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

Friday 30 September 2022

Playing with Pigs, Pugs and Parades

A keen and dedicated fan of Book Week and the magic of dressing up, Loretta Brazendale is back as a wonderful Book Week Fairy with a costume that  celebrates multiple books and with a puggish companion to accompany her.

© Loretta Brazendale

This week’s blog has inspiration from my best friend’s son Liam. Liam absolutely loves books. When I was last visiting them, Liam and I read many books and we spoke about what we were going to dress up as for Book Week. When I was designing my Book Week Fairy Costume I thought of Liam and some of the books that we had read together to put on my dress. I know Liam really wanted me to dress as The Wonky Donkey however I made sure the The Wonky Donkey book featured on my dress, along with Pig the Pug, Liam’s other favourite book which we have read many times. 

© Loretta Brazendale

Pig the Pug is a favourite book amongst the children and so funny and cute. Aaron Blabey writes books children like, but grownups don’t mind reading, too. Such a sense of humour combined with character. Pig the Pug has many fun stories to tell, and I thought I would share my thoughts on the amazing “Pig the Pug” stories. 

Also, a big happy birthday to Liam today and I hope you enjoy the blog Liam that you inspired me to write. 

Pig the Pug Scholastic, 2016

Pig is a rude pug who doesn't want to share his toys with another dog (that does kind of remind me of my dog Tilly). The whole story has a wonderful rhythm, and the amazing illustrations are playful and silly. I love Pig's attitude, facial expressions, and dialogue, and the lesson he eventually learns about sharing with friends. A great story to read out loud to children as you are guaranteed loud laughter. 

Pig the Stinker aka Pig the Grub Scholastic, 2019/2018

This book is so true to life that dogs don’t like to get baths. My dogs act exactly like Pig, so I get it. He ends up causing the bathroom to explode!! After that he has no problem taking baths but still finds a way to be foul! The rhymes are spot on, the story is funny, and the illustrations on point. A story to make anyone laugh that should be on all our shelves at home especially if you are a dog lover. 

Pig the Star Scholastic, 2017

Pig thinks he's hot stuff. He doesn't treat his friend, Trevor, very well, either. On a photo shoot, Pig is always hogging the shots, sometimes bumping or pushing or shoving Trevor out of the picture.
Pig’s friend Trevor is a dachshund. Pig is mean to Trevor, calling him "Salami" and a "sausage-shaped pest". But, one day, the photographer notices how cute Trevor is. Soon, Trevor is the star. I do feel sorry for Trevor the dachshund with the name calling but my friend does have a dachshund named “Kransky” (not sure how Trevor would feel about this)
Pig finally learns a lesson about stardom and jealousy and treating your friends right.

Pig the Winner Scholastic, 2018

Pig the pug is at it again finding ways to irritate his friend, Trevor. In this picture book, Pig is outrageously competitive. Pig challenges Trevor in who can eat the fastest. Pig chokes on his bowl and it's Trevor to the rescue! After this incident, Pig learns to play a little more fairly. Parents will love this book as it’s a great way to teach children that not everything in life is a race and to always treat one another with kindness and fairness. The rhyme of the book is very engaging. I would definitely recommend this book. 

Pig the Elf Scholastic, 2016

I just love Christmas for the decorations, the spirit and joy. But Pig, he loves Christmas because of the presents, presents, and presents. His list this year is extra-long and Pig doesn't want to go to sleep so Santa can come. He wants his presents now so decides to stay up all night.

As a greedy pug, Pig isn't happy with the number of gifts he's given and is mad at Santa. I have a feeling Pig will be on the naughty list next year. Pig is the perfect example of how you shouldn't act on Christmas. The illustrations are just beautiful, and the story is hilarious.

Loretta Brazendale

Information Services Coordinator
Burnie Library | Libraries Tasmania 

Friday 23 September 2022

The Benefits of Shadows: Thoughts on the SUN Shadow Judging Program

Lyndon Riggall, a Senior Secondary English teacher in Tasmania, was eager to facilitate a group of keen students in the Shadow Judging process and shares his insights into this new CBCA initiative.

I am sitting with a small group of students watching a live stream from John Marsden’s remarkable Candlebark School in Victoria. Jay Laga'aia is on the screen, and we are waiting patiently for him to announce the Older Readers Book of the Year. Things are a little different this time, though. Firstly, the Older Readers Book of the Year has already been announced. We learnt what it was a week ago. Secondly, my students are especially invested in the outcome… after all, in this case they have helped decide it.

I talk, of course, of the SUN Project’s Shadow Judging Program, which began this year. Alongside creative components and author visits, the goal of Shadow Judging was to create a separate set of “Shadowers’ Choice” awards, chosen by students of appropriate age groups from across the country. I am extremely excited about this concept. When I was in Grade 10 and was asked to design and undertake an independent project, I had a pretty radical idea (in hindsight, I’m lucky that my teacher didn’t take the whole thing as a personal insult). I went to the school library and collected a stack of novels covering different genres, authors and styles. Then, I showed these books to group of staff and students, asking them which they thought the children of the school would like the best. The lists I composed at the end of my project were almost direct opposites. It turned out that when it comes to deciding what to read, even adults looking for books that will appeal to children sometimes see things with vastly different eyes to the children themselves. It came as no surprise, then, that I also saw very diverse points of view expressed in the Shadow Judges’ final decision-making.

CBCA Sun Project: Shadow Judge Shadowers' Choice Awards Announcement 2022

I’m not suggesting, of course, that we throw away the traditional CBCA awards altogether and let young people entirely run the show. Award-winning books in these categories are selected based on their literary merit rather than simple appeal to readers, and that is as it should be when we consider the legacy that is being made by the council long-term. That said, when the shadow judging teams made vastly different decisions to the adults even when using quite similar criteria, it solidified in my mind an unshakeable belief that our children and adolescents see the world with different eyes… the only way to truly be sure what connects with them in the world of reading is to take notice and ask them.   

My group of shadow judges found How to Repaint a Life by Stephen Herrick to be the novel that most resonated with them from the Older Readers category. The Children’s Book Council found Tiger Daughter by Rebecca Lim to be the book with the highest level of literary merit. In general, the Shadow Judges from across the country selected Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn as the strongest title on the shortlist. It seems there is no hope of getting a clear answer. But should this significant discrepancy bother us? I don’t think so. The Shadow Judging Process does two wonderful things: it reminds us that readers are different (and that no single judging decision in an instance like this is by default the right one), and it promotes discussion, debate and further reading. These are—to me at least—objectively positive outcomes. 

When I asked the classes at the school where I work whether anyone might be interested in being involved in the Shadow Judging project, the response was enthusiastic. “I love judging people!” one student immediately declared. My judges have been learning—as I once did when I was a CBCA judge a decade ago—the joys and sorrows of the judging process. It is awful and frustrating to see books that you love fall to the wayside of group consensus, but it is wonderful to be part of the process of picking a winner: to see a text celebrated, shared and appreciated in a way that might otherwise never have been possible for it. The Shadow Judging program empowers young people to have autonomy in their decision-making and brings more attention to books. As I watched my students collaborate, share, consider, create, and get excited about individual novels, I saw a culture of reading grow. Many of them are still passionate about individual titles and are pushing these books onto their friends and classmates. Shadow Judging is creating something special.

I suspect that my students will be back next year, but in the meantime we’ve got even more wonderful books to read and celebrate than we have ever had before… 

That, for me, is the greatest win of all.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston. With Graeme Whittle he created the picture book Becoming Ellie, and he has recently collaborated with Grace Roberts on Tamar the Thief, which is available to read for free on the Tamar Valley Writers Festival website. Lyndon can be found at http://lyndonriggall.com and on Twitter @lyndonriggall.

Editor’s note: Further details on the winning titles in the Shadow Judging and links to the creative responses to these books can be found on the CBCA website under Shadow Judging.

Friday 16 September 2022

Inspiring Kids to Love Nature

This week we meet wildlife ecologist and author, Gary Luck, where his years of experience studying Australian native animals is evident in the story of Melody Finch – a magical adventure with a strong environmental message.

One of my favourite children’s books was The Lorax by Dr Suess. With its strong environmental message, The Lorax began my life-long love of nature, and a desire to protect it from harm. Eventually, this saw me become a Professor of Ecology. However, after 25 years in Academia, I began to feel I was living in an echo-chamber. Attending scientific conference after conference to present data on the [often] dismal state of our biodiversity, felt like preaching to the converted. I longed for another way to reach people about the beauty of nature and the need to protect it. A chance online meeting with another author – Ian Boyd from the CBCA-SA Branch – who turned out to be someone from my childhood hometown, started me on a new journey writing eco-fiction for children. 

Spirit of the Earth Books 2020

Our first effort – Melody Finch – tells the story of a young girl living in Charleville Qld who finds out her grandmother must sell her beloved riverboat in the Coorong because of the drought. After experiencing a magical storm, Melody turns into a Diamond Firetail Finch, and then meets two frog spies from the secretive group ‘Infrognito’ who tell her big rains are coming and will break the drought. Melody has to get word to her grandmother not to sell the boat, but how can she do this when she’s turned into a bird? 

So begins Melody’s journey from Charleville to the Coorong following some of Australia’s major rivers. The book covers environmental themes such as climate change, drought, species migration, pest animals and wildlife-fisher conflicts. We tried to do this in an informative, but entertaining way to engage with readers aged 8-12 years. The main focus was on telling a compelling story, and building the environmental themes into this, rather than the other way around. 

Our next effort – The Last Firedog – will take the same approach, highlighting the impacts of bushfires on humans and wildlife. Set here in Tasmania, it follows a Tassie devil and his quoll companion on an adventure through the Ben Lomond National Park.

Dr Gary Luck
Wildlife Ecologist, Author, Nature Steward
Discover more about Gary, co-author Ian Boyd, and this first book in the series at: Spirit of the Earth Books

Editor’s note: Gary also writes for adults under the pseudonym of G. W. Lucke. Look out for the Relevation Trilogy: When Darkness Descends, At the End of Everything, and She Will Rise (out mid 2023).

Monday 12 September 2022

A Canadian Perspective

This week we have a global perspective as Maureen Mann  shares some special finds while exploring libraries and bookshops in Canada. There are some great authors and illustrators to discover!

I’m back in Canada visiting family and have some spent some enjoyable time browsing the local bookstore (Part of a large chain, with a large children’s section), chatting to the staff and coming up with some books to share with you. It’s always interesting to see how bookshops in different parts of the world create and organise their displays. 

Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric).
Simon & Schuster (2022)

Lizzy buys a plain cloud complete with tethering string, as her pet, and Milo (as she names him) comes with an instruction manual, which she follows carefully. Even though he waters her collection of rare plants, and is useful inside, like all pets, Milo grows. And that’s what Lizzy does: releases him to the sky. From then on, she wonders if he returns to visit her, and hopes to see him again. Beautiful soft illustrations with bursts of colour, indicating mood. It’s a gentle book, with a message and sparks of humour. 

In the Clouds by Elly MacKay
Penguin Random House (2022)

Though this is essentially a book of fiction it is filled with curiosity about clouds. Where do they come from? Do they float? Where do they go when they disappear? There are other scientific and philosophical questions. The small child flies into the sky on the back of a bird, to be nearer the clouds. As she journeys the questions are posed, answered and reflected upon. It’s more than a bedtime story book and primary-aged children will enjoy the challenges of the questioning. Lovely sometimes ethereal illustrations. MacKay has included a bibliography and answers to some of her questions.

I’m Not Sydney by Marie-Louise Gay
Groundwood Books UTP Distribution (2022)

A group of children are playing outside, their imaginations take on the persona of animals and they venture into a huge spider’s web. Sydney becomes a sloth; Sami is a spider monkey. Others join them sharing the banter of a group playing together in this magical world. But when Edward becomes an elephant he fills his trunk with water, destroys the tenuous spider web and sends them all home “like a herd of small wet animals”. However, there’s always tomorrow … The illustrations are whimsical and fun. I wonder which animal I’d be.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield and the Fan Brothers
Penguin Random House (2018)

This is inspired by Chris Hadfield’s own childhood when he was fascinated by the moon and the universe, and pretends to be an astronaut. At the same time, he was scared of the dark and possible aliens hiding under his bed; unable to sleep alone and returning to share his parents’ bed. This continues until he watches the landing of the first man on the moon. From then on, he realises that the darkness holds secrets and adventure. Chris Hadfield went on to become an astronaut, highly respected space photographer and NASA director. The illustrations reflect the darkness of the night but maintain the excitement that night-time can bring. 

The Worm by Elise Gravel
Penguin Random House (2016)

This is one of the Disgusting Critters series of books by Gravel which takes one of nature’s less likeable animals and presents information in easily readable formats for the early childhood age group. Each looks at the habitat (inside and/or outside the human body), its anatomy and role in the environment. Facts are presented with humour and accuracy, so readers find they are learning as well as being amused. Other critters are headlice, spider, rat, slug, toad and the fly.

by Elise Gravel
Scholastic Canada (2022)

Gravel uses quirky monsters to show that we are all different but we all share the same things: fear and joy; sadness; making mistakes and we can learn from them; the need to be valued and feel safe. At first, I felt the book was too didactic, but the humour and the situations became very child-centred and empathetic.

The Most Magnificent Idea by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press (2022)

The girl loves to make things and spends her days creatively, until one day she runs out of ideas, and panic and depression set in. She tries to convince herself that the inspiration will return but it seems to have deserted her, despite her brainstorming, changing location, gathering new supplies. Not even her faithful pet can help her, until … Creativity and her mojo return just as she is beginning to think she will never be able to build again. Spires’ illustrations are great complements to the text, leaving plenty of white space for the reader to fill in some of the details.


I’s the B’y: The beloved folk song illustrated by Lauren Soloy
Greystone Books (2022)

This is a very Canadian song, from Newfoundland. The boy (b’y) comes in with his catch and takes it to guitar-playing Liza, and is accompanied by other creatures – violin-playing fish, dancing people, humpback whales, moose. All dance in circles. The sky and the sea suggest movement. Everything is full of energy. The illustrations are digitally produced but give an impression of being hand-created. I was impressed as a newcomer to the song, because there is an explanation at the end of the book of the relevance of the main items on each page and their place in society. The book also includes the music and all the words 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief look at some Canadian children’s books. I’ve certainly had fun finding them and look forward to discovering some more while here.  

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader