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

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

May Gibbs

Thank you Johanna for this delightful walk down memory lane beneath the gumtrees and their inhabitants.

It is less than 800m to walk my sons to their primary school, but at this time of year that walk becomes extra noisy as we wander underneath the majestic flowering eucalypts and the frenzied activity of bees in their colourful blooms.

The vibrant colours of deep red, orange, pink and apricot appeal to my love of colour, but there is another reason I love seeing these trees bloom: I know Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and their friends, the Gum Blossom Babies, live within. In Gibbs’ words from Gum-Nut Babies: “On all the big Gumtrees there are Gum-Nut Babies. Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything”.

Passing gumnut babies down through generations
May Gibb’s stories about the cherubic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and their fellow Gum-Nut Babies were firm favourites of mine from an early age. My librarian grandmother had passed her love for the stories to her daughter, my mum, who then shared them with me. Years later, when I was an adult, the three of us visited Nutcote and spent a delightful afternoon browsing Gibbs’ home on the northern side of Sydney Harbour.

Gibbs’ stories about the gumnut foster brothers who wanted to see a human, Mr Lizard, Mrs Kookaburra, Little Ragged Blossom, Bush Babies, Little Obelia and Lilly Pilly filled my young mind with incredible tales abut the bush I was so familiar with as a child.

To this day I still find peace when I smell the eucalyptus scent, hear kookaburras and cicadas and feel the crunch of dry gum leaves underfoot as I walk through Cataract Gorge. Gibbs’ books, while full of fantastic stories, also feature her beautiful illustrations, which also fostered my love of the Australian bush.

A creator from the beginning
Gibbs was an established artist from an early age, saying she could “draw before I could walk”. She won many awards for her drawings and worked as an illustrator for The Western Mail before trying her creative hand at writing.

The iconic image of the gumnut babies peeking out from gum leaves first appearing in Gibbs’ illustration for Ethel Turner’s serial The Magic Button, which was published in the Sydney Mail. The Mail later commissioned Gibbs to create 25 more bush-themed covers. Bookmarks, calendars and postcards with these familiar eucalyptus darlings followed, and many were sent in care packages to soldiers fighting in World War I.

Inspired by the popularity of her illustrations, Gibbs wrote stories to fit her images and introduced the Australian public to the characters that are now firmly entrenched in our cultural tradition. And it is this folklore that I draw on when I talk to my boys about the cute baby-like creatures who inhabit the trees that line the streets in which we live.

Johanna Baker-Dowdell
Freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Digital Multisensory Stories – for want of a better name

This week, Jennie shares a collection of web-published visual stories that she has gathered over the past year – sit back, relax, view, listen and engage - in some multisensory reading.

As an avid fan of pop-up literature The Happy Duck is a favourite.

If you search the web for “digital stories” you will get an amazing number of results, and most will be for creating your own digital story. There are so many tools out there that support our creative talents, tap into our burgeoning photo libraries and reflect current, (dare I say narcissistic!) trends to share our personal lives. However, such a search will provide minimal results on stories told visually and shared on the web. What do you call them? Multi sensory books doesn’t work – think of ‘scratch and sniff’ and ‘touchy feely’ and you will realise why. But for want of a better name the following list reflects some examples of what I consider to be digital multisensory stories.

The Boat is an excellent example that may make you feel sea sick!

Stories that are told digitally (not the typical ebook and audio book) but are also interactive in some way – that engage the reader in more ways than just ‘reading or listening to the words’ – to embrace visual and auditory senses as well. Such stories are out there and in increasing numbers. Like all literature, they range in quality, purpose, audience and format. You may find:
  • Self-reflective personal stories
  • Documentary coverage
  • Personal recounts of current and historic events
  • Retellings of published works
    • And re-representations of those works that harness the technology
  • 3D virtual reality worlds to explore
  • Interactive stores to engage with
  • Games where the viewer adopts a persona and manipulates the story through their participation
  • Graphic novels

… the list will continue to grow as technology continues to advance.

ABC3D pop-up book
Catnap poetry reading and digital storytelling

For the story lover, it is worth searching out wondrous literary adventures on the web. However, for the busy person with little time to search for digital stories, or multisensory stories or ….???? why not visit my compilation on JB on NotJust Books: @WWW.
Fantastical flying books!
A note of caution: These are not sorted by genre or age group but by curriculum topic as the compilation was developed for a curriculum need. The range of stories suit a range of ages – don’t let the little ones loose without some supervision or previewing.

Engage your senses and enjoy.
Wilderquest adventure game

I invite you to share another ‘digital multisensory story’ or come up with an alternative term if you are linguistically inclined.

Jennie Bales
Editor, Reader, Viewer and Educator

Saturday, 28 January 2017

In Search of my Favourite Book

An introspective post from Patsy Jones as she reflects on a dearth of books in childhood and tipping points for change with the entrance of the works of Hesba Fay Brinsmead leading to a working life surrounded by books.

Now that I have made it to the second half of my seventies, I find I spend quite a bit of time mulling over various past aspects of my life – no doubt this is not unique to me!

An invitation to a 50th birthday party, with the suggestion that a suitable gift would be my favourite book, has focused such reminiscence on books – what is my favourite book? Where do I start?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Queensland in the 1940s, attending a one-teacher school which was very Spartan in comparison to modern schools. No library of course (but the Queensland Education Department did make the effort of periodically sending boxes of cheaply-produced books out to be routed from one school to the next). And no library in the local town either.

So my reading was limited to what I could find on the shelves at home, to gifts from and loans from family and friends. And the expensive school in Brisbane to which I was sent at thirteen didn’t provide library services to students in the school itself. But at least the boarding-house attached to the school (of course, as a country kid, I was a boarder) did have two or three shelves of a very eclectic collection of books in one of the common-rooms – I think they were either donations or bought from secondhand bookshops!  Some very strange titles and subjects there as well….

And when I started work as a teacher in various Queensland primary schools the situation regarding access to books was little better.

It was not till 1964 when I was married, we moved to Melbourne, and I was working at Footscray High School, that I came into contact with a REAL LIBRARIAN! And this changed my life in many ways.

Now to the present day - over the last month or so I have been putting together a bibliography of material on Lake Pedder, for the new website. This has occasioned many sessions of retrospection as the time of the lake’s inundation in the early 1970s was an important time for me personally.

Two titles in this bibliography jolted my memory – the two books Hesba Fay Brinsmead (nee Hungerford) wrote about Lake Pedder. One is what we would call Young Adult fiction these days – Echo in the Wilderness - and the other has been accepted as non-fiction: I will not say the day is done.

Echo was published in 1972 by Oxford University Press, illustrated by Graham Humphreys, with ‘A tribute to Nan Chauncy’ opposite the verso. Pedder doesn’t get a mention by name at all, the lake in the story being known as Tara, but the relationship is clear. The jacket illustration, of a small plane landed on a sandy beach with mountains in the background, is a reminder of all the photos of just such a scene published at the time, and is supported by a map of Tasmania with added fictitious names. It is still, after nearly forty-five years, very readable, though I wonder how many of its readers now would make the connection with Lake Pedder.

I will not say the day is done is a different kettle of fish entirely. Published by a small independent publisher in New South Wales in 1983, it has an introduction by Geoff Mosley, a poem by Clive Sansom, and a foreword by Bob Brown, plus several black-and-white photos to give it credibility. But the text, as well as being poorly proofed, has an unusually dramatic style for a non-fiction publication – the quotation below will show you what I mean….

Doctor Dick Jones ….. was young, with a trained mind, and without fear. In himself, he had a trick of changing from a passive state to quick and vivid animation. It may have been a legacy of Celtic ancestry. There was something of the green-eyed satyr in him…

As well as Hesba’s publications on Lake Pedder, there are several more fiction texts for the teenage reader – her first (and best, in my opinion) was Pastures of the Blue Crane, published in 1964, in which issues such as racism and sexism are explored through a teenaged cast of characters. This won the Children’s Book of the Year Award in 1965 (this is where this blog completes its circle) and was the subject of enthusiastic praise in the Footscray High School staff room over several days. Librarian Susan ensured that several of us read it…. And of course I was one.

And how did it change my life? 

I’d never heard of the Children’s Book Council of Australia before (yes, I know my education was sadly lacking) but have since remained a strong supporter of the organisation.

When we moved to Tasmania and I found teaching jobs hard to get, I enrolled in the brand-new Diploma of Librarianship at the University of Tasmania and ended up, after some time, as the Senior Librarian for Children’s Services in the State Library here.

And I’m never at a loss for something interesting to read!

But I still don’t know what is my favourite book…..Do you? Will you share it?

Patsy Jones
Retired librarian and teacher

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Seriously Good Series Books

Jessica Marston discusses the joys of holiday reading with her children, aged 8 and 11, relating the books mentioned to the context of other titles in a series, and connecting clearly to other titles written and illustrated by the same creators.
In our house at the moment we are relishing the extra time that the Summer holidays have given us, especially when that means more time to spend reading together at bedtime. Some of the books my children, aged 8 and 11, received as Christmas gifts fall into the category of seriously good series books and it is those that I’m going to talk about today.
Let me start with Fizz the Police Dog Adventure series, written by Lesley Gibbes and illustrated by Stephen Michael King.  You may remember their previous collaboration, Scary Night, which was an Honour book in the 2015 CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Awards.
This delightful four part series is written for the newly independent reader, but certainly contains enough interest, action and humour to also keep older and more confident readers engrossed.
In book one, Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts, our main character Fizz, a Bolognese (cute, fluffy ball of white), is not your average Police Dog breed.  From members of his own family to the other dogs trying out for the Police Dog Academy, Fizz is faced with many detractors along the way to achieving his dream of Police Dog status.  My 8 year old son and I found that his determination, quick thinking and ability to solve mysteries helped to make him an admirable and loveable character. From the illustrated character pages at the beginning of each book, to the short and snappy chapters, and the satisfying endings these books are 68 pages of fun and adventure that will appeal to a wide range of primary school children, and their parents. 
Another series title that my 11 year old daughter and I are enjoying immensely is book two in the Stella Montgomery Intrigue series, Wormwood Mire, written by another CBCA awarded writer, Judith Rossell.  This follow up to 2015 Honour Book for Younger Readers, Withering-by-Sea, is just as engaging as its predecessor.  We are taken along for a wild and unpredictable adventure as Stella is sent off by her disapproving Aunts to Wormwood Mire to be schooled by a governess, along with Strideforth and Hortense, Stella’s cousins whom she has not met until this time.  Needless to say the prim and proper education the Aunts imagined is far from the reality that Stella encounters upon her arrival at the derelict mansion.
We love that Judith’s beautiful illustrations share the same colour palette as the text, blue in book one and green in book two, adding to the exquisite presentation of these timeless hardcover novels, complete with ribbon bookmark.
My daughter and I have found these well labelled as an “Intrigue”; they certainly are, with both books keeping you guessing and on many occasions, on the edge of your seat.  They are definitely hard to put down and I highly recommend them.
One of the things I really love about these two series is that each title can be read as a stand-alone book, or enjoyed for its place in the series.  Both leave us wanting more instalments, though I’m not sure that this is the plan for Fizz.
I asked my children which other series books they would recommend.  My daughter lives for all things Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling) so of course that is number one on her list, but she also includes Ruby Redfort (Lauren Child) and the Three Doors Trilogy (Emily Rodda).  My son lists his favourites as Weir Do (Ahn Do), The Bad Guys (Aaron Blabey) and Pixel Raiders (Bajo and Hex, hosts of the ABC’s Good Game SP show).
Which seriously good series books would you recommend?
Jessica Marston
Teacher-Librarian, Hagley Farm School (K-6)




Saturday, 14 January 2017

What will you pick?

Maureen takes a great idea, InkyBINGO, and provides inspiration to help you adapt it to your own reading needs.
Have you liked the CBCA Tasmanian FB page? If not, you won’t have seen a recent post shared from Inside a Dog, the State Library of Victoria’s YA page. It was called InkyBINGO:  a way to help people choose something fantastic to read. It may be outside one’s comfort zone, but a great way to choose new books over the holidays.
It got me thinking, which of course was the whole point. What would I choose for each of the sections? Which of the options would I change? So, my thanks to Inside a Dog and because I read more than just Young Adult, I want to include something for picture books and Younger Readers. But also my apologies for manipulating their idea.
However, rather than telling you what I would remove, here’s my list of topics I would consider including. What topics and their titles would you keep and what would you want to change? What would you choose for each of the options?
  • The best picture book of 2016
  • My favourite illustrator
  • Great for me, but not all reviews agreed
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • New (to me) author
  • Information book spectacular
  • Suggestion from someone else
  •  A book which references new areas: music, art or other authors
  • e-book
  • Humour
Which of the covers I have shown here fit which section? Have fun exploring your own and let us know what you would change or add as well as what you would choose for any section.
Happy reading!
Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Reading wish list for 2017

Do you have a 2017 reading wish list? Penny is starting hers and already facing dilemmas in making her first choices. So many good books to select from!

Here we are at the beginning of another year. The various festive celebrations have come and gone and life for most of us, is slowly returning to normal.

Like many of you I have plans and projects in mind for 2017, and I intend to find more time to read in 2017. Fortunately, one of my Christmas gifts was a Petrarch's Voucher so I picked up a copy of  their Summer Reading Guide and trawled through it with great interest, thrilled to discover that no less than seven pages are devoted to books for young people!

So, what to choose?

Well, one definite is The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest van der Kwast & Laura Vroomen which is set in Italy and is a 'dazzling novel about an Italian ice-cream dynasty, tradition, ambition, and the sensation of lemon sorbet melting on your tongue.'  But since my voucher will only cover the cost of two books, I now have a dilemma.

I love crime thrillers, so do I choose Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz or The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly? But I also love sci-fi, so young adult titles Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff and The Diabolic by S J Kincaid also hold great appeal. I read a lot of non-fiction too and Evolution: A Visual Record by Robert Clark is also a contender; as is the brilliant Wonderlands: The Illustration Art of Robert Ingpen.

Imagine having all these books to choose from. May we all have such dilemmas in 2017!

Penny Garnsworthy
Freelance writer

Editor’s note:
If you have read any of these, why not give Penny some advice – or share a “must read” title on your wish list.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Tassie Books for Christmas

Join Lyndon as he celebrates a wonderful source of Tasmanian fiction and a means to support local talent.

We’re one week out from Christmas, and if you’re anything like me you still have a couple of gifts to get. You forgot someone, or what you were searching for was sold out, or - worst of all - you are suffering from a terrible case of the I don’t knows.

In that instance, when crunch time arrives and browsing shops in our spacious island state suddenly feels like being trapped on a crowded train somewhere on the mainland, the Celebrate Tasmanian Books and Writing Facebook group, now known as Tassie Books This Christmas, might be a lifesaver!

Nina Matthews (2012) Flickr CC
Tassie Books This Christmas highlights the great work of writers established and emerging all around the state. What more thoughtful present than something local, that will mean an enormous amount to the recipient as they read about their home (or your home!) and will also mean an awful lot to local writers who so desperately need our support to keep doing their wonderful work? In most cases within the group you can contact and purchase from writers directly, who are happy to personally send their work to you, and often even offer an inscription or signature to go with it. There are picture books, children’s novels, non-fiction, adult fiction, coffee-table books and even anthologies. Without spinning the commercial too hard here, it really does feel like there is something for everyone being written in this place.

So if things are desperate, I recommend joining the group and taking a look. And if you’re all done with your shopping, perhaps consider joining the group anyway! After all, summer reading is just around the corner…

And all that remains is for me to say that I hope you have a splendid transition into the New Year, full of long, well-lit nights of reading.

Merry Christmas!

Lyndon Riggall
Author. @lyndonriggall
Editor's note: Seasons greetings to all our readers. We trust that the new year brings a plethora of books and favourite reads to help brighten your world.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Under my Christmas Tree

Nella provides some great titles that she bought for Christmas gifts and they should inspire, amuse and enthral kids of all ages. Some of these may not end up as gifts for others but will sit under her tree and then slip onto her bookshelf!

For younger readers
The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland, Scholastic. 
Popcorn is the friendliest chicken at Fiddlestick’s Farm, until she finds a Fabulous Friend Machine (mobile phone) in the barn.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham, Walker Books.
As Francie and Mum drive home in the rain, Francie seeks inspiration for the name of her new baby sister.

Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon, Penguin.
George Laurent, the cap wearing duck/baker is far too busy to go anywhere with his friends. Or maybe it’s because he can’t fly. With illustrations reminiscent of Herman and Rosie, have a sneak at all the details, courtesy of the the author.
For readers 9+

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller, Text.

Elizabeth and her father are moving to his childhood home after her mother leaves them for a more ‘adventure-filled’ life. Zenobia, Elizabeth’s 'not-an-imaginary best friend', goes with them. Then Elizabeth stumbles on a mystery. 

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee Piccadilly Press. 
Set in Victoria London. Annabel Grey has been brought up as a proper young lady but when she is sent to live with her aunts, she discovers she’s magical.  Aided by Kitty, a street urchin, she struggles against a villain who plans to take over the world with dark magic.

The Smuggler's Curse by Norman Jorgensen, Fremantle Press.
When his mother “sells” him to the infamous Captain Bowen of the Black Dragon, Red Read’s life becomes an adventure filled with smugglers, pirates, and dastardly and murderous Dutch imperialists.  Thrilling though maybe not for the squeamish.  

Young Adults

The Bone Sparrow Zana Fraillon, Lothian.
This one has been out a while and made awards list in the UK. Subhi was born in an Australian immigration detention centre after his mother and sister fled their home country. Life behind the fence is tough and violent. One night when he can’t sleep and is wandering the camp, Subhi comes across a young girl – she has shoes, a backpack, a torch – she is from Outside.

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Allen & Unwin.Second in the Illuminae Files. Continues the struggles of Hannah (the Captain's daughter) and Nik (criminal family) on board a space station. Sci-fi at its best. Watch the video for an intro to Book 1: Illuminae.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, Pan Macmillan.
After moving away and losing touch with her friends, Rachel Sweetie returns to town. She is working at Howling Books, grieving for her brother Cal, and trying not to be in love with Henry Jones.

For thriller loving adults

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta, Viking.
Bish Ortley, a suspended policeman, finds himself the British liaison in the aftermath of a bomb attack on a bus full of students including his daughter. And there’s a link to a notorious terrorist attack of the past.

For other gift ideas, try the CBCA eStore for beautiful cards by Feya Blackwoodor support your local Tasmania authors with ideas for Christmas at Tassie books.

Nella Pickup