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

Saturday 24 November 2018

Best Book Buys for Christmas

Picking the perfect book for a Christmas gift can be a challenge. Make the choosing easier this year with this excellent selection, compliments of Janet from the Hobart Bookshop.

It’s time to think about the Christmas stockings, and what better way to fill them than with wonderful new books.  There’s something for readers of all interests and abilities. Liz Pichon has a new Tom Gates; catch 11+ readers with Mortal Engines before the film’s release; Mira Bartok’s fabulous The Wonderling will be released in paperback; there are two new Alison Lester books (Noni The Pony Rescues A Joey) and Tricky’s Bad Day; and master storyteller Michael Morpurgo has two hardbacks due for release – The Snowman, inspired by the Raymond Briggs tale, and Our Jacko. How to choose?!

Read The Book, Lemmings! Ame Dyckman, illustrated Zachariah Ohora, 9781783446552, Penguin Random House, $14.99.    
Read this aloud first thing Christmas morning and have everyone laughing. First mate Foxy and Captain Polar Bear have a job ahead of them. “Lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.” It says so in Foxy’s book. There’s just one problem – the lemmings haven’t read it. How will Foxy and Captain Polar Bear convince them too? Witty, exuberant, sure to become a family favourite. Ages 3+ Find out about Ame and Zacarahia.

Another Book About Bears, Laura + Philip Bunting, 9781742991931, Scholastic, $17.99.
And another winner for children and adults. The bears are talking to you – and they’re not happy. There are too many books about bears – give them a break! This book is a delight – lovely endpapers, strong vibrant illustrations on matt paper, hilarious text – what more could we want? Ages 3+ Visit Philip Bunting's website

Wakestone Hall, ( #3 Stella Montgomery) Judith Rossell, 9780733338205, Harper Collins, $24.99
In this eagerly awaited conclusion to the series, Stella is sent to a strict boarding school, Wakestone Hall. Despite the grim atmosphere, Stella is not crushed, and when their friend Ottilie disappears, Stella and Agapanthus set out on a mission to help her. Ages 8+
Read a sample and find out about the author.

The Ice Monster, David Walliams, 9780008297244, Harper Collins, $22.99   
The eleventh novel from this best-selling author, set in Victorian London, is a magical tale of adventure and friendship, featuring Elsie, an orphan, and a mysterious Ice Monster from the North Pole. Ages 8+   Find out more about David Walliams.
Lenny’s Book Of Everything, Karen Foxlee, Allen & Unwin, 9781760529444, $19.99
Karen Foxlee sets this beautiful story of sibling love in 1970s America. Lenny has a younger brother, Davey, who won’t stop growing. Each week an issue of Burrell’s Build-It-At-Home Encyclopedia arrives and its wonders fill their life in a rich and imaginative way, paralleled by Davey’s increasing ill-health. This book is sad, uplifting, tragic, wonderful. A must-read for adults too. Ages 10+ Find out about the author.

Wundersmith: The Calling Of Morrigan Crow, ( #2 Nevermoor), Jessica Townsend, 9780734418227, Lothian Children’s Books, $24.99 hardback, $16.99 paperback. 
Following the award winning Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow. After escaping her fate, Morrigan hopes to feel a sense of belonging in Nevermoor, but her new life is far from perfect, and not all magic is used for good. You’ll need to buy this now and secretly read it before filling that Christmas stocking, because your young reader won’t let it go. Age 9+ Find out more about Jessica Townsend and her books.

Janet Grecian
The Hobart Bookshop
FB: https://www.facebook.com/HobartBookshop/
T: @HobartBookshop

Editor's note: I am not sure how many of these would land up my children's Christmas stockings, I think they would sit on top of my 'too read' pile to see me through the summer. Thank you Janet for sharing your expertise.

Friday 16 November 2018

Giving voice to young writers

This week Kate Gross and Emily Bullock share an inspiring project that nurtures young Tasmanians in the creative process around creating stories - whether writing, illustrating, designing or publishing. You may also have something to offer to the group - worth thinking about!

For more than three years, the Story Island Project, a not-for-profit organisation based in Moonah, has run free creative storytelling projects with disadvantaged young people in the broader Hobart area. Through these projects, in which young people’s written and illustrated stories are widely celebrated through publication or public display, we have witnessed the power of story to open up opportunities for young people to enhance their creativity and writing skills and, so, imagine their worlds differently.

The focus of our work is on communities that are often overlooked, where people may experience poverty and disadvantage or are marginalised in other ways. We have taken inspiration from a successful model from the US, 826 Valencia, that aims to develop the confidence and writing skills of young people. This model has inspired other organisations around the world. Close to home, we have 100 Story Building in Melbourne and Story Factory in Sydney. Like these organisations, we also see a need to transform young people’s relationship to writing and creativity.
We established The Story Island Project in 2016 with the aim of confronting some of the underlying factors of Tasmania’s deeply entrenched disadvantage, including confidence in writing, communication and creative capacity. A growing body of international research demonstrates that quality arts-based learning experiences for young people can significantly improve confidence and engagement in writing, while also providing considerable social and emotional benefits. Our projects are always provided free of charge to ensure equity of access, reducing barriers to participation and engagement in quality arts education.

In our workshops in schools and community centres, children and teenagers are empowered to create their own stories. Our storytelling workshops provide a fun, safe and inclusive environment, where young people feel free to be creative. We build their confidence by giving them ‘real life’ roles as authors, illustrators, editors and designers in creative projects that have a ‘real life’ outcome: a book, an exhibition, a public reading. Local writers and artists join us in our workshops to work alongside young people, giving them advice and encouragement – not as teachers or other authority figures, but as ‘fellow creatives’.

One of the most powerful aspects of our storytelling workshops is that participants receive individualised support with their writing from expert storytellers and enthusiastic volunteer tutors. All of our projects use trained adult volunteers – many of whom are published authors or creative professionals – to significantly lower the teacher–student ratio. This has allowed us to forge transformative partnerships where young people are given permission take ownership of the creative process. And the results, so far, have been transformative: at a recent book-making workshop at Moonah Primary School, one student, who is usually reluctant to participate in literacy activities, completed their book and promptly asked to make another to take home to fill with another story!

If you are interested in volunteering with us, please get in touch with us via our website: http://storyislandproject.org/volunteer/

Kate Gross & Emily Bullock
Co-founders of the Story Island Project
FB: https://www.facebook.com/storyislandproject

Saturday 10 November 2018

IBBY Honour Books at Sharing Stories

Nella shares a rare treat to view the IBBY Honour List at a recent event in Canberra.
How do you deal with Book Lists – best of 2018, best YA, best picture book etc?  Eager to see if your favourites made the grade, use them to add to your TBR pile or avoid them for fear of being overwhelmed? How about the exquisite joy of being surrounded by such a list and being able to hold/read the books?
The IBBY Honour List is a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators from IBBY member countries. The 2018 Honour list has 191 books in 50 languages from 61 countries. IBBY Australia began nominating its own creators for the Honour Books in 1962. Australia’s first Honour Book (nominated by its UK publisher) was Nan Chauncy’s Tangara.
The Honour books display had never toured Australia until October 2018 when IBBY Australia and National Centre for Australia Children’s Literature (NCACL) combined forces to host the display of the Honour Books 2018 (on loan from Basel, Switzerland), a display of all the Australian IBBY Honour books at Woden Library and to present the Sharing Stories program – a celebration of Australian children's book creators and translations.
First stop - some of the mini exhibits - Bob Graham’s Max at Dickson Library and at Woden Library - Alison Lester‘s Noni the Pony & Noni the Pony at the Beach, Bob Graham’s Let's Get a Pup and Margaret Wild & Wayne Harris’ Going Home.
Then the exhibition preview to hear Dr Robin Morrow AM, National President of IBBY Australia, talk about Australian Books about Refugees; and IBBY’s Call-to-Action, Claire Stuckey, Executive Committee member of IBBY Australia, Comparing and Contrasting Australian Indigenous Picture Books with Non Indigenous Titles featuring Rural and Urban and then Ursula Dubosarksy’s wonderful introduction to IBBY and to the exhibit. 

And the last Sharing Stories event for me, the official launch. Emeritus Professor Belle Alderman AM, Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature, commenced proceedings and ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Chris Steel welcomed guests. Jackie French shared her experiences with translations – the challenges and the joys.
Honour list presentation film

There are plans for the exhibit to tour other libraries. If it comes near you, don’t miss seeing it.
Even if your French is rusty, I am sure you will enjoy this presentation of Adrien Parlange’s Le Ruban, a French Honour Book. Let’s hope Gecko Press or Berbay Publishing decide to produce an English version.  
Adrien Parlange - La Ruban 

Nella Pickup
IBBY Australia Executive Committee member

Sunday 4 November 2018

Emily Conolan – It's all about choice

At the recent CBCA Tasmania AGM were lucky to have Emily Conolan come and talk to members about her new series The Freedom Finders (released April 2018).

Emily Conolan is a writer and teacher known for her humanitarian work, establishing a volunteer support network for asylum seekers in Tasmania, she has been awarded Tasmanian of the Year, Hobart Citizen of the Year, and the Tasmanian Human Rights Award. The stories of courage and resilience she has heard in the course of her work with refugees, combined with tales from her own family history, inspired her to write the Freedom Finders series.

Emily started her talk with a game about choice “when you got dressed this morning, you didn’t

Most of us would remember the popular series; from the 1980s; Choose Your Own Adventure books (but can you remember the titles or the plots?).  The form of fiction these fall into is called interactive fiction, it was the precursor to interactive games and frequently reflected sci-fi or fantasy themes.

Emily’s series falls under this genre putting the choice in the readers hands but what she has also done with The Freedom Finders is to:
Read about Touch the Sun
know that your choice of clothes could affect what was going to happen to you today”. Some choices have unforeseen circumstances, some may have a clue to lead us to a certain choice or there may be a moral choice. Whichever one we choose there will be consequences whether good or bad. We make choices all the time without even realising it.
  • take the genre and apply real world scenarios;
  • give readers characters they can relate to and fall in love with and journeys they will remember and 
  • make consequences of the readers’ choices real – choices that migrants and refugees face e.g. separation from family, incarnation, even death.
Read about Break your Chains
Emily has added an extra bonus - fact files that provide background information on the social and political issues relating to the story line, along with a map of the journey undertaken.

Emily knew from her experiences as a teacher and humanitarian that her subject would be a delicate balance and didn’t want to trivialise stories of the migrants or asylum seekers. Even her publisher was initially worried that the topic was too heavy for this genre but as Emily explained to them (and us) asylum seekers are “active agents, resourceful and determined”. Due to her work and knowledge of the topics; from both research and interviews; Emily was able to gain the publishers trust.

The first book in the series, Break Your Chains, Emily consulted the local Tasmanian Aboriginal palawa kani community for information and for the second book, Touch the Sun she interviewed and worked closely with a Somalian migrant. She is currently writing her third book in the series about the Italian migrant worker community within the Snowy Hydro Scheme and a family curse. “This book poses the question about whether we can determine our own destiny, and what role luck and fate have to play.”

“Of course in real life we can’t rewind our choices. In this series, choices often backfire or are taken out of your hands to demonstrate that our lives are unpredictable and shaped by forces beyond our control.”

Emily’s books don’t simplify the issues – “the fact files help to unpack the issues and ask questions…There are big questions with complex answers and The Freedom Finders shows a more complex picture of migration than a linear narrative could.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Emily’s presentation about her experiences in writing these books. She is an inspirational women and writer and her topics are thought provoking.  I even went home with one of her books (Touch the Sun) and spent part of my Sunday reading it. In fact, I have just purchased 20 copies of each book for our Grade 7s and 8s to use in their reading groups.

Thanks Emily, and I look forward to book three next year.
Pennii Purton
Library technician, Reece High School.

Editor's note: Emily wrote a blog post about the challenges of writing interactive fiction that you might "choose to read".