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

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Daddy is My Hero

Daddy may not look any different to any other dad, but there's more to him, you see. He's a hero, through and through.

He battles dragons and saves people in distress. He rescues young kiddles from pirates. He even drives a spaceship and scares away aliens from nether planets, and let's not even start on his ability to scare away monsters.

Review: Construction

Follow the step-by-step construction of a building, with Construction, a new title from Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock whose previous books with a similar theme include Demolition and Roadworks.

Big machines dig, pour concrete and lift heavy loads. Workmen cut wood, hammer and create a frame for the building. Then pipes are laid and electrical wiring run throughout. What comes next? Painting and furniture, of course. It’s at this point in the story that you discover what the building is, and it’s the perfect surprise for readers - a library!

12 Curly Questions with author Chris Miles

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
A pig bit me on the finger when I was 4.

2. What is your nickname?
Some of my old friends from high school and university call me ‘Milesy’. What they’ve done there, you see, is they’ve taken my surname and rather cleverly added a ‘-y’ on the end. I think you’ll agree it’s a nickname that reveals a lot about me. Though mostly what it reveals is that my surname is ‘Miles’, which is already fairly common knowledge. Sometimes they don’t even bother with the ‘-y’. At that point you can’t strictly call it a nickname anymore; it’s literally just my actual surname.

3. What is your greatest fear?
One thing I worry about a lot is offending anyone or accidentally being rude to people. Maybe it’s because I’m so fearful about being rude in person that I let myself be a bit rude when I’m writing.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Weird situations, funny dialogue, sentences that almost make sense don’t.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Cheeky, baroque, energetic, funny, human.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Review: There's a Sea in my Bedroom

David is just a small boy and the sea’s powerful waves frighten him. After being dumped by a wave, he doesn’t want to go near that frightening water. Ever. But one day, he discovers a conch shell. The sound of the sea inside this shell shows David another side of the sea: a friendly, harmless side.

David takes the shell home and feels sorry for the sea trapped within, so he invites the waters to come out, and they do.

Review: My Dad is a Bear

The first thing that struck me about this book was its superb cover—a large, cuddly bear peeking beneath the surface of the water, smiling at a fish, in luscious blues and warming yellows.

Next was the fabulous typeface and cover layout. Inside the front cover, I met with simple yet utterly adorable endpapers, and then visually-linked half and full title pages that made me smile.

The next thing I encountered was a blue bird and an enormous, cuddly bear with the sweetest, warmest smile on his face, embraced by loads of white space and gloriously large typeface for early readers. On the next page a sweet little rabbit and a beautifully-rendered tree appeared … and on it went, each page more engaging than the next as our narrator tells us how very much her dad is like a bear.

Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon

Harold and the Purple Crayon would have to be my all-time favourite bedtime story. Fifty-two years after it was first released, it still holds all the magic imagination can bring and the promise of rich and interesting dreams to follow.

Harold decides to go for a walk. He takes his purple crayon with him and as he thinks of adventures he draws them. His wanderings take him across fields, nearly into the clutches of a frightening dragon, over the sea and into a city full of buildings. Harold gets tired from all his wanderings, but simply can’t remember how to get back home. The finale is as heart-warming as the first page.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

WIN! I am Jack series

HarperCollins has just published Being Jack, the fourth and final book in Susanne Gervay’s best-selling junior fiction I am Jack series.

I am Jack
I am Jack addresses bullying in schools while remaining accessible and entertaining for younger readers. Jack likes going to school. He enjoys learning new things. George Hamel calls Jack 'Bum Head'. All the kids at school call Jack 'Bum Head'. Jack's in Big trouble ... school is getting dangerous. Nobody seems to want to listen. Until one day ...

Super Jack
Instead of having to contend with bullies, Jack must contend with his family in this sequel to the bestselling I Am Jack. It's the school holidays and Mum announces to Jack and his annoying younger sister, Samantha, that they are all going on a family holiday to the Gold Coast. And family means Nanna, sort-of-stepdad Rob, and his son, Leo, as well as Jack's friend Anna. Families are made up in all sorts of ways nowadays and it takes this holiday for Jack and Leo to work out their differences and for Jack to realise just how lucky he is to have such a great family.

Always Jack
Jack's life is pretty good - he has brilliant friends, everyone loves his funny jokes and he's a great inventor. But things are getting complicated. Nanna's older and wobblier, and why does his face now go red when he sees his best friend Anna? And to top it off Mum and Rob's wedding seems to be taking over the world. Something really scary has also happened to his mum and it's going to take all of Jack's courage to deal with it. From the author of the bestselling I am Jack comes an insightful and inspiring book about the effect of cancer on families.

Being Jack
Jack is in Year 6 now and still loves his photography, surfing, and crazy family. Things are going well for him, particularly at school where he isn't bullied any more. But he notices that his best friend Christopher is being taunted and is starting to miss school and hiding out and avoiding everyone. And when a football match turns ugly and Jack and Christopher witness some unfair dirty play, they know that, again, the bullying has to stop.

Thanks to the generous people at HarperCollins, we have three I am Jack bookpacks to give away. Each bookpack contains a copy of each of the four titles listed above and is valued at $59.96.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, why it is helpful to have books for children that deal with significant health and social issues.

Type ‘Being Jack’ into the subject line and email your answer to joATkids-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 Sunday, 31 August 2014, 9pm to Sunday, 7 September 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: Olive Marshmallow

Archie is perfectly happy as an only child, but then he starts to notice little things, or not-so-little things that are changing: like his mummy’s huge tummy, and a lot of pink things invading Mummy’s office.

Told from Archie’s perspective, Olive Marshmallow is full of gentle but poignant humour. What is there for Archie to look forward to when his world seems to be changing for the worse? And what is that thing that looks like an alien in the picture of mummy’s tummy?

Review: The Soldier's Gift

Emily and Tom live on Hillside Farm where they help their dad with chores like cooking and gardening and feeding the animals. The children lost their mother many years ago, and they like to visit a Cyprus tree on the hillside nearby, planted by their dear mum.

When the First World War descends, Emily is heartbroken when Tom makes the decision to enlist. Tom promises he will write, and he does—he sends his little sister countless letters—all at once charming, funny and heart-breaking. In one particular letter, he sends Emily some tree seeds. She folds them inside the letter and tucks them high on a shelf in the kitchen to keep them safe.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Review: Karana: The Story of the Father Emu

These are my chicks, I love them a lot…
I will stay with them, NO MATTER WHAT!

Karana builds his next and does his special dance to attract a lady emu. One lovely lady with very long legs sits on his next and lays 16 eggs, which Karana then cares for and protects until they hatch.

Once the chicks arrive, Karana looks after them as they grow bigger and stronger, teaching them where to find food and how to survive until one day, they are big enough to leave his care.

Review: Explore and Draw Patterns

Pattern is cool. Pattern is groovy. Pattern is intensely pleasing to the eye, and—amazingly—is not something traditionally taught to young children (not beyond potato-stamping, anyway). Understanding pattern helps kids come to grips with form and structure, but also hones their creativity and eye for art and design.

Enter Explore and Draw Patterns. Not that kids need any excuse, but what a fantastic way to encourage kids to explore the possibility patterning holds in its fist. The book opens by asking children to look around them and see the patterning of our everyday lives. It’s everywhere and is so often missed. The book then provides many and varied ways for kids to design their own artistic repetition, from dot-to-dots, to copying, illusions, and guided and free-form drawing.

12 Curly Questions with author Elizabeth Fensham

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I didn't like eating peas when I was little. In fact, I went on strike and my mother sat me at the table with one pea on my plate. I wasn't allowed to leave til I'd eaten it. We both had a long wait.

2. What is your nickname?  

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being without family and friends. I think this is because my siblings were much, much older than I was, so I grew up like an only child. I do not fear being alone, because I enjoy regular periods of time alone. There is an upside to this, too, because my times of solitude during childhood are a big part of my becoming a writer.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
I'm still a big kid - in life and in writing.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Hope-filled; funny (sometimes); moving (sometimes); true-to-life; adventurous.