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

Friday 17 February 2023

Tasmania Reads Week

Mark your calendar for a week of reading as part of the Tasmania Reads Week campaign. Sue McKerracher, Executive Director of Libraries Tasmania, is a guest blogger and introduces the event and provides tips to help you immerse yourself in books.

From 5-11 March, we’ll be celebrating Tasmania Reads Week. This new statewide campaign is run by Libraries Tasmania and brings together an impressive line-up of supporters, including local booksellers, publishers, award-winning authors and illustrators, the JackJumpers, Metro buses, libraries, schools, UTAS and the Governor of Tasmania.

While Tasmania Reads Week is new, we’re building on an existing national program called Australia Reads. This annual book industry activity emerged from the National Year of Reading back in 2012 and has gone through several iterations. It is now an ‘always-on’ campaign to promote Australian books and reading, with an anchor event on 9 March – the Australian Reading Hour.

Sustaining an ‘always-on’ campaign takes far more resources than we have available, so we’re concentrating our efforts on one week of the year and building our program around the Australian Reading Hour. 

There’s a free magazine available in schools, libraries and bookshops. If you don’t manage to scoop up one of the 20,000 print copies in circulation, you can look at it online here. This gives you a full overview of what’s happening during Tasmania Reads Week and let’s you know how you can take part.

It’s not too late to run an event for the week. You might gather a few people to talk about books, or you could share a post about what you’re reading for the Week on social media. Just tag the campaign #TasmaniaReads.  If you’re in a school, we have a pack with ideas for students from kinder to Year 12 (email us for a copy Libraries Tasmania - Tasmania Reads (tasmania.reads@libraries.tas.gov.au). And if you don’t have time to do anything in 2023, put a note in your calendar for the same time next year, when we’re planning to run another week-long celebration of all things books and reading.

Sue McKerracher

Executive Director, Libraries Tasmania

Friday 10 February 2023

Mother and daughter team up for children’s picture book

© Kaz Hutchison
& Jo Siggins

Jo Siggins is a professional investigator and author of children’s book Undercover Coco the Pine, the Crime and the Mystery Footprint. In this week’s post, Jo reveals the inspiration for her children’s book and shares her experience working with the illustrator (and her mother) Kaz Hutchison.

I clearly remember the day I was inspired to write Undercover Coco. It was a long-held dream to become an author but many false starts later I was still trying to come up with that elusive story idea. 

My husband and I were walking around our property with our dog Coco when we noticed one of our pine trees had been damaged. Coco started sniffing around the tree base looking at wildlife footprints on the ground. I was struck by the thought that she was trying to figure out what had been there. I recall laughing at the time and pointing out that Coco will sniff out the offender – and thus an idea was born!

In the book, the main character Undercover Coco finds a footprint at the scene of a damaged tree and secretly investigates the animals on the farm to try and find the culprit. 

The story also draws on elements from my work as an investigator as Undercover Coco is curious about what has happened and looks for clues in her search for the truth.

I always knew I wanted my mum, Kaz Hutchison, to illustrate the book. Not only is she an amazing artist, but we have undertaken other projects together in the past so I knew we worked well together. She had also painted Coco previously and really captured her spirit. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

As a mother/daughter team, we wanted to develop the book collaboratively, which had its challenges as we each had a strong artistic vision. But we also had a great synergy and combining the best of our ideas led to both the story and illustrations evolving throughout the creative process. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

We certainly learned a lot as the project progressed. Our initial plan was to format the book as left page text and right page illustration. However, there was a hiccup in our early planning and the trim size did not match the first draft illustrations. Lesson here is to triple check trim size! Instead of starting over, we decided to change the layout to a two-page spread with the text set into the illustration. This presented other complications as we had to adapt the illustrations to suit different margins and create enough blank space in the artwork for the text. Knowing each other so well helped us to stay positive, pivot and adapt as required. It was not a quick process, but it was a labour of love. 

© J. Siggins & K. Hutchison, image used with permission

Applying those learnings as we develop Undercover Coco 2 will be our next challenge!

Jo Siggins

Children’s book author and professional investigator

W: https://undercovercoco.com/

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

Editor’s note. It is always a pleasure to discover new Tasmanian creators and get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes processes to bring a book to publication. Head to Undercover Coco’s website for more information including stockists.

Friday 3 February 2023

Love your Library with ‘Library’ Books

Library Lovers' Day is drawing near and so, in this timely post, we discover some gorgeous picture books that celebrate libraries – join the fun with Loretta Brazendale as she shares her favourites. Mark the day in your calendar, check out events in a library near you in February and find resources on the ALIA website.

On the 14th of February not only do we celebrate Valentine’s Day but we celebrate the most important day! Library Lovers Day! So, it was only fitting for me to write my first blog for 2023 on all things Library and what we love about our libraries! My favourite thing about libraries are the children’s books, because these stories can really inspire the love of storytelling, reading, imagination and how children’s books can start some amazing conversations and memories for children.  

The last book in my review comes about because the first book I read in the series by this author was the best! My absolute favourite memory so far in working in a library is because of this book. I read the book in question to a class that was visiting the library and told them that it is my favourite and after I read the story I explained why. Little did I know the class also loved the story and their visits to the library so much that at their end of year school assembly I was invited to attend as their special guest and what a wonderful surprise I got! Not only was it mentioned how important their library visits were, but a prerecording was played of each student reading a page of the book I had read to them, dressed as the main character. Even the teachers and the assistance dog got involved. You will have to read to the end of the reviews to find out which book has stolen my heart! Enjoy 

Lucy’s Book by Natalie Jane Prior

This gorgeous picture book is a celebration of library books, librarians, sharing books with friends and the joy of reading and re-reading a favourite book. This story was more like the life cycle of a library book when it becomes much sought after. I loved how the library theme was strong throughout the book. The illustrations are wonderful, and I highly recommend this beautiful book. 

The Lost Library by Jess McGeachin 

A great picture book with a "library" adventure!  I also enjoyed seeing at the end of the book, Ms. Hardback, the librarian, left a note for the reader asking if they can find a dragon on each page. I love that! I would love to find a lost library and get lost in it, imagine the books you could find, I’m thinking this would make a great children’s themed event in our library! Maybe I could dress as a dragon for the event!

Our Library by Donna Rawlins 

This beautiful book could nearly be an instruction guide for library staff. When reading this story, I felt like it was telling the story of my library! The book explains that libraries are vibrant and inclusive and not a place to just sit and be quiet. Really is an amazing picture book to introduce children and families to all the wonderful things in a library. 

The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book by Justine Clarke and Arthur Baysting

Ahhh finally a book of teaching the importance of loving and looking after your books. I think every library staff member would love this book! The story has fun, silly rhymes that children would think are seriously funny. Fantastic colourful illustrations throughout. 

Now it’s no secret that Maggie Hutchings first Cockroach tale became my absolutely favourite book in 2021!! So much so that I dressed as the funny little cockroach for Book Week in 2021!! It’s my go to book to share with children that come into the library! I have already reviewed “Your Birthday was the Best!’ in a past review so it’s only fair I review the next best thing that has happened to this little Cockroach! 

Your School is the Best! by Maggie Hutchings 

I think why I love these 2 stories is because of the differing perspectives. The cockroach and his family think they are being super friendly and helpful, but the poor little guy and his family are just terrorizing a classroom of children. And again, I love the illustrations in this book, the look of horror on the children's faces are so detailed. This book is truly the best. 

Loretta Brazendale

Information Services Coordinator
Burnie Library | Libraries Tasmania 

Editor’s note: Do you have a special library moment to share or a favourite story that celebrates books and libraries? Add a comment and expand the list. I adore the notion of creating a community library celebrated in The Great Book-Swapping Machine by Emma Allen & Lisa Coutts..