Shaun Tan’s new book The Singing Bones.

I have only just bought a copy of Shaun Tan’s new book, The Singing Bones. It is a change in style from the previous publications he has been involved in. The style of the illustrations are very Tan but the medium in which they were created is new. They are quite amazing but I will need to have more time to fully grasp what he has created as he tried to encapsulate the gist of each fairytale. As always the detail and power of his deceptively simple images is amazing. As I looked at them some seem familiar, appearing to be inspired by character drawings in his earlier publications, and others completely new and powerful in their strangeness. I am never disappointed with Shaun Tan’s works, he never ceases to inspire and challenge me as a reader.

The singing bones - Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan was approached to illustrate the German edition of a new Philip Pullman book. On his website Shaun explains how he became involved in the publication. It is interesting to read about how he came to the decision to create the illustrations for the book. It is a collection of many classic fairy tales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman with the title Grimms Märchen.

In the end there were more illustrations than were needed and so these were used to illustrate The Singing Bones.  Jack Zipes has written some short but potent interpretations of the fairytales to accompany the images.

There are other versions of this collection of classic fairytales re-told/envisioned by Philip Pullman under the title  Grimm Tales: For Young and Old but these are not illustrated with Shaun Tan’s wonderful figures. 


My Gallipoli: Ruth Starke adds another great book to the ANZAC stories

My Gallipoli

My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke, illustrator Robert Hannaford
This very poignant picture book is the second picture book centered around the Gallipoli story that Ruth Starke has  written. The first being An ANZAC Tale (2013) with Greg Holfeld as the illustrator. This book was a CBCA notable book for that year.

This book looks at the history of Gallipoli, from the months immediately before the landing at Anzac Cove in April 1915, through to the Allied retreat and the aftermath of the First World War, and beyond to the present day, where people make pilgrimages to this historic campaign site and take part in increasingly large commemoration ceremonies.

These are rich stories, of courage, valour, bravery, fatalism, despair and loss, told from many different perspectives. There are direct accounts from real participants such as the Australian war correspondent C.E.W. Bean, Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), the weary Chaplain Bill McKenzie who is trying to give the dead a decent burial, Anzac war scout Harry Freame, sniper Billy Sing and Lieutenant Cyril Hughes, a Gallipoli veteran who was with the Graves Registration Unit, part of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
These stories are intermingled with factually based descriptions from other characters including the exhausted nurse treating wounded soldiers aboard HMS Gascon on the night of 25 April, a young indigenous soldier who was more equal in Gallipoli than at home, a mother seeing her wounded son disembark and realising the extent of his injuries for the first time, and an old Turkish man visiting his brother’s grave at Gallipoli 70 years after his death.
Alongside the Australian stories are stories from participants from the different nationalities who were also part of this campaign. There is the story from a young Turkish shepherd recruited to fight for his country, one from a British seaman who towed the first boats carrying soldiers onto the shores of Anzac Cove in the dawn of 25 April, and stories of the Ghurkas, Afghans and Sikhs who fought in the British Indian Army as well as stories from the New Zealand contingent, soldiers from the Auckland and the Wellington Battalions who took part in the battle of Chunuk Bair.
The final story is that of a young woman visiting the Lone Pine Cemetery, quietly contemplating the Gallipoli campaign and the loss of young lives. It is part of a war, now 100 years ago, that changed how our nation saw itself.
The illustrator, Robert Hannaford, captures the characters and the mood of each story as well as the surrounding landscape.
There is also short commentary about each of the stories in the notes section at the back of the book.

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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.