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

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Getting young people reading

I recently read an article in the Telegraph about Robert Muchamore’s visit to a Youth Offenders Institution (at Werrington in Staffordshire, UK). His Cherub series has become a hit with many of the inmates who have found these books give them a way of escaping from the realities of their current life, while reading a fast-paced narrative which has many themes which they can relate to.

Muchamore’s novels contain content (violence, sex and drugs) which parents may not like their children reading, but it is this gritty contemporary element which attracts the readers in the YOI. Muchamore himself grew up in a tough part of London where he didn’t achieve academic success though he’d always wanted to be a writer. His novels resonate with many young men. The article was in part a celebration of Muchamore’s newest Cherub title, New Guard, published in June 2016 said to be the last in this series, but also of his most recent title released this month, the fourth in the Rock War series, called Gone Wild.

The YOI Werrington is one of a number of prisons which has joined the Reading Ahead Programme which encourages young people and adults to change their perception of reading, by recognising that reading is more than just books: newspapers, magazines and websites. There are many levels of the programme for different age groups.

What books have you discovered to help young people engage with reading?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

School and College Librarians in Tasmania – a partial Honour Roll

The Children’s Book Council and school librarians are natural allies because they share the same objectives.  This listing may be of interest to CBCA members.
Prior to 1967 when I was appointed the first (and only) Supervisor of School Libraries, a number of Tasmanian schools had established libraries to supplement the dreary post-war classroom readers and the very limited number of textbooks available to teachers.  They were run by dedicated people with limited or no training in librarianship but who saw clearly the importance of recreational and research reading in education.  Among these notable pioneers were: Miss Faith GIBBONS (Hobart High), Miss Jessie BLYTH (Launceston High), Mrs Cecilia STUBBS (Burnie High), Mrs Doreen HOPKINS, Mrs Fanny HARDING, and Mrs Bronwyn MEREDITH.  Also deserving commemoration for their work with the School Library Service to primary schools were Miss Dorothy BELCHER and Miss Jean CRISP.  An important role was also played from the library at the Hobart Teachers College by Miss Amie EWIN and in the library at the Education Department’s Head Office by Miss Adele de Bomford.  There were others whose names, to my intense frustration, will not surface in my ancient memory.
From 1968 when I started work after studying librarianship at the University of New South Wales, an exciting new era began, taking advantage of the policy of the Federal Labor Party when it was implemented in 1972 by the Gough Whitlam government.  New or refurbished libraries were built, grants for books were increased, teacher-librarians were appointed, advisory and technical support was given, and training courses for teacher-librarians were begun at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education.
Until 1991 when the Library Services Branch which oversaw these developments was abruptly closed down, I had the pleasure and pride of working with a large cadre of people who made a very significant difference to the quality of Tasmanian education.  It seems to me that their names deserve remembering and honouring.  It is a shame that there is no full register of them but some at least are listed below.

ABELL, Miss Jill 
BECKER, Miss Toni
BECKER, Mrs Marjorie
BENNETT, Miss Rhoda
BRIDGLAND, Miss Angela
BUCHANAN, Miss Vicki (later GRANT)
BUGG, Miss Sharron (later HEWER)
CANE, Miss Georgie
DUNBAR, Miss Kay
DUNN, Ms. Lyn
EASTMAN, Mrs Berenice
GARDAM, Mrs Julie
GOWARD, Mrs Coral
GROOT, Mrs Barbara
HAMPTON, Mrs Monica
HAWES, Mrs Joy
HICKMAN, Mrs Leslie
JAMES, Mrs Kath
JENSEN, Ms. Gita
KELLY, Mr Michael
LEWIS, Mrs Marie
LUDFORD, Ms. Sally
MAHONEY, Mrs Dulcie
MORRIS, Mrs Gill
PARRISH, Miss Amanda
SCOTT, Ms. Judy
Glenn Pullen c 1972
SMITH, Miss Janet (later MIDDLETON)
STOWE, Mr Edward
WATTS, Mrs Irene
WHILE, Mr Richard
WILSON, Miss Karen

Because of inadequate records and the writer’s failing memory, there are many other names that could and should be added to this list, at least up until 1991 when a new generation of school and college librarians took over.  It would be a kindness if any reader could add any names by emailing the writer at Glen Pullen so that the listing could be at least a little more complete.

Glenn Pullen is a Life Member of CBCA Tasmanian Branch.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Wonder of Reading

It is the middle of the spring school holidays and, like many parents, I am juggling work, study and entertaining two children. However, this juggle has become easier as they get older - and one of the main reasons for this is my sons’ eagerness to read.

Last week we made our regular school holiday trip to Launceston LINC to stock up on books and DVDs for the fortnight. Each chose books by authors they had already read and enjoyed. For Mr 10 this was Back in Time: The Second Journey Through Time by Geronimo Stilton and You Choose Batman: Seed Bank Heist by J E Bright. His younger brother selected two books from The Rescue Princesses series - The Silver Locket and The Stolen Crystals - by Paula Harrison.

As an adult I seek out books by authors I like, but I don’t think I started that until I was older than my sons are now. I’m delighted they already have a handful of authors they love. All over the library children were doing the same: finding books they couldn’t way to get home to read. I know that feeling well, and it reminds me of a quote from one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, about the wonder of reading:

[D]on't ever apologise to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that's what they're there for. Use your library). Don't apologise to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend's copy. What's important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read...

Every time one of my children tells me a fact they learned that day from reading a book, or one of my The Write Road student writers tells me about a piece of writing that captivated them I am thrilled, because it shows they know the same truth I do: reading is a gift.

There are always going to be lists of the best books for children, which are excellent guides for parents, but I believe it really doesn’t matter what children are reading, as long as they are. Reading instils knowledge (even if you’re reading the ingredient list of the cereal you ate for breakfast) and that knowledge breeds a thirst for more. Plus the ability to read means you will always have in-built entertainment. That’s a win-win in my book.
Johanna is a freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.
Blog: http://johannabd.com/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JohannaBakerDowdell
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohannaBD
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Johanna.BakerDowdell

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