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

Sunday 25 March 2018

When writing children’s books, it pays to go the extra mile…

 Claire Saxby is well known for her non-fiction picture books on historical figures and Australian animals. Koala, illustrated by Julie Vivas is on the Notables list for this year’s Eve Pownall Award – the Shortlist is released on Tuesday March 27.

Claire Saxby has been writing for children for about 20 years. She has nearly fifty books in print with more in production.  One of her books was read on Play School.  Claire travels around Australia to research her books as much of the best information comes from libraries, family stories, newspaper archives and museum exhibitions. Claire has featured in award lists including most recently the Bangkok Book Awards.

Claire recently visited Launceston as a guest speaker at the Lunchbox Lecture series organised by Friends of the Library Launceston and Launceston LINC. Claire spoke about and read her two Tasmanian stories My Name is Lizzie Flynn (illustrated by Lizzy Newcomb) and Bird to Bird illustrated by Wayne Harris. 
Claire’s research, her quest to go the extra mile to base her stories in truth, has provided her with serendipitous discoveries that add richness to her stories.  Lizzie is based on 13-year-old Scottish convict Rose Ford transported to Tasmania on the ship Rajah.  A chance remark that some convicts would have been very unhappy to be making a quilt for a wealthy woman while the sewers, convict women, had nothing, led to the creation of Martha. 

Hearing that convict bunking was removed from a ship, made into a weaving loom and then into a lean-to kitchen was the impetus for Claire’s recently published picture book Bird to Bird. This history of Australia in 170 words is Claire at her poetic best. Claire is a fascinating speaker, so if an opportunity arises to hear her, grab it. 
Tasmanian readers might be interested to know that the picture of the hut in this story is based on the Reg Wadley memorial hut.  (There are many pictures – perhaps the best is here.)

 Nella Pickup, Avid Reader and Retired Librarian

Saturday 17 March 2018

CBCA favourites from the Notables list

Tania provides her personal insights into some of the recently announced CBCA Notables for 2018.

With the CBCA long list having been announced recently, I was really thrilled to see my primary school library had the greater proportion of the titles, many of which had come through my standing orders supplier but quite a few which I had already identified at being on my hit list of “must get” books. So I thought I might talk about a couple of those.

Whatcha Building? written by Andrew Daddo, illustrated by Stephen Michael King.
This first came to my notice because it is illustrated by Stephen Michael King, and he is one of my absolute favourites. I love this story of a quirky boy who finds a way to reach his goals using imagination, politeness and persistence. And I love to watch the growing friendship between Davey and builder Bruce. Plus the illustrations are amazing! The large double spread page with the juxtaposition of real items used as a backdrop to the cityscape is very powerful and a fantastic jumping off point for children to use every day items in new and imaginative ways.

Koala Bare written by Jackie French, illustrated by Matt Shanks.
What a fun way to explain to children that koalas aren’t bears! Already classes have heavily used this book when they are studying Australian animals and it is fast becoming a favourite. The way the main character romps through the book destroying the myths that he is a bear and the havoc he causes by demonstrating his reasons why he’s not a bear are hilarious and resonate with the reader. This is a fun fiction title to use when studying Australian animals as a bit of light relief.

Nomax written and illustrated by Shannon Horsfall
As the owner of a dog who shares quite a few of Max’s traits, I loved this book immediately.  And I really enjoy the gentle joke on the last page as Max is so perplexed that the name on his dog bowl isn’t Nomax, which according to him is his name. Fun illustrations and engaging text will have the children giggling along.

Boy written by Phil Cummings and illustrated by Shane DeVries
What a delightful read with a lovely message about differences being strengths and how a different point of view on a problem can give a whole new perspective. The artwork is engaging, making the Viking village come alive, although there are some additions that make you smile…cacti? In a Viking village? I really love the double spread with all the characters pointing fingers at each other, each blaming the others. Children will really identify with this and hopefully take the message away that good communication and understanding of differences are good tools in conflict resolution.
Phil Cummins reading Boy

Exploring Soils: A Hidden World Underground written by Sam Grover, illustrated by Camille Heisler.
I saw a pre-publication review of this book and just knew it would be a fantastic addition to our primary school library. And it is! The lovely soft illustrations bring the garden and its processes alive, showing readers how soil isn’t just something we walk on but a microscopic world that we depend on for a huge variety of things. Once again, this is a great title to read to classes to increase their science understanding.
Dr Sam Grover talks about and shares her book on soils

Did you have some favourites on the long list?
Now all we have to do is wait with bated breath to see which books make the shortlist.

Tania Cooper
Library Technician
Ulverstone Primary School

Saturday 10 March 2018

A review of The Cruel Prince

This week Pennii Purton shares her response to a recent read of Holly Black’s latest young adult addition to The Folk of the Air trilogy. Find out about The Cruel Prince in this review.

The Cruel Prince - author Holly Black  

Series: The Folk of the Air
Released January 2018
YA novel

Of course I want to be like them. They're beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Prince Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe…

What is the book about?
Jude is the daughter of the runaway wife of a Fae general who murdered her mother and the man she thought was her father. The general, feeling obligated to raise the children, brings Jade and her sisters to a Fae land in the heart of the forest, brimming with monsters and wolves on the prowl, and raised her like a trueborn child of Faerie, despite not having a drop of faerie blood.

Jude grew up learning to keep her head down and pretend the fear away. She endured the contempt of the Fae, swallowed her fear and saw it through. She was the human girl who got pushed to the sidelines and always treated as an afterthought, when all she really wants is to belong.

Jude didn't fit into the boundaries they gave her. She didn't fit and the moment she stopped wishing she could and held onto the lingering bitter urge to make them all hurt, she learned that being ruthless in the face of great terror was her best revenge for being made to endure it.

The Cruel Prince is a delightfully dark, twisty novel containing drama, action, surprises, nastiness and the tiniest hints of romance. Then you get to the spying, secrets, betrayals, side-switching and just when you think you love a character, a plot twist comes along and you wish the character would vanish; and then you love them all over again. All the characters are complex and slightly flawed and nobody can be trusted.

I absolutely love this novel, the ending didn’t disappoint with a climax full of surprises and has left me desperate for the second book in the trilogy, The Wicked King, (due 2019). I can’t wait!!!

Pennii Purton
Library Technician, Reece High School

Friday 2 March 2018

Big cats: Predators under threat

This week Jennie hones in on the plight of the world's magnificent felines to identify books that will help children appreciate, respect and care about the big cats that roam the world. 

To highlight and educate people across the world the United Nations World Wildlife Day celebrates and raises awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. Each year March 3 heralds a year long campaign.  In 2018 the spotlight is on “Big cats: Predators under threat”. Today and throughout 2018, take the time to introduce young readers to these graceful felines and build awareness of the threats they face.  Literature provides a wonderful medium to introduce the diverse range of feline predators, inspire awareness and initiate conversations with young readers. Many of the selections below can be accessed through your local library – why not make a pledge to explore big cats throughout the year.
William Blake’s classic poem ‘Tyger tyger’ provides a wonderful springboard and the video and musical rendition of the poem captures this powerful feline in all its glory.

In the Lion – James Foley
A young boy visits the zoo with his family, only to find an enormous lion is swallowing everything and everyone it can. Only the boy has the courage to stand his ground and stop the lion. Repetitive text and the expressions of Richard encourage young readers (and listeners) to join in and predict the outcome on each double page spread.  Great fun for preschoolers and youngsters but also an opportunity to discuss what a healthy lion should be eating!

Goodnight Tiger – Timothy Knapman & Laura Hughes
This quirky, funny bedtime story book is full of jungle animals and surprises. The vibrant illustrations are sure to delight children at bedtime. The animals in Emily's jungle wallpaper can't sleep, and they are bellowing and stomping and growling and keeping her awake! This is a great introduction to a number of jungle animals, including some big cats.

Tiger’s story - Harriet Blackford, illustrated by Manya Stojic
Tiger is a small, strong stripey cub. He lives in the forest in India. He walks quietly on his big soft paws and twitches his long stripey tail. An easy to read introduction to tigers through this playful cub.

I am a Cat – Galia Bernstein
A simple housecat named Simon encounters some bigger cats: Lion, Puma, Panther, Tiger, and Cheetah. Each of the big cats has something to say about Simon not being “cat” enough. According to them, he just doesn’t measure up. He doesn’t have Lion’s mane or Cheetah’s spots. He doesn’t sleep in trees like Panther or climb mountains like Puma. He’s small and fuzzy, not big and strong. But ultimately, Simon shows the big cats that he’s just like them . . . only smaller.

Several titles in the Adventures with… series introduce big cats and share an authentic story about the animal with considerable factual information conveyed through the story line and colour photographs.
Written by Jan Latta, Timba the TigerChipper the Cheetah  and Lena the Lion introduce young readers to three different big cats, how they live and threats they face. Each title also provides information on what we can do to help protect these endangered big cat populations.

The World Wildlife Fund has published a series of short novels for young independent readers. Look out for:
Snow Leopard Lost - Linda Chapman
Set in Mongolia, Emily's dad is helping to set up a new project to help endangered snow leopards in the area. On a half term visit Emily makes friends with a young snow leopard cub, Leo. But not all the villagers are pleased that the leopards are making themselves at home.
Tiger Tricks –Linda Chapman
Emily's mum is being sent to India to take photos of an endangered forest. Emily isn't expecting to meet any wild friends, so is delighted when runaway tiger cub, Bala, turns up! But the local people are less happy

The Snow Leopard – Jackie Morris
A beautifully crafted allegory representing life, death and renewal through the story of a girl’s dreaming and her transformation into a snow leopard and protector of life.  Set against the stunning landscapes of the Himalayas, the superlative illustrations of the nearly-extinct snow leopard offer a message of hope at a time when many of the world's wildest places are being worn away by human beings.

For independent readers Tiger Trouble by Justin D’Ath. Set in New Delhi, Sam and his family are watching big brother Nathan make his international cricketing debut when a young pickpocket steals Sam's backpack. Sam gives chase and runs foul of the boss of a pickpocket gang, who's also involved in the illegal trade of exotic pets, including tiger cubs taken from the wild. When a pair of cubs is to be smuggled through Pakistan to Iran, Sam and the young pickpocket, now his ally, set out in the cause of wildlife conservation to rescue them. Fast-paced action and animal adventures.

Tiger Tiger – Lynne Reid Banks
In this historical fiction novel, two tiger cubs are snatched from their native jungle and shipped to Rome. There they are cruelly separated, and one cub becomes the princess's adored house pet. The other, fiercer cub is trained to become the star performer in Caesar's bloodthirsty circus. Princess Aurelia detests her father's brutal 'sport', but must keep her feelings secret. The only person she can confide in is her slave, Julius, her tiger's keeper. But such a friendship is equally forbidden: should the Emperor find out, his anger would be terrible and his punishment severe. But friendship and love cannot be dictated, and neither tiger nor man is destined for a life in chains. This story is also available in audio for shared listening.

Don’t forget to spend time seeking out non-fiction titles as well. Often with stunning photographs, most contemporary titles also include information about the threats and actions to help preserve these magnificent feline predators. Some non-fiction reviews can be read on JB’s not Just Books blog.

Jennie Bales
CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator, adjunct lecturer for Charles Sturt University in the Med (Teacher Librarianship) course.