Shaun Tan’s newest book: Rules of Summer

I have been waiting impatiently for Shaun Tan‘s newest work Rules of Summer (published by Hachette Books.)

An email (from The Little Bookroom) came today reminding me that it is available tomorrow in the bookshops. Of course I did not need to be reminded about availability but it did remind me to forward the email to others on staff and to send out a tweet as well.

Rules of Summer, is a deceptively simple story about two boys, one older and one younger, and the kind of ‘rules’ that might govern any relationship between close friends or siblings. Rules that are often so strange or arbitrary, they seem impossible to understand from the outside. Yet through each exquisite illustration of this nearly wordless narrative, we can enjoy wandering around an emotional landscape that is oddly familiar to us all. (YouTube)

Combining humour and surreal fantasy, Shaun Tan pictures a summer in the lives of two boys. Each spread tells of an event and the lesson learned. By turns, these events become darker and more sinister as the boys push their games further and further. (Hachette)

There are some great supporting videos for the Rules of Summer available on YouTube.

Video 1 was published on 10 June 2013 and Shaun speaks about what Rules of Summer is about and where the ideas came from.

Video 2 was published on 10 Jun 2013. In this video Shaun speaks about how he came up with the theme behind his new book Rules of Summer, available from 8th October 2013.

Video 3  was published on 2 September 2013. Here Shaun explains his drawing process and explores the potential meaning of a particular image from Rules of Summer,

There is more about Rules of Summer on here for extra detail and images.

There is an added bonus this time: There will be a Rules of Summer Exhibition that is open for a brief space of time (3 days)

  • The Venue: Bright Space Gallery, 1st Floor, 8 Martin St, St Kilda. Vic 3182
  • Dates: Friday 25th October – Sunday 27th October 2013
  • Gallery Opening times: 12 – 5pm
  • Price: FREE   If you want to book for group/school bookings please email them

Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten

I have always liked Tohby Riddle’s work, especially his picture books or graphic novels. He has created some wonderful picture books over the years and he has developed different styles of illustrations to fit his stories.

I loved his sense of humour and the light comic touch in My Uncle’s Donkey and The Great Escape from City Zoo, which I had to buy and read to my young niece and nephews. His comic illustrations in the WordSpy books were fantastic as well as the collections of cartoons in Pink Freud.

He now has a new picture book just published and it is quite different from those I mentioned above. It is however wonderful with illustrations that evoke all sorts of ideas. As with most Allen and Unwin books there are teacher’s notes prepared already for you but I think that the illustrations will mean many different things to all those who read the book.

The was an article recently in The Age but I enjoyed listening to a broadcast from an ABC (Central Victoria) program. You can listen to the ABC’s children’s literature expert Sarah Cox and presenter Ann Jones talk to Tohby Riddle about his new book Unforgotten. In the interview he discusses the technique he used to illustrate the book and some of his ideas.

The book itself has been very popular with our teachers here. The students have not yet had the chance to have a look at it. I thinks that a few of us will be buying our own copies.

Tohby has also created a book trailer, see below, and my very favourite illustrator, Shaun Tan, has been quoted on that site.

‘Reading this book is like being quietly ushered into another dimension by winged strangers, a place beyond the tread of normal earth-bound language. Ephemeral as a feather, timeless as a rock, and as true as both, Unforgotten is a magical experience.’
– Shaun Tan

There is nothing more I can really say except to quote a well-known media celebrity from Melbourne and say “do yourself a favour, and go out and get/read a copy for youself”

Alison Lester : One Small Island

At a recent SLAV conference I was fortunate to hear Alison Lester speak about her latest book One Small Island (Penguin).

Alison engaged in a conversation with Laura Harris of Penguin Books to help us understand the inspiration behind her career as an illustrator and author.  It followed very neatly from a presentation by Sue McKerracher who spoke about the National Year of Reading (NYOR).  Alison is an ambassador for NYOR and her book Are we there yet? is the feature book for the 2012 National Year of Reading.  Her discussion with Laura focussed the book she wrote in collaboration with Coral Tulloch One small island  and a very special preview at her forthcoming title Sally Scott goes south.

The picture book One small island was written by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch. Together they bring the history of this amazing speck of land called Macquarie Island found in the vastness of Southern Ocean between Australia/New Zealand and Antarctica to life. It is the story of how this remote and precious World Heritage Site has been affected by human interference.  The island has a unique ecosystem and humans have caused a lot of damage since the island was first visited by humans. Today there is a battle being fought to restore it.  

The beautiful illustrations in the picture book were put up on a large screen in the auditorium for us to admire and they were very eloquent. We all left the session wanting to buy a copy of the book and all of us are very interested in what will become of Macquarie Island.

If you want to hear Alison talking about the book herself you can go to ABC Radio National’s Life Matters site where, on the 1st of August, they aired a great interview with her about Macquarie Island and her book.

 

Using Picture Books in Lit circles

One of my colleagues and I decided to use picture books as the genre for our first literature circle book for a year 7 English class.
We used picture books to encourage the students to look beyond what was written in their text. They were encouraged to think critically about all the graphic components and reflect on how they add to the text. The tasks were also developed to encourage the boys to develop their inference skills and respond to the works they were reading on a level that they had not been required to do with their earlier texts.

The boys were asked to choose one of 6 picture books.  Their choice was the basis for the formation of the group they would work with for three weeks. 
The boys read the picture books and were given a number of short tasks to complete; some on an individual basis but then sharing their thoughts/ideas with the rest of their group. All these short tasks were then used to create the basis of a glog for each group.

Today they put their ideas together and prepared to create their glog. The will include text, images and multimedia components. They have also been given a rubric to indicate how their glogs will be assessed. I have put the rubric and details into my Reading wiki.

The work that the groups have done so far has on the whole been excellent and I am hoping to have some great glogs that I can use in the library. I also used part of a lesson to explain the basics of Creative Commons to the class as they began a search for appropriate images and explained that sound and music is available under CC licenses too. The students took this information on baord and I was pleased to see that they were busy finding CC images for their glogs.

I have included a list of the short tasks that were undertaken by the students below.

  • Analysis of the cover: Comment on the picture on the cover – what it tells the reader about the book; the colours used; the style and colour of the lettering used; what questions the cover raises in the mind of the reader; what other information is given on the cover
  •  ‍Scanning skills: Spend 5 minutes browsing through the book and then spend 5 minutes writing what you think the book will be about based on what you see and read.
  •  ‍The introduction: In 50 words outline how the author introduces the book and catches the attention of the reader.
  •  ‍Sharing ideas with the group: Come to an agreement about what works best on the cover. (and anything you don’t think works). As a group create an alternative cover and “Blurb” for your book
  •  ‍Summarising Skills: Make a 100 word summary of the pages which you read for today in your own words. Remember that a summary needs to include the main ideas/information of the text in a logical order. Share your ideas with your group. Do they agree or do they have alternative points?
  •  ‍Creating Questions: Write 5 questions which could be used to test the reader’s comprehension of the text which you read for today. Remember that questions need to include the main information in the text and they need to test whether the reader has understood the text. All questions need to be open-ended to allow for discussion. Share these questions with your group and take note of their answers.
  •  ‍Illustrating skills: Draw a picture which illustrates the section of the book which you read for today. The drawing must show what is in the text and how well you have understood the meaning of the text.
  •  ‍Character description: Pick a character from your book and write either a “missing person” or “wanted” poster for this person. Include in your poster information that you have discovered from the book.

Shaun Tan wins the 2011 ALMA

More exciting news for the Australian book world and especially Shaun Tan. He has been announced as the winner of this year’s ALMA.

 The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) is the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature. The award, which amounts to SEK 5 million, is awarded annually to a single recipient or to several. Authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and those active in reading promotion may be rewarded. The award is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature, and in children’s rights, globally.

The award, which is the world’s largest children’s literature award, was awarded for the 11th time this year. You can read more about it on their website. Their explanation about why Shaun Tan won the award is here. I  love their introduction

A masterly visual storyteller

Shaun Tan is a masterly visual storyteller, pointing the way ahead to new possibilities for picture books. His pictorial worlds constitute a separate universe where nothing is self-evident and anything is possible. Memories of childhood and adolescence are fixed reference points, but the pictorial narrative is universal and touches everyone, regardless of age

You can watch the broadcast (in English) of the announcement as well as the presentation to Shaun Tan at  (in Swedish with English subtitles). There is also an article in the UK newspaper, The Guardian

Shaun Tan is the second Australian ALMA winner, the first being Sonya Hartnett in 2008.

YA and children’s Literature – podcasts

There has always been a steady readership for John Marsden’s Tomorrow, when the war began series. After the publication in the early nineties the  initial very high interest levels in this series has settled to  remain constant until this year. There can be no denying that a film can breathe new life to a novel as it has done in this case.

 The film version of Tomorrow, When the War Began was released in cinemas during the September school holidays, and Pan MacMillan have re-published the series of novels, with new cover designs.  

There are obvious advantages for authors to have their novels made into films but in the translation from book format into screen format there will inevitably be some compromises made and that can sometimes be difficult for the author.

This was the subject of a broadcast on the ABC Radio National’s The Book Show on 19th. of October. The discussion by John Marsden about his story being filmed and “put out there’ to a whole new audience makes for a very interesting podcast that can be downloaded for later listening or sharing with classes. The way the characters look and behave in the film, the violence the screen and the visual images of the hitherto unknown enemy are just a few of the items covered by JM in this 17 minute interview. Apart from general interest in the books it would be good for students who are contemplating creating book trailers to hear John Marsden speak about the differences between the two mediums.

Another podcast worth listening to was the ABC’s Life Matters program where author and illustrator Graeme Base discusses the inspiration for his latest beautifully illustrated book, The Legend of the Golden Snail. In this podcast he talks about drawing on his childhood sea voyage to Australia as inspiration for the story about an epic sailing adventure, with some big lessons in life for a boy called Wilbur. If you visit the Graeme Base’s site you will also find trailers for the title.

Music and the novel

bookshow“Music is a powerful influence, affecting us emotionally, physically, mentally ……”

In this program, aired on The Radio National’s Book Show on 14th October, the role of music in the novel is discussed in a 15 minute conversation. The guest presenter was Dr Alan Dilnot. He is the Senior Lecturer in English at Monash University, specialising in 19 Century fiction and he was speaking with Fiona Croall.

Many writers employ music in their novels as a way of communicating emotions beyond words, or to encourage consistency in character, tone, and language. Music in fiction can create the mood of a time, like John Updike’s Rabbit Run, set in the late 1950s, or it can influence the structure of a novel like James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Music has also played a major role in British literature, with Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Ian McEwan among the writers who have used music in their work.

It was another interesting Book Show discussion, one that made me start to think about something I had previously overlooked. I must go back to some of these novels and look at hem with new eyes..

I also downloaded 2 other programs this week:

  • The Australian Long Story (12min). (Guest: Mandy Sayer, Editor of The Australian Long Story (Penguin). Author of eight books including Mood Indigo and Velocity. Mandy also holds a Doctorate in the short story and is currently a Scholar in Writing at the University of Technology in Sydney.)  In this program they try to define what a long story is – as opposed to a “short story” and a “novella”. Also discussed is a new collection of Australian long stories (Penguin) from some of Australia’s well known authors. I have been talking about writing with some of our students lately. There are quite a few who regularly write stories and some are very keen on becoming authors in the future and I hope to play this discussion to them when we get together next. 
  •  Children’s picture books.(12min) (Guest: Neal Porter, American publisher and editorial director, Roaring Brooks Press)

Nine years ago, Neil decided to focus exclusively on children’s books and set up his own publishing house for high-quality literature for young readers of all ages. Many of the authors and illustrators in his stable are Australian, including Margaret Wild, Ron Brooks, Gregory Rogers and Stephen Michael King. In this discussion he explained why he regards the Australian picture books so highly.

I have found many of the short discussion so interesting and the few that I have used with students have been great discussion starters.

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