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Nominations open 
On the front lines with Hayley Laraghy
Between the pages with Meg McKinlay
Book Bites
Brag Page
Special report
National Simultaneous Storytime 


ALIA CYS are pleased to announce two awards aimed at youth services librarians, teacher librarians and those working with children and youth in libraries in Australia! 
Both awards are worth $500 and nominations close 30 July 2021. 


Hello! Tell us a little about your library service!
Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to tell you about the amazing Nambucca Valley Libraries. There are two branches, one at Macksville and the other at Nambucca Heads. I get to work at both. The libraries serve a smallish regional community. The library staff are a committed bunch that wear many hats to keep the libraries functioning.
How did you end up being a librarian? 
I have always had a love affair with libraries. I found magic and beauty in them as a young school student, and I still hold that feeling to this day. However, I was in the early childhood profession for several years before I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a librarian. I studied hard and obtained a library degree (and made some amazing librarian friends along the way). Started out working casually at my local libraries and eventually became permanently employed. I have not looked back.
What is one of the most awesome parts of your job? 
Seeing all the children that come into the library to borrow books and hosting story-time. Next to that it is recommending a book to someone. I will also confess I love acquisitions and cataloguing. It brings me happiness!
What programs do you run for children and young adults? 
We hold story-time for under 5’s Tuesday and Friday all year round. During the school holidays we hold events that we aim for the children of our community. Some of the events have been slime, escape room, rock painting, wildlife show, a magician workshop, parkour workshop, kite making, face painting, art. 
We have started an after hours Dungeons and Dragons club too; this is aimed at teenagers. D&D has been a hit so far (I think it has something to do with Stranger Things?).
What are you reading? 
I recently read Honeybee by Craig Silvey. LOVED IT!! I am waiting for Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid to be published. I just adored her book Daisy Jones and the six. Currently, I am reading Troy by Stephen Fry, who does not love a bit of mythology?
 If you had to choose one children’s or YA book to take to a desert island what it be and why? 
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. It has a very soft spot in my heart.
 Libraries are awesome because?  
They are for all of us. Your social standing does not matter when you are in a library; because you don’t need money to access its facilities. Oh, and they promote digital literacy! 


Hello Meg McKinlay! Tell us about yourself!
Hello! Well, what would you like to know? I’m a children’s writer based in Fremantle, a stone’s throw from the beach, assuming you can throw a stone couple of kilometres and over a somewhat-high ridge. 

I’ve published 18 books for young people and these include picture books, chapter books, junior fiction and middle-grade/young adult crossover.

I’m also a poet, with one published collection and many poems in literary magazines, and I think to a certain extent poetry has an influence on all my work. I was born in South Australia, grew up in Victoria, and have been in Western Australia since my early twenties when I decided to go somewhere nobody knew me and see who I turned into. I guess this is the result! I was previously a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, teaching English Literature, Japanese and Creative Writing, but these days my main job is writing. When I’m not doing that, I can be found reading, swimming, walking or trying to think up new and creative ways to get out of social gatherings.

How did you decide to become a writer, and who or what are major influences on your work?
There was no decision as such, but rather a series of increments that eventually gathered enough momentum to cause a shift. In addition to having always been a lover of words and generally messing about with language, I’m a natural observer and collector, someone who stands back and watches, who gathers shiny bits and pieces – odd little thoughts or turns of phrase, things that strike me as funny or interesting - and jots them down somewhere. I’ve done this since I was a kid but really without any thought of ever making something of them. Or perhaps that’s not the right way of putting it. I really felt that they were things already, and they were – they were interesting fragments and didn’t need to be more than that.

One day, though, one particular fragment seemed to be taking on a shape, looking perhaps a bit like a poem, and I thought huh, maybe this is something different. So I tinkered with it and eventually sent it off to a literary magazine, who wrote back and said it was indeed a poem and they’d like to publish it. It was also around that time that my daughter was born and through her I returned to children’s books. I guess they just became the water I was swimming in and quirky little ideas started creeping into my head, and my scribblings, and one day I thought of one particular scribbling, huh, this feels a bit like something that could be a picture book.

So I tinkered with it and eventually sent it off to a publisher, who wrote back and said it was a nice idea and I clearly had a way with words, but that I had a lot to learn about writing an actual story. Which was true, and remains so to this day. But by then the idea was growing that maybe this was something I could do, and I kept getting more ideas and scribbling them down, and sending them off and getting rejections, and learning, and eventually, after four years had I guess learned enough for a publisher to take a chance on me.

In terms of influences, I can’t overstate the importance of poetry to my creative life, but I wouldn’t say that I’m influenced stylistically or thematically by any particular authors. I think I’m mostly driven by my own memories of childhood reading, trying to recreate that feeling of disappearing into the world of a book. I’m also really inspired by Shaun Tan, whose work is so utterly strange and yet at the same time also feels like it speaks directly to me. His work convinces me that a writer is at their best when they’re writing out of their own, unique way of seeing. It makes me brave enough to honour my own particular weirdness in my work, to trust that, as idiosyncratic as that might seem to me, there will be readers out there who find themselves in it too.

What was your favourite book as a child?
Oh, so hard to choose favourites! But if I must, I’ll go with Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. Firstly for my sense of absolute connection with Harriet, a bookish kid who feels out of place among her peers and likes writing notes about her observations. Secondly for the respect Fitzhugh affords her child characters, and readers; the stakes felt real, the emotion and drama utterly believable. And Harriet’s relationship with Ole Golly is just glorious and so beautifully drawn. It’s everything I love - character-driven, smart, and full of heart; simply a wonderful book.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Creatively, it’s that simple, elusive moment when I feel like I’ve got the right words in the right order, when I sit back from the keyboard and just sort of go ahhh. I don’t often know what I want to say in a book, or how I want to say it, but I almost always know how I want the reader to feel; when I think I’ve achieved that, I’m at my most satisfied. Which brings me to the other big reward, which is meeting readers and hearing their responses to my work. There’s absolutely nothing like seeing a child clutching one of your books to their heart or waving their hand excitedly because they’re just busting to talk about one of your characters.

Since we're all library lovers here, how has the library played a role in your life?
I come from Eaglehawk, which is just outside Bendigo in Central Victoria, and we used to have a Bookmobile – a fantastic orange bus-like vehicle – that would come and set up outside the Town Hall every week or so. We didn’t have a car, so it wasn’t easy for us to get in to Bendigo to use the ‘big library’ but in any case the Bookmobile was more exciting to me as a small child. And we had a trek to get to there anyway – Mum and a couple of kids each time, and then on the way home, a fully loaded pram. We somehow always ended up with more books than we could reasonably carry and the weight of it all would hit home on about the fifth hill, in the dry heat of the summer. But it was always worth it when we got home, and could grab a book each and disperse to the many corners of the house, or in my case, often, up a convenient gum tree.

I was an early reader and another vivid library-related memory I have is, upon starting school, of being told by the librarian that I could only choose books from a particular section. This was crushing to me, as I had been waiting for a long time to have access to the exciting shelves of the school library. My parents had a quiet word, though, and one day the librarian pulled me aside and said I could go around the corner, to the ‘big kid’ shelves. It was a tiny library at a small country school, but it seemed like an endless smorgasbord of books at the time, and I coudn’t have been happier.

My library habit has persisted to this day. In order to feed my addiction, I signed my husband and daughter (as well as myself, of course!) up at every city library within a reasonable distance. Three borrowing limits at four libraries equals a significant number of books. At one point, my daughter pointed out to me that it wasn’t really reasonable for me to get cranky with her for eating into ‘my’ quota by actually using her own card.
Plug time! What's your latest book and where can fans stalk - I mean follow - you online?
My most recent book is How to Make a Bird, a picture book collaboration with Matt Ottley, published by Walker Books. It’s the story of a girl who sets out to make a bird from found objects, and is an allegory for the creative process and the act of letting go, among other things. I’m immensely proud of it and still pinching myself that I got to work with Matt.

In the pipeline, I have an illustrated chapter book (with Nicholas Schafer) coming out from Fremantle press in July. It’s called Bella and the Voyaging House, and is a sequel to Bella and the Wandering House, although both books also work as standalones.

If anyone would like to stalk or follow me online, I can be found at:  


Picture book

Roll Up, Roll Up, Clean Up.
A Story about Taking Responsibility

By Penny Harris and Winnie Zhou

It’s the first day of Spring with Ginnie, Pinney and friends are having a very noisy discussion about cleaning when suddenly they smell something very bad from the koala’s house?
 Ginnie and Pinney and their friends decide to intervene and find out what is that smell and realise they need to teach the koalas how to clean their house. Teaching the koalas to clean their house is a lot of fun, but will they continue to keep the house clean without help? Have the koalas really learnt to be responsible?

This is another fun adventure in problem solving and decision making. This is a story about taking responsibility for your personal environment and reinforces the importance of personal care. It also encourages young readers to work together as a team and how this can be very rewarding. The characters are fun loving and the use of supporting words in a positive way helps the young reader learn about responsibility and empathy. Helen Tomazin

written by Zanni Louise, illustrated by Missy Turner

Kindness is the latest of the gorgeous picture books in the Human•Kind book series that offer children and their families a way to talk about important values and shared beliefs . Each of the Human•Kind books feature the same fictional characters Jack, Li Wei, Lila, Mina, Rosie and Freckles the dog. 
We have met Jack on the front of Honesty, Mina on Persistence, Li Wei on Courage and now we meet Lila! Readers of this book are taken on a journey through each of the characters daily lives featuring different acts of kindness.
I love it how kindness is described by writer Zanni Louise as an ingredient you can use to grow your heart.  At the end of the book there is a reflection on the value featured - (Kindness) and some discussion questions , great ways to spark conversation - e.g. - ‘what would the world be like if everyone was kind to each other? How do you feel when someone is kind of you. Also in the back pages you will find interesting examples from adults in the community discussing times when someone was kind. In addition helpful notes from Dr Amelia Johnson - Child Clinical Psychologist. 
A shout out to the wonderful illustrator Missy Turner for the beautifully detailed and vibrant pages .A truly wonderful and important series, keep a look out for Kindness and I can’t wait for more. Resilience is next! Nicola McGeown

Junior fiction

Six Seconds: The Newcastle earthquake
by Alan Sunderland

Michael is in year six at the Junction primary school in 1989 and he would love to win a bike in the sand modelling competition. His dad works at BHP and his mum is a journalist. Anil is his best friend and together their families enjoy life in Newcastle. After winning the first round by sculpting a dog Michael then attempts a hammerhead shark in a semi final to further his chances. But although things go well for Michael, he has always collected news about disasters and accidents from Australia and the world in a special scrapbook.

His parents and teacher are aware of this anxiety, but life goes on and, in the holidays he spends time with his Gran at bingo. After winning the bike and initially excited Michael then starts withdrawing from activities, even walking to school abandoning his bike and the bus due to anxiety. When the day comes in December 1989 Michael is home alone when the quake hits, he survives despite the serious damage. Realizing that his gran is at bingo in the building deemed by the news as the worse affected he overcomes his fears racing by bicycle to find her by crawling through rubble. Based on real events this first-person narrative provides a personal account of families in this period and the bravery of many in finding and rescuing survivors. Having built a character Sunderland shares a boy with dreams, positive attributes, and issues. Highly recommended. Claire Stuckey

Junior non-fiction

Do Something for Someone Else
written by Loll Kirby, illustrated by Yas Imamura

What a wonderful book! Do Something for Someone Else features children from around the world whose small acts of kindness are changing the lives of others. 

We meet 12 real life children including: 

  • Marie- Astrid from France - passionate ballet dancer on a mission to make ballet inclusive
  • Selin from Turkey - Inventor of robotic dogs to provide support for blind people
  • Havana from the USA - Fundraises to get children reading stories featuring Black characters
  • Emily from the UK - Campaigner for accessibility on behalf of disabled people 

Truly heartwarming stories which encourages us all to do something for someone else. The future of the world starts here, with you. There is also a wonderful section towards the back pages with ideas of how you can make a difference. Truly inspirational stories with gorgeous illustrations by Yas Imamura. Nicola McGeown

Young Adult

Tiger Daughter
by R Lim

Wen and Henry work together in a special English class although Wen has already mastered the language but their friendship is based on symbiotic needs. Henry has only been in Australia a short time and is brilliant in many subjects including maths, a weakness for Wen. Their teacher wants them both to sit for a selective school placement exam but both have family issues causing barriers to their applications. Wen has a controlling father and subservient mother, while Henry’s mum has major depression leading to her suicide. When Henry locks himself away Wen is forced to act leaving food and worksheets each day at his front door.

Leading her mother into further breaks from the rigid schedule her father enforces Wen’s mother becomes more outgoing after helping a elderly Chinese couple at the local chemist. Supported by her teacher and others in her class Wen finds more courage to help Henry, his father and eventually herself by claiming a right to her choices and future. This is a powerful novel that relates the strong traditional cultural mores that many migrants transplant to new lives in Australia. While trying to stay true to their culture the need to harmonise with school , work and society is difficult.  Highly recommended - Claire Stuckey

Balloon Girls

by Darrell Pitt

Yallaroo is an Australian country town in drought. When a Science competition offers a prize to visit the Smithsonian Museum Ally and her friends decide to enter. To prove the earth is round they need lots of money for equipment but this in only one challenge they face. Weather, technology, and strange events at her house keep this story interesting.

When disaster strikes Ally and her dad find the whole town rallies to support them. With time running out the girls need to make their final experiment work. This is a great Australian story that covers themes including science, weather and highlights the problems of distance and climate in rural areas. Great read for young teens. Claire Stuckey

Graphic novel- Junior 

School of fish: Fintastic Four Louis Shea
by Thom Pico

The Fintastic Four attend Shipwreck Primary school in the deep ocean. Mr Octo is their teacher and Ms Kraken is the meanest teacher even scaring Principal scampi. Philippa the newest pupil is a very smart and very fast dolphin. Finn the shark, and his friends are not sure about this new schoolmate. When the Great Ocean race is announced Phillipa enters but the Great White shark Blake sabotages each of the other contestants until only Phillipa remains. When Harry the Hammerhead is seen heading onto the course Finn and the friends investigate. This is a great fun adventure junior graphic novel series with lots of undersea characters profiled through the book. Claire Stuckey 

Graphic novel- YA

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel
Adapted by Mariah Marsden; Illustrated by Brenna Thummler; Original work by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic coming of age tale is beautifully reimagined by Mariah Marsden and Breanna Thummler in this young adult graphic novel. The graphic novel tells the familiar tale of young orphan Anne Shirley’s journey to Green Gables and her life on the iconic and idyllic farm. Precocious and fanciful Anne is not the child Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert were expecting when they sent for a child from the orphanage but she is exactly the person to bring life to their community. This is a classic tale of love, friendship and community told through the eyes of a young girl at the turn of the twentieth century.
Though short and light on dialogue this retelling perfectly captures the emotion and charm of the original story. The art is absolutely beautiful and really brings Anne’s world to life. Thummler utilises green linework throughout creating a real cohesion within the story and a really unique and visually interesting art style. As an adaptation, this book hits all of the key moments from its source material, though the story has been somewhat condensed to fit the new format. Major events that spanned chapters in the original story now last one or two pages in the graphic novel. As a result the book is a very easy read and would be suitable for junior readers and older readers alike. If you have a reader who was a fan of the TV series Anne with an E this title would make for a great introduction to the original source material. Beth Barrass


REACH - A space podcast for kids
A day in the life of an astronaut with NASA astronaut Matthew Dominic, Darren Criss and Sean Astin (37 mins). 
NASA’s Curious Universe - Sounds of Mars
This special episode of NASA’s Curious Universe features the first-ever raw recorded sounds from Mars (15 mins). 

Scholastic Reads Podcast To Fly Among the Stars: Celebrating Women in Science
Do you know a little girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut, a fighter pilot, or an aeronautical engineer? In this episode, we celebrate the achievements of women who dared to follow their own dreams at a time when they were laughed at and dismissed. Featuring Rebecca Siegel, the author of To Fly Among the Stars: The Hidden Story of the Fight for Women Astronauts and Dr Ronke Olabisi, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine.

Words and Nerds: Authors, Books and Literature Kylie Howarth - Fish Kid
Children’s author Kylie Howarth chats to Dani Vee about swimming with sharks, the environment and kid lit.


StoryWalk at Monash Public Libraries

Emily Beimers
Youth Services Librarian

One day in 2020 my team leader suggested we set up a StoryWalk outside our library. She’d come across the idea in the State Library of Victoria’s online Leap from the Page: Libraries promoting healthy lifestyles seminar. StoryWalk was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and was developed with the help of Rachel Senechal. It involves placing laminated book pages along an outdoor path so that families are encouraged to walk and read. It really was the perfect project for Covid-19 conditions where people were inside the library less, and outside walking. Needless to say I was quite taken with the idea and immediately agreed that we should have one.

We began our planning process. First we needed permission to run it on our council property, and after numerous phone calls and conversations we were put in contact with the parks and gardens team who agreed to let us place stakes into the grounds around our branch with the assistance and guidance of their team. Next came the planning of the story and the walking route. I decided that I loved the idea of having a story that was actually unique and specific to the park around our library so I ended up writing my own to match a route we planned around the grounds rather than using the pages of an existing picture book.

My story featured a duck called Gary out on a walk in the grounds outside the Wheelers Hill Library. To illustrate the story I took photos around the grounds and overlayed text and free images in Canva (one of the best tools if you work in a public library). Each part of the story included an action to make the story more interactive. To accompany the story I developed a printed map with instructions that could be collected from the library. Once we’d finalised the story and route we had to determine what we actually required to install the StoryWalk, and we landed on wooden stakes and laminated story sheets attached with heavy duty Velcro. With the help of our parks and gardens team we installed the stakes and attached the story pages. The walk was in!

Straight away we had people engaging with it, particularly after promoting it at our outdoor Storytimes, which was wonderful to see. However pretty quickly we realised we had a problem, our stakes and signs kept disappearing! It happened slowly at first and then it became a real problem with multiple signs being taken. This was a disappointing turn of events and we eventually decided to take it down after just two weeks, as we couldn’t continue to replace them.

While it was short lived, it was actually lovely to see people using it and we received some positive feedback about the walk. Our major take away from it was that while it was a great idea, having a more permanent way of installing the story would make it durable and protect it from vandalism. Definitely for something for us to consider for the future!
StoryWalk Website


Teen library engagement: learning from the high school experience

High-school aged students have many barriers to accessing library services. Homework, sports, increased social pressure and digital devices all compete with young people’s limited free time. At Melba Copland Secondary School Library we have developed an engagement strategy that uses research-based approaches to help to create a connection between our students and the library. Since the implementation of the strategy 5 years ago student borrowing levels have increased by 90%. The core pillars that the Melba Copland strategy is based on are:
  • The library performs an essential wellness role in the school
  • Collection development should be driven by engaging students to read for pleasure over reading for study
  • Students should see their values and interests represented in the library
An important part of the wellness role of the library is ensuring that the physical space feels safe and welcoming to students. Staff greet students warmly and by name if possible, and ensure that the atmosphere is inviting and positive. Students need to know that the library is a space specifically for them and what they need and to feel welcomed, especially if they are new or not regular library users.
The biggest impact we have been able to have on student engagement has been adopting a student-led acquisitions model for our collective development strategy. Identified barriers to connecting with our patrons were the hit-and-miss nature of staff-led collection development, and the high likelihood of staff not being aware of niche student interests and how to cater to them.

We aggressively promoted the introduction of this policy with a campaign that stated ‘If we don’t have what you want, we will buy it for you’. We coupled this with a strategy of promoting ‘All reading is good reading’. Previously we had found that students were sometimes surprised by some of the books in our collection, and often remarked that they didn’t know that ‘those kinds of books were allowed in the library’.

These books were often YA-themed manga or books written by YouTube stars – high interest to our students but outside of what they obviously thought a school library would house. With this change in strategy every library user is now invited to shape the collection, and therefore our promotions, marketing and library space, in a meaningful way.

Student-led acquisitions now form over 80% of our book purchases in a year. We maintain a policy of buying whatever students request, emphasising that their requests are not suggestions, but that they are literally adding a title to our purchasing shopping list. This policy has meant that we have purchased many titles that we would have otherwise been unaware of. It’s helped us narrow down from the vast publishing industry what our particular cohort of students want to read.

We also discovered many secret interests in our school community. Poetry is a widely requested genre, so we created a whole special YA poetry area to cater to this interest. Students love seeing their requests shape the library, and we are very vocal and explicit about highlighting which students made which books
happen in the library. We have also had some requests that we never would have expected in a High School. For example, we now own all the Grug books, which the students adore.

Many times we have witnessed them reading Grug to each other in a story time format. We’ve worked with this interest and added the coveted award of ‘Most Grug books borrowed this year’ to our end of year library awards. Embracing and celebrating whatever the students are interested in forms part of our ‘All reading is good reading’ policy, and has fostered a very positive relationship between the student community and the library.
After several years of running our strategy, we have been able to analyse the effect it has had on our patrons and our view on how to run a successful library service. We’ve learnt the value of not seeing teenagers as a cohesive cohort; they are highly diverse with shifting and group-specific interests. Rather than focussing our collection development on what we think teenagers would like, or what is hot in YA publishing, we focus on the individuals that we have in our community.

Our surveys and statistics have shown that students have responded enthusiastically to having their personal interests reflected so visibly in the library, and are more likely to engage with the collection, recommend books to their peers and speak positively about their relationship with the library. Our vision for the service that we provide has shifted significantly over this time as well, as we’ve moved from providing a service that only we curate, to a service that facilitates the amplification of our student’s voices.

Mali Jorm, Teacher Librarian, Melba Copland Secondary School


The countdown has started to National Simultaneous Storytime from space.

The Australian picture book that is celebrated this year is Give me some space!, written and illustrated by the talented Philip Bunting

'Una dreams of a life in Space. Life on Earth is just so so-so. But how will she get there? And will she complete her mission to discover life in Space? And did she remember to feed Neil the goldfish?'

Philip believes that the more fun the child has during their early reading experiences, the more likely they will be to return to books, improve their emergent literacy skills, and later find joy in reading and learning. This year’s NSS reading experience will not only be fun, it will be totally out of this world because it will be read from the International Space Station by astronaut Shannon Walker.

Shannon has been an astronaut since 2004. She is from Texas and is married to Australia’s first astronaut Andy Thomas. Her first spaceflight was in 2010. At the moment she is a mission specialist on the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which launched into space last November. Find out more about Shannon from her NASA bio and inspiring video.
ALIA has put together a fantastic range of resources to help you generate interest and plan activities. For example, you can watch stories being read by astronauts and even view Earth from the International Space Station’s live feed. There is plenty to entertain your story time audience, whether it is in a library, school, university or your home.

Don’t forget to register your event. Last year there were 1,297,000 participants at over 14,469 locations, including participants from New Zealand, Thailand, UK, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong. Let’s make 2021 a record breaking year.
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