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.
Graeme Base was born in England, but moved to Australia with his family as a child, settling in Melbourne. Like Deborah Abela, this week's other featured author, Graeme began writing when he was very young. His first book, 'A book of monsters' completed at age eight, contained many drawings. This has become a trademark in his career as an author and illustrator of beautiful children's books.
Upon finishing school, Graeme's artistic bent lead him to complete a Diploma of Art in graphic design. For a short while he used these skills working in the advertising industry, before joining a band, Rikitikitavi, as a keyboard player.
While in the band, his first book 'My Grandma Lived in Gooligulch' was published. Since then, Graeme has published 13 children's books, several of which have been shortlisted for, and won many children's book awards.
Graeme's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
Some people get into reading very young - for others it happens much later. I was very slow to come to books but when it finally 'clicked' for me there was no turning back. I hope that the National Year of Reading will help people find the book that 'clicks' for them - it is a passport to a wider world.
Graeme has published 13 colourful picture books, with amazingly detailed and creative depictions of wildlife. His work is full of hidden images that present a challenge for his readers to discover.
His first book, 'My Grandma lived in Gooligulch' is centered around a poem about life in the outback for an unusual Grandma who has a collection of incredible wildlife friends.
'Animalia' continues to be Graeme's most popular book, more than twenty years after it was first released. It is an alphabet book with each page containing a different letter, a phrase and images to match the letter.
Graeme's most recent book 'The jewel fish of Karnak' is set in Egypt. This wonderful clip gives us an insight into the development of the story.
Watch out for Graeme's next book 'Little elephants' that is due for release in October.
Graeme has also released fun Apps for two his books, 'Animalia' and 'The Waterhole'.
For more information about the Apps, take a look at his website.
Graeme's reading habits
- When do you read?
I read every night before I go to sleep. At the moment I am really enjoying 'New Scientist' which is a weekly magazine to which I subscribe; articles about how the universe began, where life came from, whether we are likely to ever know if we are alone in the universe and so on. I only understand a fraction of the technical stuff but it is exhilarating to get a glimpse of how some peoples' minds work.
- Do you have a favourite genre? Probably science-fiction. My brother is a great fan of Sci-fi and passes on to me the books he thinks are particularly good.
- What's the book you've read most often?
'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R.Tolkien - I first read it when I was about 12 (decades before the films came out) and it blew me away. I have probably read it ten times since.
- Which book is by your bedside right now?
'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville. I've actually finished it but it's still there (under the latest New Scientist).
- Do you have lots of books on the go at once, or just one? I can only deal with one book at a time. It's the same with my own work - I can only work on one piece of art at a time. I suppose I have a one-track mind.
- Do your ever cheat and read the end of the book first? Never! Who would do such a thing?! That'd be like eating ice-cream before pizza.
- Do you skim the boring bits or read every word? Nope. I read everything - and I mean everything. I just about proof-read the books I get into, noting punctuation choices, the frequency of particular words, even the style of sentence construction. (I got into grammar as a kid!) As a result I am an incredibly slow reader.
- At what point do you give up on a book?
There is only one book I have not been able to finish: James Joyce's classic 'Ulysses'. People say it is one of the greatest books ever written. I have tried three times, each time getting a little further into it but it has beaten me each time. I am determined to try again - just so I know why it has such a reputation.
- What's the first book you can remember reading or having read to you?
I mostly remember my parents playing classical music to me and my brother as we went to sleep, but I know they read to us as well. It was probably classic English fare: 'Noddy', 'Peter Rabbit', 'The Wind in the Willows' or perhaps 'The House at Pooh Corner'. It might also have been 'When We Were Very Young' by A.A.Milne. (I grew up in England until I was eight.)
- Was your family a reading family?
When my own kids were young we read as a family all the time: we did the entire Harry Potter series aloud, sitting around the fire. We carried this tradition right through until the kids were teenagers. Everyone still really enjoyed it: Storytelling is a sharing thing...
- Did you like to read as a child? I wasn't a really great reader. I was more into music. It was not until I found 'The Lord of the Rings' that I really understood how engrossing and wonderful reading could be.
- Estimate the number of books you own. Thousands.
- Where do you read? In bed! Nothing better than reading then suddenly realising you can't keep your eyes open a second longer. In an instant you are asleep. Wonderful.
- Where's the strangest place you have ever read? In a hot air balloon. I was reading a map to try and figure out what part of Melbourne we were flying over.
- What author or illustrator has most influenced you?
An English illustrator called Kit Williams did a book called 'Masquerade' that was a huge inspiration to me - it showed me that picture books didn't have to be simple but could be challenging and sophisticated and complex and multi-layered... all the things I like!
Graeme's favourite reads
'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R.R.Tolkien.
The first book to show me that while TV and movie screens may be getting bigger and bigger, the screen inside you head will always be bigger still.
'A brief history of time' by Stephen Hawking.
A book that tries to set out in simple terms how everything that we see around us (i.e., the universe) came into being. I have read it three times: the first time I finished and realised I had understood practically none of it. The next time I stopped after every chapter and tried to make sense of what I had read. The third time I stopped after every paragraph. I still think I only scratched the surface of what this incredible man has to offer.
'The God delusion' by Richard Dawkins.
This is a book that makes a very convincing case for not worrying so much about things like heaven and hell but concentrating on the world in which we find ourselves and making the very best of it we can. Exhilarating reading.
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?
Want to know more?
- To read more about Graeme take a look at his website:
- You might also be interested in taking a look at our other featured ambassador for this week, Deborah Abela:
- 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.