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

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Review: Noisy Nights

A farm is a noisy place to be at bedtime. All those animals make LOTS of noise. How will Farmer Hayden ever manage to get to sleep?

Well known for her best-selling rural romances, Fleur McDonald brings a rural setting to a younger audience with Noisy Nights, a delightful story about a sleepy farmer and the noisy animals that keep him awake.

With dogs, cows, sheep, horses, foxes, crickets and more filling the night with their sounds, it’s no wonder Farmer Hayden can’t get to sleep. The list of animals and their sounds grows gradually, with the repetition building to a peak where the animals are so noisy they can no longer hear Farmer Hayden’s shouted request that they all ‘Stop that noise!’

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Review: The Amazing Animal Adventure

I squeaked when I slid this book from its packaging. Yes. Squeaked. The cover illustration was instantly enchanting--those adorably cute (not not twee) animals eyeing me from their natural habitat. It was enough to stop me in my tracks, and send me to kitchen to flick on the kettle, and plump the cushions on the couch.

What a joyful book. Subtitled An Around-The-World Spotting Expedition, it truly feels like you're donning your Biggles cap, jumping in a Sopwith Camel and soaring into the sky on a nature world tour when you open the pages of this book.

Along the way, young readers are encouraged (as they so love to do!) to seek and find certain animals and happenings in the busy, beautifully-rendered scenes. We're taken to the Amazon Rainforest, the Russian Taiga, Japanese hot springs (those monkeys!!), the Great Barrier Reef, a mangrove forest, Galapagos islands, an Antarctic ice shelf, and so much more.

Guest Post: Hazel Edwards Behind the Scenes of 'Hippo Hippo the Musical'

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Hazel Edwards to share some behind the scenes secrets and anecdotes from Hippo Hippo the Musical, the nationally touring Garry Ginivan production, inspired by the 36 year old picture book There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake illustrated by Deborah Niland.

As an author, how do you feel about your book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake inspiring a musical?
Thrilled. It's surreal to watch actors sing, dance & play characters who were just in my head. But especially to have others acknowledge that Hippo is theirs.

Any unique moments 'behind the scenes'? 

  • Mummy-bloggers turned up with gift platter of pink hippo cupcakes. Photo taken with hippo but impossible for him to eat as his eyes look through the mouthpiece.
  • In the theatre bar, had a coffee with actor Andrew a.k.a. Hippo. Grinning he said, 'Would you like a cake with that?' He was not in costume.
  • In the National Theatre seat alongside me, my 6 year old grandson was inter-acting with a performance, based on a book inspired by his uncle and Mum, 38 years earlier. 
  • Bus-jam in Gippsland theatre carpark.' Bunyip Line' signage on country school bus. Another imaginary creature? Crocodile lines of excited students, clutching their jungle animal masks, going into the theatre.
  • Theatre truck has been driven through severe storms to ‘bump in’ Canberra, Sydney and South Australian performances. Drip Drip Drip seems apt.
  • Blackout! Lights out due to Upwey storm 20 minutes into the performance. Power failure so Hippo 'mingled' with thrilled children and also gave replacement tickets as power predicted not to return until 1am.
  • Importance of sound/music.  Children with disabilities have always loved the print reassurance of the big, colourful friend with the answers.  But in performance, the music was a cue that hippo was about to appear, and they picked it up intuitively and leaned forward to watch. ‘The hippo is coming now, that’s his music’ said one child.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Review: Looking for JJ

Looking for JJ is the story of a child murderer without the sensationalising. It opens with teenaged Alice reading an article about Jennifer Jones, child murderer, who is due to be released from jail. Why is Alice so obsessed with Jennifer Jones? Does she know what happened that day so many years ago when a young girl died? Was Alice there? What pushes a child to go too far like this? What happens to that person as they grow up? I was creeped out from the first page but needed to know.

10 Quirky Questions with Rosanne Hawke

Photo credit: Dylan Coker
1. What's your hidden talent?

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The phantom of the opera, because he could love and sing like an angel.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Claire Zorn, Kirsty Murray, Tim Winton, Louisa Alcott, Mark Twain

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
The flying carpet.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Mindmaps, objects, images, research, music

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Inspiration, light, joy, love, hope.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Review: Together

The parent and young child relationship is explored in this simple story of a baby sea otter and its mother.

The way the baby and mother spend their days is together, and that’s what the story is called: Together. The sea otters spend their time watching the sun rise and the clouds float by, playing and laughing, sharing and learning new things.

All their fun is told in rhyming text and as the activities enjoyed together are shared, the pictures move between those above water and those that show what’s happening below the surface. Readers can see the baby floating on the top of the water while mum dives below, and reflections of mum and baby as they frolic by the edge of the water.

Review: The Shark Caller

Fourteen-year-old Izzy has lost her twin. Ray was bitten by a blue-ringed octopus and died. She's alone for the first time in her life, but somehow Ray is still with her. She can hear his voice. She knows he's not at peace.

Izzy is of Papua New Guinean heritage. Her family come from a long line of shark callers, able to communicate with their ancestors (their tumbuna, in Tok Pisin, the language of Papua New Guinea) by connecting with the ocean creatures. But this isn't normally a tradition that is passed on to females.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Event: Seeing Stories Finale Event at University of Canberra

Today I had the great pleasure of attending the Seeing Stories Exhibition Finale Event at the University of Canberra. Organised by the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature (NCACL) and featuring hand-picked originals by some of our finest illustration talent, including Terry Denton, Ann James, Alison Lester and Bob Graham, The Hub was alive with stunning artworks, authors, illustrators, kids and book lovers.

This exhibit is but a small slice of the precious John Barrow collection, now owned by the NCACL.

Bob Graham

Review: The Lines on Nana's Face

Well, way to bring on tears and goosebumps!

It's Nana's birthday and the family have gathered to celebrate.

Our little curly-haired poppet, Nana's grandchild, narrates the story. She notices that the lines on Nana's face make her sometimes look sad or worried. So she asks her about them.

Nana tells her that each and every line on her face is where she keeps her memories. Like the time, as a girl, she discovered and great mystery. Or the time she had the best beach picnic in the world with her girlfriends. Or the time she met ... her little granddaughter.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Review: Saving Jazz

How would you respond if your worst mistake became public knowledge? If your lowest moment was captured on film and shared with the world? What would you say if you hadn’t even known that moment existed until your mistake went viral?

15-year-old Jasmine Lovely is living the perfect life until a house party with friends spins out of control. A combination of alcohol and peer pressure results in Jasmine making choices that she will deeply regret - once she remembers what she did.

Looking at the modern issue of cyberbullying from the viewpoint of a perpetrator, Saving Jazz is a thought-provoking exploration of how a few minutes of stupidity can have lifelong consequences in a world where every moment, good and bad, can be captured and shared.

12 Curly Questions with Richard Newsome

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I can wiggle my ears with hummingbird levels of efficiency. On hot days I fan those around me with a cooling breeze.

2. What is your nickname?
My family nickname is Boz. My parents couldn’t figure out what to call me, so for the first few weeks of life I was referred to as Bozo. This was shortened once they settled on a name. Years later I discovered that Charles Dickens’ nickname was also Boz, possibly for the same reason.

3. What is your greatest fear?
That no one has actually finished reading any of my books and they’re all just being terribly polite.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
Shove a dictionary in a blender and switch it on.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Persistent. Determined. Brave. Cumquat. Sasquatch.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Review: A Texas Year

There are 14 million cattle in the State of Texas. The name Texas comes from the word Tejas, meaning ‘friends’. This information and more is found in A Texas Year, a title simultaneously released with A New York Year.

Who are the kids that accompany us on our journey through Twelve Months in the Life of Texan Kids?

Mia, whose dad is from Argentina, wants to be a mom and a Tex-Mex cook. Christopher’s dad was born in Texas and his mum in Korea. He dreams of a future as a computer scientist. Alexis wants to be Miss America when she’s older, but is currently a champion Line Dancer. Ethan is African-American and a budding palaeontologist. Luis is born in Mexico and wants to become a rodeo rider. They are a small part of the large group that represents the cultural diversity of Texas.