Kudos to the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas for today’s Children’s Book Festival. I heard a number of speakers describe it as Melbourne’s ‘first’ Children’s Book Festival, and I’m hoping this means it will become a regular fixture in the calendar for our City of Literature.
Next year it won’t be the morning after my brother’s 40th birthday celebration and we’ll make a proper of a day of it. This time around, we managed a couple of ‘Experimedia’ Children’s Workshops in the State Library of Victoria. This included a talk by illustrator Bob Graham, whose book Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child is one Tash enjoys. I was inspired by the fact that Bob didn’t start writing and illustrating children’s books until he was 40 (I was 3 months shy of my 40th when my own first book was published), and he’s gone on to win multiple awards and build an international following — not that you’d know it from his humble presentation.
We had actually gone to the Experimedia space to see Leigh Hobbs, writer/illustrator of the Horrible Harriet, Old Tom, Fiona the Pig and Mister Chicken, books beloved by all our family. By the time I worked out that there were simultaneous sessions going on, Leigh had already run a session for the kids on how to draw Old Tom. However, Tash managed to sit in on a lesson in how to draw Mister Chicken — and did a pretty good job of it if I do say so [at the risk of sounding like a doting mother] myself.
Following the workshops was a screening of Shaun Tan’s Oscar winning short animation, The Lost Thing — another great reason to attend the Children’s Book Festival when we did. The film was stunning and it was a real treat to see it on a big screen in a public space — me, Roo and Tash, all sprawled on the same beanbag. All three of us loved it.
We headed outside after this to the lawns of the State Library where Coco’s Lunch were performing. We watched and listened while queuing up for the free petting zoo, which in an homage to the Mem Fox/Judy Horacek classic contained a green sheep among its residents, plus a green-faced piglet that had obviously been butting heads with the green sheep. Tash’s favourites were a sweet little kid and a soft white duck.
We would have stayed longer if not for the party the night before, as we didn’t get to the Kids’ Own Publishing Book Cubby — which looked great — nor to any of the book signings or exhibitions. But as I said, I’m hopeful today augurs in the Children’s Book Festival as an annual event.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that my partner Andrew Nette currently holds a Wheeler Centre Fellowship.
This post also appears on my travels with children blog.