Fun for Fathers – Picture books to share with Dad

One of the most joyful pleasures a child can enjoy is Daddy-time. There can never be too much of it. Here’s a new selection of picture books you can share with your special little someones on Father’s Day or indeed, at any time at all.

The Ballad of Henry HoplingseaThe Ballad of Henry Hoplingsea by Julia Hubery Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

I love the look and feel of this jolly little tale. It is less about dads and more about appreciating what you have rather than agonising over what you do not have but it makes such entertaining reading that it is sure to give dads, daughters and sons sufficient enough excuses to stay snuggled together in reading harmony for many lovely moments.

Humble farmer Henry is besotted with Carmelita and begs her hand in marriage. In spite of their solid and long standing friendship, she refuses succumbing instead to her princess inspired yearnings to live in silks, eat oysters and one day be whisked off her feet by a shiny brave knight. Henry can supply none of these things so forsakes he is farmer origins and sets off for Knight School.

Henry’s proactive tenacity is admirable however; his kind heart is bigger than his knightly ambitions and abilities. Which of these though will be enough to win over Carmelita? Humorous rhyming text and bewitching illustrations full of colour and captivating detail ensure this is one ballad readers will want to relive again and again.

Little Hare Books (HEG imprint) August 2016

Counting on YouCounting on You by Corinne Fenton Illustrated by Robin Cowcher

Part of the You Have my Heart series, this padded hard cover picture book is the ideal size to slide into any Father’s Day gift bag. The text is sublimely simple but saturated with exquisite moving emotion. Readers are taken through a flowing collection of days, many of them recognisable to young children, those: ‘I can’t-find-my-socks days, my tummy-is-too-full days’ until they are reassured of the presence of a loved one who can hug them closer ,squeeze them tighter and ‘make things better’ than anyone else; in other words, the adult they can count on.

Counting on You examines the 6 primary emotions formerly identified under the Parrot’s classification. Cowcher’s restrained colour use is heavenly, truly evoking movement and feeling. Highly recommended.

The Five Mile Press August 2016

I spy Dad JBI Spy Dad! By Janeen Brian Illustrated by Chantal Stewart

No two dads are ever quite the same; they are as diverse and individual as pebbles on a beach. I love how kids love their particular version of dad no matter what he does, what he looks like or how he acts. One little girl wonders which dad belongs specifically to her and searches for him among dashing, splashing dads; sewing, mowing dads; and creeping, leaping dads enjoying the cheeky chase until she finds the one who’s just for her.

Brian’s gifted way with rhyming words ensures every beat of this search is on point while Stewart’s illustrations are playful and bright. A sure favourite for under sixes.

New Frontier Publishing August 2016

Where's Dad HidingWhere’s Dad Hiding? By Ed Allen Illustrated by Anil Tortop

Never a dad around when you need one? Prolong your search and fun with this colour-saturated picture book promoting games and play, Aussie animals and relationships. Where’s Dad Hiding? encourages young pre-school aged readers to carefully examine every one of Tortop’s vibrantly illustrated page spreads for Baby Wombat’s missing dad.

Daddy Wombat is cunningly secreted on each page among a glorious collection of colourful Aussie inspired landscapes and situations. I get the feeling Daddy Wombat enjoys being cheeky and slightly irreverent just like real life human daddies as he leads Baby Wombat on a teasing search. This picture book pulses with verve and character making it a delight for dads to share with their kids.

Scholastic Australia August 2016

Grandpa is GreatGrandpa is Great by Laine Mitchell Illustrated by Alison Edgson

No matter what mantle they fall under grandad, pop, Nonno, opa, gramps, there is no mistaking the greatness of grandpas. This cute rhyming story reinforces the many moments and things grandfathers make memorable for their grandchildren. Whether it is playing games together, making mess, rocketing to the moon or simply watching the tellie together, Mitchell’s engaging text and Edgson’s bold use of baby animals to depict the grandpa-grandchild bond is both entertaining and heart-warming.

Scholastic Australia August 2016

The Greatest Fathers Day of AllThe Greatest Father’s Day of All by Anne Mangan Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

It’s the witty parallels I enjoy in this rhyming picture book about a dad eagerly anticipating his Father’s Day but like so many mere males, gets it mixed up a little. His blow-by-blow expectations take readers through some typical and well-loved Father’s Day morning rituals as his excitement mounts then crumbles into disappointment.  Children eager to plan their own Father’s Day surprises for dad will value the familiar similarities and the divine pencil and gauche watercolours used by Ainslie.  Her illustrations are vaguely reminiscent of Anna Pignataro’s; her characters exuding the same sort of charm in their sweet alluring faces. A nice way to mark the occasion of Dad’s Day.

Harper Collins Publishers first published 2013

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

Janeen Brian’s Hunger for Stories Leaves us Wanting More

imageJaneen Brian is the much-loved, award-winning author of over 90 books for children, many of which have been translated and distributed around the world. Some of her most popular titles include I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, I’m a Hungry Dinosaur, Where does Thursday go?That Boy, Jack, I Spy Mum!, Hoosh! Camels in Australia, Silly Squid! and Pilawuk- When I was Young. Janeen is also widely known for her wonderful contributions to the industry, winning the Carclew Fellowship 2012, being Ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge, and presenting at a number of conferences and schools. It is an honour and thrill to have had the opportunity to find out more about Janeen and her latest gorgeous books, Mrs Dog, Where’s Jessie? and Our Village in the Sky (reviews here).

Where did your passion for books and writing children’s stories begin? Are there any particular books or authors that have played a significant role in where you are today?

I think the passion was always there. I can’t remember a time when words and stories didn’t fascinate me. The sound and power of words has always intrigued. However, we were a book-poor family. And I went to a book-poor school. It was just how it was. I now realise I’ve always carried that ache inside of me. So, I guess it had to come out somewhere, sometime. I’m grateful it did. I would probably credit becoming a teacher and having daughters of my own with the eventual, tentative, stepping out into the children’s writing arena. But I also had a couple of angels in my later adult life who gave me a nudge.
Without a childhood plethora of books or reading matter, I’m on a constant treadmill, trying to capture the thrill of books which are embedded in the psyche of many of my writing colleagues, for whom those books were friends. And so I swing; to read back to my childhood and forward to what is out there today. I’m constantly reading. At times, I wonder if I evaluate enough of what I read. It just seems that I’m hungry or thirsty for stories and poetry. So many authors affected me, but two who immediately spring to mind are Robin Klein and Ruth Park. Their writing touched me; it was full of exquisite detail, rich in character and expressive in language. And they spoke of our country and culture, and at times, our history.

Your writing style varies between heartrending poetry, to playful rhyme and informative and lyrical narrative. Do you have a preferred style of writing? How has your style evolved over the years?

I think once again it comes down very much to what pleases me, particularly aurally. I don’t have a particular favourite way of writing. I write in the style that suits the work. And I find it interesting that although the style might differ according to what I’m writing, people still say they can recognise my work when they see or hear it. I guess my style is like a maypole, with many ribbons attached – each one individual but connected. I think, or hope, that my style has become more honest and richer as it’s evolved. That would please me.

Some of your recent books, in particular Our Village in the Sky, Where’s Jessie? and Mrs Dog, all carry a timeless feel with their beautifully lyrical language and images, as well as encapsulating more sophisticated topics such as cultural differences, loss and survival. What draws you to write with these kinds of themes?

Although at times, I can feel like a suburban fringe-dweller, I have to remind myself that my life has been full of interesting twists and turns and often it is the idea of survival that is uppermost. I think that many everyday people are heroes, tackling life’s mountains. However, from different, and sometimes difficult challenges comes strength and confidence. The word used a lot today is resilience. I think I try and show that in my work. We all battle at times, in various ways, and sometimes we have to dig deep to find courage or strength to continue. Or to look at a situation in a different way. Often, too, help can come when one person takes the hand of another.
I love to see a world of real things; kindness, laughter, nature, play and creativity. I’m not much of an adult in the highly commercialised world.
I think all of this affects the kind of stories and poems I write – and the themes and language embedded in them.

Your most recent release, Mrs Dog, is a truly moving story of unconditional love, nurturing and courage, with elements of humour and adversity blended in the mix. Did this story emerge from a personal experience? What aspect of the story is most meaningful to you?

imageLike in most stories, Mrs Dog is a mixture of experience and imagination. Over a period of years I had collected two names. They sat around in my head for ages with no story. Over time I linked them to farm-style incidents told to me by my husband, and then changed the ideas during many drafts until the final story emerged. It certainly wasn’t one whole package to begin with. I really like the fact that when under pressure, a person/creature is often able to rise above their own expectations, as Baa-rah did in his effort to save Mrs Dog.

What has been the most insightful feedback or response to Mrs Dog so far?

The unconditional love and compassion shown within an unlikely inter-generational relationship.

Illustrator Anne Spudvilas has provided the spectacularly dreamy artwork for both Where’s Jessie? and Our Village in the Sky. How did the pairing come about? How do you feel her illustrations complement your words? Were you able to work closely on each book?

imageIn both instances, I was able to work closely with Anne, which is not the usual experience with author and illustrator. Often seeds are sown many years before eventualities and this was the case in our first collaboration, Our Village in the Sky. Anne and I had become friends through many creator-style catch-ups, and she liked the photos and experiences I told her of my stay in the Himalayan mountains. When I later applied for a Carclew Fellowship for the 2012 Adelaide Festival of Literature, I devised a picture book of poems as a potential project and asked Anne if she’d illustrate. Fortunately I won the award, and in a serendipitous situation, Anne took her sketches and several of my poems to Allen and Unwin, who subsequently published the title.
Anne was able to use images from my photos to create her scenes and characters and we worked closely on the layout and flow of the book, with me making several trips interstate.
In both books, Anne’s palette and style suit the stories perfectly and I am full of admiration for her work. It evokes both emotion and sensory appreciation.
Where’s Jessie? is a story triggered from the sighting of a real teddy bear that’d travelled to the outback on a camel. Because I’d earlier researched and written an award-winning information book, Hoosh! Camels in Australia, I was able to provide Anne with much visual material. Anne could also access the historical database of Trove in the National Library of Australia.
There was story collaboration, too, when Anne suggested changing the character of the person who eventually finds Bertie, from an Afghan camel boy to an Aboriginal boy.

Where’s Jessie? is based on the real life travels of Bertie the bear through the outback in the early 1900s. What was it about Bertie’s story that caught your attention? What was it like to research, and how did you feel meeting the daughter of Bertie’s owner?

imageWhile visiting a country Cornish Festival in South Australia in 2011, I entered a church hall to view a collection of historic memorabilia. The real Bertie bear was seated on a chair, looking slightly tatty but well-loved. The note attached mentioned two facts; he was 101 years old. And he’d travelled to Alice Springs by camel. What a thrill! I had no idea of what I might do with that information, but I was finally able to track down the now-owner, the daughter of the original-owner, who’d been a baby at the time she’d received the bear. I’d had enough experience in the outback (flash floods, included) as well as my earlier research with camels, so it was really the story I needed to work on. At the launch of Where’s Jessie?, the now-owner spoke movingly about how well-loved the ancient bear still is within their family; citing that he is still the comforter of sick children and the soother of bad dreams.

Our Village in the Sky is beautifully written in angelic language that reflects the perspectives of different hard-working, yet playful, children in a remote village amongst the Himalayan mountains. This book is based on your observations whilst living there. What else can you reveal about your experience? What was the most rewarding part about writing this story?

imageI felt compelled to write about this village, and particularly the children, because I was able to interact with them at the time, using sign language or games. Or I simply watched them. Only a few villagers spoke any English at all, and it was very minimal. Culturally, and because of the language barrier, it was not possible for me to ask about many things pertaining to women or family life. So my focus was the children. I noted and photographed. I wrote a diary of my feelings and thoughts. But, back home, when I came to write, it was the children I wanted to write about. The images in my mind decided that the ‘story’ would be a series of poems depicting their life, so different to children in the Western world. The most rewarding part was the connection I felt through the words, and that I had acknowledged my experience in that area of the world.

What do you hope for readers to gain from this book?

Curiosity. Understanding. Awareness. And being able to relate to the child-like aspects in each poem.

Can you please tell us about your working relationship with illustrator Ann James on the I’m a Dirty/Hungry Dinosaur books? Was this collaboration any different to any other of your author-illustrator partnerships?

imageAnn and I had been published together in a book called Dog Star, an Omnibus/Scholastic chapter book in the SOLO series and we’d become friends mainly through catch-ups at various festivals and so on. At one festival at Ipswich in 2009, I asked Ann to consider a poem I’d written. It was called I’m a dirty dinosaur. Over discussions, Ann agreed to illustrate it and with the poem and a few sketches the material went first to my agent, Jacinta di Mase, before it was picked up and published by Penguin Australia. (now Penguin Random House Australia) Ann and I chatted about the text and pictures throughout the process, just as we did with the second book, I’m a hungry dinosaur. Both books have been a lovely culmination and collaboration of ideas.

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating the ‘dinosaur’ books?

imageWorking with Ann is a joy. She is alive with ideas, energy and enthusiasm. We both enjoy the playfulness of the books, and the act of play and fun with language is important to both of us. Ann also likes to minimalise her line work to give the maximum effect and I think she’s done this brilliantly in both books. I also like to hone down my words so they shine without any extra unnecessary baggage.
There’s also an integral trust between the two of us, which is wonderful.
The challenge came in the second book. It’s not an unusual dilemma. The first is the prototype. The second must follow the format yet still have its own life. We believe we achieved that in I’m a hungry dinosaur!

If you could be any kind of dinosaur, what would that be and why?

I guess if I could be any dinosaur it would be the one Ann created!

As an experienced author, what advice would you give to those writers just starting out?

Apart from reading and writing, I think it’s interesting to write down passages from other authors’ books. Writing slows your thinking down. You might enjoy reading the passages, but when you write them down, you are considering the authors’ motivations and reasons for writing those particular words. You might notice more fully the effect those words have. You might feel the pull of a different style, which could loosen your own, stretch it or challenge it. Finding your own voice can often take a long time. But playing around with other people’s words can sometimes be quite surprising.
Work hard. Understand that writing is a craft. As such, there is always room for improvement. And improvement brings you closer to publication.

And finally, if you could ask our readers any question, what would that be?

Some authors write in a particular genre. Their readers know what to expect. However, I write in many different genres. Do you see this as problematic in your reading of my work? **

Thank you so much for the privilege, Janeen! 🙂

Thank you, Romi. Your wonderful, thoughtful questions were much appreciated.

Janeen Brian can be found at her websiteFacebook and Twitter pages.

** Please respond to Janeen’s question in the comments below, or head over to Twitter and join the thread at #JaneenBrianAsks

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Three Types of Charm – Janeen Brian Picture Book Reviews

Award-winning author Janeen Brian is well-known for her superlative poetry, fascinating research projects and of course, those cheeky dinosaur books. She also has a gifted ability to incorporate important, ‘real-life’ topics into her stories in the most pleasurable and engaging ways. From the farm to the outback and atop the Himalayan mountains, the following three titles encourage readers to open their eyes and senses to worlds other than their own, to perspectives they have never seen, all the while allowing themselves to drift into imaginative and emotional realms.

 imageMrs Dog, illustrated by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, is a picture book that will undoubtedly inject a large dose of sentimentality into your heart. In this case of sacrifice, bravery, trust and unconditional love, this story will most certainly leave an ever-lasting soft spot for these good-natured characters.

At her ripe age, Mrs Dog has moved on from her role as sheep-herding working dog. So, it’s only natural that she take on a nurturing motherly role when little weak Baa-rah the lamb is discovered alone in the paddock. Not only does Mrs Dog nurse his physical strength, but also empowers Baa-rah with street smarts (or ‘farm’ smarts, rather) and a strong voice. In a tear-jerking near-tragedy, the little lamb triumphs over his fears and uses his newly developed skills to alert the owners, Tall-One and Tall-Two, of Mrs Dog’s fall into the Dangerous Place.

The endearing character names, touching story, and soft textures and warm tones all blend beautifully together to create an indelibly loveable book for all ages. Mrs Dog, with its combined heartrending and humorous qualities, is a sweet and memorable visual and language experience to share amongst the generations.

The Five Mile Press, 2016.

imageIn Where’s Jessie?, Bertie Bear faces his own challenges and braves the harsh conditions of the Australian outback. Based on a true story set in the early 1900s, we are carried along with the raggedy teddy as he is dragged upon camel, whooshed through dust clouds, nipped by wild creatures, and slushed in water. All the while he longs to be back in the warm arms of his beloved owner Jessie. And the reunion is nothing short of miraculous.

With fantastically descriptive language, and stunningly expressive watercolour bleeds and scratches by Anne Spudvilas, the action and emotion of this adventure is truly engaging. Janeen‘s fascination with and fondness of this real-life bear, as discovered at an exhibition at Kapunda, shines through in her words.

Where’s Jessie? is definitely a story worth exploring further, as well as being an absolutely uplifting treasure to cherish for centuries.

NLA Publishing, 2015.

imageHer first hand experience with the children and families in the Himalayan village led Janeen to explore this intriguing culture and lifestyle in her gorgeously fluid collection of short poems in Our Village in the Sky. Brilliantly collaborating with Anne Spudvilas, the visual literacy and language are simply exquisite.

The perspectives of various children intrigue us with the work, and play, they do in the summer time. For these ‘Third-World’ kids, imagination is at the forefront of their industrious lives. Whether they are using water tubs as drums, daydreaming in soapy washing water, turning an old ladder into a seesaw, chasing goats downhill or flicking stones in a game of knucklebones, chores like washing, cleaning, cooking, gathering and building are fulfilled with the brightest of smiles on the children’s innocent faces.

Our Village in the Sky is a lyrically and pictorially beautiful eye-opener to a whole new world that our Western children may not be aware of. With plenty of language concepts, cultural, social and environmental aspects to explore, there will certainly be a greater appreciation for the beauty, differences and similarities between our children and those in the Himalayan mountains.

Allen & Unwin, 2014.

For fascinating insights into the production of these books see my wonderful interview with Janeen Brian at the following link.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

It’s a Zoo out there! – Animal inspired picture book reviews

I’ve just returned from a farm-animal infested camping holiday, which wasn’t as reprehensible as the smell of the boar’s pen suggested. In fact, it made me re-realise just how important and beneficial interaction with all critters great and small is.

Whether the focus is on an animal for all its prickly, cuddly, bizarre glory or relaying the story from an anthropological point of view, animals in picture books continue to be a massive draw card. Here are some of my standouts from recent times.

Must have Mammals

Adelaide's Secret WorldThe ethereal quality and charm of Elise Hurst’s fine art and narrative are undeniable. She suffuses both once again into Adelaide’s Secret World, an anthropologic tale featuring a rabbit named Adelaide and her foray through fear, loneliness, and introspective alteration. This picture book is an imaginative and beautifully presented convolution of two characters for whom friendship would normally be isolated and foreign but through twists of fate and circumstance, a connection is found and a musical friendship forged. Marvellous for nudging little ones with quiet voices out of the shadows. Read Romi Sharp’s detailed review and interview with the author illustrator, here.

Allen & Unwin October 2015

Clementine's BathNot many dogs or kids leap at the mention of bath time with relish. Clementine is no exception. Following her long walk, Clementine steadfastly refuses to take a cleansing plunge after rolling in some pretty offensive odours. Annie White’s Clementine’s Bath is the second picture book to feature the shaggy loveable mutt, Clementine. With lots of robust bouncy-dog small people appeal, Clementine leads her family on a right merry chase until she finally succumbs to the suds. Perky, poetic, frolicsome fun and perfect for pre-schoolers to early primary doggy devotees.

New Frontier Publishing October 2015

Something Fishy

Blue Whale BluesLooking for a picture book swimming with leviathan humour and meaning that swells the heart. Look no further than Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas. Whale is one seriously doleful dude who is feeling very blue given he is swamped with bike trouble. His chipper little mate, Penguin is there to lend a flipper, however repeatedly pulling Whale back from the doldrums. It isn’t until Turtle forces a frank and funny realisation that Whale is finally able to forget about his ‘blue whale blues’. This is one of Carnavas’s best offerings for pre and primary schoolers I’ve encountered. His skill in creating just the right amount of turn-the-page suspense and hilarity is quietly sublime. Nothing about a Carnavas picture book is forced, yet everything is rich and meaningful. His first illustrative crack at collage is winning, as well. Whopping good fun teaching kids not to take themselves or life too seriously.

New Frontier Publishing September 2015

Piranhas don't eat BananasThe Pi-ra-nha by definition is a freshwater fish of South America known for its razor sharp teeth and voracious appetite for meat including guinea pigs, puppies, naughty children, and professional tennis players, so Aaron Blabey informs us. Sadly, Brian, a piranha sporting a generous jaw of said teeth, loves bananas which immediately blackballs him from his piranha buddies. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas is a priceless look at one individual’s attempt to persuade the masses. Blabey is at his uproarious rhyming best as Brian assumes every ounce of his inner Carmen Miranda in a gallant effort to convert his meat loving mates to fruit. Alas, not everyone is as vegan-minded as Brian. This snappy read-aloud story has Eric Carle Hungry Caterpillar appeal for younger readers with plenty of slapstick, tongue in cheek humour for the older ones (and some suggestive comedy for us adults!). Ideal for busting stereotypical ideals and encouraging small minds to try new things. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Press September 2015

Avian wonder

SeagullSome picture books offer more than just entertainment between two covers. Seagull, written and illustrated by Danny Snell, exemplifies how story and art can elevate meaning to levels that make you giddy with wonderment. Seagull represents her often-maligned species as she scavenges on a windswept beach (that reminds me intensely of the Coorong region in SA). She becomes entangled in thoughtlessly abandoned fishing line and tries repeatedly to free herself with no success so that readers feel a growing compassion and distress not usually associated with birds of her creed. As it sometimes occurs in life, help comes from an expected source and eventually, Seagull is free to soar the wide blue skies again. Snell’s shrewd use of collage and acrylic paintings beautifully capture Seagull’s demise, fading hope, and then singing spirit. The message behind Seagull’s near destruction is powerful and clear unlocking early primary discussion on topics concerning conservation, wildlife preservation and community outreach. Visit Romi’s review on Seagull, here.

Working Title Press September 2015

Robin''s Winter SongI was quite taken by Suzanne Barton’s, The Dawn Chorus so was delighted to hear Robin sing again in Robin’s Winter Song. The fact that Robin is experiencing a more Northern Hemisphere climate as he attempts to grasp the idea of ‘winter’ creates a refreshing reading stimulus for us enduring our typical southern summers. Robin’s first encounter with winter snows is unforgettable, replicating the magic many young and old alike experience when discovering something new and wondrous for the first time. Whilst not as moving for me as the award-winning Dawn Chorus, Barton’s sweet multi-media illustrations fill ones heart with warmth and joy.

Bloomsbury Children’s November 2015

‘Bearly’ there

Where's JessieBertie is a bear who has been there and done that…at least in the Australian outback. Janeen Brian’s fictional reminiscing of a real life character, Bertie, in Where’s Jessie? is a tale of separation, courage, fear, loss and reunion, rendered in the most spellbinding way by illustrator Anne Spudvilas. As Bertie’s family move townships across the desert, the outback cameleers or removalists of the day are enlisted to transport their belongings including their daughter, Jessie’s teddy bear. He is dislodged from the trek along the way, lost and abandoned in a desert that is less desolate than it first appears until by kind chance and good fortune he is finally reunited with his Jessie. Brian’s practical use of evocative and lively vocabulary paint as strong a narrative picture as Spudvilas’s breathtaking outback spreads. Possessing more than a fair share of animals and absorbing historical drama, Where’s Jessie? is a happy-ending adventure worth experiencing.

National Library Australia November 2015

Being AgathaAgatha was born ‘just as the leaves were falling. She had her mother’s ears and her father’s nose’, which I can relate to in many ways. Quite simply, Agatha is unique and very special however, it doesn’t feel like that to her, especially at family gatherings. By the time Agatha hits kindergarten, her sense of self are put to the test for it becomes plain to her that she is different to everyone else. She begins to lose sight of what makes her special so creeps away to hide much to the distress of her classmates. With a little patience and persuasion, Agatha’s friends help her realise that being herself is the best part of being Agatha. I love how small children naturally look past superficial differences and are able to find true value and worth in another’s personality and actions. I wish more adults could retain this quality. Being Agatha by Anna Pignataro, is a book that reminds us all to look for the good within others and ourselves at all times. Bravo! A solid story about the specialness of difference sure to elicit smiles of acceptance and understanding in pre and early primary schoolers.

The Five Mile Press September 2015

 

 

Song, Poem and Rhyme Picture Books

Children connect with songs and rhymes. This innate quality allows young readers and listeners the ability to play and experiment with sounds with ease. Not only do these lyrical stories lend themselves to a range of engaging and interactive experiences, but their audience is also given opportunities to learn the mechanics of language, sequences and meaning of the text. The following few picture books explore some well-known tunes and traditional tales in new and innovative ways that will relate to their readers, both young and old. Some great for a giggle, some for a wiggle, and one for learning about things that jiggle!

The Croc and the Platypus, Jackie Hosking (author), Marjorie Crosby-Fairall (illus.), Walker Books, 2014.  

From the lyrical talent of Jackie Hosking, with the superbly detailed and dynamic acrylic paintings by Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, ‘The Croc and the Platypus’ bounds its way from outback Australia straight into our hearts.
To the age-old tune of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’, here our water-loving, ‘Aussie’ pair set off, not to sea in their pea-green boat, but across the desert in their rusty Holden ute. Featuring typical Australian and Indigenous treasures and proper slang, including didgeridoo hullabaloos, sheep-shearing blokes, a cocky, lamingtons and the beauty of the Southern Cross above Uluru, the platypus and the croc embark on an extraordinary camping adventure.
‘The Croc and the Platypus’ is a charming Aussie rendition of the classic song with its romping, rollicking nature and perfectly suited sandy tones and animated characters. Primary school children will adore these unlikely mates and all that our native outback has to offer.  

8367940_ZSilly Squid! Poems about the Sea, Janeen Brian (author), Cheryll Johns (illus.), Omnibus Books, 2015.  

Following on from the ‘Silly Galah!’ poem book, award-winning Janeen Brian, together with illustrator Cheryll Johns, dive into more fact-finding fun with the wonderfully entertaining ‘Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea’.
Learning about underwater sea creatures in this book is far from boring. I love how Brian cleverly gets the reader involved. She doesn’t simply spill facts onto the page, but through a nicely cantered metre and interesting information, she encourages discussion with prompting, questioning and expression. Find out fascinating facts, like how a sea star regrows an arm, that a daddy leafy sea dragon helps the eggs to hatch, a squid is not silly because it can colour-change, and that fairy penguins don’t carry wands or grant wishes.
Discovering the world of sea life has never been more captivating with the fun poetry and vivid, bold acrylic paintings. ‘Silly Squid!’ is a valuable resource for primary aged children both in and out of the classroom.  

9781743623534The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, Tony Wilson (author), Laura Wood (illus.), Scholastic, 2015.  

A hilarious version of the old nursery rhyme, ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, with a most persistent, hard-working cow and his ever-so supportive friends. ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’ takes us back on the journey of how the cow ultimately succeeded in jumping over the moon. With exuberant rhyme and comical, distinct illustrations, it takes this hapless cow seven moon attempts before he finally conquers this mighty challenge. From tripping over, to hitting a hot air balloon, slow run-ups, riding meteorites and blazing bottoms, Cow hits an all-time low. But the encouragement of his dog, cat, dish and spoon mates sparks the determination in this fiesty creature, and the rhyme ends happily ever after.
Adorably whimsical and witty with clever plays on the classic rhyme, ‘The Cow Tripped Over the Moon’ is perfect for a snuggle and a giggle before a preschooler’s bedtime.    

Some other great song books to add to your list:

10-cheeky-possums10 Cheeky Possums, Ed Allen (author), Claire Richards (illus.), Scholastic, 2015.  

From the crazy silly series from Scholastic and Ed Allen, including ’10 Clumsy Emus’, ’10 Spooky Bats’ ’10 Hooting Owls’, ’10 Silly Wombats’, and ’10 Funny Sheep’, is the latest in the collection; ’10 Cheeky Possums’.
Each book contains the same rhythmic style and format, taking the reader from ten animals down to one, to the tune of ’10 Green Bottles’. There are always lively scenes and funny ways that the animals disappear from sight, like being inauspiciously swept off into the distance.
Whilst some unconventional phrasing to fit the verse, this series is an entertaining and interactive concept aimed at young preschoolers and the development of number recognition and counting skills. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for exploration and manipulation in the areas of numeracy and the arts.  

little-barry-bilby-had-a-fly-upon-his-noseLittle Barry Bilby had a Fly upon his Nose, Colin Buchanan (author), Roland Harvey (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.  

By legendary author and musician Colin Buchanan, and charismatic, witty illustrations by Roland Harvey, is the gorgeously humorous and charming ‘Little Barry Bilby had a Fly upon his Nose’.
Crafted from the classic ‘Little Peter Rabbit’ song, this Aussie version takes us bouncing and itching along as a group of helpless native animals escape the invasion of their bizzy buzzy bush bug pests by jumping into the creek.
With rollicking lyrics in three verses, repetition and alliteration, preschoolers can easily gauge the rhythm and language, allowing for a most appealing and engaging song (and dance) time experience. The bonus CD adds an extra dimension to the drama, particularly for those adults who may need some help staying on key!  

Real Books to Read

I'm a Hungry Dinosaur‘Real’ books to read are sought after by those introducing young children to the exciting and vital world of reading. Many picture books are invaluable in opening children’s minds and imaginations to story but only a small number of these can actually also be read by readers at the earliest stages of reading for themselves (although don’t discount children’s memorisation of text as not being reading – they see it as such and it should be affirmed as a stepping stone).

These select ‘real’ books are examples of quality literature, appealing story and are easy enough to read.

Repetition of, generally, simple words is the key. There can be exceptions if some words are interesting enough though – and their meaning supported by the illustrations.

MaxsBear_BoardBook_CoverA series about a little boy called Max by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press) has just been re-issued in board book form. These sturdy books are great for very young children to manhandle but can also be used to introduce reading. The three books in the series look at simple events in Max’s day and feature Max, his dog and his bear.

The simple, repetitive text in Max’s Bear begins:

Here is Max’s dog.

Here is Max.

Here is Max’s bear.

And continues:

Max kisses the bear.

Max licks the bear.

Max bites the bear.

Max throws the bear.

Children will enjoy the realistic humour.

Max’s Wagon re-introduces us to the characters and format and Max’s Bath humorously relates all the things that fall into Max’s bath.

Where is PimA step up, but still easy to read is Where is Pim? by Lena and Olof Landstrom (Gecko Press) about a dog who takes off with a toy. An adult could start reading this picture book aloud and encourage a child to join in when the text becomes very predictable:

Is that Pim?

No, that’s a bag.

Is that Pim?

No, that’s a can.

As with many other books, children will spontaneously often join in on subsequent readings – ‘reading’ along as well. To help the reading process, remember to point to the words when you’re reading picture books to young children when it suits – not if you’re getting in the way, though.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurRhythmic text is another aid to helping young children read. Janeen Brian and Ann James have just duplicated the success of I’m a Dirty Dinosaur (Puffin Books) – which James illustrated with clay from her dam and coloured pencils) in I’m a Hungry Dinosaur. Both these books have a rhythmic, ‘join-in’ text, with plenty of repetition:

I’m a hungry dinosaur,

Oh, the cake looks nice.

I’ll chomp and chew

A piece or two …

Maybe one more slice!

And Ann James has even used actual chocolate icing and hundreds and thousands in her illustrations. The cake looks delectable.

Dog In, Cat Out

Another old favourite by Ann James is Dog in, Cat Out with text by Gillian Rubinstein.

Dr Suess, of course, also ticks all these boxes, including humour – a child magnet.

Green Eggs and Ham

 

 

Player Profile: Janeen Brian, author of Meet Ned Kelly

janeen-brianJaneen Brian, author of Meet Ned Kelly

Tell us about your latest creation…

‘Meet Ned Kelly’ is a look at the Australian bushranger who lived in the early days. His story is told in rhyme and tracks Ned’s life from boyhood to his death at age twenty-five. Was Ned Kelly a Robin Hood type hero or was he, as he maintained, forced to become an outlaw? Matt Adams’ illustrations are stunning and quirky and bring to life a feeling of the times and the countryside. There’s a fascinating and factual Time Line at the back.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

I’m from Glenelg, which is a seaside town, just twenty minutes from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher.

Meet Ned KellyWhat do you consider to be your best work? Why?

To date, I think it might be my picture book, Where does Thursday go? because I love the basic premise of  Splodge, a bear character heading out to look for Thursday in order to say goodbye to it. He wanted to do that because his birthday had been on Thursday and he asked his friend, Humbug, ‘Where does Thursday go before Friday comes?’  I love the poetic simplicity and word image that I was able to create, and the characters which the illustrator, Stephen Michael King brought to life in an aura of soft blues.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

My office, NOW, is big, but it used to be a desk in my bedroom. The room has large windows that look out onto a lovely backyard. Along that wall are benches on which are set my computer, printer, phone and various other equipment and containers for files, books and stationery. I have a large library shelf and a big red cupboard with glass doors to display my own published books, other cupboards and filing cabinets. In the centre is a nice table where I can spread out stuff – or sit and have a cup of tea with a friend!

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

I love Australian fiction, both adult and children’s. I like biographies of people who are in the Arts and I love reading picture books and poetry.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

My parents gave me an Omnibus (a large book with stories, article and poems in it) when I was twelve, because I’d done well in Year 7. They didn’t usually do things like that,so the book was special. I read and re-read that book till I almost knew it backwards.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?

Someone like Elsie, who is a girl in my forthcoming children’s historical novel called, That boy, Jack. Elsie is brave or forthright, funny and caring. I’d liked to have been as strong and as outspoken as her when I was a girl.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

I make mosaics. I love the look of broken crockery, and recycled tiles and found objects, like shells or bits of old jewellery, put together to create something beautiful out of things that’ve had a life and been discarded. I read, of course. I knit about a dozen scarves each year for homeless people. I garden and walk, swim and go to Yoga and Keep Fit classes. I love going to films and the theatre. And I’m sing in a choir called Sing Australia. I love laughing, looking for colour and eavesdropping on people’s conversations.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

I drink tea. And I love seafood.

Who is your hero? Why?

My sister. She is the biggest-hearted, warmest, most caring person you could ever meet. She’s funny and has been the most wonderful friend to so many people. She’s passionate about food and the
growing of it, and the environment, and lives for the minute.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Helping children have time to read. I think it’s vital for them to experience the joy of being elsewhere in their mind and their imagination and to realise that they choose to enjoy a book no matter how
easy other ‘distractions’ are – because reading needs concentration. I’m concerned about reducing our sensory needs and so books, as we know them now, will still have a place. I use an E-book reader for convenience when I travel, but I still like to read a book. Parents need to have one night a week where everyone sits and reads together.

Follow Janeen:

Website URL: www.janeenbrian.com
Blog URL: janeenjottings.blogspot.com

Janeen Brian – Part Two

Janeen 2Do you have an all time favourite book character you secretly aspire to be more like? Discover Janeen Brian’s

Q Who or what was your favourite book character as a child? If you could incorporate that character into one of your own stories, which would it be and why? How would you adapt that character to suit?

I wanted to be one of the girls in the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven series, because, having few books in my childhood, I felt as if I personally knew the girls. But as well, they were up front characters who had adventures and were at time, quite gutsy. I liked that! I think many of my girl characters have some of those characteristics!

Q Which Aussie children’s book author do you admire the most and why?

How can any reader or writer answer that! I love the work of my friend and poetry colleague, Lorraine Marwood. Her words sing to me or shake me about. Her work is so real and yet, magical. A bit like her.

Q How long does it take you to develop a children’s story? Does the time vary dependant on the genre: picture book, MG novel, script etc.Eddie Piper

I have recently compiled an anthology of my poems, entitled, As long as a piece of string. That will have to suffice for my answer to that one, because as vague as it is, it’s the truth. Sometimes picture books can take as long to write as a piece of fiction. Of course, you’re not necessarily slogging at it for hours every day, but developing it, shaping it and re-writing it over time.

Q Do you write every day? What is the most enjoyable part of your working day?

It’s rare that I miss a day where I’m not writing, even if it’s just catching up on my diary.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurQ What inspires you to write like nothing else can?

Certain words; strong, emotional situations; a state of tranquillity.

Q Do you have a special spot or routine to make the magic happen or can you write anywhere, any time?

I work mainly in my home office; and each morning I prime myself by responding to emails and getting lots of admin out the way first. It’s also a way of letting my brain know that I’m here and we’re going to do something to do with writing or brainstorming. I do a lot of brainstorming. I don’t tend to start putting anything on the computer until I’ve written enough, using pen on paper, and have a physical feeling that that I’ve captured the voice of the character or that I’m ready to start.

Q What is that one thing that motivates you to keep on writing (for children)?

I love the creativity; the tumble and jumble of words and feelings; the constant astonishment that so much of what happens in your life can become the story for another and the fact children seem to like what I write.

Shirl at the Show JBQ Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your writing career thus far.

So many! I think being a writer is full of surprises, but a recent one was winning the Carclew Fellowship in the 2012 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. The Fellowship awarded me a sizeable amount of money to further research and develop a three-in-one-project. When the phone call came to say that I’d won, my first reaction was that I was going to be told my application was disallowed because it involved three proposals, not one. But instead, I was told I’d won!

Q What is on the draft table for Janeen?

Three books due for release within the next six months – so, much admin, media promotion and launches to organise. The books are: A picture book for the very young, called I’m a dirty dinosaur. (illustrated by AnnMeet Ned Kelly James and published by Penguin group Australia). An Australian historical picture book for the young called Meet Ned Kelly (illustrated by Matt Adams and published by Random House) and an historical, adventure novel for upper primary, called That boy, Jack.(published by Walker Books) I also have a number of other projects out with my agent or publishers.

My next project will be another picture book. I have vague ideas, but will need to do more research first.

Can hardly wait. For a full list of this year’s releases visit Janeen’s website too.

Doodles and Drafts – An Interview with Janeen Brian Part One

Today we delve deeper into the dynamic world of industrious children’s author, Janeen Brian. She’s releasing more books per month than I’ve had pie floaters  and I hear that one of her poems, “What did you learn at school today?” is being published in The School Magazine’s Blast Off this month. Does this lady never slow down? Let’s find out…

Q Who is Janeen Brian? Describe your writerly-self for us and the thing that sets you apart from other Aussie children’s authors.

The introspective part of me used to struggle in earlier days, because I had no pre-formed vision or identity of myself as a writer. I knew little about writing. Yet I quite liked to write. I knew little about books. Yet I liked to read. I’d never known about how to deconstruct, analyse or evaluate writing or reading and I can’t remember getting much of a grounding of it in high school, but I’m sure I must’ve. In my later years I tentatively did a TAFE correspondence writing course and dipped my toe in a weekend writing workshop.

Although I did write for adults and enjoyed it, (short stories and poems), I discovered it was really where my heart was. I felt better connected with a children’s readership. People say that when they read my work, they see pictures in their head and that pleases me, because I try to write pictorially. They say my work reads aloud well. That pleases me because I like the music of language and the sensory world of words. Reviewers often make the comment that I ‘know what children want’ and that pleases me because it’s what I strive for.

I also write a lot of poetry, enjoying the capture of a particular moment to provide a shortcut to the emotions.

Perhaps poems, picture books and short fiction is where I fit best.

Q You are an experienced writer covering many styles and formats, including TV scripts. What is your favourite style of writing, why and does it result in your best work?

I am experienced in that I’m been writing for about 30 years and of those, 23 years have been fulltime, but I never stop learning and trying to improve. I’m sure I’m not the only author who says that! But I enjoy different styles and formats because it challenges me, and I find different aspects to my writing emerging that may have remained untapped. During my writing life, I’ve tried to seize any writing opportunity and that included writing eleven scripts for Here’s Humphrey, a pre-schoolers program. While I loved the content and age group, I felt that ultimately the fast-paced nature of scriptwriting for the media wasn’t quite me. When the show drastically changed format, I wasn’t asked to write any more scripts, so perhaps the producer felt the same! I like researching and have written much non-fiction. When I write information articles or books, I try to write simply, so children grasp concepts, and also hopefully in a visual or anecdotal style, so information is more readily absorbed. I do this, because I don’t absorb facts very easily! As mentioned in the earlier question, I think I do my best work with shorter pieces, though I’m very proud to have written several novels and to have had them accepted and published.

Q At what stage in life did you realise you wanted to write? What, whom persuaded you to continue? Was it always this way or did you aspire to be something different as a kid?

Nothing struck me on the head to get writing! In Year Three at school, I decided to be a teacher and followed that course into Primary school teaching at eighteen. Later, around the time I had two young daughters, I simply dabbled in writing for my own enjoyment. I’d never been a closet writer or held dreams of one day writing. I simply began to write every now and then; mainly poems for my girls or to give away as gifts. Then, on becoming a single mum, I began to use my writing to earn extra money; penning small articles in magazines. I was also asked to write some scripts for a children’s theatre company, which was a big ask as I’d had no training or real understanding of the constructs of theatre. But I did it. I think one show was a flop but the others were okay. So, I beavered away, joined the SA Writers’ Centre, met a kind, experienced author who became my mentor and life-long friend, and who provided much needed encouragement and practical advice. Then I was lucky enough to have books/readers accepted by an educational publisher, which I think gave me good training in crafting to a brief and culling floppy, useless words.

Q How have your refined your craft? Did you study, if so where, and do you feel this has attributed significantly to your work?Janeen's work

I was persistent, imposing on myself all sorts of disciplines, real or imaginary to keep the writing muscles working and the financial side viable. I attended writers’ courses, but never attended University. My only tertiary training was the two-year teacher-training course. I read books on writing, obtaining my first loads from libraries, then purchasing more and more myself, all the time reading and trying to improve my writing. At that time, there was no computers or websites, no online blogs or author chat lines. I stuck to my simple, personal credo, If it’s to be, it’s up to me. Joining and meeting with a group of South Australian, published children’s writers and illustrators, called Ekidnas, helped me and my writing immensely. It wasn’t a critique group, more a support group, providing encouragement and networking opportunities in the days prior to email (doesn’t that sound amazing?). Now we meet approximately four times a year, but have an Ekidna website of our own, which is updated weekly and highlights our members’ achievements and activities. Quite impressive!

Where does Thursday goQ You are a published author of several titles. What are they? Which are you most proud of? Do you have any you would rather forget?

By May, 2013, I’ll have more than 78 books published, some educational, the rest being trade published. I also have poems in fourteen anthologies. Here’s the website for titles: wwwjaneenbrian.com. One of the easiest books I ever wrote was a picture book called Where does Thursday go?, illustrated by Stephen Michael King and published by Margaret Hamilton. The words simply fell onto the page. The book won an Honour Award in the CBCA picture book awards, and a Notable in the Early Childhood Awards in the same year. It then went on to be published in USA and UK as well as being translated into thirteen languages. I call it my heart book, because the idea was triggered by my then six-year-old daughter, Natalie, and I was able to dedicate the final book to her first son, my first grandchild, Liam. I still love the story, the language and the superb illustrations.

Want to find out what’s on the drafting table for Janeen? See what’s in store tomorrow in Part Two of our chat with one of Adelaide’s finest children’s writers.

Review – Meet…Ned Kelly

I have never felt so exposed by a picture book as I did when I first laid eyes on Meet…Ned Kelly. The piercing stare of Australia’s most infamous bush ranger peering from the slit of his armoured headgear sliced through to the very marrow of my bones, anchoring the outlaw’s stare there as if to say, Want to find out more? I did.Meet Ned Kelly

I’m not one to wallow in history for too long; but I do find it compelling discovering new threads that help me appreciate how the fabric of a nation, its people and their culture is woven together.

Random House’s new Meet…series allows young readers to be similarly fascinated by picture books that tell exciting true stories of the real women and men of Australia’s past. And what more exciting a character than Ned Kelly?

Prolific children’s author, Janeen Brian, introduces children to one of the best known, ill-understood, and extraordinary tales of early Australian history, that of Ned Kelly. The sometimes misleading mystic and romance of bushranging is forsaken in favour of a straight forward, chronological telling of the facts of Ned’s life beginning with his not-so-easy childhood and ending with his untimely death in the Old Melbourne Goal in 1880.

However the story is anything but dull and lifeless. Brian leads us through Ned’s brief life with an objective clarity told in simple and effective bush ballad style verse. Each stanza is suffused with sufficient detail to allow us to develop a strong sense of Ned’s character and the treacherous times he occupied, featuring often unbalanced and corrupt systems of justice.

Ned is portrayed as a fair, brave young man but one who often found himself on the wrong side of the law mostly by misfortune, poor judgement, and ill-luck. His recurring stints in goal and unpopularity with the police ensured he and his family were regular targets for prosecution. The gaoling of his mother in 1878 was the catalyst for the birth of the Kelly Gang.

The gang escaped capture numerous times thanks to Ned’s long standing reputation amongst good friends, but following betrayal and the final calamitous showdown at Glenrowan Inn in 1880, not even Ned’s genius iron-clad armour could protect him from his ultimate fate.Ned Kelly poster

It’s a stirring tale brought to life with the help of Matt Adam’s almost surreal illustrations that echo the lines and textures of a number of classic Australian painters and therefore add a rich authenticity to each scene. The font used throughout and for the timeline on the end pages reflects the feel of a wanted poster, many on which Ned’s name no doubt appeared.

I feel I better understand this young man, so vilified by the injustice of the day, after meeting him ‘face to face’ in Brian’s historic picture book. And I cannot imagine a more brilliant nor dynamic way for primary aged readers to explore our rich historic past.

Keep an eye out for my next post where we meet author Janeen Brian face to face and explore more about the author behind Meet Ned Kelly.

Random House Books Australia March 2013

Five Very Bookish Questions with author Janeen Brian

Which genre of children’s books do you like most and why?

For my own pleasure I adore reading picture books (as well as poetry and novels – just had to sneak those in – can’t bear to leave them out!). Picture Books tap into the part of my psyche that loves the essence, the pared down selection of words and text combined with art: colour, flow, energy and an emotional impact. It’s like fabric and thread, and the best picture books are the best woven.

Some of my favourite picture books are The Incredible Book Eating Boy (Oliver Jeffers), Pog (Lyn Lee, Kim Gamble), Wombat Divine (Mem Fox, Kerry Argent), Water Witcher and Lizzie Nonsense (both by Jan Ormerod), Belinda (Pamela Allen) and other books by Pamela Allen, Margaret Wild, Dr Seuss and Joy Cowley.

Which books did you love to read as a young child?

I wish I could give you a list but I can’t because of the lack of books at home and at school. I borrowed from friends if I could. I remember my mother once reading me The Story about Ping, and have tracked down an old copy of it because it made an impact when I was about four.

I tried to read The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens when I was about seven, because I found a copy in a little bookshelf in the lounge, but I couldn’t manage it. We had ‘readers’ at school, which we all had to take turns in reading around the class and I loved the stories and poems in them. I also remember reading titles by Enid Blyton and imagining similar adventure scenarios with friends.

Other than that it was books like What Katy Did, Little Women and Heidi, books received for birthday or Christmas.

Which three attributes make for a great children’s book?

– great writing (Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo,)

– something that moves the heart and/or the head (The True Story of Lillie Stubeck by James Aldridge; All in the Blue Unclouded Weather by Robin Klein)

– something which the children take away with them once the book is finished. (A Rose for the Anzac Boys by Jackie French; The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson; Marrying Ameera by Rosanne Hawke)

What is your number one tip for encouraging children to read?

Children must have time and opportunities to read.

Name three books you wish you’d written.

 

The Mousehole Cat – a picture book by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley (Walker Books). Based on a Cornish legend, it tells the story of an old fisherman, Tom, his cat, Mowzer and the metaphorical Great Storm-Cat which prowled the seas creating havok. Story, language and a warm, satisfying ending.

 

Because of Winn-Dixie a novel by Kate DiCamillo. An intensely strong, moving story about a girl, her preacher father and a stray dog which changes their lives. Succinct writing and a unique voice that makes you say, Yes, that’s how it would’ve been; that’s how she would’ve felt.

 

A Ute Picnic – and other Australian Poems by Lorraine Marwood. The poems are so wonderfully Australian and yet universal. Every word and phrase is taut with perfect words and phrasing that spear straight to the emotions.

About Janeen

Janeen Brian is an award-winning children’s author and has been writing full time for over 20 years. Janeen writes all sorts – picture books, poetry, short fiction, novels, information books and short stories. She has had 75 books published and three more are due soon for release – Where’s your Flipper, Eddie Pipper? with New Frontier, Meet Ned Kelly with Random House and I’m a Dirty Dinosaur with Penguin.) She also writes for children’s magazines with approximately 200 stories, poems, plays and articles published. She is well-known for her award-winning books, Where Does Thursday Go?, Hoosh! Camels in Australia and Pilawuk – When I was Young.

www.janeenbrian.com

Celapene Press

Small press publishers are an extremely important part of this country’s literary landscape. Over time, I hope to profile a few of them here on Literary Clutter. Today, Kathryn Duncan from Celapene Press has dropped by to tell us a little about her publishing venture.

Celapene Press: creating books and supporting the community
By Kathryn Duncan

When I was in Primary school I fell in love with the idea of creating books. My Grade 2 teacher would type up our stories, we would draw the pictures, cut out cardboard to use as covers and design them and then join it all together with staples and sticky tape — it was the 70s, so technology was not on our side. It was fun and I remember trying to start my own book-making group with my friends. I still have all the books I made in school.

After having children, I rediscovered my love of picture books and thought I’d give it a try. I went to a one day writing class and the day after enrolled in the Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing and Editing) at Box Hill TAFE, also doing my children’s writing subject at Holmesglen. During the course, I discovered that I was much better at editing than writing and focused on the editing and production side of publishing. It was around this time that I also completed a self-publishing course at The Victorian Writers Centre. A week or so later I had set up Celapene Press, determined now that I could do this.

The first book I published was Page Seventeen, an anthology of stories and poems. This was a joint effort with Tiggy Johnson, and it was a huge learning curve, but I am still proud of that first effort. In 2007, I decided to publish a collection of stories and poems with a twist, Short and Twisted. The 2010 issue, the fourth, has just been released.

In 2009, I was approached by several authors wondering whether I would be interested in publishing their work. The first was Machino Supremo, a collection of children’s poems about machines. This was released in late 2009 and is a black and white illustrated collection of poems by Janeen Brian and Mark Carthew, illustrated by John Veekan.

The second book is The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler by Paul Collins. Paul sent me the manuscript under a pseudonym. I loved it after the first line and within days contacted Paul and told him I would love to publish it. It was released in November 2009, and the first print run had sold out before it was released. This was a huge achievement for a small press. It has also been short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

I would love to publish more Australian junior fiction and see this as the area I would like to focus on in the future. Finding the right book is the hardest part. Being a small press publisher, you need to be selective in what you choose because you invest so much of yourself into the process. There are so many great stories out there waiting for the right opportunity, but when you are small, it’s not that easy to say yes. I do not actively look for submissions, but I receive a lot.

A major importance for Celapene Press is supporting the community and I would like to be in a position to donate a percentage of all sales to two charities that I am involved with. Amongst other support services, Teddy Love Club Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support donates teddy bears to bereaved parents in memory of a baby who has died, and is a group I became involved with in early 2009 after the death of my baby daughter. They commented that they wanted to publish a book of bereaved parents stories and I offered to do it for them. You are not alone: Stories from Australian families who have suffered the loss of their baby was released in April 2010. Emotionally, this was a very hard book to publish. I read the stories many times and each one broke my heart. Pregnancy loss and neonatal death are almost taboo subjects still, but they affect so many people and it still upsets me that we don’t talk about it. The feedback from this book has been wonderful and parents comment how much it has helped them realise that they are not alone in the grief that they feel after losing a child.

Celapene Press also supports the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Not long after our daughter died I established the Charlotte Duncan Award. The winners for 2010 were announced in June and all profits from the Award are donated to the Children’s Hospital. In the past two years, the Award has donated over $900 to the hospital.

Where to from here? I am still looking for the next book to publish and would like to publish 3-4 books a year. As with Toby Chrysler, I will know the next book when I read it and look forward to it arriving on my desk, or in my emails.

George’s bit at the end

My thanks to Kathryn for stopping by. To find out more about Celapene Press, check out their website.

I’ve read Machino Supremo and The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler — both are excellent books. You can read my review of The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler on the MC Reviews website.

And tune in next time for Part 1 of an interview with British author and scriptwriter Paul Cornell.

Catch ya later,  George

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – NEW BOOKS WITH HEART FROM NEW FRONTIER

In my mailbox recently I received two new picture books from New Frontier Publishing; The Important Things by Peter Carnavas and I Spy Mum written by Janeen Brian and illustrated by Chantal Stewart.

In their own way, each book shows the importance of a parent in a child’s life, and they both struck a chord with me.

The Important Things is about the absent father. In I Spy Mum, the child experiences the pure joy of being reunited with his ‘lost’ mother. I know as a parent that this is a feeling that works both ways.

I think one of the things I liked most about both these books was the powerful feelings conveyed in stories that were so simply told.

THE IMPORTANT THINGS

Written & Illustrated by Peter Carnavas

The Important Things tells the story of Christopher, a little boy trying to come to terms with the absence of his father. He does this by cherishing the things that remind him of his dad – the memories.

One of the things I liked about this book is that it showed how divergent an adult and a child’s thinking can be in these situations. It’s a story about a child and a Mum finding their way back to each other through understanding.

The Important Things is a book that can be shared between a parent and a child on many levels. Each word has been carefully chosen and every colourful illustration speaks another thousand words.

I can see The Important Things becoming an important book for many children. It is the work of writer, illustrator and teacher, Peter Carnavas. His first book Jessica’s Box has been shortlisted for three awards. It was closely followed by Sarah’s Heavy Heart which has already been translated into six other languages.

I SPY MUM

Written by Janeen Brian and illustrated by Chantal Stewart

I Spy Mum is written in a much more playful tone, but it’s still a book that conveys a child’s feelings for a parent. I Spy Mum is a beautiful rhyming picture book for under five’s.

A little boy sees lots of other Mums, but he knows they are not his. He spies a ‘baking mum’, and a ‘singing mum’ and a ‘ding-a-linging mum, but can’t find his own. Children will love the surprises of the search and the fun of the other mums he discovers.

Even though not being able to find your mum is a traumatic event for a young child, this book is so full of fun and humour that children will be engaged all the way to the happy ending.

I Spy Mum is the sister book to I Spy Dad which has been shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award 2010. It is written by well loved award winning author Janeen Brian. Janeen is a South Australian based author who has written over 70 books for children.

Illustrator, Chantal Stewart has illustrated  a number of books for children including Tilly’s Treasure by Sue Walker, and Clancy’s Long, Long Walk by Libby Gleeson.

The Important Things and I Spy Mum are just two of the beautiful new releases from New Frontier Publishing this year. If their 2010 catalogue is anything to go by, there are still many more to come.

THE BOOK CUPBOARD

A few weeks back I finished a May Gibbs Fellowship*, a creative time residency organized by the May Gibbs’ Literature Trust. It’s for children’s authors and illustrators, and during the Fellowship you get to spend ONE WHOLE MONTH away from home writing (or illustrating). One whole month without school lunches, sport’s training, dentists, vets, committee meetings, and the list goes on.

Of course I missed my family desperately, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have 16 to 18 hours a day to dream, plot and write – and of course READ!

I managed to finish writing an entire first draft of a new YA novel while I was there, blogged regularly, came up with a new book idea, and a name for another book – and of course READ. I also did eleven workshops at the State Library of Queensland, working with school groups, showing kids from years 5 to 10 how to develop heroes and villains for their stories.

All in all an amazing experience, but there’s more.  May Gibbs Fellows who stay in the apartment, leave at least one of their books behind in a special locked cupboard.

Opening the door was like going into a magical world, going back in time, back to when the authors and illustrators were in this very room creating many of the books that were now in the cupboard. It was inspirational to reflect on their experiences and enjoy reading some of the published works that had resulted from their Fellowships.

The varied collection included:

nudes & nikes by Dyan Blacklock

The Tuckshop Kid by Pat Flynn

By Jingo! by Janeen Brian and Dee Huxley

Hungry Ghosts by Sally Heinrich

A Matter of Cats by Elizabeth Hutchins

Something More by Mo Johnson

Boofheads by Mo Johnson

Outback Countout by Norah Kersh

Muck-Up Day by Ruth Starke

Nips X1 by Ruth Starke

The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang

Little Paradise by Gabrielle Wang

Coincidentally, Little Paradise was the book that Gabrielle worked on two years ago for her May Gibbs Fellowship, and it was launched the day I started my Fellowship in Brisbane.

Exploring the world and works of these authors made me feel like a small child again, and I wondered if perhaps a book chest, secret book cupboard or even a book treasure hunt might be a way to inspire young readers around the home. It worked for me.

Dee

*Anyone interested in doing a May Gibbs Creative  Time Residency Fellowship can find out more information here: http://maygibbs.org.au/creative-time-fellowships/creative-time-fellowships/