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

Monday, 27 April 2009

Review: Marley A Dog Like No Other

This review by: Ella (8)

What is the book called? Marley A Dog Like No Other

Who is the author? John Grogan

Who is the publisher? Collins

ISBN: 0 0 612 4035 4

What is this story about? It's about a very naughty dog. He turns into a good dog and then a bad dog again. And then, something sad happens at the end of the story.

Who are the main characters? Marley, his owner John and Jenny, John's wife. Marley is a big lab.

What problems or challenges do these characters face? Lots and lots and lots. John has to take care of Marley and Marley does lots of things like pooing in the ocean when he's not allowed to; they're only allowed to poo on sand. And also, John faces a problem of trying to train Marley so he can get into an obedience school because he was so crazy.

What is the climax of the story, when things get the most problematic or exciting? All the funny parts - where Marley is really naughty and stuff. Probably all of the story is exciting, except for a little bit at the end. When Marley is about to go to obedience school is a climax.

Were there any shocks, twists, turns or surprises? There were lots of surprises of Marley being very naughty. Like, not doing what John asks him to do and millions more. You will find out in the story.

Can you tell us what happened at the end? Well, Marley had a twisted stomach and I'll let you see what happens. And it is a real story.

Can you describe the illustrations? There aren't any illustrations, just photos in the middle. John took the photos.

What was your favourite part in this book? All of it. Especially when Marley is very naughty; I sometimes can't help myself from laughing.

Is there anything you didn’t like about this book? No, there isn't anything I didn't like.

Did you learn anything new from this story? No, not really, it was just very interesting, that's all.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

About Us - Tania McCartney

Who: Tania McCartney

Title: Reviewer and KBR Founder

Location: Canberra

A bit about: I'm an author, publisher, editor, blogger and book-obsessed, writing addict who has been penning books since my early years. I absolutely adore children's books, travel, design, photography, throwing a fab kids party and devouring raspberries. I also love to bake, create travel photo books and garden. I've lived in England, France and China... next dream home: New York City. I currently live in Canberra with a very supportive husband, two gorgeous kids and a mountain of books.

Favourite thing about KBR: Its glorious to enjoy children’s book reviews, and even more fun to write them! I’m also loving the sensational author and illustrator interviews, which are always fascinating. I’m really big on supporting Australian literary talent and encouraging book exposure and literacy with kids – and my hope is that KBR contributes to this vital need.

Latest book faves: Changing every day! but right now – Heath McKenzie’s Aussie A-Z series, Peter Carnavas, Magabala Books, anything by Emily Gravett.

Which author/illustrator most coveted for an interview and why: Enid Blyton, because I want to dive into her mind.

Biggest personal writing dream: To become a well-loved Australian children’s writer, to run a magazine, to write more adult non-fiction.

Currently working on: The next book in the Riley series of picture books – Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney. A brand new handmade designer concept book called handmade living. – Canberra handmade Market’s first publication. A sensational new travel series for kids, in collaboration with a very talented fellow writer.

Email: here and more info on Tania taniamccartney.com.

About Megan Blandford

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Author Interview: Ingrid Jonach

Who is this author? Ingrid Jonach

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? http://www.ingridjonach.com/

What is this talented author’s story? I grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales, but now live a few hours from the beach, in Canberra. I used to work as a journalist for the local paper and now work as a PR consultant.

What are her recent titles? A picture book called A Lot of Things, and two chapter books called The Frank Frankie and Frankie goes to France.

Did she do the illustrations? The picture book was illustrated by my mother Pauline Jonach, who is a visual artist. The chapter books were illustrated by another talented illustrator - Cheryl Orsini, who lives in Sydney.

How long has she been writing? Since I was in infants school.

Does she remember the first story she ever wrote? I think it was a retelling of the fairytale the Three Little Pigs in Year 2. The Three Little Pigs was the first story I learned to read, so it is fitting that it was also the first story I wrote.

Have children’s books always been of interest? Yes. I think it is because I fell in love with reading and writing as a child, so literature for that age group had remained dear to me.

Does she think Australian children’s literature has changed? I think all literature evolves with each new generation. Now more than ever before we are competing and even adapting to technology, books are even going digital!

What does she like to do the most? Writing, reading, sleeping, eating, music. In that order!

What children’s books does she love? Brother Night by Victor Kelleher. Clarice Bean by Lauren Child. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Araminta Spook: My Haunted House as told to Angie Sage. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.

Why does she write? To entertain – both myself and others.

What pesky blocks or obstacles has she experienced on her writing journey? Working full time.

What does she love most about writing for children? Visiting schools to talk to kids about reading and writing.

What fantabulous advice can she give kids (or adults) on writing children’s stories? Finish your stories, even if they are a write-off (mind the pun). It is good practise.

If she couldn’t be a writer, what would she be? A musician.

What game did she like playing as a child? What’s the time Mr Wolf?

What books did she read? A lot of Little Golden Books. Any books by Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl.

Her perfect day involves… Sitting in bed with the sun coming in through the window while I am writing on my laptop.

What words sum her up? Stubborn. Like to laugh. Workaholic!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Review: The English Roses

This review by: Ella (8)

What is the book called? The English Roses

Who is the author? Madonna

Who is the illustrator? Jeffrey Fulvimari

Who is the publisher? Puffin

ISBN: 0 141 38047 0

What is this story about? It’s about these girls named The English Roses and there’s this girl who lives down the street and they don’t know what her type of life is and how hard it is. They’re really really jealous of her because she’s beautiful and nobody likes her. A fairy godmother comes along when the English Roses are dreaming and shows them what the girl’s life is like and then they start to be friends.

Who are the main characters? The English Roses and the new girl.

What problems or challenges do these characters face? Well, the English Roses didn’t really face any problems but the new girl did face a problem of not being very lucky.

What is the climax of the story, when things get the most problematic or exciting? When the English Roses are really mean to the new girl and they start to speak about them at school and then nobody starts to like the new girl.

Were there any shocks, twists, turns or surprises? Yes. One of the turns was that the English Roses started to like the new girl, because of the dream that they had of the fairy godmother taking them to the new girl’s house. She lived as a maid for her father and the English Roses felt really sad for her and she needed a friend. The new girl was happy when they started being nice to her.
Can you describe the illustrations? The colour is all different colours, kind of like a painting and some of the bits are still left white. They put in all the details for all the clothes.

What do you like about the illustrations? I like all the colours and all the pictures are really exciting and they’ve put in lots of details.

What was your favourite part in this book? When the English Roses didn’t like the new girl because it was interesting how they talked about her and why they didn’t like her.

Is there anything you didn’t like about this book? There’s not much I didn’t like.

Did you learn anything new from this story? Yes. To be nice to new girls when they come to school.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Author Interview: Jackie French

Kids Book Review is thrilled to welcome esteemed Australian author Jackie French to inaugurate our first ever author interview! Read on to see why Jackie’s talent has seriously fabulous repercussions on the Australian literary scene.

Who is this author? Jackie French

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.jackiefrench.com

What is this talented author’s story? I live in a deep valley, surrounded by wilderness on three sides. I’ve worked as a cook, farmer and echidna milker (I’m not joking).

How long has she been writing? Ever since I was six.

Does she remember the first story she ever wrote? ‘Tresses and the Unghostly Ghost’ about a haunted horse. I was six. The headmistress had a copy printed for all the kids in the school.


What inspired her to write for children? When I was 15, my English teacher asked us to write a children's story. I wrote one about a wombat poet, Wagram Woad, his human secretary Manta and the arrival of Uncle Albert, retired post office official, and his niece who preferred to be called ‘James the Brave' instead of Amelia. When I'd finished I thought “This is fun!” I'm still having fun decades later.

How did she get her first book published? I was broke, living in a shed with a wombat, wallaby, red bellied black snake and my baby son Edward. I sent my first book off to try to get money to register the car.

Three weeks later they sent me what I regarded as a large cheque to publish it, and I've been a full time writer ever since.

But I was lucky. My manuscript was pulled out of the pile because it was the messiest they'd ever seen - badly spelled (I'm dyslexic) and with all the 'e's written in biro. My wombat had been leaving his droppings on the keyboard and the letter 'e' no longer worked.

If it hadn't been for the wombat, I might not be a writer now.

What other genres has she written in? Everything except Westerns.

What interests her? Friends, family, the bush, wombats, history, books, chocolate… did I add wombats?

What does she do when she’s not writing? Cook, feed the wombat, find the family’s odd socks. The usual. But everything gets turned into books eventually. (But doubt that the taxation department would classify good food or laughing with friends as tax deducatble professional expenses.)

What books did she read as a child? Everything from the phone book to the Great Dialogues of Socrates and the magic Pudding.

Why does she write? I don’t know. I write if I’m bored, I write if I’m happy, I write if I’m sad. Stories can be more vivid that real life. They can also teach you how to cope with real life, too.

What advice would she have for kids (or adults) on writing children’s stories? Daydream. I think daydreaming is one of the best things you can do - not just daydreaming stories, but ideas for boats or houses... or even what Australia might be like in twenty years time when you become Prime Minister.

As for writing stories ... anyone who can daydream can create a story - because that is what you are doing every time you daydream. The hard part, of course, is learning how to put them down on paper - or getting the confidence to know that something you have dreamed up yourself is good.

Subscribe to Jackie’s montly newsletter by clicking on the wombat below. It features news about Jackie’s latest books, awards, recipes and even information on wombats.

For an incredibly eye-popping list of Jackie's published works, click on her cute wombat below...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Oh What a Wonderful Feeling

Oh what a glorious day!
Here is the blurb from my very first listing in a book distributor magazine - as a self-published author!


Such a feeling of achievement - it's a little bit overwhelming after all this hard work and oftentime agony.

Huge thanks go to Dennis Jones & Associates who have taken me on.
Look out for both Beijing Tai Tai and Riley and the Sleeping Dragon at an Australian bookstore near you - and if you can't find it, ask them to order it in! Oh my goodness - you can order my book in!
Golly gee - is this real???

CBCA Book Week 2009

The Children's Book Council of Australia will hold a 'Book Safari' book week this August. The longest running children's festival in Australia, schools and libraries from all over Australia celebrate with reading, discussion, author visits, fun events and even dressups!

The dates for 2009 are August 22nd - 28th. Don't forget to talk to your teacher or local library about how you can become involved.

Themes from past CBCA Book Weeks include:

A Page of History (1988)

United Through Books (1945)

2001: A Book Week Odyssey (2001)

Round the World with Books (1958)

Bookaleidoscope (1997)

Dream Time (1989)

Go Under Cover (1993)

Blast Off With Books (1978)

Click right here for more!

Review: Little Pea

Thank goodness my daughter likes peas! But so many kids are iffy about them… adults, too. I mean, after all – who would not prefer to eat candy for dinner?
This charming picture book ‘takes the pea’ out of fussy eaters with a surprising and very sweet role reversal – in which Little Pea gets fussy over his dinner… a plate full of candy.

Kids and adults alike will swoon over the simplistic but divine illustrations and quirky storyline, have a giggle... and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Eat your greens!

Title: Little Pea
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780811846585
For ages: 0 - 6
Type: Picture Book

Friday, 10 April 2009

Review: Eloise Takes a Bawth

What is this story about? The manager of Eloise’s hotel – the Plaza – is coming to talk to her nanny about what to do for the Venetian Masked Ball.

Eloise has to have a bath. Eloise has a bath and she filled it and she filled it until there was a whole flood in her room, then all the people from the hotel realised that the hotel had sprung a leak. All the engineers in the hotel searched for the leak but they couldn’t find it, and so Eloise’ nanny opened the door and out sprang lots of water. Eloise flooded the whole Venetian Masked Ball.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Review: Kids Parties by Lisa Atwood

I love parties! This luscious party book is beautifully and very creatively compiled, with gorgeous ideas snuck into a fabulous variety of party themes.
Atwood has loads of tips on how to throw the most creative, stress-free party, but doesn’t compromise on beauty and festivity.
There are party cake and food ideas (including delicious recipes), divine ideas on cookie and cupcake parties, all rounded out with drool-worthy photos.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Exploring the World Through a Book

Hello to readers in Bulgaria!

Our family loves to travel and when we lived in Beijing, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to do a lot of it. Since coming home, the travel bug has well and truly left its mark, and I'm so keen to jet off again, I haven't put the suitcases away yet.

Alas, work and school will put paid to that for a while, but what's to stop us from exploring the world from home via the pages of a book?

One of my fave little books is the pocket-sized DK A-Z Atlas which can take kids on a fact-finding mission in moments. There may not be tonnes of glossy pics, but for the information hound, it's priceless.

I recently noticed a large amount of visitors on my www.taniamccartney.blogspot.com website were coming from Bulgaria. Who'd have thought it? Australia, yes. USA, definitely. China, goes without saying. UK, absolutely. But Bulgaria comes in at number 5 for most visits. Like I said - who'd have thought?

So, intrigued, I pulled out my little A-Z atlas and learned a bit more about Bulgaria - and here is what I found...

  • the Republic of Bulgaria was formed in 1908
  • the capital is Sophia
  • the country lies to the west of the Black Sea
  • there are only 7.8 million people in Bulgaria
  • people there speak Bulgarian, Turkish, Romani and English!
  • the currency is the Lev
  • it has a well-developed wine-making industry
  • software development is one of its greatest strengths
  • there are lots of seaside resorts and ancient monasteries in Bulgaria
  • the people there like my blog!

Ahhh. The joys to be found in books.

I'm ashamed to say I didn't know much about Bulgaria until now... did you?

Look at this... how beautiful?

And this... gorgeous!

Amazing! Right, I'm off to adjust the travel list...

I LOVE to learn about places I don't know much about, and kids have an inherent desire to do the same. My kids love leafing through the pages of this little atlas and Ella is using it, as we speak, for a school talk she's designed on China.

Travel and an interest in other cultures cannot be underestimated as a way to improve intelligence, creativity, understanding, tolerance, diplomacy, drive, purpose and a sense of humanity in our children. I simply cannot wait for the moment we next set foot on foreign shores. My kids also can't wait.

Where do your kids want to travel? Have you asked them?

If you can't travel overseas soon, at least take your children on an exploration of the world via books or the internet. This is one of the reasons I wanted to make my book - Riley and the Sleeping Dragon - into a travelogue series for young kids. How important it is to take our children around the world, even if it's via the pages of a book.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Framing Pages

Snaffle this lovely idea to add a splash of literary colour to your kids' walls

I adore kids' books so much, I frame their pages. I mean, how could you not want to feast your eyes on them all day long?

Kids can enjoy the pages from their favourite stories with this crafty idea, and what better way to make original art and a really cool and unique wall feature?
You will need to buy two books if you plan to frame the entire series like my Chicken Soup With Rice pictures by Maurice Sendak (above - one of my fave picture books of all time). Otherwise, you can pick and choose pages from one book.
Whatever you do, just don't start ripping up the pages from a beloved tome! Newer books have flatter, more pristine pages, too - which makes framing easier.
Pages from my son's favourite book - No, David! by David Shannon (above) make a glorious feature in his room, mixed with several other pieces of original art. It's these simple book pages, however, that still pull the most smiles every time Riley or I look at them.

UNESCO Creative Cities

In 2004, UNESCO announced the very first member to the Creative Cities Network - an initiative that connects cities keen on cultural, economic and social development.

City categories include: literature, film, music, crafts and gastronomy. The list of criteria for a city to be considered in the literature category includes:

  • Quality, quantity and diversity of editorial initiatives and publishing houses;
  • Quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature in primary and secondary schools as well as universities;
  • Urban environment in which literature, drama and/or poetry play an integral role;
  • Experience in hosting literary events and festivals aiming at promoting domestic and foreign literature;
  • Libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres dedicated to the preservation, promotion and dissemination of domestic and foreign literature;
  • Active effort by the publishing sector to translate literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature;
  • Active involvement of media, including new media, in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.

Edinburgh was the deserved recipient of the first City of Literature, and Melbourne, Australia and Iowa City, USA, soon followed.

How thrilling to see cities honoured in this way, and embracing the need for global literary connectivity.

I'm also very proud my home town of Melbourne is amongst those with this honour... and it's no wonder. According to The Age, people in the state of Victorian read more books, newspapers and magazines than any other state. In 2003/04, an astounding 43% of total Australian book sales were from Victorian-based publishers and the state boasts one bookshop for every 307 Victorians.

Makes you want to get a book off the shelf, does it not? While you're there, read to your kids.

Review: The Dangerous Book For Boys

Well, if you ask me, I think what’s happening to boys is that they’re losing their connection to real life, and are instead living their lives inside a Nintendo DS. A virtual virtual reality.

The Iggulden Bros’ book helps young whippersnappers reconnect with all things real and handy and useful and, well… fabulous. And macho, for that matter. After all, it really would be remiss of parents not to teach young boys how to hunt and cook a rabbit (I hope my daughter doesn’t read this post!).

Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney

These stunning books by Tom Tierney feature retro clothing designs to swoon over, modelled by our favourite movie stars of the 1950s and 60s.

What little girl (or big girl?) could resist snipping and dressing Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe?

Our collection (below and more to follow soon) will stay pristine, thanks to a mother obsessed with books and paper dolls, much to Ella's disdain.

Well, she can always look. And if you're like me and don't want your precious books maimed, photocopy them and let the kids have free snipping reign!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

This is... M Sasek

I'm a slave to Miroslav Sasek's 'This is...' series. Just one look at the divine retro covers is enough to suck you in, and once you're in there, well - heaven.

Fun, factual and fascinating, the series takes kids on a global trot - and best of all, provides them a means to revisit sites or reminisce over actual travels. In fact, these books inspired me to make 'Riley and the Sleeping Dragon' into a series. Riley first travelled to Beijing and next will be Hong Kong then somewhere in Australia (can you guess where?).

We're collecting Sasek's gorgeous hardcover books in our house and so far, we have these:

We've only got a dozen or more to collect. Slowly does it. A bit like travel. If you do too much at once, you spoil it. Sometimes it's nice to take lovely little nibbles.

Wonderful news - This is Greece was launched on 20 February 2009 (first published 1969).

In September 2009, This is Australia and This is Cape Kennedy (first launched as This is Cape Canaveral) will be relaunched. I'm SO there, Jackie O!

If you want to start your own collection, click on the books above, and check back soon for individual book reviews.
You can also learn more about Sasek by clicking here.