I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for the start of a bright new year sparkling with possibilities. Last January I wrote about the Push-me-Pull-you nature of January, with all the looking forward and looking backwards. This year, you can find my Looking Backwards over 2018 in the post - 'My Year in Pictures' here.
The year has started off with a burst of administration and organisation, which does feel like a never-ending stream, however it has been happily sprinkled with flecks of gold along the way with the discovery of Marie Kondo and her joy-filled tidying philosophy. She might not be for everyone, and I'm yet to discover how she sorts her books (I have an ominous premonition) but she has brought joy to some mundane tasks and for that I'm thankful! In fact, I think I have to call it... the word for my year is... JOY!
Some other things that have brought me joy this month include:
1 This jigsaw of books (pictured) featuring brave girls from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and these nostalgic books that my family gifted me for Christmas. Brought tears of joy to my eyes, they did. And many, many happy moments lost in puzzle and time.
2 Australia Post Children's literature legend stamps - I love this video:
3 Australia Day honours to creators that make the children's literature space a wonderful place to be: Sophie Masson, Emily Rodda (Jennifer Rowe), Alison Lester and a lovely local honour to Alison Tait. Alison Lester was also awarded the Melbourne prize for literature, presented every three years to a Victorian author ‘whose body of published work has made an outstanding contribution to Australian literature, as well as to cultural and intellectual life.' I don't know about your home library, but Alison Lester books feature prominently in ours.
4 My beautiful stationary that has already inspired me to write and send away two new stories! So much joy!
In January I ran a choc-a-block Monster Mayhem workshop at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft. We had fun on a gruesome treasure hunt through the store, looking for monster body-parts (would you call that treasure?!) and then assembled our own monster together, before kids were let loose with paper and pencils to design their own monster characters. At the end, the kids all created their own talking monster puppet, using a basic chatterbox design and lots of embellishments. Here's mine:
Discoveries (Apart from Marie Kondo on Netflix):
I've enjoyed listening to a new podcast by some online friends of mine. It's about writing and reviewing books for mid grade readers, called Middle Grade Mavens. If you write for this genre, this is must. The first and second podcasts include an interview with Danielle Binks which gives great industry insights - I recommend having a paper and pen handy!
Another new adventurer on the podcast scene is Tania McCartney - is there anything this multi-talented gal can't do? (she does tell me singing is not something we'll hear her do anytime soon :-). The Happy Book, has tips and information about finding your way in the children's publishing world.
This fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal about The Secret Power of the Children's picture Book. It may be subscriber only now :( but it says how MRIs of kids brains show that reading a story alone is 'too cold' for young kid's brain activity, that animation is 'too hot,' but picture books, where the child is able to synthesise the spoken words as their eyes are free to roam over the pictures at their own pace, are 'just right' for firing up the perfect cognitive processes. It also gives a warning about the effect of parental use of electronic devices and the way that user's facial expressions mirror a depressed affect that is anxiety producing for young children. I found the research fascinating!
On my reading radar:
Girl Running, Boy Falling - is an important YA book for our times, unfortunately. With youth suicide rates a national disgrace, this book speaks to those left behind, like a guiding light through the darkness and into the light. Kate Gordon's book threads a compelling narrative around grief and loss, hints at prevention strategies and seeks to stem the pull of suicide contagion by holding out a hand of hope.
The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer - the kind of book I want to hug when I've finished. It's a YA that will suit the younger end of the spectrum; short and easy to read (thankfully, because I couldn't put it down -I read it in an afternoon/evening); humorous yet deep and an ode to creativity that helps us hope for and imagine a better future. So much love for this book. I found it at my local library after not being able to find it in the shops at Christmas time. I think it must be very popular!
Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee- for the more mature end of the mid grade market, with its length and themes. A book that would also appeal to an adult readership. It's poignant with an incredible strong and quirky voice that I thoroughly enjoyed. Tear-jerking but not maudlin, infused with resilient hopefulness and unexpected humour.
Who Dresses God by Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Veronica Rooke - I won this book via a Books on Tour competition. It's a gorgeous rhyming conversation between a mother and child within a picture book. The softly painted illustrations profiling faces from different perspectives will engage small children who delight in seeking out faces.
My chats with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 this month included these gorgeous junior fiction and picture books. All highly recommended!
Looking forward to:
My interview with up-and-coming author Amelia McInerney on the Just Write For Kids Blog. Amelia's first of five picture books comes out in a month and the first peek will be at ...
The SCBWI conference in February! So much excitement about this! Great events, kicking off with a whole lot of mini book launches (including Amelia's) at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft on Sunday 24th details here
Robert Vescio launches yet another wonderful picture book - The Box Cars. It's also at The Children's Bookshop, this Saturday 2nd. I hope to be there.
Picture Book Book Club twitter party featuring Shelly Unwin. Do join in if you can!
CBCA Night of the Notables on Tuesday the 26th Feb- when the CBCA announces the long-list for the Book of the Year awards. So excited to see who makes the list!
Laureate summit on the 28th Feb - not sure I can get to this one, but what a line-up!
I'm sure I'll catch up with some of you at one or more of these events!
Wishing everyone a Joyful new year!