Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breakers, burgers, and stories for my nine-year-old self:

Today was a rare Saturday, one in which my Dad was in town and none of us had to juggle pre-existing plans. Miraculous! So we took a little family road trip down south, just one of those ambling, rambling drives that we never seem to get to do anymore. Just before we headed out the door, I grabbed Jennifer L Holm's Turtle in Paradise from my to-read pile, thinking it might be just the thing for roadtrip reading.

It turned out to be the perfect story for a sun-kissed afternoon on the coast (an afternoon in which wind and waves and whales and burgers and lighthouses featured heavily) because Turtle in Paradise is set in Florida's Key West during the '30s and having the wind in my hair and the tang of salt on my tongue made it all the more easy to dive into the dirt-between-your-toes, turtle-soup tale of childhood. It was everything my nine-year-old self could have desired. To begin with, the blunt and opinionated narrator, Turtle, makes lots of references to life as an orphan (even though, strictly speaking, she's not motherless; her mother has just sent her to live with relatives during the summer). I was obsessed with the idea of orphanages when I was young. Like Turtle, I overdosed on Little Orphan Annie and her world sounded kind of amazing. Then, too, there are kids roaming free in a neighbourhood that exists just to foster their spirit of adventure -- without letting things get too dangerous. There's a hint of a family mystery and also some buried treasure. Perfect summer kids' reading.

The grown up part of me appreciated things that my nine-year-old self would've missed. I loved the gentle discussion of the Depression and the particular challenges it posed for the working class. I loved the portrayal of solid, healthy adults who grieve and struggle and make mistakes, but who are safe and good people. I also enjoyed the historical details that slipped into the text in perfectly natural ways.

In spite of some serious and challenging concepts like poverty, illegitimacy, family conflict, and deception (all of which are discussed in really sensible ways), this is a sunshiny book. After spending a lot of time in young adult fiction lately, it's been nice to be reminded of the sweetness of junior fiction. I know my niece Amelia will love reading this one in a few years' time.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A baby and a legend:

I hope I don't ever get to be so grown up that I lose the thrill of seeing my little words in print. At this point, I'm far from such a level of maturity because when today's mail brought with it the September issue of The School Magazine's Touchdown, I was verging on the edge of delirious. What joy to flip to page 20 and find out that my short story, Remember, had been illustrated by Premier's Literary Award and CBCA Award-winning picture book creator, Aaron Blabey.

As a baby in this business of telling stories, it's such a thrill to see something I've written interpreted into pictures by a genuine professional creative dude who does this stuff for a living -- and does it beautifully. I'm really honoured.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Australian children's books of the year 2013:

I'm likely repeating myself when I say that I have a high opinion of Australian literary awards. I know that awards of any kind are often frought with controversy, but I think literary awards are important for the publishing industry, for the development of literary culture, and for the writers themselves. Awards are also great for readers, because, in spite of their flaws and the fact that any prize is subjective and influenced by so many details, awards provide readers with a list of books which a number of intelligent and thoughtful people have examined and found to be not just worthy of reading, but seriously seriously recommended.

A week and a bit ago, the Children's Book Council of Australia award winners for 2013 were announced, and the lineup looks great.

Book of the Year: Older Readers 
(Note: these books are for mature readers)
Winner Margo Lanagan, Sea Hearts
Honour Books Neil Grant, The Ink Bridge + Vikki Wakefield, Friday Brown

Book of the Year: Younger Readers 
Winner Sonya Hartnett, The Children of the King
Honour Books Jackie French, Pennies for Hitler  + Glenda Millard, ill. Stephen Michael King, The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk

Book of the Year: Early Childhood
Winner Emma Allen ill. Freya Blackwood, The Terrible Suitcase 
Honour Books Tania Cox ill. Karen Blair, With Nan  + Ursula Dubosarsky, ill. Andrew Joyner, Too Many Elephants in This House 

Picture Book of the Year, arranged by illustrator
(Some of these books may be for mature readers)
Winner Ron Brooks and Julie Hunt, The Coat 
Honour Books Gus Gordon, Herman and Rosie + Alison Lester, Sophie Scott Goes South

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Winner Kristin Weidenbach ill. Timothy Ide, Tom the Outback Mailman
Honour Books Jackie Kerin ill. Peter Gouldthorpe, Lyrebird! A True Story  + Kirsty Murray, Topsy-turvy World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers.

So what do you think of the winners?Any surprises there? Any notable absences?

To my shame, I haven't read a single one of the winners this year, though there are a few on my bookshelf in my to-read pile, and I'm partway through Vikki Wakefield's Friday Brown at the moment. Some of my favourite Aussie writers and illustrators are represented here, though -- among them Margo Lanagan, Ron Brooks, Sonya Hartnett, Alison Lester, and Jackie French -- and I have no doubt that their stories will be amazing. There are a few names unfamiliar to me as well, which is exciting. New favourites to discover! I look forward to working my way through this list.

Which of these have you read? Which do you want to?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

the little like list:

Little things I'm loving this week:
  1. Queensland sunshine. She sure knows how to turn it on.
  2. Getting to watch friends make ridiculous movies.
  3. Expired film that my mother picked up for me. I can't wait to try it out.
  4. Best potato scallops in the land.
  5. Reading Dawn Wind by Rosemary Sutcliff, one of my favourite authors of all time.
  6. Listening to evening:morning by The Digital Age. Best worship music.
  7. New haircuts.
  8. Glancing at the pile of birthday cards still hanging out on my bookshelf.
  9. Handing in assignments that took far too long.
  10. Crying at a good movie.
  11. Phone calls and face-to-face chats with my sisters.
  12. Talking to strangers.
  13. Feeling that uncomfortable mix of nervous and excited about writing again.
What's on your list?
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