Week-end Book Review: Fog A Dox by Bruce Pascoe

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Bruce Pascoe,
Fog A Dox
Magabala Books, 2012.

Ages: 10+

“A story of courage, acceptance and respect,” Magabala Books rightly claims of masterful storyteller Bruce Pascoe’s latest YA novel, Fog A Dox. Set in the Australian bush of southwest Victoria and written in Pascoe’s captivating bush vernacular, the story begins with Albert, an old woodsman (“tree feller”) who brings home three orphaned baby foxes, then coaxes his Dingo mix dog, Brim, to nurse them along with her own pups…

Read the full review

PaperTigers’ Book of the Month: Dingo’s Tree by Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Our newest PaperTigers’ issue is now live and  focuses on cats and dogs in multicultural children’s literature – a topic that was suggested by my 12-year-old daughter, who is animal fanatic.

Among the many highlights in the issue is our interview with Aboriginal elder and storyteller Gladys Milroy, in which she discusses her children’s book  Dingo’s Tree, co-authored with her daughter Jill Milroy, who is currently Dean of the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia. Dingo’s Tree is published by Magabala Books, Australia’s oldest independent Indigenous publishing house, and is PaperTigers’  Book of the Month. Look for our review of the book soon and in the meantime enjoy this wonderful review that Emma Perry at My Book Corner has graciously allowed us to reprint.

Located in Australia, My Book Corner provides book reviews on an entire assortment of children’s literature and is a great place to visit and find out what is hot in the world of Australian kid and YA lit. We reprint some of My Book Corner’s reviews under the reviews tab of the PaperTigers website.

Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy,
Dingo’s Tree
Magabala Books, 2012.

Reviewed by Emma Perry at My Book Corner

Divided in to four short chapters entitled Dingo’s Tree, The Raindrop, The Tree That Walked and The Last Tree this is a poignant story about man’s destruction of the landscape and its impact on the landscape, natural resources and the animals who depend on them for survival.

Penned and illustrated by mother and daughter team Gladys Milroy and Jill Milroy this is a picture book which gives voice to the very real threats on Australia’s landscape. Mining. The beauty of its narrative, combined with the Milroys’ warm illustrations ensure that Dingo’s Tree will leave a lasting impression.

This deceptively simple yet powerful parable begins when Dingo is unable to find a tree of his own. He draws one and so begins the magical yet sad centre of this parable. The tree grows and grows too tall even for the moon to view the top, then in the aftermath of a cyclone it disappears. As a single, beautiful raindrop appears on a tiny tree, arguments ensue as to who owns it, however a much more pressing matter soon emerges.

The selflessness of crow who flies for miles each day to supply Little Tree with water, is set in parallel against man …

“mining is cutting too deep for the scars to heal. Once destroyed, mountains can’t grow again and give birth to the rivers that they send to the sea.”

The character of the Dingo continues to emerge as one of wisdom and reason, the rain drop must be reserved, saved for Dingo who will know when the time is right.

The ending is gorgeous and poignant, you can not fail to be moved by the final poetic lines followed by Dingo and Wombat’s final conversation…

An ever timely message about environment and man’s role in preserving and maintaining it.

Dr Anita Heiss’ review of Dingo’s Tree can be enjoyed here.

Bologna Book Fair – Australian Children’s Book Illustrators and Exhibition

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

A highlight for visitors to the Bologna Book Fair has definitely been the Australian Children’s Book Illustration Exhibition that occupied part of the Australian Publishers Association stand.  Showcasing notable picture books from 2011-2012, there were some 25 one-off illustration prints on display, with their books alongside – and the added dimension of a constant flow of different illustrators and authors working and chatting to visitors to the exhibition.

Enjoy these photos of the exhibition.  My favorites?  Yikes, impossible to choose.  I loved seeing Dub Leffler’s Once There was a Boy, that I’ve heard so much about, and Norma MacDonald’s illustration from Stolen Girl written by Trina Saffioti, both Magabala Books, 2011.  Also Bronwyn Bancroft’s  Kangaroos and Crocodiles: My Big Book of Australian Animals (Little Hare, 2011) and The Little Refugee by Anh Do and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

It was a thrill to watch featured illustrator Nick Bland at work, since he was staying in our hotel and we shared taxis with him to or from the Fair.   Take a look at this beautiful bear as a work in progress to completion, done this morning at the Fair, to be scanned and wired back to his editors in Australia… and the original given to Corinne, who you’ll see is over the moon.  We’ve already held it up to Skype for her daughter to see!  And I was very lucky too, as Nick gave me one of the drawings he’d done while working on the stand – a very regal pig and two sad sheep!  Wow, watching all these very talented artists at work is such a thrill!

Nick is also very interesting to talk to as he’s at the forefront of Book App technology with his company Wheelbarrow.  Here he is showing us the App version of his best-selling picture book The Very Cranky Bear…

We caught up again (after the SCBWI illustrators’ duelling yesterday) with  Lesley Vamos and Serena Geddes, as well as author Deborah Abela, whose recent book The Ghosts of Gribblesea Pier has been included in USBBY’s 2012 Outstanding International Books List.  We also saw Jeannette Rowe creating beautiful watercolor butterflies from round wee pallettes that looked unpromisingly dark and uniform.  And just caught the end of Ann James’ demonstration.  An illustration from Ann’s beautiful picture book The Butterfly (written by Richard Vaughan Carr) is included in the exhibition, and it was really special also to look through the portfolio of preparatory material Ann had alongside it on display too.

Ann James is one of the founders of Books Illustrated, along with Ann Haddon, whom we had a great chat with – but that’s for another post. In the meantime, enjoy the photos…

Week-end Book Review: Our World, Bardi Jaawi, Life at Ardiyooloon by One Arm Point Remote Community School

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

One Arm Point Remote Community School,
Our World: Bardi Jaawi, Life at Ardiyooloon

Magabala Books, 2010.

Ages 8-11

Our World: Bardi Jaawi Life at Ardiyooloon
is a stunning, encyclopaedic book that welcomes readers into the remote indigenous Australian community of Bardi Jaawi people at Ardiyooloon a.k.a One Arm Point, at the top of the Dampier Peninsula in the north-west of Western Australia. One hundred and fifteen children from the One Arm Point Remote Community School, along with their School Culture Team, School Staff, and Community Elders, as well as others from the local community, all came together to create this unique document of their culture and environment.

Colourful photographs show the children engaged in the many outdoor activities that form part of their curriculum, including camping and bushcraft. The book is filled with eye-catching artwork by the children, from illustrations for the traditional stories scattered throughout, to an identity parade of local “Saltwater Creatures”. The community’s connection with the sea is very strong. Many of the activities revolve around fishing, from catching to eating the fish. The variety of activities covered is reflected in the headings for each double-page spread, ranging from “Our History” to “Fish Poisoning and Spearing” to “Bardi Jaawi Seasons” (there are six seasons in the Bardi Jaawi calendar). And along the way, there’s “How to Dress a Snake Bite” with the check box “If you survive, you have done this right” – let’s hope so, then!

At the beginning, a colourful series of maps gradually hones in on Ardiyooloon, right down to One Arm Point Remote Community School itself. The Bardi pronunciation guide is useful since relevant Bardi words and their English translations are to be found encircling most pages, with a complementary English-Bardi wordlist at the end. The “Bardi Family Ties” section also teaches the Bardi words for all the different family relationships. Interestingly, birrii means both mother and aunt on the mother’s side; and gooloo means both father and uncle on the father’s side.

The obvious effort and enthusiasm that have gone into the project of putting Our World together have certainly paid off. As well as enjoying their visit to Ardiyooloon, readers will perhaps feel inspired both to try out some of the activities, adapted to their own surroundings, and to create a parallel record of their own communities and school lives. Congratulations to all involved, children and adults alike, in producing such a captivating book.

Marjorie Coughlan

August 2011

Books at Bedtime: Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna

Monday, March 28th, 2011

An absolutely gorgeous book, Scaly-tailed Possum and Echidna (Magabala Books, 2010) makes for a perfect bedtime story – the story itself is short and to the point; the art-work is wonderful with vibrant colors and adorable depictions of the two eponymous animals; and the factual notes at the end are pitched just right for young listeners/readers. I learned a thing or two, too – did you know that a baby echidna is called a puggle?

The story has been handed down through generations of the “Kandiwal mob”, one of the tribes of the Wunambal people in the north-west of Western Australia, and the book’s author Cathy Goonack inherited it from her grandfather. She tells how “Long long ago in the Dreamtime”, naughty Echidna tried to steal Possum’s food: in the ensuing fight, Possum lost the fur from his tail and Echidna fell into ‘the spiky thorns of the pandanus leaf’. So the scaly-tailed possum, which is only found around Wunambal country, got its scaly tail, and the echidna was punished by Wandjina, the Great Spirit, with having to carry the heavy spikes around for ever, no longer able to climb trees but having to grub around for food.

The beautiful illustrations by Marlene, Myron and Katrina Goonack, with support and technical assistance from Janie Andrews, were painted on silk with outlines made using a gutta pen, creating an effective contrast between the colorful foliage and background and the animals. I have always had a soft spot for the improbable-looking echidna and I love the way he is drawn here both with and without his spines.

The simplicity of the story belies its depth of meaning, and with its size being just right for small people to get hold of, it’s just the kind of book that will be in demand again and again, both as a readaloud and for young children to read by themselves. Magabala Books have produced yet another little gem.

Books at Bedtime: The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

The scent of the flowers from a special frangipani tree wafts its way through this delightful story, in which one particular annual fancy dress carnival goes down in the annals of the author’s family history. Set in Northern Queensland, Australia, in the 1950s, The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point by Trina Saffioti, illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books, 2008) both exuberantly and sensitively tells the story of how family and neighbors rally round to help Faith, Trina Saffioti’s mother, to become an island princess: an old sheet becomes her sarong, and she borrows a ukulele (what does it matter that it hasn’t got any strings?) – but the crowning glory, both literally and figuratively, are the lei and headdress made from threaded flowers from the frangipani tree.

Faith suffers a slight confidence crisis when she arrives at the party and sees some of the other costumes – but her cousin Noelie, dressed as an Aboriginal warrior, says to her:

‘Faithy-girl, you look like an island princess… Some boys laughed at me but I don’t care. If I win, I’ll share my prize with you. If you win, you can share with me.’

And then the frangipani flowers work their magic on the judges and she wins!

There are lovely nuances that come through both in the narrative and in the illustrations, like the fact that second-prize also goes to a costume that has required imagination and effort; and that Carmen is “one of the more popular girls” for a reason – although she is wearing a beautiful ballerina dress and clearly believes herself to be in the running for first prize, she applauds Faith generously…

The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point is a great readaloud: it buzzes with zingy dialogue – and I especially love the strong sense of oral history being handed down by the way the author refers to family members in relation to herself – so, for example, Faith is Mum. What’s really great is that it wouldn’t actually have mattered if Faith hadn’t won – it’s just fantastic that she did!

Books at Bedtime: Joshua and the Two Crabs

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Over a year ago now, I blogged about the beautiful poem Outback written by the then eight-year-old Annaliese Porter and published by Magabala Books in Australia, in a stunning edition illustrated by renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft. I recently lent our copy of Outback to a friend to use with her class of eight-year-olds here in the UK, when they were learning about aboriginal art, and it was an eye-opening experience for them to work with a book written by someone their own age.

Now Magabala have done it again – they recently published Joshua and the Two Crabs by Joshua Button, “a young man with a keen interest in the saltwater country he has grown up in”.

It’s a delightful story, told with humour, as Joshua chases the two crabs around the beach, telling them,

‘I can see you two!’
‘Well, we can see you too,’ said the crabs.

The three-fold repetition of this satisfying formula perhaps lulls young readers/ listeners into a false sense of this being a wholly imaginary, anthropomorphised tale – so it comes as a bit of a shock when Joshua catches them and then throws them onto the fire to cook for lunch! However, Joshua’s matter-of-fact tone is quite in keeping with the descriptive narrative… I would say the story is a perfect example of a child’s ability to weave fact and fiction together in one breath. We adults sometimes walk a tightrope here. How often have you found yourself in a no-win situation? Either you go along with the imaginings and are berated for saying something which is obviously not true, or you are likewise reproached for throwing in the cold water of fact! Well, Joshua Button seems to have got the blend just right, judging by Little Brother’s reaction.

He was chuckling for a long time that Joshua carried a bucket and spear at the beach – and he loved the pictures – he liked the textures and layering. They are indeed stunning – the colors bring the sea and the creek alive; the crabs are wonderful, as are the vignettes of the waders – and I especially loved Joshua peering down at the crabs in his very goggly goggles!

A while after reading it together, it became apparent that Little Brother had been mulling it over:

“Joshua Button does exist.”
“Yes, he does.”
“Do you think this is a true story?
“Yes, I do.”
“But the bit about talking crabs is fiction.”
“Probably.”
“Well, it could say that”
“But it’s a story – fundamentally it’s a story, isn’t it?”
“Well, it did happen. It’s a story about two crabs.”

…and he is now thinking about writing his own book. In my post yesterday, I quoted Jarrett Krosoczka and the effect on him of a comment from a visiting author to his school – how much more aspirational then to read a book in print that is written by someone your own age! Not only has Joshua Button given children all over the world the opportunity to find out about a fun family day out in his corner of Australia, he has opened them to the possibility that they could do it too. Thank you, Magabala Books!

Aboriginal illustrators and writers

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Children’s stories told and/or illustrated by Aboriginal people have been receiving serious attention for several decades now. It’s a different world from that of early pioneers like Australian Dick Roughsey, of Mornington Island in Queensland. I’ve posted previously about illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft and Magabala Books in western Australia. To delve deeper, this article about the history of aboriginal children’s literature illustrators features work by another early favorite, Pat Torres.

Magabala publishes a list of Australian and New Zealand children’s books by and about Aboriginals. AustralEd also has a list of books about Australian indigenous peoples, many by Aboriginal writers. Indij Readers publishes school reading materials by Aboriginal people that provide “diversity of Aboriginal identity, voice, and representation.” Here’s an introduction to their work.

In Canada, Pemmican publishes children’s books by and about the Metis aboriginal people. The Penumbra Press, a small fine-art and literary publishing house, offers many books for children based on Northern and Native literatures. And the Our Story website publishes stories by young winners of the Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge.

Unsympathetic governments worldwide, east and west, make it difficult for the stories and traditions of native peoples to be passed on to subsequent generations. It is gratifying to salute the great work of organizations, writers and illustrators who bring these treasures to all of us.

Illustrator Mentoring by Magabala

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

MagabalaMagabala Books, based in Broome, Western Australia, is an Australian indigenous publishing house. They’re committed to using aboriginal illustrators for their growing list of children’s books, but aboriginal illustrators are as few and far between as towns in that part of the country. So manager Suzie Hazlehurst put together a proposal to train and mentor promising talent. With funding from Writing WA and artsource, Suzie invited artists and likely future artists recommended by the local art centers in the Kimberley region to participate. She brought illustrator Ann James from Melbourne’s Books Illustrated to teach two 4-day intensive courses, one in Broome and one in Perth, with about a dozen participants each.

“Ann did a great job teaching both established artists and people with no experience in art mediums,” Suzie says. “Illustration requires specific skills. Artists have to know how to work with publishers, writers, and designers. They need to understand layout and collaborate on deciding which parts of a story need more detail.” Three workshop participants submitted exciting sample illustrations, she reports, and are now being mentored for particular titles.

Furthermore, Magabala is mentoring a young Adelaide writer on his graphic novel, which will also be the first graphic novel Magabala has published. The publishing manager is overseeing editorial guidance and a Melbourne designer with much graphic novel experience is offering design input. The target publishing date is late 2008 for this 3-way collaboration.

Magabala’s star is rising. The company, started in 1984, became an Independent Aboriginal Corporation in 1990. A recent move into the old Visitors’ Center in Broome, across the street from the new Visitors’ Center, has increased visibility and growth. A bush garden is in the works, as are gift products to be developed from the “artistic collateral” of their books. “Broome gets 300,000 visitors a year,” Suzie muses, “and if only a tenth of them bought one of our books…”

Wondering what the word Magabala means? Check it out here. For more about Australian indigenous book publishing, visit PaperTigers here. And here’s a PaperTigers review of one of Magabala’s most endearing titles, My Home in Kakadu. Who knows how much this one book has done to increase respect for the indigenous cultures of Australia?

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Australian Book Illustrators

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

When I visited Ann James, illustrator of Ready Set Skip!, at Books Illustrated, she mentioned that there’s an Australia-wide shortage of book illustrators. To help address the problem, she’s recently taught two workshops on book illustration for aboriginal artists, sponsored by Magabala Books.

The Tiger HeartBecoming a children’s book illustrator isn’t always a direct path. Ann started out as an art teacher. Gaye Chapman, illustrator of Breakfast with Buddha, had been a graphic designer and professional painter for many years when her first children’s book, Heart of the Tiger, came out in 2004. Sally Rippin, illustrator of Becoming Buddha, started out writing and illustrating picture books, first published in 1996. Her novel, Chenxi and the Foreigner, begun while she was studying Chinese painting in China years earlier, was published in 2002, and an adult version is now in process. Sally teaches writing for children at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where Ann is now studying with an eye to writing children’s books in addition to illustrating them.

Ann James and her partner, Ann Haddon, long-time promotors of children’s book illustration as an art genre, also produced Making Pictures: Techniques for Illustrating Children’s Books. They have had an exhibition space for children’s book art at their studio/bookshop for years and have recently begun organizing traveling exhibitions of children’s book illustrations on multiple continents.

While these illustrious illustrators illustrate books, their stories illustrate the many paths that can lead to a career in children’s book illustration.