A fabulous article in The Standard!

May 8, 2019 at 7:21 am | Posted in Book reviews, Hong Kong, media articles | Leave a comment
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Huge thanks to Simon Lau, Chief Sub-Editor (Education) at The Standard, for this fantastic book review about The Chinese Calendar Tales published on 30 April! To see the whole article, click on the link below:

Sarah Brennan article

Four fabulous days with the Bookworm International Literary Festival in Beijing and Hangzhou!

April 8, 2019 at 8:00 am | Posted in Beijing Schools, Books about Chinese Zodiac, Bookworm Cafe Beijing, China photos, Dulwich College Beijing, International School of Beijing, Storm Whale, Story Readings, writing workshops for children | Leave a comment
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With Antoinette Portis and Sandra Greenwell at the Bookworm International Literary Festival

Huge thanks to Peter Goff, David Cantalupo, Karen Tong and the team at The Bookworm Bookshop in Beijing for inviting me to take part in The Bookworm International Literary Festival 2019! Sadly I wasn’t able to appear at my scheduled event at the Bookworm featuring The Tale of Ping Pong Pig on the Sunday due to illness…but by Monday I was ready to fly up!

On Tuesday 26th March: I visited Dulwich College where I spent three fun sessions with Years 3 to 5, introducing the Year 3s to my hungry, lonely dragon Chester Choi; the Year 4s to Ping Pong Pig and the Yongle Emperor, and the Year 5s to Desmond Dog and the infamous pirate queen Ching Shih! Many thanks to the lovely Sandra Greenwell who was my host for the day, and to Lit Fest helper Inna Gafurova who looked after me and sold lots of my books after the sessions!

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With some of my fabulous Junior School audience!
With my lovely host head librarian Sandra Greenwell (left) and library assistants Imee Acosta and Lita Tupaz (right)
Bookworm Festival helper Inna Gafurova and Sandra at the aptly named school coffee shop (right) and with some fabulously inventive pigs made in art class (right)

On Tuesday evening: New York Times best-selling author/illustrator Antoinette Portis and I spoke at The Bookworm with journalist Wendy Tang about the enormously important subject of Raising Kids to Read in the Digital Era. We had a full audience of very interested parents who were keen to hear all the recent science on the subjects of the huge benefits of reading for the brain, and the correspondingly huge problems with kids being overexposed to digital screens (and it doesn’t take much…). If you want to read more about this, take a look at my other blog,

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Just because the subject was serious didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun! Here I am with Sandra Greenwell (from Dulwich College) and the lovely Antoinette Portis, my fellow panel member, with Sandra’s very naughty husband behind us!

On Wednesday 27th March: I visited my old friends at International School of Beijing, which I visited last year for a week in residence! This time I had 3 noisy sessions reading The Tale of Ping Pong Pig  to Grades 3, 4 and 5. Echoes of “Run Pig, Run!” and “Stay Pig, Stay!” could be heard echoing around the playground at lunch time as the kids re-enacted Ping Pong’s mad dash around the Forbidden City, pursued by the cunning Minister of Most Important Things!

It was wonderful to catch up with my librarian hosts, and friends, Bec Taylor and Paul Wong (right). And thank you Hunt Liu from the Bookworm for looking after me!

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We all had great fun, kids included!

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It was lovely to be in such great company with other author visitors including famous Australian author Morris Gleitzman and New York Times best-selling Antoinette Portis!

That night I flew down to the pretty city of Hangzhou, 175 km south west of Shanghai, to stay at the aptly named Blossom Water Museum Hotel, seen in the photos below. Aren’t the gardens and the pagoda lovely?

 

On Thursday 28th and Friday 29th March: I visited Wellington College International Hangzhou, a new school with a very beautiful campus! We had workshops galore, with the Grade 5s learning the science behind why Books are a Brain’s Best Friend; the Grade 6s finding out How to Write a Riveting Story and the Grade 7s and I getting stuck into rhyming verse, haikus, acrostics, limericks and free verse in An Introduction to Poetry! I look forward to receiving some fabulous stories from lots of WCIH students in my latest Clever Competition! A big thank you to head librarian Bethan Amena for all her hard work hosting me and for the magnificent book sales!

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Here I am with Bethan Amena (Head of Library, to my left), Piers Matthews (Director of Marketing and Admissions) and Lizzie Yang, librarian. Thanks for a lovely two days!
Workshops galore with the Grade 5s to 7s

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Many thanks to WCIH’s official photographer July Qi for these lovely photos!

Two wonderful days at St Margaret’s Anglican School in Brisbane!

March 6, 2019 at 11:52 am | Posted in Brisbane schools, St Margaret's Anglican School Brisbane, Story Readings, Writing competitions for kids, writing workshops for children | Leave a comment
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What a lovely two days I’ve just had with the gorgeous girls (and some boys) and teachers of St Margaret’s Primary and Pre-Prep this week! I met everyone from the cute little Pre-Preps to the savvy Grade 6s, and we had everything from story-readings of my Chinese Calendar Tales (The Tale of Chester Choi, The Tale of Pin Yin Panda and The Tale of Ping Pong Pig) with all their juicy Chinese history and folklore thrown in, to workshops and talks about How to Write a Riveting Story, How to Become a Great Writer in the Digital Age, Books are a Brain’s Best Friend, and History is Geography! I even spoke at a big assembly of the Grade 4s to 6s about How I Became an Author and Publisher – including all the life-skills I learned along the way! Then at school pickup time I met some lovely parents when they purchased my books!

Thank you, everybody, for making me feel so welcome and for engaging so intently in all the sessions! It was a treat to work with you all! And do make sure that you click on my Clever Competitions link here for details of my latest writing competition for primary school kids – I hope to see lots of fabulous entries from the St Margaret’s girls!

Finally, warmest thanks to some very special staff members who looked after me so kindly throughout: Primary Principal Angela Drysdale (above and below centre), Head of Planning and Organisation – Primary Ms Mary Surtees  (above and below left); librarian Mrs Donna Jackson (to my second left above) and Administration Assistant Miss Elizabeth Hook (to my far left above). I had so much fun spending time with you all!

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A great day at CAIS!

February 17, 2019 at 8:57 am | Posted in Christian Alliance International School, Hong Kong Schools, Story Readings | Leave a comment
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On Tuesday I visited the fabulous new Butterfly Valley campus of Christian Alliance International School! The Prep and Grade 1 kiddies met my hungry, lonely dragon in The Tale of Chester Choi, and everybody else up to Grade 6 just LOVED PORK when we shared The Tale of Ping Pong Pig! Warm thanks to teacher librarian Phebe Liu (to my left, above) for inviting me, and assistant librarian Eunice and tech wizard Brunel for looking after me so well! More photos to come!

Another great visit to Stamford American International School…with an SCMP journalist!

January 23, 2019 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Hong Kong Schools, media articles, School visits, Stamford American School Hong Kong, Story Readings, writing workshops for children | Leave a comment
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Ping Pong Pig and I continued our funny and fabulous Hong Kong School tour on Tuesday afternoon with a visit to my friends at Stamford American International School in Ho Man Tin, where I am proud to be a Global Mentor. And this time I was accompanied by Fionnuala McHugh, a journalist for the South China Morning Post, who is writing a feature article for the Sunday Post for Chinese New Year!

After photos in the Activity Room, our terrific host Lisa Olinski introduced me to some lovely parents and younger kids who heard me reading my “youngest” book, The Tale of Chester Choi, and enthusiastically joined in with contributions as to how you chop off a dragon’s head, especially if it’s threatening your Dad! Then a lovely roomful of older kids and their parents heard my Tale of Ping Pong Pig, together with a whole lot of fascinating history about the third Ming Dynasty Emperor Zhu Di and his best friend the explorer Admiral Zheng He and his seven epic  journeys in huge Treasure Boats as far as Africa!

Lastly, I gave my popular How to Write a Riveting Story workshop to the hardy mums and children who stayed on after the story reading! It was a busy, fun day, and wonderful to see this lovely school again! More photos to come!

Ping Pong Pig visits the brand new Malvern College Hong Kong!

January 18, 2019 at 10:31 am | Posted in Chinese New Year, Hong Kong Schools, Malvern College Hong Kong, Story Readings | Leave a comment
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On Tuesday this week, I was honoured to be the very first author to visit Hong Kong’s brand new Malvern College HK, set by the Science Park just by Tolo Harbour and Tai Po! It’s a beautiful school, with lots of space and light, which opened in September last year, and it already has hundreds of very keen students! The Prep 1s met my lonely dragon in The Tale of Chester Choi; the Prep 2s met cheeky Pin Yin Panda and all the animals of the Chinese Zodiac in The Tale of Ping Pong Panda, and the Prep 3s to 6s all met my latest addition to the Chinese Calendar Tales, my plump and pretty Ping Pong Pig! It was a fabulous day! Thanks so much to my wonderful hosts Ryan Dempsey, head of Library, and deputy librarian Karen Potts, pictured in the library above!

 

 

Hello Brisbane!!

October 24, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Australian schools, Awards, Brisbane schools, Poetry Workshops for kids | Leave a comment
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I’ve been in Brisbane this week for a wonderful 5 days to attend the awards ceremony for the Queensland Literary Awards, to visit some of my favourite Brisbane schools, and to visit my family! It’s jacaranda time in Brisbane, when the beautiful blue blooms on the jacaranda trees mean that students should be studying hard for their end-of-year exams!

On Tuesday morning, I visited my old friends at Churchie (Anglican Church Grammar School) in East Brisbane, where the fabulous Grade 3 boys identified haikus, unscrambled limericks and did some rapid rhyming exercises in my Introduction to Poetry Workshop! Many thanks to lovely primary teacher librarian Alison Findlay for expertly hosting me! We had a lot of fun!

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On Tuesday evening, my lovely daughter Bea, my brother and sister-in-law accompanied me to the Awards Ceremony for the Queensland Literary Awards 2018! You’ll remember that Storm Whale, my beautiful book with artist Jane Tanner and published last year by Allen & Unwin, was one of the 5 children’s books short-listed for the Griffith University Children’s Book Award. Here it is, displayed at left on the screen above! The Elephant by Peter Carnavas won the award in our section. It was such an exciting event, and I got to meet some of my amazing fellow authors and judges afterwards! Below you’ll see Storm Whale sitting very happily on the sales table with other fabulous short-listed titles!

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Today I dropped into two great Brisbane schools to say hello and to introduce them to my Chinese Calendar Tales. Below you’ll see me with some cuties at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, sitting astride their famous dragon mascot with a copy of The Tale of Chester Choi! See you all next year girls! Many thanks to their lovely primary principal Angela Drysdale and librarian Donna Jackson for the warm welcome!

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Finally, I met the fab team at my new Australian distributors, Novella Distribution in Capalaba! Below, the lovely Rochelle Manners is standing with their wombat mascot, and a very special small wombat which appears to have learned how to climb trees! Thanks girls for a great meeting, and for my new baby wombat, which I’ve christened The Barefoot ‘Bat!

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My Brilliant Week in China!

March 23, 2018 at 5:13 pm | Posted in Beijing, Beijing Schools, Bookworm Cafe Beijing, Changzhou, Changzhou schools, China photos, Montessori School of Beijing, Suzhou, Suzhou schools, Suzhou Science and Technology Town Foreign Language School, Tsinghua International School Beijing, Wycombe Abbey International School Changzhou, YCIS Beijing | Leave a comment
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Hello everyone – I’m back in Hong Kong, and now I can update you about my fantastic week in China last week!

Day One: Wycombe Abbey International School in Changzhou

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On Monday I met the fabulous kids and teachers at Wycombe Abbey International School in Changzhou! Here above I’m standing with the lovely librarians – Betty Ton, my host for the day (who kindly let me stay in her flat!), and her library colleagues Lesley Kelly and Marianne Booth.

We had a fun day of 4 story readings where the kids met my Chinese Calendar Tales characters from The Tale of Desmond Dog, The Tale of a Dark Horse, and The Tale of Chester Choi. Then just a few days ago I received a lovely list of questions from the school magazine – the questions were so interesting, I’ve added them and my answers to to my FAQ list on the tab above! Do take a look! And here are some more photos!

 

That evening I flew to the ancient city of Suzhou, where I met up with my Bookworm Festival Minder Elaine and her friend Zoe, who took me out for a dinner of black carp soup at a local restaurant. It was delicate and absolutely delicious!

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=Afterwards, we took a walk along the canal which runs around the old city, seeing some wonderful landmarks below:

 

 

Day Two: Suzhou Science and Technology Town Foreign Language School

After staying in the very elegant Pan Pacific Hotel in Suzhou overnight,

Elaine and I were driven an hour into the countryside to a local private high school in Suzhou’s Science and Technology Town, the Suzhou Science and Technology Town Foreign Language School.

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I met some remarkable, forward-thinking teachers and the students of Grades 5 and 7, who impressed me hugely with their creativity. I gave two hour long sessions about How to Become Writers in the Digital Age, to a great response from the students and staff. Below top left, you will see me with Vice Principal Wang Haiyan to my left, the lovely Zhang Chen, Director of the Principal’s Office to her left, and my helper Elaine to my right!

In particular I met a delightful young lady at lunch, Rose Yang, just 11 years old, who later sent me a very accomplished and lovely sonnet she had written – I’ll write about it in my next post!

That night I flew to Beijing, where the Bookworm Festival kindly accommodated me and the other Festival writers in the very modern, stylish and minimalist hotel The Opposite House. Here are some pictures – though I’m not sure how much I appreciated the terracotta soldiers in the foyer…!

 

 

Day Three: Montessori School of Beijing

On Wednesday I visited my old friends at Montessori School of Beijing, where I gave two story reading sessions to the younger students, and two Riveting Story workshops to the older students. It was great to see the school again, to meet its new Principal Laura King (to my left) and its marketing director Wairimu Wanjau (Nimo) to my right! I also made a wonderful new friend Yun (below far right) who was my Bookworm Minder for the day – thanks Yun! More photos to come!

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Day Four: Yew Chung International School Beijing

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On Thursday I visited YCIS Beijing, where the Year 1 and Year 2 kids heard my latest Chinese Calendar Tale, The Tale of Desmond Dog, while the Year 4s took part in my How to Write a Riveting Story workshop and the Year 5s learned How to Publish Your Own Picture Book! We had a lot of fun! Many thanks to my hosts Anna Esposito and Landy Hwang, and to my wonderful Bookworm Minder, Gary Fang.

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Day Five: Tsinghua International School Beijing

IMG_0369The final school in my busy tour was the wonderful THISB, set in the middle of the Olympics Tennis Center! With workshops and story readings for everyone from Grade 1 to Grade 5, we had so much fun together in this energetic, enthusiastic school. Many thanks for inviting me to the lovely Principal Mandy Zhang and my host for the day, librarian Christine Wedge. Here we are below in a fun selfie!

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And here I am in my sessions with the kids!

 

 

And meeting some of my new fans!

 

 

 

Friday evening and Saturday at The Bookworm

Finally, I spent a wonderful evening and day at The Bookworm International Literary Festival listening to three fabulous Australian authors, Booker Prize Winning Richard Flanagan from my home State of Tasmania, and prize-winning Sydney poet and author Fiona Wright and multi-award winning author Alexis Wright. It was a rare privilege to hear them talk about their writing, their inspiration and their craft.

 

Huge thanks to Peter Goff, owner of The Bookworm Cafe and Festival Director, for inviting me to participate in the Schools Program for the Festival this year, to Zoe for her fantastic organisation of the tour, and to my fabulous minders. And for the splendid accommodation, and always warm welcome at the unique and beautiful Bookworm Cafe!

Farewell Beijing!

And finally, a fond farewell to misty late-winter Beijing, a magnificent city with a magnificent history! I can’t wait to return!

 

 

I begin my Week in Residence at ISB!

January 29, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Posted in Beijing Schools, International School of Beijing, Week in Residence | Leave a comment
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Today was the first day of a whole week of fabulous fun at the wonderful International School of Beijing, with the kids of Pre-Kinder 3 right up to the big kids of Grade 2! Today my Chinese dragon Chester Choi and I met some delicious four year olds in PreK4, then two Grade 1 classes learned all about the Chinese Zodiac when they met Pin Yin Panda, and the Kinders acted out my new story The Tale of Desmond Dog, with lots of “Woofs!” from the dogs, “Aha me hearties!” from the wicked pirates and “EEEKs!” from the scared villagers of Hong Kong! It was SO much fun! Then some gorgeous 3 year olds in PreK3 met all my stuffed toys! Here are my toys, sitting in a Chinese Zodiac row (except the Big Cat and the Panda, who didn’t make it into the Zodiac, and Desmond being Top Dog on my dragon, because it’s HIS year in 2018!

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Huge thanks to my lovely host Bec Taylor, librarian for Lower Primary, here with my friend Paul Wong, who is librarian for Upper Primary!

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Small is Beautiful at BIBS in Beijing!

January 25, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Posted in Beanstalk International Bilingual School, Beijing Schools, Being an Author, Clever Competitions | Leave a comment
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What a happy day I had at Beanstalk International Bilingual School Shunyi Campus today! Although it was FREEZING outside, the welcome inside was warm and very friendly from everybody, from the gorgeous kids to their lovely parents to the dedicated staff! The Grade 1s met my hungry, lonely dragon in The Tale of Chester Choi; the Grade 2s screamed like spoiled princesses and roared like tigers very convincingly as I read them The Tale of Temujin; the Grade 3s and 4s learned about the world’s most successful pirate Ching Shih and about Hong Kong too when they heard The Tale of Desmond Dog, and the Grade 5s asked some fabulous questions after I told them all about my journey to becoming an author, why I wrote The Chinese Calendar Tales and that very important question – what is my writing process? I was delighted to find out that, like me, they were all firm fans of making story plans before they wrote their first draft of a story! So I’m really looking forward to some great entries from the BIBS Grade 5s in my current Dashing Dog Story Writing Competition (details on the Clever Competition page here).

Warm thanks to wonderful librarian Heather Wright (with me above) who expertly hosted me today, and thank you to the mums and dads and kids who bought over 100 books! I hope to see you all again soon!

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