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MARCH 2020


Between the pages with Frané Lessac
On the front lines with Melinda Benzie
Book Bites
Who to Follow
Brag Page
Special Report


Hello Frané ! Tell us about yourself!
Howdy! My name is Frané Lessac. I grew up in a small town outside of New York City and now call West Australia home. It was always a dream to become an artist. Now I'm an author-illustrator, creating nearly 50 picture books for children. I am married to author, Mark Greenwood, and together we have collaborated on many books, including, Simpson and his Donkey and Midnight – the story of a light horse. I am the proud recipient of the Muriel Barwell Award for Distinguished Service to Children's Literature and was the inaugural Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Australia West. I visit schools, libraries and festivals in metropolitan and remote communities and all over the world, sharing the process of writing and illustrating books.
How did you decide to become a writer, and who or what are major influences on your work?
My first book, My Little Island, was inspired by my years living on the small island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. I noticed that the library on the island was poorly stocked and that the local children had little in the way of books, specifically picture books where they could identify themselves. I started painting the lush scenery and people, and realised, the best way to share my love of the island would be to create a book that would make a connection with the children to their rich culture and a tribute to all Montserratians. That became my inspiration for my first and every book since then. Children need to develop a worldview so they can appreciate the richness of other cultures while at the same time, celebrate their uniqueness and place in the world.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. I identified with the little girl, Sal, in the story. As soon as I could walk, I was wandering off exploring the world with my little red wagon in tow. And I love blueberries!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Researching! These days, I write and illustrate a lot of non-fiction books. This allows me to travel, walk in someone else’s shoes, and explore new worlds. Every project is challenging and rewarding, and I learn so much during the research process. I then, in turn, impart that information in words and art to young minds in the hope it inspires them to go out and discover more.

Since we’re all library lovers here, how has the library played a role in your life?
My mother was an avid reader, and as a young child, she’d take me to our local public library, located in the basement of a school. I still remember the scent of the room. It was a sacred place with only whispering allowed that I treated with the utmost reverence. I was proud of my library card and when it filled up with borrowing stamps. I fondly remember the Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, kept on the bottom shelf. Reading every single one and begging the librarian to order more. The town finally built a purposely built library,  and I visit every time I’m back in New Jersey. Since that library was a big part of my life, last summer, I donated two hundred of my books for their summer reading program, and that makes me feel good.
Plug time! What’s your latest book and where can fans stalk - I mean follow - you online?
My latest book is Australian Baby Animals. It’s a celebration of all the cheeky, adorable, furry, scaly and feathery Australian favourites that make you go ‘awww.’ To showcase the animals, I grouped them by their baby names; joeys, hatchlings, fry, chicks, puggles, pups and platypups and added an extra fun fact that would appeal to older curious readers. I’m especially delighted that there are two versions available. A board book for 0-3-year-olds and a larger format hardback for 4-8-year-olds, both perfect for libraries ;-)

Please feel free to stalk me on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, or on my website.



Hi Melinda, can you tell us a little about your library service?
There are four branch libraries across the Campbelltown Local Government Area. All of our libraries have a huge range of books, CDs, DVDs, offer a wide range of programs for people of all ages as well as computers for use in the library. In addition to our branch libraries we also provide a range of online resources on our website including eBooks, databases and online tutoring programs. 
What would you say your library does well and differently?
Over the past few years the library has developed some non-traditional collections such as a cake tin collection and a discovery kit collection. These non-traditional collections have been very well received by our local community and given opportunities to people who may not have had access to items such as a ukulele, telescopes or many other amazing items from these collections. We’ve also been fortunate to be involved in some new and exciting programs such as Maths Fun in Libraries which has been extremely popular.
What do you think makes a good book?
I could talk about this all day but here’s some of the things I look for in the books I select for our libraries, recommend to children and families coming into the library and books I read myself. I judge a good book as having unique and memorable characters, a believable and engaging plot and of course a happy ending.  I also think having a lasting memory after reading the book is a huge compliment to the author. 
If you could invite any CYA author to your service for the day, who would you ask and why?
I have long admired Mem Fox and have been fortunate to hear her speak on a couple of occasions.  Not only do I admire her ability to write beautiful and engaging books for young children as well as adults but also all the work she has put in around children’s literacy and reading aloud with young children. As a Children’s Librarian I spend a lot of time talking to parents and carers about the importance of reading and talking with your child every day but I’d ask Mem what else she feels libraries can be doing in this area
When thinking about the way in which the CYS library space has changed over the last decade, what would you consider made the biggest positive impact?
I have always loved libraries and it was a long held dream of mine to work in a library.  Libraries have changed a lot in the time I’ve been working in them but I do think the more flexible focus over the past decade has made a big impact on my work.  This includes but is not limited to more flexible shelving, furnishings and running programs that may not have been held traditionally in a library setting.
Thanks Melinda, it was great to hear about your service!


Picture book

Morphing Murphy written by Robert Favretto, Illustrated by Tull Suwannakit

Murphy likes his life just the way it is - swimming in his weedy pond, slurping up algae and rotting water plants. But then things begin to change, and he's not the only one caught by surprise!

Tull Suwannakit's illustrations are beautiful and realistic – inspiring us with excitement and humour into the morphing figure of Murphy.  This book is quite moving as you witness the changes that Murphy experiences as he evolves into a gorgeous smiling frog. There is a special part of the story when Murphy leaps off a leaf into the cool green pond, and then sits lonely, staring wistfully into the starry night. It’s also a book of discovery and Murphy’s achievements and strengths. This is really a lovely book and informative at the same time and leaves you with a lasting impression of kindness and beauty. (Helen Tomazin)

Junior fiction

200 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath

So much can happen within the space of 20 minutes. Being thrown overboard a cargo ship, having to escape from two secret agents trying to capture you or traveling too far back in time and changing the course events.

In Jack Heath's new book 200 Minutes of Danger regular teenagers are put in potential death defying situations and must use their skills and knowledge to work their way out and save not only themselves but potentially the world! Written across 10 short stories, the first one takes us to a remote part of the jungle, where Carlo and Maria have spotted a creature so unbelievable that has to be seen to be believed. People who they thought they could trust have ulterior motives and when they are betrayed this is the catalyst that ripples throughout the book.
If you are looking for a new read that will take you on a high speed adventure with a touch mystery thrown in this is a fabulous choice. With the quick pace of each story it will draw you in and make you want to turn the page to see what could possibly happen. But you better read fast you don’t have much time left! (Gabby Cundy)

Junior non-fiction

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long
A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is so thoroughly and thoughtfully beautiful. Each page is skillfully written and married to corresponding illustrations. The book teaches its reader all about the world of rocks. Where they come from and how they are created, their use, size, colour, discovery and more are explored. It is a fun read, one loved dearly by the inquisitive child. This author/illustrator team has worked together to create additional titles  to this series, each book just as wonderful as this one. They make quite the addition to any children’s non-fiction collection. (Jennifer Nye)

Young Adult

 A Stranger’s Tale,
by Natasa Xeri
Illustrated by Adam Oehlers

In a seamless blend of fantasy, folktale and magic, Natasa Xeri weaves the story of a man known by the name of Stranger. Stranger embarks on a journey of recovery and redemption as he travels through the forest of darkness and light, exploring its darkest depths and its highest plains of enlightenment. Xeri leans upon old-world story-telling, imagery inspired by mythology and narratives of the folk-tale tradition to produce a parabolic novel that inspires imagination and self-reflection. Rich and expressive illustrations by artist Adam Oehlers bring Xeri’s opulent and layered narrative to life. (Alexandra Lloyd)

The Highest House: Book One
By Mike Carey Illustrated by Peter Gross

This is the story of a boy named Moth. Moth is a slave boy who is purchased by a wealthy and mysterious figurehead, and he lives in The Highest House. Soon after, Moth gains the friendship of a powerful entity named Obsidian, and Moth seems closer than ever before to freedom and happiness. But everything is not as it seems. Mike Carey is a master world builder, and illustrator Peter Gross brings life and vibrancy to Carey’s richly layered setting. Carey also builds a complex social structure for his readers to comprehend, so this graphic novel is ideal for readers who like a challenge. (Alexandra Lloyd)

How it feels to float by Helena Fox

We meet Biz unable to sleep, so she talks to her dad, but her dad is dead. Living with her mum and the twins she has a best friend called Grace and then there is the new boy called Jasper who has mobility issues. 

But Biz, or Elizabeth as we discover has not been coping with life in general and when her dad stops visiting her and Grace is sent away she finds it harder to cope.A  photography course gives her a focus for a while but as the images start taking to her we see her illness taking a greater hold.  Leaving school, starting a new routine and finally meeting the elderly Sylvia helps her decide what to do. The trip to her father's rural birthplace causes her to have a final breakdown.

This is a sad but engaging story of a girl struggling with mental illness is detailed in a realistic and moving narrative. All the supporting characters are well drawn and believable.  Biz finally gets the help she needs and we know that it will be a difficult path ahead but one with support and care. (Claire Stuckey)


Rachel Tribout
Amazing illustrator and graphic designer. Books include Monsters of Tasmania and The adventures of Captain Blueberry.

Books in Homes Australia
Books in homes Australia is an amazing charity that is committed to helping provide books to children experiencing the hardships that remote location, low socio-economic and disadvantaged status can bring. Through this account you are able to witness the generous work they do and the change they make through the gift of literacy engagement.

Jackie French
Wombat love from author, historian, dyslexic, ecologist, reading advocate, and all-round library champion.


Middle Grade Mavens Authors, Julie Grasso and Pamela Ueckerman bring us a special Ask the Editor Summer 2020 podcast series. Listen to 12 interviews with various professionals in the Australian kidlit industry covering everything from agents to illustrators.

Smash Boom Best A debate show for kids and adults, each episode takes two things and pits them against each other in a debate for the ages. Facts and opinions are given by the debaters, allowing the listener to make their own mind up and understand how to defend your stance in a discussion.
Fierce Girls ABC radio programs bring out the best in Australia by showcasing the incredibly brave and talented girls and women of our country. Each episode is about 15 minutes long and features a range of impressive female narrators. 

Picture books at Claremont College, Tasmania

I recently visited Claremont College and was impressed with their development of a picture book collection in a senior secondary college. They were rightly proud of the positive outcomes, on students and their families, which resulted from promoting picture books to students at risk of falling through the library cracks. They made me aware of the hidden potential in public library picture book collections. (Petrina Osborne)

Why picture books?

Pictured left to right: increased picture books at Claremont College.
Claremont College is situated in the northern suburbs of Hobart, Tasmania. The college caters to Year 11 and Year 12 students with most of the students coming from lower socio economic and indigenous backgrounds. We offer foundation subjects, pre-tertiary and VET (Vocational Education Training), and the Young Mums Program.

We also have the largest picture book collection of all the colleges in the state! Our collection consists of 700 picture books, with 546 books borrowed in 2019, and 79 new picture books added this year!
Our picture books are borrowed extensively for English, Art, Children services certificate II, Working with children classes, the Young Mums program, student carers for their younger siblings and staff.

There are five English class sets of picture books which are used for example the Jeannie Baker book Mirror is used in English classes to develop an understanding about difference and similarities, the images tell the story, it is a dual language book and this tool helps students with lower literacy and English language skills to demonstrate comprehension in a not so intimidating way. Picture books are for everybody. (Katie Thompson and Jo Woolf). 


Laureate launch 2020–2021

A large group of excited children and adults gathered at the National of Library Australia in Canberra on 11 February to hear and celebrate the announcement of the new Australian Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky.

Known for her wide variety of high-quality children’s books from fabulous picture books including The Terrible Plop and Rex, intriguing young historical adult titles like the Red Shoes and the Blue Cat, Ursula has also penned many wonderful junior fiction books such as Brindabella. With many decades of sharing great Australian fiction the Word Spy and Return of the Word Spy added non-fiction to her vast repertoire of literary gems.

This multiple award winning author has shared her amazing publications now she shares her time and passion as Laureate. Ursula’s Laureate banner is Read for your life and she encouraged the large audience of school children to join their local library and enjoy the freedom to borrow and read.
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