Welcome to the world! A is for Australian Animals is here! Published by Walker Books Australia

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To the delight of many human animals attending the book launch, the Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre brought along many animal friends to the Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre including: a bilby, an echidna, blue-tongue lizards, a snake, “Henry” the cockatoo, and the most adorable pygmy possum.

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I was honoured to have Australia’s most beloved children’s author, Alison Lester, officially launch the book.

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Australia is full of the most amazing animals on the planet! What animal has six thumbs? What animal produces square poo? What animal is made up of 95 per cent water and is highly venomous? Discover the answers to these questions and more in this factastic tour of Australian animals.

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A is for Australian Animals is available online and in all good bookstores!

 

 

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Thank you to all the parents, teachers, librarians and my colleagues, who are passionate about getting children’s books into children’s hands and especially for all the young readers who voted for A is for Australia.

For creators, recognition for our books is a rare gift. Recognition is important. Receiving the Crystal Kite Award and the Hoffman Award are extra, extra special because one is voted by one’s peers and the other by children.

The Crystal Kite Award is a peer-given annual award to recognize books from the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) regional divisions around the world. I share this year’s award for Australia and New Zealand with the extremely talented, Peter Carnavas and his book, Blue Whale Blues.

The Hoffman Award is presented to the highest ranked West Australian author voted by young readers’ organised by WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award). Young readers were invited to nominate books that they’ve read and enjoyed.

Receiving awards gives creators the inspiration to keep going and the confidence to do what we love.  It is a huge honour which I humbly accept with great pride.IMG_1468

IMG_0847 2Illustrations and preliminary sketches, which accompany the story of Simpson and His Donkey, have recently been acquired by the State Library of Western Australia for its Peter Williams Collection of original artworks by Australian illustrators.
IMG_1173It was important that the original illustrations and accompanying materials were cared for and made available for future generations to explore the art and process of creating an illustrated story book. I am delighted that the State Library has already made them available as an exhibition in 2017.

CEO and State Librarian, Margaret Allen, said that the complete set of research documents, preliminary sketches and 17 original artworks showed the amount of detailed work required to create an illustrated children’s book. “The story of Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey, who together rescued 300 wounded soldiers at Gallipoli, is a tale of one of our beloved Western Australian ANZAC heroes.It is fitting that these illustrations which accompany the contemporary retelling of this important story have entered the State Library’s collection where they are available for viewing by visitors,” Mrs Allen said. Visitors can see the newly acquired illustrations in an exhibition at the State Library’s Story Place Gallery from 2 February to 27 April 2017.

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For schools: School groups are welcome to visit the Simpson and his Donkey exhibition. The workshop, Digging up the Past – World War One, supports the exhibition and can be booked by calling one of education officers on (08) 9427 3202. A teacher’s guide will also be available.

 

Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Luckily, I get to visit the island state and conduct author visits to young students. My time at the Bonorong “school” near Hobart had to be one of the best author visits ever! All the students were named Joe and they acted like young ones do everywhere – cheeky. They absolutely loved hearing and reading about kangaroos from A is for Australia. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary specialises in the caring for and rehabilitation of orphaned and injured wildlife. It’s a unique chance to get up front and personal with some of Australia’s most precious and endangered wildlife. Worth a visit the next time you’re in the vicinity. Here’s some of my favourite photos with the students.
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Pattan’s Pumpkin– vine ripened, ready for harvest this September with Otter Barry Books UK and Walker Books Australia. In the USA, Candlewick Press September 2017.46bfec_f5268c0aea994555b1e2c98fc517784b~mv2

Pattan’s Pumpkin is an exciting,vibrantly illustrated Flood Story from India, written by Chitra Soundar, an Indian-born British writer, based in London.

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Pattan has an amazing pumpkin…it grows BIGGER than the goats, BIGGER than the elephants, until it is as TALL as the mountains. But can Pattan’s pumpkin save his family and all the animals when the storm-clouds burst and the waters rise?

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Otter-Barry Books is a new children’s imprint aiming to make a difference, push boundaries and publish books that children will love.

For more information on getting a copy of Pattan’s Pumpkin, click on the country: AustraliaUK. Please check back for the USA in September 2017.

 

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is excited to announce the winners of the 2016 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards. Frané Lessac’s A is for Australia (Walker Books) and Peter Carnavas’ Blue Whale Blues (New Frontier) have jointly-won the Australian and New Zealand division of this year’s Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards, presented by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

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The Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to recognize great books from the seventy SCBWI regions around the world.  The Awards are presented annually by SCBWI in five continental divisions as well as 10 divisions in the US. For more information about the Crystal Kite Awards, click here.

This was the year to hold a newly hatched baby sea turtle.

Baby turtle The year for my Dad to hear stories.Dad The year to walk the Great Wall of China.Great Wall of China The year to sit in my 1st grade classroom seat again.

Cliffside Park School #3 The year A is for Australia was released.A is for Australia The year to see a giant prawn. Giant prawnThe year to tour Kentucky, Broome, Darwin, Melbourne, New Jersey, Adelaide, Maryland, Sydney, Kalgoorlie, School of the Air and beyond.
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Freshwater BaySchool of the Air

 

The year Midnight was released in the USA. KentuckyThe year one cried seeing the Grand Canyon for the very first time. Grand CanyonThe year to hike the Chiricahua mountains.Chiricahua mountains The year to present at festivals in China, India, Australia and the USA. Booker Festival PuneChengdu, ChinaPrinceton Book FestivalThe year to see baby pandas.IMG_3186

The year to stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. WinslowHappy trails for 2016!

Recently, I took a fast plane (rather than a slow boat) to China to present at the Bookworm Literature Festival that took place in three cities: Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou. Over ten days I mingled with legendary authors, visited local schools, stayed in mind-blowing hotels, and ate Chinese delicacies chosen by pointing at menus with colorful pictures. Sometimes I wasn’t exactly sure what I was eating.

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Bookworm Chengdu

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Opposite House Pool

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Opposite House View Interior

The festival venues were popular hangouts – combination bookstore, cafe and bar…created by Bookworm Festival founder and bookstore owner, Peter Goff, a warm and generous host. Olivia Liu, the Regional Advisor for the newly established Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Beijing chapter, organized my visit. Also representing SCBWI, was co-founder of SCBWI and author Stephen Mooser from the USA and author/illustrator Bridget Strevens-Marzo from the UK.  Bridget and I had fun presenting together on panels in Beijing alongside Olivia and again in Chengdu to some highly motivated teacher librarians.

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Bridget and I, Chengdu

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Bookworm – Chengdu

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Best Behaviour

West Australian AJ Betts and I above at the Australian Embassy in Beijing –  I’m drinking WATER because I’m about to do a gig! Amanda was on tour with Australian Writer’s Week in China and was also part of the Bookworm Literature Festival.

Visiting schools and conducting workshops – children all love a good story and love to create their own books!

Young author Beijing

Young author Beijing

School Visit -  Suzhou

School Visit – Suzhou

To first view China’s skyline is a shock and awe experience, each building more fantastic then the next. But to put it into perspective, this is the country that built the Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world.

The Pants, Beijing

The Pants, Beijing

The entire population of Australia fits into Beijing alone, but yet I feel a strange intimate connection. The skyscrapers are being built with the red iron ore mined from the West Australian ground. With all these remarkable buildings springing up all over the country, no wonder it’s easy to spot the Chinese National bird, the (building) crane, they soar in great numbers high in the sky, everywhere. In the 90s, one quarter of the world’s construction cranes were at work in Shanghai alone!!

Experiencing the Great Wall is like riding a meandering a dragon, up and down as far as the eye can see and another 13,000 miles beyond.  We took a chairlift up and a toboggan down!

Great Wall

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Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, where the unforgettable demonstrations happened back in 1989. Security is still tight. Creepy plain-clothes policeman stand guard over a fire extinguisher in case a protester decides to set themselves alight.

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Tiananmen Square – Plainclothes policeman just behind guard.

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Photobombed!

To the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu – I always thought pandas were cute but seeing them in person, they are seriously cuuuuuuute.

Panda cub

Panda cub

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Panda loving convert

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Asleep in the tree

The historic city of Suzhou, affectionately known as the Venice of the Orient. We visited several of the UNESCO World Heritage List classical gardens with unique names; The Humble Administrator’s Garden which had the 36 Pairs of Mandarin Duck’s Hall, the With Whom Shall I Sit? Pavilion and the Listening to the Sound of Rain Pavilion. I preferred the quieter Master of the Nets Garden (also called Fisherman’s Garden).

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Master of the Nets Garden

Post Festival, a couple of days to explore where Blade Runner meets Las Vegas. Cool, hip Shanghai, staying on The Bund, to enjoy the skyline of lights.

The Bund, Shanghai

Bund, Shanghai

 

As I scroll down my Book Week Month schedule and about to face 27 school visits, I thought I’d share my tried and tested top ten survival tips.

1. Reconfirm dates and times with the library or school beforehand. Organisers have been known to go on long service leave or change position.

2. Prepare a presentation that’s age appropriate – find out in advance what year levels you will be seeing. If it’s the entire school in one presentation, you will need to engage the little ones through to the older students. Prepare accordingly.

3. Confirm equipment needs: i.e. a data projector/interactive whiteboard. Always good to carry an extra VGA cable, HDMI cable, powerboard and batteries for a remote. If technology fails, be prepared to have a Plan B
= you alone and the audience. It’s refreshing!

4. Ask where best to park. Organisers will know parking restrictions or may offer you a prime spot.

5. Sign books or autograph books, but not tiny scraps of paper. Alternatively, ask the teacher to photocopy a sheet with multiple signatures.

6. Teachers will adore you if you leave a ‘hands-on’ activity they can use in the classroom for follow-up after your visit.

7. Ask in advance if the school would like a book order form to purchase books for the students and/or school.

8. Be respectful in your presentation. Don’t go for the shock and awe to amuse the students with words that will upset the teachers. Especially if you want an invitation back or anywhere for that matter. Word travels quickly.

9. Ask for a microphone if you feel your voice is going – even with a small group. Don’t wait til it goes completely.

10. Be prepared to change tack. Have Plan B ready to go and even a Plan C.

Inspiring children about books and reading is a great gift to share.
So get out there, good luck and enjoy!