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

Friday 24 November 2017

Jumping Back On to The Write Road

This week Johanna Baker-Dowdell focuses on a creative writing endeavour with primary students undertaken with with the expertise of Tasmanian author, Lian Tanner. It is wonderful that this program has been extended for a further year - if you missed the first post, follow the link provided for some background insights.

For those who have been long-term readers of this blog, you may remember I was a creative writing mentor for a group of grade 5 and 6 students who participated in The Write Road in 2016.

This year the format was slightly different to last in that instead of 10 weekly prompts the groups had five fortnightly prompts, which gave them an extra week to plan, write and edit their pieces. They will soon be seeing the fruits of their labour when their favourite two pieces are published in an anthology.

It was great to see some of the grade 5 students from last year’s cohort joining again this time, as well as some excited new faces (including my 11-year-old son). One of the treats for this year’s Write Road groups was a creative writing session with The Keepers trilogy and the Hidden series author Lian Tanner, who gave these aspiring writers an invaluable insight into her planning process when first presented with an idea, or prompt.

Using the picture of a person on a bike and the question: “What does it mean to escape?” Ms Tanner showed how she would start a story.

To get the eager minds started on the creative road, Ms Tanner handed each a sheet of A2 paper and a handful of coloured markers telling them to write down the first thing that came to mind when thinking of the question above. She explained: “It might be a sentence, it might be a word, it might be a phrase. What’s the first thing that strikes you when it comes to that prompt?”

They had permission to make grammatical and spelling mistakes, and even to write nonsensical things, because order “gets in the way of imagination”. “This is fun. It’s our way of playing,” Ms Tanner said.

Doodling ideas
After an initial flurry of scribbling she asked the students if they came up with anything unexpected or surprising. “I’m encouraging them to explore and do the things I do when I write,” she said.

And explore they did. More than 20 students in that room saw the same prompt and each created a story around it that was completely different. Some were running from something that scared them, others were escaping to a peaceful oasis and others still described the feeling of riding their bike freely, with the wind in their hair and the wind rushing past their ears.

It’s a fascinating process to watch – and do – and it set these eager creative writers on a path that I hope will have them writing their own prose and poetry for years to come.

I know I certainly approach brainstorming in a much less ordered way as a result of Lian’s masterclass.

Johanna is a journalist, author of the book Business & Baby on Board and a PhD candidate.

Johanna Baker-Dowdell
Twitter: JohannaBD

Saturday 18 November 2017

On my processing trolley…

The end of the school hear heralds the closure of budgets - Tania shares some last minute picture book gems she has picked up from her local bookshop.

At this time of the year when school libraries are frantically trying to make sure they spend all their budgets, I thought I might share some of my recent acquisitions from the local bookshops with you.

Why dogs circle to Lie Down by Greg Ray, illustrated by Jenny Miller
Written by Tasmanian author Greg Ray, illustrated by Jenny Miller, this is one of a series of ‘Why dogs do various things’. Its rhyming text explains various suggested reasons for this behaviour, depending on the dog breed and its own personal requirements. As we have a well-established Story Dogs program, this book will really resonate with the children.

Kimonos by Annelore Parot
This is a delightful book, full of surprises and interactions! Annelore Parot has crafted a sensory exploration of Japanese culture in a fun and imaginative way. With fold out pages, cut out peek-a-boos, and incremented sections this is an adventure into the wonderfully precise nature of Japanese culture. Sure to become a favourite, I predict this one will be extremely well loved. If there’s a little girl in your life and you’re looking for a Christmas present, you couldn’t go far wrong with this one.

The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
A beautifully presented easy read story featuring a strong female character! This book is a delightful read with engaging pictures and a strong female lead character.  Its easy reading level will ensure it appeals to reluctant readers and the short chapters will give a sense of achievement. With the popularity of superheros at the moment, this is a fun and quirky way for girls to delve into the saving the world genre!

Quick Quack Quentin by Kes Gray, illustrated by Jim Field.
Another fantastic book from Kes Gray, author of Oi Frog!, which is easily one of our most used picture books by teaching staff to support phonic awareness and the teaching of the “og” sound. In his new adventure, Gray brings us a duck who’s lost the “a” from his quack and his subsequent journey to fix the problem and his discovery that not all vowels are created equal. A very funny read; but I suspect a challenge to read aloud; but well worth the effort as children will be delighted with the results, if for no other reason than to hear the readers struggling with the vowelless words!

This is another title guaranteed to become a favourite with teaching staff to support literacy.

Friendship is Like a Seesaw by Shona Innes, illustrated by Irisz Ag΄ocs
One of the Big Hug series of books with gentle illustrations and an accessible message. I really like the use of words like bossy and sooky which are terms kids can relate to. Books dealing with emotions seems o be topical at the moment and this one is an example that is done well. The story is simple, engaging but easily accessible, and the underlying idea is immediately understandable and digestible. It notes beaut strategies for dealing with the problems that occur in friendships, with all suggestions school friendly.

No matter what your choices are for using up that end of year budget, might I suggest it’s a great idea to peruse the shelves of your local bookshop? It’s great for your library shelves, good business for them and soothing for your soul!

Tania Cooper
Library Technician, Ulverstone Primary School

Saturday 11 November 2017

Jeannie Baker - Circle Exhibition

Jennie Bales responds to a visit to the exhibition of Jeannie Baker's magnificent Circle currently on show at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart.

Have you read Circle?

"Tiny godwit birds follow ancient, invisible pathways in an infinity of sky. Flying on and on, for nine nights and nine days, flying without rest. From Arctic icebergs in the north, to tropical golden beaches in the south, across thousands of kilometres of Pacific Ocean. ‘Circle’ captures the sheer wonder of this migratory journey, reminding us of the global interdependence of nature.                                                                                               The Godwit’s remarkable flight is followed as it comes full circle     … back to the place where mud and sand become sea." (Jeannie Baker, 2016)

Jeannie Baker continues to explore our natural world with a strong environmental theme in her latest contribution to children's literature. Her use of collage is masterful and compliments and enhances the story or endurance and survival when faced with dwindling habitats.
Read a review.

Jeannie Baker shares her creative inspiration in developing Circle.

The book is a wonderful visual treat - but seeing the original art work is a truly amazing experience. An exhibition has been travelling around Australia and is currently on site at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery until the 3rd December. If you reside in the city, or are visiting, take the time to walk through the gallery, learn about godwits, view the art work, read Jeannie's notes on developing the text and illustrations, and sit quietly to read the story and compare the original art works with those published between the covers. Three dimensional, textured, illuminated... you will want to touch them! (but don't ;-)

Walker Books provides supporting resources on their website, including informative teachers' notes with further information about Jeannie Baker, godwits and the themes of the book. The reference list provides a number of resources - print and online - to support the various themes explored in the story.                                                                                                                                                           
If you are looking for an alternative ad complimentary story on the birds' migratory journey you might enjoy the The Godwits by Bruce Pickworth (review) with a lengthier, illustrated text that encompasses both human and bird perspectives.

Don't forget - you have until the 3rd December to visit the exhibition in Hobart before it wings its way to Queensland.
Jennie Bales
Blog editor, adjunct lecturer, and lover of children's literature.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Imagine if ...

Join Belle Alderman, Director of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature as she highlights a two-month exhibition and event celebrating Australian illustrators of children’s literature. A unique bringing together of outstanding art works from two prestigious collections.

We lived and breathed our motto for this year: Imagine if …. We celebrated our partnership with The CBCA with an exhibition featuring some of the stunning 150 artworks from the Children’s Book Week Artwork Collection. We envisioned these as complementary to the NCACL’s large collection of artworks. How to choose from such riches? What themes might provide connections and insights?

We chose three themes: Enter, Journey and Imagine to inspire imaginations and so explore the art of Australia’s talented picture book creators including Kerry Argent, Graeme Base, Freya Blackwood, Ron Brooks, Neil Curtis, Kylie Dunstan, Vienne Goodman, Peter Gouldthorpe, Bob Graham, Brian Harrison-Lever, Elizabeth Honey, Patricia Mullins, Narelle Oliver, Matt Ottley, Gregory Rogers, Anne Spudvilas, Shaun Tan, Jane Tanner & Steven Woolman. We framed the artworks and then explored the creative process by exhibiting dummies, storyboards and preliminary material as well.

The ever-inspiring Bob Graham played an essential role in Imagine if… by creating an original artwork for Imagine if … . Most importantly, he allowed us to raffle this artwork. We cheered as our nation-wide raffle raised sufficient funds to purchase 20 museum quality reusable frames for future exhibitions.

Imagine if … inspired us! Here are the highlights. The Imagine if … Exhibition featured 40 framed original artworks from 19 illustrators including 24 artworks from the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) and 16 from The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Children’s Book Week artwork collection. Imagine if … ran for two months from 10 July – 30 August. We opened for 152 hours over 38 days. We also featured professional development programs attended by 50 adults and exhibition activity programs for six schools and a home school group attended by 501 young people aged three and 18 years. Altogether 874 people attended Imagine if …  We conducted a formal evaluation of programs which received very positive comments & valuable feedback for future events.

Margaret Hamilton & Max Brown at
the opening, with the 'book corner'
also in use.
At our opening event Margot Hillel OAM, Chair of The CBCA Board, gave a stimulating address as did Bob Graham, who in his inimitable way, said it all:

Nour, the Cultural Heritage
Student Project Leader
with one of the panels she
designed and painted.
Bob Graham
‘I would like to use that same imagination and come down from the clouds to the north of my window to think that some day and hopefully not too much into the future that the National Centre for Children’s Literature might have an enhanced space of its own, a building and facilities that will accommodate its wonderful and nationally important collection where it can give access to all people: to the work, the stories past, the stories here and now and the stories to come that will nourish the imagination of children of all ages way into the future!’

‘A thoroughly delicious insight into national treasures … may a permanent museum of such be a reality soon!! Professor Erica Hateley, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

‘Imagine if I had missed this divine and beautifully presented journey into the world of children’s illustrators. Thank you for showcasing the immense talent of these amazing individuals.’ Professor Peter Bodycott, Faculty of Education, Science, Technology & Maths, University of Canberra

Teacher’s observation of children at Imagine if … on what engaged children most — ‘unpacking of the art in the books eg watercolour and tissue paper and noticing the features of that material and how the illustrators use it to create.’

 ‘This was an absolutely amazing session. To think that our most influential children’s authors and illustrators in Australia have their works in one place is brilliant. Teacher, Professional Development Course’

Belle Alderman
Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature