Sarah Mayor Cox with a young reader and his mum on the La Trobe University tram.
By Lauren Mitchell
Angela Throgmorton is not an easy woman to forget. The prim and proper sidekick to author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs’ slothful cat Old Tom is not your usual childhood hero, but for La Trobe University’s Sarah Mayor Cox, she reminds her of one.
“I had a librarian in school that looked like Angela Throgmorton,” Sarah says. “She had the same grey bun on the top of her head. I remember she’d pull out books one by one and rave about them and as a result we couldn’t wait to borrow them. There should be more of this spruiking of books.”
The lecturer and book reviewer is doing her bit to shout the benefits of books to kids from all over Bendigo today, as she takes part in the annual Text Marks the Spot.
The event is a full-day of free author talks, illustrator demonstrations and writing workshops for students as part of the Bendigo Writers Festival. And this year it features an exhibition of Angela and Old Tom, and more of Leigh Hobbs’ cast of characters in La Trobe’s View Street gallery.
The program is a celebration of many forms of storytelling, as Sarah says, “young people come to text in lots of different ways and it doesn’t always have to be through straight black lines of type on a page, it’s not the only sort of reading there is.”
As a result this year’s event features illustrators, a graphic novelist, musicians, songwriters and broadcasters alongside a great line-up of writers.
“I always try to make sure we have a mix of new and current authors but I’m also conscious a lot of writers may not be as commercially successful, or they’ve had success in the past, but they’re still writing quality titles and I want to bring them back into the curriculum as well,” Sarah says.
“Rosemary Sorenson also does that very well with the Bendigo Writers Festival program – it’s not just filled with people releasing their latest book.”
Sarah has worked on the program alongside La Trobe and Bendigo Writers Festival staff.
In Bendigo, there’s perhaps no better person to fly the flag for children’s and young adult literature. It’s what keeps her awake at night.
Sarah is a constant reader of the genre, in part for her regular reviewing gigs on ABC radio.
“I absolutely love historical YA fiction, especially if it has some sort of supernatural element to it,” she says. “I really like mythological stories. I also love a good classic book that takes me right back into childhood.
“I think children and YA books are often better written. I really have an issue with some books for adults in that you have to work too hard to read them. I think a well-written children’s or YA book transcends age boundaries as they’re about human experiences. Then again, maybe I’m spending too much time reading them?”
Sarah is hoping today’s event will encourage Bendigo students to experience the same ‘dilemma’.
“I’d like to think if they’ve heard someone speak they’d be encouraged to go away and read that person’s work, or read more in general,” she says.
“I’d like to think that schools go back and follow up on that relationship. Ultimately I want students to be better readers so they can be better writers – and any sort of writing. That they’re able to string concepts together in a way that’s more interesting.
“Really this day is about La Trobe putting its money where its mouth is and saying, we value local schools and this is something we’re giving back to you.”
Although this event is just for students, teachers and parents, the exhibition Leigh Hobbs – a Cast of Characters is on show for all to see in the La Trobe Art Institute until September 10.