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.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

On Choosing Books For Children Under One

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.  

One of the greatest pleasures of childhood, both as a child and adult, is choosing books as a family. Trips to the library or the bookstore are adventures, the car ride as exciting as a Tin-Tin-esque trip across the ocean, a raggedy-eared Snowy (in our case a cat, creatively called Pussy Cat) in tow.

At the library or bookstore, though, things become more complex, especially when some the would-be readers are young and cannot choose books for themselves. How does one choose a book for a baby? Can a baby actually benefit from reading a book?

The answers? With care - and of course! (Children of any age will always benefit from reading a book. Adults, too.)

In the zero to one bracket, choosing a book is really a mixture of age, vision, and parent interest (in older children, as we'll discuss in other posts, interests, personality, and reading level are key considerations, too). Which means that, realistically, there are two major kinds of book we can choose from: the long form read aloud, and the board book.

The Board Book

Board books are an obvious choice for the younger set. They're durable, often make good (if unintended) teething toys, and are full of bright colours. Many are marketed with "will make your baby smarter" branding, too, to make parents feel as if they are making the right choice.

For babies under a few months, bright colours - or colours at all - are less important. Up until then, babies are drawn to high contrast patterns (think black and white zigzags, pinwheels, and more). Later, colours enter the picture; some babies will show preferences for strong colours, too. (If this is the case for your child, look for strong, Petr Horacek style illustrations.)

Since babies explore with so many senses (fingers, mouths, drool...), textured books are also handy to have around - look for books with corrugated cardboard, or fabric, or knobbly ties and other pieces. (From a safety point of view, only choose titles labelled safe for zero to three, which means the book has been pulled to pieces and carefully tested for young children.)

And finally, choose books that you find fun, funny, or sweet - because you'll probably be reading them over and over again. If you choose a book you love, you'll pass that love on to your child. (Besides, reading should never be a groan-inducing do we have to? experience.)

The Long Form Book

It may seem counter-intuitive, but babies can tolerate longer reading experiences than their toddler counterparts. Because they spend such a large amount of time snuggling (particularly before they start rolling over), it's easy to cuddle baby with one hand and read with the other.

The lovely thing about reading a long form book to a small child is that it's an opportunity to share your favourite titles - classics, such as Winne-the-Pooh, or fairy tales (we read the Arabian Nights when Mir was small), or even more contemporary books from around the house, like Violet Mackerel or Maddy West and the Tongue Taker. (This is especially useful if you have more than one child!) The sound of your voice, coupled with the snuggling, will forge memorable moments for both of you for years to come. (Moreover, if reading with your children becomes a habit from day one, it's more likely to continue as they grow, because they will consider special time with you.)

Why do babies need books, anyway?

The benefits of playing with a book, for a child under one, may seem minimal - children this age can't read, and are only becoming lingual toward the end of their first year. But children, at all ages, are veritable sponges; the words you read, the stories you tell - these are all saved up as models of language, social context, and interaction. More importantly, reading with young children does two incredible things: it provides one-on-one time with a parent, which in turn helps foster a lifelong love of reading. (And, as studies have shown, reading and reading levels are correlated with school performance; one study out of the University of Nevada in 2010 showed that the number of books in the home is correlated to the level of education children attain.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Sneak Peek: Megumi and the Bear

This month, we have a lovely new title, Megumi and the Bear. A beautiful story about friendship, it's written by Irma Gold and illustrated by Craig Phillips.

Megumi has only one wish. For the bear to come back.

Irma Gold is an award-winning writer and editor. Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and journals like Meanjin, Island, Idiom 23 and Going Down Swinging. Her debut collection of short fiction, Two Steps Forward, was critically acclaimed and won her a Canberra Critics Circle Award for Literature. Irma has lived in England, Melbourne, and is now based in Canberra with her husband and three children.

Craig Phillips is a freelance illustrator who currently lives in New Zealand. He has created rock poster art for Queens Of The Stone Age, The Hives, DJ Shadow, Foo Fighters, and Turbonegro, and his work has been included in The Art Of Modern Rock (Chronicle Books); 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide (Luerzers Archive) and A Fistful Of Rock (Darkhorse Books).

Learn more about Megumi and Bear at our website.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Harvey, the Boy who Couldn't Fart

Ah, fart humour. It’s the most risqué of humours among the under ten set; it appeals to small children (my son giggles every time he does a “bottom burp”), pre-schoolers, kids in primary school. It’s a staple of adult comedy, too – watch a few comedy blockbuster previews in a row and you’re bound to find at least one making fun with farts.

This year, we've reissued Matthew Johnstone’s farty fun picture book Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart.

Everyone can fart. Everyone except Harvey. No matter how hard Harvey tries, he can’t manage even a squeak.

Fart humour goes way back – according to academics at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK, the world’s oldest joke is a Sumerian proverb dating back to 1900 BC. (Shakespeare also made a few flatulence jokes in his day, as did a few other notables, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Aristophanes.)

The best fart humour I’ve found, though, is when sharing a story like Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart with children. Unlike adults, kids have no shame or embarrassment replicating the sounds in the story; the unease that is so often paired with the ewww factor in grown-ups is completely absent. Even better, any book which has kids engaged – because who isn’t engaged by a loud FWAAAAARP every now and then? – is likely to interest even reluctant readers. And such humour also opens the door for talking about embarrassment, and being able to cope with a didn’t-quite-make it accident or other issue.

So why not curl up with a book and make a bit of noise? FWAAAARP!

Text and illustrations © 2010 Matthew Johnstone. All rights reserved.