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

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review: The Simpsons Family History

Love them or hate them, there's no denying the pop culture impact The Simpsons has had on our modern day life--from catch phrases to a whole newly-dry American humour that really packs a punch.

In this comprehensive compendium, the Simpsons celebrate 25 years (which in itself is more than extraordinary) of family fun with a well-designed peek into the funniest and most memorable moments from the past quarter-century.

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Liz Anelli

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was once interviewed on Kazakhstan TV. They forgot to give me the English translation headphones so I have to this day no idea what they said about me…

2. What is your nickname?  
My husband calls me Bug

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing a good friend

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words.
Insane amount of detail -a triple Salchow (ice-dancing) that might just come off. I can’t possibly restrict myself to 10 words when I use so many different elements in my illustrations.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as an illustrator.

Happy, layered, busy, passionate draw-er

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Baby Glue

Charlotte is so excited. She's awaiting a new baby in the family, but she's not the only one.

Mummy is carrying the baby in her tummy. Dad is reading to baby, through the walls of her belly. Nan is knitting for baby and Pa is putting the cot together.

Aunty Jen and Uncle Wade are helping, too, and even the neighbours, teacher, doctors and nurses are involved. They all care about the new baby. They all have a role to play.

Review: The Jewel (Jewel Trilogy #1)

Today her name is Violet Lasting. She has a family and friends. She can choose what to eat and what to wear.

Tomorrow, she will become Lot 197 and everything about her life will be determined by another woman – what she eats, who she talks to and where she lives. Her life will be lived at the mercy of her owner, the Duchess, and her worth will be determined by her ability to act as a surrogate to ensure that the Duchess can continue her family line.

Violet’s future seems certain, and bleak, until she meets Ash, another captive. The time Violet steals with Ash makes her wonder if a different future is possible; one where she makes her own decisions and chooses her own destiny.

Blog Tour: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Kids' Book Review is delighted to have Amy Ewing stop by on her blog tour for The Jewel, the first book in an exciting new dystopian trilogy published by Walker Books. Amy kindly took some time out to answer our questions about The Jewel. You can follow The Jewel blog tour via the links shared below.

Congratulations on The Jewel. It’s such an interesting story. How did the idea come to you – did you start with characters and build a story around them, or did you start with the story concept and then the characters developed to bring it to life?
The concept for The Jewel came from a lazy Sunday afternoon I spent watching movies on basic cable. Taken came on, and I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? I like Liam Neeson.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, there is a scene when his daughter (the one who gets taken) is paraded onto a stage and bid on by powerful men who want to buy her as, essentially, a sex slave.

As I watched that scene, I wondered to myself what it would be like if, instead of men, it was women bidding on her. Why would a woman buy another woman? I thought at first it would be to carry their children for vanity purposes. Why go through nine months of hormones and stretch marks and dietary restrictions when you can have some other girl do it for you? Slowly the idea evolved to the point that these women needed these girls. That generations of inbreeding had caused too much chromosomal damage, and that these surrogates had the power to fix it. And so, the Auction was born, and Violet’s story came to life.

The Jewel is the first book in a trilogy. What are the challenges and benefits of writing a series? Did you have the entire storyline mapped out from the beginning, or did it continue to unfold after the first book was completed?
The best part is definitely getting to explore more of the world I’ve created and watch the characters grow and change. The hardest part is figuring out all the plot points, and getting them to blend together the way I want. The synopses of books two and three that I originally submitted when I sold The Jewel have been completely scrapped. I work pretty organically, just mapping out basic plot points and figuring out how to get there as I write. But now that I’m almost done revising the second book (yay!), the third book is becoming clearer and clearer in my mind. Let’s keep our fingers crossed it stays that way!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: Peck Peck Peck

'Today my daddy said to me, "It's time you learnt to peck a tree."' And so begins a very busy day in the life of this little woodpecker.

First, under Dad's careful supervision, he holds on tight to the tree, and peck peck pecks at the wood. Soon enough, he's pecked a hole. There's a corresponding hole in the page of the book, emphasising his success.

Blog Tour: The Summoning of the One: Interview with Royce Bond

KBR welcomes author Royce Bond, on tour for the release of his new fantasy novel The Summoning of the One. We hope you enjoy this interview which sheds some interesting light on the author process.

Who is your favourite author and why?
I have two favourite authors, C.S. Lewis and Tolkein. I love the worlds they created and have spent numerous hours in those worlds.

My wife and I actually purchased a Chronicles of Narnia book on our honeymoon. She began reading it to me aloud and this continued almost every night for thirty years. It’s only in the last four years that we have stopped this habit, but now I’m writing this, I feel I’d like her to start again.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Exhibition Event: Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective

Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki and Scarface Claw have all become household names;making their way around the world and into our hearts.  Their creator, Lynley Dodd, has sold more than five million copies of Hairy Maclary alone. She has written and illustrated thirty books and has won the Children’s Picture Book of the Year award four times.

A rare treat to hit Australian soil, the Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective exhibition celebrates the work of this beloved children's author-illustrator. It showcases a collection of 59 original drawings from her books, and details her journey in becoming a dynamic force in the children’s picture book industry.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Asphyxia

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I come from an enormous and very quirky family, with seven brothers and sisters, and hordes of cousins.  I grew up in a very communal household with no doors or light switches, which meant little privacy and darkness in my room when my younger siblings went to bed!

2. What is your nickname?
I am often called Fixie, which is what you get when you chop the A’s off either end of my name.  I’ve actually called my blog and art business Fixie’s Shelf – a shelf where I put all the things I make.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Having nothing to do!  Being locked in solitary confinement without so much as a pen and paper.  I think I would die.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Strong female characters, and themes that are important to me.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Character Design: From the Ground Up

Character Design: From the Ground Up is a comprehensive introduction to creating characters for stories in a graphic way. As the blurb on the back of the book says, “from films to games, books to comics, all stories need refined, beautiful characters.”

Character Design is divided into three parts: basics, process and projects.

In ‘The Basics’, Kevin Crossley takes you through everything you’ll need to know to get started, beginning with having reference materials, drawing equipment and computer software. An understanding of the fundamentals of anatomy is provided to help with creating convincing figures, and looks at the skeleton, muscles, head and face. Next is using design templates to make drawing quicker and easier, and then a short section on working with clients.

Review: Tom Gates 7: A Tiny Bit Lucky

Everyone including me should have read and loved the series of Tom Gates.

Now brings a new book. It's about Tom wanting a dog so he can walk it, instead of other things he does not want to do.
However, Tom's annoying sister Delila, is allergic to dogs (of course she is!).

Once again, Liz Pichon always takes a step further when creating books. She is extremely creative, which I like, and the nice little illustrations are really equivalent to the words. Gosh, she is so creative, even I am jealous with the book's ‘doodles'.

Also, Liz doesn’t put a boring, old cover on the front of the book. She takes her time to make a wonderful cover, and it's worth it. All this is why I choose her as one of the most creative authors I know.

The price is about $16.99 and age recommended age is 8 - 12 but other ages would love it, too.

- this review by Riley, age 11

Title: A Tiny Bit Lucky
Author/Illustrator: L Pichon
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743625347
For ages: 6 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction

KBR Short Story: The Toucan's Song

by Kym Langfield

The hot sun was setting when the animals of the jungle gathered at the water hole. A meeting had been called to discuss some important news.

Cheetah spoke first. His eyes were wide with worry. 'The people are coming — they’ll be here in the morning.'

Wise Old Monkey sighed. 'I have seen this before. They’ll bring machines as terrifying as monsters.'

The animals gasped.

'What does this mean?' Hyena asked.

'It means our home will soon be gone.'

Cries of sorrow filled the air.

'I will not allow this!' Lion stood tall and shook his flowing mane. 'We will fight this war. Nobody takes our home.'

The animals roared in agreement. Then they got to work, making their plans to stop the humans. There would be snapping and snarling and attacking, of course.

All this time, Toucan was sitting in his tree hole, chewing on guavas and listening intently. Suddenly, he poked out his colourful beak and announced, 'I want to help too.'

The animals stopped and stared before bursting into laughter. 'You want to help?' they jeered. 'You couldn’t hurt a fly!'

Night set in and the animals went to sleep. Only Toucan stayed awake, vowing, 'I will find a way to help.'

The blaring sound of engines woke the animals the next morning.

'They’re here,' Lion growled. 'It’s time to show we won’t be beaten.'

The animals tore through the trees, towards the noise, roaring with all their might. But the people were ready. They carried weapons and nets and soon every beast was trapped.

The destruction began. Machines roared to life and the trees came crashing down. The animals looked on, whining with sadness.

But then a piercing screech rang through the air. The humans stopped in surprise. What was that curious sound?

Suddenly Toucan appeared and perched on a tree that was about to be cut down. He opened his beak and released a tune that was beautiful and happy.

The humans just stared, they were mesmerised. They’d never heard music so lovely.

The machines were turned off and the weapons put down. How could they destroy the jungle, when there was such beauty around?

Then they quietly left the area safe and sound.

The animals gathered near the little toucan.

'We were wrong to doubt you,' Lion said. 'You were more courageous than any other beast.'

The creatures all roared in triumph and decided that the next time Toucan sings they will all stop and listen.

Kym writes novels and short stories for children and young adults. She has published a book with The Book Company and has self-published two other stories. She is a mum of two adorable girls and is a primary school teacher. Kym is passionate about children's literature and loves sharing adventure and magic with young readers. To find out more about Kym and her work, visit her on Facebook.

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.