Emma Baker reveals the secrets of the incredibly popular ‘Storytime’ program at the State Library of Victoria

ImageWe are excited to announce our second Reading For Social Peace event as part of the State Library’s Storytime program, Wednesday June 12th. Emma Baker, the State Library Family Programs Officer, will be reading Cali and Foli’s powerful picture book The Bear with the Sword  to up to 150 families.

Emma tells us the story about how this program became so successful…

Q1: Emma, what was the inspiration behind the Storytime Program at the State Library?

I think it’s never too early to start reading with your children! Our Baby Bounce and Storytime programs encourage parents to engage with their children through stories, songs and activities, making these a part of their everyday life. Our goal is to encourage literacy at a young age and create a lifelong love of books and reading.

Q2: How has it evolved since it first started?

ImageInitially these programs were run once a month and we were lucky if ten people came. I think this began to change when the Library curated, Look! The Art of the Australian Picture Book, which displayed artworks by illustrators such as Shaun Tan, Graeme Base, and Alison Lester. It was an exhibition aimed at families and helped raise awareness of the Library as a place for children.

Three years on, our programs now run every week (in Experimedia) with 120-150 families joining us each session. It’s great to have built such close relationship with our families and to be able to watch as their child grow and learn through play.

Q3: What makes it so successful in your opinion? Why is it so important?

I think there are three key elements to the success of the program. Firstly, the staff involved are knowledgeable and passionate about working with children and families. We provide a fun and friendly environment, where parents learn how easy it is to continue the program at home.

Secondly, we have engaged parents who actively join in to enrich their child’s learning. It’s amazing when there are 150 children and families singing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’, and it doesn’t matter if you can’t sing- I certainly can’t! By role modeling for your child, it gives them confidence and strengthens the bond you have with them.

Finally, our Storytimes would not be possible without the wonderful team of volunteers we have. Whether they’re welcoming families, doing the Hokey Pokey, or helping children make their very own Hungry Caterpillar, they assist with the smooth delivery of our programs.  

Q4: Who are the events open to? Who is your biggest audience?

Our programs are for anyone with very young children and who after a fun, free and regular event.  Baby Bounce focuses on the early introduction of lullabies and rhymes to newborns and children up two years, while Storytime focuses on those more active preschoolers who have energy to burn.

The programs are also incredibly multicultural – we have families of all backgrounds attending. In that way we provide a community ‘hub’ in a sense where everyone can build friendships and share their culture, as well as learn English along the way.

Q5: We loved what you did when reading out our picture book Empty Fridge at the Gusto Family Day, how will you work with Bear With the Sword for World Environment Day (Weds 5th June)?


Similar to Empty Fridge, we will be re-enacting Bear With the Sword for our younger audience at Storytime. I think it’s important for children to gain awareness about these particular environmental topics and when it’s presented using a method such as storytelling – it really engages them.

Emma Baker reading Empty Fridge as part of Social Inclusion Week 2012


Q6: What is your favourite children’s book?

ImageThere are so many to choose from, but I think it would have to be a tie between Christopher Milne’s Naughty Stories for Good Boys and Girls and The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood. Growing up, I loved reading Milne’s hilarious short stories about cheeky children who got up to all kinds of mischief and wishing I could be just as daring! And The Runaway Hug is one of those books I would recommend every parent have as part of their children’s book collection. Bland’s story and Blackwood’s beautiful illustrations just take your breath away.


If you would like to join Emma Baker for ‘The Bear with the Sword’ Storytime head to the State Library of Victoria, Wednesday June 12th for a 11.30 start.                                  

Venue: Experimedia, Main Entry, Swanston Street.


Reading for Social Peace project launched

We’re delighted to announce that the Reading for Social Peace Project is now up and running.

Inspired by a National Library of the Maldives reading campaign, we’ve teamed up with Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Victoria to create a project that encourages kids to read with a questioning and open mind, and to use their reading to stimulate thought and discussion about social peace.

What’s social peace? It’s peace in our families; among our friends; in our communities, towns, cities or country; it can mean the absence of conflict and war; it can also mean how we can better live together.

At the launch of Reading for Social Peace (from left): YPRL Director Christine Mackenzie, with author Davide Cali, YPRL’s Blaise van Hecke, Councilor Mary Lalios and Wilkins Farago’s Director, Andrew Wilkins.

Ultimately, this project is about helping kids arrive at their own definition of social peace, by exposing them to books that get them thinking. Then, it’s over to them to respond in a creative way: through a piece of writing or art, a video or song: anything that makes sense to them.

Reading for Social Peace has its own wiki space page where you can find out about the first four books chosen for the project:

  • The Bear with the Sword by Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli
  • The Red Piano by André Leblanc and Barroux
  • The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch
  • Empty Fridge by Gaetan Doremus (to be published in August)

There’s also a space for kids to post their own creations.

This is not just a project for those within the area serviced by Yarra Plenty Regional Library. Libraries and schools across Australia—or indeed around the world—are more than welcome to get involved now. All you need to do get started is pick up one of the four books above and get reading!

Reading for Social Peace is a National Year of Reading project.

Sign up for our special e-news here.

The Bear is a conversation starter: blog tour day 14

The Bear with the SwordDAY FOURTEEN. Alphabet Soup Editor Rebecca Newman reviews Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli’s fable, The Bear with the Sword on her Boobook Blog. She notes how useful it is in getting kids to talk about some meaty issues:

This picture book would be wonderful for discussions on a variety of topics, such as:

  • environmental issues
  • actions and consequences
  • anger management
  • body language
  • bullying
  • conflict resolution

The Davide Cali blog tour is taking place from 1 to 15 May, as a countdown to Davide’s first visit to Australia from 16 to 28 May. Every day, some of Australia’s most interesting book bloggers will be posting interviews with him, reviewing his books, offering giveaways and maybe giving a sneak peak of his award-winning new book, 10 Little Insects.

You can check out the full blog tour here.

Davide Cali’s 2012 Australian tour is an initiative of the National Year of Reading

Reading for peace and the storyteller’s craft: blog tour day 8

DAY EIGHT. Halfway through the Davide Cali blog tour and we have exciting news of a new reading project for kids, Reading for Social Peace, which Davide Cali will be launching in Melbourne on 24 May during his visit to Australia. Also, popular children’s author and blogger Dee White examines Davide Cali’s approach to creating picture books on her DeeScribe Writing blog.

Reading for Social Peace is a National Year of Reading project devised by Yarra Plenty Regional Library in partnership with book publisher Wilkins Farago.

Inspired by a similar program by the National Library of the Maldives, it aims to use stories to encourage conversation in young people about issues that cause conflict, such as war, cultural differences, and bullying. Two of the texts being used in the program are Davide Cali’s The Enemy (illustrated by Serge Bloch) and The Bear with the Sword (illustrated by Gianluca Foli). As Davide himself puts it:

In both these story there is an enemy. In The Bear with the Sword, the enemy never comes, in The Enemy he’s just there, but in both cases we don’t know him, he’s somebody unknown in some way. The two stories have a similar moral: in the end, the worst enemy is often in us.

For details of the launch on 24 May, which is open to the public, visit the Yarra Plenty Regional Library blog.

Also today, children’s writer Dee White looks at Davide Cali’s craft as a writer on her DeeScribe Writing blog. She pays particularly attention to The Enemy and What is this thing called love?, concluding

I highly recommend Davide Cali’s books as great examples of original, thought-provoking, moving, simple picture books with a complete story arc and strong endings.

The Davide Cali blog tour is taking place from 1 to 15 May, as a countdown to Davide’s first visit to Australia from 16 to 28 May. Every day, some of Australia’s most interesting book bloggers will be posting interviews with him, reviewing his books, offering giveaways and maybe giving a sneak peak of his award-winning new book, 10 Little Insects.

You can check out the full blog tour here.

Davide Cali’s 2012 Australian tour is an initiative of the National Year of Reading

Clunes Booktown Festival Top 10

Why? by Lila Prap

Lila Prap’s hilarious ‘Why?’ suggests why animals look and behave the way they do.

Here are the top selling Wilkins Farago books at last weekend’s Clunes Booktown Festival:

  1. Why? by Lila Prap
  2. Sam and His Dad by Serge Bloch
  3. Waiting for Mummy by Tae-Jun Lee and Dong-Sung Kim
  4. 3 Wishes for Pugman by Sebastian Meschenmoser
  5. Kampung Boy by Lat
  6. Teaching Kids to Read by Fay Tran
  7. I Love Kissing You by Davide Cali and Serge  Bloch
  8. The Bear with the Sword by Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli
  9. What is this thing called love? by Davide Cali and Anna Laura Cantone
  10. The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

Every library should own The Bear: NZ National Library

The Bear with the Sword

'Every library at every level should own this book. Every teacher should read it to their class.'

SOMETIMES a quick web surf can trawl up something marvelous. Here’s a review of Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli’s The Bear with the Sword published some time ago on the National Library of New Zealand’s Services to Schools blog:

Once upon a time there was a bear with a sword …

Davide Cali’s picture book is a parable with a cutting edge. It is a powerful and thought provoking story about taking personal responsibility and protecting the environment. With his sharp sword and an inflated sense of power the bear destroys everything that surrounds him. When his impregnable fortress is submerged he sets out, sword in hand to find the culprits. A quirky cast of damaged animals protest their innocence and the domino effect his destruction has caused becomes clear. The bear finally realises that his own actions have created the chaos and he must take responsibility and make amends.

Gianluca Foli’s deceptively simple line and colour drawings embellish the story and provide subtle subtext. The brown bear powerfully dominates each frame and his victims are reduced visually but are very feisty vocally.

Cali says in an interview on www.wilkinsfarago.com.au that ‘Often we accuse somebody or something for things which happen to us. I think this is quite stupid. We’re responsible for ourselves, for what we do, and everything we do has got some consequence.’

When I shared this story with Year 2 students they were enthralled and infuriated. In a spirited discussion that covered all the literacy key competencies one little boy commented. ‘That bear should learn to take the blame when he wrecks things’ and a little girl piped up ‘just like BP’. Out of the mouths of six year olds!.

Every library at every level should own this book. Every teacher should read it to their class.

Glad I went surfing!

By the way, teachers’ notes for the book, and many others, can be found on our website here.

WA Department of Education recommends ‘Bear with the Sword’

The Bear with the Sword

Gianluca Foli sure draws a great bear

WHILE we’re a ‘trade’ publisher, the majority of our books are actually sold to schools.

With this in mind, we try to publish children’s picture books that not only entertain but can also be used in the classroom, and we prepare extensive teachers’ notes to help educators make best use of them in a school setting.

It’s pleasing when education experts acknowledge this. Davide Cali and Gianluca Foli’s marvellous fable, The Bear with the Sword, is listed as a recommended resource for Years 1 to 3 in Western Australian primary schools in Primary Focus 2011, a guide compiled by the Department of Education’s Curriculum Materials Information Services division.

Here’s what the guide says about the book:

A bear is very proud of his sword and to prove how powerful it is, he begins hacking down everything in reach, including a whole forest. When his fortress is washed away he sets out to find the perpetrator in order to cut him in two. In the end the bear finds that the chain of disasters leads back to him. In mournful realisation, the bear sets about repairing the damage and right the wrong he has created. This is a beautifully presented tale that allows young readers to easily grasp the concept of thinking before acting and taking responsibility for one’s actions. The bear’s remorse and the actions he takes to make appropriate amends will provide all young readers with food for thought. The lively illustrations extend the text and reveal further details on closer examination.

Useful for: consequences, bears, environmental degradation, responsibility, violence and nonviolence, parable