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

Sunday, 25 September 2016

A book’s purpose in the classroom – it’s unlimited!

Books - they form the central part of my teaching practice. I use them to model reading strategies during our daily read aloud session in class: inference, visualisation, questioning, prediction, activating prior knowledge, connections (self, text and world). I use books to introduce different genres as well as grab the opportunity to read classics, such as: The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, The Little Prince and Charlotte’s Web.

Our small group reading sessions enable students of similar reading levels to practice their pace, fluency and expression as they give constructive feedback to their peers. Books connect me to my non-independent readers through working with them in small groups to increase their confidence in hearing their voices as they read aloud.

I create a library of topical books to support our inquiry project unit, whether it is a science, history or geography topic. We have yearly class subscriptions to the excellent CSIRO magazine, ‘Double Helix’ and ‘Historicool’. These magazines always provide interesting topics for conversation during our recess and lunch eating times.

But, using books to inspire students to write through the visual use of writing seeds is one of my favourite ways to use books. These are two of my favourite picture books to inspire creativity.

‘If’ by Sarah Perry, is a surreal book of watercolours where fish morph into leaves, butterflies form clothes, dogs are mountains, caterpillars are toothpaste and whales live in outer space. It takes a matter of seconds before students are coming up with their own ‘if’s that are then used to brainstorm the first draft of a story. Students’ pictures also serve to be writing seeds for other students.

‘Journey’ by Aaron Becker, whose website describes this best as: ‘The adventures of a young girl who escapes the boredom of home to find a magical realm in which she can control her own destiny with her imagination.’ The book has no text, enabling readers to interpret each page without being led. Some pages are of a single image while others have several images conveying action. I let students choose a page to use as a writing seed and also copy pages for students to work in pairs to write their own text. This encourages them to think about the action before and after the illustration.

Helen Rothwell is a Year 6 teacher and the Tasmanian judge for the Eve Pownall category in the 2017/18 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

We all have the stories inside

If we all have the stories inside – what happens to them for those of us who never let them out?

There’s an old saying that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to come out. If that is true, then the literature we encounter as a child must surely be deeply influential in the way we come to see ourselves as ‘authors’. I always love reading articles where authors speak of their favourite children’s books. I recall an article where Neil Gaiman spoke of his love of reading and re-reading the Narnia books and Wind in the Willows. Wendy Grieb says that Where the Wild Things Are has influenced “…every book idea that I have ever had.” http://mightymediapress.com/blog/feature-post-the-childrens-books-that-influence-our-authors-and-illustrators  But if we all have the stories inside – what happens to them for those of us who never let them out?

So many children (and adults) question the value of their stories and lack confidence in their ability to communicate them. It was a great pleasure to spend Book Week 2016 working with students at Glenorchy Primary School. We spent time exploring picture books – old favourites and new – working out how the author had constructed their stories, developed their characters and their settings. The students were then asked to produce their own stories in any medium they chose. And what fantastic stories emerged! Imaginations were unleashed and an incredible array of genres were created. One student produced a deeply moving piece of poetry that I now have hanging in my office. When I told him how special it was he responded that he hadn’t known anyone would want to hear that story.

As lovers of children’s literature, we all share the responsibility of ensuring children are exposed to stories in all their forms: stories that reflect a child’s reality, stories that open whole new worlds to them, stories to inspire, and stories to make them think. But more than that, I also think we owe it to children and the readers of the future to encourage those stories to come out. How many great works of literature have never escaped the mind of their creators because they lacked the confidence to tell their story or thought no one wanted to hear it? I would love to think some of the students we worked with in Book Week have had a little seed planted in their mind and that they may go on to be the next Mem Fox, Marcus Zusak or Emily Rodda.


Karen Macpherson is one of the current CBCA Picture Book judges and is an Executive Director of Outhouse Legends, a not-for-profit project working with Tasmanian schools to build literacy skills and confidence in students. She can be contacted through the Outhouse Legends Facebook page.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Mr Huff - a treasure for all ages

A few busy weeks ago Mr Huff, by Anna Walker, was announced as this year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year.  It is certainly a deserving winner of this prestigious award, but it is also so much more than this award implies.

I first came across Mr Huff last year when it arrived in my hands, freshly published. I already had a soft spot for Anna’s beautiful illustrations and gentle stories, but this felt different to her other beautiful, often whimsical creations.  This was a picture book that dealt with personal emotions on a level that is rarely seen in books for this age group.

I was delighted but not at all surprised to see it short-listed for this year’s awards.  That said, I was a little unsure of how my Kinder students would receive it, and thought I would need to do quite a bit of talking to draw out the meaning across my other early childhood classes.  What a revelation it was to read this aloud to these young students.

Not only did they hit the nail on head when asked what they thought the main message of the story was; “I think it’s about finding the sunshine in your life, Mrs Marston,” but they also embraced the story and what it meant to them personally.  A grade 2 student quietly approached me during our Book of the Year voting session to explain that Mr Huff was her favourite book because when she got home the day I read it to her class, her mum told her that her uncle had passed away and Mr Huff had helped her to “not feel so sad.”  Wow!  Tears in my eyes! That moment will stay with me for a very long time!

Last week I read this amazing book to my Grade 3-6 classes, and shared Anna’s blog on creating Mr Huff.  Their responses were equally remarkable.  To have a story that deals with emotional issues in such a powerful yet relatable manner, across the full range of Primary School ages is just phenomenal.  My older students were able to see that Bill gradually took control of his own emotional state, without relying on anyone else to buoy him back up.  The conversations that came from this were inspiring and the sharing that went on about what each child does to put themselves back on track emotionally was so open and thoughtful.
I can see Mr Huff being just as valuable in a High School setting, and the recent CBCA Book of the Year Award provides a great reason to share it now.  I am sure the dialogue it opens up for your students will be as powerful and important as that which I have witnessed at my school.
If you haven’t yet read Mr Huff, please do.  It certainly is book that is a treasure for all ages. And if you know of other Australian children's books that deal with emotional issues why not share them with us?


Jessica Marston
K-6 Teacher-Librarian at Hagley Farm School, and parent
Twitter: @marston_jessica

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Children's Book Week 2016

As I write this, Children’s Book Week comes to an end for another year. How did you celebrate? All of us would like to be able to share your creative successes. The theme for this year, Australia! Story Country, was really open-ended with many opportunities for creative interpretations. For me, Shaun Tan’s artwork reflects one aspect of our country: that of the dark red soils which can be found in many places.

Congratulations to all the authors and illustrators whose books were chosen as Winners and Honour books in the Book of the Year Awards. Living overseas, as I do at the moment, means that I haven’t seen many of the titles in the 2016 CBCA Notables Books lists. This list of course includes the titles which were chosen as the best for the year. What do you think of the top books? Do you agree with the judges? If not, what do you think should have been included? Which book should have been omitted in order to have your title included?
We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that, according to the judging panel, the books chosen were regarded as the best of all the submissions. Another group of people may have chosen differently. That is one of the strengths of the CBCA system: that the judges read all the books, and don’t rely on submissions from others. It’s a challenging and rewarding two-year commitment.
I enjoy The Children’s Book Council of Australia Facebook page. If you are a Facebook user but haven’t already liked this page, then it’s worth doing so. You’ll hear about all sorts of CBCA news: books, events and reviews. Amongst other things, it recently highlighted past Children’s Book Week promotional posters: a lovely trip down memory lane. How many themes and artists do you remember?

It would be great to hear from you about your Children’s Book Week memories and achievements.

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.