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

Saturday 26 June 2021

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Alert to those that follow the CBCA Tasmania blog via email on Blogger. This service is being decommissioned by the provider (Feedburner) at the end of July.  You can stay up to date with our weekly blog posts with one (or all!) of these three options.

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Jennie Bales

CBCA Tas Social Media Coordinator

Friday 25 June 2021

The Great Maternity Leave Project

New-to-the-scene Tasmanian author and illustrator team, Hannah Coates and Claire Neyland, on education, motherhood and self-publishing
A Home for Little Penguin.

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [front cover]

I was heavily pregnant and impatiently awaiting the arrival of my first child, when I started playing around with a few little story ideas.  I wrote and re-wrote a few drafts, adding a character here, removing an adjective there. But then baby Eddy was born, and the project went into hiding for a few months whilst I learned how to be a mother. It wasn’t until Claire was also on maternity leave from teaching and looking for a creative outlet that I remembered the tale about the Little Penguin I’d been working on. There was a picture hanging on Claire’s living room wall that I had always admired, and I was blown away once I realised that she had actually painted it. 

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [back cover]

What followed was truly a huge collaborative effort. Claire gave feedback on the text drafts, as well as encouragement and reassurance that what I had visualised was worthwhile pursuing. We visited the locations that would be depicted in the book (Douglas-Apsley Waterhole, Whaler’s Lookout, Coles Bay, Diamond Island). She sent me photos of her sketches and works-in-progress, wanting to make sure she created exactly what I wanted. In truth – she did better. 

 © Claire Neyland. Douglas-Apsley Waterhole [image]. A Home for Little Penguin 

Once we had a few images and a well edited manuscript, I set about looking for a publisher. What I found was that it is extremely difficult to crack into the oversaturated world of children’s picture books! There were only a handful of Australian publishing houses who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. In the end, we decided to self-publish. It was a risky decision, but we believed that we had created something good, and wanted to see it through. We loved the idea of being able to read our children something that we had created. We were lucky to have the support of Tasmanian Publisher Forty South; it was a good fit for us, because we still had a certain amount of agency during the editing, and Claire did a lot of the design work. 

I’m so glad that we backed ourselves. It has been a long and sometimes frustrating journey to get here, but it feels so unbelievably rewarding. 

A Home For Little Penguin is dedicated to our first children, Eddy and Kate. Now that we are both mothers of two – another project is certainly overdue!

© Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland 
A Home for LIttle Penguin [title page]

Hannah Coates

Storyteller & Bookworm

BIO: Hannah Coates is a Tasmanian storyteller, teacher and mother. She lives on the beautiful East Coast, where her love for the ocean inspires her in all things. A Home for Little Penguin is her first book. 

Editor's note: A Home for Little Penguin is available in local Tasmanian bookstores and online. All images used with permission from the creators.

Saturday 19 June 2021

Thank you!

This week Emma applauds and celebrates the authors and illustrators who contribute a wealth of literature that explores such diverse and relevant matters for the lives, interests and learning of children and teens – and pure magic for teachers to engage their students.

No matter which subject area I am planning for; no matter which aspect of literacy I am trying to model - I firstly seek out a text. I start with a text because I know that I will find something that fits the bill. Something that will provide the ultimate provocation. That will spark joy and wonder. Something that will be a springboard for rich and powerful learning. Something that will tell the story I need to tell. 

And often in these searches (which incidentally I happily get completely lost in), I stumble upon a story or two that I didn’t even know I needed! And whenever this happens, I tuck it away for that perfect moment. Because it will come. 

I’ve recently been reflecting on this reliance, that we as educators have on texts to support our classroom programs. This reflection first began to bubble when the ‘Reading Wars’ were reignited in the media, as the Australian Curriculum review commenced; and as various jurisdictions around the country came out in support of phonics-based principles and practices. It got me thinking though, that regardless of what the media tout about a raging reading war – schools continue to rely on the rich array of texts available to us, as we strive towards confident, happy and successful readers. How lucky are we? The range of texts available, the content, the quality. The breadth of themes. The endless examples of authorial techniques. The vast vocabulary. The mystery and intrigue. The inspirational life stories of authors themselves. The sheer entertainment and the questions posed.


And for this, this rich array of classroom resources, I thank the authors. The magic and the inspiration, and not to mention the learning, that you bring to each, and every, classroom, every day, is most appreciated. Without it, I know for certain that my classroom would not be the place it is today. 

From all of us in schools - thank you!

Emma Nuttall

Teacher, reader and passionate advocate for children’s literature

Editor’s note: To discover some local Tasmanian children’s book creators represented in the images above, visit the CBCA Tasmania Creators page on the website and investigate how you can bring a creator into the classroom through CBCA Tas Workshops in Schools Program, supported by the Department of Education, Tasmania.

Friday 11 June 2021

Publishing Books with Children: It's all about Wellbeing

 A unique publication by Tasmanian children is the highlight of this week’s post by Victoria Ryle. Find out about the project, the book’s launch and the affirmation these children received as published authors.

If anyone has read my previous blogs in this space, they will know by now that I am a passionate advocate for giving children a place at the table of authors – sometimes literally, as in the authors’ signing table!  I am reflecting on the most recent book launch I attended, of the most recent publication that I have had a hand in. When I Wake Up I Smile: A book of WELLBEING by 156 children across Tasmania, was created as part of a community consultation with children to codesign Tasmania’s first ever whole-of-government Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. It was launched just last month by the Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein, alongside the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, at New Town Primary School, one of seven schools involved in its production.

Cover of When I Wake Up I Smile

I would like to share a few special moments from this launch:

Firstly, the moment immediately after the young authors present were each handed their newly published book. The sight of a group of them, heads bowed over their copy, intensely reading, pouring through the pages, pointing at elements, nudging each other, making exclamations in recognition of particular words and images. How they completely ignored the adults standing around so focused on the task in hand – exploring THEIR book. At first quiet, before excited voices begin to chime out.

Secondly, the moment when the Premier, without speech notes, spoke with such respect directly to the assembled group of young authors, telling them about his first reading of the book, how moved he was by their words and pictures. He told them that it may just be the most important book he has ever read!

Thirdly, the moment when the Commissioner for Children and Young People congratulated the children on being published authors and pointed them to the signing table, inviting them to sign copies of the books for the VIPs, members of the press and other adults assembled.

The significance of these moments lay in the embodied responses of the young authors: their gestures, the expressions on their faces. No words were required to convey the affirmation they experienced in these moments.

Pages from When I Wake Up I Smile. © The authors

And that brings me to the main point of my post: being a published author offers up such special moments of affirmation for the child – from the tactile feeling of a newly printed book, to wearing the ‘hat ‘of a published author with all the accompanying ritual that surrounds book publication. As it happens, this particular book is all about wellbeing. As the back-cover blurb states: ‘This is a book by children, for children and adults. It gives an incredibly insightful and honest look from a Child’s perspective at what Tasmanian children want and need to be happy, healthy and secure and to have the very brightest futures Tasmania can offer them’. This validation of children as the experts on their own lives, reinforced through the launch celebration contributes significantly to a child’s sense of wellbeing and belonging in the world of books.

To conclude with the words of the Children’s Commissioner: “I am so proud of what the children have produced. It’s not just a ‘picture book’ – and a really beautiful one at that – it’s also an incredibly insightful and honest look from a child’s perspective at what Tasmanian children want and need to be happy, healthy and secure and to have the very brightest futures Tasmania can offer them.”

Read this book at your local library or you can view an electric version at https://www.childcomm.tas.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-When-I-Wake-Up-I-Smile.pdf

There is also an accompanying resource for teachers, carers and parents:


Victoria Ryle

Victoria Ryle is a PhD candidate researching co-publishing books with children at the University of Tasmania https://www.publishingbookswithchildren.com/

She is also the co-founder of Kids’ Own Publishing https://kidsownpublishing.com/about/ 

Friday 4 June 2021

On tour with Ella and the Ocean

Author visits have been in hiatus over the last year or so and it is great to read of a successful visit to central NSW by Tasmanian author Lian Tanner and the terrific reception Lian and the award winning  Ella and the Ocean received.

In February this year, the State Library of New South Wales sent me to Dubbo, Forbes and Orange, to talk to preschoolers about my picture book Ella and the Ocean, illustrated by Jonathan Bentley and winner of the 2020 Patricia Wrightson Award for Children's Literature.

© Lian Tanner. At the Forbes library

© Lian Tanner

I had never presented to preschoolers before this. I’d spoken to several K-2 classes about Ella, with the help of some home-made finger puppets, but I wasn't particularly happy with my talk, and I suspected that holding the attention of preschoolers would be quite a bit more challenging. So I set out to do some research.

I watched Playschool for tips. I watched YouTube videos of storytellers and puppeteers. I worked out how to use my finger puppets as if they were asking and answering questions. Then I started looking for songs. Songs about rain. Songs about swimming. I couldn't find any I liked, so I made them up on my morning walks, singing them into my phone so I wouldn't forget them.

The tour itself was wonderful. For a start, it was wildly exciting to leave Tasmania after nearly a year of closed borders. And I love the sort of country towns where people say hello to complete strangers in the street. But these towns were special, having suffered terribly from lack of rain over the last few years. In each place, when my little Ella puppet wanted to know if there had ever been a drought there, all the adults said a heartfelt, 'Yes!' 

© Lian Tanner with the Forbes librarian,
Bronwyn Clar

The hospitality was outstanding, and the librarians in each town made me feel as if I was doing them a favour, rather than the other way round. But the kids were the highlight. I learned that preschoolers have no filter. Me: ‘Would you like to sing this song with me?’ Little boy: ‘No.’  

I learned the signs that meant they had had enough, and I needed to wind up the session. I learned that this age group was much more fun than I had expected. 

And the finger puppets were a winner. Halfway through my talk in Forbes, a little girl called Rosie raised her hand and said, ‘Can I tell Ella a secret?’ ‘Of course,’ I said. She came up to the front, put her face close to my little puppet, and whispered to her. I have no idea what she said. But when she sat down again, beaming with satisfaction, every adult heart in the room melted. 

Lian Tanner is the best-selling author of three fantasy trilogies for children, The Keepers trilogy, The Hidden/Icebreaker series and The Rogues trilogy. Her latest book, A Clue for Clara, is a detective story starring a very determined chook. A companion book, Rita’s Revenge, will be published in July 2022. Lian’s books have been translated into eleven languages and have won two Aurealis Awards for Best Australian Children's Fantasy.

Editor's note: Find out more about Lian and her wonderful books on her website at https://liantanner.com.au/. I am waiting with bated breath for Rita's Revenge - I am sure it will be dastardly! :-)