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.