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

Friday 26 February 2021

We All Have a Story to Tell

Felicity Sly explores the underlying drive to ‘tell a story’ that compels and shapes the tales that emerge and get released to the world. Grab some inspiration to start the next story.

I’ve just finished reading Humans by Brandon Stanton, the third book published from the interviews which started the Humans of New York webpage/Facebook/Instagram/Twitter pages. I often wondered how Brandon managed to get strangers to share their story. In Humans his latest book, he shares the secret. He asks: “What is your greatest struggle right now?” and then he listens.

Ducks Away (2016)
by Fox & Horacek.
Published by Scholastic

Similarly, the core of many stories is struggle. The struggle may be enormous, or it could be small and solvable. In Ducks Away (Mem Fox/Judy Horacek) one by one the ducklings topple off the bridge and mother duck worries about her ducklings being in separate spaces, some on the bridge, some in the water. Finally, all are in the water, and mother duck joins them.

A Home for Little Penguin (2020)
by Coates & Neyland
Published by Forty South

In A Home for Little Penguin (Hannah Coates/Claire Neyland), Little Penguin’s home is destroyed by an excavator and a new and appropriate home has to be (and is) found.

In a time of COVID many people have found themselves with time. For some this has meant more time on social media, for others it’s time spent binge watching shows, and for another group it has given time to think about the story they have to tell. Colleague Shanli Perkins wrote, co-illustrated and self published Bobbie Rotten during COVID (CBCA blog Oct 23 2020).

We all have a story to tell, but how do we tell that story? In August 2020 La Trobe University published Creative Writing During COVID-19: Tips from Award Winning Authors on their website. Their 6 tips are: 

  • Carve out time
  • Start an ideas book
  • Suspend judgement
  • Notice when your best ideas emerge
  • Read, read, read
  • Be kind to yourself when you’re feeling stuck

We all have a story to tell, a struggle to explore; but how do we make that a story that others want to read? Mem Fox shares many tips for navigating the writing to publishing path on the For Writers: Hints section of her website. One of the more valuable tips is not to rush the end product. Ducks Away was a ten-year project, and the first attempt bears no relation to the finished product.

…and my story? I’m still on step 5 of the La Trobe University tips: Read, read, read!

Felicity Sly is a Teacher Librarian at Don College and a CBCA Tasmania committee member.

Friday 19 February 2021

Introducing the President of CBCA Tasmania

Steve Martin has been involved with CBCA Tasmania in recent years and has been active in his promotion of reading and literacy in the north-west of Tasmania. Steve has kindly shared some snapshots of influencing factors and drivers to lead the branch as we celebrate and promote children’s literature and reading.

Reading well is essential to tackling the effects of child poverty and is the keystone of a good start in life for all children. An important role for parents in the development and educational performance of their children is reading aloud to their children from birth. 


It is undeniable that a child’s reading skill is important to their success in school, work, and life in general. And it is very possible to help ensure the child’s success by reading aloud to them starting at birth. Some benefits of reading aloud to children include, supported cognitive development; improved language skills; preparation for academic success; developing a special bond between parent and child; increased concentration and discipline; improved imagination and creativity; and cultivating a lifelong love of reading.


Parents have an incredible ability to have a positive impact on children’s ability to read. This need not be an onerous activity – just reading aloud ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. Such investment would increase the child’s reading and other cognitive skills, as well as positively affect the likelihood of acquiring higher education, advanced training, along with the economic returns in terms of wages and quality of jobs. Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well when they reach their period of formal education, transforming children’s lives by helping them overcome poverty, leading them to better health and increased income opportunities.


Imagine not having the ability to read a job description, apply for a job, or know the content of a contract you sign. Those are typically the basic steps of finding a job or starting a business. A lack of literacy has also been commonly found to make it harder for people looking to enter the workforce for the first time, restricting their job choices/opportunities and income; limiting their ability to provide and care for themselves (and their families); and continue the cycle of poverty.


Poverty and food insecurity are ever present in our communities, in fact, 13.6% of Australians live below the poverty line and 15% have experienced food insecurity in the past 12 months. The effects of growing up in poverty increases the likelihood of food insecurity which in turn, could impair a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school; is linked to behavioural and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence; and is tied to conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.


The current issues of poverty and food insecurity need to be addressed, but at the same time so does breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and food insecurity. Literacy development is a vital part of a child’s overall development, an investment in their future, helping develop a strong foundation to enable them to reach their full potential and in turn help build and strengthen their communities, ending the vicious cycle.


Through the role of Devonport Mayor, the importance of children’s literacy as an investment in the future of children, families and communities was realised and led to joining the Tasmanian Branch of the CBCA so that more could be learnt and positive actions promoting the real benefits of children’s literacy could be implemented. Four years on, now President, it is also important that the value and the effect of what our authors and illustrators produce should not be lost or underestimated - family, state, or nationwide.  

Steve Martin,

President, Toast for Kids Charity Inc.

President, Tasmanian Branch – Children’s Book Council of Australia

Friday 12 February 2021

Hans Christian Andersen Award nominees for 2022

Every alternate year, IBBY (International Board of Books for Young People) recognises an author and an illustrator for their lasting contribution to the world of children’s literature.   For information about previous winners, current nominees and the Judges panel see https://www.ibby.org/awards-activities/awards/hans-christian-andersen-awards

The Australian nominees for HCA 2022 are Margaret Wild for writing and Tohby Riddle for illustration. We all know their names but who are they and why did IBBY Australia nominate them for this prestigious award?

Margaret Wild

Margaret Wild began writing children’s books in 1983. For 16 years, she combined her own writing career with managing and commissioning children’s books with a range of publishers including Omnibus Books, ABC Books, Methuen and Angus & Robertson. Since 2000, Margaret Wild has been a full-time writer publishing over 100 books. Her range is wide - from lyrical books of everyday domestic issues for the very young to more complex works for old readers. Her themes of homeless, imprisoned, dying, lost and the aged and such social concerns as bullying, divorce and Alzheimer’s disease have been said to be unconventional for children’s books. 

Margaret Wild has also written verse and prose novels, including Jinx (2001) which has been translated into nine languages.  

Her awards for personal achievement include 2020 Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature; 2011 Lady Cutler Award (CBCA NSW); 2008 Nan Chauncy Award for an outstanding contribution to children’s literature in Australia; and the 2001Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and literature.  

Tohby Riddle

Tohby Riddle created his first picture book in 1989. He has contributed cartoons to Good Weekend and The Sydney Morning Herald. A selection of his cartoons was published in What’s the Big Idea? (Penguin Viking, 2003). Riddle’s illustrations and writings have appeared in the NSW School Magazine, where he has been a member of the editorial staff, and was also editor for a time. 

His works include award-winning picture books, non-fiction and fiction for junior readers, television adaptations and a YA novel. His short stories have been anthologised in a number of collections. He has won and been shortlisted for many awards including: 1996 Winner of the IBBY Australia Noël Award for The Tip at the End of the Street (1996); 2001 Joint Winner of the Wilderness Society of Australia Environment Award (Picture Books Category) for The Singing Hat (2000); 2009 Winner Australian Publishers Association Design Awards Best Designed Picture Book Award for Nobody Owns the Moon (2008); 2009 Winner NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature for The Word Spy (with Ursula Dubosarsky) (2008); and 2011 Winner Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year: Older Readers Award for The Return of the Word Spy (with Ursula Dubosarsky) (2010). In 2016, The Greatest Gatsby: A Visual Book of Grammar was shortlisted for a Prime Minister’s Literary Award (Children’s Fiction) and was included on the International Youth Library’s White Ravens list. 

Tohby Riddle’s intertextual art is complex, engrossing and highly literate. What Tohby Riddle brings to his uniquely layered and perfectly calibrated illustrative art is utter integrity, brilliant wit, complex ideas, intellectual rigour and an ability to witness the world with a willingness to question and to challenge orthodoxies. 

Nella Pickup

IBBY Australia Executive Committee member

Friday 5 February 2021

The Snowball Effect

Emma Nuttall shares a powerful classroom reading experience steeped in free choice and reading for pleasure inspired by the works of Morris Gleitzman. This is an inspiring piece that demonstrates how current research on the power of student choice is being played out in a Tasmanian school.

Last year an incredible thing happened. We managed to inspire a class of children to independently read the incredible Once series by Morris Gleitzman, by doing very little. But the very little that we did do was tactical. It was considered. And it was powerful. So, so powerful. And all we did was read.

Once, and the further adventures of Felix, written by Morris Gleitzman.

Each day in our class we read
to the children. We read a class novel that we have carefully chosen. Well not so much chosen, as agonised over for weeks on end. We’ve read more book reviews than we care to admit, and we’ve hounded other teachers, librarians and even our favourite bookshop proprietors (Jo, we are talking about you!) for hot tips. We might read 5 novels a year to each class and with so many to choose from, the pressure is on to get it right! And when we do the impact is often immeasurable, but completely visible. We read the chosen class novel to inspire, but we have consciously chosen to read the class novel simply for reading pleasure. There are no associated reading comprehension activities, no writing your own ending, no doing a new front cover. Just for pleasure.

Morris Gleitzman talks about his favourite characters:
Felix and Zelda from Once.

But the Snowball Effect was different. Not only do we read to the class each day, but we also read with the class. And by this, I mean, when the children are reading independently, so are the teachers. When they read, we read. When I say ‘we’, I mean a class share scenario. We both started reading the series. At first the children were simply interested to see which of us was reading faster, then, slowly but surely, they began to ask us about the book, noting our gasps and genuine displeasure at the end of quiet reading time! When we finished Once (I didn't win if you are wondering!), we started on Then, the next book in the series. It was at that point we noticed that all six copies of the book had disappeared off the shelves. By the time we started on Now (you guessed it, the third book in the series) there was a queue for the books, and everyone knew the order! 

By this point, it was getting serious, children were turning up at school with shiny new copies and proudly showing off their birthday box sets. Grandmothers were coerced into buying copies of the next book as a ‘special treat’ and we had exhausted the State and school library’s collections! 

Children who were more interested in reading mountain bike magazines (not that there is anything wrong with mountain bike magazines) were now fighting for their turn of the next book in the series. The most beautiful part was that everyone was very careful not to ruin the plot.... The conversation instead went: “Which book are you up to? And what’s happening?” The response was instead met with a knowing smile.

Obviously, we are now seeking recommendations for the next Once Snowball Effect!

Acknowledgement to Megan Tubb for starting the snowball rolling and happy binge reading everyone!

Emma Nuttall

Teacher, reader and passionate advocate for children’s literature.

Editor’s note: Watch out for the release of the final book in the series about Felix: Always. Due for release in the middle of the year. If you have a suggested series to kick off a similar snowball effect please add a comment here or to the FB post.