writers who so desperately need our support to keep doing their wonderful work? In most cases within the group you can contact and purchase from writers directly, who are happy to personally send their work to you, and often even offer an inscription or signature to go with it. There are picture books, children’s novels, non-fiction, adult fiction, coffee-table books and even anthologies. Without spinning the commercial too hard here, it really does feel like there is something for everyone being written in this place.

So if things are desperate, I recommend joining the group and taking a look. And if you’re all done with your shopping, perhaps consider joining the group anyway! After all, summer reading is just around the corner…

And all that remains is for me to say that I hope you have a splendid transition into the New Year, full of long, well-lit nights of reading.

Merry Christmas!

Lyndon Riggall
Author. @lyndonriggall
Editor's note: Seasons greetings to all our readers. We trust that the new year brings a plethora of books and favourite reads to help brighten your world.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Under my Christmas Tree

Nella provides some great titles that she bought for Christmas gifts and they should inspire, amuse and enthral kids of all ages. Some of these may not end up as gifts for others but will sit under her tree and then slip onto her bookshelf!

For younger readers
The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland, Scholastic. 
Popcorn is the friendliest chicken at Fiddlestick’s Farm, until she finds a Fabulous Friend Machine (mobile phone) in the barn.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham, Walker Books.
As Francie and Mum drive home in the rain, Francie seeks inspiration for the name of her new baby sister.

Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon, Penguin.
George Laurent, the cap wearing duck/baker is far too busy to go anywhere with his friends. Or maybe it’s because he can’t fly. With illustrations reminiscent of Herman and Rosie, have a sneak at all the details, courtesy of the the author.
For readers 9+

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller, Text.

Elizabeth and her father are moving to his childhood home after her mother leaves them for a more ‘adventure-filled’ life. Zenobia, Elizabeth’s 'not-an-imaginary best friend', goes with them. Then Elizabeth stumbles on a mystery. 

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee Piccadilly Press. 
Set in Victoria London. Annabel Grey has been brought up as a proper young lady but when she is sent to live with her aunts, she discovers she’s magical.  Aided by Kitty, a street urchin, she struggles against a villain who plans to take over the world with dark magic.

The Smuggler's Curse by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press.
When his mother “sells” him to the infamous Captain Bowen of the Black Dragon, Red Read’s life becomes an adventure filled with smugglers, pirates, and dastardly and murderous Dutch imperialists.  Thrilling though maybe not for the squeamish.  

Young Adults

The Bone Sparrow Zana Fraillon, Lothian.
This one has been out a while and made awards list in the UK. Subhi was born in an Australian immigration detention centre after his mother and sister fled their home country. Life behind the fence is tough and violent. One night when he can’t sleep and is wandering the camp, Subhi comes across a young girl – she has shoes, a backpack, a torch – she is from Outside.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Allen & Unwin.Second in the Illuminae Files. Continues the struggles of Hannah (the Captain's daughter) and Nik (criminal family) on board a space station. Sci-fi at its best. Watch the video for an intro to Book 1: Illuminae.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Pan Macmillan.
After moving away and losing touch with her friends, Rachel Sweetie returns to town. She is working at Howling Books, grieving for her brother Cal, and trying not to be in love with Henry Jones.

For thriller loving adults

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta, Viking.
Bish Ortley, a suspended policeman, finds himself the British liaison in the aftermath of a bomb attack on a bus full of students including his daughter. And there’s a link to a notorious terrorist attack of the past.

For other gift ideas, try the CBCA eStore for beautiful cards by Feya Blackwoodor support your local Tasmania authors with ideas for Christmas at Tassie books.

Nella Pickup

Saturday 3 December 2016

The CBCA Nan Chauncy Award: Call for Nominations

Call for Nominations for

From the late 1950s until the early 1970s, Nan Chauncy was one of the most esteemed children’s writers in Australia. She distinguished herself by winning the Australian Children’s Book of the Year three times, had three titles commended in the following seven years and gained international recognition, including receiving a Diploma of Merit in the Hans Christian Andersen Award (Eastman, B. 2000; Lees, S. & Macintyre, P. 1993; Niall, B. 1984).

In recognition of the writer’s significance in the history of literature for young Australians, CBCA instituted the Nan Chauncy Award in 1983. The Award is currently conferred biennially.
The CBCA Nan Chauncy Award has been created to honour a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of Australian Children’s Literature over a period of years. Such a person could be an editor, publisher, teacher, librarian, bookseller, researcher, lecturer, author, illustrator, etc.

The recipient of the Award must be an Australian citizen, no matter where resident, or a person who has been resident in Australia for at least five years.
The recipient need not be a member of a Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

Financial and Life Members of CBCA may nominate eligible people. All nominations must be on the official form, obtainable from the Children’s Book Council of Australia Branches and the National Board. Nominees must be living at the time nominations close.
Nominations close on 31 March, 2017.

If you have any queries, please write to:

The Coordinator, CBCA Nan Chauncy Award,
Level 2, State Library of Queensland,
Stanley Place,
South Brisbane. 4101.

Entry forms and advice to nominators are also available from your Branch office, the National Board and the CBCA web site:

Jenni Connor, Nan Chauncy Award coordinator
Editor's note: Nan Chauncy is dear to the hearts of Tasmanian readers and CBCA members as Chauncy Vale is located in the island state and is the source of inspiration for many of her stories. The following list of previous blog posts about Nan and this award are presented chronologically, starting with the most recent, for those who like to know more about this remarkable writer.
27 September 2015 A place to call home
30 March 2015 Nan Chauncy Award

Saturday 26 November 2016

Life membership bestowed upon Patsy Jones

Members attending the 2016 CBCA Tasmania Annual General Meeting celebrated the untiring dedication and contributions of Patsy Jones.

Patsy Jones has given unstinting service to the Children’s Book Council of Australia (Tasmanian Branch) Inc. for many years. She has filled the roles of State President, Treasurer and Merchandise Manager with distinction and demonstrated exceptional leadership in the organisation. 

Despite her initial reluctance, she performed the role of president with commitment and energy, and always strove to include and foster those people who were not necessarily school-based professionals. This has been advantageous to the organisation, as the role of the teacher-librarian/literature specialist in schools has diminished.

Patsy is one of those volunteers who contributes well above and beyond the requirements of any role to which she commits.

She annually takes on the executive responsibility for the successful Southern Readers Cup, procuring prizes, securing judges, contacting schools, convening meetings with participating schools and compiling questions and the collation of data on the day. 

In the National Year of Reading, Patsy organised events for librarians, teachers and parents and read stories to pre-schoolers in a southern supermarket.

In the Year of Celebrating Nan Chauncy in Tasmania, Patsy initiated and supported collaboration between CBCA and the State Library (LINC) system, establishing a valuable and relevant relationship for the future. 

She coordinated the Launch of the Year of Nan Chauncy at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, assembling and installing the first of the Nan Chauncy travelling suitcase displays at the Hobart City Library. 

Patsy then travelled throughout Tasmania, at her own expense, to attend every one of the displays in small and regional libraries, as well as participating in both screenings of They Found a Cave in the south and north west of the state. She located one of the cast from the film, coordinating his attendance at the Hobart and the Devonport events, enriching the literary and film experience for all. 

Predictably, Patsy arrived early and left late for the Nan Chauncy Oration in June, offering a willing, practical hand to ensure the function proceeded smoothly. At the final event at Chauncy Vale, Patsy, typically, was there from the beginning to the end, setting up, placing signs for entry and helping and advising throughout a long day. 

On her own initiative and using her considerable expertise, Patsy researched, composed and arranged printing for the informative print brochures distributed at the events, effectively promoting CBCA Tas. as well as the beloved author.

Similarly, with the 2016 CBCA Tas. major set of events, Hidden Stories at Moonah Arts Centre in September, Patsy has been on hand to undertake a myriad of tasks to support CBCA’s work in relation to this important public initiative.

As Branch Treasurer, Patsy operates with extreme diligence, preparing detailed financial statements for meetings and the annual audit and ensuring that branch funds are appropriately invested. She has recently arranged to change the accounts to a bank with a sustainable approach and a stronger community orientation. 

The role of Merchandise manager is a very time-consuming one, requiring the pursuit of merchandise and payments and repeated efforts to keep CBCA ‘customers’ happy. Patsy fulfils these duties with impressive patience and persistence.

The Children’s Book Council, Tas. Inc. has been very fortunate indeed to have Patsy Jones as a generous, wise and experienced mentor, friend and contributor with a strong commitment to the organisation, to reading and literature and to community service in the broad and significant sense.

Jenni Connor and Judy Moss

Sunday 20 November 2016

‘Spot’light on Italy

Jennie recounts the latest chapter in her quest to add an Italian version of a Spot adventure to her bookshelves.

For long-time readers of this blog, this is a continuation of a journey – the collection of Spot books in the languages of the countries I visit. The processes of acquiring these titles is as much fun as reading and sharing them when I get home. If you want the background on my international collection dip into the archives and read Spot the difference and Spot the difference: The next chapter.

This treasure hunt began on the east coast of Sicilia in Catania and traversed across the island – Syracusa, Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo – surely the capital would have a copy! No, not a Spot to be seen. Armed with an iPad for this expedition, misunderstandings were eliminated (and the fun of barking like a dog in the middle of a bookshop was obsolete) as Google translate made it all a little too easy. So we searched for “libro illustrato” by the ‘autore’ Eric Hill. Mind you, without capital letters, this translates into ‘collina eric'.

So in Sicilia we did not find a single copy of the beloved Spot. However, we did find some fantastic bookshops and it was heart warming to see that these ranged from corporate chain stores to small village home-owned stores. The Italian bookshop is alive and well – Read all about it! Much was familiar – the children’s section was usually to the back or upstairs – coffee shops (with biscotti and pasticceria!) were often present with many familiar titles and popular authors translated into Italiano. L'Albero (The Giving Tree) by Shel Silverstein and Un Libro (Press Here) by Herve Tullet were present in most shops, and the latter was purchased, packed and brought home just to press my buttons.

Fairy tales made up a significant part of the children’s collection and included mass produced version – Disney being a favourite – alongside beautiful renditions – the one that grabbed my attention was a version illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer (now added to my collection, in English).

To continue the journey and the treasure hunt, from Sicilia we had a briefer sojourn on the mainland – Salerno to explore the Amalfi Coast and Napoli, and then to Roma. In and out of bookshops we went and it was in Roma that the quest was completed, in the largest store of the Feltrinelli Libri e Musica chain.

So now I have an Italian Spot sitting on my shelves next to a number of other foreign language picture books – a wonderful journey to remember as I dip into Spot va in Vacanza – how fitting!

Jennie Bales
CBCA Tas Social Media person, adjunct lecturer with Charles Sturt University, teacher librarian in the past, and lover of travel and children’s books.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Is it worth reading?

With the wealth of quality children’s and young people’s books available today it slightly surprises me when someone wants their children to read authors like Enid Blyton. I was reminded of the power of nostalgia when I heard a young mother who had bought her children some of the “Famous Five”  books say she was most disappointed to find the stories were much less vivid than they  seemed to her as a s child.
As an 8 year old (in the late 1950’s) travelling on the SS Strathnaver from England to Australia I had three quarto volumes of Enid Blyton - the First, Second and Third Enid Blyton Books. They were probably the only books I had to read so I devoured them and they made an impression. However, even in my tender years, some of the stories left a bad taste.
The one that even now springs to mind is the story of the bad apple. In this tale Granny had five boys helping her store apples and instructs her good little grandson George not to store any apple with any blemish. However he ignores an apple with a small blemish and this apple rots and turns its neighbours bad. Granny is asked to look after another boy Sammy who is described as sly and deceitful; she refuses saying he is a bad apple and would turn the other boys bad. Read the story 'Grannie's Bad Apple' online in The Second Enid Blyton Book.
Even then, I found this story obnoxious. I could not accept that that Sammy was irredeemably bad and he was going to adversely affect four others.
Now I understand the underlying class attitude. I know from reading Robert Thouless’ classic work on logic in argument Straight and Crooked Thinking that this is an argument by analogy that fails simply because boys are not apples. Imagine what Sammy will turn out to be as an adult if he is treated as rotten as a child.
Stories frame our confirmation bias; i.e. we tend only to accept evidence that fits these biases. It is not trivial or “political correctness’ that we critically asses that the books we give our children are worth the reading.

Richard Pickup
Retiring president CBCA Tas Branch

Saturday 5 November 2016

Thinking of Quentin Blake

Join Patsy as she investigates the endearing, comical and whimsical work of Quentin Blake in a newly published tale from the pen of Beatrix Potter.

Browsing in bookshops is always a good way to spend an idle hour or two, especially if you can buy a coffee and enjoy it while you’re there!

Recently I was browsing in this way when my eyes fell upon a largish picture-book carrying the name of Beatrix Potter. I was struck by the size of the book initially (the books in my Potter collection are sized 11 cm by 14.5 cm, and this was much larger). So I picked up a copy to examine it further and, of course, just had to buy it! It was published in 2016, and illustrated not by Beatrix herself but by QuentinBlake, and bears the title Kitty-in-boots.

I wonder why Beatrix did not publish this tale in 1914 when it was completed; I don’t think we’ll ever know, but I can think of several possibilities. Quentin fantasises that she was keeping it for him…..

Be that as it may, it’s rather fun to compare the look of the original characters with the same ones in Quentin’s iconoclastic version – Mrs Tiggy-winkle and Peter Rabbit, to begin with.

I have a few other books illustrated by Quentin which I have particularly enjoyed. One (The boy in the Dress, written by David Walliams) is very modern in text and fits well with the Blake ‘look’ – published in 2008.

Another, The Quentin Blake Book of Nonsense Stories, is less straightforward - but still very engaging. Quentin selected the stories for the collection (published 1996), and to my mind it’s an extremely individualistic selection. I was not surprised to find Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll in the list of authors; but it’s rather confronting to see Jane Austen and Noel Coward featured as well. But the stories by Jane and Noel were the ones I read first - to see if I could agree with his selection of them as nonsense stories, of course!

Nonsense these stories definitely are, and together they make a great read-aloud selection.

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

From the editor: I was privileged to catch two Quentin Blake exhibitions in a recent trip to England. The BFG inPictures and Seven Kinds of Magic coinciding at the House of Illustration. Illustrations from The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots are on show at the same venue until late February 2017; unfortunately this exhibition commenced after my departure. 

Are you a fan of Quentin Blake’s work? Why not share a favourite title that he has brought to life?

Saturday 29 October 2016

“I don’t think there were any around here”

Dr Margaret Bromley, an invited speaker at the recent Hidden Stories event (September 2016), shares her story.

Professor Maggie Walter and I were invited to The Indigenous Literacy Day Symposium Hidden Stories to discuss the continuing silences that surround white peoples’ acknowledgement of Aboriginal people and their culture.
Maggie is a Pairrebeene woman from the north east of Tasmania. Maggie told of her travels to the country of her Aboriginal matriarchal family in the Bay of Fires area. When she asked a shop keeper what was known about the local Tasmanian Aborigines in the area Maggie was told “I don’t think there were any around here”.
Evidently the shop keeper’s knowledge of local history was restricted to that of the early European pioneers and she had no idea of the origin of the name of the place where she lived.
This resonated deeply with my experience of the ways in which Australians work hard at not knowing their family and local histories: what Maggie refers to as “the epistemology of ignorance”.
My family emigrated in 1967 when I was a teenager from London to Gulgong, New South Wales: to Wiradjuri country, the home of largest inland Indigenous culture of Australia. The signage in the Gulgong Pioneers Museum informed us that “There were only a few small tribes in the area”.
Recently I spoke with the current operator of the museum. Decades later the sign was still there and he reiterated this popular history when he told me that the gold diggers were the first to inhabit the district. “There was not a tribe here because there was not a river”. Clearly, he had not read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which tells how Wiradjuri people managed the landscape and stocked their waterholes. The place name, “Gulgong”, is Wiradjuri for “a deep water hole”.
I was told that Gulgong was “…not an Aboriginal area. It was not a good place to be…as…it was a bad luck area for Aboriginal people”. My response was that it probably was a difficult place for Aboriginal people because white people were so harsh to them. According to the museum proprietor there are no Aborigines living in nearby Mudgee. He obviously hadn’t noticed the flags of the Mudgee Local Aboriginal Lands Council office in the CBD. 
When my mother was still living in Mudgee, I said to her “Do you realise that the ancestors of your solicitor, Mr Cox, organised massacres and put arsenic in the flour that they gave to the local Aborigines?” To which my mother replied “Oh, I hope you’re not going to make trouble for these local people!”
This was an amazing response to me. Mum was still an outsider in that rural community, a migrant woman, a divorced single parent, working as a community nurse. Clearly she didn’t want the silences to be disturbed by this knowledge. According to Maggie Walters, my mother’s fear of “making trouble” expresses an underlying white fear, the legitimacy of being there, or the fear of the exposure of a difficult past. 
The Hidden Stories Symposium revealed a strong interest from the audience who stated that they were motivated to find out more about the place in which they live. Some parents’ curiosity had been fired by their children’s teachers and Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural educators. Exploring and exposing the hidden stories has the potential to elicit respect and pride in the heritage of our local areas whilst being a powerful tool in the construction of Aboriginal identity.  
Tasmania is certainly not the only place where Aboriginal heritage and the history of displacement are silenced by local communities; a silence which validates the invisibility of Aboriginal people and their cultures. However, Tasmania could be a leader in Australia in telling those hidden stories. The robust discussions held in Hobart to celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day on September 7 and 11 were a significant step to breaking the silence of the past. 
Dr Margaret Bromley
Australian Capital Territory
Editor’s note: Margaret’s contributions to Hidden Stories were significant in setting the scene for this valuable two day experience and I reiterate the sincere thanks of the CBCA Tasmania and the Tasmanian Writers Centre for her participation.

Sunday 23 October 2016

A Long-Abandoned Park

Lyndon shares his delight in his first forays into the work of Ruth Park.

I picked up The Harp in the South a few months ago for the simple reason that it had a nice cover. Penguin had been progressively re-releasing Classic Australian novels in beautiful, minimalistic hardback editions, and Harp was an especially nice one. I had a vague recollection of my CBCA Judges’ conference, of several judges being outraged and astonished that I had could not recall reading a Ruth Park novel - in the nicest possible way, of course – with delight in the experience ahead of me as much as disappointment that it hadn’t already happened. It took years to heed their advice. Boy, am I glad that I eventually did.

The Harp in the South is the sort of book that makes you cry. It is raw, beautiful and truthful. My glamorous imaginings of life in 1948 were shredded and replaced with brutal and utterly compelling honesty in a harrowing and deeply affecting work… it’s undoubtedly a contender for the great Australian novel. And now I am on a journey through the works of my long-abandoned Park, Playing Beattie Bow is up next, as well as a return to the stories of the Muddle-Headed Wombat, who I vaguely recall from childhood but who takes on a new and critical significance now that I know he is Park’s creation.

This blog, then, is partly a plea. The fact that Park has eluded me for all this time is appalling in a way I have only just come to truly appreciate, and now I’m the evangelist about her work that the ladies at the Judges’ Conference were to me. I would love to know in the comments below which other authors I might have missed. Who do you admire most from the history of Australian literature beyond the last couple of decades? Let me know, and I’ll do some reading and then report back.

While you consider, now is perhaps the ideal time to revisit Park’s work – or, if you haven’t read it, to experience it for the first time. You will realise, from the first turn of the page, that you are in the presence of a master craftswoman whose prose sings across the decades. It is an experience not to be missed.

If you haven’t met Ruth Park, I am delighted to introduce you.

Lyndon Riggall
From the editor: Read more about Ruth Park and access a bibliography of her works.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Getting young people reading

I recently read an article in the Telegraph about Robert Muchamore’s visit to a Youth Offenders Institution (at Werrington in Staffordshire, UK). His Cherub series has become a hit with many of the inmates who have found these books give them a way of escaping from the realities of their current life, while reading a fast-paced narrative which has many themes which they can relate to.

Muchamore’s novels contain content (violence, sex and drugs) which parents may not like their children reading, but it is this gritty contemporary element which attracts the readers in the YOI. Muchamore himself grew up in a tough part of London where he didn’t achieve academic success though he’d always wanted to be a writer. His novels resonate with many young men. The article was in part a celebration of Muchamore’s newest Cherub title, New Guard, published in June 2016 said to be the last in this series, but also of his most recent title released this month, the fourth in the Rock War series, called Gone Wild.

The YOI Werrington is one of a number of prisons which has joined the Reading Ahead Programme which encourages young people and adults to change their perception of reading, by recognising that reading is more than just books: newspapers, magazines and websites. There are many levels of the programme for different age groups.

What books have you discovered to help young people engage with reading?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader.