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

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

10 Quirky Questions with author Hazel Edwards

Hazel Edwards with Susan Whelan at Writers in the Park
1. What's your hidden talent?
Bellydancing. Still doing Class 101 on Monday nights after 13 years.

I’m also an Aquareadaholic. I read in the bath.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Usually the focussed sociopath in a mystery. Patterned behaviour which the sleuth has to deduce ( and so does the reader).

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Susannah de Vries  (Australian history about forgotten females), Plato the philosopher, Agatha Christie for her poisonous plotting and George Orwell.

One would need to be a chef because I don’t cook much. Quite like Jamie Oliver’s enthusiasm.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
The Tardis.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Occasionally euphoric.Researched in unusual places e.g. Islamic Museum for Hijabi Girl. Often collaborative.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Review: My Wild Family

This large format book is one of those tomes you pluck from a shelf and expect to be something.

Then you find out it's not.

And this is a good, good thing. We all love surprises, great illustration and clever concepts, and My Wild Family is all of these things.

In this gorgeously designed creation, we meet a young lass who'd like to introduce her family. Each double page spread introduces us to an older brother, a younger brother, a mum and dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends--and each time, the person in question is likened to an animal--associating them with its temperament or physical characteristics.

Review: It So Happens

Algernon is wondering what he should do today. He rolls the dice. Bear-hunting it is.

As he heads out with his bazooker, he meets a rabbit and a fish, but he's not interested in them. Only bears. The fish gets his tongue tied in a knot so the rabbit tries a spell to help him untie it, but it doesn't work. So the fish hides in a lake. With his tongue twisted. But the fish actually hates water.

Meanwhile, Algernon has headed off to hunt a bear, when he meets a Swiss witch who turns people into stools. Actually, it's only Dutch people she can turn into stools. But in order to do this, she first needs to turn herself into a bear ...

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review: Historium

The latest in the striking Welcome to the Museum series, this beautiful, large format book is a true visual/information feast.

'Curated' by Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson (Richard did the pics, Jo the text), it's clear an enormous amount of hours went into both researching this highly informative tome, and illustrating it in a way that's truly luminous.

Taking readers on a journey into an archaeological past via Africa, America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, we enter such worlds as Ancient Egypt, China and Greece, Mesopotamia, Melanesia and Early Islam.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Review: Finding Winnie

We all know and love the honey-obsessed Winnie-the-Pooh. But I wonder how many Pooh fans know that his story was inspired by a real-life bear?

This wonderful picture book tells the incredible story of the original bear called Winnie. In 1914, a young vet called Harry Colebourn — from Winnipeg, Canada — was on his way to look after soldiers' horses during World War I. The first part of his journey was by train, and at one of the many stops along the way, Harry looked out the window and saw an old man siting on the platform with a bear cub.

12 Curly Questions with author Anthony Wood

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I lived on a station called Karalundi (50 kms from Meekatharra) for 12 months.

2. What is your nickname?

3. What is your greatest fear?
Huntsman Spiders (or any spiders that are big and furry!)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Get it down on paper first, then sort it out later. (Well that’s 11 words.)

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Mischievous, Playful, Irreverent (in a positive way!), Unorthodox, Headstrong.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
I would be Sid’s Dad in Some Dogs Do (Jez Alborough). I think any father who is that celebratory of his children’s individuality is wonderful.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Australian Children's Laureate Thank You Event for Jackie French

The illustrious, impassioned, utterly bookish Jackie French is ending her term as Australian Children's Laureate--and what a fabulous two years it's been. Jackie has spoken directly to over 120,000 kids, both locally and internationally, during her tenure, and although, as she says, one can never be sure the impact they have upon anyone, we are absolutely certain her impact on book love and literacy has, and will continue to be, phenomenally deep.

Jackie visited Canberra yesterday at an afternoon celebration and Thank You event. She told us she began her Laureateship because of story. And what a storyteller she is. Jackie had us both laughing and in silent tears with her tales, and humbled by her gratitude as Laureate. She also told us, after meeting a fellow Laureate in Bologna, that her Laureateship will never end--not to her. To whomever the official baton soon is passed, Jackie's impact and deep love for the work she lives by--will never fade. And nor should it.

Jackie also told us that the past two years have changed her. There's no doubt . . . she's not alone. I'm absolutely certain many lives have been changed by her dedication and love of story, too--and this is why a Children's Laureate is so vital.

'Blessed are the book creators and givers, 
because they create the future.' - Jackie French

Please give someone a book this week, if you can. And do consider donating to the Australian Children's Laureate, even if it's a few dollars. The work they have done, and continue to do, truly changes children's lives. There are few gifts more precious than the gift of full literacy, and of course--there's also the power and sheer joy of story.

Thank you, Jackie. Thank you.

Review: Gawain Greytail and the Terrible Tab

Raven Castle is infested with mice. Every day Sir Tristan of Twitstream, his wife and his six children have to cope with mouse droppings on their food, half-nibbled toys and chewed-up chainmail.

So, eventually, Sir Tristan hands over ten gold coins and buys the best mouser in the land: Tab the cat. Within a month, the only mice left in the castle are Shuffle, Snuffle and Scuffle, and they're skinny and desperate. With Tab guarding all the food, they've just about decided that they're going to have to look for another home when the famous mouse knight Gawain Greytail arrives to help them.

Gawain — dressed in miniature mouse armour, and wielding a needle spear — is determined to defeat the vicious Tab. And one thing's for certain, Tab has never encountered a mouse like Gawain before!

This is a picture book with a higher than usual word count, giving it quite a strong fairytale feel, but the easy-to-read font and detailed accompanying illustrations mean that confident emerging readers will still be able to tackle it — and enjoy the adventure!

Title: Gawain Greytail and the Terrible Tab
Author: Cornelia Funke
Illustrator: Mónica Armiño
Publisher: Picture Squirrels, $22.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781781125137
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review: Young Charlotte Filmmaker

Exquisite. Exquisite. Exquisite.

That is all.

But seriously, this book is exquisite. A longtime fan of Frank Viva's work, especially his quasi-bio creations, Young Charlotte Filmmaker is a book that will entrance children and cause any adult with even a fragment of a microcosm of creativity, to rush straight to the studio or the camera or the art shop or the typewriter or Bunnings, to begin creating.

Charlotte is a filmmaker. She's never without her camera, but she has quite an interesting obsession. It's for black and white. Everything must be black and/or white, from Smudge the cat to the local nuns and penguins, it's B&W all the way.

Meet the Illustrator: Kirrili Lonergan

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, free flowing, playful and loose!

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
The essential part of my studio is accessibility! My area is a small, centrally positioned sunny spot where I can see the pool, the yard, the living areas and the kitchen. This allows me to create while observing, talking, feeding and spending time with my four children. I am forever multi tasking! I have an old recycled timber trestle table covered in lots of old wooden toolboxes with coffee cups full of brushes and pens. My trusty set of drying racks are an essential to utilise space and I would be lost without my desktop Mac and lightpad. To finish off my space I have loads of children’s books and artwork from fellow illustrators.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Gouache and pastels. I love layering and playing until I get the right balance.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Freya Blackwood, Stephen Michael King and Polly Dunbar are definitely my heroes. Because I have a Tilly, Polly Dunbar’s Hello Tilly was the first book to catch my eye and inspire me to want to become an illustrator. Soon after I noticed the work of SMK and Freya Blackwood and I am in awe of their talent.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Review: In This Book

Sometimes the simplest concepts can pull the most punch when it comes to children's books.

This gorgeous, richly-illustrated book, with simple shapes and lustrous colour, take children on a journey with various objects, as we find them in their typical place of residence.

I am in the sky, said the cloud.

I am in the hair, said the barette.

I am in space, said the planet.

Review: Newt's Emerald

This is something a little different from award-winning Australian author Garth Nix - Newt’s Emerald is a Regency romance mystery with a twist. It has a pinch of Harry Potter, and a dash of Pride and Prejudice.

The story opens with the celebration of Lady Truthful Newington’s eighteenth birthday. It’s a small family affair with just her father, a retired Admiral, and three cousins. While a storm rages outside, the Admiral displays the heirloom Newington Emerald. Unfortunately the emerald disappears amidst the storm, and the Admiral is struck down with a mysterious, or perhaps not so mysterious, illness.