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

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Puffinalia Exhibition

Can you believe it? - Puffin is seventy!

To celebrate this amazing milestone, Puffin are holding an exhibition of their books, from seventy years ago to today. These are books that Australian kids have grown up with - literally. These are books that have been borrowed from Aussie homes - and are sure to bring some memories flooding back.

The exhibition has just finished up in Melbourne and is about to head around the country. Keep an eye out in your state, and on Kids Book Review for updates.

Review: Baby Earth

Title: Baby Earth

Author: Michèle Petit-Jean

Illustrator: Eric Puybaret, Sung by Judy Collins

Publisher: Child’s Play, A$21.95RRP

Format: Hard cover with dust jacket

ISBN: 9780859539586

For ages: 5-10

Type: Picture Book

About: Want a book to give you goosebumps? A book to highlight the treasure that is our planet? A book that brings together and brilliantly illustrates the pot of melting culture that is our world? What about one that also throws in a dash of magic and a good scattering of archetypes, folklore, myth, mother nature and love love love love love?

This book is all about love. It’s about our beautiful baby earth – still such an infant in the grand scale of the universe. It’s about how she was born – crafted from wood and stone, air and water and fire and how all the other planets arrived to herald her birth.

Uncle Neptune appears and gives the newborn baby Earth the most magnificent gift of all things that swim

Review: Over the Rainbow

Title: Over the Rainbow

Author: Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by E Y Harburg

Illustrator: Eric Puybaret, Sung by Judy Collins

Publisher: Koala Books, A$26.99RRP

Format: Hard cover with audio CD

ISBN: 9780864619341

For ages: 3-7

Type: Picture Book with Audio

About: A timeless classic, one of the world’s most beautiful songs has been immortalised once again – this time in a stunning picture book for children. This hard cover book with audio CD is a breathtaking visual and aural feast.

With glorious illustrations by artist Eric Puybaret, the songs lyrics are printed across dreamlike double page spreads featuring a waif-like girl, the moon and the stars, cities in the clouds, and of course – rainbows.

The pictures in this book are truly mesmerizing. Dark, quirky, imaginative, their inherent magical qualities are reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s work. Using beautiful colours and movement, the paintings perfectly encapture the soundtrack, performed by singer/song writer and author, Judy Collins, who first remembers seeing the Wizard of Oz at the cinema as a little girl.

Recently enjoying a trip to the top 10 on the Children's List of the New York Times Best Seller List, Over the Rainbow is a must-have book for anyone who loves beautiful music, books, art or heartfelt magic.

Try to read it without voice quavering and eyes tearing and goosebumps tingling. I’m really not sure it’s possible.

Oh, wait ‘til you see those blue birds. It’s love.

Head here for a wonderful glimpse at Judy Collins singing The Song (among others).

Monday, 30 August 2010

National Literacy and Numeracy Week 2010

National Literacy and Numeracy Week has begun, with this year's theme - Learning for Living.

The Week represents a collaborative approach by the Australian Government and the school community to highlight the importance of effective literacy and numeracy skills for all children and young people.

It gives schools the opportunity to get involved in a range of activities and to recognise locally the achievements of students and the work of teachers, parents and members of the community who support young people to develop stronger literacy and numeracy skills.

Schools across Australia are invited to participate in NLNW National Activities and local State and Territory Activities.

Contact the National Literacy and Numeracy Team by email at nlnw@deewr.gov.au.

Review: Book of Firsts

Title: Book of Firsts

Author: James Buckley Jr

Illustrator: David Sheldon and Robert Prince

Publisher: Scholastic, A$12.99RRP

Publication Date: August 2010

Format: Soft cover

ISBN: 9871741696820

For ages: 7+

Type: Information Book

About: LOVE a good information book, me, and this book of firsts is just so so cool, you’ll want to dive in ahead of the kids. It’s true – these are the coolest, most exciting first facts ever!

What I like about this book is that it’s written in kid language. It doesn’t pander nor patronize – it’s light, fun and easily draws kids in to exploring the pages. The tri-colour pictures are not only fun, they’re super retro groovy, which parents will appreciate.

Broken into chapters with headings such as Air and Space, Entertainment, Everyday Things, Exploration, Food, Money and Technology, kids will get a real kick out of upping their General Knowledge. Trivia is always cool and there’s not much sweeter than watching a kid bury his head in a book and come up for air saying ‘did you know?’ or even ‘wow!’

My only criticism (and it’s not really a criticism) would be that the book is still quite Americanised – airplane, popsicle, etc., however, the publishers have most happily added Australian references for our kids – like the very first hot air balloon flight – which travelled for 25 minutes from an amusement park in Richmond, Victoria, in 1858.

Other fascinating firsts include film firsts, the first movie stars (anyone heard of Bronco Billy Anderson?), the first comic book, games, rollercoaster, pavlova and the first television used in public (80 years ago this month).

Great for kids, teachers, parents and general fact nuts, this is a great one for the library.

Footnote: according to the author, while there over 1000 firsts in this book, there are actually many thousands more out there in the world to discover. So grab your mates, your parents or you teacher, get out there and find some more!

Hank Zipzer in Sydney for SCBWI Conference

Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever co-author and international children’s film producer Lin Oliver will be in Sydney to attend the international Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (SCBWI) from 17-19 September.

The Hank Zipzer series, starring the charismatic underdog Hank, will be officially celebrated with Walker Books Managing Director Sarah Foster speaking and introducing Lin Oliver on Friday 17th September, 2010 at 8pm at the Hugenden Hotel, Woollahra and attended by many SCBWI members and supporters.

Hank Zipzer is also co-written by Henry Winkler – well-known from his role as The Fonz in the long-running family series Happy Days. Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, this winning series about the world's greatest underachiever is funny, touching, and deals with learning differences in a gentle and humorous manner.

For further information about the SCWBI conference, just head here.

See a hilarious and wonderful clip of Lin and Henry talking about their series here.

Visit the Hank Zipzer website.

Review: Little Dog

Little Dog is a lost puppy who joins a family holidaying by the seaside. Sam, his sister and his mother all love Little Dog and welcome him into their family activities. Dad isn’t so sure. At the end of the holiday, Dad gets the final decision on whether Little Dog gets to join the family on their trip home. What will he choose?

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Review: When Dad Was a Teenager

Title: When Dad Was a Teenager

Author: Mini Goss

Illustrator: Mini Goss

Publisher: Black Dog Books, $16.95 RRP

Format: Softcover

ISBN: 9781876372361

For ages: 6-12

Type: Picture Book

About: Nothing like a little sentimentality to upturn the corners of the mouth. The subtleties of this bright, giggle-inducing book may be lost on the very young, but they’ll no less enjoy barrelling into the past to witness the life of Dad pre-… well – pre-Dad.

For young children, it’s hard to fathom that parents and grandparents were once also kids and teens themselves – they’ve just always been Dad or Mum or Granny. This fun book by the talented Mini Goss takes readers back in time to the late 1970s when Dad was an early teen. You see, Dad was not always bald. He used to have hair back then.

He also had a penchant for hair gelled spikes, an über messy room, parachute silk tracksuits (OMG, how embarrassing), videos and super high tech walkmans. Basically, he was just like a modern day teen with all the new mod-cons and desire to be cool, only it all looked so tragic back then – and kids and adults alike will just adore the total cringe factor, especially older readers (and – sorry Mum and Dad – I mean old).

Goss has written a humorous storyline in the voice of Dad’s reminiscing children, and has filled each double page spread with a riot of illustration, cataloguing the trend of the day through the late 70s to mid 80s, showcasing an eyefest of hilarity and relatability that will have parents guffawing and reliving the memories with their kids… although I defy you to explain those parachute pants, thankyouverymuch MC Hammer.

Each page features a line from a song of that year, from Devo to Cyndi Lauper, Wham, Olivia Newton John and The Police, which will also get you humming a tune and heading straight to youtube with the kids in tow. If you search the pages carefully, you’ll spot a catalogue of icons endemic to each year from Dynasty and Woman’s Day to teddy bear biscuits, Garfield and Cabbage Patch dolls.

Despite the hilarity and fun of this book, there is a subtle undercurrent that clearly reminds us that adults were once rule-breaking, over-sleeping, cool-seeking teens, too. And that regardless of the changes in high-tech gizmos and music, some things never change.

Note: kids can look out for the guinea pigs hidden on each page of the 80s.

Author website

This book is available online

Father's Day Picture Book Special - Part 4

Father's Day: Gift Books

Title: Dadisms

Author: Cathy Hamilton

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (Pan Macmillan), $10.95 RRP

Publication Date: 01/01/2009

Format: Soft cover

ISBN: 9780740772320

For ages: 8+

Type: Picture book

About: I was sent a mini gift pack version of this book which I cannot find online - however the soft and hard cover editions of the book are available (see below). Although I can't speak for the book themselves, I'm presuming they are similar to the little booklet contained in this gift pack, along with cute little 'sayings' printed on flat magnets for the fridge and a 'personalise it yourself' scroll.

Of course, we all know them well - the sayings that come out of Dad's mouth no matter where he lives or when he was born - 'What do you think I am? A bank?' - 'Don't make me stop this car!' - 'You think money grows on trees?' - 'Don't ever let me catching you doing that again'.

Sound familiar? This fun little book translates these Dadisms so the rest of us can understand what the heck he is talking about - and have a little bit of a laugh at the same time.

This book is available online

Title: A Little Book for Dad

Author: Patrick Regan

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (Pan Macmillan) $8.95 RRP

Publication Date: 01/11/2007

Format: Hardcover with dustjacket

ISBN: 9780740764059

For ages: 5+

Type: Gift book

About: The perfect little dad book to stuff inside a bundle of gifts - this is your classic pocketbook filled with lovely adages about Dad and just how special he is. For example, did you know that a dad is worth more than 100 school masters (George Herbert) and that noble fathers have noble children (Euripides).

Beautifully stylised with coloured pages and cute illustrations, this would be a lovely surprise for Dad to find under his pillow Sunday morning.


This book is available online

Title: Dear Dad

Author: Geoff Blackwell

Publisher: Hachette, $16.99 RRP

Publication Date: August 2010

Format: Hardcover with dustjacket

ISBN: 9780733625145

For ages: 0+

Type: Picture book

About: This little hardcover book with dust jacket is the perfect gift for Dad – an extraordinary multi-page gift card, if you will – showcasing fathers all over the world in a series of glorious images.

Compiled by the people behind MILK (Moments of Intimacy, Laughter and Kinship, a photographic compilation initiated by eminent photographer Elliot Erwitt 10 years ago) this mini compendium of Dad Moments is not only beautiful and tear-jerking, it really does bring you amazing and goose-bumping moments of intimacy, laughter and kinship.



This book is available online

Title: The New Dad from A to Z

Author: Dan Consiglio

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (Pan Macmillan), $14.95 RRP

Publication Date: 01/08/2010

Format: Soft cover

ISBN: 9780740793530

For ages: Adult

Type: Picture book for adults

About: This A to Z picture book for adults is written by American advertising creative and children's 'art critic', Dan Consiglio, who has an obvious passion for humour and all things artsy.

A sort of outtake on the new dad and his curiosities, it features A-Z listings of the issues that beset Dad - T is for Tired, C is for coffee, E is for Epidural, M is for movies (do you go to the movies? the author applauds you before warning that's about to change).

I careened towards muted laughter and eye rolling with this book. Some of it is funny, some of it is decidedly not, but then, I'm not a new [American] Dad, so I'm not always going to relate.

I'm also not sure about the snapshots used throughout the book - they look thrown together and are totally unstylised (though I do love the dad with the pigtails). I think more clever and candid shots of the author's own life would have been far more fun and far more polished and attractive... but then - here is a woman talking... blokes could feel differently.

Test it out on Dad.


See Consiglio's art critic website here.

This book is available online

Review: The Important Things

It's no secret I'm a Peter Carnavas fan and his latest book doesn't disappoint - this time about a Dad who has gone away.

In tune with the author/illustrator's emotive and simple storylines that philosophise on the poignant moments on life - without schmaltz or over-sentimentality - The Important Things tugs quite agonisingly at the heartstrings whilst simultanously bringing a warm, feel-good squeeze to the chestal area.

Review: Farther

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Too late! With just one glance at this cover I was hooked.

This is the story of a boy whose father is so close to him, yet so far away in spirit. A man whose days and nights are spent dreaming of flying away from the little house on the cliff.

All he wants is to fly and he spends his time creating beautiful wings to carry him away from this place.

Father's Day Picture Book Special - Part 3

Father's Day: Tribute to Grandad

Title: Adventures with Grandpa

Author/Illustrator: Rosemary Mastnak

Publisher: Hardie Grant, $24.95 RRP

Publication Date: 02/08/2010

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781921690761

For ages: 2+

Type: Picture book

About: Oh, I sigh in envy when someone can do both pictures and words. Mastnak's beautiful book - Adventures with Grandpa - is just divinely saturated with watercolour bliss - the most fabulously detailed and whimsical illustrations - many of them double page spreads - that take the breath away. Children will be truly entranced by these pictures, and adults equally so.

When a little grandson asks his tinkering Grandpa where their adventures will take them today, Grandpa leaves his shed full of curiosities to go exploring with his grandson... climbing trees, swinging on old tyres, building racing cars, skimming the sparkling seas or visiting a shining star.

Although I love this book, the prose is a little awkward at times. It occasionally rhymes but often misses the ryhthmic beat needed to make reading a pleasure, and some words are oddly coupled. This small issue doesn't, however, take away from the overall beauty and magic of
Adventures with Grandpa.

Imaginative, charming and totally eye-boggling, this is a book that needs a place on the shelves of grandparents everywhere.


This book is available online

Title: Grandad and Billy

Author: Julie Kingston

Publisher: Lothian, $16.99 RRP

Publication Date: July 2010

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780734411259

For ages: 3+

Type: Picture book

About: Billy’s Grandad is a very Important Man.

He’s done everything: he was school captain, won a gold medal, was voted most eligible bachelor, went to university, run companies, climbed Mt Everest, bought a private jet, met royalty and had a book written about him.

As Billy lists them all off to his Grandad, asking which was the most important, his grandfather laughs and says no to each. There is something even more important than everything on that very impressive list of achievements.

He eventually tells Billy what the most important thing in his life is, as the little boy falls asleep in his grandfather’s arms.

Set at bedtime, and with illustrations that feel warm and comforting by the light of the lamp by Grandad’s armchair, Grandad and Billy is a charming book for grandfathers to share with the children in their lives.

It is a lovely story, with humour and a gorgeous message of love, family and all the things we can learn from our grandparents.

More than that, it is a beautiful reminder of how special Grandads are, and how much they love their grandkids.


This book is available online

Title: Grandpa

Author: Lilith Norman

Illustrator: Noela Young

Publisher: Margaret Hamilton Books (Scholastic), $12.99 RRP

Publication Date: 1998

Format: Soft cover

ISBN: 9781865048093

For ages: 5+

Type: Picture book

About: We bought this book for our son when he was six weeks old - because that's the age his lost his beautiful grandfather, Tommy. This book, therefore, is an incredibly emotive one for me... my son never got to spend time with this amazing man and it's something my husband and are devastated over - even 7 years on.

This simple and beautiful storyline opens on a young lad who tells us his grandfather died last Saturday. Quite simply. That's what happened. Cue tissues.

The book then takes us back a while to when Grandpa was alive - and how he was a pain in the neck for our young hero. How he smoked and made bad jokes and made a mess and told boring stories and kicked the young lad out of his bedroom so he had to sleep in the sunroom. He also made mum cook nothing but chops and sausages when mum wanted to cook exotic Asian foods in a wok.

Then suddenly, Grandpa was gone. And mum could cook what she wanted now. And when she realised this, she broke down and cried.

This beautiful book is incredibly emotional. It touches on loss, on tolerance, on generation gaps and on the triumph of love over the tiny frustrations in life. It also celebrates the wonderful legacy our ancestors leave behind.



This book is available online

Title: A Little Book for Grandfather

Author: Patrick Regan

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (Pan Macmillan) $8.95 RRP

Publication Date: 01/11/2007

Format: Hardcover with dustjacket

ISBN: 9780740764066

For ages: 5+

Type: Gift book

About: A gorgeous little gift book stuffed with adages on grandfathers and their ways. The best place to be when you're sad is - of course - in Grandpa's lap (Anonymous) and Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends (Allan Frome).

Dotted with adorable illustrations, this would make a gorgeous gift from grandchild to Pop.


This book is available online

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Review: Kisses For Daddy

Title: Kisses For Daddy

Author: Frances Watts

Illustrator: David Legge

Publisher: Little Hare Books, $24.95 RRP

Publication Date: 2005

Format: Board Book

ISBN: 9781921272561

For ages: 2 - 5

Type: Picture Book

About: "Baby Bear was grumbly. He didn’t want to go to bed… and he didn’t want to kiss his mum and dad goodnight.”

So begins this adorable story, in which we are taken through Baby Bear’s bedtime routine. As he has a bath, brushes his teeth, gets into his pyjamas and is tucked into bed, he continually refuses to give Daddy Bear a kiss goodnight.

Daddy Bear tries to convince Baby Bear in his fun, creative Daddy style. First he asks for a bear kiss, then a tall giraffe kiss, an upside down bat kiss and a whiskery mouse kiss, among other animal fun.

The bedtime routine storyline will sound familiar to your child, and the repetitive answers from Baby Bear (“No! No crocodile kiss for Daddy!”) will have them taking part in the fun, as they receive their very own Daddy kisses.

The beautiful, vibrant illustrations make you fall in love with this book before you even read the story. And the two complement each other perfectly. The pictures of these friendly, furry bears are comforting, making you want to receive your own big bear hugs.

Quiet bedtime stories where your little one cuddles up on your lap are often not the type of story that a Dad feels comfortable with. Kisses For Daddy, however, gives dads the ability to read a gorgeous, affectionate story, while still having fun and actively playing as they read through.

It is sure to become a special favourite between Dads and their little ones, just like it is in our family. And whilst the age of the book is listed as two to five years, even younger children will enjoy it. Just ask my sixteen month-old, whose Dad has had to read the book to her three times while I write this review!

This book is available online

Father's Day Picture Book Special - Part 2

Father's Day: A Dad's Job

Title: What Does Daddy Do?

Author/Illustrator: Rachel Bright

Publisher: Puffin, $14.95 RRP

Publication Date: June 2009

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780141502649

For ages: 5+

Type: Picture book

About: Daisy goes to childcare during the week and has three best friends there: Dexter, Evie and Bob.

One day they discuss what jobs their dads do. Dexter’s dad is a fireman, Evie’s dad is a doctor and Bob’s dad is a teacher.

But Daisy’s dad? What does he do all day? Daisy has to work it out from the clues she has: they leave home at 8am, he picks her up at 5.25pm and he wears a suit and shiny shoes. In between she knows he braves a dragon boss, goes into a “bored” room and climbs mountains (that is, mountains of paperwork he has to get on top of).

The three friends soon figure out what Daisy’s dad does – he’s an “ExplorerSuperKnight” – but, really, Daisy doesn’t care what he does all day. He’s her dad and that’s the most important thing.
Boldy and brightly illustrated, this story quickly captures the imagination of children. The clever word plays show the ways in which kids can interpret terms that adults take for granted.

Most of all, this is a book that hits on the most important message of all: it doesn’t matter what work a parent does, it’s their work as a parent that’s the most important of all.

Title: We Help Daddy

Author: Mini Stein

Illustrator: Eloise Wilkin

Publisher: Little Golden Books (Random House)

Publication Date: 1959 (reissued 2001)

Format: Hard cover

ISBN: 3350092551

For ages: 3 - 6

Type: Picture book

About: Vintage books are, of course, all the rage right now and many a children's book lover prides themselves on a collection that extends many years, if not decades. Mini Stein and Eloise Wilkin are a formidable team in this gorgeous vintage Golden Book in which two little 50s poppets help Daddy around the house.

They hand him his hammer to fix the door. They tidy up the yard and water the flowers while Daddy trims the hedge. They help wash the dog and make a bird feeder for outside the window. They even chop wood and help him wash the car.

A Daddy's work is never done - and what would he do without his two wonderful helpers? Gorgeous. And a timely reminder that modern kids could sorely do with learning a little household maintenance - not to mention that glorious feeling of a job well done - too.


Interested in searching for rare Golden Books? Try second hand bookstores, eBay or AbeBooks.

Title: Shopping with Dad

Author: Geoff Patton

Illustrator: David Clarke

Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $3.95 RRP

Publication Date: 01/07/2005

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781420203318

For ages: 5+

Type: Reader

About: Dad's work never ends... today he also has to go shopping and he takes along his son for a shopping adventure he won't soon forget.

Poor old clumsy Dad is not the best shopper in the world. His run-ins with oranges and stacks of tin cans is a sight to behold - and who on earth could possibly manage to get caught in a sliding door? Good old Dad.

This chapter reader effectively adds humour and a relatable storyline to make kids laugh while they're learning to read.

Title: Daddies: All About the Work They Do

Author: Janet Frank, updated by Margo Lundell

Illustrator: Paul Meisel

Publisher: Little Golden Books (Random House)

Publication Date: 1996 (first edition 1953)

Format: Hard cover

ISBN: 9780307302700

For ages: 2-5

Type: Picture Book

About: What do daddies do all day? Well, they go to work to earn their pay. And they do it in lots and lots of different ways. From building rockets to growing wheat, cutting hair and sailing the high seas, kids can learn about the many priceless roles dads undertake to keep our society running smoothy.

They even read books to kids at night - one of the most important roles of all.

Interested in searching for rare Golden Books? Try second hand bookstores, eBay or AbeBooks.

Review: My Dad Thinks He's Funny

It's often the simplest, most 'normal' snippets from life that are the funniest (sorry, but even toilet humour works on so many levels) and author/illustrator duo Germein and Jellett do everyday simplicity oh so well in My Dad Thinks He's Funny.

We all know and love the jokester dad who comes up with an endless parade of tiresome quips that form the basis of our childhood. Tiresome perhaps, but also typical, classic and remembered with such warmth.

Review: My Aussie Dad

Author Morrison is a girl after my own heart. I adore books featuring Australian characters - from Dorothy Wall and May Gibbs to Heath Mackenzie and Yvonne Morrison - it's a true delight to see authors share in our culture (and humour) with beautiful books dedicated to the Aussie way of life.
Following on from the fabulous and fun My Aussie Mum (illustrated beautifully by Nicola Bright), Morrison this time takes us on another journey into the Aussie backyard with My Aussie Dad, illustrated by the superlative Gus Gordon.

Father's Day Picture Book Special - Part 1

This little bear idolises his Dad. After all, this is a father who plays games, goes exploring, spins his little bear around and tells night-time stories.

The little one says, “My dad is the best daddy bear there could be” and no one could argue with that. Doesn’t every child think that about their dad?

This is a beautiful story, written in lovely rhyme and demonstrating the special things about dads.

The highlight of this book, though, is the illustration.

One glance at these pictures will have you feeling all comfy and warm, wanting to give the bears a big cuddle. They are so animated and full of character that you feel they may just jump off the page and run around your lounge room, dancing and spinning into life.

This is a lovely story for dads to share with their little ones and a reminder of why fathers are so special.

- review by Megan Blandford

Title: Me and My Dad
Author: Alison Ritchie
Illustrator: Alison Edgson
Publisher: Koala Books, $14.99 RRP
Publication Date: August 2007
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780864617835
For ages: 2+
Type: Picture Book

The illustrations in Daddy's Lullaby (by the artist who also designed the UK covers for the first Harry Potter books) are truly gorgeous and really give this sweet story an emotive and dreamlike quality

The story is told in the first person by a Dad who comes home late from work to a silently sleeping household... well, sort of silent. A little tiny someone is awake so Dad takes baby in his arms and wanders the house, peeking in on big brother and on Mum, and finally settling, after walking the halls, into a living room armchair, where baby and Dad finally succumb to slumber.

A beautiful bedtime story, what I love about this book is the love and tenderness of the father - his lullaby will have you in tears, and the ending will make you smile through the watery blur.

- review by Tania McCartney

Title: Daddy's Lullaby

Author: Tony Bradman

Illustrator: Jason Cockcroft

Publisher: Allen and Unwin, $14.95 RRP

Publication Date: August 2008

Format: Board book

ISBN: 9780747592327

For ages: 2 - 6

Type: Picture Book, Board book

This daddy does all sorts of things, from reading stories, eating pickles from the jar, cooking barbeques and doing the dishes. On each page, these story asks a question of the reader, such as, “Can your daddy do that?” or “What’s your favourite game?” – a terrific way for children to feel involved in the story.

The illustrations are fun, bright and humorous and readers will love seeing all the things this funny dad gets up to.

- review by Megan Blandford

Title: My Daddy and Me
Author: Rachel Flynn
Illustrator: Craig Smith
Publisher: Puffin, $12.95 RRP
Publication Date: October 1998
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780140565119
For ages: 2+
Type: Picture Book

This is one of my absolute favourite picture books of all time, and my kids agree. I still burst out laughing each time I look at this kooky, adorable lion dad - running from bees (the face? priceless), scratching himself, climbing trees and... wait until you see him playing hide and seek. There's no way you could stop yourself from laughing out loud.

Dad and his too-cute lion cub son are peas in a pod. Narrated by the little lion, we learn there's many parallels between dad and son - some desirable, some not so desirable - and how all little lion's friends want to be just like his dad when they grow up.

Warm, heart felt and utterly hilarious - if you don't already own it, run to the book store. NOW!

- review by Tania McCartney

Title: Just Like My Dad
Author/Illustrator: David Melling
Publisher: Hachette Children, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: July 2007
Format: Soft cover
ISBN: 9780340944035
For ages: 2 - 6
Type: Picture Book

This little girl is looking for her dad. She can see all sorts of other dads – those who are leaping, sleeping, mowing, rowing, splashing, crashing and more.

But where on earth can her dad be?

After searching all over, she finally spots him. And you’ll never guess where this adventurous dad is!

A rhyming story with a fun, lively pace, I Spy Dad is a book about all the different types of dads in the world. But not just any dad will do, it must be a special dad, the one just for you.

- this review by Megan Blandford 

Title: I Spy Dad
Author: Janeen Brian
Illustrator: Chantal Stewart
Publisher: New Frontier, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781921042171
For ages: 2 - 4
Type: Picture Book

I kind of stared in curiosity at this book when it arrived at my house. A book about a giant daddy in miniature? Why? It kind of didn't seem right. The I read the book, and it doesn't matter how small this book is, the story and the pictures will warm any and every heart.

Of course, when we are little, even the Monopoly board seems three miles wide - and Dads are like mountains in the sky - with their boulder-like shoulders (from which one can sit aloft, with head inside the clouds) and hands the size of dinner plates.

My Daddy is a Giant perfectly depicts this size phenomenon for little ones, with a giant of a daddy kicking footballs to the moon, sneezing like a hurricane and causing earthquakes when he runs. Imaginative and utterly gorgeous, the book has an undercurrent of sentiment that will delight adults and fascinate children.

Godon's stunning illustrations complete a perfect little pocket book that would make an ideal addition to Dad's breakfast tea tray.

- this review by Tania McCartney

Title: My Daddy is a Giant
Author: Carl Norac
Illustrator: Ingrid Godon
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $9.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 July 2008
Format: Hard cover, mini edition
ISBN: 9780230018167
For ages:
2 - 5 
Type: Picture book

Friday, 27 August 2010

Fantastic Adventure Fiction

I'm so thrilled to be guest posting at the brilliant Fantastic Fiction For Kids, hosted by Zoe Toft on her website, Playing By The Book.

Fantastic Fiction For Kids is a series of posts about picture books, each one involving a theme. I've chosen... ADVENTURE!

You can read about my favourite adventure books here!


Mirror Book Signing and Art Exhibition

You think you're passionate about children's books? Our KBR contributor Susan Whelan will give you a run for your money! Here Susan shares a glorious literary experience...

It was a treat for my birthday – a trip to Sydney for the day with my family to attend the book signing for Jeannie Baker’s latest book Mirror at the Museum of Sydney.

In addition to the opportunity to meet Jeannie, which was enticement enough, the artworks used for the illustrations for Mirror were on display and the book signing was accompanied by Moroccan musicians, Moroccan tea and Turkish delight.

I saw Mirror for he first time at the exhibition and I was fascinated, as I always am, with the incredible detail in Jeannie’s illustrations. Being able to view the 3D collages gave me a new appreciation for just how clever and beautiful and precise the work in these incredible artworks is.

One of the things that struck me most about the crowd that had gathered for the Moroccan tea and exhibition was the diversity in ages. There were children such as my own there with parents through to a group of three older women visiting the museum together. Singles, couples, families, old and young, the artworks obviously struck a chord across a range of demographic groups and experiences.

With the visual attraction of the artworks, hypnotic beat of the Moroccan music, warm tang of the green tea with mint and the sticky sweetness of the Turkish delight, the Mirror exhibition room was a feast for the senses. Occasionally someone would start dancing or clapping to the music and there was a wonderful festive atmosphere in the room.

Meeting Jeannie was delightful and she was incredibly friendly. The museum giftshop had copies of most of Jeannie’s books available, many in both hard and soft cover as well as larger formats suitable for classroom or library reading sessions with groups of children.

The Mirror exhibition will be at the Museum of Sydney until 10th October 2010. It will then move on to several other locations around the country over the next two years. Details of locations and dates can be found at Jeannie Baker’s website.

For those who can get to the exhibition at the Museum of Sydney, you might be particularly interested in visiting on the final date of the display, Sunday 10th October 2010, when Jeannie will be giving a talk about the development and inspiration for Mirror.

Don't miss KBR's review of Mirror.

Review: My Sister Olive

Title: My Sister Olive

Author: Paula Russell

Illustrator: Gaye Chapman

Publisher: Little Hare, $24.95 RRP

Publication Date: September 2010

Format: Hard cover

ISBN: 9781921272882

For ages: 3+

Type: Picture book

About: Big sisters are wonderful. But sometimes it’s difficult to live up to their standards.

The little girl in this story has a big sister, Olive. Olive is not just good at everything, she is the best in the world at things like skipping rope, tying her shoelaces, doing cartwheels and all the other things little girls love to do.

The younger sister isn’t jealous. She looks up to her sister. She wants to be just like her.

Eventually, her big sister Olive helps her realise that she is perfect the way she is – and there is something that she is the best in the world at doing.

Written in beautifully repetitive language (“my Olive is the best in the world at…”), this is a tale of finding your own identity from beneath the shadow of talented siblings.

Illustrated in pretty, feminine colours, with pinks, purples and flowers all over the pages, it is a story especially designed for sisters (no brothers allowed!).

This is a story that all little sisters will love.

This book is available online

Thursday, 26 August 2010

My Book Week Experience

Welcome to my Book Week journey in the ACT! Relatively new to the Book Week scene (2008 was my first year in Beijing and 2009 my first year in Australia), it was so much fun to be welcomed into local schools to read my books and talk about writing and publishing. I hope you enjoy this insider's view!

Book Week 2010 - a typical visiting author day

7am Wake. Loo. Prep breakfast. Check over bag for 187th time. Laptop? Check. USB stick with powerpoint presentation? Check. Actually, better check pres is on stick AGAIN. Fire up laptop, insert USB, triple check powerpoint pres is on USB. Check. Close down laptop. Copies of my books? Check. Book signing pen (hey, I always live in hope)? Check. Street directory? Vital. Did I put USB stick back in bag? Yes. Head screwed on? Sort of.

7.15am Dress. Run around madly because I forgot to pack my own lunch AND my kids' lunch. Call to husband to make sandwiches. Take deep breaths to counterbalance sheer excitement and nervousness. No matter how many school visits you do, there's still butterflies in tummy.

7.34am Change. Redo hair. Wonder if heels are too high to be standing on all day, change to flats. Figure I'll be doing some sitting as must read books. Change back to heels.

7.39am Scoff down breakfast. Run to computer and check emails, send a few, check post for Kids Book Review is scheduled.

7.55 See kids off for school bus. Pack car with bags, books, props, laptop bag, food, water. Be tempted to check USB stick again. Resist. Open street directory. Lay schedule with schools and contact details on top of street directory. Start engine... Go!

3.47pm Take a pause. Sit in car for a few minutes with head reeling. Eat something. Drink something (only water!!!). Smile and laugh to myself and reminisce. Remember the faces of the kids, the lightbulb moments, the laughter, the questions...

"...where do you get your ideas from?"

"...my mum is an author, too."

"...how long did it take you to write this book?"

"...I've been to Hong Kong. And the south of France. And Africa." (lucky you!)

"...how much money do you make?" (my reponse? "Enough for an occasional jam sandwich.")

"...who is the boss? you or the illustrator?"

"...how many books have you sold?"

"...what's your favourite book you've written?"

"...what other authors do you like?"

"...how do you come up with the ending?"

"...my cat coughed up a furball, and then he ate it."

"...is it hard to write a book?"

"...do you like writing books?"

And my personal favourite...

"...do you get writer's block or mental breakdowns?"

My answer? Yes.

Follow up question...

"...how do you deal with them?" All this adorable kid needed was a pipe, a pair of argyle socks and some slippers!

4.12pm Sigh gratefully at how much I love speaking to kids and how utterly clever and gorgeous they are. Grab books and water bottle and head in to St Monica's PS for the Children's Seminar. Meet some absolutely gorgeous, talented, warm and funny (funny ha ha) authors who share my passion for children's literature and write some of our country's finest books and published works. Natter endlessly.

Bernadette Kelly and I signing certificates for the kids

Bernadette and I having a laugh. It wasn't the only one.

Bernadette, Me, Tracey Hawkins, Christina Booth, Pauline Deeves

4.40pm Spread out around the library to our 'stations' where we meet with rounds of kids every 15 minutes, chatting about our work and about writing and reading. The children range in age from around 8 through to mid-teen. Be fascinated and enthralled by the talent and passion of these children. Sign some autographs (yes, you read it right!). Too cute.

The kids get ready to rumble! (with authors and illustrators)

6.30pm Head to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner where other CBCA members join us for lots of laughter and lively literary discussion. We are also joined by Stephanie Owen Reeder whose book Lost! A True Tale from the Bush was shortlisted for the Eve Pownall Award and nominted an Honour Book in the Junior Judges Project.

Illustrator Christina Booth was also shortlisted for the Book of the Year Awards this year with her beautiful book Kip, which became an Honour Book.

Back L to R: Christine Aldred, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Christina Booth, Ingrid Jonach, Bernadette Kelly
Front L to R: Tania McCartney, Pauline Deeves, Tracey Hawkins, Krista Bell

9.15pmish What a glorious Book Week experience. We wrapped up dinner and I drove Krista back to Kingston (after getting partially lost, needing instruction from a non-Canberran! thank goodness I had Krista in the car with me!) before heading home for a hot shower and a solid night's sleep, dreaming all the while of smiles, great conversation, fabulous fun and... books.

The perfect day.