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

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Review: The Flying Orchestra

Title: The Flying Orchestra

Author: Clare McFadden

Illustrator: Clare McFadden

Publisher: University of Queensland Press, $24.95 RRP

Format: Hard cover

ISBN: 9780702237041

For ages: Primary school

Type: Picture Book

About: On a windy day, the Flying Orchestra blows into town and play beautiful music to the tunes of life.

They play whenever a baby is born or someone learns to ride their bike; you can hear the orchestra when you’re lost in the dark or awake all night thinking; listen for them after a sad moment at a birthday party or on a sunny day at the beach.

Music is all around.

And then the wind comes and, just as suddenly as they appeared, they are gone once again.

The Flying Orchestra is a special, unique story about the magic in the air all around us in day-to-day life. It introduces the concept of different types of music to children, inviting them to imagine the tunes that could be played to the various moments described.

So descriptive and moving, the text flies around the page with the music of the orchestra, with the easy rhythm one could be forgiven for expecting from a story along these lines.

The acrylic and pencil illustrations create a beautiful sense of whimsy that will have all readers looking around them and seeing their lives in a newly magical, dreamy way.

It’s hard to believe that this is McFadden’s first foray into children’s books, and I can barely wait to see her next offering.

This book is available online

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Author Interview: Sandy Fussell

Acclaimed author Sandy Fussell joins us at Kids Book Review today. Sandy has written a number of novels for children, including the popular Samurai Kids series. You can view all of Sandy's work on her website, sandyfussell.com.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I grew up in a house with very few books. Every birthday, every Christmas, I slowly added to my treasured bookshelf. I’ve always been a reader and word lover – books, crossword puzzles and even the dictionary.

But I became a writer by accident. Many authors start to write when a child stops reading – to provide something to encourage them to pick up a book again. But I’m a lot lazier than that.

When my then ten-year-old son stopped reading, I convinced him to write to show me ‘a story that wasn’t boring’. He agreed as long as I typed what he dictated. But when the main character disappeared mid-plot because ‘girls are too irritating’, I tried to give some advice and our mother-son project fell dramatically apart. ‘Go write your own book,’ he ordered. So I did. And I still am.

What genre do you write in? I predominantly write children’s historical fiction with a strong mystical/mythical element. While this springs directly from the culture of stories set in ancient times, many readers equally relate to it on a fantasy level. As I do. My genre of choice as a reader is fantasy and science fiction.

What other genres have you written in? I have written a picture book to be published next year and am working on a Young Adult novel. I dabble in fantasy and would love to write a horror story. I never will though. I am much too easily frightened. One minute of scary music and I am hiding under the pillow for the rest of the movie.

Why do you write? I write because it feels good. I love the thrill of the story, the poetry of a beautiful verbal image and the wonderful reward of sharing it all with children, on the page or in person.

Perhaps this will help explain. I was giving an author talk to Year 5. At question time a boy asked: Do you get headaches? I found the question off-putting as I suffer from regular migraines. Me: I do. What made you ask that? Boy: Your head is so full of ideas the skin must be stretched really tight and that would hurt a lot. Then the boy next to him piped up: That’s why she writes stories. To empty her head out.

What do you love about writing for children?
The honesty of the readers.
The magic of the stories.
Having an excuse to spend hours talking with kids in schools.
Workshopping with young imaginations.
The community that is children’s literature.

I also like the hands on research. For Samurai Kids I went to sword fighting classes. But sometimes I have to be more imaginative. For Polar Boy, I couldn’t travel to the Arctic so I sat in a bathtub of ice. Not for long though! In my latest book, Jaguar Warrior, slave boy Atl is imprisoned in a box waiting to be sacrificed. To see how it felt I sat enclosed in a fridge packing box – painted black inside. Very scary. Very disorientating.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? My greatest obstacle is time. I have a school age family and a full time job. Writing time comes last. I have been fortunate to find publication and a readership quite quickly. I call myself the Cinderella author. It’s as if a fairy godmother waved a wand over me.

For the first year I kept worrying I would turn back into a pumpkin but now I’m holding on to those glass slippers so tight no-one will get them off me. I have so many story ideas I wonder if I will find enough time to write them all.

What’s a typical writing day? My writing day is really a writing night. It begins at 11pm when everyone else is in bed. I write for about an hour and then work on writing-related projects for another hour. Sometimes when I am really excited about a project or story I’ll sneak a little bit of writing in during the day and call it ‘lunch hour’.

What advice do you have on writing? Read a lot and write a lot. Like everything else, being a good writer requires practice and training. Learn from others but trust yourself too. In the beginning of my writing career I tried to get rid of the short, simple sentences that characterise my writing. I wanted the long flowing ones from ‘real books’.

I was surprised to find that when my first book was published, I still didn’t sound like a real writer. I sounded just like me! Then one day I was listening to an editor speak about the search for new voices and suddenly realized what I had tried so hard to remove from my writing was my voice and the fact that it was different was a good thing.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? I would like to be an animator using computer skills to bring images and models to life. I suppose it’s a visual variation on what writers do with words. Other jobs that appeal to me are teacher-librarian and games programmer.

What books did you read as a child? I loved the books that transported me to other places. I can still remember clearly when I first came into contact with the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and the Dune series. I read the Hardy Boys when all my friends were reading Nancy Drew.

I still have a tendency to avoid something just because ‘everyone else is doing it’, especially if there is a line being drawn about what girls should read and what boys should read. A good story is for everyone to choose from.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I’m always learning something new. At the moment I am teaching myself to draw manga and taking shakihachi flute lessons from Dr Riley Lee, who was the first non-Japanese Grand Master of the shakuhachi. One of the Samurai Kids, Kyoko, likes to play the flute but I had no idea how hard it was until now. I like puzzles – crosswords and sudoku – and I read a lot. Up to three books a week.

What would be your perfect day? I’d begin by sleeping in until 10am. I’m not a morning person. I’d write in the garden, sun, birdsong, running water and frog calls. Someone else would make my lunch. Preferably sushi. I’d spend the afternoon with the family and after dinner, read and write some more.

What five words best sum you up? Can I skip this one? (That’s five words!)

What’s next for Sandy Fussell? I would really like to write on location and as my next historical novel is set in Africa…

But in a more realistic future I have four books coming out in 2011/12, two Samurai Kids titles, a picture book and a YA novel. Beyond that I have a new series idea and would very much like to write an animal fantasy. I’m also about to pilot a new project blogging with schools. I hope that is successful as I love the idea of finding new ways to interact with readers. Especially if there is technology involved.

Review: Fat Abby - Feline Investigator

Title: Fat Abby: Feline Investigator

Author: Dawn Meredith

Illustrator: See review for details

Publisher: Shining Press, $10.95 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781876870171

For ages: 7+

Type: Novel

About: Abby thinks she is lean, brave and strong. Then Molly enters her world and she is surprised at how frightened she is. She is also shocked that Molly calls her fat. Surely she isn’t Fat Abby?!

Molly is a strange cat who scares Abby with her size and her confident manner, but when she realises that Molly is actually pregnant and vulnerable, Abby is no longer frightened and just wants to help and protect her new friend.

The fear returns when Fang, the tomcat who got Molly pregnant, comes searching for her. He is a big, rough-looking, scary cat who will stop at nothing – including killing Abby’s oldest friend – to get his way.

Can Abby and Molly escape his terrifying hold on them?

Fat Abby is a lovely story about friendship, overcoming adversity, mystery and investigation, but it does tackle some heavy topics as well. Things like death, bullying, pregnancy are introduced and, whilst they aren’t dealt with in detail, will make children curious and keen for further conversations around these areas.

The drawings by thirteen-year-old Cassandra De Jonge are a highlight – I love illustrations by kids! – that dot through every few pages and complement the story’s comical charm.

Author website

This book is available from Five Senses Education by calling (02) 9838 9265. It will soon be available on the website at fivesenseseducation.com.au.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Event: CYA Later Alligator Conference

The sensational CYA Later, Alligator (Children’s and Young Adult (CYA) Writers & Illustrators Conference) will be held in Brisbane on 4th September 2010 in partnership with the Brisbane Writers Festival.

This conference is aimed at new and established writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult literature. Seminars and master classes will be conducted by Kate Forsyth, Meredith Costain, Anita Bell, Chris Morphew, Prue Masson, Rebecca Johnson, Steve Cole, Gabrielle Wang, Gregory Rogers, Leigh Hobbs, Sandra Temple, Dave Hackett, Emma Mactagget and Industry professional: Helen Bain.

Venue: QUT Creative Industries Precinct, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane

Conference Cost: $195.00 (concessions: $170.00)

Agent/Editor Sessions: $85.00 (no concessions)

This year CYA Later are expanding to include children 8 - 18 years old at a half-day conference. Call 'Hatchlings', this will be held on 5 September 2010. See the website for more.

The conference offers manuscript assessments and pitches will be available with onsite editors, so this is an amazing opportunity to get your work seen.

CYA even runs two wonderful competitions - one for published authors and one for unpublished/aspiring authors - head to the website now to check it out!


Review: Monster

Title: Monster

Author: Andrew Daddo

Illustrator: Bruce Whatley

Publisher: HarperCollins, $24.99 RRP

Format: Hard cover

ISBN: 9780733322754

For ages: Pre-school

Type: Picture Book

About: When you open a book created by the impressive team of Daddo and Whatley, expectations are high. One hopes for a picture book of high quality, with instant appeal to kids, a splash of humour but nothing too predictable.

Monster delivers it all.

When a little boy discovers a monster in his room, of course he has trouble sleeping. He calls out to his parents, hoping they will help him and get the monster – who is ugly, aggro, has blood and guts on his tail and smells – away. No such luck.

Instead, Mum and Dad get all sarcastic (“Oooooooooh, stop, you’re scaring me!”), before impatiently counting to three… and he is surely in for some trouble. After all, he is annoying his parents instead of sleeping.

But sometimes monsters have surprises in store.

This story is, quite simply, wonderful. Whatley’s awesome illustrations make an impression right from the cover, showing a monster that is huge and imposing, yet the eyes show such feeling that you can’t help but be drawn in to love him. The little boy might not want him in his room, but readers will want to reach out their arms and give him a great big cuddle.

Add to that Daddo’s funny, witty, honest text and this collaboration is a winner that won’t fail to impress. Except the story’s little boy, that is; he thinks this monster is totally “dis-gus-ting”.

Reading this tale to children is a treat for parents and kids alike, with the descriptive narrative providing lots of fun and the surprise finale ensuring giggles all around.

This book will be available online from 1st July

Author website

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Review: My Extraordinary Life and Death

Title: My Extraordinary Life and Death

Author: Doug MacLeod

Publisher: Ford Street Publishers, A$19.95RRP

Format: Softcover

ISBN: 9781876462796

For ages: 7+

Type: Fiction

About: Reminiscent of periodicals of yore, My Extraordinary Life and Death is as unusual as it is giggle-inducing. Squared firmly in tongue-in-cheek humour, author MacLeod must have had a load of fun creating this book – essentially a collection of cartoon-like commentary, woven together around a series of vintage line drawings, plucked from a variety of creative origins.

Beginning with an opening page of a horrendously ugly decorative stone portal head, circa who-knows-when, we learn our hero was born in 1959. And he was not an attractive child – as evidenced by the very unattractive head.

Ensuing pages follow the character through an unfortunate and quite bizarre childhood, education, adulthood, children, old age and an untimely death from starvation – due wholly from the act of becoming a writer with the intention of becoming rich. You may laugh.

This book is a really clever compilation of dry humour – encapsulated in a life woven around nonsense, like slugs in birdcages, poisonous toadstools, sailing bears and elephants in the living room.

Nonsensical, charming and page-turning, adults will guffaw under their breath at the comedic perfection while kids will at first regard pictures with puzzlement before the penny farthing firmly drops and lots of pointing and commenting ensues at the craziness of this fun book. Perfect to flip through with the fam under the guise of some ‘quality family time’. Everyone will love it.

Be sure to head to the Ford Street website to make your own Extraordinary page!

Author website

This book can be bought online

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Author/Illustrator Interview: Rachel Boult

Talented artist and writer, Rachel Boult, is here at Kids Book Review today. Rachel has written and illustrated several children's books and spoke to us about her work and being a self-published author.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I started writing stories and making little books around the age of seven. Back then, all my stories seemed to have a Christmas theme, and the characters all had names that started with the letter ‘J’. I also have on record that my 3 life goals were to be a Mini-Pop, a teacher, and a bird.

Today, I would say that I’ve accomplished those goals, if not literally, then at the very least, metaphorically (see below). I began writing more seriously in high school, and went on to study Creative Writing at University. I have never really tried to make a career of it, it is just one of my many forms of expression.

So here are the manifestations of my goals:

1. Join the Mini-Pops. I formed a band with my best friends while attending school in Montreal, and I got that rock star thing outta me by my mid-twenties. I think it’s important to say that we wrote three great little songs, and played cardboard instruments. I also made some eco-conscious music with my cousin, and we even got as far as producing a Youtube music video called “Root Cellar Jam”. So, it wasn’t really the Mini-Pops, but it was just as rockin’.

2. Become a teacher. This is straight forward. I have worked with kids for most of my career, and have a Bachelor of Education. Sometimes I think that little girls want to be teachers because they want to hold onto their childhood. That theory checks out with me!!

3. Be a bird. Well, let’s see here. I fly from one project to the next, I have light bones and long legs, my head is often in the clouds … Have I convinced you yet? Really, my whole life I have spent my free time in my own little world, getting lost inside my imagination and finding my way out through some sort of creative project. Doesn’t matter what, I’ll do it. Chirp chirp!

What genre do you write in? I am a children’s author. I am not sure I can define it further than that. I have written all types of children’s books, for all age groups.

What other genres have you written in? When I got my first degree in Creative Writing, I focused on poetry and drama. I have written many, many poems in my day, and a few plays. Most of which will likely remain unpublished for life. I keep a journal too.

What do you love about writing and illustrating for children? It’s story-telling at its simplest, and there’s a certain challenge to paring your story down to the most basic and yet colourful language, while still keeping it playful and lively. Focusing on voice and rhythm while I write is fun for me. There’s a similar sort of discipline when writing poetry. Also, I really understand kids, so writing and illustrating for them just comes naturally.

What made you decide to self-publish your work? My first book was a graphic novel called Shyness and Bloom and it was the biggest project I had ever done, and probably still holds that record. It took me three years from start to finish, and to be honest I just thought of it as a personal project, and wanted full creative control. I considered getting published, and sent many manuscripts off to publishers with my fingers crossed. But very soon that motivation wore off as I learned about the difficult process, and I thought, hey, you know what would be more fun that trying to get published? Doing it all myself!

Can you take us through the steps involved in your self-publishing journey? I started with simply coil-binding or stapling together photocopied pages of my stories and illustrations into little books, and giving them to friends and family. Then I found a local small-run book printing place, and re-wrote and illustrated a few of my favourite stories, formatted the pages of the books into PDFs, and had three books printed at once.

Acquiring the ISBN and registering with the National Library Archives was relatively painless, as far as I remember. It was costly with all the proofs, and took forever with all the sneaky, sneaky punctuation errors and typos. But I finally had twenty of each of my first “professionally published” books done, which was all I could afford. I intended to sell the books at the Christmas craft fairs that I did each year along with all my other creations.

Then as soon as I finished those three books, and felt I had mastered the self-publishing feat, a little magic happened, I think. I switched gears and began to paint animals in space. I started with six paintings, and after I finished the first set, I wanted to sell them but I didn’t want to lose them, so I decided to somehow turn it into a book.

Animals, space, and dreams are three of my favourite things so with that as my inspiration, I wrote the verses, painted a few more pictures, and put it all together. It was the first book that I made that started with the illustrations and it became clear that it was heads above the others. I felt confident enough to invest in getting a large quantity printed, so I would be able to sell them in book stores, and that’s where I am now.

How did you decide on a printer? I had two friends who recommended the company to me. It is a family owned printing business called Everbest Printing. The Canadian representative, Doris Chung, who is the granddaughter of the man who started the company, was amazing to deal with. She was so helpful and friendly and continues to offer her advice and help as I learn how to promote my book.

How do you go about promoting your self-published work? Well, this is a venture I am just beginning. Getting it in local bookstores, talking to bloggers, sending books to friends, and trying to get reviewed are my first steps in this daunting task.

How long does it take you to write, illustrate and publish a book, from the initial idea to completion? That is so dependent on the book! I have spent up to three years on a book, and Sleepy Lion Lullaby took me maybe three weeks. Okay maybe a little longer, if you count waiting for the printers. Each step of making a book is an adventure. Sometimes you struggle through the writing, and sometimes it just flows.

Editing can often be quite the chore, but with the simple format of Sleepy Lion Lullaby for example, I wrote that in one night. You never know how long it will take and by the time you finish, all the hours are forgotten. You are literally at the mercy of inspiration.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your self-publishing journey? There were no blocks really, because I was guiding the whole process myself. You can go as fast or as slow as you want, and you call all the shots. I suppose though, that getting out there is the biggest hurdle. Self-promotion and number crunching are not on my list of favourite things to do.

What’s a typical writing and illustrating day? Hard work and good sleep! I like to work fast and efficiently when I get a good idea or embark on a big project. I’ll work for weeks at a time, diving headlong into my vision and prioritizing completion. Then, when it’s done, I have a nice rest, and wait for the next idea to come.

What advice do you have on writing and illustrating? Don’t start your thoughts off with “I wish I could,” or “I should.” Just do it and call it done.

If you couldn’t be an illustrator and writer, what would you be? You mean if I couldn’t paint or draw, couldn’t think up stories, or didn’t know how to write? No hands, no imagination, no education? Yikes. Or do you mean if I just couldn’t put all that together into one project? Honestly, I would just paint pictures and do craft projects, just be silly with my friends, just enjoy sharing ideas, and just keep teaching art to kids. Not too much would be different I guess - I’d still be me, still love life, still create.

What books did you read as a child? Many. I had tons of the Serendipity books by Stephen Cosgrove, which I loved. Moral stories, talking animals, you know.

What else do you like to do, other than write and illustrate books? I love everything I do! I spend a lot of my time in my art studio teaching kids art classes which is always so much fun, and the best nights are when my friends come over and we paint together.

What would be your perfect day?
Setting: A cabin at a lake in the summer
Events: A slow morning with tea and breakfast, swimming, laughing, eating blueberries, then happy hour, delicious dinner, and a fire before bed.
People to spend it with: Either my man, my dog, my girlfriends, or my sister. Or all of them together.

What five words best sum you up? Creative, goofy, genuine, whimsical, reflective.

What’s next for Rachel Boult? Good question. Creatively speaking, I’m up for anything! But in general, I would really just like to become a wife and mother and devote the rest of my life to my family, love and creation, to keep showing kids the power of their imagination, and to always be open to inspiration.

See our review of Rachel Boult's latest children's book, Sleepy Lion Lullaby

Review: Sleepy Lion Lullaby

Title: Sleepy Lion Lullaby

Author: Rachel Boult

Illustrator: Rachel Boult

Publisher: Shyness and Bloom, $11.99 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780981206431

For ages: 2 - 5

Type: Picture Book

About: One flick through this book and you’ll be in love.

With the beautiful baby animals, that is – the lion on the verge of sleep, the fluffy little lamb, the orang-utan with those beautifully expressive eyes, and more.

The story takes us on a visit to each of the animals as they are getting ready to fall asleep. We urge each of them to rest, to close their eyes and dream, reminding them that they are safe and warm, with their families close by – all the things that little humans need to be reassured of.

And, like any good bedtime story, it finishes with an ‘I love you, goodnight’.

The words are calm and peaceful, helping to make children feel safe and loved, and those pictures… wow!

Sleepy Lion Lullaby is the perfect bedtime story to share with your little ones. They won’t be able to resist closing their eyes after listening to the story and seeing all the animals ready for sleep.

Later today on Kids Book Review - our interview with author/illustrator, Rachel Boult!

This book is available online

Author website

Friday, 25 June 2010

Review: Dogs

Title: Dogs

Author: Emily Gravett

Illustrator: Emily Gravett

Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $14.99 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780230712485

For ages: 3+

Type: Picture book

About: Dogs come in all shapes and sizes; they can be big and small, stripy and spotty, good and bad, slow and fast, scruffy and smart. Some dogs play, some bark, some chase, and others don’t.

The narrator of this story loves them all… but you’ll have to read to the end to find out who that is, and which dogs they like the best.

When you give in to the beseeching eyes of the little ‘sausage dog’ that stretches all around the cover, begging you to take him for a walk by buying the book, you won’t regret it. Gravett’s dogs are gorgeous and make you want to reach inside the picture with a biscuit and a pat. Each has its own endearing character, with unique expressions and funny characterizations of each breed.

The rhymes are uncomplicated and fun for little ears and dog-lovers: ‘I love dogs that bark and dogs that don’t, I love dogs that play and dogs that won’t’.

Dogs is classic Gravett; a lovely story with beautifully drawn characters that make reading aloud a fun, heartwarming experience.

This book is available online

Author website

Review: Turtle's Song

Title: Turtle’s Song

Author: Alan Brown

Illustrator: Kim Michelle Toft

Publisher: University of Queensland Press, A$19.95RRP

Format: Softcover

ISBN: 9780702232190

For ages: 4-8

Type: Picture Book

About: Turtle’s Song is a visually splendid book – a collection of Toft’s stunning silk paintings encapture the brightest scapes of the underwater world, resplendant with coral, tropical fish and foaming waves.

The paintings fill each page to capacity, and children will revel in exploring the delicate detail, from microscopic grains of sand to hungry sharks, cruising for a bite.

The book follows the life cycle of the sea turtle, from hatchling to elderly ocean veteran, and author Brown takes us on a harrowing journey as our turtle navigates the perilous sea – from the fraught trip of the hatchling across the gull-swooping, crab crunching sand, to the terrifying travails of shark and fish avoidance in the surf – it’s a wonder a single turtle makes it to open water, let alone old age!

But make it, our heroine does. As she lives and thrives in the deep ocean, turtle soon returns to her birthplace to lay her own eggs, and so begins the turtle life cycle once again.

Brown writes beautiful, evocative prose that is a delight to read to children aloud, however, the rounding off of each page with a ‘run, little turtle, run!’ and ‘swim, big turtle, swim!’ is superfluous and detracts from the fluid motion of the main text.

Nonetheless, this is a gorgeous book that will enchant animal lovers. Included is a quite comprehensive look at the various types of sea turtle (over 200 types of turtle are in existence, yet only seven species of sea turtle have survived) and a fascinating set of turtle facts and environmental information, making this a wonderful resource for libraries and schools.

Author website

Illustrator website

This book can be bought online

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Event: Massive Jacaranda Book Sale

click to enlarge

Attention all Canberrans - Jacaranda are having a massive stock clearance sale, with up to 50% of a huge range of titles. Librarians and teachers can snaffle a bargain for their libraries and classrooms - and the rest of us can go a bit bananas, too! Hurry, ends 30 June.

Review: The World That We Want

Title: The World That We Want

Author: Kim Michelle Toft

Illustrator: Kim Michelle Toft

Publisher: University of Queensland Press, $17.95 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780702234828

For ages: 4+

Type: Picture Book

About: With so much talk about our environment and the ways in which we need to care for it, this story released in 2004 has never been more relevant. What is more important than providing our children with information about how the air, the forests and water all interact and keep us alive?

‘This is the air that circles the world that we want’ – so begins this beautiful book about our environment. Building slowly with each habitat, from the forest to the river, the mangrove, beach, tide pool, reef, atoll and, finally, the ocean, the text finishes with an overview of how each habitat works with the next.

For example, ‘this is the ocean that shapes the atoll that grows from the reef that feeds the tide pool that…’ and so on, until we come back once again to ‘the air that circles the world that we want’.

The book concludes with a list of all the animals featured throughout the book, listed by the habitats in which they live and providing kids with some information about each.

Children will learn how each part of our environment is special, and how important it is to respect and understand each one, in order to create the air we all breathe.

The first thing you will notice with this book is the beautiful illustration on the cover, the vivid colours grabbing children’s attention. It only gets better as you turn each page: bright colours, dozens of amazing animals, facts about the environment and a real Australian theme all abound this unique book.

The World That We Want was awarded the 2005 Environment Award for Children’s Literature by The Wilderness Society, showing the importance of the messages of this book.

This book is available online

Author website

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Event: Book Launch - Poppy and the Bushfire

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The lovely Mimi King is launching her second book in the Poppy series of picture books - Poppy and the Bushfire - at Dymocks in the Canberra Centre on Saturday 3 July, 11am.

Come along and meet Mimi and hear a reading of this exciting (and dramatic!) new story, with sensational illustrations by the fabulous Kieron Pratt, who will be on hand to do some live drawing! There will also be a book signing.

See you there!

Author Interview: Chris Wardle

Who is this person? Chris Wardle

What does he do? He’s an author

What his story? I am from the UK but have spent the last ten years or so working on programmes in Africa and Asia with NGOs. Much of that time has been with my Australian wife Jill, and so I am now an Australian resident as well. We are currently living in Cambodia as Jill is working on a health project, although I am due to move to Laos for work in the near future.

How long has he been writing? I discovered my passion for creative writing whilst living in a small village in Cameroon in 1999. It was my first overseas posting and I was a lone volunteer managing the construction of a water supply project. There was no TV, telephone, or indeed electricity for that matter.

I had been writing a lot of letters home about my experiences and found I really enjoyed putting pen to paper. As a result, I decided to write a short story about the pop band that I had played in at college. I wrote it on scraps of paper, and found myself cutting out paragraphs from different pages and sticking them at the sides of others with duct-tape. The resulting collage of scribbling needed instructions to navigate.

After discovering the pleasures of this creative process, I went on to write longer stories about my adventures in Cameroon and the subsequent places I’ve worked in over the past ten years. A lot of my travels have since influenced the characters and adventures that I write about in my Tinfish Series.

Does he remember the first story he ever wrote? I remember that in English lessons at primary school we would often be given an old postcard from a pile that the teacher had accumulated, and were told to write a story about the picture for an hour to fill in the time, although unsurprisingly I have no recollection of what my stories were about.

However, in my first Christmas at a new school when I was nine I remember (largely due to the fear of doing it) standing up in a concert and reading out my story about all the ingredients that wanted to be allowed to be part of the Christmas pudding – including ‘raisins that had been raised in California’, which was an advert at the time, and for which I also tried to do the accent as I recall. Fortunately parents didn’t have video cameras back in those days…

What inspired him to write for young readers? The Tinfish series is my first set of books for young readers. The initial idea came from the invention of two characters called Mr. Tinfish and Mrs. Cat-biscuit (who were based on what I was trying to get my very fussy Ugandan cat to eat in order to wean it off roast chicken – unsuccessfully, I might add). When my wife asked me what Mr. Tinfish and Mrs. Cat-biscuit did, I told her that they would have exciting adventures and live in a lighthouse. I think this starting point for the plot called on my inner-child to develop, and it inevitably evolved into stories for younger readers.

Who is Mr Choli? Mr. Choli is a chicken-eating Northern Ugandan Cat (or an ‘East-African Grey’ if you’re trying to get your mother to take care of him and need to make up a more exotic description). My wife and I were working in Northern Uganda, and Choli and his sister arrived at our doorstep, having been found by some local kids. They were both tiny, about one week old and could fit in the palm of my hand.

A doctor living nearby kindly took in the quiet and well-behaved one, and we eventually took on the less sought-after noisy kitten. His adventures in the first few months included being put in a plaster-cast at the local hospital to mend the leg he broke falling down a small step, and also starting the process for his emigration to the UK. This is a book in itself, and included rabies shots, blood samples being sent to Europe, export consultants (none of which is straight forward in rural Uganda), and a foster family in France for six months. However, he is now with my mother in England, and very happy with his VIP status there.

How did he get his first book published? I use a self-publishing website called Lulu.com, having seen a documentary about online publishing options. The process is fairly straight forward and has been a good way to make the books available, however, I am always looking at other options as I’m sure that with children’s books, the best way to sell them is to get them on the bookshop’s shelves.

What other genres has he written in? Over the past ten years or so, I have been writing a detailed journal of my travels and my work in African and Asia, although this is for my own pleasure rather than with an aim to publish. I have also penned a fictional novel, although have yet to take the plunge and try to publish it.

What are the greatest obstacles he has experienced on the writing journey? I have self-published which is great in terms of getting a book out there, however, I am aware that I am very limited with regard to the audience that I reach, and so I hope that eventually publishers or agents may become interested in my work.

Where did his idea for Mr. Vinegar and the Frozen Sea come from? Mr. Vinegar and the Frozen Sea is about climatic changes that cause the sea near the coast to freeze, and the animals go on an expedition to help organise the fishing at the edge of the ice shelf. Inevitably there are lots of adventures and mishaps on the way, along with two rather disgruntled and cold detective cats.

The initial inspiration for it came from a visit I made to the sea at Nampo in Korea during the winter. The ocean was frozen over and I was quite shocked at how uneven, angular and un-white the ice was, having expected to see the flat fluffy arctic ice that polar bears wander across in documentaries.

The theme of this story, and all of the books in the series, is climate and environmental change and so generating interest in these issues amongst readers would be great. Equally, I have tried to make the stories entertaining and so hope that readers find the stories enjoyable and funny.

What does he love most about writing for children? I love being involved in a creative process. The Tinfish series in particular has allowed my imagination to take hold, as once you’re in a future world with talking penguins living in lighthouse and cats with detective kits, there aren’t too many limits on where the stories can go. Mostly I’ve enjoyed trying to bring humour to the stories and am particularly satisfied if I’ve written a scene which amuses me.

What books did he read as a child? Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner were high on the reading list. My copy of The Bears Almanac (Berenstain) fell apart from over-reading, and I had a lot of Snoopy books. I also enjoyed Roald Dahl, and Dr. Seuss (including Yertle the Turtle).

If he couldn’t be a writer, what would he be? Over the last ten years I’ve being managing programmes for NGOs. At times I have really enjoyed the work and have always appreciated the incredible experiences I have had. For the moment, this is still part of my life and I have been able to fit my writing in with that.

What five words best sum him up? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question without actually writing anything. Meanwhile, my mind has been gradually drifting to thoughts of preparing dinner. Therefore, I am going to go with: hesitant, indecisive, easily-distracted, spaghetti-omelette. (Also ‘innumerate’, depending on whether spaghetti-omelette with a hyphen counts as one or two.)

What’s his perfect day? At the moment we are renting a small flat on the top floor of a thin concrete building in Cambodia, for which our ceiling is also the building’s roof. In addition, there are no buildings on either side to provide any shade from the hot tropical sun. So, although the rent is extremely reasonable, we essentially live in a concrete solar oven. As a result, now that the wet season is approaching, my perfect day is any day which has lots of rain and dark clouds. One involving a funny movie, some live music, pork scratchings, or Lewis Hamilton winning a Grand Prix, would be even better.

What advice does he have on writing for young people? I believe that with anything creative it’s important to make sure you’re enjoying it. Once something creative becomes a chore, I think it loses its vibrancy.

Visit mrtinfish.moonfruit.com to learn more about the Mr. Tinfish series. It includes the first chapter of each book to help you get a flavour of the adventures to come! And watch this space for reviews of Chris Wardle's books!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Canberra Event: The Marcie Muir Collection

Bush Babies and Banksia Men: Treasures from the Marcie Muir Collection

Friday 25 June, 6pm
Visitor Centre, $20 Friends/$30 non-members (includes light refreshments)
Bookings essential: 02 6262 1698 or friends@nla.gov.au

An exclusive ‘White Gloves’ evening to view a selection of treasures from the Marcie Muir Collection, recently acquired by the National Library of Australia.

Marcie Muir (1919-2007) spent decades searching for the children’s literature of Australia and amassing a private collection of over 7000 titles. Highlights of the viewing will include a copy of A Mother’s Offering to her Children (1841) by Charlotte Barton, believed to be the earliest children’s book published in Australia, and books and related ephemera by the ever popular Norman Lindsay, May Gibbs and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.

Dr Belle Alderman AM, Emeritus Professor of Children’s Literature (University of Canberra) will speak about the importance of the Marcie Muir Collection to the study of Australian children’s literature.

Please note that guests will not be permitted to take coats and bags into the viewing area due to the potential danger of damage to exhibition items. The Library Cloakroom will be open during the event.

The text above has been taken from the e-flyer, to make for easier reading on this website.

Review: The Parfizz Pitch (Mosquito Advertising #1)

Parfitt’s Family Soft Drink Company is in huge financial trouble. It is about to be bought out by a global corporate organisation and Katie Crisp’s mother will be left without a job. Without it, they will be forced to sell their family home and face an uncertain future.

Katie’s natural curiosity leads to her learn more and more about the corporate takeover and the reasons behind the company’s demise. When she realises that it all comes down to marketing problems, she and her friends form Mosquito Advertising and set to work devising an advertising campaign to save Parfitt’s.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Author Interview: Robin Gold

The hilarious Robin Gold is here at Kids Book Review today. Robin is the author of the Belmont and the Dragon series for children aged 5+. Read more about his books here and watch this space for our review of the latest in the series.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? At the age of eleven I wrote my first ‘novel’. It was composed in longhand with a biro and illustrated by me with my textas. In my first year at high school, Mrs. Brown took me aside and said that I had the makings of a writer. She was the first person in my life to give me encouragement. I dedicated my third Belmont book to her.

I am usually seen sporting a panama hat in the summertime but switch to a fedora in the cooler months. I collect old tea pots and silk neckties and reside in a hundred year old house with my wife, two sons and a gaggle of free loading scrub turkeys.

What genre do you write in? I believe the Belmont books fall into a genre called ‘anachronistic-medieval-fantasy-children’s adventure’, but I may be wrong about that.

What other genres have you written in? I tried writing something serious once but everybody laughed. So now I stick mainly to the genre technically known as ‘funny-stuff’.

Why do you write? My wife makes me.

What do you love about writing for children? I like to write wildly improbable plot lines and create outlandishly off beat characters and so far children have accepted them as believable and real. Children understand that every fantasy world has its own strict rules of logic and as long as the logic is maintained just about anything goes, imagination-wise.

How did the idea for Belmont and the Dragon come about? Mike Zarb, who creates the illustrations for all of the Belmont and the Dragon stories, sent me some wonderful drawings of a dragon, an old witch, some elves and goblins, a beautiful princess and a young chap in a knight costume who carried a toy wooden sword.

Mike more or less dared me to write a story using all the characters he had drawn. I took up Mikes challenge and the result was a tale called Belmont and the Dragon.

We showed the story and Mike’s illustrations to Random House and they asked us to collaborate on a series based on our concept.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? At times it has been difficult to heed that lone, small, stubborn voice within urging me on, saying ‘Keep going, you can make it’ while all around me everything seems to be screaming ‘Give up! You’re wasting your time! It’ll never happen!!!’

What’s a typical writing day? It begins with half a dozen freshly sharpened Staedtler HB pencils and a stack of clean white writing paper. I like to start as early in the day as I can, promising myself a reward of a nice cup of tea and a buttered crumpet if I get in a solid hour’s writing. Several hours and copious gallons of tea later I emerge from a trance like state to discover my pencils are worn to the nub and my stack of paper awash with hieroglyphs.

By a somewhat mysterious and intuitive process I proceed to rewrite, edit, discard and embellish my notes until a narrative begins to take shape. This becomes the starting point for my next day’s writing.

What advice do you have on writing? Don’t listen to well meaning people who try to discourage you from pursuing your passion. You can bet they are not pursuing theirs. Read only the very best authors and set an exceedingly high standard for yourself. Be reliable. And oh yes, make sure you marry somebody independently wealthy.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? Very disappointed.

What books did you read as a child? Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was one of my all time favourites. I loved the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel almost as much as the story itself. I also have fond memories of the Coles Funny Picture Books and A Book for Kids by C.J.Dennis. I was an avid reader of the Sherlock Holmes stories (which I still re-read and enjoy) and had a collection of MAD magazines second to none.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I like to fossick about second hand bookstores. I do most of the cooking for my family and enjoy combing through my many old cookbooks for interesting recipes. I love old movies and listening to jazz. Often, I can be found rummaging in the dusty recesses of junk shops, ever hopeful of stumbling upon an overlooked treasure.

What would be your perfect day? I had a perfect day once. At least this part of it was perfect: I was visiting the city of Bath in Somerset many years ago. I ambled down an ancient lane way and chanced upon a very old Tea Shop. The aroma of baking cakes wafted from within. I entered and found a seat at a polished mahogany table. On my table were fresh flowers set in an English porcelain vase. Soft sunlight poured in through windows half covered with antique lace. Friendly pink faced, apple cheeked elderly ladies in smart aprons brought me perfectly brewed tea in a brown betty. I drank from an old bone china cup and ate moist, buttery cake which one of the ladies had baked on the premises. Somehow this simple, common place experience attained a heavenly perfection.

I’ve always feared that if ever I went searching for that old Tea Shop again it will have vanished, Brigadoon like, into the mist.

What five words best sum you up? An old fashioned story teller.

What’s next for Robin Gold? A cup of tea and a buttered crumpet, then back to work!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

My CBCA Conference Experience

Day One

My first ever Children’s Book Council of Australia conference was an absolute dream. A little overwhelming but highly enlightening and truly book bliss for any author, illustrator, publisher, teacher, librarian or literary specialist, not to mention anyone who just loves books!

Entitled Imagine This! Imagine That! the conference was held over two days at the Menzies Hotel in the heart of Sydney, attended by 400 delegates and some rather meaty Australian literary talent.

After waking at 4.30am to catch an early bird flight to Sydney from Canberra, I arrived at the Menzies just after 8am to register, grab a nice cuppa and take a sneak peek at the publisher trade displays and Book Shop, stacked to the rafters with books by speaking author/illustrators and others. I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to sell my own Riley books at the bookstore, which, astoundingly, and much to my delight, sold out completely by lunch time on Day Two!

Some early scenes at the bookshop - this lovely librarian was loaded to book capacity!

By 9am, I was settled in to the main conference room for the first sessions. I met two lovely teacher librarians – Liz and Dani – from Leeton and Broken Hill, respectively (who made me want to travel to both destinations, post-haste).

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of NSW, opened the conference with a beautiful and impassioned speech, which was quickly followed by an enlightening and emotive talk on the Indigenous Literary Project, presented by Kristin Gill and author Andy Griffiths, who is the ILP Ambassador.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Review: Dinosaur Dinosaur

Title: Dinosaur Dinosaur

Author: Matt Cosgrove

Illustrator: Matt Cosgrove

Publisher: Koala Books, $12.99 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780864615589

For ages: 2 - 5

Type: Picture Book

About: For young children interested in dinosaurs this book is a fantastic introduction to them. Cosgrove has used colour and a series of questions (all in rhyme!) to show young children the wide variety of forms of dinosaurs that used to walk the earth.

The use of the flaps is wonderful. For instance, on one page there is a picture of a dinosaur eating a plant accompanied by the caption: “Dinosaur, dinosaur what do you eat? Do you like plants” and then the child turns the flap in the middle and hey, presto the picture changes and we see a dinosaur charging accompanied by the caption: “or do you like meat?”

The flaps allow the children to physically interact with the pages and also to see how different the dinosaurs could be. From herbivore to carnivore, from short to tall, from bumpy to smooth, Cosgrove looks at many aspects of dinosaurs in an easily accessible way.

It also ends with the unanswered question as to how these fearsome creatures were wiped out.

The use of simple rhyme and the showcasing of the diversity of the dinosaurs make for an engaging text. It is also an easy read for grown ups, and with a few repetitions children will learn it off by heart very quickly.

A must for any budding paleontologist!

- this review by Sarah Pietrzak

Buy this book online

Friday, 18 June 2010

Review: Find Your Tribe

How were your teenage years? What do you remember about your life at high school? It may be a time you look back at fondly, or perhaps you’d rather forget. Or, if you’re anything like me, you might feel a mixture of the two.

Sparrow, a respected writer, novelist and newspaper columnist, wrote Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school) to share her advice on surviving school and life in general as a teenaged girl.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Review: Little Else: Trick Rider

Title: Little Else Trick Rider

Author: Julie Hunt

Illustrator: Beth Norling

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, A$13.99RRP

Format: Softcover

ISBN: 9781741758771

For ages: 5-10

Type: Junior Fiction

About: Little Else lives with her skinny grandmother in a skinny little hut with dinner so skant, they only eat once a week and need to pass over ‘the same ground twice to throw a shadow’.

Yep, things are certainly dire, so when a strongman turns up at the door looking for ‘spare’ children to join Ma Calico’s Bush Circus, Little Else doesn’t hesitate. Off she trots on a pony with a young lad named Joe – to a new life and promise of hot meals and gold.

Of course, things don’t go according to plan, as is the way when strange men go hunting children to run away and join the circus, and poor Little Else is soon thrown in the deep end, expected to leap and flip and tumble for nothing more than a few harsh words from the intimidating (and enormous!) Ma Calico. Not a gold ingot in sight.

As she learns to become a fine horse riding performer, Little Else – or La Petite Elsié, as she becomes known – and her circus buddies soon discover the stockpile of gold Ma Calico is hiding from her employees. Together, the underpaid and overworked circus talent plot a way to overthrow the mean Ma Calico, who is so nastypants, she throws cannonballs at heads.

Can Little Else and her friends find a way to secure the gold they’re due?

This adorable story is riddled with clever text and deliciously dry humour that won’t be lost on adults keen to take a peek – and kids will thoroughly enjoy the warm, childlike banter of both dialogue and storyline.

With clever subplots along the way, we are treated to a not-quite-resolved storyline that stretches the story over three separate books, and the ending of Book One certainly leaves a taste in the mouth for more.

Reminiscent of classic tales of yesterday, Trick Rider is funny and a whole lot of fun, with a cast of quirky characters and a very likeable heroine. Coupled with gorgeous and whimsically coloured illustrations by Beth Norling, this series of books will delight young readers who love a little bit of fancy and magic in their tales.

I may not be seven years old, but I’m already looking forward to finding out what happens to Little Else in Book Two. I love a book with an unexpected ending and a respectful lack of predictability – and if I love this, you can rest assured seven-year-olds will, too.

Author website

This book can be bought online

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Review: Puzzle Palace

Title: Puzzle Palace

Author: Leanne Davidson

Illustrator: N/A

Publisher: LJD Books, $14.95 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780980724103

For ages: 8+

Type: Novel

About: The third in the series, this book sees Brain Davis take on another quiz challenge. In Quizzical we saw him in a quiz show against the unbeatable elite school, and then find himself filling in for his best friend in the next instalment, Money Bags.

In Puzzle Palace, Brain is invited to a grand new development to face his greatest challenge yet: a race to solve the puzzles and clues, only to reach an unexpected conclusion.

Acting as a modern-day Charlie against Henry Daram’s Willy Wonka, Brain wins the coveted ticket and enters the quiz-lovers’ theme park amongst much clandestine activity. He and the rest of the group must prove themselves worthy of their final prize, or face the consequences if they fail to do so.

All the characters are familiar to us by this third book in the series, and they do not disappoint as we learn more and more about each of them. Ted is still learning to handle girls, there are more mysteries to be solved by Brain and, of course, it wouldn’t be a Quizzical book without Mischief the dog.

As with all the books in the series, Puzzle Palace is a fun read, jam-packed with action and interesting facts. Davidson manages to write in just the tone you would hear from a boy Brain’s age, with sarcasm and humour throughout.

This is a great read for primary school aged children, particularly boys who are after an excitement-filled, action-packed, interesting story.

Buy this book online

Author website

Monday, 14 June 2010

Battle Boy: Battle Bust-Up and Aztec Attack

I must admit, I’m a bit of a Battle Boy fan – having thoroughly enjoyed the first books of this series by high-tech minded Carter, I was thrilled to see these two new releases, and so get even more of my Spying on the Past fix.
And no, I’m not a six-year-old boy.

The reason I love these books, even as a 40-something adult, is not just because they eagerly encourage some of our most reluctant readers (ie: computer-game-addicted boys) to dive headlong into the pages of a book, they also most cleverly rehash one of my own personal loves – history – into a fabulous and fascinating action-packed romp that is high on intellectual style and thankfully low on gratuitous kiddie schlock.

And yes, even the most lame computer games are packed with brain-sapping kiddie schlock – passive aggressive violence and mind-numbing repetition that creates vacant, robotic spaces in our kids’ brains that SO needs to be flooded with intrigue and subjective decision-making and imagination.

The Battle Boy series can do this for your boy. Or girl. Or you. Young Napoleon Augustus Smythe (Battle Boy 005) is back – this time in two new books taking in the world of Alexander the Great in Battle Bust-Up and Aztecs and Spaniards in Aztec Attack.

In true Battle Boy style, Napoleon is called to don his super high-tech, patented Skin suit that allows him to travel back in time to collect the all-important DNAof some of the world’s greatest historical figures.

Review: Bottoms Up

Title: Bottoms Up

Author: Jeanne Willis

Illustrator: Adam Stower

Publisher: Puffin Books, $14.95 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780141502137

For ages: 3+

Type: Picture book

About: Sometimes a funny, ridiculous story is what we need – nothing too heavy or serious, just something to share a laugh with our little ones and be a bit silly for a few minutes.

What better way to do that than reading a story about bottoms?

Written from the perspective of babies protesting to their parents about wearing nappies, Bottoms Up gives us a number of reasons why bottoms shouldn’t be covered. ‘Bottoms are beautiful, bottoms aren’t rude’, the babies insist, going on to point out that animals don’t have to wear nappies or knickers.

‘Do piglets wear panties?’ they ask. ‘Do bats wear bikinis?’ they cry. And the examples become funnier and funnier, until they call for all the babies and toddlers to throw their nappies away – bottoms up!

We just have to hope that, amongst all this hilarity, our children don’t take these protests literally.

The illustrations, too, are hilarious, with all sorts of animals looking ridiculous as they boldly dance around in human underwear. And who could resist the gorgeous babies strutting their stuff with those pinchable bare bottoms!

This book is available online

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Author/Illustrator Interview: Trace Moroney

New Zealand author and illustrator Trace Moroney is here at Kids Book Review today. Trace has created several children's books - all designed to be positive and helpful to children.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? Okey-dokey . . . to cut a long story short . . . my working career began as a Graphic Designer for an Advertising/Design Studio; then employed by an Educational Children’s Book Publisher designing; art directing; commissioning illustration work; print negotiation & management; etc. It was in this role that I discovered my passion for creating children’s books.

Through the years, I moved quickly up the corporate ladder into management roles. While I thoroughly enjoyed my job (lots of international travel; meeting interesting people; etc) I felt that I was moving further away from the ‘hands-on’ aspect of creating children’s books. I resigned in 1994, and established my own business. Yeeehaaaaa!

I feel hugely passionate about conceptualising; researching; writing; designing and illustrating books for children - particularly those with a subject matter that help children feel good about who they are!

What genre do you write in? Children’s fiction and non-fiction.

What other genres have you written in? Adults non-fiction (ie. notes for parents / caregivers / psychologists / etc).

Why do you write? Writing is a part of or component of what I do. I come up with an idea for a book or series - so the written word is a part of expressing this concept. The illustrations are a visual extension of the text, and the design (if done well!) holds it all together with balance and harmony.

Writing, along with these other components, is also about self-expression and/or sharing a very personal part of myself - ie. my beliefs; my opinions; and describing my relationship with myself and my son; and others - through the characters in my books. And, while I do not like to ‘blab-on’ about myself - the topics I have chosen to write about, while personal, describe how we all feel, have felt, or - can relate to.

What do you love about writing for children? The opportunity to create an ‘ideal’ ( . . . ok . . . fantasy) world where we focus on - and make the most of - the good things in ourselves and our lives . . . and encouraging expansion of awareness in the areas of kindness; love; empathy; and gratitude!

When reading my books, I hope children feel inspired and motivated to discover/identify those things they like about themselves; develop self-respect and self-worth; and become more aware of how their own responses and behaviours affect others.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on you book-writing journey? Lack of time!!!!!! Sooooo many ideas, sooooo little time! (could someone please create an eighth day in the week?!).

What’s a typical writing day? Up early (sometimes 4am if deadlines are up around my ears!); take son to school; exercise - race-walk with my doggy, then gym for a weights session; into office with strong coffee; work flat-tack for the day; cook dinner while sipping on a fabulous glass of a gusty red vino; or, eat out; share valuable time with my son yaking and laughing about the day; sometimes, head back into my office; crash into bed; read; sleep. Love it!

What advice do you have on writing for kids? Write from your heart; connect with your ‘inner-child-self‘ (oooo, that sounds a bit fru-fru . . . but you know what I mean!); be playful; be happy; love your life; pick up a pen - and let the ideas flow!

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be? I consider myself more of a ‘creator’ (rather than a writer) as I come up with an idea, research, write, design and illustrate a book as a complete package. A good picture book has harmony and balance with all of these components. So, for me, this is a question for which I have no answer!

What books did you read as a child? I recall being absolutely fascinated with The Story of Little Black Sambo (first published in 1899!). Although considered politically-incorrect in current times (and, I believe was actually banned for some time) - I have a reprinted 1997 copy on my bookshelf.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? Work on my health and fitness (mind, body and soul!); travel; skiing; great wine; enjoying the company of fun/positive/energetic people (including my son); being a great Mum; laughing lots; renovating property; and always thinking about my next project idea ; and sharing all of the above with those I love!

What would be your perfect day? I am living the life I have designed for myself - and it is ‘perfect‘ for me right now. I choose to live each day without regrets in the choices I make . . . therefore, each day is ‘perfect’ in it’s own way.

What five words best sum you up? Optimistic; considerate; kind; passionate; fun-loving; self-deprecating ( . . . and, clearly, rule-breaker . . . as I have chosen six words . . . oooo, actually, seven!).

Visit Trace Moroney's website

Friday, 11 June 2010

Review: Two Peas in a Pod

This utterly charming book is charming in the best sense of the word – steeped in the language of authentic childhood, with childlike pictures to match.
Marvellous (a.k.a. Marvin) and Violet love to play. They adore each other so much, their mums reckons they are peas that came from the same pod. But when Violet moves away – to the ‘moon’, actually (and when you’re a child, even a move to a nearby town does indeed seem like the moon) – Marvellous is left bereft.