Sharing the Spirit of Australia Remembers with Allison Paterson

Allison Paterson has always had a deep connection to Australian history and culture, and her writing reflects more than just research or fiction. Her picture books include Granny’s Place and Shearing Time; reminiscent of her childhood memories of growing up on a farm. Allison also immortalises her ancestory with her wartime, award-winning books, Anzac Sons; based on letters written on the Western Front.

Using her teacher-librarian status and forseeing a gap in the market, Allison has gone on to produce a new series for primary school students. The first of the nonfiction titles includes Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials. This is an absolutely stunning documentation of colourful facts, phenomenal photographs – old and new, illustrative posters, quotes and glossary, all presented like a beautiful magazine with easy-to-digest and visually engaging chunks of information across twelve short chapters. The book covers topics and proposes readers consider commemoration and showing gratitude, what ANZAC and its spirit means, the importance of annual ceremonies and the significance of symbols and traditions. It also includes relevant hands-on learning activities to further deepen the readers’ understandings. Australia Remembers is an important resource that emanates with a sense of engaging the community spirit and extending the legacy of those we ought to always remember. A must-have for Remembrance Day and Anzac Day.

Allison Paterson discusses her writing life and tribute to her ancestors with us today!

How did you come to be a writer? How have you managed the shift from teacher-librarian to author and presenter?

Writing has always been in my life, but the decision to resign from an awesome job as a teacher-librarian to pursue writing as a career came only a couple of years ago. It all began with the publication of Anzac Sons – the story of my ancestors in WWI and a collection of hundreds of letters they wrote from the Western Front. I quite firmly believe that I wouldn’t be a full-time writer today if it had not been for my grandfather and his brothers – they were writers too!

The transition from being a teacher-librarian was not difficult. I’m very comfortable with author talks and workshops in schools. I love inspiring kids to write! Being prepared to diversify and look for opportunities, such as mentoring, editing and writing for magazines all helped the financial shift. The toughest things for me are marketing, and I’m slowly learning how to run a business! I also found that being available and saying ‘Yes!’ opens more doors as well, including doing some casual educational consultancy work with Big Sky Publishing.

You’ve written several non-fiction titles on the Anzac history for children and adults, as well as fictional picture books that tie memories together with a great Aussie flavour! Do you have a style or genre you feel most comfortable with? Why is the Australian culture such a strong influence in your writing?

I spend most of my time lurking around in the past so historical fiction and non-fiction are certainly my favoured writing genres and where I gravitate to in a book shop or library. I’m a very proud Australian. I love the people we have become and our awesome landscape. I feel very connected with the land and when I travel to the place where I grew up it always feels like going home. My place!

Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials is a valuable resource for primary students to be able to connect with the traditions of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, in essence, to keep the memories of war and its recipients forever alive and celebrated. What are the most significant points you’d like your readers to take away from this book? What do you hope it will achieve?

I hope that readers develop both an understanding and respect for the role that our armed services have in the development of our wonderful country and the way of life we enjoy today. It is designed to ensure that the next generation shares the history and traditions of our important commemorative occasions. I also hope it encourages children to find out about the experiences of their own ancestors.

There are bountiful resources available for teaching and learning about Australian war history. What are your favourite educational lessons or resources to suggest for parents and educators following the reading of Australia Remembers?

Australia Remembers has inbuilt activities and discussion starters and is supported by extensive teacher notes which are available on my website, or on the Teachers page at Big Sky Publishing. My favourite lessons can be found in the notes, but if there was one I would pick it would be to explore your local memorials. Find out about the service of those in your local community.

The next book in this marvellous series is Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force. What can you share about your research for this title? How many more titles in the series have you got planned?

Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is underway and will be released in 2019. It explores the history of the Army, Navy and Air Force in Australia, along with the shared and specific customs and traditions which have developed, sometimes over centuries! It will be a terrific resource for answering the questions which arise around our commemorative services. The whole series plan is a work in progress and we have lots of ideas that we are exploring for future titles.

Anything else of excitement you’d like to add? News? Upcoming projects? TBR pile?

I’m very excited that my first YA novel will be released early in 2019 with Big Sky Publishing. We’ve just finished the edit and the cover is awesome! Follow After Me is about finding a lost part of yourself in the spirit, words and actions of those who came before. Its themes include family, Anzacs, the Australian landscape, rural life and the past! This time though there are two coming-of-age protagonists, one of today and one enduring the events of World War I. It is written in a parallel narrative that converges with the discovery of a collection of WWI letters and a growing sense of connection to place that cannot be ignored. Here’s a snippet from the blurb:

A war to end all wars, a tiny key and a rural Australian property that binds across the generations. Two young women living a century apart discover who they are and where their hearts belong.

Wow! Brilliant! Thanks so much, Allison, for your generous answers to our questions! All the best with your writing! 🙂

Visit Allison Paterson at her website, and on her Australia Remembers book blog tour here.

Big Sky Publishing

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Make Some Noise for Debut Author Sonia Bestulic

Crashing onto the scene is first time picture book author, Sonia Bestulic. Her whimsical tale is all about NOISE! It’s a triumphant take on the joys of music making, and the joys of motherhood in an exuberantly loud household. Sonia’s background in Speech Pathology serves her well in this rollicking rhyming story focused on the development of oral language, speech and instrumental exploration. Sonia is speaking with us as a part of her Reece Give Me Some Peace! book blog tour. Thanks, Sonia! 🎷🎻🥁

Congratulations on the release of your debut picture book, Reece Give Me Some Peace! Please tell us a bit about your background and how you came to be a writer.

Books and writing have always been an integral part of my life since early childhood, I loved the experience of new worlds books immersed me into, as well as the joys of sharing a book that was read to me. From childhood I have relished in writing in its various formats, and always had a particular passion for rhyming and the creative fun you could have with language.

My love of language and drive to help others succeed led me to a career as a Speech Pathologist. My work has predominately been with children who have difficulties with their speech, oral language and literacy. Within my work as a Speech Pathologist I heavily incorporate books as a tool to build and foster oral language development, and getting children ready to read, spell and write.
Working so dynamically with books and with children, I have been privileged to experience time and time again the wonders that a book can create in young people, and so honing my writing within the children’s picture book genre seemed a natural pathway of evolution.

What is your personal experience or relationship with music? How does this come together with your background in Speech Pathology?

I have always had a love of a wide variety of musical genres. Music has been an accompaniment in my life’s journey; listening to it, singing with it, dancing to it, and making it too! I started learning the violin when I was 7 years old, and continued it through to my late teens, before periodically entwining it during adulthood. Music generally is such an integral part of so many aspects of our lives.
The writing of Reece Give Me Some Peace! has brought together my musical background and professional Speech Pathology background, as the text is intentionally very stimulating at an auditory level, and features rich oral language and pre-literacy aspects such as rhyming, alliteration, repetition and rhythm, whilst introducing children to a new vocabulary of orchestral instruments and the sounds they make.

As a Speech Pathologist I often train carers and educators on strategies to develop and enhance oral language and pre-literacy skills; and being able to share in a book such as Reece Give Me Some Peace!, that invites an interactive experience certainly parallels to the interactive experience we can have with music.

How did you find the publishing process with Big Sky Publishing? What has been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of your journey so far?

Big Sky Publishing have been such a lovely team to work with; facilitating a smooth and engaging publishing process.
Most rewarding has been the opportunity to be involved in the various stages of the publishing process – it is pretty amazing being a part of it all and experiencing the evolution of the book from ‘conception to birth’. I certainly got a little teary at the first sight of the initial illustrations, such a personally moving, emotional moment.

In terms of challenging aspects, as this is my debut picture book, I’d say it’s been getting a better understanding of the industry, it’s workings and learning the marketing ‘where to’ once published.

Nancy Bevington has brilliantly captured the movement, energy and charisma of Reece Give Me Some Peace! What do you love the most about the way she has portrayed your lively story and boisterous main character?

I love that Reece is portrayed as such a relatable young boy, just doing his own thing, in his own space with such cheekiness and curiosity; the way in which his manner of play is illustrated, so perfectly aligns with so many children.

Nancy has also beautifully captured the strong auditory component of the story and I love the visual build-up of instruments as the noise crescendos.

I have to make mention of the clever portrayal of one of my favourite characters, and that is Reece’s cat; who appears throughout the story and adds such a wonderful element of endearing humour!

What kinds of teaching and learning experiences would you suggest for parents and educators reading Reece to their children?

• Overall the teaching and learning experience can be themed on music and musical instruments, and reinforcing auditory/ listening skills
• The book builds anticipation, as the sounds are heard before the instruments are revealed; so really get children engaged in joining in with the sounds and guessing what the instrument may be that is making the sound
• Discuss the various instruments;
> what they are
> how they are played
> what category they belong to e.g. flute is a wind instrument, drums are a percussion instrument, violin is a string instrument etc.
​Extension activities can include;
• Drawing feelings of how different pieces of music evoke different emotions
• Listen to and watch the actual instruments being played on YouTube to extend the experience
• Listen to an orchestral piece of music and play ‘spot the instrument’ naming various instruments as they are heard
• Grab some instruments you may have at home or create some (upside down empty bucket and sticks make for an easy to assemble drum!)

Anything else you’d like to add? Your upcoming projects? News? Reading pile?

I have another Picture Book due for release in 2019 with Big Sky Publishing; and the talented Nancy Bevington as illustrator. It is coming together beautifully!

A recent news item is the launch of my podcast Chatabout Children with Sonia Bestulic! I launched at the end of August, and I am really enjoying the creative process so far and the new skills I have picked up along the way. It is all about empowering parents/ carers and professionals to grow with the children in their life; through education, enlightenment and entertainment. I am also looking at this avenue as an opportunity to periodically chat to Children’s Authors and discover all the wonderful things they have been up to in the world of Children’s Books!

That sounds brilliant! Thanks so much for speaking with Boomerang Books, Sonia! 😊

Sonia can be found at her website, and on blog tour here.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Colour, Counting and Fun with Lucy Cousins

Legendary author – illustrator Lucy Cousins of the Maisy fame and the effervescent Hooray for… (Fish / Birds) series returns with some gloriously colourful newbies for little ones. Best known for her captivating learning books and ingenious simplicity over a range of age-appropriate topics for toddlers, these current titles are suitably superb. And here they are…

Splish, Splash, Ducky!, with its medley of bold, vibrant colours, intoxicating rhyme and adorably animated characters is like a toddler’s favourite play time come true in a picture book. The main character, Ducky Duckling, is the ultimate depiction of a curious, enthusiastic, and adventurous youngster up for anything that involves splashing in water, schmoozing with slimy critters and some playful activities. The book contains a scrumptious blend of small creatures one might find in the garden or around the pond on a rainy day, and the way Ducky interacts with them is just infectious. Cousins cleverly integrates the repetitive phrase, ‘Quack, quack, quack’ along with some onomatopoeia to add to the characters’ pure delight in their little games. And of course, no book for young children is complete without a bonding experience between parent and child as daddy duck provides the duckling with a sense of security, comfort, fun and love.
Two to five year olds will adore this playful story and happy-go-lucky Ducky, knowing after a busy adventure with friends there is always a soft spot awaiting them at the end of the day.

We’ve seen Lucy Cousins’ gorgeous counting books with Maisy and friends. In this ‘A Little Fish Book’ series, Count with Little Fish is yet another kinesthetically mesmerising board book for little hands. Exploring numbers from one through to ten, a progressive counting pattern of fish find their way swimming into our hearts and minds. Being able to touch and feel the embossed, decorated shiny numerals and their associated fish on the opposite page provides the young audience with a highly interactive mathematical reading experience. The language facet is also fetchingly engaging with its exuberant rhyme. “Three counting fish…one, two, three! Four flying fish, flapping wild and free.” “Seven scary fish, with sharp teeth to feed. Eight shy fish hiding in seaweed.” Cousins keeps the colour palette appropriately eye-catching with blue and green backgrounds to offset the vibrant, and often contrasting, cartoon fish.
Brilliant fun and learning, perfect as a first book for babies and as a repeat read for toddlers.

Where is Little Fish? is another new title in the ‘A Little Fish Book’ series. This time, it’s a game of seek and find with a lift-the-flap component. Little Fish, as featured in sparkling gold on the front cover, engages his friends, and us, to find him in amongst the underwater nursery of coral, shells and even a treasure chest. With the continual questioning, ‘Is Little Fish in the…’, or ‘Is Little Fish behind the…’, readers are encouraged to make predictions and experience trial and error as they open the flap to discover the actual identities. Naturally, it is only on the final page where we succeed, but not without a little surprise to enlighten all the senses. Friendly fishy faces grace the vivid pages set in simple primary-based colours and patterned accents to create the maximum impact. This perfectly sturdy and compact book makes for a terrific accompaniment to the other Lucy Cousins board books for children up to age three.

Walker Books UK, March 2018.

Review – Sad, the dog

Sad,the dogTrying new things can be an exciting, daunting and ultimately rewarding experience. Just ask Sandy Fussell, author of the acclaimed Samurai Kids series. She is venturing into the fastidious and fascinating world of picture book writing and I have to say, has come up trumps.

TogetheSandy Fussellr with illustrator, Tull Suwannakit, Fussell has brought to life one of the most endearing little dog tales I’ve read in a while. Sad, the dog is a title immediately provoking thought and possibly interpretation as nothing more than a smaltzy, over-sentimental excuse for a cry. It does in fact start a little unhappily at least for poor pooch, Sad so named because his well-meaning but blatantly non-dog-people owners, Mr and Mrs Cripps neglect to give him an identity of his own.

Tull SuwannakitSad receives the basics from them but in spite of his doggedness to impress them with his dogginess, he is largely ignored and tragically unloved. Then they up and go, and leave, without him!

Misery and loneliness pile up around Sad like mounds of autumn leaves until a little boy named, Jack enters his life. Jack is patient and kind and is exactly the sort of little boy Sad needs. Ever so slowly, Sad learns to like his new situation and especially Jack, so much so that he re-discovers his inner dog and a new whisper in his heart that helps him banish his sad moniker forever.

Sad, the dog is a picture book that invites repeated readings because each time you do, you will fall in deeper in love with the indomitable black and white canine and comically drawn characters.

Sad dog illo spreadSad represents the unquestionable loyalty and willingness to please that dogs possess and suggests that they experience the same sense of rejection and loss as keenly as humans do. When Sad’s beliefs are shattered and abandoned, it takes him a while to forget his fears and learn to be brave enough to try that ‘something new’ again. However, with the help of a new friend, he does. Sometimes, that’s all it takes; a special someone to tease the real you back out into the open again.

I love this intimation and heart-warming message that permeates throughout this picture book, and is captured so beautifully by Suwannakit’s glorious watercolour illustrations. Muted tones, appealing detail and ridiculously funny characterisation (I was reminded of Gru from Despicable Me at times) provide plenty of balance and personality, and exude love in an otherwise sad tale about an unwanted dog.

Sad eventually finds love after hiding beneath his pile of unhappiness. It is red and wonderful (and incidentally the colour of Jack’s hair and the falling leaves) and is anything but sad. You and young readers from the age of three onwards will feel it too whether dog lovers or not. Highly recommended.

Fellow blogger, Romi Sharp is interviewing Sandy Fussell, soon. Be sure not to miss her revelations and insight into Sad’s creation.

Walker Books August 2015

 

Review: The Day The Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt illus. Oliver Jeffers

9780008124434Following on from the phenomenally brilliant The Day The Crayons Quit comes the sequel. The crayons are back…and they are still not happy. This time around Duncan has to deal with the lost and forgotten crayons. The broken, chewed and melted crayons. And they are all, quite rightly, even more upset!

These are the crayons who have been lost behind the couch, taken by the dog or in some cases deliberately runaway. There’s crayons who aren’t happy with the name of their colour so they decided to change their name, (you go Esteban!) and there’s crayons who can’t remember what colour they are anymore (it’s been that long!). There’s some new colours to meet and a couple of our old favourites (who may or may not have finally sorted out who is the real colour of the sun).

Once again Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers have produced a picture book that is an absolute joy to read out loud and share again and again (we still haven’t worn out the first book!). Oliver Jeffers’ wonderful illustrations are typically vibrant, absurd and brilliantly funny. And as with the first book each colour gives the reader the chance to read in a different voice for each colour, well at least that’s what I do anyway. This is another truly timeless picture book for the whole family to enjoy over and over again!

Buy the book here…

Ellie Royce makes History with ‘Lucas and Jack’

Along with a staunch group of Australian literary professionals, Ellie Royce is a strong advocate for promoting encouragement for families to connect with older generations, share love and facilitate the power of memory. Her latest picture book is one in a line up, not only involved in initiatives to create awareness of ageing people and dementia (Dementia Awareness Month), but also as a nominee for a prestigious award. Find out more about her gorgeous book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ and her significant contribution to the community in our captivating interview!  

I love Ellie Royce‘s passion for writing and the power of words. Combined with her absolute dedication to working with the elderly, her first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ is a notable example of an award-winning piece of literature.
imageWith its delicate, picturesque style charcoal and watercolour illustrations by Andrew McLean, and gentle, endearing story, ‘Lucas and Jack’ represents connection, value and affection. The intergenerational bond between a young boy and his Great Grandpop is tightened after forming a relationship with another resident at the nursing home; Jack. When Lucas waits alone for the visit to end, it is Jack’s presence that ultimately gives Lucas the gifts of perspective, curiosity and appreciation. Jack is able to open Lucas’s eyes to the once beautiful and intriguing pasts of other elderly people, including detective Leo, ballerina star, Evelyn, and himself as a young farmer. His Pop may be wrinkled, old and frail, but with Lucas’s newfound regard he sees a once hard-working ice delivery boy. Now Lucas will have to wait until his next visit to find out more about Pop’s childhood adventures.
‘Lucas and Jack’ drives home the importance of engaging with and being empathetic to our ageing loved ones, particularly at difficult and confusing times. Royce cleverly integrates charming dialogue with prompts for readers to investigate the life stories of, and form further attachments with their own grandparents and great-grandparents. This heartfelt tale is a valuable addition to any home or classroom setting. A sincere delight!
     

imageCongratulations on your first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards! What does this honour mean to you?  
Thank you! I was so excited to hear that “Lucas and Jack” was a shortlisted book for this award. I am thrilled to have been able to collaborate with a gifted illustrator like Andrew McLean and I understand that a “picture” book is very much like a jigsaw puzzle as in all the pieces both text and illustrations are vital in telling the story so neither one is more important or works without the other BUT…. I have to admit I am a word geek. I adore words, I adore learning new and old words, making up words, reading and writing with them, sharing them, playing with them. So for me, having a story shortlisted which promotes literacy and speech is a massive honour, a truly magical experience.  

Who or what inspired you to write this story?
As an author who works in an aged care facility I was inspired by the fascinating life stories of my residents. I see their photos of them as dashing young things and hear their stories on a daily basis and it really fires my imagination! So often we make a presumption about people based on what they look like – in the case of “Lucas and Jack” it’s older people but this also applies to people with disabilities and people of other ethnic backgrounds- the list goes on. I would often see residents’ younger visitors hanging around outside, not engaging or interacting with their relatives because all they could see was what was on the outside, the wrinkles, the hearing aid, the wheelchair and the gap seemingly too wide to be able to connect. “Lucas and Jack” simply shows that each of us has at least ONE thing in common- we were all young once. Also that if we share our stories we can find connection with each other.
The characters in “Lucas and Jack” were inspired by real residents, some of whom have now passed away.  It’s been a real thrill for their families to have this book to share with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, keeping family history and family stories alive. It’s been a real thrill for me to be able to create that opportunity for them.  

You are an active member in the aged care community. Can you tell us a bit about the work you do for the elderly?
I’ve worked in aged care for almost ten years. For five of them I was the person who received that first phone call “I need help to find out about aged care, Mum/Dad/I have been told I can’t stay at home anymore” or variations on that theme. What a privilege to have a job where you can help people who are confused, frightened, grieving and  feeling so many other emotions! My day was made when someone left my office saying “Thank you, now I understand how it all works. I’m so relieved.” As a communicator, there’s almost nothing better. When I say almost though, I have to say that the role I have now which is Communications Coordinator and engagement officer where I run our newsletter, website and social media outlets and liaise closely with our Lifestyle team to source and develop projects which allow our residents to connect with community, participate in arts and creative experiences that engage and inspire like storytelling (funny about that!), art exhibitions and intergenerational groups as well as running arts based programmes for our dementia specific residents to find out which strategies enhance their quality of life is the “dream job.” The only thing that could top it is if I were a full time author. But even then, I think I’d miss the day job, it’s such a rewarding and exciting area to be involved in.
A tiny vignette of my day springs to mind where recently I was able to facilitate access to audio downloads of classic books for a very academic and bright lady who is confined to bed, unable to move or verbally communicate  easily.  When she heard the first words of “Pride and Prejudice” the look of pleasure on her face brought tears to my eyes. It’s a small thing to us, but to her it is her whole world. Again, what a privilege!    

image‘Lucas and Jack’ emanates a beautiful message of celebrating and cherishing the ‘stories’ of elderly people and forming bonds with grandparents. What do you intend your readers to gain from engaging with your book?
I would love to see “Lucas and Jack” of course offering a good read, an enjoyable experience. But also I hope that the book will pave the way for the readers to share their own stories. I would love to think that after reading “Lucas and Jack” a young person will look at an older person, frown, wonder and ask the question “What did YOU do before you were old?” or “What was it like when you were a kid? Did you do the same stuff as me? What games did you like? What was school like?” and the floodgates of sharing, laughing, crying, remembering, honouring and connecting will open.
Because stories aren’t just stories are they? They’re bridges to things and ideas like empathy, literacy,  resilience, imagination and perhaps most important of all in today’s world they are bridges BETWEEN things and people who think they are too different to ever be able to connect.
There’s a great quote by Roslyn Bresnick-Perry “It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.”  I hope “Lucas and Jack” builds bridges between people.  

The sense of nostalgia and livelihood in ‘Lucas and Jack’ are expertly and gently portrayed in the illustrations by award winning illustrator Andrew McLean. How do feel his pictures best compliment your words? What was it like to collaborate with him?
Oh my goodness how does one express what a magical experience it is for your words to inspire such incredible responses from an illustrator? It really did feel like magic, watching the development from his roughs (ha, roughs? I couldn’t believe he called them roughs; they were gorgeous!) Perhaps that’s another reason why I love the picture book form so much. They are such evocative and beautiful images that resonate so much with everyone who sees the book. I was incredibly lucky to work with Andrew.  

World Dementia Awareness Month is held throughout September. Please explain the purpose of this initiative and how you are participating in raising its awareness to the public.
This year’s theme is “I Remember”. I’m excited to be collaborating with a fabulous group of Australian creators, both authors and illustrators to showcase their books about ageing and dementia for September’s World Dementia Month. The helplessness and confusion a growing number of children face when confronted with the decline of an elderly relative prompted these local literary professionals to create stories to provide encouragement and hope to families. Each of the unique and beautifully illustrated stories is based on personal experience and offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances. The power of memory and remembering as a way to sustain a loving connection is a common thread and ties in perfectly with the “I Remember” theme for 2015.
imageAlong with “Lucas and Jack” we have Celia and Nonna (Victoria Lane and Kayleen West, Ford Street Publishing) where Celia brings memories of happy times spent together with her grandmother into Nonna’s new aged care home by making pictures and paintings to fill the walls. The grandchild mouse in Do You Remember? (Kelly O’ Gara and Anna Mc Neil, Wombat Books) uses artwork to honour Grandma’s memories. In When I See Grandma (Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom, Wombat Books) Grandma’s memories are brought to life through her dreams as the granddaughter shares with her everyday things she enjoys doing and in Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, (Karen Tyrrell and Aaron Pocock) Harry shares coping skills to help his grandpa boost his memory and confidence.
These stories are humorous, at times poignant and always heartfelt. Our hope is that they will inspire and encourage children and families who are grappling with change and illness in those they love.    

You write in a range of genres, including children’s and young adult books. Do you have a preferred genre? What do you love about writing for younger children?
I would have to say that I really, really love the picture book art form. I believe stories can change the world, I truly believe this and one of the most marvellous manifestations of story for me is the picture book. It can encompass any concept no matter how complex in a simple way. It is possibly the purest essence of story and if you want o know why, try telling a really good story in 495 words!
It also speaks to both sides of our brain, with text and illustration. I have two daughters, one who is a language child and one who is a visual. Picture books were the bridge between their learning styles which gave us the opportunity to share so many wonderful experiences as a family. Because it speaks symbolically through pictures as well as through words, a picture book resonates within our souls, speaks to our conscious and unconscious mind and stays with us in ways that other forms of story don’t. Younger children really ‘get’ this. They enter into the storytelling experience and totally become one with the story. It’s a beautiful thing!  

Besides writing, what other pastimes do you enjoy?
I love art and photography, to read, listen to music, work in my vegie garden, cook (then eat), sit around and yak with my daughters, spend time at the beach, to rummage for vintage treasures and to laugh. Laughing is good.  

What were your favourite books to read as a child? Any that have influenced you as a writer?
I find that everything I have ever read sometimes pops up to surprise me as a writer!  I suppose the most important influence is that I aspire to create the same magic for my readers that I experienced (and still do). 
One of my favourite books was and still is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. In fact I recently read it again and every word still fills me with pure crystalline joy. It is an exemplary, beautiful piece of writing. It’s delicious and joyous and fun.   
I was an Enid Blyton child from day dot. I loved Pip the Pixie, Mister Pinkwhistle , The Magic Faraway Tree (er yes I am rather old hahaha!) followed by Famous Five, Secret Seven and then the boarding school books. I also loved everything Roald Dahl wrote and CS Lewis’ “Narnia” series. How can I pick just one? Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Peter Pan! I also loved “The Railway Children” by Edith Nesbit, “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” by Margaret Sidney and the “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner. I grew up with “Anne of Green Gables” and “Little Women” and here I fear I must stop because I’ll go on for hours. I was very lucky to have been encouraged to range widely and omnivorously with my reading as a child.  

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I have a lot of half- finished work badgering me to get on with it at the moment! A couple of picture book texts are doing the rounds of publishers, a few stories are on their way to The School Magazine, two middle grade novels are yelling at me for attention right now, phew! I would love to not have to sleep; it would really increase my writing time. I admire those writers who get up at 3 am to write before they start their day and I may yet become one of them when my need to write becomes stronger than my need to sleep, probably in summer. In winter I hibernate a bit. So stay tuned…..  

Thank you for answering my questions, Ellie! It has been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your work!  
Thank you for having me :).

‘Lucas and Jack’ (available for purchase here), published by Working Title Press, 2014. Teacher notes available here.

Visit Ellie Royce’s website and facebook pages.

Visit Alzheimer’s Australia and World Dementia Month Aged Care Online, or World Alzheimer’s Month for more information on this initiative.

Georgie Donaghey in the Spotlight; ‘Lulu’ Makes her Debut

Georgie DonagheyIt’s not enough to just want something and hope that it will be delivered  to you on a silver platter. Unfortunately for most of us, life isn’t that simple. What we try to teach our kids is that you absolutely can achieve your aspirations, your goals, your dreams, but it takes work, persistence and determination. In this same fashion, this is all too true for first time picture book author, Georgie Donaghey. Her dedication to her writing, the foundation of the successful Creative Kids Tales for emerging authors, and the establishment of The Author’s Shelf, are all what make her journey to publication so inspiring.

Her new book, ‘Lulu’, gorgeously illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn, published by Dragon Tales Publishing, is simply scrumptious! Lulu; a sweet, ice-fishing polar bear, has a dream. A dream to dance. With courage and resolve, Lulu abounds success, but in the end she discovers that all the popularity in the world doesn’t compare to the comfort and affection of family and friends. And she enjoys the best of both worlds.

Read Dimity’s fab full review of the divine Lulu here.

Now, let’s take a peek into the creative mind of Georgie Donaghey.

Georgie & CharlotteCongratulations on the latest release of your first picture book, ‘Lulu’! How did you be celebrate its launch?  

With lots of family and writer friends at Sutherland Shire Library. Over 100 people attended.  It was like a dream.  Susanne Gervay launched Lulu, and I was joined by Deborah Abela, Emma Cameron, Di Bates, Bill Condon and lots of other well-wishers. I wanted to make sure my first launch was extra special so went a little crazy making polar bear cupcakes, chocolates, a Lulu slice (just like LCM’s), goody bags, craft activities such as colouring sheets, polar bear masks.  I read Lulu to the kids on an iceberg made from white faux fur and cushions.    

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I am one of those crazy authors where their characters speak to them.  Lulu actually began in the playground of my daughter’s school.  I was tapping away on my iPad while waiting to do my first author talk to my daughter’s class, and the opening line popped into my head.  ‘Polar Bear’s life was quite cosy and nice, with mountains of fish and even more ice.’  Lulu’s name came during the publishing stage.  

How does ‘Lulu’ resonate with you?  

Lulu followed her dream no matter what obstacles were in her way.  I, like many other authors, have received too many rejections to count.  Instead of being discouraged I wear them like a badge of honor and continue to believe and follow my dreams.    

‘Lulu’ has a beautiful underlying theme of ambitiousness and following one’s dreams. What special message would you like Lulu’s readers to take away from the story?  

If you work hard and believe in your dreams, anything is possible.  

Lulu‘Lulu’ is written with a graceful poetic rhythm, perfectly suiting your charming polar bear dancer. Do you often write in rhyme, and is this your preferred style of writing?  

I’m not fond of rhyme only because you have to be spot on with it.  You can’t fool kids, the rhyme has to flow.  To publish a poorly written book is a disaster so I tried to fight the rhyme and just write Lulu as a story but clearly the rhyme won.  Would I do it again?  Well Lulu has a brother who has a story to tell and I am also working on another rhyming manuscript about an octopus.  Fingers crossed.    

What were your most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating ‘Lulu’?  

Challenging would be of course getting the rhyme just right.  I experienced both highs and lows from conception to launch.  You need a thick skin, and a lot of patience in this industry to deal with rejections and obstacles you face along the way.    

Lulu twinkledI love illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn‘s soft, pastel-looking textures and delicate shades of blues and pinks. What was it like collaborating with her? How much creative license did you allow Ann-Marie in the design process?  

As with most publishers the illustrator was appointed by the publisher.  There was no collaboration between Ann-Marie and I.  I think there was only one brief chat with Kaylene and then Ann-Marie just did her own thing.  Needless to say I am very happy with how Lulu turned out.  Ann-Marie is also a Director of Dragon Tales Publishing.  

How would you describe your first publishing experience with Dragon Tales Publishing?  

An experience to remember.  

Your literary websites ‘Creative Kids Tales’ and ‘The Author’s Shelf’ are fantastic resources for emerging authors and illustrators, and have brought their readers and listeners a plethora of inspirational information and entertainment over the past 4 years. What has been your most valuable piece of advice given or favourite experience with a visiting author?  

Thanks for the lovely comments.  Gosh! How long is a piece of string?  I loved chatting with all my guests on The Author’s Shelf and took something away from each interview.  Probably the stand-outs would have to be Posie Graeme-Evans (creator of McLeod’s Daughters, Hi5 and many other great Aussie dramas), Jackie French.  In fact Jackie and I had such a good time on air she came back for a second show.  
Tony Flowers & Nick Falk were fun to interview together.  Tony joined me in the studio and illustrated in between answering questions with Nick.  Andy Griffiths was a delight, and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) was lots of fun too.  
For Creative Kids Tales I have interviewed 38 guests including Mem Fox, Graeme Base, Jacqueline Harvey, Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell, Leigh Hobbs, Nick Bland, Paul Jennings and many other household names.  That number is growing with guests lined up well into 2016.  
I have received lots of valuable tips over the last few years.  The best way to share them is via my Top Tips page http://www.creativekidstales.com.au/tips/top-tips.  One of the pages on CKT I am most proud of is the testimonials page.  Beautiful words from beautiful people …………  

Can you tell us a bit about your experience speaking at the 10th CYA Conference? What an exciting honour!  

I thought hosting a fortnightly radio show was nerve-racking and then chairing a panel at last year’s Kids & YA Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre was enough to give me butterflies on my butterflies.  I have been to a few CYA’s now and have proudly worn the hat of chief tweeter.  Again this year I juggled tweeting and posting on Facebook for the duration of the conference.  Standing at that microphone and delivering my speech to 160 attendees was fun and nerve-racking.  My four minutes flew by, and I had many comments from attendees saying my journey resonated with them.  They were comforted by the fact our journeys were similar, and they were inspired to continue chasing their dreams.    

What’s next for Georgie Donaghey? What other projects do you have on the go?

I’m always setting the bar higher.  I have a lot of things planned for Creative Kids Tales, and The Author’s Shelf is beginning to take shape into something new and very exciting.  It’s a bit hush hush at the moment.  I’m writing, editing and submitting.  Fingers crossed I can announce my next book soon.    

Thank you for your insights into your publishing journey, Georgie! Looking forward to seeing more from you!

Thanks, Romi, it’s been a lot of fun.

Click on the links to get in touch with Georgie Donaghey at Creative Kids Tales and on Facebook.

Meet Davina Bell, author of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Davina BellThanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Davina Bell.

My pleasure!

What’s your background in books?

I was the type of kid who read all night by the hallway light that peeked through the cracks of my bedroom door and wrote endless stories on old computer paper – the type with the holes in the side that you ripped off.

So it was no surprise to me when I eventually ended up working at Penguin as a children’s book editor. Before that, I studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT, which is where I reawakened my love of writing after a long dormant phase.

Underwater Fancy-Dress

Could you tell us what prompted you to write your tender picture book The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade (Scribe)? 

My friend’s nephew often stays over at her house. He’s terrified of cats, and he would have to sneak past her cat to get to the bathroom at night. She would hear him say to himself, ‘Be brave, Saul! Be brave!’

That was such a tender and beautiful story for me, and reminded me of how childhood, for all its freedoms, is full of fears, big and small. I wanted to write a book that said to children, ‘You are not alone in your fears.’

I had also just read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which is about introversion, and how difficult life can be if you go through it believing that your introversion is a fault or a source of shame, rather than its own way of being, with its own gifts.Quiet

 

How did you decide what Alfie’s costume for the Fancy-Dress Parade would be?

I wish I knew! It wasn’t a conscious decision – my writing mind decides so many things for me. The more I write, the more I learn to just step out of the way and trust it do its work, and then to apply my analytical mind to editing and strengthening whatever it delivers. Captain Starfish was just there, in the story, and I loved him immediately, no editing required.

Alfie’s parents are understanding and seem to know exactly how to treat him. Who are they based on/how did you craft them?

While I was at university, I looked after the children of many families and I saw many different parenting styles at work. My friends are all now just having babies, and that has been really interesting to watch, too! So Alfie’s parents are a blend of the best bits I have seen: patience, a desire to see how the world looks from a child’s point of view, open communication, and a willingness to take each child and each day on its own terms.

Are you worried about Alfie, such a sensitive child?

Do you know what? I think Alfie is going to be okay! His parents really seem to understand and support him, and I think they’ll give him the space and support to realise that his introversion and sensitivity are, in many ways, a gift. It is hard to be sensitive – I know from experience – but you are also so awake to the world in all its tragedy and wonder.

What’s the significance of the cowboys on Alfie’s wall?

The cowboys are Alfie’s confidants – sort of like an imaginary-friend substitute. I think they are also a part of Alfie and a way for him to talk through his feelings with himself. Cowboys are daring and very devil-may-care, so perhaps they are Alfie’s alter-ego. (I feel like I’m getting very Jungian here!)

Your writing is subtle and your words carefully chosen. How important is the quality of the writing to you?

Thank you! Having worked on many picture books during my time at Penguin, I realise the importance of every single word – how it’s thought over, taken out, put back in, played around with. This is the process I went through with my text because I absolutely believe that we owe it to the child reader to make their early experiences of books really high-quality ones.

I also wanted to tell a story about shyness and sensitivity and introversion without talking specifically about those concepts, and that pushed me to be subtle and to tread lightly.

How closely did you collaborate with the illustrator, Allison Colpoys? Hating Alison Ashley

I was lucky enough to collaborate extremely closely with Allison on the book – we have a fantastic working relationship and a shared vision, so it was such a glorious process to go through together. We workshopped every creative decision, big or small, and it was so much fun. As a long-time fan of her award-winning cover design, I feel incredibly blessed to have had her illustrate Alfie’s story. Nobody can believe this is her first picture book!

Thanks very much, Davina.

Thanks for the great questions!

(Allison Colpoy’s cover for Hating Alison Ashley)

”A Tapestry of Experiences Folded into Fiction”; Victoria Lane Talks About ‘Celia and Nonna’

author pic jul 14 WEBVictoria Lane has made a successful career from writing; as an award-winning financial journalist for many years, editor and correspondent for many leading media publications, and of course, as a picture and chapter book writer for children. Today, we delve into Victoria’s writerly mind as she shares her inspirations behind her touching picture book, Celia and Nonna.  


Review – Celia and Nonna
There is something so precious about children spending quality time with their grandparents. Every word and every image, beautifully interwoven by author Victoria Lane and illustrator Kayleen West, pour warmth and affection out of this book and into the hearts of its’ readers.

”Celia loves sleepovers at Nonna’s house.” And Nonna just cherishes the moments they spend together; baking cakes and biscotti, cuddling and reading bedtime stories. But one day Nonna begins to forget things, and she moves to an aged care home where she will get the appropriate support. At first Celia struggles to grapple with the new arrangement, but her resilience, sensitivity and love allow her to accept the change, strengthen their bond, and bring joy and ease to Nonna. Gorgeous sentiments in Celia’s drawings help us, the reader, to remember and appreciate that no matter where we are, all we need are the ones we love.

Celia-&-Nonna-Cover-WEBKayleen West’s illustrations are soft, timeless and emotive. I love the meaning attached to the realistic children’s artwork that are significant to both Nonna, and to Victoria Lane. I also love the clever connection between Celia and the swallows who follow Nonna and stick by her on her life journey.

Celia and Nonna; a message of embracing hard realities, finding strength and faith, an uplifting and important tale to share, all packaged perfectly in a delightful picture book. Ford Street Publishing. 

Interview – Victoria Lane
Congratulations, Victoria, on the release of your first picture book, Celia and Nonna! How did you celebrate its’ launch?
Thanks Romi! We had a lovely launch at the Ivanhoe Library filled with friends, as well as some lovely contributions via social media of people’s memories of their grandparents. We brought biscotti and played ”Guess how many borlotti beans in the jar”.  

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What do you love about writing children’s books?
It’s true, I started writing stories when I was a kid, mainly mash-ups of fairytales inspired by my older brother’s satirical Mad magazines. And I’ve been lucky enough to have made a career out of writing and editing, as a journalist and foreign correspondent. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve had the time to devote to writing fiction again and I love it.
What appeals to me the most about writing for children is the need to condense meaning into a picture book of limited word count. It is a challenge and a delight.  

Celia and Nonna is a warm story of togetherness across the generations, and adapting to change. What special message would you like your audience to gain from reading your story?
It’s so important to keep children involved and informed, whatever changes are happening in the family. If a grandparent is in an aged care home, make sure the grandkids still get to visit rather than leaving them at home. Kids are very adaptable and accepting of change; we should give them credit for it. There are many ways to adapt to these changes, and Celia finds her own delightful way to navigate this confusing time. I hope that Celia and Nonna will help to start a conversation with children when a loved one is affected by dementia, old age, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.  

Does Celia and Nonna have a personal significance to you? What was your inspiration behind this story?
It certainly does. This story has two inspirations. The first was when my eldest daughter could no longer enjoy her treasured sleepovers at my Mum’s, due to her own illness. The second part was the experience of visiting my Dad in a nursing home and trying to explain the situation to my daughter. It was a very foreign place. For those few years, I was part of the sandwich generation, with caring responsibilities for both my parents and my children – I had a new baby at the time. It was an incredibly difficult period. So the story really became a tapestry of my experiences, folded into fiction. I felt it was really important to create a positive story with a positive outlook. I also wanted to keep the Italian flavour because it’s so important to show diversity in Australian children’s literature.  

The illustrations by Kayleen West are beautiful, and provide plenty of elements that add to the meaning of the story. What was it like working with Kayleen? How much input did you have in the artistic design?
I think publishers generally like to keep the authors out of the illustrator’s way, and I think that does give the illustrator the freedom to interpret the words as they like. Kayleen’s work is just gorgeous, full of warmth and love, and I think they are perfect for the story.
castle 1 I did get to ask for a few little touches, and one of the pictures that Celia draws is the castle in her Nonna’s home town in Italy. That meant a huge amount to me. It is still so emotional to see the image of the massive 12th Century castle (which was rebuilt after being heavily bombed in the First World War) that is a symbol of my mother’s home town. There is also a strong element of art and creativity in the way Celia responds to the family’s changes, and Kayleen managed that delicate balance in showing a realistic portrayal of a child’s artwork. And the beautiful endpapers are a little inspiration for kids to create their own art for a loved one after reading the story.  

What was the most rewarding part about creating Celia and Nonna?
For me, it has really been seeing the heartfelt response from parents and children. The story really seems to have struck an emotional chord for many readers and that is so thrilling. The response has been fantastic.  

One of the lovely past times the characters enjoy together is baking. Do you have any special traditions with family members that you follow each year during the holidays?
Not really – it’s hard to live up to the sumptuous five-course meals that my Mum used to prepare for any occasion! Her apple strudel was famous in our family, but it takes hours to prepare and it’s very hard to get the pastry right. We tried to write out the recipe together, but it was just ”add a bit of this, a bit more of that”…  

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I have a few other stories on the go at the moment, and I have also been busy with some junior fiction. I’m writing a series of early chapter books all set a fictional primary school in Melbourne’s north. Some of these are out on submission with publishers, so stay tuned! I would also like to find more time to introduce Celia and Nonna to aged care home and libraries, where it may reach more families.  

Victoria, thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
Thanks for having me, Romi! Same to you and all the readers at Boomerang Books.  

Connect with Victoria Lane:
http://www.victorialanebooks.com
http://www.facebook.com/VictoriaLaneBooks
http://www.twitter.com/vthieberger  

Well, that’s it for the author interviews this year! I hope you have enjoyed meeting them as much as I have!
Thank you all for welcoming me into the Boomerang Books world of blogging, and I look forward to sharing more wonderful news, reviews and author insights with you in 2015!

Have a booktacularly festive holiday, and really treasure those moments with your loved ones!

Happy reading,
Romi Sharp

http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
http://www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Doodles and Drafts – Drawing Boxes with Peter Carnavas

Every once in a while something special sneaks into your life, so unassuming you are barely aware of its presence. However, its ability to change and influence is a forceful undercurrent with powerful impact.Jessica's Box CPA edition

It might be meeting a new friend for the first time. It could be finding a dog to call your own. For me, it’s often the serendipitous joy I gain from opening a picture book. Peter Carnavas’ picture books deliver that exact kind of special.

 Jessica’s Box, first published in 2008 by New Frontier Publishing, is a beautiful example of how such magic endures. Jessica’s first day of school is full of trepidation and new connections; however, her attempts to win friends with offerings from her large brown box repeatedly fall flat. You must read this book to discover that special ‘something moment’ Jessica finds hidden in her box.

What makes this edition so endearing is that it has been embraced and especially commissioned by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Retaining all of the original text, Carnavas has redrawn the illustration to show Jessica in a wheelchair. Text and illustrations are subtle and spare and harmoniously integrated keeping the focus on Jessica’s struggle with self-worth rather than her disability.

Peter is here at the doodle table today to shed some more light on this touching picture book.

Welcome back to Boomerang Books Peter!

Peter Carnavas 3Who is Peter Carnavas? Tell us something about yourself we can’t find on a website.

Peter Carnavas is that quiet kid you went to school with, the one always drawing little pictures on his schoolbooks. Whenever he had to speak in front of the class, he would mumble and look down and his teacher would tell him he had to use more expression. Now his job is to draw little pictures and speak in front of schoolchildren (he uses more expression now). Pete starting school

Your published writing career began about six years ago, around the same time Jessica first entered our lives. Describe how this happened.

After teaching for a few years, I was itching to do something creative, as my hobbies were always creative things like drawing and writing and music. I had made some little books for my nieces and nephew, and decided to pursue children’s writing. I completed a picture book course with Virginia Lowe, sent my dummy book to a publisher, then forgot all about it. After I moved house a few times, got married and became a father, I received the news that I was about to get my first book contract.

Was this the first picture book manuscript you had ever produced? What inspired its (original) creation?

The Man Who Carried a BasketYes, Jessica’s Box was the first picture I had prepared to submit for publication. It mainly started from a little book I had made my wife, called The Man Who Carried a Basket, about a man looking for love by showing off possessions (albeit simple possessions), instead of valuing himself. It was autobiographical, I guess. A little while later, I turned the character into a schoolgirl wanting to make friends. It seemed to make sense.

Whose idea was it to re-release this edition of Jessica’s Box?

I have to give all of the credit to my publisher, Peter Whitfield, of New Frontier. Peter and his family have been connected with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance for many years. He simply emailed me with the idea of depicting Jessica in a wheelchair, leaving the text untouched. I thought it was a wonderful idea.

What makes Jessica’s Box CPA edition special in your eyes?

The thing that makes it special is the fact that the disability is not central to the story. The text is completely unchanged from the original, so the point we’re making is that children with disabilities have the same regular concerns and anxieties as all children – wanting to make friends, trying to fit in. You only notice Jessica is in a wheelchair in some of the illustrations.

Sarah's Heavy HeartDo you think Jessica’s Box could lend itself to theatrical interpretation in the way Sarah’s Heavy Heart and One Tree in the City have been via Artslink? On what levels do you feel this could positively influence children?

I definitely think it would work well as a play. I had the pleasure of watching a Year One class from Graceville State School perform it for me a few years ago. It was great, especially the yoga mum character. The book contains such a simple but powerful message, to enjoy being ourselves instead of advertising what we own.

Had you ever considered including a disabled character in your stories before?

I have thought about it a few times. I watched a documentary about children with selective mutism, which fascinated me. I’m usually attracted to characters who are quiet but strong in some way, so this one would suit me well.

Did you ever need a box at school to make friends?

I always managed to have a few friends at school, though I’m not really sure how. Drawing funny pictures probably helped.

A Special edition release of your work is pretty exciting. Name three other things about your job you really love.

I have such a joyful job and I never take anything for granted.

  1. I love getting to meet authors I admire. I try to play it cool but inside I’m doing backflips with excitement when I meet some of these wonderful people.  
  2. Spending time with children in schools is always fun. I always feel like it’s the best bits of teaching – I turn up, read books, draw pictures, inspire kids and make them laugh (hopefully), then ride off into the sunset without any report cards to write.
  3. Drawing pictures in my little studio is probably my favourite part of it all. Pencil in hand, music playing, cup of tea beside me… it’s all I need.

Apart from the sunset, what is on the horizon for Peter Carnavas?

What's in My Lunch Box 1More books are coming out soon. I’ve illustrated Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding, the third in the series written by Alex Field. I’ve written a fun book called What’s in My Lunchbox?, beautifully illustrated by Kat Chadwick. Most exciting for me is the chance to spend the next few months at home, illustrating my next book, probably with scissors and glue. That’s right – I’m entering the dangerous world of collage, though I don’t know if I’ll make it out the other side alive.

I’m sure you will. Thanks Pete!

You’re welcome!

While Peter cuts and pastes, many of you will be turning your attention to cutting and pasting of a different-Christmas-paper-wrapping kind, so I’ll take this opportunity to THANK YOU all for reading with me, laughing with me and staying with us this year.

Like our namesake, we’d love to see you return in 2015! There’ll be more books to discover, great people to meet and scintillating literary facts to learn – guaranteed. Till then, have yourselves a very merry little Christmas.

Happy reading, Dimity

 

‘When I see Grandma’; A Compelling Account with Author, Debra Tidball

I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. It is the perfect book to share with young and old, and what better time to do so than Christmas time.  

high resDebra Tidball’s ‘When I see Grandma’ is a beautiful, poignant story of life, love, family and compassion. It will make you smile. It will make you teary. It will touch your heart in many ways. So thoughtfully and delicately illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom, the images evoke an array of emotions, and tie in magically with Debra’s gentle phrasing.

When the children visit their sick and elderly grandmother in the aged care home, it is their glowing presence that elicits grandma’s fond memories of her past.

”I’m sometimes sad to see her but I’m always glad that I can brighten her dreams.”

The little girl and her brother bring joy to the elderly through elements of music, ”for her dreams to dance on”, through their laughter and their youthful innocence. She nurtures her grandmother with a little pampering and cuddling, which strengthens the love in her heart. The story ends with a kiss for Daddy until he returns from work, and a kiss for Grandma, to say goodbye. The final image of the family sharing grandma’s old photos, which can be viewed in the endpapers, give the book the perfect uplifting conclusion.Wombat Books 2014.  

debra tidballDebra, congratulations on winning the CALEB Prize, and for being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards for ‘When I see Grandma’! What wonderful achievements!  
Thanks Romi.  

How did you feel when you heard the exciting news of your nomination and win?  
To be short listed for the same award category as the legendary (and our family favourite, Bob Graham) blew me away – he won the Speech Pathology award, but I certainly get bragging rights! And winning the CALEB prize was more quietly and personally gratifying.  

All the royalties of ‘When I see Grandma’ will be donated to the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care fund, which is amazing. What does this connection mean to you personally?  
My mum had dementia and the book is dedicated to her: it is based on visiting her with my two daughters when she was in an aged care home – so it seemed appropriate to donate my royalties to an organisation working in the dementia area. Hazel Hawke was a courageous and warmly regarded public personality and this fund seemed to be the right fit. The fund is administered via Alzheimer’s Australia who have been very supportive.  

Do you have any special childhood memories of your own Grandma?  
It’s interesting you ask that, Romi, because the only contact I had with my grandparents as a child was receiving birthday and Christmas presents from them (which my mother actually bought with money sent from overseas) and writing ‘thank you’ letters in return.  My mum was a ‘£10 pom’ and left her family in London in the 1950’s, so I didn’t meet my grandparents until, at a very elderly age, they came for a visit to Australia when I was a teenager, and it was actually very awkward. Having grown up without that grandparent connection, I was keen for my children to have an ongoing relationship with theirs, and for them them to know my parents as people with full and amazing lives.  

The illustrations in your book, by Leigh Hedstrom, are just beautiful, and instrumental in guiding the story. How involved did you need to be to create these specific images, and how much did you leave to Leigh?  
violin dream openingLeigh felt the story for the start and captured its essence with creativity and with some goose-bump  moments of serendipity. The first sketch she sent through was of grandma by the water hole in her swimmers – and I knew from that moment she would be perfect. The manuscript I sent to her had illustrative ideas which she took on board but the dream sequences were not an easy concept to illustrate. The idea I initially had didn’t work, and I loved the way Leigh wrestled with how to portray these pages – she sent a number of rough ideas, through the publisher, to me for comment – I appreciated the way I was consulted through the whole process and how Leigh valued feedback. I was thrilled with how it ended up – particularly the symbolic trail of flowers, laughter, hearts etc that link the bedroom scenes to the dreams. And I love the cartoon like characters and the vibrant colours which I wouldn’t have imagined but engage children so very well, adding fun and vibrancy to the narrative and giving the story it’s uplifting feel.  
I wrote the visual narrative of the young boy and his interactions with the residents into the story but Leigh was initially unsure that she could squeeze that onto the page – I’m so glad she managed it as it adds another layer to the story, about community, that I think is so important.  
As for serendipity, the little touches that had a huge emotional impact for me were Leigh having grandma dancing with grandpa in uniform – unbeknown to her, my father was in the Air Force and my parents started going out dancing when Mum started nursing; and the father in the story, both as a little boy and an adult, is a replica of my husband (glasses, hair colour, build, musical interest) whom Leigh had never met.  
It has Leigh’s personal touches too – the toys on the page where the grandmother is playing with her child are an expression of Leigh’s love of Disney, and she sneakily made the book that the mother reads with the class another of her collaborations (Marty’s Nut Free Party). The use of the endpapers to replicate an old photo album and to recognise some of these photos on pages throughout the book is an inspired way to weave a thread that wraps the whole together. I could go on….  

When I see Grandma’ is a lovely tribute to all Grandparents, but also fosters an appreciation for family connectedness. What message do you hope for readers, young and old, to gain from reading your story?  
I hope that readers get a sense that people are so much more than they seem at any one point in time, that everyone has a history and personal stories that are rich and vibrant and make up who they are – even when they are handicapped by age or illness. I hope, too that readers understand the importance for everyone to include children in an aged care community, and that a sense of connection can be made across generations despite apparent barriers.  

What does the festive season mean for you and your family?  
Christmas is a time for reflection and recharging after a busy year. We love to spend quiet family days and attend church. It’s also a nice time to catch up with extended family and friends who’ve been neglected during the year. Having spent last Christmas in the northern hemisphere, I realised I’m very much an Aussie girl – nothing says Christmas to me like summer – sleepy reading days relaxing outdoors with the smell of sunscreen and smoke (only from the BBQ hopefully!)  

Do you have any special traditions that you follow every year?  
As my children have grown up a lot these past few years (they are now adults) it is interesting to see what traditions have stood the test of time. We like to go to choral services at our local church together, beginning the with advent service of lessons and carols. We are excited to exchange presents on Christmas Day and Peter Combe’s Christmas album is still the album of choice to accompany this ritual. We may have a feast or famine of decorations – the gloss goes off glamming up the house or Christmas tree when the children realise that the pulling out the bling is always easier than packing it away. But remembering Christmas past is always part of the fun! I’m not a fruit cake fan, but I look forward to my Ice Cream Christmas Cake all year.    

What is your favourite Christmas children’s book?  
One with many happy memories from my younger years is a beautiful pop-up book of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement C Moore and Tom Patrick – it was marvellously interactive both physically and narratively. More recently, it would be a tie between The Nativity by Julie Vivas and Wombat Divine by Mem Fox.  

endpaper when i see grandma You’ve had great success with your writing in 2014. What do you aim to achieve in 2015?
I have a few other manuscripts out to publishers as well as some other writing projects, so next year it would be great to have something accepted for publication – fingers crossed! I will also continue to search avenues to promote ‘When I see Grandma’ because it is such a pertinent and topical story, and it has the potential to be enduring.  

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Debra! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season with your friends and family!  
Thanks Romi 🙂  

Connect with Debra Tidball:
http://www.debratidball.com/
https://www.facebook.com/debratidballpage  

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

It’s No Mystery That Lesley Gibbes Loves All Things Scary: Review and Interview

With Halloween fast approaching, what book would be more fitting than the sensationally mysterious, Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King?!

9781921504631Review: Scary Night
Ready to be horrified? It’s time to hide! Let out a scream, it’s Scary Night!
Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King bring us a spooktacular tale of three brave friends that set upon a journey in the dead of night. Join them for a mysterious adventure!  

Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake, Pig with a parcel. Any guesses as to where they are tip-toeing to under the pale moonlight?  

The animal friends wander far over dark, rolling hills, traipse through the whispering woods and even dare to cross a snapping crocodile-infested creek. Shivering and squeezing each other tight, they continue on their way. Frightening grizzly bears, ghouls in the cemetery and a black bat cave. Is this enough to forfeit this treacherous expedition? No way! They may be scared out of their wits, but nothing will avert these determined characters.  

Despite their absolutely terrifying experience, the friends finally make it to their destination completely unscathed.  

1407287658567.jpg-620x349But where did they end up? Read the book and you will get a BIG surprise!  

Scary Night is beautifully written in poetic prose. Lesley Gibbes so effectively draws the reader in with her interactive, humorous question and answer play and repetitive phrases. She has also provided plenty of opportunity for teachable moments, including phonic awareness, prepositional language and rhyming words. And Stephen Michael King’s expressive, Suess-like illustrations are bold and engaging, with his use of cool, moody colours and white accents of the bright full moon and the characters large, white terrified eyes. Just perfect to create the thrill of the night-time scene.  

Scary Night, a story of courage and friendship, contains all the goodness of fun, adventure, suspense, and just a little bit of bite to keep its young readers entertained many times over. This read-aloud book is a real treat!  

Lesley+GibbesInterview: Lesley Gibbes
Today I shiver (with delight) to conjure some spellbinding details behind Scary Night and what makes Lesley Gibbes tick.  

What was the inspiration behind the story?
As I child I loved exploring. My family home at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches was bushy and led onto a cliff top reserve. It was a great place to explore and go on exciting and sometimes scary journeys. So I wanted a story that had an exciting journey for my SCARY NIGHT characters. I also love scary! So setting the story at night when anything can happen was a must. My own children had a role to play too. The refrain ‘It’s a mystery!’ was all theirs. They had loads of fun answering my questions like ‘Where are your socks?’ with the answer ‘It’s a mystery!’, so I absolutely had to use this phrase. But there’s another less creative and more academic side to the construction of SCARY NIGHT. You see I’m a primary teacher and I wanted certain elements in the text to encourage and support reading. So you’ll find rhyme to support reading, refrains for repetition, question and answers to encourage participation and loads of opportunities for parents and teachers to ham it up for dramatic play. So all up SCARY NIGHT was quite a compilation of thoughts, ideas and inspirations.  

Scary Night is a whimsical rhyming tale. Do you often write in poem or do you have a variety of writing styles?
I love writing in rhyme and as primary teacher I understand the important role rhyme plays in the teaching of reading. But I do write in a variety of styles. I have three new picture books due for release next year and they showcase a variety of writing styles. ‘Bring A Duck!’ illustrated by Sue deGennaro is another rhyme/prose combination. It’s a riotous story about a duck themed birthday party. There’s no rhyme in the bedtime story ‘Little Bear’s First Sleep’ illustrated by Lisa Stewart or ‘White Fin’ illustrated by Michelle Dawson. White Fin is for primary aged children and is a story about the visiting whales in Sydney harbour. I also love writing novels and have a chapter series coming out soon.  

Are they your ideas to include the little illustrative details like spider webs and ghostly shadows in the images, or did you leave this up to your illustrator?
Stephen has such a creative mind I didn’t want to get in his way. All the quirky, interesting details are part of Stephen’s wonderful imagination. My own ideas would pale in comparison.  

What was it like to work with Stephen Michael King?
Stephen’s work is so magical I was in heaven as I watched the illustrations progress. Stephen did have a surprise for me though. He wanted to take the illustrations for SCARY NIGHT digital. Stephen started with hand drawn ink and watercolour then he created a unique look for SCARY NIGHT by working with the illustrations on the computer. So his soft water colour became bold blocks of colour, perfect for SCARY NIGHT.  
Is there anything that you’re really afraid of?
Being made to eat raw eggs! There, I said it. Yuck!  

438311-48df15a6-fb4a-11e3-8cc4-c8f5cb031907Do you have any traditions or plans for Halloween?
My children are very excited because at long last they are old enough to go on their first trick-or-treat romp around the neighbourhood. Costumes have been bought, lolly bags have been chosen and SCARY NIGHT has been pulled from the shelf ready for a night time reading to get us in the mood. I can’t wait!  

What’s the next writing project that you’re working on?
At the moment I’m writing book four of my FIZZ chapter book series for children 6-9 years old.  The series is being illustrated by Stephen Michael King and published by Allen & Unwin. It’s due for release in 2016. Fizz is a feisty dog who, more than anything, wants to be a police dog. But there’s one small problem. Police dogs are big and buff and Fizz is small, white and fluffy. Well you can see the problem! The books are loads of fun and full of laughs. I can’t wait to see Stephen’s illustrations.

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I really appreciate your participation, Lesley!  
My pleasure. Happy reading everyone!  

For more infomation about Lesley Gibbes:
http://www.lesleygibbes.com
http://www.facebook.com/lesley-gibbes-australian-childrens-author

Review and Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

COMPETITION! ASK a question to WIN!

A chance to WIN a copy of Ursula Dubosarsky’s ‘The Terrible Plop‘, AND
YOU can ask her a question in an exclusive interview, to be featured on
the Boomerang Books Blog!

PhotoGrid_1413769415749To win:

1. Head to My Little Story Corner and LIKE the page.

2. Find the Competition post, pinned at the top of the page.

3. In the comments box, ask a very original and creative question that you would like Ursula Dubosarsky to answer.

The question deemed most inventive will be the lucky winner of the interview feature (only first name will appear), and The Terrible Plop delivered to your door!

Entries close 11.59PM AEST Sunday October 26, 2014.

See pinned post in My Little Story Corner for details.
This promotion is not endorsed or associated with Facebook.

From the author of Too Many Elephants in This House and Tim and Ed, The Terrible Plop is another adorably hilarious classic. It involves a lot of manic animals; rabbits hopping furiously away from the Terrible PLOP, and a bear who won’t have a bar of it, until… it’s all too much to bear!
”But what is the PLOP? And where does it hide? Open the book and look inside…”
With gorgeous rollicking rhyme by Dubosarsky, and equally whimsical illustrations by illustrator, Andrew Joyner.

Review – A House of Her Own

A House of Her OwnFive something-year-olds can be delightfully brutal and unsparing with their observations and subsequent proclamations on life. Audrey is one such five year-old. She may be younger or slightly older; but one thing’s for certain, she does look bigger than she did yesterday, which is why she announces to her father that, ‘your house is getting too small for me’. What Audrey needs is a house of her own.

A House of Her Own is the latest collaboration between the relatively new picture book pairing of Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley. It’s a partnership that works a treat, gently examining the taste for independence pre-schoolers begin to develop as they become more self-aware.

A House Illo 2Audrey is a young lady with specific tastes however so finding the perfect location to build her dream dwelling takes some time. Eventually she reasons that the tallest tree in the garden is the only site that satisfies her daily ‘growing bigger’ dilemma and instructs Dad to commence construction.

Again, Audrey’s exacting requirements take some time for Dad to fulfil, but with infinite good patience, he builds her a ‘place to play, with a bath tub for snorkelling’ and ‘a blue bed, to keep secrets underneath’; features that would please the most discerning home renovator.

It isn’t until Dad packs up for the night, leaving Audrey to fend for herself in her new abode, that doubt begins to seep in, causing Audrey to question her rash quest for independence. Dad is delightfully indifferent to her growing concerns until he suggests a place she’ll feel safe and warm in, a place where she is always welcome, no matter how much bigger she becomes.

Jenny HughesAs a parent, A House of Her Own made me grin with intuitive understanding and compassion. I mean, who doesn’t want a tree house of their own. Jenny Hughes weaves typical pre-schooler indignity with humorous clarity into a tale singing with emotional insight and warmth. It’s The Block meets Play School, with characters better defined and more recognisable than found in some older-audience aimed works of fiction.Jonathan Bentley

Hughes’ delicate treatment of a comfortably repeating narrative enables the tender relationship of the occasionally irascible Audrey and her single-parenting father to really shine.

Jonathon Bentley’s watercolour and pencilled illustrations lend more than a note of whimsy to the story line. There’s a sunny backyard openness that filters from each page deep into your (childhood) heart. Each illustration explores every perspective and angle of Audrey’s project and emotional quandary, with detailed sensitivity that lures your eye to the page and keeps it there.

A House of Her Own Illo spread A House of Her Own is an anytime story that begs to be read again and again – at least my young miss thought so. It highlights the realisation that fanciful desires don’t always match with a longing for security, but also reaffirms that, making a stance in life need not isolate you from others or those who love you, something many teenagers would do well to accept. A beautiful tale brimming with affection, perfect for anyone with lofty dreams and sky-high expectations.

Little Hare Books imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont September 2014

Ready to Play: Peter Carnavas bears all on ‘Oliver and George’

peter carnavas picturePeter Carnavas is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, some of his titles including The Children Who Loved Books, Last Tree in the City, The Great Expedition, The Boy on the Page, The Important Things and Jonathan!.  

Peter’s books consistently provide both children and adults with heartwarming, humorous and thought-provoking experiences that leave a lasting impression. His illustrations always showcase his talent in portraying beautiful expression and sensitivity. He also balances a perfect mix between detail and playfulness, and spreads that make a simple yet dramatic statement.  

oliverToday I present you with Peter’s latest adorable read-aloud story, Oliver and George, and I am lucky enough to have had the talented author / illustrator himself answer some behind-the-scenes questions!  

Short Review: Oliver and George

I love how we are introduced to the characters. Immediately, they capture our attention.
Oliver sure is ready to play. He’s dressed in a multitude of outfits; he’s a swashbuckling, sword- and hook-bearing pirate with a rollerskate on one foot and a flipper on the other, with a box for a hat and a superhero suit and cape. Then there’s George. George is a serious, spectacle-wearing bear. He’s busy… reading.           
Oliver can’t wait for George to finish his book.
”’In a minute,’ said George.”
Oliver tries to be patient, but that doesn’t last very long. So he throws a paper plane at George, and breaks his chair, and tips porridge on his head, until George got so mad that he… didn’t do anything.
Oliver continues to pester George until at last he gets some attention. But is it the attention he wanted? And are both Oliver and George finally ready to play?
With adorable illustrations showcasing the parent-child-like relationship between the characters, simple yet effective page layouts with white backgrounds and sizeable text, Peter Carnavas’ Oliver and George is a delightful, cheeky and charming story about patience (and sometimes losing it) for young readers to giggle through from start to finish.  

10626774_765837733476621_2094984753388497762_nHow did the idea for Oliver and George come about?
I was on the plane to Perth, scribbling away in my sketchbook.  I had been thinking about a bear character for a while – I guess almost every children’s author has done it – and finally thought of creating a bear character that really didn’t behave the way in which the reader expected or wanted.  I think I had the wonderful No Bears (Meg McKinlay/Leila Rudge) floating around my head as inspiration.  I decided to add the cheeky Oliver character and, together with George, the two of them form a bit of a sibling relationship or, more likely, a parent-child relationship – the child bugging the parent to play, but the parent is always too busy.    

Are these characters based on anyone you know?
No, I didn’t base them on anybody.  However, since I’ve made the book, I’ve noticed members of my family behaving very much like Oliver and George.  We bug each other for attention, or tell each other, “In a minute”, when asked to do something.  

Have you ever broken someone’s chair?
I have!  When I was ten, I remember drawing a picture that didn’t meet my expectations and I kicked one of our dining chairs out of frustration.  I was a quiet kid but very occasionally I snapped – much like George.  Dad made me pay for the chair out of my pocket money.  
I also punched a boy in Grade One for snatching a book from me. My teacher smacked me and I never punched anyone again (apart from my brother).

So, you are more like George than Oliver?
I realise I am quite like George the bear.  Tolerant… until somebody snatches a book from me.  

How long did it take you to write and illustrate Oliver and George?
It didn’t take me too long to write the first draft but then I rewrote it many times, swapping ideas with my editor, changing the bear to a crocodile at one stage (didn’t last), and playing around with the ending a lot. I received some advice from some teacher-librarians about the ending, which helped a lot. So it’s hard to put a timeline on the writing process – it tends to happen in-between everything else. The illustrations probably took a few months, over the summer.

What’s your favourite animal to illustrate? Why?
It changes all the time.  At the moment I love drawing whales and penguins.  My favourite part of drawing any animal is dressing them up a little and giving them human expressions with the slightest details – small eyebrows and things like that.  

What can us Peter Carnavas fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
You mean there’s more than one of you?!  I’ve written a really fun book called What’s In My Lunchbox?, illustrated by Kat Chadwick.  It’s a fun, read-aloud book aimed at a young audience, much like Oliver and George. It will be out in early 2015.  
I look forward to its release!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Pete!
You’re welcome!  

Peter Carnavas, with the help of Pat Flynn, will be launching his new book, Oliver and George, on October 25th at Maleny Library, Queensland.
See http://www.newfrontier.com.au/events/oliver-and-george-book-launch/850.html for more details.
http://www.petercarnavas.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Carnavas-AuthorIllustrator

Article by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

Review – Once Upon An Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

9780007514274I am a huge Oliver Jeffers fan but have to admit his last few picture books haven’t hit the mark. That of course excludes the absolutely brilliant The Day The Crayons Quit he did with Drew Daywalt last year which was simply outstanding. Oliver Jeffers illustrations have always been outstanding but it was his stories that seemed to have drifted. Partnering with another writer seemed like a great idea but Jeffers has absolutely knocked it out of the park with his new book, Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories For All The Letters.

As the subtitle suggests this is an alphabet book with a difference. Jeffers gives four pages to every letter of the alphabet including a short story about each one. The stories are fabulous and deliciously absurd. Some are interconnected and others stand alone. There are funny stories, sad stories and typically Jeffers-esque morality tales. There are heroes, there is wisdom and best of all illustrations that burst, bubble and run wild over all the pages.

This is vintage Oliver Jeffers and I cannot wait to  share this over and over with my kids as there is so much to explore and enjoy in this marvellous picture book.

Buy the book here…

Review – Tim and Ed by Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner

tim-and-ed Having two kids under five is busy enough; constantly picking up after them, the daily hustle and bustle, and the shouts, shrieks and laughter that goes with sibling shenanigans. But what about young, lively, always busy, curious twins? Now that would be a handful!

Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner make a great award-winning team, already bringing us The Terrible Plop and Too Many Elephants in This House, which was chosen as the 2014 National Simultaneous Storytime picture book. And another terrific team they have introduced more recently, are the adorable Tim and Ed.

Tim and Ed, identical twin koalas, are pretty much the same. With their matching eyes, mouth, feet, and head, and their arms, legs, knees, nose, ears and toes that are the same. The only thing differentiating them are their initials on their tee shirts. In their colourful, safe world with their Dad, they share a definite cheekiness, curiosity about their twin existence, and an unequivocal bond.

‘I want to be the same as him!’, Ed reveals, as no contrast will be accepted, even if caused by a dirty, wet pond. Absolutely exhausting their poor old Dad, this duo’s energy just doesn’t seem to tire. With a noisy racket and a toy-ladened house, Dad and Auntie Pim join forces to organise a well-deserved break for the single father. 20140909_144620
However, their sense of security is suddenly shattered when the twins discover that they will be spending the night apart. In the beginning they hardly notice each other’s absence, enjoying their time crashing toy trains and racing bikes around the yard, and dining on spectacular meals.

In the quiet calm of the night they notice the missing presence of each other’s company. But upon reuniting the following day, with the reassurance of their Dad, the koalas realise a little bit of independence can be fun. And although they may look the same, they each have their unique qualities, which makes them special individuals. 20140909_144703

Tim and Ed is a gorgeous picture book that perfectly matches Ursula Dubosarsky’s rollicking, rhyming storyline with Andrew Joyner’s lively, expressive illustrations. Dubosarsky’s real life conversations between father and sons, and activities written with descriptive text, are paired with Joyner’s accurate facial expressions and charmingly drawn details, including a typical Aussie backyard and messy family living room.

Children aged three and up will adore the moments shared with their siblings and parents after reading Tim and Ed. With action-filled behaviours that they can relate to, delightful and engaging illustrations, and learning about being individual and independent, especially when you are a twin, it will be easy to get attached to this picture book.

Pre-order your copy now!

For some fun and educational koala activities while you wait for your copy of Tim and Ed to arrive, head to www.romisharp.wordpress.com/tim-and-ed-teaching-notes. Here’s a little snippet of what you will find. PhotoGrid_1410833885290

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Don’t Forget Dad! – Picture Books for Father

A picture book may not be every dad’s ideal Fathers’ Day gift, especially if he is really counting on more socks and jocks. But think about it, what better vehicle than a picture book to share some real short but sweet moments of physical and emotional connection between a father and his offspring.

Tossing a footy around together is cool too. Whipping up a Book Week costume is a definite contender (the male’s job in our realm). However, very little compares to a snuggly story-time session. It’s gorgeous to behold and enriching for the participants (granddaddies included).

My Dad is a BearConcentrating on the littlies this time is Nicola Connelly’s and Annie White’s My Dad is a Bear. Charlie has something to share, his dad is a bear, or at least his dad displays the same traits as a bear: ‘he is tall and round like a bear’, he ‘has big paws like a bear’, and ‘he even sleeps like a bear’.

In just twenty-eight pages, Charlie manages to describe what I’d wager is the vast majority of ‘typical fathers’. However, it is not just senseless physiological satire. Connelly thoughtfully includes a few more active pursuits like fishing and climbing to enhance Charlie’s metaphoric revelations and thus broaden the typical father figure image. All are adeptly aided by the bearily beautiful illustrations of Annie White.

Like Kisses for Daddy, I love how there is not a single human in sight which makes the twist ending all the sweeter. Pre-readers will gain much through the shared interactive reading this book promotes while beginner readers should have little trouble mastering the straightforward sentence structure and similes. New Frontier Publishing August 2014

Another bear book bowling off the New Frontier shelves is Peter Carnavas’s, Oliver and George. Like his previous picture book, Jonathan!, Oliver and George will find its mark with younger readers aged 2 – 6 years.

Oliver, a box-hat wearing, skDSC03037-001ydiving, sword-wielding young boy is ready to play. He has his playmate sights set firmly on George (represented be a glasses-toting brown bear). To Oliver’s dismay, George is too busy to play. He is engrossed in his book and no amount of cajoling or niggling by Oliver annoys him enough to turn away from it, not even a bowl of porridge tipped over his head!

Oliver is crestfallen, but like all young children bent on their egocentric missions, he quickly recovers and tries again to gain George’s attention, this time resorting to the most arresting action he can think of to thwart George’s enjoyment of his book.

Although George and Oliver’s subtly implied father and son relationship may seem obvious, Carnavas’s anthropomorphic use of a teddy bearish ‘older other’ cleverly intimates many typical child / parent situations: parent, carer, or teacher.

Oliver’s lament is familiar; his obsessive desire to be with George overrides all else, until he is finally rewarded with George’s attention then promptly forgets his former fever. This scenario of precious determination and contrariness is so typical of kids; it makes my heart dance.

Peter Carnavas 2Carnavas never over complicates his tales, nor are they ever overtly visually overblown. Yet they deliver maximum impact with a mere sprinkling of words and a few ingenious strokes of the brush. Oliver and George is no exception.

It will be interesting watching how children react to this witty portrayal of themselves. Utterly beguiling and a subtle reminder for us bigger people to spend more ‘now’ time with our little people. Due out September 2014.

Stayed tuned for more beaut Fathers’ Day reads you can share with your child. Till then,

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Review – Where Are You, Banana?

Where are you BananaEver had a little buddy you just can’t live without? A certain something or someone that insinuates itself so deeply into your heart that to be without it would be like losing part of yourself? Pets especially imbue a certain sticky charm and no pet wheedles our affection better than the humble dog. This is exactly what, Roddy, the young star of Allen & Unwin’s latest picture book release, Where Are You, Banana? encounters when a pooch named Banana joins his family.

Banana and Roddy share an intimate history together. Banana was Roddy’s first word. He is Roddy’s constant companion, a devoted playmate and supreme guardian. But Banana is not without his shortcomings. One of the slight disadvantages of being so close to something is that it makes letting it go all the more difficult. Banana’s obsessive dependency results in a trail of chewed possessions, one very irate neighbour and the banning of visits to Aunt Celia, whose chooks Banana has an unhealthy predilection for.

The tale tangles when Roddy leaves Banana alone with nothing more than a bone and his own devices one day when they are at Aunt Celia’s. Her new chicks are a short-lived novelty and can’t quite stop Roddy from making mental promises to the dog he feels he has abandoned. He can’t wait to return home and make amends but when the family return, Banana is nowhere to be found.

In spite of everyone’s constant reassurances, Roddy begins to worry, a lot. The house bereft of Banana’s presence, is eerily empty. Roddy is disconsolate. Unable to sleep, he sets out to look for his dog by himself. What follows is a marvellous example of simple ingenuity and heart-warming humanity.

Sofie LagunaWhere Are You, Banana? Is an absorbing little adventure by highly acclaimed, award winning author Sofie Laguna. Laguna’s frank first person narrative weaves a story that is easy to read, easy to like and perfect to share with the whole family.

Craig Smith Craig Smith’s animated watercolour illustrations leave us in no doubt as to how excruciating it can be searching for something you’ve loved and lost. They are just the right mix of whimsy and pull-at-your-heart cute.

If you’ve ever lost a pet, even for a short time, or misplaced a beloved object, then this picture book will strike an emotive chord. Children often feel these kinds of losses in the most dramatic of ways. And indeed, this tale resonates with ‘child-trapped-down-a-well’ drama and appeal. Thankfully, Where Are You, Banana? ends happily, reinforcing the feel-good notion that tenacity and love really do triumph over adversity.

Just right for 3 – 6 year olds.

A lovely addition to this hardcover edition is the QR code inside the book’s cover. Readers can scan the code for a free audio reading, ideal for playtime and bedtime. Or they can click on the Allen & Unwin website.

Craig IllustratingMeet Sofie and watch Craig draw images from this book at the launch for Where Are You, Banana? this Saturday 6th July at Readings St Kilda, Victoria 10.30 am. Check here for details.

 

 

 

Review – Bea

Fitting in with your flock is important. Occasionally though, our sense of self is questioned, buried beneath the need to conform. Mixing like with like is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s safe, secure and reassuring.

Bea, however, is a bird who favours being true to yourself in preference to self-preservation. She dares to be different. She has unusual tastes. She does not fit in.

Bea PBBea is the enchanting debut picture book of stellar new author illustrator Christine Sharp. In Christine’s’ own words, ‘Bea is a book about appreciating being in the moment and delighting in the simple things – dancing, star gazing, and above all, friendship.’ And soaring with the fruit bats on calm nights…

Sounds poetic doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Sharp’s fluid text floats dreamily across the pages, often undulating and swirling about the tree tops just like a flock of birds. It’s wild and free, daring and challenging, playful and fun; the very essence of what makes a picture book attractive to young children.

Bea’s contemporaries lead a mundane sort of existence. They spend their days pecking at ants, watching worms wiggle and building nests. Nothing less than you’d expect from a bird. But they have never experienced the sublime joy of ‘singing sweet songs to the moon’ with your best friend like Bea has.

In contrast to their ‘birdy-ness’, Bea bakes berry pudding, dances to disco beats and dreams of travelling the world, in a hot air balloon if you please.

Christine SharpThe clever use of alliteration, which is loosely presented in alphabetical order, beckons to be read out loud and with as much vibrancy and spontaneity as the illustrations evoke. Sharp’s abilities as an artist and designer are reflected in each richly vivid page spread. A mixture of scanned pencil drawings, paintings, photography, fabrics and objects used in collages bring Bea and her best mate, Bernie, to life and deliver a beautiful, textured feel to the book. For me they evoked the stirring scent of rose gums and damp scrub and crisp mountain air. Younger readers will be charmed by the juxtaposition of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ art on each page (as defined by one seven year old).

Bea is an instantly likeable character whose slightly eccentric tendencies and far reaching desires inspire a tremendous sense of self. Her actions prompt others to ask, ‘Why?’ This is no bad thing in my book. She blithely lives her life to the beat of a different drum (or wing in this case). And her best mate Bernie admires and appreciates her all the more for it. I do too. Bea pleasantly surprised me with its simple message of how important it is to feel at ease in your own skin, no matter what your feather type.

Share this alluring picture book with pre-schoolers and those who are developing their own idea of their place in the flock.

UQP March 2013

 

Review – DON’T let a Spoonbill in the kitchen!

Don't let a spoonbill in the kitchenFun, Fun, Fun! Delicious, unrestrained, dive-head-first into it FUN, was my first impression of Narelle Oliver’s scrumptious new picture book, DON’T let a Spoonbill in the kitchen! Well OK, but why, I bet you’re wondering. I was and couldn’t wait to devour this book to find out.

My indulgence was delayed though first by the cherry-topped, pink-iced cupcakes dripping delectably across the cover and then by the brilliantly detailed end pages. (Actually it was Miss 7 who found it hard to move on from this girly treasure trove of items) When we finally did, we were rewarded with a veritable fest of musical narrative and divine illustrations.

Narelle OliverNarelle Oliver is one of those unassuming, home grown Aussie talents who quietly gets on with creating perfectly balanced masterpieces for children to savour with seemingly little effort and fanfare. Immerse yourself into the pages of this picture book though and you’ll soon be marvelling at the many exquisite elements, the lyrical storyline and informative descriptions of some of our most curious native Australian birds, and wondering just how she does it so well.

Oliver is well-known for her predilection for Australian native fauna and feathered creatures. Fox and Fine Feathers and Home are just two examples of her acute appreciation and sensitivity for them and the way she is able to preserve them in the picture book art format, allowing children to cultivate a keener sense of value for the world around them.

Narelle's art

DON’T let a Spoonbill in the kitchen! takes this one level higher for me. Each rhyming quatrain rolls sweetly off one’s tongue whether read silently or out loud; something littlies will repeatedly adore. The format is simple and reoccurring, ideal for building expectation and reinforcing fact with humour. We are introduced to a selection of birds and their chief characteristics before receiving a cautionary warning about them on the succeeding page. The ‘advice’ pages burst with exuberant colour, mayhem, mess and FUN and allow readers to make their own assumptions as to why it’s best not to take a pelican to the airport, for instance.

I struggled to find a favourite amongst these images. They are all marvellous and Oliver’s use of handmade collages, linocuts and real photo imagery make it feel as though the birds really are causing chaos in the kitchen. The overall result is a riotous, educational and hilarious picture book which is seriously good FUN!Narelle Oliver's Spoonbill launch Bris Square Library April 2013 (19)

I had the immense pleasure of attending Narelle Oliver’s launch of DON’T let a Spoonbill in the kitchen! today amongst a crowd of esteemed children’s authors, illustrators and dedicated professionals of the children’s literary industry. Supported by Book Links QLD Inc. and launched by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, the occasion was a celebration of fine art and joie de vivre and thankfully, was unhindered by the antics of any mischievous winged individuals. Happy to report, all cupcakes remained intact until the littlies set forth upon them!

Narelle Oliver's Spoonbill launch Bris Square Library April 2013 (2)

This is a picture book to treasure and to laugh at over and over again.

Recommended for pre-schoolers and those who crave to be a pelican (like me).

Omnibus Books by Scholastic Group Australia April 2013

 

 

Review – The Light

Some of my childhood highlights as a city slicker were the infrequent visits to my Grandparents’ farm, tucked away in the volcanic hills of the Blackall Range. Learning how to milk cows and churn their cream into golden, waxy pats of butter produced a memory that prevails today, even if the skill has waned.

The LightNostalgia is something worth sharing for it preserves much more than just a time and place. It builds one’s history and shapes one’s future. Jo Oliver’s latest picture book, The Light, pays homage to the lighthouse keepers and their families of Montague Island and gives us an alluring glimpse of a time and occupation now extinct, and superseded by technology.

The cover and title intimate the story subject immediately; however it is the little girl, kneeling alone on the windswept hillside with her tin whistle which piques one’s curiosity. She introduces us to her home, her family and her life upon this seemingly barren and desolate rock in the middle of the Tasman Sea.

Montague Light houseOne wonders at the lack of everything this family possess and how they endure the tedious isolation of their environment. However, Louisa or as she is affectionately referred to in the story, Lou Lou, doesn’t have time to be bored. Her days are filled with studies and chores and learning to ‘churn the butter’. Yet she still finds moments to run off and sit upon the smooth sun-kissed rocks to play her tin whistle.

In contrast to an existence that is bleak and forlorn, Lou Lou’s music represents the very essence of life pulsing within and around the island. Everything is part of the melody; the crashing waves, swaying seals and swooping terns.

Jo Oliver’s text is enhanced by her understated yet evocative paintings and sketched drawings. The vivid cerulean sea is a vibrant backdrop no matter where you look from the lighthouse. It effervesces with barely restrained beauty as Lou Lou plays her whistle.

Indeed it is the simple pleasure of music and revelling in each other’s company that binds this family inextricably together. However a sense of foreboding prevails when we learn from Lou Lou’s father that a terrible storm is on the way.

Whenever Lou Lou or her father or mother makes music, the pages are cloaked in sheet music. The effect is subtle and unobtrusive. But as the storm closes in, ominous darkness descends. The sheet music becomes muddied and less discernible. The family play on despite the howling storm outside and are soon joined by four shipwrecked men who only locate the safe haven thanks to the guiding light and later, the music. Hope is rekindled and salvation is celebrated within the warmth of shared lamplight.

Lighthouse quartersThe subdued, muted details Oliver uses in both her story telling and illustrations are easy to appreciate in much the same way as her previous picture books Pilgrim and Tatiara. The Light won’t necessarily cause young children to leap up and want to be lighthouse keepers. Its significance lies in the gentle way it illuminates an era when manned lighthouses were a vital necessity to our maritime safety and well-being, and highlights the selfless families who operated them.

Suitable for primary aged children and big kids with lots of nostalgic memories.

New Frontier Publishing  March 2013

Review – The Windy Farm

I’m not big on wind. Of all the meteorological marvels on offer, it’s the least appealing to me, perhaps because I endured a few too many tropical cyclones and missing roofs as a child.

Windy Farm 2So when The Windy Farm blew onto my shelves, I instinctively hunched my shoulders and wondered what on earth could be so appealing about the latest offering by well-liked picture book team, Doug MacLeod and Craig Smith. Turns out a whole Beaufort Scales worth.

Our plucky young narrator lives with her family on the windiest farm on Windy Hill because it’s all they can afford. Their home is buffeted and bullied by incessant katabatic winds. The kind of wind that permanently bends trees into weird angles; the kind powerful enough to blow away young pigs and little girls. No one is safe from its force, no one except Grandpa who, as the illustrations subtly suggest, is so immense and heavy that he will never budge just like his favourite pig, Big Betty.

The family survive undeterred and, as is often the case, necessity becomes the mother of invention. And indeed this is the case; Mum cannily invents heavy metal shoes to anchor them all to the ground. However, in spite of their best efforts, one day they lose half their home to nature’s tempest.

Rich Uncle Jeff is no help, pointedly refusing to lend them any of his oil-amassed fortune to help fix the house. They resort to good old fashioned ingenuity and Grandpa’s power tools instead but the ensuing crippling power bill plunges them into despair (who hasn’t felt like this after receiving their electricity bill?)Windy Hill generators

Not easily defeated, Mum comes up with a wily plan; to convert the farm into a sustainable wind farm. Pretty soon things are on the up and up. The farm road is paved in tarmac and truckloads of money from all the electricity they’ve enterprisingly ‘farmed’. Big Betty, the prized pig, returns to a wind-proof sty (she was sold to pay the electricity bills) and although the need to wear heavy metal boots remains, their money worries have been swept away, just like Uncle Jeff who ‘became poor’ after the ill winds of fate blew his way. ‘Never mind,’ Grandpa sanguinely observes; no one really liked him anyway.

Doug MacLeod’s contemporary message about the power of wind and its significance in environmental sustainability drifts delightfully zephyr-like throughout this picture book. Told in a concise, witty style, The Windy Farm exposes young readers to a range of fascinating topics including the harnessing of energy, inventions, problem-solving, sustainability and endurance.Doug MacLeod

No stranger to children’s book illustrating, Craig Smith’s flamboyant, comic-book style pictures and characters are hysterical; from the very top of Windy Hill all the way down to the chooks’ little metal boots. He uses heavier gauche paint to create a deeply detailed yet fluid almost dreamy visual effect that sweeps from page to page. Movement (of the omnipresent wind), is represented magnificently with the use of acrylics. One can see and feel the air swirling through each scene. I found it astounding even though I’m not that big on wind.

Craig SmithSmith and MacLeod include lots of witty references to the use of nuclear power and the need to adopt a clean energy philosophy if we are to enjoy a longer, better existence than poor old Uncle Jeff.

The Windy Farm is not however a heavy prescriptive lesson in world conservation. Rather, it is a light-hearted, fanciful look at ingenuity and tenacity in their purest and funniest forms. My Miss 7 just thinks it’s very cool. Well it would be with all that wind about wouldn’t it?

Breezy, good fun, imaginative with plenty of room for thought. Plus 5s will love it even if they are not big on wind (but most are).

Available now.

Working Title Press February 2013

Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Peter Allert Part One

I struggle to decipher my own handwriting. I can barely make a stencil look decent and my attempts at creating hangman stick figures always fills my opponents with pitiful glee. This is why I admire anyone who has even an infinitesimal amount of artistic flair.

The process of anything emerging be it writer, illustrator, butterfly, and to a lesser degree, human baby is a beautiful thing and deserves some examination.

Peter Allert IllusOur doodler today is Peter Allert, whose artistic flair, I am happy to announce is anything but insignificant. In fact Peter’s drive and dedication to his craft are so great; they have filled more than one post can cope with alone. So here is Part One of my interview with Peter Allert, illustrator of children’s books (Long Live Us!) and bona fide gentleman to boot.

Q Who is Peter Allert? Describe the illustrator in you and what sets your work apart from other Aussie illustrators.

I was born in South Australia and moved up to Queensland in the 1980’s with my parents, I spent time living in Sydney but have made Queensland my home for the last 13 years. I have always illustrated in one form or another but have become quit driven in my 30’s to discover my potential.

ill-animals-frog3I believe I am an artist at heart who has found I express myself best through illustrating with watercolour pencils and ink. My strength is illustrating animals, capturing their fur or feathers, bringing their eyes to life as if they were looking at me. I am most proud of this work. I have also illustrated a variety of other subjects including fairy tale and children’s book characters and Science Fiction themes.

I think what sets me aside is that I use watercolour pencils rather than straight watercolour paints, therefore I am able to apply the detail I am comfortable with. I also mix my love of photography with my work so I can capture a natural realism in my subjects. I like getting out and about and seeing the world, I feel this helps bring perspective to your illustrations. I am still finding myself as a writer and poet but draw inspiration from my other writers and close friends.Peter Allert Possum

Q What is your favourite colour, why and how does it influence or restrict what you illustrate?

I guess like a lot of illustrators it is hard to choose just one but if I had to it would be green. To me it’s a very nature colour with so many ways it can be applied. It can be applied to illustrations not just as a straight green but also through using other amazing blues, yellows…etc. It influences my work as I like illustrating natural subjects and I find they always have an element of green in them. It may however restrict me if I had a dark subject matter, I would always want to add a brighter colour to inspire hope.

Q When did the coloured pencil drop for you? What, whom persuaded you to illustrate?

When growing up I guess coloured pencils were all around me, in school, at home, they were inexpensive and there was always a colouring book that needed my attention. After seeking feedback about my work I found the straight pencil a little limiting. With water coloured pencils I could enhance and bring the colours to life, with the right paper I could add other dimensions and finishes to my work. It just displayed and continues to display great potential. I also like detail and I can accomplish that with pencils.ill-book-mr-q

Deep inside me, even when I was younger child I wanted to create and be artistic. I didn’t exactly know what it meant for me personally or that you could possibly make a living out of it. But when I decided to make this profession part of my life I was inspired by Shaun Tan, Gregory Rogers, Narelle Oliver, Maurice Sendak, & and many of the illustrated children’s books I grew up with.

Q Are you a natural or have you had to study and suffer for your craft?

I have had some study in art and illustrating over the years but I would have to say I am mostly self-taught. That said, in the beginning I was finding my work lacked some fundamental things and I knew I needed advice and training. I took some basic classes, attended conferences and researched other artists. I started diversifying my subject matter, built my portfolio and over the years improved my craft. I wouldn’t call it suffering I would call it dedicating yourself to long hours of improving your skills and yourself.

Q How do you develop your illustrations? Do digital computer programs feature significantly in what you produce?

If I have a particular idea or theme in mind I will simply start drawing small sketches and exploring ideas. I’ll make notes and over a period of time, this may take days or weeks, I will then start the main illustration. With most of my illustrations I will lightly draw it first with pencil on pressed smooth watercolour paper. I then slowly add layers of colour such as a yellow base, followed by a light green or blue then to add some dimension I will add variations of the same colour. Indigo makes a great darker colour to use when additional shading is required, I will very rarely add black unless there is a reason. Once I feel it is ready I will apply water with a brush, mixing the colours and bringing the illustration to life. I include more layers or shading to add depth, and then use an ink pen if required.

ill-animals-ambrose1I will often note the pencil number and photograph different stages of the illustration to remember how I reached the final stage. A lot can happen in the creation process so if you end up liking the final piece then remembering how you got there is important. Remember that when illustrating a picture book you want the illustrations to be consistent in both colour and appearance. This helps me anyway. I do not use any major software programs as such but I do scan my images and clean them up in order to send on to publishes.

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

To be honest no, but the enthusiasm is there. Like all illustrators who are also working it is a constant juggling act. The best part of my day is the morning; I have been probably stewing on an idea and have all this energy and want to put it down on paper.

Q It’s accepted that writers often scribble ideas on the back of takeaway menus, napkins, bus tickets, whatever they can when ideas strike – is this the same for illustrators? When you get a shot of inspiration and desire to draw, what do you do?

You draw it anyway you can. I once started illustrating on a napkin because I made the mistake of leaving my notebook behind. If you have an idea, write it down, draw it, and make a note of it because it will disappear. Too often have I laid in bed with an idea or two thinking it is such a great idea how could I possible forget it and when the morning comes it’s no longer under my pillow.

Long Live Us troll

Join me again soon for Part Two where we learn a little more about Peter and his work in the fractured fairy-tale, Long Live Us!