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)...