My Canberra Report!

December 10, 2018 at 11:46 am | Posted in Awards, Canberra, children's literacy, Prime Minister's Literary Awards 2018 | Leave a comment
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I’m back now from our trip to Canberra for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, and it was absolutely wonderful!

Day One

My husband Philippe and I were flown, courtesy of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, from Hong Kong to Canberra via Melbourne, and put up in the very glamorous Realm Hotel, just a short walk away from Australia’s Parliament House! Of course we had to walk up to it right away, and above you can see the extraordinary flagpole on top of the “new” Parliament House, built in 1988 to replace the “old” Parliament House! The design was by Romaldo Giurgola, a New York-based architect who won an international competition from over 320 other entries! Isn’t it stunning?

Parliament House Canberra

Photo credit Mark Broadhurst https://www.pexels.com/photo/parliament-house-canberra-australia-235428/

Just as we reached the back entrance, we were lucky enough to meet a very kind man called Jamie King, the husband of Madeleine King, a Member of Parliament from Western Australia, who offered to show us around inside the House, where the public isn’t allowed to go without a special invitation! I wish I could show you photos of the beautiful corridors we explored, where the members do their work in their offices when they’re not in session! And it was quite surreal standing directly below the flagpole, which was set into a glass pyramid roof!

Here I am below with Jamie in the fabulous public entry hall, whose stunning marble columns represent a forest of gum trees!

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We also saw a brilliant Lego design of Parliament House off the main entrance, with Lego members of both the Senate (red carpet) and the House of Representatives (green carpet)! It was such fun!

 

Thank you so much Jamie for your great generosity in giving up well over an hour of your time, as well as sharing all your expertise on the architecture and design of this splendid building!

Day Two

All my fellow authors and artists who had been short-listed for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards made our way to Parliament House again, where we were met by the PMLA’s team, and I was so delighted to meet the wonderful Aeshe Bennett, who made it possible for Philippe and I to attend all the way from Hong Kong! Thank you Aeshe from the bottom of my heart!

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After morning tea and official photographs, we all filed into the presentation room, where we sat with bated breath for the final results in each category!  After a speech from the Prime Minister, the results were finally announced!

Sadly, Storm Whale didn’t win the Children’s Book section, but all five books in the category were so wonderful that it was quite simply an honour to be up there on the list with them! The winning book, Pea Pod Lullaby, written by Glenda Millard and illustrated by Stephen Michael King, is a beautiful book with a wonderful heart and soul, and thoroughly deserved first place.

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My huge congratulations to its two marvellous creators, as well as the publisher Allen and Unwin (who also happened to be the publishers of Storm Whale!).

It was a huge thrill to meet the four other Australian children’s authors including Glenda herself, the lovely Phil Cummings, the talented young Tamsin Janu and the very funny Lisa Shanahan. As well as adult writers like Richard McGregor, who won the Non-Fiction award for his book Asia’s Reckoning, and the wonderful Stuart Kells, author of The Library, who like me considers libraries the most important rooms in the world! And the charming Ivor Indyk of Giramondo, a small specialist press which published the winners of the Fiction and Poetry categories, Gerald Murnane and Brian Castro respectively! Wow!!

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Photo Credit – from Jane’s website (see link below)

But best of all was spending time with my dear friend Jane Tanner above, illustrator of Storm Whale, who is the greatest “poet in paint” that I know, and who is one of the greatest of all Australian children’s books illustrators of all time. If you want to find more about Jane and all her famous books, you can click on this link!

After the lunch, we were taken to the National Library, where we signed copies of our books! What an honour to have Storm Whale in such illustrious company!

Finally, my darling husband and I spent the night at the famous Canberra Hotel, where all the great and the good of Canberra stayed from the 1920s. It’s an art deco masterpiece! Here I am in front of the hotel, and my husband Philippe is smiling in front of the old cricket green!

 

Day Three

We sadly said goodbye to the capital city of my home country, to which we would love to return one day soon! To finish my report, below is a Canberra gum tree – which I’ve included because I love gum trees more than any other tree on earth! Isn’t it simply beautiful?

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Give children the most precious gift of all – today and Wednesday only!

November 27, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Posted in children's literacy, Room to Read | Leave a comment
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How is all that Christmas shopping going? Have you finished your list for the kids? I’m quite sure they’re going to be spoiled rotten again! I HOPE you’re getting them lots of fabulous books this year, to keep them happy and entertained, and above all, to keep their brains in fantastic shape!

But what about the kids who aren’t as lucky as yours, who don’t have access to books and who can’t even read?

I just LOVE being a writer ambassador for my favourite charity, Room to Read, because it makes wonderful futures possible for children all over the world who might otherwise have a very bleak future indeed – and who almost certainly won’t be getting Christmas gifts this year.

So what can you give them? You will be so excited to find out here!

So today, if you can spare a moment, and a dollar or two, for the kiddies that won’t be waking up in your house this Christmas to bulging Christmas stockings, please give on the link above, and Room to Read’s partner Sensato, will TRIPLE your gift!

Happy Tuesday Giving Day!

The Results are out in my Perfect Pet Poem Competition!

November 18, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Posted in children's literacy, Clever Competitions, poetry, Poetry competitions for children | Leave a comment
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Desmond Dog rescues a cat in The Tale of Desmond Dog! Illustration by Harry Harrison

Thank you all so much for your wonderful entries into my latest Clever Competition! And what a lovely time I’ve had reading about your Perfect Pets! There were 48 fabulous entries this time, from 15 different schools in 7 cities on 4 different continents! There were entries from Melbourne in Australia; from Shanghai and Zhuhai in mainland China; from Hong Kong; from Chicago and San Diego in the United States of America, and, for the first time, from Colombo in Sri Lanka! There were real pets, like cats, hamsters, pigs and a red panda! There were fantastical pets, like dragons, seahorns and snickerdoodles! Most were cute and cuddly, some were downright scary! But most of all, there were DOGS – to which, as a dog lover myself, I can only say of course!

Special congratulations to Hannah Thompson, of Grade 3, Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne, Australia, who won the Grade 1 to 3 Category in the competition, and Madeline Painter of Grade 6, South Middle School, Illinois, Chicago, USA, who won the Grade 4 to 6 Category. They each win a signed copy of one of my books sent to their school for presenation in assembly. Well done girls!

Go to my Clever Competitions Page right away to read all the fantastic place-winning entries!

The deadline’s on Sunday!

October 26, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Posted in children's literacy, Clever Competitions, Poetry competitions for children | Leave a comment
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Woof! You have just two days to go to send in your poem in my Perfect Pet Poem Competition! So if you haven’t sent it yours yet, take a look at all the information and rules here, and GET WRITING!!!

Long live libraries!

October 26, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Posted in children's literacy, libraries, school libraries, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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pexels-photo-256541Photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/row-of-books-in-shelf-256541/

If you’re anything like me, you just LOVE libraries. In fact, in my opinion, in any school, the library is both its heart and its soul, and should be treasured accordingly. And placed accordingly too! Not in a far distant wing of the building, or in the basement, or up under the roof – but RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the school’s ground floor, where kids can see it, and use it, every single day.

So take a look here, in this wonderful piece from The Atlantic on Wednesday, at photos of some of the most extraordinary libraries in the world, in countries where, clearly, the real book is still cherished and promoted to its citizens! And ponder if your country and your school cherishes books the same way. And if not, do something about it, FAST!

After all, as the great American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and thinker Carl Sagan once said: “I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture, and our concern for the future, can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.”

Meet Harry, a HUGE book reader!

June 3, 2018 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Australian schools, children's literacy, Hobart, The Hutchins School | Leave a comment
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Harry and I at Hutchins

Meet Harry from The Hutchins School, who I met in the Junior Library during my Tassie visit a fortnight ago! Harry has such a huge smile on his face because he LOVES READING BOOKS! And he told me that his bedroom at home is so full of books, there’s hardly any room for his bed! Now THAT’S what I call a great reader! I bet Harry is a fantastic writer and thinker too, because that’s what you become when you read lots of books for leisure and fun! Well done Harry!

ps Harry was born in the Year of the Tiger and I was born in the Year of the Rat – hence the books we are holding!

Saturday: Keynote Speech at the ASLA Mini-Conference, Hobart 2018

May 30, 2018 at 10:31 am | Posted in ASLA, Australian schools, children's literacy, Conferences, Hobart | Leave a comment
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On Saturday I was very honoured to give the Keynote Speech at the ASLA Mini-Conference in Hobart. The theme for the day was School Libraries – Be Passionate! Now anyone who knows me knows that the thing I’m most passionate about in my LIFE (after my family of course!) is CHILDREN’S LITERACY. So this was a theme right after my own heart, and I addressed over 60 Tasmanian librarians with a Powerpoint presentation that gave them the latest science on the importance of reading books for the brain – and for the world! And I proved using scientific studies that book-reading – and I mean reading LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS – for leisure and for pleasure – can quite literally save this troubled world! And the only way to ensure this – as well as high academic performance in schools – is to have a well-funded library full of real books, run by a teacher librarian with support staff, in every single school! I’ll be writing more about this on my other blog soon, so I’ll keep you posted!

I was also delighted to meet wonderful Tassie author Christina Booth, author and illustrator of many beautiful Australian children’s books, who treated us all to a fantastic talk about her method in creating picture books! It was fascinating to get insight into such an amazing creative mind!

Huge thanks to the lovely Ailsa Hill and Kate Reid for inviting me, and to the ASLA Committee who hosted the day! More photos to come!

The results are out in my Dashing Dog Story Competition!

May 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Posted in children's literacy, Clever Competitions, writing competitions | Leave a comment
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At long last I’ve finished the judging of my Dashing Dog Story Competition! I had some important family matters to attend to over the last month, and as we all know, family comes first – even when there’s an exciting competition to be judged! So thank you all so much for your patience! There were a very impressive 66 entries in all, from students in 17 different schools in 7 cities around the world: Beijing, Changzhou, Chicago, Doha, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Shanghai. The overall standard of the stories was very high, making it extremely difficult to pick the order of the winners!

Special congratulations to the first place winners in each category:

FIRST PLACE in GRADE ONE TO THREE CATEGORY: Hannah Thompson, Grade 3 Methodist Ladies College, Kew, Melbourne, 8 years old

FIRST PLACE in GRADE FOUR TO SIX CATEGORY: Aoife Mary Walshe, 4th grade, SUIS HongQiao Campus, Shanghai, 9 years old

And to the ten other place-winners! If you’d like to read their fabulous stories, click here right away!

Enjoy!

A fabulous family of fans send this photo!

February 14, 2018 at 8:13 am | Posted in children's literacy, Fantastic fans! | 2 Comments
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I was very honoured today to receive this lovely photo of one of my young fans, Osman Pasha, with last year’s book The Tale of Rickshaw Rooster! Osman’s mum Janana tells me that Pasha and his older brothers have grown up reading my Chinese Calendar Tales and they love them! She tells me that, being of Russian speaking background educated on Pushkin and Lermintov, she really appreciates the rhythm and rhyme in my poetry – thank you so much Janana for your lovely message and for allowing me to post this photo! I’m delighted to meet you and Pasha and please do send my warmest wishes to your boys!

It’s time for a Dashing Dog Story Writing Competition!

January 14, 2018 at 5:17 pm | Posted in children's literacy, Chinese Calendar Tales, Writing competitions for kids | 4 Comments
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Are you a primary school student anywhere in the world? Do you love DOGS? Do you love writing stories? Then it’s time to enter my latest international Clever Competition, The Dashing Dog Story Competition!

Introducing Desmond Dog, the latest loveable character in the Chinese Calendar Tales series! Like all Chinese Zodiac dogs, he’s brave, noble and kind, and he LOVES protecting his little village, keeping everybody safe from harm! And of course, his Year of the Chinese Zodiac is just around the corner!

So it’s about time that we had a story writing competition all about DOGS! This time I want you to write me a story about a typical Chinese Zodiac Dog, like Desmond. I want him to be brave, kind, honourable and above all, DASHING!! You also must have

  • a title for your story, the more interesting the better!
  • a Chinese setting – be that a village, a city, a river, a lake, a mountain or even a Chinese planet in the future! So you’ll have to do a bit of research, and make sure to include lots of details which make the setting typically Chinese!
  • a scary typhoon!
  • a flying fish with golden scales
  • a wise philosopher
  • an evil cat
  • the colour mikado – and if you don’t know what colour that is, you’ll have to look it up!

Go to my Clever Competitions page here for all the details, rules and information.

The deadline date is Friday 23rd March, so pick up that paper and pen and get ready…get set…WOOF!

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