A Breath of Fresh Air – Katrina McKelvey on ‘Dandelions’

imageKatrina McKelvey started life in a little country town in New South Wales, where she was fortunate to be able to soak up the charming facets of nature. Nowadays, Katrina is soaking up the well-deserved praise for her gorgeous debut picture book, ‘Dandelions’.
Having had embraced the pleasures and joys through her roles as mother, former teacher, CBCA Newcastle sub-branch president, committee member for the Newcastle Writers’ Festival, and now author, Katrina’s first book certainly reflects her creativity, dedication and passion for life and love for children.

image‘Dandelions’ is a whimsical, delicate story of the special bond between father and daughter, but also of the magic of the world around us. It is about resilience, hope, imagination, wonder and affection. Katrina’s text is perfectly poised, complimenting its storyline on every level. Graceful and tender, the story explores the life cycle of the dandelion as a little girl prompts her Dad to re-evaluate the beauty and simplicity that life has to offer, and together they allow their imaginations to take a wonderful flight.

The illustrations by Kirrili Lonergan are exquisite, with their watercolour fluidity that almost literally sweeps us in to this free and dreamy world. As the wind carries the dandelion seeds across town, we too, can sense ourselves swirling, twirling, spinning and turning on this fanciful drift.

Lyrically and visually stunning, ‘Dandelions’ will spread love, appreciation and curiosity far and wide, harvesting treasured bonds between the generations. Readers from age four will be blown away by its beauty!

I am delighted to have had the opportunity to find out more about Katrina McKelvey and how her ‘Dandelion’ wish literally came true.  

Congratulations on the release of your first picture book, ‘Dandelions’! What have you got planned for your upcoming book launch?  

Thanks! Kirrili and I plan to celebrate in a huge way with our family and friends. We will be launching Dandelions on Saturday, 31st October at 10:30am in the Lovett Gallery at Newcastle Library. We have planned some dandy treats, craft activities and a live reading of the story. We will be projecting the illustrations on a large screen as I read so everyone can feel like they are part of the book even from the back of the room. Kirrili will give a demonstration of how to draw a dandelion seed head. And of course we will be toasting all the people who have helped us during this long journey.  

image‘Dandelions’ is a sensitive and magical story of the beauty of nature and the loving relationship between father and daughter. What was the inspiration behind this story?

As my daughter and I used to walk to and from preschool, she would jump in gardens and gutters to pick dandelion seed heads. We found them growing everywhere. She enjoyed blowing them apart with me. After that, as my husband mowed the lawn, I used to get a little sad watching him destroy the dandelion plants that made those puff balls she loved so much and I wondered how she would feel if she ever found out.  

I have loved watching the relationship develop between my husband and our daughter. It’s a very special relationship – one I hope they cherish forever.  

This book also incorporates lyrical elements that are perfect for promoting dance and movement. As a former teacher, do you have any other teaching and learning ideas for children to engage further with ‘Dandelions’?  

Gosh, the possibilities are endless!  

Firstly, the story should just be enjoyed. I hope adults and children find a really comfy, quiet place to snuggle in and share the magic of Dandelions.  

But to extend this experience, here are some more educational based ideas.
1) Children could investigate the lifecycle of a dandelion and watch it happen in their own backyards. They could research the origin of the name ‘dandelion’. It’s very interesting! They could also investigate dandelion folk names. Some of these are very funny. There are great time lapse videos on YouTube showing how a dandelion flower turns into a seed head. Amazing!  
2) Children could investigate other uses of the parts of the dandelion plant. Every part of the plant can be eaten in some way. You’d be amazed. But I don’t advise you just pick it and start eating it! Children may also like to taste dandelion tea.  
3) Children could collect dandelion seed heads, leaves and flowers. They could use dandelion seeds to make pictures and collages, use dandelion leaves to stamp patterns, and use dandelion flowers as a brush or stamp to paint pictures.  
4) Parents and teachers could discuss the themes of Dandelions with children. The themes include forgiveness, resilience, hope, love, using your imagination, and the importance of the different types of family relationships.  
5) If teachers and parents have children with sensory needs, this book is an excellent companion or springboard to assist with enhancing their sensory learning experiences (blowing, touching, tasting, and seeing).  
And for more advanced children:  
6) Dandelions is full of prepositions and verbs. Children could try and find them. Children could brainstorm other prepositions and verbs to show how and where they think dandelions move and then write their own sentences using a similar structure to the sentences in Dandelions (e.g. … tumbling in the wind above …). They could publish and illustrate their sentences and form a class book.  

A full set of ‘Teaching Notes’ is available by clicking here.  

imageKirrili Lonergan‘s illustrations perfectly compliment the gentle, whimsical nature of the text. What do you like about Kirrili’s work, and how did you find the collaborative process with her?  
I’ve had the privilege of watching Kirrili’s style develop first hand over the last several years. I love how she layers colours, her messy nature and her signature stripes. The first time I saw a completed dandelion seed head I cried. (Hint: Look at the endpapers)  

Our friendship started many years earlier, but our collaboration for this book actually started back in 2011 – long before our contract – with a single dandelions illustration. That illustration travelling the country with my manuscript and accompanied many rejections all the way back home.  

Late in 2013, I found a writing competition I could send Dandelions to. The judge was a publisher and she wanted to publish it after we completed a few rewrites. Then I was asked if I would like to suggest an illustration style that would match my story (this is rare). Of course I put forward Kirrili’s illustration that travelled the country with my original manuscript. The publisher agreed and our official ‘Dandelions’ collaboration was born.  
I was so lucky to see the illustrations develop and grow during the next part of the publication process. Usually authors don’t have input into the illustration process – they just get in the way!  

I watched Kirrili enjoy developing her unique style for this book, develop her colour palette, and perfect her seed heads – sometimes by touch light (but that’s another story!). I saw her pride grow as she moved closer and closer to finalising every single illustration. She would send me photos of her work in progress at random times – which was always a delight.  

We had fun going on day trips to take photos of houses, trees, rivers and flowers. We looked at colours, angles, movement and style. I learnt a lot. She looks at things in a different way to me – with that artistic eye I don’t have. She designed and finalised the cover and sent it to the publisher before I got to see it. Kirrili wanted to keep it as a surprise until further through the process. When I finally saw it, I cried! – again.  

How would you describe your publishing experience with EK Books?  

We have been so lucky! We have worked with a beautiful publishing team. From the initial discussion about the possibility of publishing Dandelions to now, every member of the team has been helpful and lovely. Kirrili and I have felt we have been kept in the loop and guided and supported professionally through every step of the journey. Every word and every line has had the attention of several people. Everything went smoothly. We are so proud of the relationship we have developed with EK Books and we are proud of the book we made together.  

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating this book?  

I think the rewards are still coming. I can’t wait to see Dandelions in the hands of children and see how they interact with the story. I wonder what their favourite page will be? I wonder whether Dandelions makes dads stop and snuggle with their daughters on the lawn somewhere instead of mowing it!  

One of the biggest challenges was to find a publisher who believed in the story as much as I did.  

The second biggest challenge was to wait from the signing of the contract until I had the first copy of Dandelions in my hand. It took 2 years from getting my publisher’s attention to holding it. At least I got to watch Kirrili illustrate it during the long wait.  

Who or what inspired you to become an author? Do you have a preference for the type of genre you like to write? What is it about writing stories for children that you love?  

I was a full-time mum while my children were little. I read lots of picture books to them during this time and fell in love with them. I had given up primary teaching so when my children started preschool, I wanted to start a new career that involved children and was very creative. It had to be flexible too so I could do it around my family’s needs. Writing for children was the answer. I find writing hard work. It doesn’t come easy for me so I love the challenge. It keeps me feeling young.  

I love writing picture books but have dabbled with the idea of writing early chapter book in the near future. Writing a picture book is extremely hard!  Writing for children gives me permission to play with words. I get to play with the sound of them and the look of them too. I get to make up characters and journey with them as they do amazing things. I get to connect with children on a very deep level and have fun with them too.  

I admire Stephen Michael King’s writing style. I often reread the picture books he has written to see how he’s played with words. My favourites include, ‘A Bear and a Tree’, and ‘Henry and Amy’.  

Besides dandelions, what is your favourite kind of plant or flower?  

I have a few but I would have to say roses. I love looking at them and the way they smell. I grow them in my own garden and they get fussed over a little. They make an appearance in Dandelions too. I also love Lavender, Jasmine and Violets.  

imageWhat were your favourite books to read as a child? Any that have influenced you as a writer now?  

I have to honestly say I don’t have a favourite book from childhood. I was a reluctant reader as a child and I could be found climbing trees and playing Basketball instead. I found THE book when I was teaching in my twenties – Just Tricking by Andy Griffiths. I completely understand what it is like not to want to read books. I was a good reader but had no desire to jump into a book. Quite sad now I think about it. Hopefully I can help children who a reluctant readers with my books.  

What’s next for Katrina McKelvey? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?  

I have lots of picture book ideas rolling around in my head and as many on my computer. I have a couple of solicited picture book manuscripts in front of publishers at the moment too. I‘ve been planning a new picture book manuscript which will have children turning books upside down. I plan to start submitting early chapter books to publishers next year.  

I’ll continue to work on the children’s program of the Newcastle Writers’ Festival. I enjoy being a Books In Homes Role Model. I love working with my ‘children’s writing group’ though the Hunter Writers Centre. I also participate in the guided reading program in my daughter’s classroom. I’m busy but I’m so fortunate.  

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Katrina! It’s been a pleasure!

*Dandelions will be launched on Saturday, 31st October at 10:30am in the Lovett Gallery at Newcastle Library.  See details here.

**For more information on the author, please visit Katrina’s website and facebook pages.  

***And for Dimity’s full review of ‘Dandelions’, click here.

Brilliant Brisbane Writers Festival 2015

The BWF shone again. Jon Ronson’s opening address wooed everyone and we bought a copy of The Psychopath Test on the spot. What a funny, clever man.

CollinsI realised on opening night that this was my 10th consecutive year moderating sessions at the BWF. What a privilege to have conversed with writers such as Booker shortlisted authors Abdulrazak Gurnah and Michael Collins over the years.

Another past highlight was when I chaired the phenomenal Andy Griffiths speaking to an adult audience. He morphed into Vincent Price and Struwwelpeter. I’ve never seen him as funny. I chaired a couple of sessions with Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author, John Boyne the same year, and he got to share the electricity of the stage with Andy for that memorable panel. John’s upcoming Boy at the Top of the Mountain is incredible, by the way. It will be published in October.Mountain

Other years it was a privilege to speak with Hungarian holocaust survivor Peter Lantos, and to listen to Gabrielle Carey and Linda Neil share how they grieved for their mothers.

I almost swooned when invited to facilitate the session with the brilliant Margo Lanagan and Marianne de Pierres. And Morris Gleitzman and Gabrielle Wang were another unforgettable pairing.

The incomparable Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak one-on-one with an author I have admired greatly for years. He was such a gentleman. NZ writer Kate di Goldi was delightful and, last year, Nick Earls was a load of laughs. Mem Fox (Possum Magic) was the very first author I chaired at the BWF, back in the days of tents. There have been many, many special sessions, a number of which I was called in to chair at late notice and had to wing.

A final past highlight was ‘African Stories’ with Caine Prize winners EC Esondo Waiting, and Kenyan Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. This session was recorded by ABC Radio National http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bookshow/brisbane-writers-festival-african-stories/2973532

RosieThe 2015 sessions were right up there too. I was thrilled to moderate three separate sessions with one author in each, beginning with the inimitable Graeme Simsion talking about The Rosie Effect. Graeme delighted in his audience and met many of them in the queue beforehand and then in the auditorium before the session began. He even beat me to it and jumped on stage to introduce me! I loved how he answered the questions with clarity and stayed on topic. I won’t give away his excellent tips on how to write comedy. The Rosie Effect also deals with big issues. The audience loved him. So did I.

Forever YoungMy second session was with 2014 PM Literary Award co-winner Steven Carroll. I was quaking because his new novel Forever Young is the best literary fiction I’ve read this year and he is such an eminent author (see *below) but we hit it off straight away with a shared interest in art and music (even though I disgraced myself on stage with an innocent question about the song Please Please Me. Unfortunately Steven wouldn’t sing the Dylan version of Forever Young but in every other way he exceeded expectations with his answers to my questions. This was a session of profound insights as well as lots of laughs. I’m now reading through the rest of his stunning Glenroy series.

ShiningMy last session was with Somali refugee Abdi Aden. Abdi enthralled the audience with his powerful story in Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man, which tells how he escaped from soldiers in Somali and his torturous journey to a refugee camp in Kenya and then to Romania, Germany and Australia. I have never seen an audience with such anguish in their faces as they listened to Abdi speak about what it’s like to be a refugee. Abdi recognises the generosity of the Australian people in giving him the opportunity to shine here.

 

Other authors I admire and had a moment to speak with in passing were Cass Moriarty, Briony Stewart, Felicity Plunkett and Christine Bongers (too quickly!) and I know I have forgotten to mention some – apologies.

I also met Richard Glover when I inadvertently mistook him for an *eminent writer of literary fiction. I’ll be hearing Richard speak about Flesh Wounds soon and know he will be hilarious.

Thank you to the wonderful publicists from the publishing companies and the staff and volunteers of the BWF who looked after us all so well. Our minds are now wide open!

G Simsion

SWF After Party

HMay was packed full of exciting book events, a number linked to the Sydney Writers’ Festival. My SWF week began with the evening announcement of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards at the Mitchell Library. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people and meet new authors.

The other awards evening I attended was the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA). This was a glittering event, particularly this year when we were asked to wear a splash of ruby red to celebrate the 15th awards dinner.

We were spoiled by having Casey Bennetto (creator of Keating the Musical) again as MC. He does an amazing job writing songs about those who present the awards and delivers these as mini-performances. Award presenters included international guests David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks), Michael Connolly (American writer of crime fiction and detective novels, best know for those featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch), Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes and James Bond original novels, the Alex Rider teen series, Foyle’s War and Midsummer Murders) and Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk), who also gave the closing address of the SWF.

 

2014 Miles Franklin winner, Evie Wyld (All the Birds, Singing) also had her own song and Casey Bennetto wished that he had written one for Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief). He ad-libbed something on the spot, incorporating ‘John Cusack’ to rhyme with ‘Zusak’. Zusak presented his former editor, Celia Jellett from Omnibus Books, Scholastic, with the Pixie O’Harris Award for service to Australian children’s books.

Foreign SoilIt was lovely to meet Josephine Moon (The Tea Chest) and Maxine Beneba Clark, who won the Literary Fiction Book of the Year for Foreign Soil, and I spied legends, Sonya Hartnett (Golden Boys) and Morris Gleitzman (Loyal Creatures) at the next table.

Some other award winners were Judith Rossell, who is snapping up awards, including the Indies, for Withering-by-Sea; Tim Low for Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World (Tim was so surprised, he was dumb-struck); and Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen for Tea and Sugar Christmas. Boomerang Books was shortlisted for Online Retailer of the Year.

52

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton won ‘Book of the Year: Younger Children’ for The 52-Storey Treehouse and this also won overall ‘Book of the Year’, selected from the winners of each category. Another well-deserved scoop for children’s books.

Andy Griffiths was also a star at the SWF, signing books at the head of an enormous queue for, essentially, a whole day.

Because we are big fans of the Canadian TV series Orphan Black, we went to a screenwriters’ panel at the SWF, where Orphan Black writer, Lynne Coady, was speaking. She looks quite like the multi-role playing star of the show, Tatiana Maslany. Lynne got the conversation to a deeper level by confiding her fear of working as part of a screen-writing team. As an introvert who had been writing literary fiction alone in her basement she was worried how her voice would be heard in a group of, presumably, loud voices. Her vulnerability lit a spark in the panel’s discussion.

Waiting for the PastAnother highlight was hearing three eminent poets, David Malouf, Les Murray (Waiting for the Past) and Ben Okri read and speak about poetry. Moderator, poet/singer-songwriter Kate Fagan enhanced the session.

Another enthusiastic moderator was Davina Bell (The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade see my interview here) who chaired four YA authors in ‘Keeping it Real: Realistic Issues in Teen Fiction’. Authors included international Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory), who intrigued the audience by knitting throughout the session, and Australian Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road), to whom homage was deservedly paid.

Jellicoe Road

Brisbane Writers Festival Dazzles

Analogue MenThe  2014 Brisbane Writers Festival had an inspiring launch on Thursday night when author/publisher Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What – about the lost boys of Sudan) told a full tent  about the genesis of McSweeney’s publishing company and its 826 Valencia Writing Centres. The tutoring behind these pirate, superhero and other themed storefronts has helped countless children with their writing. Groups doing similar work in Australia are Sydney’s Story Factory with its Martian Embassy, Melbourne’s 100 Story Building, and Book Links in Queensland is working towards its own centre.

My next session was ‘Dangerous Allies’ where Robert Manne interviewed Malcolm Fraser in front of a capacity crowd. The insights about Australia’s alliance with the US were provocative and chilling.

‘Zen and the Art of Tea’ was a light-hearted exploration of tea by Morris Gleitzman and Josephine Moon. Josephine’s tip about brewing lavender, garlic or basil to make teas sounds worth trying and Morris – a literary Geoffrey Rush – was hilarious. He personified coffee as a bully, and tea as a whispering lover.

David Hunt was in fine form discussing his Indies Book winner, Girt which is a retelling of Australian history with a comedic eye.

It was fun to cross paths with David Malouf (for the second time in two weeks), Jennifer Byrne, Will Kostakis, Pamela Rushby and Tristan Bancks. If only there was more time for more sessions … I would have loved to see YA writers such as A.J. Betts, Isobelle Carmody and Jackie French but they were either offsite or clashed with my events. Andy Griffiths was so popular he had his own signing area after the other children’s writers’ part of the program had finished. Chairing Andy and John Boyne (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) a few years ago was one of the funniest times of my life.

Forgotten Rebels of EurekaThis year I was privileged to moderate sessions with Clare Wright on The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text) and Nick Earls on Analogue Men (Vintage). Clare must be the world’s most informed person in her field of women at Eureka. Her book deservedly won the Stella Prize this year. It is compulsive, engaging reading, notwithstanding its 500+ pages.

Nick was as funny as expected and revealed a secret about Analogue Men. We learned that his favourite Dr Who is Jon Pertwee and his favourite tech device Bluetooth. I explained how I laughed out loud repeatedly over one scene that I read on instant replay and Nick implied that my brain is like that of a goldfish. But no – it really was the skilful writing. It was wonderful to hear the laughing throughout this session and see the animated audiences in both these events.

Many thanks to the authors involved in the Festival, particularly Clare and Nick, and to the incredible BWF staff and volunteers led by Kate Eltham.

Review – Seadog

SeaDogIn his youth, my shaggy-coated border collie had a fondness for rolling in guano, preferably just after bath time. The maturity and inability age brings to pursue such endearing past-times means I have not had to deal with that glorious dead-fish-wet-dog-poo smell for some years – until now.

Thanks to the jolly new picture book Seadog, by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellet, there’s a new canine character in my life. And I love him.

Who couldn’t adore the larger than life, guiltless, messy charm of this floppy-eared mutt? There are many things Seadog is not. He is not a clean, shiny dog. He is not a trick dog or a fetch dog. But his devotion to his young family and all things maritime knows no bounds. Even if he is permanently on the nose, wilfully disobedient and partial to rolling in piles of rotten fish, Seadog embodies the immense spirit of the sea with an unparalleled verve for life, and terrifying seagulls.

His devil-may-care personality races across each page and through the briny waves until he develops some serious grooming issues. But Seadogs ‘don’t like baths’ either.

Tom JelletTom Jellet’s super-groovy illustrations depict our scruffy hero in rough and ready style. Jellet’s line drawings boldly ignore the sticking-within-the-line rule giving Seadog the perfect unkempt, woofy appearance. Until he concedes to ‘a few short minutes’ of pampering and preening so that every hair lies neatly in place, within the lines of conformity, ‘until someone opens the door…’

From the navel flag bedecked end pages (which I took some minutes to try to translate hoping for a secret message there in – a la SEADOG!) to Claire Saxby’s easy verse-style text that reads like a rousing sea shanty, Seadog is a boisterous, enchanting read about a dog with more heart than the largest ocean and infinitely more appeal than a pile of rotten fish.Claire Saxby

In your face fun for pre-schoolers and beginner readers.

Andy Griffiths will officially launch Seadog at the Williamstown Literary Festival on June 2nd at 2.00pm. All are welcome to join Claire Saxby, however energetic canines unfortunately cannot attend!

Random House Australia Released May 2013

 

Review – The 13-Storey Treehouse

Now, I ask you this. Who would NOT want to live in a thirteen-storey treehouse? Or a treehouse at all, for that matter. And most particularly, who wouldn’t want to live in a thirteen-storey treehouse with a see-through swimming pool? An underground laboratory? A flying machine that shoots marshmallows into your mouth?

No one, that’s who. And to top it all off (as if you could want more) – you’d get to live with Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton and their whackadoodle lifestyle, where cats fly, gorillas scale your exterior walls and sea monkeys turn into great hulking monsters (that may or may not have first made Terry fall in love with them).

This is a kooky-good book that was tremendous fun to read. I loved not only the shenanigans this clever pair got up to, but I loved taking a glimpse into the lives and working processes of two very dedicated kid-lit professionals, who clearly take their work very seriously. And making kids laugh and stretching their imaginations wide – well, that’s very serious business indeed.

Coupled with funny, scratchy illustrations that will engage even younger readers, The 13-Storey Treehouse is another triumph in the get-kids-reading junior fiction world. That is, I’m sure, until The 26-Storey Treehouse comes out this September.

Watch this space.

The 13-Storey Treehouse is published by Pan Macmillan.

Anthology preview

There’s a new anthology on the way. It contains contributions from over 50 Australian authors and illustrators (including me). It’s not due for release until June this year. But I’m so excited about it, that I’m gonna give you a little heads up!

Back in 2008, Ford Street Publishing released a HUGE anthology of stories, poems and illustrations for kids and teens. Edited by Paul Collins and featuring Gary Crew, Andy Griffiths and Hazel Edwards among its 50+ contributors, Trust Me! has been one of Ford Street’s biggest sellers. In fact, it has proved to be so popular that Collins and Ford Street have produced a sequel — Trust Me Too.

Again, we are being provided with a smorgasbord of Australian literary and illustrative talent. Take a look at the promo poster, which features photos of all the contributors…

I can’t wait to get my contributor’s copy so I can read all the stories from the other authors. So much talent in the one book!

Particularly exciting for me is that this anthology gave me the opportunity to write a new Gamers short story. The whole Gamers thing began with a short story, titled “Game Plan”, which appeared in Trust Me!. I then adapted that story into the novel, Gamers’ Quest… which then begat a sequel, Gamers’ Challenge. And now in Trust Me Too, I’ve got “Gamers’ Inferno”.

While set in the same universe as the Gamers books (a computer game world with multiple environments), “Gamers’ Inferno” is a completely independent story. You don’t need to have read the books to understand (and hopefully enjoy) the story. But if you have read the books, there are little nods and references to pick up on.

“Gamers’ Inferno” introduces a new set of characters and features a game environment not previously seen in the novels. I’ve got to say, that I had a lot of fun writing this story. It’s set in a vaguely Italian Renaissance inspired city under the control of the mysterious Inquisition, ruling through fear and the threat of the Inferno. A young orphan named Raph, finds himself on the run from the Inquisition’s militia. After getting advice from the mysterious Dama Sebastiana Annunciata, hidden away from the militia in the bowels of the city, Raph finally comes face-to-face with the Lords of the Inquisition — Lord Brimstone, Lord Blaze and Lord Dante. Will he find himself thrown into the Inferno? You’ll have to wait until June to find out. 😉

Catch ya later,  George

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The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

A Wiltija

Recently my 15 year-old son had a life changing experience. He spent 3 days with a group of 20 teens from his school doing voluntary work at a remote aboriginal community.

They built a Wiltija to provide shade for the elders. They built 5 park benches and did many other small tasks around the community.

They met wonderful people and experienced a way of life that most people never see.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is allowing us all to share the kind of things my son experienced through The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, Stories by children from remote Indigenous communities.

The stories are funny, fascinating and scary and each page is uniquely illustrated. There are thirteen stories about life and the things that happen.

This wonderful book is edited by Andy Griffiths who says,

In this book there are stories about the simple pleasures of playing with friends, riding motorbikes, picking berries and hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs sitting alongside tales of terrifying turkeys, angry mamus, farcical football matches and crocodiles with an unfortunate – but completely understandable – preference for eating naked people.

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is a project of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and aims to improve literacy in remote Indigenous communities around Australia.

When you buy this unique book you’ll be helping the Indigenous Literacy Foundation but you’ll also be experiencing something unique.

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile belongs in every Christmas stocking.


Remote Indigenous Kids Raise Funds For Literacy

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, thirteen stories written by Aboriginal kids from some of the remotest parts of Australia, will raise funds to help more children in the bush gain literacy skills.

The stories have been edited and collected by Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s ambassador and bestselling children’s author, Andy Griffiths, and will be sold on Indigenous Literacy Day, Wednesday 7 September.

Every book sold will help raise funds to provide books and literacy resources to over 200 communities across Australia.

Griffiths conducted writing workshops with kids aged 6 years+ and traveled as far afield as the edge of the Great Sandy Desert to the Kimberleys and right to the very the heart of Australia. Some of the communities he’s visited in the past three years include Manyallayuk (NT), Wyndham (WA), Warburton (WA) and Wilcannia in NW-NSW.

In some remote Indigenous communities only one in five children can read at the accepted minimum level. And for many of the children Griffiths worked with, English was their third or sometimes fourth language.

But Griffiths encouraged them to write down stories of their lives – and then illustrate them! The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is the result.

“These lively stories tell of ‘riding motorbikes… hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs’ and include ‘tales of terrifying turkeys, angry spirits, farcical football matches’. And there’s one about a very hungry crocodile with a preference for eating naked people!”, says Andy in the introduction.

Visiting the communities, the city-dwelling Griffiths has been constantly reminded of how much reading and writing are taken for granted in our print-soaked culture – and of just how much he doesn’t know.

“Sharing stories is a two-way street,” he says.

Every copy sold of The Naked Boy and the Crocodile will support these young, enthusiastic emerging authors – and provide funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to continue its vital work of promoting literacy in remote Indigenous communities across Australia.

About INDIGENOUS LITERACY DAY, WEDNESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2011

Indigenous Literacy Day is a national campaign on Wednesday 7 September that aims to raise funds and awareness of literacy issues in Indigenous communities in the remotest parts of Australia. Run by The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, funds raised go to buy books and provide access to literacy resources to help improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous children living in remote and isolated regions of Australia.

Over the past 2 ½ years The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has sent over 70,000 books to over 200 communities to the remotest parts of Australia, launched an early literacy project in three communities and worked with remote communities on literacy projects including language translations and recording of local stories. The foundation is an initiative of the Australian Book Industry. Go to: www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au for further details.

Indigenous Literary Day approaches – Wednesday 7 September 2011

Boomerang Books will donate 10% of its takings on Indigenous Literacy Day — Wednesday 7 September 2011 — to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Can you imagine not being able to read a newspaper, a road sign or directions on a bottle of medication? Sadly, this is a reality faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote communities today.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) aims to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Australians living in remote and isolated regions.

The Foundation first began in 2004 when educator and bookshop owner, Suzy Wilson (Riverbend Books in Queensland) set up a Challenge in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation and Ian Thorpe’s Foundation for Youth Trust, to raise money for Indigenous literacy. Suzy wanted to help people in remote Indigenous communities where there is little access to books and where children often grow up with little or no ability to read. She posed the question, ‘Can you imagine a world without books and reading?’

Over the past two years the project has sent over 60,000 books to more than 200 remote communities across Australia. It has launched Book Buzz, an early literacy project and has worked with communities on specific literacy projects, including translating books into local language and recording indigenous stories.

The project has raised over $1.3 million in the past five years thanks to the generous support of publishers, booksellers, schools, businesses and individuals.

2011 Activities

In 2011 The Indigenous Literacy Foundation will provide books and literacy resources in homes, community centres, women’s centres, schools, health centres and other organisations in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  On Indigenous Literacy Day, 7 September 2011, events will be held around Australia to raise awareness of indigenous literacy issues.  Boomerang Books will donate 10% of its takings from 7 September 2011 to the foundation.

A special book for Indigenous Literacy Day – The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

A special book, entitled The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, is being published in 2011 to support indigenous literacy.

In the past few years as an ILF ambassador, Andy Griffiths has travelled around Australia with other members of the Australian book industry to conduct writing workshops with students in remote communities.

The students were given small blank “books” and invited to fill these books – using both picture and words – with a story based on their own lives. These stories could be true or fictional or a mixture of both. They could be dramatic, funny or simply about an activity they love.

The thirteen stories included in this book tell tales of playing with friends, riding motorbikes, picking berries, hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs, terrifying turkeys and angry mamus.

‘The Naked Boy and the Crocodile’ will be published by Pan Macmillan Australia in September 2011.

You can buy a copy of The Naked Boy and the Crocodile here and contribute to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation…

 

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile book to raise funds for indigenous literacy

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, thirteen stories written by Aboriginal kids from some of the remotest parts of Australia, will raise funds to help more children in the bush gain literacy skills.  You can pre-order the book now from Boomerang Books…

The stories have been edited and collected by Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s ambassador and bestselling children’s author, Andy Griffiths, and will be sold on Indigenous Literacy Day, Wednesday 7 September.

Every book sold will help raise funds to provide books and literacy resources to over 200 communities across Australia.

Griffiths conducted writing workshops with kids aged 6 years+ and traveled as far afield as the edge of the Great Sandy Desert to the Kimberleys and right to the very the heart of Australia. Some of the communities he’s visited in the past three years include Manyallayuk (NT), Wyndham (WA), Warburton (WA) and Wilcannia in NW-NSW.

In some remote Indigenous communities only one in five children can read at the accepted minimum level. And for many of the children Griffiths worked with, English was their third or sometimes fourth language.

But Griffiths encouraged them to write down stories of their lives — and then illustrate them! The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is the result.

“These lively stories tell of ‘riding motorbikes … hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs’ and include ‘tales of terrifying turkeys, angry spirits, farcical football matches’. And there’s one about a very hungry crocodile with a preference for eating naked people!”, says Andy in the introduction.

Visiting the communities, the city-dwelling Griffiths has been constantly reminded of how much reading and writing are taken for granted in our print-soaked culture — and of just how much he doesn’t know.

“Sharing stories is a two-way street,” he says.

Every copy sold of The Naked Boy and the Crocodile will support these young, enthusiastic emerging authors — and provide funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to continue its vital work of promoting literacy in remote Indigenous communities across Australia.

About INDIGENOUS LITERACY DAY, WEDNESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2011

Indigenous Literacy Day is a national campaign on Wednesday 7 September that aims to raise funds and awareness of literacy issues in Indigenous communities in the remotest parts of Australia. Run by The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, funds raised go to buy books and provide access to literacy resources to help improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous children living in remote and isolated regions of Australia.

Over the past 2 ½ years The Indigenous Literacy Foundation has sent over 70,000 books to over 200 communities to the remotest parts of Australia, launched an early literacy project in three communities and worked with remote communities on literacy projects including language translations and recording of local stories. The foundation is an initiative of the Australian Book Industry. Go to: www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au for further details.

Boomerang Books is a proud sponsor of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

September Book Giveaway

SEPTEMBER MAJOR GIVEAWAY

Let this month’s prize pack take you on an unforgettable journey – globe-trot with Joel Magarey, get lost among the desert elephants of Namibia, pig out in northern Spain. Relax and soak in William McInnes’ reflections on his father, and unleash your inner-child with the hottest children’s releases. The pack includes:

A Man’s Got To Have A Hobby by William McInnes SIGNED

Ivory Moon by Sally Henderson

Exposure: A Journey by Joel Magarey

Everything But The Squeal by John Barlow

Schooling Around: Robot Riot! by Andy Griffiths

Looking For Flavour by Barbara Santich

It’s Yr Life by Tempany Deckert & Tristan Bancks

Gone by Michael Grant

The Greatest Blogger In The World by Andrew McDonald

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close September 30, 2009.

Ivory Moon
Everything But The Squeal
Gone

SEPTEMBER FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

When you join our Facebook Group, not only do you become a part of one of Australia’s fastest growing online book groups, you also go into the draw to win prizes! This month, one lucky member will win a pack that includes:

The Pheonix Files: Arrival by Chris Morphew

Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Big Stories From Little Lunch by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane

Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson

Tales From The Labyrinth/The Stone Ladder by Peter Lloyd

Jetty Road by Cath Kenneally

Chinese Cinderella: The Mystery of the Song Dynasty Painting


Big Stories From Little Lunch


Scatterheart


Allie McGregor's True Colours


Tales from the Labyrinth / The Stone Ladder

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Black Dog Books, Hachette, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Random House, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Sandy Fussell

White Crane “…Why don’t you write proper books?” I’m often asked by friends.

I write on the frontier of Australian story telling. It’s a wild and woolly place. A little bit dangerous even. There are Dragonkeepers and Ranger’s Apprentices. A Book Thief and a Bugalugs Bum Thief. You can go Hunting Elephants or into the Teenage Underground. There’s even a Pencil of Doom and my own Samurai Kids.

I’m a children’s author.

We’re raising the imagination stakes, encouraging a love of reading and opening the door to critical thinking. We’re always entertaining, sometimes educating and often making our readers laugh.

Children and young adults are not easy to write for. They won’t tolerate a story that doesn’t immediately engage their attention nor will they read a tale with an overt lesson. Their own ideas rival the most fantastic of storylines. They have widely ranging reading abilities, life experiences and interests. The youngest of readers need to be handled with care and the older readers exposed to new thought. It’s an enormous challenge and a lot of fun.

When I write for children, I get to tell the stories I want to hear. Another children’s author once told me you write for the age you are inside. So I’m somewhere between ten and fourteen on any given day. I think that’s about right. I also enjoy being able to regularly interact with my readers in their classrooms, the library and the wider community. Children want to meet their authors and listen to their stories. There are no barriers or pretensions. I know from experience kids will ask almost anything!

Sometimes I get the big reward. “Your book was the first one I ever liked. I’m going to read another one.” The storytelling frontier is an exciting place where things are growing all the time. As a children’s author, I’m helping to grow enthusiastic readers and maybe writers as well. I love it!

Owl NinjaWant to win copies of the books in Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kid’s series? All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? Your review has to be 20 words or less. In your email’s subject, be sure to write: ‘FICTION NOVELS FOR AGES 10+’

July Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway. July’s is Ashes-tinged and filled to the brim for cricket fans and avid readers alike, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Cricket Kings by William McInnes  SIGNED
Step into the lives of a team of regular middle-aged men who meet each week to play cricket in their local park. With these characters William will make us laugh and cry. And never again will we think that someone is just a regular bloke – everyone can be a king or a queen in their own suburb.

 

Glenn McGrath: Line and Strength by Glen McGrath SIGNED
From working the land in Narromine to winning cricket’s World Cup three times, Glenn McGrath has always faced life with fierce determination and an unerring will to succeed despite the odds. Now, following his retirement from international cricket, McGrath shares the story of his life – in cricket and off the field.
 

The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh SIGNED
It was the end of cricket as we knew it – and the beginning of cricket as we know it. In May 1977, the cricket world woke to discover that a businessman called Kerry Packer had signed 35 elite international players for his own televised World Series Cricket. The Cricket War is the definitive account of the split that changed the game on the field and on the screen. In helmets, under lights, with white balls, and in coloured clothes, the outlaw armies of Ian Chappell, Toney Greig and Clive Lloyd fought a daily battle of survival. In boardrooms and courtrooms Packer and cricket’s rulers fought a bitter war of nerves. A compelling account of the top-class sporting life, The Cricket War also gives a unique insight into the motives and methods of Australia’s richest man.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas SIGNED
A novel about the relationships between children and adults, and the new Australian multicultural middle-class from the controversial cult author of Loaded and Dead Europe.

 

 

 

Starting An Online Business For Dummies by Melissa Norfolk
Turn your dreams into profitable reality with this straightforward guide to setting up and running an online business. Including strategies to help you identify your market, set up a website and promote your business online.

 
Just Macbeth by Andy Griffiths
Take one Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth, add Andy, Danny and Lisa the Just trio, whose madcap exploits have already delighted hundreds of thousands of readers for the last ten years. Mix them all together to create one of the most hilarious, most dramatic, moving stories of love, Whizz Fizz, witches, murder and madness. Ages 9+.

 

Brief Encounters: Literary travellers in Australia 1836-1939 by Susannah Fullerton
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, countless distinguished writers made the long and arduous voyage across the seas to Australia. They came on lecture tours and to make money, to sort out difficult children sent here to be out of the way for health, for science, to escape demanding spouses back home, or simply to satisfy a sense of adventure. In 1890, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, arrived at Circular Quay after a dramatic sea voyage only to be refused entry at the Victoria, one of Sydney’s most elegant hotels. Stevenson threw a tantrum, but was forced to go to a cheaper, less fussy establishment. Next day, the Victoria’s manager, recognising the famous author from a picture in the paper, rushed to find Stevenson and beg him to return. He did not. In Brief Encounters, Susannah Fullerton examines a diverse array of writers, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, Agatha Christie and Jack London, to discover what they did when they got here, what their opinion was of Australia and Australians, how the public and media reacted to them, and how their future works were shaped or influenced by this country.

Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark
This is the modern traveller’s bible. Travellers and pilgrims seeking a unique experience can now uncover the ancient secrets of convents and monasteries around Europe. We reveal these atmospheric and affordable places that accommodate tourists or those pursuing a pilgrimage or spiritual retreat. Convents, monasteries and abbeys have always been places which generously welcome weary travellers. That tradition continues today and Goodnight & God Bless takes you on a tour of religious hideaways offering tourist and pilgrimage accommodation throughout Europe. Suitable for the traveller, the pious and the curious alike, this user-friendly travel guide provides invaluable information, travel tit-bits and anecdotes against a fascinating backdrop of history and religion.

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED
Enchanted by Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart, Prince Arthur follows her into the immortal world. Angered by this, the powerful dragon Nemesis captures Arthur. To rescue her prince, Bella must complete the Great Dragon’s Hunt, and collect five magical tokens. As Bella and her butterfly friend Teague carry out her quest, they meet many mystical creatures, including a witch and a werewolf, elfins and leprechauns, and two very forgetful goblins.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Random House, Melbourne University Press, John Wiley & Sons, Dragon Publishing and Paratus Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 July, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

Need an incentive to join one of Australia’s largest book group on Facebook? Well, we have a great pack of books to give away to one of our Facebook Group members this month, which includes copies of Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit (SIGNED), Mascot Madness! by Andy Griffiths and Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark.

ABC Radio National THE BOOK SHOW: Kids literature awards accused of elitism

A friend passed this on, and as a children’s author whose novel was ignored by awards judges, I have to say that I agree with the idea that there is an element of elitism in kids’ lit judging despite exceedingly favourable reviews… That said, I’m sure I’d be singing a different tune if my book was garnering awards… What do YOU think about this story from ABC?

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2009/2595153.htm

Plenty of disgruntled authors both in Australia and abroad argue that there’s an underlying philosophy of snobbery among judges of children’s literature awards. Part of the problem is that the top prizes tend to go to books children don’t necessarily want to read.

But is there anything wrong with judges focusing on the highbrow end of the market, or should popularity play a part in their decisions? A confidential report commissioned by the Children’s Book Council of Australia suggests the time might be right to overhaul Australia’s top children’s literature award.

Melina Marchetta
Australian author of young adult fiction

James Maloney
Australian children’s author

Andy Griffiths
Australian children’s author

Mike Shuttleworth
Program Manager, Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria

Anita Silvey
American children’s book expert

New children’s book releases from Pan Macmillan – March 2009

Mascot Madness! (Schooling Around Book 3)
Andy Griffiths
9780330424868
$14.99 B-format paperback

The Mascot Madness! Test:

1. Northwest Southeast Central School have never beaten Northwest West Academy at their annual track and field challenge because A: they’re better at knitting than they are at sport. B: they are losers. C: Northwest West Academy will stop at nothing to win.

2. Mr Brainfright dresses up in a banana suit and dances around because A: he’s bored. B: he goes bananas. C: he thinks it will inspire the students of Northwest Southeast Central School and lead them to victory.

3. When Henry McThrottle attempts the triple jump, instead of a hop, step and a jump he does A: a burp, a dribble and a sneeze. B: a twirl, a spin and the splits. C: a stumble, a trip and a fall.

4. Mascot Madness is A: a new type of dance. B: when a mascot gets angry. C: a very funny book about running, jumping, throwing, winning, losing, cheating, chasing, biting and really hard squeezing.

The answers to these questions – and many more – are contained between the covers of this very funny book about running, jumping, throwing, winning, losing, cheating, chasing, biting and really hard squeezing.

The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures
Sam Bowring
9780330424752
$14.99 B-format paperback

An imaginative and hilarious fantasy from an exciting new voice in children’s literature.

Twelve-year-old Zackary is the seventh son of the King and Queen of Solaris, and a most reluctant knight. He would rather put anchovies in the knights helmets or use his sword to cut sandwiches than learn courtly ways. In despair, the King and Queen assign him to the castle administrator, Barnabas, who sends him on an errand to the Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures, established by Zackary’s grandfather.

Mistaken for a job applicant, Zackary starts working at the zoo with the resident sorcerer, Acacia. Powerful magic is needed to control some of the extraordinary creatures in the zoo: from the Stymphalian birds of Greek mythology and the nine-headed hydra, to manticores from India and the squonks – Drufflefuster, Gobblesnocks, Snivelsnork and Grimelgrout. These are the ugliest, most endearing, little creatures that will be encountered in a children’s book in 2009.

But just as Zackary is settling in to his double life, a shadow is cast across the entire kingdom with the news that a strange creature is expected at the zoo-a creature which spreads evil and destruction in its path.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls 3: Best Friends and Drama Queens
Meg Cabot
9780230700147
$14.99 B-format paperback

The third fabulous book in bestselling author Meg Cabot’s funny and sassy series for tweens!

Allie is excited when Cheyenne joins her class-now she won’t have to be the “new girl” any more! But Cheyenne wears zip-up boots, likes boys, thinks imaginary games are for “big babies” and tells everyone what to do. Still, Allie won’t be bossed around – it’s time to teach the “new girl” some tough rules! Such as…

1) Friendly people don’t tell other people that their games are babyish;

2) Snowboots may not look as good as high-heeled zip-up boots, but they will never let you down; and

3) Friends are all you need.