Category: Uncategorized

Collage – to cut or not to cut!

Lately I have been dabbling into the art of collage. It’s the piecing together of all sorts of things like paper, photographs, tissue paper, fabric, cardboard – anything that can be cut or glued down onto a surface. Using scissors and paper is calming and easy to do; tearing paper adds another interesting texture to the design. Where do I collage? Why?

Up in the loft I have a creative space to write, play and experiment. The play comes in handy when my grand children visit because there are many exciting books on display, toys set up and the endless fun of lego construction. Play for me is experimenting with children’s picture art. Why do it? It’s part of my creative personality. It’s looking for, observing and finding. It’s making something out of nothing!

Since I was little, I loved finding bright and bold shapes, cutting out people from magazines and adding my drawings to them.

Now that I’m all grown up and retired, it’s a form of meditation. Thankfully, I can go to the Loft space and make a big mess.

 

 

 

I am inspired by artists like Eric Carle whose picture books exude charm, fun, bright and beautiful patterns and textures. Ezra Jack Keats also used this technique in his book Snowy Days. Rolling, printing, stamping, sponging onto sheets of paper with swirling strokes and bold colours, then cutting them up to create a double paged spread.

I like the random fun and surprises that come in creating an illustration. You never really know what the result will be even though you might have an idea to start with, then it changes and develops. I have been sourcing my shoe boxes that are filled with photographs and this one shows my grandson when he was about two with his wheelbarrow. I added leaves, bushes and greenery to enhance the image.

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This collage shows a grand daughter playing with her doll. She is about to wash dolly in a bucket. Add, a cut out magazine dog, patterned rug on the floor, a cut out dog dish and torn paper background. Voila! My little original.

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This one is made from sponging paint as the sand and castle at the beach. Cut out cloud, bucket and spade and water colour the water and sky. Coloured pencils for the hat and costume. Remember, I am a beginner.

Lots more to learn. Video clips to watch. Books to read. It’s also fun to browse through magazines like FLOW for creative ideas. Nature provides a great colour palette. If drawing is not your strength, perhaps you can work on the composition and line work.

Jeannie Baker’s new book, Playing with Collage shows the talent of her stunning collages using an assemblage of natural materials, like bark, plants, seed pods, earth and a treasure hunt of pieces from the backyard, kitchen or craft supply. She uses handmade papers, plastics, ribbons, lace, leaves, and spices. Her book is full of practical tips. Like me, she finds fun in cutting up and using old postcards, corrugated paper, threads and feathers.

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So, if you are stuck for a Christmas holiday project for the children, why not make an egg-box collage with bits and pieces that the kids can use to make their masterpieces. A couple of glue sticks, recycled paper or cardboard and words of encouragement.

Display their art work in a favourite room. Enjoy the process.

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Get the Most Out of our Brains

Remembering things as you get older becomes harder. I know this because sometimes I struggle daily to keep my brain focussed. There is too much going on in my mind, particularly story ideas, family memories and daily searching for the right list that I wrote last week.

A book I am going to read soon is called The Longevity Paradox by Steven R Grundy. He puts forward a brain health strategy that anyone can try as it does not require great physical or mental prowess.

It is the brain wash. A daily bath for the brain. Sounds simple and soothing. Our amazing brains have a cleansing mechanism known as the lymphatic system. ‘Each night  cerebrospinal fluid flows through your brain, cleaning out spaces between the cells.’

When you are in deep sleep, your brain cells actually shrink which allows more space for this process to happen.

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You need to get a long night’s sleep for the brain wash to work well. You need to eat your evening meal earlier. Dr Grundy and researchers recommend eating 4 hours before going to bed. So a 10pm bed time means a 6pm dinner. No supper. UGH!! that’s hard for me when I am watching Netflix and snacking on nuts or eating a biscuit with herbal tea.

My husband Bill has read and enjoyed 2 books, called The Rewired Brain by Dr Ski Chilton and Brain Rules by John Medina.

The first is about controlling negative emotions, how to reframe them, ultimately bringing healing and rewriting the brain. It certainly gives the average person like me hope. The second book looks at stress, sleep and the brain.

Why memories are volatile. How the brain works. Why it is so easy to forget.

When I meet new people these days, I like to repeat their names at least 3 times in a conversation. Add them to my phone address. Hopefully recall them in a fortnight.

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Just as this beautiful rose blooms in the garden, I hope that your brain can be transformed and renewed. Exercise boosts brain power. Listen to music to help condition. Repeat names. Sleep well.

Above all enjoy curiosity. It stretches the brain power. Develop interests that inspire you. Your brain will scan the sensory horizon, testing things for potential interest or importance.

For the coming new month of September and Spring, I hope that you can explore different memory tools, get out of being “stuck”, reflect and consider your most precious human brain and move forward. In both books, if you get the chance, read the introductions to uncover the essential truths. With chapters on Reflect, Reframe and Rewire, The Rewired Brain is a must read.

Let me know if you have good memory tricks that have helped you.

Reading is my Secret Power

August is here and in a few weeks children will gather together for Book Week  parades and the celebration of Children’s Book Week. This year’s theme is Reading is my Secret Power. It’s a hectic time for librarians, teachers, book stores and authors as they prepare to boost their sales, deliver wonderful displays to promote literacy and read. READ!

Do you have a secret power? Can you time travel? Perhaps you are invisible ( when it suits) or like Wolverine, you boast of night vision. I wonder if like Spiderman, you have mind control. Maybe this is the year for you breathing underwater or in space. Would you like to be Captain America? or Peter Pan who can fly? Or a lie detector like Pinocchio? A communication Master like Mowgli or a mermaid that can live on water and land.

Secret powers are just that – secret. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. But from 17-23 August, everyone wants to know what books win in the categories from Picture Books, Younger grades to Older Readers. Announcements will be 16 August. Have you picked your winners?

Secret powers involve Harriet the Spy, Matilda, Zac Power and Captain Underpants.

Once I dressed as Wonder Woman. Now a days I am Super grandma! with my ability to read 10 stories in one sitting. Use voices. Play roles and perform in front of live audiences.

Some fun things to do during Book week for your family.

Lay a secret trap and watch dad tumble.

Make a bad guy cubbie and read the villain scene from a book.

Try a new karate skill or learn to box.

Time travel with Shaun Tan – Visit another world.

Use puppets to hypnotise your audience. Chant a spell.

Make a super hero costume from magazines and newspapers.

Design a secret power poster – use fluro colours!

Have you read a Ninja book?

Read The Feather by Margaret Wild.

Explore the pages of His Name is Walter by Emily Rodda – mystery, adventure and a thrilling story for children ages 7+ It’s a haunting story about 5 people who will remember an old house for a long time. ” He cried out as the lid of the window seat was flung back. A jeering, wrinkled face looked down on him. Amber eyes glared through a tangle of brindled grey hair. A gold locket hanging from a thin black ribbon gleamed on a scrawny neck.” (p57)

Whether you are a child or animal, find a book that suits you and start reading! Celebrate the love of story, words and pictures in Book week. Can you switch bodies like the Matrix? or act like a Super dad who masters the Universe?

Challenge yourself! Don’t under estimate your secret powers! Try reading 5 new books in different genres that you would never normally read. Go on.You can do it!

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Here are some other titles to read – Cicada by Shaun Tan, Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester, Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood, Dingo ( Tannya Harricks – new illustrator award), The Act of Taxidermy – Sharon Kernot ( Older Readers) The Happiness Box : A Wartime Book of Hope by Mark Greenwood, ( Eve Pownall Award)  Girl on a Wire by Elise Hurst ( Picture Book), Rainbow Bear by Stephen Michael- King ( Early Childhood) Do check out the Shortlist for 2019 and enjoy CBCA Book Week coming up.

Snapshot at Voices on the Coast

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Author Karen Foxlee meets a student who wins  a book prize – she asks the audience the question – What’s the best thing about life? His answer – Waking up each day and learning a whole lot about life and myself. Her shortlisted book Lenny’s Book of Everything tells a marvellous story about feeling different and a set of encyclopaedias. Karen started with the idea of what if?

Stories are everywhere, They tickle your mind and heart when you least expect them. At Voices on the Coast, Sippy Downs University, hundreds of eager children and adults meet for unexpected surprises. Workshops, talks, catch up time, reading – what more could you ask for on a perfect winter’s day. Books to buy, authors to meet and tips from the experts.

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Illustrator Frane Lessac from Fremantle explored picture books about history. Simpson and his Donkey and Midnight, a fabulous horse story. Frane took us inside the double page spreads and drafts of editing that her husband Mark Greenwood writes. As a team, they travel, research, explore and work on many drafts before the book comes to life.

Frane showed the children how she dips into a feather to make the quills of an echidna come to life. Her Australian animals series are favourites. Gouache paints are used in her studio to bring to life soldiers during war or animal heroes like Midnight.

Other excellent titles are seen on the book tables. Challenging fiction that engages the readers, pushes boundaries and allows the imagination to grow.

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When things get too hyped up with the crowds, there’s always times to sit alone and read.

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At break time, there’s a rush to the QBD stand to purchase a book.

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IMG_4815Whether you meet author Oliver Phommavanh ( How to write funny stuff) or bump into Peter Carnavas ( Quiet Stories in a Noisy World), perhaps you might listen to Emily Larkin, Kellie Byrnes , Allison Paterson, or Thalia Kalkipsakis ( Get it Right from the Start). Voices is a literary festival that is a winner. Today’s snapshot is for the first day – Thursday. It’s an annual event presented by Immanuel Lutheran College on the Sunshine Hinterland Coast – 24 years running and still going strong.

If you get a chance read Megan Daley’s book called Raising Readers. Use it daily as a meditation, a resource at home, in the schools and to buy as a gift. It has years of passionate research, understanding and knowledge.

This year I used the Voices app. to provide a simple download about the sessions and map. Most of the sessions are 45 minutes long and workshops an hour with smaller groups.

Watch out tomorrow. Here I come!

 

Magic Early Reader Series

Oh! to be a child of 4-8 years again, when life is simple and reading is fun. New readers want to read. Many labels are attached to this enthusiastic group of children, like beginner readers, emerging, easy and younger readers. There are countless titles in the book stores and Big W, where I happened to be shopping last week for mundane household items, like a toilet brush and new pillow cases.

Series books are everywhere, Kids want them like lollies. Except books and stories do not contain sugar. They are healthier and better for them in every sense. Dull stories won’t fulfil the very vital fundamentals of an emergent reader. They want action, simple words, repetition and funny characters.

The Billie B Brown series by Sally Rippin has been very successful. Box sets sell at $13.95 approx. up to $50. The Birthday Mix up and other titles capture the interests of young girls and boys. Billie’s party is going to be the best ever. She has lots of fun things planned. Now she just has to wait for her friends to show up. With titles like The Midnight Feast, Stolen Stash and The Soccer Star, author Sally Rippin knows what kids like.

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Must have series include Clementine, the cheeky sparky heroine of author Jacqueline Harvey. Horse Crazy by Alison Lester, The Cleo Stories by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, Old Tom by Leigh Hobbs, I Spy Fly Guy where words are repeated, there’s hide and seek and lots of laughs. Kensy and Max too shine through.

The Ella and Olivia series have won many hearts too. A whole rainbow collection with quirky characters, fast plots and witty dialogue to engage readers. I am presently reading Hula Hoopla where Ella and Olivia’s school is having a hula-hooping challenge! But Olivia can’t do the hole hoop. How will she join in? Scholastic have branded these books in bright greens and purples covers with large text, simple illustrations and enlarged key words to attract and teach the children vocabulary.

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Hey Jack series by Sally Rippin look sensational in their gift box sets. Look at the above titles. Once a child starts to read these, they are hooked. Roald Dahl sets are popular too, perhaps for the mid primary age group. Always a winner for their amazing story lines and contrast in characters, the plots thicken and each book can also stand alone.

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While I encourage parents to buy a boxed set for Christmas or  birthday, children also need to read above their age level and find deeper meaning in stand alone books. I encourage reading practice, discussion and after reflection. Most children simply want entertainment at this age but parents who know their children’s interest can enhance their understanding by keeping abreast of what’s out there.

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Early readers are books that sharpen skills, develop fluency and progress the child’s journey into a rewarding and stimulating experience of reading.

Picture book author and illustrator Zanni Louise has written Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush has about 6 titles. Adorable Felix, Poh and Tiggy have their first sleepover. But when Tiggy realises that she has forgotten her special toy, she starts to feel nervous. Can Siggy’s magic paintbrush help her to get to sleep? The cover of this book is vivid with metallic letters for the title. Every page is filled with sketches, large lettering and bite sized story line.

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Finally, Lemonade Jones has 2 stories in this delightful book, by Davina Bell and Karen Blair. As a hard cover, it shows a fiesta girl with a lot of fizz. Allen and Unwin have published this clever book with gorgeous illustrations in bright colours. I think it’s an imaginative book with contemporary, every day ideas.

Whether it’s read aloud Dr Seuss books or Nate the Great, about a boy detective George Brown, Class Clown, even some Lego Star Wars series, be sure to connect your children to engaging, fun filled stories that sparkle.

A Quiet Girl called Mary

Recently I returned from Canberra at a children’s book conference where I saw Peter Carnavas dressed as a pirate, barefooted, patch- eyed and with a wicked sense of humour. Peter Carnavas, story teller was throwing lollies to his audience and playing with 2 other funny authors. Peter writes and illustrates books for children and the grown ups in their lives. He’s a gentle man, versatile writer, gifted illustrator, a father and adoring husband who lives in Flaxton on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Actually not far from me in Mapleton. I bought his picture story called The Children Who Loved Books and my grand children enjoy the pictures and ideas in the story.

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Now Pete wears many hats – he visits school for workshops, he attends conferences for book launches, he loves libraries and he persists at his illustrating until magic happens on the page. That magic is seen in a picture book that I purchased in Canberra, A Quiet Girl. Mary, the main character is a girl who likes solitude, stillness and serenity. She whispers words and listens “to the soft sigh of the sleeping dog.” Away from her noisy family who are busy talking on the phone and playing music, Mary enjoys the senses of the world around her – ‘the tickle of the breeze and a fine thread of spider silk.’ These moments count for Mary. She likes to be quiet. But her parents hardly notice when she goes missing.

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‘Have you been here the whole time?’

‘Yes,’ whispered Mary.

‘But we didn’t hear you, said Dad, until we were…’

‘Quiet,’ said Mary.

Peter has captured the soothing calm in this story by his pastel soft illustrations. A gentle soft green cover suggests nature, with birds on the inside and back covers. The use of white space emphasises the calm for Mary to experience. There are small words to suggest a quiet tone. Mary, herself is a cute girl who loves climbing trees, swinging and paying attention to beautiful things. The reader is drawn to her because there is such a contrast between her world and her noisy family. The final double spread clearly brings all the elements of design, layout and colours together to show a happy family.

Well done Pete! A magical story. With birds, animals and an everyday family.

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In our busy digital/ screen age, it’s important to find those special quiet moments to read, notice plants, flowers and the earth. Books can connect our hearts, minds and souls to each other. A Quiet Girl successfully achieves this.

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Recently my grand daughter Audrey and I spend an hour reading our own books side by side out on her deck. It’s nice. We even bring her bird out in the cage to feel the air and be close to us while we sit in silence. She’s at the age when we can do this together. My other gorgeous grand children who are under 4 snuggle up and demand my reading voice and time. What a treat!

Thanks Peter! You are a talented man who wears many creative hats – happy in libraries, out in the parks walking the dog, attending conferences, book launches and giving talks to school aged children. I am sure in the evenings when you are at home, you find time to sit quietly and read to your daughters. Like Mary in her own gentle way, you make a difference.

And Now They’re Laughing!

With more than 330 delegates attending the Children’s Book Council conference in Canberra, I was one of the fortunate ones to be present. The first weekend in June saw teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators mixing together to share their knowledge of humour in kid’s books. Lots of laughs. Jokes. Panel discussions with a twist and costume. Verbal explosions, the tragedy and comedy of humour, book launches etc.

Dyan Blacklock and Margaret Hamilton were the brilliant co-conveners of the conference. From Welcome to Country with Duncan Smith, Wiradjuri Echoes to the closing Great Debate on YA fiction is too serious, there was something for everyone.

Young Dark Emu with Bruce Pascoe, New Voices with Bren McDribble, Kelly Canby and Rebecca McRitchie, Making Funny Pictures with Michael Speechley and Matt Stanton made the morning of Day One a success. In the afternoon I attended the session called My Inner Duck and How I found it with Meg McKinlay, R.A Spratt (with a blowing horn), Adam Cece and Zoe Norton Lodge. They talked about humour as entertainment, a quirky and honest business of writing with light and dark shades. Adam shared his weird family background with a childhood of hip, funky and zany. Spratt mentioned it’s the way “her brain processes the funny and twisted.” All the authors love going into schools to read their stories and absorb new ideas for their funny narratives. The “randomness of kids,” says Meg is what she loves.

We celebrated Grug’s 40th birthday. There were auctions, book raffles, merchandise from CBC. Dymocks from Canberra sold many books. The trade stalls were filled with eager editors, publishers and inquisitive people like myself, signing up for prizes. Morning tea, lunches and afternoon teas were brilliant with opportunities to see book launches like the one with Playing with Collage (Walker books) by Jeannie Baker, with Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright, and Winston and the Wondrous Wooba Gymnastics Club by Tamsin Janu ( Scholastic).

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Punchlines, Pirates and Alpacas was a real treat with Matt Cosgrove, Oliver Phommavanh and Peter Carnavas. Starting with The Elephant by Pete, the topic of how can a book about depression shed some humour? Well, it’s all about the lightness and moments in the illustrations that add to humour. The lads talked about funny names in books, family, friendship and amusing books they read as children. They also reflected on where are all the funny female authors?

With the slogan, Reading is my Secret Power, I imagine that humour can be a secret, magical and mysterious power that transforms a story, bringing questions, escape and truth to kids. Some of the authors mentioned about that we can’t bubble wraps kids today. There are confronting issues in life that young children face, so there can be a fine line between humour and sadness.

I managed to find the duckies from The Duck Pond ( Jen Storer) and met Tania McCartney whose picture books, Maime and Hip Hip Hooray were popular. A vibrant author/ illustrator, Tania has an excellent podcast called The Happy Book. Listen to it. Enjoy the banter and wisdom of the interviews. Grab a herbal tea.

On Day Two there were the independent publishing team with Rochelle Manners, Mark McLeod and Davina Bell. They each have a wonderful list of books to share, fantastic quality books that make an impression.

A highlight of the conference was the announcement that Paul Jennings received a lifetime Achievement Award recognising a long-standing contribution by an Australian citizen to Australian children’s books and a life time commitment to Australian readers. Well done Paul, who delivered a heartfelt thanks on the big screen.

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I really appreciated the interview by Sue Lawson with Aunty Fay Muir, exploring our Nation’s Rich Cultural heritage. “Country” refers to Mother and we must look after the land. “First Nations” is the better way of saying Indigenous or even Aborigine. “Aunty/ Uncle” are terms that remind us to look after family. Aunty Fay encouraged us all to meet and talk to an Aboriginal person. Ask the questions. meet face to face. Get the kids involved.

From Strange New Worlds of Karen Foxlee, Rhiannon Williams and Eliza Henry Jones to Emily Rodda’s  ( awarded Order of Australia on Aust. Day 2019) brilliant presentation, the conference exuded brightness, talent and passion. I did not attend the conference dinner so did not hear Leigh Hobbs’s life as the Laureate. I do however, love his picture books and my grand children find them very funny.

 

Bravo to the team who put this conference together. It was a winner. Love you James Roy, Emily Rodda, Morris Gleitzman, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane,  Jeanette Rowe, Sonia Bestvlic, Allison Paterson, watch out for Allayne Webster ( Sensitive – YA novel) Zana Fraillon and Tamsin Jansu. Cheers for Michael Speehley with a new picture book on consumerism, The All New Must have Orange 430, and go get yourself a coffee and share a good, funny story with a child today.