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

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Review: The Book of Whispers

It's no wonder The Book of Whispers won the prestigious 2015 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing. It might be a single novel but it reads like an epic. I was so deeply immersed into its medieval worlds that I felt I'd lived through years by the time I emerged for breath at the end.

Kimberley Starr has interwoven historical fact with the mythological world of demons so deftly that it's often hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins in her thrumming three-dimensional tale set in 1096 AD. I wandered through rural Tuscany, explored the limestone caves of Cappadocia and watched how people lived and died on pilgrimage. Not only was there death by disease, starvation and war, demons exerted their terrifying  influence.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Review: My Dog, My Cat, My Mum and Me!

A little girl notices her dog getting fatter and fatter, though she can't figure out what is the matter. Finally, the dog hides away and the little girl goes to investigate.

In my experience, toddlers can never resist a good Lift-the-Flap book, and they will love lifting this flap to see where the dog has hidden, and finding that she has had two little puppies!

Friday, 20 January 2017

Review: The Land of Stories, Book 2: The Enchantress Returns

The Land of Stories, Book 2: The Enchantress Returns sees twins Alex and Conner another year older and getting on with their lives in the normal world, despite (worringly) not having heard any news from the Fairy Tale Land in that time.

When their Mother is kidnapped however, they once again find themselves drawn into the fairy tale world, though this time when they arrive it is to find all the kingdoms in turmoil and the people of the lands living in fear.

Review: You Must Bring A Hat

So much fun! That’s how I would describe You Must Bring A Hat by author Simon Philip and illustrator Kate Hindley. Cheeky, funny and entertaining, it's the kind of book kids will ask for again and again (and adults will be happy they do!).

The story follows a little boy who gets invited to a party. The invitation says he must bring a hat, but when the boy can’t find his own hat, he brings a monkey wearing a hat. Unfortunately, there are special conditions for guests who bring monkeys wearing hats, and the boy must do all manner of things to get into the party. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Audiobook Review: The Book Thief

As The Book Thief is hands down one of my most favourite novels I have ever read, I was somewhat reluctant to listen to it on audiobook, just in case the performance took away from my experience of the book, rather than adding to it. I still haven't watched the movie adaptation for the same reason. However, I'm so pressed for reading time these days and I really wanted to read it again, so I took the plunge and I'm ever so glad that I did!

British actor Allan Corduner narrates the story flawlessly as he takes the listener on Markus Zusak's journey down Himmel Street. With fineness, Corduner voices each character, managing to radiate Hans Hubermann's (Papa) warmth, capture Rudy Stiner's adolescent cheek, and express Death's haunted and weary existence.

Meet the Illustrator: Katrin Dreiling

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
I have been told my work is quirky, whimsical, inky, sometimes dark and very European. I am very happy to go with that. 

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My iphone (for photo reference and audio tapes), my computer (Photoshop) and of course my pens, paints and papers. I also love having my dog around “guarding” the door to my tiny studio and coming in for cuddles. Last but not least my desk that my husband made for me to fit into such small space.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? 
Ink – either in pens or liquid ink used with brushes or nibs. Ink will always appear in my art in some form.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Review: Illuminae

Reading Illuminae is like jumping into a Sci-Fi movie. It's like no book I've seen before. Instead of chapters, there are interview transcripts, staff memos, diary entries, emails, internal maps of space carriers, and text set out in such a way, it becomes illustrations. Illuminae turns page layout into an art form. But whether you like the formatting or not, don't stop reading. This ride is action packed.

Kady and Ezra's love life is already in ruins when a mega-corporation drops a biological bomb on their remote planet.

Review: Squares and Other Shapes

Introduce poppets to the stylings of 20th Century modernism via the art of Josef Albers, with striking shapes and colours perfect for young eyes.

In this 'First Concepts with Fine Artists' board book, adults can strike early with artwork from superb creators over time, filling little eyes and minds with glorious imagery and colour.

Coupled with descriptive text for each page--'two little rectangles standing up straight', 'bounce, circles, bounce!, 'wobbly rectangles!'--both parents and littlies will enjoy the rhythm of the imagery, as artworks unfold on each page.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review: Whoever You Are

This book is important. Well, more specifically, the message inside is important, and Mem Fox (unsurprisingly) delivers it skillfully and thoroughly.

Through repetition and engagingly complementary illustrations, Whoever You Are drives home the point that we are all different, and yet entirely the same where it counts.

A book like this, written by an eminent Australian author such as Fox, couldn't come at a more crucial time.

12 Curly Questions with author Ellie Royce

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I actually grew up in two different countries (Singapore and Malaysia), as my dad was in the army. Very different, but very wonderful.

2. What is your nickname? 
My nickname is Ellie or Elle. My full name is Michelle but I get nervous whenever people use it because the only time my mum ever called me that was when I was in trouble!

3. What is your greatest fear?
That I’ll run out of time to tell all the stories that come to play with me.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Subtle, gentle, fun, engaging, thoughtful (those are from publisher feedback). Heartfelt, optimistic, sometimes funny, quirky (those are mine).

Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: Fancy Pants

We all love dressing up in our fanciest togs for a special occasion. Well, it turns out, the animals of the Australian bush are no different.

In this fun, rollicking, rhyming tale, we meet Dingo and his friends, who are getting gussied up for the Outback Dance. They are all so excited to show off their fancy pants. All except Dingo, who has nothing but his coat to wear.

As each animal prepares for the dance, parents and children will find at least one of the scenes excruciatingly familiar. There's the animal that makes a huge mess while trying to decide, the one with an irritating tag at the back, the grumpy one who doesn't like anything and, of course, the one that rips their favourite pair of pants. Ring any bells? 

Review: Dingo in the Dark

Dingo in the Dark is a soothing, atmospheric tale about a Dingo who longs to play with his friends.

Unfortunately, he is too tired during the day to enjoy their company!

In fact, poor Dingo is awake all night, too afraid to close his eyes amidst the darkness of nighttime. Sound familiar?

I have a three-year-old who is currently in the throes of the nightlight needing, monster-fearing, dark-abhorring stage.

If I'm honest, I suppose to an extent I never entirely grew out of it either. That's where a book like Dingo in the Dark comes in.

The beauty of this story is that it's a subtle and gentle nudge in the direction towards the moon. That is to say, the story urges young readers to find some comfort in the nighttime.