Maurice Saxby Mentorship – Day 2

Who remembers Miss Honey from Roald Dahl’s Matilda? Well did you know we’ve got our very own Miss Honey alive and well bringing joy to our   children all around Australia.

Welcome to Day 2 of my Maurice Saxby Mentorship experience.

I arrived in Prahran an hour early and so decided to visit my favourite cafe (Palate) for some bircher muesli and a latte. I also noticed while walking along Greville St. a shop with a sign in the window – Jeans, all $40….I looked down at my jeans (my daughter’s jeans) and thought that it might be time to be self indulgent again (the nose ring was looking fabulous). Unfortunately I didn’t have time yesterday but I will be back.

When I arrived at the library Elizabeth was setting up her books and easel. I took at sit up the back with my fellow mentees and we settled in for the hour. What a joy it was to watch a professional at work. Right from the beginning you sensed that she was so comfortable in front of her audience.

Once she had be introduced she explained to the children that she was going to write up a plan, because everyone needs a plan if they want to arrive somewhere. She wrote her plan on the whiteboard – this is what she wrote..

  • Read some poems
  • Talk about me
  • Talk about my books
  • How ideas become books
  • Ideas for you
  • Read a picture book
  • Do a drawing
  • Questions

The books that she read poems from were Honey Sandwich and Mongrel Doggerel.

Her first poem was titled ‘Double Jointed’

Double jointed fingers

Double jointed toes

Roll them into bunches

And stuff them up your nose

And of course the kids thought this was hilarious. What was funnier was when Elizabeth asked if anyone could remember it off by heart – after numerous attempts one child succeeded, I had to really control myself because I had remembered it but then I had to remind myself that it wasn’t all about ME!

Elizabeth read a few more poems and she had the children join in when lines repeated themselves. This struck me as an extremely simple yet sensible thing to do as children, epecially of lower to middle primary age, find sitting still and silent absolute torture and even though they LOVED joining in, the situtation was always under control and very rarely did any of the teachers have to intervene.

As a poet myself it was extremely helpful to watch and learn from a seasoned professional. I loved the idea of writing up a plan and letting the children see it. Each time Elizabeth completed something on the list, she crossed it off. That way the children could see where they were up to and what to look forward to. It gave a sense of order even though of course there were tangents along the way, one of them being a child with hiccups! This led to a whole new discussion about story ideas and what if scenarios – What if you got hiccups in Church?

The highlight for me was when she read her book – That’s not a Daffodile

To watch the children being so thoroughly engaged was delightful. And from a poets point of few what I loved about the book was the stream of comparisons that Tom, the child in the story, comes up with…

When Tom is given a brown bulb, he says, ‘That’s not a daffodil! That’s an onion.’

This book has been shortlisted, 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award – Early Childhood – good luck Elizabeth!

Another treat that the children received was to pass around the medal that Elizabeth won when her book Not a Nibble won the, Picture Book of the Year, Children’s Book Council Awards 1997.

The hour flew by and ended with Elizabeth doing a quick sketch of one the children sitting in front row, which he got to take home. She gave a quick lesson on how to draw hands and the workshop ended with room full of applause.

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your methods with us. It was insightful, inspiring and fun, what more can you ask of a mentor?

Lunch Time

After the workshop I joined Helen Chamberlin, Pam Horsey, Lucinda Gifford, Jo Wishart and Elizabeth Quinn for lunch at a quaint little cafe called Is it Cafe in Izett St Prahran. I ordered the Chestnut Ravioli followed by a Soy Chai Tea – all delicious.

After that we made our way to East Melbourne to visit the home of Allen and Unwin where we met and spent the next couple of hours talking with the children’s publisher, Sarah Brenan. We sat in the board room surrounded by books and listened to the stories behind the stories. I didn’t take any notes because I was so captivated. The passion and excitement expressed by Sarah was contagious and I sat mesmerized as she read us picture book after picture book. It was like being a child again.

Again I had to pinch myself.

But guess what got me most excited of all?

Rhyme is alive and well – hooray!

One of the  next books to be published by Allen and Unwin is a rhyming book, we got a sneak preview but we’re sworn to secrecy so you’ll just have to wait and see but here’s one that was prepared earlier by the amazing Alison Lester.

Noni the pony is friendly and funny.
Her shimmering tail is the colour of honey.
She lives on a farm at Waratah Bay,
and likes eating apples and carrots and hay.

So I’d like once again to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has taken time from their day to share their wisdom and experience with us. Every moment so far has been wonderful.

Until next week. Have a great weekend.

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