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

Friday 17 December 2021

A Top 5 Reading List for Christmas

Our wrap up post for 2021 is from Loretta, who shares the joy of Christmas and the wondrous tales that celebrate the season with a short list of her favourites to read and share.

I love Christmas time! I just love decorating for Christmas at the Burnie Library, but I also love to read the Christmas picture books to the school groups that come in leading up to Christmas. In this blog I’m going to review my top 5 Christmas picture books that I recommend reading! With the help from my dog Cliffy (who did fall asleep on the job!). 

An Odd Dog Christmas by Rob Biddulph

When I first read this story, I thought to myself this is a book that 90% of people would relate to! We have all been there - It’s Christmas, and the Odd Dog is running out of time to find the perfect present for her friend!
Along the way she meets a new friend who needs help, she realises that gifts might not be the most important thing about Christmas after all. The illustrations themselves could tell the story they are bright and colourful, and the children love to point out the different little details on each page of the story.
This is the perfect story for children aged 4+, dog-lovers everywhere and anyone who loves Christmas! 

The Snowflake by Benji Davies

The Snowflake tells the tale of one snowflake and one little girl – both longing for something and looking for their own special place in the world. 

The illustrations are beautiful, and it really does show the power of fate. Everyone should read this book; I guarantee it will warm your heart and make you smile.

A House for Christmas Mouse by Rebecca Harry

I absolutely loved reading this story out loud to the school children who visited in the last month. The story follows the little adventure of a mouse who finds herself helping her friends in their homes for Christmas when she needs to find a home for herself.  Mouse gets very worried along her travel but there is a very happy surprise ending in the story that shows the true meaning of friendship.

Cat and Dog Eat Christmas by Jonathan Bentley

Children absolutely love this funny story of a teeny tiny dog and a grumpy old cat who get up to mischief all on Christmas Eve. This is another great story to read aloud to children and the illustrations will have the children laughing and I must say it does get you wondering if our own pets at home think like this at Christmas time. Very comical and I would highly recommend reading this story. 

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

A true classic that could not be left off my top 5. The Night Before Christmas is one of my most treasured Christmas books. I remember my Mum reading this story to me when I was little in the lead up to Christmas and love to share this story with children at the library and every time you announce to the children that you are going to read this story today you can hear the teachers or parents in the background going “Awwww! That’s one of my favourite Christmas stories”. 

I hope you enjoyed my top 5 Christmas stories and hopefully inspired you to read one of them or I have brought back memories for yourself about your favourite Christmas book. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy safe new year. 

Loretta Brazendale

Information Services Coordinator
Burnie Library | Libraries Tasmania 

From the editor: Thank you to all the contributors to our blog throughout the year and to the many readers who have enjoyed and shared great stories on and about children’s literature. Our best wishes over Christmas and New Year, and with special thoughts to our North West community. We look forward to your company in 2022.

Friday 10 December 2021

Thoughts on a Year of Creative Writing

Lyndon Riggall, fresh from assessing Creative Writing papers, celebrates the up and coming young writers who are inspired and able to contribute to the wealth of Tasmanian storytelling that we all celebrate and continues to make a mark on the Australian publishing scene. 

In 2019, a review of VCE English recommended a significant overhaul of its program when it was discovered that the essential skill of creative writing was not being taught with enough depth. In Tasmania, we are lucky that we have the dedicated TASC course of English Writing to fill this need, which is double-blind marked at the end of the year through an external folio of work. Students who choose the subject are typically passionate storytellers who wish to develop how they express their ideas—an ambition evidently fulfilled by data that indicates a high level of university success for those who have graduated from the subject, and arguably a demonstration of the power of developing the specific skills of editing and expression that the course provides.

Having taught the subject again this year and marked folios over the last few weeks, I thought it might be valuable to offer some general reflections on the progress of our up-and-coming writers. Certainly—as in years past—our top wordsmiths continue to demand to be noticed, and marking for the subject often leads to an assessor wishing that they knew the identity of the student simply so that they could track their ongoing success and career. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Tasmanian Year 11 and 12 students push their writing into areas that offer depth, relevance and originality, with many pieces featuring diverse protagonists, updating traditional narratives so that their meanings are more relevant in a modern sense, or crafting visions of dystopian futures that highlight the challenges of the way that we live now. Another particularly exciting development is that young writers appear to be increasingly experimental in their use of form. Several stories that I read this year featured a kind of multi-modal design, using text messages presented throughout as characters conversed, or including in their pieces found documents to build a world in a similar manner to writers like Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff in The Illuminae Files.

When students were asked at the beginning of their folio to nominate works that had inspired them, there were some excellent examples, including iconic Tasmanian writers such as Robbie Arnott, Richard Flanagan and Danielle Wood, all of whom capture a sense of voice from this island in a way that students clearly strive to emulate. That said, many of the cohort found that they struggled to name any literary influences at all, or offer anything deeper in terms of inspiration than a list of what they had recently watched on Netflix. I have always maintained that a writer who does not read is like a chef who refuses to eat: they will succeed, occasionally, but it will be more as a result of good luck than good management. The struggle of encouraging our young people to engage with the written word recreationally continues to be an English teacher’s toughest challenge, but the best student work this year clearly demonstrated that amongst all of the competing demands for our time (and theirs) there is still, always, a place for literature. 

Over the next couple of years, English Writing is being reinvented. This is an exciting opportunity, but it also comes with a level of danger. I have listened to the young writers of this island and heard their stories, and many of them express that it was in this subject that they found the self-assurance to tell the tales that have been bubbling away inside them. Perhaps a teacher shouldn’t admit to having a favourite class to teach, but the truth is that mine is this one: for the diversity and originality of the work produced by its students, for the confidence they build in their ideas and their own sense of self, and for its simple shared love of story. Having reflected on the power of the pieces that I have had the fortune to read this year, I sincerely hope that fundamental to any new course is one simple philosophical underpinning: that this classroom is a place where students feel safe to find their own authentic voice.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. He can be found on his personal blog at http://www.lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.

Editor's note: I have just finished listening to an interview with Robbie Arnott, winner of the Sydney Morning Herald Book of the Year Award, where the quality of Tasmanian writing is acknowledged. From Lyndon's observations, this looks set to continue.

Friday 3 December 2021

An anthem for all

Watch out for this forthcoming publication that celebrates our national anthem and is due for release at the start of the New Year. Tony Flowers shares the research and investigations undertaken to craft a broad and encompassing portrayal of Australia.

Two years ago, I was relaxing after a day of presenting to school groups at the Byron Bay Writers Festival when I received a call from my publisher with a new opportunity for me to consider.

Book cover [insert] - the Nomad on safari. Image © Tony Flowers

I was asked, 'How would you feel about illustrating the national anthem?'. After my initial hesitation, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if it was even possible to make the anthem into an engaging narrative. After all, this is a song that is girt by controversy.

After a few hours of scribbling away at my sketch pad, I became quite excited by the idea. One of the challenges was that the Australian Government holds the copyright for the anthem. I created a rough layout and submitted it to the prime minister and Cabinet to get approval to use the text. The biggest challenge lay ahead once this hurdle was passed: illustrating the national anthem without making it look like a cliché, a travel pamphlet or flag-waving festival to everything Aussie - green and gold.

Arctic sketch [insert] and finished version. Image @ Tony Flowers

My approach was simple; the book would celebrate the diversity of the Australian landscape and the diversity of people and lifestyles that make up our country. I would also have to include locations from each state. I wanted the images to feel more like a scrapbook of memories rather than a collection of picture-perfect iconic scenes. As a result, the finished book includes:
Images of the red centre.
The frozen ice of Antarctica.
Urban cityscapes.
Rural landscapes
Boats on the high seas.
And much more.

As I set about drawing up the illustrations for the National Anthem, I found myself weaving in friends, family, my motorcycle and my dogs into quite a few pages. There are so many dogs in this book; I jokingly think of it as having the alternative title of 'Advance Australia dogs' as there is a dog (at least one) on every page.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554. Image © Tony Flowers

The one image that I desperately wanted to do a site visit on was for the Uluru page. I had never been there, and I knew if I didn't go, my illustration would have been based on a bunch of cliché giant red rock style images. A window of opportunity opened up between rolling Covid lockdowns, and my wife and I flew off to Uluru.

Uluru trip Ceri and Tony. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers
Many of the wildflowers and reptiles that we encountered on this trip made their way into the illustrations, as did the purple colour tones of Uluru is itself. This was certainly a colour pallet that I wouldn't have used with having been there. On this trip, I also discovered that Uluru is the only place I have ever been so hot and dry that the flies drink the water from your drying watercolour painting!
Uluru trip drawing. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Permit 554.
Image © Tony Flowers

My hope for my version of Advance Australia Fair is that people are surprised by the fantastic and diverse landscape. We are more than a country of harbour bridges and red sand. Hopefully, younger readers will gain a clearer understanding of what the words of the anthem are about. I also hope people feel inspired to get out and see more of our country and its people.

Tony Flowers – Illustrator
Instagram: tony_flowers99

Editor’s note: Read a summary of the book and some historical background on the choosing of Advance Australia Fair as our national anthem. The book will be released on the 1st of January.

Friday 26 November 2021

Reflecting Reality

One in five Australians live with a disability. The United Nations International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), held on 3 December each year, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. 

Australian books published in 2021 that are helping to achieve that aim include:

Cuckoo’s Flight by Wendy Orr, Allen & Unwin  (9+) 

Clio, the crippled granddaughter of Leira, the community wise woman, is highly likely to be chosen by the Lady as a blood sacrifice to ward off raiders that are approaching their village.  Orr’s earlier novels, Dragonfly Song and Swallow's Dance, also feature girls living with disabilities.

The Curiosities by Zana Fraillon & Phil Lesnie,  Lothian Children’s Books (picture book 6+)

Miro wakes one morning to find the world isn't quite the way he thought it was. When the Curiosities choose Miro as the one they nest on, Miro is led to discover all the marvels waiting in the shadows where no-one else looks. An allegory representing a neurodiverse experience.

Growing Up Disabled in Australia edited by Carly Finlay,  Black Inc Books  (YA+)

Forty writers with disability or chronic illness share their stories to present first-person experiences of people from a range of marginalised groups.
ARTS Hub Podcast: Carly Findlay on centring disability

100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze by Clayton Zane Comber, HarperCollins (YA)

Xander’s beloved Nanna asks him to create a list of 100 Remarkable Feats, ‘simply...list any act, small or large, that was remarkable for me [Xander] and would change my life for the better’. Xander is anxious, probably autistic, bullied at school and has no friends. Achieving even a few of the feats seems unlikely.

Paws by Kate Foster, Walker (9+) 

Eleven year old Alex’s best friend is Kevin the cockapoo, although what Alex wants most of all is a friend at school. As Alex is autistic, that is harder than he ever expected.

Skin Deep by Hayley Lawrence,  Scholastic (YA)

Beautiful Scarlett, permanently disfigured after a car fire, escapes to a mountain where her view on perfection is challenged by  new friend and his non-verbal autistic sister. 

Weekend with Oscar by Robyn Bavati, Walker (YA)

Oscar, Jamie’s younger brother, who has Downs Syndrome, leads a full life mainly due to the efforts of Mum. When Mum is suddenly called away and then doesn’t return, Jamie rises to the challenge  getting Oscar to his activities and appointments. 

IBBY Australia submits books for inclusion in the IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities list

Discover further examples in the following video with Carly Findlay sharing a range of texts for different ages.

Moreland City Libraries. (2020, December 4).
Carly Findlay-Growing Up Disabled in Australia

Nella Pickup

Retired librarian, member of CBCA Tasmania & IBBY Australia 

Friday 19 November 2021

“Nothing about us, without us” Decolonising Your Library

A snapshot of some important considerations in assessing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature in the library collection.

I recently attended a webinar hosted by the Australian School Library Association and delivered by Sharon Davis and Bianca Brim from  Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) on decolonising the library. This webinar covered many aspects of decolonising libraries, but my focus is on literature  that is respectful and authentic of indigenous culture.

The key factors of identifying appropriate literature are: 

By Us: A title that is developed by Aboriginal people.
Bruce Pascoe, Sally Morgan, Nakkiah Lui, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) are creators whose works cover a diversity of genres: poetry, plays, history, non fiction and picture books. One particular favourite of mine is Going for Kalta by Yvonne Edwards, Brenda Day and Tjitji Tjuta (all the kids)

With Us: A title that is developed in respectful partnership with Aboriginal people.
Examples include The Story of Our Mob by Sally Dingo (spouse of actor Ernie Dingo) and the collaboration between Boori Monty Prior and Meme McDonald which produced my favourites: Maybe Tomorrow and My Girragundji.

For Us: A title that is developed on behalf of Aboriginal people(s).
I have been unable to locate titles that fit this category of appropriate literature…which I find to be positive. 

Books that are About Us and/or Against Us, where there has been no Aboriginal input and/or which present deficit views of Aboriginal peoples.

Indigenous publications should: be authentic; be a balanced perspective; have Aboriginal participation; be accurate and supportive of Aboriginal culture and exclude content of secret or sacred nature.

Some takeaway ideas: 

  • That any text that use inappropriate words such as ‘aborigines’, ‘those’, ‘their’, ‘them’ or describe the concept of ‘terra nullis’ are red flags to acceptability. 
  • That texts should not over-represent the role of the male in cultural practices.
  • AIATSIS are publishing a catalogue of appropriate indigenous resources. They are also happy to receive donations of inappropriate resources for their archive.
  • The NCACL (National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature) Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource catalogue should be used with caution as it includes resources that don’t fit the above criteria for appropriate literature.

Sites to visit for further information and support:

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

Editor's comment:  The NCACL have provided a statement in regard to the rigorous processes taken to evaluate and select resources for inclusion in the Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource catalogue. 


The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc (the ‘Centre’) received a grant in 2020 from the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment to create a database of Australian children’s books by and about Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The Agreement signed with the Government required the Centre to incorporate the views of Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Their views were incorporated through their:

  • membership on the Reference Group leading the project
  • appointment as ‘Critical Friends’ who advised on books to include/exclude, Australian curriculum, cultural sensitivity, appropriate terminology and historical perspective
  • appointment as Contributors who selected, read, annotated, choose subjects and teaching resources for the books.


Dr Belle Alderman AM

Emeritus Professor of Children’s Literature

Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc

Friday 5 November 2021

New release: Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths

Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths
Julie Murphy & Ben Clifford

Ben Clifford, Tasmanian illustrator, provides insights into his investigations of this tiny marsupial and the research undertaken to capture and enthral young readers through rich and detailed art work to illustrate Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths.

Published by CSIRO Publishing, Julie Murphy's story of the life cycle of the Mountain Pygmy Possum depicts a non-fiction tale of the good and troubled life this tiny creature deals with.


Until 1966 The Mountain Pygmy Possum was thought to be extinct. This tiny survivor lives high up in the harsh cold Australian alps building its nest, raising its young, feeding on seeds, bugs and berries. But most importantly its diet requires the scrumptiously crunchy and fattening Bogong Moth.

© Ben Clifford & CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth 

As well as hunted by foxes, feral cats and predators in the air, it also has another killer to contend with. Perhaps the most dangerous of all. Humans. For the Mountain Pygmy Possum to survive hibernation the Bogong moth is a major food source that humans are removing. However, probably like you, I do not delight in feeding on the moth at my local restaurant with chips and salad or sprinkling them on my oats. But I do like being able to see at night. Whether it's on the porch, working outside or leaving the light on for a visitor to arrive. Unfortunately these moths prefer those lights instead of their regular homes in the mountains where the Pygmy Possum is waiting to have a moth (or two) for dinner. But without this Bogong Moth, surviving the winter for the Pygmy is highly unlikely.

© Ben Clifford & CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth

The plants, fauna, landscapes and rock texture were a great match for me to illustrate. Billy buttons, alpine mint bush, yellow anemones and the twisted snow gums all have their place among the boulder fields. As we follow the Pygmy's cycle, the flowers and fauna are on display for the relevant time of year. I've researched for other titles I've illustrated so this was another learning experience. It adds to the fun of putting a book together.

© Ben Clifford& CSIRO. Internal pages from Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moth

The 32 pages finish with an overview about the Pygmy Possum with diagrams and further information on how to contribute to keeping this little creature from extinction.

Many thanks to Julie Murphy and all those at the CSIRO.  

Ben Clifford


W: Ben Clifford Art http://www.benclifford.com.au/

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

CSIRO: Teacher Notes available

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Narrative writing techniques

Do you have a preference for the way fiction is told? Do you have a favourite voice of a child narrator, from a book? Maureen Mann looks at the place of narrative voice to connect readers to the characters and events in a story. 

We Were Wolves by Jason Cockcroft
Walker Books, 2021

The narrative voice, or point of view, is how the author tells the story. When the author tells the story as though they are the main character, usually using the pronouns “I, me, we, us” and the present tense, the reader discovers the story through the perspective of this one character. This format has one disadvantage in that the reader only sees this one person’s perspective. This single point of view allows the reader to feel closer to the events, as well as developing empathy and compassion for those involved but it has the disadvantage that other events may happen and can’t be relayed if the narrator has not seen or experienced them. The boy narrator (unnamed) has a powerful voice in Jason Cockcroft’s We Were Wolves. 

The Right Way to Rock
by Nat Amoore
Penguin Books, 2021

The lens widens when the author uses multiple narrators all of whom relate their experiences, still using first person pronouns. The reader has a more complex view of the world being presented and because of this complexity, this style of writing demands more of the reader. Nat Amoore combines 1st person with stage directions, to widen viewpoint, in The Right Way to Rock. 

Is There a Dog in this Book?
Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books 2021

Less frequently, authors use the second person, which can be recognised by using the pronouns “you and your”. Many “Choose your own Adventures” use this voice.  The narrator can distance himself from the events at the same time suggesting that the reader can make decisions. Try Vivian Schwarz’s Is There a Dog in This Book?

The third person narrative uses the pronouns “he, she, it, they, his, her, their” and tells events looking in from the outside, but the narrator is not involved. This technique allows the reader to be removed from what’s happening. Third person limited is restricted to the knowledge, perspective, and experiences of a single character. J. K. Rowling uses this to effect in the Harry Potter series as does Jessica Townsend in the Morrigan Crow series. 

Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend. Hachette.

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Waywalt
Harper Collins, 2018

The third person multiple allows the author to use more than one person to tell the story, all presenting their unique perception of what’s happening. This allows greater complexity and change, but it can result in the reader becoming confused if the voices are not sufficiently distinct. Drew Waywalt harnesses this perspective very cleverly as he presents the voices of each pencil in the pencil box in The Day the Crayons Quit.

Mad Magpie by Gregg Driese
 Magabala, 2016

The third person omniscient is able to see everything, can be god-like in his/her knowledge and understanding and is not limited by having to present just one point of view.  This is usually used for traditional stories, myths and legends.  

What’s your preference? I haven’t included many examples, so would love to hear from you. Do you have some favourite recent Australian books which we could include? 

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader 

Friday 15 October 2021

A Convergence of Creative Minds

Join Christina Booth as she celebrates and reflects on the Hobart Writer’s Festival and the value of book creators joining together to fuel imaginations and ignite passions.

I loved reading the last blog post by the loveliest of people, Fiona Levings. If you haven’t already, make sure you do. Meeting your audience, especially in schools is, indeed one of the highlights of being a writer for children and young adults. Stories are wonderful, powerful things, alive and growing in directions we least expect. They are, in the hands of the creator, a new being, of huge potential and prospects. Beginning the life it is meant to lead, in the hands and mind of the reader, it grows and evolves into so many different things and follows many different pathways.

This past weekend I had the privilege to celebrate story with many writers, illustrators and readers at the Hobart Writer’s Festival organised by the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre. It was a lovely and engaging event allowing those pathways to meet. For creators to see some of the places their creations have travelled to, to meet the hearts and minds helping them to journey forward and for the carriers of the onward stories to meet with the origins of those stories. We became a melting pot of lovers of words and worlds, imagination, and visual narrative.

This year’s festival included a broad cast of creators who shared their craft and storytelling journeys with us all. The children’s literature scene was well represented, with free storytelling and activities ranging from readings to story yoga and drawing on the lawns of Parliament House. Amongst the first sessions of the festival was the Island of Curiosities panel, where award winning Tasmanian creators of stories for children who embrace our precious environment, flora and fauna shared with the audience their desire to empower children to discover the world around them and to champion it.

Christina Booth, Island of Curiosities panelist
© Jillian Mundy Photography, Hobart

A great opportunity to network with new and aspiring children’s creators as well as those well-established took place on Saturday afternoon. So many booked it was an encouraging and delightful time meeting new people, making connections, sharing our ‘book babies’ and realising the hope of children’s book creation as alive and strong on this very special island.

The weekend drew to a close with a final session for those interested in kid-lit with an absolute treat: a session with our current Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. Whilst Ursula was unable to attend in person, we are eternally grateful for Zoom, as it meant, whilst lock-downs are underway and travel is restricted, we were still able to be treated to her wisdom, insights and her delightful story of The March of the Ants (illustrated by Tohby Riddle, published by Book Trail Press), a story about what it is we need most when the trail gets tough, when we run out of hope or joy or energy to keep going. Story is what we all need, now more than ever and this story sums up why we need authors in schools, book festivals, meet ups with other creators and most of all, stories from us all to bind us together.

Happy reading and keep telling stories.


Christina Booth
Tasmanian author and illustrator

W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

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