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

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

WIN! Engibear book pack

Meet Engibear, a consulting engineer in Munnagong, and Enginlina, the city’s Chief Engineer. Together, they are teaching children about the variety of projects engineers work on in our community. 

Engibear’s Dream
This engineer dreams of designs and starts building a Bearbot to help him at work. Early versions fail – often spectacularly! However, Engibear keeps trying. Follow him as his designs improve and the amazing Bearbot takes shape. 

Engibear’s Bridge
The children at Munnagong Flats Public School decide on a dinosaur design for their new bridge. It’s a big job, so Engilina, the city’s Chief Engineer, asks her friends Engibear and Bearbot for some help. Follow the team as they work through the year to create a roar-inspiring attraction.

Thanks to Andrew King, the generous author of Engibear, we have two Engibear book packs to give away. Each book pack contains a copy of both Engibear's Dream and Engibear's Bridge and is valued at $49.90.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, which occupation you would like to see featured in a picture book, and why.

Type ‘Engibear’ 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 Wednesday, 1 October 2014, 5pm to Wednesday, 8 October 2014, 5pm 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.

Guest Post: Andrew King on The Engibear Project

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Andrew King to talk about his inspiration for the fantastic engineering-focused Engibear picture book series which includes Engibear's Dream and the newly published Engibear's Bridge.

Kelly, Douglas and I enjoyed the usual family activities playgrounds, parks, drawing and reading. We also spent a lot of time peering through the fences of construction sites as Douglas really seemed to enjoy the things engineers do.

However, we could not find any books about engineering to read to him and engineering characters in popular culture were typically for older kids and adults (e.g. Brains from Thunderbirds, Scotty from Star Trek and Dilbert).

Eventually, through necessity, we created our own engineering character. Engibear started life as a tip-truck driving teddy bear in our back yard sand pit. We played Engibear games during the day and shared Engibear stories at night. Not surprisingly our earliest story was Engibear Builds a Playground. It was followed by other stories about topics such as Bearbots, bridges and trains. Our daughter, Marie-Louise, was born into a family with an imaginary friend.

We continued to read children’s books without finding any specifically about engineering or engineers, although Bob the Builder arrived and partially helped to fill this gap. A study by Holbrook et.al. (2009) confirmed that there were very few children’s books about engineering. In a sample of 4,800 junior fiction books (8-12 years) in Australia only one contained the word ‘engineer’.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review: Tricky Teens

It can be described as a war of independence; a rocky road of arguments; a roller-coaster of emotions, epidemic tantrums and an era of silence. Welcome to the world of tricky teens!

The adolescent years can be highly distressing for both parents and teens alike, while the art of raising teenagers and remaining sane can be curiously elusive in today’s society.

Tricky Teens: How to create a great relationship with your teenager without going crazy! is an insightful parenting tool to help parents safely navigate and survive these challenging years. Author and clinical psychologist, Andrew Fuller, says understanding the ‘neurochemicals and hormones washing around in the massive soup bowl’ of the teenage brain, can be lifesaving and sanity preserving.

Review: The Great Garden Mystery

Somebody is stealing the beetroots from the vegetable garden, but this time it's not Peter Rabbit! In fact, it's a very Australian collection of animals who gather round to examine the clues and solve the crime.

The hare is relieved to be able to clear his name. Poo from a hare is round, but the culprit's is square. The guilty party has only left a small hole under the fence, which rules out the horse (too big), and the cockatoo (why dig a hole when you can fly?).

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Sarah Davis

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was a kid, I planted a sunflower seed, and sang to it every day. It grew 3 metres tall, with 29 flower heads on it.

Also, I never catch colds or flu.

2. What is your nickname?
When I was a baby my nickname was Wibbly Wobbly Wol (which is Owl spelled wrong) because I had very big eyes and was kind of funny looking. I’ve grown out of that one, so if anyone wants to give me a new nickname … now’s their chance!

3. What is your greatest fear?
That as a species our cleverness will continue to grow faster than our wisdom - we have the knowledge to destroy the planet in a hundred different ways without the compassion and self-restraint needed to protect it.

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words.
Ad Hoc. I’m making it up as I go along.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a illustrator.
Inventive, funny, expressive, experimental, versatile.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Review: The Year it All Ended

Tiney Flynn celebrates her seventeenth birthday on Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I and the start of a new era. Together with her three sisters, Nette, Minna and Thea, she looks forward to her brother Louis returning home from the Western Front, and perhaps even cousin Will, although he fought for the Germans so might not be allowed to return to Australia.

This is a difficult book to review without giving away too much of the story. Suffice to say that what I loved about it was the vivid way in which Kirsty Murray has bought a period of history to life.

Review: The Wild One

Charlie first met the wild one when he was very young. They spent lost hours playing together in the great outdoors-- and when it was time for Charlie to return to school, the young lad was reluctant.

School was for learning the names of planets. It was for studying Vikings and the wherewithal of electricity. It wasn't about tadpoles wriggling in exploring young hands or splashing in puddles or throwing leaves into the wind.

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

Alba loves life just as it is – she has her drawing, her best friend Grady, a fun group of friends, and a wonderful home living behind her mother’s bakery/cafe in the small town of Eden Valley. Alba would be happy if nothing ever changed.

As Alba and her friends finish school, she is continues to deliberately avoid thinking about the future but sometimes life has a way of making you face the things you fear most. The boy Alba thought had gone from her life forever suddenly returns to town and Grady, her dependable, always-there-when-she-needs-him best friend is acting weird. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of a TV doomsdayer announcing that Alba’s home town will be the best place to view the the end of the world, which is scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

If Original Ned’s prediction is right, it looks like Alba won’t have to worry about what the future holds after all.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review: Peter Loves Penguin

A sweet and gentle story about two friends: a young boy and his penguin.

Beginning and ending with the words “Peter loves Penguin. Penguin loves Peter”, the simplicity of this book is one of the things that makes it work so well. There is just one short, simple sentence on each page, and an uncluttered picture to match, with plenty of white space.

Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead

Walloma is a typical small surfing town--six degrees of separation is alive and well; everyone has some school connection, some crush, some secret to hide. There's also the typical segregation: the cool kids and brainy kids from high school never got along.

Libby is one of the brainy kids. She was once friends with Claire--one of the hot, cool chicks--but things went awry back in high school, as they often do. Now young adults, the girls' paths once again cross when Claire's ex, Cooper Bartholomew, falls head-over-heels for Libby, shaking up an already fractious past.

Review: My Heart is Laughing

Little Dani is sad. Her best friend Ella has moved to another town and she misses her so very much. The other girls in her class just can't compare and when one of the cute boys shows Dani some attention, two of them become rather nasty indeed.

One particular day in the canteen, they gang up on Dani and start pinching her. Overwhelmed, Dani squirts them with a sauce and accidentally gets the teacher! Mortified, she runs all the way home to hide.

Luckily, Dad finds Dani, but he also finds her bruises--and he very quickly marches down to the school to deal with the bullies.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: The Human Body in 30 Seconds

Just about everything you need to know about your body (or at least some of the simple concepts) is shared in short summaries in The Human Body in 30 Seconds.

Broken down into six sections: body bits, body structure, survival systems, brain and nervous system, senses, and your amazing body, each section has a short glossary and helpful diagrams. Within sections there’s a double page spread for each topic - the first page with key facts and the second for pictures of skin cells, skeletons, and digestive systems, amongst others.