Author Interview, bees, Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, Uncategorized

Interview with Karen Tyrell, author of Song Bird Two: The Battle of Bug World.

Welcome Karen, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that these questions will give my readers some more insight into how you have developed the characters in Song Bird , how music inspires and how we can all take better care of the world we live in.

 Song Bird 2 The Battle of Bug World

What inspired you to write the Song Bird series?

Two life changing events.

Fan girls of my Super Space Kids series requested I write a new series with a girl superhero as the main character, especially written for adventurous girls.

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Songbird Superhero, AKA Rosella Ava Bird character is based on my experiences as a 11-year-old geeky, bullied girl. Each night, I dreamt I could fly, to escape my bullies. Later, I joined the choir and learnt how singing boosted my self-esteem and self-confidence. The following year, I started high school where I discovered my love of science and maths. I wanted Songbird to represent the powerful and free spirit I aspired to be.

Music is so important to all of us and can give us strength. How does music play a role in your life and why did you think your superhero needed music to help her?

Music plays a key role in empowering me in tough times. As a bullied 11-year-old girl, I joined the choir and learnt to sing. My voice was something no bully could defeat.

When I was a bullied teacher, music comforted me when I developed PTSD and anxiety. My student and his parents bullied me to breaking point. Music gave me joy and certainty, a place where I drew confidence and peace.

Like me, Rosella Ava Bird joined the school choir discovered her superpowers lived within herself.

Rosie is such a strong and confident character, even when she doubts herself. Is your character Rosie based on anyone you know?

Rosie is a mix of me and the girl I dreamt to be. I would love to sing and to fly… And use my superpowers for good, to save and protect others.

I really love that you have included children with disabilities in The Battle of Bug World and portrayed them as strong, clever, brave and very able – what inspired you to do this when most books do not?

Two important reasons.

I have a mental illness that’s invisible. Many people label my illness as a disability. I don’t. My illness is part of me. I’ve found writing lets me express my struggles and successes in ways that empower myself, and help others. I want to encourage kids to connect with their inner superhero and live strong.

I once taught a boy-genius who was smart and brave, and an incredible maths science whizz. He also happened to move about in a wheelchair. In Songbird, I wanted to shatter the disabilitry stereotype. Like the boy I knew, Amy Hillcrest, is quite the hero.

How do you think teachers and parents can inspire young children to step up and think for themselves when it comes to looking after our planet?

Children should read and learn about their environment. Realise, they are a part of it and can make a difference to it.

My message: We can all lend a hand to care for our environment. Many hands make light work.

Did you research to learn more about how bees and insects function in our world?

YES. I studied how insects and bees behave, especially the bee’s waggle dance. I spoke to beekeepers of honey bees and Australian stingless bees. I spoke to the director of Bee Aware at the Logan LEAF eco festival.

How do you look after bees in your life? Do you have any tips for our young readers as to what they can do?

I do simple things like plant brightly coloured flowers and fresh herbs in my garden. I grow purple agapanthus and native grevilleas to attract bees. I put out clean dishes of water for the bees to drink. I’m careful not to spray pesticides on the grass or the garden. That would poison the bees. Instead, I pull out weeds.

How do you think children can make a difference in our world in relation to the degradation of the environment without having to always rely on adults?

Kids can plant and nurture their own garden, pick up litter especially in parks and waterways, pack their own lunches without plastic, turn off lights and taps, sort out family rubbish into glass, paper and cans ready for recycling bins.

 

What is in store for us in Book 3?

Song Bird returns to save the lost rainforest, revealing an ancient mystery.

Thank you Karen for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Such honest responses and really drawn on your own life experiences and those who you have come across that show their own super powers. I am really looking forward to reading more of your inspiring and adventure filled stories.

Make sure you get your copy of Songbird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World here:

Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World available on Amazon

Karen Tyrrell Bug World

 

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Book review, Books with current issues, Creativity, Environmental books, nature play, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Two Rainbows by Sophie Masson and Michael McMahon

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green, Purple and Orange and Blue….

 

Two rainbows by Sophie Masson and Michael McMahon is a stunning picture book for readers to learn to explore colour in their every day lives. Published by Little Hare books, Two Rainbows explores life in the city and in the country and how colours that are in one place can be completed different in another.

Colour is all around us and every moment of the day the colours can be different. As we read we see that the same colour can be seen in different places and the comparison between city and country colours shows that the same hue can be seen in many different ways-both built and natural .

Everyone loves a rainbow – no matter where it is people always stop to admire, take a photo or just ponder that mythical pot of gold at the end must be out there, somewhere.

This story also allows us to show our children that colour is everywhere, even when days seem dark, lonely, sad or hopeless – there is always colour even in the greyest of cities.

Michael McMahon’s illustrations are simple yet powerful. The simplicity of each picture highlights the colour in our world. Perhaps it shows us how much of a role colour can play in our lives – even when are all so small in terms of the space we each take up. The illustrations also show the beauty and freedom of the countryside and the dull, busy city life many of us lead. Perhaps this story might encourage city dwellers to get outside of the city boundaries more often – and see how those colours become so much more alive when they are in their natural state.

Take the time to read this book with your child and learn to appreciate how even though different  may form the same shade, they can give us a different feeling.

So what can you do at home?

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Get outside into a natural environment and explore colours. Compare the different green leaves on the same tree, Look at the different shades of flower petals and feathers on birds.
  • How can you add more natural colour to your home or local environment?
  • Explore the use of natural colours – make your own and create your own Two Rainbows style book. Use beetroot, potato, clay, spinach and carrot!!  Using natural colours ensures that less chemicals are going down the drain.


 

Book review, Books with current issues, gifted education, literacy, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Drawn onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer

A creative palindromic picture book has arrived in the form of Drawn Onward by Meg McKinlay and Andrew Frazer.


Within this story the reader explore the glass half empty attitude: ‘People who think they are important and precious are wrong” to the glass half full attitude of “Important and precious people who think they are just a tiny speck tossed this way and that can’t hope to do anything at all“.

As the reader engages with each page they see how hopelessness which causes self destruction, darkness and loss can be turned into hopefulness, light and energy. These images have been delicately drawn by Andrew Frazer to give extra meaning to the short sayings written by Meg McKinley

Drawn onward is a powerful picture book written for older readers and a great book to explore slowly with discussion and reflection. The book can be read in it’s entirety but then should be looked back upon so links can be made between how the character recovers from the dark heavy feelings of life.

Many young children are effected by bullying and low self esteem so reading books like this can help the discussion of these issues become easier. As parents and teachers we need to support our children so that they do not feel weighed down by life. The sooner we can raise awareness in our children that there is always hope, they better.

Meg McKinley has cleverly played on words to create this story of hopelessness and hope and it is one that should be shared in all classrooms. Not only does it focus on self concepts it also looks at how if we just play around with words things can sound so much better – and this all relates to how we talk to ourselves.

Drawn onward by Meg McKinley and Andrew Frazer is a great collaboration between author and artist and one that helps us to learn how a simple shift of focus can change our whole perspective.

So what can you do at home or in the classroom?

Literacy

  • Explore Palindromes in words and Phrases – write these down and then draw these to show how simple swaps make a huge difference.
  • Explore synonyms and antonyms for words such as hope, love, light, truth, good, important and precious.

Mental Health

  • Explore times when you have felt like the dark character – how did you remove the heavy rock and reach towards the light? Allow students to explore this individually through picture or word.
  • Explore meditation with children and how helpful just three minutes a day to help ourselves get into the right mindset.

Teacher Notes

Check out these great teacher notes by Fremantle Press

animals, bees, Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, insects, nature play, Parent tips, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Being a bee by Jinny Johnson and Lucy Davey

Discover the secret life of bees from queens to the waggle dance, hives and honey. 

Have you ever wondered about how your flowers grow so brightly or perhaps how tomatoes grow so rapidly or even how weeds seem to appear all over your garden without the slightest hint of a breeze?


Well, wonder no more – Being a bee by Jinny Johnson and Lucy Davey explains the many facets of a bee through simple explanation and colourful illustrations.

In this lively book  children will love learning about bees. They will be introduced to the delightful queen bee and then shown how the babies are fed and grown in the hive alongside where honey is kept for safekeeping.

We learn how and why bees to a waggle dance and how important it is for them to work together as a team.

The section on beekeeping was eye opening and helped us to really appreciate the tub of honey we have sitting in our cupboard.

The flat design illustrations abound with green and yellow and flashes of colourful flowers – which without bees would be no more.

Being a bee is a great way to introduce your young reader to the importance of bees and the valuable role they play in our society.  There is a lot of news in the media at the moment about the need to bring bees back.

So what can you do at home or at school with this book?

Sustainability

  • Have a look around your home and see what would entice any type of insect to your area? all insects are beneficial and attracting them to something they can live off or eat is important. It’s better they live off the plants than things in your house!
  • PROJECT: How can we provide the best home for attracting bees? Investigate what the bees (local to your area) need. Draw up a plan of what the hive would look like, where it should be placed, what conditions it needs to attract bees and to survive. (This project includes outcome links to mathematics, literacy, science and geography)
  •  Herbs are an easy plant to start with as they can be grown in small planter boxes on windowsills – give rosemary, thyme or mint a go.
  • It is important that you find out about the beneficial flowers that help bees in your area too. Australian stingless bees love:

 

Abelia x grandiflora Abelia
Buddleja * Butterfly Bush
Callistemon  Bottlebrush
Eucalyptus  Gum Blossom
Grevillea Spider Flower
Lavandula Lavender
Leptospermum Tea Tree
Melaleuca Honey Myrtle
Westringia Rosemary
Many Varieties Daisies

Literacy

  • Find some more books that have bees in them – you’ll bee surprised! Do these stories all have a similar message to tell?
  • Compare scientific literature to children books that are on the topic of bees. Why do we need both types of literature out there to understand the need for bees in our world? Create your own bee themed picture book based on some scientific literature.
  • Create your own story about your adventure with a bee. Which flowers would you like to visit? Divide a page into four sections and draw a series of pictures that show what you would like to do with a bee to make sure there are enough flowers, fruits and vegetables in the world.

SCIENCE

How is honey used in our lives apart from to eat? Investigate the different properties of honey and how it is used in a myriad of products!

GEOGRAPHY

Where are bees located? What type of environment do they need to thrive? Create a honey bee and a stingless bee map of Australia.

NUMERACY

Why are honey bee hives made out of hexagonal shapes?

Why do stingless bee hives spiral shaped?

Investigate the different shapes of bee hives across the globe and why they are this shape. Could they be another shape? Investigate if there is a better way to keep honey in a hive.

https://www.hachette.com.au/jinny-johnson/being-a-bee

 

Books with current issues, Indigenous authors, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Shapes of Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft

Swirls, whorls, circles and rectangles.

Lines, dots, waves and zig zags.

Red, green, blue and orange

The personified text of Bronwyn Bancroft’s Shapes of Australia brings each of aspect of nature on these pages to life. Her colourful Indigenous style illustrations use different types of line and shape to form abstract ideas of the world around us.


Bold colours, light shades give depth and shade to boulders, rivers and bee hives.

Shapes of Australia allow the reader to learn more about the amazing parts of Australian nature and how the time of day, types of weather and place of existence can change the colour of objects.

Shapes of Australia is a book that makes us look twice at the painted landscape. As the reader reads along we are encouraged to think – how do those majestic mountains merge with the long horizon or which mystical forms are inhabiting the ocean floor?

Shapes of Australia is a stunning book that emits a calming effect and inspires the awareness of colours in our world.

 

So what can you do?

Visual Art

  • Explore the natural world around you and look at the different lines, shapes and colours.
  • What were the different places visited in this story? What do they really look like?
  • List the verbs used to describe how each of the objects act.
  • How are all of these objects personified?

Sustainability

  • How are the colours of the natural world different to that of the man made world?
  • If we reduce our natural spaces how might our colour inspiration change? Where will we gather our colour from and will it be the same?

Indigenous 

  • Explore the techniques Bronwyn has used to paint the pictures in this story.
  • Where did Bronwyn learn her painting technique? Explore other artists from her Indigenous nation.

 

 

Book review, Books with current issues, literacy, Parent tips, picture books, Uncategorized

Dear picture book section

Dear Picture book section,

It was really lovely seeing you the other day. You were full of some new releases, some hidden gems and of course some old favourites.

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Whenever I come across your smiling face I am able to stop, relax and take stock of what has been happening in the real world. I can slip into a world of imagination and learn lessons that help me to get by in my every day life.

Your magical stories give me new ideas and your haunting tales caution me about the dark side of life. The new lands you introduce me to help me to see my world from another perspective and different characters help me to see myself and my friends in a different light.

So many of your tales involve animals that can talk and I always wonder why that is. Do we relate better to big issues when a normally speechless creature can suddenly speak words of wisdom?

Picture book section, I don’t know why we have to go weeks without seeing each other so I am starting my own picture book section in a corner of my house. Every time I borrow some pieces of you from the library I am going to store you in my bookcase, not in my bag. I am going to read a story every day and share these new ideas with those around me.

Picture book section, without you I would be in a land of screens, simple stories and cats that just sit and purr in a basket.

Dear Picture book section, thank you for being you.

See you soon,

 

Vanessa

 

 

Uncategorized

Children in our world: Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts and Hanan Kai

Wow. Such a big and heavy topic which is often filled with sadness, worry and fear. But this series – Children in our world has again written about refugees and migrants in a way the leave children feeling informed and empowered to take action.


In the news we hear so often of refugees who have settled in Australia and living happy lives but it is the stories of heartache, loss and fear that we don’t always want our children to hear.

Children in our world: Refugees and Migrants by Ceri Roberts and Hanan Kai informs the reader how people can become refugees and how it would feel to pack up your life into a small bag so that you can run. The images that accompany this story really add emotion to the book as we see small children in their much loved bedrooms leaving everything behind, we see children orphaned by their parents and children hidden away on an illegal journey.

But hope is there and we see a young child happily sitting with a family member drinking tea on a verandah at the end of the book. We can see that people can be safe and find a new home – but without government intervention and the power of people keeping them accountable these things cannot happen.

Children are also informed as to how they can make a difference to refugees lives and I love that writing a letter to the government is one of these. Young children may not feel that they really have a voice but through letter writing they can be powerful.

Inspire your children and inspire yourself to take a stand on the ever increasing amount of refugees in our world. These people deserve to live in safety and deserve to live in houses – not in the tent cities that seem to be growing every day.

BUY NOW

 Refugees and Migrants (Children in Our World)

animals, eco living, Environmental books, Indigenous authors, picture books, Picture books that address current issues

Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreisse

Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often

We all know someone who is good at telling stories – and in Kookoo Kookaburra by Gregg Dreiser (a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe)  and published by Magabala books we meet Kookoo – a kookaburra who has a knack for telling stories.

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Kookoo is often filled with stories but one day he cannot think of a new one – so instead starts making fun of the other bush creatures. This teasing makes the animals feel terrible and soon enough Kookoo realises what he has done and makes sure that from that day on he is only kind.

This story teaches us that in order for others to be kind to us, we also need to be kind. We need to show respect to others and always consider how our actions effect those around us.

Driesse’s illustrations are bold and colourful which conjure up liveliness of the bush creatures, emotions of the bush animals and the beauty of the Australian bush.

So what can you do with this book?

Use this story to teach young readers about kindness and respect.

Explore each character and the actions that take place when they are teased.

Explore the actions of Kookoo before and after he teases after and reflect upon times we have done this.

Gregg Driess’s artwork is beautiful – explore the use of dot painting in his story and try to draw your own Australian bird amongst the Australian sky or land.

 

Author Interview, Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, picture books, Teacher tips and resources

Interview with Muza Ulasowski and Jennifer Poulter

 Today I am interviewing Jennifer R Poulter and  Muza Ulasowski, the author and illustrator of the beautiful story – Getting Home.

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How did you come about to illustrate picture books?

I have always been ‘arty’ with it being my favourite subject in high school. Even as a child, I remember telling everyone that I was going to illustrate children’s books!! However, life happened to get in the way – I ended up working as a legal secretary and various other professions instead – eventually, forgetting my dream. After my children graduated from high school though, I went back to college and graduated in 2007 with a Diploma in Graphic Design.

In 2011 I was lucky enough to have received my first publishing contract with New Holland to illustrate the book, ‘Where’s Michael?’ by Xavier Waterkeyn. I enjoyed that process so much, that I have been illustrating children’s picture books ever since. So now, I am very happily living my childhood dream.

How were you able to illustrate these Polar bears so that they would look so life like?

My natural style is hyperrealism. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do simple illustrations. Before I begin to illustrate a character in a book, I research and research and research, downloading hundreds of images via Google. I also visit zoos. For the book Forest Wonder, for example, I spent a lot of time at Lone Pine and also at Australia Zoo photographing the animals and sketching, to get a feel of their movements. I definitely used up my annual passes to both places!! With Getting Home, I visited Sea World many times and took photographs of their polar bears.

What was the medium you used for the illustrations in ‘Getting home’?

I use digital illustrating for books, and I work in layers. The reason for this is so that I can move the characters and background around to fit the text in comfortably – without having to redraw the whole illustration.

I used a combination of Artrage and Photoshop digital programmes via my trusty Intuos 4 tablet or my Cintiq Companion 2 to illustrate Getting Home. I used Artrage because the program is very straightforward and has no “bells and whistles”. It is very similar in technique to using acrylic paints in that once you choose your brush, intensity, medium, colour and transparency – away you go. Each brush stroke is applied individually – just like using acrylic paints – except there’s virtual “water”, no paint spillage and, you never run out of paint. Also, there’s a magical button I like to use a lot – called “delete”!!

Each character is created as a separate illustration, much larger in size than needed so that I can put a lot of detail in each illustration. All the created characters and the background are then combined in a Photoshop file and any touch-ups to colour and shadows are then finalised.

 

Do you enjoy drawing animals?

I love drawing birds and animals and portraying the tiniest of details. I find it fascinating to try to convey expressions on their faces and though quite challenging, it’s extremely rewarding when I “nail it”.

 

Your illustrations bring out so much in this story which has such a simple storyline. How do you do this so you can not only draw what has been written but add more to it?

I usually know what I want to draw before I start, but the pictures tend to change and evolve as I go. Sometimes it feels as though the animal characters totally take over – dictating to me what should happen on the page and what else is going to be happening on the page. Usually this happens once I am halfway through a book, and then I have to go back and amend or add to what I’ve previously drawn. So the stories evolve as I go further into the book with sidelines being added to the story.

Do you discuss much of your work with the author?

J.R.Poulter: “Getting Home” was a collaboration. Muza and I spent over a year to and fro-ing ideas, modifying images, modifying text till we had a cohesive whole that we knew ‘worked!’

Muza: Getting Home took an extraordinarily long time to develop…. when I look at the original roughs, the final one looks like a totally different book. There were lots and lots and lots of emails between Jennifer and I and a lot of collaboration changing, editing, deleting, redrawing…. it took over a year to get it to where we thought it was just right.

Why is it important that young children are aware of the problems animals face due to human behaviour?

J.R.Poulter: Today’s children, as the next generation of politicians, teachers, writers, researchers etc., are the ones who will work to protect our world and its animal inhabitants or not. It is important that children are taught to respect the world they live in and seek to preserve it for their children. If today’s educators and parents fail to pass on this respect by example as well as by teaching, then we can expect more animal species to become extinct as their habitats disappear, their food sources are cleared, water sources poisoned and the animals themselves hunted to oblivion either literally or by the push of so called ‘progress.’

 Do you have any favourite stories that encourage people to act more sustainably in our world?

J.R.Poulter:

“The Trail of the Sandhill Stag” and “Foam Razorback, His Life and Adventures” both by Ernest Thomas Seton – these two books were handed on to me by my grandmother. My mother’s eldest sister gave me a book called “Nanuk” about an Eskimo boy and his family and how they sought to live and work sustainably in their environment.

My grandmother also had a set of books called “People and Places,” which was published before World War I, I believe. It gave wonderful description of the native peoples and their environments and the animals of these then pristine areas.

Thank you both for giving up your time to answer these questions. Maybe we will see another collaboration someday soon. 

Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 12 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in 2017/18. Whilst primarily concentrating on creating digital images for children’s picture books, Muza also specializes in graphic design, designing book covers and book layouts to print ready stage. Currently Muza has illustrated approximately 12 books, with more to be published in 2017 and 2018.

In her spare time she enjoys illustrating in pencil and charcoal, acrylic painting, wildlife photography, sewing, and creating artworks for her colourful and crafty ETSY store.

Qualifications:

  • Diploma of Arts – Visual Communication – 1979
  • Certificate IV in Graphic Design – 2008
  • Diploma of Graphic Design – 2008

muza_profilePhoto_NEW

Jennifer R. Poulter was a senior education officer with Qld Studies Authority, writing assessment packages for schools and editing material, and was Deputy head of John Oxley Library [SLQ] when she left there to have her brood of 5. She has over 30 children’s and education titles published in Australia, UK, Europe and USA with mainstream publishers and is currently collaborating with over 30 illustrators publishing her work under her imprint Word Wings for Kids. She has won major awards, including Children’s Choice, New Zealand. More books are coming. She loves teaching children the fun to be had with words!

Under J.R. McRae, she writes novels (including YA), award winning literary poetry, short stories and creates artwork.

J R Poulter - portrait