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,