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

Sunday 29 May 2016

I am not a fan of books…

Karen MacPherson presents three essential ingredients to switch children onto literature – a great recipe for success.

“I am not a fan of books…I am a proud non-reader of books.” This quote has been attributed to musician Kanye West (Mr Kim Kardashian). When I first saw it online I thought it must not be genuine, but as best I can ascertain, he did indeed make this sad announcement. My mind simply cannot come to terms with the idea that a person could think this way. To me, and I suspect any of you reading this blog, a life without reading and books would be unimaginable. Yet we cannot deny that Mr West is not alone in his thinking and that unfortunately, we often see that kind of attitude to reading start to develop among school students.

I suspect that if I wrote about the importance of reading to anyone likely to be browsing this blog, I would be ’preaching to the converted.’ We all appreciate that reading is not just a core skill for succeeding in life, but is in fact an enjoyable pass time that can open whole new worlds to those of us who partake. So how do we make sure that our children value books and reading and grow into adults who retain that pleasure and sense of curiosity? Here are my top three suggestions – I’d love to hear your ideas.
  1. Books and reading are things seen to be valued by significant role models in a child’s world. I believe it is vitally important that children see people around them reading for both purpose and pleasure. It sends a powerful message when a person of influence in a child’s life can talk about their love of reading and the wonderful things it brings to them. Reading aloud to children, even as they get older, exposes them to books they may not gravitate to normally and creates a bond with the person doing the reading. Laughing over silly words in Roald Dahl’s The BFG together, or exploring Tolkien’s Middle Earth with a parent or teacher will create memories that last a lifetime and encourage children to explore reading on their own.
  2. Children are offered choice of reading material and allowed an opinion on it. When I first started teaching, I was surprised that many students saw reading as something that the teacher made them do. They were used to being told what to read and felt obliged to report back that they enjoyed it - even if they did not. No wonder some of them were already switching off from reading! Encouraging students to self-select reading material and giving them the skills to do so effectively goes a long way toward engaging them in the process. As adults we have developed favourite authors and genres and will put a book back on the shelf if it doesn’t appeal to us. While children are still exploring and discovering their favourites, I believe it is vitally important we allow the freedom to do so too. Such freedom emboldens them to experiment and explore and is highly motivating.
  3. Access to quality literature that engages the reader. Perhaps this ought to go without saying, but sadly so many children are not exposed to books at home. (I wonder how many books the West children have at home?) This means it becomes even more important for educators and communities to advocate for and provide quality literature for children. The CBCA plays a crucial role in reaching out to the community, providing information and events to promote reading to young people and their carers/ educators as well as advocating for quality Australian literature and the groups who support it.  As individuals, it is worth reflecting on what we do for the children around us to support these ideals. 

I wonder what you would add to this list?

Karen McPherson

CBCA Picture Book of the Year Judge

Sunday 22 May 2016

Author Visit – Sarah Brennan

Visiting authors are always a treat in schools as they provide students and teachers with a personal connection between the author, their works and the reader. Chris shares some of the magic of such and event.

Term 1 heralded a special two-day event at Dominic College in Hobart when the school community was privileged to be entertained by, and learn from, children’s author Sarah Brennan, a Tasmanian who lives, writes and publishes in Hong Kong. She currently has 12 children’s picture books available, written in verse and illustrated by Harry Harrison, who is principal cartoonist with the South China Morning Post.

The main subject matter of her books is perfect for the Asian focus of the school’s K-6 campus, telling important stories in an amusing and interesting format that encourages understanding of another culture and its history in a way that is woven within the tales, each of which conveys different perspectives and time periods.

Sarah’s most popular titles are in a series called The Chinese Calendar Tales, each one about a character from the Chinese Zodiac. The latest in this series, The Tale of Ming Kee Monkey, celebrates the Chinese Year of the Monkey celebrated this year. She has three more Zodiac characters to write about to complete the series. One book, The Tale of Pin Yin Panda, tells the story of how the 12 Zodiac animals gained their places, in a race organised by Lord Buddha. It also explains why there is no Panda represented in the Chinese calendar.

It is a wonderful experience having authors perform and interpret their own books as they give an insight that is not possible just from reading about and/or reading the books. Sarah communicates amazing love for her characters, and for the culture, history and beauty of China. She has a great sense of humour and builds rapport and an atmosphere of respectful and excited attention from her audiences. These ranged from Prep to Year 6, and also included a workshop on writing and publishing for the Year 9/10 Creative Writing class. She encouraged them all to read and to listen, to shut their eyes and imagine, to get outside and make their own adventures, and spend as much time as possible away from ‘screens’, above all to do and experience for themselves.

A highlight of her presentation was her vivid description of falling in love at the age of 7 with a bearded white-haired gentleman whose writing showed that reading and language can be fun – that gentleman was Dr Theodore Seuss Geisel, the famous Dr Seuss!
Year 2 students were entertained by The Tale of Run Run Rat, which was written for the Year of the Rat, also that of the Beijing Olympics, which is again topical for us as we are currently in an Olympic year. Some Year 2 students made a beautiful rat for the display, which Sarah really loved, as much as she was impressed by the children themselves. 

Sarah Brennan is planning another visit to Tasmania in early 2017. Visit Sarah’s funny and fabulous website at http://www.sarah-brennan.com and blog at http://www.sarahbrennanblog.com! Watch Sarah in action on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhqxWLZkVd8. Follow Sarah’s tweets @Sarah_Rhymes.

Chris Donnelly
Teacher Librarian, Dominic College, Hobart.

 Editor's note: Find out more about the The Chinese Calendar Tales series. 

Sunday 15 May 2016

Finding Nan Chauncy’s Lorenny

Join Richard as he explores the geographical location of Nan Chauncy’s Lorenny series in the deep south west of Tasmania.
One of the unexpected outcomes of the 2015 Nan Chauncy celebrations was my discovery of the Tiger in the Bush / Devils’ Hill / Roaring 40 trilogy (thanks to Patsy for lending me the series). The mingling of fact and fiction certainly had me scouring the maps, Google Earth, and old photos of the area.

The series is about the adventures of Badge Lorenny, (short for badger, a misnomer for wombat) and his family who live in an isolated valley in South West Tasmania. My interest was piqued when I became aware that access to this isolated valley was a wire rope, “The Wire”, over the Gordon River. I immediately (and quite erroneously) thought this was a direct reference to a flying fox over the Gordon River that I had used in 1983 to walk into the Vale of Rasselas.
My obsession with the geography of the series began. My first impression that Lorenny farm was approached northwards over a flying fox at Gordon Bend was incorrect; it was approached from Badge’s uncle Link’s farm near Ouse. Is it too long a bow to think Lorenny derived from Lawrenny, a hamlet just south of Ouse? On a map, Badge described it as “the dingy space between the upper bend of the Gordon River and Denison Ranges”.  
Badge’s Dad describes a track from Uncle Link’s place down the Vale of Rasselas to Gordon Bend past Gordon Vale “where Ernie Bond used to live” to Adamsfield. Ernie Bond was a real character who lived in the Vale of Rasselas until 1950. The track is the Frodsham Track, cut in 1896.

Arches Hill where Badge and his sister Iggy walked in Tiger in the Bush are probably inspired by the arch on Mt Wright. The approach to this arch is clearly not bush as in the Tiger in the Bush nor could two children get there in a day from the farm.

In the Author’s Note in Tiger in the Bush, Nan thanks amongst others “the first woman to scale Mt Anne, Eve Masterman”. She omitted to say that Eve was Nan’s sister. I had the honour of meeting Eve at a CBCA picnic at Chauncy Vale in February 2012. Though deaf she was still quite spry and very interested in bushwalking. I expect much of the inspiration for the “geography” of this series was derived from Eve and her bushwalking friends. Much more inspiring than the geography of New York or dystopian Chicago which appears in many YA books (even by Australian authors).
Richard on top of the Arch

Richard Pickup

Monday 9 May 2016

Have You Got Your Hat Ready? - National Simultaneous Storytime 2016

Are you getting ready to enjoy NSS at your local public or school library? Find out what's happening in your area, make a hat, take a child or two along if you like, and enjoy the fun. Jessica has lots of ideas to get you inspired.

I have, and I am counting down the days until May 25th because it’s National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) and that means lots of reading fun! 

The NSS is run by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and this year their chosen title is I Got This Hat by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Jon Foye, and it is just delightful.

Yes, it is a picture book aimed a younger audience, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are the only ones who can enjoy this book. I will be sharing this story will all of my students aged from 4 to 12 and based on my past NSS experiences including The Brothers Quibble, Too Many Elephants in This House, The Wrong Book and The Very Cranky Bear, it will be a big hit regardless of age.

If you are not convinced that this book hits the mark for an older audience, why not approach it as a “Buddy” activity, with older children sharing the book with younger children, or completing an activity as a follow up together. Readers’ Theatre type activities are a great way to encourage read aloud skills in our older children. Setting up an environment where they feel permitted to have fun is important too, and a hat theme is perfect to help achieve this due to the broad nature of this topic. (Note - please be mindful of head lice issues if you are planning to use actual hats as props).

There are loads of great ideas to support this year’s NSS at the ALIA website and I highly recommend the blog post devoted to I Got This Hat by The Book Chook, Susan Stephenson, for an amazing range of activity suggestions – well worth a look.

Another of my favourite resources, online story-telling platform Story Box Library, will also be adding I Got This Hat to their fabulous library in time for NSS.

For those with an ipod or ipad, my children, aged 8 and 10, have enjoyed using the free I Got This Hat App to create a range of hat themed images which mix the quirky illustration style of Jon Foye with a photo of the user’s face. Images can be saved to the device. (Unfortunately not available for android devices).

We all know that reading aloud is vitally important and having fun with books is a great way to hook children into reading. ALIA have succeeded with the difficult task of selecting an NSS title that is age appropriate for the youngest library patrons across Australia, but is still relatable for an older audience – so I say, hats off to them!

Jessica Marston
Parent & Teacher Librarian at Hagley Farm School

Footnote – I have just started reading the latest collaboration between the I Got This hat team, an adventurous tale full of humour, Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade.  Keep an eye out for this and future Jimmy Cook titles.

Editor's note:
If you celebrate NSS this year, why not share one happy hat snap - (no faces without approval) and email to info@cbcatas.org and I will put together a celebratory page on the blog.