Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Life Search for a Book Title

Hey, I've just started editing the fifth book in the My Life series and it needs a title! Some of our ideas are below and I'd love you to tell me which you like best or even suggest your own. Just click on 'Comments' below this post. Or leave your ideas for me on Instagram, YoutubeFacebook or Twitter.

If I choose your title for the book I'll send you a signed copy of the entire series including the new book when it's released March 2017! But we must choose a title by 27 July 2016. Go to it.

My Life & Other Runaway Cars

My Life and Other Failed Experiments

My Life & Other Disastrous Decisions

My Life – Disaster Zone

My Life & Other Practical Jokes

My Life & Other Catastrophes

My Life and Other Ingenious Plans

My Life and Other Weaponised Muffins


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Making Sense of Humour

Funnyman author Oliver Phommavanh has just launched his new book, The Other ChristyHere, Oliver gives tips on how kids can write their own funny stories...

[NB: This afternoon, Wed 29 June 2016, 4:30pm-5:00pm Oliver and I are having a Chicken-Off on my new Exploding Chickens game. See if you can beat me and Oliver and, maybe, beat AMY9, the current high-scorer. Spread the word! We'll be chatting while we play in comments on this pic in my Instagram feed. You can chat, too, or leave your comments below this post by clicking 'Post a Comment!'.]

Kids often ask me how they can come up with funny stories. I reply by asking them another question. ‘What makes you laugh?’

I believe it’s a good place to start because you need to make sense of your own humour first. When I’m doing writing workshops, kids are drawing from all kind of places to write humour. Here are some examples:

  • The funny things they see and read. It could be books and TV, but more recently it’s what they see on YouTube or the memes they see on social media. 
  • Gross humour. Some may say that it is a cheap laugh. But I would rather have a kid write about boogers then write nothing at all. It’s instant gratification. If I find a kid who can’t get past those kind of jokes, I get them to expand on it. So you’ve got a fart gun. Why not make it a fart bazooka? Or if their punchlines (last line) always end with eating boogers, try to come up with some unlikely scenarios at the beginning. In Tristan Bancks’ My Life stories, there are some great examples of pushing the gross to the max and in clever ways. [Thanks Oliver - ;) Tristan.] 
Comedian and Kids' Author Oliver Phommavanh.
  • The example you’ve just modelled. If I gave the class an example of a kid who licks weird things, I guarantee that almost half the kids will come back to me with someone who does the same. So make your example count. 
  • Embarrassing moments. In my latest book, The Other Christy, the two girls Christy and Christie try to outdo each other with who has the most embarrassing family. They’ve come up with the embarrometer, where they give their moment a rating of 1 to 10 based on how embarrassing it is. Embarrassment is a universal feeling that everyone can relate to, so there is usually a lot of scope for kids to take these feelings and turn them into funny scenarios.
  • Bring the weird out. I always tell kids to make every character weird in their stories. I don’t mean that every character has to have giant ears and green skin. I usually play a game like Two Truths and a Lie, where kids have to try to find something strange and unusual about them. Maybe they’ve broken 7 bones in their body. Or they’re scared of pumpkins. In The Other Christy, Christy Ung has a pet rabbit named Barbeque. Yes, Barbeque the rabbit. No wonder her grandpa always chases him with tongs. 
So everyone has a funny side that they can tap into for their stories. Once they get into the habit to look for the weird and draw from their own funny experiences, they’ll be writing funny stories in no time!

See you at 4:30 in the inaugural BATTLE OF THE EXPLODING CHICKENS.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Room to Read World Change Challenge in Action

Super-teacher-librarian Jackie Child from Brisbane's St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School shares, below, her student's innovative ways of showing Leadership for Literacy, gaining an understanding of Australia's neighbouring countries and contributing to our 2016 Room to Read World Change Challenge. Thanks Jackie!

At St Aidan's Year 6 Geography curriculum invites students to understand the connection Australia has with neighbouring countries in the South East Asian region. The last couple of years our students have researched, investigated and made connections through social, economic and environment to gain a better understanding of our relationship with these countries.

To engage our students and make the learning meaningful we have incorporated the Room to Read World Change Challenge into our project. Last year our students selected one Asian country to research and compare to Australia, presenting their information in an infographic. The students invited the school community to share their learning by creating artefacts in our Makerspace to engage younger students and parents in understanding the connections to that country that we have as Australians. Tristan Bancks Skyped in for the occasion and delighted the school community with stories and feedback on the activities the students had created. Donations were accepted which were sent to the Room to Read World Change Challenge.

This year our students are focussing on Nepal. They were particularly moved by the video of Suma’s Song and the Kamlari tradition. The students this year are once again researching and investigating social, economic and environmental aspects of Nepal and presenting the information in an infographic. The students will be designing and creating an artefact in the Makerspace in response to their Inquiry Question, which they had formulated during research, to enhance or impact the Nepalese community. These will be presented to the wider community. As part of the challenge the girls will be ‘working and raising money by doing chores’ for their families and sharing Suma’s story.

The girls are busy designing and making such things as 3D printed safer elephant seats for tourists (as tourism is over 50% of the economy), methods of transporting children, in particular girls, in mountainous villages to school. They are making survival kits for after an earthquake, caring for the many homeless dogs and devising ways to collect water and purify it!

It’s exciting to see the creativity and engagement the students are using to gain a better understanding of the Nepalese people and their environment and to be authentic in their learning by contributing to Room to Read World Change Challenge.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

See, Think, Wonder : Two Wolves / On the Run

Teacher, Matthew Seeney, has been using an innovative inquiry-based learning strategy called 'See, Think, Wonder' to get his students excited about a book and making early observations and predictions about the text. He recently contacted me about the fine work his class had been doing on my novel Two Wolves (published as On the Run in the US) and, here, he shares the students' journey...

'The students in 4/5/6S eagerly waited as they watched the new book for our novel study come out of the tub. It was Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks. The students were highly intrigued and couldn’t wait to turn the pages to see the story unfold.

Before any new book, it’s important to get the students thinking about what they are reading. In the beginning, whilst enthusiastically waiting to begin their journey with Two Wolves, the students in 4/5/6S used a strategy called ‘See,Think, Wonder’ from the book Making Thinking Visible. The purpose of this strategy is to emphasise the importance of observation as the basis for thinking and interpretation. The ‘seeing’ provides the students with an opportunity to look closely and notice before interpreting the picture. The ‘thinking’ allows students to ask themselves what they think is going on in the image. Finally, ‘wondering’ ensures students have had time to take in new information through observation, then think about and synthesise this information.

See, Think, Wonder

This strategy worked marvellously with Two Wolves. Students looked carefully at the front cover of the book to see what information they could gather. Students carefully described the cabin and the bushes on the front cover, some chose to sketch the cabin for more details.

Thinking led to many statements from the students like 'I think the person running on the cover is Ben Silver' and 'I think the cabin represents an evil wolf'.

As students reflected on their ‘seeing’ and thinking’, a whole world of wonder opened up for them. 'I wonder why it’s a picture of a cabin instead of wolves?' 'I wonder why there is a light on and who turned it on?' 'I wonder if the cabin is haunted?'

One of our students, Sophie Cross, said 'Each student has got a different opinion on what Two Wolves really means, but in this case there is no right or wrong answer. Students have been taking thinking to the next level by thinking more deeply about what they see. We have truly made the most of ‘See, Think, Wonder’ which has helped most of us get our ideas out there'.

As you can imagine, when the opportunity came to open the book, the students did so at breakneck speed, eager to see what lay ahead.'


Monday, May 16, 2016

Collaborative Short Storytelling in the Classroom

I recently visited Varsity College on Queensland's Gold Coast. It was a fantastic day and the students in teacher Mark Buzolic's class, 7I, had written a collaborative story in the style of the My Life books, using this food-based story starter and the story 'Hot Dog Eat' from My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up for inspiration.

I loved the story so much that I wanted to share it with you. (Beware of the 'groaner' joke at end!) I'm going to develop a kids' content section on my website so leave a comment or send me an email if you have a funny / weird / gross or thrilling story to share.

Switchin’ in the Kitchen

I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I unzipped my sports bag and opened the shoe box to take out my favourite footy boots, it was the last thing I would have imagined. Inside the shoe box was not my boots. It wasn’t even someone else’s boots. It wasn’t even a pair of shoes. It wasn’t even footwear. My heart sank. It was… lasagne. Sealed inside a plastic container was two boot-sized servings of lasagne. But this was no ordinary lasagne.

Without a doubt, lasagne is my favourite food. Normally I could eat it for dinner every night of the week and every lunch and breakfast for that matter. But not this lasagne. This was my sister’s infamous special spaghetti lasagne and I’d have to say there is no lasagne like it anywhere in the world. Not in all of Italy and not in the dodgiest Italian restaurant known to man. Let’s just say, if you took a bite out of my sister’s special spaghetti lasagne on Monday, you would still be chewing it on Friday. Normally cooking makes any kind of pasta softer, but somehow my sister’s cooking makes it tougher than year 10 algebra. And there were strands of spaghetti between the sheets of lasagne. It took the Italians two thousand years to perfect lasagne pasta and my sister thinks she can improve it by adding spaghetti. Not only that, there were olives. I can’t stand olives.

Staring into my sports bag, into the open shoe box, my mind raced back to the morning’s events – the morning of my under 13 soccer cup final. Sure I’d packed my entire kit – shin pads, socks, shorts, shirt and boots. Yes - definitely the boots. Laced, cleaned and polished. My sister had been nowhere near it because she was busy with her entry in the year 9 cooking competition. But what was it Mum had said?

‘Leave your boots on the kitchen table dear. You know your father and I can’t be with you for the match so the least I can do is to give them one more polish.’

And that must have been when the switch was made. It must have been a mistake. My mum would never mean to spoil my big day and my sister was surely too stupid to plan such a disaster.

Now here I was, standing in my thongs, staring dumbfounded at a container of my sister’s cooking while my team mates pulled up their socks and laced up their boots. No time to phone for help, not a spare pair of boots in sight and kick-off only seconds away.

Then I did something no sane person would even attempt to do. I grabbed two long strands of spaghetti and started strapping on those slices of lasagne, first to my left foot and then to my right. Maybe, just maybe, from a distance those leathery slabs of lasagne with a few random olives sticking out like studs, would look enough like boots to get me onto the field! But as I ran out there, I could already feel my plan starting to come unstuck.


That night, around the dinner table, I proudly retold the story of how, as my ‘boots’ unravelled into a gooey mess of cheesy sauce, I’d accidentally slid into the goal mouth and knocked in the winning goal.

Not only that, but my sister proudly produced two cooking competition medals for her boot-shaped ‘lasagne’. Who would have thought? Most original presentation and most improved!

‘Wow, Sis!’ I said. ‘Sounds like your cooking really kicked a few goals today.’

By Mark Buzolic & 7I, Varsity College

Illustration by Gus Gordon from the story, 'Hot Dog Eat', in My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up.

Mark's comments on the way the story was created:

'It was a joint construction with the class, inspired by an activity idea on your website and following on from The Dog Eat story, namely composing a story involving your favourite food. I tried to involve students in the decision making process and get them to appreciate that a story is something created by an author who makes choices. I think sometimes that students believe the story is pre-determined and the author just writes it. Hence we shared decisions such as whether to give a commentary of the football match or to leave that out and cut to the aftermath. We also decided that the original title Pasta Boots gave away a big part of the plot.

I wrote most of it ‘live’ in class on the projected screen so kids could witness the changes, the editing and the thought processes and help out with the writing as much as possible to make it our class story.'

© Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books. All rights reserved.
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