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

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A Christmas Journey

Many of us are fascinated by trains and travelling by train, especially those of us in Tasmania where we no longer have passenger trains. Adults dream of the iconic rail journeys of the world. Children are no exception though their wishes tend to be less exotic and there are many who just want to be a train driver.

So, after spending quite a lot of time over this past year using regular train services in England it seems a good idea to reflect on some wonderful picture books. I have limited myself to this genre though I could venture into titles for more advanced readers: think of the Harry Potter series and the Hogwarts Express, the Adventures of Paddington Bear which start from the iconic station after his arrival from darkest Peru, Murder on the Orient Express or On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells. And so many others.

Many of these titles will now be out of print, but fortunately not all. Here are some of my favourites and there’s no priority in this listing.
Whistle Up the Chimney by Craig Smith and Nan Hunt. Mrs Mack throws some pieces of wood from an old railway carriage onto her fire and she suddenly has an express train in her chimney. A great piece of fantasy.
Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg. Beautiful illustrations and simple storyline. A young boy joins the Polar Express on Christmas Eve on his way to the North Pole. There, as recipient of the first gift from Santa, he chooses one of the bells from the reindeer. This is the bell which rings “for all who truly believe”.

Tea and Sugar Christmas by Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen. This is the story of the train that travelled for more than 80 years taking supplies to the people along the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. At Christmas, Father Christmas was on board and everyone along the line anticipated the arrival of that special service.
The Little Engine that Could. Various editions. This has not lost any of its delight since its first publication one hundred years ago. The engine doesn’t think it can get up the hill but those around convince him that he can. The repeated phrase “I think I can” is great to encourage child-reader participation as well as teaching children the power of perseverance.
Oi! Get Off our Train by John Burningham. A young boy drives the train which various animals try to board, citing all the reasons that they are becoming endangered, while others try to reason why they should not be allowed. It’s a good introduction to animal conservation, aided by Burningham’s mixed media illustrations.
Peggy by Anna Walker. Peggy gets lost when she goes exploring in the city. When she suddenly becomes homesick she follows some bright sunflowers which lead her onto a train and after they disappear she turns to the pigeons to help find home. This book relies on illustrations rather than many words to tell the story.

Bob the Railway Dog by Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean. Based on the true story of a dog who travelled the trains in South Australia in the 1880s. Although he was adopted by one guard, he did enjoy train hopping, so that the whole railway system looked out for him. McLean’s illustrations capture the locations and especially Bob’s character.


And to finish: The only information book I am going to mention. The Train Book by Dorling Kindersley traces the history of trains from the earliest beginnings to the most modern bullet trains. Lots of pictures with as much information as the most avid enthusiast could want.

Please let us all know which books you would include in this list.


Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

CBCA Tasmania Executive send all our readers our very best wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas and for a prosperous and productive 2016. We hope that you find some wonderful summertime reading under your tree.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer

Patsy shares her newly found reading interest in The Lunar Chronicles series of YA scifi/fantasy. 

The topic of this blog today is partly the result of a comment from a friend, and partly the result of my September jaunt to Western Australia. Why?

Well, my friend and I like to talk about new books – for any audience – and she mentioned The Lunar Chronicles. And what has a trip to Perth to do with it? I was booked to return to Sydney on the Indian-Pacific train and really needed to take something to read which would fit into my tiny on-board case; this spurred me to familiarise myself with my mini-tablet and its capacity to download books. So I have the Chronicles on my tablet and have managed to read most of them in the last weeks.
 
There are actually five Chronicles so far: Cinder (published 2012), Scarlet, Cress. Fairest, and Winter. I have to admit I have yet to read Fairest – it didn’t seem right to read that before Winter was published, as it appears to be outside the main narrative of Cinder’s adventures.

The series is loosely based on some well-known fairy tales; Cinder of course is Cinderella, complete with Ugly Sisters; and Scarlet is Little Red Riding Hood (you’ll have to work out the others for yourselves). But its timeframe is futuristic, with six political entities on Earth (the Eastern Commonwealth, the African Union, the European Federation, the American Republic, the United Kingdom, and Australia together make up the Earthen Union) and one on Luna; with spaceships, cyborgs, shells, and androids (one of whom, Iko, is my favourite character in the Chronicles….).
 
Those of your secondary school students who enjoy a rollicking, adventure-studded romance would enjoy these stories; all the loose ends are tidied up by the end of the series in a very satisfying manner. I have just one question though – how do cyborgs actually go about their daily life processes?

The stories have been published in audiobooks, book, and e-book format, and are available from LINC Tasmania in various formats.

Patsy Jones
CBCA(Tas) treasurer, retired librarian, retired teacher

Editor's note: Fairest provides an entertaining prequel to the highly engaging Lunar Chronicles series. Marissa Meyer also maintains a great website for fans.





Sunday, 6 December 2015

Book Trailers – A great way to add to your ‘to read’ list

This year I seem to have spent more time than usual exploring book trailers. Previously sought to promote books to students to whet their reading appetites, my focus in 2015 has been to source these for educators to support Book Week activities and to provide professional learning to educators on using book trailers in the classroom and skilling students to create their own as a personal response to their literature readings.

Just like movie trailers, a book trailer’s major aim is promotion – to provide a tease, inspire curiosity and introduce a new release so that the viewer wants to know more – to view the movie, or to read the book. Authors and publishers are employing trailers with increasing regularity to promote new books. See Random House’s latest promo for the Ranger’s Apprentice series for a taste. 
  

Trailers more often target the young adult market, as witnessed with the spread of book trailers created for the CBCA shortlisted titles this year. Author Darren Goth created a trailer for his wonderful book Are You Seeing Me?

Although promotions are also created for younger readers, there tends to be more retellings than book trailers on offer for this age group; such as this clever modern take off of the timeless Goodnight Moon.



The Florida Sunshine State Young Readers Awards take book trailers a step further by combining a series of trailers into one long preview and celebration and present it as if you are at the movies. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic challenge to see taken up in Australia. Check out the 2015-215 SSYRABooks.

Some books raise questions in the reader’s mind that can be turned into provocations through the book trailer medium. Earlier this year, as I read The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew, my mind could visualise the different elements that I could harness to create my own book trailer. This riveting speculative fiction story begged me to express my response visually. Have a look and see if it teases your interest. Do you want to read it?




If this post has inspired you to dabble your toes in the creative pond, there are many tools available to support you in the process. Educational Technology & Mobile Learning is a good place to start with suggestions for excellent tools, apps, and tips to create educational book trailers. For some commentary on three different tools that I have used, seek out my early explorations into book trailers on JB on not Just Books

Jennie Bales
Adjunct lecturer for Charles Sturt University, and your editor, having fun writing a post instead of publishing someone else’s.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

George - a review

For You, 
For When You Felt Different  

In Reading Time, May 2013, Alyssa Brugman, referring to Alex as well, (2013), wrote: “Why aren’t there more YA books about transgendered, cross-dressing or intersex teens?  I don’t know the answer so I wrote one.”  Since then, there have been many books, some so completely dominated by the theme that the story is left behind. And now there is George by Alex Gino (Scholastic), a wonderful, sensitive, and honest story for younger readers.   

George is a girl who - biologically - was born as a boy.  When the school is looking for players to take part in a dramatisation of Charlotte’s Web,George wants to be Charlotte.  Her best friend Kelly and Scott, George’s gross, funny and accepting brother, help George be the person she wants to be. The novel deals with bullying and the school system and how individual teachers and the system respond to challenging situations. This may be confronting for some schools.  

Why is the story so powerful? The third person narration introduces George in female pronouns; this is critical to the way we read the book. George is not a boy wanting to be a girl, but a girl in a world where no one else can see it. It's an essential distinction. The story transcends theme informing our understanding of how isolated the Georges of the world must feel while simultaneously telling other Georges that they are not alone and that there is support. 

This is a heart-warming and engaging book should be in every library and school – for children to see themselves and for readers (young and old) to understand what it is like to feel different.
 

Nella Pickup
CBCA Tasmania committee member and avid reader.

Editor’s note: Read and watch an interview with Alex in theguardian. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Children's Books and Adult Learning

How can collecting cards support kids reading and love of books? Find out in Penny's post as she intertwines disparate aspects of a personal passion - prehistoric times!

I write freelance educational articles for a number of magazines on the mainland. One of the articles for which I am commissioned in 2016 is for an issue about Prehistoric Times. I pitched an article about Ice Age Mammals as I had enjoyed a fascinating 3D movie at the Smithsonian in Washington DC earlier this year about this very topic.

What I didn't realise is that when this particular issue comes out in 2016, the fifth instalment of the Ice Age movies is also released. I had never seen the movies so I borrowed them from a friend and watched the first four. I admit I'm now a huge fan and coincidentally two of the animals I chose to pitch about are the mammoth and sabre-tooth tiger!

But what has this to do with children's books? Well, some weeks ago one of our major supermarket chains began yet another card collection campaign, this time called Ancient Animals. As I love anything ancient, I began to collect the cards each time I shopped at the supermarket until eventually I had a full set.

Of course then I had to buy the Activity and Collector's Album in which to put the cards. And now I have the most wonderful resource - a book full of information that is both educational and entertaining. And I even have cards for the Smilodon (the largest of the sabre-tooth cats) and the Woolly Mammoth.

It is encouraging to see that one of our largest retailers is promoting education for kids - and in book form - not an app or a website in sight!
And its exciting for someone like me to relive the joy of card collecting and learn something along the way.  

Penny Garnsworthy
Freelance Writer and Editor, Tas e-News



Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Family of Authors and Illustrators

Peter Gouldthorpe – Tasmanian author and illustrator is a guest writer on our blog this week and shares with us his writing experiences with his daughter, Lucy.

2015 has seen two of my books published and they could not be more different if I had contrived them to be. One is fiction, the other is non-fiction; one is for the very young and/or early readers, the other is for older readers; one required enormous amounts of research and re-writing, the other came naturally; one has an incredible load of visuals and design whilst the other could hardly be simpler; one is intended to be warm and gentle while the other has its heroine killing Nazi soldiers with her bare hands. They are emblematic of my career, nothing if not diverse.

The White Mouse: The Story of Nancy Wake, was released in August and this month, Our Dog Knows Words, was unleashed and, strangely, I am not the illustrator. Instead it is my daughter Lucy who provides the pictures. The release of ‘Our Dog’ has a wonderful circularity for me because on the first day my wife Jennie went off to work, leaving a still breast-feeding Lucy and I home alone (no car, no phone and in the countryside), I asked her: “What will we do?” Her calm answer was to read books. It was during that time, as Lucy and I bonded over books, that I came to an understanding of the role they play in a child’s development and that perhaps as an artist maybe I could even make them. Jonah and the Manly Ferry was begun sometime after and remained my only fiction title as author until ‘Our Dog’, thirty-two years later.

Lucy now works in the film and television industry and it was while she was back home on a working holiday that she planted the seed for ‘Our Dog’. We were walking Otto off-lead when a passer-by commented on his exemplary behaviour and asked how we got him to be so responsive and I replied: “That’s because he knows words.”

Lucy declared on the spot that she would write a book about it, so we had the title long before the story! But she didn’t write it. About a year later, I did. Fortuitously, Suzanne O’Sullivan at Hachette rang to ask what I was going to do after I’d finished my book on Mawson. I sent her the manuscript fully expecting rejection but she thought it had legs. I explained that whilst I could illustrate the story, it was my daughter who had provided the inspiration and that she had expressed a strong desire to illustrate it. Suzanne went to Lucy’s illustrated blog, ‘The Earwig’ and came back enthusiastic. And now ‘Our Dog’ has been born. I think we have created the perfect little book for those parents and children who are just beginning their own relationship with books.

Footnote: Lucy is already working with Hachette on her next book. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Children’s Book Council of Tasmania - Being Involved

Helen Rothwell talks about her experience on the branch executive over the past year.

A year ago, I was looking at options to become more involved in children’s literature. I knew about the work of the Children’s Book Council of Tasmania because I’d been involved in the Book Week activities through my school and taken a keen interest in the talks by the Book Awards judge. I had also entered my school in the primary division of the southern Readers’ Cup competition for two years in a row.

I had not considered becoming a member of the Tasmanian branch executive or committee as I had always imagined that such positions would be very time consuming or akin to having a second job. Already having a full time teaching position, I was unable to invest large amounts of time on a committee or executive as teaching, well for me, requires extra work after hours.

After discussing my concerns with the lovely Patsy Jones, the Treasurer, it seemed as though the time demands would not be as onerous as I had imagined, and subsequently I was nominated and voted into the position of vice-president for 2015.

Well it has been a fantastic year. I have been warmly welcomed into the branch and felt supported every step of the way. I have put the time into the position that I could afford to and have never felt pressure when I have been unable to attend an event due to other commitments. Basically, I have been able to give to the branch in a way that was sustainable for my lifestyle and enjoyed the benefit of feeling I am feeding positive energy into supporting children’s literature.

This year has been a huge year for the branch as we have hosted a number of events to celebrate the life and writings of Nan Chauncy in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the CBCA as a national organisation. I’ve met so many new people who all have the same goal of coordinating and enjoying activities that endorse and promote books for children and young adults.
My area of particular interest has been the webpage and social media (in particular, Facebook). There really is not a set amount of work that the organisation needs to undertake in one particular year but rather the group decides how many events they would like to stage or support other organisations’ events.

I look back over the past year and compare my time as vice-president to other organisations I have been involved with over the years and found the most noticeable difference is that when I have been involved with other organisations, if I had an idea then people would nod their heads and then I would be left to do all of the work. At the CBCA Tasmanian branch, people gather to work with each other to make things happen. No one sits on the fence letting someone else work alone.

It is rare to be able to guarantee an experience another person can look forward to but I can attest to you having an enriching experience if you join with the amazing, dedicated and passionate people at the CBCA Tasmanian branch.

So, please consider nominating for one of the positions that will be vacated on Tuesday, 17th November; President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, Merchandise Manager, Newsletter Editor, Minutes Secretary, Website Liaison Officer or volunteer your services to the committee. The details of the AGM are on our website: www.cbcatas.org


Helen Rothwell is the outgoing Vice-President of the CBCA Tas branch and a grade 5/6 teacher in a government school.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Whatever Happened to The Read Quarterly?

This week I was really excited to receive an email from a friend directing me to a brand new project.  Launched on Kickstarter by champions of children’s literature Kate Manning and Sarah Odedina (who oversaw the publication of the Harry Potter series at Bloomsbury), it was a brand new quarterly magazine described as “a critical look at the culture of children’s literature, art and words, for an adult audience.”

The magazine sounded incredible. The first issue was coming out of the gate at full speed, with the initial instalment of a new story by Eoin Colfer called “Holy Mary,” and articles such as “The Loss of Innocence and its Impact on the Work of Beatrix Potter” by Eleanor Taylor, and “The Theme of Independence in Literature for Children Written in India” by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose. It looked beautiful, it sounded exactly like the sort of thing that I’m sure we would all adore, and it had a crossword.

It didn’t get off the ground.

The Read Quarterly made only a fraction of the money it hoped to receive to help produce its first 144 page issue in January 2016. That said, thankfully its creators haven’t given up.  As one door has closed, they have looked at the windows longingly and gone searching for a nice hard brick. The Read Quarterly website will share some of the articles they hoped to publish in the first issue, and build some momentum for a hopeful publication in the future. Drop in and see the quality and consider the possibilities.

I encourage you to keep your eyes on The Read Quarterly. To me, it sounds like a beautiful, absorbing and skilfully produced addition to the landscape of children’s literature globally. I want to live in a world where something like The Read Quarterly can succeed, because it will help us be better producers of children’s literature, better buyers, and better readers.

If you had not heard of it previously, then when The Read Quarterly comes back from the dead (and I firmly believe based on the calibre of the people involved that it is a matter of when, and not if, ) please support it. It is the sort of publication that could change the way that people perceive children’s literature, and the kinds of ways we talk about it and align it with the adult literary landscape. It is, I strongly believe, an inarguably good thing, and a good model of the sort of publication that might make waves here in Australia, too.  I only hope that next round we can see it get off the ground.

Lyndon Riggall, Author


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect

Coral Tulloch, watercolour illustrator of ‘Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect’ takes CBCA Tas readers behind the scenes of this book on the phasmids, who were thought to be extinct for 80 year,s and their rediscovery on a volcanic outcrop, 23 kilometres off the coast of Lord Howe Island. Will they make it back home? Read on …

Sometimes something comes out of the blue, and that’s exactly how this book came to me. Rohan Cleave, an invertebrate zookeeper at the Melbourne Zoo, approached my booking agent with a story idea he wished me to see.

There was just something about Rohan, his dedication and passion for his subject and his enthusiasm to tell its story that intrigued me. I wanted to help Rohan and suggested several things, including a publisher. I had always been really impressed with the publications from the CSIRO, and because of Rohan’s work, I thought the two would suit each other beautifully.

The only problem was that the CSIRO had not yet produced children’s books for trade. This manuscript came to them at exactly the right time and they offered Rohan the publication. I was thrilled for him and as the project progressed, I continued to help both he and Briana Melideo, the publisher and editor, with ideas I had for the publication.

But my main stance, from the very beginning, was that although I was ready to offer support and help, I felt I was not the right illustrator for this book despite Rohan’s insistence to the contrary. As time went on, I suggested several illustrators but Rohan kept holding out. Eventually I thought I would have a go at some rough illustrations. 

A while later, during a meeting with Briana and Rohan at the Melbourne Zoo where we also met our subjects, Rohan mentioned their common family name – ‘Phasmid’, and the book commenced.  Great title!

This amazing creature has been bought back from extinction through the efforts of scientists and the breeding program developed by the Melbourne Zoo. Initially the rescuers slept at the zoo with their two breeding Phasmids, Adam and Eve, and noted everything they could observe about this creature. No one had ever noted their habits, their lives before, so everything was new and experimental and so very important.

On September 7th, 2003 (Threatened Species Day), Eve’s first nymph hatched and was named Yarra. Since then over 12,000 nymphs have hatched and the survival of a species, once thought extinct, is now a certainty.

This book is a lyric story of the Phasmid and has a great information section on the facts behind its survival. It was decided to delay the launch of the book until Threatened Species Day this year for a double celebration of the book and the anniversary of the first nymphs’ hatching.

Melbourne Zoo was wonderful and closed the Butterfly House for the morning of the book launch where thousands of butterflies landed on all who attended.

It has been such a joy working with Rohan and watching his discovery of the process of storytelling that brought his book to life. It has been an extraordinary delight and privilege for Rohan and I to work with the CSIRO.  Briana is an incredible editor and I wish her all the very best for all their new titles.

For now the Phasmids live behind the butterfly house at the Melbourne zoo and hopefully one day soon they will return to their beautiful home on Lord Howe Island.  

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Cosplay: Fictional Characters Coming to Life

Late last year I was initiated into the world of Cosplay when my daughter and her friends announced their intention to attend a convention in Hobart. I had absolutely no idea as to what Cosplay involved and what to expect from a group of people gathering together dressed as fictional characters. To say the least I was amazed and impressed with the creativity, enthusiasm and ability of a love of fictional characters from literature and other media formats to unite people from different backgrounds and age groups.

To be surrounded by Gandalf, Jedis, Ariel the Mermaid, Pokemon, Hobbits, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and a range of Manga inspired characters was a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend attending conventions in the future. To see young children, young adults and much older people dressed up and having fun in a literature inspired environment was fascinating. It was a bit like a Book Week parade but for all age groups.
If you are still unsure as to what Cosplay is about, a great article to read is ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Cosplay’ by Lucy Saxon. http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/jun/26/cosplay-a-beginners-guide-comic-con-lucy-saxon

The popularity of Cosplay amongst young people is growing and I am sure in many schools there is a small band that do so and would love to share their enthusiasm with you.

To further explore the world of Cosplay, Lauren Orsini’s book ‘Cosplay:The Fantasy World of Role Play’ includes a wide array of photographs of creative costumes based on anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy films, television series and books.

Tricia Scott - 2016 CBCA Book of the Year Awards Tasmanian Judge and Teacher Librarian

Source references for images: http://free-images.gatag.net/en/  authorised for use under Creative Commons 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

‘UNDERNEATH A COW’ – LAUNCH by Carol Ann Martin

Madge the cow, heroine of my new picture book, is a country girl through and through. It therefore seemed fitting that Underneath a Cow should have a good old country-style launch.

Sunday, August 23rd was a chilly afternoon in Cygnet, but inside the Southern Swan Bookshop all was snug and bright. A log fire, silver teapots, fine china and cake-stands laden with slices, cupcakes and scones created just the right kind of winter cosiness for enjoying some book talk and story-telling. There were, of course, plenty of mums, dads, grandparents, aunties and friends there to check out Madge and hopefully buy the book. But the special guests were fans who ranged in age from two years to ten – and they were there to have fun.

Bruny Island children’s author Anne Morgan and CBCA Tasmania committee member Jessie Mahjouri had gone full out with ideas and skills to make it a thoroughly entertaining afternoon, featuring craft, colouring in, wonderful masks of characters from the book, a treasure hunt and, of course, a reading of the story. Local musicians Paul Martin, Malcolm Martin and Brad Madigan played some lively jazz for a singalong, and especially for the Underneath a Cow Song which is a highlight of the book.

Underneath a Cow
is the story of the Great Big Terrible Awful Storm that creeps up one afternoon and catches quite a few small creatures literally on the hop and in need of shelter. Fortunately, dear, kind, caring Madge is there in the middle of the field and she is able to gather Lally rabbit, Robinson the dog, momma Cackalina and her chicks, plus a very slow echidna named Spike, safely underneath her ample tum. When the storm breaks, it is a scary experience indeed, but Madge is a brave cow as well as everything else and her advice is to “Sing dears! Sing for all you are worth!”

The song does the trick and the storm abates. One by one the animals leave the shelter of their friendly cow and make their way home. Spike mutters that it is just as well that they were in a safe place, leaving Madge to muse that as well as being in a safe place, sometimes we have to be a safe place.

Several reviewers have picked up on the shelter and safety aspect of the story and have pointed out that this is a good topic for discussion with young children.

Of course, the hilarious and heart-warming pictures by New South Wales illustrator Ben Wood are the perfect complement to Madge’s story and I couldn’t be more grateful to Ben for capturing the whole feel of the book so imaginatively.

Madge and I will be guests at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, 11am on Sunday, 18th October and would love to meet anyone who can come along. You can also meet me on my blog site Carol Ann Martin Writing for Children, http://carolannmartin.blogspot.com.au/

Carol Ann Martin, children’s author



Sunday, 4 October 2015

Fictional Characterisation with Primary School Children

Author Johanna Baker-Dowdell shares her own love of story characters and how this has been translated into an engaging and memorable classroom activity. Lucky students!

Some of the characters I discover in the books I read stay with me for years because they have been written in such a way that captivates me.

Great characters have me holding my breath as they take on a challenge, cheering when they succeed and crying with them when things don’t go to plan. Favourite characters from my childhood reading include The Velveteen Rabbit, Wilbur, Charlotte and Fern from Charlotte’s Web and anyone created by Roald Dahl.

Noah and Ethan Baker-Dowdell were very excited
 when their copy of Race To the End of the World
 arrived in October last year.
Following on from my previous post about storytelling with preps, I wanted to share a characterisation session I put together for my son Noah’s Grade 3 class.

Reading did not come naturally to Noah at first, but he always loved books and the stories they contained, so I knew he would find his own way of deciphering the words eventually. With some help from his school’s literacy teacher and reading at home, between us we fostered a love of reading that I’m sure will last Noah’s lifetime.

In the past year Noah has devoured most of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, all of Andy Griffiths’ Treehouse series and several graphic novels, but one book that completely captured his imagination was the first from A. L. Tait’s MapmakerChronicles.

Earlier on this year I had discussed the possibility of speaking to Noah’s class about writing with his teacher and she suggested we talk about characterisation. Since Noah had enjoyed Race To the End of the World and the main character, Quinn, was a similar age to the class, I thought he was the perfect character for us to discuss.

To get them into the mood for our characterisation chat we discussed the front cover of the book and I read the Prologue from Race To the End of the World to the class. I spoke about the ways an author develops a character, including writing about their appearance, how they are feeling, what they are thinking and the words they use when speaking. Next, I gave the class a page filled with quotes from that passage (see below) and we discussed what we could tell about Quinn’s character from the actions and words.

Action/Words
“After that it hadn’t taken them long to realise that Quinn remembered everything.” p. xii
“He could describe in detail the contents of each peddler’s cart that regularly visited the farm…” p. xii
“…they were careful to keep the secret of Quinn’s memory from the rest of the village.” p. xii
“Quinn had run as fast as he could to get to his own mother…” p. xiii
“Your mother says you can read, and write.” p. xiii
“I don’t want to go.” p. xiii
“The fact is that it takes a special person to create maps.” p. xiii

The class consensus was that Quinn is smart and clever, has a good memory, is hiding a secret, gets scared and nervous and has a special skill that not many others share. After talking about Quinn’s traits I asked the class to draw a picture of our leading character, which resulted in some intriguing interpretations (one Quinn was a vampire), and was a fun way to wind the session down at the end of the day.

When Noah and I walked home from school that day he told me his friends were excited about the characters they could create in their own narrative storytelling and they wanted to read the Mapmaker Chronicles too. Anything that inspires children to read and write stories is a great thing in my book.

Johanna is a freelance journalist and author of the book Business & Baby on Board.