Author, Actor and Audience

Late in the day of our BookWeek celebrations, there was anticipation as years 5 and 6 waited to hear from this year’s invited author. Anticipation too, for the author – for Tim Harris had taught at this school for 10 years before embarking on his writing career.

No-one was disappointed – students, staff and author all delighted in the events of the day – especially the stories and ideas Tim presented, at different levels, to our Junior School students. He captivated the audience, inviting their response; he also told true tales, sometimes revealing real school or family connections.

Lots of stories and ideas were shared. Tim skilfully combined the two to outline some of the tricks of the (writing) trade. This included when he shared tales of situations which inspired an idea (the mosquito that caught fire – his son’s perception of a laser pointer; classroom situations – escalated by thinking ‘what if’). Our students were totoally enthralled and engaged.

Other author hints included:

  • writers look for ideas & join them together
  • take ideas from a photo
  • use things from strong memories
  • then use those memories & EXAGGERATE!
  • trust your editor
  • read, read, read.

Tim Harris now has a great list of titles which are selling globally. His new series, Toffle Towers, is also bound to be a new success.

However, Tim reflects that elements of success to him also includes:

  • returning to a school he loved, but in a different role
  • hearing from an ex-student, now reading his books to her students
  • connecting to young readers as he performs his works
  • recognising the authors he began to introduce to his students
  • engaging with the wider community of fellow authors, booksellers, publishers, and of course, teacher librarians and their students – promoting and loving his work.

To future writers, Tim says:

“Ideas are everywhere. Consider the ‘what if’.”

To readers, Tim says:

“Toffle Towers: Fully Booked is the first in the new series – more to come!”.

And Tim has even hinted that he may yet have some non-fiction tales to tell – stayed tuned, stay alert for more!

Till then, you can find Tim introducing his new characters on social media, and investigate reviews of  his current works at: https://www.betterreading.com.au/kids-ya/fawlty-towers-meets-treehouse-extract-of-toffle-towers-fully-booked/

Tim Harris currently writes for a slightly younger age group than YA (young adult) – his inspiration follows on from reading Paul Jennings stories to his classes. Which writers currently inspire you? Are there others you have read in your younger years which you remember fondly?

Inspiration, lockdown, detention

What inspires a writer? Well, just about anything in everyday life, it seems.

Listening to Tristan Bancks being interviewed on TV the other day made this quite clear. His new book, Detention, was inspired during a school visit when there was a lockdown. As a school visitor, he was involved in the drill, and listened as the teachers and students discussed examples of lockdown situations they had experienced in the past.

Spinning on from this, his creative mind pondered what else might generate a lockdown situation. Then an actual news item, about asylum seekers on the run, further sparked his ideas for a story involving a young girl whose family attempts to escape a detention centre.

While I have not yet read Detention, early reviews suggest that fans of Two Wolves and the Fall will again enjoy a thriller from Bancks. (You can also view the first part of his book – and then submit your own reviews directly back to Tristan! Just click on the link in the quote below.)

And now it’s your turn. You’ve read the early Detention book reviews and I’d love to read your review. The first three chapters are free and you can buy it in Australian bookstores big and small from 2 July. (from Tristan’s website)

Detention tackles the issues faced by young asylum seekers, giving readers lots to think about – putting them in the shoes of those caught in the politics of the world through no fault of their own. You can expect real characters which you can identify with, as well as a situation which you may need to think about carefully, dealing with the tragic experience faced by many fleeing conflicts around the globe.

Of course, there is a lot more work involved in story-writing, including lots of authentic research (which Tristan discusses in the TV interview here). But then, you wouldn’t expect anything less for a result like this!

Indie awards – 2019

Each year, Australian Independent Booksellers (aka your local bookshop) select what they consider to be the best new books. With quite a few categories, this also includes a section for Children and Young Adult. Here is the shortlist for these sections:

1. Children’s Category

2. Young Adult Category

You can help guide their choices by entering the competition to win all 24 nominated books at www.indies.com.au/shortlistcomp before March 17. Imagine that! Better check out your library (school or local) to get your hands on these titles.

Will it be another win for Jessica Townsend (author of Nevermoor)? Which of the YA books do you prefer? Winners are announced on March 18.

You can view other nominated titles, like ‘Boy Swallows the Universe’ (perhaps a popular choice?) at the Indies website. Have a look at the titles you missed from last year – or have they already caught your eye? (like 2018 NF winner ‘Saga Land’).

Dinner with Libby Gleeson

I was lucky enough to attend a dinner held by the Blue Mountains CBCA Sub-branch recently, at which the amazing author, Libby Gleeson, was the guest speaker.

Libby is a renowned Australian children’s author, having written over 30 books – many of which have won awards. In particular, she has had books shortlisted for the CBCA Awards thirteen times and won three times – and she has also been applauded in many many other literary arenas. (See her current tally of awards here).

Source: http://www.westwords.com.au/authors/libby-gleeson/

A fascinating and passionate speaker, Libby spoke about her collaborations with many talented illustrators, read a favourite picture book to us (Uncle David) and then moved on to discuss her writing for older readers. She spoke in detail about developing the story for a picture book, and certainly knows the ways to engage readers of all ages.

Sharing an example of what inspires her writing, Libby spoke about the encounters she had with refugee children at a Sydney school which lead to the novel, Mahtab’s Story.

Libby Gleeson was privileged to meet some young girls who had already faced many devastating  situations in their homeland, and who are survivors of their refugee struggle – this could be part of their tale… (From another point of view : Mahtab’s story)

We were also honoured as she read from her newest manuscript, 1918, which is due for release in 2018, as part of the Australia’s Great War, book series from Scholastic. It is exciting to be able to look forward to more from Libby Gleeson, and we are thankful that her inspiration as writer and mentor to others continues.

It is exciting to be able to look forward to more from Libby Gleeson, and we are thankful that her inspiration as writer and mentor to others continues, alongside her passion for great children’s literature.

[Click here for other posts about Libby’s books on ‘Weeksy Reviews’.]

## I was also lucky to win a prize on the night – a package of books from Empowering Resources – a publisher of high-quality children’s picture books and junior novels that nurture educate and empower children. We encourage meaningful conversations in homes and in classrooms. (Thank you to  Empowering Resources.)

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2016

Teachers and students, if you are looking for some great reading after a hectic exam period, or planning ahead for the holidays, then why not visit the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards site to see which books have been given accolades this year?

prime-ministers-2016

Among these awards are categories for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, Australian history and Young Adult fiction. Notably, several books which were on the CBCA list were also included in the shortlist for this award. Have you read any of them yet? Perhaps there are suggestions here for Christmas presents for family and friends – impress them with your choices!

non-fiction

Here’s a link to more detail about the winning entries from the Better Reading website, to help you make you choices. See what you can find in our library, and ‘get your reading on’!

Before you see the movie…

Now out in cinemas, the Light Between Oceans, is a powerful story – with lots of questions about how the decisions we make can drastically impact the lives of others.

Previously reviewed here, the story remains thought-provoking, heart-breaking and well-worthy of being made into a movie – but READ IT FIRST – it’s an incredibly moving debut novel, from an Australian author!

I wonder how well the movie will reflect the book?

N.B. not really YA, but good for older readers.

Rich and Rare…

rich-and-rare-frontAt over 480 pages, Rich and Rare, may at first seem like a challenge – but as a collection of Australian short stories, poetry and artwork, it is probably one of the most accessible books published in Australian YA fiction recently.

Editor, Paul Collins, has described it as as ‘a sumptuous literary feast’ in which ‘no one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.’ And like a feast or banquet, it is a book which you can dip in and out of wherever you want, and, as much as you want or need.

With the contents divided into 13 different genre groupings, there will be parts that appeal to many different readers, at different times in their reading journey. With an amazing collection of contemporary Australian authors, it also provides a tasting of writing by our very best, well recognised Australian authors, poets and illustrators – which is truly inspirational.

As a collection of short stories, the anthology provides many great examples of how to tell tale succinctly; which will appeal to a generation which wants things ‘fast and furious’ and who read with ‘a need for speed’.

As a collection of short stories, set in Australian condoitions, it provides many ‘aha’ moments which readers will recognise – for example:

  • the perfect weather which ends school holidays (A Tidy Town)
  • the sadness of losing a sibling (My Brother’s Keeper)
  • the tussles of brotherhood (the Knitting Needle Ninja)
  • when talent and perserverance triumph (Bringing Luisa to Life)

It also provides some interesting tales, which challenge:

  • the rights of privilege and inheritance (the Two-faced Boy)
  • the spirit of adventure (Search)
  • what you should/could do to support your family in times of crisis (I Can’t Sleep)
rich-and-rare

# Young and free creators in ‘Rich and Rare’

While Brodie writes diary entries to frogs (the Frog Diaries), a precious pet is lost in Carpet Capers, and a vindictive teacher makes life uncomfortable for his young students (Dr Lovechild Regrets) – but will he reap what he sows? In the mix, with many many more tales, there is a great assortment to both please and intrigue readers – indeed, too many to write about individually.

In the busyness of daily life, this anthology could be  a welcome collection. With reknowned authors, interesting genres/themes and inspirational tales to share, it provides strong but concise stories without huge time demands on readers. Perhaps ones that will inspire discovery of lengthier stories written by many of these talented creators? Indeed, there are many more stories to discover within and beyond this amazing collection.

Which is your favourite:

  • tale with the book?
  • author within the book?

Replica – what does that mean?

There are some books where writing too much in a review can spoil even the beginning of a novel. You could think here of the Book Thief, the Life of Pi and the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (which was even published without a blurb). Replica is another title, where too much information early on would spoil the twists and turns the story takes.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/children_sbookreviews/11032027/Replica-by-Jack-Heath-review.html

Author Jack Heath and cover of Replica

That said, it can be revealed that Jack Heath’s tale is one that will grip you, and have you guessing about what is real, and where the next twist in the tale might happen. Indeed, the main character, Chloe, spends a lot of time trying to understand who she is, what her role in life might be, and what sort of dangers her family and friends might be facing:

Chloe wakes up to find all her memories have been wiped. And the only person who knows what happened is a teenage girl who looks and sounds exactly like her.  [Source: http://jackheath.com.au/replica/]

As more is revealed about where Chloe is and who she is dealing with, challenges arise in the story. Will the replica be able to fool her family? Friends at school? Will that protect Chloe and her family?

There are many questions to be answered, and changing circumstances to be overcome, as our heroine makes choices in how to act and who to trust. (Great to have an active female protagonist too!) The action in the story is fast and furious, creating a page-turner where you struggle to be able to place all the pieces togther. (Can you guess some of the twists and turns ahead?)

Cleverly scripted, Replica is another book from Jack Heath, who rose to fame as a young author. Having started writing The Lab when he was 13 years old, he was given a publishing contract at the age of 18. Other titles which followed, Remote Control, Money Run and his latest titles, the Cut Out and 300 Minutes of Danger are all action-packed thrillers for young adults, and always eagerly awaited by his followers.

Jack is an author who likes to share his love for reading and writing and has many videos to promote this. In this interview from 2012, he speaks a lot about his ideas for writing, how he does it, and why. His compulsion to write and his ideas leading up to the writing of Replica, a book set in Canberra about a robot who is pretending to be a human being… are interesting to hear, especially after the release of Replica:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_19zskzVvo

Jack Heath: “Writing is what keeps me happy. (I’m) Just a guy who’s interested in stuff”.

Aren’t we lucky he is? What ideas can you pick up from this interview?

Taking a stand – ‘The Beauty is in the Walking’

the-beauty-is-in-the-walkingDoes the title of a book ever keep you wondering all the way through? Does it capture you more, or less, than the book cover?

I admit that I picked this book up based on the reputation of the author. Australian author, James Moloney has over 40  books for children and teenagers in his writing swag, along with a collection of literary awards. But the title had me puzzled.

It is only gradually that the reader is introduced to the narrator, 17-year-old Jacob O’Leary, who seems to be an average teenager – looking for friendship, his own status and love. What makes Jacob unique is his cerebral palsy (CP).

The Beauty is in the Walking shows how this impacts his daily life, his own thinking and his family’s expectations of him. Also, though he has a strong circle of friends, he is sometimes the victim of bullying. And of course, at times, even these friendships can be fickle and changeable when under pressures such as final exams and outside influences.

Set in a fictional country town in Queensland, the story raises issues about outsiders, racism, fitting in and the adolescent search for romance, against the mystery of a series of violent crimes. Jacob shows strength, determination and commitment when he believes that the police have accused the wrong person for the shocking crime that has impacted the whole community.

At the same time, he begins to question, with the help of his outspoken English teacher (Mr Svenson) and friend, Chloe, the limited opportunities set out for him after he completes Year 12. He struggles with the plan his parents have set for him (to remain in Palmerston in the family business), against the changing perception of his own potential.

Students will identify with the angst felt by Jacob, as he ventures timidly into his first romantic relationship. They will feel his pain as he deals with his mother’s protective nature, intensified since his older brother, Tyke, has left home. And older students will understand the difficulties and anxieties faced in the final days of high school. (Though students in NSW schools may question the timing of some end-of-year events)

Jacob has a lot to prove – to the community, his parents, his teachers and himself. With determination he will try – can he succeed in his ‘walk’?

Australia Day Awards!

What a great pleasure to be skimming through the Australia Day Awards to find the names of 4 amazing Australians involved in creating children’s books and promoting literacy. Applause to Geraldine Brooks, Jackie French, Ann James and Ann Haddon!

calebGeraldine Brooks (AO)

Geraldine is an author who began a career as a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald. However, she is perhaps more well known for her historical novels and non-fiction writing, having won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her second novel, March. Other books which followed, have received a popular following on best seller lists, and translations into many different languages for a world-wide audience.

Though she now lives in the United States, Geraldine has her roots here; having grown up in the Western suburbs, and attending Sydney University. As a journalist visiting the outback, she was exposed to indigenous children with a great hunger for reading; and this translated to her becoming one of the first ambassadors for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. As an author, she has also been one to share with, and inspire young writers, during school visits and writing workshops.

Her aims are clear – to encourage literacy and creativity:

“I tell them to be adventurous and unafraid, to do everything and explore every opportunity, because if it doesn’t work out, then sod it, do something else. The beauty of a writing life is there’s no one way into it.

“In all my roles I’ve tried to be open to the world and willing to receive what it has to offer in terms of diversity of thought, and at the same time I’ve tried to advance some of the very great ideas that Australia, at its best, embodies.”http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/australia-day-honours-2016-geraldine-brooks-books-are-essentially-australian-20160123-gmcc5u.html#ixzz3yJZRuBGc

frenchoam

Jackie French (AM) is also well-known to all, and was awarded this year in recognition of: significant service to literature as an author of children’s books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy.

After being recognised as last year’s ‘Senior Australian of the Year’, Jackie’s star continues to shine – in recognition of her work towards promoting literacy; especially in her recent role as Australian Children’s Laureate.

As an author of more than 140 books, Jackie is not only a household name, but an authentic patron for anyone who has struggled to read and write. In her talks to children, parents and educators, she often recounts her early struggles with dyslexia, and admits those struggles still remain. Her own personal triumphs, in learning to read and write, drive her desire for ways to be found to improve the literacy of all children:

“It has inspired my work for literacy and teacher training … every child has a right to learn to read with the methods that best suit them.” Read more at: https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30657135/childrens-author-french-takes-home-award/

Both Ann James (AM), author and illustrator of more than 60 children’s books, and Ann Haddon (AM), who has worked as a teacher librarian, have been actively involved in promoting children’s literature, and received an AM for significant service to children’s literature

After initially working as an arts and crafts teacher in Victoria, Ann James expanded her horizons into graphic design and book illustration. Her career in illustrating children’s books provides a rich legacy. Another great achievement came about when, with Ann Haddon, she co-founded the gallery, Books Illustrated. Their aim was to exhibit and promote the works of many outstanding Australian illustrators – and has included the likes of Terry Denton, Shaun Tan and Leigh Hobbs. Theirs was always a clever collaboration, as they explain on Books Illustrated:

A shared love of books, art and children inspired Ann James and Ann Haddon to establish Books Illustrated in 1988.
Together they have a unique view of the picture book industry, seen from many angles – librarian, bookseller, gallery director, writer and illustrator. http://www.booksillustrated.com.au/bi_about.php

What a fabulous collection of talents! Thank you for your inspiration and enthusiasm, and congratulations to all of you, as we celebrate Australia Day.