2018: A Fun-Filled Year of Lions and Bears.

 

Looking back over the year I am touched by the recognition of how many children and creatives I have had the opportunity of meeting, and sharing experiences of our love of story and books.

It is an honour to walk together with children into the world of imagination. A world where there are vast possibilities that potentially transform. Surely that helps to give us hope for our future.

The empathy created in the minds of these young readers is paramount in our society where individual needs appear to dominate.

It has also been an enormous honour to work alongside such brilliant creative minds. My editors Davina Bell and Clair Hume spring to mind immediately, but no less important are all the writing buddies, the community of Kidlit creators, our SCBWI community, WriteLinks, the tirelessly hard-working bookshop owners, teachers and child care workers, who share the passion of nurturing young minds.

My family always wish to stay private from my social media presence, but they have to be acknowledged for putting up with me suddenly shouting, ‘I’ve just thought of a fantastic idea for a new picture book! What do you think about this..!’

So to everyone out there with a heart illuminated by the glow of words on the page and the inner-life of our characters, I wish you all a joyous and peaceful new year.

 

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Why I use puppetry in my storytelling.

Storytelling and puppetry are almost magical for children. There is a tangible focus of attention when a puppet appears or when the page of a book is turned.

 

Children are in a unique phase of life where they can enter the realm of imagination with ease. Paint a picture, describe a scene, and suddenly they are right there with you. Puppets allow imaginative and logical thought to exist simultaneously and I believe this has enormous benefits on children’s creative development.

What is it about puppets that bring the magic of storytelling to life? When my bear puppet is moving and responding, (with each swish of fur as she nods in agreement) it is easy for children to believe she is alive. However at the same time, they know she is not. Often I am asked the question, ‘Is she real?’ I usually respond with,

‘She is a puppet, but sometimes she thinks she is real.’

Children can see she is ‘real’ in the sense that the puppet actually exists, however it is the power of their imaginations that allow them to believe she has a personality, emotions and a life force of her own. This is key to creativity. Children experience the power of their imaginations making something inanimate, come to life. I believe this can have a hugely positive flow-on effect throughout their life. If children are allowed to believe that their visions can manifest, they will feel empowered to create, whether it be putting a story down on paper, imagining a new scientific theory, or designing a new kitchen stool. As storytellers, we are fueling and empowering imaginations.

When I was little, I was forever being told that my huge creative plans were too difficult, not possible, too grand. However what my mum did not realise, was that her actions were painting the opposite picture. At every point she would be creating, designing and making, whether it be the dress she wanted for a function, the garden she designed, or the 40-meter bunting for the regatta. I constantly experienced the power of imagination and creativity becoming tangible.

Reverence is also crucial to the experience of storytelling with puppets. I treat my puppets with a similar care and respect that I would show to a real animal, stroking their foreheads softly and placing them gently on the ground. Why is this important? Reverence creates the atmosphere of respect. I am showing the children that creative time is valuable. I experience the puppets as if they were ‘real,’ and this gives the children permission to enter their imaginative world right by my side. In a world where practically and logic hold such a dominating presence, I believe there is great value in adults allowing children to fully experience their natural propensity for imaginative play. Furthermore, adults and children alike, are often swept away by the pure joy of the experience.

               

 

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The Inspiring, Insightful and Entertaining Janeen Brian.

Janeen Brian’s enthusiasm for children’s literature is contagious. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Janeen at the Noosa Library, as part of the First 5 Forever program.image-2

The large crowd of children were engrossed with her fun-filled story, “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur.” Together the children got to, “sniff and snuff about… shake about the place… tap… stamp,” and slide in the “mud!” The parents were delighted that all this excitement happened without any of the children getting dirty at all!

image-1I was particularly fascinated to learn about the illustrations for, “I’m A Dirty Dinosaur.” The wonderfully talented Ann James had in fact, used actual mud to paint the mud scenes. The effects she has created have quite a textural beauty with leaf prints, brush and line work, scratch reveal and the irresistibly fun splatter technique.

Janeen went on to describe how in her following book, “I’m a Hungry Dinosaur,” she once spotted a curious child testing if the sprinkles and chocolate overlaid in the book were actually edible.image

While the children engaged in activities, Janeen talked further about her career as a writer and her passion for child development. As a young child she remembers with great sorrow the lack of books available to her. She recalled crying at the conclusion of, “Ping The Duck,” as she feared it would be the last book ever read to her as a young child.

It is this innate longing children have for stories, and the multitude of benefits that flow from them, that has spawned the First 5 Forever program. This program recognises the developmental benefits towards self-esteem, communication, learning preparedness, imagination, and bonding that children derive from having books and stories read to them – particularly in their most receptive first five years.

Janeen’s book, “I’m a Dirty Dinosaur,” has been chosen as one of the books in this program, as well as winning the accolade of Speech Pathology Book of the Year in 2014.

Janeen spoke of her life experiences that led her to her love of rhyme, rhythm, and meter. She spoke of the wonderfully rewarding moment when the rhythm, pulse, resonance and pattern of a piece is absolutely right.image-1

Janeen recalled how in her most recent novel, “Yong, The Journey of an Unworthy Son,” she urgently rang her publisher for a last minute edit when she decided the word, “he,” simply had to be removed from a sentence.

So a big thank you to Janeen Brian for her beautiful, rhyming, rollicking, and rhythmic words, that delight the young, and the young of heart.

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