"I feel like everyone should know about Beijing Tai Tai... it's the
Eat Pray Love
for mothers." - author Dee White

Friday, 29 August 2014

#illo52weeks - week 34: BUTTERFLY

Watercolour and fineliner; a tribute to my dad

watercolour and pencil

watercolour and fineliner

watercolour and fineliner

watercolour, pencil, prismacolor pencil

gouache, white pen, pencil, prismacolor pencil

watercolour thumbprints, white pen, fineliner

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Recent Book Purchases - August 2014

Recent book purchases. Yes, there has been a spree. Yes, I have a Picture Book 'problem'. All come highly recommended.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Reading for Picture Book Writers with Gus Gordon

I'm of the belief that if you want to write well, you need to read - a lot. If you're keen to hone your individual writing talents, a priceless way to improve is to spend time reading the genre you're passionate about.

In this new series of posts, I'll be featuring some of our finest Australian authors, who will suggest titles in the genre they know, love and write in. I hope these book suggestions help you hone your own understanding of your writing and how effectively you are producing.

Picture Books

Picture books are absolutely, positively for anyone. They defy age readership, and bring delight to people of all walks of life, from babies through to Granny and Grandpa. Their language is a two-step between image and text that resonates with all people--with the pictures bringing nuance and meaning to the storyline, and the storyline gently guiding the visual elements that speak in ways words never can.

If you are keen to write Picture Books, author/illustrator Gus Gordon has some fabulous recommendations on books in this genre--books that work really, very well (and coincidentally are some of my all-time favourite picture books). Gus has illustrated some wonderful books including Big Pet Day by Lisa Shanahan, My Life and Other Stuff I Made Up by Tristan Bancks, My Aussie Dad by Yvonne Morrison and I Am Cow Hear Me Moo by Jill Esbaum. He is also the author and illustrator of such gems as Wendy, A Day with Noodles, and the superb Herman and Rosie. You can learn more about Gus at www.gusgordon.com.

Gus's Recommendations

One can’t really talk about the writing of picture books without talking about the illustrations and the same can be said the other way around. The two, at least in a good picture book, work closely together to tell the story by explaining, hinting, revealing and most importantly, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps. I am especially fascinated with the layers of narrative hidden, on purpose or otherwise, within the writing or illustrations. Often the writer has unknowingly woven strands of extra detail into the story. Subtle layers that illuminate character, provide back-story, plug holes and help create a contextual authenticity that makes a good picture book so satisfying. The great picture books seem to do all these things and more. It’s a kind of magic. ‘How did they do that?’

As an illustrator who writes, I am constantly trying to figure out ways to connect my pictures using words that contribute something I can’t show the reader in the illustrations. I get excited by the possibilities words offer me. It’s all too easy to forget sometimes how much I can reveal in the pictures. ‘How close or how far removed should the words and pictures be?’ It’s a tricky thing to balance. Balance seems to be the best word to describe the relationship between the words and pictures.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the picture book genre and now have a rather large collection of books from around the world. I go through periods of being immersed in them (it helps to have three small kids!) and ignoring them while I work on my own books. Here are some of my favourites that I keep coming back to:

Olivia written and illustrated by Ian Falconer
For me, this book ticks all the boxes. The words and pictures are in perfect harmony. Ian Falconer is brilliant at the ‘set-up’; creating unexpected surprises with each reveal. He makes it all seem so simple. Plus Olivia is such a strong, fun character.

Spork written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
This is a terrific anthropomorphical story about Spork who is a cross between a fork and spoon (his father being a fork and his mother a spoon). Spork doesn’t know where he fits in and sets about discovering who he is. It’s a great idea, perfectly executed with stunning illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault.

Lost and Found written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
For me the story has to start well; with a bang or a promise to the reader that ‘this book is going to be great!’ Lost and Found begins ‘Once there was a boy and one day he found a penguin at his door.’ This line asks so many questions – we have to find out what happens. And as it happens, it’s a lovely, moving story with beautiful illustrations.

Adelaide, The Flying Kangaroo written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer
Talking about killer opening lines, Tomi Ungerer’s book Adelaide begins: ‘Adelaide’s parents were surprised when they saw that their daughter Adelaide had wings.’ I love how he’s just jumped in with an appealing (illogical) premise from the very opening – bang! I’m a big Tomi Ungerer fan and this book about a kangaroo with wings is hard to beat. He is a master of making the ridiculous plausible and I always feel like I’ve had an adventure when I’ve read his work. And what could be better than that!

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris written and illustrated by Leigh Hobbs
Speaking of nonsensical plots, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris is one for the ages. Mr Chicken is an eight foot tall, canary yellow, top hat wearing, featherless chicken who one day decides to visit his friend, Yvette, in Paris. Leigh Hobbs is particularly clever at inventing odd characters and writing entertaining stories to suit them. Thankfully we as the reader, are more than happy to be lead along. Our kids love this book. It’s the funniest picture book I know. Leigh is so very good at wooing the reader with understated construct and then startling them with a sensational reveal. He says one thing then shows another. This is very difficult to do well (for me at least!)

There are a ton of picture books I could mention that have been influential with regard to the way I tell stories. It would take too long to write about them all, as much as I would like to but here are some others that have helped me along the way:

Amos & Boris written and illustrated by William Steig

Hector Penguin written by Louise Fatio, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown written by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Neal Layton

The Mighty Lalouche written by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

The Incredible Book Eating Boy written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Dogs Don’t do Ballet written by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie written and illustrated by Joel Stewart

The Migrant written by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Bartholomew and the Bug written and illustrated by Neal Layton

Marshall Armstrong is New to our School written and illustrated by David Mackintosh
The Lion and the Bird written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc

Harry the Dirty Dog written by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

See Writing for Middle Grade Fiction with Jen Storer

Monday, 25 August 2014

Tottie and Dot Blog Blast Schedule!


Remember, these links will not go live until Sunday 7 September!

*This is not a real TEDã Talk, though we’re hoping Tottie and Dot will be asked to do a real one soon.


Book Launch Party Wrap-Up!Tania McCartney Blog
Hear all about it! See photos and all the fun from the Tottie and Dot book launch party at Dymocks Canberra. Live by 4pm.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Bunnies love Tottie and Dot!

Even bunnies are getting into the Tottie and Dot spirit--this little munchkin was see at my friend Leonie's house, reading up a storm!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Meet Dot!

I'm having the loveliest Book Week and spent yesterday at one of my favourite Canberra schools - Richardson Primary School. Today the kids had their Book Week parade and just look who showed up - Dot! Isn't she divine?

Honestly, there is nothing more glorious than having children resonate with your books; it's just the most amazing feeling. Thank you, Dot!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Friday, 15 August 2014

CBCA Book of the Year 2014 - The Winners!

the shortlistees (+ publishers) for the Early Childhood category

Biggest congrats to my talented friends and colleagues--shortlistees and winners of this year's Book of the Year Awards! I was at the National Library of Australia earlier today for the announcement event--featuring a Who's Who of book creators, publishers and aficionados.

The CBCA ACT branch hosted this year's awards in the theatre at the fabulous National Library. Local 666 ABC host Louise Maher emceed, and many of the shortlisted authors and illustrators were present.

Chosen from a pool of almost 500 entries, the shortlisted books truly reflect the vibrancy and talent of Australian writers and illustrators and the strength of the Australian book industry. As Margaret Hamilton, AM, mentioned - children's books are keeping our bookshops afloat, with around 30 per cent of sales falling into the juvenile category. Such a wonderful thing to hear.

And now, without further ado, here are 2014's winners and Honour books!

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Older Readers
Winner: Wildlife by Fiona Wood (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Honour Books: Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)
The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (UQP)

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Younger Readers
Winner: City of Orphans: A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)
Honour Books: My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)
Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer, Ill Brian Simmonds (Fremantle Press)

BOOK OF THE YEAR: Early Childhood Winner: The Swap by Jan Omerod, Ill Andrew Joyner (Little Hare, Hardie Grant Egmont)
Honour Books: I’m A Dirty Dinosaur by Brian Janeen Ill Ann James (Puffin Books, Penguin Group Australia)
Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson Ill Freya Blackwood (Little Hare, Hardie Grand Egmont)

a video acceptance speech from Shaun Tan

Winner: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
Honour Books: King Pig by Nick Bland (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia
Silver Buttons by Bob Graham (Walker Books)

EVE POWNALL AWARD FOR INFORMATION BOOKS Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille Ill Danny Snell (Working Title Press)
Honour Books: Welcome to My Country by Lallak Burarrwanga and Family (Allen & Unwin)
Ice, Wind, Rock by Peter Gouldthorpe (Hachette Australia)

The CBCA independent awards are the most respected awards in Australia and have the biggest effect on the success of Australian children’s books. Angela Briant, Chair of the CBCA National Board reiterates, 'For nearly 70 years, the CBCA has proudly celebrated and promoted excellence in literary artistry, illustration and quality publishing—and this year’s books are no exception. We congratulate all those involved in creating this wonderful feast for our young people’s imaginations.'

The CBCA is comprised of individuals who are dedicated to celebrating Australian literary talent and communicating the joys of a great story. These teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, kids, parents, grandparents and publishing professionals— recognise the value of these Awards as providing a valuable guide for selecting stories that have all the right ingredients for leading kids towards a rewarding reading experience.

For more, visit cbca.org.au/awards.htm.


Following the Awards announcement Children’s Book Week kicks off with activities in libraries, schools and communities across the country.

This year’s theme ‘Connect to reading’ is encouraging everyone to take the time in our busy lives to really engage in getting this ‘connection’ hard-wired. Reading - whether through a book, or digital and social media – can take our children’s minds to imaginary worlds and also help them to connect to each other. By doing this, we create the critical literacy skills necessary to living in these times.

Happy reading!
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