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

Monday, 21 May 2018

Guest Post: Melanie H Fortin Review: Love

Unlike some of the young adult and picture books he (Matt de la Pena) has previously written, we are not following a young Mexican boy. Instead, we are witnesses of the expression of love through the eyes of children, family members, bystanders, victims, and characters who don’t even know that they are being watched or noticed.
The diverse world we live in is depicted through the illustrations, which includes but is not limited to Hispanics, Muslims, the young, the elderly, people living in trailer parks, and city streets filled with children enjoying fire hydrants spraying cool water on a hot summer day.

De la Peña seems to want to remind us that we all experience hurt, tragedy, grief, nightmares, and discomfort. Although not explicit, these thoughts are conveyed through the illustrations and the descriptions of feelings common to all humankind. However, more importantly, the author wants to emphasize that in the end, what remains is love.

Review: Blast Off!

Blast Off! is a super-fun whirlwind of fact and fiction by super-duper talented Shelly Unwin and Ben Wood.

In Blast Off!, two kids and their dog head off on a space adventure.

They explore every planet in our solar system and learn about their unique features before zooming back home again.

Written in rollicking rhyme, the story is great fun to read aloud, and the fantastic facts about each of the planets make this a wonderful picture book for kids eager to learn about space.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Review: Kookaburras love to laugh

Laura and Philip Bunting, creators of Koalas Eat Gum Leaves, have released a new page turning, witty and amusing story about Australia's most jubilant bird, Kookaburras love to laugh.

Koobaburras laugh when it is sunny, rainy, windy and sometimes even for no reason at all. Can you imagine a kookaburra that does not laugh? In fact this kookaburra is quite serious. He knows that he is different from his flock because he does not find their jokes and pranks funny.

Frustrated, Kookaburra leaves home to find some new friends that he might get along with better. Each flock that he meets have their own flaws and Kookaburra thinks they are rude, loud, too quick, wild, greedy and mean.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Review: The Yark

What is the Yark? It has been likened to the Gruffalo. He is a big and hairy beast, has jagged teeth and long fangs, and loves to eat children. But his stomach can only digest very good children, for ‘liars give him heartburn and bullies and brats damage his teeth’.

There are not enough such children to keep the Yark in this story well fed, so he must find ways of discovering their whereabouts to keep him from starvation. He steals Santa’s list of good children and sets off to find them.

Charlotte is at the top of the list, and when he arrives at her home, she fools him into thinking she’s bad. She even has a handbook on how to protect herself from Yarks. Then Jack the bad brother gets mistaken for Lewis the good one, and is gobbled up. This makes the Yark very ill. He is convinced he will now die of poisoning.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Review: Cloud Conductor

Inspiring and full of positive messages, this exquisite book carries themes of strength, courage, patience, hope and the healing power of the imagination.

Frankie is an active and fun loving girl; a leader who lives life to the fullest, and allows her imagination to run free. When she is thrown a challenge in the form of illness, Frankie must wait until she is able once again, to pick up her life.

She sees beauty in everything, ‘even on the darkest of days’. She looks at and listens to the natural world on the other side of her window; sees moving animal shapes in the clouds free and full of life, and imagines herself being that way.

The lush green meadows filled with bright coloured flowers are metaphors for the hope that Frankie holds inside her. Each image carries its own music to her, and she becomes one with it all. While the seasons pass, Frankie waits.

While she waits, she shares her experiences with others so they too, can see through her eyes, the beauty that sustains her.

This emotive story is sad yet filled with joy and hope. It demonstrates how children are able to find ways to embrace life even during the most painful and challenging times. Ann-Marie Finn’s thoughtful illustrations have captured the essence of Frankie’s feelings and how she deals with them.

The use of bold outlines and contrasting colours - darkness for the difficult days, and the flame-coloured autumn leaves for change and progress, are beautifully depicted. The frosted images that represent Frankie’s imagination are brilliant.

Title: Cloud Conductor
Author: Kellie Byrnes
Illustrator: Ann-Marie Finn
Publisher: Wombat Books
Publication Date: May 2018, $24.99
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925563344
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book


Review: Take Three Girls

Three successful and talented Australian YA authors have combined their awesomeness to produce a novel which deserves all the accolades and awards it has received. For anyone who's looking for a YA novel with bite, this is it.
Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood each write from the perspective of a year 10 student at a girls school set in Melbourne. Each is experiencing a tumultuous period of uncertainty, self-discovery, stress and change.

Ady is privileged and wants to pursue her creative talents but not all in her world is as it appears. Clem, a boarder, is a successful athlete, one half of a dysfunctional twin relationship and pining for the wrong older guy; Kate, also a boarder, is destined to succeed in obtaining an academic scholarship but will her love of music alter her fate?

When the three girls are involuntarily grouped together in the school's term three Wellness program, it paves the way for unexpected changes for all of them.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Review: An Indian Beach

Welcome to the magical, ever-bustling world of an Indian beach.

Seen through the eyes of French artist Joelle Jolivet, at Chennai, in South India, this wordless picture book captures the never-ending activity and sensory delights of Elliot's Beach, from dawn to dusk.

Meet the Illustrator: Kathy Creamer

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
My style is varied, from colourful cartoon to semi realistic.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A daylight artist’s lamp, which is absolutely crucial, especially when working into the evenings. An endless supply of 2B pencils, a hardworking pencil sharpener and electric eraser, tubes of Windsor and Newton Artist’s Watercolour paints, and supplies of Fabriano Artistico hot press watercolour paper.  

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review: The Girl who Drank the Moon

This is a magical and haunting novel that will stay with you with you long after you have closed the cover. It is an enchanting modern fairy tale that will draw you into its mysterious world of witches, a swamp monster and a magical girl named Luna.

However, this book is so much more than that, with its elegant prose, high emotion and characters that you can’t help but connect with and care about.

The people of the protectorate live under a cloud of sorrow. They carry on with their daily lives in the knowledge that each year, on the day of sacrifice, they must leave the town's youngest child in the forest for the witch. If they don’t, they are sure the witch will destroy them all.

Review: Spot Goes to the Swimming Pool

Eric Hill delivers another delightful first experience story about our favourite yellow dog with brown spots. Spot the dog is back in a bright and colourful new board book, Spot Goes to the Swimming Pool.

This time Eric Hill has Spot encountering a common childhood fear about water. Spot is unsure about getting into the pool even though his friend Tom is already swimming. With Mum's encouragement Spot climbs in.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Review: Red Alert!

The International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) Red List has been compiled by scientists from around the globe that have collected data and information on animals, plants and fungi. 80 000 species are on their endangered list. 

The story of the IUCN Red List, which is supported by Sir David Attenborough, can be found at the end of this book.

It is from this list that 15 endangered animals from six habitats are chosen and brought to children’s attention in an interactive way. Red Alert! serves to awaken awareness about conservation and what it means, while offering choices to children on the Help Us! page, on ways to preserve the remaining endangered species. 

12 Curly Questions with author Charles Hope

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I was a talented ballroom dancer as a child. It began when mum and I were waiting for my sister to finish her class. The teacher lamented there weren’t enough boys taking part, so Mum threw me to the wolves.

2. What is your nickname? 
Seegs – short for Seagull – because I can be relied upon to eat other people’s food, leftovers or otherwise.