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

Friday 27 August 2021

Book Week 2021 – Tales from the Inside!

A fitting follow up from the buzz of kicking off Book Week in last week’s post, Emma Nuttall shares her school’s celebrations over the course of the week with some inspirational and memorable activities to harvest in the future. What a wonderful finale for CBCA Book Week 2021!

© CBCA 2021 Book Week poster

Book Week is a very special time in schools. It must be one of my most anticipated weeks of the year!

This year we went all out at our school. We had the Book Week Parade (essential), the Book Week Book Swap (inaugural), the Book Week Readings (traditional) and our, now infamous, Book Week Quiz (sensational)! 

The Book Week Parade is obviously the highlight of the week. The buzz is palpable. 

Dig a little deeper beneath the tangible excitement, and you reveal the different emotions that the parade brings to different people within our community. For some it was an opportunity to grab the limelight, to push the bounds of creativity, to wear the favourite dress-up costumes out in public! For others, it is torment – the pressure of dressing up, the thought of everyone looking at you! In our house, it is 3 costumes to prepare. Fighting over the various tails and ears; face paint and cardboard ensues. Sometimes the Book Week Parade is about becoming your favourite character, sometimes it is just about finding a character to fit the costume that you really crave, and other times it’s simply trying to identify a book that matches the costume that you can pull together at the last minute! Whichever, it’s about delving into your memory and your bookshelves to find that perfect fit.

Our Book Week Quiz is in its infancy but has proved itself to be an integral part of our Book Week celebrations. The collective wisdom of our young readers is amazing. They really do know a lot, about a lot of books! What lucky kids to have already met so many interesting characters, to have been on so many amazing adventures, to have gone down so many rabbit holes – metaphorically speaking of course. And to think, they have only just scratched the surface – I often wonder how many books an individual can read over the course of a lifetime? Book Week plays such a key role in developing, nurturing and maintaining this excitement and passion for reading. The athletics carnival gives the athletes a time to shine; the choir and the band, the musicians; painting sessions, the artists; but the Book Week Quiz – that’s when our readers come out of the woodwork and wow, do they shine! 

This year, we also chose to host a Book Swap – again another wonderful opportunity to share in our love of books. The most beautiful moment of the event for me was a Year 6 student recommending a book to a much younger student: “I donated that book – it’s such a great book. You will love it!” That younger student strode out of the hall with their ‘new’ book, beaming from ear to ear. That made Book Week for me.

And finally, an annual tradition – we (the teachers) read to a different class each morning. The children wait to see which teacher it’s going to be, and which picture book they are going to bring with them. It’s something we’ve done at our school for as long as I’ve been there, and I’m reliably informed that it goes back well beyond my time here…. Long may that tradition continue.

Now that Book Week comes to a close, I must say I’m very ready to curl up on the couch with my favourite book!  

Emma Nuttall

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

Friday 20 August 2021

It’s Book Week!!! Let the Fun Begin

Did you pick a winner? Join Loretta as she revels in the buzz of Book Week – the fun of dressing up as a favourite character and remembering magic moments with special books from past winners as a timely reminder to celebrate the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 75th birthday. 

Dress up delights

Ms Frizzle. © L.Brazendale

Book Week!  One of my favourite times of the year. I love Book Week and I thought I would reminisce about past Book Weeks and I even got the old photo album out to look at past costumes I have worn to get me into the spirit to write about some of my past favourite picture book CBCA winners. 

I’m so looking forward to this year’s Book Week and sharing a special Book Week celebration with the kids at Burnie Library Kids Book Club! I’m dressing as a character in my favourite picture book that is shortlisted for this year! Clue: my character had the best time at a party. I wish all the short-listed authors and illustrators the best for the 2021 CBCA awards.

Meet: Jillian Jiggs | Pirate | Polly (put the kettle on) | Superhero. © L. Brazendale

Past favourites

1989 – Winner Graeme Base The Eleventh Hour

What a timeless book. I remember my teacher reading this to our class in primary school and just being memorised by the beautiful illustrations and the mystery within this book. Even today this book is still very popular with children. I was very lucky to host an online Q&A session with Graeme Base last year for primary school students and I couldn’t wipe the huge smile off my face because I got to meet (virtually) one of my favourite authors & illustrators. 

1990 – Winner Julie Vivas & Margaret Wild The Very Best of Friends

The beautiful watercolours bring out the characters with strength and believability that are able to set the tone for a heart-warming story that deals with death of a spouse and the effect on the surviving spouse and in particular the cat. The story has a good message and is about true friendship and how you cannot face tough situations all alone. 

1992 – Winner Jeannie Baker Window

Love Love Love this book. I remember borrowing this book many times from the library when I was little and just spending hours upon hours staring at each page and looking at the different changes each page had and letting my imagination run free. Great note  from the author in the back of the book about how quickly our world is changing. I often think of this book now I’m older when I’m traveling through places that I used to visit when I was child and noticing the changes.

1997 – Winner Elizabeth Honey Not a Nibble

This book conjures all the pleasures of summer at the beach. Character Susie is most determined to catch a fish, but she has the least luck. In fact, she catches nothing! (Very relatable for myself) Getting teased by her brothers doesn’t help. I really enjoyed the nature content and the twist at the end was beautiful – in fact Susie was very lucky in the end.

2005 – Winner Alison Lester Are We There Yet?

This book is better than any Australia Travel Guide. This story allows you to take a trip around Australia. My favourite thing about this engaging family vacation story is that each page has a map to show their progress around Australia and the numerous beautiful illustrations to show the different things in nature, cities that the family get to experience. 

Nemo. © L. Brazendale

Loretta Brazendale

Information Services Coordinator
Burnie Library | Libraries Tasmania 

Editor’s note: You can read Loretta’s thoughts on some of the notable and shortlisted titles in an earlier post and discover a host of past winners of the Book Awards through a series of posts on Momo Celebrating Time to Read.

Friday 13 August 2021

Review: The Ballad of Melodie Rose

Tales of Direleafe Hall continue with the recently released The Ballad of Melodie Rose, by Tasmanian author Kate Gordon. Anne Morgan has been lucky enough to read the latest addition and shares her thoughts on the book, the series, Kate's writing and her contribution to the growing list of Tasmanian children’s and YA writers and illustrators. Anne has published a review of the book on her website and granted permission for it to be shared on the CBCA Tasmania blog as well.  

Kate Gordon (2021). The Ballad of
Melodie Rose
. UQP.

The Ballad of Melodie Rose is the second book in Kate Gordon’s Direleafe Hall series for girls aged 7+. As with The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, the first book in this series, Gordon has once again produced a lyrical and startlingly original novel about being kind, being human and understanding one’s place in the cosmos.

A sense of loss pervades the Direleafe Hall series. Melodie Rose and Wonder Quinn both long for their missing mothers and struggle to understand the reasons for their abandonment – and yet Gordon’s kindly wisdom shines like a beacon through the bleakness of the girls’ losses.

Melodie and Wonder are ghosts, and not-ghosts, who feel the need to be ‘seen’. They must also learn strategies for resolving conflict. But Gordon’s novels are more than fictive survival handbooks for sensitive children. Her novels sparkle with gems of homespun wisdom about how children can, and should, stand up for themselves, and all they hold dear.

The Direleafe Hall books also nudge their readers to look upwards and ponder the existential mysteries and beauties of our universe, and to take comfort in the notion that we are all made of star dust. As cosmologist and writer, Carl Sagan, put it in the early 1980s, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

Wonder has departed Direleafe Hall by the time Melodie arrives, but her memory lingers. Ms Gallow, the grim Principal of Wonder’s school years is Melodie’s caring grandmother. Direleafe Hall becomes so precious to Melodie that when the school is bought by the enigmatic White Lady, and scheduled for demolition, Melodie sets out to rescue it. To succeed, Melodie must find out who the mysterious White Lady is, and why she wants the Hall demolished.

I chuckled over the scene where Melodie invites three ghost girls to a sleepover in her room, so they can plot their campaign to save Direleafe Hall. Melodie invites Lucy to sleep in her bed, but Lucy declines, preferring to sleep on the floor because that makes her feel alive – she can almost feel the hardness of the floor, pressing on her bones. Florence, the scientifically-minded ghost girl, then points out, that Lucy has phantom limb syndrome. ‘Only your entire body is phantom.’

Tasmanians can be justifiably proud of our long tradition of creating quality children’s books, which dates from Nan Chauncy’s They Found a Cave,in 1947. Since then, Ron Brooks, Peter Gouldthorpe, Coral Tulloch, Sally Odgers, Lian Tanner, Julie Hunt, Christina Booth, and many other Tasmanian creators have made their mark on the Australia’s children’s literature. Kate Gordon, is a standout in a flourishing crop of younger Tasmanian children’s and young adult book creators, who are now achieving national and international recognition.

Discover more about Kate Gordon and her impressive list of published works on her website.

Dr Anne Morgan
W: https://annemorgan.com.au/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/morganataswa 

Editor's note: Rachel Tribout's illustrations for The Ballad of Melodie Rose are just as exquisite and whimsical as those created to depict Wonder Quinn. Rachel has written about her work on the blog - read Rachel Tribout - Drawing on the Landscape for some insights.

Friday 6 August 2021

The Way of the Weedy Seadragon

Tasmanian children’s author, Dr Anne Morgan, provides insights into the intriguing weedy seadragon, her collaborations with Lois Bury and a new venture in writing nonfiction for CSIRO publishing. The result is a magnificent and magical book to inspire, inform and leave the reader captivated but this mysterious creature.

The Way of the Weedy Seadragon, by Anne Morgan & Lois Bury
CSIRO Publishing, 2021.

I saw my first seadragon nearly twenty years ago, while snorkeling with my children at the Tinderbox Marine Reserve, a 30 minute drive south of Hobart. I was working for the National Oceans Office in Hobart at the time, and my daughter, then in grade six, was researching seahorses and seadragons for a school project. We had heard that Tinderbox was a good place to see these marvellous creatures.

My son saw it first, and pointed. With its dots and bars and vibrant colouring, the weedy seadragon was so well camouflaged in the swaying seaweed that it took me a while to ‘see’ what I had been looking at for some time. 

The weedy seadragon (Phyllopterix taeniolatis) is a fish belonging to the family Sygnathidae, which includes pipefish, seahorses and seadragons. Of all the sygnathids’ curious traits, male pregnancy is the most startling. Females lay their eggs and transfer them to the males’ brood pouches or, in the case of seadragons, a brood patch on the males’ tails. The father incubates the developing embryos for some weeks, before ‘birthing’ the young seadragons. 

Weedy seadragons can be found along the southern coasts of Australia, but Tasmania’s ‘weedies’ tend to grow the largest – up to 46 centimetres. They are a protected species, and their habitat is under threat from warming oceans currents, marine pollution, and from unlicensed collectors taking them for home aquariums.

Tasmanian book creators, Nicole Gill and Coral Tulloch, both have children’s books with CSIRO Publishing, have both been loud in their praise of this scientific publisher, which has recently extended its non-fiction list to include children’s books. Most of my twelve published children’s books had been in the fiction or fantasy genres, but I have been long fascinated by nature. In 2019, I decided I would have a go at writing non-fiction picture books and submitting them to CSIRO Publishing.

I wrote the poem called ‘Weedy Seadancers’, after snorkelling with my children. It won an award for nature poetry and was later published in my poetry collection, A Reckless Descent from Eternity, (Ginninderra Press). All I had to do was adapt my seadragon poem to the text of a 32 page children’s picture book, right? Well, there is a lot more involved in writing children’s picture book texts than that, but CSIRO Publishing liked my submission.

I then did something a little unconventional – I recommended an illustrator to the publisher. Publishing houses are responsible for design of the book, and they generally choose from their own stable of illustrators. But CSIRO were new to publishing books for children, and they were not only looking for good manuscripts, but for good illustrators.

© Ann Morgan and Lois Bury at a book signing for their new collaboration:
The Way of the Weedy Seadragon

Renowned Tasmanian artist and illustrator, Lois Bury, had illustrated my fantasy picture book, The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken (IP Kidz, 2016), and we were keen to work together again. Lois submitted some weedy seadragon concept illustrations, and CSIRO issued us both with contracts.

The Way of the Weedy Seadragon was published in February this year and has already gone into reprint. We have been thrilled with the reviews, but perhaps the most heartening of all the ‘gongs’ is a Thumbs Up as a ‘beaut book!’, from Australia Zoo.

You can read more about the book on CSIRO Publishing

Teacher notes are available.

Anne Morgan
W: https://annemorgan.com.au/

Dr Anne Morgan is the joint convenor of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators, Tasmania. She has a PhD in writing and a Master of Education Degree, and has taught in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and China. Her books include The Captain Clawbeak series of junior novels (Random House Australia) and The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & Other Ecotales, which won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Junior fiction) in 2014. 

Lois Bury

W: https://www.loisburyart.com.au/