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

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review: The Journey

It's easy to see the personal experiences behind some books, and in this beautiful creation, creator Francesca Sanna has certainly expressed her passion and compassion for the displaced.

After meeting two girls at a refugee centre in Italy, Sanna went on to collect a series of migration stories from all over the world. When settling to study a Master of Arts in illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, she felt inspired to tell a combined story of the refugee tales that had so touched her heart.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Shout Out: Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse

Archie Greene is back! We first met him nearly two years ago, in Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret (see review). That book went on to be shortlisted for several awards and I'm pleased to say that Book 2 in the series is equally enjoyable.

When a strange firemark appears on Archie's hand, as well as those of his cousins Thistle and Bramble, it seems they're part of an ancient curse that threatens the very existence of the Museum of Magical Miscellany.

Together with their friends Arabella and Rupert, the three reform the ancient Alchemist's Club in the hope of being able to write their own magic to break the curse and save the museum.

Just as fast-paced as the first book, and with the same wonderful word play, Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse is a great sequel. In fact, this is developing into a fantastic series!

Title: Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse
Author: D.D. Everest
Publisher: Faber & Faber, $14.99
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780571307418
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Fiction

12 Curly Questions with Stacy McAnulty

Photo credit: Grant Blair with Idlewild Photography
 1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I often eat cookies for breakfast. I prefer homemade chocolate chip or peanut butter, but most mornings it’s Milanos or Oreo Thins.

2. What is your nickname?
Mommy. Not very original, and maybe it’s more of a job title.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Rational: Something awful happening to my children.
Irrational: Jellyfish! Anytime something brushes my leg in the ocean I scream. I’m a lot of fun at the beach.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, short.

Kidding. I’d say:
Simple yet entertaining, relevant but not preachy, often grammatically incorrect.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Dedicated. Passionate. Lucky. Creative. Beautiful.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Curious George. He gets away with everything. Don’t we all want to go to a museum and swing from the dinosaur’s neck or take a firetruck for a spin? Except in real life my role is The Man with the Big Yellow Hat.  I’m constantly keeping my own monkeys in check.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Review: Boomerang and Bat: The Story of the Real First Eleven

Told in narrative form, Boomerang and Bat shares the true story of the first Australian cricket team to tour England, and it’s an important story to remember.

In 1868, an Aboriginal Eleven made a name for themselves playing cricket in Melbourne. They caught the notice of an English player, Charles Lawrence, who proposed they tour England. They were refused permission to leave Australia, but defied the authorities and eventually began a long and roundabout journey through the outback and across the sea.

Boomerang and Bat tells how these events came about, and follows the cricketers, led by Johnny Mullagh, as they play matches all over England. Just like back home, the team is a rousing success, even playing at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Review: Little People, Big Dreams: Amelia Earhart / Maya Angelou

The latest two books in this divine picture book series - Little People, Big Dreams -  we meet Amelia Earhart and Maya Angelou.

Amelia Earhart, was of course, the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, but she was also the first woman to fly up to 14,000 feet.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Review: Truly Tan Hoodwinked (Truly Tan series)

Tan Callahan has the mind of a great detective: she’s sure of it. In all her previous adventures, she’s tried with every fibre of her being to divine mysteries in need of solving. The fact that others detect nothing suspicious has never been an obstacle for World Headquarters or her Secret Spy Files.

At last in Truly Tan Hoodwinked, a real live mystery, perhaps even a crime, awaits. This escapade might be dangerous. There could even be a criminal involved. If only Tan and her best friend Gloria could make sense of the odd clues. Tan’s line of investigation might not always achieve results. In fact, you could be tempted to think Tan and her best friend Gloria are barking up the wrong tree but the adventure is half the fun.

Review: Hello World

You know those books that you see online or on a shelf and you fall into the cover and are simply unable to extricate yourself, you are so intrigued? That's Hello World.

Subtitled A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities, it's doubly difficult to extricate yourself from the interior--a wonderland of imagery and peppered text that causes the eyes to pop in wonder.

Every time I become enchanted by a book like this, I'm reminded of the impact it must have on children, whose brains are far fresher and are so keenly sharpened for fascinating information and imagery. I imagine the impact of such works on kids, and it makes me very happy indeed.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Review: Here Comes Mr Postmouse

Here Comes Mr Postmouse is the first title in the Mr Postmouse series by Canadian author-illustrator, Marianne Dubuc. Translated from French by Greet Pauwelijn, this delightful story will open the world of animals to the very young.

Mr Postmouse loads up his cart and sets off on his deliveries. He has parcels and letters to distribute to many of the houses in the surrounding area. There is Bear, Rabbit, and Snake (Postmouse is glad there’s nothing for him today); the Birds’ house, Mr Squirrel, Dragon, and lots of other animals. But one parcel is left. You’ll have to wait to discover what that is.

10 Quirky Questions with Dianne Wolfer

1. What's your hidden talent?
I have double-jointed elbows that are able to turn inwards in a strange way.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I love anti-heroes who come good in the end, or characters like Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series who appear as villains, but are actually working for the greater good. Mrs Coulter (His Dark Materials) is a literary villain who is fascinatingly evil and complex, but I’m not sure that I like her.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
I’ll choose ‘dead’ because there’s always the chance that I may still meet fav ‘alive’ authors and I’ll limit it to Australian authors or the list would be endless.

A girls-night-in dinner party would be fun, so maybe;May Gibbs, Elyne Mitchell, Ruth Park, Dorothy Wall and Ethel Pedley. Can we squeeze in Nan Chauncy and Pixie O’Harris …?

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Harry’s cloak of invisibility.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Review: When Michael Met Mina

When Michael and Mina meet, they are standing on opposite sides of the debate at a rally for refugees. Michael can’t believe it when the beautiful girl from the rally turns up as a new student at his school soon after the event. Unfortunately, as an Afghani refugee, Mina has no time for Michael’s views on closing Australia’s borders, especially when she discovers Michael’s father is the head of a new political party called ‘Aussie Values’ which promotes religious intolerance.

Can Michael and Mina overcome their differences to find some common ground?

I love books that start conversations and Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina certainly offers plenty of opportunities to springboard discussions about hot topics such as refugees, racism, islamophobia, religious intolerance, political activism, and social justice. Through the interactions of Michael and Mina, readers are given insight into the impact of racial and religious intolerance on everyday families and the various influences that can impact on how we view political and social issues.

Review: At the Beach

This tiny little creation sure does pack a punch design-wise. Using just a handful of fluorescent colours and loads of cleverness, the retro illustrations are as much a drawcard for adults as they are for toddlers.

A textured cover encases a small format book (perfect for tiny hands) with a series of beach objects and happenings. Shells. Swimming. A sandcastle. A seagull. Snorkeling. Sunglasses. A sail boat (what is it with the beach and everything starting with S!?).

There's also freckles and flip-flops and towels and ice creams, of course. And all of it adds up to a smile-worthy trip to the beach.

Accompanying text makes it an ideal Very First Reader, where kids can associate word structure with image.

Just gorgeous.

Other books in this series include Shapes are Fun!, Let's Go Outside and How Many Legs?

Title: At the Beach
Author/Illustrator: Katja Spitzer
Publisher: Flying Eye Books, $12.99
Publication Date: 1 July 2016
Format: Hard cover, small format
ISBN: 9781909263932
For ages: 1 - 4
Type: Picture Book

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Review: Love, Lies and Spies

Described as an homage to Jane Austen, Love, Lies and Spies takes its nineteenth-century heroine and hero on a rollicking ride in this debut novel from author Cindy Anstey.

Juliana Telford is fascinated by Coccinellidae, otherwise known as lady beetles. They are a hobby she shares with her eccentric father. An interest serious enough that Juliana wants to have their research published. It’s for that reason she agrees to have a ‘season’ in town. She has no expectation nor desire to find herself a husband, unlike her cousin, Carrie and her snooty friend Vivian. Juliana plans put her time to better use meeting with publishers, and hightail it from town as soon as possible.