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

Friday 28 July 2023

Northern Primary Schools’ Readers’ Cup 2023 – a 20th Anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the Northern Primary Schools’ Readers’ Cup was recently held at Hagley Primary School with teams from 14 participating schools joining together to celebrate reading.

The Northern Primary Readers’ Cup has been running in Launceston for 20 years, and this special anniversary event was kicked off with a brief history presented by Jennie Bales, who first brought the idea to Launceston teacher librarians way back in 2001. She learnt about this wonderful stimulus to encourage reading at a conference in Queensland where it has since grown into a state-wide annual event. The Readers’ Cup has had different iterations in the south, north and northwest of Tasmania for both primary and secondary students. Currently CBCA Tasmania provides book vouchers for participating teams.

A past organiser, Maureen Mann recalls: 

I was involved with Reader's Cup from the beginning in Launceston but mainly in the secondary section as I was then working in high schools. However, along with Judy Moss, and under the auspices of CBCA, we extended the competition to Hobart in about 2008. I travelled down for several years just for Readers Cup meetings to get it going.

Jennie noted how wonderful it was to see such a worthy celebration of reading, literacy and team work continue for two decades due to the dedication and hard work of local organisers, keen teachers in schools and volunteer including judges and support personnel. 

Jill van der Bosch (a previous teacher librarian organiser recalls): 

I think my main memory of Readers' Cup is the enthusiasm it generated, not only among the dedicated readers, but those who would otherwise avoid books and reading at all costs. They all just loved the creative challenge and never ceased to amaze me with their productions. From Grade 3 onward, students would ask, "When can we do that thing?' I'm so glad 'That Thing' continues.

The Tasmanian adaption has unique qualities that combine both a quiz and a creative response to one of the books. The book selection for this event included a mix of new and familiar titles – picture books and novels and in a range of genres. 

The reading list for the 2023 Northern Primary Readers Cup

The Northern Primary event has evolved into a community affair commencing after school with the quiz, the ‘extra challenge’ followed by fuel for the brain (a BBQ this year),  then the performances in the early evening with keen families arriving from across Launceston and its surrounds. The creative response requires each team to present their ‘take’ on one of the books – for example as a play, short film, PowerPoint, dance, diorama or other artistic form. This element adds immensely to the enjoyment and ambience of the evening with a large and enthusiastic audience made up parents, teachers and classmates.

Judges, families, staff and students watch the Creative Challenge performances

The introduction of the ‘extra challenge’ some years ago added a new dimension, with a week’s notice to read an extra book, each team responds to a surprise challenge completed after the quiz. This year the book was Walk of the Whales by Nick Bland.

Work in progress for the Extra Challenge

The most recent coordinator, Jessica Marston, the teacher librarian at Hagley Farm School was the host for this year’s Northern Primary Readers’ Cup event and she writes:

We were very excited to see our 2023 Readers’ Cup return to a live final, after the event was cancelled altogether in 2020, and held virtually in 2021-22. 
Fourteen schools, including Flinders Island District High School via a livestream, saw just under 100 students converge at Hagley Farm School to compete in teams for the prized Cup. 
The buzz in the room was wonderful, as we enjoyed an evening of friendly rivalry through the celebration of children’s literature.  Feedback about the event has been overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents.

Participating students also provided some interesting insights via a survey completed after the event which captured some great sentiments:

  • I enjoyed getting together with all the other schools and seeing their view and perspective of the books. I also think it was good how you included Flinders Island so they can still participate.
  • I loved showing our creative challenge because we worked so hard but I thought that the extra challenge was really fun and such a creative idea. I loved having my family and friends there and the food was awesome.
  • I enjoyed seeing all of the other schools out at Hagley and seeing how well everyone did with their creative performances and the quiz working well as a team. I had fun meeting new people and bonding better with my teammates, the food was also so delicious.

Winning team, East Launceston PS, present their Creative Challenge
about The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley.

Congratulations to this years’ winners, East Launceston Primary School, and a very big thank you to the CBCA, Tasmanian Branch for their ongoing support of our event.

Report prepared by Jennie Bales (CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator) and Jess Marston (Teacher Librarian, Hagley Farm School).

Editor's note: The Northern Secondary Readers' Cup will be held in Launceston in September.

Friday 21 July 2023

Dog Tales

Discover some wonderful chapter books about dogs in this week’s post brought to you by Loretta Brazendale. With a focus on the work of Kate Foster, discover her engaging fiction titles that deal with not just dogs but some of life’s challenges.

The last few weeks I have been reading Kate Foster’s chapter books! Now you are probably wondering how I got onto them. Well, I was checking out a book to a child at the library and I saw the cover of Harriet Hound and I thought ‘I have to read this as it has dogs and a girl in dog pj’s!!’ I did ask the child why she had borrowed this book and like me she loves dogs also. So, I placed it on hold straight away!  Read it, loved it, and ordered another three of Kate Foster’s books. I don’t know how Kate does this but her approach to topics on autism, mental health and depression in children is amazing and thoughtful. Her stories are worded so well and the understanding of what can be a daunting subject and a confusing time for a child – she somehow writes without it feeling overwhelming to the reader. Her books can really help children understand how we are all different and how others may see the world or how they are coping. I applaud you Kate for your wonderful books and for the beautiful dog characters in your stories. I can relate to how precious a friendship with a dog can be to a child and even an adult.  Please enjoy my reviews on four of Kate Fosters beautiful stories. 

- Kate Foster, 2021, Walker Books

Loved this warm, funny book about finding real friends. The book is aimed at children ages 7-10 and focuses on autism and moving from Primary to High School. People like myself who are dog crazy will love this beautiful story. 

Kate really did an amazing job with the detail of the story to give a young reader a kid’s perspective of living with autism and the challenges that come with that. I think this story should be read by all primary students, so they understand how everyone is different. Kevin the cockapoo played such an important role in Alex’s life as one friend he can always count on. I love how dogs can always sense when you need a little pick me up like a lick or their head on your knee.  I personally feel dogs bring a calming presence into a space – especially in a school environment. 

I highly recommend this well written story! 

The Unlikely Hero’s Club
- Kate Foster, 2023, Walker Books

The story is about a group of autistic kids who attend a week at Hero Club to learn ways to engage, socialise and hopefully make some new friends. Oli, the main character, thinks this will be boring, and he would be happier to stay at home. 

I loved how Kate described each of the kid’s different autistic traits within the story. The group notice a dog running into an abandoned building – they know they have to save it before demolition day.  

The group’s dedication and teamwork is lovely. You cannot help but cheer on the kids of the Heroes Club, as they each use their strengths to help save the dog.

It’s a very sweet book, that I think primary school aged children would enjoy. 

Harriet Hound
Kate Foster, 2023, Walker Books

This book is absolutely wonderful! Gorgeous dogs and an autistic girl with superpowers- what more could you want. The illustrations by Sophie Beer complement. Harriet is an awesome little girl who never lets her autism stop her from doing the things she loves! Harriet’s family run a dog rescue shelter and Harriet knows and loves each and every dog that they care for there. When help is needed Harriet transforms into a superhero, wearing her special dog pyjamas. She only needs to touch a picture of a dog on her pyjamas, and she is there to help with any situation. I have to admit I was reading this story in my dog pj’s, and I felt a bit like Harriet in my now superhero pj’s! Great read for children 7 and up will really enjoy this sweet story. 

The Bravest Word - Kate Foster, 2022, Walker Books

Such a beautiful, well-written book. Wonderful characters and such a meaningful, heartfelt story. Matt, an 11 year old boy used to be happy, but now can hardly get out of bed. Slowly he & his dad realise he might be suffering from depression. One day Matt and his dad are out walking, and they come across an abandoned puppy. They take the puppy in and Matt decides to call him Cliff! The story is already a tearjerker but when I read Cliff my eyes welled up!! Because my 13 year old dog is named “Cliffy” 

A great recommendation to discuss mental health with preteens. 

Loretta Brazendale
CBCA Committee Member and lover of all things doggie.

Editor’s note: If you love books about dogs and are looking for some great picture books check out a previous CBCA Tasmania post: Mann’s Best Friend!

Sunday 2 July 2023

NAIDOC Week - Time to read on Country

It’s NAIDOC Week and time to enjoy and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture. Why not start with a book – there are so many to choose from!

Do you regularly select Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories and information books to share with children and teens? With the amazing array of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander literature available it is easy to include these books into every child’s reading diet. NAIDOC week is an excellent stimulus to celebrate Country, and engage with contemporary and historical First Nation perspectives.

The first week of July is marked as National NAIDOC week and is a time for Australians recognise and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As well as getting involved at a local level (visit the NAIDOC website to found out what is happening in your area) reading and sharing literature is an ideal way engage young readers and start conversations.

A useful starting point for finding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories for children and young adults is the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) via the database available in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource. If this resource is new to you, read  previous CBCA Tas posts including A Gateway to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Literature (Alderman, 2022) and Discover Engaging Stories on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource Database (Mann, 2022).

CBCA award and notable titles regularly include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fiction and nonfiction for all age groups. Shortlisted in 2023 Our Dreaming (Saunders & Leffler, 2022) in the Picture Book category, We are Australians (Smith, Godwin & Cadd, 2022) for the New Illustrator award and Come Together (Firebrace & Biumwiwai, 2022) an Eve Pownell title. This book was a particular favourite of mine for the wealth of highly accessible and current information and the contemporary Aboriginal design motifs employed by Biumwiwai. On the Notable list, Thank you rain! (Morgan & Malibirr, 2022) and Open Your Heart to Country (Seymour, 2022) are two titles that celebrate Country with striking illustrations in both to support the texts.

Past CBCA winners and notable titles  that I have found valuable for my own personal growth and appreciation as well as for sharing with students and recommending to independent readers include:

Heroes, Rebels and Innovators (Wild & Biumaiwai, 2021) – Eve Pownall Honour book

Where We Begin (Mieman, 2020) – Older Readers Honour book – contemporary realistic fiction (mature themes) with excellent historical coverage on the impact of white farming immigrants in rural Victoria on the local inhabitants and the long term impact on the community.

Strangers on Country (Hartley, Myrrat & Leffler, 20210 – Eve Pownall Honour book

Bindi (Saunders & Leffler, 2020) – Younger Readers shortlist

Shirley Purdie: My Story, Ngaginybe Jarragbe (Purdie, 2020) – New Illustrator shortlist

Baby Business (Syemour, 2019) – Notable Picture Book.

Further inspiration can be found on the CBCA Tas blog – check out On Country in Alice Springs  Mann (2021) and With Opened Eyes: Snapshot 3 (Bales, 2022) for some background information and some more great reads.

Many of these titles will be on school library shelves and all of them are available in Libraries Tasmania collection – in print and with some also in ebook format and as a retelling in Story Box Library and therefor easy to access from home and via the Sora app. There are also titles featured this week on the Libraries Tasmania home page to support NAIDOC. If you have a favourite title please share in the comments.

Jennie Bales

CBCA Tasmania Social Media Coordinator.

Retired teacher librarian and adjunct lecturer