Tag Archives: Australian picture books

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

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.

Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

This week, from 2 – 9 July, is NAIDOC Week in Australia with celebrations occurring all around the country. The purpose of the week is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Islander Peoples and acknowledge their contributions to our country. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

The theme of this year’s celebration is Our Languages Matter. When Europeans first arrived in Australia a little more than 200 years ago, more than 250 Indigenous languages were in use across the land. As the languages were spoken, not written, many of these languages have been erased. Fewer than half that number remain, and many of the young people are no longer familiar with the language of their ancestors.

According to the NAIDOC website,

“The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.”

This article in the Conversation provides a little more information about Australian Indigenous languages and the Dreaming.

By now, NAIDOC Week celebrations are almost over, and most Australian school children are enjoying their mid-year break. However, many teachers will be looking for ways to share the celebrations with their students when school resumes. As any time is a good time to incorporate learning about Indigenous culture and history, in this post, I provide links

Continue reading: Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

Curiosity, dead chooks, science and the S.T.E.M. push

Curiosity, questioning and science are recurring themes on my blog. How could a post entitled “Curiosity, dead chooks, science and the  S.T.E.M. push” not appeal to me? While I don’t think I’ve written about dead chooks, yet, when I was six I was the best chicken catcher in the family and I definitely saw a few chooks running around with their heads chopped off!
In this post Sheryl Gwyther talks about the awakening of her scientific questioning at age four when seeing a similar a spectacle. The transcript of a talk delivered to other authors “Children are born scientists … It’s called curiosity” (my words exactly!) is included in the post. Sheryl urges authors to include science in their writing for children and suggests three rules for doing so:
Never be didactic
Entertain
Create characters that children can connect with
While she doesn’t say it in so many words, I think the message of keeping the science accurate is implied. (I have questioned the inaccuracy in The Very Hungry Caterpillar in previous posts.)
Sheryl’s closing paragraphs motivate and inspire writers. She says,
“We have the opportunity, the passion and hopefully, the commitment to reach out to young Australian children through stories about the wonder of science, and the responsibility for their future custody of this planet.
Great stories, cleverly laced with scientific understanding not didactic waffle.
Great stories to make them feel and think, and question.
Great stories – for the sake of their future on this planet.”

Some of the authors from my celebration of Australian picture book series are doing just that:
Kim Michelle Toft
Narelle Oliver
Jeannie Baker
Please read Sheryl’s post in its entirety. She offers much good advice and inspiration. You can find out more about Sheryl by following these links:
Sheryl Gwyther SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor Queensland Public Profile
Author webpage
Author blog
Twitter

Thank you

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

A celebration of Australian picture books #4 — Narelle Oliver

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

Narelle Oliver

In this post I introduce you to Narelle Oliver, a Brisbane-based author and illustrator. There is much to explore on Narelle’s site, including: information about her writing process and tips for would-be picture book authors; the research involved in creating her books, many of which are about nature; and illustration techniques that involve the use of linocut printing and rubbing, and other assorted media.

Narelle conducts workshops for children and adults. She visits schools to share with children the wonder of her books and talks to them about her writing and illustrating processes. When she visited “my” school she brought along first thoughts and illustrations for, and a dummy book of, The Very Blue Thingamajig, plus a soft toy prototype – and we all wanted one! She also brought a fox from the museum and talked about illustrating Fox and fine feathers. She read to the children, involved them in activities and gave them an experience of linocut printing. It was fascinating for both children and teachers.

Narelle talks about her workshops and sessions in this video.

While you can find a complete list of Narelle’s books here, I will share those I have on my bookshelf (in no particular order).

2015-09-19 11.14.10

The Very Blue Thingamajig is as story about difference and acceptance told in a fun way involving mathematical concepts of patterns, counting and days of the week. The colourful illustrations made using hand-coloured linocuts are appealing, and children love to find the little bird who provides a secondary story throughout the book. On Narelle’s fun page you can colour and decorate your own thingamajig.

2015-09-19 11.11.44

Dancing the Boom Cha Cha Boogie is a gorgeous tale of three little murmels who are washed out to sea in an arkel and arrive on a foreign shore where they are not welcomed by the resident snigs. They are imprisoned until when, the arkel is repaired, they are to leave. At night a young snig releases the murmels who teach the snig to have fun. In the end the murmels are accepted and stay happily in Snigdom with the snigs, learning from and enjoying each other’s company. This book is illustrated with hand-coloured linocuts.

2015-09-19 11.13.26

Fox and fine feathers is a story of friendship, of looking out for each other and keeping each other safe. The attention to detail in these linocut illustrations coloured with pencils and pastels is amazing and accurately depicts the five creatures and the forest setting. Narelle has supported the story with information about the birds, their habitat and the dangers imposed by the feral fox, which is now a serious threat, along with other feral animals, to native species in Australia.

2015-09-19 11.12.23

Narelle Oliver Collection of three stories: Leaf Tail, The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay and The Hunt.

  • Leaf Tail, Narelle’s first picture book, illustrated by beautiful linocuts, tells the story of a leaf tail gecko and the importance of camouflage to survival in the Queensland forest.
  • The Best Beak in Boonaroo Bay, also illustrated with hand-coloured linocuts, tells of a squabble between five different birds, each professing its own beak to be the best. Finally clever pelican holds a contest that enables the birds to see that each beak is best in its own way. As well as a delightful story about wildlife, it also provides a springboard into discussions about, and appreciation of, differences.
  • The Hunt is another beautifully illustrated wildlife story of camouflage and survival. The story is supported with information about its setting and the workings of animal camouflage and disguise. There are also black and white drawings showing where to find the animals camouflaged in each illustration. It is fun to see if all the animals can be found without referring to the guide.

2015-09-19 11.15.11

Home, referred to in a previous post Home or away, is perhaps a favourite if only because it is based on a true story of a pair of peregrine falcons that nested at the top of a 27-storey building in the city of Brisbane. The birds, named Frodo and Frieda, fascinated a city and, for a while, had their own reality show “Frodocam”. The story, beautifully illustrated using a combination of media including linocut rubbings, collage, photographs, pencil, pastels and watercolours, tells of the adaptation of wildlife to new landscapes and environments.

Each of these books can be appreciated for its story or used as a springboard for discussion. The illustrations appeal to adults and children alike for the attention to detail and accurate representation of wildlife. The addition of supporting information encourages an appreciation for wildlife and their habitats and develops an awareness of the need for their protection. They would be a wonderful addition to any book collection and be much appreciated as gifts.

Thank you

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

A celebration of Australian picture books #1

Recently my friend Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark: Navigating the Unchartered Waters of Parenting and Life, shared a series of posts about first lines (paragraphs, sentences and pages). She discussed the importance of hooking the reader and shared some of her favourite first lines from a variety of genres. When she shared picture books I was inspired to share some by our many wonderful Australian authors and illustrators.

These are just some of the Australian picture books I quickly located on my shelves:

Australian picture books

I own multiple titles of some authors’ work, and of others’ I own but one or two. Sadly, there are many whose work I don’t own. There are too many wonderful books to share in just one post so I have decided to write a series with a post dedicated to each author of whose work I own multiple titles, including Mem Fox, Narelle Oliver, Jeannie Baker and Kim Michelle Toft (and I might sneak in New Zealander Pamela Allen).

In this post I share some lovely books, their first lines (according to Sarah’s definition) and tell you a little about why they are on my shelves.

For this series I have commandeered “celebration” as a collective noun for Australian picture books so it is fitting that the first I share is A Compendium of Collective Nouns by Jennifer Skelly.

A Compendium of Collective Nouns

This delightful little book was a gift from my grandchildren (chosen by their mother). In the introduction Jennifer asks, “Do you remember laughing when you first learned that a group of crows is called a murder? Or a group of owls is called a parliament?” Like me, Jennifer has always been interested in collective nouns but, unlike me, she has published a collection of them. Her beautiful drawings illustrate collections such as “a crash of rhinoceroses”, “a flamboyance of flamingos” and “a wisdom of wombats”, but who ever heard of “a rabble of butterflies”?

While there are a number of Hippopotamus on the Roof books I have only the original, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards (illustrated by Deborah Niland).

There's a Hippopotamus on the Roof Eating Cake

It begins,

“Our roof leaks.

Drip!

Drip!

Drip!

My Daddy says there’s a hole in our roof.

I know why there’s a hole.

There’s a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake.”

The copy on my shelf actually belongs to Bec. Her dad bought it for her on a trip back home to Belfast in 1990. He went all the way to Belfast and brought her back an Australian picture book! A good one though.

In this video Hazel Edward talks about the original idea for the book, other contributing ideas and changes as well as the the important relationship between author and reader. She also reads the book.

Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan (illustrated by Pamela Lofts) is a favourite.

Wombat Stew

It begins,

“One day, on the banks of a billabong, a very clever dingo caught a wombat …

and decided to make  …

Wombat stew,

Wombat stew,

Gooey, brewy,

Yummy, chewy,

Wombat stew!”

The amusing story tells how the animals trick the dingo and save wombat from his fate. It is a great book to read aloud with its rhythmic language and repetition of the song “Wombat stew” with slight word changes each time. Children enthusiastically join in with the reading and love acting it out. One year I wrote a play with my year one class and they performed it for the school and their parents. It was a lot of fun.

Little Bat

Little Bat by Tania Cox (illustrated by Andrew McLean) begins

“Little Bat was nervous.

She’d never done this before.”

With the encouragement of her mother and other animal friends, Little Bat discovers that she can fly. I like the story’s positive message that if you try you can succeed. Books with this theme were always popular and inspired lots of discussion in my classroom.

When I saw When the Wind Changed by Ruth Park (illustrated by Deborah Niland) in a bookstore, I had to have it for my bookshelf! When I was a child I, like Josh, must have been good at making faces, because my mother was always telling me that if the wind changed I’d stay like that. Well, I don’t think that happened to me, but it did to Josh! The book begins

“There was this boy named Josh.

He could do lots of things.

There was one thing he could do best of all.

He could make faces.”

Of course one day the inevitable happens! Fortunately the story has a happy ending, for Josh anyway – I’m not so sure about Dad!

Are you familiar with any of these books? Have you seen them in bookstores near you? What books by Australian authors have you read?

Thank you

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