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

Friday 24 September 2021

The Haven: In Defence of the School Library

Psst.  Have you noticed? Libraries are disappearing… fast. Lyndon Riggall shines a spotlight on a worrying trend with serious consequences.

When you are someone in the community who is known for their love of the written word, there are two things that people invariably want to talk to you about: e-books, and what is happening to (or has already happened to) their local school library.

The first conversation is a fairly simple one: yes, I love my local bookshops, and there is still something about books printed on paper. No, I will never get used to charging a book from a power point, which feels like a violation of some natural order. I agree, it does seem a reasonable trade-off for the advantage of carrying a thousand books in your pocket, and yes, changing the font size as necessary and the subtle lighting of the screen that can be enjoyed for nights on end without a headtorch on a camping trip, or next to a sleeping partner long into the small hours of the morning, is a revelation.

The second kind of conversation is less straightforward, and this is often because there is a kind of grief that comes with it. A school library, I am told, is shrinking. The teacher librarian has disappeared without fuss or furor, and now the building is open only if and when a teacher can make use of the facilities—the old doors creaking apart to dark shadows like the entrance to a crypt, literary tombstone stacked upon tombstone. In some cases, the library has shrunk, replaced by a series of trolleys, an in-class bookshelf, or a storeroom somewhere near the toilet block. Worse, occasionally it is already too late. The library, I am told, is gone. Schools—such big, unwieldy, unyielding places sometimes—can do this as quickly as taking a breath, and so in an instant it has instead become a classroom; two classrooms; three classrooms. Now, it is as if it was never there at all. A library ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with an almost inaudible “Shhhhhh.”

I have spoken many times on this blog, in passing, about the value of libraries, which have always struck me as the most absurd and inspiring of institutions: a building dedicated to the free access of information and story; perhaps one of the last bastions of a time in which we actively strove towards a utopian world where knowledge was available to all of us and we really could have something for nothing. Libraries, I accept, need to evolve to survive. I remember feeling a kind of shock and horror growing up on the day that banks of computers invaded the bookshelves, and the definition of what our library was, and who it serviced, expanded to include people who may visit the library every day and yet very rarely cracked the spine of a book, but each library—in both school and the community at large—was a safe haven. I have heard a hundred stories of the readers, the computer nerds, the misfits and the bullied who found solace in a quiet corner beyond the librarian’s desk. In some cases, its very existence can be life-saving.

The loss of our school libraries points to the simple and fundamental truth that humans have been living with for some (if not all) time: honestly, we have no idea what’s good for us. A library is a remarkable thing, but, like so many remarkable things, the hole left behind by its absence is often only properly and acutely felt when it is already too late.

I suppose the other side of this discussion is that I only hear about all of these libraries and what is happening to them because people are passionate. They feel, as I do, that a school without a well-stocked library is a mere shadow of what it could be… it is a house without its hearth; a body without a brain or a beating heart. Encouraging children to read, and to read with pleasure and enthusiasm, consistently and often, is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and I admit that with no hesitation (I might have mentioned it, but you know we have no idea what’s good for us). We need to use our libraries, I know, or we will lose them. Still, there is only one type of library that always fails in its mission to bring the printed word to the wider world, free and without favour, and which is dwindling with terrifying, heartbreaking, ever-increasing frequency, locally, nationally and across the earth…

The library that is no longer there at all. 

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. He is co-host with Annie Warburton of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival Podcast, and in 2019 released his first picture book, Becoming Ellie, in collaboration with artist Graeme Whittle. Lyndon can be found at http://lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.

Editors’ note: Indifference and inertia are part of the problem. Become active and champion children’s rights to quality library services that will support their emotional, social and academic growth and well being. Visit Students Need School Libraries to find out more.

Friday 17 September 2021

50 years of Tasmanian children’s books and their creators

A special post this week from Nella Pickup to join with her to celebrate 50 years of the Launceston Library building (and 179 years of library services in Launceston) by reading wonderful children’s books created by Tasmanians. There are so many to choose from and you are invited to add this list through the comments feature.

Friends of the Library Launceston asked members for their favourite Tasmanian books to create a bookmark as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Launceston Library building. This prompted me to compile a list of some of our family’s favourite Tasmanian children’s book creators for the same period.  

Beth Roberts The little lake who cried (1976) and Manganinnie (1979) 

Nairda Lyne Granny Stayput (1983) has a timeless theme – Granny and Albert have to fight to keep their home from the clutch of developers. FAW (Fellowship of Australian Writers) Tasmania has named a short story competition in her honour.    

Sally Farrell Odgers Dreadful David (illustrated by Craig Smith), the Blinky Bill animated film series (Yoram Gross), Drummond (illustrated by Carol Jones ) and Bushland Lullaby (illustrated by Lisa Stewart) 

Award winning Peter Gouldthorpe’s first book was Jonah and the Manly Ferry in 1983.  We also loved Sheep Dogs (text by Jack Bedson).

Ron Brooks illustrated his first children's picturebook, The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek (text by Jenny Wagner) in 1973.   

Anne Morgan the Captain Clawbeak series (illustrated by Wayne Harris), award winning The smallest carbon footprint (illustrated by Gay McKinnon) and The way of the weedy seadragon (illustrated by Lois Bury) 

Coral Tulloch’s Sydney of the Antarctic and also Antarctica, The Heart of the World, which won the Environment Award for Children's Literature in 2004 

Rosemary Mastnak’s trio of picture books starting with Dancing with Grandma

Lian Tanner Museum of Thieves, named as a "White Raven" by the International Youth Library in Munich, Ella and the ocean (illustrated by Jonathan Bentley) and the delightful A clue for Clara 

Emily Conolan’s interactive fiction Freedom Finders series 

Jennifer Cossins 101 Collective Nouns, A-Z of Endangered Animals,  Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book


Kate Gordon the Juno Jones series and Aster’s good, right things which won the CBCA Book of the Year Younger Readers this year. 

Julie Hunt’s Little Else series illustrated by Beth Norling,  Precious Little (co-authored by Sue Moss, illustrated by Gaye Chapman) and Song for a scarlet runner.

Nic Gill Animal Eco-warriors

Fiona Levings Now and Then

Carol Ann Martin is known in our household for the Cocky’s Circle Series, Underneath a Cow (illustrated by Ben Wood) and Heart and Soul (illustrated by Tull Suwannakit)

Ronda and David Armitage’s Lighthouse keeper’s lunch (now sadly out of print) celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015.

Christina Booth’s Kip and Welcome Home, Whales are much loved.

Brian Harrison-Levers illustrations for Norman Jorgensen (an honorary Tasmanian) In Flanders Field and his own Three Kings.

Kathryn Lomer What now Tilda B?, Talk under water 

Angelica Banks (AKA Heather Rose & Danielle Woods)  Tuesday McGillycuddy adventures

Terry Whitebeach and Sarafino Wani Enadio Trouble Tomorrow and When I was a boy in Sudan

Ex-Pats include Tania McCartney, Francesca Haig (The Fire sermon),  Penni Russon (Undine series)

Jedda Robaard may have moved to the big island but Tom and Tilly has a Tasmanian flavour. 

Recently arrived Tasmanians include Rae Earl, Daniel Gray-Barnett and Mark Macleod

Join with me; celebrate 50 years of the Launceston Library building (and 179 years of library services in Launceston) by reading wonderful children’s books created by Tasmanians.

(NB Nan Chauncy died in 1970 – 51 years ago.)

Nella Pickup
Retired librarian; member of CBCA and IBBY Australia 

Editor's note: Thanks Nella, what a sterling lineup that I am sure many readers can add too - the biggest problem is "how to choose!" I will contribute one of many possibilities. Shine Mountain by Julie Hunt provides a wonderful quest to pick up and journey with.

Friday 10 September 2021

Creating Worlds: Narelda Joy - Artist in Residence

Tasmanian illustrator Narelda Joy participated in an artist in residence creative arts program with students at Yolla District School. Students explored elements of the Book Week theme create an amazing collage wall frieze, the outcome of the students’ collaborative efforts. What an amazing way to celebrate Book Week.

Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds © Narelda Joy & Yolla District School

I was approached by Yolla District School to do something different for Book Week 2021 – a wall frieze in collage, based on this year’s theme “Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds”. It was my third year at Yolla for Book Week. I have previously worked with students on  designing games and flying puppets, and given talks about what I do. I like to inspire kids to create, to teach then new things, to encourage them to make things by hand, and to show them that creativity can be a career.

The wall frieze is now on permanent display in the school. What a great opportunity for the kids to be part of something special, a legacy that they can be proud of. Collage is my favourite medium to work in, especially 3D collage, but I hadn’t worked on something this big before - an enormous 1.2 x 2.4 metres!

It took weeks of preparation! I needed to design something suitable for the different age groups to work on. I spent many nights tearing up bits of fabric and colour washing papers, which I then dried in front of the fireplace, for the collage background. Then many more hours choosing paper colours and preparing kits for each child in the younger years.

Old world items and partial assembly of the frieze.© Narelda Joy
Building the background. © Narelda Joy

Year 1/2 worked on the background, the foundation of the piece, and they were terrific! They listened carefully to my instructions and lay the pieces down within all the right areas. Year 4/5 made collaged “Other World” characters to fly around the sky in the background in pastel colours. Year 5/6 made collaged “New World” items such as buildings, appliances, and such, in bright papers and prints.

The older students, from Y7 to Y9, spent more time outside Book Week in several afternoon sessions to learn 3D collage, and produced spectacular “Old World” pieces. They learnt how to colour papers to give an old world feel, as well as how to make things “pop”. They also learnt to work together in the same colour palette to achieve a cohesive look. I’m thrilled with the results, and with their enthusiasm! 

© Narelda Joy. Students and their creations

I remember Book Week as a child. One year I won both the book poster competition and the book parade! I was dressed as Dr Who, with my neighbour as a Dalek – in a cardboard washing machine box sprayed with silver, a plastic dome on the top, and a sink plunger sticking out the front! My poster was a painting of cherry blossom tree branches as the theme was “Branching out with Books”. It was so exciting winning a prize and getting to choose a brand new book. I chose a book on model making which I treasured for years! The fact that my memory of the event is so strong shows me what a positive impact Book Week can have on children. I hope the Yolla children also have fond memories of Book Week when they grow up.

© Narelda Joy AKA Rapunzel

Narelda Joy


W: https://www.nareldajoy.com.au/
FB: @NarledajoyIllustration

T: @NareldaJoy
I: nareldajoyillustration

Saturday 4 September 2021

Stories to Change the World: Saving our Wildlife

With National Threatened Species Day falling on the 7 September, this week’s post presents  fiction written expressly to capture young readers’ attention and build awareness, interest and active concern in our native animals and the myriad of threats they are facing. It is confronting to come to terms with how many native species in Tasmania are threatened through the impact of humankind on the landscape but heartening to see the work of children’s authors and illustrators to champion our natural world – on land and sea - and those who live within.

Fittingly, and poignantly, Threatened Species Day was declared in 1996 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of the last remaining thylacine (Tasmanian tiger). The tragic fate of this misunderstood and much maligned animal has featured in a number of picture books, the most recent, the stunning and heartbreaking One Careless Night by Tasmanian author and illustrator Christina Booth. This hauntingly illustrated book follows the last thylacine on its journey through stunning wilderness landscapes to its final destination in captivity. Visit Christina’s website for more about the book, teacher notes and a useful pictorial for children on how to draw a thylacine.

An earlier work, also by Christina Booth, Purinina: A Devil’s Tale  is seen through the eyes of a young female Tassie devil, from infancy, suckling in her mother's pouch, to adolescence and playing with her brothers. The prolonged absence of her mother and then her return with the facial tumour disease marks a turning point for Purinina, and the species, as she grows up alone to then participate herself in the cycle of life, and death. This is a beautifully told story with stunning illustrations where colour changes and shifts to set the tone and mood of the events. The text is accompanied by notes about the life and habitat of this often misunderstood Australian animal and the threats it faces. The author’s website includes a link to an article about the use of aboriginal language – also endangered - to explain the name -Purinina. 

For a longer read aimed at independent 7 to 12 year old readers, Queenslander, Samantha Wheeler has expanded her series on Australian endangered animals with the recent release of Devils in Danger set in Dodges Ferry in southern Tasmania. 11 year old Killarney is initially scared, then intrigued by the aggressive screaming coming from under the family’s old weatherboard house. On discovering that a female Tasmanian devil has moved in, and with the help of a visiting scientist, Killarney takes on the responsibility of protecting the devil through the gestation of her two imps, the joy of watching them grow and play and the heartbreaks when Fern falls victim to the facial tumour disease. Tasked with turning around community distrust and antagonism towards this unappreciated native animal, Wheeler takes the reader on a journey of discovery weaving factual information effortlessly into the story line with a strong focus on affirmative action to help native animals and protect them against the dangers that human habitation poses. The concluding extracts from Killarney’s journal adds to the scientific knowledge collected incidentally throughout the story. Access teacher notes and Samantha Wheeler as she reads the first pages.

Tasmanian illustrator Coral Tulloch has built a respected reputation of her accurate and realistic illustrations. Her close affinity with the natural world permeates her work and is effectively capture in her portrayal in Bouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story. Listed as vulnerable in Tasmania, on the eastern seaboard of Australia the small and inquisitive creature is under extreme threat due to habitat loss, predators and human development. Discover more about Coral’s work with children and interest in wildlife in this post and on the CSIRO website.

A notable book for CBCA 2021 Eve Pownall Award and shortlisted for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature: Nonfiction, the creative and scientific efforts of Gina M Newton and Rachel Tribout (residing part time in Tasmania  and inspired by the beauty that surrounds her) put the spotlight on the spotted handfish and its relatives. Hold on!: Saving the Spotted Handfish is an engaging factual account of this fascinating bottom feeder that ‘walks’ on the ocean floor and that has been around since the dinosaurs. However, the impact of invasive species, pollution and climate change has sadly resulted in this little known fish being listed as critically endangered. Newton and Tribout’s representation of the handfish speaks to young readers with detailed and fascinating information presented in an accessible and expressively illustrated format. The book also includes important information about the status of this and other handfish with suggestions for positive action to help preserve this allusive creature. There is further information available on CSIRO's website. Read more about Rachel’s work and inspiration for this and other projects on her post: Drawing on the Landscape.

Exploring our seascape further, the collaboration of Anne Morgan and Lois Bury on The Way of the Weedy Seadragon transports the reader to an underwater world and the fascinating life cycle of seadragons and the marine environment they inhabit. Through carefully composed text and delicate and intricate illustrations readers will learn about this amazing underwater fish, its ability to camouflage itself in its weedy world, eating habits, the unique courtship dance and the male seadragon's role and responsibility to fertilise and nurture the eggs to hatching. The last pages present a full page diagram of the seadragon and then information about other species, threats to its survival and suggestions for positive action to protect the marine environment they rely on. Further information about the book and teacher notes are available on the CSIRO website.

In an interview posted by her publisher CSIRO (2021, April 16, section 5), Anne talks about her inspiration and says “I want children to care about seadragons and the delicate, complex web of life that exists in the sea. The information at the back of The Way of the Weedy Seadragon explains that climate change is warming the oceans and making them more acidic. Kelp forests are an important part of the Weedy seadragons’ habitat, but the kelp is rapidly disappearing due to climate change. I hope that the more children know about the sea, its marvellous creatures and their habitats, the more they will be inspired to protect the sea’s natural environments into the future.”

Anne’s message is indicative of the desire of many children’s book creators to harness their medium to connect young readers to the world around them in a personal way so that they grow up to be come responsible and caring global citizens striving to build a safer place for all creatures to live, and survive in. I applaud the power of literature to change the world!

If you can add another title focusing on Tasmanian wildlife under threat please comment and share.


CSIRO Publishing. (2021, April 16). Dive in and meet the weedy seadragon with Anne Morgan. CSIRO Publishing Bloghttps://blog.publish.csiro.au/meet-the-weedy-seadragon-with-anne-morgan/

Jennie Bales

CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator

W: https://jenniebales.wordpress.com/

To find out more about these champions of our animal kingdom visit their websites.

Christina Booth
W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

FB: Christina Booth Books 

Samantha Wheeler

W: https://www.samanthawheeler.com.au/

FB: @samanthawheelerauthor

Coral Tulloch

FB @cloudyseas

Gina M Newton

Rachel Tribout 

W: www.racheltribout.com

Instagram @captainblueberry

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

Lois Bury

W: https://www.loisburyart.com.au/