PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Two Top-Ten picks of Chinese-themed Australian books by Chris Cheng

Monday, November 12th, 2012

In this final post in our 10th Anniversary Top-10 series, we present not one but two book lists from Australian author Chris Cheng, both with a Chinese theme.  The first focuses on picture books and the second on middle-grade/YA fiction.

Chris is the author of more than forty books for children of all ages, including two books in Scholastic’s My Australia series, The Melting Pot and New Gold Mountain, which explores racially-based conflicts on the New South Wales goldfields during the 1860s. Before becoming a full-time writer, Chris was a primary school teacher and then spent almost eight years teaching in the Education Centre of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, where he established Australia’s first Zoomobile.  He has written many non-fiction titles about animals and the environment, and do read this Personal View he wrote for us a few years ago, Drawing from eco-riches: Australia’s environment in children’s books.

Chris is just coming to the end of his stint as an ambassador for Australia’s National Year of Reading.  He is currently co-chair of the International Advisory Board for SCBWI and is Co-Regional Advisor for Australia and New Zealand.  As well as his website and author blog, do check out Chris’ New Kidz Books In Oz blog; and he reports on Asian, Australian and New Zealand books for Cynsations, where you can also read an interview.


(Current) Top-10 Australian Books with a Chinese theme X 2 by Chris Cheng

Far out… you want to limit this list to 10… that is night on soooooo difficult. We are a multicultural country with immigrants from many other places around the world coming to Australia and being integral to the foundation stones on which modern Australia is constructed.

So these are my ‘current’ top 10 favs of a multicultural nature – all by Australians and all have a Chinese theme … biased I know … and they don’t include my books!

Picture Books:

~ The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Lothian, 2006)

~ Big Dog by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Armin Greder (Scholastic Australia, 2004)

~ The Boss by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Fiona O’Beirne (Scholastic, 1992)

~ Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year by Sally Rippin (Omnibus Books, 1996)

~ The Kinder Hat by Morag Loh, illustrated by Donna Rawlins (Ashton Scholastic, 1985)

~ Moon Bear Rescue by Kim Dale (Lothian, 2006)

~ The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas (Viking/Penguin Australia, 2007)

~ The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin (Walker Books Australia, 2010)

~ Rebel by Allan Baillie, illustrated by Di Wu (Phoenix Education, 2011)

~ The River by Libby Hathorn, illustrated by Stanley Wong (Asian Education Foundation/Curriculum Corporation (Australia), 2001)


~ The China Coin by Allan Baillie (Penguin Group Australia, 1992)

~ Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2003)

~ Foreign Devil by Christine Harris (Random House Australia, 1999)

~ The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2002/Kane Miller, 2011)

~ Garden of the Purple Dragon by Carole Wilkinson (Macmillan, 2005)

~ A Ghost in my Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang (Puffin Australia, 2009)

~ Hungry Ghosts by Sally Heinrich (Hachette Australia, 2007)

~ Just One Wish by Sally Rippin (Penguin Group Australia, 2009)

~ The Secret Life of Maeve Lee Kwong by Kirsty Murray (Paw Prints, 2008)

~ Year of the Tiger by Alison Lloyd (Penguin Group Australia, 2008)

Poetry Friday ~ PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

Friday, November 9th, 2012

[Time is running out to enter our Tenth Anniversary Draw – the deadline is tomorrow – so if you haven’t already, take a look here for the chance to win some fantastic prizes for you or your school or library]

Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer.  Sally was  a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!).  So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.

As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.

My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito

When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids.  What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well.  From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids.  It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.

Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008).  This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War.  This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.

Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008).  This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009).  This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series.  The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.

The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji.  This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011.  It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself.  It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result.  A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.

The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei.  This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa.  Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’

David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph.  A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s.  Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.

Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002).  We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too.  Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.

Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters.  This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school.  It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.

Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.  I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people.  And this book was one of my favorites!  Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think – head on over.

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary: Multi-colored Threads of Home by Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Dr. Myra Garces-Bacsal is an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Singapore and was just nominated for the NIE’s 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, Myra shares her passion for the written word through Gathering Books, a children’s literature and YA fiction website with a vibrant blog. At the 2010 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore PaperTigers was honored to co-host a panel discussion with Myra and with Tarie Sabido of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. As part of our 10th Anniversary celebrations we asked Myra if she would send us her Top 10 list of multicultural books and she submitted to us this most wonderful and insightful article:

Multi-colored Threads of Home

When I first heard the term multiculturalism in children’s literature, my first thought was one of joyful celebration and anticipation. Enchanted as I am with the nature of storytelling and the lyrical beauty of words – I sensed that this celebration of diversity would give space to distinct and resounding voices, formerly silenced and marginalized. Little did I know how naïve I was. Reading the edited book by Dana Fox and Kathy Short entitled Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children’s Literature has provided me with a veritable spread of polemical issues, conflicting perspectives, not to mention the sociopolitical underpinnings that provide a tenable-yet-shaky frame for a more thorough understanding of multiculturalism in books for children. Gradually, I came to realize that there are multiple layers that permeate this deceptively-innocuous intention to bring the world to a child’s hands through a book. Issues range from insider-outsider perspectives (with Jacqueline Woodson’s plaintive Who can tell my story and Marc Aronson’s heartfelt A Mess of Stories) to questions of ethnic essentialism and problems of cultural authenticity. Needless to say, my views about my beloved picture books have now become more nuanced and textured as I begin to gradually appreciate the quiet struggles and the thinly-veiled tension that serve as the backdrop of these narratives for children.

When Marjorie very kindly invited me to share my top ten multicultural books for children, all these thoughts were raging through my mind. I knew that I wanted to steer clear of these thorny, hardly-resolved, and undeniably complex issues. At the same time, I wanted to go beyond folklore and festivals. I decided that I might as well develop my own criteria of picture books that spoke to me.

The list that I have here is made up of narratives with a pulse, with soulful characters who are confronted with inner demons yet are able to transcend the sordid realities of life through flights of fancies, quilting dreams, or the promise of spring. While life’s shadows take on a tangible form (be they rabbits or wolves), the reader feels a deep sense of faith with winged-hands that are unafraid to search, reach out, and ultimately discover home within one’s self.

In Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey, the reader gets to know the restless heart of a wanderer. In the review that I have written in GatheringBooks, I noted that:

Each page is filled with luminous paintings of places that Grandfather has been accompanied by sparse text that is one or two sentences long. While it is perfect for very young children, I envision that it would also be great for older kids who would wish to explore geography, develop a sense of space and time, while providing a means to understand one’s roots and cultural identity.

 While the story is linear, starting with grandfather’s leaving his home in Japan as a young man to “see the world” and ending in old age with grandfather’s longing left in the air for the reader to touch and grasp – each portrait seems to be filled with untold narratives, inviting the reader to sit back and imagine the possible labyrinthine stories the picture brings.

The book also touches on the concept of transnational identity as Say’s grandfather would miss the mountains of Japan while he is in California, yet he would also long for his ‘home’ in California while in Japan. There is that continual search for something elusive outside of one’s self – the search for home.

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival must be among everyone’s top ten list, as it provides a surreal and powerfully-moving representation of all the strange and odd experiences that moving to and living in another country (outside one’s own birthplace) might engender. Absolutely wordless, the monstrous scales and paper boats in the skies provide the reader with a glimpse of the various Ellis Islands of the world – human geese flying south to find refuge. The muted narratives of displacement are rendered even more compelling with the subtle snapshots of pain, inviting the readers to infuse their own ‘river of words’ as they ‘read’ through the wordless tales of deliverance.

This ‘wordless’ concept of home is also something that Jeannie Baker played around with in Mirror as the reader is regaled with the outstanding duality of what life is like in both Morocco and Sydney for two young boys. From a journey of bedtime and morning rituals as ingeniously portrayed in two different parts of the world – one is able to glimpse desert and dry land mirrored with cityscapes, cars, and airplanes. There is also the startling realization that despite the remarkable differences in appearances, there are things that connect us regardless of barriers in geography, language, cultural practices: there is always the night sky, the moon, family, food, and love.

This notion of kinship that goes beyond skin color and language is likewise evident in Brothers by the husband-and-wife tandem Yin and Chris Soentpiet. Ming, a young Chinese boy just arrived in San Francisco to live with his older brothers, who was among the first Chinese railroad workers in the city. Ming was immediately thrust into doing his family duty to mind the struggling store that they are renting to make ends meet. He was warned never to go past Chinatown, as their almond-eyed presence – while necessary for the country’s survival – was neither embraced nor accepted by the ‘locals.’ Things changed when Ming met Patrick, an Irish boy with “brown hair and eyes the color of the bright sky” as he found a friend who is like him in spirit. The two boys’ friendship illustrates how linguistic and cultural boundaries are oftentimes intangible walls of our own making.

These walls may actually prove to be insurmountable for some as could be seen in Armin Greder’s sparse-yet-intensely-gripping The Island. This picture book demonstrates how the pervasive fear towards people who are different could prove to be tragic and beyond redemption. There is darkness seeping through the pages of the book as the reader is confronted with the extent of man’s unfounded rage and haunted by the many atrocities people tend to commit in the name of fear, and how the voice of reason and compassion may easily be smothered by the shadows of what-ifs and relentless musings of the worst aspects of human nature.

In John Marsden’s The Rabbits as illustrated by Shaun Tan, the shadows are given allegorical and aesthetic form as one sees rabbits in suits and numbats in trees populating this metaphorical universe. This picture book allows the reader to take on a radical shift in perspective as one is privy to the sentiments of the locals – not the foreigner, not the immigrant who is struggling to fit in and belong – but a condensed view of colonization from the mistrustful and wounded eyes of the colonized. In the review that I have written in GatheringBooks, I noted that:

The straightforward, deceptively-simple retelling of Australia’s history is matched perfectly by Shaun Tan’s amazingly-stunning artwork that complements the narrative with dark black spaces, monochrome illustrations of how the rabbits have overtaken the entire country (“Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits. Millions and millions of rabbits. Everywhere we look there are rabbits.”), the sepia-toned undercurrents of loss and tragedy, and the deliciously-surreal representation of all that is right and unjust, pure and sullied, and what it means to stand one’s ground (regardless of how shaky and small and crumbling it is). The book is a reminder, as well, of what we value as we cry out in anguish and claim ownership of what is rightfully ours – as one’s entire world is overtaken, captured, and judged to be less than what it is.

This arbitrary yet heavily-pronounced judgment of the superiority of one cultural group as compared to another is clearly evident in Roberto Innocenti’s Rose Blanche as the reader gets to understand more clearly the gritty aspects of war through a child’s innocent eyes. I was struck by how young Rose Blanche proudly waved the Nazi flag as she and other German kids viewed the coming of the soldiers as a cause for celebration and festivity. The red-ribboned girl, however, discovered truths that even our adult minds are incapable of comprehending when she followed the soldier’s truck amidst the clearing – her innocence and youth stripped from her eyes as she sees gaunt and emaciated faces and bodies in striped pajamas. In my review of this book I wrote:

Rose Blanche is a heartbreaking reminder of the real costs of war – and the fact that nothing is worth the gaping black chasm that takes the place of youth, and friendship, and the lovely act of becoming. In war, there is nothing but abrupt ends, cut-off laughter, and discarded dreams. I invite you to open this book and celebrate the sweet song of spring – and perhaps, in time, we can indeed, create a world that is worthy of the beautiful children we have brought into this world. Collectively, we can strive to be the heroes and peacekeepers that our children have always regarded us to be.

This courage to face one’s fears and grit to go beyond one’s self is evident in Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas’ Woolvs in the Sitee. While the book begins with a sense of inevitable doom and resignation – a darkness that threatens to engulf – this does not overwhelm the reader who touches that bit of sunshine and warmth in the pages – primarily because it is rarely seen that it is even more apparent. There is that keenly-felt struggle to find meaning and transcend one’s pain to save another and a decisive invitation from the young protagonist, Ben, to “Joyn me” in facing one’s own ‘woolvs.’

Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach takes us on a different quest as the readers gets to fly among quilted stars together with Cassie Louise Lightfoot, as she ‘owns’ George Washington Bridge and New York through her flights of fancies. It is an evocative graphical representation of a young girl’s resilience amidst poverty as seen in Ringgold’s stunning story-quilts-transformed-into-picture-book. It is a celebration of a child’s indomitable spirit as she declares the world to be hers for the taking while she pursues her dreams in winged feet and star-filled eyes.

I end my list though with poetry as I share the amazing collaboration between Maya Angelou and the gifted graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in Life Does not Frighten Me. I must have read this book more than a dozen times as the lines sounded more like a whispered prayer to me – an antidote against things that go bump and creep in thine soul: ghostly clouds and barking canines, big old meanies and fire-breathing dragons. A perfect gift as well to the Paper Tigers ladies as they celebrate their tenth year anniversary. In this beautiful picture book, the reader is given a dream catcher, an amulet, a magic spell that would shatter the darkest of evils and make the shadows go crawling back where they come from – with the powerful words:

 I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

October 2012 Events

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Click on event name for more information

National Year of Reading~ Australia

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read~ ongoing until Oct 6, USA

Bath Festival of Children’s Literature~ongoing until Oct 7, Bath, United Kingdom

Wigtown Book Festival~ ongoing until Oct 7, Wigtown, United Kingdom

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Presents: The Art of the Picture Book Exhibition~ongoing until Oct 14, Montreal, QC, Canada

Hispanic Heritage Month~ ongoing until Oct 15, USA

Heart and Soul – The Story of America and African Americans Through the Iconic Images by Kadir Nelson From His Award-winning Children’s Book~ ongoing until Oct 20, New York, NY, USA

The Children’s Bookshow: Stories From Around The World~ ongoing until Nov 8, United Kingdom

Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, United Kingdom

2012 South Asia Book Award~ submissions accepted until Dec 31

SingTel Asian Picture Book Award 2013~ submissions accepted until Dec 31, Singapore

Exhibits of Winning Entries from the 2012 Growing Up Asian in America Contest~ ongoing until Feb 2013, USA

Nami Island International Illustration Concours for Picture Book Illustrations~ submissions accepted until Feb 15, 2013, Korea

Skipping Stones Youth Honor Awards Celebrating Multicultural Awareness, International Understanding and Nature Appreciation~ submissions accepted until June 25, 2013, USA

Canadian Library Month

International School Library Month

Children’s Book Week: Heroes and Heroines~ Oct 1 – 7, United Kingdom

TaleBlazers Literary Arts Festival~ Oct 1 – 26, Province of Alberta, Canada

Children’s Book Festival~ Oct 1 – 31,  Ireland

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival~ Oct 3 – 7, Ubud,  Indonesia

National Poetry Day and Announcement of The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Winners ~ Oct 4, London, United Kingdom

The Craft of Reading, an Exhibition of Books Featuring Folk Art and Craft, Curated By Young India Book~ Oct 4  – 10, Chennai, India

The 3rd Annual Art Auction – a Benefit for the  Annual Children’s Poetry Festival in El Salvador~ Oct 5, San Francisco, CA, USA

Litquake, San Franciso’s Literary Festival (including Kidquake and Teenquake)~ Oct 5 – 13, San Francisco, CA, USA

Hong Kong International Literary Festival~ Oct 5 – 14, Hong Kong

Children’s Book Week~ Oct 5 – 15, Netherlands

12th Annual Conference Teaching for Social Justice: Acts of Courage and Resistance~ Oct 6, San Francisco, CA, USA

The Carthage Center for Children’s Literature’s Caldecott Celebration~ Oct 6, Kenosha, WI, USA

The Children’s Book Fair~ Oct 7, Chicago, IL, USA

Frankfurt Book Fair~ Oct 10 – 14, Frankfurt, Germany

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Nominees Announced~ Oct 11, Frankfurt, Germany

The 41st Annual Conference on South Asia~ Oct 11 – 14, Madison, WI, USA

Discussion Forum on The Hans Christian Andersen Awards~ Oct 12, Frankfurt, Germany

Leonard Marcus Presents – Let the Wild Rumpus Start: Maurice Sendak as Storyteller and Psychologist~ Oct 12, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Children’s Literature and Imaginative Geography Past, Present, and Future~ Oct 12 – 13, Ottawa, ON, Canada

AASL Fall Forum: Transliteracy and the School Library Program~ Oct 12 – 13, Greenville, SC, USA

Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival: Memory~ Oct 12 – 14, Sheboygan, WI, USA

Esquimalt Children’s StoryFest~ Oct 13, Esquimalt, BC, Canada

The Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival~ Oct 13, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2012 South Asia Book Award Ceremony~ Oct 13, Madison, WI, USA

Monterrey International Book Fair~ Oct 13 – 20, Monterrey, Mexico

YALSA’s Teen Read Week: It Came from the Library! ~ Oct 14 – 20, USA

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Take Home an Original, an auction of Original Picture Book Art~ Oct 16, Montreal, QC, Canada

Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival~ Oct 16 – 21, Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Digital Shift: Libraries, Ebooks and Beyond. A Library Journal/School Library Journal Online Event~ Oct 17

Chapter & Verse, a Book Club for Adults Discussing Children’s Lit (Frozen by Mary Casanova; A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ed Young)~ Oct 18, USA

17th Annual New England Conference on Multicultural Education (NECME)~ Oct 18, New Britain, CT, USA

Northwoods Children’s Books Conference~ Oct 18 – 19, Minong, WI, USA

Dark Alchemy: Literary Brews Conjured Across the Curriculum With Kenneth Oppel, Keynote Speaker and Featuring CWILL BC presenters~ Oct 19, Vancouver, BC, Canada

59th Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Ceremony~ Oct 19, New York, NY, USA

Scottish Storytelling Festival~ Oct 19 – 28, Scotland

8th Annual World Matters Festival: Missing Peace~ Oct 20  – 21, Eltham, Australia

GobbleDEEbook Children’s Literature Festival~ Oct 20 – 27, Chester, United Kingdom

CHARACTER COUNTS! Week~ Oct 21 – 27

Children’s Literature Festival~ Oct 22, Keene, NH, USA

The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Celebration~ Oct 25, San Marcos, TX, USA

Celebrate Reading National Conference: Insights Into Quality Australian Literature for Young Adults~ Oct 26 – 27, Fremantle, Australia

The Illustrators’ Journey Art Exhibition Featuring Art by Shaun Tan, Matt Ottley and More!~ Oct 28 – Dec 31, Fremantle, Australia

Tall Tales & Huge Hearts: Raúl Colón~ Oct 30 – Mar 28, 2013, Abilene, TX, USA

The Literature Centre (formerly Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre) Exhibits and Programs~ Fremantle, Australia

Dromkeen National Centre for Picture Book Art Exhibits~ Riddells Creek, Australia

Books Illustrated Events and Exhibitions~ Middle Park, Australia

International Youth Library Exhibits~ Munich, Germany

Tulika Book Events~ India

International Library of Children’s Literature Events~ Tokyo, Japan

Newcastle University Programme of Talks on Children’s Books for 2011-2012~ Newcastle, United Kingdom

Seven Stories (the National Home of Children’s Books in Britain) Events~ Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Discover Children’s Story Centre~ London, United Kingdom

Arne Nixon Center’s Children’s Literature Book Clubs for Adults Events~ USA

Events Sponsored by The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress~ USA

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art~ Amherst, MA, USA

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Exhibits~ Abilene, TX, USA

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Events

Week-end Book Reviews: The Bird King And Other Sketches by Shaun Tan

Sunday, February 26th, 2012


Shaun Tan,
The Bird King and Other Sketches
Templar Publishing (UK), 2011; first published by Windy Hollow Books (Australia), 2010.

Ages 9 +

Shaun Tan’s beautifully produced sketchbook, The Bird King, generously lays bare the creative process of illustration. While not specifically designed for children, Tan’s familiar images are of instant, near-universal appeal, and his explanatory text will be a revelation to young fans, especially aspiring artists.

Tan’s introduction references Klee’s famous description of drawing as “taking a line for a walk.” The colored and black-and-white drawings are divided into sections. Images in which “one little drawing is enough” to suggest a whole story comprise the untold stories section. In book, theatre and film, Tan describes his preliminary sketches as “a constant reminder of what I was ‘getting at’ in the first place” during longer creative processes. In drawings from life, we see “ongoing studies in the relationship of line, form, colour and light” that are crucial to an artist’s lifelong process of learning to see. A final section, notebooks, is culled from small ball point pen sketches, doodles and scribbles, some “an equivalent to daydreaming” that Tan poetically compares to fishing: “casting loose lines into a random sea… catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden beneath the waves.”

The drawings themselves also include little notes, ideas for development, and titles that further decipher the artist’s visual language. One double-page drawing entitled “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” features a dozen of Tan’s creatures marching behind a small boy, bird on his head, palette in hand. The only color on the page is a splash of orange dropping from his brush, repeated on the body of a goldfish, held aloft in a bowl, by a large creature with a diving bell head in which a bird in a beret stands at the wheel. In Tan’s quixotic imagination, the robotic and the humanizing hover in edgy balance.

The production quality of this small hardcover book is excellent. Partially bound in red cloth, with embossed lettering on the front cover, it’s held closed with a red elastic band; a blue ribbon bookmark is sewn into the binding. The back matter includes a list of the drawings in the book (noting materials used and the original purpose of each sketch) and a bibliography of Tan’s published works.

Young artists will learn more from studying the lines Tan takes for a walk than from any number of art classes. Children who already know and love books by the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner will recognize preliminary sketches of work from favorite books. For newcomers, The Bird King is a great introduction to this evocative Australian writer-illustrator.

Charlotte Richardson
February 2012

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival Is Set to a Musical Score

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Thanks to Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book for alerting me to this video of Shaun Tan’s award winning book The Arrival set to a musical score on the Sydney Opera House’s website.

Watch highlights of Shaun Tan’s visual masterpiece The Arrival featuring a live score by Ben Walsh and The Orkestra of the Underground.

The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images. With his Orkestra of the Underground, Ben Walsh pooled a diverse range of musical talent and composed a score to accompany Tan’s beautiful illustrations in a rare and unique audio-visual experience.

Click here to watch

Nominees For 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Just Announced!

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Here’s the Press Release!

184 candidates from 66 countries are nominated for the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. This was revealed today at the Frankfurt Book Fair by Larry Lempert, Chairman of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury. The figures show a distinct increase compared to last year.

– It’s very gratifying that the number of nominated candidates and countries represented continue to increase, says Larry Lempert. The jury is full of enthusiasm for the exciting and difficult task to consider the work of so many qualified candidates.

Among the nominees are 38 per cent authors, 21 per cent illustrators, 20 per cent promoters of reading and organisations, and one per cent oral storytellers. 20 per cent of the candidates are nominated in more than one category. Among the candidates are 81 men, 74 women and 29 organisations and projects dedicated to promotion of reading.

The nomination list has eight new countries represented compared to last year: Cyprus, Ecuador, Eritrea, Greenland, Moldova, Mongolia, Tanzania and Zambia.

A complete list of nominees is published on The recipient or recipients of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2012 will be announced on March 20th 1:00 p.m. CET in Vimmerby, the birthplace of Astrid Lindgren, and online at In 2012 the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award will be presented for the 10th time.

In 2011 the Australian illustrator and author Shaun Tan was awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The previous laureates are: Kitty Crowther (2010), Tamer Institute (2009), Sonya Hartnett (2008), Banco del Libro (2007), Katherine Paterson (2006), Philip Pullman (2005), Ryôji Arai (2005), Lygia Bojunga (2004), Christine Nöstlinger (2003) and Maurice Sendak (2003).


2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Nominees Will Be Announced October 13th

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Tomorrow, October 13th, the nominees for the 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award will be announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Larry Lempert, Chairman of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury, will reveal the candidates at 17:10 hours. Prior to this announcement  journalist Andreas Platthaus from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will discuss the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award recipient, Shaun Tan, with Ralf Keiser, Carlsen Verlag and Dr. Christiane Raabe, International Youth Library. Click here to see the program for the announcement.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which amounts to SEK 5 million (approx. $750,000 usd), is awarded annually to a single recipient or to several. Authors, illustrators, storytellers and promoters of reading may be rewarded. The award is for lifelong work or artistry rather than for individual pieces and the prize can only be awarded to living people. The body of work must uphold the highest artistic quality and evoke the deeply humanistic spirit that Astrid Lindgren treasured. For the past three years PaperTigers has had the honor of being a nominating body for the award.


September 2011 Events

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Click on event name for more information

Skipping Stones Youth Honor Award Winners Announced

Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre Exhibits and Programs~ Fremantle, Australia

Dromkeen National Centre for Picture Book Art Exhibits~ Riddells Creek, Australia

Books Illustrated Events and Exhibitions~ Middle Park, Australia

Screenings for Library of the Early Mind: a documentary film exploring childrens literature~ Canada and USA

International Youth Library Exhibits~ Munich, Germany

Seven Stories (the National Home of Children’s Books in Britain) Events~ Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Discover Children’s Story Centre~ London, United Kingdom

The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Exhibits~ Abilene, TX, USA

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Events

1st Biennial IBBY Africa Conference~ ongoing until Sep 2, Polokwane, South Africa

IBBY Germany Presents Kein Kinderspiel! [No child’s play!]: A Workshop for Translators~ ongoing until Sep 2, Hamburg, Germany

Western Australia Spring Poetry Festival and National Poetry Week~ ongoing until Sep 4, Australia

Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF)~ ongoing until Sep 4, Beijing, China

Delhi Book Fair~ ongoing until Sep 4, Delhi, India

Museum of Childhood Exhibit: Author and Illustrator Judith Kerr~ ongoing until Sep 4, London, United Kingdom

Nairn Book & Arts Festival~ ongoing until Sep 4, Nairn, United Kingdom

Children’s Books Link the World – Hans Christian Andersen Award 2010 & IBBY Honour List 2010~ ongoing until Sep 11, Tokyo, Japan

Meet Your Friends From Japan! An Exhibit at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art~ ongoing until Sep 20 Amherst, MA, USA

Submissions Accepted for Lee and Low Books New Voices Award~ ongoing until Sep 30, USA

Mirror, an Exhibition by Children’s Author and Artist Jeannie Baker~ ongoing until Oct 11, Ipswich City, Australia

2012 Scholastic Asian Book Award~ entries accepted until Oct 17, Singapore

Once Upon A Wartime: Classic War Stories for Children~ ongoing until Oct 30, London, United Kingdom

E-Mote Digital Storytelling Competition: When We Put Aside Our Differences~ entries accepted until Oct 31, Singapore

The Art Institute of Chicago Presents: Artful Alphabets: Five Picture Book Artists~ ongoing until Nov 6, Chicago, IL, USA

2012 PBBY-Salanga Prize~ entries accepted until Nov 11, Philippines

2012 South Asia Book Award~ entries accepted until Dec 31

Budding Writers Project~ entries accepted until Jan 6, 2012, Singapore

Exhibits of Winning Entries from the 2011 Growing Up Asian in America Contest~ ongoing until Feb 2012, USA

Singapore International Storytelling Festival (SISF)~ Sep 1 – 5, Singapore

heARTlines: Children’s Literature and Book Illustration Festival ~ Sep 2 – Oct 9, Mundaring, Australia

Asian Congress of Storytellers~ Sep 3 – 4, Singapore

Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature~ Sep 3 – 14, Woodlands, Australia

Kathalaya Storytelling Course~ Sep 5 – 10, Bangalore, India

SCBWI Tokyo Illustrators Exhibition~ Sep 6 – 11, Tokyo, Japan

Brisbane Writers Festival~ Sep 7 – 11, Brisbane, Australia

International Children’s and Youth Literature Festival~ Sep 7 – 17, Berlin, Germany

Moscow International Book Fair~ Sep 7 – 12, Moscow, Russia

International Literacy Day~ Sep 8

UNESCO Literary Prize Awards Presentation~ Sep 8, Paris, France

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats Exhibition~ Sep 9 – Jan 29, 2012, New York, NY, USA

CYA Later, Alligator – Children’s and Young Adult Writers And Illustrators Conference~ Sep 10, Brisbane, Australia

Book Blogger Appreciation Week~ Sep 12 – 16

The Manila International Book Fair: Words Without Borders~ Sep 14 – 18, Manila, Philippines

Chapter & Verse Meeting (a Book Club for Adults Discussing Children’s Lit)~ Sep 15, USA

REFORMA National Conference~ Sep 15 – 18, Denver, CO, USA

Eden Mills Writers’ Festival~ Sep 15 – 18, Eden Mills, ON, Canada

Hispanic Heritage Month~ Sep 15 – Oct 15, USA

Children’s Literature Scholar and Author, Leonard Marcus Gives Talk on “The Art of Leonard Weisgard” at Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature~ Sep 16, Fresno, CA, USA

5th Annual Kidlitosphere Conference~ Sep 16 – 17, Seattle, WA, USA

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Presents: Get Published! Seminar~ Sep 17, Toronto, ON, Canada

2nd SCBWI Children’s Book Seminar~ Sep 17, Bacolod, Philippines

57th St. Children’s Book Fair~ Sep 18, Chicago, IL, USA

Telling Tales: A Family Festival of Stories~ Sep 18, Rockton, ON, Canada

Thin Air – Winnipeg International Writers Festival~ Sep 18 – 24, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

International Day of Peace~ Sep 21

SCBWI Children’s Book Seminar~ Sep 21, Maasin, Philippines

The Carle Honors 2011 Annual Gala and Art Auction~ Sep 22, New York, NY, USA

First Story Festival~ Sep 22 – 23, Banbury, United Kingdom

Northwoods Children’s Book Conference~ Sep 22 – 23, Hayward, WI, USA

Göteborg Book Fair~ Sep 22 – 25, Göteborg, Sweden

The Pictorial Worlds of Shaun Tan~ Sep 22 – 25, Göteborg, Sweden

23rd Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava~ Sep 22 – Oct 26, Bratislava, Slovakia

Wigtown Book Festival~ Sep 23 – Oct 2, Wigtown, United Kingdom

Bath Festival of Children’s Literature~ Sep 23 – Oct 2, Bath, United Kingdom

The Children’s Bookshow: Stories From Around The World~ Sep 23 – Dec 7, United Kingdom

3rd Annual Elizabeth York Children’s Literature Festival~ Sep 24, Anderson, IN, USA

Fairytale Town’s 11th Annual Children’s Book Festival~ Sep 24 – 25, Sacramento, CA, USA

National Book Festival~ Sep 24 – 25, Washington, D.C., USA

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read~ Sep 24 – Oct 1, USA

Appledore Book Festival (featuring Michael Rosen)~ Sep 24 – Oct 2, Appledore, United Kingdom

The Word on the Street National Book and Magazine Festival: Celebrating Reading. Advocating Literacy ~ Sep 25, Canada

The Hindu Lit for Life Festival~ Sep 25, Delhi, India

Postmedia Raise-a-Reader Day~ Sep 28, Canada

Reading Association of Ireland Annual Conference: Creating Multiple Pathways To Powerful Literacy In Challenging Times ~ Sep 29 – Oct 1, Dublin, Ireland

Shaun Tan at Seven Stories

Friday, August 26th, 2011

On Wednesday, Older Brother, Little Brother and I had the thrill of hearing this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Shaun Tan speak at Seven Stories in Newcastle, during his whistle-stop visit to the UK. I’ve loved his work since being mesmerised by The Arrival four years ago; and we’ve also had the privilege of featuring Shaun’s work in our PaperTigers Gallery. Shaun’s picture books truly tap into something essential in our existence so that no matter how old you are and whatever your life experience, there is something there for everyone to absorb and distill. His books have had a big impact on the boys too, and it was a real eye-opener for them to meet their creator and hear about the drawn out process and sheer hard work that goes into producing a book. Now we are all desperate to see the Oscar-winning short of The Lost Thing!

Older Brother was most struck by Shaun saying that imperfection was a “very important concept for an artist”; and that he is always aiming for simplicity, because it’s through that apparent simplicity that he can achieve layer upon layer of meaning. Then accompanying the text with unexpected illustrations to create further tensions – but he pointed out that he wouldn’t call his work surreal per se: rather, the unexpected juxtaposition of familiar objects in his work is what is surreal.

Little Brother especially loved the first in Shaun’s series of cartoons depicting a day in his life: Waking to the Sound of a Solitary Cicada – a huge cicada looming in through the open window. He’s still laughing about that (but, as is so often the case with Shaun’s work, for me, the more I think about it, the more the funniness is tempered with a feeling of unease…). Little Brother also came home thinking about the humor and tensions achieved by people/creatures doing extrordinary things as though they are completely normal – like feeding Christmas decorations to a huge, friendly monster-machine aka the Lost Thing. And when Shaun pointed out that, as per the element of the familiar present in all his creations, the Lost Thing is a cross between a dog, a horse and an elephant, yes, you can absolutely see it.

I was bowled over by (more…)