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

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Review: An Artist's Alphabet

An Artist's Alphabet is an imaginative and whimsical book.

It takes a particular way of looking at the world to see the letters of the alphabet in the world around us.

Norman Messenger takes that to the next level with his illustrations.

A cat curled up in a ball, with its tail held high, becomes a lowercase letter d. 

A much larger and rounder cat whose tail is held close to its body, becomes the uppercase D.

A carefully placed chain and a string of pearls, depict the letter s; while the long ears of a rabbit form a v. 

And an acrobat with legs akimbo standing on the back of a horse forms the uppercase letter a.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Review: The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book

Award-winning, Tasmanian writer and illustrator Jennifer Cossins’ most recent book, was the small format picture book about baby animals and their fathers, The Daddy Animal Book.

Her current release, The Ultimate Animal Alphabet Book, a companion book to The Ultimate Animal Counting Book, is another stunning offering featuring over 400 animal species.

Beautiful illustrations of living things close up in vivid colours, and alphabetically arranged are a delight to discover.

Cover Reveal: Oswald Messweather by Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell's writing style is often described as powerful and emotive, laced with humour and lilting language to soften the often sensitive subject matter she tackles. 

The meme, ‘Don’t let your ice cream melt as you count the sprinkles’ resonates strongly with Dimity and not just because she loves ice cream! 

She too shares a tendency to obsess over minutiae, often losing sight of the bigger beautiful picture, which might explain where the idea for her latest picture book came from.

Oswald Messweather, due out mid March 2021 with Wombat Books, is not a picture book that focuses intently on the educational perspectives of children with OCD but rather more on the emotional aspects associated with this debilitating condition. Oswald is caught in the grips of needing to be in control of the messier aspects of his life and like many young children suffering from obsessive worrying and anxieties, wants to stop but can’t. Maybe Oswald's crayons hold the answer. 

By allowing Oswald to take control of his anxieties and employ them with purpose, Oswald gains room to breathe and awareness that they need not govern him. 

Master of crayons (aka the illustrator of Oswald Messweather) is Siobhan McVey who's unique style and carefully considered colour palette allow children to absorb the complexity of this condition in a fun relatable way that both she and Dimity hope will buoy and enlighten. And now...you can see for yourself! We present, Oswald Messweather.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Guest Post: Video Review by Kaavya Prasad

Today we welcome a dedicated book lover all the way from India. Kaavya Prasad reviews her favourite reads and shares this collection of classics with us with precision and enthusiasm. Enjoy!

Title: The Naughtiest Girl
Author: Enid Blyton
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books, $19.99 
Publication Date: 2012 - 2015
For ages: 7+
Type: Junior Fiction

Meet The Illustrator : Patrick Shirvington

Name: Patrick Shirvington

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
An amalgam of traditional techniques coupled with new possibilities.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Being surrounded by pencils, paper, paint and ink in my bushland studio, with natures sounds emanating all around.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? 
I use all the mediums I can get my hands on. However, I have to say watercolours are hard to beat.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Review: Remind Me Why I'm Here

This is a fun, sweet-level teen romance. It starts off with a misunderstanding. Maya, an American teenage girl, flies halfway across the world to what she thought was a home-stay vacation in the trendy Sydney suburb of Barangaroo.


She’d actually booked and paid for a home stay in a dry and dusty sheep farm in Barangaroo Creek. Oops.

Her host-brother Gus is less than impressed to have to show her around as he had been bulldozed into helping her to tick-off experiences on her very cliched Australian to-do list.

He’s so unimpressed that he tries to spook her with a variety of scary creatures that Australia is renowned for, in the hopes that she will run away screaming back to the city and finish her holiday there...thereby freeing him to spend his summer doing what he wanted to do.

Luckily for him, it’s easy to scare the animal-phobic Maya.

Review: Beyond Belief

Little is known or written, about the Grand Mosque of Paris, and how Muslims saved countless Jews during the Second World War. 

Dee White draws us into the story with details and revelations about the dedication, purpose and sacrifice shown by the Muslims in the mosque, in order to keep the children safe.

Jews all around Paris have been rounded up and taken away on buses never to be seen or heard of again.

It is during one of these raids that eleven year old Ruben is taken by his mother to the mosque in the city, after escaping their hiding place in a friend’s cellar. Her intention is to keep him safe while she and her husband try to find their daughter. 

Arrangements are made for the Fox to see Ruben safely to Spain when the time is right.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Guest Post: Sandra Bennett on Holidays Sparking Ideas!

I always wanted to write an adventure series to encourage readers to fall in love with books just as much as reading books like The Famous Five had done for me. I have been an avid reader since my early childhood, literacy is my passion. When I grew up, I naturally leaned towards teaching and soon found my love of books lead me to write stories for the kids in my class and my own three growing boys.

Many years ago, we were on a family holiday in Bali. After the exhausting but exciting adventure of each day, we would snuggle into bed with our boys to read another chapter of Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks. It was a fabulous adventure story, one that made my boys ask ‘one more chapter’ before they would fall asleep. I was so intrigued, I had to read ahead. This bonding experience was so wonderful for our family that I wanted to write a story that would have families sharing it just like we had shared Indian in the Cupboard. 

10 Quirky Questions with author Deborah Abela

1. What's your hidden talent?
I studied Judo when I was younger and can still throw someone over my shoulder who is much bigger than me.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Lemony Snicket's Count Olaf. I love his terrible overacting and his ability to love himself above all others when there really isn't much about him that’s loveable.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Drawing on the Industrial Revolution and with the Cole’s Book Arcade of Melbourne in 1893, as a backdrop, Amelia Mellor has written a highly imaginative and inventive fantasy novel with historical building blocks. 

She won the 2018 May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust’s Ian Wilson Memorial Fellowship, for The Grandest Bookshop in the World.

Pearl Cole’s Pa is a man of great vision who thirty years ago, designed the Cole’s Book Arcade for his family. Skilled at enchantments, he applied them to fill the Arcade with animals and rare flora and fauna, creating spaces of great beauty and peaceful surroundings for people to go to read, not necessarily to buy.

Video: Story Surprise!

Story Surprise! is a great initiative by professional actors, Lauren and Anthony (Lauren Jimmieson and Anthony Craig). With a background in education and theatre, they have created a series of videos suitable for children aged from three to eight years, bringing books to life with stories, songs, and other activities. 

'What started as a few videos to connect with friends and family across the globe has turned into a weekly themed adventure!'

Each of the videos, which are 10-15 minutes in length, features a diffferent theme and comes complete with original music. They are also aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework. Explore the Story Surprise! season 1 and season 2 playlists, and watch the example below which is the episode about megabeasts, especially great for kids who love dinosaurs.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Guest Post: George Ivanoff Part Two

Here is Part Two of a scintillating and revealing interview with George Ivanoff, one of Australia's most-loved children' authors.

I believe you were a reluctant reader as a child. How did your metamorphosis come about?
Yes, I spent a large chunk of primary school as a reluctant reader. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say it was due to not having the right reading material. It was not until I read a science fiction book for the first time The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron that I began to take an interest in reading.