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

Sunday 29 April 2018

Again! Why Repetition is a Good Thing

Johanna strongly relates our joy of rereading our favourite books to the learning processes that children go through when learning to read with books that explain the world they know and the experiences they wish to engage in. We can all remember books that did that for us as children if we try.

My eldest son is about to turn 12, but when he was a toddler he would watch the same films and television programs over and over and over again. I cannot tell you how many times I watched the same few episodes of Bob the Builder or the film Wall-E in the first few years of his life. As a tween he now binges on basketball games, repeating shots and plays until he has them imprinted on his brain.

His younger brother followed the same pattern when he was small. We watched endless repeats of Pocoyo and Mouk on television and now, as a nine year old, he watches a season of My Little Pony and then starts again at the beginning. The same goes for anything dance related, as he aspires to be a famous ballerino.

And both of them do the same with books. Master 12 has read, and reread, Harry Potter, Goosebumps and Specky Magee books until he can recite them word for word. His brother has read Louisa the Ballerina books and The Secret Rescuers series many times. After wondering why they kept rereading and rewatching the same content, I did some research to give me a little insight.

One of the most pertinent points on this subject was made by Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, who said rereading was not an “indulgence”, but an essential part of the reading process for children. As Lucy explains:

Adults tend to forget what a vital part of the process rereading is for children. As adults, rereading seems like backtracking at best, self-indulgence at worst. Free time is such a scarce resource that we feel we should use it on new things. But for children, rereading is absolutely necessary. The act of reading is itself still new.

Children are still learning the meaning of the words they are reading, as well as the meaning of the word in the context of the scene. And with that I was taken back to the time, as a grade 3 pupil, I read and reread a passage in a book to understand the meaning of the word “embrace”. Before that day I hadn’t heard the word, and so was struggling to understand what it meant in the story I was reading about dancing princesses.

After going over the passage several times my desire to know what it meant was so strong that I shyly asked my teacher, Mr Rowe. He pondered the question for a moment and then responded with “it’s like a cuddle”. At the time I remember thinking cuddle didn’t seem to fit the scene, but it gave me enough information to go on so I could understand the text better.

The other reason children reread and rewatch is that learning happens through repetition. When we learned to ride a bike we didn’t just know how to do it – we kept trying until we stopped falling off, wobbled less and less and eventually took off along the road, bike track or driveway. I can still rattle off my times tables and the odd Shakespeare quote for the same reason. In Zig Ziglar’s words, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment”.

So the next time my sons want to read the same book again, watch the same television show or play the same card game, I need to remind myself that this is part of their learning. And so it must be good for me too.

Johanna is a journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.
Johanna Baker-Dowdell

Twitter: JohannaBD


Sunday 22 April 2018

Fremantle Literature Centre celebrates 25 Years in 2018!

Coral Tulloch, our very well-known Tasmanian author-illustrator, has frequently been involved with the Literature Centre in Fremantle, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. She tells us about her experiences and some of the celebrations so far.

Twenty-Five years is an anniversary in any language, and in the language of the celebration of literature it is a milestone that deserves recognition. If you have been fortunate enough to attend any of the events at the Literature Centre in Fremantle, Western Australia, (formerly the Children’s Literature Centre) you will have been richly rewarded.

The Centre exists because of the passion of Lesley Reece and has been the heart of many celebrations through these years, including extraordinary exhibitions, festivals, lectures, school visits, conferences, professional development, youth literature days, travelling authors and illustrators, touring exhibitions and teacher support.  Along with a fabulous bookshop, it is a residency that has not only housed visiting authors and illustrators, their families and friends, but also been the home to so many friendships and collaborations that have ended up on our bookshelves.

I was fortunate enough to be taken to the Centre and introduced to Lesley by Ann James 20 years ago, on my way to Antarctica.  Ann was staying at the Centre and I jumped at the opportunity to stay with her whilst the other voyagers waited for the call to board the Aurora Australis, from a hotel down the road. I loved the Centre instantly and the enthusiasm of Lesley and her incredible staff. Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood held a dinner for us at their house and introduced me to many people, and the first of many great dinners. 

Several years later, Lesley saw me giving a talk on Antarctica, and the largest exhibition (in space and time) was planned. Apart from material on the book, both non-fiction and fiction, there were polar pyramid tents and stuffed huskies…along with the mice at night trying to attack the ration boxes of chocolates! 

It was also at the Centre that I met the incredible people that are AISWA (Association of Independent Schools Western Australia). I have travelled widely in Western Australia and overseas for school visits and conferences both through the Centre and with AISWA and I have the most wonderful family of friends who have challenged me, supported me, nurtured me and encouraged me throughout the years.  It is also through the Centre that I have met some of the most wonderful people within our industry, who have become some of my closest friends.

But it is not just me. They give everything to support us all as creators and give the same support to teachers to share with their students and colleagues.  This has sparked so many ideas and so many collaborations - incredible and close friendships.  There is no other place like this in Australia.

Just over two years ago, at dinner one night, Mark slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out three stones - all meteorites, two magnetic. Mark’s storytelling is both legendary and addictive, and I was hooked.  He then took me to his work-room, a room I had walked past so many times over the years…but the door had always been shut.  Before me was a cavern of stones, some brilliant, some with the dust of millions of years clinging to them, sharp, beautiful, craggy and musty, too rare to hold, too fabulous not to!  We had left Terry (Denton) and Frané lingering over melting desert, for what seemed hours, and our book was born, The Book of Stone.*

I had planned to come over to work with Mark on our (now contracted) book, and happily, it coincided with the Twenty-fifth celebrations on April 6 and 7.  Luckily I was to be there anyway and so was Boori (Monty Prior) - also there for school visits. Many authors and illustrators were to be a part of the celebrations, including a great open mic night for us and the Centre’s staff and board of directors – culminating in a fabulous free (ticketed) open day for families, where many of us gave presentations.

It was an opportunity for us to get together again and also the opportunity for Lesley to inspire and encourage us to give thoughtful and inspirational presentations.  Lesley asked Mark and me to present with regard to our current collaboration.  It is rare to be given the opportunity to share a collaboration at this stage, fascinating for us and for anyone interested in books.  Lesley promotes these interesting ideas, often pushing boundaries, believes in creators and with this behind you – both presenters and audience alike are always inspired.  

I encourage anyone to register for a conference or festival at the Centre. It is a family and one you will feel instantly a part of. Not only will you see wonderful, inspirational presentations, but the presenters are as much a part of the festivities as you are.  It’s a great opportunity to form professional contacts, gain extraordinary professional development and talk with all the presenters informally.

Producing literature can be so incredibly isolating and the time that we can spend together is so valuable.  The books on our bookshelves are a gift in themselves, but often the collaborations and friendship that have bound that book together does not show in the final binding, but in the essence of the background that brings the story to life in the voice of the creators, and the people behind them that have supported them.

 *Coral is currently working on a book with Allen & Unwin and her collaborative work with Mark Greenwood, The Book of Stone, (Walker Books), are both due for publication in 2019. 

Coral Tulloch
Tasmanian Illustrator and Author, guest blogger

Editor's Note: The launch of Coral’s latest book: Bouncing Back was held at Melbourne Zoo on April 3rd with the Threatened Species Commissioner holding both book and bandicoot. She and author Rohan Cleave also created Phasmid: saving the Lord Howe Island stick insect which in 2016 was awarded an Honour Book in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books category in the Book of the Year Awards. Both titles were published by CSIRO Publishing.

Monday 16 April 2018

Lest We Forget – Picture Books for ANZAC Day

In the week before ANZAC Day appropriate stories set during the time of what was then termed The Great War help us to understand the hardships that were endured by many brave soldiers, that many children were orphaned and the grief and sorrow many people around the world endured.

Each year in the lead up to ANZAC Day I share a variety of picture books about World War I with my primary school classes during their library lessons.  This includes discussion of the themes presented in the book along with the history and importance of ANZAC day and WWI.
On Tuesday morning last week I took delivery of some new books which included The Little Stowaway – A True Story by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit (illustrator).  After a quick read through this book I changed my plans for my lessons for the week and instead chose to use this one across the board, which is a big ask for a picture book on this subject. 

Set 100 years ago in France, this story tells the tale of Australian Airman Tim Tovell and the French orphan whom he befriended during the war.  Honore, or Henri as the Aussies call him, provides the first person voice for the story.

The illustrations capture the character of the people involved, showing their warmth and mateship, along with the hardships of facing the war.  These are beautifully juxtaposed with photographs that have been shared by relatives of Tim Tovell, and it is these photographs in particular that make this book really come to life and bring home the message for students that this war really did happen and the people in these stories, though no longer with us, are worth remembering.

The looks of realisation on the faces of the children as I read to them, whether they were 6 or 12 years of age, was a powerful indication to me that this book was really special, and the language used, though romanticised to some degree, gives an authentic insight into the life, hardships and dreams of this small orphaned boy.

In the past, I have used Libby Hathorn and Phil Lesnie’s beautiful book A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy with my older students. This book is about a young boy named Henri who gives his dog to an Australian soldier to take home.  This book has a note to say that there were rumours of a story that a young boy had also been smuggled back to Australia. I was so excited to recognise the link between these two books and wonder if both parties have now read each other’s version.

Whilst there are now so many picture books published on this topic, it is important for us to choose ones that have been well researched, and presented in a respectful and honest way.  My Grandad Marches on ANZAC Day (Catriona Hoy and Benjamin Johnson), CBCA Notable ANZAC Biscuits (Phil Cummings and Owen Swan), and CBCA Award Winning One Minute’s Silence (David Metzenthen and Michael Camilleri) are some of the books that are always at the top of my list. They provoke much thought from the children at an age-appropriate level - the text and illustrations work so well together to enable students to make connections on an emotional level so that they may, at least in part, begin to understand the hardship, tragedy, mateship and bravery that give these stories of war a purpose today.  The Little Stowaway is certainly a very worthy addition to my list.
Which ANZAC themed picture books take pride of place on your bookshelf?

Jessica Marston
Teacher-Librarian (M.Ed), Hagley Farm School (K-6), Tasmania

Twitter: @marston_jessica

Sunday 8 April 2018

Please sir I want some more!

This week Maureen shares with us a groaning board covered with old and new stories about our appetite for that truly special treat that is cake…

Cake that is, not just any kind of food! We’re fortunately not like Oliver Twist and most of us have a wonderful surfeit of good food to eat. Cake for many of us – young and old alike – is an important part of our lives. And so it is in books. I am again temporarily back in Canada, so my suggestions have a North American flavour, though not exclusively.

Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen and Keith Waldron.
Told in the first person, Rosen describes his young self’s midnight feast in the kitchen when he thinks he’ll just taste a crumb but ends up eating all the remaining cake as he tries to ‘tidy it up’. Quiet Rosen humour brings out the consequences of his actions and shows the need for honesty when found out. Waldron’s illustrations are a wonderful complement to the verbal text.

I Really Want the Cake by Simon Philip and Lucia Gaggiotti.
Mum’s note says not to eat it … but how can you resist such a wonderful creation? The rhymes are part of the fun, and we see how the temptations take over until the narrator has to find a replacement cake. How hard can that be? Gaggiotti’s illustrations reflect the child’s increasing obsession. Great fun.

Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson and Will Hillenbrand
Grandad only bakes whopper cakes but this one is over the top and includes 86 eggs, bags of flour and sugar, mixed in the back of a pickup truck and then crazily baked there too on a trip to town. Totally preposterous and great fun, it’s a book made even better by a realistic recipe at the back.

Mitzi Tulane Pre-School Detective in What’s that smell? and The Secret Ingredient by Lauren McLaughlin and Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Mitzi is a three-year-old detective, with a slightly older voice but it works. She uses her senses to investigate things happening in the house. What’s That Smell? is about working out it is her birthday and it’s her cake which has been baked. There’s a small weakness for me in this story in that Mitzi doesn’t seem to know that she’s about to turn 4 but otherwise it works. Secret Ingredient is the investigation Mitzi and her friend Max undertake when Dad bakes muffins and Max suspects that Dad’s added vegetables to the mixture. Great use of science and scientific terms. Ohi’s illustrations are from a child’s perspective.

Cake by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet
Cake is excited that he has been invited to a birthday party but loses some of his enthusiasm when the candles on his head begin to burn! The humour comes from the reader’s understanding of the unfolding events.

Baking bliss! Baked Desserts to Make and Devour by Jen Besel.
Though this is produced for the North American market it does have a conversion chart for US to metric weights, measures and temperatures. Many of the recipes use packet cake mixes which can be found all over the world, and there are some scrumptious looking recipes, not only cakes. Pity there isn’t an advisory note about children needing supervision when using the oven or cooktop.

Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming and G. Brian Karas
Jack wants to go to the princess’s party but has nothing to give her, until he sells the family’s bare possessions (without parental agreement) to make a cake. On the way he must bargain with the cake to bypass the obstacles in his way. He arrives without anything to give the princess but tells her the story instead. A fairy-tale picture book for early childhood about bargaining, bullying, a quest and determination.

Splat the Cat Takes the Cake by Amy Hsu Lin
I love Splat the Cat and this is no exception though it probably appeals more to young readers than to their parents. Splat enters a baking competition to try to win a replacement television after the family television set broke. Typically Splat doesn’t go about it the easy way.

And let’s not forget some old favourites:

There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards
It was great to re-read this after an absence of some years, and it’s stood the test of time. The hippo on the roof can do all the things which the child herself can’t do. Great view of family dynamics and imaginary friendships.

A Piece of Cake by Jill Murphy
All the members of the Large family have been trying to lose weight and become fitter, but Granny sends a cake as a present and they all decide to break their diets. This classic picture book may not be sending the best health messages to children, but it would be a good starting point for discussion.

I hope you have found some new titles here. Which are your favourite books about cakes and baking? Which recipe book works for you and your family?

Maureen Mann
Retired Teacher-Librarian and Avid Reader

Sunday 1 April 2018

Graphic Novel Memoirs for Teenagers

Leanne presents a fascinating overview of biographical graphic novels that present a range of perspectives on this sub-genre.
Graphic novels, as all high school teachers and librarians know, are very popular with many teenage readers. These novels tell stories through a combination of prose and pictures or “sequential art”.
When cartoonist Art Spiegelman received a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for Maus, his graphic memoir about the Holocaust, his work achieved critical attention and elevated the status of this literary genre. Over recent years other memoirists have used the graphic novel format to chronicle their lives and the lives of others, sometimes combining their artwork with photos, journal entries, and other real-life mementos.
Graphic novels reflect the modern propensity to digitally share our lives through social media, enhanced through the merging of text and visuals.
'Adding visual elements to a memoir allows readers intimacy with the author that is impossible to achieve with words alone. We get to see through their eyes, to feel what they felt, and many authors exploit that perspective to showcase their particular distorted worldview — anxieties can be personified and magnified, or small kindnesses wreathed in heroism.' (Molly Lynch, 2015, Mashable Australia)
These elements, combined with a fast moving and engaging plot, explain the resurgence and growing popularity of graphic novel memoirs.  The following examples present a range of compelling topics in a creative style that will be entertaining and enlightening for teenagers (and many adults too).
 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood  by Marjane Satrapi    
Marjane was raised in Tehran, the daughter of Marxist activists. She witnessed the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and lived with the many contradictions of daily life in Iran. Satrapi’s story is a wise and gripping account of a precocious childhood impacted by a tumultuous chapter in her country’s history.

For the first 18 years of her life, Ramsey Beyer lived in “a tiny little farm town called Paw Paw.” A lifelong artist and punk music aficionado, she left home to attend art school in Baltimore and experienced a blinding flash of culture shock. She chronicles her first year of college through a collection of pictures, journal entries, and lists, which helps her to redefine her concept of home.

Hyperbole and a Half :Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh                                                                                                 
Fans of Allie Brosh’s wildly popular blog love her honest portrayal of living with depression and dogs as a recluse in her bedroom in Bend, Oregon. The book consists of brief vignettes and comic drawings about her life as she shares her struggles, triumphs, and everyday observations. In Bill Gates blog (gatesnotes) he describes her style of humour as; “funny and smart as hell … Her timing and tone are consistently spot on. And so is her artwork. I’m amazed at how expressive and effective her intentionally crude drawings are.

Tomboy   by Liz Prince   Liz Prince was born an utterly relatable tomboy, and from the time she was old enough to form an opinion she rejected traditional gender roles and all things ‘girlie’. A cross-country move when she’s six results in her being subjected to ostracism and bullying that lasts into her teens and is depicted through simple black line drawings. But, when she meets a group of friends who celebrate their individuality and accept her as she is, she finds the sense of community she’s been missing. This memoir about navigating the challenges of ‘growing up’ is funny, heartbreaking and poignant.                                                                                                                                             

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir  by Stan Lee, Peter David, and Colleen Doran                                       
This beatifically illustrated memoir is based on the life of Stan Lee, the master of the Silver Age of Comics and creative force behind such legendary characters as Spider-man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. This memoir tells the history of comic books, his 75-year career with Marvel and pays tribute to the great artists he collaborated with.  It is funny, touching, and discrete with a balance of egotism and unexpected humility.

Suffragette by Sally Heathcote, Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot and Kate Charlesworth

This is the memoir of one woman who joined the campaign for equal rights for women during a tumultuous period of modern British history. Sally Heathcote and her collaborators give the reader an insight into the pivotal events, historical characters and the violence and hardship they endured for their cause. The book suitable for older teenagers.

Leanne Rands
President of CBCA Tasmania