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

Friday 25 August 2023

Celebrating Book Week – Engaging with Books and Humans

Hutchins School engaged in a range of exciting activities in the lead up to, and then ongoing throughout Book Week. It is wonderful to see such a strong reading culture celebrated across the school. 

Critical Evaluation of Shortlisted Titles (our version of Shadow Judging)

Our Book Week celebrations begin mid-Term 2 with the introduction of our Critical Evaluation unit, which begins with exploring the question, ‘what makes a good book?’ Our younger students focus on the Early Childhood shortlist, while older students build on their knowledge of different kinds of non-fiction to hone their evaluative skills by examining the Eve Pownall shortlist.

Students explore this inquiry question through the examination of previous shortlisted books and current notable books.  Through this exploration, students design their own criteria; generally they come up with something along these lines:

Criteria for ‘what makes a good picture book?’

  • Story – a problem, a solution, a sizzling start and end, makes you feel something (happy, sad, excited)
  • Language – descriptive, interesting
  • Illustrations – detailed, interesting, help tell the story

Criteria for ‘what makes a good information book?’

  • Information – detailed information, sources are listed
  • Layout – book is presented in an interesting, creative and attractive manner
  • Visuals – book includes clear, detailed and attractive visuals to support the text

These criteria then underpin our exploration of the shortlisted books and students vote in the Hutchins Choice Awards shortly before Book Week.

Book Week Celebrations

Our Book Week celebrations take place across the week and are centred on children engaging with quality books and engaging with one another in book sharing, discussions and celebrations. 

Some examples of this year’s offerings included:

Pop Up Readers – During Book Week, we had over 25 guest readers, including staff from all areas of the school and Senior School students, ‘pop up’ in classrooms to read stories.  This is super simple to set up; send out an editable timetable of the week for readers to nominate their available times and class teachers snap up a match.

Senior student reading to a younger class ©

Story Walks with Fahan – Our younger students were lucky enough to visit a local school, Fahan, for the morning, where they listened to stories read by older students and participated in challenges as they walked through the gardens to listen to other stories.

Hutchins and Fahan students enjoy an outside storytelling session ©

Drop Everything and Read – At designated times throughout the week, students and staff were encourage to ‘drop everything and read.’

Buddy Reading – Across the week, there were several times for students to meet with their buddies to share stories together.

The Great Book Swap – This event is always a hit in schools and there are plenty of winners; families can declutter their bookshelves, children can buy ‘new-to-them’ books and we are able to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Great Book Swap raises funds to support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation ©

Book Buying Excursion – A highlight of our Tasmania Reads celebrations was taking a small group of students to a local bookshop to select new books to purchase for the library.  This event was such a success that we decided to repeat it for Book Week.  Choosing to spend part of our library budget in this way provides incredible ownership by students over the collection.

Exciting purchases made for the library ©

Creator Presentations and Workshops – Thanks to the CBCA Tasmania’s Creator Workshop program, we were fortunate enough to have Daniel Gray-Barnett visit us for a day during Book Week.  Students loved hearing Dan’s yet-to-be-released story and learning about his illustration process.  Keen writers and illustrators were invited to participate in small group workshops with Dan where they were guided through several writing and illustrating exercises.

Daniel Gray-Barnett engages students in the writing process ©

Staff Book Club – Earlier this year, as part of our Tasmania Reads celebrations, we launched a staff book club.  A couple of times a term, we meet and share books about a particular theme.  For our Book Week catch up, we all shared books related to the 2023 Book Week theme, Read. Grow. Inspire.

Announcement of Hutchins Choice Awards – This happens in an assembly and there is great excitement when students hear the books that were favourites in each year levels.

Book Week Quiz – On the first day of Book Week, each class received a 25-question quiz that students worked on across the week, drawing on their knowledge of the 2023 shortlisted books and other well-known books.  On the final day of Book Week, teachers were emailed a final bonus question, before students raced their completed quizzes to the library.  This was the first time I’ve run an activity like this and it certainly created a spark amongst the community (bribes may or may not have been offered in students’ quest to find the answers!)

You’ll notice that dress-ups were not mentioned in the list of celebrations.  Yes, we did have a dress-up day, but this was certainly not the focus of our Book Week celebrations.  Moving forwards, we will move to a model of having a dress-up day every second year, with a different book-focused creative celebration for families to get involved in on the alternate years.

During regular library lessons, our focus was on engaging with the 2023 Book Week theme, Read. Grow. Inspire., and providing time for students to simply enjoy the power of a good book.  

Anna Davidson
Junior Teacher Librarian, Hutchins School
Twitter - @davidsonteach
(avid reader (mad for Middle Grade Fiction), dog lover, yogi, nature lover, tea drinker)

Friday 18 August 2023

CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2023: And the winners are…

And the winders are… Did your favourite(s) receive an award? With a number of readers already familiar with the shortlisted titles, Felicity shares her personal views gained through reading books and reviews and from her senior students involved in the Shadow Judging (announced next Friday, 25 August).

In a previous life as a Primary School Teacher Librarian, we would run a voting competition. The student who selected the most Gold, Silver & Bronze winners won a prize. I too voted – I would never have been eligible for a prize, my choices vary so greatly to those selected.

This year our Children’s Service VET students again participated in Shadow Judging, where students judged the Early Childhood Category books against the same criteria that the CBCA judges use to pick winners. This provided a great opportunity for me to have a good look at this category.  The students at Don College selected Bev and Kev (Katrina Germein/Mandy Foot). I was torn between Snap! (Anna Walker) and Jigsaw (Bob Graham). As you now know Where the Lyrebird Lives (Vicki Conley and Max Hamilton) was the 2023 winner. I loved the storyline of this winner, but I had a lot of questions: why wasn’t the lyrebird hidden on every page? How did all the family get to the start of the walk – there were 6 people for a 5 seater car…maybe I just need to chill! I also had concerns about the treatment of Bev in Bev and Kev.

I read Runt (Craig Silvey) Younger Readers winner using the Libby app. I was keen to see how Craig Silvey handled writing for this age group, having read both Jasper Jones and Honeybee  which have very different content and themes. It was entertaining and I liked that not everything turned out as hoped in the end, and that’s okay. Such a great message for building resilience. I haven’t read Evie and Rhino (Neridah McMullen/Astred Hicks) or The Raven’s Song (Zana Fraillon/Bren MacDibble) but both are available on the SORA and LIBBY apps, so I’ll definitely visit them.

The Older Readers winner Neverlanders (Tom Taylor/Jon Sommariva) is a graphic novel with bright and clear pictures, which I am sure will appeal to many readers. I get overwhelmed by so much going on in the page, so this won’t be a book I’ll read. Completely Normal (Biffy James) has an innocuous enough looking cover, and may need to come with a trigger warning, as the first page plunges you into a confronting scenario around young people being told about the death of a peer. Both are available on LIBBY and SORA. Trish Buckley’s brief review of The Other Side of Tomorrow (Hayley Lawrence) in Reading Time is worth a read. This too is a book dealing with grief, in its many guises.

I attended SLAV’s talk recently (offered free to Tas CBCA members) which is my only experience of the titles in the Picture Book category. Unfortunately last time I checked these were not available on the apps. I asked Libraries Tasmania if they could be made available, but apparently the publishers don’t always offer an e-book format. I loved the concept of Dirt by Sea (Tom Jellett/Michael Wagner) being the family’s reaction to the misunderstanding of the lyrics of our National Anthem. Hopefully someone will add comments about their experience with these titles. I did buy the notable book Accidentally Kelly Street (Briony Stewart), because I wanted to see how the lyrics and illustrations were handled, and I was not disappointed.

Eve Pownall Honour Books Come Together (Isaiah Firebrace/Jaelyn Biumauwai) and Wild Australian Life (Leonard Cronin/Chris Nixon) are available on LIBBY and SORA, but I have only seen DEEP: Dive into Hidden Worlds (Jess McGeachin) via the SLAV talk. So would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this title.

However you celebrate Book Week, I wish you joyful times, celebrating the wonderful gift that books are in our lives.

Felicity Sly is a teacher librarian, currently working at Don College in Devonport.

Editor’s note: I particularly admired the selection of titles on the Younger Readers shortlist and think this was perhaps the most hotly contested of all the categories. It is wonderful to see such quality writing targeting this age group as evidenced in the Notable list. My personal favourite was The Way of the Dog (Zana Fraillon/ Sean Buckingham) but Xavier in the Meantime (Kate Gordon) and August & Jones (Pip Harry) were also excellent reads.

What did I you think of the final selections? Is there a favourite that you would like to share in the comments?

Friday 4 August 2023

Reading Pictures – Drawing Words: A Database of Picture Books for Older Readers

The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) now has a fabulous new database available as valuable resource for schools, communities and families. The ‘Picture Books for Older Readers’ database sits alongside the ‘Cultural Diversity’ and ‘Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander’ databases as a go-to resource for accessing quality Australian literature.

Why picture books?

As many of us know, picture books are not just for younger readers. Readers of all ages can appreciate the many layers on offer in the picture book format. In fact, in a recent SLAV webinar focusing on picture books for older readers, well-known picture book creator, Tohby Riddle, stressed the importance of seeing the picture book as a format, not a literary style designed for a particular age range. Tohby spoke of the importance of creating many layers to be interpreted differently by a variety of age groups, providing an opportunity to share the different experiences of readers.

An entry in the NCACL database

If you are anything like me and have ever had to justify the use of picture books in an upper primary or secondary classroom, I’m sure some of the following reasons, gathered from the NCACL database resources, resonate with you:

  • assist in developing multi-literacy and visual literacy
  • analyse artistic techniques and styles as well as book design and layout
  • study literary devices and intertextual references aimed at older readers
  • attract reluctant readers, EAL/D students and those with language difficulties
  • examine sensitive topics including death, war, violence and societal issues
  • provide useful tools for introducing thematic units of learning

How do you define ‘older reader’?

There can be some discrepancy between what is considered a picture book for older readers, with the definition of ‘older reader’ being interpreted differently. In our school library, which caters for Pre-Kindergarten to Year 8, we classify picture books for older readers as being Year 5 and up, housing this collection in a separate area to our picture books for all ages and using a Year 5+ spine label. Regardless of how you define the term, ‘older reader’, adults should always preview a book before using it with their students. The detailed notes accompanying each book on the database should help adults make decisions about the appropriateness and relevance of each book to each cohort of students.

Search options in the database

What to expect on the database

The Picture Books for Older Readers database showcases 251 high quality Australian picture books that can be viewed by jacket cover or in a list format. The Advanced Filter Options provides a range of search criteria to help you find the right book to suit your need. Be sure to click ‘search more’ for further search options. Of particular note is the ‘Select Subject’ list to help you narrow your search.

Once you have selected a title, there is a wealth of information about each book, including subjects covered, an annotation to get a better feel for the book and a list of accompanying teaching resources.

Search result for Paradise Sands (Penfold, 2022) with curriculum links
Note drop down links to for subjects, annotation and resources

One of the best things about this database is that it is AUSTRALIAN!  How many times have you searched for picture books on specific topics, only to discover (usually) American resources, which are not entirely relevant to the Australian context and/or are incredibly expensive to order. The NCACL are providing us with a fabulous and free (although donations are always welcome!) resource that you can be assured is relevant to our Australian context.

Access resources via the
database's introductory page

The new NCACL database also offers a wealth of resources to accompany the new database, including:

  • A guide to the database
  • A flyer to promote picture books for older readers
  • A bibliography of useful resources

The database is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in children’s literacy. Use it to recommend and promote books; link it to LibGuides for teachers and students to explore; share it with families to support reading and promote picture books in the home setting. The database is a one-stop-shop for selecting engaging, relevant Australian picture books to engage older readers.

Anna Davidson
Junior Teacher Librarian, Hutchins School

Twitter - @davidsonteach

(avid reader (mad for Middle Grade Fiction), dog lover, yogi, nature lover, tea drinker)