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

Friday, 19 August 2016

Children and Science

Recently I spent some time at the Festival of Bright Ideas 2016 in Hobart, celebrating Science Week.

Hundreds of children were there playing with robots and Lego, creating circuits with electronic toy bricks, witnessing chemical reactions, handling unusual marine mammals, identifying bugs and even learning about soil science by pH testing their own home soil.

It was a wonderful event and the kids were clearly having a ball - and learning something along the way. I wondered then which Australian children's books are scientifically or technology based but are not textbooks or information books that just quote facts and statistics - books that will engage our young people while they learn. And I came up with a few:

SmartyCat series by Jeannette Rowe

Australian Backyard Explorer by Peter Macinnis

one small island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch

The Hidden Forest by Jeannie Baker

Of course there are also magazines that make science interesting for our young people, like the CSIRO's DoubleHelix which provides interesting and fun information whilst giving kids the opportunity to experiment on their own.

Can you think of other books and magazines that have given your kids the opportunity to learn whilst they enjoy reading?

Penny Garnsworthy
Editor - Tas e-News and Freelance Writer

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Children's Literature in the Public Focus

Here in the UK, there have been several media articles recently which have drawn readers’ attentions to books for children. This is great as it gets people talking and questioning their views.

It is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter and an even greater focus on her books, but also on some of her many other achievements. Not only did she leave the world books well-loved by adults and children alike, she was a trail-blazer as a botanist, farmer and environmentalist, at a time when women were not expected to step outside the accepted societal norms. Her sesquicentenary is being celebrated across the country but especially, in the Lake District where she lived, by the National Trust which was a major beneficiary at her death in 1943. A series of stamps depicting her best loved characters will be issued. Another 50p coin will join the others in the Potter series. This time it will show Squirrel Nutkin. And there are a gold and a silver proof coins available too.


The July 22 release here of the film version of the BFG has brought attention back to Roald Dahl, not only his writing for children, but also his wartime achievements. It has also created discussion about the rights and wrongs of book-to-film adaptations, and specifically, the pros and cons of Spielberg’s version. Is there too much darkness? Is Mark Rylance’s giant the right interpretation for you? Please let us know what you think.

There has been discussion about books which children should read by the very arbitrary age of 14. A BBC list recently included Harry Potter, The BFG, The Famous Five, Wind in the Willows, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bible, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Gruffalo, The Fellowship of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland. Of course, this kind of list is compiled by adults and has the nostalgic remembrance that many have for books which they loved as children. The BookTrust’s criticism was that it focussed on ‘daunting classics’. But it also raises the issue of whether these are the best books for children in 2016. This kind of list tends to omit books published recently – most adults compiling them have stopped reading children’s literature apart from what they read to their children. For me, the titles included would depend on the reader because we know that readers are not all the same, and that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. A resistant reader needs to be tempted by the offerings whereas a voracious reader will read much more widely.


I would really struggle to restrict myself to ten books and what I include today may not be the same titles as one compiled next week. What would be the ten books you would include on such a list? Please let us know and start a discussion.

Maureen Mann
Retired Teacher Librarian and avid reader

Monday, 8 August 2016

"The Play's the Thing: Lyndon Reviews Harry Potter and the Cursed Child"

Let’s start where we left off. It’s nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts and Harry Potter is standing on the platform at King’s Cross Station, preparing to send his children to Hogwarts and consoling his terrified son that being sorted into Slytherin might not be the worst thing that could ever happen to him. And if Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can be praised for anything it’s this: that it turns the occasionally off-putting sentimentality of Rowling’s final chapter to wonderful purpose as the beginning of a new adventure in the Wizarding World. Albus Severus Potter now becomes more than just a symbol of the idealistic future of the Potter family: he is a hero in his own right, perhaps surpassing his father in our empathetic connection to him, as we recognise what it must be to live in the great Harry Potter’s shadow (something that every other children’s book has been doing for nearly a decade now). The gorgeous synchronicity of this new playscript is every bit of harrowing as the original Potter series but an inversion of it, as Harry finds himself struggling with what he feels is an ungrateful and disobedient son, and Albus struggles to make his father see that you don’t need to be locked in a cupboard under the stairs to feel like a stranger in your own family. “Just cast a spell, Dad, and change me into what you want me to be, okay?” he begs his stunned father. We were promised at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that “All was well,” but something is rotten in the Potter House.
The play spends a bit of time ticking the “Where are they now?” boxes, but contrary to the final chapter of Deathly Hallows in this version we get a much stronger sense for what has changed and what has remained the same. Highlights are discovering Hermione in the job that - in hindsight - she was born for, and Ginny’s surprisingly tender and perceptive relationship with Harry. While readers were begging for “Romione” from the beginning, finally we start to see just why Harry and Ginny are a perfect match too.
Amongst the split narrative between parents and children is a surprising number of repetitions from the original series. There’s sneaking around in libraries, wizard duels, riddles and polyjuice potions, as well as a dramatic and convoluted arrival to kick off the first day of term. For something that occurs so far into the future of the story, it’s amazing how many old favourite characters make an appearance, causing me to reassess my theory that nine-year’s time from now would likely bring us a reunion of the original films’ lead cast. There’s lots that feels familiar here, but the story is also impressively daring, featuring a few moments that actually serve to tie knots left undone from the original franchise.
But what is it like to read a Harry Potter play? Well, it’s not the same as the original series, but it’s also less complicated than you might think. Most readers will find this a much quicker read thanPhilosopher’s Stone, and will fall back into the familiar world with great ease, whatever the form. The scope of the play’s ambition in action is astonishing too; I was hoping the book would scratch the itch of desperately wanting to see it in performance, but it only made it worse as I breathlessly muttered, “How are they going to do that?!” If some of the effect Rowling’s work had on children’s literacy passes to the world of kids going to the theatre (and it appears that it will), we have something very special on our hands. The collaborative story Rowling has made with playwright and screenwriter Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany is in extraordinarily capable hands with Jack Thorne as the play’s writer, which feels increasingly true to Rowling’s world and voice as the story plays out, with a few moments that are worthy of standing with some of the best of the series.
At the heart of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the idea that our parents’ legacies follow over everything we do, casting our entire lives into dark shadows. And it’s not just Albus Severus Potter - by the end of the story there are several possibilities for who the title might refer to. In fact, it might be Jack Thorne himself, who no doubt spent more than a little time wondering how people would take his experiment of playing in Rowling’s sandbox. He needn’t have worried. For a while, The Cursed Child feels like an imposter left on the doorstep of the series we know and love - not really J. K. Rowling, not really a book, not really a Harry Potter story. But as it leaves Platform 9 and ¾ it moves slowly at first, gaining traction and intensity with every scene and page. It takes a while, but soon Hogwarts is there in front of us, after all this time, and we realise that we are coming home. Back to a world that - whatever form it takes - still wonders and delights and surprises.
And then?
Then, it’s nothing less than magic.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and blogger. You can find him at http://lyndonriggall.com

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Stop Press: CBCA Tasmanian Branch at crossroads

Attention all book lovers – CBCA Tasmanian Branch Inc. needs you!

The Children’s Book Council, Tasmanian branch, has been operating for many years. We have done great things as a branch – organizing author tours, highlighting the Book of the Year Award Shortlist and then the winners, advising on literature for families and the community and collaborating with like-minded organisations to run spectacular events such as Book an Adventure on Bruny Island and the wonderful Year of Celebrating Nan Chauncy in 2015.

Now, like many similar volunteer, not-for-profit organisations, we find ourselves facing the huge challenge of survival. The dedicated, hardworking and capable Executive of Richard Pickup as President, Nella Pickup as Secretary, Helen Rothwell as Vice-President and Patsy Jones as Treasurer need to bow out and get on with their lives. Other members of the Committee, who have given more than 30 years to CBCA Tas. feel the same way. Together, the current Executive members have given over 150 years of service to CBCA!

So, we need you as CBCA Tas. members and supporters to think hard about whether you, or your colleagues or friends, might step up and offer to form the new Executive at the AGM scheduled for 19 November, 2016.

If we are unable to form an incoming Executive in November, CBCA Tasmania will not be able to meet its obligations under the Incorporations Act and the branch will have to be disbanded. We certainly hope that does not come to pass, but branch dissolution is a very real possibility.

To facilitate a discussion about the survival of the Branch, we will hold a Special General Meeting on Saturday 22 October.

Both the AGM and Special General Meeting will be held in Hobart but committee members will look at alternative ways to gather members’ opinions if there is sufficient interest in the north of the state.

What will you lose if CBCA Tasmanian Branch ceases to exist?
  • CBCA is a volunteer-run organisation of teachers, teacher librarians, librarians, authors, illustrators and designers, booksellers, parents and community members advocating for and promoting quality children’s literature.  The organisation is responsible for the prestigious Children’s Book of the Year Awards (BOTYA) which honour the best Australian books for children aged 0-18. Without a state branch, you lose the option of being directly involved with BOTYA developments.
  • Current CBCA Tasmanian Branch members can apply to be a judge for the Children’s Book of the Year awards.
  • The Readers’ Cup which has operated in the north and south of the state, engaging young readers in enthusiastic engagement with quality literature, will no longer be organized by CBCA.
  • Our newsletter which provides regular information on the latest children’s literature, Australian as well as overseas, will cease.
  • Our literary blog focused on children’s literature, published on a weekly basis, will no longer exist.
  • The opportunity to network with authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents and other people interested in children’s literature will be minimised.
  • The ability to purchase discounted merchandise to support the celebration of Book Week will disappear.
  • The opportunity through the CBCA Tas. Board representative to influence directions at the national level will no longer be available.

What do we have to do to remain legal?
  • Fill those four positions.
  • Hold quarterly meetings of the Executive; these can be by teleconference.
  • Manage the finances with due probity and send copies of the annual financial report to Consumer Affairs, Department of Justice.

What would you need to do in one of these positions?
A brief explanation of the roles is attached.  It needs to be downloaded to be viewed.

To decide how we can legally and constitutionally move forward, we need an expression of interest from members willing to take on the crucial Executive positions. Current executive members are prepared to Mentor incoming Executives into their new roles.
So, what can you do at this crisis point?
  • If you're a member, and interested in volunteering, please get in touch.
  • If you know someone who might be interested in volunteering, share this post with them.
  • If you’re not a member but interested? [see http://www.cbcatas.org/membership/ ]
  • PLEASE attend the Special General Meeting on Saturday 22 October (details to be announced) to be involved in discussions about the future of the CBCA Tasmanian Branch (or show your interest by contacting info@cbcatas.org if you cannot attend). 

Current CBCA Executive members continue to ‘toil in the vineyard’ of promoting quality literature for young people. On 7 & 11 September this year, in conjunction with the Tasmanian Writers Centre, and in collaboration with members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, we will present two forums titled The Hidden Stories. These will be significant cultural events that celebrate Aboriginal storytelling on this island state and acknowledge the importance of National Indigenous Literacy Day in Tasmania. We have an opportunity for the Hidden Stories events to move to the north of the state in 2017 and NW in 2018, with sponsorship – if CBCA exists, has an Executive and members willing to assist. It would be immensely sad if CBCA has to pull out of these exciting initiatives.
We are genuinely ‘at a crossroads’ – will CBCA Tas. revitalise, thrive and continue to make its mark? Or will it ‘fold its tent and silently steal away? It’s up to you!

If you cannot access the document identifying the role responsibilities and duties of the executive, or want to comment or ask questions, please contact us info@cbcatas.org  and one of the Executive will contact you.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

CBCA/TWC The Hidden Stories Forums

Jenni Connor reports on the forthcoming The Hidden Stories Forums - a significant cultural event that supports Indigenous Literacy Day in Tasmania.

We all have a responsibility to ensure that the ‘stories that are told’ are true and culturally respectful.

CBCA Tasmania has initiated two forums titled ‘The Hidden Stories’ to be held on September 7th and 11th at Moonah Arts Centre. The forums arose because of a concern that the long history of Tasmanian Aboriginal people’s occupation of this island and their continuing contribution to Tasmanian life and culture is not widely understood or appreciated.

For instance, a friend who grew up in Tasmania, commented recently that ‘there are no Tasmanian Aboriginal people’. This is the mythology that has become embedded in the consciousness of the broad Tasmanian community over the past 200 years.

Maggie Walter, a descendant of the Pairrebeenne people of North East Tasmania and Professor of Sociology at UTAS encountered this ‘public unconsciousness’ when she visited her people’s country and heard: ‘I don’t think there were any Aboriginal people here’ – this despite the ‘Bay of Fires’ being named because of the multitude of camp fires being observed by passing European explorers.

Maggie penned a powerful piece for Talking Point in the Mercury, 5 January, 2015, titled ‘Listen to the Stories in the Land’.

Dr Margaret Bromley, from ACT, who wrote a thesis titled Lost and Invisible: Australian Children’s Literature 1950-2001, offered to speak about the silences, confusions and mis-representations of Aboriginality in the field of literature for children and young people. Margaret’s research seemed to connect with Maggie’s personal experience.

Then, Greg Lehman, highly respected academic and Indigenous researcher wrote a Mercury article titled ‘Oath Signed in Oil on Canvas’ (2015, August 20) about the ‘historic deal underpinning a push for constitutional recognition of Tasmanian Aboriginal people’. Greg has a passion for ‘inducting young Tasmanians into the true story of our heritage’ – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – in this beautiful island state.

I began to think: ‘This is bigger than children’s literature; it’s about the public conversation in Tasmania that shapes who we are, and who we want to be as a civic community.
So, CBCA Tas. approached the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre (TWC) inviting them to collaborate on forums to inspire a public conversation about these matters of social significance for the state, potentially providing a platform for ongoing discussions that will lead to greater understanding and contribute to reconciliation.

Chris Gallagher, Director at TWC has enthusiastically supported this idea and the events.
The first forum, from 6-8.30 pm on 7 September, Indigenous Literacy Day will ‘open the conversation’ with Auntie Vicky Green sharing stories from Flinders Island, Greg Lehman giving an inspiring key note, Jim Everett showing his film with Troy Melville, Blood of Life and Maggie and Margaret in conversation about their perspectives. Madelena Andersen-Ward will sing us in and out of the event.

The second forum, from 1-5pm on Sunday 11 September will celebrate Aboriginal storytelling in film, poetry, song, dance and literature.

Details about the programs and how to book will be up on CBCA and TWC web sites soon so keep an eye on the events section of each organisation. We hope many, many people will join in this exciting cultural experience!

Jenni Connor
Writing & Education Consultant

Sunday, 17 July 2016

My Favourite Childhood Books

It is always a treat to read of the books that sparked a love of reading and stories in others as it brings personal favourites to mind. Johanna’s post this week is sure to ring a bell with some of our readers.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
~ Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

As I read these words again, after so many times, I still find that familiar lump in my throat forming; the tiny pricks of tears welling at the side of my eyes. Even as an adult I still find myself profoundly affected by the words contained within the magical pages of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I can’t tell you how old I was when I first read this book, but I do remember it sat in my bookcase for many years before I reached up to the shelf where it sat and took it down. However, once I read The Velveteen Rabbit it was a book I returned to many times. These words comforted me when things in my world were not going to plan; I felt they spoke directly to me.

Like the boy in the book I too had toys that had been so loved they seemed real (to me). I often wondered if they waited until I was asleep and then jumped up and played together, freezing mid activity if I ever awoke. With a grandmother who was a librarian, it made sense that I loved books so much, and I’ve tried to pass this love on to my two sons.

I bought my youngest - who is seven - his own copy of The Velveteen Rabbit, telling him it has always been one of my favourite books. The first time he read it he found himself dealing with a mix of emotions spanning sad to happy, and he questioned why I would buy him a book that made him sad. I explained that I thought he would enjoy it - even though there was sadness in the story - and that life is both happy and sad. He has dipped into it again several times since, so I can see he has come to appreciate the feelings the book evokes.

The Velveteen Rabbit is one of many books that confirmed my love of the written word in childhood. This love affair began with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle when I was a baby; continued with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis; and then expanded to Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr as I approached my teenage years; plus myriad fairytales, Roald Dahl stories and legends about Greek gods and goddesses.

Today reading is still a treasured escape, and I am ever grateful to my mother and grandmother for encouraging me to lose myself in books right from an early age.

Which books did you love as a child?

Johanna Baker-Dowdell

Freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Real guys living real lives

Impossible to put down YA reads reveal themselves layer by layer.
Two recent reads explore male emotions and Australian culture in engaging realistic novels. Scot Gardner creates an awful situation and fills it with humour, raw male emotion, friendship and respect.  David Metzenthen describes the horrific aftermath of war in a compelling and heartbreaking story of a Vietnam Vet’s PTSD.
Scot Gardner Way We Roll Allen & Unwin
Will and Julian (Jules) meet at work – a suburban shopping centre carpark; they are employed on a trolley crew. Will, well-mannered and obviously from a wealthy background, is homeless and hiding, living under a bowling alley. Jules is a “Westie” and has spent time in juvie.  He comes from a loving yet unconventional home.  While the mystery of why Will is in hiding drives the novel’s pace, Will’s and Jules’ friendship and loyalty is the highlight of the book. The Way We Roll is filled with hope, brashness and packs an emotional punch.  (Goat lovers miss out – the goat on the cover appears for two pages only.)
David Metzenthen Dreaming the Enemy Allen & Unwin
Johnny Shoebridge’s (Shoey) number was drawn from a barrel by a Test cricketer on TV.  “It was unbelievable that he could be asked to join the army, no questions asked, or answered.” (I read this during Brexit – I wonder if the Australians who voted for conscription for the Vietnam War regretted their decision as much.)

Johnny may have left the actual battle field behind but his thoughts and dreams are populated by his friends Lex and Barry and the enemy – particularly one Johnny has named Khan. Johnny goes bush – to grieve for his mates and, also, to accept that the ‘enemies’ were people defending their country. Johnny imagines Khan’s life during and after the war. The relationship Johnny develops with Khan is poignant and insightful.  This is a tough, sometimes grim and often slow read but highly recommended.
August 18th will be the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan.
Nella Pickup reader

Sunday, 3 July 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

This week Karen looks at how animal stories can influence you in your adult life.

If I had to name my favourite book, Richard Adams’ Watership Down would have to be one of the top contenders for the title. Aside from the pure joy of reading Adams’ beautifully crafted words, a big part of the book’s appeal is the characters. From Hazel’s quietly confident leadership, Bigwig’s bravado, to Kehaar their raucous seagull friend and ally, these animals were relatable and memorable. More than once, when I’ve required courage in my life, an image of Bigwig springs unbidden to mind. Anthropomorphism is the assigning of human qualities and language to animals – and Watership Down is just one example among many of this occurring in children’s literature.

If you think of your own experience of enjoying books in childhood, it’s a pretty safe bet there was an animal story that has stuck with you and influenced who you are as an adult. Maybe your industriousness sprang from an appreciation of The Little Red Hen. Maybe The Three Little Pigs influenced the way you look for quality and durability in your shopping habits. Maybe the characters of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, or Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Gahoole, have impacted your political beliefs. Or perhaps Mem Fox’s Koala Lou taught you that being successful doesn’t mean you always have to win.

The use of animals in stories for both adults and children goes back as far as the earliest stories on record. They helped us make sense of the world around us in ancient times and they help children make sense of their world still. Books that use animals as people can help children come to terms with difficult or painful concepts. Through these stories we learn how to deal with difficult people and situations.  Black Beauty was the first book that was written entirely from the animal’s point of view and taught us valuable lessons about empathy, loyalty and loss.

Which all serves to highlight the tremendous power of books in childhood, and the imperative that all children get to experience quality literature. Imagine a childhood without Aesop’s fables, Charlotte’s Web, Wind in the Willows or Winnie the Pooh. Not only would we have missed the valuable life lessons depicted, but also the fabulous introduction to humour, wonder and fantasy that is such a key part of becoming a Booklover.

Karen MacPherson

CBCA Picture Book of the Year Judge 2017