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

Friday 31 July 2020

The Heart of the Bubble

A timely follow on from last week’s post on our current dystopian reality, this week, discover a new book tackling the impact of living in lockdown. Highly acclaimed children’s author/illustrator Trace Balla has just self-published The Heart of the Bubble - a story with 2020 vision set in the time of corona.

THE HEART OF THE BUBBLE is a heart-warming, family-friendly story of life under lockdown in Australia, suitable for anyone & everyone who needs their heart warmed right now.”

Trace Balla’s usual editor Elise Jones of Allen and Unwin writes “Trace’s new graphic novel with Allen &Unwin, LANDING WITH WINGS, came out *just* as the pandemic shutdown happened.” Goodbye launch, goodbye 1 million events supplying financial stability for the next ages...


So, what does she do? Makes a WHOLE NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL in record time, gets legendary publisher Erica Wagner on board as editor, and self-publishes it!!


This is the story of a family’s unexpected reconnection during the corona pandemic “lockdown”. The young girl Bimbi leads her parents from isolation to gradually adjust and reconnect with her, each other, neighbours and the outdoors… to slow down and rediscover what really matters. Bimbi manages to create a sense of community with her neighbours and those she sees regularly on their walks in the parklands. The story is filled with humour as well as poignant moments portrayed in a gentle way. There is also a sense of hope as a portrayal of how they come out the other side of the pandemic, changed to a new way of being.


Trace sees the book as a stepping stone for kids doing their own exploration and stories about this time. It’s a conversation starter for kids as there doesn’t seem to be a lot around that speaks to families apart from news which is not necessarily what parents want their children exposed to. She hopes to give the kids and a general audience some small gift of inspiration for another way of being with the current crisis… exploring what we can do as opposed to what we can’t do... 


Teacher notes are available, and schools can contact Trace for bulk discounts, with ebooks being especially easy to give big discounts.

Trace Balla

Author and Illustrator

FB: @TraceBalla https://www.facebook.com/TraceBalla/

Editor's note: All images © Trace Balla

Friday 24 July 2020

I’ve lost my bookmark!

Join Tasmanian author and illustrator, Christina Booth, in a post that navigates the waters of a pandemic world to bring hope and inspiration to her fellow creators and consumers of story – we all have a story to share – but need to make sure we don’t lose our place in the process.

I’ve written about stories before. How important they are, how they bind us all together. Well, I haven’t changed my mind, I never will, but right now I believe they are more important than ever. Because the binding that stories do, will bind us back together, as groups and friends and communities but more so, as individuals.

We all seemed to have woken up in a dystopian novel. A strange science fiction world, a disaster movie world. We wait to wake up from this crazy existence, something story tellers have used to build their amazing and far-fetched stories on for many years, yet, in the blink of an eye, we are all wrapped between the covers of a book we can’t put down or even bookmark for a quick respite to a sunny holiday resort.

It has been difficult for everyone, more so for some. I, myself, moved house amidst all of this chaos to a new city with two adult children moving back home as well. It is still feeling quite surreal. So how do we keep ourselves together? How do we tell our stories when we feel that everyone is struggling with their own?

I suggest we do it as always, we pen them down, write a letter even if it is to ourselves for the future (I was asked the other day what would I warn my younger self of if I had the chance? I answered, “Just don’t get out of bed after March the 1st,  2020!”). We can tell our stories in whatever way we want. And in the future, who knows, these may become the amazing foundation for books and articles and reports, the beginning of a new age.

I wonder what you have all been doing to keep in touch with your fellow story tellers. Has Zoom zoomed into your life? Amazing, exhausting, and weird, but a life saver I must admit. I can cuppa with friends I couldn’t even see before the virus, but it has made us aware of the possibilities.

SCBWI East NewZealand: SA mini conference participants

SCBWI East NewZealand: Shaun Tan talking about process to participants

As an author, this I how I have kept in touch with other creators. Many Zoom meetings, even an online conference or two. There have been amazing short workshops and at the end of July, I am attending my first overseas SCBWI conference in LA!! And I don’t need a passport or a second mortgage to get there.

I have discovered that doing manuscript critiques are much more effective doing them face to digital face than writing up screeds of notes that can easily be misunderstood. A conversation about a story is so much more open to growth and evolution and understanding.

Christina Booth participating in the SCBWI Tasmania PitchFest 

I believe that stories are healing. Listen to others, reading stories that make us feel normal or allow us to escape the fear or drudgery or loneliness. I know that they can help us when we tell our stories and add them to the melting pot that will help others in return. Putting it out there can help lighten the load. Perhaps it is paint on paper, pen on iPad, poems in a notebook, a song discovered in the shower. All stories help to bind the damaged parts of our hearts and minds and souls. Even if we do not put them on public display, they are still important.

I wish you all the very best in your journey through this strange new world. Take care, stay safe, tell your story and enjoy the opportunities to listen to those of others. Laugh and cry and smile through it with each other.

Christina Booth
Tasmanian author and illustrator

W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

FB: Christina Booth Books https://www.facebook.com/Christina-Booth-Books-113682115389375

Speaker bookings: https://www.christinabooth.com/bookings.html

Editor's note: Christina has a strong web presence and her site is a great starting point to explore her books through the book trailers and readings she publishes online.

Are These Hen's Eggs book trailer

Friday 17 July 2020


This week, Emma Nuttall explores the power of story to connect readers in numerous ways. This post is sure to help readers make their own connections to particular shared moments and texts.

We read for pleasure. To gain knowledge. To seek out a deeper sense of self. To understand the world around us. I wonder if we also read stories as a means of connecting with others?

In the classroom setting, we talk about making connections as a comprehension strategy. We talk about connecting our own lives and experiences to texts; connecting texts to other texts; and connecting the text with the world around us.  We use connection as a tool for engaging with the text and deepening our understanding of what we are reading.

But do we fully appreciate the power of stories to connect with others? To build and deepen relationships?

A carefully chosen class novel has the power to bring the group together. Reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen during the learning at home period, forged a bond within the dispersed class group. The bond grew out of the shared understanding of the lead character’s turmoil. The group quickly became empathetic to his plight and lived his experiences together as one, despite the distance between us. The process, the story and their mutuality strengthened the bond of the group and deepened the children’s understanding of the text. Connections were realised.

My adult book group is a group bonded by shared experiences of motherhood and friendship. Discussions occur throughout the reading process, each of us itching to determine where the friend is in the book, eager to discuss, to share, to connect with our own lives and experiences. In doing so, we are also deepening our friendship through the shared experience. Deeper connections are established.

Bedtime reading rituals strengthen and deepen the parent-child bond. My recollections of Jack and the Beanstalk repeatedly told to my much younger self when I needed it most, even now bring about a sense of calm. I now turn to stories with my own children. The shared experience that bonds, that calms, that takes us to a place of contentedness and togetherness. Connections are born.

And what of the as-yet-untold story? The made-up story, created together? On a class walk a class group were challenged to make up stories, using their surroundings as inspiration, to share with their younger buddy during the walk.

“What was the purpose of that task?” we discussed on return to school.

The initial discussion was around the power of drawing on our surroundings as a creative writing technique.

One voice piped up, “To help us to build a relationship with our buddies.”

Next time you curl up to read your favourite story, consider the powerful connections you will make in sharing it.

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, Avid Reader and Parent of readers

Editor's note: Can you think of a book that has helped a child make a special connection? Please share as a comment.

Friday 10 July 2020

How Absolutely Everything Else Can Feed your Writing

Rebel by Dawn Meredith
Tasmanian children's and young adult author, Dawn Meredith, provides a suite of suggestions and diverse ideas to stir creative juices to help the writing flow.

Ever been stuck with writer’s block? Ever felt the terror of the tyrannical empty page? Ever had a deadline that seemed to gallop towards you, while you fumble about trying to put together something decent, with that despairing thought that you won’t make it?

These are some of the challenges we face as writers. Because we’re human and not perfect. Neither are we machines that can churn out top notch writing with little effort.

Writing is a creative process. It’s the process that’s important. We live and breathe and dream through our story development as it evolves. It is a part of us.

But occasionally, something goes wrong.

Of course, there have been gazillions of articles, books, even songs written during, and about, Covid 19. And there are creatives who struggled to produce a single thing during lockdown. I know people in both camps. But it’s not just about achievement – it’s about fulfillment. Satisfaction. Expression. Creation. Why else would we put ourselves through this, at times, nightmarish thing we do called writing?

Over the twenty years I have been writing professionally, I have developed some strategies for dealing with those dark times when nothing seems to happen, or I just seem to produce rubbish. Intrigued? Here goes:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Guilt is a marvellous passion killer. Self-doubt does not improve your confidence. Accept this is happening but try not to fear it. Everyone goes through this at some point in their career. Even the world’s highest selling author of all time, James Patterson, had to develop some very randomly creative ways of getting through the blocks.

  2. Ask yourself – besides writing, what do you love to do? From surfing to sewing, gardening to garage sales, there is something you love to do that relaxes you. Write a list! Here’s some of mine – Gardening, drawing, knitting, quilt making, pottery, playing the piano, singing along with my favourite bands, walking on the beach collecting bits and bobs, tip shops and op shops, going for a walk on our farm to a favourite spot, playing with my handsome cat Harry, going for a family drive to somewhere I haven’t been before etc. Note, some of these things aren’t strictly ‘creative.’ Who cares? They relax you, free up your brain space, release feel-good hormones into your bloodstream, take you out of your stress for a while.

  3. Watch a TV show or film and analyse what makes it well written or poorly written. Is it predictable? Is that a good thing? What don’t you like? How would you write the characters/scenes/plot your way? Watch your favourite TV show or film and jot down why you love it so much. What’s the best scene? How do you feel when you watch it?

  4. Get your hands in the dirt. Even if you aren’t a gardener! Did you know we humans have the capacity to smell a certain bacteria in soil five parts per trillion? It’s the smell you detect after rain. We are connected to this Earth. We are meant to touch it, grow things in it, appreciate it. Even if you just buy a nice-looking plant, some potting mix and a pot, or a small citrus tree. Whatever. Connect with the Earth! Connect with your natural surroundings, physically, not just visually. Be a part of your planet. Breathe deep. Imagine it replenishing something inside you.

  5. Cut some flowers from your garden and bring them inside where you can admire their beauty and smell their fragrance. What smells do you enjoy? What smells would your characters enjoy/repel them?

  6. Search the internet for images of your characters or setting. Print them out and blu-tack them to the wall. Think about their features - what is unusual or special about them? How cool would it be if they were real? What do you think is their biggest personal flaw? Best asset? Worst nightmare? Dream come true?

  7. Research deeper. Get lost in another world for a while. Go off at a tangent, down an internet rabbit hole. Even if you write non-fiction, this can be loads of fun! I spent a whole day researching weird cultural practices from around the world. It helped me figure out a new race I am writing about, get to know them better.

  8. Talk to your target audience kids, about what they love to read and why. What don’t they like? What’s the best book they’ve ever read?

  9. Go through your old photo albums.

  10. Revisit the music you loved as a teen.

  11. Bake something delicious.

  12. Go for a swim/run/skateboard/walk/kayak.

  13. Think about what your characters like to do as hobbies. How does it make them feel? Or is it unpleasant and a duty?

  14. Re-read your favourite books from childhood. What did you love? Why did you keep reading them?

  15. Write down 10 ridiculous, completely mad situations that fall into your brain, i.e.: your character falls down a rabbit hole, gets abducted by a giant squid, suddenly starts growing and doesn’t stop, grows facial hair in 30 seconds, falls off the edge of the planet, finds out they are part mammoth/ancestor was a turkey etc. Complete and utter nonsense, BUT something in there will spark off an idea you can use. Make it fit your story, force your characters to deal with this random element. Try it! It works for James Patterson!

These are just a few ideas. Maybe one of them will appeal to you. The main thing is to enjoy the process. We put so much of our personal selves into the creative process; our thoughts and feelings, our past, our hopes, our surroundings, our observations. It’s not just about producing something at the end, it’s the rich journey.

However wiggly and unexpected the road.

Dawn Meredith

W: http://dawnmeredithauthor.blogspot.com/

Editor’s note: Discover the wealth of stories Dawn has written and published on her website.

Friday 3 July 2020

All emotions allowed here

This week, Victoria Ryle hones in on supporting young readers in difficult times to enrich their reading and writing endeavours and exemplifies the value of creative mentors to guide the process.


With sadness I read in The Guardian this week, that one of my early teaching mentors, Margaret Meek Spencer died in May . She was a champion of powerful texts in support of children becoming literate and the news sent me back to find my old dog-eared copy of How Texts Teach What Readers Learn. I particularly like its concluding sentence: "What we have to realise is that the young have powerful allies in a host of gifted artists and writers to help them subvert the world of their elders" (Meek, 1988, p. 40). Now more than ever do we need our young to subvert the world of their elders, given its current parlous state.


In this time of Covid-19, the book as a tangible object is an important counterweight to screen time when so much of our lives are conducted online. With this in mind, a group of artists as part of ArTELIER, a professional learning program for artists in Tasmania, were drawn to the idea of publishing a book that allowed children and young people to express some of their feelings. The first publication, by younger children, All Emotions Allowed Here is a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of one group of children aged 5 to 12 in an extraordinary time. The book encourages families to talk about what matters at a time of change and uncertainty and builds resilience. It also provides space for other children to add their own thoughts and feelings. Visit the ArTELIER website and view Leanne McLean, the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People, read part of the book, find out more about the project and purchasing options.



The second project, in a zine format, offered a group of young people aged 14-24 a paid opportunity to attend a series of three professional development workshops with writer, Danielle Wood, graphic novelist Josh Santospirito and illustrator Liz Braid. The resulting publication All emotions allowed here: How can I find normal when I’m living in a social tragedy? is a mix of artworks and writings offering a direct glimpse into young peoples’ lives as changed by this pandemic.


Being forced into the online space by the Covid 19 lockdown, has offered a fortuitous opportunity to think about new models of reaching children. Kids’ Own Publishing  has recently launched Kids’ Home Publishing, a quirky series of animations, author mini-workshops, and read-alouds of books created by children and sent in for the delightful Brigid to read in the Kids’ Own Book Cubby each Friday over the next few weeks on their Youtube channel. They say they are yet to receive any Tasmanian books, so spread the word amongst the families you know…and grab this opportunity.


 Margaret Meek believed children should have access to the best writing, in the hands of skilled writers and artists who knew how to engage readers in powerful ways. But she also understood that “understanding authorship, audience, illustration and iconic interpretation” (Meek, p. 10) are a vital part of developing literary competencies. Children may not always be highly skilled; however, they are frequently engaging communicators.



Meek, M. (1988). How texts teach what readers learn. Thimble Press.


Victoria Ryle

PhD candidate, UTAS, Education

Find out – or contribute to – my research at https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/survey