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

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Mick Elliott

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I once worked with Justin Timberlake. For 4½ minutes. (I filmed a promo with him for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. We had five minutes. I work fast.)

2. What is your nickname?
Mick. My real name is Michael, though only my mum still calls me that. Mick is my mickname.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being eaten  by a tiny squid.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
Inky. Thinky. Crinkly. Stinky. Icky. Sticky. Manky. Tasty. Scary. Hairy.

5. What is your favourite word and why? 
Cumquat. It is the perfect addition to almost any sentence.

Review: Disappearing Acts

Subtitled A Search-and-Find Book of Endangered Animals, this highly-detailed visual creation takes kids on a journey around the world--peeking under the ocean, scaling the highest mountains, and deep into the most tangled rainforests.

Rather than categorising animals by country, the book very cleverly features each creature by habitat. We meet a snow leopard, a panda, a mountain gorilla and pygmy possum in the mountains.

We meet Elkhorn coral, a dugong and social wrasse on the reef.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Review: My Magnificent Jelly Bean Tree

What a glorious feast for the senses this book is! Some people say jelly beans don't grow on trees, but the little boy in this story knows better. All that's needed is for him to nurture a little jelly bean until it sprouts, then carefully watch over it as it grows and grows … Until, voilĂ ! A jelly bean tree!

There are many wonderful things about jelly bean trees. Fresh jelly beans are much better than any you can buy in the shops. Jelly bean trees are so big and strong that you can build jelly bean houses in them — with slippery dips to get down. All kinds of weird and wonderful animals are attracted to them. And, of course, if you have a jelly bean tree then you can crown yourself Jelly Bean King!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Review: Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain

I have long adored Edward Ardizzone's work. For me, his illustrations were some of the very first 'modern style' creations for children's books, at a time when more traditional artworks were more often used. His beautifully-crafted watercolour illustrations put me in my of more contemporary creators such as Quentin Blake and Bob Graham.

First published in 1936, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain takes children on a journey to the sea where we meet a little boy who very much wants to be a sailor.

Little Tim astounds his parents by how much he knows about the sea and ships, but when Tim asks if he can go away to sea, they simply laugh and say he's too young.

Tempted to run away, the young lad pounces on the chance to join a local boatman, paddling out to a steamer to say goodbye to a friend. Of course, Tim can't help himself--he hides on the steamer and the ship leaves with the boy on board.

And that's when his adventure begins.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

10 Quirky Questions with Wendy Orr

1. What's your hidden talent?
Singing to animals

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Captain Hook. He’s purely evil… but I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him. Especially about his hand.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Jane Austen, Rosemary Sutcliff, Jules Verne, William Shakespeare; Ursula le Guin
(I also have a much longer list of living author friends but I’m not going to hurt anyone’s feelings but leaving them out!)

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Time travel

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Slow, tortured, obsessive, all-consuming, satisfying

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Honest, uplifting, page-turning, inspiring, entertaining

Friday, 24 June 2016

Review: Marmaduke the Very Popular Dragon

We first met the lovable Marmaduke and Princess Meg in Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon. Since then, their friendship has gone from strength to strength. They do everything together and are 'brilliantly, happily different' to all the other dragons and princesses.

Until, one day, a brave princess called October decides she would like to join in the fun and asks to play with them. Word spreads and soon Marmaduke is the most popular dragon in the kingdom. He has so many friends now that he doesn't see Meg as much as he used to, but that's okay. She's happy that he's found his place in the sun, and she knows that they're still best friends. After all, they're competing as a team in the upcoming Whizz Cone Tournament.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: The Harp and the Ravenvine (The Keepers #2)

When we left Horace and Chloe at the end of The Box and the Dragonfly (see review here), they had emerged battered but victorious from their encounter with Dr Jericho and the other Mordin. Horace had also discovered that his mother understood far more about this new world of Keepers and Tan'ji than he could ever have imagined. Book 2 continues the story of Horace and Chloe, and their respective Tan'ji, but adds new characters and further depth to what is an enthralling series.

Miles away from the Keepers headquarters at the Warren, a young girl called April has found a delicate piece of jewellery at a flea market. Crafted in the shape of a curling vine, it fits around her ear as if it were made for her. A piece has clearly broken off, but April is still captivated by it and wears it constantly. What she didn't anticipate was her newfound ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of all the animals around her — from her dog Baron to the smallest ant.

Blog Tour Guest Post: Wendy Orr on Visiting the Dragonfly Song Locations

Photo credit: Robert Gould
Kids' Book Review is thrilled to welcome author Wendy Orr as part of the blog tour for her latest book, Dragonfly Song (Allen & Unwin). Wendy shares the thrill of visiting the locations where her story is set. Make sure you check the list of blog tour stops at the end of this post.

Dragonfly Song is set on a fictitious northern Aegean island, and in Knossos in Crete. As in most of my books, I used a mixture of research, imagination and logic to create my versions of these places – despite a lifetime of longing to see them, I’d never managed to get there.

But the book I’m working on next needs much more specific, less documented knowledge, and so in May, my husband and I headed to Crete. I’d been corresponding with the archaeologist Sabine Beckmann for some time, reading her papers and bombarding her with questions. When I got an email from her one evening, inviting me to spend a couple of days with her, I was too excited to sleep. The reality was even better than I’d imagined, because she also helped structure the rest of our time there – not just where to go, but what to look for.

Wendy in Knossos

So, early the first morning, we headed to Knossos. Knossos is the site of a palace – or temple or administrative centre – that was built, burned and rebuilt several times until its final destruction around 1450 BCE. It was excavated and partially reconstructed by the British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 20th century.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Let's Play

Herve Tullet continues to delight with this achingly creative book for little ones. With a sturdy hard cover and thick pages, tots and preschoolers will dive in wholeheartedly and have a lot of fun along the way.

Little yellow dot is bored silly. He wants you to come along and play. But first, you must press the top right corner of the page. What do you think might happen?

As kids rock and roll and turn and flip the book, stand on their head and wave their arms around the room, be prepared for stacks of laughter, honed spatial and fine motor skills, and imagination expansion. Not too shabby an outcome from one little book!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Robert Vescio

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’m obsessed with Mickey Mouse. He is the epitome of magic, imagination and hope.

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t really have one but I sometimes get called Rob.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I have a fear of spiders.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
From personal experience with some magic and adventure mixed in.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Creative. Imaginative. Experimental. Resilient. Focused.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Batman. He is the king of gadgets.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Review: Chooks in Dinner Suits

Many Australians would be familiar with the true story of how one man's idea to use Maremma dogs to guard the last remaining penguins of Middle Island ended up saving the colony. It's a story that is now recounted here in this delightful picture book.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review: What is a Child?

Beatrice Alemagna's work could never be described as pedestrian or mainstream. It's the kind of work that's clearly soul-led, and perhaps something you either resonate with, or you don't.

I do.

In this warmly-narrated tome, we learn about children. How they are small. But they only stay small for a little while. They do grow. And they do so even without thinking about it.

Children are often in a hurry to grow up. They look to adulthood and how cool it will be--no one to answer to, making all the decisions, flying free. An irony, then, that once these kids grow up, they tend to think how hard it is to be an adult, to have to decide everything yourself, how hard it is to feel free.