Category Archives: Creativity

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

A piece of pie

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a pie. You can make it any kind of pie, focus on filling or crust, or tell us about the pie-maker. How does pie set a tone in a story? Does it warm the hearth or bring disappointment?

But which pie should I choose: meat, vegetable or fruit, with pastry that is short, flaky or puff? Perhaps a piece of pie for a correct answer in Trivial Pursuit?

I considered words that rhyme with pie, and what a list I made:

what rhymes with pie

Forty-three words!

Maybe you can add even more.

Did you notice the variety of ways we spell the long vowel ī, as in the word pie?

There are eight:

aye    uy    y     ye     ai     ie     igh    and     i!

Isn’t it a wonder that any of us ever learned to read or spell.

Did you notice there were two ‘pie’s in my title: A piece of pie?

Did you notice that each time the three letters ‘pie’ were used, they represented different sounds?

As mature readers and writers we have no difficulty with any of these vagaries of the English language, but for beginners, they can be a challenge.

The challenge reminds me of “Old Lucy Lindy and the Pies” from Sounds of Laughter in the Sounds of Language Series by Bill Martin Jnr. In the story, Lucy Lindy loves to bake pies. She bakes all kinds of pies, including mince pies. Since all her pies looked the same with their delicious layer of pastry on the top, Lucy Lindy wanted to be sure she knew which pies were which when she took them out of the oven. She came up with a brilliant plan. She put the initials IM on the mince pies, for Is Mince. Then, on the pies that weren’t mince, she put the initials IM, for Isn’t Mince. Children laugh out loud when they realise it wasn’t such a clever plan after all.

A Necklace of Raindrops

Another lovely story for young children is “There’s some Sky in this Pie” from the collection A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken. The story has a cumulative structure similar to that of The Gingerbread Man, but with an additional sprinkle of creativity that could be used to ignite children’s own imaginative stories.

When the old woman was making a pie for the old man, she looked outside at the snow “coming down so fast out of the white sky.

“Then she went on rolling the pastry. But what do you think happened? A little corner of the sky that she had been looking at got caught in the pastry.”

When the pie was cooked and the old woman opened the oven, the pie floated across the room. The woman and man and their cat jumped onto the pie to try to stop it, but they couldn’t, and they floated away on it. From time to time they met others who called out to them,

“Old woman, old man, little puss, so high,

Sailing along on your apple pie,

Why are you floating across the sky?”

They answered:

“Because we can’t stop, that’s the reason why.”

(Notice those different ways of spelling the long ī sound again – three spellings in that short extract.)

Lucy Lindy and the Sky in the Pie are light-hearted and imaginative stories.

Recipe for a Perfect Planet Pie

Another favourite pie story is Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie by Kim Michelle Toft, an Australian author/illustrator and the only illustrator anywhere to illustrate all her stories with silk paintings.

I have shared some of Kim’s work with you before here and here, and I’m certain to again as I attended the launch of her eleventh picture book Coral Sea Dreaming on the weekend and have scheduled a readilearn interview with her later in the year.

Kim is passionate about conservation, especially of our marine environment and its inhabitants. In each of her books, she uses her stunning silk paintings to ignite a wonderment in the natural world and inspire a love of and caring for the environment. Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie continues these themes.

The book reads like a recipe with a list of ingredients, a method, fourteen step-by-step instructions, and “Helpful hints” on each page. The recipe begins:

1 To prepare the base. Sift the rich chocolate earth and crystallised minerals together. Make a well and pour in one cloud full of rain.”

and concludes:

“Serve pie immediately with a side of love and a slice of happiness.”

At the end of the book, Kim includes information about the pie’s ingredients and the importance of each. She provides suggestions that we can implement to help create a happy, healthy planet and says,

“Planet Earth is our only home and it is up to us to create change and put our knowledge into action.”

I’m sure you’ll agree with that.

For my response to Charli’s challenge I decided to go with a bit of nonsense and see how many of the rhyming words I could use to construct a pie story and still maintain some sort of sense. I wonder how successful you will think I’ve been. I managed to incorporate 28 and at least one from each of the spelling variants.

A piece of pie

Kye met Jai at the mall.

Hi,” said Kye.

“Nice day,” replied Jai. “Look at that sky. Wish I could fly.”

“Time for a chai?”

Aye. And maybe a pie. I’ll buy.”

“What a great guy!”

“I try!”

“I’ll have toasted rye.”

They sat high by the window and played “I spy.”

“Oh my,” said Kye, rubbing his eye.

“What? Why?

Kye started to cry.

“Don’t mean to pry.” Sigh.

“It’s no lie. The end is nigh.”

“Will we all fry? Will everyone die?”

“No, just wish I had your piece of pie.”

Fie! Wish I had Thai!”

Bye.”

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

Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

This month I am delighted to introduce you to the very talented illustrator Muza Ulasowski. I’m certain you will find her illustrations to be quite remarkable.

Although Muza has illustrated many books, I first came across her work in the beautiful picture book Forest Wonder, written by Caroline Tuohey. It is Forest Wonder, a winner of international awards, that Muza and I are discussing today. Before we get started on the interview, first let me tell you a little about Muza.

 Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that

Continue reading: Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

Ready for landing

Air travel wasn’t available when I was a child, or not for me anyway. I am unable to recall anyone in my circles, family or friend, who travelled anywhere by air. Perhaps we weren’t an adventurous lot, but air travel wasn’t as easy, affordable, comfortable, quick, or commonplace as it is now.

Though I’d often thought I’d love to be a bird soaring above the world, I was a young adult before I experienced my first flight. I was entranced by the land below as I sailed on the wind in a glider, like a bird on the wing.

It was a couple of years later that I had my first plane fight, and many years later before I travelled internationally. Yes, I’ve lived a sheltered life. Like many of the younger generations, my grandchildren have already experienced air travel, both within Australia and internationally. They would require almost as many fingers as I to count plane trips.

Whether travelling or not, airports are always a great place to visit with children. There is much to observe, learn, wonder about, and imagine.

Watching planes take off and land can fascinate children, and encourage all sort of questions, not only about the physics of flight, but the types and features of planes, the airlines, and where they are going to or coming from.

People watching can also be absorbing and encourage even more questions about the jobs people are doing and the reasons for them, where the people are going to or coming from, and who they are travelling with.

There is much to see and learn about, like passports, boarding passes, security scanners, customs officers, flight attendants, cleaners, retailers, baggage handlers, check-in operators. Or there were, until recently. Some of these roles have now been automated.

The boards showing arrivals and departures can spark discussions about places around the world, the people who live there, and who might be travelling to or from each location and for what purpose.

The currency exchange tellers with their constantly changing figures can lead to even more discussions.

I’m sure I’ve omitted more than I’ve included and that you can add many other points of interest.

But knowledge of what goes on in airports is not all that can be developed. Children’s imaginations can also be inspired. Observation tells so much. The gaps can be filled by imaginations creating stories of what might be.

I was doing my share of people watching recently while waiting for the arrival of daughter Bec on a flight from Canberra. People were coming and going, some hurriedly, others more relaxed. Some were obviously waiting for their own flights, others waited with them. Others, like I was, were waiting for the arrival of family or friend.

Sadly, we were all to be disappointed. Brisbane experienced an unusual weather event – dense evening fog which prevented planes from landing or taking off. Bec’s plane turned back to Canberra mid-flight. At least she was returned home. It wasn’t so for some of the other passengers, stranded for additional days away from their destination, be it home, holiday or other.

Evening fog in Brisbane is unusual; morning fog, less so. Last year when returning from LA, my flight was diverted to Coolangatta. Fortunately, disruptions to travel caused by fog are not frequent.

But why am I thinking about planes and airports?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead.

This is where my thoughts landed after a foggy start.

Ready for landing

“Are we there yet?”’

“Not yet, Honey. Look. This is us. This is where we’re going. Another couple of hours. Watch a movie. Then we’ll be almost there.”

Mum replaced her mask and earplugs. Soon there’d be others to entertain Flossie while she relaxed on the beach or caught up with old friends.

She hadn’t realised she’d drifted off until Flossie’s insistent, “How much longer?” awakened her.

“Must be soon,” she flicked on the flight tracker.

“Please fasten your seatbelts for landing.”

“Yep. Almost there.”

“DIVERTED” flashed on and off the screen.

“What! Where?” She squinted. “Home! Why?”

Fog!

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

Shine a light

The flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Charli writes about our fear of change, fear of the unknown, and of the need for guides “to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals.” She suggests that “Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences.” but also acknowledges that, “Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

I see education as the way that will bring us to a “new harbour”, the light that will “shine a path to bridge cultural differences”. Sadly, as I say in my poem about education, there is far too much emphasis on schooling and not enough on education, too much desire to keep the masses down by the insistence on conformity and ignorance rather than the encouragement of creativity.

© Norah Colvin

I was well-schooled as a child, but have spent my adulthood exploring what it means to be educated and promoting the benefits of a learner-centred education as opposed to other-directed schooling. I read of a book about “teaching backward”, beginning with what the student needs to know and working backwards. (Needs as determined by others, not the student.) I’d rather teach forwards, beginning with what the student wants to know and going from there.

When my earliest teaching experiences fell short of my expectations, I searched for the beacons to guide my way out of the murkiness in which I found myself. I devoured books by John Holt, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Paolo Freire, and others, with ideas about education and schooling that were as challenging as they were exciting. I read of innovative educators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner.

The ideas challenged what I’d been taught but blended comfortably what I had learned through observation of children, including my own young child, and relating it to my own experiences. The pieces began to fit.

At about the same time, I undertook further studies in literacy learning and was fortunate to work with a team of inspired educators led by Brian Cambourne, whose work and guidance placed the piece that helped the puzzle take shape, and guided my learning journey.

Beacons, or shining lights, that guide and inspire us, are as essential to our growth as sunlight is for plants. Educators such as those mentioned, and more recently, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, and many others, are such beacons. We are constantly told of the success of the Finnish school system and I wonder why it is that those holding the power in other school systems fail to see their light. We need at least one to rise above the fog of number crunching and data collecting to see the bright lights shining on the hill.

Is it fear, as Charli suggests, that keeps them out of the water? I watched the movie Monsters Inc on the weekend. It seems to deal with the issue of controlling the masses with falsehoods and fear quite well. It is also a great laugh – one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

I’ve attempted a similar situation with my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope it works.

Let there be light

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

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

 

Security comforters

Many young children have a favourite soft toy or item which they cart around with them and can’t be without. Linus with his security blanket in the Charlie Brown comics is a good example.

The strong emotional attachment to an object, most commonly something soft and cuddly, generally occurs during  those years before school age when children are making the transition from total dependence to independence.

One of my children had a mohair blanket which seemed to be constantly with her. She would twirl and tease the hair until she had a little ball of fluff which she rolled between her fingers and used to caress her nose as she sucked her thumb. I would find little balls of fluff all over the house and, over a couple of years of such treatment, ‘Blankie” became quite threadbare.

I knew children who had favourite dolls they dragged around everywhere. They would become quite distressed if their dolls could not be found.

I knew children who could not be without their “Blankie” so mothers bought two identical so that one could replace the other while it was being washed.

Whatever the focus, it never seemed to matter how old, tatty, and frayed the items became, they were loved no less.

Newer toys and blankets made of microfibres are very soft and comforting, and perhaps more durable.

I don’t remember having a special toy or blanket for security. Do you?

Chances are, if I had one, I would have destroyed it somehow in attempting to discover its properties, as I was known to do with other toys. In my mind it wasn’t destruction, it was discovery. (Is that the excuse of those who invent weapons of mass destruction?)

Or possibly my lack of memory is more related to the fact that we have very few memories of our earliest years. According to this article by Australian science communicator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, childhood amnesia may be related to neurogenesis. The rapid increase of new nerve cells in those formative years means that the old nerve cells are over-written and hence memories erased.

The need for these comforters in young children is generally outgrown by the time children are of school age. The toys and blankets are discarded and forgotten as the children mature and other activities fill their time and minds.

But for children experiencing higher levels of insecurity and anxiety, the need may continue. For Marnie, a character about whom I wrote many flash fiction stories, a unicorn toy was of comfort when she was feeling particularly vulnerable. Her need for it continued into her early school years and its appearance was an indicator to teachers that things were going badly for her again. When, as a confident adult, she returned to her childhood home, she found she had long outgrown the unicorn that had given her comfort as a child..

I’m thinking about security objects and flash fiction again this week in response to Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something frayed. It could be fabric, like a flag or garment. It could also be nerves or temper. What is it to be frayed?

However, I haven’t written about Marnie and her unicorn this time, but something else that’s frayed. I hope you enjoy it.

Second-hand store

He’d perched on the stool for longer than anyone knew. Though his coat was threadbare and his bowtie frayed, nothing could erase his smile as he waited daily for a tinkle announcing a potential buyer. The days, though long, were not too long for one as imaginative as he, conjuring stories for items cluttering the shelves.

One day a woman in a large blue hat and floral coat examined everything in the store, so quietly, he’d forgotten she was there. She startled him saying, “I’ll take him.”

Lovingly restored, he took his place alongside others in the Toy Museum.

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

 

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn