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

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Morris the Laureate

This week children’s author Morris Gleitzman was announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate for 2018-1019 by the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance. Join Lyndon Riggall as he shares his delight with their choice of appointment.

Gleitzman knows how to hook his readers. I believe my first novel of his, Water Wings, was purchased at about the age of ten, and I couldn’t resist the guinea pig on the front cover, floating with inflatable armbands. From there, who could go past such titles as Misery Guts, Bumface and Adults Only? His collaborations with Paul Jennings brought together two titans of Australian literature in a series of projects as frightening as they were inspired in their strangeness. When I was at school, having a copy of Wicked! or Deadly was compulsory—and not because it was on any teacher’s list of recommended reading, but instead because it was dark, exciting, and felt somehow forbidden. I still have a library copy of Once I had to replace because it slid from my pillow and onto a lamp while I was eating dinner. For those unfamiliar, on the melted plastic cover is the image of a pile of burning books, and on my own copy the last five pages similarly exhibit the brown tinge of a novel that nearly joined them.

I share my love of Morris Gleitzman with my mum. After my initial introduction to Doug the guardian angel, Mum and I would listen to Gleitzman audiobooks on long car trips. Our favourite is still Two Weeks with the Queen. Although the novel was published the year I was born, I believe strongly (and in some ways, sadly) that it still holds up beautifully thirty years on.

Gleitzman’s greatest gift as a writer seems to be that he can capture the naivety of an authentic child’s voice without resorting to inaction. His characters make delicious assumptions about the world around them, concoct theories and test hypotheses. In the words of Miss Frizzle, they “Take chance, make mistakes and get messy.” Whether it’s landmines in Boy Overboard, Nazis in Once, or cane toads in Toad Rage, he deftly handles harsh truths with an innocence and humour that is the true heart of a child. As a young boy reading Gleitzman, it struck me that you could stuff up and still be a hero.

Gleitzman talks on his own website about his new appointment, and his quest to understand what it means to “go into bat” for Australian children’s literature. “Do you mean” he asked ACLA chair Ron Gorman, “roam the land engaging young readers in a celebration of stories and all the precious things they get from them while at the same time encouraging adults to think more deeply and perceptively about the transformative qualities of good stories for young people and if possible read a few of them aloud?”
“Yes,” said Ron.

Gletizman could hardly refuse. After all, by my estimation he’s been doing exactly that for thirty years already.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Gleitzman’s new appointment. Which of his books is your favourite?

Lyndon Riggal

Editor's note: Two Weeks with the Queen certainly has a treasured place in my heart. I have always envied Morris' creativity when it comes to titles - they are so clever, pertinent and memorable!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Showcasing Tasmanian children’s book creators

This month, Kingston LINC celebrates Tasmanian children’s book illustrators with exhibits by four locally-based artists: Shiloh Longbottom, Gay McKinnon, Andrea Potter and Rachel Tribout. Interestingly, three of the four exhibits are based on author-illustrator collaborations between a parent and child, and all are by creators embracing the challenges of independent publishing. Tasmania appears to be fertile ground for indie children’s book creators, with the success of Jennifer Cossin’s 2017 CBCA Honours book, the self-published ‘A-Z of Endangered Animals’ (later acquired by Hachette) demonstrating the high standards being reached. As well as enriching the publishing landscape with local flavour, independently produced Tasmanian books allow new and diverse voices to be heard, bridging gaps in an industry that can afford to publish only a small number of new books per year.

Illustration by Shiloh Longbottom
Illustration by Shiloh Longbottom
Author Steve Isham and his daughter, illustrator and designer Shiloh Longbottom, collaborated to create the elegant Elephant and the Dog. This African-themed picture book, produced as a fundraiser for the Mafunzo Project, was crowd-funded and money raised from its sales helps to provide training for medical and nursing students at the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The artwork is stylized, with delicate colour harmonies and strongly geometric forms.

Shiloh explains: ‘I work digitally, but my process begins with research (e.g. animal forms and expressions), then hand sketches. I scan in these sketches and work in Illustrator to add colour and texture. When it fits (and it often does), I use dramatic contrast in colour and composition. I think this helps to draw the reader/viewer in and become part of the illustrated world. In children's books, the naive and geometric style I work in appeals because it allows children's imagination to fill in the gaps.’

Illustration by Gay McKinnon
Artist Gay McKinnon collaborated with her father, light verse writer Ray Kelley, to create Of Man and Beast, a display of illustrated humorous verse for children and adults. A number of the poems draw on the tradition of Harry Graham’s 1901 Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, including A Disproportionary Tale, the cautionary story of young Bess who plays with her yoyo to excess. Others, such as Pocket Pygmy Possum Poem, are based on actual events and animal qualities. The illustrations are delicate hand-painted ink and watercolour sketches, distilled down to a minimum of lines.

Illustration by Gay McKinnon
Gay explains: ‘The verses mostly follow strict forms, requiring discipline and economy of words, so I tried to make the pictures the same. They need to be light and understated to catch the spirit of the poems without distracting from the playfulness of the words. They’re somewhere between an illustration and a cartoon.’

Illustration by Andrea Faith Potter
Fine artist and illustrator Andrea Faith Potter works in schools as a teacher, and with gifted children, leading her to consider directly the needs of her audience in terms of text, artwork and publishing platform. Having already illustrated two books by Jackie French, Andrea is now working towards creating her own picture books for iPad and other digital readers. Her soft, glowing paintings are created using watercolour built up in layers with coloured pencil and incorporate fantasy, science fiction, humour and adventure.

Illustration by Andrea Faith Potter
Andrea says: ‘I love illustrating stories that encourage children to imagine.’ Her exhibit includes originals of images created for two iPad picture books in progress, one of which (To Planet Earth) is written by her daughter Lana Faith Young.

The fourth display by French-Tasmanian author-illustrator and graphic designer Rachel Tribout is a lively mix of maps, sketches, images and props from her two books from the Captain Blueberry series, The Monsters of Tasmania and The Journey of Admiral Bolognaise. Rachel's colourful, multi-layered digital illustrations bring the Tasmanian landscape to life in a fresh and exciting way. The Captain Blueberry series is a mix of inspirations from Rachel's childhood, her personal interest and living in Tasmania.
Illustration by Rachel Tribout

'I see faces in everything so it's natural for me to imagine the landscape alive with giant creatures. The landscape here is dramatic and the constantly changing light means it's always presenting itself anew - especially Tasmania's coastline. I grew up in a continental place, which means that as a kid I didn't see much of the sea. The ocean is a mysterious and powerful thing and I love to imagine what scary creatures inhabit the depths.'

Illustration by Rachel Tribout

Gay McKinnon
Illustrator and CBCA Tasmania Newsletter Editor.

Editor's note. Many thanks to Gay for sharing this inspiring exhibition with readers. Please share with friends and family and encourage them to visit Kingston LINC.
The exhibition can be seen at Kingston LINC  from now until 28th February.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Nothing to fear, but fear itself?

This week Felicity provides a thought provoking post about the place of fear in children’s literature.
An article from The Vintage News appeared in my Facebook feed. It was about Der Struwwelpeter (Shock-headed Peter), a story written by Heinrich Hoffman, a C19th German psychiatrist, as a Christmas present for his 3 year old son. I have no memory of having read this book, but it is a book in which the main characters are children who end up severely punished, or dead. Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands was developed from Scissorman, one of the characters who meted out punishment in the story. I started thinking about which scary stories we now offer to our young readers, and whether these have value or are just for the thrill seekers.
Paul Goat Allen, a children’s book reviewer, and father to girls aged 3 and 6, lists five reasons why horror in children’s books are a good thing, in a Barnes and Noble blog. Firstly, it gets kids interested in reading. Think Harry Potter, with plot lines that became darker and scarier as the series progresses. Secondly, by exploring the dark side of humanity and fear, children learn more about themselves; their strengths and weaknesses. Next, there are life lessons to be learned: to keep themselves safe in their dealings with the world and people in it. Fourthly, they learn more about the world, about literature, and have vicarious experiences. Lastly, reading about these experiences are reassuring: kids can be scared, travel with the protagonist, and then close those experiences up and resume their normal lives. I recall that one of my children used to have me take the book we had just read (and that scared her) out of the room. It could sit on the bookshelves in the hallway, but just not those in her room. As an aside, Santa and the Tooth Fairy never visited their rooms either.
Margaret Wild, Sonya Hartnett, Nick Falks (a psychologist and children’s author) and John Marsden acknowledge the power of fear as a fertile ground for writers. Marsden likes to “crank up” the fear to engage readers and make the book a page turner. I recall these feelings when reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, turning pages for sneak peeks, and with my heart beating wildly, wondering what horrors would come next. Perhaps because the premise of The Road was all too a believable reality.
Hilaire Belloc’s poem, Matilda is one of the first poems I learned to recite. Matilda’s lies, saw her die when she was not believed when telling the truth. I loved the fun of the rhyme and the richness of the vocabulary: words such as strict regard, infirmity, gallant and frenzied. I recall finding Harry Potter #2: The Chamber of Secrets to be exceedingly scary. Nick Falks was terrified by Roald Dahl’s The Witches, as an eight year old. Beatrix Potter’s The tale of Samuel Whiskers or the Roly Poly Pudding turned me off reading the rest of the Peter Rabbit books until reading them to my children.
My children then introduced me to the world of Tim Burton: The Nightmare before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Perhaps a different sort of scary, because the images of fear are provided, rather than created in one’s imagination, but a fear they seemed happy to experience and explore. I believe Neil Gaiman has created one of the scariest stories in recent times, with his tale of Coraline, a ‘be careful what you wish for’ and the ‘grass isn’t greener’ response to Coraline Jones wish for a more exciting family. 

What memories do you have of being scared by a book you have read?

The Corpse Bride movie trailer

Felicity Sly
Teacher librarian, CBCA Tas Treasurer

Saturday, 27 January 2018

The Story of Ferdinand revisited

This week Chris explores a comparison between the 1936 picture book and the new release feature length movie 'Ferdinand'...

There are so many elements involved with comparing both forms of the story - I will attempt to keep it simple yet provide opportunities to explore some of these. This story is one that I have treasured since before I can remember.

The Story of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936 and has been in print and popular with children and their teachers and parents for over 80 years. Ferdinand is a bull who has no ambition to fight in the bullring in Madrid, he prefers to smell the flowers in the meadows of his home.

At the time it was published it was very controversial as the link given shows, due not only to its subject matter but also the setting and the time. It became a runaway best seller, never having been out of print since.
It was made into a cartoon in 1938 by Walt Disney, the story line following the original very closely, with some characteristically humorous Disney touches.

The Ferdinand of the movie has many things in common with the original story, but the events would not fill a feature length movie as it stands, so the story has gained many characters, events and attitudes that are far from the original.

I went to see this movie with two friends, both experienced teachers who had known and loved Ferdinand’s story from childhood, as had I, and had all read it to many children over the years.
We were rather apprehensive about the movie experience, as we had read the following review by Sharon Brody from Cognoscenti but we went anyway.

There were, as we expected, quite a few shocks for us to weather but we three ultimately agreed on the fact that though this was in many ways a different story it was a retelling that fits in today’s world. We also enjoyed it very much. You might too!

Christine Donnelly
Teacher Librarian (moving into Publications) and avid reader

Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Reading Year in Review

Maureen sums up her 10 favourite reads from 2017, with a 'note to self' that she plans to read more books for younger readers during this year.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that this brings lots of wonderful reading and you find some new ‘friends’.
I am going to open this year’s blogs with a reflection on some of last year’s highlights for me, not all of them 2017 publications, and not all Australian. When I started considering what I would include I realised that I hadn’t read much aimed at younger readers so that is my resolution for this year.
I have listed my choices alphabetically by title, not by preference:

Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson. Great mystery story about a twelve-year old coping with his OCD, which causes constant hand-washing and his isolation, yet with a positive outlook. Good companion to John Green’s older readers’ s title, Turtles All the Way Down.

Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet. Tullet has done it again with this visually vibrant picture book full of sounds, actions and interaction, probably too long and energetic for book full of sounds, actions and interaction, probably too long and energetic for bedtime but a great way to get kids involved in the reading process.

Small Things by Mel Tregonning. It’s such a pity Mel did not get to see how well this book, about a boy’s inner demons, was received. Wordless, the art work pulls the reader into each page to empathise with the boy's struggles.  A picture book, but not for the very young.

Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas. I read this as an ebook and it works well in that format. Spudvilas retells the story of the ballet with word summaries of each act, but mainly through charcoal drawings with added light and colour, stretching across the double page spread, allowing the tensions to shine through.

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood. Three girls tell their version of their lives and changing priorities, a school assignment, and the cyber bullying they are all coping with. Full of references to youth culture. Great for older readers.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Set in the United States, this is the story of Starr, who splits her life between home in a poor neighbourhood, the rich school she attends, and the aftermath of witnessing the police shooting her best friend. Should she speak out as to what really happened or remain silent and safe? It’s full of controversial issues and discussion points, powerfully written.

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne. Bella’s dog disappears into the gutter of the book, as do all the people who come to help her. It’s not a 2017 publication but this doesn’t detract from the fun of the story where both the main character and the reader know what’s going on.

Through the Gate by Sally Fawcett. A wonderful picture book depiction of the confusion and heartache to a child of moving to a ‘new’ house which needs renovating, but slowly adapting to the new environment and learning to accept the foibles, changes and advantages of the new place.

Was Not Me! by Shannon Horsfall. A child’s attempted explanation for all his naughty actions by blaming it on his imaginary twin brother, named 'Was Not Me'. Preschoolers will enjoy the humour and parents will recognise their own exasperations.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. In this historical novel mixing fact and fantasy, set in Russia in winter, Feo is learning to be a wolf-wilder. With revolution brewing everywhere, she befriends Ilya and, after her mother is captured, she has to rescue her and protect the wolves.

I wonder if I would have chosen a different list on another day. Maybe just a more difficult process getting my list down to my self-imposed 10. What would you have on your list of best in 2017? Are any the same as mine?

Maureen Mann
Retired Teacher-Librarian and Avid Reader

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas magic through digital storytelling

This week your editor presents a compilation of Christmas related videos, a mix of stories, retellings and reimaginings along with some Christmas messages produced by commercial enterprises - it is nice to see them giving back to their customers with good will and festive cheer. The list concludes with an amazing 1956 animation of the Christmas story. Enjoy the selection - there is enough to see you and your family through to Christmas.  

Coming Home - Michael Morpurgo 
reciting his story with a mix of shots from the book and the author. Following, is Waitrose's interpretation of the tale as a short film.

Home for Christmas (Waitrose, 2016).

Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree (Brian Muzik)
(a witty parody)

Neil Gaiman reads "A Christmas Carol" (New York Public Library podcast)

(note lengthy introduction - retelling starts at 11:50 mins)

Moz the Monster (John Lewis, 2017)

Buster the Boxer (John Lewis, 2016)

Paddington & the Christmas Visitor (Marks & Specer, 2017)

A Christmas with Love from Mrs Claus (Marks & Spencer, 2016)

The Greatest Gift (Sainsbury 2016)

The Bear and the Hare (John Lewis, 2013)

Monty the Penguin (John Lewis, 2014)

Mog's Christmas Calamity - Judith Kerr (Sainsbury, 2017)

The Land of Make Believe - A Little Christmas Tail (Harrods, 2015)

The Wish Writer (Macy's, 2015)

Gingerbread reindeer (Lowe's 2016)

Coming Home for Christmas (Heathrow, 2016)

Saving Santa's Star (Myer, 2016)

Elf's Journey (Myer, 2017)

Christopher the Christmas Tree (1993; 25  mins)

The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree (1979, 25 mins)

The Star of Bethlehem
Cathedral Films re-release this 1956 film by silhouette animator Lotte Reniger.

Merry Christmas!! Enjoy the viewing and the time spent sharing these visual stories and heart warming Christmas messages.

Jennie Bales
CBCA Tas Social Media Editor, reader, lecturer and book seller.
Note to viewers: Share your favourite from the list or share a new link with readers). 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Still Doing the Writing?

This week Sally Odgers is our guest author. She lives in Tasmania and her books have been an integral part of the lives of many children and a host of Tasmanian libraries over four decades. Sally shares her passions, quirky humour and long-time passion with all things bookish – as an author, manuscript assessor, editor and online sharer through multiple sites.

Writing and editing is an interesting—if peculiar—way to make a living. I favour series where characters grow and progress, and where a sidekick in one can be a main character in another, and where the tiniest two-line thread offers a whole new book to explore. I make lists, glossaries and labyrinthine websites. I even highjacked Ancestry Dot Com to make a (private) family tree of series characters. I was amused when Ancestry started waving Greenleaf hints at me, telling me three of my invented characters (many of whom are fairies, if you please!) were born in the USA on such-and-such a date.
My first story was published in 1970. I lost count after the fiftieth title in 1991. In early 2017, I started a book-a-day blog. I wanted my books listed so people could seek out series and related titles. I wanted to reassure myself I hadn’t wasted the past forty-seven years. I wanted a body of writing to render into a book about my books. It’s not a commercial enterprise, but hey, I’ll publish it myself! Finally, I want to know just how many books there are. Let’s just say I’ll run out of year before I run out of titles.
What is a children’s book? By my definition, it’s a book written for children. If it was a film, it would rate a PG or M at the most. It is usually about people under eighteen. Otherwise, it’s a book. It needs story, style, character, theme and something else…an indefinable sparkle.
One of Sally's ebook offerings.
What about the children’s author? To last in this job for as many years as I have, you need talent, persistence, a creative mind and the willingness and ability to keep on writing in the face of change and knockbacks. Every five years or so, the industry reinvents itself. We adapt, or, creatively, we perish. Finding and keeping markets is increasingly difficult. That’s one reason I can never let go of the concept of writing for myself.
As we near 2018, there’s still time for at least one more person to meet me somewhere and say, “Hi, Sally, still doing the writing?”
How do I respond? Not with, “Hi, X, still doing the breathing?”
I could say, “Yes. I had fourteen books out this year.”
And they might say. “Oh,” in a puzzled tone. Because they haven’t read about me or my books in the paper, or seen me interviewed on telly…

So I’ll probably just smile, and direct them to my blog.

More about Sally

Sally Odgers was born in Tasmania in the 1950s, went to school there in the 1960s, married there in the 1970s, and had children there in the 1980s. She could go on, but she expects you get the picture. She started writing as a child, and has continued along the story-track ever since. She writes many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, romance, animal stories, how-to, verse and historical novels, and offers talks and workshops.
For the past twenty or so years, she’s run a manuscript assessment and editing service through the website Affordable Manuscripts.   
She also runs the tiny publishing collective Prints Charming Books. This specialises in not-for-profit novel anthologies.
Take the time to explore Sally’s
book-a-day blog and her writing websites
Books by Sally Odgers
Jack Russell: Dog Detective and Co
Her alter ego, Lark Westerly, has a site,  but Lark’s books are not for children.

Editor’s note for aspiring writers.
Check out Prints Charming Books. The current anthology of Warriors is under development and open for ideas until 30 January 2018. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Water – an artistic challenge

Lois Bury resides on Bruny Island, surrounded by water and stunning vistas. Lois is an artist, painting birds and other wildlife for Art at the Point, a local gallery, along with illustrative commissions, particularly in picture books. Join Lois as she explores some of the artistic challenges she grappled with in her latest endeavour.
Quentin the Quoll on Bruny Island is about to go to the printers, and is the second in a series of picture books written and published by Kate Morton in Tasmania.  The first, Little Spot, was published to draw attention to the endangered 40-Spotted Pardalote and the efforts of the Australian National University programs to increase the population. The problems that Little Spot faced are similar everywhere – loss of habitat, predators and disease. The series tells of the characters that are the birds and animals that live on Bruny Island.  

In this book, Quentin is having a water adventure and the first step was to get the storyboard and dummy book together and develop the Quentin character.

Then I had to start thinking of painting the precious, flowing water. I did refer to Jackie French and Bruce Whatley’s book, Flood, and Bruce’s wonderfully fluid paintings. I use the drip technique in some of my big bird paintings but didn’t feel it appropriate to introduce them again.  A watery palette was easy to decide on and I had already used the Daniel Smith watercolour paints on some smaller projects.  They are American and are mineral based so there was something very elemental about them.  The key to portraying the muddy waters was introducing ‘Bronzite Genuine’ to the ‘Ultramarine Blue’ and ‘Ultramarine Turquoise’ as different layers with some white pencil to indicate the swirling, gurgling water.  Indigo, one of my favourite colours, brought some depth and darkness, especially to the evening scene.  When I was painting and the medium was still wet I wanted to stop it there, it felt quite sad to see it dry.  Practicalities meant that I had no choice.

Lois Bury
Artist and illustrator
Website: http://www.loisburyart.com.au/