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

Thursday 17 December 2020

How I Became an Accidental Podcaster

Lyndon Riggall introduces readers to an exciting program that harnesses technology to connect authors and readers. Discover the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast and enjoy some Summer listening over the festive season.

I am sitting in a room at the top of a flight of stairs that meanders its way curiously through the small alley between a wine bar and an Asian fusion restaurant. Objects are being moved around me—arranged and organised and tidied amongst green ferns and well-lit windows. Somewhere beyond my sightline is a bright light that illuminates the room, and as everything is finally organised or cleared away, a voice says, “Okay, ready when you are.”

In the chair opposite me is a great Tasmanian writer. I smile at them, and then we start to talk.

Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast | Episode 1| Kyle Perry

* * * * *

As we head to the end of 2020 and a time of reflecting on the year that has been, as well as the new one to come, if there is anything that we have learned in this strange, unprecedented time, it is that we can’t take anything for granted. One of the great casualties of the era of Covid-19 for me personally was this year’s Tamar Valley Writers Festival, a biennial event that brought an enormous burst of creativity and literary energy to the north of the state every two years. Many members of CBCA Tasmania will be familiar with the festival and its delightful children’s program, and it is a deep and tragic irony that in a time in which reading and writing have never been more valuable it has been impossible to hold the festival in its traditional manner. Yet one fateful day brought me a call from festival president, Mary Machen. It might just be, she suggested, that a small part of the festival’s energy and value could be captured in a different way. She had a plan, and asked me if I would be keen to be part of it. I jumped at the opportunity.

The Bluffs, Kyle Perry

Mary’s plan came to fruition, and in consultation with Michael O’Neill of MVisuals, the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast was born. Each month, Annie Warburton and I chat to great local Tasmanian writers about their work, their creative process and the influence of Tasmania on their craft. Over time, it is our hope that this collection will broaden, grow, and offer inspiration and insight into the value of Tasmanian writing not just to our island itself, but nationally and internationally too. It is nerve-wracking to sit in this chair and to look across the divide at such brilliant writers as the subject of my first interview, Kyle Perry (author of The Bluffs), pretending that the cameras aren’t there and trying to focus on the conversation, but I wouldn’t miss this chance.

A Treacherous Country
Kate Kruimink
Allen & Unwin

I am the sort of person that listens to podcasts and watches any series where writers are interviewed, and I have a clear sense of the unexplored questions that I really want the interviewer to be asking. Now I am in charge of those questions, and I love every minute of it. It is a delight to watch and learn from Annie, too, whose recent interview with the author of A Treacherous Country, Kate Kruimink, rights some of the wrongs of Kruimink’s own coronavirus-related challenges of reduced recognition and fanfare following her win of the Vogel Prize this year. We are already discussing what the podcast might be able to do for young readers and writers whose work is primarily for children, but for now it is immensely exciting to simply be part of an experiment and to share a love of stories in any way possible. Rest assured, while the festival might not be overtaking the valley this year with its declaration of love for Tasmanian writers and their work, it is alive and well. Even when our director calls “Cut!” it can’t shake the smile from my face.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer, teacher—and now podcast host!—from Launceston. The Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Facebook video and YouTube, and more details and episode links can be found at https://www.tamarvalleywritersfestival.com.au/podcast. You can find Lyndon on Twitter @lyndonriggall or at http://www.lyndonriggall.com

Editor's Note: What a great post to wind up the year - a year that has challenged us to explore new ways to connect authors, illustrators and readers in different ways. 
Festive greetings to all our readers, regular and occasional, please join us again in 2021.

Friday 11 December 2020

Christmas Reading for 2020

There is such a wealth of delightful Christmas books to share at this time of the year, it can be hard to choose. This week, Maureen Mann provides a helping hand with this overview of a range of books that capture the festive spirit.

Getting ready for this blog posting, I went in search through the catalogue of Libraries Tasmania. All these books can be found through your local Tasmanian library. Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross 2017

A fun re-telling of Charles’ Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Primary-aged (and older!) readers will enjoy this. It’s much more multi-layered than just a retelling.

Tinsel: the girls who invented Christmas by Sibeal Pounder 2020. 

So far, everyone’s got the Santa story all wrong, so Blanch Claus and her friends show us what it really should be. It’s a book set in Victorian England, with many nods to modern life, full of humour and Christmas magic and spirit. For primary aged readers. upwards. 

Ten Little Reindeer illustrated by Jonny Lambert 2020

A flap book (lovely big sturdy flaps they are too). Ten reindeer are waiting for their big night, and slowly each one is distracted by interesting things to do. When only one is left, the reader is encouraged to “close your eyes, make a wish and bring back all ten”.  Fun to read

Reginald’s Christmas by Patricia Pettett and Narelda Joy 2020

Reginald, all ready for Christmas, sneaks out of his mousehole to explore the rest of the house. He samples the goodies left for Santa, climbs the tree and investigates the stockings. When he returns home, he discovers that he has his own named stocking. Read about the creation of this book.  

Santa Claus heard a Fart by Olaf Falafel 2017

This is a great book to sing to the tune of Old MacDonald and a wonderful opportunity for those who love toilet humour to make appropriate fart noises.

Monster Christmas by Giles Andreae and Nikki Dyson 2020

When Monster joins Santa to deliver presents, everyone thinks he’s come to eat them. In despair he returns to the north pole, meets a girl who sees him as he really is and together, they return to make the deliveries. Finally, everyone sees Monster as someone just like you or me.

Meerkat Christmas by Emily Gravatt 2019

Sunny finds a list guaranteed to make a perfect Christmas. His hot home in the Kalahari doesn’t meet the criteria so he goes around the world searching, sending cards home to show why it’s not quite right. When he finds the perfect location, something is still missing and Santa helps him return to his family.

A Very Fiona Christmas by Richard Cowdrey 2019

Fiona searches the zoo to find Christmas which all the animals are talking about. She is confused about what it is, till she realises it is friendship and love, fun and lights and trees and most importantly giving to someone who doesn’t have things.

A Cat’s Christmas Carol by Sam Hay and Helen Shoesmith 2019

Clawdia is left in the store when it closes on Christmas Eve. When the mice come out to play, Clawdia has to chase them. The mice were clever enough to distract Clawdia when she gets too close, but eventually Clawdia has the best day with the store security guard as do the mice with all their friends.

I’m ready for Christmas illustrated by Jedda Robaard 2019

A text suited to any part of the world, but the illustrations focus on celebrating a summer Christmas. The cute animals – wombats or maybe koalas? – do summer-time activities getting ready for that special day.

The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas
by Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey 2019

A fun ‘take’ on the Twelve days of Christmas. All the preparations for the days preceding Christmas Day, with the involvement of the unicorn, food and preparations, and snow. And on the twelfth day Santa brings another 11 unicorns as friends for the household. 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke and Megan Forward 2016

Jane’s parents are farmers and desperately need rain, so when Jane meets Santa that’s what she asks for. And of course, he grants her wish so the family on Christmas morning have far more fun with the mud than the presents. Told in rhyme, the background of this story will resound with many readers. 

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini 2019

Twas the night before Christmas … but the mouse was lonely until Santa, lost in the blizzard, arrives. Mouse shows Santa where to go and helps deliver the last of the presents. Santa thanks him for being such a good worker by giving him a gift and a map, which leads to Mouse finding a new friend.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas Eve
by Eric Carle 2019

A lift the Flap board book, with only a tenuous connection with the very hungry caterpillar.  Who’s at home on Christmas Eve? Cat, Dog and Mouse are getting ready for the visit from Santa. Those who love board books will enjoy this one.

Finally. One I rediscovered during my search (and there are many more oldies I could have included) and renewed my love of the quirky Raymond Briggs.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs 1973

Santa is blooming grumpy because it’s Christmas again and his solitary routines are disturbed. 

I’ll close with Briggs’ words “Happy Christmas Cat! Happy Christmas Dog! Happy blooming Christmas to you, too!”

Maureen Mann

Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Friday 4 December 2020

Reginald’s Christmas

Join Tasmanian creators, Patricia Pettett and Narelda Joy, as they talk about their collaborations on a delightful Christmas story about a mouse called Reginald.

Reginald's Christmas, by Praticia Pettet and Narelda Joy
Published by Forty South
Patricia Pettett: 

This year I wrote my first children’s picture book ‘Reginald’s Christmas’. It emanated from a short Christmas story enclosed in my Christmas cards last year. Several friends contacted me and pushed me into publishing so finally I submitted it online to a London Publishing Firm. Much to my surprise it was accepted, but Covid 19 made it too difficult to proceed with an overseas firm, so I submitted it to Forty South in Hobart where it was positively received. A wonderful outcome, as their acceptance makes the book an all-Tasmanian production!


Reginald is a tiny mouse who sneaks out of his mouse hole on Christmas Eve and has a grand adventure in the lounge room. Christmas cake, an angel, Santa, toys – he discovers them all, and what a night it turns out to be!


My illustrator, Narelda Joy, from North West Tasmania, made this little mouse come to life and she and I lived with him for weeks!  Because the book needed to be released well before Christmas, time wise she was put under tremendous pressure but never once complained. The pictures are delightful and complement my words beautifully. 


It has been a new journey for me to enter the publishing world but I’m thrilled with the finished product and proud to see it on bookshop shelves.


Narelda Joy:

I was emailed by a friend of Patricia’s earlier this year saying that her friend needed an illustrator for a book. Patricia used to live in the North West, but now lives in Launceston, about 2 ½ hours away from me, so we have never met. I contacted Patricia and heard the smile in her voice when said she wasn’t sure what to do with the story, but that it was her friends who were pushing her to publish it! She sent me a copy of the text for Reginald’s Christmas, and I encouraged her to send it to some publishers and see what happened. I was sure Reginald was destined to be born! 

I could visualise him straight away. I love animals and have always loved drawing and making stylised mice, in 2D and 3D, so I was delighted to see the protagonist was a mouse! I sketched mouse ideas in pencil until I found the right character look, and then took the sketch into Photoshop to produce a colour sample for Patricia. There was lots of toing and froing; the story, my portfolio, and then the sample image of Reginald, were approved by the London Publisher and then Covid 19 hit…what timing! Reginald proved to be a resilient little mouse however, and came back to Tasmania to be officially born! 

Art work © Narelda Joy, from Reginald's Christmas

One of my favourite parts of being an illustrator is bringing a text to life. In the planning stage I reminisced my colourful childhood Christmases with shiny baubles on the tree, red stockings and patterned wrapping papers. I work in many different illustration styles and love them all, but most often I am described as textural illustrator. Patricia requested bright colours on a white page background, and I happily worked with this, thoroughly enjoying digitally painting the bright happy scenes. I find it very relaxing, and often listen to a talking book while I work.

Patricia was wonderful to work with and I’m delighted to see her dream of publishing a book come to life. I think it’s a great achievement for a retired primary school teacher, after years of reading books to students, to finally have to have very own in print. As for Reginald, perhaps on Christmas Eve I may just see him creeping out of that little hole in my hallway skirting board… although I’ll be sure not to disturb his Christmas adventure. I do hope my illustrations convey the fun Reginald has, and brings joy to many little ones at Christmas.      

Editor's note - if you would like to bring Reginald into your house for Christmas, visit Tasmanian bookstores or order online from Forty South.                                             

Patricia Pettett is a retired primary school teacher from the North West coast, now living in Launceston. She belongs to three writing clubs and has always dreamed of publishing her own book. 

Narelda Joy lives on the NW coast of Tasmania. As well as illustrating children’s books, she specialises in unique textural two and three dimensional illustrations, collage, characters and puppets. You can view and purchase Nareleda’s artworks from her website.


Read about her adventures and school visits on her blog.


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Friday 27 November 2020

Having the Courage to Follow Your Dreams

Toni Brisland reflects on her recent publication, Patrick White, an accessible biographical account of the life, writing career and contributions of this literary icon and the only Australian winner of the Nobel Laureate in Literature. 

Patrick White by Toni Brisland,
illustrated by Anastasia Popp

In my book for middle readers “Patrick White” I introduce children to one of our most famous Australians and hope to inspire them to follow their dreams.

Patrick White’s family believed “we are what we are born to be, free only to shape the lives fate has given us” (David Marr’s biography of Patrick White) and if PatrickWhite had become what his family had always been and what they wanted him to be, he would have been a wealthy land owner in NSW who ran sheep. Instead, Patrick White broke with family tradition because he wanted to be a writer. 

Patrick White was goal-focused and self-disciplined and in the early days of his writing career quite poor. In his autobiography “Flaws in the Glass” he said: “I grew conscious of wanting to be a writer on leaving my hated English school and returning to the Australia I had longed for. No, it wasn’t so much a case of growing consciousness as a matter of necessity. Surrounded by a vacuum, I needed a world in which to live with the degree of intensity my temperament demanded”. This growing awareness of what to do with one’s life starts in childhood.

Middle readers are learning to find their place in the mini-society that is school and the broader community, learning to face their own fears and insecurities and sometimes illnesses, are confronted with bullies and domineering peers and are grasping with their idea of self and what they want to be in life which sometimes conflicts with how their parents see them and the expectations their parents have for them. 

From Patrick White, Chapter 4, World War 2, pp. 26-27. © Anastasia Popp.

This is not very different to the generations that have gone before and not different at all to what Patrick White experienced as a child. My book shows that he was bullied at school, full of self-doubt and was sick all his life with asthma and in and out of hospital. As a child he did not mix easily with other children: he played with them but made no friends. Patrick White was private and solitary and when he was growing up he often asked himself the question: “What will I be when I grow up?” 

I believe that as children learn to cope with who they are, the influences on their lives, and what they will become, they turn to “story” to explore how others have lived and coped, assimilating from books what they need into their own lives and this is one of the reasons I wrote about Patrick White’s life.

From Patrick White, Chapter 9, Awards, pp. 48 & 51. © Anastasia Popp.

Children often ask the same question – “what will I be when I grow up”. Take the fabulous illustrator of my book, Anastasia Popp. Anastasia says, “When I was about six and adults asked me what I wanted to become, I answered that I'd be an animator. My road was winding and actually I don't create cartoons, but here I am - an illustrator”. 

My own road was circuitous: I always wanted to write and I eventually found my way via teaching, management and the law. 

So, I’m hoping the children who read my book will find something in it of value to them, even if it is just the faith and self-belief to be what they want to be and not what someone else tells them they should be.

Toni Brisland
Toni Brisland 

Author and Poet, previously Director, CBCA (NSW Branch Representative) 


For Toni Brisland:


Twitter: @toni_brisland


For Anastasia Popp:


Editor's note: Patrick White is a quality publication on quality paper and excellent layout of text overlaying the illustrations. The timeline and awards presented at the end of the biographical narrative reflect key highlights in Toni's highly readable prose. An interesting addition to Australian biographies targetting middle school readers.

Friday 20 November 2020

The Elydian Dawn Series

Sally Odgers shares the evolution of a YA series over numerous iterations influenced by changing editors, publishers and formats over many years - and how the work not only comes to fruition but also becomes more finely crafted in the process.

Back in the late 1990s, I won a residency at the Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga. I had three weeks to work on a science fiction series for teenagers, set hundreds of years after a spaceship crashed into the planet Elydia. Only children and teenagers survived, so the new colony took some very odd turns. I moved in and set to, holding workshops by day and typing furiously on the Centre’s computer by night. I clocked up about 10,000 words a night.

By the end, I had two whole books, The Millichancer and Dryad’s Well written and half of another Piper’s Dream, but I’d overstrained my tendons and had to stop. A decade or so later, I told an editor about my project. She asked me to pitch it “younger” and to make it into one book instead of a series… at least, initially. I decided to write a younger prequel and pitched that. We were all set, I thought, when the editor left the company and the niche closed. Again I put aside my cherished series.

Fast-forward a few more years. Mum died and I wanted a project to love. I pitched the series to a new publisher, and started again. I meant to write 30,000 words dealing with the crash and the birth of the new colony. 120K later, the editor explained the pricing of ebooks and asked me to make the book into three. These were published as Elysian Dawn, The Silvering and New Dreams. I hope to write the next three, Rachel Outward Bound, The Hundredtree and Flotsam soon. 

The first 3 titles in the Elydian Dawn series by Sally Odgers

The books I wrote in Wagga, after a lot of rewriting, will be rather late in the series. The reading age of the first book is pitched to high school and above, so I suppose it’s a crossover. And you know what? I think these are some of the best books I’ve ever written. Writing is a skill that keeps on developing… as long as my tendons hold out.  

Visit the Elydian Dawn website to find out more about this fascinating series


Sally Odgers

Sally lives inn NW Tasmania with her husband and multiple dogs. Her writing career has spanned 40 years with around 400 titles published - including children’s books, YA, crossover, romance, photo verse and how-to books for writer. Sally holds workshops and author talks and runs a manuscript assessment and editing service.

W: https://sallybyname.weebly.com
E: sallybyname@gmail.com OR affatheeditor@gmail.com

Friday 13 November 2020

Seen the Movie? Now Read the Series.

Join Felicity Sly as she makes some great connections between movies and children’s fiction series good timing with ahead holidays on the horizon and summer viewing fun to look forward to.

The release of movies Mary Poppins Returns (2018) and Doolittle (2020) had me wondering how many young readers have explored the books behind these movies. I’ll leave the more current and well known titles: Harry Potter; His Dark Materials; A Series of Unfortunate Events; Chronicles of Narnia and Artemis Fowl (movie release 2020) for you to explore independently

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins has been reimagined in Disney films and as a stage musical, based upon the first P. L. Travers book published in 1934, and subsequently in Mary Poppins Returns loosely based on Travers books, and Saving Mr Banks, loosely based on Travers life. Travers wrote eight Mary Poppins books featuring the Banks children between 1934 and 1988. 

Doctor Dolittle
Complete Collection


Hugh Lofting published fifteen Doctor Dolittle books between 1920 and 1952. Young readers may be more familiar with any one of the films (more than seven), stage shows, animations, video games or audio books (three narrated by Alan Bennett: the discovery of Bennett’s narrations has now opened a wormhole!)


Psammead Trilogy

Edith Nesbit’s The Psammead Trilogy (Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet) were written between 1902 and 1906. Five Children and It has been iterated in film (most recently in 2004), a television series, anime, a stage musical and a comic strip.


The Complete Borrowers

The five Borrowers books (1952-1982) by Mary Norton have also made it to film, TV series and anime. The delightful anime Arriety (2010) is well worth a watch, as is the 2011 BBC Film with Stephen Fry as Professor Mildeye. There is a potential animation also in the works (2018). 

Frog and Toad

There are four Frog and Toad books, written by Arnold Lobel (1970-1979). Their story has appeared on stage as a play (1990s) and a musical (2003), and in a series of eighteen 30 minute clay animations. 

The Books of Earthsea

The Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin (1984-2001) occurs over six books. Earthsea has appeared in a two part mini-series in 2004 and animated film (2006).

As holidays approach there may be an opportunity to share film and text with your family. Are there other book-to-film series that you would like to add to this list? Please add these in the comments section.

Felicity Sly is a Teacher Librarian at Don College, Devonport and Treasurer of CBCA Tasmania.

Enola Holmes Mysteries

Editor’s note:
I will take up Felicity's challenge for more recent contributions to add one more to the list with my favourite for 2020 - Enola Holmes. Inspired by the Enola Holmes Mysteries written by Nancy Springer between 2006 - 2010. Do you have another to share as a comment?