Creating Books With Kids - Jackie French

Creating Books with Kids

Two wonderful books appeared on my desk this week. Both are written  and researched by kids, guided by adults. The first is Finnley’s Great Escape (See below) and the second is The home of Umbarra: - A Bermagui River and Wallaga Lake story. The “Protect Our Future - Protect Our River” book initiative commenced in 2011. This is the fifth book in the series.

Bermagui Public School students explored the Bermagui River and Wallaga Lake catchment with cultural heritage experts, environmental specialists and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to study the catchment, natural resources and Aboriginal heritage.

In the words of the book:

'The students have written this book to promote the unique aspects of the catchmentincluding the Aboriginal cultural values that are integral to it. This book is a unique and valuable educational resource that will benefit all who read it.

One day the future of the region’s catchments will be in the hands of the next generation. After reading this book with your children, we hope that you will agree the future is looking brighter.

In Aboriginal culture there can be many stories that relate to the same place and may be interpreted in different ways. The publisher understands that all stories are significant and this diversity is respected. The stories published in this book do not necessarily represent the views of Bermagui Public School and South East Local Land Services.

And it is beautiful, superb research, wonderfully put together, with the love of the area shining through.

Finnley’s Great Escape is a collaboration between Queensland natural resource management group Condamine Alliance, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and 13 young people who helped write and illustrate the book. It is full of colour and beauty, but like Umburra, the students have looked at and understood the world they live in, and written about it’s problems, this time as a story of a fish, Finnley.

I am wary of publishing books by kids, unless they are good enough to stand on their own and be accepted by a publisher. If a child wanted to be a surgeon you wouldn’t expect them to remove an appendix. You’d encourage them to wait and learn till they have the experience and skills. It is the same with writing. Paying to have a child’s book published can undermine their confidence later, when their work needs to stand on its own merits.

But collaborate works like these are different. Each of the young authors knows that their work is superb because it’s been done with others. They also know it IS superb, and that they can now do it again and go on to greater insights and achievements. They have learned to work, and look and understand together.

Both books are wonderful. If you love our inland rivers, or the south cost of NSW, both will give you happiness and insight. And for me, enormous admiration for those who guided the kids in writing these books.

Jackie French

Information about the books:

Finnley’s Great Escape (Condamine Alliance)
PB RRP $15.00
ISBN 9780992432409
Also available as an ebook at Amazon

Finnley lives in a beautiful home where the water is clean, the trees are shady and there is plenty of food for everyone. But one day, Finnley and his friends are swept away to a smelly, muddy, toxic shallow far from their home. Soon they realise they are not alone and must find a way to escape what lurks in the murky water. Who will save them? And will they ever return to their beautiful home again?

Finnley’s Great Escape is a story about an Australian smelt called Finnley and his native fish friends. One day they are swept away from their beautiful, clean home to a toxic shallow that is infested with one of the world’s worst pest fish, tilapia.

The book has been a collaboration between Queensland natural resource management group Condamine Alliance, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and 13 young people who helped write and illustrate the book. The book’s beautiful hand painted illustrations and clever storyline carry an important message about the threat of tilapia to the Murray-Darling Basin.

It was produced as part of the Northern Basin Tilapia Exclusion Strategy which is funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and has been officially endorsed by Jackie French, the Australian National Children’s Laureate for 2014-15 and author of popular children’s book The Diary of a Wombat.

Written and illustrated by Alli Purtill, Corey Lenton, Jessica Larkin, Josiah Richards, Kelsey Francis, Kirrily Pauli, Paige Joyce, Peter Von Stieglitz, Rani Deane, Rebecca Sherrie, Rhianna Conaghan, Samantha Lenton and William Butler under the direction of Emma Mactaggart.

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