A recent week of Book Week workshops via zoom, at the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, was wondrous.
Students were willing to imagine and open their eyes to a sense of wonder, to explore other worlds within worlds, from nature, to rivers to the moon and outerspace.
We began with learning about cheeky Cassowaries hungry and looking for food after a cyclone, and imagining what they might say or think, and advanced to humourous dialogues within the river and exploring a sense of wonder, through sensory adventure poems.
Students learnt about the power of working in pairs and in groups and how many voices combined can create, extend and then joyously and confidently perform their creations.
Throughout I used my own illustrated poetry book, Magic Fish Dreaming, as the main mentor text with a storytelling session also of Michelle Worthington’s Book, Possum Games.
Both had kindly been posted and provided to the school by Tina from CYA. This meant we could read together, and as I have dialogue poems and question and answer structures this was fantastic to have each student have the book on the other side of the zoom.
I was impressed by how the students worked with each other on some in the river dialogues and their humour and inventiveness throughout the week began to shine through.
I am delighted the school community (families and staff) gave permission for me to share their work.
More important than products though, is the process of creativity that the children undertook within their classroom. By reflecting on that stories can come from that which you know through your senses and take you to places you might only imagine.
I hope these children, will create many more poems or stories and strengthen and contribute to building a publishing community within Papua New Guinea, beginning from anthologies within their school and moving beyond the anthologies for their communities. Building perhaps collectives for theirs and future generations.
With many thanks to the school, students , staff of the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, and Tina of CYA.
Photographs courtesy of the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, shared with their permission
I never expected that my first trip back to Papua New Guinea, since I moved to Australia as a one year old, would be in my fifties and via zoom and would be working with writers based in three different countries.
Yet, none of us knows our future, and so it was that the last week my first ever Book Week experience, occurred this way.
I was invited by Tina Marie Clark, to join a CYA team, including her, Albert Nayathi, Phil Kettle, Caroline Evari, (and works from Michelle Worthington and Dannika Patterson) that has been mostly going to the Higaturu Oil Palm International School there in person for the last ten years.
The last two years they have had to conduct the visit via zoom, because of COVID19.
Although I haven’t done Book Week before, I have done several workshops in libraries, environmental centres, and schools, to mentor creatives of all ages from kindergarten through to people all backgrounds in their seventies, in poetry. Something which became such a passion I ended up writing and publishing a poetry book, Magic Fish Dreaming, for children.
I wrote Magic Fish Dreaming, to express a sense of the place I was living in at the time, which was the Cassowary Coast, in Far North Queensland, as well as to demonstrate different poetry techniques which might appeal to children but also extend them. At the time of composing this work I was facilitating workshops in the community and needed to create original materials with a sense of the place I was living in, not just use what was already out there.
Magic Fish Dreaming, represents all the beauty, grandeur, magic, and heartache and I saw whilst living in that area, all captured for families to relive some of that and hopefully fall in love with poetry.
During this visit, I was able to bring all the experiences of the last few years, in designing workshops, as well as my recent enrolment training as a teacher (although for highschool) together into my contemporary practice.
I was delighted to see the effect of the workshops on the students and their teacher and teacher assistant. I can truly say I had as much of a feeling of joy out of this as out of being published.
My heart soared to see them engaged with the activities and WRITING! And finally confidently performing work they had collaborated on composing together.
What did we and the school do during the week to reach this point?
So happy to recieve two signed books this week, from Canada.
My dear friend Kim who was like an Aunty when I was growing up in Tasmania, gave Magic Fish Dreaming to her friend, Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak, author of Northern Lights the Soccer Lights and he gave her a signed copy of this and another one of his books, Hide and Sneak to give to me.
Thrilled to receive these today, with a note and some lovely photographs, card and pot holder from Kim herself, who is creative.
Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? Drawing and painting have always been a natural part of our lives as we grew up in a family and community that really encouraged creativity as an important aspect of everyday life and avenue for learning and reflection. We painted and drew a lot with our siblings growing up and it has just continued to evolve as we seek out opportunities to collaborate with growing number of like-minded individuals.
For the rest of this story visit Meet Ruha and Minaira Fifita at
Images Courtesy of Maria Parenti-Baldey, Tina Maria Clarke and June Perkins
On the weekend BookLink member, and Magic Fish Dreaming Illustrator Helene Magisson and author Janine M Fraser launched a courageous book about peace and respect of others’ cultural and interfaith stories, Sarah’s Two Nativities at the Where the Wild Things Are Bookshop.
There were visitors from Canberra and Victoria in attendance as well as many locals, from many cultures and faiths. At least 80 people gathered, with a quarter of them being children.
Sarah’s Two Nativities is a story of a young girl who loves listening to both her grandmothers’ nativity stories – one from the Koran and one from the Bible. Young Sarah is concerned at first about which story is true because they’re so similar. She realises however, her family’s unity will never force her to choose between the two stories, but accept both.
Tina Marie Clark, CYA coordinator, launched the book as it was CYA which launched Helene’s illustrator career. She warmly endorsed the themes of the book and shared some of her experience as a South African familiar with the celebration of many religious festivals with friends and family.
Janine Fraser, the author, told the story of the background to her motivation for writing the book. Sharing that she had a challenging upbringing in a restricted spiritual environment, which later led her to leave that environment and become an ardent student of comparative religions. During her lifelong journey she observed many instances of multifaith families. She explained how she sees all religions as sharing the message of love and the question of the ‘mystery.’
Janine gave thanks to her family, especially her grandchildren and to Maryanne Ballantyne who championed the book as well as to the wonderful Helene for her illustrations which exceeded all her expecatations.
Janine read from the book in a gentle and softly spoken voice, with small musical interludes throughout provided by Marie Baguelin from France who played the guitar and Azadeh Shamee from Iran who performed the Oud (Arabic for wood). They brought a sense of both cultures at the event through their inspiring performances.
Helene shared journey to understand the background of the book more, and work on a sensitive way to illustrate it, respectful of both the Koran and the Bible. She did this through extensive research, with the goal of honouring both.
Helene thanked June Perkins, for being her creative sister and both June and Renee Hills who contacted other faith communities to invite them to the launch as well as the community, friends, neighbours and family present and the musicians at the event. She warmly thanked Janine for her inspiring story and invited us all to an exhibition of the art works on October 9th, which will include her work alongside other talented illstrators. There were a few original art works from the book available for people to view. Helene also gave a big thank you to the Where The Wild Things Are event coordinator Genevieve Kruysse.
Everyone was invited to craft their angels, with the assistance of Helene’s lovely daughter, and partake of koftas and delicious cupcakes. Many people decided to buy additional copies for their schools, libraries and friends.
(c) Hélène Magisson: This artwork summarises the whole message of Sarah’s Two Nativities ‘Because family together in peace is the greatest blessing of all’.
Interview by June Perkins.
Today the Magic Fish Dreaming blog welcomes back Hélène Magisson, for a delightful interview about her latest illustration work for Janine Fraser’s text Sarah’s Two Nativities.
Illustrator: Hélène Magisson began her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination. She has lived all over the world, including Africa, France and India. She loves to discover other cultures through their arts and customs. She now calls Australia home and has begun a new career of illustrating picture books, some of which have been CBCA Notables. Sarah’s Two Nativities (written by Janine M Fraser) is her first book with Black Dog Books.
1.Hélène began our interview by explaining the significance of the book.
The book, beautifully written by Janine Fraser, has a strong multicultural message that I immediately loved. For me, the story is a bridge between Muslims and Christians, and more globally an interfaith dialogue and bridge builder between diverse communities. It is all about peace and harmony. A beautiful and needed message.
2. Helene, as an illustrator are you often involved in the launch of books you have worked on for other authors?
I have always tried my best to be involved in the launches of the books I have illustrated. It is always a wonderful opportunity to meet the author and celebrate the result of a long and demanding collaboration.
3.Why are you involved in organising this launch?
There are two reasons why I am very much involved in this launch.
The first is that I am strongly, deeply committed to the message of Sarah’s Two Nativities, and I would love this launch to be an opportunity for people from diverse cultural backgrounds and faiths to get together.
The second reason is the opportunity to meet Janine Fraser, the author, for the first time, as I am very much looking forward to hearing in person all about how she came to write this beautiful story, and how she developed it.
Janine M Fraser lives on Phillip Island in Victoria for most of the year, and three months of the year in Manhattan, New York. She loves books, writing and travel and looks for stories wherever she goes. Her previous books have been short-listed for the CBCA awards, the NSW Premier’s Award and the WA Premier’s Award. Janine is also a published poet. Sarah’s Two Nativities is her first book with Black Dog Books.
4.What will be happening? What are you planning?
For the book launch, there will be book reading, book signing by both the author and the illustrator, but what will make this book launch also a bit special, is that we are planning to bring to the event a sense of both cultures.
There will be an Oud performance by Azadeh Shamee, a guitar performance by Marie Baguelin as well, cupcakes and koftas.
5.Can you tell us about the exhibition? Give us details of the launch and how people can RSVP
The book is launching September 21st 2pm, at Where the Wild Things are. People can RSVP directly to the bookshop. BOOK LAUNCH RSVP LINK
There will be an exhibition in Philip Island from December to late January including the different versions of the text as the story developed and all the original illustrations of the book with some ‘behind the scene’ illustrations as well.
And in the meantime there will be an exhibition at Richard Randall Studio in Brisbane organised by Book Links from 8-13 October (official launch on 9 October) with some illustrations from Lucia Masciullo and Paul O’Sullivan as well.
There will be some originals from Sarah’s Two Nativities and some artworks from my other new picture book Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley.
More on this later, stay tuned and save the date.
6.What were your inspirations when working on the illustrations?
I have a Christian background and I realised that unfortunately I didn’t know much about the Nativity, and the place of Mary and Jesus in the Koran. So, I listened and read many speeches from historians and religious representatives from both sides. It was fascinating and absolutely necessary.
I tried to be inside Sarah’s heart, loving her two grandmothers, being the one child of two different faiths. And from there, I could ‘hear’ the story of the Nativity from the Koran and the Bible perspectives and they are both absolutely beautiful.
Also, we have been working very cautiously with my publisher and art director Donna Rawlins from Black Dog Books (imprint of Walker Books) to make sure that both religions were well represented.
We decided not to illustrate the Nativity itself but instead, we chose to show, in the simplest way, Sarah imagining from a distance, the place where this incredible story happened.
And for sure, travelling and living in different countries, meeting people and having friends from different faiths and cultures helped me really deeply.
7. Who do you think this book will appeal to?
I hope it will appeal to many people from diverse backgrounds. I believe Muslims and Christians can be interested in this book, but more than that, all people who are committed to interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism in general. There are always bridges to build between us and this book is one of them thanks to Janine Fraser.
8. Publication details of book and cost
Sarah loves her two grandmas – Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria. Grandmother Azar tells Sarah stories from the Holy Koran, while Grandmother Maria tells her stories from the Bible. At Christmas time, Sarah snuggles in each of her grandmothers’ laps and listens to two nativities stories about the birth of baby Jesus. They are the same in some ways, and different in others … but both can be Sarah’s favourite. Visit Walker Books
ISBN: 9781925381795 Imprint: Black Dog Books Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS Binding: Hardback Release Date: September 1, 2019 Dimensions: 245 x 270mm, 32pp Australian RRP: $26.99 New Zealand RRP: $28.99
June: Thanks so much for this wonderful sharing Hélène and wishing you the very best for the launch.