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

Wednesday, 4 October 2023

Review: Borderland

This is a really fresh perspective on First Nations YA, and was a hugely enjoyable and gripping read.

Jono and Jenny have known each other all their lives and have just graduated as the inaugural First Nations scholarship students. 

Both enrol at Brisbane’s APAC (Aboriginal Performing Arts Centre) and almost as soon as they have started their respective courses are given an opportunity to be interns with a professional film crew.

The unit is undertaking a documentary to promote a huge government mining country with the intent of making it acceptable to the traditional owners of the area. 

Both young people are elated at the prospect and not just because of the film aspect. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2023

Review: Do Penguins' Feet Freeze?

If you’ve ever wondered why rabbits eat their own poo or if indeed penguins suffer from frostbitten tootsies, then this is your kind of reference book. 

The very well-informed folk at CSIRO, with help from the Natural History Museum in London, complied this clever collection of curious facts based on a plethora of creatures that inhabit planet Earth.

Presented in bright, bold, photography-led glossy spreads, each entry poses a wild and whacky question then preludes the (often weird) answer with a highlighted fun fact. Exposition follows in one or two short, easy to ingest paragraphs which are more fun and quicker to digest than a blowfly stuck on the arms of a carnivorous sundew plant let me tell you.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Blake Nuto

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I always loved art, but I completely bombed out in my art studies throughout high school and didn’t touch a paintbrush again until I turned 27.

2. What is your nickname?
Blakey Boy.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Going too fast.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.
An earnest sunbeam that dreams to be a Catherine wheel.

Monday, 2 October 2023

Guest Post: Martine Murray on World

I wrote the book World because I feel that our relationship to trees is somehow central to our relationship to life, to aliveness and to the natural world.

The tendency to see a tree or a forest only as a resource to be extracted rather than a source of life– an essential and beautiful, alive transmitter of all that is good, seems to be one of the fallouts of modernity, urbanisation and consumerism.

In the book, a man approaches a tree with an axe and says, Sorry tree, but I need a house. The tree replies that it houses a whole world.

Review: The Quest for the Galleon of Time

Tobias is eleven years old in 1738, when his father signs him up as cabin boy on a trading galleon, the Merry Maiden. Having no choice, as his wages have already been paid to his father, Tobias accepts his fate.

He learns map reading and navigation while journeying across the Atlantic.

Not far into the journey, the Maiden is attacked by pirates and forced to dock for repairs.

Tobias doesn’t realise that this journey will be a life-changing adventure. 

He proves to be an excellent navigator and while at the helm with his instructor, learns the story of the ghostly galleon, the Majestic Maria, and the family of its captain, Lisbon, who, without Tobias knowing, will play a pivotal role in his future.

Sunday, 1 October 2023

Review: Plume: Christmas Elf

Plume: Christmas Elf
is a bright and busy festive celebration. It's the fourth book in the series about the curious penguin who loves to travel.

Of course, it all starts in Antarctica in the enormous library where Plume lives with his friends. 

They're busy cooking and decorating when Ava the albatross arrives with dreadful news. Santa is sick, and so are the reindeer! 

Will Plume and Ava be able to save Christmas? It's all aboard the Albatross Express if you want to find out.

Friday, 29 September 2023

Review: Sunshine: How one camp taught me about life, death and hope

Sunshine: How one camp taught me about life, death and hope is a memoir in the form of a graphic novel.

Created by Jarrett J Krosoczka, Sunshine is the story of a memorable summer in his teenage years. It's an experience that changes his life.

When he was sixteen, Jarrett spent one week as a student leader at Camp Sunshine, a holiday camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.

At Camp Sunshine Jarrett meets people like thirteen-year-old Diego who has a brain tumour and uses a wheelchair. Jarrett's interest in art and his drawing abilities provide an opening for developing a friendship with Diego, and the other kids.

He learns some of the challenges, frustrations and impacts of cancer and its treatment. And he discovers that when you're faced with a life-threatening illness, personally or by close association, the way you look at life changes.

Review: Australian Backyard Birds

Nature-lovers will love Myke Mollard's Australian Backyard Birds.

This book is packed with information and illustrations about more than 150 birds. It starts with the end papers which offer an identification guide to birds of prey, and is followed by a regional exploration of birds that we know well, and some that are not as famous.

Bird highlights are given for each state and territory, accompanied by beautiful illustrations. There are full page pictures packed with bird portraits and collages set amidst beautiful landscapes.

Some birds are given a bit of extra page time, with special features. From birds that roam the highest reaches of the sky, to those that prefer the cover of night.

Thursday, 28 September 2023

Meet The Illustrator: Binny Talib

Binny Talib

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Contemporary, Whimsical, quirky, nostalgic, pointy, stylized, graphic

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I have a large 40cm Astro boy statue that has been on every single studio desk since university, even moving with me to Hong Kong for a few years.
My large Wacom Cintiq
My Mac book pro
My pantone colour book
Drawings and sketches on the wall
My collection of beautiful children’s books and general inspiration bits and pieces
A window if possible
A notebook to scribble in
A3 printer

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Review: The Isabelle Stories Vol. 2 - Hurry Up, Harry

The Isabelle Stories are a delightful look into Isabelle’s life in chapters. It is compiled of four stories that show the importance of little things in life.

Sleeping Over - Isabelle loves Year 2. With her best friends, Harry and Izzy, she is looking forward to a new teacher and new experiences. 

The first is the school sleepover.

There is a list of necessary things to pack, and choices to make about which favourite toy will accompany them. 

Coloured hairspray and glitter is also involved. 

So are sleeping bags.

Away from home for the first time is making Isabelle feel uncomfortable and she can’t understand why. 

Izzy too, is not herself. Will the sleepover turn out to be what the friends expected?

Review: Blair Moon: How To Be Cooler Than The Moon

They say surprises are the spice of life. I say incongruous pairings are equally as stimulating. Blair Moon is both. This debut middle grade novel from Aussie author, Ashleigh Mounser, is a curious beast as is Blair Moon herself – a moniker even her mother uses in lieu of just ‘Blair’.

At first the reader may feel slightly off kilter by the use of so much ‘adult’ discourse and the sophisticated lexicon of Blair Moon wondering if the author has chosen the right voice for this unique 11-year-old. I assure you she has! 

It is the voice of reason and logic, entrenched in a solid appreciation for common sense, varnished with a sheen of unwillingness to accept the ridiculous points of views of others. It’s the voice of someone with vast lived experiences, befitting someone living in an old people’s home, which is exactly where Blair was raised and lives. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Guest Post: Ryan Abramowitz on Creating Elegy For An Elephant

Join author illustrator, Ryan Abramowitz as he unpacks the artistic shapes of loss and love through animal allegory with the creating Elegy for an Elephant. We recommend you first read Elizabeth Vercoe's stirring review of this incredible new picture book release. 

How does the passing of my father catalyse the migration of an elephant crossing picture book plains? 

Views of the world outside windows have always framed elements of authoring and illustrating my debut picture book Elegy for an Elephant (EFAE). I was staring at the sad fog outside the courtyard of my Copenhagen dormitory studying abroad when my sister called to tell me our father had ended his life.