Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Why I Give Books at Christmas

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love YouA Bit LostHowl's Moving CastleA Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 

I often give books as gifts. I know my way around a bookstore; I read widely and discuss current reads with almost anyone, such that I am also good at selecting books to suit another’s tastes. And yet, when I mentioned ordering a book for a friend this year, my mother was less than enthused.
“A book? Just a book? Can’t you get something nicer?”
“A book is nice, Mum.”
“A book is boring. Fine, get a book, but get something to go with it.”
“I think the book will be fine. It’s unusual, but it suits. There’s a reason I had to order it.” 
Later, in the same conversation, I mentioned that I give books in Christmas charity drives, as opposed to the more commonly gifted toys. Again, I was met with a rather lukewarm response.

It may seem like books are a boring gift; they do not light up, or play music, or shoot water. They are often small, without the grandeur of a large box or lots of wrapping. But a book! A book gives challenge, takes on gender and racial stereotypes, offers insight and hope and opportunities for thought. 

And if you think giving books to a charity drive is boring, or unfair to children in need of toys, consider: a book is a gift I can donate for an older child. Most toys donated are for children up to the age of twelve or so. Gifts for older children are more expensive; most of us can’t afford to donate an Xbox or a bicycle. But a book? A book is something an older child can read and relate to, especially if thoughtfully chosen. It’s a gift that won’t break within hours of opening, and one that can be passed around. It’s something that ensures those kids older than twelve also have something to smile about on Christmas day. 

If you’d like to donate books this Christmas, please consider choosing something in the junior fiction to young adult category. Picture books and titles for younger readers are also immensely useful, but there’s no dearth of gifting for younger children. Books like Ambelin Kwaymullina’s Tribe series, or Sue Lawson’s After, Elsbeth Edgar’s In the Wings and On Orchard Road, or Sue Whiting’s Portraits of Celina are all a marvellous starting point. 

Which books would you choose to give this Christmas?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

On Reading With Children 1-2

Reading with a 1-2 year old can be tricky. They have shorter attention spans, are full of beans, and are too young to understand, on an intellectual level, the value of reading. (Sadly, “but this is good for you!” does not work on children younger than 8, and even then it’s a stretch.)

But there are ways to encourage reading. Set a good example – let the kids see you reading, let them see you discussing books. (This worked for me, as a child, and works very well on my four-year-old son.) And when it’s their turn to read, stack the deck a little:

-       select books that are high interest
-       set up a cozy reading nook – pillows and blankets, perhaps a chair fort
-       make sure the nook is away from distractions, such as toy shelves or the television

When it’s time to curl up with a book, let the children choose. Tired of reading the same thing over and over again? Set out a pile of Today Books, or Monday Books, and say that titles have to be chosen out of the pile. It’ll give adult readers a break, and help introduce kids to new fare.

Stuck for where to get started? Here are a few of our favourites:

Let's go to the baby animal farm. Follow the ducklings. Feed the lamb. What a day!

A vibrant picture book feature beautiful illustrations, and a combination of language and animal sounds to create a simple story that will engage younger readers.

Join Tom and his teddy bear Tilly for a journey across the high seas.

Fun and funny for the whole family, with gorgeous watercolour paintings to match the sweet text. And it comes with instructions on how to make a paper boat.

Babies wear all sorts of clothes - nappies, T-shirts, socks, trousers and hats. Helen Oxenbury's gorgeous illustrations capture the fun of getting dressed and babies' delight in everything they put on. No one draws babies like Helen Oxenbury. Her warm, affectionate depictions have been loved and cherished by children and adults around the world for over 30 years. In 1981, this groundbreaking little book was one of the most innovative board books ever published and is now considered a classic of the genre.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Last-Minute Picture Book Costumes for Halloween

Did Halloween creep up on you this year? Stuck for a costume? Try a few of our favourite picture book characters with this quick and easy how-to.

The Nutbrown Hares
Is Guess How Much I Love You? a favourite in your house? Try dressing up as everybody’s favourite father-son duo, the Nutbrown Hares. Pair a brown jumper with brown slacks or track pants, and add a set of ears. Don’t have ears lying around the house? A piece of cardboard (the inside of a cereal box works well), a brown texta, and a couple of slivers of sticky tape and you’re all set.

Where’s Wally?
If you have a few little explorers in your house this Halloween, celebrate with their adventurousness with a Where’s Wally? costume. Pick up a red-and-white striped shirt (or make one with an old tee and a red texta), don a pair of blue jeans, slip on some glasses, and you're ready to go. Want to go the whole hog? Take it a step further by adding a red beanie and one of Wally's accessories, such as a walking stick or binoculars. (Not into red and white? Pick up a black and yellow shirt and black jeans, and you've got an instant Odwal.)
Have a yen for a costume that’s just right? Try Goldilocks. A blonde wig and a dress, accompanied by a teddy bear or set of plastic bowls, and you’re all set. Or have a little fun, and try one of the variations listed in Allan and Jessica Ahlberg’s version of Goldilocks.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt Bear & Company
This one is especially easy if you have a few children. For the bear, start with a brown outfit (as with the Nutbrown Hares). Add a pair of beary ears – they can be cut out of cardboard, or fashioned out of any left over fabric that’s fuzzy and brown. Draw a black nose on to your bear with face paint (eyeliner also works in a pinch).

Next, get the whole family involved – sing the words to We're Going on a Bear Hunt as you walk about on Halloween. Or, if you’re so inclined, try matching the other members of your party to the characters in the book: all the outfits are fairly simple, and you probably already have the makings of the family costumes in your wardrobe.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What Makes A Picture Book A Favourite Book?

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

“I love you to the moon and back.” 

What is it that makes a book stay with us? What is it that we remember, specifically? Is it the prose, a
certain line? An illustration? Is it the memory of reading with someone in a favourite spot?

“I want my mummy!” 

The first picture book I read alone was Green Eggs and Ham. The first one I read to my son – and still read – was Owl Babies. (We even dressed up as Mummy Owl and Bill for Halloween one year.) The first one he read was Hug, swiftly followed by Tall. (Though it does help that these books have very, very few words.)


But how do we choose those first books? Is it that our parents or grandparents give them to us? Is it that we’re innately drawn to a concept, sound, or rhyme? My son had intense separation anxiety, and found Owl Babies soothing, because he could repeat “I want my mummy!” and feel vindicated. (He still tells me, sometimes, that he feels like the little owl and wants me to come home early.) And yet, I chose that book for him, only a few days after I learnt I was pregnant. My mother says I loved repeating the rhymes in Green Eggs and Ham, and playing with the rhythm of the text. At home, we read poetry and sing songs (like Guinea Pig Town and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) for the rhythm, which my son has developed an appreciation thereof. Is that because of me, or is that because of him? Is it because I recall reading rhyme with my mother and shouting it to the sky in the park?

“What a beautiful day!” 

I’m sure there’s no concrete answer to what makes us love a given book. Book love is existential,
really – it’s unique and experiential and dependent on so, so many factors and ideas. But isn’t it marvellous to think about? To question why we might love a picture book? To think about creating memories with our children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren? Which books have stayed with you? Which books make you smile every time you think of them?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Get Ready For Halloween With These Spooky Picture Books

Halloween is almost here! Enjoy the season with a few fun - and ghostly - picture books.

When a little ghost goes slip-sliding down the hallway, he suddenly hears ... a groan! Turns out it’s only a friendly mummy, who shuffles along with the ghost, until they encounter ... a monster! As the cautious explorers continue, they find a surprise at every turn - and add another adorably ghoulish friend to their tally. But you’ll never guess who is the scariest creature in the house!

And Then Comes Halloween, Tom Brenner and Holly Meade
As soon as geese fly south, children take autumn's cue to start their preparations: it’s almost Halloween! With poetic language and vivid collage illustrations, Tom Brenner and Holly Meade follow all the familiar rituals, from hanging paper skeletons to carving pumpkins, from costume-making to trick-or-treating. Halloween lovers will be eager to grab a bag or bucket and join them on this lively and lyrical journey.

Ever since Ben was a baby, his parents have concocted wild costumes for him on Halloween. He has been a magician’s rabbit (complete with a giant top hat), a bunch of grapes, even a slice of Swiss cheese. Ben has hated every one of these costumes. But now that he is seven, he decides to take matters into his own hands and construct a costume that makes this the best Halloween of all! The award-winning author of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and the illustrator of the Martha books have conjured a very amusing Halloween treat.

The witch has hidden a trick and a treat in her magical kitchen cupboards! Which one you find depends on how you open the doors. Whether it's frogspawn or popcorn, lollipops or rabbit plops, there are hilarious rhymes to discover inside in this innovative novelty book!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Leonard S. Marcus Discusses The Value of Picture Books

Leonard S. Marcus is the editor of Show Me A Story: Why Picture Books Matter. In compelling interviews, twenty-one top authors and illustrators reveal their inside stories on the art of creating picture books. Read more here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Poetry for Children: Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems cover
Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books areGuess How Much I Love YouA Bit LostHowl's Moving CastleA Wrinkle in TimeA Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

When we think of poetry, we rarely think of children. It’s usually Keats and Wordsworth, or Henry Lawson, or Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins, or dozens of other wonderful wordsmiths who come to mind. And much as I love them, and share them with my son (it is never, ever too early to share the rhythms of language), reading adult poetry aloud is vastly different to reading poetry intended for children.

Poetry, whether it be for children or adults, has value—especially when read aloud. The differences are usually about pitch, tone, and subject: poetry written specifically for children relates in some way to their experience, in a way that which is written for adults cannot. Moving house, being out bush, animals (movement, sounds, behaviours), play…there are dozens of things and ideas kids can relate to, recite, and share.

Love the idea of reading poetry with your kids, but stuck for where to get started? Look for illustrated works, like one of our favourites, Lorraine Marwood’s Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems. The illustrations help younger children verbalise and discuss the words. And don’t be afraid to play! Ask questions, make silly noises, appreciate language! The marvellous thing about poetry is that there is no wrong way to read it—it can be happy or sad or hilarious. You can experiment and have fun and talk about it in a way that’s not possible with straight up prose. And when paired with illustrations, like the wombat shown here, words become something almost tangible and exciting.

Lorraine Marwood was born and raised in rural Victoria and has lived for most of her married life on a dairy farm with her husband and their six children. Lorraine is an award-winning poet who has been widely published in literary magazines across Australia, as well as magazines in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Canada. Read more of her poetry in A Ute Picnic and Other Australian Poems, Ratwhiskers and Me and Star Jumps, which was short listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010, Lower Primary Category; received a Notable mention in the Children s Book Council of Australia Awards, 2010; and won the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Children’s Fiction, 2010.

Tell us about the poems you read with your children in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What do you love about picture books?

At Sydney Writers’ Festival this year, we asked children what THEY loved about books. To celebrate our birthday, we’ve put together a video of the best answers. Enjoy!


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

No Bears Released Into Paperback!

This month sees the exciting release of No Bears into paperback. It’s a cracker of a book, short-listed in the Early Childhood and Picture Book Categories in the Children’s Book Council Of Australia Book Of The Year Awards, 2012.

Ruby wants to tell you a story. A story with absolutely no bears. You don’t need bears for a book. You need pretty things like fairies and princesses and castles. And maybe funny things and exciting things - but definitely no bears! 

The book is a marvellous marriage of prose and illustration, each playing off the other. It’s also a fun introduction to what makes a story a story, full of possibilities to learn, discuss, and play.

Meg McKinlay grew up in Bendigo, Victoria, in a book-loving, TV- and car-free household. On the long and winding path to becoming a children’s writer, she has worked a variety of jobs including swim instructor, tour guide, translator and teacher. These days, she lives with her family near the ocean in Fremantle and is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Western Australia, where she has taught Australian Literature, Japanese, and Creative Writing. Meg divides her time between teaching and writing, a balance that swings wildly between chaos and calm.

Leila Rudge was born in England and grew up making mud pies with six siblings and Jeni from number 15. After completing an Illustration Degree at Bath Spa University, Leila headed to Australia to seek her fortune (and the sunshine). Creating tiny characters for books is her favourite part of illustrating.

Love No Bears? Take a peek at Duck for a Day and Definitely No Ducks!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Librarian Zac Harding's Favourite Walker Books

Zac Harding is a Community Learning Librarian at Christchurch City Libraries in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has been blogging for Christchurch City Libraries since 2009, highlighting children and young adult's literature on and running the Christchurch Kids Blog, aimed at 8-12 years. In late 2011 Zac also started his book blog, My Best Friends Are Books, where he features news, reviews and interviews from the world of children's literature.

It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate 20 years of Walker Books Australia because Walker books had a huge impact on me growing up.  It is those classic Walker books that I had when I was a kid and the beautiful books that they continue to publish that have made me in to the librarian and booklover that I am today.

I have strong memories of my parents sharing Walker books with me when I was very young.  Whenever my parents bought books for me when I was growing up, they would always look for the Walker Bear because they knew it was the sign of a great picture book.  Some of my favourite picture books were those by Jill Murphy.  The Large Family books were ones that struck a chord with my mum, because she felt that Jill Murphy really understood what it was to be a parent.  She perfectly captured both the joys and the frustrations of being a parent, whether it was trying to get the kids to eat their dinner or trying to get Five Minutes' Peace.  I loved these books too and still do to this day.  The Jill Murphy book that I loved the most though was Peace at Last.  I still know the opening lines:

"The hour was late.  Mr Bear was tired, Mrs Bear was tired and Baby Bear was tired." 

Poor Mr Bear can’t get to sleep and tries sleeping in different places, but nothing helps.  

"Drip, drip went the leaky kitchen tap.  Hummm went the refrigerator."  

The last page, when Mr Bear finally falls asleep and gets woken up by Baby Bear, always made me laugh.  The look on his face said it all.

When I was at primary school, we would go to our local public library as a class each month.  The wonderful librarians (some of whom I now work alongside in the library) introduced us to the marvels of both Anthony Browne and Jeannie Baker.  They taught me to not only pay attention to the story, but also to the beautiful illustrations that helped tell the story.  I loved Anthony Browne’s books because they were so funny and there was always something interesting to find in the illustrations.  Jeannie Baker’s books were absolutely fascinating to me!  I couldn’t believe the detail that went into each of her illustrations and I pored over each page, trying to figure out how she created them.  Every time I see a new book of Jeannie’s I fall in love with her books all over again. 

Every time I read a new Walker picture book it’s like holding a work of art in my hands.  They are beautiful to look at, as well as read, and you want to share them with as many children and adults as possible.  Some of my recent favourites have been Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back, Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! and Demolition by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock.  I look forward to many more years of Walker books and to sharing my favourites with my own children some day.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Favourite Father’s Day Books

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

Father’s Day is almost here, with its lunches and brunches and requisite gifts of socks. But at the end of the day, what’s better than curling up with Dad for a bit of a read? 

We've rounded up a few of our favourite picks to celebrate Dad. They're perfect for giving, reading aloud, and, of course, acting out!  

Mitchell Goes Bowling, Hallie Durand and Tony Fucile 
Score one for Dad-kid bonding time with this fun foray into winning, losing, and laughter.

One Saturday, when Mitchell almost knocks down his dad, his dad catches him and puts him in the car. And when they step into the bowling alley, Mitchell feels right at home. Pizza! Giant crashing noises! Special shoes! But as Mitchell picks up the biggest ball and quickly learns the word gutter, and when Dad does a little kick with his leg and earns a big X on the scoreboard, Mitchell starts to get peevish. How can Mitchell get a chance to do a steamin -hot- potato-dance too?

Love Mitchell? Read more about him in his first book, Mitchell Goes Driving.

Faster! Faster! by Leslie Patricelli

An utterly charming board book full of recognisable Dad moments. A day at the park. A ride on Daddy's back. Run, Daddy! Faster! Faster! How fast can Daddy go? 

A humorous riff on a favourite pastime - a laugh-out-loud-funny tale of few words about doting dads and high-energy kids whose imaginations know no bounds. 

My dad says, 'I've told you fifty million times, don't exaggerate.' 

Dad is back by popular demand with more hilarious material. And yes, he STILL thinks he's funny. 

My Dad is Beautiful, by Jessica Spanyol

Let me tell you all the ways my dad is beautiful. 
My dad is beautiful because he cooks me sausages. 

Playful, tender and so very true, this beautifully illustrated picture book celebrates the relationship between a little bear and its dad, showing all the different ways that fathers can be wonderful. Jessica Spanyol's vibrant and charming illustrations, accompanied by an impeccable colour palatte, perfectly convey how love is measured in a child's eyes: in simple and unadorned terms. 

Heartwarming and perfect for fathers everywhere. 

How will you be celebrating this Father's Day?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Sneak Peek: Big Red Kangaroo, by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love YouA Bit LostHowl's Moving CastleA Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Kangaroos are a quintessential part of Australian life – they are emblematic, featured throughout official materials, shown on television shows, a fixture in many children’s songs. Depictions vary; often times, children see kangaroos as cute and cuddly or large and lazy. (As anyone who’s ever been to a kangaroo park at the zoo can attest.)

In Big Red Kangaroo, Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne have cast the kangaroo in a more natural light. Clear and beautiful prose details Big Red’s life; well-researched facts accompany the story, creating opportunities for discussion.

Far inland, where ocean is a dim memory, the sun floats on the waves of another bake-earth day. In the long shadows, a big red kangaroo licks his forearms and lets the early evening breeze wash over him.

Stunning illustrations of inland Australia bring depth to the story, and particularly to Big Red.

Both text and illustration highlight key non-fiction details and encourage readers to think about kangaroos and their place in the natural world. But, as with Flight of the Honeybee, this book is so much more than a story about kangaroos, or an exploration of facts. It's a pleasure to read aloud; it's exciting; it's full of opportunities for acting out what it is to be a kangaroo, or to go out into the world and consider how it would look to Big Red. It is a book that brings bush to city, and roos to heart.

Claire Saxby was born in Melbourne and grew up in Newcastle, NSW where she thought she'd stay until the end of her days. Then, while she was holidaying in Melbourne, Claire's parents decided to move to Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea. Fortunately, they waited and took her with them. Since then, she's lived in more houses than she can remember. Claire is the author of Ebi's Boat, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas, which was a Children's Book Council of Australia Notable book in 2007. Her title published with Walker Books Australia in 2010, There Was an Old Sailor, illustrated by Cassandra Allen, was short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010, Young Children Category. (See the colouring sheet here, or find the Classroom Notes.)

Born in Sydney sometime last century, Graham Byrne did the usual school and university time, worked as an electrical engineer for years, then went into building houses and structures. The old back injury put paid to hard physical work. An interest in art as a creative adjunct to the practical nature of building led to formal education, work installing artworks at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, and wonderings about other roads to explore. Wanting his art to have some 'practical' useful purpose, to be illuminating, pointed Graham to illustration and design pathways. Explorations of drawing, painting, filling sketchbooks, making books for his grandchildren and illustrating short stories have combined to prompt his journey as a book illustrator. Big Red Kangaroo is Graham’s first picture book.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Sneak Peek: Flight of the Honey Bee, by Raymond Huber and Brian Lovelock

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love YouA Bit LostHowl's Moving CastleA Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 
The cold is coming and Scout is on a daring flight in search of the last flowers of autumn. Scout's mission is very dangerous, but it is also vital, because the flowers provide the precious nectar the hive needs to make honey. Can the hive make enough honey to survive the long winter months?

A new addition to our Nature Storybooks series, Flight of the Honey Bee details Scout’s journey to a meadow. Yet Scout’s story is far from prosaic; in fact, it’s rather poetic, and the dangers she faces are very real to a honey bee.

Scout zigs and zags from flower to flower, spreading pollen around. The pollen clings to her fuzzy body – a sprinkle of sun-powder.
As with all the Nature Storybooks, factual details provide a counterpoint and encourage deeper reading and discussion. At the end, there’s an author’s note, about honey bees, and their status as an endangered species. (There are also classroom notes available for Flight of the Honey Bee.)

But for me, the thing about this book isn’t just how very real Scout’s journey is, or even how it could encourage children and adults alike to learn more about colony collapse disorder and how we can save the bees. It’s that the story is very much a reflection of a child’s day, filled with almost timed phrases for how kindy and primary school kids journey through their own days. There’s leaving home for adventure (and knowing one will return home again); dealing with something difficult (and overcoming it); pausing for breath; telling everyone at home about one’s day; and reflecting (often with a parent) on the day, and how even the difficult parts were worth it.

It’s rare to find a book which is so inextricably tied to events children can relate to while at the same time presenting a story so unlike theirs. It’s something to glory in, that togetherness – and the facts alongside provide a rather lovely set of grace notes. (The illustrations, too, are truly gorgeous. The first one, where “a bee the size of a cherry pip”, sets out, is my favourite.)

Learn more about Nature Storybooks: Flight of the Honey Bee here or learn more about honey bees with our classroom notes.

Raymond Huber lives in Dunedin. He has been a social worker, gardener, primary school teacher, lecturer, and is currently a writer and editor. He's written Science and English textbooks and short stories for children. Sting, his first novel for Walker Books Australia, was short-listed for the NZ Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults, Junior Fiction Category, 2010; and the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, Young Adult Category, 2010; as well as being a Storylines Notable Book, Junior Fiction Category, 2010. (Read more of Ziggy's adventures in the sequel, Wings.)

Brian Lovelock is a scientist working in the power industry in New Zealand. He has painted all his life but has only recently ventured into the world of book illustration. His previous titles with Walker Books Australia include Did My Mother Do That! and Roadworks, which won the Picture Book category in the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children & Young Adults. Brian was recently long-listed for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Award for his work on Demolition.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Father's Day Pick: My Dad Still Thinks He's Funny

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 

Father’s Day is almost upon us again – it is just three weeks away. In our family, there are gifts (socks, homemade cards, books, something incredibly-tasty-but-very-unhealthy-and-cholesterol-raising), a meal, sometimes a walk, and, always, dad jokes.

I’ve been fascinated by dad jokes for a long time. After all, they’ve been around as long as…well, as long as Dads. But what makes a dad joke a dad joke?

Is it the groan-worthy punchlines?
Is it the unadulterated joy of dads everywhere as they deliver groan-worthy punchlines?
Or is it simply that a dad’s jokes never change, because even after years, Dad still thinks he’s funny?

Truly, I’m not sure.

More importantly, though, as an adult I’ve come to appreciate dad jokes. They are a quintessential dad thing. (I've told you fifty million times, don’t exaggerate.) When life does its lemony thing and you’re left with a pile of citrus one side and are completely out of sugar on the other, a true dad will be right there with you, cracking a joke about it being all right, because you’re sweet enough. And therein lies the brilliance of the dad joke: sure, they’re groan-inducing, but, for a split second at least, they’re a laugh-worthy reminder that we are loved. 

Text © 2013 Katrina Germein/Illustration © 2013 Tom Jellett.

This Father’s Day, we’ll eat, drink, and hand over the requisite pair of argyles. We’ll also retell some old chestnuts – there is something wonderful to be said for well-worn jokes, because they are warm and cosy, like a favourite pair of slippers – and perhaps read a few new ones. After all, it might be possible – might – to teach an old dad new tricks.

Learn more about My Dad Still Thinks He’s Funny here, or hop over  to read more about its bestselling companion, My Dad Thinks He's Funny.

Bestselling picture book author Katrina Germein writes stories that delight children and adults alike.  In 2011 Katrina's book My Dad Thinks He's Funny was short-listed for children's choice awards across Australia as well as being Highly Commended in the Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Tom Jellett's books have included: Hot Stuff by Margaret Clark, Fuzz the Famous Fly by Emily Rodda, and Australia at the Beach, a picture book by Max Fatchen. Tom now lives in Sydney and works as an illustrator for The Australian. My Dad Thinks He's Funny was shortlisted in the 2011 APA Design Awards.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Corinne Fenton Shares Her Love For Picture Books

Corinne Fenton is the author of 25 books for children but her passion is picture books about social history. Her classic picture book Queenie: One Elephant’s Story, illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe, was an Honour Book in the 2007 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards. The Dog on the Tuckerbox, also illustrated by Gouldthorpe, was named a Notable Book in two categories of the 2009 CBCA Awards. Flame Stands Waiting, illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione, was on the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Reading Challenge. Corinne has also published many educational books, some translated into other languages.

For me the best way I can describe my passion for picture books is by reminding everyone that picture books can be read and shared by 0–95 year olds. I regularly speak to babies and pre-school groups about my picture book Hey Baby! and, at the other end of the spectrum, to seniors groups about Queenie: One Elephant's Story, The Dog on the Tuckerbox and Flame Stands Waiting.

Whether it's the joy of watching a baby smile at the images of baby animals (in Hey Baby!) or watching an elderly lady sigh as she remembers her ride on Queenie, 80 years ago, the feeling for me is the same. Only picture books can do that.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sneak Peek: Helping Little Star, by Sally Morgan and Blaze Kwaymullina

 When Little Star falls off the edge of Night Sky, he meets Python, Dingo and Kangaroo. Will his new friends be able to help him get home?

From an award-winning mother and son team.

Blaze Jake Kwaymullina loves writing children's books and hearing kid's opinions of books. He also enjoys working in the area of oral history and helping people get their stories told. He currently works as a lecturer.

Sally Morgan is both a writer and a visual artist. Sally loves animals and is passionate about the Australian bush. Sally has written books for both children and adults. Her autobiography, My Place, is an Australian classic. It has been published in a special children's edition called Sally's Story. Together with her adult children, Sally wrote the Stopwatch series. Sally is a respected visual artist whose work has won international acclaim. She is represented in galleries in Australia, US and elsewhere. Sally is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of northwest Western Australia.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Reading Traditions: What Are Yours?

Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh. 

It was my son’s birthday recently; as always, I gave him books. (Books are included in pretty much every gift I ever give.) Friends of mine also gave him books – they have a lovely tradition of choosing a book each from their childhood, then passing it on.

While telling me about her book purchase, my friend told me how she had come to buy the book in a marvellous store, and spent quite some time perusing picture books on top of a stuffed mushroom, which took her straight back to reading time with her parents, and sharing that.

Reading time is always valuable; I have strong memories of reading with my parents, and later my grandparents and brother. I also have wonderful, candescent memories of reading with my son, from the first day of his life ‘til now. (I have read to him every day of his life.) But my friends’ tradition made me wonder: how many other reading and bookish traditions do we carry around as a culture? How many are centred around children, and children’s books?

My own personal habit – I have not been doing these long enough to name them tradition, I suspect – is to give a copy of Owl Babies to newborns, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond to teenage girls. My parents’ was to always read fairy tales, something I have continued with my son. Another friend listened to books on tape in the car on long journeys; her children now do this with their children. In our house, there are certain books we read regularly, or on a specific date, because they are meaningful (we read Owl Babies on Mir’s half-birthday; Julius Caesar on the Ides; Green Eggs and Ham for my birthday; Arabian Nights and Winnie-the-Pooh every August; and so many more).

Are there books you always give as gifts? Are there particular books you read, over and over? Or a special place that you read, or have read, with your children?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sneak Peek: A Little Election

A Little Election, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane

The federal election is almost here - and along with it, a reissue of Danny Katz and Mitch Vane's A Little Election. It's a lovely introduction to politics for children five and up.

One day at lunchtime, Rory decides to become the Prime Minister because then he can do anything he wants. Which then leads to class election...

A Little Election, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane, spread 1
But can you become the Prime Minister if you show everyone your undies?

Danny Katz is a newspaper columnist for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, and is famous for his larger-than-life characters.

A Little Election, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane, spread 2 Mitch Vane has illustrated many children's books, including the Little Lunch series, A Little Election and The Patch. She hates to draw straight lines!

Read more about A Little Election here.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bob Graham Talks About "A Bus Called Heaven"

This month, Bob Grahams latest award-winning picture book, A Bus Called Heaven, is out in paperback. Here, Bob tells us a bit about where the book came from; next week, well have a post on how he got started with picture books.

Where did A Bus Called Heaven come from?

There's a bus with Heaven on it, which I had noticed on the way to pick up my grandchildren, as I do every Thursday afternoon. It's parked alongside the road. I passed that for about three weeks, became increasingly interested in it, and I asked my granddaughter Rosie about it, because it was parked right opposite her best friend Olive's house. And she said "Oh yes, we've had a look inside."
I said "Oh, really?"
"Well, what was inside?"
She said, "Oh, a lot of candles burning in there."
And right then, the thing that interested me most of all, was not so much the bus itself or what was inside, but the image of the small child, on tiptoe, trying to peer into the windows of a bus with Heaven written across it.
And that was the thing that I came home and put into my notebook and that was really the starting point of the book.
And it kind of … it went on from there.

How does it continue on?

I mean it's - the process is one that I guess, as with most people writing stories, I mean you sit down there and you have a beginning, and I ask myself what happens next, what happened before, what happened afterwards, how does it, how does the whole thing sort of travel and in that, as I often say, there's a lot of looking out the window over the houses opposite and filling in the story with words, sometimes with pictures, and patching them together pretty much...I work it out as a I go along. I have a lovely old time, I do.

You make it sound like a perfect daydream.

Well, it's kind of my hobby, I love doing it, I enjoy it. And can't think whatever else I could do now.