Friday, 29 March 2013


Another victorious morning for yesterdays winning egg.  Back in the fridge with an untarnished record and a new name, Victor the victorious egg.  Today's winner went through to face yesterdays champion with a cracking good chance but Victor smashed it in.


They're round all around and they're bigger at the bottom,

 They're small around the top and we're glad we've got 'em.
And they're egg shaped,
coz they're Eggs.
Things with fins and wings and legs,
they lay eggs.

Now the pigeons and the penguins,
and the emu, and the eagle,
and the pea-hen, and the parrot,
and the sparrow and the seagull,
and the pelican too
lay eggs.
Every bird you ever heard
lays eggs.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Egg Fight

Egg tapping, eiertikken, epper, koni-juj, tsougrisma, egg conking, egg jarping, Eiertitschen, egg shackling, egg dumping, eier-spacken or eier doppen, Ostereiertitschen or Eierpecken and now, in my family, EGG FIGHT!  The way to play is to hold your boiled egg and tap it against your opponent egg, the loser gets to eat their egg while the winner goes on to the next round.  The plan was for even the winning egg to be eaten, for the winner gets the spoils, but our lucky winning egg is still sitting preserved in the fridge to fight again tomorrow.  When eggs were ready and textas were at the table, my daughter rushed off and came back in her battle regalia, a pirate hat worn like a gladiator.

I love that so many celebrations have more to them than a story about a goddess descending in an egg or a man coming back to life after his dead body was placed in a cave.  Easter is a celebration that is timed in relation to an astronomical event, like so many other religious celebrations, possibly due to the absorption or take over of Paganism by Christianity and the link between Paganism and nature.

"Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox ."
"At an equinox the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point (RA = 00h 00m 00s and longitude = 0º) and the autumnal point (RA = 12h 00m 00s and longitude = 180º). By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point."  thank you again Wikipaedia.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Around the Clock Childcare

There will be $5m spent by the Labor government on introducing and trialing new childcare arrangements intended to support parents in shiftwork. 

"FAMILY Day Care Australia to provide overnight and weekend care for police and nurses doing shiftwork.
EXTENDED weekday care at six Goodstart Early Learning Centres across the nation.
MORE Out of School Hours Care will be offered, with the Government funding the Network of Out of School Hours Services.
THE NATION'S largest childcare group, Goodstart Early Learning Centres, will also offer extended hours at six sites across Australia under the plan.
In NSW, the scheme will fund family day care for police officers and in Queensland, the scheme will focus on nurses. Expanded childcare centre hours and after-school care will be offered in Victoria, SA and WA to other families enrolled in participating centres."
$5m childcare experiment to help shiftworkers tackle 'tag-team run',
 Samantha Maiden -Sunday Mail (SA), March 17, 2013 12:00AM
When I first read this it wreaked of danger and disruption to the life of the child, pressure on the parent who already feels so much guilt and pressure trying to manage a work life balance, provide for their family while getting to spend as much time with their child in these precious early years and not failing their colleagues, employer or ambitions. 
It is being sold to the Australian public as a way to support people in these special roles which demand shift work.  Instead I see a system which does the opposite.  To truly support these parents the government would be better off subsidising the employer to add additional personnel for a team that could carry on shift operations whilst supporting team members who can only work during core hours where childcare is safely available and key hours can still be spent connecting parent and child and giving the child the parental nurture and time they need and deserve.  A real incentive to hire parents or support employees about to start a family.
I am a contractor.  When I became pregnant with my first child I had an employer who appreciated my commitment, expertise and was supportive of my choice to start a family.  He approved extension of my contract after I advised of my pregnancy and agreed to allow me to take a chunk of time off after the birth coming back with reduced onsite hours.  I was blown away.  As a contractor you do not assume any loyalty from your employer.  Six months or so after that he was gone and I was left with a new boss, a lady, who spent the last few weeks I was at work (I worked up til the last month of pregnancy, my boss was getting worried that I shouldn't be allowed in the server room alone)  pressuring me into canceling my contract telling me things like "You won't want to return once you have your child", she knows, it happened to her.  She was in a position where funds constrained her willingness to support me as a new parent.  
Paid parental leave should be taken for granted, we should not still be fighting for it.  I was told the other day that my generation wasn't abandoned, our parents made the decision to stay at home and care for us.  No they didn't.  Our mothers did.  They were expected to terminate their employment and stay home and care for us.  We are lucky to have had that care, we should only be so lucky to have the luxury of being able to stay at home and provide that care to our own children.  For many it is not possible.  I was able to share the early years with my partner.  He took nearly two years off with our first child because of the timing of having our second and my not wanting to go back to work with the second before two years.  He had a greater challenge re-entering the workforce than I did and we have almost exactly the same technical background and job history.  There simply isn't the social approval or expectation that a highly skilled man would take time off to care for their child.  A topic for a different rant however.
Earlier this year the Labor government passed a bill to transfer sole parents living off  welfare payments onto Newstart allowance upon their youngest child turning eight, costing already disadvantaged parents, predominantly women, between $50 and $120 per week. 
"You’re talking about a behavioural initiative to change the behaviour of a single parent trying to raise children. Now, what’s best for children? The best thing for children is to have a parent at home who takes care of them, not one who is pushed out into work simply by poverty. Are you people all crazy?" 
"It’s not a saving. It’s not a saving because those kids will grow up in poverty and what are they going to do?" Tim Ferguson addressing Bill Shorten and Julie Bishop on QandA
If the government were serious about getting single parents and all parents back into work they would support them and their employers to keep them in the workforce and in their employment through the early years off crucial bonding, nurturing and time away from work.  Keep their employment and skills rather than lose them and try rejoining a workforce that has moved on, up-skilled and carried on without them for five to eight years.  We are entering an age where the traditional office is becoming less and less a necessity for an increasing range of roles.  Research and develop provisions to allow parents to work from virtual offices with flexible hours.  Ensure protection from being shafted off to the side of the role you were trained for and gained through years of hard work.

I will never vote for an Abbott government, the man is a megalomaniac with schizophrenic policy statements and devotion to any agenda that will further his ambition to hold the seat of power.  I have  ethical concerns with voting for any NLA government, admittedly a Turnbull government would win me over ahead of the Labor party we currently have to suffer.  Having said that Malcolm Turnbull has spun a lot of bull about the NBN.  It is painful to watch Labor's lack of social responsibility and compassion in their decision making.  Politics in Australia at the moment is disheartening.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Out of the Egg - Woodblock Printing

 Out of the Egg by Tina Matthews
Since first reading to my daughter as a little baby, this book has been a favourite of hers.  She was most likely drawn to it when she was young by the beautiful high contrasting white and black lines and the use of splashes of red and green throughout, as these sorts of images are meant to be stimulating.
Out of the Egg is beautifully illustrated with woodblock prints and has a wonderful story carrying a poignant message in both the words and illustrations.

Throughout the book you have the story of a little red hen and her efforts to help a small green seed become a beautiful tree.  The graphics show a world devoid of green, filled with sloth, waste, smoke and greed.
As the hard working little red hen looks ahead to what can become of the little seed, the dirty rat, the greedy pig and the fat cat are far happier to shop, kick back, drive and watch tv rather than expend any effort helping, so the little red hen does it her self.
There is a very sweet little twist of hope, forgiveness and the potential of a new generation at the end.

There is also some beautiful language in this book and some very memorable lines.

"Through wild days and mild months and slow-turning years, the tree grew bigger.  And one warm spring day the Red Hen found a safe place and laid a perfect white egg."

Reading Out of the Egg over and over again kicked off a really nice day with my daughter who today told me this was her favourite book.  So, having some polystyrene blocks from the packaging of her new big bed we made some block prints inspired by the beautiful works of Tina Matthews and the story of the little red hen. 

Painting the image on the Styrofoam blocks seems to have given the lines more integrity and they do not flake off as easily as the rest of the polystyrene.  Water down some paint to do the prints by first using a paint brush to apply the thinned paint.  Try and get your little person to only paint on the green or coloured lines.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Creativity Killers

I do not want to borrow wholesale the words of Marvin Bartel and I could not write them any better.  I am so inspired by his experience as an attentive art educator who has obvious concern for the creative spark in the children he teaches and articulation of that care and experience in this list of Creativity Killers.  I would like to share them and put them here so I can keep referring to them myself as I teach my own children and possibly others in future.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Emily Gravett is one of my favourite illustrators and children's authors and today we discovered her wonderful website and a film of her drawing Cedric the dragon from one of our favourite Emily Gravett books, AGAIN!.

We had lots of fun watching this and drawing along with Emily Gravett, she has a wonderful style.

The whole time we were drawing together my son was saying things like "My wings are the best!" and "My dragon is much better than yours.".  I would always answer with I love your dragons, I love your drawings, they are so cool.  But when he said "Your's isn't very good" and I answered by telling him that it wasn't a very nice thing to say to someone about their drawing and that I was just trying my best and that's all that mattered, I realised that behind his bravado was insecurity with his own drawing.  He answered me by saying that my drawing was so much better than his and that is was not fair.

At so many different points in their lives it is clear to a child that they are inferior.  In stature, in abilities.  It is such an important thing to continue to make sure children feel their own strength and capacity to grow with each attempt at something and embrace every success.   I don't know how to get through this but I'm glad I know I now need to start to help him with these feelings.  Sometimes I wonder if drawing with them might not be the inspiration I had hoped it would be and maybe instead I should just try and draw more simple things at a comparative level to them. 

Why Picture Books Matter

"The first art that children see is in picture books. That’s a big responsibility for the illustrator. Leonard Marcus showcases a group of artists who recognize that responsibility and respond with work that challenges and inspires kids’ burgeoning visual literacy. In 21 captivating and intimate interviews, Show Me A Story offers an in-depth look at the passion and vision that these amazing artists bring to their work. No two are alike, except in their remarkable levels of creativity. Their books leave kids amazed and moved. They leave their imaginations energized. And quite often they leave the kids giggling maniacally on the floor." - David Wiesner, Introduction to Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, edited by Leonard Marcus

Sometimes I like to randomly research authors and illustrators of my favorite picture books, partly because I love the books and partly for my own development and aspirations to be a published children's picture book author and illustrator.  I found this great excerpt at David Wiesner's website.

As a mechanism for drawing children into the world of art picture books are unsurpassed, it is focused on them, dedicated to them and their  dreams, desires, innocence and sense of humour.

Here are some of my favourite picture books and illustrators, unsurprisingly they are also some of the books I recommend for teaching art the children.

The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
This book is filled with great rhyming sentences that have a really nice flowing and musical habit and complement the magnificent ornate and decadent atmosphere of Horace the elephant's eleventh birthday.  Any Graeme Base book will fascinate a child's imagination with its spectacular imagery.  Animalia was a book that I would spend so much time immersed in the intricate artwork.

Flotsam by David Wiesner. A magical adventure for a child to explore with you or by themselves, Flotsam is particularly wonderful because David Wiesner has left the reader to create their own narrative for his magnificent artwork.  Like a chain letter the images on the camera convince the finder to perpetuate the adventure by sending the camera back out to sea again to bring its delights to the next person who finds it.  The images are from the latest underwater travels of an old underwater camera making its way from child to child, generation after generation, out to sea and shore again.

This image always makes me think of John Brack's paintings.

Gorillas by Anthony Browne.  Gorillas, like any Anthony Browne book, is filled with beautiful illustrations and in the case of at least this book and 'Me and You' have more to them that your average sweet and happy tale to treat a child to at book time.  Gorillas is a book about a girl fanatical about gorillas and in desperate need of time with a work focused, constantly busy or tired father.  Hanna is taken on a very special adventure to the zoo to see a real gorilla, which despite her obvious obsession with them, her father had never found the time to take her to see at their local zoo.  Real or dream, her sleep time adventure is like an omen to a brand new day.

 The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan.  Anything Shaun Tan is absolutely beautiful and magical food for your imagination.  The Lost Thing is the story of a wondrous creature found wandering the streets by a boy who was out collecting bottle tops.   The boy tries to find where it belongs and discoveries a whole world of strange and unusual things living off to the side or the rest of the world.  This has been made into a beautiful animation.  Love Shaun Tan, love, love, love.

The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek by Jenny Wagner, illustrated by Ron Brooks.  This is such a gorgeous book, lovely story that is fun to read aloud.  The wonderful pictures in this book are done with cross hatching and look like etchings.  This book follows the Bunyip from his inception through his journey of self discovery and final acceptance of self and self satisfaction.  "What am I, what am I" He asks himself and others, trying to learn about himself through any creature who would answer him.  Never very happy with the answers he keeps searching and finally settles by another billabong with his hopes and a mirror to enjoy being the beautiful creature he decides he is.  This book is sweet and funny and a frequent read for us.  An Australian Children's classic.

 Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.   Another classic and also another illustrator that uses cross hatching to give shadow and depth to his illustrations.   Sadly I have not read another Sendak book but even with that said I cannot exclude him from this list and doubt there is a list about great picture books like this without him.  His illustrations are spectacular and have everything needed to really inspire a child's imagination.  I always remembered this book and these illustrations but like the 60 frames a second that fool the human eye, a really wonderful illustration doesn't need to be super realistic or photographic to have a massive impact and create an image in a child's mind that is spectacularly real to them.

Norris. The Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner.  Norris, the Bear Who Shared is the adorable tale of a wise and kind bear, a raccoon, a mouse and a juicy, ripe, soft as fairy floss, delicious, sun kissed plorringe.  When my son first saw the pears out the front of the NGA we played hide and seek around them and he has since then called them the plorringes.  Catherine Rayner uses a gentle and effective technique that includes silk screen printing, pencil and ink or water colour.  Her clean and beautiful brush strokes give body to her illustrations , reminiscent of brush strokes in Japanese calligraphy, with the minimal pencil lines still visible beneath them.  I love her style and the beautiful and kind faces of her animal characters.

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth. Based on the story of the same name written by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, Jon J. Muth creates an accessible story about a boy who wants to know the answer to the three questions he thinks will make him a better person.  His illustrations are very realistic but also use the beauty of the way ink and water seep into an move over paper, illustrated perfectly in the included image.  In this book, and in the Zen Shorts series, he gives a great set of books to introduce children to more eastern concepts of morality and wisdom. 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.  We have the Peter Rabbit's Giant Story Book and my four year old son loves reading it.  It always reads a little strangely but it is wonderful and silly.  Like Alice in Wonderland but bearable ("Oh Diner, I don't think I can take another over stated notification of  how outstanding in its unfathomable curiosity something is.  Gloves on a rabbit!" Please.), Beatrix Potters stories always elicit a very funny voice from my partner as he reads the over the top language in 'The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse'.  Some of the stories are a bit brutal but the illustrations are always gorgeous.

To be continued...


Monday, 4 March 2013

Books that Help with Bullying

I have a terrible tendency to give extended philosophical lectures when drawn into a conversation with my four year old about how people treat each other.  Sometimes the best way to approach it isn't a black and white answer that is simple and succinct and flies right over your little ones head but a sweet and funny story that plants the seed of an idea leading to a deeper understanding that they get to evolve by themselves.  Before reading this book my answer to bullying was use your BIG voice and say "NO! I don't like that!" and if someone says "NO" you must listen and stop doing what you are doing that might be hurting them.  It is still what I will continue to say but now I have a book that will give him a catalyst to understand why.  If people think they can, some people will be mean because they don't think you will do anything about it.

Captain Yellowbelly is a bit of a pushover who is taken advantage of by the other meaner, tougher and generally more pirate like pirates until one very bad day he has just had enough.

Here's hoping for one less bully and one less victim.