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

Monday, 26 June 2017

Review: Agent Nomad Book 1: The Eleventh Hour

Natalie spent her life roaming the world with her mother, an international diplomat until one day, she pretended her mother was a spy. Everything changed when Natalie was caught poking in her mother's suitcase.

Natalie was dumped in Hollingvale, a sleepy Australian town, to live with her father. She never saw or heard from her mother again.

Jump forward several years to Natalie's last final school year. She has a best friend loves art with a passion but she still hasn't recovered from her mother's abandonment. Although she's comfortable enough living with her dad, she can't bring herself to call Hollingvale home.

When a stranger from the Bright Futures Foundation talks at school assembly, everything Natalie thought she knew about her life shatters. Within hours, she is running for her life.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Review: The Birthday Invitation

In this enchanting rhyming picture book, a whole cast of crazy characters accidentally get invited to Ella's birthday, all thanks to a misbehaving invitation.

From a wizard to a pirate, a princess to a pilot, so many fantastical guests converge on Ella’s party.

And when they get there, they each have a wild tale to tell about how they received the invitation.

Review: The Adventures of Pelle No-Tail Book 1

The story of Pelle Svanslos, as he is known in Sweden, is translated for the first time from Swedish to English by Stephanie Smee and Ann-Margrete Smee for new generations of young readers. 

A Swedish classic children’s book in the class of Pippi Longstocking, Pelle Svanslos (the surname translates to No-Tail in English) was first published in 1939. Young readers will be delighted and entertained by the adventures of this courageous cat, and his positive outlook on life.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Review: Butterfly We're Expecting You

Butterfly We’re Expecting You is a gentle story that helps the reader reconnect with and appreciate the gentle innocence of childhood. 

In this story two children, a boy and a girl, are exploring the beauty of nature in their garden.

Guest Post: Sarah Brennan on Getting Published: A Question of Persistence!

Storm Whale is my first children’s book to be published by Allen and Unwin – and I have never been more excited! But as someone who wrote her very first children’s book at the tender age of 9, I’m one of the world’s greatest examples of that old adage – “there’s no such thing as overnight success”!

My parents advised me “if you want to be a writer, get a degree and do something sensible first” and, being a somewhat argumentative wordsmith, training as a lawyer seemed the obvious choice. After 20 years as a litigation lawyer, first in Queensland, then in London - during which I spent my holidays writing stories, since this made me happier than any bonus my firm ever paid me - it wasn’t until my then husband was transferred to Hong Kong, and I became a full-time mum, that I was able, at last, to focus on my writing. Albeit in snatched moments as one child swiftly became two!

My first publishing success was as author of a funny column for a Hong Kong parenting magazine. After entertaining the publisher’s guests at his annual Burns Night supper with a spirited rendition of my poem about a Feral Bagpipe (yes, I play the bagpipes), he was on my doorstep next morning asking if I’d written anything for kids. I showed him my pink plastic bag where I stashed all my stories, he selected one, and by 2004 I was touring Hong Kong schools with my first children’s picture book, A Dirty Story! A year later, An Even Dirtier Story was published.

In the meantime my family life had imploded, and as a separated spouse I was obliged to justify my continued existence in Hong Kong to the Immigration Department. Having cut my teeth as a published author, I was ready to go it alone. I set up my own publishing business, and then began climbing the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced!

I wanted to create something fun about their own culture for the Chinese kids in the schools I was visiting, and so began my Chinese Calendar Tales series. Eleven years, a new French husband and twelve books later, I think I can say that I know the publishing business very well indeed, from every little step in book creation to distribution and beyond!

But being a self-published author with 14 books behind her is very different to being an author in the hands of a big company like Allen and Unwin! It’s been such a thrill working with its extraordinary, all-woman creative team, with their many years of experience in creating children’s books of exceptional beauty and quality. And such a pleasure to stand back and watch in awe (and peace!) as the rights team and sales team do their fantastic work. So I’m daily learning how to simply be an author – when to suggest, when to keep quiet, and above all, when to slow down and smell the roses of authorship! My experience as a publisher has been invaluable in helping me to understand the publishing business; now at last, I’m returning to my first love, the writing of stories, and I’ve never been happier.

You can learn more about Sarah's exciting collection of books, here.

Keep an eye out for our review of her debut picture book, Storm Whale.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book 9: The Long Haul

It’s school holidays. This means laziness and lots of TV for Greg Heffley, aka the Wimpy Kid. Greg’s enjoyment is cut short by mum’s announcement that a family road trip is planned. She describes it as a ‘bonding experience’. 

That starts warning bells ringing. Dad goes out for milk and comes back with a boat that he plans to hook to the van. His deepest longing is realized.
So begins another story that joins to many others like links in a chain. As they set out in their van, hauling dad’s rotted boat full of belongings, the laughs never end, nor does the chaos and confusion. Lessons are learnt the hard way, when they are learnt at all.

Review: Books, Books, Books: Explore Inside the Greatest Library on Earth

The British Library has fourteen floors, and 625 km of shelves that are home to a collection of incredibly valuable and often unique items.

Books, Books, Books, by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom, is a time travel tour of some contents of the British Library, which it calls the world's greatest (and biggest) library. The claim stems from the amazing history stored in it.

Here we find more than twenty treasured artefacts put under the spotlight. Each is accompanied by key factual information and collage-type illustrations that are descriptive of the history.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: Supertato Run, Veggies, Run

OK, I'll admit it: I was sceptical when I saw this title come across my computer screen.

"Yeah, right!" I thought to myself.  "No way kids will want to read about vegetables."

Woo boy, was I wrong. Seriously wrong. But first, the nitty gritty.

Terrific 10: Snail Mail

These days snail mail is understood to be a 'thing of the past', but if your kids are anything like mine, they still get a huge thrill from checking the letter box each day, and find it especially exciting to receive their annual stash of birthday parcels and Christmas cards. 

Here we have gathered a list of ten terrific picture books that all feature post, mail, letters or postcards, which are not only enormous fun to read but might even inspire yourself and your little ones to invest some time in creating your very own snail mail to post out.

Meerkat Mail by Emily Gravett, Pan Macmillan, $14.99, 9781405090759, 2-8, KBR Review

Dear Greenpeace by Simon James, Walker Books, $16.99, 9781406367409, 4-8

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, Harper Collins, $24.99, 9780007513758, 4+, KBR Review

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Review: Stepping Stones

The power and beauty of the picture book has never been more evident as it is here, in this tale of a refugee family’s journey.

Together, the words (in English and Arabic) and illustrations shine with pathos as the tale of Rama and her family in war-torn Syria unfolds.

Review: No Virgin

Anne Cassidy writes the hard stuff.

In Looking for JJ, she explored the thoughts of a child murderer after her release from prison as a teenager: you can't get much darker than that.

But No Virgin hit me harder, because it was so much closer to home.

Stacey Woods is an ordinary teenager with the usual sorts of home, school and relationship issues. I suspect we all want to get away from it all the way Stacey did.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Birdy Flynn

Birdy has secrets. She’s ‘one of the boys’, and loves the freedom it gives her. Martin, one of the group, who plays a small but outstanding and crucial role, knows Birdy’s most intimate secrets. 

Knowledge is power for him. Mercilessly, he physically and emotionally bullies Birdy, who is a person with great potential, but without opportunity. You empathise with her character immediately. This is the draw card.