BETWEEN THE PAGES WITH DIANNE WOLFER
Hello Dianne ! Tell us about yourself!
I began writing the answers below before COVID-19 changed the world. Those responses remain, however what to now say about myself? As I type, WA has gone into lockdown. Like everyone I’m distressed by the medical trauma and financial hardship on our doorstep. As a regional author (living in Albany on the south-west coast) community suffering is already horribly visible. My hope is books. I don’t know what will happen to the Australian publishing industry, but please let’s all buy books. I’m able to work from home and that’s what I will do until we come out the other side. I wish you all a safe passage, and also your loved ones. ALIA’s commitment to fostering literacy is an inspiration. Please stay strong and continue to carry the torch. Our children will be in dire need of your sustenance and already people are sharing the passion; giving readings and workshops online. We are fortunate to have a wonderful network of creators, teachers and librarians. And in answer to the actual question, please see my website.
How did you decide to become a writer, and who or what are major influences on your work?
Jotting down thoughts is my way of making sense of the world. When ideas come to mind I’ve learnt to stop and take notice of them. This mostly happens when I am in nature; walking, swimming and also people watching. Story fragments keep spinning about in my mind until I write them down. Hundreds of these musings will never turn into stories but the persistent ones pop up again, waiting for their turn. Like many writers I spent years balancing creative writing with a day job. Then as more stories were published I finally made the leap to full-time author. Friends, family and colleagues influence my work. There are so many talented author/illustrators in Australia. I’m a long-time member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) as well as other bookish organisations. As a regional writer these networks are invaluable for helping me keep in touch with kindred spirits across the children’s literature world.
What was your favourite book as a child?
So many books enriched my childhood. They were treasured gifts at Christmas and on birthdays. Early favourites include Now We Are Six (My Nanna’s failed sausage dog doorstop then became my beloved childhood friend, Eeyore) and The Magic Faraway Tree. In year two there was a boy with a very round face. He was Moonface to my bossy Silky. Every recess we traipsed through a scraggly bit of bush and emerged into a new land. We especially loved The Land of Goodies. Those memories remind me of the power of imagination and the importance of encouraging children to have regular non-screen time. Before moving on I feel that I must also include Bottersnikes and Gumbles, Storm Boy, Anne of Green Gables and Animals You Will Never Forget. I have heavily edited this list!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing children reading my books for pleasure never loses its thrill. Receiving messages and mail from young readers, teachers and librarians is also wonderful.
Since we’re all library lovers here, how has the library played a role in your life?
My sister and I grew up on the outer suburban fringe of Melbourne. When I was about four a library bus began visiting. Each fortnight I received six little tickets to exchange for books. Such power, such a gift! Memories of choosing books are still vivid and I even remember the smell. Those stories opened up my world. Mum and other parents then fundraised for a school library. When it opened I was in year five. I discovered Ivan Southall and Colin Thiele. Powerful stories like Finns Folly and To the Wild Sky made a huge impact on me. I learnt that books could explore confronting topics. They helped me think more broadly. To research my first book, Dolphin Song I visited Scarborough Library (my old local) and was lucky to find a detailed book about dolphins. The early days of the Internet coincided with me moving to the south coast, so I was able to research online, but I still loved visiting the town library. As a teacher I’m deeply saddened to hear about the increase in library closures. A school library with dedicated library staff is the beating heart of a school and provides so much more than a place to find books.
Plug time! What’s your latest book and where can fans stalk - I mean follow - you online?
Stalk on! In addition to my general website I recently began a new website devoted to all things anthropomorphic. My doctoral research focused on my interest in anthropomorphism and animal characters in Australian children’s literature. The website is a way for me to share this passion. My anthropomorphic PhD Creative Works were The Shark Caller and my latest book, The Dog with Seven Names. The former is optioned for film. The latter won the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award in the 8-10 category, was a CBCA Notable and was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award. Dog is also about to be published in Chinese. After the challenging events of this year the publisher is currently finalising the cover, ready for a May release. I can’t wait to see how it looks and I hope Dog’s story will give young Chinese readers a few hours respite to escape to another time and place. Details soon.
Websites: https://diannewolfer.com/ and https://animalswhotalk.com/
Facebook: Dianne Wolfer – Author
ON THE FRONT LINES WITH MICHAEL BARRY
Give us a bit of your background, and how did you end up in libraries?
It's a bit of a funny story actually. After I finished my Bachelor of Arts in Creative and Professional Writing, I tried to set up as a freelance editor. That didn't pan out, so I became an apprentice chef in a small local Greek restaurant. I quit nine months later and bounced around administration and office jobs in the manufacturing sector (starting in a cardboard box factory, then moving into the timber packaging -- pallets and crates -- area), for a good few years. After I left my last job in internal sales/scheduling/dispatch/office all-rounding at a boutique timber manufacturing plant, I told myself either I chase a career I actually wanted, or forever regret not trying. I signed up for the Diploma of Library Services at Box Hill Institute as soon as I could, and now four years later I'm more personally and professionally fulfilled than I've ever been, and still looking forward and upward.
Tell us about the libraries you work for!
I work at two different primary school libraries, Fitzroy North and Camberwell. Even though they are quite similar in many ways, they both come with different challenges and opportunities. Camberwell is a French bilingual school, so I'm learning to catalogue en français to develop and expand their French literature collection. Whereas Fitzroy North is a leading school in the Respectful Relationships program and also has a big focus on Indigenous Australian culture, so my activities and collection development reflects that.
What are the favourite programs and initiatives that your libraries run?
I could hardly answer this question without mentioning Book Week. I love the costume parade, the book donation fair (where students purchase a book to donate to the library), author visits, and activities and crafts based on the shortlisted books... I have also introduced the Fitzroy North Primary School community to National Simultaneous Storytime and International Games Week. I've only just started at Camberwell so I don't know what they have done in the past, but I'm sure it will be exciting to either continue a tradition or start something new. One thing at Fitzroy North I'm particularly proud of is the semi-genrefied fiction novels. Over the space of about half a year, I gradually went through and assigned genres to many of the fiction novels, including fantasy action/adventure, crime/mystery, and horror. The process has involved applying spine label stickers, editing the catalogue records, making new signage, and sorting them out onto their own shelf sections.
The students have responded really positively to it, with a reduction in the line for the searching computer and an increase in browsing and borrowing of genrefied books (and fiction books overall). This year I plan to expand the genres to include historical/war and sci-fi novels as well.
Another big thing has been my New Books displays: sometimes the books I put up on display last as little as a few minutes before students have borrowed them all. Presentation and promotion of the collection really does make a big difference.
What are you reading?
To be honest, probably 95% of my reading these days is the new picture books that come in my Standing Order deliveries. One particular recent favourite is What A Lot of Nonsense by Sheena Knowles with fantastic illustrations by Jonathan Bentley. Full of rhyme, interesting wordplay, and anagram puzzles to work out, it's a fun and funny little story loosely centred on a panda bear who is trying and failing to get dressed ('what would you wear if you were a bear, and you couldn't fit into your pants?'). Another recent favourite is Arthur and the What-Ifs, about a little dog who loves to play the violin, but he's terribly shy and self-conscious about it. It's a book about reframing our negative self-talk ('what if nobody likes me?') in positive ways ("But what if they do?"), and the illustrations are just gorgeous. I've also been getting into graphic novels recently. I picked up a copy of George RR Martin's (of Game of Thrones fame) Windhaven in graphic novel format. It's basically about class warfare and equality in a world divided between those who fly on metal wings, and the pejoratively titled 'land-bound'. It's quite intense.
If you could have any children’s or YA author come for a visit, who would it be?
Ooh, a tough question. I would love to have a visit by Heath McKenzie (author of my all-time favourite picture book, Arthur and the What-Ifs), Nick Bland (The Very Cranky Bear) Ahn Do, Bruce Whatley, Jackie French, Alison Lester, Emily Rodda, Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths. There are just so many amazing authors and illustrators I'd love to have visit my schools (and many who have already done so, but are certainly welcome to come back!). We've been trying to get Bruce Pascoe to visit, but he is understandably very busy.
In your experience, why are school libraries so important?
For me personally, some of my favourite memories in primary school were based in the school library, discovering new books, being read to by the teacher, learning research skills to find information I want, and developing my taste in fiction. In high school, the library was my lifeline. The librarian and library technician took me under their wings, and gave me a safe space to go at lunch, introduced me to many authors and books that I still count among my favourites, and gave me a small taste of responsibility and pride in my work and in myself. I owe them both more than I can say, and I aspire to be the kind of library technician who can make that kind of positive impact in someone else's life.
As a library technician myself now, one of my favourite things is helping a student discover a book or an author that becomes their new favourite. Working with a tricky customer to find a book they're interested in reading, and then having them tell me later how much they enjoyed it, is just the best feeling. And while I'm not dealing with the kind of heightened emotions and drama that may be found in a high school library, I still try to promote the library as a safe space for all students, a place where they can come at lunchtime to get away from the crowds and find a bit of quiet, where they can discover new books and learn new things, draw and colour, do origami, play chess, or just sit quietly in the corner with an Asterix comic if that's what they want.
Don’t Follow Me, Moon!
Written by Natalie Caudle.
Illustrated by Aleisha Zapia
Princess Ava is upset and angry as she is not allowed to get a new crown for her birthday. She then goes into the garden to hide. To add to her upset mood her family follows her when she wants to be alone and she notices the moon following her too.
She doesn’t feel like going inside until she discovers the moon’s job and her mum’s job. After reading this book I discovered parents will love this book too and may use it as a gentle guide as it shows you it’s ok to have big emotions. It has a soft touch as we discover the moon’s purpose to light up the darkness and Ava’s mum will guide her through the light and dark. It’s a book about unconditional love by her parents even though she was angry and disappointed for not getting what she wanted. The illustrations are lifelike and the use of bold colours, creating beautiful scenes in the book.
By Caroline Magerl
Nop is a teddy bear with a bow tie in a toy shop where all the toys are bought and taken somewhere wonderful and exciting....except for Nop. Instead of feeling dejected and excluded, he takes matters into his own hands to create something wonderful to go on his own adventure. While on his journey, he discovers a new friend and true acceptance. This is the perfect picture book to be quietly read to your child while cuddling on your lap. (Michelle Craik)
The Brilliant Ideas of Lily Green
By Lisa Siberry
What a delightful read! The story has all the right elements to captivate middle-grade readers. For a start, all the kids are inventors who love creating new natural beauty products that are environmentally friendly, while making YouTube videos to promote them. Secondly, there is a mysterious magical element to the plants they use as ingredients and who doesn't love a bit of magic? Thirdly, there are the baddies, who will do anything to steal the winning recipe, which makes you really want the good guys to win! Children will relate to the science and technology as they will be learning all about this in class and using it at home. (Michelle Craik)
Mechanica: A Beginner’s Field Guide
By Lance Balchin
Mechanica is a dystopian, sci-fi picture book that offers insight into a prospective future world, where artificial intelligence infiltrates the animal kingdom and robotics replace natural creation. Balchin creates a world where humans have caused mass extinction, extreme pollution and overpopulation, and in order to rejuvenate life on planet Earth, it must be re-created using robotic and mechanical constructs. The result is eerily beautiful part-animal, part-robot creatures and a highly thought provoking text for a range of age groups. Balchin’s protagonist and narrator, Miss Liberty Crips, is a teenage historian who documents her observations of this new world.
Balchin’s creations are intricate, and enchant the reader with fine details, creativity and colour, yet Balchin expertly juxtaposes these images alongside dialogue from Miss Liberty Crips that suggests a subdued scepticism, even fear, of the Mecahnica. The use of white space alongside the illustrations and between the text allow the graphics of this book to appeal to young readers, yet the content of this book will draw in older readers. Balchin’s text also has potential for numerous applications across the school curriculum. (Alexandra Lloyd)
Little Kids First Big Book Of Pets Illustrated by Sylvia Long
Nat Geo - First Big Book
By Catherine Hughes- National Geographic Kids
A really beautiful book filled with all sorts of pets you love and cherish. In this colourful and extraordinary book you will find pets ranging from cats to dogs to guinea pigs to birds to fish, even snakes and much much more. Children will not be able to put this book down, they will love this adorable reference book that introduces them to so many varieties of family-friendly pets.
This is a fun and detailed book as readers will learn which kinds of animals make good, fun, loving and cute pets and which ones should stay in their natural habitat, in the wild and not to be touched. Also children will discover how each type of pet eats, sleeps, and plays.How wonderful is this for the reader, so much information to learn about pets. A great informative book displaying more than 200 colourful photos and also provides information on animal breeds, characteristics, and behaviour and includes tips for training pets too. I would highly recommend this book for the young readers as a first reference book about pets, especially because of the colourful photos. The children will love this book so much they will be wishing to have each pet from the book at home. (Helen Tomazin)
Searching for Cicadas
Written by Lesley Gibbes
Illustrated by Judy Watson
This beautifully illustrated non-fiction picture book about cicadas combines a story with snippets of information, making it perfect for parents and teachers wishing to engage young children with their ever inquiring minds. At the end of the book is a simple index which I think is a wonderful way to introduce children to searching. I love the fact that there are so many talking points to this book. Highly recommended. (Michelle Craik)
Bone Crier’s Moon
by Natasa Xeri
Ailesse, heir to the Bone Crier’s matriarch, is preparing for her right of passage. The Bone Crier’s sacred duty can only be undertaken after a great sacrifice – the luring and murder of their amouré – their soulmate. Once a Bone Crier and her amouré complete the ritual dance under moonlight, the Crier has a year to kill him or else they are both taken by the Gods. Bone Crier’s Tale is such a well-crafted and enchanting tale. Purdie draws on all manner of folklore and fairy-tale, creating a kingdom of dark woods, abandoned castles, and bone filled catacombs that provide a suitably eerie stage upon which the story plays out. Bone Crier’s Moon is perfect for fans of Mahurin’s Serpent & Dove and Dennard’s Witchlands series. (Beth Barrass)
The Girl with the Gold Bikini
By Lisa Walker
Eighteen year old Olivia Grace has deferred her Law degree and turned down a trip to Asia with her friends in favour of following her childhood Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars inspired dreams and becoming a private investigator. With her childhood best friend, Rosco, Olivia finds herself traipsing all over the streets of the Gold Coast and Byron Bay investigating a philandering husband, some animal activists, and ongoing yoga wars.
This was a delightful read from start to finish. Walker nails the snark and heart of Veronica Mars with a distinctly Australian feel. Olivia is a hilarious body positive protagonist, and I loved that in Olivia we get a teenage protagonist who’s not afraid to follow her own path, even when her friends are following the traditional university road. Add in fabulous writing, wonderful supporting characters and a compelling mystery, and this was a winner from start to finish. (Kirsti Graham)
Hilarious! I laughed my way through this whole book as there are so many good quotable lines. Fast paced with a mystery based on the Gold Coast that has you hooked from the start. Olivia is the main character who works as a private investigator and she is willing to give anything a go. No matter how nervous she is she dresses up in all sorts of outfits and pretend to be someone else like a yoga instructor, all in the name of searching for the truth. Olivia's grandmother and 6 year old sister are forthright and quick witted, adding to the humour of the book. Teen girls who love pop culture references, in particular Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars, Star Wars and Sherlock will love this book. Plus there is a little bit of Shakespeare thrown in for good measure. I love the cover! (Michelle Craik).
Graphic novel- Junior
The Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 Beware of the Kitten Holy
Written by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Shannon Watters.
Illustrated by Brooke Allen.
This graphic novel follows the journey of five fun and fierce girls whilst on camp at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqual Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for
Girls Hardcore Lady Types.
Together the girls try to unwrap the mystery of the Kitten Holly and mysterious Bear Woman whilst keeping their very lives in tact! Within its colourful and captivating pages, themes such as friendship, teamwork, and self belief are explored making it such a powerful and timely text for junior girls seeking literary adventure. (Jennifer Nye)
By Brenna Thummler
Marjorie, her father and brother live together above their family run dry cleaning business. The business has seen better times and now struggles to survive following the death of Marjorie’s mother. Left to work the business due to her father's descent into depression, Marjorie tries to be not only a business owner but a mother to her younger brother and high school student too. Teased and downtrodden by school bullies and a rapacious local business man she too is going nowhere good fast.
Though through a strange crossing of worlds, Wendall the ghost enters her life. Wendall too has challenges in the land of the ghosts where he doesn’t quite fit in and although initially bothersome to Marjorie, Wendall proves to be exactly the friend she needed. For a read that pulls on your heartstrings and explores mental health and the triumph of friendship, look no further than this healing tale. (Jennifer Nye)
Written by Kirli Saunders
This book of poems inspires us to think about family and love ones through Kirli’s voice. She has shared personal moments and feelings in free verse across home and country. This is a book that you can revisit many times laughing, sighing and sharing nostalgic memories as you delve into the pages.
This a truly Australian book by a young indigenous author who has captured many familiar experiences but also provides insight into life in her extended family in varying environments. I have enjoyed returning to this small but vibrant poetry collection over several months. (Claire Stuckey).
WHO TO FOLLOW
This amazing Tasmanian illustrator is posting children’s activities to help keep us busy at this difficult time. Read more about Coral in the CBCA Tasmania blog.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The official Diary of a Wimpy Kid account can provide a light hearted moment - except for the sad announcement of the delayed release of Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure to 4 August.
@readsrainbow Reads Rainbow explores LGBTQI+ media with a focus on reviewing and recommending LGBTQI+ titles for Middle Grade, Young Adult and New Adult readers.
The STEM Read podcast from NPR (USA). At the 20 minute mark there is a great interview with writer Kate Hannigan, who discusses how historical fiction can be a great gateway to learning about the history of STEM and forgotten histories of female innovators.
Children’s books in translation with Antonia Lloyd-Jones from Library Girl and Book Boy. Gain an insight into the translation of a picture book from Polish into English. The beautiful book is Oscar Seeks a Friend by Pawel Pawlak.
Book Cafe at William Carey Christian School
We have been running the Book Café at William Carey for four years, led by our wonderful teacher librarian Mrs Grinsell. The idea came when Mrs Grinsell observed the senior primary students looking overwhelmed during borrowing time. They tended to head towards boxes of series books they were familiar with and when asked what types of books they liked, usually always opted for humour. Enter the Book Café!
The teacher librarians spend two lessons prior to the café talking about different genres and the features of each. The room is then set up as a café with checked tablecloths, placemats and a menu describing the features of the genre on that table. A platter of approximately 20 books are placed on each of the 11 tables. Before the tasting begins, students are shown how to “taste" a book (e.g. look at the cover, the title, read the blurb, open the book and look at the text, perhaps read a page).
Students are seated in pairs and spend 5 minutes “tasting" at each table, while relaxing café-style music is played for added ambiance. The students rotate around all 11 tasting tables over two lessons.
If students think that they might be interested in reading a book in the future, they jot down the title of the book, the author and call number onto a personal reading list. At the end of the two weeks of book tasting, the students have generated their own personal reading list of books with their location within the library. After the tasting, a lesson is spent deciphering what the call number on the spine labels mean, so that students can more readily locate these books during borrowing times.
We find that the café is well worth the effort! Students are excited and engaged and have commented on how surprised they were that they found books on genre tables they thought they wouldn't like. The students all have a personal reading list now for the future. Some list as many as 40 books that they think they'd like to read! The book tasting is a very relaxing and enjoyable way to introduce students to a wide variety of genres and new books that we have in the library.
Follow all the wonderful happenings at William Carey library on Instagram @william_carey_library
Some of the great offerings at the Book Cafe