You might need a cup of tea for this one…
August has been a crazy-busy month, featuring planes, trains and automobiles, Book Week, the MS Readathon, the first Your Kid’s Next Read Live event, and media appearances on television, radio and in print. Add to that the business of writing a new manuscript, and I’m a bit surprised I’m still upright.
These monthly posts are collated for the purposes of keeping a record on this blog of my author life, so thanks for sticking with me.
Where to begin…
The month kicked off with the launch of the 2019 MS Readathon, and, in my role as author ambassador for this year’s event, I visited The Illawarra Grammar School. My boys were very excited to see me on the 6pm news that night!
It was a terrific start for a wonderful event, and I was thrilled to see that, as of last week, the MS Readathon had raised over $1 million, and kids at 3,500 schools had read more than 75,000 books!
A few weeks later, I was sitting with a great group of kids at the CBCA (Illawarra-South Coast Branch) Literary Lunch, which is always a great day out. This year, I was asked to give the writing workshop for the event, which was a great honour.
And then, before I knew it, Book Week was upon us! This year, I visited schools in Sydney, Brisbane and Milton, talking to around 1500 excited and enthusiastic kids in total.
I was blown away by the warm welcomes I received in every school and, in particular, the library team at Citipointe Christian College in Brisbane were next level with their enormous floating Ateban Cipher and their escape room based on The Book Of Secrets. Teacher-librarians are truly an amazing bunch!
(If you’d like me to visit your school or event, check out my speaking page here.)
And, last but not least for my Book Week report, I’m thrilled to announce that the first-ever Your Kid’s Next Read Live Event + Meet-Up was a smashing success.
Nervously awaiting the crowd! From left, Megan Daley, Allison Tait, Allison Rushby, the admin team behind Your Kid’s Next Read.
The Living Room at St Aidan’s, Brisbane.
Answering some of our community’s most pressing questions about kids and books.
We had a lot of laughs along the way!
Megan Daley, Allison Rushby and I were delighted by the response of our YKNR community, and enjoyed meeting you all, talking about books and answering your questions! (Allison R. particularly enjoyed the incredible grazing table at St Aidan’s school…)
We’re hoping to do it all again in another location soon, so keep an eye on the YKNR community Facebook page for details.
How could I possibly resist sharing this fantastic review, by a grade six boy, of The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race To The End Of The World, in the window of the library at Waverley College as part of a display for Book Week?
“This book is an amazing book where the characters are loveable, the story is exciting with many nail-biting moments and plenty of action!”
I’ll take that, and say thank you very much!
In other news, this review of So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), my book with Valerie Khoo based on our top-rating podcast, also made my day!
I absolutely love the fact that the reviewer Annamaree is someone who said ‘I’d love to write a book’ over and over and, after reading this book, is inspired to actually do something about it!
“If writing is something that you have thought about but never done anything about, then I suggest that you get your hands on a copy of this book and absorb all the wonderful information contained within.”
It’s exactly the response that Val and I were hoping for!
I’ve been interviewed several times for radio over the past month, mostly in my role as MS Readathon Ambassador, and often at very short notice. It’s always an interesting process – in one case, I was huddled under a tree in a windswept park in Rose Bay, trying to sound sensible – and it never quite goes the way you expect.
It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write a ‘how to be interviewed’ post for this blog for ages, so I’ve put it back on the To Do list. Let me know in the comments if there are any questions in particular you’d like me to cover!
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.
You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
You might remember last year that I put together this post, where six Australian authors shared ideas, templates and printables for how to be their characters for the Book Week parade.
You could be Tristan Banck’s Tom Weekly, Zanni Louise’s Archie (from Archie and the Bear), Jen Storer’s Truly Tan, Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kid, Anna Pignataro’s Agatha, or, ahem, A.L. Tait’s Quinn from The Mapmaker Chronicles. You’ll find links to all the details here.
Well, as parents across the nation begin to post their annual Book Week Panic (this is an actual thing) posts on social media, I thought I’d bring you a couple of new ideas to help the cause.
Debra Tidball, award-winning author of The Scared Book, has some great ideas for how to be a monster (her book is full of monsters).
Matt Cosgrove has some terrific printables to help kids be Macca The Alpaca, or his best pal Al. There are even some maracas to colour and shake, a la Matt’s book Alpacas with Maracas.
And A.L. Tait is back again (surprise!) with ideas on how to be Gabe, Merry, Gwyn, Midge and Eddie from The Ateban Cipher series.
As for my own panic situation, Mr11 has decided to be Hal from John Flanagan’s Brotherband series, and, yes, we’ll be dragging out the faithful cloak for that one. It’s our last year as a family in primary school and the first year he has actively chosen to be something other than a soccer or rugby player for the occasion, so I’m very happy to dust if off for the occasion!
What are your kids doing for Book Week this year?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, one of them. Regular readers of this blog will know that my thoughts on Book Week are divided along the lines of author (yay!) and not-crafty parent (stress!).
If you missed my post last year in which I outlined these thoughts at length – as well as sharing various fabulous options for being characters from The Mapmaker Chronicles for Book Week – you’ll find them here.
This year, we’re just diving straight in with idea on how to be Gabe, Merry, Gwyn, Midge and Eddie from The Ateban Cipher series for the Book Week Parade! Given my ridiculous lack of crafting skills (you can read about that here), I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded in my neighbourhood by really clever and creative friends – and their kids, who are willing to dress up for my posts.
So I put out the call and one afternoon they all turned up and – well, have a look below at the results.
This is the whole gang (minus Scarlett, see why below), and you’ll find some instructions below for working up your own Ateban Cipher magic at home.
How to be Gabe from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
Having lived his whole life in a monastery, Gabe is very attached to his robe. You could get yourself a monk’s outfit like this one (easy peasy) or you could do as we’ve done here and fashion one yourself.
In this case, we used a slanket (yes, it’s a thing, you can read the story here), a curtain tie, a rather fabulous faux-leather short cape arrangement that adds an edge of toughness, and, of course, a pair of sandals (remember, Gabe’s nickname is ‘Sandals’, so these are key).
Accessorise with a book – gold-covered for early Ateban Cipher, brown leather for the version Gabe carries for most of the story.
How to be Merry from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
Ah, Merry, of the flaming red hair, bow and arrow and can-do attitude. There is a little of the Robin Hood in her, and you could get a costume like this or like this and be in the zone (yes, both boys’ costumes but this is Merry we’re talking about!).
But, as long as you have the bow, breeches and a pair of boots, Merry is also easy enough to pull together at home and is a fantastic choice for the anti-princess in your house. Here, Belle is modelling a range of woodland tones, some faux fox from the dress-up box, and a stylish bow made by her brother. Add a cloak if your Merry likes a bit of swish and drama.
Bonus points if you can actually use the bow…
How to be Gwyn from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
When I think of Gwyn, I think of dark shades because she goes where she wants, when she wants, often at night. With black pants, black shirt, boots, and belt, Lola has channelled Gwyn’s inner fierceness beautifully.
The crossbow is Gwyn’s weapon of choice, so add one if you have one (something like this might do the trick), and perhaps pop a tea cup in that little pouch she has. After all, her mother’s tea cup is Gwyn’s most treasured possession.
How to be Midge from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
In essence, Midge, here represented by the lovely Fleur, could wear the same as the other girls – boots, breeches, flowing shirt – but she also wears a dress for the castle scenes. I think of her in softer colours than the older girls, and these blues and pinks are beautiful.
We tried really hard to think of a way to represent Albert, Midge’s beloved falcon, but nothing we had really cut it, so we left him out. You could put a leather cuff on her arm or have her carry a plush version like this one if you want to get serious, or you could simply have her carry a plush animal of any kind – after all, Midge is the animal whisperer of the group. Just ask Procrastipup…
How to be Scarlett from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough neighbourhood girls to create a real-life Scarlett for our shoot, but I always think of her dressed as she was for her visit to town with Gabe, and that means putting her in a peasant-style dress with a basket. Something like this would work well.
How to be Eddie from The Ateban Cipher for Book Week
Oh but we had some debate about Eddie. Should we portray him as dressed in rags as he is for much of The Ateban Cipher story, or should he be dressed as the prince he truly is? In the end, we decided that the best approach is half and half, so Finn wears a plain white shirt, black pants and ‘dress boots’, with a little touch of royalty in his sash.
If you wanted to go all out, you could give him a crown and a velvet cloak (something like this maybe), and, of course, that tiny gold tattoo that marks him as a true prince.
As you can see, we had a lot of fun creating our Book Week versions of Gabe, Eddie and the band of rebel girls, and non-crafty mums (I wave to you in solidarity) will find it easy enough to replicate them without too much trouble (and no sign of a hot glue gun).
It’s not an exact science, and, as I’ve discovered, everyone has their own interpretations of the characters and there are NO wrong answers – they look exactly as you envision them in your mind (or whatever your dress-up box can come up with…).
If your kids choose any of these looks (or The Mapmaker Chronicles) for their own Book Week parade, please share pics with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I just love seeing what you come up with!
You’ll also find some ideas on how to be Quinn and Ash from The Mapmaker Chronicles here.
Are you new here? You can find out more about the Ateban Cipher books – full of secrets, codes, rebel girls and adventure – here.
After three weeks in Canada, I’m back at my desk and catching my breath. It was an amazing trip in a ridiculously good looking country and I’ll recap some highlights below. But first, some news.
While I was away, the good people at Better Reading released their 2018 Top 50 Kids’ Books – and to my absolute joy, The Mapmaker Chronicles was on the list. It’s a terrific list, jam-packed with big names, classics – and me. Thank you to everyone who voted for Quinn, Zain, Ash and Co – you made my day/week/year!
Click here to see the full list of Better Reading 2018 Top 50 Kids’ Books. (It’s worth noting that it’s best viewed on desktop as the mobile version doesn’t seem to load very well.)
And so to Canada…
The trip was a combination of family holiday, creative inspiration and a little bit of work. I visited the fabulous Kidsbooks in Vancouver, where I met Phyllis (pictured below), Sarah and the rest of the team and signed some copies of The Mapmaker Chronicles series, published in the US and Canada by Kane Miller (if you’re new here, check out their tiny teaser video here).
All of my other photos from the trip are of towering mountains. Or lakes of incandescent blue. Or deep, dark, densely wooded forests.
It’s the kind of landscape that conjures up mystery and adventure at every turn. Particularly when you throw in the added lustre of the possibility of a bear sighting with every hike (I confess, I was a bit nervous about getting too close to a furry friend…).
To give you an idea of what I mean…
But all good things must come to an end, and now I’m back at my desk with a head full of ideas and a full month of Book Week activities ahead of me.
My first appearance for August is at the Shoalhaven Readers’ & Writers’ Festival on 4 August, where I’ll be talking to the fabulous Melinda Marchetta about her life as an author.
I’m really looking forward to it and would love to see you there! You’ll find full program details and bookings here.
Are you new here? I am the Australian author of two epic adventure series for children. Find out more about them by clicking on the titles below.
The Mapmaker Chronicles
The Ateban Cipher
Happy 2018! It’s taking me a little while to wind up this year, but I guess that’s to be expected in the aftermath of Christmas and with the school holidays in full swing.
I’ve decided to kick this year off by continuing my little series of top posts from 2017 (see Top Posts For Writers here).
This time, I’m looking at top posts for readers, mostly due to the aforementioned school holidays. With the long weeks of January stretching out ahead of us, there’s never been a better time to find a new book for your kids, right?
2017 was an amazing year for Your Kid’s Next Read, the Facebook group I co-host with the lovely Megan Daley from Children’s Books Daily, when we clocked up our 3000th member.
I’m really proud of the lovely, vibrant, helpful community that we’ve all created and it’s no surprise that most of my top posts for readers are book lists generated from the thousands of recommendations that have been shared in the group.
And here they are, in descending order to number one!
10. 5 Ways To Make Reading Fun For Kids
9. Your Kid’s Next Read: The One Book I’m Buying For Christmas
8. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson… Books To Read Next
7. 21 Tried-And-Tested Books For 13/14-Year-Old Boys
6. The One Book I’m Buying A Boy This Christmas
5. Your Kid’s Next Read: Recommended Reading Lists For Kids 10+, 12+, YA For Tweens
4. 31 Books For Tween Girls With Nothing To Read
3. Simple Book Week Ideas (from Australian authors)
2. The One Book I’m Buying A Girl This Christmas
1. 24 Books For Tween Boys With Nothing To Read
I hope you find the perfect summer read somewhere in these lists!
NB: I’ve kept my list of top 10 posts to those that aren’t about my own books, but if you’re new here and you’d like to learn more about The Mapmaker Chronicles or The Ateban Cipher, my two middle-grade adventure series, follow the links…