THE HOOPLA LITERARY SOCIETY
“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.” Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJohnny Depp as Willy Wonka in the latest movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
It’s Children’s Book Week and to celebrate we are dedicating The Hoopla Literary Society entirely to what’s new and exciting in books for children.
Children’s Book Week is the initiative of the not-for-profit organisation, The Children’s Book Council of Australia. Established in 1945, its purpose is to raise awareness of how important reading is in the development of Australian children. This year’s theme is Champions Read.
We couldn’t agree more and so, with the enthusiastic and generous support of the publishers, we are offering you the chance to win a book pack for the children in your life – from preschoolers to high-schoolers. I can’t think of a better way to share the love of books than by literally sharing books. Details on how to win a book pack can be found here but read on for reviews, news and two special guests.
Friday Brown, Vikki Wakefield
“My life has been told to me through campfire tales- stories that spill over when the fire has burned low and silence must be filled. They’re like old coats hauled from the back of the cupboard. Dusted off, aired out, good as new. My mother, Vivienne, doled them out as a reward or consolation, depending on her mood. And so I came to know myself- through the telling and the retelling. They became as much a part of me as blood or bone. On the night of my eleventh birthday, Vivienne told me that I was cursed. It was her gift, she said. When she was gone the Brown women’s curse would pass to me and, if I ever knew which way death would come, I should run hard in the other direction.”
Friday Brown is 17 when her mother Vivienne dies of breast cancer.
After a life living from one moment to the next, one town to another and season to season, they have ended up at her grandfather’s place, a man Friday has never met. She runs away, hard in the other direction just as her mother always said she should, and finds herself at a train station. As a pram begins to roll off the platform, Friday sees a slight blond boy jump onto the tracks and rescue the baby. By the time she runs over, the boy has gone and Friday gets the credit.
It’s the start of a friendship. Silence, as the boy is known, takes Friday back to his squat where he and other children damaged by the people supposed to love and care for them have made a home of sorts under the protection of the beautiful but volatile Arden. Arden is both saviour and tormentor to all of her wards and Friday does not fit in, threatening the power Arden holds over the other children. For Friday, standing up to Arden means both challenging her mother Vivienne’s legacy and testing who she is without her mother’s protection and guidance.
In many ways, this is a dark novel, much darker than I expected. Exploring themes of loss, displacement and dependence, Wakefield writes for and about the older teenager and the way they grapple for a sense of self and place in the world; an inevitable part of the journey into adulthood. Her characters are vital and nuanced and Friday Brown is a magnificent protagonist and narrator. With writing of this calibre, no wonder Wakefield’s previous novel All I Ever Wanted is currently shortlisted for so literary many prizes. BUY THE BOOK
The Children’s Book Week Winners Are…
A big part of Children’s Book Week is the awards. This year there were 419 books entered across five categories. The judging criteria is based on literary merit first and foremost but they also look for outstanding characters, language and illustrations (if any). This year’s winners are:
Older Readers: The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner
Younger Readers: Crow Country by Kate Constable
Early Childhood: The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland, illustrations by Freya Blackwood
Picture Book of the Year: A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books: One Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island by Alison Lester & Coral Tulloch
Crichton Award for Illustration: Ben & Duck by Sara Acton
It’s not all pink lemonade and cupcakes
For children’s writers, it’s all about dreaming up magical, fantastical stories inhabited by children and animals and sensible adults barely ever intrude, right?
The Hoopla asked homegrown author and mother of three, Aleesah Darlison, what a typical day looks like for her and the truth was far more exhausting than we ever imagined!
“August. Book Week. For most children’s authors, Book Week usually stretches into Book Month. It’s a hectic time filled with school visits, library workshops, literary festivals and public appearances.
For me, Book Month commences with a week-long tour of Adelaide. This involves getting up at 4.30am on Monday morning so my husband and three children can drive me to the airport. By 6.15am I’m flying to Adelaide. I hate leaving my kids, so I always make the most of my time away, squeezing in as much as I possibly can. If I’m lucky, there may even be moments of peace and solitude, which I intend to savour.
I touch down in Adelaide at 8am, grab my luggage and my hire car and head to a bookstore across town to collect a supply of books for the week. Then it’s off to my first school visit. I misjudge Adelaide traffic and make it just in time. Phew!
My week in Adelaide is dominated by three school presentations a day. I also conduct a ‘Fantasy Fun’ workshop at Brighton Library after school on Tuesday, catch up with fellow authors from the SA SCBWI chapter, meet with one of my publishers, and slot in some serious writing time. I’m meant to be working on the next two books in my Unicorn Riders series (published by Walker Books) so it’s crucial I stick to my deadlines. The administration side of my business has to wait until night, as does a phone call home.
Friday night I receive a warm homecoming. My four-year-old daughter runs into my arms admitting tearfully that she tried not to miss me too much, but that she couldn’t hold it in any longer and had to have a cry before I got home. Heartbreaking!
After Adelaide, I have two more weeks of touring Sydney. Between preschool, school, two babysitters and friends, I manage to juggle childcare arrangements. It’s a logistical nightmare. And an expensive one at that.
During the final week of August, I’m in Dubbo. I’ll be conducting five face-to-face and video conference sessions per day for two days from Taronga Western Plains Zoo, plus an after-school workshop at Dubbo Library and visits to two local schools. I’ll fly back to Sydney on Wednesday evening then have two final days of school visits to finish off a HUGE Book Month.
No matter what time of year it is, the demands of a working mother are never easy to cope with. I’m constantly juggling balls – sometimes too many – and occasionally I drop one or two. But at the end of the day, I love being an author and a mother. All I can do is try my best to be good at both. Fingers crossed, I succeed.”
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