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A.L Tait is the author of The Mapmaker Chronicles — an exciting new series, full of danger and adventure. The first book — Race to the End of the World — is already out in bookshops. The second book — Prisoner of the Black Hawk — will be published in April 2015. Today we’re talking to A.L. Tait about writing, and what inspired The Mapmaker Chronicles.

Procrastipuppy -- A.L. Tait's dogCan you tell us a bit about where you live?
I live on the south coast of NSW, with my family, four goldfish and a very cheeky puppy.

Do you prefer to write with a pen and paper, or onto the computer?
I prefer to write on a computer these days because I type very fast — much faster than I can write with pen and paper — and that means I can keep up with my thoughts. I have to also confess that my handwriting is very bad and I can barely read it myself — so typing is probably the safest option.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to read! I also like to spend time with my two boys, who are 8 and 11, walking, riding our bikes, going to the beach, and watching movies (we love adventure stories!).

What sort of books did you like to read when you were growing up?
I loved mystery stories, like the Trixie Belden series, The Famous Five, and Encyclopedia Brown. When I got a bit older I read The Lord of The Rings over and over. But the books I most remember are those that made me feel deeply — Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, and Callie’s Castle by Ruth Park are two that stand out.

Did you know you would be writing a series when you started writing Race to the End of the World?
I always thought it had to be a series — or one very long book! A race to map the world isn’t something you can cover in one novel.

What led you to write the series — are you good at making maps yourself?
I’m actually not very good at making maps — but I do love them when they’re made by other people. I particularly love the old maps, made when people weren’t really sure where things were. These are the ones that feature mermaids, and sea monsters and angels in the wind. They’re so beautiful and show us so much about what was known — and what wasn’t.

As for where the ideas for the series came from… my two boys are both fans of the ‘head-hurting’ question. We have long-and-involved conversations about where space ends, how high the stars are, whether there are any places in the world that remain unexplored, which dwarf from The Hobbit I would invite to a dinner party … you get the idea.

Several of those conversations, close together, led to The Mapmaker Chronicles.

“How far does space go?” asked Mr11, one night.

“Nobody knows,” I answered.

Then the next night: “How did they map the world?”

“Well, they had to go out there and find out,” I answered, distractedly.

“They must have been brave,” he answered.

“They were,” I said. “They would have felt exactly as we feel looking out into space, not knowing how far it goes or what’s out there.”

And just like that, in my mind I saw a race to map the world, and a boy who really didn’t want to go.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
My first tip is to read a lot. And not just the things you usually read, but all the books you can get your hands on. The more you read, the more you learn about writing.

My second tip is to write a lot. It takes a long time to learn how to write a book — the sooner you get started, the better!

Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
At the moment, I’m busy finishing the editing process for book three in The Mapmaker Chronicles series. After that, I’m not sure. I have lots and lots of ideas, and I need to work out which one of them to write first. I’ll keep you posted!

Check out The Mapmaker Chronicles website to read Chapter 1 of Book 1 (for free!), find out about old maps, cartography, and more.

In 1999, the United Nations declared March 21st as World Poetry Day. That’s today!

Here are some of our favourite Australian poets. On their websites you’ll find out a bit about them and quite often they have snippets of poetry to show you …
Elizabeth Honey
Janeen Brian
Kathryn Apel
Jackie Hosking
Lorraine Marwood
Sally Murphy
Sally Odgers
Sherryl Clark
Steven Herrick
Rebecca Newman
Teena Raffa-Mulligan
Stephen Whiteside
Claire Saxby

and a bonus site: Poetry Tag.

Today is a great day to share a poem with a friend, recite a poem to your family (or even better — with your family!), leave a poem lying around for someone to find or post a poem to someone who would enjoy it. Happy World Poetry Day!

What’s your favourite poem?

THE DRAGON OF WELLOK

by Jacqueline, 10, VIC

A dragon with wings of burning fire like a stormy shadow, when it flaps its wings of steamy smoke. It has eyes of darkness where you can hear whispers and voices when you look at him. The body of terror as scaly as a lizard. When you seek him in the forest, careful, you might bump into him. With his powerful sense of hearing, even the quietest step you will be heard. Smelling the blood that dribbles on the ground, he can hunt you down as similar as a hound. People stay inside and are hidden when he comes to your village. Everything changed when you came along to the woods and went into his dark nightmarish cave, as he waits to burn and cook the meal … which is you! You didn’t know that you were wounded and cried with shivers up your spine. He comes and gives you a nice fire to warm you up and licks your wound like a dog. You have no idea who he is and what he is doing but, you curl in a bundle and sleep on his large belly. When you do, his heart changes and became a father of light to you, never knowing he is the Dragon of Wellok. By this time, you never think this dreadful beast is only trying to find a child to take care of.

What I have written is what the village people think of him. The fire wings were true but only to keep him warm in winter.

So that’s the tale of the Dragon of Wellok.

This is Jacqueline’s second piece of descriptive writing posted to Alphabet Soup — you can read ‘The Forest’, in an earlier post.

If you’ve never been to a book launch, add it to your ‘To Do’ list now!

In no particular order, here are our top ten reasons to go along to a book launch:

  1. MEETING THE TALENT. Meet the author and illustrator.
  2. NEW BOOKS. Buy your own copy AND READ IT while it’s hot off the press.
  3. BOOK SIGNINGS — get the book signed by the author or illustrator (or both!).
  4. INSTANT FAME! While the author or illustrator is signing your book is the perfect time to take a photo. Get in the photo too. Famous!
  5. THE DOOR PRIZE. Not every book launch offers a door prize, but some do! You could win stuff just by turning up.
  6. TALENT SPOTTING. Keep your eyes open for other authors and illustrators in the crowd. While you’re waiting to have your book signed you might even chat to one standing in the queue in front of you. More photos!
  7. IMPRESS YOUR TEACHER. You can impress everyone by talking about the book launch during ‘News’ in class the next day. (The new book makes a good prop, especially if you had it signed. And of course, everyone will admire photos of you with VIP authors and illustrators.)
  8. HANDY TIPS. The book creators will usually talk about where their ideas came from. That could be handy for your own writing or illustrating. (Plus you’ll learn what to put in a Book Launch Speech for when you are launching your own book someday.)
  9. MORE NEW BOOKS. Buy another copy. And another one. Ask the author or illustrator to sign it  “To [your friend’s name]”. Birthday presents sorted!
  10. BOOK LAUNCH CAKE. Quite often there’s cake. Who doesn’t like cake?

Keen to go to your first book launch? Good news! There are book launches happening all over the country. Here are some we know are coming up soon:

BOOK LAUNCHES IN WA

Harold and Grace

WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2015
Harold and Grace by Sean E. Avery. (Fremantle Press)
The book will be launched by: Meg McKinlay
When: 6pm for 6.30pm start, Wednesday 1 April 2015
Where: State Library of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre, 25 Francis Street, Perth
RSVP: admin@fremantlepress.com.au or 08 9430 6331

Harold and Grace is a picture book. This is a family-friendly event.

a single stoneTHURSDAY 7 May 2015
A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (Walker Books)
The book will be launched by: AJ Betts
When: 6.30 for 7pm start, Thursday 7 May 2015
Where: Kidogo Arthouse, Bathers Beach, Mews Rd, Fremantle
RSVP:  by 30 April to meg[AT]megmckinlay.com

Light refreshments will be served

A Single Stone is speculative fiction for ages 10+.


BOOK LAUNCHES IN SA

thunderstorm dancingMONDAY 23 March 2015
Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Judy Watson. (Allen & Unwin)
The book will be launched by: Janeen Brian
When: 12.30pm, Monday 23 March 2015
Where: Brighton Library, 20 Jetty Rd, Brighton

Thunderstorm Dancing is a picture book. This is a family-friendly event.


BOOK LAUNCHES IN NSW

Don't think about purple elephantsSATURDAY 21 March 2015
Don’t Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan, illustrated by Gwynneth Jones. (Exisle Publishing)
When: 10.30am, Saturday 21 March 2015
Where: Family Fun Day, Newcastle Writers Festival

RSVP: 4974 5300 or email library[AT]ncc.nsw.gov.au

Don’t Think About Purple Elephants is a picture book. This is a family-friendly event.


 BOOK LAUNCHES IN ACT

this is captain cookSUNDAY 19 APRIL 2015
This is Captain Cook by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Christina Booth (NLA Publishing)
Interactive book reading, activities, make your own captain’s hat!
When: 11am, Sunday 19 April 2015
Where: Foyer, National Library of Australia
RSVP: by booking here or 02 6262 1424

This is Captain Cook is a picture book. Suitable for preschool aged children and older. Children must be accompanied by an adult.


Today we welcome Frané Lessac to Alphabet Soup. Frané is an illustrator and author — she’s the illustrator behind Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, Midnight, and The Greatest Liar on Earth (and many, many more books!).

We asked Frané if we could talk to her about A is for Australia: A factastic tour — her latest book. Here it is in all its glory:

 

a is for australia

What is the Fremantle Doctor? Where is Qui Qui? And why are some islands named after days of the week? You’ll uncover these exciting facts when you explore the A to Z of Australia — from Bondi to Kakadu and all the way to Taronga Zoo. Discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world …

 

 

FranéLessac

Frané Lessac

Can you tell us a bit about where you live?
I live in the port city of Fremantle in West Australia. From my front porch, I can see a sliver of the Indian Ocean and Rottnest Island. Our house is over 120 years old and we’ve built an art studio in the back garden where I paint.

When you were working on A is for Australia, what came first — the artwork or the text?
Location came first. We had to decide what locations would be depicted for each letter of the alphabet. There were incredible alternatives and that made it hard to choose, but what made it easier was the need to represent all states narrowing down the locations. Next came the text, then art.

How long did it take you to create the book?
I first approached Walker Books with the idea over seven years ago! They were familiar with my other alphabet books based on New York, Washington D.C., Texas and the Caribbean. They knew the format and the market. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write the book myself initially, but with a twist of the arm, I did it!

What do you like to do when you are not illustrating (or writing-after-your-arm-has-been-twisted)?
Over the years I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London and the Caribbean before settling in Australia twenty-five years ago. My closest friends and my family are spread right across the globe and l love to visit them as much as I can. When I’m home in Fremantle, I like to walk along Dog Beach.

What sort of books did you like to read when you were growing up?
My mother was an avid reader and placed an importance on reading and books. She took me to the library at an early age to pick out my own books. I started with Beatrix Potter and moved onto The Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew mysteries.

What led you to create A is for Australia?
A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian people, places and culture. I wanted to create a book for children so they could discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. I hope that visitors from overseas also grab a copy and share it back home.

Do you have a preferred medium?
I use gouache paint on watercolour paper. There’s an enormous range of colours and they are also easy to mix. The paint dries fast and I can paint in layers, which allow me to make any changes easily.

Do you have any advice for young artists? 
Believe in your art and don’t compare what you create to anyone else’s. Everyone draws differently. Be confident. If I worried about what other people created, I never would have created one single book. I never went to art school and I was never the best artist in the class, but I always loved to draw and paint.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I recently received a folktale from my UK publisher that’s set in India. It’s called Pattan’s Pumpkins and it’s right up my alley. Jungles and animals and bright pumpkins!  Exciting to work with this publisher again — I met the editor over thirty years ago and we created three folktales together set in West Africa, Papua New Guinea and Polynesia.

For a peek inside the pages of A is for Australia, visit Frané’s blog. And you can hear Frané talking about making the book on the book trailer:

 You can find out even more about Frané Lessac and her books by visiting her website: www.franelessac.com.

(And teachers will be interested in these A is For Australia Classroom Ideas.)

 

 

 

 

The winner of our recent giveaway is Brooke Ball with her three-word description: “White marshmallow clouds”.

Brooke wins a signed copy of Lorraine Marwood’s book Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Refugee: The Diary of Ali Ismail by Alan Sunderland, Scholastic Press, ISBN 1865049190

refugee (cover)

REVIEWED BY JOSEPH, 11, WA

Joseph borrowed this book from his school library.

Refugee is the diary of a 14-year-old boy who leaves his parents in Afghanistan to get freedom in Australia. He arrives on a boat that almost sank during the journey. It’s not easy for Ali when he gets to Australia either — he’s sent off to Woomera, which is a detention centre. Will he ever be free from Woomera and live a normal Australian life?

I didn’t know much about refugees other than bits I had heard on the news and I was interested in this story. I’d read some other My Australian Story books and when I was looking for some more on the library shelf I came across this one. I like books written as a diary because it feels like it’s really from that person’s point of view and it seems like Ali’s story is actually true. This was a great book. It was quite a long one too, and I learned that sometimes children are refugees all on their own and it’s so hard for them.

This book is pitched at boys and girls who don’t mind books that aren’t humorous. Kids that like history, current affairs and books about human rights would like this book. It’s best for readers aged 11+.

Joseph is one of our regular book reviewers. His most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of Celebrating Australia: A Year in Poetry. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

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