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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

WIN! The Wonder

This is a story about a boy whose head is always full of wonder. We follow him on an average-seeming school day, where his daydreams transform the world around him.

Unfortunately lots of other people – the park keeper, the bus driver, the lollipop lady – all tell him to get his head out of the clouds. It is only in art class that he realises he can bring the wonder out of his head for the whole world to enjoy.

The Wonder is a gorgeous picture book that celebrates children's creativity and imagination.

Thanks to the generous people at Five Mile Press, we have five copies of The Wonder to give away. Each copy is valued at $19.95.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less how you express your creativity.

Type ‘The Wonder’ into the subject line and email your answer to susanATkids-bookreviewDOTcom. The most creative answers, as judged by KBR, will win. Be sure to include your full name and address — entries without will be ineligible. Please provide a street address, as prizes cannot be delivered to PO Boxes.

Competition runs from Wednesday, 22 October 2014, 5pm to Wednesday, 29 October 2014, 5pm AEST, and the comp is open to residents of Australia, over the age of 18 (mum and dad can enter on behalf of kids). This is a game of skill, not chance. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Prizes cannot be delivered to PO Boxes. To be considered valid, entries must include a name and street address. Privacy statement: Winners' contact details are forwarded to the relevant publisher. Other contact details are not shared. All contact details are permanently deleted at competition end.

Review: The Wonder

‘This is a boy whose head is filled with wonder!’

One line in and I’m already hooked. The wonder and imagination of childhood is something so amazing that I can’t help but be drawn to a story that celebrates young minds filled with questions and ideas and creative thoughts.

The Wonder is a truly stunning picture book by author/illustrator Faye Hanson. A young boy with a head filled with questions and creativity finds that he constantly being told to stop daydreaming and pay more attention until a wonderful teacher gives him a blank piece of paper and invites him to use his imagination.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Review: The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling is a classic Hans Christian Andersen tale which, in my memory at least, always brings to mind Danny Kaye’s performance of the song in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Andersen.

This gorgeously illustrated version will connect a new generation of young children to this story as they discover that the poor ‘ugly’ duckling does have somewhere to belong where he is appreciated for who he really is.

Review: Once Upon an Alphabet

Jeffers Obsessives rejoice! Not 32 but 112--count them--112 pages of Jeffers glory!

Oh yes, Oliver Jeffers serves up a fine feast in this alphabet book of stories, each and every letter treated to a full short story featuring the quirk and dry humour he's renowned for.

With A, we meet an Astronaut. He's been training for ages to go and meet some aliens. But there's a problem. He has a fear of heights.

12 Curly Questions with author Jack Heath

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I waste an awful lot of time trying to invent mathematical formulae which describe the behaviour of music.

2. What is your nickname?
My wife calls me 'Hubsy', and since I spend more time with her than with anyone else, I've started to be more comfortable with it than 'Jack'.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I live in almost constant fear that I'll bump into someone – anyone – that I went to high school with.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Each word surprises, but follows naturally from its precedent.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Fast, careful, enthusiastic, inexhaustible, ambitious.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Most of my favourite characters find themselves in unenviable positions, but I (like a lot of people) wouldn't mind being Jack Reacher.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
2042. I'd like to meet my son when we're the same age (and give him the chance to meet me, for better or worse).

8. What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
'Is Paul still your best mate? Cool.'

9. Who is your greatest influence?
Probably K.A. Applegate. Animorphs worked its way into my DNA, if you'll pardon the pun.

10. What/who made you start writing?
I was 13, and I didn't like the novel we were studying in English class. I thought I could write a better book, and decided to prove it.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
Fraught. I like the many overlapping meanings.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
How I Became A Famous Novelist, by Steve Hely. I've already read it three times, and it makes me laugh each time – except for the ending, which usually makes me cry.

Check out Jack's amazing new YA novel, Replica, at www.jackheath.com.au.

Intense, thought-provoking YA sci-fi about identity, ethics and android doppelgangers. - Imogen Russell Williams

If you are an author or illustrator who thinks they are BRAVE enough to answer our questions, 
OR if there is an author or illustrator you would like to hear from, LET US KNOW! 
We will see if they are up to the task. Just email: susanATkids-bookreviewDOTcom

Monday, 20 October 2014

Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander feels so like a contemporary kid with every day issues that it’s hard to believe his story was first published in 1972. Forty-two years later, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is still so relevant (and funny) that a version is about to hit cinemas. Here’s how it goes:

Alexander went to bed with gum in his mouth and woke up with it in his hair, then he tripped on his skateboard and dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running: he could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

Review: Our Stories: Australian Writers of Influence

The Our Stories series from Black Dog Books takes a  fascinating peek into our Australian culture--our cities, our events, our people. In this latest addition, author Bernadette Kelly reveals Australian writers of influence in an informative and engaging way.

The book begins at the beginning--when 'pen and paper ruled the world'--a novel concept for today's children when texting and typing is more the norm. A world of paper and ink? This has to be something that will both boggle and entrance kids.

During this time, in 1826, the very first set of poems were published in Colonial Australia--by an Australian-born author. Entitled Wild Notes from the Lure of a Native Minstrel, the book was penned by Charles Thompson, a public servant and a forerunner for Aussie authors.

Review: Rhymes with Art: Cartooning the Fun Way

The master of comedy strikes again with this super cute book for kids who love to draw. Packaged in a novel-format book, Adam 'Wally' Wallace shows kids how to draw a series of kooky critters, using basic shapes.

Critters are plentiful and include a UFO Dog (it begins life as a UFO, then you add a headlight, then two doors, then ... well, you get the picture ... 'scuse the pun), a Rooster Rabbit,  a Bum Cat, a Dragon Tail Rhino and my favourite - a Reading Bug.

Along the way, Wally peppers his instruction with quirky rhyming text that's sure to raise a smile. Perfect for the upcoming summer school holidays.

Shout Out: Lulu Loves board books

The 'Lulu Loves' board books are a gorgeous new series for toddlers. The first two titles in the series are Lulu Loves Colours and Lulu Loves Noises, with Lulu Loves Numbers and Lulu Loves Shapes coming soon!

Join Lulu as she spots all of her favourite colours — from the bright yellow sun to the warm blue water!

Join Lulu as she listens to her favourite sounds — from the birds singing 'tweet tweet' outside Lulu's window, to the 'ding-a-ling' of her tricycle.

Each book has lots of flaps to lift, making the series perfect for little hands and inquisitive minds. 

Title: Lulu Loves Colours and Lulu Loves Noises
Author: Camilla Reid
Illustrator: Ailie Busby
Publisher: Bloomsbury, $12.99 RRP
Publication Date: October 2014
Format: Board Book
ISBN: 9781408849644 and 9781408849637
For ages: 2+
Type: Picture Book

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: Sally in the Snow

Sally is off to the snowfields to see all her friends. They're so happy when she arrives--they have lots of fun planned!

First it's sledding then saucering (flying down the mountain on a disc) then skiing till tummies rumble and it's time to go back to the lodge for dinner.

Kids will adore this sweet little animal adventure set in the snow.

Illustrations are a visual feast for toddlers, with almost tactile textures and beautiful colouring. High contrast pages will make wonderful viewing for babies, too.


Title: Sally in the Snow
Author/Illustrator: Stephen Huneck
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed, $9.99 RRP
Publication Date: 7 October 2014
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781419712272
For ages: 0 - 3
Type: Board Book

Review: How to Draw Vintage Fashion

I still recall, as a young girl, being obsessed with fashion design--spending long hours creating divine ensembles for beautiful girls to strut the catwalks of Paris and Milan.

How I wish I'd had this beautiful book to fuel my fashionista fire!

Nothing wrong with a 40-something style aficionado getting her fashion drawing on, and I'll be doing just that with this gorgeous book, featuring tips from top designers and muses, including Paul Smith and Twiggy. I'm sure younger drawers would also love to rustle up their glad rags and join me.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review: The Whole of My World

This coming-of-age story is set in the 1980s and told through the eyes of Shelley, almost 15, two years after she and her father have become impotent with grief when death devastates their family.

Shelley decides to try and start a new chapter in her life, moves schools and has some promise of a friendship with her new friend Tara, although it’s a complex relationship, as both girls find it hard to open up.

Shelley’s father has become a shell of the man he used to be and sits in front of the telly for hours when he’s not at work. The two of them don’t talk anymore and seem stuck, never discussing the life changing, catastrophic event. Any easy dialogue between them revolves around footy.