Tag Archives: Australian picture book authors

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.

A celebration of Australian picture books #6 — Jackie French

If-you-want-intelligent children

This post is the sixth in a series celebrating picture books by Australian authors. If you missed earlier posts, please follow these links to the introduction, Mem Fox, Kim Michelle Toft, Narelle Oliver and Jeannie Baker.

In this post I reintroduce you to Jackie French, prolific and well-known Australian author and advocate for literacy and the environment. She is currently the Australian Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians. In January she received an Australian of the Year Award for her contribution to literacy. Jackie’s words from her acceptance speech “If you want intelligent children, give them a book” resonated with me.

You can listen to Jackie’s acceptance speech in its entirety here:

These are some of my favourite quotes from the speech:

Failure-is-not-an-option

A-book-can-change-the

There-is-no-such-thing

Jackie has written over 140 books and won more than 60 awards. I am not going to share all of Jackie’s books here; just a few of her picture books that I own. This complete(ish) list of her books indicates the range of genres in which Jackie writes. Although in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Mark Rifidi Jackie describes it differently. She says,

“People assume I write in different genres. From my point of view I don’t. Whether it’s history, ecology, or the fiction I’m writing about now, it’s all grounded in the way of life here and the landscape here.”

(Jackie lives a self-sufficient life in the Araluen valley on the edge of the Deua wilderness area.)

jackie french's books

These are the four of Jackie’s picture books that I currently own. I have read others and given others away as gifts. While these four are illustrated by Bruce Whatley, Bruce is not the only illustrator of her work.

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Diary of a Wombat is probably Jackie’s best known and most popular picture book. This is what Jackie says about it, as recorded in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants:

Diary of a Wombat isn’t fiction … (it) is pretty much a week in the life of Mothball, who is one of the wombats that got fed last night” 

The seeming simplicity of the text coupled with Bruce Whatley’s gorgeous illustrations make this book a joy to read, over and over.

In the book Mothball sleeps, eats, scratches, eats, sleeps, and easily trains humans to be “quite good pets”.

You can listen to Jackie read it here.

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A sequel to the Diary, Baby Wombat’s Week is pretty much a week in the life of Mothball’s baby. It is just as delightful and humorous as the original story with new adventures and escapades; but still lots of sleeping and eating.

There are two other books in the series: Wombat Goes to School and Christmas Wombat. The Secret World of Wombats is a non-fiction text exploring “everything you ever wanted to know about wombats.”

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Josephine Wants to Dance is a delightful story of a kangaroo who loved to dance but dreamed of dancing another way. One day the ballet came to town and Josephine decided that was how she wanted to dance. Though others discouraged her, Josephine was determined to give it a try. It is a lovely story of believing in yourself and following your dreams.

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Too Many Pears is another delightful and humorous story with illustrations that add interest and humour. (It reminds me a little of the battle Charli Mills had with gophers in her vegetable patch.)

Pamela, a cow, loves pears. She loves them straight from the tree, in pies, with ice cream … any way she can get them. Amy and her family have to figure out a way of stopping Pamela from eating all their pears. They do. But then Pamela spies the apples!

I am happy to recommend each of these books. They will not disappoint. Jackie’s text coupled with Bruce’s perfectly matched illustrations continue to delight during repeated readings.

Jackie’s website too is a treasure trove of interesting stuff. On her Kids’ Facts and Info for School Projects page she shares her writing process and a lot of other information that would be of interest to writers as well as to kids. She also has a page of Writing  Tips and Advice and a page about How to Get Kids Reading, topics close to my heart.

In addition to illustrating Jackie’s books, Bruce Whatley writes and illustrates books of his own as well as those of other authors. In a recent post I talked about drawing on the right side of your brain. In this video Bruce challenges everyone to have a go at drawing with their left hand. Is that engaging the right side of your brain?

I am very grateful to Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark, for alerting me to Standing on the Shoulders of Giants by Mark Rifidi just in time for this post. Thank you Sarah and Mark. I’m certain I will be having more to say about Mark’s book in future posts. It is a great resource celebrating the work of 20 Australian picture book authors and illustrators.

In the final paragraph of her biography chapter in Mark’s book, Jackie says,

“The one thing you show readers by writing about history is not to be afraid of change. Tomorrow always is going to be different from yesterday. It always has been. But human beings are extraordinarily good survivors, superb adapters. We are very good at creating a sort of world that we want. Books are perhaps the most effective tool to help us find it.”

I like her thinking!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.