Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Recap - Week Three

Week Three and our third online literary festival is in full swing - lots of good writing and interesting view points in this week's guest authors' posts for you to check out after the jump.

On Monday Pamela Rushby told us why she loves writing historical fiction; where she gets her ideas and how she does her research.

I particularly liked Pam's description of standing in the desert and feeling the battle that had taken place in the historical event she was researching.

"Faction", as Pam calls it, seems to be about recreating the feelings that the facts give rise to in a story.  And I'd really like to know why that archeologist told Pam that you must always say the name of Egyptian mummies out loud.  Wouldn't you also like to know? We might just have to read Pam's book to find out.

Tuesday, and in Food! Glorious Food!, Goldie Alexander wrote about how children's authors often use food to illustrate and develop plots, settings and characters after she had read an article that said authors can be divided into two camps - those that include descriptions of food and those that don't.

Maybe it is just that I'm greedy but I've always loved books with descriptions of food. Or maybe it's because I grew up on a diet (!) of Enid Blyton books and she was the inventor of wonderful sounding foods; from the cake boxes in the Mallory Towers series to toffee shocks in The Magic Farway Tree, to the sometimes stale but always delicious cake that Peter and Janet's mother gave them for Secret Seven meetings. Enid Blyton's descriptions of food never failed to make me want to live in her stories. Even the "lashings of ginger beer" used to celebrate victories in the Famous Five series sounded delicious - even though I didn't like ginger beer as a child.

I had to think hard to find authors who don't include descriptions of food in their books.  Then I remembered Patrick Ness (and felt a little relieved that not every book I've ever liked concerned food). Can you think of other authors who don't use food to develop plots, characters and settings in their stories?

On Wednesday, Sally Murphy wrote about sad themes in children's literature in her guest post, Why So Sad?

I've often wondered about sad themes - particularly all the dead mothers - in children's literature. From Bambi through virtually every Grimms fairy tale about a child, to the devastatingly brilliant novel, A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness dreadful things - but, let's be frank, mostly early death - happen to mothers at every turn.

While sad books make me feel sad, obviously - and, as a mother, also a little vulnerable - I'm glad authors write about dark subjects for these reasons:

First, as Sally says, sad things do happen to children and seeing a literary character get through similar hardship can give strength and hope to real children experiencing pain and grief in their own lives. Dealing with grief through literature can be empowering for a child, letting them connect when they otherwise feel cut off from life. 
Second, as Jackie French said, upon her appointment as Australian Children's Laureate, reading teaches empathy:
Stories tell us who we are. They teach us empathy so we understand who others are. They give us the power to imagine and create the future.
So, even if you are not dealing with a dreadful situation in your own life, a book which makes you sad can help you understand and empathise with other people.

Third, as Tania McCartney wrote last week, "kids are so not dim!" Kids should be allowed to consider and explore dark and difficult subjects through books. Apart from anything else, trying to shelter children from life's unpleasant truths is futile.

If you'd like to read more on this subject, have a look at these two guest posts:

In Someone Else's Story, the illustrator, Sarah Davis wrote about how she conveyed the loss, grief and healing through her illustrations for Mending Lucille (written by J.R. Poulter, Lothian/Hachette, 2008).  My Favourite Illustrated Book by Adrienne Doig looks at the way the illustrations and text fit together in the graphic novel, Maus, which is about the Holocaust.

Finally, as the children's playwright, Finegan Kruckemeyer  (see his guest post, A Reader's Story) says in his (excellent) academic paper, The Taboo of Sadness:
And a sad event offers this – it brings a character to a point of frustration or despair, and then it chronicles the character’s trajectory from that lowest point. And there doesn’t need to exist something as simple as a ‘happy ending’, not at all. But in my works I still like to chart a protagonist’s course from that low to a point of Possibility – because if there were any moral that I would ever feel confident enough to employ, it is that life keeps going.
OK, enough sadness!

On Thursday we got to meet Team Canada, the boys from Royal St George's College in Toronto. Welcome to Reading for Australia boys and congratulations again on your fabulous result at the Canadian national final.

Next week, Team South Africa.

There are three new book reviews from kids today:

Sleeping Beauty by Maya (6), Flush by Angus (11) and Moonrunner by George (9). Check them out!

A Little News

The Children's Book Council of Australia's biennial conference is being held in Canberra this weekend.

It looks like an interesting program with a number of Reading for Australia's guest authors presenting and speaking at the conference; Barry Jonsberg, Tania McCartney, Jackie French, Andy Griffiths, Dianne Wolfer, Sally Murphy and Erica Wagner will all be there - as will KLQ's national coordinator, Nicole Deans and ACT coordinator, Janine Hudson.

Sally Murphy is launching her new book, Roses are Blue at the CBCA conference on Sunday.

Goldie Alexander is launching her new book, That Stranger Next Door,  at the Melbourne Jewish Literary Festival on Monday 2 June at 12.30pm (Lamm Library, 304 Hawthorn Rd South Caulfield).

Have a good weekend, enjoy your reading (and the football - Go Dons!)

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