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

Saturday 28 October 2017

Nella Pickup awarded Life Membership

Members attending the 2017 CBCA Tasmania Annual General Meeting acknowledged and celebrated the untiring dedication of Nella Pickup to the organisation.

Nella Pickup has given unstinting service to The Children’s Book Council of Australia, Tasmanian Branch (Inc) for more than ten years. Nella was elected Secretary in 2007 and served in that capacity for nine years. As the branch membership was relatively small and the Executive minute, Nella nobly took on a multitude of other roles, including Minutes Secretary, Archives Officer, overseeing the CBCA (Tas) Blog roster and its production, contributing to the Blog and newsletter, and supporting Richard as President. The number of trips they made up and down the Midlands Highway does not bear contemplation!
Nella’s organisational skills are impressive and she brought diligence and tenacity to convening events that kept the branch visible and promoted literature for children and young people. In 2011 with Carol Fuller and Penny Goldsworthy she wrote and published the booklet Books to keep kids reading, and then later was instrumental in the development of a series of five reading guides for parents, built around that booklet. In the process, Nella cultivated the arcane art of writing grant applications! She was an active contributor to the planning and enacting of events in the Year of Celebrating Nan Chauncy in 2015 and the significant Hidden Stories events in 2016.
Most recently, Nella willingly took on responsibility for the production of the excellent Book of The Year Awards ceremony at Government House, Tasmania. Nella liaised between CBCA and the personnel there. She ensured that the program ran smoothly with just the right amount of formality, but also with friendliness and due respect for the children and young people that Children’s Book Week is all about.
Nella is a dedicated bibliophile. She knows an enormous amount about literature for children and young people and keeps her knowledge current by reading books and reviews and investing her personal time and money to attend national and international conferences focused on the field. As Dr Robin Morrow notes, Nella ‘has been, and continues to be, an active and contributing member of IBBY Australia, particularly as a member of selection panels for awards, where her wide-ranging and deep knowledge is keenly appreciated’.
As a librarian, Nella eagerly held public events to promote literature and literacy, authors and the fun of reading. As Clive Tilsley comments, Nella ‘retrained later to take on new skills as a retailer, selling books in that role, with the same passion and commitment to quality and matching the book to the prospective reader’. Nella’s particular expertise in non-fiction material was recognised by her selection as a National Judge for the Eve Pownall Award in 2003-2004.

CBCA, as a volunteer organisation, absolutely relies on the efforts, enormous hard work and goodwill of community-minded individuals such as Nella. Together with other eminent contributors, including Dr Robin Morrow (AM) and Clive Tilsley, Patsy Jones and Jenni Connor enthusiastically propose Nella Pickup for Life Membership of CBCA (Tas).

Jenni Connor & Patsy Jones

Saturday 21 October 2017

Literature Circles

Pennii introduces a literary technique to encourage students to read and respond to a diverse range of books through group engagements and roles that encourage discussion from multiple perspectives.

At Reece High School we have been exploring Literature Circles in Grade 7 and 8. Students are placed into groups according to Literacy data gained through NAPLAN, PAT testing and individual reading/comprehension assessments completed throughout the year. The literature used is usually in the form of a novel that has been levelled and is completed over a 6 week period.

So what are Literature Circles?
Literature Circles are small groups of students gathered together to discuss a piece of literature in depth. The discussion is guided by students' response to what they have read. They may talk about events and characters in the book, the way the author has written the book, or personal experiences related to the story. Literature Circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. Collaboration is at the heart of this approach. Students reshape and add onto their understanding as they construct meaning with other readers. Finally, literature circles guide students to deeper understanding of what they read through structured discussion and extended written and artistic response.

So why use Literature Circles?
· Literature circles can be a place for cooperative learning. Students help each other understand a text and make sense of it. Literature Circles teach kids how to use each other as resources and become independent learners. Guidance, modelling and support, should still be provided by the teacher.
· Literature circles allow students to make choices about their learning. All children desperately need more opportunities to make choices in school. Choice leads to deeper engagement, increased intrinsic motivation, and an opportunity for guided-decision making.
· Literature circles are fun, in part because they are social experiences. Students are expected to talk a lot, to debate and argue their ideas. Students are invited to bring their experiences and feelings into the classroom and to share them.
· Finally, because they are student led and the students have choice of roles, and they are a cooperative learning structure, literature circles are powerful experiences for reluctant and/or struggling readers. Literature circles have to be differentiated; by nature each group will read books at different levels on different topics or similar themes. Struggling readers can select a text at their level; the teacher can provide direct support to that group or can include a couple of higher-readers.

Literature Circle roles chosen by students within the group are:
Students can elect for a role within the group. Teachers may appoint a role. Although the teacher is there to support the group the Literature Circle is student led.
· Questioner: The questioner thinks of relevant questions while reading a fictional or factual text: How does this happen? Why did this character act in this way?
· Connector: The connector makes text-to-self connections (How does this relate to my feelings, my experiences?), text-to-text connections (Have I read something like this in another book? Is this book similar to another by the same author?), and text-to-world connections (How is this similar to what has been happening in the news?).
· Vocabulary Enricher (Word Wizard): The vocabulary enricher selects and explains new or interesting words that add interest to the text.
· Illustrator (Artful Artist): The illustrator shares visual interpretations of the story with other members of the group
· Discussion Director: The discussion director selects an interesting main idea or event for the group to discuss. The discussion director reminds the group to keep on track and encourages others to participate.
· Summariser: The summariser prepares a summary of the main points of the day’s reading.
· Researcher: The researcher locates information related to the book, such as cultural references or the history of the book’s setting.
· Literary Luminary: The literary luminary finds important sections or quotations in the book that can be shared with others.
· Scene-setter: The scene-setter tracks where actions happen and when/if the scene changes.

We have used the Literature Circle Role sheets to help students facilitate their roles:

Books we use for Literature Circles – Grade 7:
Theme: Friendship
· Middle School – Just My Rotten Luck - James Patterson
· Lockie Leonard: Human Torpedo – Tim Winton
· There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom – Lois Sachar
· Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
· Pookie Aleera is Not My Boyfriend – Steven Herrick
· Don’t Call Me Ishmael – Michael Gerard Bauer
· Scenes from an Epic Life of a Total Genius – Stacey Matson
· Wonder – Stephen Chbosky
· Digger Jones – Richard Frankland
Theme: Author - Roald Dahl
· Fantastic Mr Fox
· Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
· Boy: Tales of Childhood
· Going Solo
· Esio Trot
· The Witches

Books we use for Literature Circles – Grade 8:
Theme: Dystopian Fiction
· Matched – Ally Condie
· The Declaration – Gemma Malley
· Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
· Divergent – Veronica Roth
· V for Vendetta (graphic novel) –
· The Giver – Lois Lowry
· Maze Runner – James Dasher
· Uglies – Scott Westerfeld
· Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
· The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

Some of the groups may have only 3 students but can have up to a maximum of 15. So we have up to 16 copies of each title and are currently looking at another theme for our Grade 8s. In 2018, we will look at introducing Literature Circles for Grade 9 as well. One of the Grade 9s themes will stem from their History or Social Sciences Curriculum units.

Have any other schools been involved in Literature Circles? If so, what titles and /or themes are you using? I would be really interested to know. Please feel free to email me at pennii.purton@education.tas.gov.au

Pennii Purton
Library Technician, Reece High School

Editor’s note: There are numerous print and web resources to help you get started with Literature Circles. 

· Harvey Daniels Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups
· Inside a Dog: Literature Circles
· Literature Circles Resource Center
· ReadWriteThink: Literature Circles

Saturday 14 October 2017

Enter Cello – A fantasy world with a difference

This week, discover the fantasy word of Cello created by young adult author Jaclyn Moriarty. Jackie deftly shares her love of this trilogy and provides plenty of hooks as she details the nuances of an alternative world and the trials and tribulations of teenagers displaced between Cello and Earth.

The ability of an author to create a world that captures the imagination of the reader is a key ingredient in fantasy fiction, and it is the world of Cello which is the real star of Jaclyn Moriarty’s Colours of Madeleine Trilogy. The Kingdom of Cello provides a rich backdrop for the characters’ struggles to return the missing royal family to Cello before their absence is discovered and is a major strength of the series.

Although the idea of a world linked to our own world is not new, the world of Cello is distinctly original and very attractive. What reader wouldn’t love to experience the Lake of Spells (only accessible to children no older than sixteen) and fish for the many spells there, or to visit the Cat Walk where cats of all sizes and species from all over the Kingdom gather to walk in the evening? The revelation that Cellians can be identified by a spray of colours which is visible on their inner elbow when lemon juice is applied is an appealing idea especially when you realise that Cellians transported to our world lose their memories of their former lives and have no idea that they are in fact from another world.  The Butterfly Child, Accidental Pilots and other Cellian oddities all add an element of magic and possibility to the world.

The provinces of Cello are all extremely different to each other as well as to our world. The technology minded Jagged Edgians are in stark contrast to the traditionally minded people of Old Quainte with their unusual and convoluted expressions. These differences add another dimension to the teenage themes explored in the books as characters see the world from totally different viewpoints depending on where they live– Keira from Jagged Edge sees the importance of endings while Elliott from the Farms needs beginnings.
Cello experiences Colour attacks and a system of warning bells has been put in place to keep people safe. Some colours can wound or even kill. Others can affect mood or perception. The importance of these colours and the Cello, to both Cello and our own world, revealed in the ending of the third book is plausible and resonates with current environmental theories.

Readers of Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield novels will recognise her skill at supplementing her storytelling prose with letters, newspaper articles and extracts from the extremely irritating T.I. Candle’s guidebook. Often these play a key role in conveying information that will be essential to later story developments.

Comprising the novels A Corner of White, The Cracks in the Kingdom and A Tangle of Gold, the story begins with a girl in our world discovering a message from Cello in a broken parking meter. The teenage characters at the centre of the story both in Cello and our world experience usual teenage issues often amidst absent or disappointing parents. Finding a place where you feel you can fit in, as well as establishing your true identity, are key concerns. Discovering which cause is worth your support is not as easy as it may at first appear and may put you at odds with your friends.

If you haven’t read this series, track it down – you won’t be disappointed.

Jackie Crane

Saturday 7 October 2017

On my TBR pile

Nella’s post several weeks ago made Maureen Mann think that she would follow her categories, but in fact she has ended up with just one category, though hers is a list. Some of Maureen's  To Be Read (TBR) pile has been devoured and is shared here with you for inspiration.

I have just made an all too brief trip back to Launceston and took advantage of being able to read some of the books which haven’t been available to me in the UK. Because of time constraints, and fitting in reading with our hectic schedule, I have only managed to remove picture books from my list. They are my favourite genre, so it wasn’t a hardship. Here are some I have enjoyed – not in any particular order.

Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
The spare, lyric text of this book is beautifully enhanced by King’s illustrations. Mother, baby and dog set off on a fantasy voyage across the seas, joined briefly by a polar bear, watched by whales and occasionally by a red bird until they reach their safe destination. “I am the castaway, you are the journey’s end, welcome me. I. You. We.”

My Brother by Dee, Oliver and Tiffany Huxley
Sparsely worded, monochrome illustrations tell the story of a gentle creature searching for a lost brother in magical places, moving from grief to acceptance of loss. When finally he’s found, the world changes as reflected by the bright yellow added to the illustrations. It’s thought-provoking for adults and older children who will understand the many layers and for younger readers who will accept it on face-value. Great cover summary of the story.

Image result for wolfie deborah abela
Wolfie, an unlikely hero by Deborah Abela and Connah Brecon
I really like fractured fairy tales and this is a good one. I, The Wolf, am sick of being the bad guy. I’m taking over this book.” Each traditional story, which usually ends with the wolf eating his victims, is interrupted by the wolf who wants to be part of a happy story where he rescues the princess. Even in this version he is foiled when the princess rescues herself. Wolf finally becomes Dragon’s pet.

There is No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright
Another fractured fairytale. Dragon wanted to be a real hero, not just one who rescues princesses. So off he goes to persuade (unsuccessfully each time) well-known characters to let him join their story: the three little pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood. But when Dragon makes the giant sneeze and blow out the sun, he alone can rescue the darkened world.

My Friend Tertius by Corinne Fenton and Owen Swan
Based on historical fact, this is the story of Arthur Cooper working in pre-World War II Hong Kong and the long-armed baboon, named Tertius, he adopted. The latter accompanies Cooper on each escape from invading forces during the war – to Singapore and eventually to Fremantle where Tertius was an illegal immigrant. Eventually the authorities caught up with them and Tertius spent the rest of his life in Melbourne Zoo.  Great story, lots of discussion especially for older readers, and interesting illustrations, but I would have liked to see more emphasis on the quarantine aspect of Cooper’s decisions.
Was Not Me! by Shannon Horsfall

“I have a naughty twin brother who only I can see. He is Not Me.” And so starts the tale of mischief and mayhem caused by the narrator who denies his actions each time, saying “Was Not Me”. There is humour throughout especially as the reader knows who the culprit is. As a parent I enjoyed this, having had 2 children who had invisible friends and accomplices.

Ruby Red Shoes Goes to London by Kate Knapp
Ruby and her beloved Babushka now find themselves in London. I loved the play on words linking hares with London locations, eg Harethrow for Heathrow, as well as the info on London landmarks and transport. From this perspective it is a great introduction to London. I had been looking forward to this one, but not being a great fan of anthropomorphic animals, I found it all a bit twee, despite the good points. Younger readers should really like its cute pictures.

The Great Rabbit Chase by Freya Blackwood

Gumboots escapes while Mum is in the shower so the chase begins. Each person they pass joins in the pursuit. They include John, the lonely zebra crossing man, the busy man in a suit, Mrs Finkel and her wrinkles, everyone part of the community. Once they all reach the park with trees “like giants with their long legs stuck in the ground”, the disparate group relaxes. Finally, everyone follows Gumboots and his/her discovered family back home, Mum still wrapped in just her towel. Great fun.

Invisible Lizard by Kurt Cyrus and Andy Atkins
This is a strange mix of cartoon concepts and reality. The skills of Napoleon, the chameleon, to camouflage himself is well portrayed as he searches the jungle for someone to be his friend, but the environment he is in is far too fairy-like and the anthropomorphism is too great for me to rate it as an excellent book. The use of the phrase “spiffy limb” bother me – what does it really mean?
Pig the Star and Busting! by Aaron Blabey, who has woven his magic again with both these books, though neither quite reaches the heights of Pig the Pug. I enjoy Blabey’s sense of fun.
Though I could keep going, it’s time to stop. Hope your interest has been piqued by some of these titles to go search for them if you haven’t already read and shared them.
What’s on your TBR pile?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader