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  • Writer's pictureJulianne Negri

On the time Ursula Dubosarsky Wrote to my Kid's Book Club!

With the announcement of Australia's new Children's Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky, I was reminded of the time she wrote to my children's book club.

I used to run a book club for 7-9 year olds, called Barnaby Book Club. It grew out of the mum's book club - I realised our kids could get the same enjoyment if they had one too. The local librarian helped out to source group sets of books and the local bookstore, The Little Bookroom, also gave us a discount on bulk book buys. In the end, the kid's book club - with parties, craft, cooking, video making and more - became far more fun than the grown up one!

We were reading Ursula Dubosarsky's wonderful Coco Carlomango books, illustrated by Terry Denton. The books were perfect for our group which had a real mix of reading interests and levels (thank you Yarra Libraries Children's Librarian!). These books were highly illustrated for the reluctant readers, full of puzzles to engage all minds and downright fun for everyone. I mean - guinea pigs for a start! We wrote to Ursula to show her what we were up to and and WROTE BACK!

Dear Barnaby Book Club,

How very HAPPY (and even squeaky!) I am that you are reading The Perplexing Pineapple. I hope you are finding it JUICY and PUZZLING.  Like a delicious piece of fruit that you are not quite sure what it is….

Aren’t Terry Denton’s pictures fantastic?  I start laughing whenever I look at his drawings of Coco and Alberta. He told me that guinea pigs are very very hard to draw. Have you every tried? I would love to see any drawings of guinea pigs that you do!

I love guinea pigs very much. I have had guinea pigs since I was your age. The first two were called Bubbles and Popcorn, and I think that’s where the personalities of Coco and Alberta come from.

I also love puzzles and mysteries! that is why there are so many puzzles and mysteries in this book. I even like puzzles that I can’t work out – I guess I must like feeling mystified. I like wondering about them.

Probably the world seems pretty mysterious to a guinea pig. Well, if I was a guinea pig I think I would spend my time wondering what on earth was happening but maybe real guinea pigs don’t wonder at all, they just get on with running and munching and hiding and SQUEALING when they are really hungry!

I have attached some more puzzles you can do with Coco and Alberta – join the dots and spot the difference and things like that.

If you look on my website and scroll down to “guinea pig detectives” on the left hand column, you will find a poem, a story and lots of other guineapiggy things there.

For example, here are some crazy  photos to click on of Alberta in Buenos Aires in Argentina a few years ago.

Do write back to me if you would like to! I would love to hear from you.

Squeaky and squirmy happy reading wishes from Ursula Dubosarsky

The role of the Australian Children's Laureate is to enrich the lives of children through the power of story and I think our new Laureate is the most wonderful choice. She is not only an author of every type of children's book imaginable - from non-fiction to picture book to novel - she is genuinely generous and encouraging to young readers. I love knowing she is the holder of the special magpie!

And just a note on kids book clubs....THEY WORK! Kids are encouraged to read more widely and get more enjoyment from a book through the shared experience. Check out some of the wild activities we came up with! We went to book launches, had a read-a-thon to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, had treasure hunts and made videos. Some of my Barnabies are in High School now! They still say hi and reminiscence about crazy book parties at my place.

If you are looking for a children's book club, some book shops have them: The Little Bookroom, Brunswick Bound and Readings. Or maybe start your own? Feel free to contact me if you want to pick my brain!

p.s. I should also note that other children's authors I contacted through the club WROTE BACK! Thank you Emily Gale and Jen Storer!

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