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

Saturday 30 September 2017

Nothing Beats a Good Book!

Jenni Connor brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to argue a case for the value of reading aloud to children. This week's post is a fitting follow up on sharing favourites, to explore the joys of oral reading to build a love of literature and language.

In this electronic age, people might wonder if there is still a place for print books in our lives, and especially in the lives of children.
The jury is not out on that one – research firmly indicates that the act of reading aloud with "a child is the single most important thing adults can do to promote the emergent literacy skills of young children’ (Shogi, Willersdorf, Braganza & McDonald, 2013, p. 22).
With babies, we read soothing stories such as AlisonLester’s Kissed by the Moon (Viking, 2013). It is a lyrical lullaby, with a repeated refrain – May you, my baby, sleep softly at night…May you, my baby, make sprinkles of sand…and may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon. Lester’s soft wash illustrations are charmingly apt, capturing the close bond between adult and child and the infant’s wonder at the natural world.

Toddlers are ready for a picture book with a story and familiar characters and themes, such as the Snail and Turtle series by Stephen Michael King (Scholastic Australia, 2014). Colourful, bold, uncluttered illustrations give two- and three-year olds plenty to talk about as these very different friends go about their pleasant lives – Snail likes early mornings after the rain. Turtle likes any day, as long as it’s wet’.

Pre-schoolers have enough experience to relate to characters and places. Anna Walker’s Peggy (Scholastic Australia, 2012) seems to grab their attention as Peggy the chook is blown by a blustery wind from her ‘small house in a quiet street’ into the big city. Peggy ‘saw things she had never seen before’, but she was very grateful when the pigeons showed her the way back to her yard. Feeling lost and small, excited but nervous about being away from home is an emotional landscape familiar to young children. 

Reading quality literature regularly with children exposes them to a rich, resonant vocabulary they will not encounter in everyday talk, or through other media. Children learn to ‘savour the gift of words’ and build a bank of powerful words and phrases. Isabella’s Garden, by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool (Walker Books, 2009) is a stunningly beautiful picture book, with vibrant illustrations, wonderful rhythm, alliteration and glorious descriptive language –
These are the flowers that waltz in the wind
that ruffles the buds, all velvety-skinned
that swelled the shoots that sought the sun
that kissed the clouds that cried the rain
that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil
all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden.
As Patsy Jones made clear in her blog post (2017, September 23) last week about favourite picture books - "The importance of picture books to me as a parent and a grandparent is the close relationship reading to your child will develop in so many ways."

With books like these, shared lovingly by caring adults, every child can enter the garden of literacy and gain power over their world and live in harmony with it.
Jenni Connor
Writing and Educational Consultant

Saturday 23 September 2017

Some Well-Loved Picture Books

Patsy has found some gems on her bookshelf and shares ‘six of the best’ picture books worthy of hunting out – for both revisiting and discovery purposes.
I have recently attempted to clear out some of my bookshelves – a difficult task indeed. I noted the other day that there are many picture books in my remaining collection, and had a look again through them all. Picture books give us such great opportunities to share enjoyment with a child, to initiate a conversation, to expand a vocabulary, to develop empathy through imagination and discussion….

I decided to identify the half-dozen or so which I remember experiencing, with most pleasure, with my grandchildren – and that was difficult enough!  But here they are – I wonder if any of them are new to you?

Janet andAllan Ahlberg’s The Baby’s Catalogue (it’s an oldie – published 1982) is the real beginner’s book in my half-dozen. There is very little text but many charming pictures of the people and objects that will surround an infant; and lots of opportunity for pointing to objects, and practising speech. And sorting out and identifying the five different families will be an enjoyable puzzle for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Mo Willems’ series Elephant and Piggie (much more enjoyable and useful than the pigeon, I think) has charming pictures which illustrate a great range of emotions; there is not much text but its varied font sizes encourage voice variety when reading aloud. Try one like There is a Bird on Your Head (published 2008) – you’ll love it, as will pre-readers and those in lower primary. I haven’t seen this series very much in school libraries, but was very pleased to see a set in the Junior Library at Fahan when I was there for Readers’ Cup this year.

The first Emily Gravett book I saw was Wolves (published 2005) and this had immediate appeal to me as a librarian – the rabbit is reading a book from the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library; the book has no barcode, only a pocket for the card and a date stamp to show when it’s due back. I suppose most children might need some explanation of these aspects these days! The two parallel stories are well supported by the clever illustrations, but I think this is a book for an older child – possibly frightening to little ones.

Of course Bob Graham has to get a mention, and I have been unable to decide which is my real favourite - Greetings from Sandy Beach (published 1990) or Crusher is Coming! (published 1987). There’s so much for the older child, and the adult, to enjoy in these. Just a line or two of text on each page, so the reluctant reader may find them approachable, and the illustrations magnificently repay careful perusal and discussion, as do the family dynamics.

My last two were translated into English and might be hard for you to find.  The Fly: How a Perfect Day Turned into a Nightmare (written and illustrated by Gusti, first published in Mexico in 2005) turned up on a trolley of new books in what was then the State Library – I don’t know who the marvellous person was who ordered copies of it, but it was immediately very popular with upper primary students (and others!).  

I don’t know where A Cultivated Wolf by Pascal Biet was first published in 1998 or in what language, but it came out in English in 1999. It was quoted in an article on reading – the Wolf ‘read with confidence and passion’. How could I not track that book down! All my grandchildren have enjoyed it with me, and I can still find interest in it.

What would you choose as your best six picture books? Perhaps, as I did, you’d find six was not enough…..

Patsy Jones

Retired librarian and teacher

Friday 15 September 2017

2017 Reading Challenge continues...

Earlier this year, Nella posted her personal reading list for the year with some alternative and varied selection criteria. She continues to challenge and encourage us to read outside our comfort zones and broaden our horizons. If you can't identify a title for each category then read on for some tasters from Nella's selections. There are some excellent leads for  further great reads from early childhood through to older teens to cap off the year. Are you up to the challenge?

First book in a series
Aussie outback
YA with no romance
Green cover
Set in Tasmania
Mental Health
On your TBR pile
Award winner
Truly frightening
Would make a great movie
400 + pages

Investigate the original range of genres on the 2017 Reading Challenge - A Personal List post.

First book in a series
Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo Orion
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017. I have a love-hate relationship with series books; thankfully this is part of a duology although I may be tempted by the other books set in the Grishaverse.
Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams - but he can't pull it off alone. Chapters are told from the differing POV of all six heist team members.

Aussie outback
Mrs White and the Red Desert Josie Boyle & Maggie Prewett  Magabala Books

When a group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why their homework is always grubby, no-one expects what is to come!
YA with no romance
You Don’t Even Know Sue Lawson Black Dog (2013)
Alex is the misfit of a bullying family. He prefers water-polo to rowing; he loves his little sister Mia. Through random flashbacks, we learn how and why Alex  is in hospital recovering from an accident. Heartbreakingly real.

Green cover

Florette Anna Walker Viking
Mae moves from a house with a garden into a city apartment surrounded by cobblestones. Outside Florette, a florist shop, Mae finds a tiny plant growing from a crack between the path and the front wall of the shop. Mae takes it home, plants it in a jar. This is the beginning of Mae’s new garden.
Set in Tasmania
Gaolbird: The True Story of William Swallow Convict & Pirate Simon Barnard Text Publishing
Fantastic story that deserves to be told - truth really is stranger than fiction. William Walker aka William Swallow was an English convict taken to ‘the far end of the earth’, Van Diemen’s Land, in the 1820s...three times.  Illustrated in exaggerated cartoon style.

Mental Health
Girl in Pieces Kathleen Glasgow HarperCollins
Gritty debut novel about the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression

On your TBR pile
Everything Leads to You Nina LaCour Penguin Random House
Emi Price is a talented young set designer; she finds a mysterious letter at an estate sale, and it sends her chasing down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life. And along the way, she finds Ava.

Award winner 
Winner Aurealis Awards - Best Children's Fiction 2016
When the Lyrebird Calls Kim Kane Allen & Unwin
While helping her grandmother, Madeleine finds a pair of shoes in a hidden compartment. Wearing these shoes while a lyrebird calls in an old grotto she timeslips to Lyrebird Muse, the grand home of the Williamson family just prior to the Federation of Australia.
Truly frightening
Forgetting Foster Dianne Touchell Allen & Unwin
Forget monsters and aliens.  True fear is found in everyday events. A powerful story of a seven-year-old boy whose father develops Alzheimer’s disease.  Everything in Foster’s life changes, his father starts forgetting things and his mother stops laughing.

Would make a great movie
Mr Romanov’s garden in the sky Robert Newton Penguin 
Lexie lives in a ‘Commission’ apartment, with her junkie mother. Lexie remembers better times with her father —games of pretend camping, taken seriously with map reading and with Lexie given the choice of location (which is always Surfers Paradise). Other residents include the Creeper, an elderly man with a rooftop garden (Mr Romanov) and know-it-all Davey Goodman. The three travel to Surfers Paradise pursued by police.  Sentimental and compelling
400 + pages
Windfall Jennifer E Smith Pan Macmillan

At 416 pages, this just meets the criteria.  Jennifer E Smith’s YA novels (she also writes middle grade books) are heart-warming and generally about first love.  Alice buys her best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. He wins. A story of loss, death and Alice’s need to live up to her perceptions of her parents’ selflessness. 

Nella Pickup
Avid reader (and inspiration to us all to...keep on reading)

From the editor: Why not share your alternative suggestions. Under the First in a Series category I have recently read Tokens and Omens by Jeri Baird and am eagerly awaiting the sequel - out next month.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Creativity with Nature

Join Coral Tulloch, Tasmanian illustrator and children's book creator, on her mission to bring students and the natural world together through an innovative Natural Pedagogy program in Western Australia.

I have been so incredibly fortunate for many years now to have been asked to go to Western Australia to work at schools for the Association of Independent School of Western Australia (AISWA). Apart from the many school visits I have done with them – covering a broad span of schools from the long established to the tiny and low ICSEA, from community schools in remote areas, to bustling inner city - and schools specifically for disengaged students to the most interesting community schools –  each time there has been so much for me to learn, apart from what they believe I can deliver and bring to both the students and teachers. Each time they have challenged me incredibly.

This time I was nervous! Sure, I’ve been asked to do early childhood before, but it’s not my area of expertise, and I was nervous. But I also knew that AISWA have faith in the people they bring across and believe we can achieve the outcomes they desire. Even after all these years of being with them, I was still shaking at the concept of three days working with four year olds!

My role this time was to work in Nature Pedagogy with early childhood. Our first stop was at Margaret River Independent School, (one I had worked with previously and loved), to help them create a work that would be saleable to the public for their Nature Trail associated with their school.
We  set up an art studio for them, and worked on various mediums before settling on the concept of a b/w map, to be rolled like a scroll, for people to add their own experiences to and to colour in. The photo that is attached is before the Noongar names of the plants have been added. The back of the scroll contains the Noongar seasons and explanation of the plants and their usage.

The second week, I went to Heritage College in Perth and worked with 4 year olds, going to their bush school outing, collecting and then interpreting what we had found. Also working with various materials in scientific drawing. A challenge for me to see the four year olds, concentrated and loving the interpretation of each object that caught their attention. They felt and smelt and drew and painted the natural world, translating in both realism and abstract.

We also set up an art studio for them to continue with their work. But I think some of the things they loved the most was making paint with the pebbles, dirt and water from the creek, embossing paper while it was wet in the bush, hunting out strange and beautiful forms and shapes and making their own paints back at school with everyday items, such as turmeric, five spice, mud, and salts.

I thank AISWA for getting me out of my area of comfort, for extending my abilities and confidence and joy in this engaging project. I received the same back from all of the gorgeous children and engaged teachers that I was so privileged to work with.

Coral Tulloch
Children's illustrator
FB: www.facebook.com/cloudyseas

Saturday 2 September 2017

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

Leanne Rands has recently finished reading a book that she enjoyed so much that she had to write a blog post. Enjoy the post and maybe dash out and get hold of a copy to read yourself.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Recently l had the pleasure of reading this book for the first time and was amazed at the depth of my emotional response to the plot and plight of Marie-Laurie and Werner. I particularly enjoyed the intriguing manner in which Anthony Doerr deftly interweaves the lives of Marie-Laurie and Werner, encapsulating the theme that against all odds people should try to be good to one another. It is not surprising that All the light we cannot see was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction.
Doerr skilfully uses a variety of metaphors and vivid, often challenging descriptions to engage the reader. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times)
Anthony Doer talks about the inspiration and investigation
underpinning the story.

The Plot
Marie-Laure, a French girl who has been blind since the age of six lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. To help her navigate the local neighbourhood he father builds a perfect miniature so she can memorise it by touch and find her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and so they flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, to live with her reclusive great-uncle, bringing with them the invaluable and dangerous jewel from the museum. Meanwhile, in a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner, enchanted by a crude radio, becomes an expert at building and fixing these new instruments. This leads him to the brutal academy for Hitler Youth. Later he is assigned to locate the radio communications for the French resistance and eventually realises the human suffering his intelligence causes. At Saint-Malo, the lives of Werner and Marie-Laure converge with unexpected consequences.
For those who have not had the pleasure of reading this brilliant novel l would recommend that you find a copy and immerse yourself as soon as possible.
Book trailer introducing the novel: All the Light We Cannot See

Leanne Rands

President CBCA Tasmania