Friday, 8 November 2013

Dinosaur storytime

The Australian Museum, in College St, Sydney, is hosting an amazing Tyrannosaurus exhibition until next July. The link to it is below:

As part of this, I will be doing some story/ music and craft sessions with the Museum education staff, featuring I wish there were dinosaurs, written by me and illustrated by the wonderful Christina Booth.

Here is a link to these sessions. They are free, but booking is required.

My new book: Waiting for Hugo

Waiting for Hugo was published last month by Windy Hollow Books. It is a picture book for children from about 4 to 7 years. Beautiful watercolour illustrations by Claire Richards bring the story of Hugo, who loves counting, and his sister, to life. The book explores the complex mix of positives and negatives in sibling relationships, through a story about Hugo's fascination with counting just about everything he comes across. I was inspired to create the character of Hugo by children I've worked with as a teacher. Over the years I've met many children who have passionate interests or fascinations, and observed how these shape their lives and relationships with family and peers. While many of these children have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, just as many others have not. They just happen to have particular fascinations, or what some might term 'obsessive interests'. What is always interesting about these children is the amazing skills or knowledge that can grow from such interests and the time devoted to pursuing them. in Waiting for Hugo I celebrate Hugo's great skills in counting as well as exploring the challenges for those around him, especially his sister, who is the narrator in the text.

Here is a link the publisher's page about Waiting for Hugo. I look forward to sharing Hugo's story with many children. Happy reading (and counting!)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

"Books are the best"

I have discovered Pinterest and have started a board about picture books. The board is titled "Books are the best". Pinterest provides another way for people to share information and ideas. There are many interesting boards about children's books, compiled by parents, educators, authors, illustrators and book lovers in general. If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, have a look:

Keep an eye out for this wonderful new book

Next month Australian author and illustrator Christina Booth will publish a wonderful book called Welcome Home, an inspiring story about a young whale. Christina illustrated my picture book I wish there were dinosaurs. She is a highly talented author and illustrator, and Welcome Home promises to be a wonderful and very popular picture book, telling a very important story. Have a look at the trailer (link is below). I can't wait to buy the book! Congratulations Christina.

Welcome Home book trailer

What's in the library bag?

As a slightly different way of approaching reviewing picture books, I have decided to visit a library regularly and find an old treasure (and maybe some new treasures) to read and write about. In this digital age it's good to remember that libraries are still there as a wonderful free source of quality children's literature. Librarires also have the advantage of keeping their collections for many years, so sometimes you can find books that are out of print and/or not available to buy. 

This week I have Night Noises, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Terry Denton, in my library bag. It was published by Omnibus Books in 1989. It has also been republished by Penguin. Lovely to see that its enduring quality has been recognised. 

The book is about Lillie Laceby, an elderly lady whose "bones were as creaky as floorboards at midnight" who lives alone in a country cottage with her dog, Butch Aggie. NIght Noises is a beautiful combination of many things - the tension around strange noises in the night, images of a warm and cosy cottage, visual portrayals of Lillie's dreams of her life, with an ending both surprising and satisfying. Mem Fox's text is simple but full of both action and imagery. Terry Denton's illustrations have just the right balance of humour, comfort, anticipation and warmth. Many aspects of the story are conveyed only through images, so there is lots for children to think and talk about as they read the book. For this reason it is an ideal book for families and educators to share with children from about 4 to 7 years. Themes and messages about life span, families, dreams, feelings, birthdays, pets, different ways of living are all part of this rich and engaging book. See if you can find it in your library. 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Children's literature and inclusion

Any aspect of children's lives can be represented in a picture book. In recent I have been exploring diversity, particularly in relation to disability, in my writing. As well as working on picture book texts, I have been exploring the work of other children's authors, and the research in this area.

In a new special edition of the open access journal Write4children there are many fascinating articles about diversity and inclusion in children's books. There are articles by publishers, authors and researchers. I was thrilled to be part of this special edition. Here is the link, for you to read and be both inspired and challenged:
Write4Children journal Special Edition

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Eric Carle: a master of the picture book art form

A museum of picture book art!
What a wonderful place to visit. A fantastic acknowledgement of the unique art form that is picture books. Click on the link and enjoy! Definitely on my list of top twenty places to visit in the world!

PIcture book characters and children's diverse identities: political correctness or social justice?

Every child is first a foremost a person: a unique individual. As children grow they develop a sense of their identity – as a boy or girl, as a family member, and as a member of their community. Many aspects of their lives contribute to the building of children's identities, including physical characteristics, interests and abilities, names, places and communities. Picture books can reflect as well as contribute to the development of children’s identities.
With this in mind, picture book characters should reflect a range of different aspects of children’s lives, including diverse portrayals of appearance, interests, cultures and abilities. 
All picture books convey messages about attitudes, values and ideologies. These may be implicit or overtly stated. This is not to say that the purpose of books for children should be to use didacticism to teach certain values to children. However picture books are part of the many aspects of life experience through which children become acculturated into the beliefs and values of their communities and cultures.
Recently in the course of my work in teaching pre-service early childhood teachers, I took part in evaluating student presentations on picture books that portrayed disability. The reviewing and sharing of these books, not to mention the hunting involved in finding them, provided the students (and their teachers!) with much food for concern.
As an educator, I believe that the best picture books are those that have literary value – engaging characters, imaginative stories, rhythmic and expressive texts, aesthetic and meaningful illustrations.  Quality picture books can and do convey messages effectively through readers’ experiences of story and characters. 
It was disappointing to discover that most picture books containing characters who have disabilities are not high quality literature. Rather than being imaginative stories that can engage children’s imaginations, they are most often didactic books ABOUT disability. Although the texts may contain statements which are intended to support ideas of inclusion of all regardless of ability, the fact that a child’s disability is the central focus of the book in fact perhaps contributes to a sense of a child with disability as being ‘other’ than their peers.
As an author, I feel inspired by this exploration of disability in picture books to write imaginative stories about children’s lives and interests which are not about disability, but which include characters of diverse abilities and identities. Children often see aspects of themselves reflected in picture books and respond with enthusiasm if a character does or has something that is also part of their lives. All children have a right to see aspects of themselves reflected in picture books. While impairments have in influence on the way children's lives are led, they do not define a child. And the slices of life and imagination presented in great picture books are meaningful and interesting to ALL children. 
Some food for thought for anyone selecting or creating books for young children with inclusive perspectives in mind. 
Here is a website which is both useful and inspiring:

Friday, 19 April 2013


Exciting news. Our picture book I wish there were dinosaurs (illustrated by Christina Booth), is on the Notables list of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards for 2013. It is a great honour to be included in this list.

For the full details of the Notable List and Short List, click on this link:

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

"It's very Maurice Sendak if you will"

I have already posted about this review of my book, I wish there were dinosaurs, which I first came across on Goodreads. However I recently came across the full version on a blog with the lovely whimsical name of 'Giraffe days'. The description of this blog is "When you feel like sticking your neck out and reading something new". Shannon, the creator of this blog, writes about all sorts of different book genres, including the picture books that she shares with her young son.

As a new author, I am always thrilled to read complimentary views about my book. And even more thrilled to be compared to Maurice Sendak, creator of possibly the best picture book of all time, Where the wild things are:

I can imagine a child would really enjoy that blurring of reality and fantasy. It’s very Maurice Sendak, if you will.

Thank you, Shannon for your high praise. As author of the text of the book, however, I certainly can't take all the credit. Illustrator Christina Booth brought my words to life. A picture book is a very special fusion of language and images.

You can read the whole post by following the link below.

The blogging world is an amazing magical maze to explore, following links which connect like an infinite spider's web (hence the term world-wide web I guess). I spend many a fascinating evening following the threads through the children's literature blogging maze, never knowing what new treasures I might find. Giraffe Days is one of those treasures. And the exciting thing is, I know there are so many more treasures still to be discovered.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

An 'over and over' picturebook moment

You never know when or where you're going to have a wonderful picturebook-inspired moment. Recently in the most unlikely place (while visiting the bathroom at Ikea!) I overheard a mum and her 2 year old daughter chatting about "The very cranky bear" by Nick Bland. The little girl was pretending to be a bear. Her  mum joined in with the game and began reciting the text of the book. Her daughter joined in with growls and giggles and snippets of the text. Mum's memory of the text was word perfect, so I guessed they had shared the book many, many times. Clearly the book was special for both of them. A lovely book-inspired moment.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Toddler favourites

Around age two many children love to hear the same books over and over. Some particular favourite authors/illustrators for this age group are Eric Hill and Lynley Dodds.

The Spot books are winners, I think, because of the very uncluttered illustrations, the simple, playful narratives and the flaps.

Lynley Dodds' Hairy Maclary series have musical rhyming texts that are fun to recite. The rhyme and word play are really appealing for children discovering the joys of language.

It is lovely to have a series of picture books about the same characters. Very young children can get to know them and follow the lives and adventures of their favourite characters. They will often bring these roles into their pretend play, and in this way be exploring books even further.

Which authors/illustrators/series are your toddlers' favourites?

Have you discovered Oliver Jeffers?

Hopefully you're already familiar with the wonderfully imaginative and original picturebooks by Oliver Jeffers, but just in case you're not, go hunting in a bookshop or library and discover some wonderful new books to enjoy. Jeffers' ideas and his artistic style seem deceptively simple, but amazingly effective. Although his books can be read to preschoolers, they also appeal to much older children (and adults too!).

I recently read 'Stuck' for the first time. I laughed as much as the 8 year old I was reading it with. Very silly but totally hilarious.

Check out Oliver Jeffers website. Like it's creator, it is full of unique and fascinating things.

The magic of picture books

The picture says it all. In this digital age there are many forms of 'portable magic', but nothing beats a book.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A lovely book review

Another review of I wish there were dinosaurs. What a thrill. The reviewer found the book: ‘Very Maurice Sendak’. This is most likely a credit to Christina Booth’s wonderful, warm, humourous illustrations. A very complimentary comparison, with which I am honoured to be associated.

Here is the link:

Over and over and over again!

I’m sure you’ve been in the situation where you have had to read the same book over and over for days, weeks, or even months. No matter how much you enjoy the book, eventually you may become sick of it, while your child or children are still clamouring for more.
Have you ever asked the child or children concerned what it is that they especially love about the book? The answers may often surprise you!
I once had to read The cat in the hat over and over several times a day for many weeks to a small group of 4 year olds who just couldn’t get enough of it. Luckily Dr Seuss’s rhythmic and rhyming text bounces along in a very comforting way, so is fun to read aloud. As several of the children knew most of it by heart, they also helped me to read the book. But it is quite a long book for some children to sit through, and as the weeks went by some children became unfocused and restless. Interestingly, although they were free to leave, as we were reading in a cosy corner during play times of the day, they always chose to stay. Occasionally I would stop mid way through the book and suggest we finish later, but at least one child would say “No! no! keep reading.” This puzzled me and set me thinking. I wondered if the children just found the rhyme and rhythm comforting, and weren’t really focusing closely on the actual narrative. So I had a brainwave and asked a group of 5 children who were listening to The cat in the hat one day: “What is it that you like best about this book?”
“The clean up machine!” said Chris.
“Yeah, me too,” said Georgie. And the others nodded and agreed. Fascinated by their answers, I made a point of asking every child who I read The cat in the hat with over the next few weeks what they liked best, and nearly every one of them said the same thing.
What books have you had to read over and over? Have you ever found out what it is that makes those particular books such favourites? Please share your read aloud experiences with us.

Here are some picture books I have happily read over and over: 

My all-time favourite picture book 
A book young children never seem to tire of

Any of the Willy books are wonderful to share with children
This book fascinates children with its mysterious ending
This book, like many of Pamela Allen's books, has a great sense of rhythm, and also gets lots of laughs

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Comfy corners for readings

Many of us who have grown up to be readers (and writers) have special childhood reading memories. Often then are about favourite books, but they're also about people and places. Reading spaces can be carefully planned and created by adults or children, or they can be quite spontaneous. Here are some reading spaces for children which will hopefully inspire reading memories for children to take through their lives.

Mind you, any place can be a good place to read!

Please add your own if you'd like to.

Monday, 21 January 2013

More about bibliotherapy - a picture book about allergies

Marty’s nut-free party.
Written by Katrina Roe, Illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom. Published by Wombat Books.

What child doesn’t look forward to a birthday? And the party that so often goes with it? And what educator hasn’t heard, in pre-school and Kindergarten playgrounds, children bestow the supreme social badge of belonging: “You can come to my party!”

Children’s author Katrina Roe has cleverly used birthday parties as a focus for her story of Marty, the monkey who is allergic to peanuts. Dangerous allergies, particularly to peanuts, are increasingly common in our community, and many parents struggle with maintaining their children’s health and safety while still wanting their children to be included in social occasions with their peers.
Katrina’s story beautifully captures a young child’s perspectives on this situation. At first Marty is angry (“Why was the doctor being so mean?”); but he does try his best to do what he has been told and avoid eating peanuts. To keep him safe, at first Marty’s mum doesn’t let him go to parties. But she understands how important they are to him and lets him go to his best friend’s birthday party. With not such good consequences. Cleverly, Katrina then lets Marty come up with his own wonderful solution to the problem of parties.

Marty’s nut-free party is a lovely example of a book that can help to make young children aware of the dangers of serious allergies, and of the experiences of allergy sufferers. Early childhood settings, and many schools, have a nut free policy, which this book can support. The story is simply but imaginatively told and illustrated, and allows children to identify with Marty and his friends, and to understand both the health problem and Marty’s feelings. Marty’s nut-free party can be used by parents and teachers, not only for the purpose of bibliotherapy (helping children to explore and understand a serious issue), but also to share a story about a special and favourite time of the year.

The book also contains notes for parents and carers about nut allergies, with links to sources of further expert information. This is a great resource for families and educators.