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

Friday 26 June 2020

Pearl and Dooley – Sally Odgers

I first met Sally as a visiting author to my school in Launceston some 30 years ago and she continues to write, inspire others to put pen to paper and hit the mark for her young and YA readers. This week Tasmanian author Sally Odgers introduces two of her favourite characters – Pearl and Dooley.

I gave a fair bit of thought to what I might write for the CBCA Tasmania blog. In the end, I decided to tell you about two of my characters. Pearl, the Magical Unicorn, trotted into being a few years ago and continues to forge her way along with her best friends Olive and Tweet. Pear is kind and friendly, with just enough vinegar in her nature to make her human…even though she’s actually a unicorn. When I set out to write about Pearl, I had to cover the fact that she doesn’t have hands. That sounds self-evident, but writers sometimes forget such details. Seriously, no matter who or what your protagonists are, always bear in mind their physical limitations and probabilities. Pearl isn’t especially big for a unicorn but she can’t go for a trip in her friend Olive’s ogre-boat. She just won’t fit. Neither could she turn the pages of a book.

Pearl stars in her own series, published by Scholastic.

The second character is Dooley. He’s especially dear to my heart because he lives on a farm at the foot of Dooleys Hill in Latrobe, where I grew up. There are sometimes limitations to publishing stories set in Tasmania, (is that somewhere in Africa?) but in this case I was invited to submit a Tasmanian story for the Aussie Kids series. To write Meet Dooley on the Farm, I hied back to my childhood, and to the things my children and grandchildren have enjoyed also. Dooley is a happy-go-lucky boy whose mainlander cousin, Sienna, is coming to stay. Sienna is older, but Dooley has the home ground advantage. A night camping in the barn brings an unexpected challenge, but capable Dooley has it in hand.

The icing on my cake is that Christina Booth did the illustrations!

Sally Odgers was born in NW Tasmania and still lives there with her husband and multiple dogs. She started writing in the 1970s and now has over 400 titles published. As well as children’s books, Sally writes YA, crossover, romance, photo verse and how-to books for writers, and holds workshops and author talks. Her manuscript assessment and editing service has been running for around twenty-five years.

Sally Odgers
E: sallybyname@gmail.com
OR affatheeditor@gmail.com

Friday 19 June 2020

Reading in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter

A timely post from Lyndon Riggall reflecting on the power of literature to explore our own perspectives and views of the world. Read on to explore stories of celebration, history and hope.


Over the past few months on this blog there have been amazing and inspiring discussions of reading in the era of Covid-19, exploring challenges, opportunities and possibilities from the perspectives of families, schools, authors, artists, bookshops and publishers. It has reminded me that in turbulent moments that most maligned function of the printed word—“escapism”—can also be its most valuable.


Of course, escapism is only one function of writing. Sometimes, literature does the opposite, shining a light on something oh-so-real, be it celebration, history or hope. Coronavirus is one challenge that we face right now, but there are others, and I would like to give a signal boost in this post to a few children’s books that I have found offered me vital and valuable perspectives on the issues related to the #BlackLivesMatter, and internationally.




Our Home, Our Heartbeat by Briggs, gorgeously illustrated by Kate Moon and Rachel Sarra, is a picture book adaptation of his song “The Children Came Back.” The book is, at its very core, a rich and joyous text that explores the power and brilliance of Australia’s Indigenous legends, providing a striking list of heroes for further research and contemplation. It is an inspiring piece of work, reminding us all of the important contributions these individuals have made to our society in a way that is both joyous and triumphant.




Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu—the gorgeously minimalistic yet striking junior counterpart to his adult text Dark Emu—is an eye-opening, concise account of the past leading to Australia’s colonial occupation that argues for a change in the once-dominant narrative of this country that Aboriginal Australians were a hunter-gatherer society. It’s subtitle, A Truer History, beautifully sums up the book’s mission: to correct the assumptions of the past and reveal the reality of sophistication behind Australian culture before European occupation. By turns challenging, saddening and eye-opening, Young Dark Emu pulls the veil from the colonial narrative of our past while offering startling alternatives to the common misconceptions of life in Australia under the care of our First Nations people. 



In a similar vein that recognises the importance of these messages on a wider societal level, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi is a manifesto by two stunningly insightful writers, cataloguing the realities of an American context while offering hope for the future. A “remix” of Kendi’s non-fiction text for adults, Stamped explicitly claims its status as “not a history book” on numerous occasions, and is instead a deeply practical, thoughtful and rousing call to arms. It is lyrically presented with lines of poetic phrasing that come at the reader with an almost physical force, and which can surely only be the recognised as the product of the deepest truth-telling. As a declaration for change, Stamped leaves a powerful mark.


* * *


We live in a time in which there are no simple answers and uncertainties around every corner. We turn to literature to hide, yes, but sometimes we also turn to literature to reveal, and to see ourselves. If you have any further suggestions for further reading that can inform and inspire us all around this topic I would love to hear from you below.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. You can find him on Twitter @lyndonriggall or on his website at
http://lyndonriggall.com. His latest picture book, Becoming Ellie, is available at http://www.becomingellie.com.au


Friday 12 June 2020

2020 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City

This week guest author Verity Croker shares a prestigious writers’ event that fell before the pandemic closed international borders and cancelled conferences and events. Find out what happens when the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators gather together.

The SCBWI winter conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, 7-9 February 2020, was a truly inspirational professional development opportunity. 

Verity & Remy Lai

The first official event was the Golden Kite Awards Presentation Gala evening, where we were all encouraged to wear gold. The winners of the awards delivered very thoughtful and emotional speeches. The highlight was watching Remy Lai from Queensland win the Sid Fleischman Humour Award for Pie in the Sky, presented by Chris Grabenstein. It was a privilege to witness the atmosphere in the room when she was presented with this, and I felt very proud to be a fellow Australian. Congratulations Remy! After the Awards presentations, the attendees sipped bubbles and nibbled on chocolate-dipped strawberries, as we networked and perused the talented work in the Illustrators’ Portfolio Showcase.

On the Saturday, we had a full day, starting with the Welcome and Introduction by Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, who told us there were 840 attendees from 17 different countries. Next was the opening keynote by author Kate Messner who describes herself as ‘passionately curious’. My main takeaway was to consider: What do you wonder about? Does any of that scare you? Get close to the thing that frightens you, and write about it.

Intensive breakout sessions were next. I attended ‘Marketing your book: What to do, what’s effective, and what’s not’ led by Chrissy Noh, senior marketing director at Simon & Schuster. She suggests asking your publishers to share their marketing plan with you, and discuss with them how you can best supplement what they are doing to promote your book. She also stressed that with school visits, always indicate how your book fits in with their curriculum.

'Adapting your work for film, television, and media’ led by Lin Oliver and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein (founder and CEO of The Gotham Group), was my chosen afternoon session. Ellen explained that you have to realise you are selling your work, and therefore in most cases you will not have meaningful creative input into the project, as distributors and producers want to make it their own. During this session we had the fabulous opportunity to present a one-minute elevator pitch with feedback from Ellen. Listening to her responses to everyone’s pitch proved a valuable insight into her world.

After the formal part of the day ended with a keynote from multi-award winning illustrator Jerry Pickney, we readied ourselves for the Networking Buffet Dinner, in which we were divided into regions so we could mingle with colleagues. Ours was an eclectic bunch with attendees from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada amongst others. Some connections made there continue.

The following day, the first event was an awards presentation for the Portfolio Showcase Awards, Narrative Art Award, Jane Yolen Midlist Author Award, Student Illustrator & Writer Scholarships, and the IPOC Women’s Scholarship. The first keynote was an agent and editor panel with Patrice Caldwell, Susan Dobinick, Connie Hsu, Kirby Kim, Alvina Ling, and Marietta Zacker, moderated by Lin Oliver. There was some agreement that graphic novels are wanted, as is non-fiction. It was recommended to read the last five years of published work, to follow your own compass, know your own ‘wheelhouse’, and don’t compare your journey with those of others.

My final intensive breakout session was ‘Voice, what is it?’ led by Nick Thomas, senior editor at Levine Querido, an independent children’s book publisher. Nick very generously offered us the opportunity to send him five pages of our works-in-progress before the conference, and provided us with very useful feedback. He also encouraged us to edit our work, keeping in mind his suggestions, and to submit to him over the next twelve months. What a fabulous opportunity! He said voice is what it’s like to be with you on the page, including the way you write, the way your character thinks and talks, how you show action, and how you describe setting and atmosphere. He said you must read widely, be authentic, and put in the work, always asking yourself ‘Why do I want to write this story?’.

The closing keynote was delivered by Derrick Barnes, whose book Crown is my favourite new discovery from the conference. This book and his other titles demonstrate the importance of authentic diverse books. His journey was encouraging, as at one point, even though he already had several books published, he entered a period of several years when he wrote twenty to thirty books that nobody wanted. Now, he is very successful. He asks himself, ‘What legacy do I want to leave?’, a key question for us all.

Verity Croker is the author of two young adult novels, Jilda’s Ark and May Day Mine, published by Harmony Ink Press, US, plus two middle grade chapter books, Cyclone Christmas and Block City published by Sunshine Books, NZ. Grammar Worksheet Workout, published by Knowledge Books and Software, is for school students, and Hot Pot is her debut novel for adults.

Verity Croker

Facebook: veritycrokerwriter
Twitter: @veritycrokerwriter
Instagram: veritycrokerwriter
Website: www.veritycroker.wordpress.com

Friday 5 June 2020

Eve Pownall – The Person, the Prestigious Award & the Short List

Have you ever wondered who Eve Pownall was and why CBCA named an award for informational texts after her? Leanne provides background information on this special award that celebrates quality information writing and provides teasers on each of the six shortlisted titles for 2020.
Marjorie Evelyn Pownall was born on 12 January 1902 at Kings Cross, Sydney. Eve was a meticulous researcher, avid reader, and prolific writer. Her first major work was a social history for children, The Australia Book (1952), which was named by the Children’s Book Council as best book of the year.
She wrote Mary of Maranoa: Tales of Australian Pioneer Women (1959) and Australian Pioneer Women (1975). To research The Thirsty Land: Harnessing Australia’s Water Resources (1967) and The Singing Wire: The Story of the Overland Telegraph (1973), she drove to the outback. Eve organised ‘libraries in a box’ in New South Wales and presented educational programs on ABC radio.
Contribution to CBCA
A crusader for children’s literature, she was an early supporter of the New South Wales group that became the Children’s Book Council (of Australia). She helped to establish its journal Reading Time and the annual award for the children’s book of the year, and compiled a history, The Children’s Book Council in Australia: 1945-1980. In December 1977 Eve was appointed MBE and in 1981 she was the first recipient of the Lady Cutler award for distinguished service to children’s literature in New South Wales.
The importance of the Eve Pownall Award is presented in an article by Helen Adam (2015 Judge) in Reading Time:
 [The Award], “gives birth to a delightful challenge to authors and illustrators: to present information – educational material – in a way that brings to life this world of ours, times past, current matters, scientific and social understandings in a way that illuminates our world and leads readers to a deeper understanding of this world, and their own place and significance in it.”
2020 Eve Pownall Shortlist
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ugly AnimalsSami Bayly
The well-researched information highlights some unusual, highly adapted species that have evolved to have unique but rather unattractive features, many species of which are highly threatened. Each animal is featured with information sorted into logical areas of interest, including description, habitat, and diet.
Searching for Cicadas Lesley Gibbes & Judy Watson
A view into the world of the cicada, this stunning picture book engages and informs young readers through its unique melding of fact and storytelling. The story is about a child and a grandparent exploring the bush together, marvelling at the wonders of nature whilst listening for cicada calls and conducting their careful search.
A Hollow is a Home – Abbie Mitchell & Astred Hicks
An exploration of tree hollows and the creatures that call them home. Scientific information is presented in a simple and accessible way, with concepts and terminology well defined and explained. The book is a fun and informative peek into a hidden, yet vital part of nature.

Wilam: A Birrarung Story – Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrew Kelly & Lisa Kennedy
Wilam, meaning ‘home’ tells the story of ‘Birrarung’, the Yarra River. Bunjil, the wedge-tailed eagle, creator spirit of the Wurundjeri people, oversees the journey of the Yarra River from the natural habitats at the start of the river down to the urbanised habitats of the bay.
Young Dark Emu: A Truer History – Bruce Pascoe
This book argues that for 80,000 years, Aboriginal people were living in established agricultural societies in managed landscapes, reliant on Aboriginal astronomy. Farming and food supplies were determined by Emu Dreaming, the spaces between the stars of the Milky Way, where the Spirit Emu resides. Pascoe shows how the decimation of Aboriginal people and culture ensured that after 1860 all evidence of any prior complex civilisation was eradicated.
Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery – Tohby Riddle
This book explores the mysterious yahoo through newspaper accounts of white settlers, farmers, and their children’s encounters with the 'yahoo', 'hairy man' or 'yowie' from 1847-1944 along the Great Dividing Range. Riddle depicts the yahoo as friendless, bewildered, and frightened, like a wild animal. But children seem to pose no threat to him.

Adam, H., 2015. Who was Eve Pownall? Reading Time. http://readingtime.com.au/who-was-eve-pownall/
Eve Pownall Award. Children’s Book Council of Australia.  https://www.cbca.org.au/shortlist-2020
Roberts, J. (2012).Pownall, Marjorie Evelyn (Eve) (1902–1982). Australian dictionary of biography.  National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pownall-marjorie-evelyn-eve-15495/text26710
Leanne RandsPresident CBCA Tasmania
Editor’s Note: What a stunning selection this year and very hard to choose a winner. Do you have a favourite? I have three! With just one still to read. In case you missed it, check this detailed coverage of Young Dark Emu in the blog from 2019.