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

Saturday, 22 November 2014

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Christina Booth

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I'm terrified of heights (and spiders, and fast cars, and creamed spinach)

2. What is your nickname?
I've had a few but the one that is the most endearing is Min, from the Goon show. My Dad always uses nicknames for people and he adored the Goon's, we were raised on them. I was Min and my brother was Eccles. Dad was Blue Bottle.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights (spiders, being in a fast car, having to eat creamed spinach)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Starts a bit wordy, disorganised, ends up prosaic and hopeful.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Thoughtful, focused, evolving, adaptable, passionate.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Possibly Robyn Mathers from John Marsden's Tomorrow series. Not that I'm as good as her, but I relate to her pacifism and her faith. I think I am strong in a similar way, and loyal.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Review: It Wasn't Me

Finnigan is forever getting into strife. The bath overflows, his breakfast spills everywhere and an indoor plant falls out of its pot, forever broken. ‘But Mum, it wasn’t me,’ is always Finnigan’s reply.

Look carefully and you will find his imaginary monster friend hiding on nearly every page. This imaginary friend’s mischief is big and the adventures that he creates are monster-sized.

Review: London Sketchbook

My heart beat out of my chest when I first laid eyes on this book. And its interior sent it galloping (don't you love it when that happens?).

In this follow-up to Paris Sketchbook, this visual treat by graphic designer and fashion artist Jason Brooks, sends readers straight to the streets of London ... to its iconic buildings and landmarks, yes, but also its stylish fashionistas - the bustling footpaths slick with rain, the breezy parks aflutter with pigeons and the prettiest of shops, tinkling with china, white and blue.

It's London at its most beautiful, most intimate, most intricate--with scenes from the inside of some of the world's most beautiful restaurants, to exclusive peeks behind the scenes during Fashion Week.

KBR Short Story: The Big Stump Ghost

by Robert Walton

Grandfather, are we lost?

Grandfather leaned on his staff.  “Of course not!”

The boy remained silent.

“I’ve walked this path a thousand times.”

The boy pointed to where moonlight drifted between black trunks like falling snow.  “What’s that?”

Grandfather peered through shifting shadows. “Ah, the Big Stump!”  He cleared his throat. “I took you on this scenic route tonight.”

“Thank-you, grandfather.”

“Don’t mention it.  Come along.”

Grandfather patted The Big Stump when they reached it.  “Have a seat, boy.”

Moonlight dusted his dark hair with silver as he sat and looked at the stump’s great breadth.  “It’s huge!”

“The greatest tree ever to live.”

“Who cut it down?”

“Now, that’s a story.”

The boy looked up expectantly.

“Trees long ago had spirits and the greatest of those spirits walked just as men do.”



The great oak’s spirit was tall as a bear and guarded the forest from greedy woodcutters.  One day, a crow whispered news into his ear that took him deep into the mountains.  He came to a twisted pine.

The pine’s twisted spirit spoke, “Welcome, Great Oak.”

“You sent for me?”

“There is trouble nearby.”

“Show me.”

Pine limped up a steep path on skinny legs. Oak followed.  They came to the forest boundary and stopped.


” A dozen yards away an oak seedling drooped near death.

“How did it get there?”

“No knowing,” answered Pine, though he knew very well that Crow had dropped it there.  “But you must save it!”

“My powers cease beyond the forest’s boundary.”

“Surely you may go that small distance!”

“I’ll try.”  Oak stepped toward the seedling and his knees buckled.

Pine signaled and Crow darted away.  “Now I shall rule the forest!” he thought.

Oak went forward on his knees.

Crow swooped down to a group of men carrying axes and saws.  When Crow rose, the woodcutters, trooped toward the great oak.

Oak crawled.

Shining blades bit.  Chips and sawdust flew.

Oak cried out, “Steel!”

The great oak shivered beneath cruel blades.

Oak cupped the seedling in his hand, rose, staggered and fell across the boundary. He placed the seedling on rich earth.

The great tree fell and shook all the forest.

“And so the Oak’s spirit disappeared and only the Big Stump remains.”

“What happened to Pine?”

“That’s another story.”

 The boy thought for a moment. “Do you think that the Big Stump’s spirit might yet live?

“Some say he was saved by the seedling, but I don’t think so.”

Three fairies, blue and glowing, flitted from beech boughs above and hovered behind grandfather’s head.



“Are there fairies in this forest?”

“Of course not!”

The fairies giggled like tiny bells tinkling.

“Don’t be foolish, boy!”

The fairies drew miniature bows tight and shot silver arrows into Grandfather’s left ear.

“Ouch!”  He slapped his ear.  “Pesky mosquito!”

A great, green hand swept down from above and gently scooped the fairies into its palm.


 “What, boy?”

The hand disappeared behind black branches.

“Nothing, grandfather.”

Robert Walton is a retired teacher and a life-long rock-climber and mountaineer. His writing about climbing has been published in the Sierra Club's "Ascent”. Most recently, his historical novel "Dawn Drums” was published by Moonlight Mesa Associates. He and his wife Phyllis live in King City, California and have done so for forty-two years. See more at chaosgatebook.wordpress.com.

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.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Review: Matisse's Garden

A slice of the works of French artist Henri Matisse is brought to life in this semi-biographical picture book featuring striking papercut illustrations by Italian illustration Cristina Amodeo.

Capturing Matisse's obsession with papercutting (which he turned to in the 1940s), Amodeo has beautifully captured his lusciously-coloured style in this book, penned by Samantha Friedman.

Primarily known as a painter, Matisse was also a printmaker, sculptor and draughtsman. He was also a formative creator of plastic arts. Matisse began papercutting (called gouaches découpés), after becoming wheelchair bound, post-surgery, in 1941. He created cuttings sometimes on an enormous scale, and called his creations 'painting with scissors'.

Review: A Compendium of Collective Nouns--Books I and II

If you don't fall in love-at-first-sight with the covers of these books by Tassie author/illustrator Jennifer Skelly, you'll have fallen head-over-heels by page one. Not only for the divine illustrations but the for the literary pleasure her work encompasses--from her personal passion for the idiosyncrasies of our incredible English language, to how smitten this animal lover is with the glory of our collective nouns.

Guest Post: Frances Watts - Roman Omens and Baked Dormice

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome award-winning author Frances Watts to discuss her latest book, middle fiction novel The Raven's Wing. Frances shares the challenges and excitement of the research needed to write historical fiction.

Last year, I fulfilled a dream: I went to Ancient Rome.

At uni, I studied both literature and history, mainly Roman history, and when it came time to choose a major I was torn. Although I chose literature, I did always think that one day I’d like to immerse myself in history again.

When I started writing, I saw my chance—why not write historical novels? But I didn’t quite have the courage. History is so…big. I was overwhelmed by the thought of the research involved, by the responsibility to Get It Right.

Writing the Sword Girl series, set in a medieval castle, gave me both practice and confidence. Because the books were aimed at a younger audience, I could paint the setting in quite broad brushstrokes, though I always aimed for historical accuracy as far as possible. (I must confess, however, that the talking swords, talking cat and crocodiddle in the moat are not strictly accurate…)

And I loved the research. The more knowledge I acquired, the easier it became to walk those medieval streets. And so I finally felt brave enough to don Roman sandals…

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

WIN! Once Upon a Christmas

Once Upon a Christmas is a magical Christmas mix of stories, poems, memoirs and illustrations from some of Australia's favourite children's authors and illustrators, as well as emerging new talent, and some special guests from overseas.

From the funny to the ghostly, fantasy to adventure, from peace and love to action and the unexpected, from recipes to carols, whether you dip in or devour, read aloud or read under the covers, there's something in this beautiful lavish book for everyone to enjoy.

Compiled and edited by Beattie Alvarez, Once upon a Christmas features stories by Duncan Ball, Ursula Dubosarsky, Kate Forsyth, Sally Rippin, Susanne Gervay, Michael Pryor, Kim Gamble, Stephen Axelsen, Pamela Freeman, Libby Hathorn, Nette Hilton, Juliet Marillier, Adele Geras and many, many more fantastic authors and illustrators!

You can read a guest post by Beattie Alvarez here.

Thanks to the generous people at Christmas Press Publishing, we have a wonderful prize pack that includes a copy of Once Upon a Christmas and a set of 4 greeting cards featuring illustrations from the book to give away. The prize is valued at $40.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, your favourite Christmas-themed story and why you like it.

Type ‘Christmas’ 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, 19 November 2014, 5pm to Wednesday, 26 November 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.

Blog Tour: My Unforgettable Year

KBR welcomes author Adem Besim on tour for the release of his new young adult novel, My Unforgettable Year. This is a coming-of-age story about triumph and tragedy, love and loss, acceptance and letting go. We hope you enjoy this interview, which sheds some interesting light on Adem’s writing.

When did you begin your writing journey?

Besides the stories I wrote as a teenager, I began writing this novel in January 2012. I worked on it on and off throughout that year. I finally struck a motivational nerve the following year in March during my course, and got back to it. I finished it around May/June of this year.

What is your greatest joy in writing?

My greatest joy in writing is the achievement of creating a story in your mind with realistic characters, settings, and a plot, and executing it. I also love hearing that my readers were hooked on my work and actually wanted to read it.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Regal Beagle

When the queen of a small kingdom dies, everyone is in mourning. The queen was a good, wise, wonderful queen whom everybody loved. But she never married and had children, and there are no other relatives, so now there is no one to take her place! What are they going to do? Who will rule the kingdom?

Proctor Kindly, the queen's advisor, has no choice but to consult the royal scrolls. There he discovers that if there is no relative to take the queen's place, then her 'best friend' must become the new ruler. But the queen's best friend was Lucy, her dog!

Review: Little Elliot Big City

Little Elliot the Elephant lives in a magnificent Brownstone in New York City (green!). He loves living in a big city but sometimes it's hard being so small in such an enormous place.

When you're so little, you have to be very careful not to be stepped on. It's tough reaching doors and let's not even talking about hailing a cab or buying a cupcake at a local shop where you practically appear invisible, even when you're the cutest spotted elephant around.

12 Curly Questions with author and illustrator Belinda Landsberry

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I think I may be psychic. Not charms, or tarot cards or crystal ball psychic – I just have an uncanny intuition about certain things at certain times. It’s weird. But it’s also very cool!

2. What is your nickname?
Well, since childhood I’ve had many, including Minnie, Bindi, Boo Boo Bear and Miss Mouse to name a few. My family have always called me Minnie because my little sister couldn’t say Belinda. That’s why Miss Mouse has endured over the years as well.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being stranded on a roller coaster either at the top of the biggest rise - or even worse – up-side-down! Aaaarrggghhh!!!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words
I write mostly in rhyme. I just can’t help myself!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.