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

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Guest Post: Colour Me PNG with Jodie McAlister

KBR warmly welcomes Jodie McAlister to talk of her truly inspiring journey to create Papua New Guinea's first colouring book. Jodie, an Aussie who lives in PNG with her two small children, curated, facilitated and launched the book at Port Moresby Nature Park on 14 December.

In early 2015, I had the privilege of moving to Papua New Guinea for my work. To have the opportunity to live in PNG with such a unique and diverse culture, and such a rich and amazing natural environment, is something so special for me and my family. My passion for the region and for PNG ramps up when art is involved. There are so many uniquely talented artists, and it is this passion that has driven the creation of Colour Me PNG—PNG’s first colouring in book.

10 Quirky Questions with author Belinda Murrell

1. What's your hidden talent?
I’m a secret cow-girl! One of my favourite activities is mustering cattle up on my brother’s farm. I keep my horse there and love the joy of riding all over the farm, rounding up the cattle and getting them into the yards for check-ups. It’s hard, hot, dusty work but great fun, and so very different to my every-day life.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Lord Voldemort - ‘he who should not be named’ in the Harry Potter series because he is so very villainous, frightening and evil.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Mine are all dead! Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, C.S Lewis, JRR Tolkein and the most fascinating guest for me would be Charlotte Atkinson (my great-great-great-great grandmother who wrote the first children’s book published in Australia in 1841) .

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Definitely a time machine! But the next best thing is books that make you feel that you’ve gone back in time!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: The Big Orange Splot

I am beyond excited to review this book for KBR. The Big Orange Splot, written and illustrated by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, left an indelible mark on me as a child. The illustrations are so fun and the plot has an important takeaway.

Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where all the houses look the same. Everybody liked it that way. "This is a neat street," they would say.  Until one day, a seagull dropped a big orange splot of paint on the roof of Mr. Plumbean's house.

Book List: Books about China for Children

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.

To acknowledge the festivities underway for Chinese New Year, we've compiled a list of picture books, junior and middle fiction novels, and junior non-fiction books that celebrate China and Chinese culture.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, Sally Rippin and Regine Abos, Walker Books, $24.99 RRP, 9781742031231

Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney and Mo Qovaizi, Tania McCartney, $16.95 RRP, 9780980475005

Riley and the Dancing Lion by Tania McCartney and Kieron Pratt, Tania McCartney, $16.95 RRP, 9780980475029

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker and Yoko Tanaka, Hyperion, $24.99 RRP, 9781423111870

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Review: Cicada Summer

Eloise’s Dad has been moving from one exciting project to the next and one girlfriend to the next ever since Eloise’s mother died. With each change, Eloise becomes quieter until she forgets how to find the words.

When her Dad takes Eloise to meet Mo, his estranged mother, he promises that this time everything will be different. Then he leaves with no promise of when he will return.

As Eloise wanders through the property Mo has signed over to her dad, strange things happen. Is she seeing ghosts? Is it possible to travel through time? Is it all in her imagination?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

10 Quirky Questions with author Kaz Delaney

1. What's your hidden talent?
Singing in the shower. I am amazing. Seriously. Big Bands, rock groups and musical productions alike would cry in despair of never being able to include this voice should they ever hear it. But alas, my heart belongs to the literary world, so yes, those fortunate few music people who’ve had the privilege of catching that angelic voice, sometimes hauntingly heard wafting though the sultry night air, will weep and gnash their teeth but my heart will stay true.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I love a good villain but I’m not sure I have a favourite. Glancing down my bookshelves, perhaps the collective Witches in Roald Dahl’s The Witches? They are just so bad! Dahl pulls no punches when creating bad people, and you can’t help but love them and abhor them at the same time.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
After the last answer, I would have to invite good old Roald, right? Now assuming these aren’t people with whom I usually imbibe, then I must cast my search further afield.

2) Hmmn, I’m back at my bookcase. So, 2) Ally Carter, because she’s a bit of a YA goddess.

3) Agatha Christie  - do I need a reason? I think I’d lock her in a room and just talk to her forever.

4) Lee Childs because I think he’s brilliant and I’d like to know what he thought of that whole Tom Cruise thing. Really? Tom Cruise?

5) Wow, I could fit a hundred people onto that one last chair… Maybe because of some things I’m writing I might like to include Janet Evanovitch. Or then again, Elizabeth George whose subtle humour and exquisite turn of phrase is breathtaking. Or maybe  M.R.C Kassian who reminds me of Elizabeth George and whose books I have fallen in love with… or. No, I must stop. Wow, that was/is hard! But I’d never give this party. Mine would be huge because I am surrounded daily (in a cyber sense) by brilliant writer friends both on my doorstep and all over Australia and they’d get the first invitations. Watch the mail, Susan Whelan.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: The Skunk

What do you do when you want to get away from someone? Leave, of course. But what if that someone follows you wherever you go?

This delightful tale presented in a black, white and red retro style is full of the energy of a hide-and-seek game. I could feel the man’s heartbeat rise with each new attempt to escape. The suspense of wondering whether he has finally broken free from his pursuer is delicious. No wonder it was on the New York Times best illustrated picture book list for 2015.

Guest Post: Saffron Howden, editor of Inkling News

credit: 702 ABC Sydney, Amanda Hoh
Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Saffron Howden, editor and founder of Inkling, to discuss the inspiration for this exciting new newspaper initiative for children.

I know a young man. He has a kind disposition, a solid sense of right and wrong, and a trusting nature that sometimes lands him in trouble.

Throughout his childhood he was cared for with an attentiveness many kids would envy. He grew up in a loving family, was well educated, had tutors to help him through Maths and English, and he ate well with plenty of sport and exercise in between.

Let's call this nice young fellow Jack.

Jack was unique in one way. He did not grow up with his biological parents. Instead, the state and charities subsidised his upbringing for as long as he remained a child.

All of that changed when he turned 18.

Overnight - a rather arbitrary night in the scheme of a human life - Jack was an adult. A man. Someone required to vote in elections, earn his keep, pay taxes, fill out forms, and sign long and complicated legal contracts for mobile phones and utilities. For Jack in particular, becoming an adult also meant the immediate loss of all the financial and practical assistance he had enjoyed just the day before his 18th birthday.

Seeing Jack stumble through this monumental change got me thinking: how well do we prepare our children for the adult world that is foist upon them so suddenly?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Review: Outfoxed

I love Claudia Bolt's work. Her illustrations are so vibrant and smile-inducing, utilising divine colour and pattern and illustration techniques. And Outfoxed is no exception.

Harold is not like other foxes. His favourite meal is Swiss cheese. And he dreams of becoming a detective.

Harold's dad, however, is old school. He's fully intent on training Harold in the foxy art of catching chickens--as all good fox kids should.

So, Harold gives it a go. There's loads of chickens who live nearby and it's not a difficult task. He snatches up a chicken and takes it home to show Dad.

Meet the Illustrator: Maree Coote

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Impressionistic sketches and paintings; Digital works in Illustrator; Typographic illustrations.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Quiet, and occasional music, my favourite inspirational books, artworks and objects of the moment, my computers, coffee, and a garden escape for a sit in the sun.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
A Fineliner pen and a Pentel Sign Pen - both good for line work and smudging. I like to work quickly, whether drawing or painting. I also love my Mac and Illustrator for typographic design, and for the infinite colour options – and the equally infinite revision options. Wonderful.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
For very different reasons: John Tenniel, Bruce Petty, Albert Tucker, Pablo Picasso  (- sorry it had to be four!)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Review: Baxter's Book

Baxter absolutely loves books! He loves all kinds of books — ones about scary wolves, brave lions, cuddly bears, cute rabbits. In fact, the only thing Baxter could love more than reading a book would be to BE in a book.

Which is why he's so excited when he sees the sign for storybook auditions!

Baxter quickly joins the pigs, crocodiles, bears, lions, rabbits, owls and wolves all queuing up to audition. He's first on stage! He can sing, dance, act. He's great at gymnastics. But he's blue and rather unusual looking, and while he thinks he's perfect for a book, the judges don't seem to agree.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Review: The Reluctant Jillaroo

Heidi and Harper Gage are twins, living with their father in Sydney. Heidi loves sand, sun, surf and skateboarding, while Harper is all about wide open spaces and riding horses. When Harper trips over Heidi’s carelessly discarded skateboard, damaging her knee and ruining her chances of attending an important Jillaroo course at ‘Winmaroo’, there is only one thing to do. Heidi needs to trade her surf board for a saddle and go in Harper’s place.

Filled with fun characters, romance, humour and a mystery to solve, The Reluctant Jillaroo is another entertaining and enjoyable Kaz Delaney novel. Heidi’s attempts to cover for her sister and the constant risk of discovery keep the pages turning, as does the mystery of ‘missing’ items and suspicious ‘accidents’ at 'Winmaroo', a fictional property located in Scone in the Upper Hunter near Newcastle, NSW.