Review: Sweet Adversity

Assimilating history into a palatable, meaningful tale for today’s children is no easy thing. Get it wrong and you risk children shunning not only a potentially great read, but learning about periods of our past that explain the character of our future as a people and a nation. A situation of unquestionable adversity, yet adversity has many advantages – ‘sweet are the uses of adversity’ after all. Get it right, and children will embrace history with gusto and every ounce of the here and now vigour that defines childhood.

Sheryl Gwyther’s ability to immerse young readers into worlds of yesteryear with such a clear strong presence of today is exemplary. Her narrative slides along as alluringly as a sweet mountain brook, mesmerizing readers with plenty of action and emotion. Sweet Adversity is exactly the type of book my 12-year-old-self would have lapped up with unbridled zeal, especially as it acquaints children with the wondrous words of Shakespeare, some of which adult readers will connect with of course, but which provide a beautiful rich new seam of learning for tweens.

Continue reading Review: Sweet Adversity

PIR – What is it and why should you care?

What the? you ask. This doesn’t sound very Christmassy. That’s because it’s not, really. But it is bookish and certainly something you should think about as you ponder over those last mSaving Aussie Books Againinute literary Christmas gifts.

There’s a sinister little acronym doing the rounds again, which deserves your attention, PIR. Parallel Importation Restrictions, is not a simple concept to grasp in 60 seconds but worth trying to understand.

It means the restriction of massive numbers of remaindered or unsold books published overseas, often to an inferior, unfaithful quality to their original Australian counterparts into our marketplace and thereby destroying consumer choice, suffocating the Australian publishing industry and most devastatingly of all, crippling the Australian literary scene by altering and stifling authentic Aussie voice and language. (Told you this wasn’t straightforward!)

Peter Carnavas PIREssentially, if you love stories, love books, and love reading, then the removal of these importation restrictions can and will affect you. Children’s author illustrator, Peter Carnavas describes the impact on the children’s literary scene in a recent blog post issued by Saving Aussie Books AGAIN. His words reverberate similar sentiments held by many in the Kids’ Lit world.

‘As a children’s author/illustrator, I know the huge impact that my books and other Australian books have on children, inspiring them to develop a love of reading.

If PIRs are removed, so many Australians will lose out – authors, illustrators, publishers, independent booksellers, teachers, librarians, parents and, most of all, children. It is a move that will only disadvantage these stakeholders and weaken Australian culture.

I am just one of hundreds of Australian children’s book creators that would be forced to reconsider the viability of making children’s literature.

We already receive minimal earnings, dedicating ourselves to what we do through our passion for promoting literature and stories to children.

This decision would cripple our efforts to put wonderful stories into the hands of Australian kids.’

Sheryl GwytherThis battle, vehemently fought and won back in 2009 continues, as Sheryl Gwyther, seasoned author for children and staunch advocate against parallel imports states, ‘the war rages on!’

‘The surest way anything positive happens is through People Power, and that means you, me and everyone in our industry who cares about Australian children’s books and young readers.

Lifting the Restrictions against Parallel Import threatens all those Australian publishers who took the risk of publishing the books in the first place and who invested in the development, editing and publication of the books.

There have been massive cutbacks to our industry – this will add so many more difficulties and restrictions. Less money means less books published, less new authors, less risks taken at all levels of authorhood.

‘The most insidious threat from Parallel Imports is how Australian children’s picture books and novels that have been Americanised would be allowed into this country and sold in competition with the Australian versions.’

Boomerang Books banner-boomerSo what, you may be asking. Story is story. If you have the option to buy a cheaper ‘version’ of the same story, why not? Sure, many books are sourced online nowadays but there are still sites, such as this one, Boomerang Books which are Australian owned and operated and offer original Australian content and titles at discounted prices.

Opting for the severely discounted, ‘altered’ overseas versions of our Australian stories found in discount chain stores further depletes a uniquely faceted yet delicate culture already challenged by a gamut of Americanisms. Of course, it’s the Z Generation that concerns writers and illustrators for children most. Children risk further literacy confusion. Parents will not be able to identify imported copies from the ‘real deal’ with ease and confidence. Essential settings, sense of place and character idioms will disappear from our language and when that happens, a people as a whole alter inextricably.

‘Books written in our country give Australian children insights into our unique culture; those books speak our language, colloquialisms, our English-Australian spelling, even common words (like Mum instead of Mom; pavement instead of sidewalk; tap instead of faucet, and so many more), our Aussie humour that Australians ‘get’, but is mostly misunderstood overseas, and most of all a subtleties in picture books that I have seen changed in Australian books to suit the American market.PIR sign the petition logo

We can’t influence those adaptations in another country nor would we have the right to, but we can stop the remaindered copies that failed to sell in the US being dumped into the Australian market and sold cheaply in bookshops, ‘masquerading’ as the authentic versions.’

If the repeal to drop current restrictions on parallel imports is successful, the effect for Australian readers, let alone those whose livelihoods revolve around producing those reads, will be knee-breakingly devastating. To petition this very real threat to (y)our reading-way-of life, please take a moment to consider the impact by reading through Saving Aussie Books AGAIN. Visit the petition site, here. Support our beautifully diverse, colourful reading culture and all those whose dreams and stories create it by signing on-line. And please, please, do it before it’s too late.

Excerpts, quotes and images included from Saving Aussie Books and Saving Aussie Books AGAIN used with permission.

The views represented in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of Boomerang Books

 

Five Very Bookish Questions with author Sheryl Gwyther

Today is my second-last day at Boomerang Books – tomorrow I shall introduce my sensational new replacement! – but until then, it feels very fitting to feature Sheryl Gwyther in my last Very Bookish Questions. Sheryl is a talented, beautiful writer with a deep passion for children’s literature and literacy. She is also a dear and supportive friend. I hope you enjoy this wonderful peek into her bookish world.

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

Tricky question. I’m like a Will o’the Wisp … slipping between genres to whatever takes my fancy. At the moment, I’m into fantasy – YA fantasy, with the books of Juliet Marillier, in particular, Son of the Shadows (glorious, gripping story that I can’t put down). I also love stories for the 9-13 age group – after all, it’s for this age I most love writing.

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

Adventure, and fantasy too! Like The Secret Seven and The Famous Five, and the Narnia series, The Hobbit, and being a precocious reader that I was, those huge books of James Michener‘s from my mother’s bookshelf – didn’t understand a lot of what was going on in them, luckily!

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

Characters that make you fall in love with them. A plot that never falters. Words that force your imagination into overdrive. Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling; Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (suitable for older children).

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

Show them by example how enjoyable reading can be; read to them and make it interesting; make the weekly trip to the library a time of excitement and pleasure.

5. Name three books you wish you’d written.

Ha, that’s easy! As well as all of the above in question three, I choose Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Running Man and Jonathan Stroud’s The Golem’s Eye, and Fox, a picture book by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Ron Brooks – it’s my favourite picture book of all time for its sparse, heart-rending storytelling and for Brooks’ brilliant art work. With an artist eye, I’ve examined with forensic detail the skilled techniques of his mark-making, right back to the ground he laid before he touched it with colour. Brooks is a master of his art.

About Sheryl

A children’s author from Brisbane, Sheryl writes novels, school plays, short stories and articles for children’s magazines, chapter books for educational publishers, and the odd ‘flash-fiction’ for adults. She’s the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Qld, and is also on the Board of Directors of the Australian Society of Authors. Her awards include two ASA awards (both before she became a director!) and a May Gibbs Literature Trust Fellowship.

www.sherylgwyther.net

CHARLIE AND THE RED HOT CHILLI PEPPER

Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper is a hilarious chapter book from Australian children’s author, Sheryl Gwyther.

It’s the story of a very determined girl, Charlie who  loves growing and eating chillies and this year she has a very good chance of winning the Flaming Hot Chilli Competition.

Nobody else in Charlie’s family even likes chillies so this book is a great illustration to young readers that it’s okay to branch out and follow your own dreams.

Charlie is determined to take first prize in the competition but there’s a lot going against her. First she inadvertently almost poisons Dad’s boss with the Chilli. Then she somebody steals her chillies.

All that was left was a tiny chilli bud about the size of my fingernail.

When playing Mozart to her plant doesn’t work, Charlie is just about out of ideas to make her chilli grow.

Her sister, Suzie has a suggestion, but will it be enough to get Charlie’s chilli over the line? Because she now has only one chilli left, Charlie can’t even give it the all important taste test.

Everything seems to be going against her but Charlie refuses to give up.

I loved the humour in this book and Charlie is a great character and role model.  Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper has important themes for young readers including following your dreams and never giving up.

It’s also a great story about family and that it’s okay to be different.

Richard Hoit is a New Zealand based illustrator and his wonderful illustrations capture the humour and themes of the book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian children’s author, Sheryl Gwyther spends a lot of time researching for her books and clearly, Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper is no exception.

For her dinosaur adventure, Secrets of Eromanga, Sheryl even went on a real fossil dig. Sheryl says she enjoys both the research and the writing process.

I’d been crazy about reading books and writing bits and pieces since I was little, but other things got in the way – school, jobs, travel, university, art school. Then one day I knew what I should be doing with my life … writing books for young people.

Sheryl is the author of a number of books and short stories for children. You can find out more about her at http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

PRINCESS CLOWN – FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE

Princess Belle stepped forward and curtsied to the royal guests.

The King said, “This is my daughter, Princess Belle.”

The King of Danzania held out his hand. Forgetting she was wearing a clown trick ring, Belle shook his hand.

A zing of electricity buzzed from the ring …

Princess Clown is the new book from author Sheryl Gwyther and there’s not a dinosaur in sight (see Secrets of Eromanga).

Princess Clown is for younger readers and stars the quirky and talented Princess Belle who has aspirations to be a clown and her antics ensure that there is never a dull moment around the palace.

Not surprisingly, Princess Belle’s zest for fun doesn’t always meet with the King and Queen’s approval and causes a number of disasters in the kitchen, the school room and pretty much everywhere.

Not to be deterred, Princess Belle keeps on with her quirky and clowning ways.

When the King and Queen of Danzania come to visit with their son, Alan it looks as if Belle is headed for disaster again, but this time her merriment could just be what’s needed for the unhappy prince.

Maybe it is possible to be a princess and a clown after all.

Princess Clown is a chapter book for 7 to 8 year-olds and they will certainly be engaged by Sian Naylor’s colourful illustrations and Sheryl’s active humorous text.

The book idea came from a writing challenge the author set herself to put two words that didn’t match together, and try to write a story about them.

Sheryl says, I picked clown and princess. Before you could say ALLIBALLOO, out sprang Belle, a princess who would much rather be a clown.

The texture and brightness of the silver foil inlaid cover is bound to attract young readers’ attention and as well as being full of fun and colour, Princess Clown carries a strong theme of follow your dream no matter what.

Princess Clown is published by Blake Publishing as part of their Gigglers Blue fiction series of eight books. Princess Clown can be purchased from http://www.blake.com.au/Gigglers-Blue-2-Princess-Clown-p/9781741646481.htm

DIGGING UP DINOSAURS with Sheryl Gwyther

As part of our Dinosaur Week, we’re talking today to author Sheryl Gwyther about how she became a writer, and how she went to an actual dinosaur dig to research her book, Secrets of Eromanga.

Let’s start with your author’s journey, Sheryl.

I’d been crazy about reading books and writing bits and pieces since I was little, but other things got in the way – school, jobs, travel, university, art school. Then one day I knew what I should be doing with my life … writing books for young people.

You’re obviously dedicated to getting the research part right. Where was the dinosaur dig you went on?

It was on a sheep station near Winton, in western Queensland.

Sheryl on the fossil dig

Not only did I have fun digging up pieces of a huge sauropod dinosaur named Elliot, I uncovered the story lurking in my head. That story, with its two inter-weaving narratives, went on to become my first novel, Secrets of Eromanga, an adventure story for 9-12 year olds.

What’s Secrets of Eromanga about?

Twelve-year-old Ellie knows more about Australian dinosaur fossils than how to get friends. But she discovers more than friendship on an outback fossil dig site when she becomes entangled in a web of illegal fossil smuggling. She must find the courage and determination needed to save her friends.

fossilised dinosaur footprints

95 million years separate Ellie and a small ornithopod dinosaur that once lived beside the ancient inland waters of the Eromanga Sea. Both Ellie and the dinosaur face fears and uncertainty of their separate worlds. Time and fate binds them together. Neither can escape that fate.

Can you tell us something you learned about Australian dinosaurs when you were researching this book?

Everyone knows about T-Rex, Brontosaurus and Velociraptor.

Millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period, we had the Aussie versions of Rex, Bronto and Raptor here in Australia.  But they were species unique to this land. They appear in my book.

Teachers’ Notes are available:

View an extract from Secrets of Eromanga at:

What did you enjoy most about writing Secrets of Eromanga?

I enjoy writing stories that are set in modern times but also linking back in the past somehow – like in Secrets of Eromanga. It’s exciting finding out things that weave the past and the present together.

What have you been working on since you finished digging up dinosaurs?

Even though I’m still thrilled at the thought of finding more dinosaur bones, I haven’t written any more about those magnificent creatures.

This year I have more books and a short story coming out. The short story, Corn dolly Dead is in black dog books, Short and Scary anthology.

My chapter book, Princess Clown is out in early May, with Blake Publishing. It’s a funny chapter book about a very determined princess who would much rather make people laugh.

The second book is out in August with Pearson Australia. I had lots of fun writing Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper. Check out this link for more on these stories:

Sheryl also has a new blog just for kids at

http://sherylgwyther4kids.wordpress.com

Thanks for dropping in for a chat later, Sheryl. Perhaps you might like to come back one day to talk more about how you did your research for Secrets of Eromanga.

Dee

Dinosaur Week at Kids’ Book Capers – DINOSAUR IN THE DARK AGES with Michael Bauer

Hope you enjoy our Dinosaur Week this week at Kids’ Book Capers. We’ll be talking with authors Michael Bauer and Sheryl Gwyther about their action packed adventure dinosaur books for kids.

TODAY – DINOSAUR IN THE DARK AGES

In Michael Bauer’s 2010 CBCA Notable book, Dinosaur Knights, a dinosaur ends up in the Dark Ages when a science experiment goes badly wrong.

Scientists in the future have developed technology  to reach back into the past and draw living things forward in time. They do this by locking onto ‘time fossils’ or ‘time prints’, impressions left by all living things on the fabric of time.

The scientists attempt to pull a dinosaur, Baryonyx Walkeri into their future for scientific research. When the dinosaur is lost during transportation, it turns up in Medieval England where two young brothers Roland and Oswald, and a girl Cristiana have their lives turned upside down.

Today, Michael Bauer is here  to talk about his book and how he wrote it.

Can you tell us about the characters in your story?

Twins Roland and Oswald, and a girl Cristiana are around 13.  Roland, a boy of action and adventure, but few words, longs to be a Knight. His brother Oswald wants to follow in their father’s footsteps and becoming a physician. He doesn’t take life quite as seriously as his brother. Cristiana is the feisty daughter of a local Lord. Against her will she is being made to marry a wealthy landowner almost her father’s age. The dinosaur’s arrival changes everything, particularly for the boys. The local Sheriff is found dead in the nearby forest and the boys’ father is convicted of his murder by corrupt officials. Oswald and Roland along with Cristiana set out to confront the monstrous ‘dragon’ and somehow prove that it is the real culprit.

What do you like about these characters?

They are all different, and even though they have their flaws and weaknesses they show great spirit and courage in tackling the challenges and dangers they must face.

Michael, is it true that you ‘borrowed’ your son’s old Jurassic park T-Rex figurine and his Action Men figures to help you write this book?

Yes it helped me to visualise some of the scenes where Oswald, Roland and Cristiana do battle with the dinosaur. That was fun!

Michael has published five books including Dinosaur Knights (Michael’s other books include The Running Man, Don’t Call Me Ishmael, Ishmael and the Return of the Dugong and You Turkeys). Your books are all quite different from each other. Do they have any common themes?

I think one theme shared by my books is the idea that everyone is different and unique, and that this is a good thing and should be celebrated.

Another one is how we think we know other people but we often judge them mainly on appearance or make assumptions about them with very little evidence or real understanding of them.

I love it when my characters show a side of their character or reveal something about themselves that takes the readers or other characters by surprise and makes them reassess their judgments.

Teacher’s notes for Dinosaur Knights are available at  http://www.scholastic.com.au/schools/curriculum/

pdf/Dinosaur_Knights.pdf

Teacher’s notes for all Michael’s books can be found at http://www.scholastic.com.au/schools/curriculum/

Thanks for dropping in, Michael. I can’t wait to read the new Ishmael Book you’re working on, and your next book, Just a Dog (due out September 2010).

Dee

On Wednesday, author Sheryl Gwyther will tell us how she went on a dinosaur dig to research her book, Secrets of Eromanga.