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

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Meet The Illustrator: Zeno Sworder

Name
: Zeno Sworder

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Warm, expressive, vibrant and really, really fun (I hope!)

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A high stack of scrap paper, preferably already used on one side, is the most important part of my space. When I am drawing there are many dead ends, mistakes and restarts so scrap paper is ideal for working through ideas. The other essential parts of my space are my small army of pencils and, of course, quiet and solitude.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Review: Be Your Own Man

Be Your Own Man
is a book celebrating all the different boys in the world, and what makes them each special in their own way.

It's a reminder that everyone is unique, and that it's ok to be different. It's ok to be smart, sporty, artistic, or anything else.

Be Your Own Man points out that boys can be good listeners, but that you don't have to be good at everything.

The advice in the book is to celebrate your strengths, be kind and respectful, to others and yourself. 

Not everyone looks the same, and not everyone feels the same, and that's ok, too.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

10 Quirky Questions with author/illustrator Briony Stewart

1. What's your hidden talent?
Crafting. I’m a mean crafter. I can make just about anything out of a bit of paper, yarn and glue. Throw in some wire, a glue gun and the contents of that draw you hide all your junk in and I’ll build you your Pinterest dream castle!

Monday, 25 January 2021

Review: The Hospital Dog

Julia Donaldson’s emotive text in The Hospital Dog has lively rhyming verse that keeps time with Sara Ogilvie’s stunning illustrations. 

They move across the page full of activity, in brilliant colour, and with the main character, Dot the Dalmatian. 

Ogilvie pays attention to detail, especially the expressions on the character’s faces and their body language. The small but significant additions here and there in the illustrations add a personal touch, allowing them to visually contribute something that expands the story.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Review: Glassheart

When Nona was only seven years old, she lost her entire family and her home after a bomb destroyed it. Taken in by her Uncle Antoni, Nona’s world totally changed, while the memories of that night continue to haunt her dreams.

Not really related, Antoni Pilecki took Nona in as an apprentice in stained glass windows. Together they travel the countryside repairing broken or damaged windows.

One night, ensconced in his workshop, Nona hears voices and is stunned to learn one of the stained glass windows holds a woman’s reflection and is speaking with her Uncle. 

The voice triggers memories of the night she lost her family and sends her in search for the one item she managed to rescue from her home; a shard of pinkish glass.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Review: Mountain Arrow

After their trip to the abandoned city to find medicine to save their village, Pandora and her friends have returned to the river. But one of them didn’t make it back and is still out there somewhere, and another is carrying the deadly virus that turns people into feral creatures.

Going back to the way things were before seems impossible, but Pandora tries, all the while battling her feelings for the mountain boy, Bayat, who protected them on their trip to Melney, and trying to accept her fate to be paired with Matthew.

But when the Mountain People appear looking for shelter, other refugees start to flood the river village and Pandora’s visions of the past and future come back, she knows trying to restart a normal life was naïve. 

Friday, 22 January 2021

Review: Feathers

Feathers is about a young boy whose mother has died.

He collects feathers because his Mum told him they keep bad dreams away, and he believes he will dream of her if he can catch them.

The boy chases the feathers as they float from above.

Sometimes they are just out of reach. Other times, a feather will land close by. 

One day when a brown feather is caught, the boy calls it his wish feather and places it under his pillow. He waits for dreams of his Mum, and feels her with him, always.

The feathers in the story are symbolic, and used as a reminder for the boy of the mother who is no longer with him.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Review: The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman

Inconceivable!  Somehow, I had not yet read this and that is just weird for several reasons: it’s a Jackie French historical fiction, it’s about William Shakespeare and it’s Jackie French *grin*. So of course, it went onto my holiday reading list which is not always about new releases.  

I absolutely loved it to bits. Part history, part humour, part conjecture on Shakespeare’s life and times this is one that would appeal not only to your lovers of historical fiction, Jackie’s other Shakespearean-themed novels but as a ‘read around your topic’ for students with the Bard on their reading list.

The great writer has retired very comfortably, with wealth and social status, to his home in Stratford where the humdrum of domesticity and a life far removed from London and his acclaim often plagues him. 

To alleviate the tedium William takes up his pen again to write a diary for his own pleasure. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Review: Fly On The Wall

This hilarious graphic novel turned diary follows 12 year old Henry Khoo as he is about to embark on the greatest adventure of all.

Feeling smothered by both his mother and sister who still treat him like a baby – Henry sets out to prove them wrong.

When his annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he is still going regardless. Besides it’s not like anyone will actually miss him?

Henry’s so called best friend has found new friends, leaving him alone. His sister is totally distracted and his mother only notices when things are not done properly around the house.

Starting an anonymous blog called ‘Fly on the Wall’, Henry publishes his tales of woes for the world to see – but will they really see him and stop his audacious plan?

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Review: Pandemic

At the end of World War I there were huge celebrations as families reunited. But the returning soldiers brought another surprise home with them; the Spanish Flu. Just like war, this disease changed the world when it evolved into a pandemic.

History is repeating itself, with the modern world currently experiencing a pandemic. Beautifully crafted, this picture book by renowned Australian author Jackie French and Australian illustrator Bruce Whatley takes us on a journey through hardship, loss and generosity of spirit.

12 Curly Questions with author Amelia Mellor

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
These days my computer is my most valuable tool, but the first time I used a computer, I was so scared that I cried. My teacher had told us that a monster in the ceiling would chomp our legs off if we were naughty, and I was terrified that it would chomp me for pressing the wrong button.

2. What is your nickname?
Mim, because my sister couldn’t say ‘Amelia’ when she was little.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being forced to play sport on TV, or a weird picture of me becoming a meme.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.
Colourful worlds, quirky people, emotional rollercoasters, might give you nightmares.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Review: Let's Go!: On a Digger

Lots of kids love diggers! They are fascinated by their size, ability, and that their movement is close to robotic.

In the brilliant Let’s Go! series of board books for toddlers, the latest one is On a Digger. With vivid colours and rhyming verse, little ones learn the names of each part of this huge piece of machinery and how the parts function.  

Operated by a girl driver, the giant yellow digger scoops up mud. She sits in a high seat that allows her a clear and safe view of everything around her.