Join Mike from the National Library Bookshop as he reads 'Bowerbird Blues' by Aura Parker, an award-winning illustrator, writer and designer.

This year, National Simultaneous Storytime takes place on Wednesday 22 May 2024 at 12pm.

Maddi O’Neil: Good morning everybody. My name is Maddi, I'm the Education Officer here at the beautiful National Library of Australia and today I'm really excited to be listening to Simultaneous Storytime with you.   

As we begin today, I would like to start by acknowledging Australia's First Nations people, the First Australians, as the traditional owners and custodians of the land and pay my respects to their elders past and present and through them to all Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I would also like to acknowledge that First Nations people are among the world's very first storytellers and collectors, which provides us with a really important connection to this incredible building and to the story that we're going to be looking at in just a few moments. 

Now, today is a special day because each year the Australian Library and Information Association chooses a book for people all over the country to read together at the exact same time, which is why we're all here. And we are really lucky because Mike has agreed to help us with this. Thank you, Mike.

Mike Shuttleworth: You're welcome.

Maddi O’Neil: Now, before we get started, let me tell you a bit about Mike. Mike is one of the knowledgeable and passionate people who works here at the National Library of Australia's bookstore, and he's going to help us read our book today. So before we get into all of that, let's learn a little bit more about him and what it's like to work here at the National Library of Australia. So Mike, what is your favourite picture book?

Mike Shuttleworth: Wow, I've got a lot of favourite picture books. Right now my favourite picture book is Snap! by Anna Walker. Beautiful pictures about the hectic day in the life of a little frog. Delightful story.

Maddi O’Neil: That is delightful. My next question for you is, what is your favourite thing about working at the National Library of Australia?

Mike Shuttleworth: Wow. Look, I've always loved reading and finding things out and so to work at a place where that's what everybody here does all day is just a joy.

Maddi O’Neil: Yeah, I can imagine that'd be amazing. Now, my last question is pretty tricky. I would like to know if one of the amazing kids joining us today came into our bookstore and they asked you for a recommendation for a picture book that was published by the National Library of Australia, what would you recommend?

Mike Shuttleworth: Oh well, firstly, welcome to the National Library of Australia. I would ask them what they are really interested in and if they're interested in animals and facts and finding out things, I would strongly recommend that they have a look at Fauna by Tania McCartney because it's full of amazing, surprising and astonishing facts about our wildlife and also beautifully illustrated.  

Maddi O’Neil: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Mike. Now to make sure that we are reading our story at the exact same time as everybody else, we should probably get started. So take it away, Mike.

Mike Shuttleworth: Let's go. Today's story for National Simultaneous Storytime is Bowerbird Blues by Aura Parker. She wrote the words and drew the pictures. Now, bowerbirds are a very special kind of bird and their nest is quite unusual, as you will see when we come to the end of the story.

Bowerbird Blues.

I am a collector. Always looking, finding and keeping!

Swooping, snatching, scouring, scavenging. Oh, how I love blue! 

A skerrick. A scrap. A piece of blue. If only I could find the perfect hue!

Aha, treasure! Magnificent cobalt. Brilliant, vibrant blue!

My belly is full, my wings are strong, and my collection is growing. But something is missing. What could it be?

Peeping, peering. Perhaps I will find it?

Over there! Is it blue?

It’s not enough. There must be more.

Searching, seeking. Up above. Is it there? More blue! That must be it! Soaring up, up, up into the blue! Oh, how I love the sky and moving through the marvellous blue!

But I can’t hold it. Can’t grasp it. Sliding, slipping through the air. Freefalling down, down, down.

Into wanting and wandering. Fluttering, fidgeting in all this grey.

In the distance, what’s over there? Gliding, hoping. Oh, how I love the sea. Glistening, calling, so much blue!

Splash! But it’s cold! Icy blue! Diving, sinking. Down, down, down, deeper into the blue. No, this can’t be it. Too frosty. My tears! Gasp! Will I ever find it?

My eyes open to the light of a new day. What’s this? Sparkling blue! My collection has grown.

If I place it just right, bit by bit, sorting rows of eight. Patterns of four. Puzzles of two. Pieces of one. 

That's how it goes.

Prancing, dancing!

Add a tiny splinter. Twig upon thread. Leaf upon grain,

Bibs and bobs building up up.

It grows higher and stronger.

Weaving, tinkering.

Finally, a place of my own made from the wonderfulness of blue from far and wide.

I feel stronger too, and closer to discovering what's missing.

Hush! Crackling and rustling in the leaves. What could it be?

This is it. I found it at last.

All this time, it wasn't blue.

It was you. Always you.

Smiling, soaring, floating, feeling, sharing, nesting, cuddling, snuggling, loving, knowing how much I love you.

You are more than blue can ever be.

Bowerbird Blues by Aura Parker.

Maddi O’Neil: Wow, what a special story. And it was so fun to watch the bowerbird collect all of those beautiful different things.

Mike Shuttleworth: It really was. The bowerbird reminds me a bit of the National Library because it collects beautiful and exciting objects as well. On screen now you'll be able to see a few of the blue objects in the Library's collection.

Maddi O’Neil: One of my favourite blue things at the Library is this poster. It was printed in the 1930s, so that's almost 100 years ago and it's telling us about a circus that took place. I really like how happy everyone looks and all the small details in her costume. 

What are some objects that you like, Mike?

Mike Shuttleworth: Well, the Library holds a lot of maps and people are fascinated by the map collection. And before Matthew Flinders mapped Australia more than 200 years ago, Dutch sailors mapped the country even earlier. I'm fascinated by how they did that, which is why I find this map so interesting and really quite beautiful.

Another surprising object is this photograph of the Carlton football team from almost 100 years ago. The photo is actually a cover image for the team's official song, which they still sing today.

Maddi O’Neil: Thanks Mike. The National Library of Australia definitely has some interesting blue things in its collection.

Mike Shuttleworth: It certainly does.

Maddi O’Neil: Well, Mike, we are almost out of time. So thank you so much for reading Simultaneous Storytime with us today and for teaching us just a little bit more about the beautiful National Library of Australia.

Mike Shuttleworth: It's been a joy to read the book and to share it with everyone and to talk about the beautiful National Library of Australia.

Maddi O’Neil: Hope that you enjoyed our time reading together and that you will continue to share beautiful stories like Bowerbird Blues with the people around you. If you would like to learn more about Simultaneous Storytime or find out more related activities, you can head on over to the Australian Library and Information Association's website where you will find lots of fantastic resources.

Once again, thank you for watching and we hope to see you all really soon at the National Library of Australia.

About National Simultaneous Storytime 2024

National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) is held annually by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Every year a picture book, written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator, is read simultaneously in libraries, schools, pre-schools, family day cares, childcare centres, family homes, bookshops and many other places around the country. Now in its 24th successful year, it is a colourful, vibrant, fun event that aims to promote the value of reading and literacy, using an Australian children's book that explores age-appropriate themes, and addresses key learning areas of the National Curriculum for Foundation to Year 6.

Featured books

Bowerbird Blues by Aura Parker

Snap! by Anna Walker

Fauna by Tania McCartney

Featured collection material

Will R. Barnes, Blue chorus - Act II, 1904, nla.obj-138711637

Ellis Rowan, Elaeocarpus grandis F.Muell., syn. Elaeocarpus angustifolius Blume, family Elaeocarpaceae, 1887?nla.obj-138835672

Thank you address presented to Mrs George Campbell by her Duntroon Sunday school scholars in 1876, nla.obj-138296239

Albert Collins, Australia : the world's loveliest harbour, Sydney, 1930, nla.obj-394878888

Gong pai, 1861, nla.obj-691599794

Ivan Bros. International Circus, Acrobats from Ivan Bros. Top of the World International Circus, 1953, nla.obj-136847631

M. Thevenot, Hollandia Nova detecta 1644 ; Terre Australe decouuerte l'an 1644, nla.obj-230670124

Laurie Melrose and John Robertson, Song of the Blues, 1935, nla.obj-175344972