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Intelligent reading – Comprehension in young children

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.

Storytelling sessions are held regularly in many public libraries and are ‘free’.

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.Virginia-Lowe-Stories-Pictures-and-reality-cover12517427738

Summer Reading Club 2012/13 – Untangled Tales is choc full of holiday awesomeness

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.

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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 – an additional outlet

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!

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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.

Illustrators’ Alert – Nami Island Concours – Nambook Festival

Opportunity for Illustrators internationally - Nami Island Concours

Opportunity for Illustrators internationally – Nami Island Concours

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

Application forms

Festival information

You can find the brochure by going here.

Luvverly LISTS for Writers and Illustrators!

Hi Everyone! 🙂

Lists can be extremely useful, especially when they are constantly being updated!

Here are SIX such.

The first, compiled by the enterprising and enthusiastic Brain Grove, is a list of US publishers who are currently accepting submissions for children’s books – http://j.mp/SVbnCk  – he also, very helpfully, adds links to each entry to take you straight to the site.  I also recommend his ebook on  query /submission letter writing.

A second list, an international one, that is  regularly updated is on Lou Treleaven’s Blog:

http://loutreleaven.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/childrens-publishers-accepting-unsolicited-manuscripts/

The third,  a veritable database of bloggers who interview and/or review, is continuously being updated by the very proactive authors, Delin Colon and Lisa Kalner Williams – http://bit.ly/writerinterviewopps …

Fourth – a database of legends and folktales – if you are looking for inspiration for twists on fairytales or legends, fables etc – here is a whole swag!

Fifth – oh this one is an essential! The inimitable Katie Davis’s Tool Kit is  linked out under 5 ‘HEADLINE’ headings!!

If you haven’t joined www.jacketflap.com, I highly recommend it – an excellent networking site for all things related to children’s literature and books.

Latest addition, number six, Rachelle Burk has a wonderful resource site –  http://www.resourcesforchildrenswriters.com/ –  her awarded list of wonderfully helpful links is truly encyclopaedic!

Get busy and good luck!

“The Sea Cat Dreams” has a Face Book Page

Muza Ulasowski, my wonderful collaborator, has created a fabulous FB page for our picture book, “The Sea Cat Dreams”! Muza’s wonderfully life like illustrations have perfectly captured  the story in a way I could never have envisaged! She has truly captured the story’s essence!  Here are some samples:

The story is about coping with life impacting change something that can happen planned [as in a house move] or completely unplanned [as with a natural disaster, accident, death etc]. Coping with change, as child/family psychologists and counselors all say, is something that has a profound impact, especially on the young. As with grief, adults are often too preoccupied with the change and its ramifications to be able to take in how the children, who are being impacted by change, are managing or not managing in the new setting/situation.

The cat in the story moves, accidently, from one environment & family on a farm, to another very different one, aboard a fishing boat.  He is then impacted further by the loss of a master he has come to love. But this is not the end. He moves through his life’s dramatic changes; firstly, by grieving, something we need to encourage each other and especially children, to do. He then reaches out to, shares with and cares for others also affected by loss, in this case, the fisherman’s widow. He gradually accepts his new life situation, not for a moment forgetting what has happened, but treasuring the wonderful memories he has.

The process of grieving must be acknowledged and the grieving child/adult be allowed to express their grief or sense of loss at the change in their lives and encouraged to do so.  Let them talk, let them share as much as they need to. Highlight the  constructive aspects, positive elements, e.g, wonderful memories of a dead friend, relative or pet. If the impacting change has involved a move – be it to a different school, to another suburb, another state, another country – encourage  the keeping of contacts where possible, assist with the making of new contacts and the sharing of the process of moving and resettling, especially any humorous incidents.

The hope in writing this book, was to help children talk about their own stories of life changing events and to recognise, that whilst change is not always pleasant, we can become stronger for it and be better able to reach out and empathise with others experiencing its many faceted impact on their own lives.

Reviews and recommendations:

The Sea Cat Dreams is a beautifully written and illustrated book for children. In today’s world with so many young people facing loss and change, this important resource supports a child’s journey through grief and separation.

I am adding it as a good resource in my new book, the third edition of “Life and Loss”.

Linda Goldman
Author, Children Also Grieve, Life and Loss

website: www.childrensgrief.net

Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT), MS degree Counseling, Master’s Equivalency in early childhood education, LCPC and NBCC. She worked as a teacher and counselor in the school system for almost twenty years.

I’ve just lost a dear friend to cancer and I felt refreshed after reading the Sea Cat’s Dreams story.

I found myself identifying with the Sea Cat in the story and this metaphor provided a comforting space from the painful loss, but it also normalized it. Like the cat’s life, our life is often interrupted by hurtful events. Through the cat’s eyes I witnessed my sorrow and of those around me but in the midst of it all there is a safe, calm place on our heart’s sill where we know we shall be well, allowing the sorrow to run its course while cherishing the memories.

I would definitely use it with my clients, young and old.

Youla Overbey, MA, LLPC

http://muskegoncounseling.com/

Behavioral Health Counselor at Catholic Charities West Michigan; Professional Counselor at Muskegon Counseling & Educational Services

The Sea Cat Dreams is the latest bibliotherapy book penned by JR Poulter. The story, recounted in beautiful poetic form, centres around the life transitions of a cat and the devastating loss it has to bear, rendering it a very versatile bibliotherapy tool which can be used with children who have experienced different types of life transitions including change and loss in different dimensions. The slogan for the book is “Coping with change…” and this is an apt choice as change is paradoxically the constant in the cat’s life resulting in losses borne on lots of levels. The losses associated with the first transition in the cat’s life pale into insignificance compared to the devastating loss associated with the second and this bears out the author’s sensitivity to different losses having different impacts. The contrast is rendered starker by the positivity of the first transition in the cat’s life and this also shows awareness on the author’s part that not all life changes are unsettling.  These observations lend further testimony to the nature of the author’s outlook on life which is both realistic and positive and shines through her work. Poulter focuses on coping with change and all its ramifications. She highlights the relational aspect of coping with bereavement in caring for and comforting one another and gives prominence to the importance of memories and fantasy in coping with changes and loss.  The book is illustrated by Muza Ulasowski with delightful romantic imagery in hues that evoke comfort and warmth, blending seamlessly with the overarching theme of resilience in the face of tragedy.  The Sea Cat Dreams is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Claire Casha is a psychology graduate with over ten years’ experience of family therapy work. She is currently working as a research officer and reading for a Master in Family Studies at the University of Malta.

Preview and purchase: http://utales.com/books/the-sea-cat-dreams

Cover for The Sea Cat Dreams

Cover for the Utales edition of The Sea Cat Dreams

Part III – Journey of a Book – the Launch, 13th July, 2012

The launch was wonderful, a chance to  see everything in place, admire friends’ exhibits, show it all off to friends and family and network! Sheryl Gwyther, Prue Mason of SCBWI and Michelle Richards [our wonderful Exhibition coordinator from Brisbane Square Library] organised the launch event. Jenny Stubbs, Coordinator of one of Australia’s leading children’s book festivals, “Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature”,  came down from Ipswich to open the exhibition. Jenny gave a stirring and encouraging speech to gathered authors, illustrators and friends, despite protesting she didn’t fancy herself a speaker . 🙂

Visitors included Dr. Virginia Lowe of “Create a Kid’s Book” fame and Lucia Masciullio of Blue Quoll Publishing, teachers and teacher librarians from Brisbane and Ipswich. Feedback has been excellent. It is vindicating, as an author or as an illustrator, to have people acknowledge the work that goes into a book’s creation and to have a new appreciation of the end result!

Read other reports of the Exhibition on Anil Tortop’s Blog and the SCBWI Facebook page. Better still, go along and have a squizz – Level 2, Brisbane Square Library, George Street Brisbane CBD, from 13th July to 31st August, 2012!

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Part II – Journey of a Book – setting up, hanging in there

The set up, which I thought would only take an hour, stretched to all morning. Coordinating the set up of an exhibition this size with so many ‘exhibitors’ had Michelle Richards, the Brisbane Central Library’s exhibition coordinator, running a million directions at once, advising as to ‘how [it was something new to a lot of us], finding stands and  suggesting modes of  display, and generally guiding us all through to ‘VOILA!’ – one  fascinating and very varied exhibition!

But there was more – not just the glass cases to set up, but hanging around to do the hanging!  this was not as straightforward as it sounds. We had to somehow attach our paintings to fine dangling wires and – here’s the worst part GET THEM TO SIT $#@*# STRAIGHT!

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Journey of a Book – Part I – children’s literature creation under the microscope

Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be  inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or  stylus or it may be  storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean  adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like  Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace  or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu.  Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.

If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted  to  institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised  the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to  make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story  had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.

SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to  bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal – something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!

THE SET UP

Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the  items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case.  I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the  photographic prints in place.

I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was  a good match colour-wise though not quite the  perfect size.

Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book, all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!

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The Exhibition, Journey of a Book, has a wide range of book journeys exhibited, from YA novel, like David McRobbie’s, to real life adventure  by Prue Mason, picture books like those by Kathrine Battersby and chapter books like the one by Angela Sunde, to non fiction works on calligraphy as an illustrative art form by Peter Taylor.

Wow of a launch results in 3 titles in reprint already!

Andrea has gotten it spectacularly right! The CEO of Tell Me a Story launched 10 new titles on 30th June, this year. I was privileged to be guest speaker at an event that had even seasoned politicians, Ian Rickuss, MP Lockyer, and Steve Jones, Mayor, Lockyer Valley Regional Council,  commenting on attendance numbers!

Assembled authors, illustrators and guest panelists with Andrea Kwast

Muza Ulasowski [Panelist] and Guest Speaker, J.R.Poulter

The audience was rapt. I have seldom been at a publishing event where everyone’s eyes shone! Andrea has the  devoted support of her very wide community of readers and growing. She also has the  good fortune to have a very devoted group of assistants in administrator, Rel, and local photographer and budding author herself, Jenni Smith.

Research and innovation, preparedness to think out of the box, are hallmarks of Andrea and her team. She believes stories are lurking everywhere and it just takes the right determination, editing and dedication to bring them out. That she is succeeding over and above expetaction is more than demonstrated by the sellout and reprint, within the first few weeks since the launch, of no fewer than 3 titles!

Hearty Congratulations Andrea and Team and to all her authors – keep writing!

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