Feature Week 27: Children's Book Week
As we approach Children's Book Week in the 27th week of the National Year of Reading, we feature two of our wonderful children's author ambassadors: Deborah Abela and Graeme Base.
Deborah always wanted to be a writer, beginning as a seven year old when she wrote books that she read out loud to see what people thought, and gave away as presents whenever she could.
Deb grew up in Sydney and graduated with a Diploma of Teaching and a Degree in Communications before spending several years writing scripts for children's television. In amongst all this she found time to travel extensively, visiting Africa, America, parts of Asia, Europe and the UK.
In 2001, she began writing her first children's novel and since then has published 17 books for which she has been nominated and won many book awards. Deborah's most notable series is the Max Remy series. Her books are published in several countries, including the United States, Germany and Brazil. She writes books about ghosts and spies, evil creatures and villains, with brave characters that face many challenges.
Deborah's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
Anyone who has anything to do with kids and books knows they are a natural fit. Even if the kids don't know it yet. Our job as adults is to help kids retain that natural love by handing them books with subjects that intrigue them, amuse them and captivate them.
The NYR has taken off with such gusto - librarians all over the country are leading the charge to get people reading. As a kids' author, I've been speaking in schools about books for over 10 years, but this year feels different. The energy from teachers, parents and librarians has combined to form one great mass of bookish obsession and delight.
Fittingly one of my NYR events takes me to Parramatta library on August 15 - only a few suburbs from where I grew up as a kid and where, on picking up my first book, found that I was in love. A love of books can change kids' lives - it is proven over again that when kids have a love of reading, more opportunities open to them for their later career and life choices. Sadly, the reverse is also true, when reading and education are absent from someone's life, the results are often heartbreaking: 82% of Australian Prison inmates are illiterate. (Source: Books In Homes Australia). I am beyond proud to be a part of the juggernaut of committed book lovers helping to spread that love.
What Deborah's working on now...
Desperately, I am trying to finish the third novel in a series called Ghost Club. My nanna always told me ghost stories as a kid, but when I heard Charles Dickens had a nanny who did the same and gave him a life-long love of ghosts, I was intrigued. He was so enamoured by the paranormal, that in 1862 he set up the Ghost Club, to explore the paranormal. The group still meets today in London and investigates haunted sites. I decided it'd be fun to write about a club where the two best ghost catchers are kids - Angeline and Edgar Usher - who, armed with inventive equipment, investigate haunted sites to try and convince pesky ghosts to stop making trouble. It's not scary, though, I'm not very good with scary stuff, it's mostly fun with a bit of ectoplasm and custard thrown in for good measure.
The second book, 'Ghost Club: the haunted school' has just been released. Take a look at the following clip to find out more about the Ghost Club series:
I'm also very excited that my book, 'The remarkable secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen' has been released this month as one of the first Vintage Classic Children's books. Yay!
I am also SOOOOOO thrilled that the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) is currently turning the first book in my Max Remy Superspy series into a play! It'll be performed at ATYP Studio 1 in Sydney in October and I can't wait to cheer my feisty girl hero on!
But for now, I better get back to those pesky ghosts...
- Are you a constant reader or are there times when you don't read at all? Oh I read during every spare minute - waiting for buses or waiting in waiting rooms, I even read in supermarket queues - however, when I'm on deadline for a novel, I read less... my days are filled with my characters and their troubles and so by the time I'm ready for bed, I'm often exhausted by their adventures and just need to sleep.
- What's the book you've read most often?
There are a couple: 'To kill a mockingbird' by Harper Lee and 'One hundred years of solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
- What was the last book you bought from a bookshop?
'The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry' by Rachel Joyce. It's about a very regular man who accidentally embarks on a very remarkable journey.
- Do you have lots of books on the go at once, or just one?
Oh usually a few....there's my adult book club to make sure I read an adult book at least once every few weeks but I mostly read kids' fiction for pleasure and for my review spot I do every fortnight with the lovely Louise Maher, a fellow National Year of Reading ambassador, on ABC radio Canberra.
- Do your ever cheat and read the end of the book first? Never! Although I do have a friend who gets so excited by books she often gives away the ending. It's become quite an endearing quirk amongst our friends...unless you're reading the book she just blew the ending of.
- Do you remember learning to read? I remember desperately wanting to understand the books that were around me. We never had much money as kids but my mum always put aside a little bit of her shopping money each week to buy a book. I would try to work out the words, read shop signs, decipher newspaper headlines. I just couldn't wait to read!
- What's the first book you can remember reading or having read to you?
Probably 'The poky little puppy', a Little Golden Book by Jeanette Sebring Lowrey.
- Did you like to read as a child? Always - I was convinced I had the most colourless childhood in the world and reading helped me escape to somewhere much more exciting.
- Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
'The Lorax' by Dr Seuss and 'Professor Branestawm' by Norman Hunter about a whacky professor who made incredible inventions that always went wrong.
- Do you use your local public library? Yep! I love public libraries - in the last few years they have become rejuvenated and have remade themselves and their place in the community with often very funky results.
- Where's the strangest place you have ever read? Probably the top of a mountain in the Sahara Desert where we climbed in darkness to see the sunrise beside a Polish church. I took a book, of course.
'The Lorax' by Dr Seuss
This book is so crammed with colour and life and characters and the big issues of living that keep the world turning at its best - friendship, sharing, looking out for the environment, the animals and each other. I was so struck by this book that years later, I would get as grumpy as the Lorax and write a book called Grimsdon, about what might happen if we didn't pay enough attention, just as the Lorax once did when he warned the greedy industrialist, Once-ler. This had a profound impact on me as a kid. The very ugliness of what was happening, contrasted against the end, where there is one Truffula seed left and it's up to one small, puny kid to plant it and see if they can't just transform the world back to the way it used to be. Only better. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better, it's not."
'One hundred years of solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
To me, Gabriel Garcia Marquez took language and created a kind of lulling in the sun in the afternoon. Reading this book was like watching a Marc Chagall painting. It lilted and floated and tipped and swirled and I was caught in it like a kite in an updraft. I read it the first time, followed it by a biography of Marquez, and then read it again with an entirely different outlook. So much of who he was and what he was passionate about were in those pages. It has a huge cast of often similarly named characters, which meant I was constantly going back to the beginning to study the family tree, but what a family and what heart! It was epic and grand but mindful of the detail that Borges tells us makes a truly great story.
'The outsider' by Albert Camus
This is a sparsely written, word-perfect piece that had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager. I was intrigued and addicted to the main character, Meursault, an Algerian residing in France, who becomes involved in a crime (several actually) in the first half of the book and defends himself in court during the second. It was hailed as a great work of existentialism, even though Camus didn't consider himself to be one. I was a teenager, I wanted to be detached from the world, move through it like I was inconsequential to everything outside myself. The characters surprised me, infuriated me, and made me cry. There are scenes I still remember as movies in my head. It is not a pretty story with a pretty ending, but I was in its hold to the last page.
- Ambassador for Room to Read
Room to Read, a National Year of Reading partner, aims to bring books and education to the world's most needy on order to break cycles of poverty and create opportunity for kids where previously there were very little, if any. In ten short years they have built 1556 schools, 13152 libraries, published 707 local language books, distributed 11.5 million books and benefited 6.7 million children! Now that is how to change the world.
You might be interested in helping fellow National Year of Reading ambassador Tristan Bancks raise funds to build a Room to Read library in Cambodia.
- Role Model for Books in Homes Australia
I love this one! It was founded by Alan Duff in 1995 after a visit to a New Zealand school where he was horrified to learn that many kids came from bookless homes. Since 2001, they have distributed over 1 million books to more than 110 000 needy kids from 290 schools and communities around Australia. If you would like to be a Role Model...its fun and rewarding and seeing the delight on the kids' faces when they get their free books to take home is magic! Books in Homes are a National Year of Reading partner.
- Ambassador for the Premier's Reading Challenge
This brilliant initiative encourages kids all over the country to read as part of each state premier's challenge. Over 220 000 students completed the NSW challenge in 2011 and this year promises to be even bigger.
- Assistant Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
This group is fun! Composed mostly of published authors and illustrators, SCBWI helps bring published creators and publishers together to share news, tips, information and develop the wonderful craft of making kids' books. SCBWI are another National Year of Reading partner.
- Sydney Story Factory
This is brilliant! Initially created from an idea by US author, Dave Eggers, there are lots of story factories around the world that bring writing experts to disadvantaged kids. It's 'a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, Sydney.' Professional volunteer tutors help kids create their own stories that are then published. I would have loved this as a kid.
- The Smith Family
The Smith Family is another wonderful National Year of Reading partner that is helping kids make the most of their education. One of the most satisfying charities I give to each year is this one...sponsorship of a child helps give those kids the fundamentals to go to school...it can be school bags, shoes or money for an excursion. Their philosophy is based on research that suggests supporting a kid's education 'is one of the most effective ways to help a child break the cycle of disadvantage.' If we can create a stimulating, effective, rewarding primary school experience for kids, we can set them up for a brilliant future.
- To read more about Deborah take a look at her website:
- You might also be interested in taking a look at our other featured ambassador for this week, Graeme Base:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.
Deborah's reading habits
Deborah's favourite reads
I am a big supporter of a few organisations that make a difference to literacy both here and overseas:
Children's Book Week
The Children's Book Council of Australia, a National Year of Reading partner, celebrates the 67th Children's Book Week from 18 - 24 August. This year's theme year is 'Champions Read'. They encourage us all to spend a week celebrating books and Australian authors and illustrators and highlight the importance of reading.
You can find the books shortlisted for the Book of the Year Awards on the CBCA website. The winners will be announced on 17 August.
The Reading Hour
We continue the celebration of reading with The Reading Hour on Saturday 25 August. Encouraging everyone to read and especially sharing books with our children for 10 minutes a day, an hour a week is the message for The Reading Hour.
We know it's not always possible for parents to share a book at bedtime with their children, but if you can manage 10 minutes most nights, your child will have the best chance of becoming a good reader, with all the social and educational benefits that brings.
Take a look at this wonderful video produced by Disney Junior in support of The Reading Hour:
The Reading Hour is for everyone and events for all age groups will be held around Australia on August 25th 2012, and in the weeks before and after. Visit your local library or bookstore to find out what events and activities are taking place, or check our events calendar:
Want more information about The Reading Hour?