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

Sunday 27 March 2016

Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

Join Tricia this week as she shares a great stimulus for a 2016 Reading Challenge. It is not too late to get on board – How many of the 12 challenges set my Mrs Darcy are you prepared to commit too?

Whilst trawling through social media sites I came across a page encouraging readers to challenge themselves to read more widely and to revisit old favourites.  The 2016 Reading Challenge, from the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, sets readers a number of tasks, including to read: a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller; a book you should have read in school; a book that was banned at some point; and, a book you own but have never read. One particular option I found interesting in my intentions to undertake this reading challenge is to ‘read a book chosen for you by a child’. 

I have read quite widely in the area of children’s literature in relation to my school librarianship role and as a CBCA Judge for the Children’s Book of the Year Awards.  Generally the children’s books I have read have been for my own interest, a requirement for judging or to evaluate a title for its suitability for my students.  Only occasionally have I specifically read a title that a student has recommended.  So now one of my reading goals for the year is to enthusiastically grasp at my student’s recommendations especially if they differ from the genres and/or formats that I am most comfortable with. 

Of the tasks set for the 2016 Reading Challenge which one (at least) will you aim to accomplish?

Happy Reading!

Tricia Scott

Teacher Librarian and 2016 Tasmanian Judge for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards

Sunday 20 March 2016

What if…?

Inspired by a session with Justin D'Ath during the Tamar Valley Writer's Festival this 
past weekend, author Johanna Baker-Dowdell brings us some insights shared by Justin.

What if you rode a roller coaster over and over again? What if there were no animals left in the world? What if twins swapped bodies? What if…?
Children’s author Justin D’Ath captivated his young audience at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival last weekend (March 18-20) by making them think about all the wild possibilities for stories their imaginations could dream up. I took both my sons to this session and after hearing Justin speak Mr 7 left thinking about a story in which a disastrous tsunami had struck.

  Justin’s audience loved the story behind his surname (his great grandfather made the sensible decision to change it from “Death” to “D’Ath” when it didn’t go so well with his profession as a doctor). And how he left the seminary on a motorbike one dark night with just the clothes he had on and $14, riding through the night and the next day until he ran out of petrol.

With 50 books to his name now, it is obvious Justin is a prolific writer, however he came to his craft almost by accident. Justin travelled around Australia on his motorbike for two years, stopping in a new place every time his money ran out and picking up odd jobs like being a farmhand or working in a sugar mill. He joined the library in every town he stopped at, which meant Justin had access to books and magazines. It was during one of these library visits that Justin started drawing comic strips for a motorbike magazine and soon he was writing articles for the same publication. By the time he was a father reading his children stories before bed, writing has risen to the forefront of his mind.

Fast forward to now and Justin has written several series: Lost World Circus, Extreme Adventures, Mission Fox and Phoebe Nash. Justin has also written many more books for children and adults, including two set in Tasmania: Infamous and Devil Danger.

Freely admitting authors are, “nasty people,” Justin explains his job is to, ”create characters and give them problems”. Some of his characters have to solve 40 problems within one book! What a life he must have in his Queenscliffe home dreaming up problem after problem for his characters while staring out at Port Philip.

What would your ‘what if’ be? Or do you have a series of what ifs?

Johanna Baker-Dowdell

Saturday 12 March 2016

For the Love of Picture Books

How fitting that our new CBCA Picture Book of the Year Judge, Karen Macpherson, presents a delightful reflection on her love of picture books.

When I was a young girl, if I had been especially good, my mother would bring down from its place on the top shelf, an exquisite picture book copy of Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. She would tell me how she had received it from her own grandparents and it seemed inconceivably old and precious to my six year old self. The illustrations were stunning, the book itself was not a traditional book shape, and to top it all off, one could look through little holes in the pages and catch glimpses of secrets yet to be revealed. It was the start of a lifelong love of picture books.

I think there was something more going on than just my admiration of the book though. Picture books represent snuggling up with a much loved grown up, silly voices, a door to extraordinary new places, people and dilemmas. Still taking pride of place on my bookshelves today are some of my childhood favourites, now looking much loved following my own daughter’s enjoyment of them. Jane Pilgrim’s Mother Hen and Mary probably had a lot to do with my subsequent love of owls and also my becoming a teacher. Tales of the Countryside arrived on my eighth birthday and immediately became a favourite escape with its amazing world of animals, gnomes and fairies. It prompted the budding author in me to write similar adventures, some of which went on to win junior writing prizes.

My daughter had her first picture book read to her in hospital at just a few hours old. Maybe all she saw was a flash of bright colour, the movement of the pages. Maybe she could smell that wonderful book scent that she still claims will mean books will never be replaced by e-books. Or maybe she just associated my voice, the way I held her, with warmth and love. Now at the age of sixteen, we still on occasion curl up in bed and have a picture book marathon. Favourites are the wonderfully rhythmical The Strange Things by Ann Martin, Time for Bed by Mem Fox (which we read without fail every night for years and was the first book she “read” for herself). There is Billywise by Judith Nicholls about the little owl who doubted he would be able to fly. Floss by Kim Lewis came along when we lived in an inner city unit with no pets allowed and represented everything she would have hoped for in a pet at the time. And of course, the incomparable Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.

As a teacher, picture books often were the vehicle I would use to broach difficult topics like loss, bullying and sadness. Others would be the catalyst to get students thinking about a unit of work. The amazing thing was that it didn’t matter what year level I taught, picture books were still appropriate because they often dealt with incredibly complex issues in a deceptively simple and safe way. Even as an adult reader, it is hard not to be touched by books like Wolf Erlbruch’s Duck, Death and the Tulip.

There are some who question the longevity of the picture book. Children today have access to moving pictures on any number of devices and there seems to be a push from many parents to move children on to chapter books as soon as possible. What a shame that would be! Can you imagine childhoods without a story on Grandma’s lap, daddy’s silly character voices or pouring over illustrations for minute details with a sibling? How many artists were inspired by the often stunning illustrations in the picture books they read as children? As long as there are children, and children at heart, there will always be a place for the picture book.

Karen Macpherson
CBCA Picture Book of the Year Judge

Saturday 5 March 2016

Children’s and Young Adult Books Rule

Nella celebrates the recognition that authors of children's and young adult literature are receiving - standing tall with writers of other genres and adult literature.

As someone who has to defend my reading preferences constantly, I have been rather chuffed to see some recent announcements. 

Booktopia top ten list of Australia's Favourite Authors (voted)
 - four of the top ten are writers for young people and three others have written YA books.

Coralie Bickford-Smith’s The Fox and the Star (Penguin), an illustrated fable about a fox and his friend, is the 2015 Waterstones Book of the Year
In January, Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree won the Costa Book of the Year. Watch a snapshot of the ceremony.

Just last week Tamsin Janu ‘s Figgy in the World (Scholastic) was announced as the winner of the 2016 Adelaide FestivalAwards for Literature.  (breakingnews the sequel is out in May).

As CS Lewis said, 'A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest”.  So instead of rolling your eyes at me (and those like me) ask us what we’re reading – you can bet it’ll be profound/innovative and enjoyable.

Nella Pickup
Tamar ValleyWriters Festival schools coordinator, Reader

Editor's note: Having just spent a summer reading children's and YA literature I couldn't agree more. I am on the final pages of Ink and Bone by Rachel and Caine - one of the most original, engaging and enthralling possible future scenarios I have had the pleasure to encounter. It's Book 1 in The Great Library series, and I have to wait until July for the release of Paper and Fire!A series centred around the great library of Alexandria (that survived!) has to appeal to the library lover hidden within. :-)