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Reading – we all recognise it as a core skill. By ‘intelligent reading’, I mean reading with a level of comprehension commensurate with the child’s experience of the world they inhabit. Fortunately, reading to children is now encouraged as being supportive of reading literacy and as a sound foundation for future learning.
Not that long ago, children were seen as passive recipients of the eager parent’s input via the quality time spent in ‘read to me’ and ‘bedtime story’ sessions.
I always felt sure my children were taking in much more than the professional opinion allowed.
Recently, I borrowed a copy of Dr. Virginia Lowe’s very excellent book, “Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two children tell” (Routlege 2007) based on the record of her own two children’s responses to books from birth to adolescence. Dr. Lowe’s book vindicates what I felt all along as a parent! This book should be set reading for students of primary, early childhood and remedial teaching, child and family psychology and for anyone with an interest in literacy or children’s literature!
Her children had a smorgasbord of stories proffered continuously, both Dr Lowe and her husband being librarians who were passionate advocates of children’s literature. The children’s reactions to and responses concerning elements of story and illustrations provide a wonderfully insightful peek into the psyche of the child. Both Lowe children clearly had a blessed and privileged childhood, but being ‘read to’ is within the reach of most children. Public libraries and school libraries are accessible to most families. Even if parental work commitments make a nightly ‘reading’ impossible, there are weekends and visits to grandparents when a ‘storytelling’ session can be included in the agenda.
There are other options.
And online resources such as “Ripple Reader” and “A Story Before Bed” provide a way for even absent grandparents and parents to read to their children. In the USA and Israel, ‘bedtime stories’ are part of official early education policy. Programmes like “Reach Out and Read” and “Read to Me” do a monumental job in promoting literacy and the power of storytime to be a deeply meaningful and bonding time in families.
The Untangled Tales website is the best of the Summer Reading sites. Going over the site, was like being in one of the famous ‘But WAIT, there’s more!’ advertisements! At every click of the mouse, there was more and all of it FREE! There is something here for children of all ages [preschool, primary, secondary], for their parents, teachers and librarians. The site is gorgeous [literally] to look at, easy to navigate, entertaining in content and layout and engagingly informative!
The Celebrity Corner questions brought out the creative quirkiness of authors and illustrators in a very entertaining way and featured a very diverse group of creatives!
The Untangled Tales game is a blast – great fun! It challenges memory and prods research capabilities and informs about other cultures, their customs and attitudes as reflected in their fairytales and legends.
Check out the side tabs and their drop down menus – there is heaps and heaps of fun activity, fantastic tales, playful poetry and fanciful stories, arty opportunities, creative competitions in writing and art activities and painless learning along the way!!
I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Summer Reading Club. I’m in Celebrity Corner with Kerry Brown, Christian Bocquee [with whom I am collaborating in our own Fractured Fairytales collection], Terry Denton, Lucia Masciullo and numbers of other wonderfully creative folk!
Personalising your story by J.R.Poulter
Are you seeking an additional paying outlet for you work?
A personalized version might be the answer!
Various companies take the illustrated text for children’ stories and modify them to create a ‘personalised’ version. The company will do the personalizing for you but, in my case, I chose to submit my own ‘personalised’ version’. Some of my ‘personalised’ books are coming out with Frecklebox, who have also published personalised versions of books by friends.
Having a ‘personalized’ edition does not prevent you from still seeking out publication of your original text. Contracts are non-exclusive.
If you are publishing with a small company, they might be interested in adding the option of a personalized version of your story for sale digitally.
How do you do it?
“The little boy clapped his hands gleefully! The thing in the grass glittered up at him in rainbow colours. He tried to grab it! “Oh!” he exclaimed, the beautiful thing had moved, just out of reach…” [JRP]
Becomes: “Edward clapped his hands gleefully! The thing in the grass glittered up at him in rainbow colours. He tried to grab it! “Oh!” Edward exclaimed, the beautiful thing had moved, just out of reach…” [JRP]
For rhyming stories, a refrain can be added in to provide the ‘personalised’ element. An example from an upcoming ‘personalised’ version “Ten Little Heroes”, a picture book with a counting element, illustrated by UK illustrator/animator, Alex Slack:
FOUR Little Heroes flying to the moon,
One said, “I’m Space-man!
See you SOOOooon! ”
Oops a doops, a whoopsie there!
Mike to the rescue! Mike is here!
Once you have the hang of the text conversion process, you might choose to offer personalized versions of your digital books [e.g. on the App Store, Utales.com, Kindle, Nook, Adobe Digital editions, etc], or self-published children’s books from your own website/store.
The wonderful people of Nami Island Concours have created another outstanding opportunity for illustrators all over the world! The dream of these folk, who are so passionately devoted to children’s literature, is to turn Nami Island into a library! Angela Kim is the Assistant Manager and the person to contact if you wish to know more – her contact details are on the website.
These are the links – Nami Island Concours, Guidelines and information
By happy accident, I discovered the way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally and explore the ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.
It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the
inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity. I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need to explore.’
I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…
Now, if I need to capture something of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address. Real estate notices for sale/auction/for rent are a good source, then go explore in Google Earth. Wander around that area, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as street art, verge gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings. Don’t forget YouTube – Example – Dingle, and with Celtic song overlay Dingle
I have also found that exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes give a slideshow or even a video tour online. This helps you pick up on details of life – home decor, layout, from wall hangings to cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden. Example.
Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a ’feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!
Lovely example of a virtual tour – 1893 mansion, St Georges Road, Toorak.
Another lovely virtual tour – historic “Douglas”, built in 1881, in Birchgrove, Sydney.
The tips above, of course, are beneficial to illustrators as well. Not many can afford to jet around the world on location research for images. Other ways to ’get in the setting’ for free include YouTube clips. This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn’t feature that house…
Other ways to ’get in the setting’ for free, besides YouTube clips, are Flickr and photographic collections held in State Libraries and on places like Pinterst. Jeff Faria recently sent me a great link to early circus posters – fascinating. Little did he know I am currently writing a story which involves Civil War period circuses in the US.
If your story requires an historical setting, you are in luck! Heritage listings in Australia and the UK are excellent.
Below are some very useful research sites for historic buildings in Australia -
Federation style dwellings lists many excellent buildings, of which Alister Brae, Pymble is an outstanding example.
Additional links are given for some residences, as in the case of “Venice”, Randwick.
The NSW Heritage database also gives excellent information. TIP: Put in the street name and the suburb to narrow your search for a particular building. Just putting in the suburb will bring all heritage listed buildings in that suburb. Putting in the street number and street will draw a blank. Putting in the property name will sometimes bring up additional material otherwise unaccessed, e.g., “Glen Rhoda”, a gothic residence in Woollahra. Using the name in the search brings up information on the existing residential property, No.71, and and an additional link to the listing for, No.67, property formerly part of the original “Glen Rhoda”.
For anyone researching Kew, Camberwell or Hawthorn buildings [mainly but not only residences] from 1860s through to 1969, this site is a must. Other Councils will have similar sites.
Open Gardens, Australia has links to various of its most notable gardens. Windyridge shows the garden in all four seasons in a map based virtual tour.
International settings – the virtual tour
Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings, rambles around towns, cities and country areas. A few examples -
Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle featured on innumerable calendars, tourist brochures and used as a location in numbers of feature films [you need Java 7 to see the virtual tour on the official website] can be viewed in Youtube Clips.
The best clip of Eilean Donan, features a commentary on the Castle’s history and shows the exterior, surrounds and interior in much more detail.
Neuschwanstein [Castle that inspired the Disney fairytale castle] – site tour;
Virtual Tour of Neuschwanstein with commentary in English subtitles;
Virtual sight-seeing – contemporary and historical
A walk around Paris by video [sadly not signposted but gives a good overview of everyday life];
Tuileries, Paris surrounds, exterior, interior in brief;
Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google earth! Have fun!
Julie breaks the ice and gets us in the water with this great blog on creating a kid’s book app!
Open Plea to Bloggers: Kick CAPTCHA’s, Word Verification to the Curb. [Link reposted from Julie Hedlund's blog.]
I tried to join a writing site today – twelve, yes, a whole dozen tries later I gave up…. This is the wwworst but I commonly have to try two or three times. I just don’t have time to persist with a system that is clearly flawed.
Those of you who use CAPTCHA on your sites might want to look at removing it. You are loosing potential members and a whole swag of comments.
Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and ’locals’ Christian and self. We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.
This is the door to my room, the non-existent No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get! Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.
Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.
We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.
It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created wonderful image after image.
This is a glimpse of the creation process -
- A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
- Craig working on a charcoal image of the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.
I love the way illustrators climb into the visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the house is located in a community.
[more coming... I just need to sleep now...]
The Lockyer is a fascinating and fruitful area and I don’t mean just crops. They grow talent there. This was very evident at the Lockyer Arts Festival where I was honoured to be a presenter recently. All the arts were represented.
The Nolan family alone included an artist, a potter and a jeweler. KCMinis beautiful miniature 3D creations using recycled materials and Sheryl Lothian’s bread jewelry revived old arts that are ‘new’ again. Couture, millinery, original art for t-shirts, art for the garden, art on stone, art with icing, quilting, aboriginal art, lapidary work, woodwork and culinary arts were just some of the wide and wonderful variety of artistic skills displayed.
Music was high on the agenda with the Battle of the Bands resulting in a win for country singer, Reanna Leschke, and her band [Open] and runners up, Third Eye Alchemy. In the under 18 division, the very talented classical guitar trio, Un Dia Antes wowed with their original work. Winners joined the inimitable Marcia Hines as supporting acts in a first rate live concert.
The writers and poets of the Lockyer had their work displayed by local poet and editor, Andrea Kwast. Andrea’s bookshop is the Lockyer’s writing hub!
Presenters for the Festival, whose theme was focussed on ‘resilience’, came from Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory and Brisbane, led workshops on writing a novel, memoir writing, non fiction writing with an emphasis on culinary arts. Workshops on writing children’s books, illustrating picture books, cartooning and animation and landscape painting drew presenters from Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. This will be discussed in more detail in another blog.
My own photo images from the Festival, focussing on the talents of the Lockyerites themselves, are reproduced below.