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

Thursday 17 December 2020

How I Became an Accidental Podcaster

Lyndon Riggall introduces readers to an exciting program that harnesses technology to connect authors and readers. Discover the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast and enjoy some Summer listening over the festive season.

I am sitting in a room at the top of a flight of stairs that meanders its way curiously through the small alley between a wine bar and an Asian fusion restaurant. Objects are being moved around me—arranged and organised and tidied amongst green ferns and well-lit windows. Somewhere beyond my sightline is a bright light that illuminates the room, and as everything is finally organised or cleared away, a voice says, “Okay, ready when you are.”

In the chair opposite me is a great Tasmanian writer. I smile at them, and then we start to talk.

Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast | Episode 1| Kyle Perry

* * * * *

As we head to the end of 2020 and a time of reflecting on the year that has been, as well as the new one to come, if there is anything that we have learned in this strange, unprecedented time, it is that we can’t take anything for granted. One of the great casualties of the era of Covid-19 for me personally was this year’s Tamar Valley Writers Festival, a biennial event that brought an enormous burst of creativity and literary energy to the north of the state every two years. Many members of CBCA Tasmania will be familiar with the festival and its delightful children’s program, and it is a deep and tragic irony that in a time in which reading and writing have never been more valuable it has been impossible to hold the festival in its traditional manner. Yet one fateful day brought me a call from festival president, Mary Machen. It might just be, she suggested, that a small part of the festival’s energy and value could be captured in a different way. She had a plan, and asked me if I would be keen to be part of it. I jumped at the opportunity.

The Bluffs, Kyle Perry

Mary’s plan came to fruition, and in consultation with Michael O’Neill of MVisuals, the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast was born. Each month, Annie Warburton and I chat to great local Tasmanian writers about their work, their creative process and the influence of Tasmania on their craft. Over time, it is our hope that this collection will broaden, grow, and offer inspiration and insight into the value of Tasmanian writing not just to our island itself, but nationally and internationally too. It is nerve-wracking to sit in this chair and to look across the divide at such brilliant writers as the subject of my first interview, Kyle Perry (author of The Bluffs), pretending that the cameras aren’t there and trying to focus on the conversation, but I wouldn’t miss this chance.

A Treacherous Country
Kate Kruimink
Allen & Unwin

I am the sort of person that listens to podcasts and watches any series where writers are interviewed, and I have a clear sense of the unexplored questions that I really want the interviewer to be asking. Now I am in charge of those questions, and I love every minute of it. It is a delight to watch and learn from Annie, too, whose recent interview with the author of A Treacherous Country, Kate Kruimink, rights some of the wrongs of Kruimink’s own coronavirus-related challenges of reduced recognition and fanfare following her win of the Vogel Prize this year. We are already discussing what the podcast might be able to do for young readers and writers whose work is primarily for children, but for now it is immensely exciting to simply be part of an experiment and to share a love of stories in any way possible. Rest assured, while the festival might not be overtaking the valley this year with its declaration of love for Tasmanian writers and their work, it is alive and well. Even when our director calls “Cut!” it can’t shake the smile from my face.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer, teacher—and now podcast host!—from Launceston. The Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Facebook video and YouTube, and more details and episode links can be found at https://www.tamarvalleywritersfestival.com.au/podcast. You can find Lyndon on Twitter @lyndonriggall or at http://www.lyndonriggall.com

Editor's Note: What a great post to wind up the year - a year that has challenged us to explore new ways to connect authors, illustrators and readers in different ways. 
Festive greetings to all our readers, regular and occasional, please join us again in 2021.

Friday 11 December 2020

Christmas Reading for 2020

There is such a wealth of delightful Christmas books to share at this time of the year, it can be hard to choose. This week, Maureen Mann provides a helping hand with this overview of a range of books that capture the festive spirit.

Getting ready for this blog posting, I went in search through the catalogue of Libraries Tasmania. All these books can be found through your local Tasmanian library. Merry Christmas to all our readers.

Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross 2017

A fun re-telling of Charles’ Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Primary-aged (and older!) readers will enjoy this. It’s much more multi-layered than just a retelling.

Tinsel: the girls who invented Christmas by Sibeal Pounder 2020. 

So far, everyone’s got the Santa story all wrong, so Blanch Claus and her friends show us what it really should be. It’s a book set in Victorian England, with many nods to modern life, full of humour and Christmas magic and spirit. For primary aged readers. upwards. 

Ten Little Reindeer illustrated by Jonny Lambert 2020

A flap book (lovely big sturdy flaps they are too). Ten reindeer are waiting for their big night, and slowly each one is distracted by interesting things to do. When only one is left, the reader is encouraged to “close your eyes, make a wish and bring back all ten”.  Fun to read

Reginald’s Christmas by Patricia Pettett and Narelda Joy 2020

Reginald, all ready for Christmas, sneaks out of his mousehole to explore the rest of the house. He samples the goodies left for Santa, climbs the tree and investigates the stockings. When he returns home, he discovers that he has his own named stocking. Read about the creation of this book.  

Santa Claus heard a Fart by Olaf Falafel 2017

This is a great book to sing to the tune of Old MacDonald and a wonderful opportunity for those who love toilet humour to make appropriate fart noises.

Monster Christmas by Giles Andreae and Nikki Dyson 2020

When Monster joins Santa to deliver presents, everyone thinks he’s come to eat them. In despair he returns to the north pole, meets a girl who sees him as he really is and together, they return to make the deliveries. Finally, everyone sees Monster as someone just like you or me.

Meerkat Christmas by Emily Gravatt 2019

Sunny finds a list guaranteed to make a perfect Christmas. His hot home in the Kalahari doesn’t meet the criteria so he goes around the world searching, sending cards home to show why it’s not quite right. When he finds the perfect location, something is still missing and Santa helps him return to his family.

A Very Fiona Christmas by Richard Cowdrey 2019

Fiona searches the zoo to find Christmas which all the animals are talking about. She is confused about what it is, till she realises it is friendship and love, fun and lights and trees and most importantly giving to someone who doesn’t have things.

A Cat’s Christmas Carol by Sam Hay and Helen Shoesmith 2019

Clawdia is left in the store when it closes on Christmas Eve. When the mice come out to play, Clawdia has to chase them. The mice were clever enough to distract Clawdia when she gets too close, but eventually Clawdia has the best day with the store security guard as do the mice with all their friends.

I’m ready for Christmas illustrated by Jedda Robaard 2019

A text suited to any part of the world, but the illustrations focus on celebrating a summer Christmas. The cute animals – wombats or maybe koalas? – do summer-time activities getting ready for that special day.

The Twelve Unicorns of Christmas
by Timothy Knapman and Ada Grey 2019

A fun ‘take’ on the Twelve days of Christmas. All the preparations for the days preceding Christmas Day, with the involvement of the unicorn, food and preparations, and snow. And on the twelfth day Santa brings another 11 unicorns as friends for the household. 

All I Want for Christmas is Rain by Cori Brooke and Megan Forward 2016

Jane’s parents are farmers and desperately need rain, so when Jane meets Santa that’s what she asks for. And of course, he grants her wish so the family on Christmas morning have far more fun with the mud than the presents. Told in rhyme, the background of this story will resound with many readers. 

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini 2019

Twas the night before Christmas … but the mouse was lonely until Santa, lost in the blizzard, arrives. Mouse shows Santa where to go and helps deliver the last of the presents. Santa thanks him for being such a good worker by giving him a gift and a map, which leads to Mouse finding a new friend.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas Eve
by Eric Carle 2019

A lift the Flap board book, with only a tenuous connection with the very hungry caterpillar.  Who’s at home on Christmas Eve? Cat, Dog and Mouse are getting ready for the visit from Santa. Those who love board books will enjoy this one.

Finally. One I rediscovered during my search (and there are many more oldies I could have included) and renewed my love of the quirky Raymond Briggs.

Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs 1973

Santa is blooming grumpy because it’s Christmas again and his solitary routines are disturbed. 

I’ll close with Briggs’ words “Happy Christmas Cat! Happy Christmas Dog! Happy blooming Christmas to you, too!”

Maureen Mann

Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Friday 4 December 2020

Reginald’s Christmas

Join Tasmanian creators, Patricia Pettett and Narelda Joy, as they talk about their collaborations on a delightful Christmas story about a mouse called Reginald.

Reginald's Christmas, by Praticia Pettet and Narelda Joy
Published by Forty South
Patricia Pettett: 

This year I wrote my first children’s picture book ‘Reginald’s Christmas’. It emanated from a short Christmas story enclosed in my Christmas cards last year. Several friends contacted me and pushed me into publishing so finally I submitted it online to a London Publishing Firm. Much to my surprise it was accepted, but Covid 19 made it too difficult to proceed with an overseas firm, so I submitted it to Forty South in Hobart where it was positively received. A wonderful outcome, as their acceptance makes the book an all-Tasmanian production!


Reginald is a tiny mouse who sneaks out of his mouse hole on Christmas Eve and has a grand adventure in the lounge room. Christmas cake, an angel, Santa, toys – he discovers them all, and what a night it turns out to be!


My illustrator, Narelda Joy, from North West Tasmania, made this little mouse come to life and she and I lived with him for weeks!  Because the book needed to be released well before Christmas, time wise she was put under tremendous pressure but never once complained. The pictures are delightful and complement my words beautifully. 


It has been a new journey for me to enter the publishing world but I’m thrilled with the finished product and proud to see it on bookshop shelves.


Narelda Joy:

I was emailed by a friend of Patricia’s earlier this year saying that her friend needed an illustrator for a book. Patricia used to live in the North West, but now lives in Launceston, about 2 ½ hours away from me, so we have never met. I contacted Patricia and heard the smile in her voice when said she wasn’t sure what to do with the story, but that it was her friends who were pushing her to publish it! She sent me a copy of the text for Reginald’s Christmas, and I encouraged her to send it to some publishers and see what happened. I was sure Reginald was destined to be born! 

I could visualise him straight away. I love animals and have always loved drawing and making stylised mice, in 2D and 3D, so I was delighted to see the protagonist was a mouse! I sketched mouse ideas in pencil until I found the right character look, and then took the sketch into Photoshop to produce a colour sample for Patricia. There was lots of toing and froing; the story, my portfolio, and then the sample image of Reginald, were approved by the London Publisher and then Covid 19 hit…what timing! Reginald proved to be a resilient little mouse however, and came back to Tasmania to be officially born! 

Art work © Narelda Joy, from Reginald's Christmas

One of my favourite parts of being an illustrator is bringing a text to life. In the planning stage I reminisced my colourful childhood Christmases with shiny baubles on the tree, red stockings and patterned wrapping papers. I work in many different illustration styles and love them all, but most often I am described as textural illustrator. Patricia requested bright colours on a white page background, and I happily worked with this, thoroughly enjoying digitally painting the bright happy scenes. I find it very relaxing, and often listen to a talking book while I work.

Patricia was wonderful to work with and I’m delighted to see her dream of publishing a book come to life. I think it’s a great achievement for a retired primary school teacher, after years of reading books to students, to finally have to have very own in print. As for Reginald, perhaps on Christmas Eve I may just see him creeping out of that little hole in my hallway skirting board… although I’ll be sure not to disturb his Christmas adventure. I do hope my illustrations convey the fun Reginald has, and brings joy to many little ones at Christmas.      

Editor's note - if you would like to bring Reginald into your house for Christmas, visit Tasmanian bookstores or order online from Forty South.                                             

Patricia Pettett is a retired primary school teacher from the North West coast, now living in Launceston. She belongs to three writing clubs and has always dreamed of publishing her own book. 

Narelda Joy lives on the NW coast of Tasmania. As well as illustrating children’s books, she specialises in unique textural two and three dimensional illustrations, collage, characters and puppets. You can view and purchase Nareleda’s artworks from her website.


Read about her adventures and school visits on her blog.


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