Children’s Books We Love :: August

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I suddenly realised something… ziiip! It’s the end of August! Time for a children’s book wrap-up.

Click the images to purchase the books {I get no commission by the way.}

lola's toybox

Lola’s Toybox by Danny Parker

I was excited to hear Danny talk about his new series for early readers. My daughter loves the magical worlds of Enid Blyton, and it sounded like these new books could be the contemporary answer to Enid Blyton. They are utterly adorable, and so well written. We read these aloud, and both my girls, 5 and 2, followed along with interest. My oldest has wanted to re-read them all several times. And my youngest loves poring over the images.

Lola is a sweet little girl, maybe about seven? who discovers that her toy chest has magic abilities and can transport her to the toy kingdom, where her toys live when she’s not playing with them. Danny weaves a world of delight and magic. Perfect for early readers, or pre-readers like my girls.

hush little possum

Hush Little Possum: An Australian Lullaby by P. Crumble and Wendy Binks

I wouldn’t usually include these Australian takes on old-fashioned nursery rhymes, but this book has us captivated, and has been a big part of our little sunshine house this month. When I first read it, I was warmed by the loving mother who jumps from shed to tree to cliff to save her baby from the rain. Go, Mumma, go. We played the CD of Deborah Mailman singing the song in the car. My youngest was hooked. I have to read her the book every night, and as she falls asleep, I need to sing her the song. God forbid I get a single word wrong! Either my two-year-old or my five-year-old pounce on me if I do. They know it inside out.

my dad is a giraffe

My Dad is a Giraffe by Stephen Michael King

This is probably my favourite ‘dad’ book, perfect for Father’s Day. The little boy sees his dad as a giraffe; fast, but happy to slow down, gentle, fun, protective and proud. King’s beautiful illustrations take us into an imaginary world and back out again. I think my own dad, and my girls’ dad are also giraffes, given they are six foot plus in height. But I think all kids will relate to this gorgeous story.

the crocodolly martin mckenna

The Crocodolly by Martin McKenna

This is a fun and wacky story of a girl called Adelaide who bakes a cake, and when cracking eggs, discovers a crocodile! Adelaide decides to keep the crocodile, but disguising a crocodile isn’t easy.

That’s all from me this month.

What children’s books did you know and love this month?

Landing

landing

We’ve been back over a week now from our little holiday down south, combined with a trip to Canberra for the Children’s Book Council of Australia conference. I’ve been struggling to find the time, energy or the words to put the whole experience together.

It was so GREAT. Yet so exhausting. Of course, the ‘holiday’ landed smack bang in the middle of an enormous contract I am doing for work, so either side, I have been hammering out 5,000-8,000 words a day to stay on top of it all. It’s possible, but everything else falls by the wayside. Including my mood. And the housework. Thank goodness for House Husband, seriously.

The conference itself was so fabulous. I walked into the reception soiree of my first ever conference, nervous as hell. No matter how confident or social you appear, it’s basic human nature to feel terrified walking into a room of people you’ve never met.

Anyway, I got talking to a librarian from Noosa right away, and within minutes was approached by the wonderful Natasha from Hardie Grant, who was so so great to connect with in person. Then I met the rest of the Hardie Grant team, and my publisher Margrete Lamond from Little Hare. I felt pretty special being connected with these people, and being able to talk about my book for real. Maybe I can stop pinching myself now.

The conference inspired me, and opened my mind to the children’s book industry. One of my favourite panels was “Visual Treasures” where three picture book collaborations talked about the process of making a picture book.

The lovely Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson nutted out the process of creating Amy & Louis and other books together, including Banjo & Ruby Red  (Little Hare), which has been shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2014 for Early Childhood. It made me aware how intricate and delicate the process of creating a picture book really is. It can take years, and so much thought, passion, and trust.

Banjo & Ruby Red

Detail from Banjo & Ruby Red

Sometimes, there’s little conversation between the author and the illustrator. In fact, a good working relationship thrives on trust and respect. Libby told us that once the story is written, she hands it over to the illustrator, and waits for the outcome. As she tells her creative writing students:

Let the other person who is the visual artist do what they do, and wait to be amazed.

Listening to Freya and the other illustrators, Julie Vivas and Stephen Michael King, I realised what an event it is illustrating a story book. It may not come naturally, and the story itself may provide little direction. It is up to the artist to take the story in a whole new direction, breathe new life into it, and make it soar.

All books are a struggle for me.

said Kate Greenaway Medal winner, Freya Blackwood.

Even for her.

One of the other highlights of the conference (apart from the visit to Jackie French’s property of course), was hearing the publishers talk about publishing literary treasures.

I want to talk about this more in another post, on another day, but basically, they discussed the importance of publishing good books for children – and not just any old thing.

In an era when more books for children are published than ever before, Erica Wagner, from Allen & Unwin said:

…publishing will survive and thrive only if we publish what children are interested in. But we also need to interest parents as we need parents to keep reading to children.

With the words of the publishers, of the illustrators and authors, including Andy Griffiths and Jackie French ringing in my heart, I felt so passionate about the importance of making and reading good books for children.

I was a little puppy-dog hopelessly savouring every morsel of information and insight. I am so new – not even yet part of this story – but it was hellishly exciting to dip my toe into the magical world of children’s literature.

After the conference we had a brief holiday, so I could spend a couple of down days with the family. It was perfect, and as relaxing as travelling around the countryside with two small people can be.

My feet haven’t touched the ground since we’ve been back. I’ve been working madly, and my littlest has been sick and sad, so that’s not been fun at all. Writing this, collecting my thoughts about the whole thing, I reckon I’ve almost landed. Just give me the weekend.

How’s your week been?

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How to be a perfect mother (inspired by Mrs Darling)

Wendy's Mother, Mrs Darling

Mrs Darling was a perfect dear. Just the sort of mother one would choose: as sweet as honey with lovely eyes, and a mouth that looked like a kiss. It had got like that with kissing her children so often. ~ from Peter Pan, retold with J.M. Barrie’s permission for Little People by May Byron

We have read a number of vintage children’s stories lately – Peter Pan, The Enchanted Wood, The Folk at The Faraway Tree, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory…Interestingly they all depict the mother character as a kind, gentle creature, full of love for her children. There is almost a holiness attached to the mother figure in these stories. She is the perfect dear.

I wonder about the authors behind these mothers. Was this actually how they perceived their mothers? Was the mother in the vintage era really a perfect dear? Or was the depicted mother more of a fantasy? A hope?

Perhaps Mrs Darling was of her age. Perhaps my Great Great Great Grandmother – Mrs Darling’s contemporary – was like Mrs Darling – a perfect dear, with a mouth like a kiss. I don’t know my family history well enough to verify this.

Fifty years later, my Grandmother was a different type of mother. From what I have heard, she sometimes yelled at her children. She was loud and occasionally obnoxious. But she smothered her children in love, made them ANZAC biscuits while they played in the backyard, and boasted about their brilliance every day of their lives until the day she died.

My mother, while incredibly gentle and loving, was not like Mrs Darling either. My memories are hazy, and on the whole fond, but I am sure she occasionally lost it, being the mother of three children, isolated much of the time on a property in rural NSW.

If you read my article on the Daily Life this week, you would know that I definitely am not like Mrs Darling, (although I like the thought of my mouth looking like a kiss because I kiss my children so often).

The mothers I know, while as kind and gentle as they possibly can be towards their children, are not holy, perfect dears.  They make mistakes. They get annoyed. Sometimes, they even yell at their children.

I try to picture Mrs Darling – her waist pinched tightly to accentuate her bust, her lips perfectly painted, holding a kiss in the right corner of her mouth and her voice so soft and sweet. It’s impossible to imagine her getting mad at her children.

In my quest to understand how realistic the depiction of Mrs Darling is, I came across a credible source on the Internet, which described Mrs Darling as distant and reserved. Her consistent, loving presence started to make more sense.

Personally, I can do Mrs Darling a lot of the time. But there are times I just have to be human. Yes, I check my smartphone. I even express my irritation towards my children. But spending every hour  with your children means they will sometimes witness your flaws. Presumably, Mrs Darling called in Nanny when she felt at the brink of despair, took herself away to the drawing room, and poured herself a gin.

Is there a literary mother you identify with? Are you a perfect dear?

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Linking with Maxabella Loves for Weekend Rewind.

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