Australian Literary Educators Association - Conference in Darwin July 20 2014, 0 Comments

Last week I attended the ALEA ( Australian Literary Educators Association ) conference in Darwin where I gave a talk about making books in remote indigenous communities and shared a session with Jackie French about being the Australian Children’s Laureate. 

View from my room at the Darwin ALEA Conference

Tye, who is the Marketing Manager for Education, Events and Partnerships at Penguin books came with me and made sure everything ran smoothly. 

There were 600 delegates at the conference, all interested in children’s literature and literacy. I was lucky to attend a function at Government House where we chatted and had drinks and delicious food in the warm tropical evening and I also shared story time at the City Library. It was very exciting being part of such a big event and lovely to be somewhere warm and sunny.

Darwin Wave Pool

Click on the image below to visit ALEA website:

Buk Bilong Pikinini - My trip to Papua New Guinea July 03 2014, 0 Comments

Buk Bilong Pikinini - Papua New Guinea

Flying to Papua New Guinea - My view from the plane

At the end of May I went to Papua New Guinea for the inaugural PNG Author’s seminar, put on by a wonderful organisation called Buk Bilong Pikinini. BbP aims to foster a love of reading and learning, raise children’s aspirations and increase literacy rates through the establishment of children’s libraries across Papua New Guinea.

The seminar was designed to promote and support indigenous writing and illustrating of children’s books and stories in PNG. The founder of Buk Bilong Pikinini, Anne-Sophie Hermann had invited teachers, publishers, authors and artists and we worked together for three days, sharing ideas and knowledge about children’s books.

On the third day we visited the BBP library at Koki Markets and it was great to see the children having such fun learning to read and write. Before they came to the BbP library many of the kids would have never held a pencil or book. Bbp is giving them a future.

As well as attending the seminar in Port Moresby we flew to Tufi, in Oro province, on the north east coast of PNG. The writer Drusilla Modjeskka who was also at the seminar knows this area well and invited me to travel there with her. The area is called the fjiord coast because the long narrow bays are fjiords, formed by a volcano eons ago. Unlike the fjiords in Norway, the steep fingers of land that poke out into the sea are covered with rainforest and the ocean is warm and teeming with tropical fish. We stayed at a small dive resort in a bamboo cottage that looked over the sea.

On the second day we travelled by boat and then walked to Tainabuna School to work with the students and teachers to make some books. The villagers welcomed us with singing and drumming.

The Students at Tainabuna School


Inside the school there were over 100 students crammed into two tiny rooms and more little ones kept creeping in. It was very hot but we had a wonderful drawing, painting and writing about life on the fjiord coast where children paddle their canoes to school and birds of paradise live in the jungle.

That night I worked on my computer to collate one of the books and when the teachers came to Tufi the next day we printed out 8 copies. They were very proud of their students work.  We spent the day experimenting with different art techniques and sharing stories. Altogether we made four different books that day at Tainabuna and I have printed multiple copies and sent them to the school.


This is where we stayed during our visit.


The highlight of the trip was visiting  the village of Orotoaba, again we travelled by boat then hiked for about an hour up from the sea. Lots of the children had been at the school at Tainabuna so we got a great welcome. The village was very pretty, with thatched houses, coconut trees, beautiful gardens and acres of lawns, all trimmed with machetes. The views out to sea were lovely and the mountains rose steeply behind, covered with jungle. It was very different to home with no electricity, no running water, no fridges or stoves and no glass windows. We stayed in the guesthouse where we had our own room with a bed on a cane platform, made up with nice clean sheets and a mosquito net to tuck in and keep the creepy crawlies out. Apart from rice, all the food we were served came from the village gardens or the ocean and it was delicious.

We had lobster for breakfast! I had heard people walking past our room towards the sea at 4.00am and learnt they were the lobster catchers, going down to get breakfast for us. It was pouring in the morning so we didn’t get up the mountain in time to see the birds of paradise but we climbed up later anyway and saw gardens and betel nut plantations. I didn’t realise such beautiful villages still existed, where people live so simply, with so little. School finishes at year 8 and the schools are desperately short of resources so there is an urgent need to bring more education to the children of the fjiord coast.


Coming home - The Great Barrier Reef viewed from the plane

A Review of "Our Island" July 01 2014, 1 Comment

Our Island

The children of Gununa,
Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey
Penguin 2014


Our island lies beneath a big blue sky,
surrounded by the turquoise sea.
Turtles glide through the clear salt water.
And dugongs graze on the banks of seagrass…

And so begins the text of a most stunning pictorial book about Mornington Island, the largest of the Wellesley group in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the result of a collaboration by the children of Gununa – the main township- and Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey. Focusing on the stunning wildlife that inhabits both land and sea, the illustrations have been done by the children of Mornington Island State School using wax crayons and food dye wash.  This makes the focal point of the pictures stand out against the background which blurs and blends as dyes do and the landscape does. Beginning with the sunrise and following through the day until the ghost crabs make patterns on the sand, the local dogs sing to the moon and the island finally sleeps, this is a celebration of life in a unique environment where the connection between the land and life is almost indivisible.  

To read the full review click here

This review was provided by Barbara Braxton. Barbara is a Teacher/Librarian. You can read more of Barbara's worke here ...

The Bottom Shelf

500 Hats 


Why books are a big deal. June 27 2014, 1 Comment

Author and illustrator Alison Lester loves that her job involves making story books not just for children but WITH them. Alison's work has resulted in some amazing artwork and publication of new books by the children themselves. Some artwork from Alison's student's is shown below.

Alison's recently discussed her work with young artists on the ABC web site ...

"I've been writing and illustrating children's books for about 35 years.
My picture books mix imaginary worlds with everyday life and encourage children to believe in themselves and celebrate the differences that make them special. I am an Australian Children's Laureate (2012-2013) and my most recent picture books include Running With the Horses, a story based on the evacuation of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the second world war; One Small Island, about the life and times of a World Heritage Listed island; Sophie Scott Goes South about a little girl's voyage to Antarctica; and Kissed by the Moon, a lyrical lullaby for small babies celebrating a child's wonder at the natural world. I live on a farm in the Victorian countryside."

To read the entire article click here