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

Friday 17 April 2020

Australian Heroes, Pioneers and Adventurers Rediscovered: The Bounty of Australian Biographies

 The focus of this week's blog is biographies and the important part they play in the reading diet of young adults. This week Leanne shares the story of an extraordinary young Australian woman - Alice Anderson.  
A Spanner in the Works: The Extraordinary Story of Alice Anderson and Australia’s Only All-Girl Garage by Loretta Smith
Biographies have always been a great source of interest and enjoyment as l find delving into the lives of the famous, the infamous and the forgotten intriguing. Alice Anderson has been one of those forgotten Australian pioneers who deserve to be retrieved from the dusty annals of time and celebrated.
This biography is an excellent example of one woman’s extraordinary achievement in a previously ‘male dominated’ industry.
The author Loretta Smith has researched Alice’s life with a passion and impressive academic rigour, evident in the Notes for each chapter, and accompanying extensive bibliography.

A Spanner in the Works, Loretta Smith,
Published by Hatchette.
Alice’s life journey
From the end of the Great War and into the 1920s, Alice Anderson was considered a woman of 'rare achievement' who excelled as a motoring entrepreneur and inventor. Young, petite, boyish and full of charm, Alice was the only woman in Australia to successfully establish the first garage to service motor vehicles that was run entirely by women. She operated her garage, managed staff and trained women apprentices, without the financial backing of family or business partners.
“To be a garage  girl meant joining an elite team of capable young women led by a young woman with loads of personality and shrewd business sense…Garage girls tinkered with tools, got messy with oil and grease, and took to the road in a very public way” (p. 199).
In July 1918 Alice formed the first motoring club for women and established a driving school where women could learn, in a trusted, supportive environment, safe from male ‘scorn’ (p. 202).
She was a courageous adventurer who in 1916, ‘became the first woman to drive singlehandedly over the notoriously dangerous Black Spur [near Healesville]’ (p. 135). In 1926 accompanied by her friend Jessie Webb, Alice set off in a Baby Austin to navigate the 1500-mile journey from Melbourne to Alice Springs. She took on the challenge to prove that the smallest car off a production line could successfully complete the journey. The newspapers serialised and extolled their perilous adventures to the delight and amazement of their readers.

Unfortunately, less than a week after her return, Alice was fatally shot in her garage at the age of twenty-nine. Every newspaper in the country mourned her sudden loss. A coronial inquest concluded that Alice's death was accidental but testimonies at the inquest were full of inconsistencies. 
The legacy and impact of Alice's brief yet extraordinary life was limited by the attitudes and values of the subsequent era. Loretta Smith states:
“Tragically, any gains Alice had delivered to women in motoring in the 1920s had more or less evaporated by the 1950s. Anything to do with cars, other than driving, was acknowledged strictly as a man’s trade”. (p.319)
If we want our teenagers to become successful adults there is no better place to find positive roles models than in the lives of those who have changed our world for the better. Biographies have the capacity to expand the horizons of our students, challenge their perspectives and encourage them to view the world differently. Biographies can promote self-discovery through the experiences and stories of people they can admire and enable them to stand on the shoulders of giants.
In my view, A Spanner in the Works fits many of these criteria, it is a well-written and engaging book that will motivate teenagers, particularly girls, to discover the wealth of vicarious adventures and perhaps inspire personal possibilities.
Leanne Rands
President CBCA Tasmania
Smith, L. (2019). A spanner in the works: The extraordinary story of Alice Anderson and Australia's first all-girl garage. Hatchette Australia.

Saturday 11 April 2020

Help! I need a book. Now! #2

Continuing on from reading suggestions for younger children, this week Jennie and Nella look at online reading options for teenagers to keep them engaged and interacting with literature.

Getting started with digital literature
Source: AndreyKr, (2012).
Row of Audiobooks and Headphones.
Deposit Photos 
Online reading options for young adults are not as easily available than those for younger readers where texts tend to be shorter and lend themselves to retelling and video recording. One important consideration is age appropriateness as the teen market covers a broad spectrum of maturity – from 13 year olds just starting to test their reading wings with more challenging content through to 18 year olds who are mixing YA titles with adult reading material as well. For those with younger teens in the house it is recommended that parents and care givers actively support their children in making wise book choices. Reading Time and ReadPlus are terrific sources for detailed reviews and age recommendations. Common Sense Media mainly cover US publications and provide an age indictor; but also read the reviews to help you assess the content and themes.

Synch: Audiobooks for Teens is a summer audiobook program geared at teenagers 13+ (note that some titles are definitely for the upper end of this range). As this selection covers a diverse range of interests and maturity levels it is best to read the reviews carefully and listen to the sample clips first, especially with younger teenagers. Many adults will also find titles of interest. The program kicks off at the end of April with two free titles made available each week for 13 weeks. They are only available in the week that they are listed so it is best to sign up for their newsletter or follow on FB to ensure you get the updates. To access you must first register and then follow the instructions for downloading and setting up the required app, Sora (an Overdrive product). Some titles may have restricted access for those outside the US but in the last several years this has not been a problem.

Check-in with your school’s teacher librarian or library staff to find out if the school has an ebook collection available for borrowing. If so, then library staff should be able to provide a link to the school library’s online catalogue and required borrowing credentials for access. Due to the rapidly changing educational environment this may be an option that is currently being investigated by the school, so stay tuned for updates and future developments.

As per recommendations last week in Help! I need a book. Now! #1 make the most of the public library. For Tasmanian readers, join Libraries Tasmania if you need to, then start exploring the excellent collection of eBooks and eAudio titles available for download from the eLibrary. This virtual collection includes eBooks and stories; eMagazines and eComics; eMusic; eFilms and eLanguages if you wish to harness enforced home time to learn another language. There are many other online resources to explore from this page including a range of information magazines. Great for adults too!

Sometimes searching online catalogues can be a bit overwhelming so the following examples provide a taste of what is on offer. Here’s a few popular YA authors to get you started. It is worth noting that, in general, Australian publishers have been slow to take up epublishing particularly in regard to eaudio files. Many of the library’s offerings are from overseas but you might like to start by exploring these Australian authors as a sample.

On the 2020 CBCA Shortlist:Tristan Bancks – Detention – ebook and eaudio
Helena Fox – How it Feels to Float - ebook
Lisa Fuller – Ghost Bird - ebook
Malla Nunn – When the Ground is Hard - ebook
Vikki Wakefield -This is How we Change the Ending – ebook

Popular Australian YA authors
Sarah Epstein - Deep Water and Small Spaces (just released) – ebooks
Karen Foxlee - The Midnight Dress – ebook & eaudio and Lenny’s Book of Everything -ebook
Scot Gardner – Changing Gear – ebook
Megan Spooner – Hunted and Sherwood – eaudio
Amie Kaufman – Illuminae Files (trilogy) – ebooks; Auror Rising – ebook; Ice Wolves and Scorch Dragons – ebooks
Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner also collaborate –  Starbound trilogy – eaudio
Cally Black – In the Dark Spaces – ebook
Kate Forsyth has a number of ebooks for adults and teens

A Community of Readers
One downside of home isolation for avid readers is a lack of community to share the latest find, talk about great books, unpack characters, follow your favourite authors and to generally have a good yarn about the books you are reading. Looking up favourite authors online is a good start to see if there are any attached book communities (see editor’s note in #1 on Amy Kauffman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Instagram chat about Aurora Rising as an example).

Inside a Dog (State Library of Victoria) is a virtual meeting and sharing space for teen readers. Membership is free – find out what’s trending, read reviews and hook up with other teens and YA authors to discuss books. Just as a taste, there is a recent interview with Sarah Epstein talking about her new book Deep Water (listed above) . A Quarantine Reading Challenge has just begun – a great incentive to keep YAs connected to books and provide purpose and engagement within a teenage community. 

Publishers are stepping up in this time of literary isolation. Simon & Schuster’s Rivetted newsletter, presents a changing range of free ebooks to read each month, industry news in the YA market and a virtual bookclub. In April, City of Bones (Cassandra Clare) is one of the free books on offer and is also pegged for the virtual book club, starting on Instagram on 17 April. Readers get to vote from the free titles for the next bookclub and active participation and engagement is encouraged.

Free reading opportunities
Audible’s free reading options (to read online, not download) include Tween, Teen and Literary Classics (as well as some foreign language options if your children are learning another language). There are some great titles across these categories – contemporary and classic including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling), Cirque da Freak (Obert Skye), A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), Hollow City (Ransom Riggs), Talon and the rest of this compelling dragon series (Julie Kagawa) and Shades Children (Garth Nix).

Audio Literature Odyssey is a good source for classics for older students studying literature. The website is run by voice actor and writer Nikolle Doolin, and she narrates all the audiobooks on the website providing access to a series of engaging podcasts. She brings the pages of classic literature to life in this engaging literary podcast. The readings include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, , Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and many more. The collection is not vast and podcasts can be downloaded in chapters.

There are a number of sites offering free access to books and parents are encouraged to check these carefully as some may offer illegal copyrighted material or require the disclosure of personal information for on selling – take the time to read the registration and agreement pages. Many ‘free’ books are actually older titles and classics that are no longer under copyright and can be easily accessed in reputable and familiar sites such as iTunes  and Gutenberg.
The Tech Edvocate: Where can teachers find free audiobooks for their students? provides a useful article with leads to locating free audiobooks on services that you may already have access to through home subscriptions, or your school, or public library.
Gismo’s provides a compilation of free ebook sites for teens and audiobooks online.

Comical Options
Comics online tend to use are arrange of different software tools to facilitate reading and it is worth checking for any instructions before starting a book. Remember that Libraries Tasmania (and other public libraries) provide access to a large number of digital magazines and comicsMahnaz Dar (2020) provides an annotated list for middles school and teen readers in 19 Webcomics to Keep Kids and Teens Engaged that is well worth exploring. Read Comics Online includes superhero titles but is very heavy on advertising which disrupts reading.

Of course, there are more to be found. Please encourage your teenagers to read and share the online books that they discover and keep on reading.

Jennie Bales, retired teacher librarian, CBCA Tasmania Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator (i.e. the blog editor)

Nella Pickup, retired librarian, reader, member of National Executive - International Board of Books for Young People/IBBY Australia Inc

Editor’s note: If you can add to this list for teenagers please post a comment.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Help! I need a book. Now! #1

Oh no, the library doors have closed, at school and in the town, and you and your children’s reading choices have been exhausted. Join Nella Pickup and Jennie Bales over the next two weeks and tap into their collective wisdom to discover some great resources to build your virtual reading libraries and expand literature options in the household. This week the focus is on some general sites plus reading material for younger readers. Next week Young Adult offerings will be in the spotlight.
Diggersaurs Explore! by Michael Whaite.
Available @ Libraries Tasmania as an ebook.

If your family’s book collection is starting to be read out, here are some options for you.
For Tasmanian readers – if you are not yet a member of Libraries Tasmania, you can sign up online. Start at the home page  and head to Become a member today and then scroll down to the eLibrary link to get set up, find guides and start browsing. 

The library subscribes to Story Box Library which is a great resource for video readings. It holds an excellent collection of predominantly picture books, written by Australian and New Zealand authors. You can search for Story Box Library items in the catalogue. 

If you live elsewhere, connect with your public library to access wealth of electronic reading material. Don't forget to check your school library and contact the school library staff to learn about ebooks and audiobooks that may be available through the school portal that many students will be accessing for their daily learning.
Authors and Illustrators
Check out your favourite author or illustrator online.  Some you may not have come across yet include:

Some publishers and organisations have YouTube channels often with published authors and illustrators reading aloud their picture books

Characters and Series
Explore favourite characters and book series. 
Visit Jenbales Pearltress site for a collection to choose from.

Free to access collections
Audible is offering free stories for kids  – in a range of genres and grouped by interest level: Little Listeners, Elementary, Tween and Teen. You can listen to these directly online with no login required.
Storyline Online has recordings of many books being read aloud along with supplementary activities for each book.
Free Children’s Stories Digitised stories organised in collections: 3-5, 5-8 and 8-10. Stories are presented in video format, short and simple tales, often with a moral or message to be inferred.

Support for home schooling
For parents searching for books to add to the library or for some background knowledge in the titles that students are reading then take the time to investigate our Australian publishers. Most have regular newsletters and provide activity pages and/or teacher notes on many of their publications.  
  • Allen & Unwin Teachers Resources is just one example.   Check out CBCA Notables https://cbca.org.au/notables-2020 to find Australia’s best publishers and investigate from there.
  • Another great literature support is Reading Australia which includes reviews and curriculum linked teacher resources on many books.
  • The Little Big Book Club, based in South Australia, has been providing activities based on picture books for those aged 0-5 for 15 years. It’s well worth a look and there is a good chance that you have some of these titles on the bookshelf at home.
  • Why not ask isolated family members to read your children’s books via one of the many apps available; if possible, serialise by reading a chapter a day.
  • JB on not Just Books: @WWW - a collection of videos and occasional games grouped by curriculum subjects with several sub pages to explore.
Sea Museum. The Voyage to Van Diemen's Land. 


And to wrap up - Scholastic Australia shares two posters and a timely reminder for all of us on good hygiene practices.
Nella Pickup, retired librarian, reader, member of National Executive - International Board of Books for Young People/IBBY Australia Inc
Jennie Bales, retired teacher librarian, CBCA Tasmania Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator (i.e. the blog editor)
Editor’s note: If you can add to this list for younger readers please post a comment. Save suggestions for teenagers for next week.
Advance notice for a 7 April start: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are reading from Aurora Rising and running Q & A sessions starting this week on 7 April. Check Amie’s Instagram site @amiekaufmanauthor  to read the news on this: We're kicking off a readalong of Aurora Rising on April 7th, hosted by @misterkristoff and me! One way or another we're going to spend time with you! AND you can participate from anywhere in the world! Each week we'll read a chunk of the book, and then @misterkristoff or I will run a Q&A in our stories for 24 hours! Each section will steer clear of spoilers for what's to come, so if you've never read the book, now's the moment to join in!” Or read what Jay has to say about this Aurora Rising Read Along.