Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

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Today Packing for the Journey features two stories from Dr Virginia Lowe. These wonderful anecdotes show how shared book reading enriches children’s knowledge and their ever-expanding understanding of life.

 

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I’ll tell you a story Mum’: Two children tell
by Virginia Lowe      

I kept a record of my two children’s contact with books and their responses. Rebecca is almost three years and three months older than her brother. The children’s own stories arose naturally from contact with books. These two stories demonstrate how the children use this literary material – in this case at least, one shows her scientific bent, the other works on relationships.

1. Nick the whale. One morning, Rebecca and I had a row before school – the reason for it is not recorded, but Nick disliked us arguing and was tense about it. Later he was helping me hang out the washing, as usual handing me pegs. (He was 3y1m old.) 
This time he was picking them up in his mouth because he was being alternately a shark and a whale.

       N: I’m picking them up in my mouth cos I can’t use my flippers. I’m a friendly whale.

       V: You’re clever to do that Mr Whale.

      N: Yes, I can do that ‘acouse I’m an excellent whale who can do everything that is magic. 

He talked a bit about his mother who had gone shopping underwater. Then,

        N: I’m having an argument with my mother [imaginary whale one that is].

       V: Oh yes. Do whales like arguments? [Expecting him to say that like him, they didn’t. It’s obviously different for whales]

        N: Yes. Argumenting [sic] is good for whales.

He carried the monologue on over lunch. His [whale] mother was sitting beside him.

        N: I’m sharing my food with my mother. She said to put the plate in the middle.

        V: What am I?

        N: You’re people

He carried through fairly logically, as a completely anthropomorphised whale.

        N: Do you know how we get out of the water? We use our flippers on the steps.

        N: Do you know how we wash our clothes?

        V: No.

        N: In a washing machine! [etc etc].

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Whale’s Way Written by Johanna Johnston, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.                                   Originally published in 1962

Anyway, at rest time, I fetchedWhale’s Way (Johnston) to read to him. He at once identified himself with the largest whale on the endpapers and first few pages.


        N: That’s me and that’s my mother. I’m bigger than my mother.
       N: That’s me and that’s my mother [the lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

 

 

Some pages later he chose the smaller of two on the page

        N: There’s me looking small.

        V: Do you look small because you’re further away?

        N: Yes.

        N: That’s me and that’s my mother [lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

On several pages he commented on the more distant whale as ‘that’s me looking small’ presumably to make sure that we both understood it was only through perspective that he looked smaller.

        N: I have those flukes. I swim and splash with my flukes (etc. mainly echoing the book’s text).

But the book is fairly long and very complicated, and he was restless before the end of most pages. 

        N: I’m tired of this whale book

So we stopped and he cuddled down to sleep with it clutched in his arms.

When he woke from his nap, his grandparents were visiting. I asked him if he was still a whale, he grinned and said ‘yes’ and told them with excitement –

        N: We’ve got a book about whales!

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2. A story-game from Rebecca. She was 4y 4m, and we were exploring Italy in a campervan.

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The Fairy Tale Collection selected by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, first published 1972 by Hamish Hamilton

A day of turnips inspired by ‘The Turnip’ (Tolstoy) which is in two of the collections of stories we had with us, Bamberger My First Big Story Book and Haviland The Fairy Tale Treasury.

First, in a park, by a delightful pond (Florence) – Rebecca pointed to a large clump of grass.

        R: That’s a great big turnip, Mum! There must have been a show here to grow such a big turnip (presumably she meant the biggest vegetables would be grown for and sent to agricultural shows). 

That evening, while tea was preparing, she played ‘turnips’ outside in the campsite for half an hour or so. She was pulling up clumps of grass. This is just a few jotted phrases of an interminable conversation.

    R: Look at this great big turnip, Mum! It’s so heavy, and it was hard to pull up. We’ll have turnip for supper.

   R: If I find more than four turnips I’ll invite some friends to tea (a partial quote from Potter’s The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher).

    R: Look at them on the scales. See how heavy the big one is? (One in each hand, arms  straight, bigger one low, smaller high)

Later:
     R: Now I’ve got two little turnips and one big one. Nick will have a little one, and I will have a little one, and you and Daddy shall share the great big one.

      R: Three of them are boiled now. I can’t wait to eat them.

    R: I’ve planted some more of that brand of turnip. They’ll be ready in the morning. They’re the sort that grow overnight. I hope they’re as nice as the ones we’ve just eaten.

As might be expected, this one is now a scientist (a permaculture one) and the other a teacher, coping with relationships all the time.

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Dr Virginia Lowe has been a Judge for the Children’s Book Council’sBook of the Year Award and Convenor for the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators. She is now an honorary life member of the CBCA (Vic) and recipient of the Leila St John medal from them for services to children’s literature in Victoria. She has taught children’s literature, English and creative writing at university. She is a published poet (her latest, with her husband John, is published by the Melbourne Poets Union, Lines Between), and has also written extensively on children and books with some forty academic articles and a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in Books for Keeps  http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/. Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell was published by Routledge (London, 2006).

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Virginia Lowe’s book  Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell is based on a reading journal of over 5000 hand written pages in which she recorded all the books read to her two children and their responses to them. 

Links:

https://createakidsbook.com.au

http://www.shelleychappell.com/blog/introducing-virginia-lowe

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/virginia-lowe

https://monash.academia.edu/VirginiaLowe

Ideas that end up in a book

Let’s Go baby-o! – The Setting
This story started as a moment in time, and grew into a book.

Let’s Go Baby-o! Janet and Andrew McLean, 2011, Allen and Unwin
–  a book sharing 

          The seed

One day in 2008, our newly-born grandson, Rory, lay on the floor in the back room of our house surrounded by the people and animals he would be growing up with. There was his mum and dad, his auntie, two dogs – Rupert and Bella, a cat – Norah, and his Janna and Pa (that’s us, Janet and Andrew). Outside a pair of blackbirds was building a nest in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. Three years later, in 2011, Let’s Go Baby-o! was published. Now it’s 2018 and Rory has just turned ten. He is one of The Brothers whose stories are told elsewhere on Packing for the Journey!

          Our place

Our own place was the perfect setting for this book. Baby-o and Cuz could be inside the house playing together, and every now and then stop to look out the window and watch what was happening in the garden.

          The garden

Our garden has led us down may different paths since we first moved here thirty-two years ago. The patch of concrete that was big enough for a usable handball court is long gone, paved over with bricks salvaged from elsewhere in the garden. The bamboo forest along the south side fence that took so long to remove has been replaced with wild salvias, a cherry tree, a lemon and a lime. The crabapple tree that appears in Let’s Go Baby-o! has been replaced by a weeping cherry that, so far, seems to be holding its own.

The ever-changing garden

While the garden is too small to call rambling, it has become an intriguing place for children, grown-ups, dogs, cats, birds, possums, spiders and insects, and slugs, snails and skinks. Children follow paths and climb, cats stalk, dogs chase, mosquitoes bite, spiderwebs trap, and birds fill up on ripe fruit and scrabble for worms – and all of them find secret places to hide.

Everyday life in the backyard

For thirty years the garden has also been a bone orchard for two cats, Dinah and Norah, and four dogs, Maggie, Kipper, Rupert and Bella. Every one of these animals has made their way into our books (There’ll be more about Dinah, Maggie and Kipper, and the books they turned up in, in a later post). Norah, Rupert and Bella are characters in Let’s Go Baby–o!

Our Skye-boy terriers, Callan and Danny, are still waiting to be in a book.

IMG_1885 On the day Bella was buried
Callan, for a few moments
settled himself over
her grave

         

          Where the birds nest.

Nesting just outside the window

One of the preferred spots for the birds to nest is in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. The brown female and and the black male fly from tree to vine, from creeper to bush, sussing out the best place to build their nest. Once they have chosen the right spot the brown one scavenges in the garden for leaves and grasses, and the odd bit of plastic. She binds these together with mud to make a scrappy, cup-shaped nest, and lines it with soft grasses and tufts of dog hair from whichever of our dogs is around at the time.

IMG_5584The vine where the blackbirds nested again this summer

This year we  found a nest just three feet off the ground in the Rosa Perle D’or. It was filled with half-eaten, dried out quinces. I like to think of the brown, the black, and the fledgelings filling up on these before taking off.

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A nest of quinces

            From inside the house

The windows and doors in the back room of our house overlooks the backyard – perfect for seeing what’s happening out there.

Inside looking out

So, we had our setting, and some of the characters.

COMING SOON:
1. Let’s go Baby-o! – The characters.
2. Re-imaginging setting and characters to make a book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone can be the mother

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“…Vivian Paley observes in her classic study of social inclusion, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”…
“Certain children will have the right to limit the social experiences of their classmates. Henceforth a ruling class will notify others of their acceptability, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection” (p.3)

What then if, as Paley documents in her work, we took a stand against such exclusion, and actively (intentionally!) sought to shape and guide the social relationships occurring before us, just as clearly and strongly as we seek to shape the other kinds of learning that happen in our settings everyday?

http://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/what-if/#comments

 

 

Our picture books

Let’s Go Baby-o! (2011)

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A young child and his cousin play actions games together, but in between they stop to look out the window. What do they see?

Let’s Go Baby-o! is a fun-filled story for sharing with young children who are discovering the world around them.
Published as a board book in 2012.


Notable Book, Children’s Book Council Awards.


Make It I’m the Mother (2000)

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One morning at kindergarten, Pascal and his friends learn how how to resolve their differences when they all have their own ideas about how to play their game.

Make It I’m the Mother is a funny, honest and affectionate story that many children will relate to, learn from and enjoy.



Josh and the Ducks (1998)

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Josh likes to be in on everything, but these two ducks won’t let him play. They don’t like dog games…or do they?


Josh and the Monster (1998)

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Josh and his friend are off to find the Monster of Mud. Up and over the mountain they go…but where is the monster hiding? And can Josh catch that Monster?



Continue reading

Maggie Chases Hector… 27 years on

Hector and Maggie Cover

We received a lovely message this week about our book Hector and Maggie which was
published in 1990.

“Hector & Maggie – My 29 year husband has a very well loved copy of Hector & Maggie that his late mum gifted him as a child. He is a farmer & kelpie working dog breeder & says this book was always his standout favourite & he has lovely memories of his mum repetitively reading it to him. Now our 3.5 year old also loves it, I just wanted to say thankyou & let you know that this beautiful book is still delivering lots of joy to the next generation :)”

We were thrilled to hear that Hector and Maggie are still running around the farm after all of these years. The idea for this story came from a family holiday we had with our children, Alex, Angus and Catriona at Auntie Heather and Uncle Kev’s farm at Glenroy (near Penola/Coonawarra) in south-east South Australia.

It was in 1988, the year of the Bicentennial. We were staying at their farm while they went to Sydney to join in the celebrations. As soon as we stepped out of the car we came face to face with the main characters in the book, Hector, Maggie and Old Tom. Auntie Heather told later that she called Hector, Sid Vicious. Maggie’s farm name was Bluey, and Old Tom was called Tom. 

Here are some photos we took at the time. We managed to capture Hector and Maggie in full flight, and the hens fussing around Hector, and his “beautiful tail was gone – except for on last feather.” Andrew did a few sketches too, in case we wanted to turn the story into a picture book later on. 

The girl collecting the eggs is our (then) seven-year-old daughter, Cat. Here, she’s been bailed up by Hector. She’s calling for help, “MU-U-U_UM’. Auntie Heather told us that she had to take a rake with her when she went to hang out the washing – Hector would chase anyone and anything.

Andrew & Janet 4

Serendipity

By chance, while I was writing this post, Andrew found this sketch of Old Tom, tucked into one of his art  books.Old Tom 

 

 

Book Week visit – a week early

Yesterday Andrew and I visited Delta Road Pre-School to talk about our booksP1010591

We read The Riverboat Crew, our very first picture book, published so long ago, in 1978. The big book was published in 1988. Here, I have just read the first page: The Alice was a paddle steamer on the Murray River, and a little voice piped up, My name’s Alice – there’s always someone – or they know someone with that name – a brother or sister, a cat or dog, a mum or dad, or a mouse. Andrew told the children that the riverboat was named after his Mum, whose name was …Alice. 

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I also read three of the ‘Josh’ books. They had already read Josh and the Monster, but hadn’t read Josh, Josh and the Ducks, and Josh and Thumper. Behind me is the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Short-List Poster. Fabish, illustrated by Andrew, and written by Neridah McMullin, has been short-listed in the Eve Pownall Information Book Category.  The children were excited to point out to us that they had seen the picture of the book on the poster.

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Andrew drew some pictures with sticks of thin charcoal. He says that one of the best things about using charcoal is, if you want to change something you can rub it out with  kneadable rubber – by rubbing, pressing or dabbing. On this paper he drew a picture of our white Skye terrier, Danny. (We didn’t get a photo of the final drawing).

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He also drew a picture of our cat, Norah, who got herself into a pickle one day when she found herself spreadeagled on top to the clothes horse. It took her a while to work out how to get back down, but it didn’t stop her trying again, and again… 

Gus Dog Goes to Work – Teacher notes

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a warm and comical story of a not-so-usual day in the life of a sheep dog, by the top author/illustrator team of the best-selling title I Hate Fridays. It is set in regional Australia and is perfect for preschool and lower primary school age. This wonderful picture book provides lots of room for discussion about differences between country and city life and pets and working dogs, and animal behaviour in general. It also introduces children to the use of Aussie vernacular language.

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Gus the Dog Goes to Work
Rachel Flynn / Craig Smith

TEACHER NOTES
By Janet McLean

Author         

Rachel Flynn was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and attended Bacchus Marsh Primary School and High School. At 17 she went to Ballarat to train as a teacher, and taught in primary schools in Melbourne before having two children. Since then she has written several books for children and studied for two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Education. She currently teaches at the Council of Adult Education (Melbourne) in the Professional Writing and Editing course and at RMIT. Rachel has written numerous picture books and novel for children. 

She is best known for her hugely successful I Hate Fridays series (also illustrated by Craig Smith) including I Hate Fridays, It’s Not Fair, Worried Sick, I Can’t Wait and Messing Around. She is the author of more than 20 books for children including Whisper Wild, Freedom Child, illustrated by Anna Pignataro, The Goat, the Duck and the Bale of Hay, illustrated by Tom Jellett, and My Mummy and Me, My Daddy and Me, My Grandpa and Me, My Grandma and Me and My Sister and Me, all illustrated by Craig Smith. Some of her books have been translated and republished in French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese and Korean. Rachel lives in Melbourne, Victoria. 

Rachel’s work is defined by themes related to ordinary suburban life and children’s culture, and her stories usually start with something that has really happened. Gus Dog Goes to Work is based on a true story that happened a few years ago in Kerang, a rural town in Northern Victoria, where a shearer, Tom, was working. One day his dog, Gus, went missing. Tom found him at the end of the day in a purple Ute, even though Tom’s Ute was white.

“This sounded like a good picture book idea to me, so I wrote all that down and added a few more things, like how he smelt everything, listened to everything and looked at everything, and how he learnt a new word, mongrel”. Rachel Flynn.

Illustrator      

Craig Smith is one of Australia’s most prolific, popular and award-winning illustrators of children’s books. He began illustrating in 1976. His first book was Christobel Mattingley’s Black Dog followed soon after by Geoffrey Dutton’s The Prowler. His witty and humorous artwork combines a wonderful sense of the absurd with a fine attention to detail. Craig has illustrated book covers, fiction series, including Too Cool written by Phil Kettle; The Cabbage Patch series by Paul Jennings’ and Rachel Flynn’s I Hate Fridays.  His many picture books include Where’s Mum? (Honour Book in the 1993 CBC Picture Book of the Year Awards), Billy the Punk (shortlisted in the 1996 CBC Picture Book of the Year Awards), Bob the Builder and the Elves and Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns. Most recently he made his debut as a writer/illustrator with his book about a notorious local cat, Remarkably Rexy.

Craig grew up in the Adelaide Hills, and studied graphic design at the South Australian School of Art. He worked at a variety of jobs – including undercoating the Sydney Harbour Bridge – while slowly building a career as an illustrator. He has done the illustrations for over 370 picture books, junior novels and educational readers. The humour and pathos of home and school life, and a fondness for unusual perspectives are features of his work. Craig lives in Melbourne with his partner Erica.

Craig says
“The peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus takes me back in time to my South Australian   childhood. Particularly helping out Uncle Dave organising the cows, and the dog, in a sing-song way. Or back at home Mum in an irritable mood. I hear Rachel’s use of this idiom with recognition and affection. Rachel has got it perfectly. My hope in these pictures was to capture something of this country life that I remember as a kid. In my mind I picture it as somewhat like Orrorroo – Mum’s birthplace.

Synopsis

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a warm and comical story of a not-so-usual day in the life of a sheep dog. Every day Gus Dog goes to work in the back of the Ute with his owner, Tom the shearer. But… One day in October, when Gus Dog (wakes) up, something (is) different. Tom and the Ute are gone, so he decides to go to work on his own. Along the way he stops to listen to everything, to smell everything, and to look at everything. He has some fun, gets up to some mischief, ruffles a few feathers, and learns a new word. Eventually he finds the ute – but, as in all good stories, that is not the end!

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a wonderful example of a picture book where the author and the illustrator work as a partnership, using their own special skills to create an engaging and believable story. Before even opening the book we know Gus Dog is a working dog. Gus Dog’s appearance and character are shown in the illustration on the front cover. His name, Gus dog,  implies there is a warm bond between him and his owner. His body language is loose, but alert – friendly and lively – alert eyes, pricked ears, and his tail waving in the air. The illustration on the back cover shows Tom driving the Ute past a paddock of sheep. This image provides a few more hints about the story. The warm earthy background colours tell us that the story is set in the country. The and sheep hint at a farm and shearing.

Writing      

Rachel Flynn (Rachel) tells Gus Dog’s story though action and dialogue. She uses a straightforward, rhythmic pattern of language, and verbs and nouns that focus on action and dialogue. Rachel begins the story simply: This is Gus Dog.                                                                                                                                             He has a house, a yard, a Ute, and a man. Speech balloons are used for most of the dialogue throughout the book.

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This is a wonderful way to introduce to readers to what Craig Smith calls ‘the peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus’ 

After meeting the characters on the first page, the next couple of pages give enough background information (the pre-existing situation) to set up the story that is to follow. We learn that Gus Dog already knows ‘lots of the same words’, has ‘Working dog Formula’ for breakfast every morning, and goes to work with Tom in the ‘back of the Ute’. On the next page, a ‘problem’ arises for Tom: ‘One day in October, when Gus Dog woke up, something was different. The house and the water tank were still there. The ancient red gum and the magpies were still there. 

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Rachel then establishes a predictable storytelling pattern over five episodes, each with two double-page spreads. Each of the five incidents follows the same pattern

·       Gus Dog arrives at a place
·       He listens to everything, he smells everything, and he looks at everything
·       At each place he causes a ruckus
·       At most places he gets yelled at, (in a speech balloon), and runs away
In the next to last scene there is slight change to the pattern, when Gus rolls in a dead thing that smells fabulous, and after that he felt much better. A warm and funny conclusion is created in the in the last part of the story. Gus finds a ute, and jumps in the back to wait for Tom to come and say goodboy and drive them home. However, the reader knows something Gus doesn’t know – he is in the wrong ute. This is when Tom turns up and the two friends are reunited at last.

‘Gus is a working dog, but with initiative and resourcefulness and not much respect for authority’.                (Rachel Flynn)

ILLUSTRATIONS

  • The illustrations for this book are done as pencil sketches, then coloured digitally using Corel®Painter software.
  • Craig Smith says that this software is good at mimicking real paint, yet allowing for the efficiencies of digital production.
  • Rachel’s straightforward style of storytelling allows Craig to bring his own perceptions to the story.
  • Rachel says Craig’s ‘witty and humorous artwork combines a wonderful sense of the absurd with a fine attention to detail’.
  • His warm, comical pictures of the characters and place expand and enrich the story. Gus Dog, Tom and the Ute are depicted as quintessential Australian country characters.
  • Gus is shown as an alert, blue/black-and-tan kelpie/cum/heeler sheepdog.
  • Tom, with his moleskins, blue singlet, check shirt, wide-brimmed hat, pull-on leather boots, and his laconic ‘Gidday’, is portrayed as a loose-limbed, laid-back shearer.
  • Specific details in the drawings include – the type and colour of the dog, Tom’s clothing, and the use of a speech balloon to draw attention to the colloquial language that is used throughout the book. 
  • The special bond that exists between Gus and Tom is clearly shown in the illustration on the first page. They eye each other closely as Tom saunters over to give Gus his breakfast – a bowl of Working Dog Formula. Gus is looking back over his shoulder at Tom. He has his paw on the bowl, and his mouth is watering. He is bristling with anticipation. 
  • In every illustration Craig has thought about the characters and the setting. What will the different characters look like? What will the characters be doing? Where will they be situated on the page? 
  • Craig has added many other characters that are not mentioned in the text. The extra characters include: magpies, chooks, a bull, flies, a great variety of school children, birds on the fence, a boy on a bike, people on holiday in a hippie van, a petrol station, crows, farmers, rabbits, galahs, a kangaroo, a shearing shed and plenty of sheep.
  • He has thought about how will each scene be composed, and about the places Gus would/could go to on his way to work. He takes the reader on a trip through a small Australian country town and its outskirts – we see paddocks, a school-ground, a backyard, the main street, the petrol station, full rubbish bins ready to be collected, and tipped-over rubbish bins that Gus rummaged through to find something to eat for breakfast.
  • The colours Craig uses are the colours of an Australian the rural landscape. Craig’s pictures are full of action, dust, sunshine and attitude. As Rachel says, ‘Gus is depicted as a working dog, but with initiative and resourcefulness and not much respect for authority. Craig’s pictures are full of action, dust, sunshine and attitude.’

Discussion Points and Activities

  • Much of the pleasure and humour of this story is achieved through dialogue. Before sharing the story with children, practice reading the dialogue aloud so that you can capture ‘the peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus’.
    •  If you aren’t sure how to pronounce the words, maybe you can find someone who can demonstrate how to say them in an Oz country drawly way – gidday, getup, getdown, come’ere, getoutovit, gohome, goodboy and mongrel. Children will love the sound of these words and will soon be reading along with you, and maybe even using them using them spontaneously as they go about their day.
  • Gus is a working dog. Have a chat about what kind of work he does – helping Tom round up the sheep. Show a video of a dog rounding sheep – preferably one where the owner uses ‘working dog’ language.
    • The story has a pattern of moving from one incident to the next, starting on the morning there was NO TOM, NO UTE, NO BREAKFAST
  • With the children talk about how each incident is a little story. How does each story-within-a-story start? What does Gus listen to, smell, and look at along the way? Why does he get into trouble? Why do people yell at him? What words do they use that Gus understands? How does he leave each story and where does he go next?
    • In small groups retell and illustrate each story, and put them together to make a class story. The children can write or dictate their stories, and draw the pictures for each incident. They can also use their own words to go in to the speech balloons.
  • Many tiny details in the illustrations add interest to the story. Look through the illustrations to find separate other stories going on: the magpies in the red gum, the girl in the school office, any of the children in the playground, the woman with the white chooks, the hippy in the van playing the guitar, stickers on the purple ute, and Tom in his white Ute.
    • Gus doesn’t know where Tom is and sets off on his own. The text doesn’t tell us but there are clues in the pictures as to Tom’s whereabouts. Ask the children if they can find these clues? Are they on every page or just some?
  • When the real Tom told Rachel the story about the day the real Gus went missing, she asked him, ‘Why would he think the purple Ute was yours?’  Tom said, ‘Dogs are colour blind.’ You might want to find out more about how and what dogs see. Is it true that they are colour blind and what does this mean? Talk about how colour blindness affects some people.
    • Rachel also asked Tom what words Gus knew. ‘A few,’ said Tom, ‘getup, getdown, come’ere, getoutovit, gohome and goodboy.’ Ask the children what words they use when they are talking to their dogs. Make recordings or videos of the children ‘talking’ to their dogs. Can they use Tom’s way of talking?
  • Another question Rachel asked Tom was, ‘What do you think he did all day?’ ‘Well,’ said Tom, ‘he probably ran into the school yard, chased a rabbit, knocked over some bins, rolled in a dead thing and rounded up someone else’s sheep. He might have thought he was at work by then.’  Ask the children about some of the silly things their dogs (or other pets) have done. These could be compiled into a class book
    • Craig uses the colours of an Australian rural landscape. Look carefully at the different colours in the book and use a colour chart to find the names of colours. How many hues of reds, yellows, browns, greens, blues can you find? What other colours are used in the illustrations?
  •  Ask the children to create heir own pictures using the colours and style of illustrating  – drawing with pencils, charcoal, and watercolour using paints and brushes, or digitally programs are available
    • Look carefully at how Craig uses line, colour, light and shade, to show how Gus are feeling throughout the story. Look for examples of happiness, fear, contentment, joy, uncertainty
  • Children in small groups can choose an illustration they think is the funniest, and make up their own funny story
  • Links – Rachel Flynn https://penguin.com.au/authors/24-rachel-flynn
                   Craig Smith http://craigsmithillustration.com

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See these teacher notes at Working Title Press
http://www.workingtitlepress.com.au/teachers_notes/Teacher%20Notes%20Gus%20Dog%20Goes%20to%20Work.pdf

Quick as a Wink Fairy Pink – Teacher Notes

Teacher Notes
by Janet McLean 

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Written by: Lesley Gibbes
Illustrated by: Sara Acton

Young children will want to jump into bed as quick as a wink to have this story read to them. It is a delightful story of play, hide and seek, and finding ways not to go to bed.

Five little Flutter Fairies going off to bed.
Fairy Blue, Fairy Green, Fairy Gold, and Red.
But one of them is missing. Which fairy do you think?
Could it be the smallest one?
Is it Fairy Pink?

WRITING AND LANGUAGE
As a former teacher Lesley knows the kind writing techniques that young children respond to, and that will help them to learn in a fun way. Quick as a Wink, Fairy Pink is an interactive book, enticing readers into a game of fairy-hide-and-seek. The regular rhythm and rhyme throughout the book is infectious. Children will soon pick up the pattern of the words and will begin join in (some spontaneously, and some with a little encouragement). The repetitive, predictable pattern of the text and the layout is set up in the first three pages.

On the first page there’s elements of humour and suspense – the text says, Five little flutter fairies going off to bed, Fairy Blue, Fairy Green, Fairy Gold and Red. We hear five, but we only see four fairies climbing the stairs. Turn the page, and open to a  double page spread and YES! out pops the fifth Fairy – from under the bed ‘shooshing’ us with a finger to her mouth.

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The blue, green, yellow and red fairies all have their own double-page spread to brush their teeth, have a bath, get dressed, or read a book before bedtime. The rhythm and beat of the text on each these pages follows the same pattern 

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Between each double page spread the reader is asked to look for, and find Fairy Pink.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-3-03-11-pm Continue reading

My Brother – Teacher Notes

‘When a gentle creature sets out to search for a lost brother we are taken on an ethereal journey across land and sea to strange, beautiful and faraway places. To fantastic, floating cities, and mediaeval towns full of dark alleyways and winding staircases – to vast open grasslands and eerie, silent forests – and eventually to a place of timeless beauty and light. My Brother is a metaphorical picture storybook for older children that looks at loss and grief from a sibling’s perspective.’

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TEACHER NOTES
by Janet McLean 

My Brother
by Dee, Oliver, and Tiffany Huxley


WRITING / ILLUSTRATING / DESIGN STYLE     
My Brother has been created by Dee Huxley, with her son Oliver, who created the visual characters, and her daughter Tiffany, who designed the book. Together, they drew on a heart-rending experience to create a book in which the words and pictures tell a moving, symbolic story of loss, and grief, and of the gradual steps taken towards the hope of renewal. Dee Huxley says,

 This book came about because of the loss of a loved one in tragic circumstances, & our world changed forever. It is both a tribute & a release. A tribute to a beautiful, empathetic soul, who touched so many lives, young & old, & who will be loved & missed forever. A release, albeit sorrowful, to be able to make this book for him, & us, & others like us, & a hope that he is somewhere beautiful & safe now. The main character, a metaphorical gentle creature, represents the emotional journey of loss, disbelief, grief, but also a journey of hope.”

The reader is led gently into the story through the title page with a soft black and white drawing of a pair of carelessly discarded boots; and the dedication page with a simple inscription and a drawing of a single tree. On the next two pages Tiffany sets up a layout that will be the pattern for most of the book. She has used various design techniques that help establish the pace and mood of the story. The text sits, like a stanza of poetry, on the stark white left-hand page. The text is spare and understated, but every word and line, and the placement of text on the page, adds to the deep meaning of the story – beginning with a simple statement:‘I miss my brother’. The space that is left between this line and the next, creates a catch-of-breath pause, before: ‘I’m so l o s t without him’. The tiny word ‘so’ combined with the word ‘l o s t’, with a space between each letter, heightens the sense of anguish.

On the facing right-hand page a single illustration is enclosed within a white border. In contrast to the pared down, but poignant, text, the illustration is complex and layered with meaning. Graphite and watercolour have been used for the illustrations in this book, although the watercolour is not introduced until the last three double pages.

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On this page:

  • The softness and sharpness of the moonlit shadows in the blacks/whites/greys of the graphite drawing evoke deep sorrow.
  • The reader’s eye is first drawn to the creature seated at a table. This character represents the journey that must be taken through grief and loss, to a place o
    f release and hope)
  • The creature is placed in the centre of the picture – drooped head, slumped shoulders, downturned eyes, a piece of pie uneaten, on the table.
  • Around the room are real and metaphorical images that relate to the lost Brother, and to the intense sorrow of the main character
    • Light from a full moon shines through the window where a duck (in boots) stands keeping a watchful eye a friend.
    • A flock of dark birds gather near the ceiling, symbolising dejection and loss.
    • Two hats and two coats hang sadly on the wall.
    • Two pairs of boots wait on the floor.
    • On the table sits one cup, untouched, another is still on a hook.
    • One dark bird nestles in a coat pocket.
    • Another bird is anchored in the bottom left-hand corner investigating the rest of the pie, a passing allusion to the child’s nursery rhyme, Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.

On the wall is a memory of happier times – a picture of the siblings together. Continue reading

Bob the Railway Dog – First US edition 2016

Bob the Railway Dog is now published in America by Candlewick Press. Based on a true story, ‘Bob’ is written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by my husband, Andrew McLean. The story is set in the early days of the Australian railroad. As legend has it Bob took advantage of the the new form of transport by ‘riding the rails’… ‘His favourite spot was on a Yankee engine or on the coal tender…’

Here is a link to a review at Creative Kids Tales

Bob front endpaper In the outback, before trains and…

  Bob Back endpaper

…after

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