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

Friday 30 October 2020

Fun and Games at the Olympics

The first time I saw the illustrations in the The Wildlife Winter Games I was hooked on the creative genius of Tasmanian artist and illustrator, Ben Clifford and his collaborations with author, Richard Turner. This week Ben invites you to be a spectator in the creation of the second picture book in this animal Olympic trilogy. 

The Wildlife Summer Games - Richard Turner & Ben Clifford
Starfish Bay.

The Wildlife Winter Games
Richard Turner & Ben Clifford
Starfish Bay.

I first met author Richard Turner in person at the launch of our first collaboration. It was to be the first of a three part series for me to illustrate; The Wildlife Winter Games. I travelled from my home of Hobart to Adelaide for the launch.

Richard created this original series that I found interesting - animals competing in Olympic Games events. Now a year later, the second in the series is upon us; The Wildlife Summer Games. Richard gave me freedom for the design and development of the illustrations. However, this became a collaboration - throwing ideas back and forth. It was a great process.

The series isn't a narrative unfolding a story. Instead, the reader is asked to decide which animal wins the gold, silver and bronze medals in each event based on their unique skills. This encourages discussion and creative thinking for the reader and, upon each reading, the result can change.

© Ben Clifford from The Wildlife Summer Games.

Before drawing anything I scribbled my first thoughts of the three word title and attempted to blend them together – Wild animals, tribal, sunset, humidity, warm colours, ritual displays.

© Ben Clifford from 
The Wildlife Summer Games.

Thirty animals/athletes appear in the book. Researching each for their size and appearance is something I always enjoy (including the first book of the series to discover the rare Colossal Squid with the largest known eye diameter of all creatures - 30cm!) I keep animals realistic with an added recognisable smile or physical display of human emotion.

I've loved watching the Olympics since childhood. In The Wildlife Summer Games the host city appears like a giant playground combined through different backdrops. I wanted to capture this with each event. This was a jungle, beach, desert, tropical ponds - all different pockets of a combined world that invite us to explore.

© Ben Clifford from The Wildlife Summer Games.

The first image that comes to my mind of the Olympics from any year is the white-striped running lanes in the stadium. It's instantly recognisable, iconic and what I found perfect for the cover.

Double page spread of the animals on the track.
© Ben Clifford from The Wildlife Summer Games.

The image I enjoy the most is the closing ceremony spread. This ties up the book displaying every animal together in celebration under fireworks, much like the Olympic ceremonies I have enjoyed. The first in the series; The Wildlife Winter Games is available. Now this - The Wildlife Summer Games - available in November. A third and final book in the series will follow. Back to work.

Ben Clifford
Tasmanian illustrator and artist

W: www.benclifford.com.au

FB: www.facebook.com/ben.clifford.art

I: www.instagram.com/artofbenclifford

Friday 23 October 2020

Meet Bobbie Rotten

Local author and illustrator, Shanli Perkins, introduces us to a delightful story about a much loved family member – Bobbie Rotten – a mischievous Australian Terrier. Share her journey into self-publishing on a topic close to her heart.

I am a creative soul who loves to design, create and share laughter. I live near the beach on the North West Coast of Tasmania. With Covid-19 locking down our region earlier this year I needed to escape the woes of the world and decided to finish the children’s book I had planned in my head for more than three years.

Bobbie Rotten - written and & illustrated by © Shanli Perkins.

I teach teenagers and an ex-student of mine, Krystal Clancy, was chosen to help me start the illustrations for my story. She showed me how to draw our furry, frantic pet.  When my children were little, we adopted an Australian Terrier who filled our lives with so much love and trickery!  He loved tormenting us with his antics and long after he died the stories remained. I thought the world now, more than ever, needs a laugh and a hug, so I sat for two weeks illustrating and writing a children’s book.  It is a true story written in rhyme about our family pet named Bobbie Rotten. 

Child with Bobbie Rotten Cuddle Cushion © Shanli Perkins
Child with Bobbie Rotten Cuddle Cushion. 
© Shanli Perkins
I purposely kept the book black and white so children could imagine the colours, but to my surprise adults love the book too. The book Bobbie Rotten has visited local schools and the response has been wonderful. As we cannot hug each other easily at the moment, I have also helped create Bobbie Rotten cuddle cushions for children to use when they need a hug. Children have started making their own cuddle cushions with drawings of their own pet or with Bobbie Rotten. I have had a wonderful time sharing my story and creative ideas. 

The responses and smiles I have received back from this project, have made my first-time attempt at story writing truly joyful. It has lifted my spirits and I think it has lifted the spirits of my readers too. 

Bobbie Rotten is on its second print edition with limited numbers remaining. If you would like to purchase a copy of Bobbie Rotten and/or a cuddle cushion please message Shanli Perkins on Facebook. 😊

© Shanli Perkins with her self-
published book, Bobbie Rotten

Shanli Perkins

Children’s book author and illustrator

FB: @ShanliPerkins https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004102340222

Friday 16 October 2020

Do you fit in?

 This week’s blog presents a wonderful array of books about ‘fitting in’ that are sure to tantalise readers of all ages. Thank you, Maureen for this great selection of title exploring those awkward and difficult momenta and events that life throws at all of us.

Andrew Plant’s dedication in his book Jump (2020) says “For everyone who has ever felt they don’t fit in – we make the world interesting!” This fun book is about a small Quig living in an alien city who questions his skills because he can’t jump like the rest of his group. Eventually, he does better than they do when he takes a leap of faith and discovers that he can fly.

Many of us feel we don’t fit in. For some, it’s constant because they are so different to everyone around them. For most of us, it’s usually only some of the time, in certain situations. We wonder why we can’t do something, no matter how much we try and practise. Or we wonder why things are different for us. 

Authors over the years have taken this emotion and written about it because it’s such a great starting point. Here are some I have enjoyed –not in any order, but as I thought of them.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012). 

Auggie’s facial deformity prevents him from fitting in, when all he wants is to be the same as everyone else. Starting with Auggie’s narrative, the reader soon has other points of view of what and who Auggie is. This is a book about kindness and accepting people for who they are, not how they look. Middle school age

Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (2020).
All the young elephants show their skills to Elephant Almighty and are given their special name, but all Num-Num wants is to be himself, without emphasising his talents. He finally convinces the king that he is special and can become Elephant Me. Picture book

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (2001).
All the animals show their skills when the music is right, but Gerald’s long legs won’t match the rhythms of the music and he’s teased by everyone. Suddenly he finds his own song and succeeds. This book works really well despite my dislike of anthropomorphism. Picture book

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017).
Eleanor is completely happy with her life until she realises that speaking her mind, saying exactly what she thinks as she thinks it, is not acceptable to many people. She is self-sufficient until she finds her great love and realises she needs to accept other people. Older readers/adult

Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli (2002). Stargirl is the non-conformist new student who does everything differently to everyone else and things no one else would consider. She is kind and considerate (too kind and considerate as a teenager perhaps?) and indirectly encourages others to break from their own moulds. Older readers

The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (2020).
Maya, profoundly deaf, has to adapt to a hearing school after years of attending a school for the deaf. She learns that her deafness is part of her personality and that she is comfortable with that and doesn’t need to become part of the hearing world which a cochlear implant might achieve for her. Older readers

Spork by Kyo Maclear (2010).
Spork’s mum is a spoon and his dad is a fork and he doesn’t fit into the world of the cutlery drawer. He wants to be wanted, and that comes when a baby arrives in the household and Spork is the perfect utensil for him. Picture book

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (1991).
This book, its title shortened to THUG, is about systemic racism and the damaged US criminal system, that Black Lives Matter (becoming prominent again in 2020). Starr from a strong family unit witnesses the death of her unarmed friend Khalil at the hands of the police. She at first thought that her voice wouldn’t make a difference and finally realises she needs to speak out, which she does. Older reader/adult. 

The 57 Bus: A true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives by Dashka Slater (2017).
While travelling on the 57 bus in California, Sasha, a white agender teen, had their dress set on fire by Richard, a black boy from the poor areas of town. This challenging story is the result of their regular 8 minute ride together. Richard has to overcome police stereotyping of him as a person and his perceives hate crime while Sasha has to convince everyone that they are not bitter or wanting to be avenged. A great story of compassion, about restorative justice and non-binary gender identity. Older older readers

Twig by Aura Parker (2016).
No one notices Heidi the twig insect on her first day at school, none of the other students, nor the teacher, because she blends in so well. She has to learn to stand out and become an individual in her own right. Lots of counting and visual searching activities throughout. Picture book.

Which important titles do you think I have missed out? What would you like to add to the list?

And most importantly, before I finish… I hope you have seen the announcement of the 2020 Book of the Year winners and honour books. As always a great choice from the judges. Please check out the results if you haven’t already done so. https://cbca.org.au/winners-2020 

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Friday 9 October 2020

To screen or not to screen? A reading diet question

This week, Emma Nuttal draws on personal and professional experience and the family’s reading preferences to consider the differences between print and digital reading. What do you think? 

My children devour books. The school holiday treat is always a new book and a milkshake. These holidays, the book was done nearly as quickly as the milkshake. 

Now, I’m not complaining. I love that my kids love books. It was a parenting goal of mine, and I’m proud that we’ve knocked that goal out of the park… and over the road… and into the next park. Truly, I am. It’s just that I can’t keep up! 

Roald Dahl and David Walliams collections.

The bookshelves in our house are overflowing – and there’s a huge range of reading material on them. I think it’s healthy, a bit like a balanced nutritional diet; a balance of reading material is good for you. It must be. There are mountain bike magazines stacked up next to the collection of Asterix comics, which cause the hefty science books to constantly tumble over. On the shelf above, we’ve put the ‘collections’ –the Roald Dahl collection, the Lord of the Rings set and literally ALL of the Percy Jackson books. We’ve recently added the David Walliams collections and the Emily Conolan books too. It’s our own little family library. In the busy-mess of family life, the local public library isn’t always an option. And the habit has to be fed… 
Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan) and Emily Conolan collections.

One day, I was given an e-reader. I was hesitant at first. I had resisted for years. Actively avoided them. But, this was a gift and I’m not one to offend. So I used it. Only a little at first. But convenience crept in. A few long holidays and the deal was done - no more lugging big books around on long haul flights, I packed my whole holiday reading onto one device. But there’s a ‘but’. Well, actually a few. 

I can’t see the cover every time I read. I can’t really tell how big it is or how far through it I am. I can’t gauge how much time I get to spend in the story, with the characters I’ve grown to love. I can’t even easily read the blurb or accidentally flick a chapter or 2 ahead (I only do it occasionally, and only ever very briefly!). I can’t easily borrow and lend with friends and family. I can’t smell the pages. I can’t feel the literal weight of the story. There is research that suggests that we can’t comprehend as well when we read on a screen, “The strong appeal of digital-based assessment and learning environments has led many educational systems to adopt them. As findings from the current work reveal, however, digital environments may not always be best suited to fostering deep comprehension and learning” (Delgado et al. 2018). 

But there’s another ‘but’, what about that balanced reading diet? Screen reading is here to stay. Perhaps, as educators, we have the responsibility to teach students the comprehension skills required to effectively access digital AND paper texts. I’ve made the decision to balance my personal reading diet and as a parent, I’ve done the same. I provide a balance of digital, paper and audio reading material to my children. And they continue to devour books. Digital or otherwise. They don’t have the same hang-ups about screen reading as I do. Some other reading diet decisions will torment them as parents. 

Delgado, P; Vargas, C; Ackermon, R & Salmerón, L. (2018). Don't throw away your printed books: A meta-analysis on the effects of reading media on reading comprehension. Educational Research Review, 25, 23-38.

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, avid reader and parent of readers 

Editor's note: If you are looking to explore digital reading, a good place to start is through your local library. If you live in Tasmania, visit Libraries Tasmania and discover ebooks and magazines, audio books and audio storytelling.

Saturday 3 October 2020

The Kids’ Own Book Cubby at Hobart Library

An ongoing project to involve children in creative writing and self-publication now has a place for others to share and read these ‘stories in the impressive Kids’ Own Cubby at the Hobart Library. Find out more about Victoria Ryle’s work with children and how this is informing a doctoral study.

Kids' Own Cubby - with books to read!

“That was fun!” “That was better than I thought it would be!” Overheard reactions as the class of 4/5s filed out of the children’s area of Hobart library recently. They had just deposited their ‘published books’ in the Library’s newly acquired Kids’ Own Book Cubby (Built by the Clarence Plains Men’s Shed). 

These cheerful children had each succeeded in publishing what I term a micropublication in the space of two hours! A challenging task for the children, and a valuable opportunity for me to observe with my researcher’s hat on. Based on many years’ experience, I have noticed that the nature of this challenge is a slippery beast depending on the age, expectations and abilities of the young authors in question. 

Creations from the Hobart Hotdogs

First, these bright and sparky 10 year-olds and their teacher have to overcome a common misconception that the publishing process centres on a writing task. This particular experience of publishing is about creating a book on 8 pages that fit on a single side of a piece of A3 paper – so little room for stories in chapters or other extended narratives! Rather it is a multimodal and artifactual task (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012), that demands a multi-layered weaving together of visual and written ideas and materials that typically do not include graphite pencils, erasers or colouring pencils. 

Children bring with them a wide variety of learning styles, individual self-expression and understanding of the audience and purpose to this time-limited task. While we had discussed the theme of ‘little joys’, as individual authors they had control of the decision making process and were free to deviate. 

Many children dive into writing with confidence, but some children need to chat while they rehearse, curate and bounce their ideas around. Some children think visually, and some demonstrate a natural spatial awareness of the layout and design of the eight pages including front and back cover. 

An open-ended approach makes for a good assessment opportunity for teachers, revealing as it does the procrastinators, the collaborators, the perfectionists and the dashers. Teachers are often surprised to notice that different children than usual shine in this rich arts-based context. 

Through my research journey to date, I have deepened my understanding of this particular process of publishing as constructed through relationships, and practice that is emergent, intuitive, material, and embeds intra-action with the book as artefact. In short it is embedded in the Deleuzian concept of affect (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) providing an encounter that delves beneath the surface features of a typical literacy activity (Boldt & Leander, 2020; Sherbine, 2018). 

The three classes who participated in these September workshops, have been given the brief of producing a collective narrative that they will illustrate, inspired by the work of Tasmanian illustrator Daniel Gray-Burnett. The book that will eventuate will be the inaugural publication to mark the launch of Hobart Library’s Book Cubby. 

In the meantime the Book Cubby is in residence in the Hobart Library where the librarians report it has proved popular during this school holidays. It is not fully complete, and currently houses a small collection of books by children for children, including the Bee Book by children of Goodwood, All Emotions Allowed Here  and In the Tree Castle by young children from Goodstart Claremont. The Book Cubby awaits many more books by young Tasmanian authors, and an official launch to come. 

Victoria Ryle 
Victoria Ryle is a PhD candidate researching publishing books with children as authors at the University of Tasmania. You can follow Victoria's research https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/
She is also the co-founder of Kids’ Own Publishing and designed the prototype Kids’ Own Book Cubby in 2007. There are now 20 Book Cubbies spread across Australia and New Zealand. 

Boldt, G., & Leander, K. M. (2020). Affect theory in reading research: Imagining the radical difference. Reading Psychology, 41(6), 515-532. https://doi.org/10.1080/0270711.2020.1783137

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. 

Pahl, K., & Rowsell, J. (2012). Literacy and education. SAGE Publications. 

Sherbine, K. (2018, June). Track Star+ thing power: Be (com) ing in the literacy workshop. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798418777847