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|
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, |
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! :-)