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

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Enter Cello – A fantasy world with a difference

This week, discover the fantasy word of Cello created by young adult author Jaclyn Moriarty. Jackie deftly shares her love of this trilogy and provides plenty of hooks as she details the nuances of an alternative world and the trials and tribulations of teenagers displaced between Cello and Earth.

The ability of an author to create a world that captures the imagination of the reader is a key ingredient in fantasy fiction, and it is the world of Cello which is the real star of Jaclyn Moriarty’s Colours of Madeleine Trilogy. The Kingdom of Cello provides a rich backdrop for the characters’ struggles to return the missing royal family to Cello before their absence is discovered and is a major strength of the series.

Although the idea of a world linked to our own world is not new, the world of Cello is distinctly original and very attractive. What reader wouldn’t love to experience the Lake of Spells (only accessible to children no older than sixteen) and fish for the many spells there, or to visit the Cat Walk where cats of all sizes and species from all over the Kingdom gather to walk in the evening? The revelation that Cellians can be identified by a spray of colours which is visible on their inner elbow when lemon juice is applied is an appealing idea especially when you realise that Cellians transported to our world lose their memories of their former lives and have no idea that they are in fact from another world.  The Butterfly Child, Accidental Pilots and other Cellian oddities all add an element of magic and possibility to the world.

The provinces of Cello are all extremely different to each other as well as to our world. The technology minded Jagged Edgians are in stark contrast to the traditionally minded people of Old Quainte with their unusual and convoluted expressions. These differences add another dimension to the teenage themes explored in the books as characters see the world from totally different viewpoints depending on where they live– Keira from Jagged Edge sees the importance of endings while Elliott from the Farms needs beginnings.
Cello experiences Colour attacks and a system of warning bells has been put in place to keep people safe. Some colours can wound or even kill. Others can affect mood or perception. The importance of these colours and the Cello, to both Cello and our own world, revealed in the ending of the third book is plausible and resonates with current environmental theories.

Readers of Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield novels will recognise her skill at supplementing her storytelling prose with letters, newspaper articles and extracts from the extremely irritating T.I. Candle’s guidebook. Often these play a key role in conveying information that will be essential to later story developments.

Comprising the novels A Corner of White, The Cracks in the Kingdom and A Tangle of Gold, the story begins with a girl in our world discovering a message from Cello in a broken parking meter. The teenage characters at the centre of the story both in Cello and our world experience usual teenage issues often amidst absent or disappointing parents. Finding a place where you feel you can fit in, as well as establishing your true identity, are key concerns. Discovering which cause is worth your support is not as easy as it may at first appear and may put you at odds with your friends.

If you haven’t read this series, track it down – you won’t be disappointed.

Jackie Crane

Saturday, 7 October 2017

On my TBR pile

Nella’s post several weeks ago made Maureen Mann think that she would follow her categories, but in fact she has ended up with just one category, though hers is a list. Some of Maureen's  To Be Read (TBR) pile has been devoured and is shared here with you for inspiration.

I have just made an all too brief trip back to Launceston and took advantage of being able to read some of the books which haven’t been available to me in the UK. Because of time constraints, and fitting in reading with our hectic schedule, I have only managed to remove picture books from my list. They are my favourite genre, so it wasn’t a hardship. Here are some I have enjoyed – not in any particular order.

Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
The spare, lyric text of this book is beautifully enhanced by King’s illustrations. Mother, baby and dog set off on a fantasy voyage across the seas, joined briefly by a polar bear, watched by whales and occasionally by a red bird until they reach their safe destination. “I am the castaway, you are the journey’s end, welcome me. I. You. We.”

My Brother by Dee, Oliver and Tiffany Huxley
Sparsely worded, monochrome illustrations tell the story of a gentle creature searching for a lost brother in magical places, moving from grief to acceptance of loss. When finally he’s found, the world changes as reflected by the bright yellow added to the illustrations. It’s thought-provoking for adults and older children who will understand the many layers and for younger readers who will accept it on face-value. Great cover summary of the story.

Image result for wolfie deborah abela
Wolfie, an unlikely hero by Deborah Abela and Connah Brecon
I really like fractured fairy tales and this is a good one. I, The Wolf, am sick of being the bad guy. I’m taking over this book.” Each traditional story, which usually ends with the wolf eating his victims, is interrupted by the wolf who wants to be part of a happy story where he rescues the princess. Even in this version he is foiled when the princess rescues herself. Wolf finally becomes Dragon’s pet.

There is No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright
Another fractured fairytale. Dragon wanted to be a real hero, not just one who rescues princesses. So off he goes to persuade (unsuccessfully each time) well-known characters to let him join their story: the three little pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood. But when Dragon makes the giant sneeze and blow out the sun, he alone can rescue the darkened world.

My Friend Tertius by Corinne Fenton and Owen Swan
Based on historical fact, this is the story of Arthur Cooper working in pre-World War II Hong Kong and the long-armed baboon, named Tertius, he adopted. The latter accompanies Cooper on each escape from invading forces during the war – to Singapore and eventually to Fremantle where Tertius was an illegal immigrant. Eventually the authorities caught up with them and Tertius spent the rest of his life in Melbourne Zoo.  Great story, lots of discussion especially for older readers, and interesting illustrations, but I would have liked to see more emphasis on the quarantine aspect of Cooper’s decisions.
Was Not Me! by Shannon Horsfall

“I have a naughty twin brother who only I can see. He is Not Me.” And so starts the tale of mischief and mayhem caused by the narrator who denies his actions each time, saying “Was Not Me”. There is humour throughout especially as the reader knows who the culprit is. As a parent I enjoyed this, having had 2 children who had invisible friends and accomplices.

Ruby Red Shoes Goes to London by Kate Knapp
Ruby and her beloved Babushka now find themselves in London. I loved the play on words linking hares with London locations, eg Harethrow for Heathrow, as well as the info on London landmarks and transport. From this perspective it is a great introduction to London. I had been looking forward to this one, but not being a great fan of anthropomorphic animals, I found it all a bit twee, despite the good points. Younger readers should really like its cute pictures.

The Great Rabbit Chase by Freya Blackwood

Gumboots escapes while Mum is in the shower so the chase begins. Each person they pass joins in the pursuit. They include John, the lonely zebra crossing man, the busy man in a suit, Mrs Finkel and her wrinkles, everyone part of the community. Once they all reach the park with trees “like giants with their long legs stuck in the ground”, the disparate group relaxes. Finally, everyone follows Gumboots and his/her discovered family back home, Mum still wrapped in just her towel. Great fun.

Invisible Lizard by Kurt Cyrus and Andy Atkins
This is a strange mix of cartoon concepts and reality. The skills of Napoleon, the chameleon, to camouflage himself is well portrayed as he searches the jungle for someone to be his friend, but the environment he is in is far too fairy-like and the anthropomorphism is too great for me to rate it as an excellent book. The use of the phrase “spiffy limb” bother me – what does it really mean?
Pig the Star and Busting! by Aaron Blabey, who has woven his magic again with both these books, though neither quite reaches the heights of Pig the Pug. I enjoy Blabey’s sense of fun.
Though I could keep going, it’s time to stop. Hope your interest has been piqued by some of these titles to go search for them if you haven’t already read and shared them.
What’s on your TBR pile?

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Nothing Beats a Good Book!

Jenni Connor brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to argue a case for the value of reading aloud to children. This week's post is a fitting follow up on sharing favourites, to explore the joys of oral reading to build a love of literature and language.

In this electronic age, people might wonder if there is still a place for print books in our lives, and especially in the lives of children.
The jury is not out on that one – research firmly indicates that the act of reading aloud with "a child is the single most important thing adults can do to promote the emergent literacy skills of young children’ (Shogi, Willersdorf, Braganza & McDonald, 2013, p. 22).
With babies, we read soothing stories such as AlisonLester’s Kissed by the Moon (Viking, 2013). It is a lyrical lullaby, with a repeated refrain – May you, my baby, sleep softly at night…May you, my baby, make sprinkles of sand…and may you, my baby, be kissed by the moon. Lester’s soft wash illustrations are charmingly apt, capturing the close bond between adult and child and the infant’s wonder at the natural world.

Toddlers are ready for a picture book with a story and familiar characters and themes, such as the Snail and Turtle series by Stephen Michael King (Scholastic Australia, 2014). Colourful, bold, uncluttered illustrations give two- and three-year olds plenty to talk about as these very different friends go about their pleasant lives – Snail likes early mornings after the rain. Turtle likes any day, as long as it’s wet’.

Pre-schoolers have enough experience to relate to characters and places. Anna Walker’s Peggy (Scholastic Australia, 2012) seems to grab their attention as Peggy the chook is blown by a blustery wind from her ‘small house in a quiet street’ into the big city. Peggy ‘saw things she had never seen before’, but she was very grateful when the pigeons showed her the way back to her yard. Feeling lost and small, excited but nervous about being away from home is an emotional landscape familiar to young children. 

Reading quality literature regularly with children exposes them to a rich, resonant vocabulary they will not encounter in everyday talk, or through other media. Children learn to ‘savour the gift of words’ and build a bank of powerful words and phrases. Isabella’s Garden, by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool (Walker Books, 2009) is a stunningly beautiful picture book, with vibrant illustrations, wonderful rhythm, alliteration and glorious descriptive language –
These are the flowers that waltz in the wind
that ruffles the buds, all velvety-skinned
that swelled the shoots that sought the sun
that kissed the clouds that cried the rain
that soaked the seeds that slept in the soil
all dark and deep, in Isabella’s garden.
As Patsy Jones made clear in her blog post (2017, September 23) last week about favourite picture books - "The importance of picture books to me as a parent and a grandparent is the close relationship reading to your child will develop in so many ways."

With books like these, shared lovingly by caring adults, every child can enter the garden of literacy and gain power over their world and live in harmony with it.
Jenni Connor
Writing and Educational Consultant

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Some Well-Loved Picture Books

Patsy has found some gems on her bookshelf and shares ‘six of the best’ picture books worthy of hunting out – for both revisiting and discovery purposes.
I have recently attempted to clear out some of my bookshelves – a difficult task indeed. I noted the other day that there are many picture books in my remaining collection, and had a look again through them all. Picture books give us such great opportunities to share enjoyment with a child, to initiate a conversation, to expand a vocabulary, to develop empathy through imagination and discussion….

I decided to identify the half-dozen or so which I remember experiencing, with most pleasure, with my grandchildren – and that was difficult enough!  But here they are – I wonder if any of them are new to you?

Janet andAllan Ahlberg’s The Baby’s Catalogue (it’s an oldie – published 1982) is the real beginner’s book in my half-dozen. There is very little text but many charming pictures of the people and objects that will surround an infant; and lots of opportunity for pointing to objects, and practising speech. And sorting out and identifying the five different families will be an enjoyable puzzle for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Mo Willems’ series Elephant and Piggie (much more enjoyable and useful than the pigeon, I think) has charming pictures which illustrate a great range of emotions; there is not much text but its varied font sizes encourage voice variety when reading aloud. Try one like There is a Bird on Your Head (published 2008) – you’ll love it, as will pre-readers and those in lower primary. I haven’t seen this series very much in school libraries, but was very pleased to see a set in the Junior Library at Fahan when I was there for Readers’ Cup this year.

The first Emily Gravett book I saw was Wolves (published 2005) and this had immediate appeal to me as a librarian – the rabbit is reading a book from the West Bucks Public Burrowing Library; the book has no barcode, only a pocket for the card and a date stamp to show when it’s due back. I suppose most children might need some explanation of these aspects these days! The two parallel stories are well supported by the clever illustrations, but I think this is a book for an older child – possibly frightening to little ones.

Of course Bob Graham has to get a mention, and I have been unable to decide which is my real favourite - Greetings from Sandy Beach (published 1990) or Crusher is Coming! (published 1987). There’s so much for the older child, and the adult, to enjoy in these. Just a line or two of text on each page, so the reluctant reader may find them approachable, and the illustrations magnificently repay careful perusal and discussion, as do the family dynamics.

My last two were translated into English and might be hard for you to find.  The Fly: How a Perfect Day Turned into a Nightmare (written and illustrated by Gusti, first published in Mexico in 2005) turned up on a trolley of new books in what was then the State Library – I don’t know who the marvellous person was who ordered copies of it, but it was immediately very popular with upper primary students (and others!).  

I don’t know where A Cultivated Wolf by Pascal Biet was first published in 1998 or in what language, but it came out in English in 1999. It was quoted in an article on reading – the Wolf ‘read with confidence and passion’. How could I not track that book down! All my grandchildren have enjoyed it with me, and I can still find interest in it.

What would you choose as your best six picture books? Perhaps, as I did, you’d find six was not enough…..

Patsy Jones

Retired librarian and teacher

Friday, 15 September 2017

2017 Reading Challenge continues...

Earlier this year, Nella posted her personal reading list for the year with some alternative and varied selection criteria. She continues to challenge and encourage us to read outside our comfort zones and broaden our horizons. If you can't identify a title for each category then read on for some tasters from Nella's selections. There are some excellent leads for  further great reads from early childhood through to older teens to cap off the year. Are you up to the challenge?

First book in a series
Aussie outback
YA with no romance
Green cover
Set in Tasmania
Mental Health
On your TBR pile
Award winner
Truly frightening
Would make a great movie
400 + pages

Investigate the original range of genres on the 2017 Reading Challenge - A Personal List post.

First book in a series
Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo Orion
Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2017. I have a love-hate relationship with series books; thankfully this is part of a duology although I may be tempted by the other books set in the Grishaverse.
Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams - but he can't pull it off alone. Chapters are told from the differing POV of all six heist team members.

Aussie outback
Mrs White and the Red Desert Josie Boyle & Maggie Prewett  Magabala Books

When a group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why their homework is always grubby, no-one expects what is to come!
YA with no romance
You Don’t Even Know Sue Lawson Black Dog (2013)
Alex is the misfit of a bullying family. He prefers water-polo to rowing; he loves his little sister Mia. Through random flashbacks, we learn how and why Alex  is in hospital recovering from an accident. Heartbreakingly real.

Green cover

Florette Anna Walker Viking
Mae moves from a house with a garden into a city apartment surrounded by cobblestones. Outside Florette, a florist shop, Mae finds a tiny plant growing from a crack between the path and the front wall of the shop. Mae takes it home, plants it in a jar. This is the beginning of Mae’s new garden.
Set in Tasmania
Gaolbird: The True Story of William Swallow Convict & Pirate Simon Barnard Text Publishing
Fantastic story that deserves to be told - truth really is stranger than fiction. William Walker aka William Swallow was an English convict taken to ‘the far end of the earth’, Van Diemen’s Land, in the 1820s...three times.  Illustrated in exaggerated cartoon style.

Mental Health
Girl in Pieces Kathleen Glasgow HarperCollins
Gritty debut novel about the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression

On your TBR pile
Everything Leads to You Nina LaCour Penguin Random House
Emi Price is a talented young set designer; she finds a mysterious letter at an estate sale, and it sends her chasing down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life. And along the way, she finds Ava.

Award winner 
Winner Aurealis Awards - Best Children's Fiction 2016
When the Lyrebird Calls Kim Kane Allen & Unwin
While helping her grandmother, Madeleine finds a pair of shoes in a hidden compartment. Wearing these shoes while a lyrebird calls in an old grotto she timeslips to Lyrebird Muse, the grand home of the Williamson family just prior to the Federation of Australia.
Truly frightening
Forgetting Foster Dianne Touchell Allen & Unwin
Forget monsters and aliens.  True fear is found in everyday events. A powerful story of a seven-year-old boy whose father develops Alzheimer’s disease.  Everything in Foster’s life changes, his father starts forgetting things and his mother stops laughing.

Would make a great movie
Mr Romanov’s garden in the sky Robert Newton Penguin 
Lexie lives in a ‘Commission’ apartment, with her junkie mother. Lexie remembers better times with her father —games of pretend camping, taken seriously with map reading and with Lexie given the choice of location (which is always Surfers Paradise). Other residents include the Creeper, an elderly man with a rooftop garden (Mr Romanov) and know-it-all Davey Goodman. The three travel to Surfers Paradise pursued by police.  Sentimental and compelling
400 + pages
Windfall Jennifer E Smith Pan Macmillan

At 416 pages, this just meets the criteria.  Jennifer E Smith’s YA novels (she also writes middle grade books) are heart-warming and generally about first love.  Alice buys her best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. He wins. A story of loss, death and Alice’s need to live up to her perceptions of her parents’ selflessness. 

Nella Pickup
Avid reader (and inspiration to us all to...keep on reading)

From the editor: Why not share your alternative suggestions. Under the First in a Series category I have recently read Tokens and Omens by Jeri Baird and am eagerly awaiting the sequel - out next month.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Creativity with Nature

Join Coral Tulloch, Tasmanian illustrator and children's book creator, on her mission to bring students and the natural world together through an innovative Natural Pedagogy program in Western Australia.

I have been so incredibly fortunate for many years now to have been asked to go to Western Australia to work at schools for the Association of Independent School of Western Australia (AISWA). Apart from the many school visits I have done with them – covering a broad span of schools from the long established to the tiny and low ICSEA, from community schools in remote areas, to bustling inner city - and schools specifically for disengaged students to the most interesting community schools –  each time there has been so much for me to learn, apart from what they believe I can deliver and bring to both the students and teachers. Each time they have challenged me incredibly.

This time I was nervous! Sure, I’ve been asked to do early childhood before, but it’s not my area of expertise, and I was nervous. But I also knew that AISWA have faith in the people they bring across and believe we can achieve the outcomes they desire. Even after all these years of being with them, I was still shaking at the concept of three days working with four year olds!

My role this time was to work in Nature Pedagogy with early childhood. Our first stop was at Margaret River Independent School, (one I had worked with previously and loved), to help them create a work that would be saleable to the public for their Nature Trail associated with their school.
We  set up an art studio for them, and worked on various mediums before settling on the concept of a b/w map, to be rolled like a scroll, for people to add their own experiences to and to colour in. The photo that is attached is before the Noongar names of the plants have been added. The back of the scroll contains the Noongar seasons and explanation of the plants and their usage.

The second week, I went to Heritage College in Perth and worked with 4 year olds, going to their bush school outing, collecting and then interpreting what we had found. Also working with various materials in scientific drawing. A challenge for me to see the four year olds, concentrated and loving the interpretation of each object that caught their attention. They felt and smelt and drew and painted the natural world, translating in both realism and abstract.

We also set up an art studio for them to continue with their work. But I think some of the things they loved the most was making paint with the pebbles, dirt and water from the creek, embossing paper while it was wet in the bush, hunting out strange and beautiful forms and shapes and making their own paints back at school with everyday items, such as turmeric, five spice, mud, and salts.

I thank AISWA for getting me out of my area of comfort, for extending my abilities and confidence and joy in this engaging project. I received the same back from all of the gorgeous children and engaged teachers that I was so privileged to work with.

Coral Tulloch
Children's illustrator
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