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

Friday 28 May 2021

Jenny Stubbs: Children’s Literature Advocate

Based in Queensland, Jenny Stubbs is a leading light in supporting children’s writers and illustrators and celebrating children’s literature. This week Jenny shares some of the amazing projects that she is involved with – you will be inspired and educated! Jenny is the President of Book Links, Coordinator of CBCA Qld Readers Cup and Director of StoryArts Festival Ipswich. She has been recognised for her commitment to literacy and engagement through reading and writing including winning the Dromkeen Librarians Award, the Dame Annabelle Rankin Award and the Johnno Award. 


I wear a number of hats, but all of them are about promoting and supporting children’s literature. 

As President of Book Links Qld, I look for opportunities to advocate for the establishment of a centre for children in Queensland based around story in all its forms. This organisation is a not-for-profit registered charity. We support emerging writers through our Write Links Group and provide reading lists, reviews and writing competitions for children and adults writing for children through our StoryLinks Group plus workshops for adults and children. Many resources can be found on the website.

© BookLinks. Used with permission

We have a bustling program every year from Romancing the Stars where people ‘speed date’ a bunch of authors to a Literary Quiz at the end of the year where we raise money for other organisations such as IBBY and the Laureate Program with many other events in between. Some are recorded on ZOOM with free access via the What’s On tab. 

There is an annual writer's mentorship with Dr. Robyn Sheahan-Bright with the winner from 2020, Benjamin Marshall, coming from Tasmania. We also run a biennial conference in October aimed at supporting writers and illustrators. This year we have Freya Blackwood, Sean Williams and Davina Bell included in the program to name a few. In 2021 we have introduced an award for Children’s Historical Fiction with lists published on the website and winner to be announced in October. 

As President of the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network I am busy in April and May helping to prepare our annual CBCA Book Week publication. We have been producing this since 1991 and it has been extremely popular. Because of Covid we changed it to a pdf format and will do it that way again this year. To support classrooms and libraries we add many free links and resources to our Book Week website which will include free graphics from our e-store. This year we are also offering some online art workshops based around the theme and some of the shortlisted books. Information is in our calendar and in the 2021 resources.

© IDTL. Used with permission

The IDTL Network uses the funds raised from the sale of the book to run a free biennial festival for children with this year’s being held 2-6 August and a low-cost conference for adults 7-8 August. Anyone is welcome to attend. 

© IDTL. Used with permission

As a committee member of CBCA Qld branch, I coordinate the state-wide Readers Cup Competition. We have over 740 teams registered this year with teams taking part in regional competitions in May-June for years 5-6, 7-8 and 9-10. The winning teams will then travel to Brisbane in September for the State Finals. We have planned a day with three guest authors for them to meet before and after their competitions. The branch has also supported CBCA ACT last year and this year in helping them to establish a competition. They are tapping into our books and questions.

© Readers Cup. Used with permission

Jenny Stubbs

Booklinks: https://booklinks.org.au/

Storylinks: https://booklinks.org.au/about-book-links/story-links/

Writelinks: https://booklinks.org.au/about-book-links/write-links/

Ipswich District Teacher Librarian Network: https://idtl.net.au/

StoryArts Festival: https://www.storyartsfestival.com/

Readers Cup: https://www.readerscup.org.au/ 

Editor’s note: I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny at a conference in Queensland in 2001 where I listened to her talk about Readers Cup. Reporting back to teacher librarians in Tasmania, the following year saw the first Readers Cup operating in Launceston, in the north of Tasmania. It has grown to become an event celebrated across the state. Many of our readers will also have used the IDTL Book Week resource every year - a wonderful resource to inspire Book Week activities.

Friday 21 May 2021

Tasmanian author, Sarah Jane Moore, provides insights into her recent publication River Business created with the support of local illustrator Errin Polegaj. Explore the unlikely friendship between a Tasmanian native bettong and a rabbit as they explore their local river.

River Business: © Sarah Jane Moore & Errin Polegaj

River Business Children’s Book

The River Business children’s book shows the power of kindness and friendship. Tasmanian wildlife, landscapes and connections have inspired all elements of the book, from character development through to printing. Tasmania is known as a place of great natural beauty and telling Tasmanian stories like this one will help build a shared understanding of place, for locals and visitors. E

The Bettong

The book shines a light on the Tasmanian Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi). The Tasmanian Bettong is a small, kangaroo-like marsupial, with small paws, large feet and a very long tail. You’ll find the Bettong in Eastern Tasmania, where they enjoy eucalypt forests and grassy woodlands. They are nocturnal animals, spending daylight hours in camouflaged grassy nests. Once common throughout Australia, this species is now extinct in mainland Australia and is wholly protected with a near threatened status. The introduction of the European rabbit, land clearing and excessive grazing of stock are the main factors that have led to the decline in the population. 

Internal page from River Business. © Sarah Jane Moore & Errin Polegaj

The Creative Story behind River Business

The author Sarah Jane Moore and the illustrator Errin Polegaj met during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020. As neighbours they became friends. By the river, their children played, and River Business was conceptualised. Through their collaboration, Sarah Jane and Errin developed a climate friendly children’s book that valued each other’s perspectives, creativities and learnings. The book honours the river and emphasises the importance of listening, caring and connecting to our natural water ways and engaging in nature-based play.

Kind to the planet

Sustainable practices are important to Sarah Jane and Errin and the book is printed on 100% recycled paper using vegetable / soy-based inks. To avoid plastic, the paper is uncoated. It has a stapled spine instead of harmful glues. At the end of its life, after being read by many children and adults, River Business can make its way back to the earth as compost. 


About the author 

Sarah Jane Moore is an independent creative artist with a background in early learning, Reconciliation and creative projects.  She lives in Tasmania and can be contacted at sarahjane.moore@unsw.edu.au. Buy the book at Fullers Book Shop, The Hobart Book Store, The State Bookstore, Hobart Dymocks, Lily & Dot or direct through the web site https://www.riverbusiness.com.au/.

FB: @riverbusinessbook

Editor's note: This beautifully and thoughtfully crafted book is ideal to support studies on the Tasmanian environment and wildlife and for sustainability discussions. Visit the website to source some useful teaching ideas.

Friday 14 May 2021

What’s notable for YA readers? Reality strikes!

Are you reading your way through books identified on the CBCA Notable and Short lists? Carol Fuller regularly engages with children’s and young adult literature and brings her experiences as a past and future judge to this overview of what’s happening in the field of YA writing as she considers themes emerging over the past two years in the Older Reader category.

Last year I read all the notables. This year I decided to do the same but just the Older Reader (OR) titles in preparation for my second stint as a ‘Book of the Year’ OR judge.

All this dabbling in OR literature has led me to ask questions. What themes and stories are Australian writers presenting to older readers? And, are we presenting what OR readers want?  

This led me to speculate on how authors choose their themes. Do authors write from their own life experiences, from their assumption of issues that are relevant to the OR demographic, from what the individual author believes are the issues in which ORs should be interested, or from informed research into the issues of interest to today’s youth?


A few years ago, in 2009-10, when I was lecturing in Senior English Curriculum and Methodology to student teachers, I set a practicum task; to conduct a survey in their placement school to ascertain what topics and genres senior students were reading. The results indicated that fantasy was the most popular genre. The reason? Escapism. The world has changed considerably in the last decade but I wonder, have OR interests also changed?

In reviewing the OR notables over the last two years I detect an abundance of deeply serious, life issues being the most common focus of the books chosen. Humour and lighter themes are fairly rare in the final notable list.

In 2020 the themes were fairly diverse but serious; domestic violence, poverty, mental illness, grief, racism and disability. Check out Ghost Bird Lisa Fuller (racism), The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews (homelessness and disability), How it Feels to Float by Helena Fox  (grief and mental illness), The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim (parental dementia) are a few examples. 


2020 CBCA shortlist for Book of the Year: Older Readers

Out of twenty notables only one mystery, “The Man in the Water’ David Burton, four science fiction/fantasy, Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Monuments by Will Kostakis, Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte and Aurora Rising by Kaufman and Kristoff. And only one that I would judge as a lighter study of teenager-hood Take the Shot by Susan White and even that had the protagonist suffering from a heart problem.

In 2021 I have only managed to read half of the listed notables but again an abundance of really serious themes; Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley (autism?, anxiety), Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr (autism), Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore (race, grief). Garth Nix’s The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (fantasy) has been a welcome relief. As was The F Team’ by Arja Rawah despite its serious themes of male anger and anti-Muslim prejudice and the suspenseful mystery story Deep Water by Sarah Epstein.

2021 CBCA shortlist for Book of the Year: Older Readers

When you look at the overall picture, fairly sombre topics dominate. That’s not to say all these books aren’t excellent OR literature. Every one is well worth reading and are a testament to the breadth of talent in out Australian children’s authors. But does quality literature have to be so serious?

A redeeming feature of all these stories is that most culminate in hopeful, positive outcomes, but I remember as a teenager, curling up with a good book that I could enjoy without having deep and meaningful deliberations. So I wonder, how entertaining, and relaxing is the literature we are currently presenting to young people? 

Carol Fuller
CBCA Older Reader judge 2022-23

Saturday 8 May 2021

Vision Boarding for Writers

Keeping it in the family with the
100th anniversary edition

If you have had the pleasure of listening to Tristan Bancks speak about his writing you will know how committed and enthusiastic he is on connecting children and youth to the art of writing. This week, Tristan shares this passion with some insights into his writing techniques. Tristan Bancks tells stories for the page and screen. His books for kids and teens include Two WolvesThe FallDetention, the Tom Weekly series and Nit Boy. His books have won and been shortlisted for many awards, including a Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book, the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, ABIA, YABBA, KOALA, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and Queensland Literary Awards. His new release for 2021 is Ginger Meggs, a 100th anniversary book of brand new short stories based on characters created by his great-great uncle, Jimmy Bancks, in 1921.

Penguin Books. (2021, May 2). Ginger Megs by Tristan Bancks & Jason
Chatfield: Book trailer.
[video] YouTube. 

Writing fiction is a challenge for both kids and adults. Generating ideas, getting that first draft down, developing the plot, finding a satisfying ending. There are so many aspects to the process. And then the rewriting begins!

I began my career working in film and TV which introduced me to many tools that I now employ in the writing of my books like Two Wolves, Tom Weekly and Ginger Meggs. I’ve found that kids and teens also find these tools engaging and useful when approaching the creative process. 

© Tristan Bancks

As a children’s author, I have visited over a thousand schools in thirteen years, working with young writers. Over the past year, I have taken time to reflect more deeply on the creative process and I have broken down what I think are the most important aspects of writing and the best problem-solving tools for young writers. I share these teachings in Young Writers’ StorySchool, a 24x3-minute online video writing workshop for teachers to use in the classroom.

        Bancks, T. (n.d.). Young Writers' Story School. Tristan Bancks' StorySchool.  https://www.youngwritersstoryschool.com/ 


One of the key tools I focus on in StorySchool is the Vision Board – a place to gather images, video, music, maps and other transmedia elements in order to develop setting, characters and tone for stories. The Vision Board has become a core part of my writing process and it’s also incredibly useful in motivating and inspiring young writers. It allows them to act on their own volition, to find images and other materials that resonate, personally, and it makes the writing process more active, visual and fun. 

Here is the Vision Board video from StorySchool which shows the board for my novel Two Wolves in action, then sets a writing challenge. 

© Tristan Bancks Vision Board Video 

The videos live over at www.youngwritersstoryschool.com but, for this post, I’m making it available to you via Drive. I hope it inspires you to vision board your own stories and to introduce the tool to kids and teens. Good luck!

Tristan is offering readers of this post 10% off his Young Writers’ StorySchool should you wish to subscribe with the discount code TB10 at checkout. www.youngwritersstoryschool.com

Tristan Bancks

Blog / Site:    www.tristanbancks.com
Twitter:      www.twitter.com/tristanbancks
Instagram: www.instagram.com/tristanbancksbooks
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/tristanbancks
eNewsletter: www.tristanbancks.com/newsletter
YouTube:    www.youtube.com/tristanbancks