Keep them coming!

There are two more weeks until the end of our kookaburra competition (scroll down for details). Tannya and I are so pleased that students and classes are creating kookaburra magic. There are so many talented young people out there sharing their work.

Submitted artwork has been stunning, and I nearly fell off my chair laughing at some of the new ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ verses.

There are prizes for illustrators, prizes for writers, and a prize for the class that submits the most entries! So many ways to win.

Keep those entries rolling in. We love your work.

To inspire you further, here are some wonderful words. All are from NSW indigenous languages (although spellings vary depending on who wrote them down). All are onomatopoeic.

Cocopara. Cucuburra. Gogera. Gogobera. Guguburra. Kukuburra. Cuck’unda. Akkaburra. Arrangangg. Gugurrgaagaa. Gurgara. Karkungoon. Koaka. Ngungana. Tarakook. Wowook.

Kookaburras, cane toads and more

Kookaburra entries are coming in. Yesterday’s poetry offerings had me rolling about on the floor! Just the perfect thing for a wintry lockdown Wednesday. Keep them coming!

My biography of Aussie Stem Star Georgia has hit bookshops around the country. It’s so exciting to see this book in print. Georgia had no idea what she wanted to be until after she started university and even then she nearly dropped out to become a cabaret dancer! But her childhood was full of exploration in the Aussie bush in the Blue Mountains, both with her family and solo. Her love of animals and her passion to see them in their natural environment led to a career as an reptile biologist and explorer. Her PhD involved teaching yellow-spotted monitors NOT to eat cane toads! But that’s not all … you should read about how she travelled through Pacific Islands in a demountable kayak.

Look out for the other two books in this new series from Wild Dingo Press

Dianne Wolfer has written about Munjed al Muderis, and Cristy has written about Fiona Wood. Such amazing writers and such wonderful subjects.

Science has never been more important than it is now. Look out for these titles in all good bookshops.

Kookaburra Competition

**IT’S COMPETITION TIME!**

ATTENTION students, parents, teachers, librarians. It’s Kookaburra Competition time! Clear your desks and sharpen your tools. We have a writing competition AND an illustration competition. Submissions are invited from students for either or both competitions! Four entries (two writing, two illustration) will win a copy of ‘Kookaburra’. But wait, there’s more …

The class that submits the most entries will win a book prize pack from Walker Books Australia.

Competition opens 17 August. Competition closes 25 September.

Results will be posted here and on social media. Winners will receive their prize via Aust Post.

WRITING COMPETITION:

Many will be familiar with the rhyme/song, ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’. This popular song was written by Marion Sinclair in 1932. She wrote it for a competition and won! The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s the original and one of the popular extra verses.

Kookaburra (the original)

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

And here’s a well-known extra verse NOT written by Marion Sinclair

Kookaburra sits on electric wire

jumping up and down his pants on fire

Ouch, kookaburra, ouch kookaburra

Hot your pants must be!

We’d like you to write a new verse for this song. Extra points for basing it on any page in ‘Kookaburra’.

Here’s an example for you:

Kookaburra sits in the tall gum tree,

eating all the spiders she can see.

Crunch, kookaburra! Munch, kookaburra!

Eat them all for me.

ILLUSTRATION COMPETITION

Download Tannya’s outline of a kookaburra. Make it simple, make it fancy. Make it beautiful! Use pencils, paints, collage or a mix of all of these to show us how much you love kookaburras. When you’re done, take a photo and email it to Tannya.

Where to send entries:

Send writing entries to Claire at clairesaxby@optusnet.com.au

Send illustration entries to Tannya at harricks@iinet.net.au

PLEASE NOTE: Include the following in your entry submission:

Your first name, your year level and the name of your school.

  1. Permission for us to post your entry on social media (yes or no)
  2. Permission for us to post your first name with your entry (yes or no)
  3. Permission for us to post the name of your school (yes or no)

*** You will be eligible for a prize, even if you say no to all these. We’d just like to share your wonderfulness. ***

Bring on the kookaburras. Kook-kook-kook! Kak-kak-kak!

Haywire shortlisted

Well, as if having a new book (Kookaburra) release isn’t enough wonderfulness at this tricky time, Wednesday 5 August brought its own special magic. Around the middle of the day, when Victoria was waiting for the daily new infection numbers, the NSW Premier’s History Award shortlists were announced.

And Haywire was there! Shortlisted for the Young People’s History Prize, with two other wonderful books. Visit here for more details and for the judges’ reports.

While you take a look and a read, I’ll be dancing wildly around my house, and possibly my back yard … maybe around the lemon tree in my front yard too!

Thanks Clare Hallifax for loving Tom and Max and their stories. Thanks Omnibus/Scholastic for publishing this book.

Hello Kookaburra!

Welcome!

I am joined today by the wonderful Tannya Harricks. August 1 is release day for our new Walker Books Australia Nature Storybook picture book collaboration, Kookaburra. We are thrilled to add this story to the Nature Storybook series, which celebrates Australia’s diverse landscape and wildlife.

Kookaburras are well-known to many, or most, Australians by their distinctive call. But there’s so much more to these amazing birds beyond their (fabulous) vocalisations. And that is what we hope to offer with ‘Kookaburra’. We invite you into their world, ask you to look and listen, and get to know kookaburras a little more deeply.

**COMPETITION**

To celebrate Kookaburra, we’re going to be having a competition on this blog! On Monday 17 August, we will ask readers and students, teachers and librarians to become kookaburras!

Okay, maybe not.

We will, however post an outline for you to download and make as kookaburra-y as you can, using whatever art medium you prefer. There will also be a writing activity (which could potentially evolve into a performing opportunity!).  

Entries are encouraged from individuals and from classrooms.

The entries we love best (two art, two writing) will win a copy of our book, Kookaburra.

But wait, there’s more.

The class contributing the most entries will win a book pack from Walker Books. 

Help us fill the blog, the world, with fabulous kookaburras.

Meanwhile, we’re off to practice our kooka calls …

Claire and Tannya

Kookaburra Flies

I wrote the first complete draft of Kookaburra in late 2017, but not before I had delved deep into kookaburra physical, social, environmental information.

I learned about their amazing monocular and binocular vision.

I learned that females are just a little heavier than males, which is related to the energy required to produce eggs.

I learned that adolescent kookas can be quite clumsy in a nest.

I learned the reason fledgling kooka feathers remain sheathed until the last possible moment.

None of that makes it explicitly into this dual narrative, narrative non fiction picture book. But I need to know all of this to before I can begin to write. These facts support my story as surely as foundations stop houses falling down. Invisible but essential.

photo Barb Wilkins

Tannya Harricks has again taken my words and added her special palette of magic to give life and colour to Kookaburra. Her work sings.

Kookaburra is a new title in the Nature Storybook series from Walker Books Australia. I am ever grateful to Walker for helping me share our wonderful Australian animals with readers around the world.

The first sighting of the actual book is always very exciting. In book evolution terms, nearly three years is not so very long, but it does feel it.

Welcome, Kookaburra. (cue kooka-song)

Release date 1 August 2020

Stories are everywhere

We went to the beach today, for tomorrow we lock down again for six weeks. Point Cook Coastal Reserve has a long shallow beach front that stretches for many kilometres. The sky was blue, the tide was low, the seagulls were dancing in the water margins.

Wait, what?

Yup, the seagulls were dancing. Advancing to the very margins of water/sand and doing a quick two-step patterpatterpatter, then pouncing on whatever they disturbed. If the numbers there and the squawking is anything to go by, it was the equivalent of an easter egg hunt. They were exuberant!

But that’s not the story I started to tell …

Further along the beach we wandered from the sand to the gardens of the Point Cook Homestead. This was a beach house for the Chirnsides of Werribee Mansion. It would have been so much cooler in summer to be right there on the beach. We wandered around the garden and outside the house and other buildings. There we encountered a grandfather and his grandson.

Grandfather had lived in the area all his life. His grandson had clearly met this man before, and was calming sitting waiting for him to finish his tale, his chatter. It took a while, so after a few minutes I wandered over to the boy.

‘There’re some shoes in the tree,’ he told me.

So there were. I asked him who he thought they belonged to, but that was too big a question so I started again.

‘How old was the owner of the shoes?’

At first he shrugged. Then I guesstimated with my fingers and set them close to his shoes.

‘Mine are bigger,’ he said.

‘A bit,’ I agreed. ‘How old are you?’

‘Six.’

‘Do you think the owner might have been five?’

He nodded enthusiastically. ‘Yes.’

And so began our storymaking. We decided that the boy’s shoes had become wet while playing at the beach and his teacher had hung them in a tree to dry while they lunched at a nearby table. They had then forgotten them when they left.

Story done.

But then, as grandfather kept chatting, we investigated some other storylines. Could they have been blown into the tree? Could they have been there for fifty years? We examined each scenario in detail. There would have had to have been a hurricane to blow the shoes so high and that was unlikely. The style of shoe suggested they were less than fifty years old, but the wear patterns suggested they weren’t brand new. We agreed that the fading colours of the uppers could be misleading.

We then started to wonder at a set of gates that stood alone in the middle of the grass. We found the road that used to lead to the gate, and another that now bypassed it. We decided that perhaps it was a horse paddock for the horses that then slept in the stables nearby.

Then grandfather called him and he was gone. Apparently grandfather brings him to a nearby forest too – just beyond the homestead.

A forest! That’s where we’ll be heading next time.

Aussie Stem Stars – TA-DA!

How do you catch a star and pin it down?

Or rather, pin HER down.

That’s been my challenge for this recent project with Wild Dingo Press in a new series called Aussie STEM Stars. Georgia Ward-Fear is a wildlife warrior, a reptile biologist, conservation ecologist, a goanna wrangler, a traveller, a conservationist, an adventurer, an educator, a scientist, a Superstar of STEM (the integrated study of science, technology, engineering and maths).

Georgia lives in Tasmania, works in the Kimberley, has family in NSW and Queensland, speaks at conferences around the world. It was never possible to know just where she might be when she read my emails, or answered a phonecall. It may be true that her mother used to call her Mistress Mayhem, and that the name may still fit …

Georgia’s story is one of three titles in this new series from Wild Dingo Press. Dianne Wolfer has written the story of Munjed Al Muderis, surgical inventor. Cristy Burne tells Fiona Wood’s story. Hop on over to Cristy’s and to Dianne’s website for more about these talented writers. Each title offers the opportunity to get to know a scientist, including how they came to be leaders in their respective worlds. All three are set for release on Sep 1.

Georgia’s PhD involved teaching goannas to avoid eating cane toads. But you don’t just wake up one morning as a child and decide that you’re going to try to save goannas from toxic toads. How did she get there? What was she like as a child? Who helped her along the way? Why did she make the decisions she did? Did she get everything right always?

The Aussie STEM Stars series is written for 10- 13 year olds. It does show young people some potential pathways into STEM careers by detailing the journeys of three inspiring scientists. But first and foremost, each story is intended to be a great read about fascinating individuals. Settle down and dive in. Why not collect all three?

Out September 1, 2020.