Riverton-Library-School-HolidaysTerm 3 is nearly over!

It’s time to celebrate, so come on down to the Riverton Library on Thursday 9 October to talk dreadful writing and spooky stories.

We’re aiming to have loads of fun, including a bit of theatre, some games and some writing.

This will be a fab morning and it’s totally recommended if you or your 8-years-plus beloved want to have some fun.

You can also check out Clare Stace’s delightfully dramatic storytelling (2 October) and Sanny Ang’s awesome storygami (7 October).

All events are FREE but bookings are essential, so pick up that phone: 9231 0944



When I’m not writing children’s fiction, I’m writing popular science, and right now I’m thrilled to be working with SciTech as a consultant editor, collaborating with the ScienceNetwork WA news team and content editor to increase our readership and spread the word of Western Australian science.

This is a mission I’m close to: to paraphrase Todd Sampson, saying you’re not interested in science is like saying you’re not interested in life.

And to borrow the words of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, science ‘is not something that can be turned on or off when we feel like it’. It needs long-term commitment and funding.

So we need to be celebrating and supporting our scientific achievements, and writing them into the spotlight is part of this. I don’t think science can fix all the world’s ills, but it’s certainly worth our best shot.

Before I took on this role, I wrote four incredibly diverse stories for SNWA, showcasing just a slice of what makes WA science so great. I’ve posted links and summaries below. If you’d like to read more great WA science, check out the SNWA website or subscribe to our weekly news update. See you there!

Ouvea parrot

‘Avian AIDS’ virus poses threat to endangered New Caledonian parrots

Summary: The local people of New Caledonia have worked hard to protect their native Ouvea parrot, improving its status from critically endangered to threatened. Now a young Aussie researcher has found that rainbow lorikeets introduced to the parrots’ island are infected with avian circovirus, an incurable parrot disease that could crossover into the Ouvea parrot population. Read the article…

Dung_beetle_CSIRO_DAFWAFrench beetles tackle Great Southern cattle dung

Summary: There’s a new player in the battle of the bushflies vs dung beetles, and it’s French and rather horny. In this article I look at Onthophagus vacca, an imported species of beetle introduced to a Kojonup cattle farm as part of National Science Week. Read the article…

climatology_WestPacificWarmPool_CNASAEarthObservatorySkipjack tuna fare better under high-res model

Summary: For years our scientists have done the best job they can with the tools available. Now, using meatier supercomputers and higher-resolution ocean models, forecasts indicate climate in the 2060s may not be as devastating to tuna populations as lower-res models previously indicated. Read the article…

cryptosporidium_oocystsGene sequencing refines threatening parasite list

Summary: How do you tell the difference between a tiny, shiny ball that could infect our entire tap-water-drinking population, and a tiny, shiny ball that can’t infect humans at all? The oocysts of parasite Cryptosporidium may look the same under the microscope, but now a Murdoch University professor is using genetic sequencing to tell them apart. Read the article…



freelance puppy on stepsWe recently adopted a rescue puppy from Wish, and for the first time since I was a kid, I’m sharing my life with a pooch. It’s terrific.

I expected the joy of seeing my kids learn to love and care for a dog.

What I didn’t expect is that this floppy-eared creature could teach me so much about my job.

So here it is.

Ten things my puppy taught me about freelance writing:

1) Enthusiasm is everything.
Sherpa loves to meet new people, she loves to eat, she loves to walk, she loves to greet. She loves to jump, she loves to snuggle, she loves to wake up in the morning and she can’t wait to dive in to the day. How bloody refreshing is that! And what a great example. I just look at her tail, and approach my working day in the same way.

2) Walking keeps you healthy and helps with ideas.
Let’s face it: good writers spend most of the day sitting on their bum, lifting fingers and cups of tea. This is essential to success, but so is brain-clearing exercise and blood-flow. I walk Sherpa a couple of times a day and my mind has never felt so clear.

3) Dog parks are a great place to meet new friends and hear new stories.
If you ever want instant access to an entirely new and friendly group of people, take your dog to the local dog park. At the dog park I meet and chat with people I’d never ordinarily strike up a conversation with. And I hear stories – fabulous stories – that spark my imagination and make me happy.

freelance puppy asleep4) When you need a break, it’s okay to roll over and stretch in the sun.
You can’t work and work and work and expect to produce great results all day long. Sometimes just 30 seconds outside, with my hands held high in the air, is enough to refill my supply of energy and creativity. Sherpa prefers half-an-hour, and that’s okay too.

5) Pee breaks are a great opportunity to stretch-and-sip.
Sherpa takes every chance for a stretch. She’s reminded me that stretching is one of life’s unsung pleasures, and pee breaks – before and after – present an important stretching opportunity. While you’re at it, take a sip of something hydrating. It’s good for you, and before you know it, it’ll be time for another pee break.

6) Poo stinks.
There’s no arguing here. No one likes it, and no one looks pretty doing it, but it has to be done. So, if there’s poo in your day, get it over with. Pick it up, seal it off, throw it away. Then stick your tail in the air and get on with the rest of your glorious day.

7) Run for the ball, bring it back: repetition has its place.
I adore variety, creativity and freedom. But repetition can also have its place. Paying bills, writing invoices, formatting pages… Sometimes, and especially when I’m tired, repetition can be comforting and even healing. It can even be fun. Ball, ball. Bill, bill.

8) Boundaries and rules are important.freelance puppy
You’re allowed on the red couch, but not the brown couch. You can dig in the sandpit, but not in the garden. Rules are important because they build healthy habits. And healthy freelancing habits lead to a healthier, wealthier freelance writers. So set yourself some rules for what you’re going to achieve in your day: finish this project before answering those emails; make these phone calls before having that coffee. And stick to the rules.

9) Life on the lead isn’t all bad.
A freelance dog can walk to the park whenever it wants. It can eat whenever it likes and whatever it can hunt. It can even wear its pajamas to work. And it loves this. But life on the lead isn’t so bad either. Reliable food, people by your side, some predictability in your day… In my career I’ve been lucky enough to have a balance of both, and I think this mix really works.

10) Love is unconditional.
Sherpa doesn’t care how many times my manuscripts are sent back for editing, or how many pitches are rejected in a row. She cares about ear tickling, tummy rubbing and long walks on the beach. And isn’t that what life is all about? So even if I’m all tied in knots about something in my day, when Sherpa comes to settle at my feet, I just reach down to tickle her soft too-much-skin puppy head. And voila! A moment of peace. How magic is that!

So hooray for dogs and hooray for the beautiful people who rescue and foster them.

And remember: dogs are not just for freelancing….although they do help, a lot!


How my over-edited novel looks: I know it's in there somewhere.

How my over-edited novel looks: I know the original is in there somewhere.

Is your script missing something? Does your story meander? Or maybe you can’t seem to find your rhythm? Join the club!

CPR for your script: form and structure

I’ve been working on the same *insert-swearword-here* manuscript for nearly three years.

My draft has been through a zillion carnations and reincarnations. It’s been called The Cockroach Book, The Half-witch Wars, Exploits, Ranger and now Short-changed. It’s been edited to within an inch of its pathetic over-edited life: in fact, there are no longer any cockroaches — or indeed half-witches — anywhere to be seen in the manuscript.

The result is a lot like an Egyptian mummy: so much band-aid, you can’t see what’s underneath.

Help! Where’s my novel?

Enter the Australian Writer’s Guild, with another of their super-useful workshops. This seminar is on structuring a feature film, and it’s run by UCLA graduate Barbara Connell, now pursuing a PhD at Murdoch’s School of Media, Communication and Culture. I know a feature film isn’t a novel, but writing for kids is a whole lot of action, dialogue and fast-paced fun. Feature film, anyone?

I sign up for Barbara’s seminar because deep down I am hoping she might have a secret potion or magic word or infallible technique that can unwrap my mummy and reveal the novel inside. She does.

And the secret is…

“Writing is not about manuals. It’s about manual labour. The only thing that’s going to get you there is sitting down and doing it.”

Argh! I know this. But ouch, it hurts to hear.

Barbara admits craft and technique have their place alongside hard work. Over the morning she runs through the script structures used by a dozen different screenwriting textbooks, and there’s something useful in each one.

But, says Barbara, there’s no need to go overboard.

“For me it can sometimes be too much,” says Barbara. “It can do your head in.”

I quite like the science of all that theory, but if your story is drowning in formulae, Barbara says go back to basics: watch and analyse movies like the one you want to make, and ask yourself the big questions:

Three-step CPR: Grab, maintain, reward

A great film is basically “a good story, well-told, with heart and substance,” says Barbara. It’s that simple. So, if your story needs urgent medical attention, start with its three vital signs:

Grab: Is it a good story? Is it worth telling? Is it a story someone wants to hear?

Maintain: Do you have the craft and technique to keep the audience in their seats?

Reward: Does your story have heart? Does it have substance? Does it satisfy the audience?

Barbara says nailing the reward is often the hardest. “How do you want your audience to feel at the end of the film?” she asks. “Form and structure is about architecting the story so the audience has an emotional experience.”

And that’s my problem!

I’ve dissected the heart right out of my story. I’ve created a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, and it’s wandering the page — functioning quite nicely, thank-you-very-much — but it’s missing a few essential organs.

Perhaps it would be more sensible to bury this thing deep in a pyramid somewhere, and begin on a new creation. I say no!

Breathe, damn you! Breathe!

I’ve had enough of half-finished projects. I’m going to bandage and sew and cut and glue until this thing works.

Watch out world: this story lives!


Photo credit to scrappy annie

Cristy Burne: the culture of tea

Lush liquids: the culture of tea (in CRAVINGS magazine)

When I write, I drink tea. When I need comfort, I drink tea. When I’m catching up with friends, I drink tea.

And I’m not alone.

If you’re a fellow lover-of-tea, or you want to know…

  • what teas to serve with fried eggs, or
  • how to store your tea, or
  • what to serve when Prince Charles drops in…

…Here’s a story I did a few years back for CRAVINGS magazine. Make yourself a cuppa, and enjoy!


Few beverages have had greater influence on our history than tea. Tea has long been a symbol of friendship, cherished for its fine flavour, and cemented in our daily ritual as a respite from cold, fatigue, and ill health.

Five generations of tea

Tea has such a complex social history that connoisseur Hilary White has collected a library of more than a hundred books on the subject. “My family has been in tea for five generations,” he explains. “Three of my four great-grandfathers came to Ceylon to grow tea…one from New Zealand, one from England, and one from India. They married locals and stayed on for a hundred years.”

Hilary now owns Elmstock Tea, the largest tea wholesaler in Australia. He is also part-owner of the Leaf specialist tea houses in Cottesloe and Mount Lawley. “I’ve been in tea for 27 years,” he says. “It’s still a very genteel trade. Everything’s done with a handshake.”

Elmstock’s Balcatta warehouse is stacked floor to ceiling with some of the world’s finest teas; its contents turn over every month. “We supply about 32 million cups of tea a year,” Hilary explains.


Maidens in muslin gloves

As we chat, Hilary prepares water in a pot for two. He walks the length of his laden display cabinet, then selects a white tea: Silver Needles. “White tea is made from only the buds, hand-separated from the leaves. Traditionally it was picked only in the morning, by young maidens wearing muslin gloves. They cut the buds with golden scissors into muslin bags.”

He carefully scoops two teaspoons of shrivelled silver-gray tea into the glass pot. “This sells for around $400 a kilo, but you get 400 cups. In ancient China, only the nobility were allowed to drink white tea.”

The kettle whistles to its end: he takes it up and begins to pour. “Now watch them dance,” he says, and steaming water gurgles into the pot. The tea needles whirl and jump with the currents. “It’s almost as if they’re alive,” he says with wonder, and it is. Each needle seems to move of its own accord, stretching into the warmth of the water, lapping up its heat.

Tea for two

We chat while we wait for the tea to brew. There’s a strong sense of ceremony, but it’s welcoming and comfortable, like I’m in my own kitchen.

When the liquor is tinged with gold, we are ready. Hilary pours into two half-sized glass cups and hands me the one closest. “Cheers,” he says. And we breathe in the velvet smell, warming our hands through the glass. And then we drink.

The tea tastes pure, light, as if I’m cleansing my soul as I sip. “It’s a very subtle brew,” smiles Hilary. “You could drink this all day.” He sips again and exhales with approval. On finishing his first cup he stretches back in his chair. “How very civilised,” he beams, a picture of satisfaction. We pour a second cup and continue to talk.

brewing-teaThe Beatles, Bin Laden, Mick Jaggar

“Tea crosses boundaries,” Hilary explains. “Who drinks tea? The Beatles, Prince Charles, Hilary Clinton, Osama Bin Laden…Our stockman drink it. Mick Jaggar has it in his dressing room. Tea is a cultural thing. It’s international. An Indian villager in Darjeeling will drink tea from an iron mug. That same tea will be drunk at the Savoy, served on fine china.”

“You don’t have to drink the same tea that your granny drank. I drink a Chinese tea called Lapsang Souchong…it’s smoked over pine logs…you only use half a teaspoon. The nearest thing in flavour is Laphroaig Single Malt Islay Scotch.” (I take a whiff of the Lapsang leaves and am nearly knocked out. It’s a rich, pungent smell that reminds me of campfires and blows to the head).

A royal drop

Apparently Prince Charles’ favourite brew is, naturally, a white tea. “It’s called White Peony. When he came in 2005 there was this mad flap to find it, and of course we had it. We knew he was coming two months before it was even announced.”

It’s no surprise that Elmstock had the Prince’s tea: they stock 120 different blends, some traditional, some more curious. Their caramel black tea comes with chunks of caramel, the Pina Colada green tea is a symphony of pineapple and coconut (“just like the drink”), and one whiff of the quince-flavoured tea has my appetite racing.

Then there’s cinnamon orange, choc mint, chai masala… The colours and smells are sensational: there are reds, rich purples, blues, pinks and bright yellows. “There are different teas for different times of day and different occasions,” says Hilary. “Not all teas are the same. Just like wines, each region’s tea has a different characteristic. When a tea sales catalogue comes out it might cover 2000 teas.”

Matching food and tea

While coffee is usually served alone or at the completion of a meal, tea has for centuries been integral to fine dining. In the same way as certain wines complement particular foods, different teas can be selected to enhance your gastronomic experience.

Fried foods, eggs, bacon, smoked meats: Ceylon Pekoe, English Breakfast, Dimbula, Irish Breakfast, Flowery Pekoe, Assam, Darjeeling, Jasmine.

Breads, cheese, jams: Ceylon Pekoe, English Breakfast, Flowery Pekoe, Dimbula, Assam, Darjeeling, Jasmine.

Light savoury meals and brunch: Ceylon Pekoe, Dimbula, Assam, Darjeeling, Green, Oolongs, Sencha.

Meats and game: Earl Grey, Jasmine, Assam, Lapsang Souchong.

Poultry: Darjeeling, Oolong, Jasmine, Lapsang Souchong.

Fish: Darjeeling, Oolongs, Earl Grey, Green, Sencha.

Spicy Foods: Ceylon Pekoe, Dimbula, Darjeeling, Oolong, Green, Jasmine.

Strong Cheeses: Earl Grey, Green, Lapsang Souchong.

After a meal: Darjeeling, Green Tea, Oolong.

Tea time: Any tea! All teas!


Hilary White shares his tips on great tea:


  • “The enemies of tea are dampness, light, and age. If you ever see tea served out of glass jars, be careful. In seven days that tea becomes like straw…it loses all its subtleties. Use a ceramic jar and keep it airtight.”
  • “Tea absorbs anything in the area. If you put vegetables next to some tea, that tea will taste of vegetables the next day. It just soaks up moisture and odours – that’s one of the characteristics of tea.”


  • “We recommend rain water or spring water…boil it once, then tip it out. And always use freshly boiled water”

Choice of tea

  • “75% of all tea is now drunk in tea bags. But we don’t want to encourage that.”
  • “Always go for quality. It tastes better and you use less, because there’s less rubbish in it…less stalk.”
  • “The price difference between my tea and supermarket tea is probably ten per cent. A cup of supermarket tea might cost you 5c, so my tea costs you 6c. You don’t pay much more for a quality experience, and you’ll notice the difference.”

Brewing time

  • “One teaspoon of black tea for three minutes, maximum. Half a teaspoon of green tea, for one minute only. A lot of people don’t like green tea because they brew it for too long. And they use too much.”
  • “Longer brewing does not equal a better taste: letting the tea ‘stew’ releases more tannins.”

Caffeine in tea

  • “A cup of black tea has one third the caffeine of a coffee, green tea has half of that again. White tea has virtually no caffeine; infusions have no caffeine at all.”
  • “If you have a problem with caffeine a good trick to is to brew a pot of tea as normal, then tip it out within the first minute. When you brew the second infusion it will have much less caffeine. Most of the caffeine is extracted in that first minute.”

More tidbits on tea…

  • A teaspoon is around 20% larger than a coffee spoon
  • Tea is an infusion of the leaves of Camellia Sinensis plant in boiling water. Herbal teas aren’t strictly teas because they aren’t made from this plant.
  • Tea contains zero calories and can aid metabolism and digestion.
  • The English habit of pouring hot tea onto cold milk was developed to protect their delicate porcelain from shattering due to the heat.
  • Until 1784 the tax on tea was 119%, enough to encourage a thriving smuggling trade, complete with underground tunnels, clandestine encounters and cloak-and-dagger antics. Most of this excitement ended when William Pitt the Younger reduced the tax to 12.5%.
  • On April 25, 2007, Harrods held an auction of fine and rare teas, continuing an annual tradition dating back to 1679. Guest including tea connoisseurs from Russia, China and the Middle East competed to purchase limited edition tea lots from some of the world’s premium tea estates.

Photo credit: chumstock

Photo credit: Micke Nordin


Amanda HiggsAfter graduating film school, Amanda Higgs followed her own advice: she worked hard, and she stuck to her passion. “It took ten years to get my first production credit,” she says. “If I’d known it would take that long, I probably would’ve quit.”

But Amanda doesn’t strike me as a quitter.

Her number-one message is work hard: “Keep writing, all the time. Even if you have nothing to do. Just do something. Do whatever you can.”

I’m at Amanda’s screenwriting workshop thanks to ScreenWest and the Australian Writer’s Guild. The room is full of writers and producers, it’s scattered with lolly bowls and coffee cups. This could be intimidating, but Amanda makes it feel like we’re chatting over a cuppa. She’s candid and natural, the very opposite of unapproachable.

Now the independent producer of loads of great Aussie TV, including The Secret Life of Us and The Time of Our Lives, Amanda has been executive producer and head of drama at the ABC, script editor for The Slap, and chief-tea-maker-coffee-fetcher for many years in between.

Getting your start in the TV industry**

Breaking into TV is highly competitive. “It’s about building relationships, developing ideas and getting industry experience,” Amanda says. “You need experience and creativity.”

Getting that experience can be a challenge, she admits. “Script editing is a great way to get a foot in the door. All that experience makes you better at your own show, honing it, simplifying it, making it clear.”

Another great step, she says, is to find your way into a writer’s room, that legendary spot where a team of writers hide away to nut out new plot arcs, characters and storylines.

Pitching for TV

As part of the workshop, Amanda gives everyone a chance to pitch their TV idea, giving us professional feedback on the spot. What an opportunity!

I learn from watching and listening: a successful pitch needs to be absorbing, succinct, and informative. It needs to answer lots of questions without sacrificing passion, spirit and tone.


Does your pitch answer these 10 questions?

  1. What’s the story? Story should be the jewel in your pitch’s crown. Present the story up front, and make it catchy: “As concise as possible,” says Amanda. “As clear as possible.”
  2. What is your show is about? “Make sure you have something to say,” says Amanda. Why make this story? Why now?
  3. What’ll be happening? Who are the characters? Be specific. The more specific your concept is, the clearer your idea will be.
  4. Why should I care what happens? The stakes in your story must be high. How will you keep upping the ante?
  5. What is your show’s tone? “Tone is one of my favourite words,” says Amanda. “What will I feel when I watch?” This tone should shine through in your pitch, she says, especially for a comedy.
  6. Where is your show’s home? Home is where the heart of your show is. It might be a workplace, an apartment block, a café, a family home…
  7. What is your show’s audience? “You absolutely have to think about the audience,” says Amanda. She suggests checking out the ratings of similar shows (using websites like TVtonight.com.au) to work out what audiences are responding to what shows, and whether you can see similar audiences responding to your show.
  8. What similar shows are out there? Feel free to compare your show to other shows, but not to hugely expensive blockbuster shows that your free-to-air network will never be able to make.
  9. Who is your team? Having an experienced and respected writer or producer on your team can help to open doors. “Every project needs just one champion,” says Amanda. No experienced member on your team? It’s time to get out there and meet people.
  10. What’s the logline? Develop a one-sentence logline that summarises your concept. “Every scene should be about that logline. That’s very hard to do.” (Amanda’s favourite logline? “His fame was their fortune,” from Entourage.)

I’d love to see Takeshita Demons on the screen, or to work on an entirely new franchise (anyone need a screenwriter on their team?), so all this advice is incredibly useful.

Struggles, mistakes, disappointments

Just two years before The Secret Life of Us found its feet (and went on to become the Aussie drama most watched by 16-39 year olds), Amanda was fired from her position as script editor at Water Rats. “That was great,” she says, deadly serious. “It was a really well-paying job, it was really comfortable.”

I would have crawled under a stone and cried myself to sleep; Amanda grabbed the opportunity.

How refreshing is that!

Comfort doesn’t always go well with creativity. The struggles, mistakes and disappointments are all part of the learning journey (a fact I wrestle with every day).

“You have to be smart and you have to be strategic,” says Amanda. “You have to play the long game.

“The greatest gift as a writer is that you get your show made, and you get to see what doesn’t work. You need feedback, you need criticism. The business is about practising your craft.”

How brave!

I walk away from the day invigorated and full of ideas.

And ready to fail to the best of my ability. It’s one more step on the road to success, right?


**Do you live in Western Australia? Check out ScreenWest’s amazing Tele-navigator program, offered again this year. There’s no info on the web just yet, but subscribe to their newsletter to find out how to apply.

ErnieBond-300x254Meeting Dr Ernie Bond feels like meeting an old friend. He’s super-friendly, down-to-earth, and shares a passionate love of children’s literature.

“Ooo! Ooo!” he says. “This is not referred to in the text at all! This is not in the text!”

Ernie is an expert in visual literacy: the art of reading images, and he’s in Fremantle to speak at the Children’s Literature Centre for SCWBI about teaching kids (and adults) how to better appreciate and understand illustrated texts.

A picture book paints a thousand words

“Ninety-nine percent of what we’re talking about is never written in the book,” says Ernie. “Kids can get a lot of meaning from the images, and a lot of times they get a different meaning from the one adults would get.”

Ernie draws attention to the excess of white space surrounding a black character in a story from the Civil War.

“That’s a pretty powerful metaphor,” he says. “Are kids going to be able to understand that?” He throws his hands up in the air. “Of course they are!”

How to read a picture book

I must admit: the first (and second, and tenth) time I read a picture book, much of the meaning probably passes me by.

But when I take a minute to really look at the pictures, a whole new meaning can emerge…

Allow yourself to wonder….WHY?

Why do illustrators choose to portray each image in the way they have? Why did they make the choices they made?

Ernie shares some beautiful illustrations, from books created all over the world, and he points out things to look for when deconstructing picture books and reading images.

I’ve listed these things below, and added a few more ideas. I hope you find them useful.

12 things to look at when reading images:

1) Use of colour
Where is the colour? How is it used? Where are the warm colours? The cold colours? Where is there less colour? No colour? What emotion do the colours evoke?

2) Direction
Western readers move from left to right on the page. How does direction change the way you view an image? How does something moving from left-to-right create a different feeling from something moving right-to-left? What way is rain falling? How is the wind blowing? Which way are characters moving across the page?

3) Panels
Are the illustration divided into panels? If so, what effect does this have? What size are the different panels and why might this be? How is time passing? How is space delineated?

4) Frames
Is an illustration framed? What effect does this have? Is it isolating? Is it protecting? Are we looking through a window? At a photo? How does delineation add to the meaning of the image?

5) White space
Where is the white space? How much of the page is white space? How are elements of the illustration positioned to interact with white space? What might be the effect of this?

Ever notice how the white space retreats as Max's wild imagination takes flight?

Where the Wild Things Are: Ever notice how the white space retreats as Max’s imagination takes flight?

6) Appearance of text on the page
Where is the text? How is it distributed across the page? What fonts are used? What size are the different words? How does the visual presentation of the text add to the meaning of the words?

7) Perspective
What is emphasised? Where does your eye naturally fall? What path does your eye follow? Are we looking up at something? Or looking down on something? How might this add to the meaning of the image?

8) Style and media
What style is the illustration? Is it a cartoon? A sketch? What media has been used to create it? Is it water colour? A collage? How do these choices influence the tone and feel of the book? Does genre influence style? What about vice-versa?

9) Implied action
What action is implied in the illustration? What might happen next? How does the implied action extend the narrative? How has the illustrator used technique – like blurry lines, brushstrokes, angles and perspective – to demonstrate tension and action?

10) Exaggeration
Are any parts of the image exaggerated? What effect does this have? Why might the illustrator want to draw attention to particular parts of the image?

11) Retellings
Is the story a retelling of another story? How might aspects of one version apply to the other version? What are the two stories really about? What is the relationship between the two stories?

12) End papers
What secrets are held in the illustrations on the inside cover? The jacket flap? How do these illustrations add meaning to the story?


Ernie’s three-step approach to visual literacy

As the session draws to a close, Ernie gives a three-step approach to working on visual literacy.

I really like these questions and can see this working in the classroom, and on our family couch.

Pick one double-page spread and brainstorm:

1)      What’s on the page?

2)      What might be going on?

3)      What do you want to know about this story, now that you’ve looked at this page?


Watch for the wolf…

As a final example, Ernie points to an illustration from a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. At first I can’t see it, but then I look again: the entire landscape resembles the head of a sleeping wolf.

“The teacher who discovers that,” says Ernie, “is going to get kids so much more excited about literature.”

The session runs over, but not for long.

Don’t you have a plane to catch tonight?

“Oh yeah! That’s right!” Ernie grins. Not even the promise of 36 hours on a plane can dampen his enthusiasm.

And me? I can’t wait to read more picture books!


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