"The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise." - author Jackie French

Friday, 25 July 2014

Review: Feast for Wombat

Wombat has been happy burrowed under the ground, but he finally decides it is time to come out into the sunlight for a dust bath. Wombat sees his friends Goanna, Magpie and Dingo and marvels at the amazing things they can do. Compared to them, he doesn’t feel very special at all.

Feast for Wombat is a lovely story about friendship and the power of encouragement. Wombat can easily see the talents of his friends and he praises their skills, but he isn’t quite so good at noticing what he can do well himself until they encourage him in return.

KBR Short Story: The Assignment

by Stacey Hill

The house is shrouded in darkness. Night has descended. Everybody is asleep....except me.

Why did I decide to leave my assignment to the last minute?

The computer screen is too bright in my otherwise dark room. It hurts my eyes. I blink. They are dry and I feel my eyelids scratch across the surface of my eyeballs. I rub them. It doesn’t help. I’m so tired, I just want to sleep!

Who cares about the lifespan of a gnat anyway? Or gnats at all for that matter. They’re just tiny flying insects. The end. How am I supposed to write about gnats in 500 words?

For the record, gnats live for about 2 to 4 months. A lot longer than my “care factor” about this assignment.

I am so bored!

Why couldn’t our assignment be about space, or dinosaurs, or knights? You know, cool stuff.

Maybe if I rest my head on my hand, I’ll be able to concentrate more.

Ah, that’s better. I am so comfy right now. It’s like lying on pillow. I feel my eyelids start to droop.

WAIT! STOP! I must not fall asleep. Maybe a snack will help?

I tiptoe to the fridge and discover a leftover piece of chocolate cake. Perfect gnat assignment writing food.

I sneak back to my bedroom and devour the cake while I click on image after image of gnats. They’re not even nice to look at.

I start to spin around in my chair. One rotation. Two rotations. Oh, let’s see how many times I can spin around in one go.

Six rotations later...

Why did I eat that chocolate cake? Ok, focus. Gnats. Did you know that gnats don’t buzz? Hmm. That’s slightly interesting. Oh, you know what’s more interesting? My latest comic book purchase. Maybe I’ll just read a couple of pages....

NO! I need to focus!

How many words have I written? Ten. Ok, well that’s not good.

Maybe listening to music might help. I turn the radio on and concentrate on the computer screen. This song has a cool beat. I start to tap my pen against the desk.

Tap, tap, tap. I grab another pen. Tap, tap, tap.

My foot begins to thump the floor. Boom, tap, boom, tap.

I wonder if my parents would let me take up drum lessons. I know what I want for Christmas now. Time to put my “drumsticks” down and concentrate.

I stare at the screen.

I hear a buzzing sound near my ear. I follow the sound as it moves towards my screen. I see a gnat. Then another. And another. Oh no! My room is full of gnats! The constant buzzing is driving me insane.

Wait a second. Gnats don’t buzz.

I slowly open my eyes. My room is too bright. I blink. My alarm buzzes. It’s morning.

I glance up at the computer screen. How many words have I written?


Uh oh.

Stacey Hill’s friends call her Stack. When she’s not writing or blogging, you can find her enjoying a cup of tea with The Wifey, playing hide and seek with their kitten, photographing her Converse hi-tops and dreaming of one day being immortalised in action figure form. Learn more about Stack at her blog SKHILLED.

KBR Short Stories are a way to get your work ‘out there’—and to delight our KBR readers. Stories are set to a monthly theme and entries are due in the 25th of each month. Find out more here

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review: 10 Clumsy Emus

To the instantly recognisable tune of Ten Green Bottles, it’s easy to see why 10 Clumsy Emus is an ‘emusing’ children’s picture book sure to delight. With clever rhyming text by Ed Allen and hilarious illustrations from Wendy Binks, 10 Clumsy Emus is a bright Australian counting book for preschool children.

Just like the other Scholastic counting titles (10 Green Geckos, 10 Funny Sheep and 10 Hooting Owls), each page is filled with colour and humour. The ten quirky emus get up to all sorts of fun, from roller skating down a hill, to playing games of basketball and musical chairs, flying model planes and even tidying their room. Until the emus clumsily trip, slip, get tangled or break something and then one by one disappear.

Blog Tour: Review: Roses are Blue

In celebration of the blog tour or Roses Are Blue, we're delighted to feature this review of a very special book. You can find a link to Sally's entire blog tour at the bottom of this review.

Amber's mum is different. I don't want to tell you how different she is because finding out was one of the most breathtaking parts of this novel and I simply can't spoil it for you.

Needless to say, Amber's mum is indeed different to most mums and all Amber knows is that this difference is hard to cope with. She misses her old mum. The one who used to sing and dance and paint and smile.

The kids at school don't know about Amber's mum, not even her best friends who are all named after colours, trying in with a beautiful art thread in this story. Amber is frightened to tell them. The kids at her old school were mean and children sometimes don't react well when they see her mum, so Amber keeps her secret close.

Blog Tour: Roses are Blue: Poetry is Perfect!

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Sally Murphy. As part of the blog tour for her latest junior fiction verse novel Roses are Blue, Sally has offered to explain just why she thinks poetry is perfect! Check below for links to the other stops on the Roses are Blue blog tour.

Roses are Blue is a verse novel, which means that it is a narrative told through the form of poetry. This is my third published verse novel, so obviously it’s a form I love. I’ve also had lots of individual poems published (mostly in the NSW School Magazine) and a collection of performance poetry for schools. So, you won’t be surprised when I say that I love poetry.

But it’s not just as a writer that I love poetry. Poetry was one of my first loves as a child, when my mother shared the Dr Seuss books with me, AA. Milne’s collections, RL Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and more.  At school I always loved poetry lessons and learning to recite poems by CJ Dennis and others, as well as the poems in school magazines which came regularly. Then, as a teacher and a parent, I loved sharing poetry with my own children and the children I taught.

Now, I’m not just writing poetry but also doing a PhD project entitled Belonging: Writing Children’s Poetry.

So why do I think poetry is so important?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

WIN! All My Kisses

A picture book that would melt even the hardest heart, this irresistibly cute story is about a little pig who receives too many kisses - and what she decides to do with the overflow!

Abby was very kissable. Every night she would be kissed Once on the end of her nose, Twice on her forehead, And countless times all over the bottom of her feet...

Abby adores her kisses so much that she keeps them all safe in a special bucket. They're too precious to pass around at Show and Tell. And too fragile to send to Grandma for her birthday. But what happens to kisses when they're not shared?

All My Kisses is a gorgeous picture book about giving and receiving love, from rising star Kerry Brown and bestselling illustrator Jedda Robaard.

Thanks to the generous people at HarperCollins, we have five copies of All My Kisses to give away. Each copy is valued at $24.99.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, if you could store kisses, what container would you use and why?

Type ‘All My Kisses’ into the subject line and email your answer to susanATkids-bookreviewDOTcom. The most creative answers, as judged by KBR, will win. Be sure to include your full name and address — entries without will be ineligible. Please provide a street address, as prizes cannot be delivered to PO Boxes.

Competition runs from Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 9pm to Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 9pm AEST, and the comp is open to residents of Australia, over the age of 18 (mum and dad can enter on behalf of kids). This is a game of skill, not chance. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Prizes cannot be delivered to PO Boxes. To be considered valid, entries must include a name and street address. Privacy statement: Winners' contact details are forwarded to the relevant publisher. Other contact details are not shared. All contact details are permanently deleted at competition end.

Review: Hasel and Rose

Rose is a new face on the street. The unpacking is done and it’s now time to start living, but, as is the way with children moving to unknown places, the loneliness is palpable.

Rose copes by making a wish. She doesn’t even know what she’s wishing for, yet she wishes with all her might, on starlight, star bright.

The wish doesn’t come. Rose tries calling but her wish thing has no name—at least none that she yet knows. Things feel sad.

Review: All My Kisses

Abby LOVES getting kisses. She collects her goodnight kisses in a special bucket that she carries with her everywhere.

Abby loves to receive kisses, but she doesn’t like to share. Her collection of kisses are too special, precious and fragile to give away. Abby’s bucket of kisses is ready to overflow and she is about to discover what happens when kisses aren’t shared.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review: The Cake

The animals are hungry. They want to make a cake. But what kind? So many to choose from! Bunny thinks it should be a carrot cake. Bear wants a fish cake. Dog wants a bone cake and monkey wants—you guessed it—banana.

But tiger thinks the cake should be chocolate (who wouldn’t?) and this causes a big problem. Monkey hates butter. you see. Bunny thinks eggs are disgusting. Dog hates sugar and flour makes bear feel sad. So what’s the compromise? A bone-banana-carrot-fish cake, of course!

Alas, this suggestion causes another problem … tiger thinks such a cake would be revolting and he tells his friends just that. That’s when things turn to custard.

12 Curly Questions with author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs

1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
I didn’t read many kids books when I was a boy. I preferred reference books with pictures. I especially liked books about famous people, artists and  explorers. As well as books about history, art and architecture.

2. Do you have a nickname and if so, what is it? 
My parents called me ‘Jimmy’. They never referred to me as Leigh. I didn’t think to ask why.

3. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is the world knowing my greatest fear.

4. Can you describe your writing style for us in ten words?

My text says the opposite to what’s in the illustrations.

5. Can you give us five positive words that describe you as a writer?
This question is too difficult.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Old Tom. He’s  a survivor and he’s got someone who loves him.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: Here is the World

Diversity in children’s books has been a hot topic of late, and we recently enjoyed a guest post from author Wai Chim on this very topic. For me, diversity has always been a personal love—diversity in subject matter, perspective and of course—culture.

I’ve always said travel is a phenomenal way to both educate and expand the mind of children, so paying witness to the other ways of the world via books is certainly a fantastic way to armchair travel. I particularly love the traditions and holidays of other places, and in this truly gorgeous book—Here is the World—we are treated to an entire year of Jewish celebrations that will both charm and enlighten.

Review: Wednesdays in the Tower

Life has returned to normal at Castle Glower after the uproar caused by the recent plot to overthrow the King and Queen. Well, as normal as life can be in a castle where new rooms, hallways and towers appear seemingly at random.

Princess Celie is just getting back into her routine when she stumbles across a new tower that contains a mysterious egg. As the weeks go by, Celie returns to the room to check on the egg, until one day, to her great surprise, it cracks open to reveal a griffin!

Can Celie keep this new pet hidden from her family and from the intrusive wizard Arkwright, who seems intent on interfering with all of Celie’s plans to learn more about griffins and the history of Castle Glower? Can she find out why the Castle is suddenly behaving so strangely? What other secrets does the Castle have for her to discover?