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

Friday 28 August 2020

Read Local - Buy Local

 We all know what a difficult year it has been for those who work in the arts and CBCA Tasmania has provided a platform for our local children’s authors and illustrators to share their recent creative works via our blog. This week Nella Pickup provides an overview of a number of 2020 of publications, some still to be released. If something resonates, then ‘read local’ but also  ‘buy local’ and show your support for Tasmanian book sellers as a lead up to Love Your Bookshop Day.

 2020 has provided many challenges; one of those has been keeping up to date about local children’s literature creators.   This is my list of 2020 releases with a Tasmanian creator.

Christina Booth Are these Hen’s eggs? (Allen & Unwin) is a multi-layered story about an egg hunt and about friendship, co-operation and celebration of difference. Christina’s 2020 collection includes a paperback release of her Anzac Tree; illustrations for Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe’ s Mum’s Elephant (Magabala Books) and illustrations for Sally Odgers (see below).

Jennifer Cossins’s The Mummy Animal Book (Hachette) and The Daddy Animal Book (Hachette) are available now and The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book (a companion to The Ultimate Animal Counting Book) will be out late October.  As usual. her books are filled with fascinating facts and beautiful naturalistic illustrations.

Phillip Gwynne and Tony Flower's Small Town (Puffin) is based on a real-life story of Pyramid Hill in regional Victoria.  Tony Flowers has used watercolours, coloured pencils and ink to bring warmth to this happy refugee story.  Make sure you read the endpapers. 

Kate Gordon’s Juno Jones series continues with Juno Jones Book Sleuth (Yellow Brick Road) in October. The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn (UQP) which will be released in September is already receiving great reviews.  Magpies 35(3) p38 compares it to A. F. Harrold’s The Imaginary and the Afterwards; and you can follow up on Margot Lindgren’s comments on the Momo blog.

Julie Hunt’s Shoestring: The boy who walks on air Allen & Unwin is a companion to the award winning KidGlovz.  Read Julie’s recent blog post.

Carol Ann Martin and Tull Suwannakit’s picture book Heart and Soul (Scholastic) is a touching story about Charlie, a musician, and his dog Louis who are separated by illness and then reunited.  A cross generational story that is perfect for these uncertain times.

Sally Odgers recently wrote about Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm Penguin, illustrated by Christina Boot. This book hits the shelves in a few days.

In a recent blog, Lian Tanner wrote about her transition from fantasy to a much more varied repertoire. A Clue for Clara (Allen & Unwin) is a delightfully funny mystery that also deals with bullying, death of a parent, and the struggles of rural policeman dealing with stock thefts. 

If I missed anyone, please let us know by posting a comment here so we spread the word!

Nella Pickup
Grandmother and retired librarian

Friday 21 August 2020

Not a Zoomer or a Boomer & Not So Silent


Selfie with Owl (Irene Cowell)
Tasmanian writer Irene Cowell tracks her technology development as her writing career developed. Regardless of the tech at your fingertips it is the story that you have tell that is most important.

I knew I wasn’t a “Zoomer”. I’ve only now discovered that my generation is known as the ”Silent Generation”. Strange but true! I have recently started to “Zoom”. This relatively new technology is infinitely more satisfying than its jerky predecessor, “Skype” which I gave up on after a short, confusing tech. information tutorial.

My first computer experiences were with MicroBee, rather than Microsoft or Apple. These computers were Australian designed, began as a hobbyist kit then became so popular that they were assembled in the 80’s on the Central Coast of NSW, near where I lived and worked. They were networkable, with a tiny 16 / 32 KB memory and the first computers we had in many Australian schools. It was fortunate for our school at Bateau Bay, that Assistant Principal, Marlene Davidson, was involved in their development through teaching programs. Both my children “cut their teeth” on these basic machines. Watch Owen Hill, the MicroBee founder to find out more about their history.

Rainbow Island Tapestry of Time

When, after many years, I began to take my writing seriously I typed my manuscript on our family desktop computer. That book was published in 2017 by Forty South as Rainbow Island Tapestry of Time. I graduated to my own laptop. Then towards the middle of 2019 I decided that I needed to brush up on my drawing skills by attempting an online course: “Natural Science Illustration 101” through Newcastle Uni. That tested my ability. It wasn’t just the drawing, although that was rigorous enough; it was more about posting each week’s project online and on time, and being involved in their critique group which exercised all my computer skills and then some.

Towards the tail end of 2019, when I was invited to join a Tasmanian Children’s Writer & Illustrator Group, I thought, “might as well!” and so I did. When CWILLS [pronounced “QUILLS”] went to Zoom in this bushfire-ravaged, storm-damaged, Covid-haunted year, I followed. From that satisfying experience I joined the international writer/illustrator group, SCBWI, and now find I am participating in online tutorials, information sessions and have even progressed to an online critique about my writing. What’s next? After recently participating in a SCWBI TAS Webinar, I have decided to join the associated  “PitchFest”, and will soon be pitching a manuscript to a publisher as well as discussing my illustration portfolio. Wish me luck!

N.B. Must remember to log in early.

Irene Cowell

Author: Rainbow Island Tapestry of Time”, published by Forty South
Instagram @rainbowislandseries

Friday 14 August 2020

From Brizzlehounds to Chooks

This week, guest blogger Lian Tanner, provides some insights into her writing craft and passions with a special focus on her latest endeavour that has expanded her repertoire. Read on and be introduced to a most amazing chook called Clara.

For the last ten years or so, I’ve seen myself almost exclusively as a writer of fantasy trilogies for children. All my novels have been set in the past or the future, in imaginary worlds populated by brizzlehounds and idle-cats, or mechanical rats and anti-machinist fanatics.

Now, that has changed. I've got a picture book under my belt in the form of Ella and the Ocean (illustrated by Jonathan Bentley), which won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature as part of the 2020 NSW Premier's Awards.

Plus A Clue for Clara, a stand-alone contemporary novel about a chook who wants to be a detective.

The picture book had been cooking in the back of my mind for quite a while. But the stand-alone contemporary novel? That was a surprise – and yet the seeds had been there for the last few years.

I’ve always loved the trilogy format. As a writer, I stumbled into it more or less by accident when I came to the end of Museum of Thieves and realised that I couldn't bear to walk away from Goldie, Toadspit and the museum. Not yet.

Trilogies have allowed me so much space to explore my characters. There’s an emotional arc for each book, but there’s also a wonderfully long arc from the beginning of the first book to the end of the third, and working out how to deal with those two different frameworks has been a challenging and fascinating process.

Then there’s the bonus of not having to invent a whole new world and new characters for the second and third books – instead I could come back to the same characters, and greet them as old friends.

But there were a couple of downsides to writing trilogies. For a start, they took so long. While I was writing The Rogues Trilogy, ideas for new books seemed to come flooding in on a weekly basis, and some of them were so appealing that I wanted to throw everything else aside and get started.

But I was in the middle of writing a trilogy, which meant it was at least two or three years before I could devote myself to anything else.

And then there’s the fact that, while trilogies are wonderful for confident readers who want to immerse themselves in a different world, there are many more kids who are put off by the sheer length of them.

So when The Rogues was done, I set out to write a standalone book. I was looking for a story that was shorter than my usual books, and more accessible. Something contemporary. And funny.

 Like … a detective story starring a small, scruffy chook.

I already knew that I liked writing about chooks. One of my favourite characters in The Rogues was a chook – on the surface at least. (She was really an ancient sorceress who had gotten caught up in one of her own spells.)

And few years ago, I had three chooks living in my back garden. Clara was the smallest of the three, but she was also the smartest and the bravest. She was always the first one to spot a nest of earwigs, or something interesting in the compost heap. And when my cat Harry came too close, she would stare at him until he crept away with his ears flat and his tail twitching.

I'm still not sure where the idea of her desperately wanting to be a detective came from, and to be honest, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. I knew how to write long form fantasy; what if I couldn't make the switch?

But the idea had lodged inside me, as the best ideas do, and before I knew it this sweet, funny character was keeping a diary and putting her own idiosyncratic interpretations on the human world.

And so, A Clue for Clara was born.

In the end, it turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had writing. I very much hope that people will have just as much fun reading it.


Lian Tanner, children’s author

Website: http://liantanner.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liantannerauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/liantannerbooks/



Editor’s note: One for the diary – A Clue for Clara is being launched at the Hobart Bookshop on Sunday September 20 at 11:00 am. If you are in Hobart, it would be well worth the visit to Salamanca Place.


Friday 7 August 2020

Cover Story

After a taste of what was to come last year when Julie Hunt and Dale Newman shared snippets of their current endeavour, it is wonderful to share insights into how the cover for Shoestring, the Boy Who Walks on Air was developed. What an enchanting entry into a world of magic and amazement.

What a joy a cover can be! As a reader and a writer, covers are one of my favourite things and over the years it’s been interesting to see how they come about. 

Sometimes the editor gives a detailed brief to the designer (who may not have read the book) explaining the crux of the story and who or what should be in the image. She might suggest a style and include sample book covers as starting points. The brief can be quite specific: ‘A nine-year-old girl. Red hair, one blue eye and one green. Running as if being pursued. Design could be in the fantasy style, with the figure featured within or around a shape (rather than full bleed illustration), and with the setting or background working as a texture.’

I love reading this sort of thing; it’s a glimpse into another world. The designer then mocks up a cover with text and stock images or a rough drawing done in Photoshop, before passing it to the illustrator.

Other times the brief can be short, informal and wide open. My latest book, Shoestring, the Boy Who Walks on Air, illustrated by Dale Newman, was like that. ‘Perhaps an image of Shoe on his invisible tightrope, something inspired by the beautiful aerial-perspective illustrations in the text. Dale, do you think you could sketch up some thumbnails, and we can go from there?’

 Dale drew an extraordinary thumbnail that seemed to say it all: Shoestring in the sky under a full moon, his life held in the balance by a pair of sinister hands which frame the image. She worked it up and everyone thought the drawing was great – dramatic, theatrical, atmospheric and with plenty of tension. 

There was only one problem – how to place the text? Jo Hunt, the designer (no relation), literally went around in circles trying to make it fit. Then another idea surfaced – a simple image of a boy walking across the face of the moon. Jo did a mock up using Dale’s character, along with stock moon and clouds. She added white dots to indicate stars.

 To tell you the truth at first, I thought it might be a bit too simple, but with Dale’s beautiful rendering, the moon glowed and the clouds behind it became wings or feathers. Shoestring is barefoot, his hands upturned and Metropolis, the self-declared ‘Fabulous Macaw’, is flying triumphantly into the night sky.

Except for the yellow moon, the image is monochromatic, in keeping with the cover of the companion book, KidGlovz – a graphic novel for which Dale was shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton Award for New Illustrators. 


It’s an uplifting image, full of the light fantastic, and it works beautifully with the format of the book – a chunky, heavy, hardback that’s almost square. The moon and Metropolis are gloss laminated (Metropolis wouldn’t have it any other way). And the title—in a typeface reminiscent of 19th century circus posters—fits perfectly.

Thank you so much, Dale, and the team at Allen & Unwin. It’s a delight to hold this book in my hands. 


Take a peak at Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air 


Julie Hunt

W: juliehunt.com.au

Dale Newman

W: https://www.dalenewman.art

Editor’s note: Julie is an occasional contributor to our blog. Last year, Julie and Dale participated in The Travelling Workshop visiting Tasmanian schools, and part of their conversations were around the development of Shoestring. There are also posts about her writing craft and the launch of KidGlovz. Spend some time exploring Julie’s creative efforts in her other posts.