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

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. 

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