Wilkins Farago nominated for international Children’s Publisher of the Year award

BOP_logo_categorie.inddMelbourne independent book publisher Wilkins Farago is one of three publishers nominated in the Oceania region for the highly prestigious 2015 Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year.

The annual award is run by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair—the world’s largest and most important children’s book fair—in association with the Italian Publishers Association. Now in its third year, the Bologna Prize recognises children’s books publishers who have ‘excelled in editorial innovation’ over the previous year. Six prizes are awarded, one for each geographical area: Asia, Africa, Central-South America, Europe, North America, and Oceania.

One Red Shoe

One Red Shoe

‘We’re frankly gobsmacked to be nominated,’ said Wilkins Farago’s founder Andrew Wilkins. ‘We’re a tiny publishing house. How did they find us? We’d fit in the broom cupboards of our fellow nominees [Allen & Unwin and Text Publishing].’

Oyvind Torseter's innovatative and surreal tale about a hole that suddenly appears in a man's new apartment.

Oyvind Torseter’s innovatative and surreal tale about a hole that suddenly appears in a man’s new apartment.

Wilkins Farago specialises in translating and publishing quality children’s books from foreign languages into English from its ‘office’ in South Melbourne.

‘Our publishing policy is pretty simple: unless we find books we absolutely love, we don’t publishing anything at all,’ said General Manager Anna Wilkins. ‘Last year, we were lucky to have some exceptional books, so this nomination is really for our authors, illustrators, translators, and international publishing partners.’

Key books published in 2014 included One Red Shoe (Karin Gruss & Tobias Krejtschi), a picture book set in the war-torn Gaza Strip, the surreal graphic novel The Hole and My Father the Great Pirate, Davide Cali and Maurizio Quarello’s moving story against the background of a historic mining disaster.

These are not mainstream kids books—there are no fluffy bunnies or pink fairies—but they respect children as readers, encouraging them to think and feel, which we believe the best children’s books should do,’ said Wilkins.


My Father the Great Pirate

Publishers are nominated for the award by international Publishers Associations and cultural institutions representing book publishers worldwide and by other publishers. The final winners are now being voted on by publishers attending the 2015 Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and will be announced at a special awards ceremony in Bologna, Italy on 30 March 2015.


One of the best things you can do with your kids.

ImageIf you’re looking to spend some quality time with your kids, one of the best things you can do is cuddle up with them and read a book.

In an increasingly digital world, where ebooks are now downloadable instantly, it’s worth noting that one of the few types of printed books that are still selling well are children’s picture books.


I believe it’s because they give children (and the adults too) experiences that are very hard to get from TV, the internet, games consoles and iPads.

This is because print still does things that digital can’t do. Here are just some of the reasons:

1. Picture books are real 3D objects a child can experience with all their senses.

As well as seeing the pictures and hearing the words when you read to them, kids can handle a book, smell the paper and even, in the case of very young kids, bite and taste it!

2. Stories enable a child to experience emotions in a way that is completely safe.

Human beings have always loved stories. They’ve been an essential part of what makes us human for thousands of years.

We use stories for all sorts of reasons.

Think how fables like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or The Hare and the Tortoise are used to teach children valuable life lessons.

But also think of scary stories like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel (no, not the vampire hunters—the other ones!). Apart from teaching kids not to stray too far from home, they also expose kids to new emotions—ones they can try out for size in complete safety.

If you’ve spent any time with a two- or three-year-old, you’ll appreciate they are still very much learning to control their emotions. We are emotional animals.

Learning how our emotions work, how to control, express or understand them is something that takes a lifetime and it starts very early in childhood.

Books can help. Stories can make kids feel happy, sad, anxious, scared, in measured doses. And when the book is over and everything back where it should be, the memory of that emotion remains.

3. Stories enable kids to take a journey beyond their own work.

This can be a physical journey to another country. This is one passion of mine—many of the books I publish are set in other countries. Waiting for Mummy, a simple but moving tale of a little boy waiting for his mum to come home is set in Korea, for instance, while Lat’s delightful Kampung Boy is set in a Malaysian village. Serge Bloch’s Sam and His Dad is set in France.

Learning that there are other places beyond teaches children valuable lessons. One of the most important is that, while people may live in different places and look different to us, we have a lot in common with them. We all love our families, enjoy playing with friends, or miss Mum or Dad when they’re away.

4. Books can carry real knowledge and help kids discover passions and interests they otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.

While I was writing this, I asked my six year-old what he liked about books. His reply was slightly unexpected:

‘The best thing about books is that in science books you learn things about being a scientist when you grow up. I want to be a scientist. Most factual books have facts about science. Everything in this room is science—even that computer. And you, you’re science, Dad.’

I wasn’t expecting that. Kids are little sponges, absorbing so much. What lifelong interest might be awakened by ten minutes with the right book?

5. Lastly, reading picture books together give us all an excuse to do something few kids get enough of—cuddling up.

Sometimes, that’s all the reason you need.

‘Empty Fridge’ makes the Wall Street Journal

ImageWe were thrilled to find a sophisticated review of Empty Fridge in the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s an extract …

It is not extreme weather but lack of food that presents the central problem in “Empty Fridge”… a picture book for younger children by French illustrator Gaetan Doremus. In the modern apartment building that M. Doremus depicts with delicate black lines and splashes of color, people have become so involved with their daily activities—chatting on the phone and “playing music non-stop”—that they have failed to provision for themselves. Come suppertime, Andrew has just three carrots, Nabil has two eggs and a bit of cheese, and Claire, on the third floor, has only some tomatoes.

As in the old folk tale “Stone Soup,” the solution lies in a kind of cheerful collectivism—voluntary, mind you—that brings neighbors together with their edible oddments to conjure a meal that will feed everyone. Given that the author-illustrator is a Frenchman, it is perhaps no surprise that the resulting fusion food is a colorful quiche. “Slices of quiche, slices of life,” we read, as the quiche fad spreads from the building across the whole city. “It’s such a pleasant and refreshing thing to do,” this sharing of food, that “people find themselves asking: ‘Why don’t we do this every day?’ “

– by Meghan Cox Gurdon. A version of this article appeared June 1, 2013, on page C6 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Droughts And Squalls.

Wall Street Journal

Why Business needs the NBN’s super fast broadband.

This is not a politics blog, but I’m going to write something about the stated policy position of Australia’s Liberal Party on broadband.

In a nutshell, it’s an ill-considered, short-sighted and economically irresponsible position which will irrevocably stymy Australia’s business competitiveness for a generation.

Here’s why.

Australia is currently building a National Broadband Network (NBN). The stated goal of the NBN is to deliver superfast broadband to 93% of Australia’s homes, schools and businesses, with the remaining 7% (the most remote) being serviced by wireless and satellite services.

The NBN defines superfast speeds as 100 Mbps per second. Is that fast? You betcha. According to testmy.net, Australia’s current average download speed is 2.3 Mbps.

By any current measure, 100 Mbps is at least ten to twenty times faster than current speeds. What’s more, some sources suggest the potential for the NBN is speeds of a phenomenal 1000 Mbps per second.

What difference will such superfast speeds make? Well, I can tell you from our own experience.

Wilkins Farago has been enjoying speeds of 100 Mbps—what the NBN is promising by 2021—for about two years. We have a home office and Optus already offers a ‘superfast broadband’ service to residential customers (interestingly, it doesn’t offer a similar service to business customers). Our speeds are regularly around 100 Mbps.

So, what is business like at 100 Mbps?

Fantastic. It enables us to do things we couldn’t possibly have done before, to use technology in way that not only makes our business more efficient and robust, but—vitally—allows us to pursue business opportunities we otherwise wouldn’t be able to pursue.

Here’s just one example, and it shows exactly why superfast speeds can and will make a huge difference to businesses of all sizes.

On 7 May last year, a major customer rang us up to ask if we had a book that might be suitable for their customers. They had a gap in their offering for August and needed a quality kids book to fill it.

As it happened, while we didn’t have a booked scheduled, we did have a book we were keen to publish and proposed this book to the customer.

They said yes, please deliver by 7 July. So, we now had two months to produce the book.

However, there were quite a few challenges to overcome if we were to achieve this tight deadline:

  1. We would have to acquire the rights to publish the book. These were owned by a French publisher we had never dealt with before.
  2. We had no digital artwork with which to produce the book. This would need to come from the French publisher.
  3. We had no translation of the book, which was originally published in French.
  4. For economic reasons, the book would have to be printed in southern China. With prepress, printing and binding scheduled to take 30 days and the shipping and port clearances likely to take around 20 days on top of that, we would need to have press-ready artwork to the printer within a week to be sure of meeting the delivery deadline.

In fact, we had the artwork for our English language edition to the printer in China on 11 May, just four days after taking the call from our customer.

In that time, we negotiated an agreement with the French publisher, paid an advance by EFT, received the large digital artwork by FTP, translated the book, typeset our edition and uploaded the artwork for our own edition via FTP to our printer in China.

Had we not had confidence in the speed of our broadband service, we wouldn’t have attempted such an exercise.

The production files alone were around 1.5 GB in size. At low download speeds, we knew from experience that transferring such large files via FTP was problematic. Dropouts are common, meaning you may have to start over again several times, and it would have taken hours and hours to transfer from France, and many, many hours more to transfer our production files to China.

Under such circumstances, it’s more reliable to use a costly international courier, but in this instance, that wasn’t an option.

As it was, moving these big files around the world was quick and easy. Our printer responded with a digital proof the very next day and the several thousand books were delivered on time (even in spite of a heart-stopping last minute shipping delay).

During the course of this production process, we used several technologies that are completely enabled by the internet:

  • Skype. All international phone calls were conducted using this service. At 100 Mbps, there are no call drop-outs, calls are crystal clear and international calls cost just cents.
  • FTP. At 100 Mbps, transfer of huge files via a File Transfer Protocol client is quick, reliable and efficient.
  • Carbonite. All our company’s files are backed up not only on a separate backup drive in the office but also via a cloud-based service called Carbonite. This means, even if our premises burns down and everything in our office is destroyed, we still have all our corporate data protected. Backing up an entire publishing business to the cloud would be impracticable without superfast speeds.
  • Desktop publishing software. Updates of all our software are conducted over the internet, ensuring we have the latest and most robust versions of all the software we need for production. When we have to upgrade, we don’t worry about the cost of downloading large files, nor the time it will take. We just do it.

All this is based on what we do now. Who knows what other cloud services will be developed that we can usefully use in the future? Judging by the cloud technology roadmaps of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Adobe, using local software on a PC may become a thing of the past entirely within just a few years. Everything will de done in the cloud.

Which brings me the Liberal Party’s policy on broadband. In order to save some money (maybe $7 billion) and complete the NBN two years earlier, the Liberals’ policy proposes minimum download speeds to 25 Mbps, against the NBN’s proposed 100 Mbps minimum.

Shadow Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull—an intelligent man who should (and probably does) know better—says:

25 megs will enable everybody in residential situations to do everything they want to do or need to do in terms of applications and services.

Rubbish. He couldn’t be more wrong, as I hope I’ve demonstrated.

If Wilkins Farago is already getting 100mbps, why do we care? Because only a fraction of lucky Australian small business can currently access these speeds.

If, as looks likely, Turnbull becomes Australia’s next Communications Minister in September, other small businesses across the nation will miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

If the Liberals thought for a moment of the benefits to small business, instead of scoffing at the thought it will just enable people to download movies faster, they couldn’t support such a short-sighted policy.

Better get writing to your local LNP candidate now, or miss the boat.

The Little Eskimo – a homage to the child within us all


A positive response from the children’s book blogging community about Davide Cali and Maurizio Quarello’s Little Eskimo and his companions. Here are some snippets to tempt you to read the articles in full!

This fable-like story is an homage to the child within us all – who looks to the future, brimming with questions and perhaps also fear about What Will Be. Author Cali has written a timeless, thoughtful and beautiful tale that reminds children the future is very much in their hands.

Maurizio Quarello’s striking illustrations of Arctic wilderness and its fauna has been lusciously-rendered, showcasing a darling main character and his animal friends in a way that will charm readers of all ages.

Simply gorgeous. – Tania McCartney, Kids Book Review

The Little Eskimo is a beautiful parable about identity and becoming in an exotic Arctic setting. – Angela Crocombe, Readings St Kilda

This is a book which is perfect for dreamers, thinkers and those who love to wander through the ‘what ifs’ within their imaginations. – My Book Corner Blog

This heart-warming allegorical tale, with folktales cadences, goes to the heart of what it is to be a child, with life’s wonderful possibilities laid out before you. – Stephanie Owen Reader Blog


Listen to Janet Frame’s 2002 reading of ‘Friends Far Away Die’ (in celebration of World Poetry Day)

The Goose BathTo celebrate World Poetry Day we thought we would share Janet Frame’s 2002 reading of ‘Friends Far Away Die‘ from her collection of poems, The Goose BathListen here.

If you would like to find out more about Janet Frame and her works published since she passed away in 2004, listen to the ABC Book Show interview ‘Posthumous Publishing – Janet Frame’s Poetry’ with her niece, Pamela Gordon, the Chair of the Janet Frame trust and literary executor.


Janet Frame: Biography

Twice shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Janet Frame was born in Dunedin in 1924.

janet_frame_credit_reg_grahamShe was the author of eleven novels, five collections of stories, a volume of poetry and a children’s book. She is perhaps best known for the autobiography An Angel at My Table, which chronicles her early years, several of which were spent in and out of mental institutions.

Famously, she was only saved from a lobotomy when her surgeon read in a local newspaper that she had won an award for her first novel.

She was a Burns Scholar and a Sargeson Fellow, and won the New Zealand Scholarship in Letters and the Hubert Church Award for Prose. She was made a CBE in 1983 for services to literature, awarded an honorary doctorate of literature from Otago University in 1992.

She received New Zealand’s highest civil honour when she was made a member of the Order of New Zealand.

Janet Frame died in January 2004. Her award-winning last work,The Goose Bath, is now published posthumously by Wilkins Farago in Australia, while her novels and autobiography were reissued in standard editions in 2007.

The Janet Frame Literary Trust

Janet Frame on Wikipedia

Guest Literacy blog post by Planning Queen, Nicole Avery

9780980607055It’s well into the first term and, at my son’s school, I’ve noticed lots of parents chatting about their child’s level of spelling and reading.

Being a publisher of children’s books I’m often asked if I know of any literacy resources I could recommend. As well as suggesting our title, Teaching Kids to Read by Fay Tran, which focuses on learning to read with phonics, I’ve also been directing people to blog, Planning with Kids, and their fantastic posts throughout February focusing on Literacy.

In this series of blog posts, topics covered include: What is Phonics?, Early Literacy For Children With Additional Need, Is your child being taught to spell well? and Decodable Books. The last post in the series is a more personal perspective from blog owner Nicole Avery.  With her permission we have included this as a guest post below:

Guest blog by Nicole Avery, originally posted on  Planning with Kids, March 8th, 2013.

Supporting Kid’s Literacy


Supporting kids literacy

This post is the final in my literacy series which has been running over the last few weeks.  The other posts in the series were:

I was pleased to have a number of experts contribute to the series, but for today’s post I wanted to share what I do at home with our kids to support their literacy. This is the stuff beyond reading to them daily, talking to them, pointing out letters, signs etc. I am not writing this to say that this is what everyone should do nor that is even best practice. It is the reality of how I try my best to support five kids at differing levels with their literacy. To make it a little easier for you to follow I have broken it into stages.


My support of literacy for this age, is based upon games and an introduction to phonics. Our eldest child attended a Montessori kindergarten and I was lucky to learn a great deal about early literacy from his teachers. The first thing I learnt was not to teach preschoolers the name of the letters of the alphabet, but the sound.

I spy game
The first game I have played with all our preschoolers has been the “I Spy” game. You can see full details on how we play it here, but in short you choose a small number of objects and once the preschooler can name all the items correctly you can start the game by saying “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with D”. “D” being the sound of the letter not the name.

I also very happily use technology to help support the preschooler. Two of my favourites resources are:

Alphablocks – Online Game

Alphablocks is a fun game which has videos to watch, games to play all of which are phonics based.

It is aimed at three-to six-year-olds and its simple purpose is to entertain and show that wordplay can be a lot of fun. It is based on best-practice phonics teaching, helping young children to develop confidence and encouraging engagement with reading and making words.

I will let the four year old have 10 – 15 minute sessions on this when I can sit with him. While he can easily operate the mouse, there are many options and distractions, which I guide him through.

abc Pocket Phonics

pocket phonics
Possibly one of my favourite all time kids educational apps. This link will take you to the lite version which is free, but only has limited letters. It is great to be able to try it out, but we have the $2.99 full version and I highly recommend it.

Again our preschooler has 10 – 15 minute sessions on the iPad, but the way this app works, it will only let him move up once he has mastered sets of letters first. I will let him play this game when I am working with the older kids on their homework. He will often then have 10 minutes of free play on other apps of his choice.

Primary School

I have two key resources I use to work on literacy with the primary school kids.

Simplex Spelling Phonics 2 Syllables – Spell To Read

simplex spelling 540
The first is an app, Simplex Spelling Phonics, and it is one of the more expensive apps I have bought at $5.49, but I think it is worth every cent. You can have user accounts for each child, so they can work at their own level. It is recommended for kids aged 6+. And we have just purchased the Simplex Spelling Phonics – Advanced Phonograms which is also $5.49 and recommended for kids 9+.

Toe by Toe: Highly Structured Multi-Sensory Reading Manual for Teachers and Parents by Keda Cowling

toe by toe
Toe by Toe (aff) is a very specific approach to helping kids learn to read using syllable division and phonics. You can see example pages here.

You don’t need to be an educator to use this book as each page has instructions for you, but it does require commitment and discipline from you, just as much as the child, to be fully effective.

My goal is to work with the primary school kids for about 10 – 20 minutes a day each Mon – Fri, but this doesn’t always happen as extra curricular activities get in the way. The app obviously doesn’t need my input like the book, but I need to be aware of what they are doing on the app and any issues they may be having.

Secondary school

It is a very different ball game at this end. My support is less frequent but still needed. A tip from a friend was to read the set texts he needs to read for school, so I can engage in literary discussions with him about the books. This has been very helpful. The discussions don’t even happen necessarily around homework requirements, but more often just general discussions around the home.

I still make sure he has access to a wide variety of texts and engage in conversations with him about those texts even if I dislike the books. In our conversations I am aiming to increase ability to critically analyse what he is reading. He does love to read and will read widely – sometimes very simple books and other times incredibly complex works. Both can provide excellent opportunities assess his comprehension and understanding.

Educating myself

And I read as much as I can about literacy and kids. I am always on the look out for blog posts on literacy, new research and events I can attend to learn more myself. Highlights I have come across are:

Each child is different though and I tailor what work I do with them based not only on their ability, but also on their personality and temperament.

Would love to hear how you support kids literacy and any tools and resources you use.

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