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

Friday, 31 October 2014

Spooky Books for Halloween October 2014

Kids love a good spookfest, and with the increasingly popularity of Halloween in Australia, these fabulous new books are sure to rattle their creepy bone.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett (Koala Books, $20.99, 9781783700295, see our review here)

Orion is scared of A LOT of things, but most of all he's scared of the dark. So one night Dark decides to take Orion on an adventure. Emma Yarlett's second picture book combines incredible illustrations and spell-binding storytelling with inventive die-cut pages that make Dark come to life in the hands of the reader.

Monster Chef by Nick Bland (Scholastic, $24,99, 9781742838250, see our review here)

"Marcel was a monster of medium size With crotchety horns and googly eyes. He was lumpy and grumpy and suitably hairy. But Marcel had a problem ... he just wasn't scary."

Marcel is not very good at being a monster. He doesn't seem to be able to scare anybody! But one day, Marcel discovers that his gruesomely-good cooking can give kids a real fright! From the creator of internationally best-selling Very Cranky Bear!


Ten Monsters in the Bed by Katie Cotton and Aaron Blecha (Koala Books, $14.99, 9781742761176)

A monstrous take on 'Ten Green Bottles' and Ten in the Bed with farty, burpy, slurpy sounds! Ten monsters are very squished on a bunk bed. On each spread, a monster gets pushed out onto the floor, making a disgusting noise. Eventually, all the monsters end up on the floor ... and realise theyre more squished than ever! 

10 Spooky Bats by Ed Allen and Shane McG (Scholastic, $9.99, 9781742839301)
Ten spooky bats doing flying tricks. Ten spooky bats doing flying tricks. And if one spooky bat has something new to fix, Therell be nine spooky bats doing flying tricks. Come and hang around with the spooky bats as they count all the way to ten!

KBR Short Story: Amelie's Disappearing Sandcastle

by Rachel Bradbury

“Tadahh!” cheered Amelie Scott, adding the finishing touches.  “My masterpiece is complete.”
“Well done!” called Dad from the water’s edge.
“That’s the tallest sandcastle yet,” said Mum.

The sun was setting as the Scott family gathered their belongings and headed back to their tent.

Amelie couldn’t wait for morning to come so she could build in the sand again.

As the first ray of light shone through the tent’s window, Amelie was up and dressed.  She unzipped her tent and bounded out, only to discover…

Her sandcastle was gone!  She looked up and down the beach, just in case someone had moved it, but her precious sandcastle was nowhere to be seen.

“Nooooo!” wailed Amelie
“What’s wrong?” asked Dad, tumbling out of his tent.
“My sandcastle’s vanished,” sobbed Amelie.
“The tide’s washed it away,” said Dad, patting Amelie on the shoulder.

Amelie frowned.  She didn’t like the sound of these ‘tide’ creatures at all.

Amelie set to work dumping buckets of wet sand onto the beach, until she had built the most extravagant sandcastle ever.

“Let’s see you try and destroy this sandcastle, Tides,” she said, dusting her hands together.
In the morning, Amelie peered out of her tent and couldn’t believe her eyes.  Her super-dooper sandcastle had vanished AGAIN!

“Thief!” called out Amelie.  “Thief!!!”
“What’s going on?” shouted Dad, tumbling out of his tent.
“The Tides have stolen my sandcastle,” sobbed Amelie.

Amelie devised a plan.  In the afternoon she would build another sandcastle and then, at night, keep watch from her tent ready to scare away the sneaky ‘tide’ creatures.

Amelie lay on her tummy.  She could still see her sandcastle in the distance.  Amelie yawned.  Then she yawned again.  She pinched her arms and pulled her hair, but her eyes grew heavier and heavier.

“My sandcastle,” wailed Amelie the next morning.
 “What’s the matter?” asked Mum, tumbling out of her tent.
“Every day I build a magnificent sandcastle,” said Amelie, “and the next day it’s disappeared.  What can I do?”

“There’s nothing you can do,” explained Mum.  “The moon controls the tides and when it’s high tide the waves wash up the sand and clear everything away, like a giant Etch- A-sketch.”

Amelie didn’t know whether to believe her mum or not.  It sounded a bit wishy-washy.

But, later that morning when Amelie had finished her two-storey castle, she noticed something strange happening.  The white frothy waves were coming in closer and closer.  Soon they were lapping at Amelie’s sandcastle, licking it, biting it.

“Mum, Dad!” called Amelie.  “The waves are eating my sandcastle.”
“That’s the tide coming in, Amelie,” replied Dad.
“But I don’t want the tide to wash away my sandcastle,” said Amelie.  “I’ll forget what it looked like.”
“Take a photo,” suggested Dad.  “Then you’ll have the memory of your sandcastle forever.”

Amelie quickly grabbed the camera and clicked away.

Now, every time Amelie visits the beach she takes photos of her sand sculptures before the tide can gobble them up.


Rachel Bradbury lives in Redcliffe, Queensland and enjoys writing children's stories and short stories.  She blogs at Rachel's Book Nook.


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, 30 October 2014

Event: Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids Exhibition

Take a magical journey with Australian fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Sydney-based fashion house, Romance Was Born. Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids is a free interactive art exhibition for children, at the National Gallery of Victoria. 

From the moment you step through the door, there’s a feast of vibrant colour, intense creativity and an overload of inspiration.  Children will be dazzled by the colours of the rainbow, the Australian bush and imaginary of long ago. 

Each area is cleverly designed to stimulate the senses and encourage creativity, with unique displays inspired by childhood memories and well known Australian children’s literature.

Review: Terry Denton's Bumper Book of the Universe

I have to say: activity books have certainly changed since I was a kid. I can hardly believe how cool they are now, and you know an activity book is particularly tempting when even full-blown adults are snatching up pencils and getting busy with it.

Such was my experience with Terry Denton's latest.

Kids love all things space-related, and this fabulous (yes, it's 'bumper'!) tome takes them on a supersonic journey to the stars, with drawing and imagination prompts, codes, quizzes, mazes, puzzles, seek-and-find and lots of cosmic facts.

Featuring the classic illustrations Terry is renowned for, a whopping 304 pages will have the kids busy well into January, so make sure you snaffle a copy for the Christmas stocking.

Title: Terry Denton's Bumper Book of the Universe
Author/Illustrator: Terry Denton
Publisher: Puffin, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 22 October 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143308003
For ages: 5 - 11
Type: Activity Book

Review: Express Yourself! An Activity Book for Kids

What happens when fashion and creativity come together?

Enter the world of Romance Was Born and get ready to express yourself with this new activity book for kids.

This beautifully presented and visually stimulating book inspires children of all ages to use their imaginations, be creative and have fun! Full of vibrant colour, creative patterns and plenty of inspiration, it is jam-packed with opportunity to draw and create.

You will get to know Australian fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, of Romance Was Born, and find out where their ideas come from as they experiment with designs and materials to create spectacular outfits. Children will discover their own inner fashion designer as they weave their way through this book to create their very own garments through hands-on activities based on the Romance Was Born collections.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

WIN! Alfie's Big Wish

Author/illustrator David Hardy returns with a second Alfie adventure. Continuing the playful, lyrical style of Alfie’s Search for Destiny, Alfie’s Big Wish is bound to become a childhood favourite!


Alfie’s Big Wish
When at first his friends leave with their parents, Alfie searches high and low for somebody new to play with. There are other kids but they are much older and bigger, and the various animals he encounters all have companions of their own. Sad and lonely at the end of the day, Alfie makes a big wish. When he wakes up, he finds out that sometimes wishes really do come true!


Alfie’s Search for Destiny
Follows Alfie on a journey in search for his destiny. He leaves home, travels high and low and, after his long adventure, realises he belongs back at home with his family. See our review here.

Thanks to the generous people at Magabala Books, we have two Alfie book packs to give away. Each book pack includes a copy of each of the Alfie titles mentioned above and is valued at $35.90.

To win, tell us in 25 words or less, the best games to play to include new friends.

Type ‘Alfie's Big Wish’ 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, 29 October 2014, 5pm to Wednesday, 5 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.

Review: Big Art Small Art

The front page of this book had mesmerised. And if it had my brain mesmerised, imagine what a five-year-old's brain would do.

Big Art Small Art is a fascinating compilation of artworks from around the world, tucked into a grand format book with content of even grander proportions.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Jessica's Box - Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition

Jessica brings a large cardboard box along on her first day at her new school. Inside is a surprise that she is sure will impress the other children.

Unfortunately, the other students don’t think Jessica’s teddy bear is all that impressive. On the next day, they love the cupcakes Jessica brings inside the box, but as soon as the cupcakes are gone, the children wander away. What will Jessica do next to help her find her fit in and make friends?

This award-winning book by Australian author/illustrator Peter Carnavas has such a wonderful message for young readers about self-worth, friendship, including others and making newcomers feel welcome. The impact of this message is even more meaningful in this special Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition, where the illustration has been reworked to include one extra detail – Jessica is now in a wheelchair.

Review: Orion and the Dark

Orion is scared of a lot of things. The world is full of scary, you see, but the most scary thing of all, according to Orion, is ... the DARK.

Orion has tried all kinds of things to solve his fear of the dark, but but not much has worked. But then one day, Orion becomes so frightened, he gets totally fed up and calls out to the Dark and tells it to GO AWAY!

12 Curly Questions with author Victoria Lane

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve sung in gospel choirs from Sydney to Brooklyn to Brunswick over the years. Singing is such a beautiful break from constant reading, writing and editing; it uses a different part of the brain.

2. What is your nickname?
We weren’t very big on nicknames growing up, but I always answered to Vicki as a child. Now it’s Mum.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Besides spiders, you mean? Nothing much. The only thing I’m fearful about is seeing a big, hairy huntsman spider hanging from the bedroom ceiling. That happened in Sydney. I moved house.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Never underestimate one’s audience -- intelligent writing for curious kids.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Committed, creative, playful, gentle, happy.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie

Lucy’s big sister Claire had a terrible fall in Paris so her mother is rushing to be by Claire’s side. Lucy’s Dad is on contract, working in the outback so that means Lucy has to stay with Aunty Big at Avendale, an isolated country property.

There is no T.V. or computer and you can forget about the internet: Aunty Big likes to read and paint. She’s just plain crotchety and a little bit frail and there’s not a lot to do at Avendale. How will Lucy last the weeks and weeks of summer holidays out there, alone with Aunty Big? To top it all off, the family won’t be together for Christmas. Lucy is convinced that life sucks.

Review: Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas

What kind of books can you never have enough of? Well, all of them really ... but there are two kinds I almost actively collect--alphabet books and atlases. Adore adore adore.

And who better to come up with a fabulous kids' atlas than Lonely Planet?

This beautiful hard cover, large format book begins with a peek at Earth itself. where it lies in our cosmos and how it has come to support life. We even take a peek inside to see what our planet is made of.