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

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

12 Curly Questions with author Sophie Hardcastle

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I still love climbing trees.

2. What is your nickname?

3. What is your greatest fear?

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Dense. Lyrical. Evocative. I never feel forced to write.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Curious. Imaginative. Adventurous. In love.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
I’d be Wendy from Peter Pan because she flies to Neverland with Peter and who wouldn’t want to do that?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Interview: Author Illustrator David Mackintosh

Over two salt-beef sandwiches, french fries and coffee in Borough Market in London, designer and illustrator Coralie Bickford-Smith interviews KBR favourite, author/illustrator David Mackintosh, about his new book What’s Up, MuMu?.

The characters in your new book are animals. This makes a change. Why did you choose them? Yes, it’s a bit more abstract for me, but they act in a human way so not that far from my comfort zone.

What kind of animals are they? Well they’re not real animals. MuMu is like a hare, but wears a mumu. Lox is a round creature with a trunk-like nose, no ears, but walks upright and isn’t grey. Lox wears a white suit. I don’t think of them as animals, but creatures. 

I always got the impression you were not into anthropomorphism? A lot of your books deal with human beings, and their psychology, I guess. Yeah, I kind of think that there’s plenty people doing animals being humans, but I happened across the characters and stuck with them. It’s always good to experiment. By the way, I tried a version with human characters and it was too banal!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Review: Freedom Ride

It’s the summer of 1965 in the small country town of Walgaree. Teenager Robbie knows that things are difficult for local Aboriginal families, but that’s the way it has always been and it’s nothing to do with him. His life is hard enough as he tries to avoid annoying his stern and unforgiving grandmother who finds fault with everything he does and says.

His father isn’t much better and neither of them would tolerate Robbie offering an opinion on the overt racism evident in the town.

Review: Go Home, Little One!

Florence the Hedghog lives in the bottom of a tree, right below squirrel twins Harry and Barry. She loves spring. She also loves summer and autumn but she's not too sure about winter because, well--she sleeps right through it.

This particular winter, Florence tells her mum she'd like to play with Harry and Barry. Mum reminds her they must soon batten down for winter ... it's starting to snow ... but Florence goes anyway.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review: Everyone Loves Bacon

I really love an odd-shaped book. A little on the tall side (but not too tall to kybosh librarians and their shelves), this book also comprises something else I love: quirk. And energy. And fun.

To create great readers, we need to make children fall in love with books and story--and books like Everyone Loves Bacon, combine fun with energy, cleverness with quirk, humour with beautiful illustration, to most certainly ping littlies with cupid's literary arrow.

10 Quirky Questions with author Gary Crew

1. What's your hidden talent?
I secretly love drawing.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Uriah Heep from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens because he’s soooo sleezy.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Enid Blyton; Patrick White; Emily Bronte; Shakespeare and me!

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
HG Well’s Time Machine.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
I love making marks with pencils. (That’s 6, sorry)

Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: Truly Tan (Truly Tan #1)

Tan moves to the country where no one appreciates her forthright ways. She confides her hopes and woes through diary entries, running narrative and a personalised dictionary. It feels like she is confiding in me.

Jen Storer nails Tan’s confidence at thinking she knows what words mean, then turns this into adorableness. Who else would explain the meaning of Nonsense by saying: ‘here is something I know about nonsense. Verity Crisp is full of it.’

KBR Short Story: The Escape

by Tania Nallathamby

We were all gathered in the one room upstairs. Scared.

Outside, an angry mob beat their hands on our high metal gate, alarming the crows, who joined the bedlam of noise.

My mum had her arms around my sister and me, tightly holding us close. But I didn’t feel safe. Fear had arranged itself into a tight little knot and made itself comfortable low in my tummy.

My uncle had heard on the news that angry mobs in the capital city where we lived were creating chaos.

“But why are they here Uncle?  What have we done?” I was confused.

“In their minds, someone has to pay for yesterday’s ambush in the North.”

 My uncle could have been speaking Latin. Nothing made sense to me.

The ringing telephone startled us. My uncle quickly picked it up. I saw him listen intently and then put the phone down.

“C’mon, downstairs everyone, quickly. Let’s get to the back door.”

“What’s happening?” I asked worriedly. No one answered me.

We ran downstairs.

Near the kitchen was a door leading to our back garden. Crouched low, we ran quietly to it. Outside the air was filled with an unfamiliar smell that I didn’t like.

The back of our house was fenced off by a high concrete wall.

“Beyond this wall is our rescue” my uncle said.“Mr Pereira from the top of the street is in a black Fiat, waiting for us in the laneway.”

I had seen Uncle greet Mr Pereira at the corner shop before but I never paid him much attention.  

“Can we trust him?” my mother asked worriedly.

“Quickly, go now”,urged my uncle.“Help your children when you get to the other side.”

My uncle helped my mum scale the wall.

My little sister started to cry.

“Ssssh  angel. They’ll hear us. You must stay quiet. Climb on my shoulders.  Mamma will help you from the other side.”

“Your turn, Kavitha.”

I didn’t need to stand on my uncle’s shoulders. He just lifted me high and I managed to straddle the wall with my legs and slide down the other side, grazing my knees against the concrete wall.Tiny droplets of blood meshed out but I didn’t feel the sting.

My mother and sister were already in the back of Mr Pereira’s black Fiat as my uncle and I got in.  Mr Pereira put his car into gear and slowly drove the long way to his house. He parked at the back of his house and Mrs. Pereira  waved us frantically in through the fly screen door.

We were safe.

Our neighbours, the Pereiras risked their own safety to rescue us from the angry mob.

My mother said neighbours were more than the people who lived next to you, or even on the same street as you.

Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Zambia, Papua New Guinea and the Maldives, Tania Nallathamby now happily lives in Melbourne with her family. She is a Laboratory Scientist with a passion for children’s fiction. She can be contacted attania.nallathamby(AT)bigpond(DOT)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, 27 August 2015

Review: The Hush Treasure Book

There's a reason this book has 'treasure' in the title, for a treasure, indeed, it is.

Commissioned by the Hush Music Foundation, an organisation that creates soothing soundtracks for children undergoing hospital treatment and procedures, this striking book features a treasured collection of poems, short stories and illustrations from a stellar cast of children's book creators.

Author Interview: Michael Wagner on Micro-Publishing

With more than 70 books published, Michael Wagner is one of Australia’s most prolific and popular children’s authors. And he’s now venturing into new territory by starting up his own micro-publisher, Billy Goat Books. So why would an established author decide to take on publishing? We put that very question, and several others, to Michael himself. 

1. Why do it? Why bother publishing books when you can get by just writing them?
Well, sometimes I write a book that publishers don’t seem to like, but I do, and kids do too. I talk in schools a lot, so most of what I get published has been well tested with a variety of target audiences. In 2014, I wrote a book called Pig Dude: He Can Do ANYTHING! When it was done, I tested it on about a dozen big school audiences. Their reaction was overwhelming – the best I’ve ever received for any of my books. I felt like I was really onto something.

But when I showed the story to a couple of publishers, they knocked it back. I was completely surprised. So I went back into more schools and tested it again, and there was that big reaction, just like the first dozen times. (sorry to sound like I’m bragging, by the way, I really don’t mean it that way, it’s just what actually happened)

So now I was confused, and a bit stuck. Should I send the story out to more publishers and waste an enormous amount of time waiting for those gut-wrenching rejections (which I thought were likely to follow as, from my experience, most Australian children’s publishers like pretty much the same things), or should I have a go at publishing it myself?

I decided to do it myself.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Review: A Box of Beetles - 100 Beautiful Postcards

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this publication. I was filled with joy at what I discovered. This is not a book but a box full of knowledge disguised as postcards. In fact, 100 beautifully photographed beetles from all over the world. That’s only a fraction of the nearly 400,000 described species of beetles in existence that make up one-fifth of all known life forms on our planet.

This boxed set includes a 16-page booklet on ‘distinguishing features, structure and evolution’ of the beetles.  The features include colour, and structure incorporates head, thorax and abdomen.

At the back of each card is the Latin name in the top left hand corner, with the adult length in the top right. At the bottom is a description of where the beetle is found and what they feed on. The front is a full card size picture/photograph in stunning colour of the specific beetle.

Review: Find Me a Castle

Beci Orpin is well-known for her beautiful illustrations and design. What a joy it was to see her branch into children's books with this look-and-find creation of delightful mixed imagery.

Collage-like double-page spreads feature thematic imagery--the contents of a toy box, a bathtub, a garden, a fairground, a museum--that are busy in a deceptively calming way. There's a lovely balance of white space, textures and pattern that supersedes the regular, eye-scratching seek-and-find concept, making it more a picture book than an 'activity' book.