Ahoy there fellow adventurers! The last couple of months I've felt like I've been swooped up and carried along by a wave of activity, only managing to occasionally pop my head up to leave brief posts on social media before the wave rushed along! But now I'm floating in calmer waters, I can linger longer and collect my thoughts about the past couple of months.
A highlight for children's authors each year has to be CBCA Children's Book Week, in August, and for me this year was very special. It started the week before with a tour of the Riverina region of NSW. I visited eight towns, speaking to school groups from kindergarten to year 2, mostly in the wonderful country libraries.
It was so fun! We played sound games and guessing games, dabbled in some performance poetry and had an illustration challenge - and that's only part of it! I was worried about my voice giving out, and it did get a bit scratchy by day three, but then it seemed to miraculously get better - I'm sure the use of microphones REALLY helped!
Out of the nine sessions, only one had technical difficulties and the show went on without power points. Thanks so much to fellow author and friend, Katrina Roe, who was my wing-woman for the hardest day, and who helped garner publicity for the tour as part of her job with Riverina Regional Libraries. I've popped a few photos above, but you can visit my social media for more :-) Massive thanks to the Riverina Regional Libraries who hosted my tour and to Katrina and Sharon who did the heavy lifting of organising!
Book week fun continued back home with a visit to some preschools, and to Wentworthville Public School (amazing TL Melinda Hall, with me, below right) and Shore junior school and prep. The wonderful teacher librarian at Shore sent me through some adorable drawings the kids made after my visit. I had demonstrated how to draw Tug using party food as a guide, and showed them a video of Arielle Li illustrating Tug. I totally love how they took the ideas on board, especially the one below left, which shows the thought that went into layering colour, as Arielle demonstrated. There are more images on my social media.
It's been such a joy celebrating with friends at their book launches over the past couple of months. Fiona Lloyd's middle grade novel, Being Jimmy Baxter is fantastic! Fiona has tackled difficult themes of domestic violence and depression, but it's written with such sensitivity and a lightness of touch, that it doesn't ever seem heavy. I'm usually not a big fan of naïve narrators, but Jimmy's voice is quirky and engaging and I couldn't put the book down. Also on the theme of parental depression is Amanda Leiber's gorgeous and heartfelt picture book, My Giant Sea Shell, illustrated by Kathy Creamer. I couldn't be more delighted for Amanda! She is such an enthusiastic member of the kidlit community and it was great to see so many of the community at the launch to celebrate her debut book. The book is a beautiful metaphor both in words and pictures.
Friend of many in the kidlit scene, Rory H Mather flew into town to launch not one, but two picture books at Better Read than Dead, Newtown. Both books had Rory's trademark rhyme, rhythm and humour. Sebastian Stands Out (illus by Sofya Karmazina) was even set to percussion and performed by the incredibly talented Johan Rahman (you really must check out Johan in action on Instagram @johanrahman1 !!) Illustrator of Bookweek Bear, Ruth Mary Smith was there too, signing books with a handmade bear stamp!
Country Town, by fellow CBCA NSW sub-branch committee member, Isolde Martyn was flying off the shelves at the launch at Gleebooks! It's already into reprint! Co-written with Robyn Ridgeway and illustrated by Louise Hogan, this book, follows an un-named country town through 200 years of history, full of visual and textual detail. Reminiscent of My Place by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins, it's a teacher's dream!
Also on a slice of Australian history, although slightly tangentially, is Jorn's Magnificent Imagination, by Coral Vass and Nicky Johnston, about Jorn Utzon, the architect of the iconic Sydney Opera House. The story behind the production of this book is amazing in itself, and well worth hearing if you get a chance to listen to Coral or Nicky give a behind the scenes recount! I was spellbound! It was delightful to celebrate with them and other friends under the sails of the Opera House, at the bar last week! Nicky even made opera house headbands for us all!!
Other adventures recently include a super-fun Anchored pyjama party at Stanton Library, thanks to children's librarian and author, Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg (look out for Rebecka's new junior fiction series, Saskia Spark-Lee), and the CBCA NSW Branch Northern Sydney Sub-branch Lunch With the Stars. Enthusiastic speakers this year at the lunch were author and survivor survivor, Wai Chim, and illustrator Mike Barry. The buzz at this event is always so cool to see so many kids excited to meet and greet lots of authors and illustrators over lunch!
Talking about the CBCA, I was so thrilled for illustrator friend Max Hamilton whose picture book with Vikki Conley Where the Lyrebird Lives WON the Early Childhood section, and for friend and fellow sub-branch committee member, Pip Harry whose MG novel, August and Jones WON the Shadow Judging (by kids) award!! I loved this novel so much, about the friendship between two children, one of whom is going blind. It's a must-read! You can see all the winning and honour books here.
I've heard the behind-the scenes stories of these books on the First Wednesday Book Club that's run over zoom by CBCA NSW Branch. This is an amazing resource for all lovers of kid's books. It's free for members (and a small fee for others). It's so worth hearing from the book creators and gives you another layer of insight into the books and the creative process. I highly recommend them. I was disappointed that I didn't get to hear from Lian Tanner this month due to family birthdays! I'll have to try and catch up.
A friend took her kids along to the NSW State Library in the holidays for a monster activity day, and I was so excited when she sent me photos of monsters from mine and Kim Siew's The Scared Book included in the monster treasure-hunt!! They hid literary monsters around the library and kids searched for them, ticking them off their booklet. So fun! It made me think what a great book-ish Halloween activity this could be for the kids.
Talking about illustrators, Arielle Li, the amazing illustrator of Anchored has a new book out this month with a friend of mine, Ashling Kwok, called Butterfly Girl. How gorgeous is this cover (below)? I've seen a few butterflies fluttering around the blooming flowers recently, so there couldn't be a better time for this book to launch into the world!
That's about all my news for now. Until next time, here are some things I'm looking forward to:
Judging the Just Write for Kids Pitch It competition.
Being an author guest at the Illawarra Literary Lunch hosted by CBCA NSW Branch Illawarra Sub-branch.
Seeing Trent Dalton at Stanton library
Hearing from Caig Silvey at the CBCA NSW Branch Aspire and Celebrate lunch. You can find out more here.
Wishing you all the best,