Wow! I can’t believe my last post was in April! So much has been happening and yet not happening! It’s a paradoxical time!
I’ve been pretty preoccupied with the sale of our family home. Phase one moving was earlier in the year, but phase two has been protracted and bigger than I expected, and complicated by Coronavirus (what hasn’t been?). I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been wading through mud. But the sparkling diamond that has kept a glow in my heart has been signing with literary agent, Annabel Barker. You can read about her on her website and see her in action in an interview with Valerie Khoo on the Australian Writer’s centre facebook live here. It’s been a joy to work on my stories with Annabel, and I’m so thrilled and grateful to have her support my writing career.
Whilst I have managed to pop into both a bookshop and a library recently, most of my Kidlit adventures these months have been online, like most activities these days. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to…
I had a ball on the CBCA NSW Lunchtime Storytime live in May. Story Hound Archie joined me (photo above) as I read The Scared Book and revealed two things that he’s scared of (Hint: one is weather and the other medical related). My reading has been taken down now due to publisher permissions, but you can still see some of the other authors over on the facebook page. I took advantage of the Gleebooks special CBCA NSW offer and bought some books (included below, left).
One of the books that excited me and Archie was Kaye Baillie’s Boo Love Books - it could almost be our theme book! I interviewed Kaye Baillie on the Just Write for Kids Blog last month – you can find the interview here.
Talking about buying books, I also grabbed a copy of Deb Abela and Marjory Crosby Fairall's new picture book, Bear in Space, after hearing them chat about their unusual collaboration at a recent CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch Zoom event. Paul Macdonald from The Children's Bookshop also spoke, and I ordered signed copies from him online.
The IRL bookshop I stumbled into was The Constant Reader in Crows Nest, and picked up a copy of Nat Amoore's latest Mid Grade novel, The Power of Positive Pranking. For a must-see star-studded video recording of the first chapter, check out the Youtube link here.
I videoed an unwrapping of these gems on Instagram and Facebook, if you want to check it out. I also filmed another book mail unwrapping earlier in May, with these great picture books - you can find that one on my Instagram feed too.
Talking about Deborah Abela, above, I popped my face into the ASA webinars where she was speaking about author presentations online. She’s always so upbeat and positive and encouraging and a fount of knowledge and experience. Thanks Deb, for always being willing to share!
I also Zoomed into the SCBWI Act branch mini conference in June, for a short while. It was great seeing some familiar and friendly faces that I have been missing In Real Life, and hearing about all things Kidlit.
Another zoom event recently with CBCA NSW Northern Sydney sub-branch hearing from Alice Achan and Philippa Tyndale and the experiences behind their book The School of Restoration, about the hope springing from the horrors of war violence in Uganda via the redeeming power of Alice's school for girls. It is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
I have been enjoying Aleesah Darlison's helpful resources dropping into my email inbox. These are short, easily digestible information bites for writers, and can be found on her Greenleaf Agency website here. I recommend subscribing to Greenleaf Agency's website, if you don't already.
I also came across the Lost in Books TV channel which extends the reach of their fabulous multilingual programs. I especially love the Baby music time “We love Music.’ Check it out here.
I'm excited about the new CBCA SCBWI joint venture, Story Scoop. The aim of Story Scoop is to connect SCBWI/CBCA authors/illustrators with schools and libraries, and provide an inspiring and useful teaching resource about children’s books and their creators for adults and kids to enjoy via a free, monthly 20 minute video. Find out more about it here, and watch it here.
Another fantastic CBCA NSW initiative, this time for the kids, is the Collide Book Trailer Competition, for students in Years 3-9 in NSW schools. It closes soon, so check it out here.
I’ve been asked to do a facetime live interview with not-for-profit Braille House, who do amazing things when it comes to sight impaired kids and literacy. They may even transcribe one of my books into Braille! How amazing is that? Look out for that in August.
On a not kidLit front, compulsive evening viewing this past month for my family has been Africam, a livecam at an African waterhole. To think that you can see the animals on the other side of the world, in real time, is strangely addictive! We’ve been watching animals at Tau waterhole, on the border of South Africa and Botswana, where elephants, zebras, wildebeests and antelopes are commonplace, and we even saw a lion on the weekend and were beside ourselves with excitement! Even Cat-on-lap, Opal, finds it addictive!
Things I am looking forward to:
9th September: The next CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch zoom event with special guest, children's laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. We will also be launching Oliver Phommavanh's new book of short stories, and have time for members and friends to show us their book babies. Learn more about it here.
My interview with Braille House.
My birthday this month and reading the books I'm looking forward to getting ;-)
Until next time, stay safe and warm,
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I would hop into my messy little Mazda and drive off near and far on my adventures in kidlitland. But now, in this alternate universe, the adventures are coming to me! How good is that? Or is it? It’s a dystopian conundrum!
The good thing about it is that what I save on petrol and road tolls, I can spend on books! I did a live book parcel unwrapping with StoryHound Archie over on Instagram earlier this month, and I just might do another one with the next bundle that’s on order! Strange times indeed! You can see the books I got in the photo below (The Book of Dust is for my daughter). The other good thing is that reading always has been great to enjoy in isolation!
I’ve also pre-ordered a book as part of a pozible campaign, because It’s the companion book to a book I love featuring a stunning Blue Mountains setting and fabulous creatures, with a heart-warming story. The campaign concludes tomorrow (Thursday 30th), so if you love Lyrebirds and the Blue Mountains, check out author Jodie McCleod reading Leonard the Lyrebird on facebook here to see the quality of the book, and decide for yourself if Lilah is a bird worth investing in.
Three things I've loved having beamed into my home:
For kids (and kids at heart): The CBCA NSW are hosting lunchtime storytimes. I get to watch amazing authors read my favourite and new favourite books LIVE on Facetime while I’m slurping my pumpkin soup. Such a brilliant initiative! And I even get a turn! Yep – I’m on Friday the 15th May 12 MD and I’d love to see some friendly chit chat in the comments... Please! See this week's lineup below.
Book Launch Extravaganza over on the Just Write For Kids Facebook page. Five books launched by five authors over five hours on one day! What an feast of new kidlit! Congratulations Katrina McKelvey and Prue Pittock, Emily S Smith and Heidi Cooper Smith, Josh Langley, Victoria McKinlay and Sofya Karmazina, and Dee White. Check out the books and authors here, and keep an eye out for more. But be warned - don't be over-enthusiastic with your comments, or Facebook blocks them, thinking they're spam! There's a limit, apparently. I found out the hard way!!
For writers: SCBWI have FREE webinars for members. You can book to watch live and participate via chat, or you can view later, before they expire in about a month. I’m doing the latter. The episode with Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (yes – THE Henry Winkler of The Fonz fame) was pure joy to listen to, and gold in terms of writerly advice. Highly recommend it. Another good reason to join SCBWI.
Somethings that are working well from home but I can’t wait until they are In Real Life again are the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch meetings and my regular Writing NSW writer’s group. CBCA NSW is Zooming its AGM on Saturday 2nd May (unfortunately the High Tea with the Stars component is postponed) and they’d love some new committee members. Why not consider it? Details here.
One of my Writer’s Group writing buddies had started a newsletter for kids to help them through long lockdown days. It’s called Salsy Jack , for kids aged around 8-12 and it’s rather fabulous. Find out more here and sign up. There's even a Facebook page too.
SCBWI connects website has a digital directory of remote learning resources, neatly divided into categories. You can find The Scared Book in the Emotional and Mental Wellbeing square.
I caught up with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio TWICE this month. We chatted about these great reads for kids and young adults. I’ve raved already in past blogs about the books on the pink tile, so let me rave about the ones on the stripy tile:
Aleesah Darlison’s League of Llamas is just as it’s abbreviation suggests LOL! These Secret agent Llamas give a wink to Mission Impossible, James Bond and Johnny English style films. Characterisation is fun, action is fast and the word play and bottom humour are papered thick. Kids will love them.
Zoe and Zac at the Zoo is Belinda Murrell and David Hardy’s contribution to a new series of early readers featuring kids living in diverse places in each of the Australian States and Territories. As a kid who always asked to go to the zoo for my birthday, I would have loved this book about Zoe and Zac who follow Zoe’s zoo-keeper mother to work for their 7th birthday treat. The illustrations are in lovely tones of ochre and orange echoing the Dubbo setting.
A Perfect Little Monster is a bright, colourful and fun picture book by Penny Morrison and Simon Howe. When twin monsters Iris and Fang start school, Iris is determined to show brother Fang how to act like perfect little monsters. But Fang’s behaviour is befuddling! He says ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please don’t do that’ and Iris doesn’t know where he’s heard such language! Such a fun book with sneaky opportunities for learning.
PS congratulations to Wai Chim for The Surprising Power of Good Dumpling making the shortlist for the ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards)
I took over the interviewer seat for a chat with children’s author Kate Simpson, (pictured) on the Just Write For Kids Blog this month. Her latest book, non-fiction Anzac Girl is based on her great great grandmother and was perfect for Anzac Day this month. Check out the Show and Tell interview here.
I curled up with Cat-in-a-Lap this month while reading:
Deep Water by Sarah Epstein. Wow! Totally loved this YA mystery. It gave me a few sleepless un-put-downable book nights. Totally engaged with the characters, with a special softness for the boys - that's the social worker coming out in me!
The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting. Sue’s books are always gripping and blow me away. She tackles brave subjects like truth, lies, consequences and identity (in this novel) with amazing sensitivity, insight and wisdom. I was hooked from the first page.
I’m also comfort-reading one of my fave grown-up books of all time – Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It’s exquisite, and a perfectly themed for long days in isolation (although it is a tear-jerker).
A book launch!! Online! Libby Hathorn is launching her new picture book, No! Never! with her co-author daughter Lisa Hathorn-Jarman and illustrator Mel Pearce. Featuring also Jessica Rowe. It’s tomorrow (Thursday 30th) at 4pm if you’d like to join, details here.
More CBCA NSW StoryTime sessions.
Books arriving in the mail (from an independent bookseller).
StoryHound Archie's Insta posts have sadly been suffering from the closure of public libraries. I'm sure we're not the only ones who are missing these treasure troves of books. However, he stepped it up a notch and posted a couple of videos this month! Below is a set-up shot of Archie wondering if this is a magic lamp - it has a handle and a spout. What would happen if he rubs this??
Until next time,
Stay safe and well,
All the best,
What a difference a month makes, hey? There we all were, getting on with our lives, making plans, and Wham! Someone slammed on the brakes. And we’re all still reeling, some a bit, others a lot, and some a heck of a lot. My heart is sad. But in this post, I’m going to go the full Pollyanna, and look for the good.
Where I’m writing from today it’s a beautiful sunny day. I’m thankful for that. And yesterday was rainy. I’m thankful for that. And also, last week was the announcement of the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist – so there’s a celebration! Not only that, you can watch the announcement as it unfolded yourself, because it was all online – see here. Or if you want to just cut to the chase, the list is here.
I was thrilled to see several of my good friends on the list, and some of the favourite books I’ve read recently – like The Secrets of Magnolia Moon. I was especially thrilled to see one of my publishers, Wombat Books with a shortlisted title, The Thing About Oliver – that’s a great accolade for a boutique, independent publisher, PLUS I love the author, .Deb Kelly – I interviewed her for the JWFK blog a while back – find her on this page, here.
Other award celebrations include Wai Chim’s The Surprising Power of Good Dumpling and Sami Bayly’s The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals winning the Indie Book Awards (by the Australian Independent Booksellers) for the YA and Children’s categories respectively. You can watch Sami doing readings of her book on youtube here.
And one of my picture book heroes, Margaret Wild, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement
in Literature Award by the Australia Council. Congratulations, Margaret!
I also want to celebrate the release of some fabulous new books, especially as so many book launches and events have been cancelled. Every new book deserves to be welcomed into the world with a fanfare! So, despite not being able to launch books IRL (In Real Life), the kidlit community is a creative bunch, and there are some inventive ways of celebrating online. Here are a few I’ve found:
Victoria Mackinlay’s Ribbit Rabbit Robot has a fabulous launch video, ably assisted by Nat Amoore, Amelia McInerney and Amanda Lieber, here: PLUS Victoria will be doing a storytime on Facebook live TOMORROW (Tuesday 7th April) at 10.30– details here. I missed out on attending the cancelled launch at Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, so I'll definitely be tuning in!
Deep Water, the latest YA crime/mystery novel by Sarah Epstien is on it’s way to me via a package from Berkelouw Books, Leichardt. I can't wait to read it! Watch an event with Sarah on the 10th April, 6,30 PM LIVE on the Ozauthorsonline platform, set up to help virtually launch Aussie books and host events. The youtube channel is here.
Keep your eye on the Just Write For Kids facebook fan page for a number of online book launches you can be involved in, starting mid April, so make sure you LIKE the page https://www.facebook.com/JustWriteForKidsAustralia/ and follow along. Here’s a link to the first Children's Book Launch Extravaganza on Easter Monday: April 13, 10am-2pm.
Please support our Aussie book creators and local bookstores in these difficult times. Many bookshops are offering cheap mail or free delivery. I’ve got a stack of books on the way from Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, where I was to attend the (cancelled) launch of Ribbit Rabbit Robot.
With so many children schooling from home at the moment, authors and illustrators have come up with some creative ways to engage kids with books online via virtual readings and the like. I’ve posted a video reading of The Scared Book on the International Read to me Day youtube channel, here. Subscribe to the channel and find other author readings too, like Dimity Powell, Yvonne Mess and Emma Mactaggart.
Others doing online readings include Tania McCartney (on youtube) and Gus Gordon (on Instagram).
A few people are trying to keep a list of online author/illustrator resources, one of which is Sophie Masson, on her Feathers of the Firebird blog here. SCBWI is also compiling a directory (worlwide).
If you’re looking for a laugh to lift your spirits in these viral days, check out the twitter hashtag
#kidlitgoesantiviral. Started by author Meg McKinlay, it’s an hilarious splutter-laugh of kid’s book covers re-imagined for the viral age. Here's my book with it's make-over:
If you’re a member of SCBWI, you can attend FREE online workshops each week. They look fantastic, and I'm definitely going to be watching them.
CYA Conference, which I’ve always wanted to attend but haven’t been able, is going online this year too – so now I’ll be able to join in! And it’s over the whole month of July! They have an incredible line- up. Check it out here.
Publisher, Rhiza Edge, is running a short story competition for stories written for Young people and adults 13 + for inclusion in an anthology and with book voucher prizes. More here:
Things I’m looking forward to
1. Coronavirus eradicated and lockdown over
2. Reading those books
3. Zooming with my Writer's group
4. Zooming with my CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-Branch for a meeting an the AGM on Wednesday 8th April.
Until next time, I'm leaving you with Story Hound Archie's most popular recent post, below.
Please, stay healthy and safe.
My kidlitland adventures this month have been squeezed around a mountain of packing boxes and endlessly-expanding piles of junk – where does it all come from, this stuff?! And now Storyhound Archie and I (and the family) have a new base from which to explore the kidlit world. Here’s a photo taken around my new ‘hood. It makes my heart happy to look up and see this.
I was thrilled with the announcement of the latest Australia Children’s laureate this month. I’m a big Ursula Dubosarsky fan, and her theme is brilliant – read for your life. She’s encouraging children everywhere to use their local libraries, which I think is a wonderful place to start to discover a love of books. You can see the announcement event streamed via Facebook here. And you can find out more about the Laureate program here.
Talking about libraries, I love the initiative many local libraries are behind (and I’m sure Ursula would support too) the 1000 books before school program. It’s a free early literacy program designed to build important literacy skills before starting school. It provides goals and incentives to encourage parents and carers to read with their young children.
And more on libraries…
The 14th of February is best known as being valentine’s day, but did you know that it is also International Book Giving Day and Library Lover’s day all in one? What a trifecta! This year, I went on a blind date with a book at my local library, and presented a bouquet of books to an aged care home for the residents and young visitors to enjoy.
And some fantastic news on school libraries... Regular readers of my adventures will know that I wrote an article supporting the campaign for Students Need School Libraries. And now, it would seem that the NSW state Parliament has unanimously passed a motion calling for quality school libraries and teacher librarians in EVERY public school! How cool is that! I hope the implementation matches the intention! And I hope other states and territories follow suit.
Moving on from libraries now… I've been out and about a it this month...
The CBCA announced their long-list for the Book of the Year Awards this month. I love that the books on this list are called Notables. I also love the excitement (perhaps not the trepidation!) that goes into the announcement of the list. I enjoy attending the NSW ‘Night of the Notables.' This year it was fascinating listening to Claire Stuckey talk about trends in Kid's books, and the quality of Aussie books in the international market-space, especially non-fiction. She concluded by saying that "Quality is always trending," which is why these awards are so important. Kate and Jol Temple talked about writing with hope and humour about the real-life things that are concerning our kids, and they read from their fun, new picture book, Bin Chicken, before the unveiling of the notable books.
I love catching up and celebrating with friends who made the list. I know awards can’t tell how much a book is going to be loved by a reader, but getting on this list can start to boost the sales and therefore reach of your book, so that's something to celebrate! I do love the sentiment expressed by Meg McKinlay on twitter (See photo)
As always, there’s lively discussion around what did and didn’t make the list, and I was disappointed that some I was certain of, weren’t there. You can see the list here, and a blog about what one reviewer (Momo) thinks about it here. (I totally have to agree about Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth.)
Talking about events, I attended the SCBWI Sydney event last weekend. After hearing from Sue Murray, I was inspired to write a play for The School Magazine – wish me luck! It was also fascinating to hear from Rebecca McRitchie from Scholastic Australia about what she looks for in a picture book manuscript – in a nutshell: rhyming, short (300-400 words) fun, often with animal character - and how these are sold in volume through the scholastic book clubs and fairs. It was also intriguing to see the difference between Rebecca’s imprint and the others – Omnibus and Scholastic Press – and how these might take something less commercial and more literary. You can read a summary of the event on the SCBWI website here.
As many of you know, I love a book launch, and yesterday I was fortunate to be able to attend the launch of the picture book, Jelly-Boy by Nicole Godwin and Christopher Nielson. It was a delight to meet Nicole and Chris for the first time, although I have been online 'friends' with Nicole for some time. The venue at Better Read than Dead, Newtown, was fabulous, and the book is amazing. It has an environmental theme but it's in no way preachy - it's a suspenseful story with humour and heart - in fact, I found myself audibly gasping at one point in the story - it's that good! The illustrations are in a quirky, retro style, which suits the story perfectly.
It's also great fun catching up with friends at launches - in the photo above, are authors Susanne Gervay and Victoria Mackinlay (whose debut picture book is out next month).
Also at the launch was talented illustrator, Marjory Crosby-Fairall and I couldn't resist getting a signed copy of her latest picture book with Frances Watts, Say Cheese - a fun take on school photo day.
I’ve mentioned the Middle Grade Mavens before. They are a podcast duo who review mid-grade books, but recently, in the lead up to the popular tickets-sold-out-in-8-minutes-KidLitVic (!!!) conference, they have been interviewing editors from various publishing houses, in their ‘Ask the editor’ Summer season. These are a brilliant resource for anyone who is writing for children. And such a treasure for the many who missed out on conference tickets (8 minutes!!). Check out the Maven’s website here.
PS if anyone has a ticket to KidLitvic and finds that they can’t go – I have friend who missed out and is desperate! Let me know!
As well as the play script I’m working on, I'm also writing a flash fiction story for another read-aloud event at Mounted Gallery in Springwood. Some of you may remember that I read for the inaugural event last year, and I’m keen to be involved in this one coming up in May, with the theme of ‘Memory.’ You can find out more about the gallery and exhibitions on their facebook page, here.
The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt was a book that soothed my soul during the tumultuous time of moving. Whenever things threatened to overwhelm me I would hide behind a removal box, open this book, and read sentences so glorious I had to write them down to savour them. (The last book that had me drooling over the writing was Lisa Nicol’s Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth). The theme of change and the quirky, calm, delightful way Magnolia deals with it, was like a balm. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – and I note that it deservedly gained a CBCA Notable title.
The Other Brother by Penny Jaye and Heidi Cooper-Smith is also a beautifully written book about change, -the words are so expertly crafted and the illustrations so evocative, that the reader can feel Jayden James’ emotional turmoil as his family makes room for the ‘other brother,’ Mitchell David, a foster child (although this term is never used). ‘But six whole people don’t fit on a picnic rug, not knees against knees, not without getting a wet bottom.’
Books about making room for new babies are not uncommon, so this was a fresh take on making room for a new family member, with richly layered levels of meaning, which particularly appeals to my Social Worker heart. You can read a bit more about The Other Brother on Penny’s website, I interviewed Penny for the Just Write For Kids blog a while ago – you can find the links here. I've included some photos, below - just look at the expert use of perspective and expression (that teddy!).
What I’m looking forward to:
1. Book launches! I have a couple coming up:
My Possum Plays the Drums by Catherine Meatheringham and Max Hamilton at Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, on the March 8th.
Ribbit, Rabbit, Robot, by Victoria Mackinlay and Sofya Karmazina also at Berkelouw Books Leichhardt on March 22nd.
2. The CBCA shortlist announcement on the 31st March. The CBCA NSW AAA Professional development Conference in NSW coincides with this event and is well worth attending, especially for children’s and teacher Librarians.
3. The first CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-branch first event for the year, at the Grace Cossington Smith Gallery at Abbotsliegh, is a viewing of the exhibition 'Visualising Stories' where attendees can mingle with some of the illustrators who will be there on the night. April 8th. Find out more here.
4. Ibby Australia also has a great night for International Children's Book Day, April 4th: Words Change the World, with guest speakers Maxine Beneba-Clark and Gabrielle Wang. Details here.
And for anyone who works in a school or preschool, book week will be here before you can blink, so make sure you book up a speaker before it’s too late. Greenleaf Press and Creative Kids Tales Speakers Agency have some terrific speakers, (including yours truly 😉) so check them out.
Storyhound Archie has had a sore eye for a lot of this year, so his reading has been a bit slow, but below is one of the faves this month, in keeping with the back-to-school theme (note, his sore eye is discretely turned away from the camera 😊)
Until next time,
All the best,
I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!
Unfortunately here in Australia, the exciting, shimmering start to the new year has been scorched in the blast of the fires. The heat of January has taken its toll and whilst my home and livelihood has not been threatened this year, none of us Aussies can remain unaffected by the devastation caused by raging fires. Our hearts have gone out to our land, our animals and our people. Our prayers and wishes and hopes have been for rain.
When we all felt immobilised by the horror unfolding, a couple of YA Aussie authors who thought they'd try and lend a helping hand to those working relentlessly on the front line - the rural fire fighters - gave us all a way to express our gratitude and do something practical to help, reducing our sense of hopelessness. So thanks to Emily Gale and Nova Weetman, and a myriad of other behind the scenes bookish people who made #authorsforfiries an amazing success.
If you didn't catch it, then in a nutshell, #authorsforfiries was a Twitter auction in January where authors and illustrators offered works, or their time, to the highest bidder. There were some big ticket items by big name authors, as well as modest items from equally modest authors, like yours truly, but combined, the effort made over half a million dollars! Amazing!
I'm looking forward to working with the winner of my auction. I've sent off the copies of my books and Story Hound Archie and I will be giving feedback on a short story written by a 9 year old. As the winner of an auction, I'm thrilled to be receiving an artwork (below) by illustrator Liz Anelli, from her Ten Pound Pom picture book. A story close to my daughter-of-a-Ten-Pound-Pom heart. To find out more about the auction, check out this link. And for an hilarious video advertisement from the unstoppable Nat Amoore, check out this facebook link.
Some exciting news for me recently, was that my short story, Waiting, was Highly Commended in the Odyssey House short story comp. the theme was 'Family' and had to make a reference to drugs or alcohol. You can read my story on their website here. Note - it's not a kid's story.
Talking about competitions, Greenleaf Press has a picture book manuscript competition - closing midnight tonight - so if you're a writer for kids and have a polished story- don't dilly dally!
I've been on Hope 103.2 radio twice this month, talking to Katrina Roe about books series to beat holiday boredom, and back-to-school picture books.
StoryHound Archie has been on an Instagram hiatus in January - he's had a stubborn sore eye that refuses to heal properly and he is rather sick of constant visits to the vets, although they do have much yummier liver treats that we have at home, apparently. So that's a consolation!
And whilst we're on things medical, I did a first aid course this month with a coach who comes to you (if you have two or more people). Chris was engaging and fabulous, and half of the learning is done online at your own pace so you actually have time to process the information. If you're interested: First Aid Coach
Things I'm looking forward to in February:
Two friends of have picture books coming out in February - both of them Pennys! Penny Morrison is launching A Perfect Little Monster at Harry Hartog Warringah Mall on Saturday 8th. Details here. And Penny Reeve's The Other Brother will be out at the end of the month. (See photos below)
And I always love seeing a new Lesley Gibbes Picture Book - her latest. Three Little Mermaids is on the shelves now, and looks gorgeous. (see below) It's by the same dream team that brought us Little Bear's First Sleep.
My CBCA sub branch committee will meet this month to plan our year - it's always fun to get together and toss ideas around.
The CBCA NSW Night of the Notables event at Dymocks in Sydney is the 25th Feb. This always a casual and interesting night full of excitement as the notable books are revealed. Details here.
It's not to early to book me for author talks and workshops for Book Week or other times throughout the year. Details on my website.
That's about all from me, at the beginning of the year. Wishing you health and success in the New Year!
Until next time,
I had the most marvellous time gallivanting around London and Oxford, with my husband, in November. It’s amazing how many children’s literary icons you bump into in that part of the world! From sipping mulled wine at JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis’ old haunt, the Eagle and Child pub, through to coming face to face with the Dodo from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ in the Museum of natural history, and discovering Tolkien’s’ dragon-treasure in the Ashmolean museum, finding Harry Potter curios dotted throughout the town, to imagining Lyra from Philip Pullman’s books slipping around the alleyways as we sauntered around the cobble-stoned town. And that’s only Oxford! It's such an inspiring and stimulating place, the centuries of creative thought seem to have infused the air!
In London, I missed out on visiting Paddington Bear at the station by just a smidgen, due to an over-enthusiastic porter (I can’t complain- he took pity on us dragging our heavy bags from Oxford, and gave us a lift on his tractor, direct to the taxi rank, bypassing my plan to stop off at platform 1) but I got to catch up on some rebels in kid’s lit at an exhibition at the British Library. Imagine seeing Roald Dahl’s Matilda manuscript with editor’s notes, and Lauren Child’s original collage artwork for Clarice Bean! And then there is the permanent exhibition with Lewis Carroll's beautifully bound handwritten story of Alice’s Adventures Underground. Just WOW!
At the library, I also got to meet up with author and friend, Stephanie Ward, whose new picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil is glorious! I took home a signed copy!
And of course, a visit to Shakespeare’s globe is a must for any literature lover in London – the guided tour was an anniversary gift from our children and it brilliantly evoked a bygone era. Marvellous!
Back on the home front, I had fun making a little video trailer for my story, Nine Christmas Carrots, in the Christmas Cornucopia anthology – check it out here. Move over, Marvel movie trailers, I say - they'll be knocking on my door for hints soon ;-)
Inspired to polish my writing skills by my time away, I’ve done a few things since returning:
This month I got to talk with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 about two novels that are great for starting conversations around deep themes – Girl Running, Boy Falling, by Kate Gordon, a YA story around the aftermath of youth suicide, and All the Things I never Said, by Samantha Wheeler, a mid-grade novel about a girl with a severe disability and her family. Both books were CBCA notable books this year.
With Christmas fast approaching, I joined up with Penny Reeve to sell our books at a Christmas market stall. It’s a lovely way to engage with customers in an immediate way, sell a few books and make connections. Penny wrote a beautiful post about it that you can read if you’re on facebook, here.
The end of the school year is upon us, and I was honoured to be asked to present the library award at a K-2 presentation assembly at Brookvale Public School this week. I didn’t have a speaking role, but if I had, I would have explained that I think the library award is actually the most important, because as we know, reading feeds the imagination and, as Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:
‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.’
‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’
Also on the subject of libraries, I was so pleased to see this article recently about the way a school turned around flagging grades by reviving the library! It was a lovely antidote to the article I wrote for the Students Need School Libraries blog, The Mystery of Shrinking School Libraries, earlier this year - as I said in that... it's not rocket science!
And talking about schools, if you’re a TL and you want to book me for an author visit or workshop next year, check out my presentations page here. I’m happy to say that I’m now represented by Creative Kids Tales Speaker’s Agency and Greenleaf Press.
As we wind down (and ramp up) to Christmas and the New Year, here's what I am looking forward to…
To close the year, Archie and I wish all our readers and followers a joy-filled Christmas abounding in love and laughter - I think this photo encapsulates just that! Happy Christmas!
October has whizzed by in a flash, and I’ve had the pleasure of doing some amazing things and meeting some amazing people this month. As Halloween is creeping up to the doorstep of this blogpost, I thought I'd start with that first.
I was thrilled to be invited as a guest onto Brydie Wright’s radio show on Radio Northern Beaches, By the Book, this month. You will have heard me speak about her show before, and this month, her theme was Halloween, highlighting a few kids books perfect for reading at this time of year – including… The Scared Book! So I got to speak about my book, and about fear in picture books in general, as well as the Northern Beaches Young Writer’s Comp that I judged earlier in the year, my latest story in A Christmas Cornucopia, and, of course, Storyhound Archie. Brydie has even managed a podcast of her interview! You can find it and listen here! Thanks so much, Brydie!
You can catch up on some past interviews, like the one with Paul and Beth MacDonald that I mentioned last month, and one with my friend, Shelly Unwin, here.
And now I’ll hop from one book to another! I was totally overwhelmed this month, when I met up with a remarkable young person at a book launch (more on the launch later) who had used my picture book, When I See Grandma, as a mentor text to make her own book. Not only that, she has since gone on to remarkable writing success. I was so impressed, I had to ask her for an interview! So, I'd like to introduce you to a young person that I'm sure we’re going to be seeing a lot more of… Chelsea McInerney.
Interview with Chelsea McInerney
Chelsea, it was lovely meeting you the other day and hearing how my picture book, When I See Grandma inspired you to write your own version of the story. What was it about my story that captured your imagination?
I loved When I See Grandma so much! I have a soft spot for sentimental, emotional stories… I found your book very moving and the girl very caring. I liked reading about the loving relationship between the girl and her grandmother. And then I just kept on writing!
That’s just so beautiful to hear. I may just have wiped a tear off my keyboard! What was your book about? Can you share a few lines with us? And a photo of you with the book?
I was 9 when I wrote it, (I’m 11 now) and I totally copied your idea! My book is about a girl who visits her very sick mother in hospital. Her mother doesn’t have dementia or Alzheimer’s but the girl still brings her different items that she loves, to make her mum feel better.
That is so adorable, and I'm so flattered! I love how you’ve copied the style and made it your own as well. Brilliant! I feel so honoured. And I also love your added extra in the code! My book has something similar - all the flowers on the cover are found somewhere in the illustrations - you have to look hard to find some!
So not only have you written your own take on my book, now I hear you’ve co-authored a story with your mum, published in Funny Bones (Allen and Unwin) alongside some other pretty impressive authors! That’s so amazing! I’m so jealous! How did that come about?
Thanks! Well, every night, I write in my journal before bed. I mainly like writing adventure with heart in my fiction writing, but I usually write funny stories about my real, day-to-day life in my journal. I just choose one thing that happened that day to write about. Mum read one of my stories and asked me if I’d like to offer it to the Funny Bones anthology that she had just volunteered a story for, and I thought that would be awesome, so she edited it and they accepted it!
That is incredible! What can you tell us about the story?
Well, it’s called The Pits, and it’s a funny story about the horror that unfolded when mum decided it would be a good idea to try using an all-natural deodorant. It’s a true story. Unfortunately.
Ha ha –I love the way you just told that - I’m laughing already! I can’t wait to read it.
I wonder when you discovered the joy of writing, and do you write a lot?
When I was 6, I loved this anime-style cartoon called The Legend of Korra so much that I started writing my own book of other episodes they could make. (So writing and illustrating more stories using those characters.) Then I wrote a bunch of funny little stories based on literal interpretations of sayings. Now I write every night, at my desk, before I read in bed. I’ve got a few journals worth of little stories now!
I think that sort of writing with characters from an established book has a name – Fan Fiction: it’s a thing! That’s wonderful that you write every night – it’s clearly paying off! Do you have any special tips for other writers who want to take their writing to the next level? (Apart from all reading When I See Grandma, of course ;-) )
I don’t really have any tips. Just write about whatever you want to write about. And read whatever you want to read.
I think also, from what you’ve said – write a lot! Thanks Chelsea. I'm sure you're an inspiration to other writers out there! (Chelsea’s mum is children’s author Amelia McInerney, who I interviewed on the Just Write For Kids blog, here.)
Talking about Just Write for Kids, I hope you’re following along with my interview with the delightful Kiah Thomas. You can find October’s instalment here. And I’m so excited to discover that Just Write For Kids has been ranked 14th for the best Aussie book blogs by Feedspot. See the list here.
Also on JWFK, I just finished judging the picture book Pitch It Competition entries, with Kellie Byrnes. It was a tough field of entries! You can find the longlist up now here. Congratulations to those that made the list!
And now for the book launch I alluded to earlier…
It was a joy to attend the launch of picture book Tulip and Brutus, written by one-third of the One More Page Podcast crew – Liz Ledden, and illustrated by Andrew Plant, published by Ford Street. This launch at Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, was such a treat! Podcast co-hosts Kate Simpson and Nat Amoore sang an hilarious rendition of I got you, Bug, to the tune (I use the word loosely 😉) of I Got You, Babe. If you’re on Instagram, you can see a video snippet of them singing, on my Insta page @debra_tidball. Liz also had a ‘spin the wheel’ challenge – with the choice of winning either a chocolate bug-lolly or a real-life crunchy bug! The kids seemed equally pleased to be munching both – num num num! I can safely say, I’ve never seen that at a book launch before!
It was their own take of the Halloween video the One More Page Podcast crew made with my book a while ago – do you remember this one?
Also on my radar… (Photo below right. Clockwise from top left):
Author/illustrator, Belinda Landsberry, showed me her newest picture book, Once I was Loved. It reminds me of the classic The Velveteen Rabbit. Read with tissues. It is divine.
Storyhound Archie was sent the delightful picture book, Miss Eliza FLowerdew Can Nearly Touch the Ceiling, to review, and I can’t help from yapping about it too. I love the way Brenda Gurr had captured the child’s view of the world, and the physical perspective the illustrator, Helene Magisson’s beautiful, soft and flowy pictures add to the feel. A story that very naturally and sweetly shows the blossoming friendship between a child and 99 year old Miss Flowerdew because of a child’s natural curiosity. It is sublime.
My old writing buddy, Stephanie Ward’s picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil, is a magical, effervescent story with luscious language, whimsical illustrations and a strong emotional resonance that will surprise and delight young readers, and will especially appeal to older siblings. It's a must!
I won the junior fiction, Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Film Flip, by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze, in a Books on Tour give away and I’m keen to read it – it sounds like a fun, futuristic adventure, trying to work out 'historical' items, like a roll of film!
I was thrilled to see that my favourite YA book for the year, The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer, won the Prime Minister’s literary awards! Congratulations Michael!
Competitions: I mentioned last month that I’d entered a few writing competitions, and then I found this list put together by Stef Gemmill, that gave me a few more places to submit. You might find it handy too. Thanks Stef!
In other news... To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, my husband and I did something special and went to the Opera, and saw Il Viaggio e Reims. It was the most remarkable, wonderful show I have ever seen. Everything from the set and costumes to the music and the quirky, silly, storyline were amazing. It had this fabulous metafictional aspect that really appealed to me. It was funny. It was sublime. I laughed. I cried. It was the most special, marvellous night.
What I’m looking forward to…
1. Having a holiday :-) and then coming back to…
2. CBCA Northern Sydney sub-branch end of year drinks/dinner at Terry Hills Tavern on the 27th Nov.
3. CBCA NSW Aspire and celebrate! Evening at the NSW Teacher’s Federation, on the 28th Nov.
4. Some SCBWI Sydney cheer, at Woollahra library on the 8th Dec.
5. Presenting an award at Brookvale Public school’s K-2 presentation day.
That’s about all for my month in KidLitLand. Don’t forget, if you want to keep up with all my adventures, you can subscribe to my newsletter and get all a link to every post in your email!
Subscribe here. I'll leave you with the posts with the most engagement on Archie's @story_hound's insta account.
Until next time...
You can order it at your local bookstore, or buy from Booktopia.
In other writing news, getting a story in for the Buzz Words competition defeated me this year! There was too much going on in life, to give the story the attention it deserved. Good luck to those who entered! I did manage to get something in to some flash fiction competitions, though, and I have a couple of stories in with publishers, awaiting the outcome...
In the meantime, I haven't been idle! SBWI had an event in Sydney at the beginning of the month, with a bumper line up. First up, Victoria Mackinlay spoke about all things Google related for authors and I think her talk should be essential listening. It. Blew. My. Mind. Who even knew all the stuff that happens in Google land behind your screen? I went home with a notebook full of handy hints to implement. Can't say I've nailed it yet, but boy, were my eyes opened!! After Victoria, Eve Tonelli from Harper Collins spoke about publishing, and it's always interesting to hear the state of the industry from a publisher. Eve was so open, offering information under the 'cone of silence' that you won't find in any tweets or social media from the day - and that's the value of SCBWI membership! Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan rounded up the day with warmth and humour and tales of their picture book partnership springing form their real life friendship.
It's always fun being one of the Stars at CBCA NSW Inc Northern Sydney Sub-branch Lunch With The Stars. This year's special guests were the wonderful Tim Harris and Matt Cosgrove. How cool is the booklet cover design by Matt? After 10 years of organising this event, Belinda Murrell has decided to take a well earned rest, and we really can't thank her enough for the legacy she has left with this flagship event.
Talking about CBCA and literary lunches, I caught up with Kiah Thomas at the Illawara lunch and lined her up for an interview on The Just Write for Kids Blog - you can see part one here. Kiah was a delight to interview, and such a good sport, agreeing to the interview days out from giving birth. You can catch part two of the interview on Friday (4th Oct).
Also on CBCA, it was wonderful to celebrate with Northern Sydney Sub-branch President, Jan Latta and other members of our supportive group, on Sydney harbour for a high tea in honour of her significant birthday. Happy Birthday Jan! I think she's about to jet off to Asia for school visits - she is irrepressible!!
Reading Hour this year for me coincided with the presentation night of the Northern Beaches Young Writer's Award for which I was one of the judges. It was a lovely synergy, I thought. The night was a sparklingly joyous evening, with all the judging authors saying some very lovely and encouraging things about the stories from this talented pool of writers, who were so excited and proud. I loved Jaclyn Moriarty's simile about her finalist's stories sparkling like stars, and how the runner-up and winning stories sparkled just as brightly, only they were a different colour.
After hearing the judge's comments, I was inspired to read the stories, and you can too, if you follow this link. and scroll to the bottom for the ebook: Wild. Thanks to the Northern Beaches council for these photos:
I had so much fun travelling with author buddies Katrina Roe, Penny Reeve/Jaye and Kat Colmer to Brisbane for the Wombat Books Conference. This was a wonderful celebration of TEN years of Wombat Books and a great opportunity to meet and network with other Wombat Books' authors and Illustrators for the 'in house' personal development day. We heard about the vision and staffing of the company, and shared with each other from the wealth of experience and wisdom in the room.
The conference day drew participants from wider afield, and focused on skills development. Kate Forsyth, as keynote speaker, set the tone for an inspiring and encouraging day of workshops and panels - Kate Gordon even bribed her audience with chocolate (Mint Slice, Cherry Ripes and Crunchie bars - the food of her childhood) as she and Lora Inak spoke in a warm and insightful way about writing from experience and memory (photo below left).
Below are some photos from the days. At right are Tina Marie Clarke who is the force behind the CYA Conference and super-nice person, and Renee Treml, whose picture book, One Very Tired Wombat is my go-to for new babies, who I met for the first time this weekend. Sadly, there were so many photo opportunities that I missed!
Back at home, I've been reeling from the news of the imminent closure of the oldest specialist bookshop in NSW, The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft, in November. Those who regularly read my news will know what a significant part it plays in many of my adventures in KidLitLand. The support Paul and Beth MacDonald give to those in the children's book industry is invaluable. The bookshop will be sorely missed, although gladly, Paul and Beth will continue their involvement with children's books through their writing, illustrating and other exciting plans. You can hear all about what they are up to next on Brydie Wright's radio show on Radio Northern Beaches from 3-4pm this Saturday (5th Oct). Find out more about the show here.
Talking about The Children's Bookshop events, I attended the launch of Robert Vescio and Nicky Johnston's beautiful new picture book, Under the Same Sky, (and Robert gave me a cup-cake for my birthday - so sweet!!) and met Karen Foxlee, who read her delightful new picture book, Horatio Squeak.
Lisa Sibery's The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green was fresh and fun with a dollop of fantasy - a charming read. You can listen to the Middle Grade Mavens talking about it and interviewing Ampersand prize winning Lisa, on Episode 28, here.
At left are my book purchases this month - I can't seem to walk past a bookshop, or go to a conference, or run into an author (in the case of Jules Faber), without buying a book! I love how eye-catching all the covers are!
My Hope 103.2 radio reviews this month were: Can't Beat the chemistry by Kat Colmer, and The Things the Will not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer. I totally adored both these YA books.
Kat's book was fresh and fun and I didn't want it to end. Michael's book was funny, deep, wise and layered - a book I wanted to hug! It's been shortlisted for the Prime Minister's literary award. Click on their titles above to see my full Goodreads review.
I also WON a book form a Books On Tour giveaway! I'm really excited to read Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze's Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Film Flip - the premise of a kid in the future (the year 2424) investigating 'ancient' technology, like a roll of camera film, really appeals to me! Plus, there's a dog! You can find out more about the book by following the blog tour here.
@story_hound Archie was excited to hear a shout out for his Insta account on One More Page Podcast episode 37 - thanks Liz! The episode also reviewed two books on our radar - The Secret Science Society by Kathy Hoopmann, Josie Montano and Anne-Marie Finn (illustrator) that we bought at the Wombat Books conference (and got signed, of course!), and my writing buddy, Stephanie Ward's gorgeous picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil, that I've mentioned before.
Talking about Archie, I'll leave you with the post below, with the most comments on his Insta account this month - would you believe it was one of the easiest photo shoots to date?
But before then - what am I looking forward to in October? This is a big family celebration month, with weddings and birthdays scattered throughout the month, although I'm sure I'll find some Kidlit adventures tucked away in the cracks :-) . In November, I'm looking forward to celebrating the end of a busy year with the CBCA: Northern Sydney drinks at Terrey Hills Tavern on the 27th and NSW Aspire and Celebrate 2019 on the 28th.
Until next time,
August means Book parades! Here's a photo of me straight out of the rabbit hole from Alice In Wonderland. It was taken the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon! Book parades date back to even before the moon landing, I told the amazed infants students at John Colet school last week, when I was up the front of over 100 students, power point clicker in hand, feeling like a rock star.
That rock star feeling lasted all week, even in the more intimate settings of preschools. One particular preschool prepared the students by watching my YouTube video reading of The Scared Book with Renee Price and Digby Fixit, so when I arrived, they felt like a super star was visiting them! It was a delight - thank you Mary Bailey House.
There have been many, many authors and illustrators visiting schools and preschools across the country, some for the entire month of August, flying the flag for the super power of reading. To them I say: you are all super stars!
And thanks to the amazing efforts of people like teacher librarians, teachers, preschool directors, parents, various committees and booksellers that generate hype about books and make these events happen. Not to mention the CBCA volunteers: from the grass roots sub branches organising events for kids, like literary lunches, to the judges for the Book of the Year awards and organisers of events around the announcements. I salute you all!
And of course, congratulations to winners and honour books of the BOTY. See the full list here. Did you pick a winner?
In case you know anyone who may be wondering 'why all the fuss about kid's books?' here’s a quick article on the web by Speech Pathologist and author, Sonia Bestulic about the importance of kid's books to child development.
Talking about book week events, I loved joining the newly revamped, re energised CBCA Illawarra sub branch this month for their literary lunch at Fairy Meadow. I sat with an enthusiastic bunch of students from Coniston Public School, and listened enthralled, to Allison Tait talking about writing superpowers. The kids also got a chance to exercise their creative muscles by collaborating on a story at their tables. Such energy and excitement! And I got to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones, as well as arrange my next interview for Just Write for Kids. Watch out next Friday for my chat with Kiah Thomas, an Illawarra author who is about to be BIG and I’m not referring her to her late stage pregnancy :)
Above are a few photos with (clockwise from top left) Kiah Thomas, Kate Simpson, a group shot, Edwina Wyatt. Of course, book buying and signing was involved!
I'm looking forward to being part of the Northern Sydney Sub Branch's 10th anniversary Lunch With the Stars next week, with Tim Harris and Matt Cosgrove as special guests.
Talking about the CBCA, the Northern Sydney Sub- branch's 10th anniversary Christmas in July dinner with David Legge and Margaret Wild was fantastic, as expected. Margaret spoke about what she had learned from her journalism background in South Africa, about everyone covering the same stories, but what sets them apart is the unique angle they bring to the story, and about getting to the important stuff up front (or it will be edited out). Reflecting on her picture book career, she said that the 1980's were the 'golden age' in children's publishing when publishers were willing to take risks. She doubts whether some of her books (eg Fox) would have been published if they were submitted today. She sees the place to pitch stories in the current market is junior fiction for 5-7 year-olds.
David spoke, amongst other things, about the value of shifting perspectives, like sitting on a moving train, to loosen up creativity. And I got my anniversary copy of Bamboozled (first published in 1994, the year before my first daughter was born, and a strong favourite of hers.) As always, it was brilliant fun catching up with so many friends.
Unfortunately, I’m suffering from a post-book week virus! Nothing too dreadful, but I am developing a good cough – don’t come too close! So, for my birthday dinner, I was inspired by the title of Wai Chim’s new YA novel The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, to go to a dumpling restaurant for dinner. And it was surprisingly powerful! Yum! Unfortunately, I haven’t yet read Wai’s book, not being able to make the launch, as it turned out ☹ I do see she’s having an event at Dymocks, Sydney, coming up, so I might get one there. I've heard great things.
Talking about launches, I did get to see Tim Harris and James Foley in action at the launch of their new book, Toffle Towers, which was inspired by one of my family’s favourite shows growing up – Fawlty Towers. The kids were in stitches over Tim and James’ animated reading. You can check out Storyhound Archie's post about this book on Instagram.
I also got to the launch of Susanne Gervay and Marjory Crosby -Fairall's new picture book, The Boy in the Big, Blue Glasses at Waverly library. Susanne was in hilariously fine form and the kids loved all the activities and festivities that went into this event. It's a beautiful book about vision impairment, empathy and empowerment, which has been getting a lot of media attention for its message about eye health. It's also being transcribed into Braille and is part of the Good Vision For Life campaign.
Another launch I’m looking forward to at The Children's Bookshop, is for Robert Vescio and Nicky Johnston’s, latest picture book, Under the Same Sky. Although technically in August it won’t make this edition of my news, because it’s at the end of the last day. And still on the bookshop, did you see my interview with Paul and Beth MacDonald, From Bookseller to Book Creator, on the Just write For Kids blog? You can find ithere.
The gorgeous picture book haul I bought from the literary lunch:
Fox and Bird is like a philosophical fable of playground politics, inviting conversation. The divine illustrations and endpapers are to swoon over. A stunning picture book by Edwina Wyatt and Alice Lindstrom
Allergic Alpaca, Kiah Thomas' first book with Connah Brecon, is quirky, fun and playful, but does require a bit of alphabetical understanding to enter into the game.
Any story about a bulldog has got me in, and George is absolutely lovable. Katrin Dreiling’s illustrations are quirky, rich and textured, and Pat Simmons’ rhyming story is fun with a great twist at the end, and the endpapers are delicious.
Dear Grandpa is a beautiful epistolary exchange between grandson and grandfather with whimsy and longing. I loved hearing the creators, author Kate Simpson and illustrator Ronojoy Ghosh’s discussing the creation of the book on TheOne More Page Podcast.
I'm also reading WritingNSW buddy, Lisa Sibery's The Brilliant ideas of Lily Green a charming, fresh, inventive mid grade novel with sprinkle of fantasy, and a great message of inner beauty and being true to yourself. An antidote to our beauty obsessed culture, despite the setting in a beauty salon!
I've wanted to read YA novel, Amelia Westlake for a while, and as author Erin Gough is one of the other judges of the Northern Beaches Young Writer’s Competition, I wanted to read it before meeting her. I'm totally hooked! I especially love the narrative voice of rules-stickler Harriet who walks around in an entitled bubble until bumping into feisty Wilhelmina's orbit, and the opposites attract romance is ignited. I'm enjoying the hi-jinks of their making up a fictional character to challenge the flawed establishment, and whist the 'elite private girl's school' stereotype makes for a good story in this context, I can't help thinking that I would like to see a more nuanced depiction of this in fiction in general - I've seen a lot of good in these settings too.
Two programs that I’ve watched this month have hooked into the inspiration behind my first picture book, When I See Grandma:
Old people’s home for 4 year olds. This is a story close to my heart and I love the concept of this show. It’s a series documenting a research experiment bringing preschool to an aged care home, which is, coincidentally, based nearby me, on the northern beaches of Sydney. It highlights one of the issues that I showcase in When I See Grandma, that is, how taking young children to aged care homes can brighten the lives all the residents. The inclusion of my protagonist’s younger brother in the visual narrative shows the possibilities of interaction with residents generally. There are also moments in the show reminiscent of Mem Fox and Julie Vivas’ Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge. I watched the first episode with my daughter and she said ‘My heart hurts in so many ways!’ It’s equally heartwarming and heartbreaking. And what joy to see older men playing teacups and dress-ups with the children and each other!
Playschool recently aired an episode with the theme, Beginnings and Endings, addressing the concept of death and grief. It’s interesting how something so universal, caused such media interest. Preparing children for the death of a loved one was another impetus behind writing, When I See Grandma, which celebrates Grandma's life and cherishes the shared moments. ‘A joyful and poignant celebration of life and love,’ is the quote on the book, from Hazel Hawke’s daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke.
Short stories written by kids in years K-2 for the Northern Beaches Young Writer’s Competition. I’ll be announcing the winners of the K-2 year group in September. It's such a joy reading the inventive stories.
The annual Just Write For Kids Pitch It competition - I'm judging the picture book section with Kellie Byrnes – detailshere.
To Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 about Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth and Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire.
Looking forward to:
Launch of Under the Same Sky today.
Lunch with the Stars - 3rd September.
SCBWI Q and A afternoon with Eve Tonelli from Harper Collins - 8th September.
Reading Hour and the Northern Beaches Young Writer's Competition awards night on the same day - 19th September.
Heading up to Brisbane for the Wombat Writer's Conference and professional development day - 27-28th September.
Getting my short story in to the Buzz Words short story prize by the end of the month.
That's enough to keep me busy, I reckon.
I hope to see you somewhere around in KidLitLand :-)
Leaving you with the most popular post on Storyhound this month (at left)...
July has been a relatively relaxing month for me, having had the opportunity to take not one, but two mini-breaks – one in warm, sub-tropical Queensland, and the other in freezing Canberra. Both infused with warm emotions, despite the differences in outside temperatures.
Noosa is one of my favourite places in the whole world. It was a joy to read a grown-up book by the beach (The Nancys by RWR McDonald – fun and a little bit scary - I loved it), sip hot chocolates in cafes and sample fine food from a different restaurant each night. My husband and I didn’t want to come home. It did, however, mean I missed the CYA conference in Brisbane on the same weekend we were away – so close and yet so far! By all accounts it was amazing, as usual, with some new and innovative segments like author ‘boot camps’ on the Friday.
In Canberra I went to see the Monet exhibition (wonderful) and have a tour and a wander around the galleries at the National Library (photo of pencil mobile in the bookshop). What a treasure the library is! (My kidlit buddies who live in the nation’s capital already know this.) The library’s latest exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons, is really thought provoking and I was amazed at how many children’s authors have also contributed to the social and political discourse over the years via cartoons, including May Gibbs. It was so good, I bought the book! Photo below of Judy Horacek (Where is the Green Sheep and many, many more, illustrator)
I managed to get to two amazing book launches this month. The first (technically the end of June) was Amelia McInerney’s almost wordless picture book with Philip Bunting as illustrator – Bad Crab. This book is a delight. How Philip Bunting emits emotion from a crustacean has to be seen to be believed - it is picture book magic at its best! The story by Amelia is delightfully fresh and oh-so pertinent to little people who might find it hard to keep their ‘nippers’ to themselves, but also just plain funny on its own. You can check out my recent interview with Amelia, HERE, if you haven't already.
The second launch was for a picture book illustrated by Beth McDonald, of The Children’s Bookshop fame. Paperboy is a thoughtful, reflective evocative book written by Danny Parker and published by Dirt Lane Press. Paul McDonald describes it (and many of the books published by this publisher) as open-ended, with the story going beyond the ending of the book, inviting thought and discussion. This book is worth reading for Beth’s exquisite collage alone. At the launch, it was fascinating to hear her talk about the process of illustration, and if you look closely, you will see that Paperboy is clothed in his own story – quite literally, his clothes are cut from the manuscript. So much love and consideration has gone into this book, It is really quite remarkable.
Talking about The Children’s Bookshop, I’m interviewing Paul and Beth MacDonald on the Just Write For Kids blog this Friday, about their picture book collaboration, The Hole Idea, that I mentioned last month, so look out for that. I also chatted to Katrina Roe about the book on Hope 103.2 radio, along with Real Pigeons Eat Danger from the Junior Fiction Real Pigeons series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood.
Plus, last night I had the pleasure of speaking to the emerging writers group that meets monthly at the bookshop. It’s always a joy to speak about kids books and the children’s literature community to an enthusiastic group of writers and illustrators. (Thanks to Paul and Beth for the photo below),
I was asked recently to write an article for the Students Need School Libraries campaign, and after speaking with a Teacher Librarian friend of mine about the state of her school library, I was inspired to write The Mystery of Shrinking School Libraries. I’ve been stunned at how this post has resonated and generated discussion in online forums. I’ve never had so many 'shares' of a Facebook post in my life! Do check out the website and get informed about this important issue.
On my radar:
Congratulations to Aura Parker who launched Meerkat Splash this month. I wasn’t able to make the launch but the book looks joyous.
Brydie Wright has started a fabulous community radio program on Radio Northern Beaches called By the Book about all things related to children's literature. It's on Saturday afternoons from 3-4 pm. I loved listening to Lesley Gibbes on the show recently, and finding out about her inventive 'googling!'. This Saturday's show has a music theme -nursery rhymes and music from kid's movies.
I finished Nat Amoore’s MG Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire this month. It’s great fun. Brydie Wright likened it to the movie Home Alone, and I’d have to agree, but with lashings of heart and wisdom.
I loved Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth - do yourself a favour and read this MG novel, if only for Lisa Nicol's brilliant use of language. I constantly marvelled at her metaphors and similes - they were so captivating I couldn't let them go - I had to write them down to marvel at again and again, and try and work out how she does it! And the story is divine - full of all the feels.
Both these books are so eloquently reviewed on the Middle Grade Mavens Podcast, with bonus interviews with the authors, so I highly recommend tuning in (I even get a mention in one :-) The photos below are Instagram sensation, @storyhound Archie with the books.
I am in the middle of reading Don't follow Vee by Oliver Phommavanh. I love Oliver’s characters and his humour and heart, and the way he nails playground politics – perfect!
I’ve also got myself a copy of Raising Readers by Megan Daley of Children’s Books Daily fame – teacher librarian extraordinaire! I was bummed to see that I missed Megan speaking in Sydney recently (don’t know how I missed that one) but she is a fount of bookish wisdom and her book is infused with it.
Lastly, I’m a bit late to the party with Wonder, but I finally caught up with what all the hype is about!
Out and About
My daughter and I went to a lego fair this month and met Henry, one of the winners of Lego Masters, and Marielle, one of the other contestants. It was so inspiring seeing some amazing lego creations and hearing Henry and Marielle talk about developing their Lego skills and it was fun to hear the behind-the-scenes stories from the show. My daughter bought me these fabulous Lego flowers from a trip to the new LEGO shop in Bondi recently.
What I’m Looking forward to:
Tonight is the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub branch dinner with Margaret Wild and David Legge. I’ll have a few books tucked under my arm for Margaret to sign, and I’m in the market for a copy of David’s Bamboozled – it was a strong favourite in our house when the kids were little, and I see that it’s actually 25 years old!
August means Book Week, and the month when authors and illustrators become stars! I’m one of the stars’ at Lunch with the Stars for both the Illawarra CBCA sub branch on the 14th August, and Northern Sydney sub branch, at Manly on the 3rd September, PLUS I’ll be popping into a few schools and preschools to share bookish fun with the kids.
Launches, launches, launches! I’m hoping to get along to a few book launches this month:
Susanne Gervay is launching her book illustrated by Marjory Crosby-Fairall, The Boy in the Big, Blue Glasses on Tuesday 6th August at Waverley library.
Kate Simpson is launching her second picture book, Dear Grandpa, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh, on the 10th August at Miranda Harry Hartog. Unfortunately I can't make it, but do get along to support Kate, if you can. This is also Love Your Bookshop Day, so pop into any bookshop and show them love! Quite a few bookstores are holding events – I know my ‘local’ The Children’s Bookshop, has a day packed with things to see and do.
Tim Harris’ new series Toffle Towers is launching at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft on the 17th August. I hope to be there.
Wai Chim is launching her YA The Surprising Power of a Dim Sim at Kinokonyia in Sydney on the 22nd August. I've been following her Instagram posts and they are very intriguing and inviting. Story Hound Archie is hoping I’ll bring some dim sims home for him! EDITED UPDATE: the launch has been moved to Wednesday 21st and I don't know if I can make that now :-( .
Robert Vescio is launching yet another picture book, this time with illustrator Nicky Johnston, Under the Same Sky, on the 31st August at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft.
And if August couldn’t get any better, I’m celebrating my own birthday at the end of the month – I’m sure books will be involved!
So much to do and celebrate this month. I hope I’ll see some of you at these events.
I’ll leave with the fave Story Hound Insta posts this month (did you notice I sneakily snuck a few others in this blog post? Because you can't have enough of a French bulldog with books) :-)