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

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

10 Quirky Questions with Sally Morgan

1. What's your hidden talent?
I think my hidden talent is my ability to communicate with and appreciate the natural world.

I enjoy watching birds or any other creatures going about their day. I’m woken early every morning by the singing of magpies, who love roosting in a nearby tree. Sometimes the young ones warble too early. I think they are still getting their morning song timing right.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
My favourite literary villain is Aaron Blabey’s Pig the Pug. Pig is a gross character, selfish and conniving, but so very human. Also, I once owned a pug who was so much like Pig they could be brothers.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
I’d invite my daughter Ambelin, Bruce Pascoe, Bronwyn Bancroft, Andy Griffiths and Alison Lester.

They are all wonderful storytellers with a sense of humour, so it would be a fun evening.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
My first thought was – What’s a literary invention? – so I looked it up.

If I could make anything about literature real it would be to shed more light and understanding through the books that challenge us to deepen our humanity, to redefine our definition of sentient, to raise our consciousness and to love, love, love the world we live in.

Review: Dream Little One, Dream

When the sun rises, when the wind whispers, when the bush blooms around you--soar, little one--climb, little one--bound, little one ...

This beautifully lyrical picture book by the inimitable Sally Morgan is an almost dream-like meandering through the land and sea of our striking country. Featuring animals of the trees, the land, the sky and the ocean, we are taken on a celebratory journey of what it feels like to be alive ... and to be living our lives in the arms of the land.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Review: Our Home is Dirt by Sea

Beginning with an interesting and revealing introduction by Dianne Bates, this outstanding collection of Australian poems is a gem.

When I, too, was a child, our school Readers had lots of poems which we learnt by heart, then recited in class. I remember them all to this day. I consider it a great loss for our children that this teaching no longer applies today.

Poetry is magical and funny. It tells stories about life.  Within it, poets intimate, reveal, share and confess parts of their life experiences in passionate, angry, absurd, moving and hilarious ways.

Review: The Road to Ratenburg

Even at 80 years old, Joy Cowley proves that she still has the ability to create a marvellous story. The Road to Ratenburg is a glorious and clever adventure story with rats as characters.  It is narrated by Spinnaker Rat whose whiskers twitch whenever danger is near, and who is head of a family of four with Greek alphabet names. His wife Retsina has a preference for Mediterranean food.

The rat family’s life as they knew it comes to a sudden end when demolition begins of the apartment block where they live. It is seen as the great migration; a necessary but dangerous venture into the unknown.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Review: Cheeky Monkey Manners series

Whether it be remembering to say please and I’m sorry, or learning to listen and take turns, the Cheeky Monkey Manners Series provides a wonderfully helpful and fun platform to teach young children manners.

In Lisa Kerr’s newest board books, Listening and Taking Turns, Cheeky Monkey is up to mischief again. He doesn’t mean to be cheeky, but he just can’t help himself.

Review: Disastrously Daring

The stupendously clever duo, Adam Wallace and James Hart, are at it again with the newest release, in their best-selling Jackson Payne series, Disastrously Daring!

This time Jackson Payne finds himself teeing off at the green.

“Golf is a nice walk. It’s a great way to be in the fresh air…it’s the most amazing sport ever…” he’s told, as Jackson’s dad has his heart set on Jackson becoming a golfing superstar. But Jackson would rather be at home sinking battleships than sinking a long putt on the golf course. And everyone knows that Jackson + Sports = Disaster!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Review: Alyzon Whitestarr

This is a re-issue of Isobelle Carmody’s book which was first printed in 2005. That year, it won the Golden Aurealis Award for the best novel. A magnificent piece of work, it is a stunning portrayal of human ability to create or destroy, to choose love to rule, or use power to execute horrendous deeds.

Alyzon is nothing like the other members of her multi-talented family. She sees herself as a ‘chook in a house of peacocks’. After she is hit on the head by a car boot, she wakes from her coma to realise life is changed forever. She has acquired specific gifts that none of her family have. Her senses are greatly magnified, particularly her sense of smell. This enables her to differentiate between good and evil people due to the odour they emit.

Exhibition: Seeing Stories

John Barrow by Ann James
Lovers of art and children’s books, young and old, have an exciting new exhibition to explore in Canberra. Seeing Stories is presented by the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature and features the work of ten amazing artists: Terry Denton, Peter Gouldthorpe, Bob Graham, Leigh Hobbs, Elizabeth Honey, Ann James, Alison Lester, Andrew McLean, Patricia Mullins and Julie Vivas.

The exhibition includes a “special exhibit of material about the artists, an artists' workspace, book reading corner and art activities.” At its launch, illustrator Ann James and author Jackie French spoke passionately about the importance of stories, especially those told without words through the pictures we see in books.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review: Wholesome Food for Busy Parents

Restructuring children’s and adult eating habits can be a challenge. This book is about helping parents and carers through sometimes slow, but successful steps, towards the preparation of nutritional food.

The recipes in Wholesome Food for Busy Parents are based on food found easily and often in our kitchens. Hints and Tips are reminders of things we know, but that perhaps have slipped to the back of our minds due to the time poor and busy lives we live today.

Many recipes can be cooked in bulk and frozen. Storage and Freezing Techniques gives helpful information on how to preserve your delicious and healthy creations.

Review: The Giant Game of Sculpture

Herve Tullet must be having an absolute ball producing these organically-created, effulgently artistic books for kids.

This latest creation stands over 40cm tall, and bills itself as a game of sculpture, where kids can take a seemingly large-format book and use it to fashion a wonderful 3D sculpture.

The 'book' opens into a concertina spread, with cut-outs and pop-out shapes that children can remove and re-insert in innovative ways.
Children can also insert their own items--pieces of card, paper, sticks, paper rolls, cloth--all manner of craft items, before taking it all down and starting over again.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: Ten Little Princesses

Don’t let the vibrant – almost lurid – pink foil cover trick you into thinking this is just another hot pink silly princess story. Ten Little Princesses is so wonderfully fun, with bright cartoonish artwork and quite a number of references to well known fairy tales throughout the illustrations.

The rhyming text sets a good pace, starting with “Ten little princesses, going to a ball, trotting on their ponies, past the castle wall”. With each new page a small tragedy befalls one of the Disney-esk princesses, allowing the readers to count down backwards from ten with the number of princesses left shown in both alpha and numerical form on the next page.

Meet the Illustrator: Jon Foye

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Random, silly, oddball & quirky. My birds have teeth.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Layout pads, pencils & inks … my Mac & the scanner.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Conté crayon/Lead pencil & ink wash

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman and David Shrigley

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The Golden Years of Metal. Give me any Motorhead, Iron Maiden or Metallica album cover and I’m there!