Malaysian Book Tour 2019

About a year ago, I was booked to go and visit a number of International Schools in Malaysia…and finally the day came to fly out. It was stifling hot the day I arrived in George Town Penang…with even the local Malaysians complaining about the heat.

But that wasn’t going to stop me from venturing out for dinner to try the local and international cuisines of the Penang Food Festival with the host teachers.

My first stop the next day, was meeting the wonderful teachers and students at St Christopher’s International Primary School. I arrived during World Book Day week. The students were encouraged to dress up as their favourite book character. Even the Principal of the school dressed up, wearing a Gangsta Granny costume from David Walliams’ book.

As I entered the school, I was greeted with walls of creative photographs of ‘Extreme Readers’. One of the things this school did to encourage reading in and outside of school, was to run a reading and photo competition. Each student was asked to take a photo of themselves reading…and the most creative photo would win. There were photos of students reading underwater, reading with turtles, reading on top of a skyscraper in China, reading while surfing in Hawaii, reading upside down and even reading on the toilet. This was such a great way to inspire students to read.

I started my day with storytelling to the Nursery and Reception students. We told stories with dress-ups, puppets and games, and I even taught them to laugh like a Kookaburra! We talked about the importance of reading and building a 'word bank' in your head with the grade 1 and 2 students. We discussed where ideas come from and workshopped ideas with the Grade 3s and 4s. We talked character development with the Grade 5s and introduced some advanced writing techniques with the grade 6 students. To conclude my two days at St Christopher’s International School, I ran a PD session for the teachers about inspiring the reluctant reader. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this school, before I moved onto the next school to do it all over again.

I then headed north to Uplands- the Penang International School and spent another two days with the students across all the year levels, including another teacher’s PD session. Again, I was made to feel so welcome at this school by the faculty and the students. It was an honour to spend time inspiring students with a love of literature in Malaysia.

Children are the same no matter where they live or where they grow up. Children need books! We all need books. It’s been said, ‘Reading is like oxygen’.

Books are universal. They are for living, lessons and truths. Books can feed us for a lifetime and fill our souls. Books can make us want to live. They are passed between generations. They never get old. They can heal and free us.

The benefits to reading are endless. A 2018 National Literacy Trust study found that children who enjoyed reading were significantly less likely to have mental health problems.

Even Confucius said, “NO MATTER HOW BUSY YOU MAY THINK YOU ARE, YOU MUST FIND TIME FOR READING, OR SURRENDER YOURSELF TO SELF-CHOSEN IGNORANCE.”

And yet, in a world dazzled by the latest gadgets and mesmerized by the internet and video games, the humble book seems like the most ordinary thing that could be—until you learn to look closer … and closer … and closer … and you’re suddenly in a world that only you can imagine.


CBCA Book of Year Awards 2019 Short List Announcement @ SLV

On Tuesday 26th March, I was invited to attend the Victorian Branch CBCA Shortlist Announcements at the State Library of Victoria. SORRY DAY had been long listed, with a number of other Australian titles, back in February. The State Library quickly filled with anxious authors, illustrators and publishers eager to hear the outcome of this year’s CBCA shortlist.

As I sat with fellow authors and good friends, Pat Guest, Sarah Epstein, Caz Goodwin and Annie White, I was beyond delighted to see SORRY DAY shortlisted for the Eve Pownall Award.

It was also a thrill and an honour to meet the amazing team at Story Box Library. They are an amazing team and do incredible work to inspire children with a love for literature. If you haven't seen the SORRY DAY story reading they produced with Storm Boy actor, Trevor Jamieson and former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, check it out here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m32cvvJ0tqE

Book of the Year Awards announcement will be held at Federation Square in Melbourne on 16th August, 2019

Celebrating GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES in Sydney

I was met with a little drizzle as I landed in Sydney Tuesday afternoon, but that wasn’t going to dampen the book celebration at Lost in Books Fairfield later that evening.

Illustrator Christina Huynh, had done a wonderful job of setting up for the event prior to my arrival. And so we enjoyed a late Vietnamese lunch, together with her family in Cabramatta, before heading back to the bookshop for an interview with SBS News.

The air was filled with excitement as guests began arriving just before 6pm. Award winning author Susanne Gervay warmly welcomed everyone and opened the proceedings. The President of the Vietnamese Community of Australia, Paul Huy Nguyen, shared a little about the plight of the Vietnamese refugees to Australia in the early 1980s and the contributions they have made to Australia over the years.

Christina and I then took to the stage and talked about our experience of creating this book, followed by a reading and a book signing.

One of the beautiful things that has struck me about this book is the emotional response from adult Vietnamese refugees towards this book. I am overwhelmed to hear how much 'Grandma's Treasured Shoes' has touched so many. It is a story for Australian Vietnamese children to understand their heritage. It is a story for all Australian children to understand more about Australia’s history and it is a story for all people to encourage a sense of empathy as we all imagine what it is like to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”.

Celebrating GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES at the Canberra Book Launch

My flight landed early Saturday morning, ahead of a beautiful autumn’s day in Canberra. As I arrived at the National Library of Australia, plans were well underway for official book launch of ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’.

‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’ is a celebration of those who have ‘come from across the seas, to share our boundless plains’ as our national anthem puts it.

ABC Journalist, Alex Sloan, started the proceedings with a wonderful introduction to Australia’s refugee history, along with her insight into the book and finally declaring the book officially launched.

Christina and I then shared our own personal journey of writing and illustrating this story.

As I was reflecting one day on the old saying- ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes’, I had the idea of using actual shoes as a motif to convey a refugee’s life story and how that gave opportunity for a new beginning in Australia. And so, I was totally blown away one day, when Christina sent me a photo of an actual child’s shoe, she based her illustrations on. As an author, we can have grand ideas and use our imagination to create stories, but to actually see that there was a shoe, a treasured shoe, which brought a young child, all the way from Vietnam to Australia to start a new life, was so special.

The afternoon concluded with a book reading, craft activities for the children and a book signing.

It was a privilege to collaborate with Christina on this book. And a big shout out and thank you to my dear friend, Australian author and illustrator, Tania McCartney who orchestrated our collaboration. Not only are Christina’s illustrations stunning, but they bring an authenticity from her own family’s history and her own story, to this book.

It was an absolute honour, to create another special book with my publisher Susan and the team at the National Library of Australia.

Every person’s culture is equally worthy of celebration, respect, recognition and inclusion, and it’s only as we widen our own worldview and we seek to understand others first, that we can really champion well-rounded, open minded young people for the future and truly be understood ourselves.

*Stay tuned for the Sydney celebration of ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’ in April!

GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES - BOOK LAUNCH

Saturday 23rd March at 2pm at the National Library of Australia.

Come along and celebrate Harmony Day - this is a free event for the whole family with an interactive book reading and plenty of craft activities for the kids.

Tuesday 2nd April at 6pm at LOST IN BOOKS -2/40 Harris St Fairfield

Come along and hear from the President of the Vietnamese Community of Australia as well as other special guests, for a book reading and official launch

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The Inspiration Behind GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES

This collage of different refugees' shoes was the picture that initially inspired me to write GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES. I can only imagine that each shoe would have a different tale of danger, hardship, sacrifice and the cost of freedom to tell.

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*All these photographs were taken by Michael Jensen as part of the collection of Photographs of Vietnamese Boat People, Darwin, November 1977.

At the fall of Saigon in 1975, many children and families had no choice but to escape the effects of the war. This resulted in the biggest intake of refugees in Australia’s history and an international response and forced changes to migration policies across the world. I’m sure many refugees lost their shoes on the journey or left their shoes behind on the boat at the point of rescue. However, as I tried to ‘put myself in their shoes’, I could only imagine that the ‘shoes that brought them here’ would become one of the most treasured pair of shoes ever owned.

*This are the actual shoe that inspired Christina Huynh and she based her illustrations from, as well as some artefacts that her family members brought with them on the boats from Vietnam to Australia.

GRANDMA’S TREASURED SHOES is available in stores next month.

GRANDMA'S TREASURED SHOES....advance copies have arrived

IN STORES MARCH 2019

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Dear Coral, I have been lucky enough to receive an advance copy. I took it home last night to read to my stepdaughter, and I found myself in tears by the end of it….It’s a beautiful story…I was overwhelmed imagining the experiences of not just the grandma in the book but all who make such journeys. Thank you so much for giving me that—I hope that everyone who reads it has the same rush of empathy.

Speech Pathology Australia- 2018 Book of the Year Awards

On Friday 9th November 2018, a group of Australian authors and illustrators, a few hundred students from Richmond West Primary School, as well as invited guests and staff from Speech Pathology Australia, all gathered together at the State Library of Victoria, to hear the winners announced for the 2018 Speech Pathology Australia Best Book for Language and Literacy Development.

I was thrilled to hear that SORRY DAY was awarded the Best Book for Language and Literacy Development Indigenous Children 2018, and thank Speech Pathology Australia for this honour. I also want to shout out a huge thank you to my wonderful publisher at the National Library of Australia, for believing in this book and giving Dub Leffler and I the opportunity to share this incredibly important part of Australia’s past and present, with this next generation of young Australians; for it is only in acknowledging past wrongs, that forgiveness is facilitated, healing can begin and reconciliation can be achieved.

Book Week 2018- Wrap Up!

5 Days, 8 Schools, 20 Sessions, 1,000kms, 2,000 students....and all in 1 fabulous week of championing and celebrating children's literature!

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From Coburg to Croydon, Kyabram to Kew, Essendon to Eltham! I had a wonderful week of sharing books, facilitating writing workshops, watching book parades and re-enacting stories with dress-up shenanigans in many schools across Victoria.

Books are for living, lessons and truths. Books can feed us for a lifetime and fill our souls. Books can make us want to live. They are passed between generations. They never get old.

But in a world dazzled by the latest gadgets and mesmerized by the internet and video games, the humble book seems like the most ordinary thing that could be—until you learn to look closer … and closer … and closer … and all of a sudden.... you FIND YOUR TREASURE.

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School Visits, Book Launch & National Sorry Day Celebrated in our Nation's Capital

Visiting Canberra in the autumn promised to be stunning, and this year it did not disappoint. A magnificent display of yellows and reds lined each street, with warm sun-filled afternoons to delight. Having arrived in Canberra on Thursday afternoon, my dear friend (and amazing author/illustrator) Nicky Johnston and I headed straight to Dymocks Canberra to meet up with the incredibly talented Dub Leffler, and illustrator of SORRY DAY, for a book signing. We then popped into the National Library of Australia, where planning was well underway for the official launch of SORRY DAY on Saturday. 

Dub and I had the privilege of visiting two Primary schools in Canberra on Friday; Holy Trinity Curtin and Forrest Primary Schools, and shared SORRY DAY with hundred of receptive students.

On Saturday, Australia stopped to celebrate National Sorry Day, and we began our day at the Woden Library. Dub and I shared stories with the Us Mob Writers at a Meet the Creators Event, before heading to the National Library of Australia for the official launch of SORRY DAY. We were only a kilometre away from where Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave the National Apology a decade earlier.

Director-General of the National Library, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, chaired the proceedings with Brother Tyrone giving a wonderful Welcome Country. The National Library's first Indigenous Curator, Sister Rebecca, shared a very emotional testimony of her connection to the Stolen Generations and what the book meant to her and her family.

Dr Anita Heiss officially launched and OPENED the book, before Dub and I took the podium to speak. To conclude the ceremony, Dub and I read the book to the huge crowd gathered; reading each paralleled story; I read the story of Maggie and her mother gathering on the lawns of Parliament House to watch the National Apology, while Dub read the story of the group of Aboriginal children who were taken from their families on that fateful day. 

We finished the event, and the celebration of National Sorry Day, with a book signing and a delicious afternoon tea together. I am incredibly grateful to the National Library of Australia, and in particular Susan Hall, my publisher, for believing in this important book and for organising the momentous launch of this book. It was also wonderful to catch up with creative friends at the launch, and during our time in Canberra, including the exceptionally talented author/illustrator Tania McCartney. And I even had the wonderful privilege of meeting Christina Huynh, the illustrator of a new book I've written, coming out in 2019.

Launching SORRY DAY in our nation's capital was a thrill. It is my hope that SORRY DAY helps children understand our history and the damaging injustice done, in a way that is sensitive and appropriate, but also to remind us all, that in that one powerful word – SORRY- there is hope for a way forward for every Australian- that what had been, would never be again.

The Meet...Don Bradman Book Launch Wrap-up

A large crowd of young cricketing fans gathered in the MCC Library at the mighty MCG on a classic rainy Melbourne’s day, being the perfect backdrop for the official launch of the new children’s picture book, Meet…Don Bradman.

Channel Nine’s Livinia Nixon warmly welcomed everyone, giving a brief history of Don’s sporting achievements and his relationship to this great stadium; where he scored more Test centuries than anywhere else in the world.

I donned a Baggy Green and gave everyone a first look at Meet…Don Bradman, with a cricket stump and golf ball in hand (you’ve got to read the story to know why).

The children had a sporting time creating their own ‘paper’ cricket balls, ‘balloon’ Baggy Greens and cricket bats.

And as we sat, surrounded by such amazing cricket history, everyone cheered as Meet…Don Bradman scored a six and was officially launched.

Meet…Don Bradman is available in stores from 18 April 2016.