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

Friday 16 December 2022


Our final post for 2022 comes from Maureen Mann, and she wraps up the year by introducing a wonderful tradition for Iceland. Have you heard of Jolabokaflod? Read on and be inspired to start a new tradition on Christmas eve.  

Merry Christmas 2022 everyone – or Happy Holidays for those who don’t follow Christian beliefs.

What are your family’s Christmas or holiday traditions? We all have them, even if they are not different from many others.

One of the traditions I really respect is from Iceland. It’s called Jolabokaflod (Jólabókaflóð in Icelandic), which translates as Christmas Book Flood. It’s a tradition which started in the 1930s and 1940s to encourage literacy and reading in their long dark winters and help the Icelandic book trade. It’s become such a success that Iceland is now recognised as the first country to have full literacy. The idea is to give and receive new books to and from family and friends, on December 24, and the evening is to be spent immersed in those books. And chocolate I believe! Wouldn’t it be wonderful for Australia to start a similar tradition!

So, what would you choose to give to your family? Here are some of my top picks from the year.

Jason Cockcroft’s Running with Horses is a gritty and realistic sequel to his previous We Were Wolves. Best for older readers, who will appreciate Rabbit's traumas as well as the stunning monochrome illustrations.

Old Fellow by Christopher Cheng and Liz Anelli. A gentle story about an old man and his old dog as they spend their day in their multicultural community. It’s a picture book which will be appreciated by a wide age range, not just the youngest readers.

My Deadly Boots by Hakea Hustler, Carl Merrison and Samantha Campbell. This fun story, with its colloquial language and rhythms, celebrates the confidence of finding oneself, but the reader may not need such a vibrantly colourful pair of footwear to do so.

Rita’s Revenge by Lian Tanner returns to the world of A Clue for Clara, where animals must learn to communicate with each other at the same time as solving a crime. A great fun story with subtle complexities.

Maybe: A Story About the Endless Potential in Us All by Kobi Yamada and Gabriella Barouch is a beautiful picture book about following life's journey through the good times and the harder ones and achieving one's potential. The illustrations are wonderful.

The Bookseller's Apprentice by Amelia Mellor. This is a prequel to The Grandest Bookshop in the World and is sure to delight fans of that story.

Fans of Katrina Nannestad's Travelling Bookshop series will be delighted that there was another title published this year: #3 Mim and the Anxious Artist. There's another scheduled for 2023 too -- #4 Mim and the Disastrous Dog Show. If you haven't met Mim and her wider family as they travel the world, you've got a treat in store!

For adults, I’ve enjoyed Chris Hammer’s crime thrillers this year. Try The Tilt, published 2022, or start with his first, Scrublands.

If you missed Lyndon’s blog last week, promoting the delights of e-books and audiobooks through the library, please go back and read it. He shows how easy it is for us all to join in to reading, without the expenses. Enjoy whatever books you receive – and I hope there are lots of them over the summer.

And again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Maureen Mann

Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Editor’s note: What a wonderful idea and what great suggestions to help you find ‘the perfect book’ to give on Christmas eve. Thank you Maureen, and all of the contributors to our blog in 2022. You have kept us entertained, challenged our thinking, provided windows into the amazing work of book creators and provided a wealth of story ideas to keep us, and our children reading.

Happy Jolabokaflod and a Merry Christmas to you all.

Friday 9 December 2022

How Libraries Tasmania Helped Me Double the Books I Read in 2022

Have you discovered audiobooks yet? Lyndon Riggall shares his discovery of the wonders of audio reading with an extensive range of books at your fingertips via your public library. 

Whenever I think of Arthur, the delightfully charming educational PBS television series based on Marc Brown’s popular book series of the same name, which recently ended after 25 seasons and 253 episodes, there is a rap song that comes immediately to mind. I’m thinking of the track featured in the episode, “Arthur’s Almost Live Not Real Music Festival”, which includes the repeated refrain, “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card,” as the characters of the series proceed to describe all of the types of books and worlds, fiction and non-fiction, that can be found in your local library.

This maxim has become especially pronounced for me in recent months as I have discovered some of the resources that are available through the online services of Libraries Tasmania. While I have always favoured my Kindle when it comes to e-reading, and rarely read on my phone where so many other distractions are rife, I have been a huge fan of audiobooks and have often used them to fill in all of those quiet parts of life when I am walking, driving, cooking or exercising. This has always worked well, but it has by no means been particularly affordable. The library offers so many reading experiences for free that it has always seemed a shame that my life hasn’t really ever suited the audiobooks in the collection that can be found on CD… sadly, my car doesn’t even have a CD player!

I was explaining this situation to a friend one day earlier in the year, who quickly announced, “But what about Libby and BorrowBox?” Phones hastily came out of pockets to show me what they meant, while I instigated a couple of downloads and began scrolling and borrowing… within seconds I had a story calling out to me from my phone’s tinny speaker. Suddenly—I was shocked and amazed to discover—I was quite literally up to my ears in audiobooks. It was that easy.

Screen shot from Libby library

And yes, all you need is a library card. By inputting your Libraries Tasmania information into each app you can very quickly gain access to thousands of ebooks and audiobooks. The genius of these two eLibrary services is that they make reading as easy as opening Facebook or Twitter, and they are much more pleasant for your wellbeing. Just opening them now I can see Ash Barty’s Memoir My Dream Time (read by Miranda Tapsell, no less), Dostoyesvsky’s Crime and Punishment read by the actor Will Poulter, and entire sections of other titles dedicated to recommended reads from #BookTok, the Tasmanian Literary Awards and the Booker Prize longlist. For kids, I managed to dig up some Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wings of Fire, Lian Tanner, Roald Dahl, David Walliams, Ahn Do, Babysitters Club and Aaron Blabey. Between the two services you can have up to fifteen digital loans out from the library, which of course is in addition to any physical books you might have already borrowed… plenty to fill the summer holidays.  

Screen shot from BorrowBox library

Thanks to GoodReads and its tracking I can be very clear about the effect that this discovery and new habit has had on my reading life: in 2022, I have doubled the number of books that I have read from fifty-two, to what I expect will be more than a hundred by the time the new year rolls around. I am lucky, I know, that I have the kind of life where moments of quiet are available to me: an audiobook ticking away through my headphones as I drive or do the dishes. I am also a fiend that listens to books on double speed which is definitely not to everyone’s tastes and can be prone to send people fleeing from the room in horror if they happen to overhear it. Nevertheless, I suspect that most of us have little pockets of time available to us where a story could keep us company. In cases where mundanity strikes, life is better with a book. 

Of course, there are still some small bumps in the road with these two apps. Firstly, both BorrowBox and Libby continue in their persistence of ensuring that only limited “copies” of texts are available to users… which has never made sense to me as a method of operation, dragging one of the key flaws of the physical library kicking and screaming into the digital world. There is also the fact that the existence of the two different sets of books can make it hard, at times, to actually find where something is, often sending you back to the library catalogue just to get some clear answers. These minor quibbles aside, however, I think it’s fair to say that in my experience both BorrowBox and Libby are not only exciting new additions to the offerings of a library in the 21st Century, they are—quite literally—life-changing. 

It’s true. Having fun isn’
t hard when you’ve got a library card.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a beautiful day and I’ve got reading to do. 

Lyndon Riggall
Lyndon is an English teacher at Launceston College, as well as the author of the picture books
Becoming Ellie and Tamar the Thief. Along with Georgie Todman, he has recently been named Co-President of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival.

Screenshot of Jennie's latest uLibrary reads

Editor’s note:
I wholeheartedly agree with Lyndon as per a long-ago post from me Audiobooks – They Speak for Themselves. There is another app that broadens the scope of titles available from Libraries Tasmania. Visit https://libraries.tas.gov.au/elibrary/elibrary-books-and-audiobooks/ to find out about uLibrary and other apps discussed today. For our readers from further afield than Tasmania, I urge you to investigate the public library ebook and audiobook offerings in your own location.

Friday 2 December 2022

Writing and Illustrating a Graphic Novel Memoir for Children

Alyssa Bermudez provides a fascinating insight into the creation of a graphic novel as she harnesses this medium to also explore a significant time as a teenager living in New York in September 2001.

© Alyssa Bermudez

I always knew I wanted to create something special from my childhood diaries, and over the course of almost ten years, I turned them into a graphic novel called Big Apple Diaries. It all started while taking a comics class in 2012 as a student in New York City, where I was born and lived my whole life at that point. When I moved from New York City to Tasmania in 2015 I realized how important the New Yorker side of my story was. There is something about seeing it from a distance that made it clearer to me. 

I used my diary entries and experiences to retell the story of my childhood in New York City around the September 11 attacks in 2001. These entries were so important for creating this book because I could capture the mindset of a young teen instead of relying solely on the memory of it. Of course, memoir-style writing can be triggering, so I don’t think it would have been possible for me to write about that part of my life without enough time and space between the experience and now. 

© Alyssa Bermudez

Big Apple Diaries is my first ever long-form graphic novel so it was definitely a learning curve for me. I’ve illustrated many picture books, but the jump from 32 pages to almost 300 was a lot to think about!

All of the writing had to be finished first, and that is something that often surprises people. The storyline is the most important part of any book. I started with very simple drafts and didn’t worry about the spelling or specific wording yet. I made sure to create story arcs within my “real story.” Once that draft made sense, I went back over it and carefully rewrote it several times. 

A very important part of the graphic novel process that makes it different from other writing is that I had to choose which parts of the story would be told in words and which parts would be told in pictures. I used different colours in my Word document to make this easier for me. Everything I wrote in black was the words of the story, and everything I wrote in blue was for the pictures. One of the best parts of the graphic novel medium is capturing emotion and subtleties through imagery. Sometimes big feelings don’t need to be named on the page, and a simple expression can speak for itself.

© Alyssa Bermudez

Once all of that was ready to go, I roughly laid out the text and created simple sketches to determine the layouts, pacing, and timing. Next came editorial feedback from the publishing team, adjustments, and sample art. Once all of the stars aligned and everyone agreed it was ready to go, I returned to page one again. This part was the most fun for me because all of that difficult problem-solving with layouts and writing was done, so I could just enjoy the process of making the artwork!

© Alyssa Bermudez

I underestimated how emotional it would be to create the images to go with something so deeply personal. It was wonderful exploring the visuals of New York City from that time and recreating the relationships with my parents and friends.

It was very meaningful to put together a story that took place twenty years ago and can still be relatable to readers today and in the future. I’ve enjoyed sharing this book with students here in Tasmania and virtually in the US. Even though Tasmania and New York City couldn’t be any further apart, the feelings that come with growing up bring everyone together.

Alyssa Bermudez
Children’s author and commercial illustrator
W: http://www.alyssabermudezart.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/alyssabermudezart
T: @bermudezbahama