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

Friday 27 November 2020

Having the Courage to Follow Your Dreams

Toni Brisland reflects on her recent publication, Patrick White, an accessible biographical account of the life, writing career and contributions of this literary icon and the only Australian winner of the Nobel Laureate in Literature. 

Patrick White by Toni Brisland,
illustrated by Anastasia Popp

In my book for middle readers “Patrick White” I introduce children to one of our most famous Australians and hope to inspire them to follow their dreams.

Patrick White’s family believed “we are what we are born to be, free only to shape the lives fate has given us” (David Marr’s biography of Patrick White) and if PatrickWhite had become what his family had always been and what they wanted him to be, he would have been a wealthy land owner in NSW who ran sheep. Instead, Patrick White broke with family tradition because he wanted to be a writer. 

Patrick White was goal-focused and self-disciplined and in the early days of his writing career quite poor. In his autobiography “Flaws in the Glass” he said: “I grew conscious of wanting to be a writer on leaving my hated English school and returning to the Australia I had longed for. No, it wasn’t so much a case of growing consciousness as a matter of necessity. Surrounded by a vacuum, I needed a world in which to live with the degree of intensity my temperament demanded”. This growing awareness of what to do with one’s life starts in childhood.

Middle readers are learning to find their place in the mini-society that is school and the broader community, learning to face their own fears and insecurities and sometimes illnesses, are confronted with bullies and domineering peers and are grasping with their idea of self and what they want to be in life which sometimes conflicts with how their parents see them and the expectations their parents have for them. 

From Patrick White, Chapter 4, World War 2, pp. 26-27. © Anastasia Popp.

This is not very different to the generations that have gone before and not different at all to what Patrick White experienced as a child. My book shows that he was bullied at school, full of self-doubt and was sick all his life with asthma and in and out of hospital. As a child he did not mix easily with other children: he played with them but made no friends. Patrick White was private and solitary and when he was growing up he often asked himself the question: “What will I be when I grow up?” 

I believe that as children learn to cope with who they are, the influences on their lives, and what they will become, they turn to “story” to explore how others have lived and coped, assimilating from books what they need into their own lives and this is one of the reasons I wrote about Patrick White’s life.

From Patrick White, Chapter 9, Awards, pp. 48 & 51. © Anastasia Popp.

Children often ask the same question – “what will I be when I grow up”. Take the fabulous illustrator of my book, Anastasia Popp. Anastasia says, “When I was about six and adults asked me what I wanted to become, I answered that I'd be an animator. My road was winding and actually I don't create cartoons, but here I am - an illustrator”. 

My own road was circuitous: I always wanted to write and I eventually found my way via teaching, management and the law. 

So, I’m hoping the children who read my book will find something in it of value to them, even if it is just the faith and self-belief to be what they want to be and not what someone else tells them they should be.

Toni Brisland
Toni Brisland 

Author and Poet, previously Director, CBCA (NSW Branch Representative) 


For Toni Brisland:


Twitter: @toni_brisland


For Anastasia Popp:


Editor's note: Patrick White is a quality publication on quality paper and excellent layout of text overlaying the illustrations. The timeline and awards presented at the end of the biographical narrative reflect key highlights in Toni's highly readable prose. An interesting addition to Australian biographies targetting middle school readers.

Friday 20 November 2020

The Elydian Dawn Series

Sally Odgers shares the evolution of a YA series over numerous iterations influenced by changing editors, publishers and formats over many years - and how the work not only comes to fruition but also becomes more finely crafted in the process.

Back in the late 1990s, I won a residency at the Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga. I had three weeks to work on a science fiction series for teenagers, set hundreds of years after a spaceship crashed into the planet Elydia. Only children and teenagers survived, so the new colony took some very odd turns. I moved in and set to, holding workshops by day and typing furiously on the Centre’s computer by night. I clocked up about 10,000 words a night.

By the end, I had two whole books, The Millichancer and Dryad’s Well written and half of another Piper’s Dream, but I’d overstrained my tendons and had to stop. A decade or so later, I told an editor about my project. She asked me to pitch it “younger” and to make it into one book instead of a series… at least, initially. I decided to write a younger prequel and pitched that. We were all set, I thought, when the editor left the company and the niche closed. Again I put aside my cherished series.

Fast-forward a few more years. Mum died and I wanted a project to love. I pitched the series to a new publisher, and started again. I meant to write 30,000 words dealing with the crash and the birth of the new colony. 120K later, the editor explained the pricing of ebooks and asked me to make the book into three. These were published as Elysian Dawn, The Silvering and New Dreams. I hope to write the next three, Rachel Outward Bound, The Hundredtree and Flotsam soon. 

The first 3 titles in the Elydian Dawn series by Sally Odgers

The books I wrote in Wagga, after a lot of rewriting, will be rather late in the series. The reading age of the first book is pitched to high school and above, so I suppose it’s a crossover. And you know what? I think these are some of the best books I’ve ever written. Writing is a skill that keeps on developing… as long as my tendons hold out.  

Visit the Elydian Dawn website to find out more about this fascinating series


Sally Odgers

Sally lives inn NW Tasmania with her husband and multiple dogs. Her writing career has spanned 40 years with around 400 titles published - including children’s books, YA, crossover, romance, photo verse and how-to books for writer. Sally holds workshops and author talks and runs a manuscript assessment and editing service.

W: https://sallybyname.weebly.com
E: sallybyname@gmail.com OR affatheeditor@gmail.com

Friday 13 November 2020

Seen the Movie? Now Read the Series.

Join Felicity Sly as she makes some great connections between movies and children’s fiction series good timing with ahead holidays on the horizon and summer viewing fun to look forward to.

The release of movies Mary Poppins Returns (2018) and Doolittle (2020) had me wondering how many young readers have explored the books behind these movies. I’ll leave the more current and well known titles: Harry Potter; His Dark Materials; A Series of Unfortunate Events; Chronicles of Narnia and Artemis Fowl (movie release 2020) for you to explore independently

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins has been reimagined in Disney films and as a stage musical, based upon the first P. L. Travers book published in 1934, and subsequently in Mary Poppins Returns loosely based on Travers books, and Saving Mr Banks, loosely based on Travers life. Travers wrote eight Mary Poppins books featuring the Banks children between 1934 and 1988. 

Doctor Dolittle
Complete Collection


Hugh Lofting published fifteen Doctor Dolittle books between 1920 and 1952. Young readers may be more familiar with any one of the films (more than seven), stage shows, animations, video games or audio books (three narrated by Alan Bennett: the discovery of Bennett’s narrations has now opened a wormhole!)


Psammead Trilogy

Edith Nesbit’s The Psammead Trilogy (Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet) were written between 1902 and 1906. Five Children and It has been iterated in film (most recently in 2004), a television series, anime, a stage musical and a comic strip.


The Complete Borrowers

The five Borrowers books (1952-1982) by Mary Norton have also made it to film, TV series and anime. The delightful anime Arriety (2010) is well worth a watch, as is the 2011 BBC Film with Stephen Fry as Professor Mildeye. There is a potential animation also in the works (2018). 

Frog and Toad

There are four Frog and Toad books, written by Arnold Lobel (1970-1979). Their story has appeared on stage as a play (1990s) and a musical (2003), and in a series of eighteen 30 minute clay animations. 

The Books of Earthsea

The Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin (1984-2001) occurs over six books. Earthsea has appeared in a two part mini-series in 2004 and animated film (2006).

As holidays approach there may be an opportunity to share film and text with your family. Are there other book-to-film series that you would like to add to this list? Please add these in the comments section.

Felicity Sly is a Teacher Librarian at Don College, Devonport and Treasurer of CBCA Tasmania.

Enola Holmes Mysteries

Editor’s note:
I will take up Felicity's challenge for more recent contributions to add one more to the list with my favourite for 2020 - Enola Holmes. Inspired by the Enola Holmes Mysteries written by Nancy Springer between 2006 - 2010. Do you have another to share as a comment?

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Turbo Chooks, Boobooks and Bling!

This week Sonia Strong talks about books and art to encourage a love of wild things in this distinctly Tasmanian coverage of some unique wildlife.

Tazzie the Turbo Chook Finds her Feet
by Sonia Strong

Turbo chooks, the native hens familiar to Tasmanians, have attitude. Why bother with getting a clearance to fly when you can run at 50km an hour or swim strongly if the need arises? Like other Tasmanians, they are social and given to frank, loud conversations. 

© StoryWalk image
by Sonia Strong

In her first book, artist and storyteller Sonia Strong has captured the spirit of the turbo chook in paintings and verse. As well as introducing children to the species, she has woven into the story a conservation message. The villain is a sinister feral cat, a deadly threat to wildlife and particularly to a flightless bird. The book has a rich cast of characters: a masked owl, various farm animals and the Robinson kids. You will have to read the story to your children to find out how the hero, Tazzie the baby turbo chook, bests the wicked cat. There is an interactive StoryWalk currently installed at Dur Point, Margate (Tasmania), This is soon to be updated with a StoryWalk Featuring The Boobook Nook.

In her second book, The Boobook’s Nook, children aged 2-7 are introduced to some of Australia's nocturnal creatures (such as wombats, quolls, frogmouths, bats and bettongs) and they will see why there really is no need to be afraid of the dark.  

The Boobok's Nook by Sonia Strong

        © Sonia Strong

Sonia describes herself as beach-comber, feather-finder, bone-collector, gem-fossicker and rock-pocketer. Her home and studio are full of strange and beautiful natural objects, sustainably collected during significant time spent in Tasmania's wild and quiet places. Many of these objects inform her artwork, most significantly in the jewellery she produces (see website below). Having previously worked in marine and terrestrial conservation, almost every artwork highlights the beauty of the natural world in some way. 

         © Sonia reading her books to the kids
               at Fuller’s Bookstore, Hobart.

Due for release later this year, is fellow wildlife lover and snake handler, Veronika Ross’ inaugural book, My Dad Thinks Snakes Are Scary, illustrated by Sonia Strong, 
which is due for release later this year. Links on how to order all three titles, and/or explore Sonia’s other work, are provided below. 

Find out more about Sonia's work: