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

KBR Unpublished Manuscript Award - the WINNERS!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Review: Meet Banjo Patterson (Meet... series)

There is no doubt Banjo Paterson is one of Australia's most loved poets. So it would only be fitting that Meet Banjo Paterson is the next book in the Meet... series of picture books about the extraordinary men and women who have helped shape Australia's history.

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson spent his early years in country NSW. He was sent to finish his education in Sydney, where he eventually worked as a lawyer. Paterson missed the bush and, using the pseudonym ‘the Banjo’, began to write stories that brought the bush to the city.

This is the story of how Banjo came to write his most famous poems and stories, including The Man from Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda.

Using quotes from Paterson’s poems, Kristin Weidenbach cleverly tells the story of how Banjo Paterson came to fame, as well as the inspiration behind his poems in a way that is accessible and entertaining to children. James Gulliver Hancock’s illustrations are almost lyrical, beautifully complementing the style of the story. James Gulliver Hancock says he didn’t need to look far to find what Banjo Paterson looked like. “I only had to get out my wallet to see the famous portrait on the $10 note to get a vibe of his stately nose”.

Children will not only relish in the detailed illustrations, but Meet Banjo Paterson also gives children the opportunity to discover and enjoy Banjo’s poetry in a new way.

With a timeline in the back of the book, as well as teacher’s notes available, Meet Banjo Paterson is a delight to read and will prove to be a valuable resource on any child’s shelf and in any Australian classroom.

Title: Meet Banjo Paterson (Meet... series)
Author: Kristin Weidenbach
Illustrator: James Gulliver Hancock
Publisher: Random House Australia, RRP $24.99
Publication Date: 1 April 2015
Format: Hard Cover
ISBN: 9780857980083
For ages: 5-9
Type: Picture Book

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Review: Thunderstorm Dancing

Sometimes, when you read the text for a book, you feel an inherent connection with words that were so purely designed for children. For the way they think, feel and respond.

There's something about the word choice, the rhythm, the concepts--that make it oh so scrumptious for the ears of little ones. And Katrina Germein does this oh so well.

10 Quirky Questions with author Katrina Germein

1. What's your hidden talent?
Koala spotting - although it’s not really hidden because I post pictures on Instagram every Sunday. I’m not sure that it’s a talent either, because koalas don’t move much so they’re easily spotted.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The big bad wolf because he likes to keep us guessing; just when you think you know what he’s up to he goes and does something different.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Are airfares included? I’d like to invite interstate friends because I don’t get to see them enough – Rosemary Sullivan, Trudie Trewin, Karen Collum and Kat Apel. I’d use the fifth space for a dead person because, well, you offered, and I think it would be kind of cool to have a ghost at the party. So maybe, Maurice Sendak.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: Dinosaur Roar

This one's for the kiddies who are in that dinosaur-lovin' stage. Dinosaur Roar! teaches children useful adjectives, and does so using dinosaurs to grab (and hold) their attention:

'Dinosaur fast, dinosaur slow, dinosaur above and dinosaur below'. You get the picture.

Towards the end, the rhyming narrative about opposites somehow transitions into rhyming adjectives describing the dinosaurs eating lunch. Plainly put, it's kind of an odd transition, but my 21-month-old really doesn't care so I'm not sure I should either.

THE WINNERS! KBR Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2015

Our 2015 AWARD WINNERS. . .

We are thrilled to announce the winners in our 2015 Unpublished Manuscript Award for a Picture Book! The following entrants have won for the Manuscript and Illustration sections...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Review: Alfie's Lost Sharkie

I simply adored the first book in the Alfie series--Hurry Up, Alfie!--by the superlative Anna Walker. I loved it for its adorable relatability (both from the parent's AND the child's perspective) but also for its gentle yet punchy illustrations, using the classic Anna Walker colour, pattern, texture and whimsy I so adore.

Now, Alfie is back--and this time he's not being nudged to get out the door--he's lost Sharkie.

Review: 100 Great Children's Picture Books

This is a true celebration of the picture book as an art form. The author, Martin Salisbury, has chosen 100 picture books from the past 100 years or so, to create a catalogue of the best in picture book design and illustration.

The result will delight anyone with an interest in design, illustration or children's literature.

Beginning with The Slant Book by Peter Newell, published in 1910, and ending with Zoom Zoom Zoom by Katherina Manolessou, published in 2014, each chosen book is explored over a two-page spread. The cover together with a few pages of the book are reproduced, and these are accompanied by the book's specifications, a brief explanation of the story and illustration style, as well as some notes on the illustrator.

There are titles from Russia, France, Japan, Italy, the US, England, Scandinavia, Switzerland and more. What is immediately evident — despite the overwhelming range of styles — is that good design and illustration never date. I was also delighted to see that a couple of recent KBR favourites made the cut: The Promise by Nicola Davies (review here) and Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back (review here).

A book to savour and then dip into again and again.

Title: 100 Great Children's Picture Books
Author: Martin Salisbury
Publisher: Laurence King, $55.00 RRP
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Hardcover with jacket
ISBN: 9781780674087
For ages: 14+
Type: Art Book

Saturday, 28 March 2015

KBR Short Story: May Challenge

As part of our Literary Hub initiative, KBR invites writers to submit creative short stories aimed at children aged 4 to 10.

Each month we offer a short story theme and challenge you to submit an amazing, creative story of 500 words or less based on that theme. The best stories will be published at Kids’ Book Review each Friday morning.

That's right. We want your short stories to share with our KBR readers, who just happen to include a rather impressive array of children's book industry professionals, from Australia and around the world.

Want your work to fall under the watchful eyes of publishers?

May submissions now open!

The theme for May is Ninja.

Closing date for May submissions is 25th April 2015. Full submission details can be found here.

Ninja story submissions can be emailed to coralvass(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

So, what are you waiting for? The May challenge is out there and we're looking forward to reading your stories!

12 Curly Questions with author Peter Millett

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I’ve appeared in a blooper scene for a television soap opera. The footage is on YouTube. Find it if you can (it will be harder to locate than a needle in a haystack).

2. What is your nickname?
I’ve never had a nickname. I think it’s because ‘Pete’ is too hard to shorten. ‘Pet’ would be just weird sounding!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being bored on a 32 hour flight to London sitting next to person with no sense of humour. Makes my skin crawl.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
A sit down comedian doing improv in front of the computer.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Irreverent, observant, consistent, unpredictable, researched.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Review: Ella Diaries - Double Dare You (Ella Diaries #1)

Meredith Costain has a natural gift when it comes to using a child’s voice and thought. Her writing, characters and storylines always impress. The light-hearted tone and focus on important themes entertains while imparting strong messages. I was hooked on Ella from the first page, and was overjoyed that there were two books together to read.

The design of the book is similar to Tom Gates’ in doodles and picture format. The main character Ella loves to write poetry and draw stylish clothing. She is confident wearing what she likes which is an unusual mix of patterns, shapes and colour. She also likes to illustrate her thoughts and feelings. I loved the idea of hearts taking the place of dots over the letter i.

KBR Short Story: Words and Pages, Illustrations

by Natasha Rowland

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Thoughts and pictures from your wildest dreams
Nothing is strange in a book it seems

Polka dot elephants dancing a jig
Talking lady birds and a crowned King pig
A treehouse so high it kisses the sun
Tangling vines with nipping bugs, what fun!
Swimming with sharks, mermaids and piranhas
Dancing wearing invisible pyjamas
A magic wand to erase all your fears
Discovering treasures hidden for years

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Open one wide and leap inside
Be swept away on a fantastical ride

Burping out butterflies, farting out flowers
Eating boogers that give super powers
Sailing deep seas on a raft of spaghetti
Tea parties with monsters you won’t be forgetting
Oodles of puppies, trillions of kittens
A walk with a gator, try not to get bitten
Talking in gibberish, munching on worms
Licking your fingers, forget about germs

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Anything is possible, the absurd becomes real
Open a book, immerse yourself in the surreal

Today you’re a princess ruling the stars
Yesterday a toad strumming a guitar
Tomorrow a leaf drifting on the breeze
Or a snot-nosed hippo that does nothing but sneeze
A sad, broken car, a busy buzzing bee
A train shooting down a hill shouting, ‘You can’t catch me!’
A doctor, a dentist, a lawyer holding court
Blasting off in your spaceship, now an astronaut

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Opening pages and drifting far away
A couple of words and you’re now worlds away

Open a book
Close your eyes
With words in your head
And pictures to guide
Shoot off on a magical imagination ride

Words and pages, illustrations
Remember to pack your imaginations!

Natasha Rowland is a creative person; writing, art and music keep her sane. Her children, the creatures living about her house and snippets of conversations are her inspiration resources.  In September 2014 she received a 2nd placing and highly commended from the USQ Creative Writing on Country competition, then in October had her first short story, 'Hungry Waves', selected by KBR. Fingers crossed there'll be a third.

KBR Short Stories are a way to get your work ‘out there’—and to delight our KBR readers. Stories are set to a monthly theme and entries are due in the 25th of each month. Find out more here.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3)

Grieving, shaken and feeling very much alone, Rory’s life as a member of the Shades of London has changed irrevocably. It’s only been a matter of hours since Stephen was taken from her, possibly for ever. Her classmate Charlotte is still missing, kidnapped by the same people who tried to take Rory. Rory is no longer a schoolgirl haplessly involved in the dealings of a secret government unit. She is their weapon in a matter of life and death.

Maureen Johnson’s The Shadow Cabinet is the thrilling third instalment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling series- Shades of London.  Picking up from where book two ended, Rory gets back to work. Charlotte must be found.