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

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Review: We Come Apart

A realistic story about two oppressed teens from very different backgrounds who meet at a juvenile community work program in modern day London. Nicu is a recent immigrant from Romania and Jess is a local girl from a troubled family.

Fifteen-year-olds Nicu and Jess try and get through days tinged with sadness and oppression, but the moment they forge an unlikely friendship, sunlight and hope enter their burdened lives.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Review: Croc and Bird

Two eggs hatch, side by side. One is a bird and the other a crocodile, but sharing the moment they come into the world, makes them brothers.

Encompassing great warmth and exquisitely gentle humour, Croc and Bird is a book that will call to the hearts of readers, both young and old.

Review: Touch Think Learn: ABC

An absolutely stunning board book that will grab you with it's cover design and drag you and your rambunctious toddlers right in!

Touch Think Learn: ABC is much bigger than a standard board book, almost the size of an A4 sheet of paper and as thick as 5 or 6 picture books all stacked up together. But as soon as you open the pages and take a look inside, it becomes apparent why this size has been selected.

Each page is home to two letters of the alphabet and an illustration of something (usually an animal) that begins with that letter. Where it separates itself from the usual ABC board book suspects however, is in the use of die cutouts for each letter, offering curious hands a raised texture to trace and feel. And it gets even better!

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning is powerful, thrilling and addictive. An epic fantasy like no other, it will leave you questioning who you are and how far you would go for the people you love.

The story is set in Victorian London, but with a twist. There are queens, carriages and curtseying, but also sorcerers, magicians and magic. Add in hideous, giant demons from a mysterious, unknown realm and you have one interesting and intense backdrop for chaos to reign and heroes to rise.

And the hero in question? Her name is Henrietta Howel, and she has a unique talent for creating and manipulating fire. This special gift has her quickly labelled a sorcerer and places her in the middle of a prophecy to defeat the invading demons, called Ancients. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Review: First Words (English)

Lonely Planet Kids have done it again. This is the second children's book I've reviewed from the popular travel guide publisher, and hot-diggity-dogs, I'm floored again!

I'm reviewing First Words: English, but there are also French and Spanish editions available.

I love so much about this book that I'm not quite sure where to start; the concept, the quality, the illustrations or the word choices.

OK, let's start with the concept. The concept is just so darn cool!

The book is structured similarly to travel guides and phrasebooks, but is simple enough that youngins will be able to learn and benefit from this book -- and fall in love with other languages in the process!

Review: That's Not a Daffodil

When Mr Yilmaz gives Tom a daffodil bulb, the two embark on a journey not only of discovery, but curiosity, laughter and imagination.

Tom doesn't see a daffodil in the many stages of the bulb's growth but he does see a desert, green fingers and a street light, among other things. When a simple accident threatens the daffodil's survival, Mr Yilmaz and Tom join forces to ensure its rescue.

Meet the Illustrator: Alison Smallwood

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Evocative, thought provoking, always evolving and fun.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
As I do most of my thinking and planning outside my studio, when I’m in the studio I need to be surrounded by everything I might possibly need so I can create as quickly and efficiently as possible – heaps of art materials like paints, charcoal, pastels, pencils, inks etc. computer, scanner and tablet, inspiring books, sketch books and lots of paper and pencils.  I adore my speedy electric pencil sharpener and I have a sink for washing brushes etc.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Mixed media. A combination of traditional materials and digital FX. I use whatever mediums will give me the atmosphere and feeling I’m trying to portray.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
The opulent detail in the paintings of Gustav Klimt, the simplicity and superb compositions of Hiroshige’s Japanese woodblocks and the spiritual insight of the Russian expressionist, Wassily Kandinksy.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Give Away: We're Going On A Bear Hunt


After over 25 years of entertaining youngsters with their brave and bold attempts to track down that elusive bear, Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby and Rufus the dog bound into new life with a special ABC Kids animated adaptation airing at 5 pm on February 26. Join them as they splash, splosh, swish and squelch onto your screens and into the hearts of a new generation.
Then, email your answer along with your name and postal address to the Managing Editor. The five responses we like the best will win a copy of the book. 

Competition is open to anyone, worldwide, so long as they have an Australian postal address for delivery of the book. Please note, we cannot deliver to PO Boxes. Entries without a name and street address will be ineligible. Winners will be announced right here on our website on Thursday 2 March 2017.

Competition runs from 5 am Wednesday 22 February to 10 pm Sunday 26 February 2017 (AEST). Adults can enter for those aged 17 and under. This is a game of skill, not chance. The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Good luck!

Review: Agatha Christie

This might come as a shock to you, but I've never in my life read an Agatha Christie novel. I know! I simply must make the time. And I must say, this abridged version of this remarkable woman's life makes me even more keen.

Part of the Little People Big Dreams series from Frances Lincoln Children's Books--a series I love so much, most especially because of the female focus) Agatha has been released this year alongside Marie Curie.

Agatha's life began with books. She would read a book with her mum every afternoon, and Agatha always had an opinion on how the story should end.

Review: I Love Me

When your daughter announces, at the mere age of four, that she hates her curly hair, a small part of your heart breaks.

And so, it was with great delight that we cuddled up together to read this joyful book about all the reasons you might love yourself.

The spirited rhyming text is funny and inclusive, with reasons ranging from the bizarre to the beautiful. Rich with onomatopoeia, repetition and rhythm, it's a glorious book to help children embrace their individuality and celebrate it in others.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Review: Traitor to the Throne

We first met Amani, Jin and the rest of the rebellion leaders in Rebel of the Sands. This international best-seller was the first instalment in Alwyn Hamilton's YA trilogy, and set a very high standard for books 2 and 3 to live up to.

I'm relieved to report that Traitor to the Throne doesn't disappoint! Carrying on seamlessly from where Rebel of the Sands ended (it is essential that you read book 1 before starting on this one), it plunges us straight back into the action and adventure.

Review: One Crazy Summer

This multi-award winning story takes us deep into the heart of the black revolution in 1968.

Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel alone to Oakland, California to stay with the mother who abandoned them five years before. But she's not interested in spending time with them.

Cecile, aka Nzilla, sends the girls to the Black Panther breakfast program and tells them not to come home till its dark. So the girls attend Black Panther summer school to while away the hours.

In this roller coaster of laughter and heartbreak, the girls experience Black Panther social support projects and learn revolutionary philosophies for social change. They hear about heroes risking their freedom, even their lives, in the fight for justice and learn to be courageous in small ways.