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

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Guest Post: Emma Grey

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Emma Grey, author of the recently released YA novel Unrequited. We hope you enjoy Emma's insights into how she 'meets' her characters and how they direct the way her stories develop.

I recently met a stranger on a train. He sat in the seat right opposite the one where someone I know was sitting. It was weird, and unexpected—particularly as he ended up chatting with her, and even offering to pay her cab fare when the train broke down and she had somewhere she needed to be, urgently. Then he fell for her …

What. On. EARTH?

He was NOT supposed to be there. This story was never going to be a love triangle. He didn’t exist! Yet there he was, large as life, insisting that he mattered—and so I had to work with him.

A couple of scenes later, Sarah barged in. I’m not surprised, now that I know her—she’s used to things going her way, but to just turn up like that? Texting Joel (the train guy) during his uni lecture? It’s presumptuous! This isn’t even their story!

This was MY novel. What were these people doing, crashing it in such a fashion? It was going to be such a straightforward journey…

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WIN! We Were Liars

This month sees the release of We Were Liars, the new YA novel by E. Lockhart that's been described as 'thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart'.

A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends — the Liars — whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense that will leave you reeling.

Thanks to the generous people at Allen & Unwin, we have five copies of We Were Liars to give away. Each copy is valued at $17.99.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, what word you would use to describe your group of friends, and why.

Type ‘We Were Liars’ into the subject line and email your answer to anouskaATkids-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, 20 August 2014, 9pm to Wednesday, 27 August 2014, 9pm 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.

Review: Saving Francesca

Francesca Spinelli is 16, in Year 11, and her whole world has been turned upside down. New at St. Sebastian’s, an all boys’ school that now accepts girls (30 amongst 750 boys), she doesn’t belong. The school hasn’t fully embraced the infrastructure and needs required for the girls and the boys see them as pests.

Add to that, her previously dynamic and positive mother remains in bed suffering a nervous breakdown and depression and Francesca doesn’t know why.

The voice of Francesca is in first person and she alternates between being a smart, witty, assertive character and withdrawn due to her inability to cope with the ripple effect of her mother’s silence. She has to make new friends, navigate the world of gross boys who revel in their bodily emissions, act immature and antagonise her – and figure out exactly what she feels for the annoying Year 12 house leader, Will Trombal.

Blog Tour: 10 Quirky Questions with E. Lockhart

Photo credit: Heather Weston
KBR is delighted to welcome E. Lockhart, as part of her blog tour for her new book We Were Liars. She's also the first author to tackle our 10 Quirky Questions!

1. What's your hidden talent?
I make very creative birthday cakes using a lot of food coloring.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Uriah Heep from David Copperfield. He is so obsequious. It is terrifying.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party; which five authors would you invite (alive or dead)?

I would invite raconteurs. Caitlyn Moran, Chimamanda Adichie, David Sedaris, Oscar Wilde, Mario Batali (always good to have a chef at your house). Then I’d just shut up and listen.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?

The world of Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, where all people are accepted no matter their color or orientation.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Review: Lucky

I’m often telling my kids how lucky they are. Because they are. And the two brothers in this book by the superlative David Mackintosh are extra extra lucky because, triggered by mum saying she has a surprise at dinner tonight, they have a very special surprise in store indeed. It’s truly mega!

As the boys dash off to school, they start pondering what the surprise might be. Perhaps it’s a new bike. Or tickets to the Amazing Yo-Yo Super Show at the town hall. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a new pool for the backyard! This makes little brother Leo very excited.

Perhaps it’s a lift (to save on the walk-ups to their apartment) or an all-expenses-paid family trip to Hawaii. Oh yes! This one sounds amazing. That must be it! Everyone must know about it immediately!

12 Curly Questions with author Libby Hathorn

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I have a penchant for nougat.

2. What is your nickname?
Libby. My real name is Elizabeth.

3. What is your greatest fear?
To lose my imagination (or my wallet).

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
I write in a lyrical and lucid style, I hope!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
passionate, curious, poetic, practised, still-learning

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Being Alice from Alice in Wonderland would be quite a hoot because Wonderland would yield up more and more I’m sure, if you could go there at will.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Meet Ned Kelly

Did you know, when Ned Kelly was a boy, he saved a mate from a drowning creek?

Did you know he swapped a horse to help his friend, but was later arrested because that horse was stolen?

Meet Ned Kelly is a non-fiction picture book detailing the life of Australia’s most famous bushranger.

Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars opens with a map of an island followed by a detailed family tree. Right from the start we know that the Sinclairs are a privileged family. They have their own private island. The children want for nothing. And they are all tall, athletic and attractive — the American dream.

But as we enter their world, seen through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Cadence Sinclair Eastman, we realise theirs is a life of smoke and mirrors. Happy marriages seem hard to come by for the Sinclairs. Pill bottles lurk on bedside tables. And the trust fund money is running out fast. But every summer, all the family still arrives to holiday on Beechwood Island.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

WIN! David Mackintosh book pack

Author/illustrator David Mackintosh was born in Belfast, grew up in Australia and now lives in London. To celebrate the release of his latest picture book, Lucky, HarperCollins is offering signed copies of two of David’s earlier picture books, Standing in for Lincoln Green and Marshall Armstrong is New to our School. 

Standing in for Lincoln Green
Lincoln Green has a double, someone who looks just like him, a match. SNAP! Lincoln's own mother can't tell the difference between him and...You Know Who. Which is great for Lincoln Green. He has much more important things to do than tidying up, putting away and sorting out, so they're all going on the list for his trusty stand-in. But Lincoln Green's not the only one who doesn't like doing things they don't like doing... It's not long before You Know Who has teamed up with Billy the Kid Next Door, which is a lot more fun than doing things for Lincoln Green, that's for sure. And that's when Lincoln Green finds himself in BIG trouble...! 

Marshall Armstrong is New to our School
Marshall Armstrong is new to our school. He looks different to me. His laces are straight, not criss-crossed like mine, And his eyes are always looking at the blackboard. Marshall Armstrong doesn't fit into our school. Not one bit... ...but it doesn't take long for Marshall to prove that you don't have to follow the crowd to be the most popular kid in the playground. A quirky and witty 'first day at school' story.

Thanks to the generous people at HarperCollins, we have 3 bookpacks to give away. Each book pack contains a signed copy of Marshall Armstrong is New to our School and Standing in for Lincoln Green and is valued at $50.

To win tell us, in 25 words or less, what things you would get your 'double' do to for you if you had one and why.

Type ‘David Mackintosh’ 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 Sunday, 17 August 2014, 9pm to Sunday, 24 August 2014, 9pm AEST, and the competition 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.

Guest Post: David Mackintosh

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author, graphic designer, art director and illustrator David Mackintosh. We asked David if he would like to share a guest post with our readers and this is what he sent us. We love it and we hope you do, too.


David Mackintosh was born in Belfast, grew up in Australia and now lives in London. He has written and illustrated several picture books including Marshall Armstrong is New to our School and Standing in for Lincoln Green. His latest picture book, Lucky, is published by HarperCollins. Visit David's website to find out more about his books and illustrations.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Blog Tour: Marjorie Crosby-Fairall - My Illustration Process

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome illustrator Marjorie Crosby-Fairall. As part of The Croc and the Platypus blog tour, Marjorie is giving us a fascinating glimpse into her illustration process for one of the gorgeous images in this new picture book written by Jackie Hosking and published by Walker Books. See below for links to the other blogs included on the tour.

I suppose every illustrator takes a different approach to creating a picture book. I’m more of a ‘planner’ than a ‘fly-by-the-seat-of–your-pants’ girl—my work is pretty systematic. To illustrate my process, I thought I would take you through the development of one spread from The Croc and the Platypus. This spread had more changes than any other in the entire book. It shows how an image evolves and a little bit of the collaboration with Donna Rawlins, my art director and Mary Verney, my editor at Walker Books.


Storyboards are small A4 roughs of the entire book and they are the first stage to receive feedback from the publisher. The storyboard above received the comment that it would be good to include sheep or shearers to aid the transition to the following spread. The general storyboard feedback included a comment that it would be good to show the Ute from the distance somewhere in the book.  I thought these were very valid points so I incorporated both comments into the revisions for this spread.


Blog Tour: 12 Curly Questions with author Jackie Hosking

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome the wonderful Jackie Hosking as part of her blog tour for The Croc and The Platypus. We're so excited to be part of the tour for Jackie's debut picture book! Check the end of this post for links to the other stops on the tour.

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I can make really yummy Cornish pasties because I’m Cornish.

2. What is your nickname?
Jacks but one friend calls me Werm!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being boring.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
 My writing fashion every time. Is metered, verse, poetic rhyme.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Concise. Amusing. Quirky. Descriptive. Rhythmical.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Pooh because he’s a loving, lovable fellow.