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)

Picture

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)

Picture

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)

Picture

 

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)

Picture

 

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… 

Two more Mother’s Day drawings

Palimpsest 4

Otto's Janna portrait
Portrait of Janna

When Otto had finished his portrait of Andy
he put his pen to his lips and murmured
Hmm… what will I do now?
Half sitting on my lap
he looked at me and said
Want me to draw you?
I nodded, Yes.
He pointed to the chair
where Andy had been sitting
and said, 
Sit over there.
He set me in a pose
one hand on a hip
the other leaning on the table.
Like this, he said
showing me how.
Then drew me
in a standing pose and asked
is it  okay to put you in an Essendon jumper?
(That’s the team I barrack for
His team is St Kilda).
As he started to add more objects
he hesitated
and asked
Do you want  me to draw you 
here?
(at his house)
or at your house?
Before I could answer
he decided
to put me in my house.
In the big room. 

Dining table and chairs
a rug on the floor
a sideboard with
a bowl of round
wooden balls
and a jar of
pens and pencils
a lamp with
a plugged in cord
Fraser’s high chair
two shaggy dogs
one black
called Callan
one white
that’s Danny
a cat called Norah
a light overhead
a rocking chair
two couches with
people
a window
with  a 
puppet doll
hanging from the latch
a vine outside
an overhead light.

And a palimpsest
of an upside down
faded cat

showing through
from the back.

Palimpsest 5

Otto's bird
A bird

The dots
surrounding the bird are
from an earlier drawing
on another piece of paper.
They have bled through
onto this drawing.

palimpsest
ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
noun
– a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.

– something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Who is the mother?

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Can I play?

    I ‘m the mother 
I want to play
    I’m playing with the baby

You can’t say I can’t play
    Yes I can – You can’t play
You can’t say you can play
    Yes I can – you can play
Yes – I can play
    You can play
    But
    I’m the mother

© Janet McLean, 3 March 2016
After Vivian Paley –  ‘You can’t say you can’t play’

 

Lucas and Jack – Teacher notes

Teacher Notes
by Janet McLean 

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Written by: Ellie Royce
Illustrated by: Andrew McLean

Every week Lucas’ mum visits Great Grandpop at the nursing home. And every week Lucas waits for her outside. Waiting, for Lucas, is boring. Then one day he meets Jack. Jack is tricky and Jack is fun, and he is a great storyteller. He understands how Lucas is feeling – ‘Not much to do in there with all the oldies, I suppose’. To help pass the time he tells Lucas stories about himself and other residents of the nursing home. Lucas & Jack is a great book for introducing young children to the idea that old people can be fun and that deep down we have more in common than we think. More importantly Lucas & Jack encourages children to ask questions, be curious, imaginative and empathetic.

WRITING & LANGUAGE

Ellie Royce has written a moving, understated story that invites us to see others differently and recognise the bonds we have in common.

Lucas, one of the main characters, is introduced on the first page of the book. Ellie reveals Lucas’ problem – he is bored. Then, throughout the rest of the story Ellie reveals how the other main character, Jack, helps Lucas to look at his world differently.

Ellie uses time-shift to move the story from the present to the past. The present: (Jack) points to someone in the distance, ‘And over there, what do you see?’ Jack asks. ‘An even older lady,’ I reply. – letting us know what Lucas sees. The past: ‘I see Evelyn. A girl who loved ballet so much, she once danced for the Queen of England.’  – revealing what Jack knows and recalls.

Ellie uses dialogue to develop the characters’ personalities and to move the story forward – for example, Jack’s dry sense of humour. When telling Lucas about Evelyn he says, ‘She still has her favourite red ballet shoes under her bed. Says she never knows when she might need them.’

Lucas is gradually drawn into Jack’s stories, and wants to know more about Jack. He asks Jack, ‘Do you hate being old?’ and he learns he and Jack have something in common – a border collie dog. The next time Lucas visits the nursing home he brings his dog, plays a game of cards, and wonders about Great Grandpop, ‘Pop, before you were old, what did you do?’ Great Grandpop tells him a story about when he was a boy ‘I was about eight when I drove a cart and delivered ice for pocket money.’ This simple sentence captures how vastly different life was between then and now. Lucas wants to know more about Great Grandpop and he is eager to come back next week to hear more stories.

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At the end of the story Lucas has a new friend, and through Jack’s stories he has learned a way to find out – ask questions, listen, explore, and imagine.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Andrew McLean created the illustrations for this book by making rough drawings with charcoal and watercolour on paper then photographing them and scanning them onto an iPad.  Then on the iPad he coloured the drawings using an illustrating app: Sketch Club.

Andrew’s expansive and expressive illustrations complement and enrich Ellie Royce’s subtle text. There are only two single page drawings in the book – the first and last pages. These highlight how, with Jack’s help, Lucas changes from a bored, unhappy boy, into someone who is lively and friendly.

In between these pages the full bleed, double-page spreads reveal information that is not carried in the text. Andrew uses a mix of close up and distant views, with the illustrations always focusing on the characters.  

The growing connection between Lucas and Jack is depicted through their body language and facial expressions – the way they make eye contact with each other, Jack’s wide-spread arms and kindly face, the subtle changes in Lucas’ face from downcast and gloomy to open and interested.

Lucas and Jack see things from different perspectives. Lucas sees ‘an old man in a wheelchair’ and ‘an even older lady’.  Jack knows that these people have led rich lives, and the illustrations bring his stories to life.

Alternating pages contrast the current quieter lives of the elderly residents with the stories of the the full lives they have led in the past.  Andrew has used different colour palette to contrast the present (soft warm colours) and the past  (vivid, rich and sunny)

DISCUSSION POINTS AND ACTIVITIES

This book introduces young children to themes of aging, storytelling and oral history. Lucas and Jack can be used to generate discussion and exchange of stories and ideas about family, the past, and our links with our older members of society.

  • Before reading the story to a large group of children, spend time reading with small groups. This will provide an opportunity for children to share their own responses to the story, and for educators to draw attention to how the words and the pictures work together to tell the story.           
  • As you read through the story respond the children’s spontaneous reactions – which pictures do they respond to most eagerly. Is it the pictures of the detective and the ballet dancer?
  • Ask how we can tell from the pictures that Lucas is interested in what Jack is saying.
  • Ask the children if they know anyone who is old – grandparents or great grandparents?
  • Do they know what this person does now, or did when they were younger. If they don’t know they can find out by asking the person.
  • With the children make up a list of questions they could ask.
  • Ask the children’s families to share any interesting stories about past generations.
  • Make these stories into a book.
  • Invite families if they have any souvenirs or memorabilia from the past – photos, ballet shoes, detective tools, farm implements?
  • Invite families to an event where they can talk about their souvenirs and share their stories of the past.
  • Invite other older people into your classroom to talk with the children about their past lives. You can include people from the school and local communities.
  • If possible establish a relationship with a local nursing home. Invite the residents to visit the class. Find out if you can visit the nursing home with the children. Ask these visitors to share their stories. Find out what songs they used to sing. Learn some of these and sing them with the visitors.
  • Everyone has memories and stories to share about what they have done in the past. Tell the children a story about your past. Ask them to tell a story about what they have done in the past.
  • Look at the pictures of the people in the story. Talk about how Andrew McLean made people look old – wrinkles, white hair, baldness, wheelchairs, walking sticks
  • Ask the children to draw pictures of people they know who are old. They can draw a picture of what they are like now, and one of them when they were younger.
  • Talk to the children about how colour helps set the atmosphere of a drawing. For instance compare the ‘now’ and ‘then’ pictures of Evelyn.
  • Find out more about Ellie Royce and Andrew McLean.

Caricatures

Something The Brothers always do when they come over to Our House is to draw or paint. One day R (aged 8 years) whipped up these cartoon characters. I’m not sure if he was thinking of anyone on particular, but there was some discussion about the US elections happening around that time.

rs-red-caricature

caricatureˈkærəkətʃʊə/ (say ‘karuhkuhchoouh)

noun1.  a picture, description, etc., ludicrously exaggerating the peculiarities or defects of persons or things

2.  the art or process of making such pictures, etc.
3.  any imitation or copy so inferior as to be ludicrous:
verb (t) (caricaturedcaricaturing)

4.  to make a caricature of; represent in caricature.

[French, from Italian caricatura, from caricare (over)load, exaggerate. 
caricaturistnoun

 

rs-blue-caricaturers-purple-caricature