Libby Gleeson on “I am Thomas”

There’s a new Australian picture book creating a little controversy, I am Thomas, by Libby Gleeson & Armin Greder.

I trust Libby Gleeson implicitly and I know Armin Greder’s more confronting illustration work from both “The island” and “The city”. If people thought they were ordering a sequel to Gleeson & Greder’s “Big dog”, they’ll certainly be in for a surprise. I did see “I am Thomas” in the bookshops recently, riffled it, and figured it was a picture book aimed more at secondary students – one to keep on a special shelf for teaching purposes rather than for open borrowing.

Last night, I emailed Libby Gleeson, author of the book, for some insights into its theme and purpose. People on the teacher librarian listservs have mentioned that it is included in the current Australian Standing Orders secondary list. Libby is happy for me to reproduce her email on the blog.

Libby says, “Thanks for this [opportunity]:

“There is a wonderful set of teacher notes by Robyn Sheahan-Bright up on the Allen & Unwin website at:

“It is a dark book in that it deals with the dilemmas of some kids growing up and trying to find themselves in a world of conformity.

“For some people that is a real challenge and it isn’t appropriate for little kids. But the notes offer terrific insights and ways to work with the book in classrooms. I notice ‘Magpies’ called it ‘a masterpiece’. Thank you Maurice Saxby!

“Thanks again for letting me know about [the TL enquiries on the listservs]… Libby.”

So there you go. Straight from the horse’s mouth. So to speak. Thanks Libby! Fast response! Much appreciated.

A fishy story

Sometimes I think it would be great to have a fish tank in the school library where I work. Fish tanks are so… calming. Well, that’s the theory. Usually, I manage to talk myself out of such a whimsy.

I had a large aquarium in my old library. The principal bought it, on a whim, from a casual relief janitor – and it functioned quite adequately for about a year. The students loved searching for the little “Where’s Wally?” toy (in his swimming ring, snorkle and goggles) which decorated the bottom of the tank. (That’s “Where’s Waldo?” for my US readers.)

We eventually lost the last of our first batch of goldfish, so I cleaned out the tank one Friday and had the new water circulating all weekend, ready to buy more fish.

Of course, when we came in on the Monday morning the tank was bone dry: the water had leaked through a faulty seam (weakened during my strenuous cleaning?), and saturated the carpet! We had a special event (visiting children’s author, Libby Gleeson) occurring in the library later in the week and we had to hire special air blowers to dry out the carpet in time. What a mess!

One six-week holiday, I put in a four-week food block to keep the fish happy for the time we’d be away from school. Someone said, “But what happens when the fish get hungry in the fifth week?”

I joked that “Of course, Survival of the Fittest” would be played out – and boy, did I feel bad when one poor goggle-eyed black moor got skeletonised.