Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One Shot World Tour: Australia

Best read with Vegemite!

Welcome to the One Shot World Tour taking us to Australia.

Today I'd like to introduce--or reacquaint--you with the Tashi books, written by mother-and-daughter team Anna and Barbara Fienberg and beautifully illustrated by Kim Gable.

I'd submit that writing early chapter books is the most difficult task of all for a writer. Kids this age, say 4-8 depending on reading skills, like predictability and the feeling of safety when venturing out on their own as new readers. I'll admit, though it pains me, that my daughter read every single MaryKate & Ashley book at this age and that I bought them for her.

The Tashi series is a breath of fresh air for the early chapter book market in the U.S. The first fourteen Tashi books have been beautifully reissued this year by Allen & Unwin. (The first Tashi books were published beginning in 1995 in Australia.) I've read all fourteen, one after the other, to my six year old and he's ready to start again from the beginning. And, guess what? I'm not dreading it--because the Tashi books are lively, entertaining, and, most importantly, literary at their core.

Indeed, most important to the Tashi series is storytelling. Each book is framed in exactly the same way: Tashi has a story to tell to his best friend Jack. Sometimes, Tashi tells his story to Jack and Jack's parents. And, sometimes, Jack himself is the narrator--retelling Tashi's story to his parents. Each story (except for the first) is framed in exactly the same way, providing the familiarity children of this age so desperately desire. When Tashi launches into each thrilling tale, he begins, "it was like this."

Tashi himself comes "from a place very far away" and dresses quite a bit like a young elf. His stories--and this is what I like most about the series--are all modified versions of fairy tale classics and take place in Tashi's home village. Tashi is a trickster character--forced to use his smarts to overcome the Baba Yaga, giants, ghosts, demons, dragons, and all manner of mythical creature. Each Tashi volume--again, except for the first--contains two stories, each perfectly sized for a bedtime reading. Be careful, though, or your youngster may trick you into two.

Kim Gable's illustrations are also perfectly suited to early chapter books. Each volume is graced by a full-color cover, while pencil sketches illustrate nearly every page of the text. Gable's style is friendly, but lush: forests are appropriately scary, but monsters--like The Big Stinker to the left here--have just enough humor to them to save young readers from nightmares.

The Fienbergs' style is lively and entertaining, and their authorial intent clear: There's always time for a good story. Sit down, listen, and enjoy.

Tashi and the Giants
Tashi and the Ghosts
Tashi and the Genie
Tashi and the Baba Yaga
Tashi and the Demons
Tashi and the Big Stinker
Tashi and the Dancing Shoes
Tashi and the Haunted House
Tashi and the Royal Tomb
Tashi: Lost in the City
Tashi and the Forbidden Room
Tashi and the Stolen Bus

The Tashi books are perfect for the classroom as well and will find their best use in the first through third grades. Consider donating the series to a classroom or library today. (The publisher has Teacher's notes, as well as coloring sheets and activities, available here at the Tashi page.)


Other Aussie authors saluted today:

The Seven Imps interview Margo Lanagan after reviewing her new book, Red Spikes, yesterday.

Kelly Fineman talks Melina Marchetta.

Jenn at Not Your Mother's Bookclub interviews Simmone Howell

Chicken Spaghetti reviews Kathy Hoopmann's award winning All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome. (How totally true is that title?)

Gwenda at Shaken and Stirred is busy. She discusses How Sassy Changed My Life, The Red Shoes, by Ursula Dubosarsky, and talks with Margo Lanagan.

Jen Robinson discusses John Marsden's Tomorrow series.

Finding Wonderland talks Penni Russon and Jaclyn Moriarty. (They also have a bonus feature up today: Top Five Reasons for Vegemite.)

Little Willow discusses Finding Grace by Alyssa Brugman

Liz at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy it is all about Catherine Jinks and her four Pagan books.

Jackie at Interactive Reader posts about Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big in This? and John Flanagan's The Icebound Land.

Trisha at The Ya Ya Yas interviews Queenie Chan.

Betsy talks more about John Marsden (and his amazing book, The Rabbits) and also highlights a new Hot Man of Literature: Andy Griffiths.

Jenny Davidson has interviewed mystery author Peter Temple.

Mother Reader posts on Am I Right or Am I Right? by Barry Jonsberg.

And, our organizer extraordinaire, Colleen Mondor, discusses Nick Earls' books at Chasing Ray.

Enjoy Australia, mates!