The opening and welcome was by author, Phil Cummings, who not only shared with us tales of his childhood, growing up in rural South Australia. He also serenaded us with his guitar, singing his song, Take me Back. The song spoke of red dust, and the smell of rain, before it starts to storm. It made me so homesick for my hometown of Kalgoorlie. He told stories of catching tadpoles in his local dam, swimming in the creak when it rained. These are stories of my childhood. And it made me think, just how universal stories like this are, how timeless. While I have never read Danny Allen was Here and Take it Easy, Danny Allen¸(Mr Cumming’s children’s books), I defiantly plan on it. This year, the man who wrote I was only Nineteen turned Mr Cummings books into a suit of songs for the Adelaide Festival, some of which were performed by the Adelaide Children’s choir (?) at the opening. They were amazing!
Also anther note, the Official Welcome by the President of the Children’s Book Council was ended with a quote from openly gay children’s author, Maurice Sendak “let the wild times begin!”
Alison Lester is Australia’s Children’s Laureate, and presented a number of times, about her experience working with children in remote communities. She goes out, and helps children create a picture book. I think this is particularly relevant to me, as most of the work she does is with Indigenous children. She showed us some of the picture books she had written with children, which was very amusing. A lot of the books mentioned things that are very unique to the bush, things such as dingos howling, swimming in the floodwaters and hunting with your family. Things I used to do. Many of the books she helps the children write are also printed in the local languages, as in many Indigenous communities, English is not the first language.
On a side note, Lester wrote one of my favourite children’s book, Our Farm. Unfortunately, she had to leave before I could get my copy signed, however a lovely woman (whose name I missed) will be seeing her at another event soon, and offered to take my book with her ad get it signed then!
Indigenous Writings: Our World
– Dorothy Davey and Jacqueline Hunter
It was fascinating to see Davey and Hunter present. While they may not have been the most natural of public speakers, it was rather refreshing just to see a slideshow of the Indigenous Bardi community of One Arm Point, in the Kimberly. They wrote the book Our World, while working at the local community school. It was originally written in Bardi language, and it was interesting to note that Davy (a female elder) complained that translating it into English for mainstream publishing was “hard work”. They are working on another book, this time a picture book, which is to be translated into multiple Indigenous languages. Also, their LOTE teachers at the school teaches English, and Bardi language if the first language for most kids.
The book was developed from One Arm Point Remote Community School Culture Program. This Culture Program involves various activities, relating to the local history and culture. The program has been running for four years, and was created at the request of the community elders. It is interesting to note that in a community where school attendance is an issue, the Culture Program has dramatically increased attendance.
Other awesome things I learnt today!
– Author and illustrator Oliver Jeffers was born in Western Australia, in Perth Hedland
– Engaging Indigenous kids in their local culture can significantly increase attendance!
– Book shops are dangerous when they authors are signing nearby.
– You can never have too many books, no matter how empty your wallet is getting.