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

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Guest Post: Brenda Gurr on Creating Character Mood Boards

Are you a frustrated creative writer who struggles to create compelling characters? 

I completely understand! Three-dimensional characters who leap off the page are so tough to conjure up but are vital to every story. 

You need to know them inside out and back-to-front before you can commit them to the page. The standard method to create book characters is to write a profile, in which you list all their unique attributes, from their hair colour to their favourite childhood memories. 

You can also add a photo clipped from a magazine or found on the internet that approximates what your character looks like in your mind. A variation on this is the character interview, where you ask your characters questions about their lives and answer in their voices. 

These methods are supremely useful and, I think, necessary to help you understand the beings that populate your manuscripts. 

But whenever I used to finish one of these, I would feel a bit flat. So would the characters I was trying to create. Something was missing… that vital spark, that way into really getting my characters to LIVE.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Review: Derek Dool Supercool: Going Viral (Book #2)

Derek Dool is super cool. Well, at least he thinks he is. And he’s determined to prove it to the world. 

In Bust a Move, Derek was set on proving he was the best dancer at the school disco. 

In Going Viral, Derek is determined to prove he’s an internet star AND prove he is more of an internet star then his nemesis Carmichael Cruz.

Set against the backdrop of the upcoming garlic festival, Derek has only a couple of days to create a video that goes more viral than Cruz’s does. 

Review: Rudie Nudie Christmas

Rudie Nudie Christmas Carols, Rudie Nudie ‘Ho, ho, ho.’

Scooping up and blowing bubbles, till there’s Rudie Nudie snow.

Rudie Nudie Christmas is a magical, rhyming delight! 

From acclaimed author/illustrator Emma Quay this is the book every child needs this Christmas. 

Monday, 19 October 2020

Review: Hello Jimmy!

A beautiful new tile from Anna Walker about a boy, his dad, and a parrot named Jimmy. 

Hello, Jimmy! quickly sets the scene of a boy named Jack at home with his dad, a beautifully produced sense of unfamiliarity and still silences suggests that the father is recently separated and his relationship with Jack is undergoing circumstantial changes. 

When Dad introduces Jack to his new pet; a parrot named Jimmy, Jack isn’t thrilled. Despite Jimmy’s popularity, and ability to fill silences with his amusing, squawky confidence, Jack seems a little annoyed by the talented, green, long-tailed bird.

Review: Annie Lumsden, The Girl from the Sea

Annie is a strange girl, wired wrong and unable to learn anything as a child at school.

Her brain is an electric storm.

Letters that seemed stuck to the page refuse to lift and enter her mind. Numbers have the same effect.

All of us are mysteries her doctor said when he couldn’t diagnose her.

It is the sea only, that understands her and she understands.

Annie and her mother live close to the water and never want to be anywhere else. It flows in and through her; is her breath and soul.


Sunday, 18 October 2020

Review: Honeybee

The long awaited follow-up to Silvey’s international best selling Jasper Jones is here. At times confronting, at others, beautifully joyful, Silvey is always in control of the narrative, taking the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions.

The hero is Sam, a fourteen year old who is about to end his life. He meets an elderly man, Vic, who is also about to jump off a bridge. Their meeting results in both saving the other’s lives. Vic takes Sam into his house and they both begin a healing journey.

The friendship is mutually nurturing. Vic provides Sam with a safe place to live and gives him the space to explore himself and to finally accept his true identity.

Review: Mica the Star Sailor

Mica is an explorer. 

She’s an astronaut. She’s a dreamer. 

She longs to be near her Dad, but Mica’s father is far away. 

She misses him and she longs to be with him, so when a call to adventure shoots through her window on a star, she answers, and enters a magical and strange world of lightning fish, an ancient rainforest and a planet of paper aeroplanes.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Review: Howl

I adore this picture book. Adore it. 

It’s a book for our times right now, but, really it’s a book for all times — for childhood, for life.

In Howl, Maggie is having a bad day. Nothing at all is going right, and I mean nothing. The sun is too bright, her shoes won’t go on and her spaghetti is too long.

Maggie can’t sleep that night either, and as the too-bright moon streaks through her window, all Maggie wants to do is howl.

Giveaway: The Biscuit Maker and Rain Before Rainbows

Because kindness matters and friendships nurture hope and help build emotional resilience, we are giving away these two very special picture books from Walker Books Australia: The Biscuit Maker and Rain Before Rainbows.

In Mavin Road, there’s no time for hellos or chats until a lonely and mysterious biscuit maker’s magic brings everyone together. The Biscuit Maker by Sue Lawson and Liz Anelli is a beautiful heart-warming book that celebrates community and human connection.

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Halls and David Litchfield, is a book with immense hope at its heart, and is a positive message for anyone who’s ever gone through a tough time. 

For the chance to win this double book prize, in 25 words or less, tell us what is your favourite way to improve somebody’s day?

Friday, 16 October 2020

Review: The Institute of Fantastical Inventions: Magnetic Attraction

Although this is a sequel to the first book, readers can jump straight in with no experience of Book One and pick up the threads. Read our KBR review of Book One, The Institute of Fantastical Inventions 

Crazy scientist and inventor Leo McGuffin continues to dream-up weird and wonderful marvels at the Institute of Fantastical Inventions. 

With the help of his boy genius assistant, Edward, Leo sets out to solve their customer’s rather unique and crazy problems with even crazier solutions.

This is one for lovers of puns and mad contraptions. Leo’s most pressing problem is to help a chaotic family experience ‘harmony’, and the reader is taken on a journey about the scientific properties of music. How Leo applies this to helping the family get along is well...fantastical.

Guest Post: Grace O'Hara: Around The World in 10 Books

Feeling restless? Who could blame you. A jaunt around the world is well overdue but how can you quench your thirst for travel in this current climate? Easy with books of course! Today's special guest, Grace O'Hara shares ten books that will help you to travel the globe from home. Bon Voyage!

If you’ve had the privilege of travelling in your life, you’ll know the transformative effect it can have. Travelling helps us understand the world, understand how our version of normal compares to others. It’s also an opportunity to open up your senses to a world of new experiences.

Even though travel outside our borders is on hold for the time being, many of us are still feeling the itch to explore new places and expose our little ones to all the joy that travelling involves. But, fear not, along with a tonne of digital resources, there are some incredible stories to be found from around the world in children’s stories.

Here’s a list of some of my favourite ones, which not only transport you to different settings, but immerse you in local languages and folklore from around the world too. Ready? Our journey begins…

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Review: This Small Blue Dot

Welcome to Earth. 

There’s a lot of strange stuff going on out there, but here are some of the things I’ve worked out so far.

A young girl sits with her new baby sibling and discloses the secrets of the world she has so far uncovered. 

She speaks of the universe and planets, animals, growing up and how to have fun. 

She explains that sometimes things don’t go right, but things are always changing. 

She reveals the best Italian desserts, the best Chinese deserts and the best Indian desserts.