Last week (on Dianne Wolfer – Author) I posted a photo of my first batch of summer reads. I’m making good progress and have already finished Kate Constable’s New Guinea Moonwhich I very much enjoyed. The story has satisfying and unexpected twists. It’s marketed at a YA audience but like so many teen novels is just as enjoyable for adults. I’m drawn to books with PNG settings; three of my own works unfold there (The Shark Calleris set in the New Ireland Province and Photographs in the Mudis set along the Kokoda Track in 1942). The backdrop for New Guinea Moon is in the Highlands, pre-independence, a time when things are changing for both Nationals and expat Australians. Kate grew up in PNG and her use of local language and culture rings true.
My next read was fun. I have several ideas bubbling for emerging readers and so have been reading titles from the hugely successful I Can Read! series. Think Berenstain Bears, Fancy Nancy and Flat Stanley. Danny and the Dinosaur – Too Tall is a great example of a concise book with exciting characters and a compelling, exciting plot. How on earth does Syd Hoff weave this magic in 32 pages? Stories with depth that appear ‘simple’ are hard to create – editing, shaping, editing …
Michael Morpungo’s books make me cry. They are so good. I love animal characters and Morpungo is a Master of creating stories with powerful links between animals and humans and thought-provoking moments in history. After re-reading his poignant and lovely I Believe in Unicorns, I’ve been visiting Michael Morpungo’s website. I knew he was a prolific writer and I loved Shadow (set in Afghanistan), but there are so many others that look enticing. Perhaps I’ll spend summer reading all his animal novels… I’ve also just noticed that this month he’s releasing Lucky Button. After the synchronicity of the War Horse movie being released just before the launch of Light Horse Boy, I’m glad my Nanna’s Button Tin came out in June.
I’ll be posting more Summer reading blogs over the next few months. My Want-to-Read book tower is tall but I always love hearing recommendations …
This afternoon something special arrived in the mail. After publication delays beyond my control, I’m so excited to at last hold my new picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin. Heather Potter’s illustrations are beautiful and every time I read the story I find lovely details in her artwork. The release date with Walker Books is June 1st but here is a first sneak peek…
The story was inspired by memories of playing with my mum’s and grandmothers’ button tins. I loved tipping their tins upside down, sorting shapes and colours and looking for my favourite buttons. Some buttons held special memories; a favourite party dress or a bear-shaped button from a cardigan. The book is dedicated to every Nanna with a button tin.
I couldn’t have hoped for a better first review than the one published in the current issue of Books+Publishing by esteemed publisher, academic, author (and more) Margaret Hamilton AM. She writes: …The heart-warming story is sensitively told in simple and expressive language. The reader is invited to join this loving family to experience the special relationship between a small girl and her nanna and to relive treasured family memories, all through the special buttons in nanna’s jar… Stories about family togetherness are very important in the life of a child. They reinforce family experiences and loving relationships, and when they are as warmly portrayed as those in this book, they become keepsakes.
Thank you Heather, Editor Mary Verney and the rest of the team at Walker Books.
The story set in 1942, explores Kokoda from two perspectives; through the eyes of an Australian soldier and also from a Japanese soldier’s point of view. The book was inspired by a story I heard during my 2002 trek from Kokoda airstrip across the Owen Stanley range to Ower’s Corner (near Port Moresby). During one bloody battle, two soldiers locked in combat, rolled down the steep mountainside away from the main battle. They found themselves alone and injured in a jungle ditch. This moment and the imagined aftermath became the core of my story with a theme of common humanity.
Although mostly fictitious, Photographs in the Mud was inspired by an incident experienced by Kokichi Nishimura, a soldier of the 2/144th Regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army. Mr Nishimura’s amazing life story, including his return to PNG to collect the bones of war dead, was later explored in Charles Happell’s The Bone Man of Kokoda.
My picture book, published in 2005 by Fremantle Press and illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever, has been utilised as an international peace reference. It’s suitable for middle primary readers through to senior high school and is often used in visual literacy units. Teaching notes and more details, including photos of a much younger me, can be found on my website.
The West Australian Young Readers WAYRBA have announced their three shortlists and I’m thrilled that The Shark Calleris included amongst the 16 titles in the 2016 Older Readers’ category. I’m in good company; the list features six international books, nine from Australia and one fellow West Australian title; Norm Jorgensen’s fun The Smuggler’s Curse. There are also lists for Younger Readers and Picture Books with terrific Australian titles on both.
Being shortlisted for a children’s choice award is a wonderful thing. Committed teachers and librarians make up many judging panels, but when the power to choose is handed over to kids it makes being selected such an honour. Young readers make honest critics. As part of the judging process they’re asked to read titles on the lists and evaluate them as ‘terrific’, ‘good’, ‘okay’ or ‘awful.’ Fingers crossed that my ‘Shark’ doesn’t receive too many of the latter!
For WA creators there are still challenges involved in bringing a book to the attention of readers – there are so many other great books from interstate and overseas. The annual WAYRBA lists help ensure that Australian settings such as ‘Abalone Cove’ (Greens Pool) and Broome, which appear in The Shark Caller, reach a wider readership. Thank you to the organising committee for their hard work behind the scenes and teachers, please help your students access the WAYRBA titles, encourage them to vote – and to be gentle with the ‘awful’ slips…
In addition to the amazing books that are shortlisted, here is a quick shout-out for Frane’ Lessac’s terrific new picture book, A is for Australia.
My favourite page is the Rottnest Island spread. With lots of fun facts, it’s a great Bookweek resource.
This year I’ll be at Newman College, Mel Maria Primary, Presbyterian Ladies College and Iona Presentation College for Bookweek. I’ll also be in Paraburdoo as part of Rio Tinto’s Groundbreaker Pilbara Exhibition. I’m looking forward to meeting hundreds of young readers and hearing all about their favourite Australian stories.
The pilot scheme began in 2004 with six WA libraries providing reading packs to the families of newborn babies. What a wonderful way to encourage a love of reading!
Since then, the program has grown and includes far flung communities from Wyndham to Esperance. Each year over 60,000 families receive a Better Beginnings reading pack. I’m honoured that Granny Grommet and Me, my picture book with illustrator, Karen Blair is one of the 30 recommended books for 4 and 5 year olds. And the cover image sits beside one of my all-time favourite stories, Harry the Dirty Dog.
Better Beginnings is sponsored by state and local government as well as Rio Tinto. This year, to commemorate 50 years since iron ore ship, Houn Maru left Dampier for Japan, Rio Tinto is facilitating the Groundbreaker Pilbara Tour.
Last week I travelled from Perth to Wickham in the Pilbara to help celebrate Rio’s ongoing link with Better Beginnings.
While I was there, I met lovely Pre-Primary to Year Two students from Wickham Primary. They were keen readers and we had fun sharing stories. I even met the son of one of the real Granny Grommets.
Before my sessions I squeezed in some sightseeing, with a quick trip to the old port of Cossack, the Burrup peninsula and a selfie with the wonderful Red Dog.
In August I will be visiting two other Pilbara communities as part of the Groundbreaker Tour. On 19th August I’ll be in Dampier and then on 22nd August I will travel to Paraburdoo. Thanks to the Rio Tinto organisers. I’m looking forward to meeting more Better Beginnings readers soon …