Cristy Burne


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Announcement of the winner of the 2011 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award

Announcement of the winner of the 2011 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award

This year’s  Diverse Voices award was presented last night at Seven Stories, the UK’s national centre for children’s books

and…

Helen Limon accepts her prizeIt was won by Helen Limon for Om Shanti, Babe, a story about growing up, family and friendships that the judges described as ‘Fabulous . . . laugh-out-loud funny’.

Enter the 2012 award!

The closing date for the next award is 31st December 2012.

Want to enter in 2012? This is what the judges are looking for…
The judges looked for a strong story that an 8 to 12-year-old would want to read rather than a worthy book that overtly explores social issues. The decision to give the Award to Om Shanti, Babe was unanimous. The panel said: “The story is authentic, the narrative voice rock solid throughout, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.”

More on Om Shanti, Babe
Om Shanti, Babe
is the tale of teenage Cassia, who is forced to drop her preconceived ideas when she joins her mother on a business trip to south India, takes in fair trade and environmental issues alongside Cassia’s struggles to accept her mother’s new Indian partner, her spiky tussles with fashion-mad friend-to-be Priyanka and her crushes on pop star Jonny Gold, and Dev, a boy she meets on a train.

More on the Diverse Voices award
The Award, now in its third year, was founded jointly by Frances Lincoln Limited and Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, in memory of Frances Lincoln (1945-2001) to encourage and promote diversity in children’s fiction. The prize of £1,500 plus the option for Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel is awarded to the best manuscript for eight to 12-year-olds that celebrates diversity in the widest possible sense.

Ongoing success for the award…
To date Janetta has commissioned or published six books by writers who have entered the award: the Takeshita Demons trilogy by Cristy Burne, winner of the inaugural award, Too Much Trouble by Tom Avery, the 2010 winner, and A Hen in the Wardrobe and Chess and Chapattis, the first two titles in the Cinnamon Grove series by Wendy Meddour, who entered the 2009 award.

Paying tribute to the success of the Award, Janetta said:

”The exceptional quality of the winners of the first two awards is a real measure of the success of our Diverse Voices joint venture with Seven Stories. I am proud that the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award is achieving exactly what it set out to do – to discover and encourage new writers of exciting, culturally diverse fiction.”

More about the shortlist
By coincidence, both the winner and the second-placed author in this international award are from Newcastleupon-Tyne (the judges are not given any details about the writers until they have made their decision).

Karon Alderman, who teaches literacy skills to adults, received the Highly Commended award for For Keeps, the tale of a young asylum seeker and her  family.

Australian author Michelle Richardson received a Special Mention (an award which the judges can choose to give to a manuscript that shows great potential but is not ready for publication) for Tek, about a young girl from the Aboriginal Australian Murrinh-Patha community who can communicate with the ngepan, the spirits of the dead.

Meet Helen Limon…
The winning author, Helen Limon, lives in rural Northumberland with her partner, a painter. Her daughter, who is studying tailoring in London, had an influence on the character of Priyanka with her passion for fashion. Helen spent her childhood mostly abroad until she was 10, including four years in Penang, Malaysia, where she learned about life in England from second-hand children’s books.

“Until we came back to England, in the 1970s, I thought most British kids were a cross between The Family from One End Street and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.”

After spending her early adulthood travelling in Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, Helen arrived in the North-East as a student at Newcastle University. She started writing in 2000 when she set up a children’s literacy project in a neglected allotment behind a Metro station in Newcastle. The project turned into a publishing venture for local authors and illustrators, Zed Said. Helen has just finished a PhD in creative writing at Newcastle University.

But where do you get your ideas?
The inspiration for Om Shanti, Babe came from encounters with local people on a 2009 visit to Kerala.

She said: “Talking to the mothers about their lives and their ambitions for their families, and listening to what the children said they wanted, inspired the story and made me conscious of the social and environmental themes that are woven into the book.

“My characters are not the sort of children that get written about much and I lived most of my life not in England, so I do sort of know what it is like to be different inside your head even if you look like everyone else on the outside.”

Launch of Too Much Trouble

From left to right, Helen Limon (2011 winner) Tom Avery (2010 winner – Too Much Trouble was released on the night) and Karon Alderman (2011 runner up)

And a Too Much Trouble party to boot!
The presentation at Seven Stories also celebrated the publication of Tom Avery’s contemporary Oliver Twist story, Too Much Trouble, winner of last year’s Award.

Presenting the Award, John Nicoll, Managing Director of Frances Lincoln, said:

“I’m delighted, once again, that the judges have found such a worthy winner, whose writing both entertains, and helps the young reader to understand the ever more complex society in which they are growing up. Truly this seems like a worthwhile project and one of which Frances would have been proud.”

Accepting the Award, Helen Limon said:

“I am thrilled to have won this award. Om Shanti, Babe was inspired by the families I met in India and the very positive response to the book is a tribute to them. Growing up, making friends and forming loving families across cultures is what my story and Diverse Voices is all about.”

Kate Edwards, chief executive of Seven Stories, added:

“Last year’s Diverse Voices Award winner Too Much Trouble, deserves to be a big hit. It’s a great story that brings the plight of many young victims of crime and exploitation to the fore. I’m delighted that 2011’s winning manuscript is another page-turning adventure, this time set in India. Seven Stories is committed to this prize and our work to promote new storytelling and to celebrate and recognise different cultures and experiences. The strength of our partnership with Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and the enthusiasm of the judges have, once again, made the Award a great success.”

The winner of the Award is chosen by an independent panel of judges. The distinguished panel of judges includes:

  • Trevor Phillips – Chair of The Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Jake Hope – Children’s Librarian for Lancashire Libraries and a freelance consultant
  • Geraldine Brennan – Journalist and former Books Editor at the TES
  • Mary Briggs – Co-Founder of Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books
  • Janetta Otter-Barry – Janetta Otter-Barry Books at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

The Shortlist
The judges discussed a short list of four titles, without knowing anything about the authors. The range of material
impressed them. The decision to give the Award to the winner was unanimous.

The Winner: Om Shanti, Babe by Helen Limon
Synopsis: Cassia joins her mother, who runs a fair trade craft shop, on a buying trip to India, a country that she
mostly knows from her Bollywood dance routines. Troubled by a friendship gone sour at home, and feeling out of
place in a new culture that challenges her assumptions, she reacts badly to her mother’s relationship with an Indian
colleague. As Cassia sheds some of her preconceived ideas, she finds friends where she least expects to and starts to
realise her dream to follow her mother into business.

Highly Commended: For Keeps by Karon Alderman
Synopsis: Benedicta (Ben), her mother and younger sister are asylum seekers from Cameroon. While their
uncertain future and hand-to-mouth existence cast a shadow over Ben’s friendships and fun times at school glee
club and on church outings, she has decided that Newcastle is her home. With her friend Becky, she resolves to
help a bullied schoolfriend, Jaz.

Special Mention: Tek by Michelle Richardson
Synopsis: Tek accompanies her cold and distant father, an expert on Australian Aboriginal culture, to a desert
army base where her gift for communicating with the ngepan (spirits of the dead) surfaces just when it is most
inconvenient. (Michelle lives in Australia. She did not attend the ceremony.)

Enter the 2012 award!
The closing date for the next award is 31st December 2012.


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You’ve heard of the headless horseman? How about the headless horse?

You’ve heard of the headless horseman, right? He’s a famous legend that grew from a character in a story published in America nearly 100 years ago.

But…have you heard of the headless horse?

The headless horse is the favourite method of transport for a Japanese ogre called Mr Yagyo, or Yagyo-san.

yagyousanIntroducing Yagyo-san

Mr Yagyo isn’t just a strange one-eyed creature who likes shorter-than-normal horses…

He’s also a ruthless killer with legs so hairy you could use them to grate cheese. He despises human beings and this hatred keeps a fire burning in his heart all year round.

Beware the spiky soybeanYagyo-san

On Yagyo Day – the day before Setsubun, the beginning of spring – Yagyo-san jumps on his horse and heads out to hunt some tasty humans.

If he sees you, he’ll throw a spiked soybean at you, aiming right for your eyes. (This is interesting because in Japan the next day is Setsubun, when the power of soybeans is reversed; you can protect your entire house from evil spirits like Yagyo-san by throwing soybeans on Setsubun.)

So, how can you survive?

Easy! Legends say that if you spend Yagyo Day lying face down on the ground with a pair of sandals on your head, Yagyo-san will pass you by. So don’t worry…You’re safe with sandals!


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There’s a tanuki in the classroom! Japanese language learning and yokai demons

Shingo the tanuki and the money tree

The Hyogo Centre’s Melissa Luyke with professional actor Shingo Usami in disguise as a tanuki.

Creative language teaching ideas

Today I was at the Hyogo Prefectural Cultural Government Centre as part of a series of workshops organised by Ms Yuko Fujimitsu, Japanese Language Advisor for the Department of Education as part of the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP).

We worked with Year 9 students from three schools (including my own school, Leeming Senior High School!) and spent the entire day in a Japanese environment…

…speaking Japanese, eating Japanese, thinking about Japanese geography and culture.

Yokai wall of fame

Yokai wall of fame

And that’s where I was lucky enough to come in, because a big part of Japan’s culture is its mythology, history and folklore, showcased very nicely in some of Japan’s ghost stories and yokai tales.

Language learning through art, literature and drama

There was a big emphasis on new or different teaching techniques and ideas for introducing ordinary grammar into the classroom.

The day’s activities included:

Tanuki Shingo Usami and presenter Cristy Burne compare bellies

Tanukis love to use their large bellies as drums. I’m using mine to grow a baby, but still, Tanuki Shingo’s belly is bigger!

– watching GeGeGe no Kitaro (perhaps the most famous yokai in the world) fight the awesome gyuuki (or ushi-oni).

– folding and pinning origami leaves onto a money tree (for donation to the Pray for Japan cause),

– language learning through drama (led by actor Shingo Usami), art (using the Art Speaks Japanese language resource kit put out by the Japan Foundation Sydney), and literature (me and some of the Takeshita Demons)

– Japanese story-telling and song-singing

– Lots of practise in listening and speaking Japanese, especially when it came to lunchtime (no polite request for a bento box lunch in Japanese = no bento box lunch!)

It was a great day and we have more schools coming tomorrow…

がんばりまーす!


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10 activities for International Childrens Book Day

Celebrating international childrens books

I am a member of the Childrens Book Council of Australia and recently recieved their terrific February newsletter.

In it was an awesome list of suggestions for ways to celebrate International Childrens Book Day, which is on April 2, the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson.

Here, shamelessly reproduced so you can get inspired with your own ways to celebrate, are their ideas:

Nine activities for International Childrens Book Day

1) read and promote stories by Anderson

2) introduce folk tales from around the world

3) invite parents from other cultures to share their childhood favourites and folk tales

4) suggest that your book club read an overseas childrens book

5) encourage children to write a story about a child from another culture

6) start a pen pal club with children from abroad

7) encourage each class to create a diaorama featuring a folk tale or story from elsewhere

8 ) explore flags, food, clothing, housing and stories from other cultures

9) invite fellow staff members to have a lunch or gathering where they speak for about a minute or so about their favourite childrens book and light a candle for world peace.

If you’re interested in celebrating International Childrens Book Day with other book lovers, check out your local branch of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY): many branches are celebrating with dinners, activities and more.

And idea #10? It’s my own creation: a monster activity involving international mythology and your favourite books

Have fun and stay cool!


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Gather your courage and enter: Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award

THIS PRESS RELEASE WENT OUT THIS WEEK: HAVE YOU READ IT YET?
What are you waiting for??? 🙂

REMINDER OF DEAD LINE   – it is not too late to enter…..

The closing date for the current Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award is Friday 25th February 2011.

“Gather your courage and just do it: this award is the break you’ve been looking for.

Anyone with a secret manuscript in their bottom  drawer or a story brewing in their head should enter the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award. It’s free to enter, you can enter by email, and if you make the shortlist, your writing life will never be the same.”
From Cristy Burne, winner of the inaugural award with Takeshita Demons (selected for Children’s Book Week, Booked Up and January 2011 Blue Peter Book Club title)

“Hello all you budding writers,

Just a year ago I was in your shoes, attempting feverishly to finish that manuscript ready for the big deadline.  The good news is that you still have time.  You still have time to tweak that bit of dialogue, tidy up that plot twist and sharpen that characterisation.

Diverse Voices
gives you the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, have your manuscript read by a host of excellent critics and possibly work with the great team at Frances Lincoln to publish your book.  So don’t give-up, don’t stop now, don’t falter at the final hurdle.

All the very best, hopefully meet you one day!”
From Tom Avery, winner of the 2010 award with Too Much Trouble (publication: June 2011)


Frances Lincoln Limited, the award-winning publisher, and Seven Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books, are delighted with the success to date of the Diverse Voices Award, set up in memory of Frances Lincoln (1945-2001) to encourage and promote diversity in children’s fiction. The prize of £1,500 plus the option for Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books to publish the novel is awarded to the best manuscript for 8-to-12-year-olds that celebrates diversity in the widest possible sense.

“The exceptional quality of the winners of the first two awards is a real measure of the success of our Diverse Voices joint venture with Seven Stories.

And by the time the third winner is announced in June 2011 I will have commissioned or published six books by writers who entered the award: the Takeshita Demons trilogy by Cristy Burne, winner of the inaugural award, Too Much Trouble by Tom Avery, the 2010 winner, and A Hen in the Wardrobe and Chess and Chapattis, the first two titles in the Cinnamon Grove series by Wendy Meddour, who entered the 2009 award.

I am proud that the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Award is achieving exactly what it set out to do – to discover and encourage new writers of exciting, culturally diverse fiction.”
From Janetta Otter-Barry at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

For full details about the award and to download an entry form go to
www.sevenstories.org.uk

Alternatively, contact the Award Co-ordinator, Helena McConnell by email diversevoices@sevenstories.org.uk or helena@sevenstories.org.uk


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The meaning (and luck) of Miku Takeshita’s name

I’m neck-deep in Monster Matsuri after a FABULOUS Children’s Book Week (hello to everyone I met: thanks for being such great audiences!).

So…a short but sweet post on the meaning of Miku’s name (which, incidentally, was originally Aiko, or “love child”…)

Miku can be written using several different kanji:

美空 – Beautiful sky

美久 – Beautiful long-time

未来 – Future

美紅 – Beautiful bright-red

But which did I choose?
Well, the kanji you choose when naming a child can be used to direct the fortunes of that child, so it’s good to choose names that can be written using a lucky number of strokes. For example, the number 4 in Japanese can be pronounced ‘shi’, which also means ‘death’, so 4 is an unlucky number in Japanese (like 13 in Western cultures).

Luckily, none of the kanji combinations for Miku require 4 strokes.

However, it’s not as simple as that. There are all sorts of ways the different strokes can be combined. I’m no expert, but I wanted to do my best to give Miku a lucky name. This was my process:

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her last name only
For Miku, this is Takeshita (竹下), which requires 9 strokes to write. This is not a particularly auspicious number, but life-long luck is not determined by this number alone. Your total fortune can be influenced by the strokes in the rest of your name.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name only
This could be 12 (美久 or 未来), 17 (美空) or 18 (美紅). Fortunately for Miku, 17 and 18 are relatively lucky. Since this value influences Miku’s fortune in early life, I guess she doesn’t really need to have a lucky number here. Let’s face it, if your teacher is a nukekubi demon and your brother has been kidnapped, you’re not really off to an auspicious start.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name and last name
This could be 21(竹下美久 or 竹下未来), 26(竹下美空) or 27(竹下美紅). Here 21 is a lucky number, which bodes well for Miku’s personal relationships.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in the last character of her family name and the first character of her first name
This is probably the most important number, and for Miku could be 12 (下美) or  8 (下未). Since 8 is a lucky number, and since the core of Miku’s fortune comes from this combination of characters, that left me with just one option:

竹下未来

However, even then there are some things to double check:

1) Are all the stroke counts for 竹下未来 either odd or even (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

2) Is the stroke count for her first name (未来) the same as for her last name (竹下) (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

3) Is the stroke count of any of her individual kanjis the same? (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

4) Is there some way Miku could write her name to give it her own special zing?
Yes! YAY!

And so that was it: Takeshita Miku is written 竹下未来 and means “Under-the-bamboo Future”. Which is a perfect name for Miku, since she carries so much hope for her family, and since her future is intertwined with the future of the world as we know it.

Good luck Miku!


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The JET program, budget cuts and Return On Investment

My students meet my sisters on their holiday

Yokozo Japan!
I studied Japanese at high school, but my first trip to Japan was as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, or JET, a huge international exchange program that now has 50,000 alumni around the world. I was a JET in Kawanishi (the town Miku Takeshita and her family come from ;-)).

Mata ne, JET?
Thanks to JET, I had two brilliant years in Japan. However, the chance for other young people to share this experience is under threat: the Japanese government are considering a massive cut to the JET program’s budget, and although this is not surprising, given that  Japan has to tighten its economic belt, it is sad.

Remember, though, that JET began 22 years ago, when seeing a foreigner in Japan was as rare as seeing a sushi train in an Aussie department store.

Now, more than 50,000 young people have worked and lived in Japan as part of the JET program, which means tens of thousands of people carry a warm flame for Japan in their hearts.

Return On Investment: JET the catalyst
Warm flames aside, the Japanese government need to show concrete return on their JET investment, and fair enough too. In economic terms, my time in JET has sparked a whole heap:

– Education: As a JET I worked as an Assistant Language Teacher at the local high school, interacting with Japanese students and teachers, trying kyudo (archery) or chado (tea ceremony) and never quite brave enough to try kendo (you have got to be kidding!).  I encouraged my students to write and perform theatre, to create stories, to talk to each other in a foreign language, and I still keep copies of their work, and photos of our time together (we even performed our theatre at the school Cultural Festival…in English! Woo hoo!). I also worked with the Parent Association, holding English classes for interested parents and hosting our very own quiz. It was great fun!

– Tourism: My family of four visited me in Japan twice, and both times we traveled all over the country. I’ve also returned on a holiday with my husband and continue to encourage everyone I know to spend some time traveling in Japan. (My aunt and uncle were there just last month!)

– Industry: After JET I returned to Japan for a year, working as a technical editor for a Japanese company, contributing directly to the Japanese economy and continuing the good work that JET began.

– Arts: My time on JET directly inspired the creation of Takeshita Demons, a children’s novel that features a Japanese heroine, Japanese culture and traditional Japanese demons, or yokai. Takeshita Demons won the 2009 Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award and has been selected as part of the UK’s highly respected Booked Up program. It will be published in the UK, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and hopefully beyond. Children everywhere are reading Takeshita Demons, learning more about Japan, and sharing JET’s vision for an international, multicultural world.

And remember: it’s 100% humidity

Multiculturalism: While working as a JET I assumed I was the only gaijin or foreigner living in Kawanishi – I never saw another in the street or in the shops, although other gaijin did live in neighbouring towns. With my white skin and unruly hair, I stuck out. I also did things differently: ate strange things at strange times, laughed at odd moments, marveled at ordinary things. And all of this is potent medicine for cultural understanding and cultural exchange. Now, thanks to JET, Japan is a much more international place than it was.

Internet shopping: My house is decorated with Japanese art and pottery and furniture, my bookshelves are covered in Japanese dictionaries and literature, my pantry is full of dashi and miso and mirin…

…and my head is full of Japanese memories and culture and warmth.

The influence of JET extends far beyond the classroom, acting to promote Japan and the Japanese culture whereever JET alumni are. In my case, I could never have written Takeshita Demons without my JET experiences.

So what to do?

In these lean times and hard times, it may be that Japan needs the JET alumni more than ever. That said, perhaps JET has done its job? There are thousands of ex-JETs spreading their enthusiasm for Japan globally, and Japan is a much more multicultural place than when JET first began. So what to do?

I respect the need to budget and perhaps the JET program is a more sensible target than health or science. But, whatever happens, the good work of JET should be celebrated and recognised and hopefully, in times more flush with cash, continued.