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

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Narrative writing techniques

Do you have a preference for the way fiction is told? Do you have a favourite voice of a child narrator, from a book? Maureen Mann looks at the place of narrative voice to connect readers to the characters and events in a story. 

We Were Wolves by Jason Cockcroft
Walker Books, 2021

The narrative voice, or point of view, is how the author tells the story. When the author tells the story as though they are the main character, usually using the pronouns “I, me, we, us” and the present tense, the reader discovers the story through the perspective of this one character. This format has one disadvantage in that the reader only sees this one person’s perspective. This single point of view allows the reader to feel closer to the events, as well as developing empathy and compassion for those involved but it has the disadvantage that other events may happen and can’t be relayed if the narrator has not seen or experienced them. The boy narrator (unnamed) has a powerful voice in Jason Cockcroft’s We Were Wolves. 

The Right Way to Rock
by Nat Amoore
Penguin Books, 2021

The lens widens when the author uses multiple narrators all of whom relate their experiences, still using first person pronouns. The reader has a more complex view of the world being presented and because of this complexity, this style of writing demands more of the reader. Nat Amoore combines 1st person with stage directions, to widen viewpoint, in The Right Way to Rock. 

Is There a Dog in this Book?
Viviane Schwarz, Walker Books 2021

Less frequently, authors use the second person, which can be recognised by using the pronouns “you and your”. Many “Choose your own Adventures” use this voice.  The narrator can distance himself from the events at the same time suggesting that the reader can make decisions. Try Vivian Schwarz’s Is There a Dog in This Book?

The third person narrative uses the pronouns “he, she, it, they, his, her, their” and tells events looking in from the outside, but the narrator is not involved. This technique allows the reader to be removed from what’s happening. Third person limited is restricted to the knowledge, perspective, and experiences of a single character. J. K. Rowling uses this to effect in the Harry Potter series as does Jessica Townsend in the Morrigan Crow series. 

Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend. Hachette.

The Day the Crayons Quit
by Drew Waywalt
Harper Collins, 2018

The third person multiple allows the author to use more than one person to tell the story, all presenting their unique perception of what’s happening. This allows greater complexity and change, but it can result in the reader becoming confused if the voices are not sufficiently distinct. Drew Waywalt harnesses this perspective very cleverly as he presents the voices of each pencil in the pencil box in The Day the Crayons Quit.

Mad Magpie by Gregg Driese
 Magabala, 2016

The third person omniscient is able to see everything, can be god-like in his/her knowledge and understanding and is not limited by having to present just one point of view.  This is usually used for traditional stories, myths and legends.  

What’s your preference? I haven’t included many examples, so would love to hear from you. Do you have some favourite recent Australian books which we could include? 

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader 

Friday 15 October 2021

A Convergence of Creative Minds

Join Christina Booth as she celebrates and reflects on the Hobart Writer’s Festival and the value of book creators joining together to fuel imaginations and ignite passions.

I loved reading the last blog post by the loveliest of people, Fiona Levings. If you haven’t already, make sure you do. Meeting your audience, especially in schools is, indeed one of the highlights of being a writer for children and young adults. Stories are wonderful, powerful things, alive and growing in directions we least expect. They are, in the hands of the creator, a new being, of huge potential and prospects. Beginning the life it is meant to lead, in the hands and mind of the reader, it grows and evolves into so many different things and follows many different pathways.

This past weekend I had the privilege to celebrate story with many writers, illustrators and readers at the Hobart Writer’s Festival organised by the Tasmanian Writer’s Centre. It was a lovely and engaging event allowing those pathways to meet. For creators to see some of the places their creations have travelled to, to meet the hearts and minds helping them to journey forward and for the carriers of the onward stories to meet with the origins of those stories. We became a melting pot of lovers of words and worlds, imagination, and visual narrative.

This year’s festival included a broad cast of creators who shared their craft and storytelling journeys with us all. The children’s literature scene was well represented, with free storytelling and activities ranging from readings to story yoga and drawing on the lawns of Parliament House. Amongst the first sessions of the festival was the Island of Curiosities panel, where award winning Tasmanian creators of stories for children who embrace our precious environment, flora and fauna shared with the audience their desire to empower children to discover the world around them and to champion it.

Christina Booth, Island of Curiosities panelist
© Jillian Mundy Photography, Hobart

A great opportunity to network with new and aspiring children’s creators as well as those well-established took place on Saturday afternoon. So many booked it was an encouraging and delightful time meeting new people, making connections, sharing our ‘book babies’ and realising the hope of children’s book creation as alive and strong on this very special island.

The weekend drew to a close with a final session for those interested in kid-lit with an absolute treat: a session with our current Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. Whilst Ursula was unable to attend in person, we are eternally grateful for Zoom, as it meant, whilst lock-downs are underway and travel is restricted, we were still able to be treated to her wisdom, insights and her delightful story of The March of the Ants (illustrated by Tohby Riddle, published by Book Trail Press), a story about what it is we need most when the trail gets tough, when we run out of hope or joy or energy to keep going. Story is what we all need, now more than ever and this story sums up why we need authors in schools, book festivals, meet ups with other creators and most of all, stories from us all to bind us together.

Happy reading and keep telling stories.


Christina Booth
Tasmanian author and illustrator

W: https://www.christinabooth.com/

FB: Christina Booth Books https://www.facebook.com/Christina-Booth-Books-113682115389375

Friday 8 October 2021

Schooling the Creator

Fiona Levings shares her experiences as a visiting children’s book creator in two Tasmanian primary schools; sharing her work and inspiration in the development and publication of Now and Then, a fascinating historical fiction picture book title set in Margate. Fiona’s school visits were supported by the Workshops in Schools Program, a CBCA Tasmania initiative in partnership with the Department of Education Tasmania.

When I create a picture book I tend to think that I know it quite well.  How could I not?  I’ve spent countless hours ruminating on the words, working the character sketches, painstakingly composing each page.  By the time it’s printed I’ve read it, proofed it, checked it, re-checked it, read it backwards, forwards, out loud and probably upside down.  Then I take it into a classroom … and what I think I know about it suddenly becomes a minor part of a much greater whole.  When I share my book with kids they show me what I’ve really made.  

© Fiona Levings - sharing Now and Then with students

Bringing Now and Then into schools with the CBCA Creator-in-Schools Program has been an exceptional experience.  Being able to interact with kids, to see their eyes light up because I talked to them and took them seriously is a gift.  Watching them engage with my book, be inspired by it, recognise the parallels with their own lives, press their noses to the page to examine the detail of the illustration or triumphantly spot the easter eggs I hid for them is a joy.  A book that has less than 300 words can take up to an hour to read, such is the level of engagement, dissection and discussion.

In June I visited St Aloysious Primary in Blackmans Bay and worked with three separate Year 2 classes.  We had nice long session times and I thought I was safe but I still blew out because we were talking too much.  Fortunately, we had enough time in the schedule to start some drawing work together.  It never ceases to amaze me what 7- and 8-year-olds can come up with when you ask them to imagine how their future homes might look. Underground houses, offshore sea farms, moon bases and flying houses with robot dogs are just the beginning.

In Book Week I was honoured to be invited out to Westerway Primary, a school even smaller than the one attended by Doug in 1940 in Now and Then.  Westerway is a town that has seen many changes over the years and it was fascinating to talk to the kids, to hear their perspectives and tease out their vision for how they think their home town might continue to change in times to come.  Once again, they saw things in my book that I did not realise were there; in return Now and Then gave them a fresh perspective on the everyday history present in their world.   

© Fiona Levings - talking to students about book creation

The synergy of author and audience at a school visit is very special.  Both parties giving, both receiving; I love every minute of it. And I am so grateful, as a creator, to the CBCA Tasmania for the opportunity to learn about my book from these wonderful young muses.   

Now and Then, by Fiona Levings
Forty South

Fiona Levings
Fiona Levings is a Tasmanian-based author and illustrator of children’s picture books. Now and Then, published by Forty South Publishing, was listed as a notable book in the 2020 CBCA Book Awards. Copies are available in bookstores or online at www.fortysouth.com.au.

W: http://fionalevings.blogspot.com/

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/themoonbowmaker 

IG:  https://www.instagram.com/themoonbowmaker/ 

Editor's note- find out more on the inspiration and historical research behind the book in an earlier post by Fiona: Now and Then...And Then Again.