Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Aleesah Darlison

This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning Australian author Aleesah Darlison. Aleesah writes picture books, chapter books and novels. Her much-loved stories promote courage, understanding, anti-bullying, self-belief, teamwork and environmental themes. In 2015, she won the Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) for her picture book, Our Class Tiger. She has won numerous other awards for her writing.

Aleesah has written over thirty-five books for children and in 2016, she set up Greenleaf Press, a business designed to provide critical support services to authors and illustrators. The company also acts as a booking agency for school and preschool visits.

Today, Aleesah and I are talking about her picture book Stripes in the Forest. With National Threatened Species Day just a couple of weeks away on 7 September, it is a timely interview. Stripes in the Forest is the story of an iconic species lost.

Thylacine quote

Told from the perspective of the last wild female thylacine, it provides readers with an insight into the rare beauty and uniqueness of these amazing animals, explains their fight for survival and provides important lessons for future generations.

An emotive and moving story, children will connect with the solitary, stoic and courageous female thylacine who does all she can to protect her young – just as a human mother would do. The story takes readers to a place in the past, but also offers a twist that projects them

Contine reading: Meet Australian picture book author Aleesah Darlinson – Readilearn

Berry delightful

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries. It can be fantastical, such as the music of berries or a story that unfolds about a concert in a berry patch. Go where the prompt leads.

mulberries

When I was a child, there was a huge mulberry tree growing in the backyard of one of our neighbours who was kind enough to allow access to the multitude of children in our family. Each summer the tree would be laden with fruit and we would pull at its branches to gather as much as we could into buckets and bowls. We would go home stained with purple on our bodies and our clothes and, mostly, around our mouths. We couldn’t wait to eat and there were plenty to go around. Mum would bake mulberry pies and fill jars with mulberry jam that was delicious on our buttered bread for breakfast or lunch.

Since then, I have encountered few mulberries trees, only occasionally sourcing their leaves to feed voracious silkworm caterpillars. The berries themselves seem not to be harvested for store sales. However, I was recently reminded of Mum’s mulberry jam when I spotted some on a shelf at the Jamworks gourmet deli. I must admit though, while I resisted the mulberry jam, I couldn’t resist the fig and ginger variety.

gooseberries

The other berry that was most familiar to me as a child, but never since seen, was what we called the gooseberry. There were gooseberry plants growing by our back fence. I remember picking the berries, peeling back the outer leaves and eating the small fruit, which I think had quite a tart flavour. As I recall, Mum would also make jam, but not pies, with these.

strawberry torte

(c) Norah Colvin

I recall that, even as a young adult, a serving of strawberries and cream had seemed a very luxurious and decadent dessert. Now strawberries are more affordable and readily available all year round. They are a favourite of my granddaughter. So much so that I need to have at least one punnet in the fridge for her when she visits. A strawberry torte is my family’s pick for special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas. I wrote about it and included the recipe here.

In addition to strawberries, stores now have a variety available all year round; including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. The berries make a wonderful filling for the other family favourite, pavlova.

pavlova

(c) Norah Colvin

But do you know what a berry is?

I checked with Wikipedia for the definition of a berry, and found that it is “a fleshy fruit without a stone produced from a single flower containing one ovary”.

Botanically, the following fruits (and vegetables) are berries:

  • Grapes
  • Currants
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Coffee beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Watermelon

and these, commonly called berries, are not:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Mulberry
  • Blackberry

Do you need to change you answers to my initial questions:

What is your favourite berry?

Which berries make your taste buds sing?

Or are you happy to go with common usage? If I write about mulberries, will I be fulfilling the requirements of Charli’s prompt? Perhaps I should write about picking watermelons instead.

Mulberry picking

Mulberry Stew

Branches hung heavy with berries in reach of even the youngest child. They ate more than they bucketed; but there were plenty, including for birds singing in higher branches. Mum had forbidden them. “Mrs Wilson’s poorly. Don’t disturb her.” But they couldn’t resist. They scampered the instant she called.

“Where have you been?” She eyed the purple stains.

“We …” the youngest began to sing.

“Nowhere,” they shushed with hands concealed.

“What were you doing?”

“Nothing.”

Her lips twitched. “Hand them over.”

Later they pondered together how she knew.

When Dad got home, they’d have to face the music.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Celebrating Father’s Day – Readilearn

While many around the world celebrated Father’s Day in June, here in Australia Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September. Since that is now just a few weeks away, I thought I’d get in early with some low-cost Father’s Day gift suggestions that can be incorporated into your literacy and art programs.

A cautionary note

However, before I share them, I’ll begin with a cautionary note.

Be aware of the diversity of families in your class and the needs of individuals. Not all children have a father present in their lives, and not all fathers fit the perfect role model. While the day is not just for dads, but for grandfathers, stepfathers, and other male carers and role models too, a day to let them know how much they are appreciated; for some children, the day can be a painful reminder of someone missing. Be sure to adjust what you do to be inclusive of children’s circumstances, for example; “Celebrating a special adult in my life day”, or consider leaving any celebration to the children and their families.

Most classrooms are peopled by children from a diversity of traditions and cultures. Learning about and appreciating the similarities and differences is an important part of establishing a supportive classroom environment and encourages acceptance of and respect for each family’s composition and heritage. Suggestions to support discussions are available in readilearn History resources. Conducting Getting to know you surveys about families and who children live with can also help identify suitability of the celebration with your class.

Gifts from the heart on Father’s Day

Encouraging children to create and give a gift from the heart demonstrates that not all gifts need come from a shop. It allows children from even the poorest families to give their Dads a special Father’s Day gift. It helps develop their creativity and teaches them skills that they can apply in future gift-giving situations. It shows how thoughtfulness and imagination can combine to make a unique gift that will be treasured.

A gift of love lasts longer than any store-bought gift.

Classroom activities

  1. Read picture books featuring fathers

A few of my favourites are:

 

Continue reading: Celebrating Father’s Day – Readilearn

Sounds surround us

tinkling tree

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to create a story.

While reading Charli’s post in a motel room, I listened to an amazing chorus of birds in the trees outside. They were mostly magpies, but their song was not quite the same as that of the magpies at home, and I found it entrancing. Not long after, I went for a walk down town and serendipitously came across this beautiful tree sculpture with tinkling metal leaves. Would these sound bites be useful in responding to Charli’s challenge?

I have written about sound in other posts.

In Listen to the sounds I discussed the use of onomatopoeia in children’s picture books, including sounds made by:

  • animals,
  • machinery,
  • musical instruments, and
  • actions.

I listed pictures books that make use of each, and included a flash fiction piece about storm sounds.

In Sounds like … I wrote about the natural sounds made by some of our native wildlife; the beautiful music of our song birds heralding changes in the days and seasons; and other more unusual sounds that may alarm the unfamiliar, like that of the brushtail possum.

I wrote about the unnerving sound of mutton birds in response to Charli’s challenge in that post.

In Writing poetry with children I shared the structure of a sound poem and experimented with using the structure to write poems about other senses in a 99-word flash fiction. I also wrote about these poems on the readilearn blog. Instructions for writing the poems are available in readilearn resources, including here and here.

I wasn’t sure where to go this time, and after much consideration, found myself in more of a contemplative mood, stuck between ideas. I did what I suggest to children when they say they don’t know what to write: just write what’s in your head.

Sounds surround us

The deadline looms and I wonder how to extract a 99-word story from my unwilling brain. Contemplation, false starts, abandoned ideas: the well is dry. But listen! Outside, the day fades. Birds serenade folk hurrying homewards and signal the changing shifts. Soon they’ll sleep and the night time chorus will begin. Inside, the computer hums patiently, waiting to tap out the words. In the kitchen, doors creak: pantry then fridge. Vegetables are scraped and rinsed. Water bubbles on the stove. What joy!  Yes, I get to eat tonight; but my, how the gift of hearing enriches my world. Gratitude.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Preserving the world’s oceans with Coral Sea Dreaming – Readilearn

 

Preserve the oceans

Coral Sea Dreaming

Recently I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of Coral Sea Dreaming, the eleventh picture book by award-winning Australian author and illustrator Kim Michelle Toft.

Like her other books, Coral Sea Dreaming focuses on the underwater world and the importance of preserving it. One can’t help but be filled with wonder by the magnificence and beauty of her silk paintings with which she illustrated it.

Check out Kim’s home page for videos of her process of painting on silk, including this one of her painting the cover for Coral Sea Dreaming.

Continue reading: Preserving the world’s oceans with Coral Sea Dreaming – Readilearn

Crystalline wonders

This week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline.

In her post, Charli wrote about hunting for agates. She also mentioned many other types of rock, including quartz, chert, silica, gneiss, granite, mica… She used terms like metamorphic and fossilised, and I was transported back to my high school science classes. Sadly, I wasn’t inspired to be a rock-hound like Charli, and needed to check my understanding of these words and terms.

My research uncovered both science facts and assorted beliefs about the seemingly magical properties of agate, some of which I’ll share with you.

#12 Science facts about agate (without getting too technical):

  • A type of quartz
  • Most commonly found in volcanic rock, sometimes metamorphic
  • Fine grains and bright colours, often in bands
  • Many are hollow geodes
  • Weather resistant
  • Often found in soil or on the shoreline of waterways
  • Many different types of agate
  • Found in many different countries
  • Many uses including art and jewellery
  • Polishing, often by tumbling, helps to expose their inner beauty of colours and patterns
  • Each agate is unique
  • Can vary in size and value

Sources: Wikipedia, Minerals.net, International Gem Society

Due to the bands of colour, agate is also known as Earth’s rainbow.

A collection of beliefs about the metaphysical properties and healing powers of agate

Can be used to create balance in emotional, physical and intellectual energy of an individual and of the universe.

Worn as an amulet, it provides protection.

Different colours and types of agate are considered to have different metaphysical properties, for example; some are thought to be calming, some uplifting, others bring abundance, some have healing powers, and others bestow strength. In fact, it seems agate can help with almost everything from marketing your writing and managing your overwhelming multitude of tasks to preventing traffic accidents.

Agate is a zodiac stone for my birth sign Gemini. While I may not dare agree with it (pass me the agate. I’m sure it will help me), I rather like the description. It tells me that Gemini is the sign of the inventor and that,

Those born under this sign can see both sides of an issue. They’re flexible and can go with the flow, and can be lively and talkative, or restless and nervous depending on their setting. Those born when the Sun is in Gemini are quick thinkers, quick-witted, and quick on their feet.

Disappointingly for me, I was not born in summer. I’m a Southern Hemisphere winter Gemini baby. Does that make me the opposite?

Sources: Crystal Vaults, Crystal Healing, Crystals and Jewellery

It seems that with a small collection of differently coloured agates one could conquer almost everything, be self-aware and self-confident, courageous and strong, peaceful and healthy.  Perhaps a collection in every home, on every corner, and in every classroom, could be the answer to humanity’s problems.

#12 Agates for a classroom collection?

  • Blue – creativity, problem solving, courage
  • Banded – creates a healthy environment, removes negativity, cuts ties to negative relationships, helps seek solutions and to try new things, offers protection, encourages creativity
  • Blue lace – healing and calming, nurturing and supportive, reduces anger, reduces fear of being judged, assists with verbal expression
  • Botswana – creativity, problem solving, quit smoking, energises the brain
  • Bull’s eye – focus
  • Colorin – helps accept changes associated with aging
  • Crackled fire – energy and protection, prevents burn-out
  • Crazy lace – focus, reduces negativity
  • Dendritic – abundance, peace
  • Green – enhances thinking, improves decision making, resolving disputes
  • Laguna – builds community, improves learning, especially in mathematics
  • Moss – self-esteem, friendship skills, try again

What do you think? Is it worth a try? I know of at least one teacher who thought so. I was employed to replace her when other teachers and parents became concerned that the children weren’t learning anything useful. She may have found a sense of calm and balance, but the children were disrupted, distracted, and disengaged. Like many things, the power is in the actions we take, and not manifested by the object itself.

Charli likens rock hunting to writing. She says,

the more you show up to the beach and the page, the better your chances of finding a crystalline wonder.

I think polishing the agates to reveal their inner beauty must be a little like writing, and teaching too.

That’s one reason why I keep showing up. I don’t know that I’ll ever find a crystalline wonder, but I’m prepared to put in some effort to find out.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. It didn’t go quite where I intended and maybe not where you’d expect, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Darling Crystalline

Her mother wanted Chrystal; father, Clementine. Calm registrar decided: Baby Crystalline.

Parental spats continued as Crystalline grew up. Never in agreement, it made her so messed-up.

Crystalline retreated, spent days all on her own, searching by the water, for brightly coloured stones.

She gathered a collection that healed her aching heart, ignited self-compassion and made a brand-new start.

Believing stones worked magic, curing each and every woe, she took the heart stones with her, wherever she would go.

She shared their healing powers, with any she could find, she told them “Pay it forward. She became their darling Crystalline.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

#WATWB Roger Federer’s contribution to education

I am passionate about education and believe that education should be a force for good in the world, a tool for transforming individual lives, communities, and our collective humanity.

I was delighted to read that tennis champion Roger Federer has established a foundation to bring education to some of the poorest people in the world. According to this article, Federer set his 10-year plan in motion in 2011 and has now opened his 81st pre-school centre in Malawi. As I do, Roger Federer believes early education to be the “foundation of learning”.

Read more about the Roger Federer Foundation and its contribution to education around the world here.

This post is part of the #WATWB, a blog hop sharing good news stories that “show love, humanity, and brotherhood”.

The cohosts for this month’s blog hop are:

Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Damyanti Biswas.

If you wish to join in with #WATWB click here.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.