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

Friday, 26 June 2009

Shaun Tan wins Best Illustrated Book

Australian author Shaun Tan has won Best Illustrated Book at the Australian Publishers & Australian Booksellers Associations (ABIA) Awards for Tales from Outer Suburbia,

Meghan Killeen only just reviewed this wonderful book for KBR and you can see it here!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Sneak Peek - next Riley book

Well aren't you lucky ducks, getting to preview one of the almost-finished pictures from Riley and the Dancing Lion: A Journey Around Hong Kong?

I am SO loving my new illustrator - the megawatt talented Kieron Pratt - whose illustrations have me flat out gasping with laughter every time I see them.

Next book? Riley and the Electric Penguins. I'm thinking it could be set in Antarctica. What say you?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Review: Where The Wild Things Are

For a book lover, there is nothing more impossible than naming ‘favourite’ books, however, if I was hard pressed to nominate a top 20 somethingorother, I can categorically assure you that Where The Wild Things Are would be somewhere on that list.
Classic books, celebrated the world over and still selling strongly to a new generation decades after publication (this one in 1963) have something in common. They’re not only captivatingly illustrated with beautiful storylines, there are often quite simplistic in style and message. There is a cleverness to them. There is no obviousness, no lime green sparkles, no patronization. The writing is smart, and unapologetically sophisticated, even for the smallest reader. Just look at Dr Seuss.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Review: Tales from Outer Suburbia

Several years ago, I encountered a magazine called Found which features submitted 'found objects' from readers around the world. These objects range from torn grocery lists (comically taken out of context) to impassioned letters and blurred photographs.

There was a Found issue which I fondly recall. One of the readers had submitted a note that he had found attached to a red ballon. The balloon was discovered entangled in the branches of a tree in a cemetery. The note was written by a young boy addressed to his mother listing his recent activities.

The simplicity of the note combined with its haunting discovery simultaneously stirred a touch of sadness, wonder and the surreal inside me.

Review: The Great Pet Sale

In the Great Pet Sale, the very talented author/illustrator, Mick Inkpen, makes such gorgeous use of his illustrating talent to showcase a range of adorable animals all pet-lovers will adore.

Written in the first person, a young lad sees a sign in the petshop window, announcing all pets must go in the great pet sale. But how can he choose?

With a variety of gorgeous animals from a persistent and very cute rat to a puffin, pelican, parrot and penguin, deciding on a new pet seems almost impossible… until a fabulous mathematical solution presents itself.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Author in Residence

Can you even begin to imagine, in your wildest dreams ever even begun to be conjured, how ecstatic I am to be invited to be an Author in Residence???

The gorgeous and talented people at Caroline Chisholm primary school in Canberra have asked humble old book-churning me to become their first ever Resident Author during school term 3.

Enormous thanks to Julie and Irene for their amazing encouragement and support - the way they have welcomed me at the school has been just wonderful (I have done SIX book readings and talks at the school, and counting!) and I know working with them will be a priceless life experience.

I am also very keen to work with these lovely students at Caroline Chisholm, who are just the most creative and well behaved kids. I'm right now in the thick of creating a fantabulous programme, based on the structure of Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, to teach the children over a nine-week period.

Author in residence!!!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Review: Help! I’m Cracking Up!

I love nonsense books, but they need to be done really really well. Thankfully, Tedd Arnold does more than do this book well – he does it brilliantly.

This gorgeous book’s textured, dynamic and very comical illustrations, complete with adorable bobble-eyes and stunning emotion, are as kitsch as they come, and adults will fight the kids to read this fantastically funny book on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Review: I Love It When You Smile

I adore Charle’s Fuge’s illustrations. They are a joy to look at in every way, full of personality and character and such beautiful detail. It’s a double whammy joy, then, to also have a writer fill a book with such a delightful story that quite literally makes you smile.

McBratney’s gorgeous story follows the trail of a little kangaroo who’s feeling a tad grumpy, and a mum who’s totally intent on making her baby smile, no matter his mood. Despite mum’s consistent attempts, baby roo remains in his funk until a minor mud mishap makes for a hilarious outcome.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Panda Usurper

Looks like Panda No.2 is gearing up to take over the Riley books, with much cheekiness and gusto. This may well be the last you see of Panda No.1!

Hurdy Gurdy Gondolope

When my brother said to me a while back, these words: "hurdy gurdy gondolope" - my entire childhood book-reading experience rushed up behind me like a mass tidlewave and swamped me in severe and very emotional nostalgia.

"OMG," I whispered, tears in my eyes. "If you had not said those words, I would never have remembered that book so long as I lived."

As soon as I got off the phone, I googled 'Hurdy Gurdy Gondelope' with my breath seized in my throat. Nothing. How odd. Maybe I miss-spelled it. 'Herdy Gerdy Gondelope', I typed.


'Herdy Gerdy Gondelope'

'Hurdy Gerdy Gondilope'

'Herdy Gurdey Gondaloap'

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I was heart broken. I tried another dozen google-incantations, but nothing worked, so I let it go.

Then, today, for some unknown reason, I remembered it again, and I thought I'd try again. And to my utter delight, this is what I found - The No Such Thing by Penelope Janic. I had made the mistake of thinking the lead character was the book title.

I was ecstatic. I eBayed immediately and found an original (but somewhat pricey) edition and bought it on the spot.

Now all I have to do is wait by the post box in anticipation of reading this most beloved book to my own children.

Do you have a long lost childhood book you'd love to find?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Review: Humphrey's Day

It’s clear as clear can be that the author/illustrator of this book, the very talented Sally Hunter, is a mother. When I read this book to my children, I also feel mothered, the text is so beautifully motherese and loving.

It’s also clear this is a mother who absolutely adores her children and has the uncanny ability to see the world through their eyes.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Review: The Queen's Knickers

If you and your kids like wit, charm, whimsy and clever, then this delightful Nicholas Allen book is a must-read. It might even surprise you... the Queen, for example, actually wears knickers! Who’d have thought it? And not just any old knickers, either.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The talented Kieron does it again

Look at this totally unsolicited cartoon of my son and panda doing the soccer chicken dance (complete with chicken looking on with a "check out this loser" look on his face). How does Kieron DO that???

Can you imagine how blissed out I am at my new, incredibly talented illustrator? And he's mine - all mine! Mwa ha ha haaaa!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Review: Charlie and Lola: We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog

I hated the Charlie and Lola books when they first came on the scene. I hated them because I was so annoyed I hadn’t thought of such a clever book idea. But Charlie and Lola soon charmed me and I, like millions all over the world, became totally and utterly smitten.

Review: Ever Clever Eva

Eva is the daughter of a poor but good man. When she goes to work for her rich but despicable uncle, she is horrified when he cheats her out of two year’s wages. Enraged, Eva’s father takes his brother to court and wins, thanks to Ever Clever Eva and her witty mind. This makes such an impression on the Judge, he makes her his wife. But Eva’s clever ways don’t end there.

The White Wolves series of books, published by A&C Black, London, are a brilliant collection of Year 5 readers featuring three styles of story – Myths, Legends and Traditional Stories, Stories from Different Cultures, and Playscripts.

Riley and the Not So Sleepy Dragon

Do you think I'm on a winner or what?

Thank the heavens for Kieron Pratt.

I bet you can't wait to see the next Riley book, can you, huh?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

I have an illustrator! Tally ho!

So, here we are, the sensational Kieron Pratt and I - launching ourselves bodily and spiritually and artistically into the future.

He has completely recreated Riley. And Panda.

Yes, this may give the original book a bit of a shuffle looks-wise, but I am thrilled to know the ensuing series of Riley books will feature characters so stuffed with vivacity and personality and life... well, I just can't wait for you to see the illustrations!

I am therefore humbled and thrilled to announce that the next Riley book - Riley and the Dancing Lion - will go ahead, with a projected release date of November 2009.

Set in Hong Kong, I am super excited about this storyline, especially in regard to the possibilities for illustration.

Watch this space if you want to follow our journey into Book No. 2.

Tally ho! Onward bound!

Author/Illlustrator - Meghan Killeen

Who is this talented person? Meghan Killeen

What does she do? Illustrator/Author

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

What’s her story? I was born near a forest in sleepy Pennsylvania, yet one day travelled to the West Coast in search of the sea and success. I attended the Art Institute of California in San Francisco and also became a certified English instructor.

I have worked for a detective agency and also performed in a circus troupe, and I have now returned to the forest where I write stories and make characters continuously come alive. I am currently working for an animation studio.

How long has she been doing her thing? I have been writing for eight years and actively illustrating within just the last two years!

What genre does she illustrate and write in? I write usually for children, however I tend to mix my genres. I’ve always been attracted to hybrid genres because they seem to strengthen the storyline and test the characters.

My children’s story, Ruby Winkle, is playful comedy combined with Film Noir à la The Pink Panther. I am currently working on a script for a TV show geared towards adults which addresses the concept of memory. It is a fantasy-realism crossover that also draws from my favorite genre… mystery.

Why does she draw? I draw out of necessity. My writing was always very visual so it was a natural segue to illustrate. I had all of these characters competing to jump onto a page but with no physical lifejacket. I knew a few illustrators but most of them were busy with their own projects so I started to look for images to reference for the characters that I had in mind. The more that I practiced, the more the characters began to take shape.

What made her decide to do a children’s book? It allows me to fully explore my animated nature. Ruby Winkle’s tendency to overcomplicate things was an easy recipe for comedic results which I thought would be best illustrated. Creating a children’s book would also allow me to merge both of my talents.

Does she remember the first story she ever wrote or the first pictures she ever started drawing? The first story that I ever wrote and illustrated was entitled “The Teeny Tiny Panda”. The book was a holistic project which entailed writing, illustration and presentation. It was about a “teeny tiny” panda who was held captive in a zoo. One day, he is visited by a long lost relative who left his native jungle in search of the “teeny tiny” panda. The long lost relative gives the “teeny tiny” panda a secret potion and mysteriously leaves.

The “teeny tiny” panda drinks the potion and suddenly grows twice his size and develops large wings. His sudden size breaks the confines of the cage and his wings enable him to fly to freedom.
The story was self-published and presented as a miniature book made out of cardboard, string (for the binding) and recycled wallpaper swatches for the cover.

What have been the most pesky blocks or obstacles she has experienced on her writing and illustrating journey? All of the obstacles (rejection letters, inadequate funds) eventually become stepping stones. The standard adage of perseverance coupled with research helped me endure a lot of obstacles. Observing how other artists/authors promote their work also helps in preventing certain pitfalls.

What advice would she have for kids (or adults) on writing and illustrating children’s stories? Self-publish! Don’t be afraid to do a lot of your own self-promotion. Our culture cultivates this belief that someone is more qualified to promote your art. You know your craft more intimately than anyone else which enables you to more accurately market your work. Self-motivation is also a more steadfast and purer form of success than a hired gun motivated by money.

Community is also a great contributor to self-promotion. There are many people who are empathetic towards people just starting out and are willing to either give advice or post about your work in a blog!

If she couldn’t be a writer/illustrator, what would she be? Being a writer and an illustrator actually involves being “other things”. My experience working for a detective agency highly influenced Ruby Winkle’s own inquisitive nature. My animation background helped me professionally in developing the appearance of Ruby and her friends. Being a writer and an illustrator actually encourages me to experience other roles.

What was her favourite game as a child? My favorite games as a child were usually of my own devise. I had a huge Mason jar full of crackerjack toys and miniature game pieces (like those from Dungeons and Dragons) that I used to populate my grandparents’ Japanese garden with. I always liked to create my own worlds.

What are her top five children’s books of all time? A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis. St. George and the Dragon retold by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by the lovely Trina Schart Hyman. Mythology!

What five things is she drawn to the most? Mystery. Archaeology/Anthology. Linguistics/Language. Nostalgia. Paranormal.

Kids Book Review will exclusively review Ruby Winkle, soon after publication. Watch this space!

Meghan’s beautifully illustrated book will be hitting the shelves soon. Keep an eye on www.rubywinkle.com for stockists and for more info on Meghan’s gorgeous work. You can also follow Meghan's blog here.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Review: The Very Hungy Caterpillar

I can still, after all these decades, feel the warmth of my own mother beside me when I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my children. I can still recall the delight at that spectacular, special, fandangled page where the pillar bores through apples, pears, oranges and plums. I remember sticking my tiny finger into the holes and drooling in awe at the double page spread of cakes, cookies and sausages.

No wonder The Very Hungry Caterpillar remains a favourite with children modern day as well. Often, the books with the most simple premise and the most honest of illustrations, are the ones that succeed for so long.

There is nothing pretentious about this book. It is out-and-out gorgeousness, from the colours to the educational storyline – rich with message, even as kids don’t know it.

We have two of these books in our house – one for Ella and one Riley to keep forever. We laminate these types of books, and I so look forward to the moment my children’s children poke their fingers into the holes made by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Teachers' Notes

Title: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: Puffin, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: 26 June 2003 (reprint)
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9780140569322
For ages: 0 - 6
Type: Picture Book

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Pandas Like Jam

This morning I am walking around the house as though music is playing in some kind of American feel-good family movie.

Why? No, it's not because some magic fairy has swooped down and cleaned up my pigsty house. No, it's not because I woke to find twelve inches of fat had melted from my thighs. It's because it looks like I have found a new illustrator.

That's right. Someone good. Someone really good. Someone who can inject life and character and personality into my beloved characters like never before.

Can you hear that music playing??? In the meantime, what do you think of this absolutely scrumptious panda? Isn't he just divine? Who knew pandas were into jam? Don't you want to grab him and poke your fingers into his belly?

Let me know what you think of him. And very soon I hope to reveal the artist behind these gorgeous pictures... I finally feel well enroute to the next bigger, better and even more glorious Riley book.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

If you have a child who likes the quirkiness of Lemony Snickett and the excitement and non-stop action of Harry Potter, then it is time to introduce them to Derek Landy’s wonderful anti-hero, Skullduggery Pleasant.

There is something strange about this character and it is not until you get close enough to peer under the large heavy coat and hat drawn down over his face that you realise that there isn’t that much to him really – just a skeleton, in fact.

There is some stock standards in this story - the family secret, the ordinary child who discovers they have extraordinary abilities, good versus evil, and of course, the annoying relatives... but none are as you would expect to find them. Predictable enough to provide comfort but quirky enough to challenge.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Review: Miss Spider's ABC

For those of you who are familiar with the original Little Miss Spider (a book I can still recite verbatim), you will understand how addictive David Kirk’s and quirky rhymes can be.

Kirk has a wonderful knack for writing books for very young children that also get the toes of adults curling with glee.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Review: Willy the Wimp

Title: Willy the Wimp

Author: Anthony Browne

Illustrator: Anthony Browne

Publisher: Walker Books

Format: Softcover

Language: English

ISBN: 0 7445 4363 0

For ages: 3-8

Type: Picture Book

About: Willy is a skinny, wimpy chimp. A worrier, a wuss, but likeable, nonetheless. When Willy is bumped and thumped by thugs one too many times, he decides to take muscle matters into his own hands and do something about his lot.

Part of the delight of this classic story are Brown’s wonderful illustrations, using beautiful page-desin elements along the way.

Kids and parents will love watching Willy as he trains and builds those biceps… and becomes a whole new chimp… only to discover that despite his outer covering, he still is the same old Willy on the inside.

A charming book with an equally charming message.

Related books:
Willy and Hugh
Willy the Wizard
Willy the Champ
Willy the Dreamer
Willy's Pictures