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

Friday, 24 February 2017

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.

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.

12 Curly Questions with author Julia Lawrinson

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I once shaved my hair off just to see what it would feel like. (Answer: cold.)

2. What is your nickname? 
Jobbo, Jobbly or Jobblinees (because my best primary school friend was (and is) called Nobbo, Nobbly or Noblinees).

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Hairy, jumping spiders. Or non-hairy, ground-dwelling spiders.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Realistic, humorous and serious in turn, with lots of dialogue.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Accessible, clear, warm, sensitive, engaging.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Review: Wormwood Mire

After her exciting adventures in Withering-by-Sea, Stella's aunts banish her to Wormwood Mire, the crumbling mansion where she was born. She is to live there with two cousins she's never met and study under their governess but dark secrets lurk within the mansion's walls and something huge slithers in the lake.

Apart from these sinister undercurrents, Stella begins to remember snippets of her childhood at the most unexpected times. Are her recollections linked somehow to her many questions?

What is the mystery behind her missing mother and twin sister? Is there really a child-eating monster that lurks in Wormwood Mire's at night? And what is turning living creatures to stone?

Review: You Don't Even Know

This novel is a representation of the destructive power of actions and words in the context of two life-changing events, and how the path to healing can come from someone you've never met.

Alex, a high school senior, is recovering in hospital from an event he doesn't remember. Slowly, as Alex pieces together his life before the accident, the reader learns the heartbreaking events that led to his hospitalisation.

Set in Melbourne, Alex's home life is at best, tolerable. His parents are poor at communication, love and support. His father is cruel, his mother submissive and his brothers exist to please their Dad. The most important person to Alex is his four year-old sister Mia, whom he cherishes and would do anything for, and she adores him.