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

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Review: The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher

England, 1828. Thomas Timewell is sixteen and digging up his grandfather’s body (as you do) when he meets a resurrectionist by the name of Plenitude.

Thomas’ life takes a turn as he tries to turn his back on this new career and way of life, but fails when Plenitude keeps appearing and calling on his services. He is now involved in a shady underground world and being followed by strange characters as he becomes a body-snatcher for the sake of science – all whilst trying to maintain his gentlemanly reputation.

Review: Room on the Broom

During the witching hour in my house, this book is a favourite in our noisy household, from toddler to seven-year-old alike. This book is magical journey with a delightful witch who loses lots of her accessories as she flies. With the help of various animals who help her retrieve them, she generously offers some room to every animal she encounters on her journey. Until of course, the broom snaps in two, unable to bear the weight of all its passengers. Following an encounter with a dastardly red dragon, the witch faces dreadful danger and needs her friends to help. But will they step up?

Review: Monster

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.

Review: Meg and Mog

When Meg the witch and her cat, Mog, head to a Halloween party with the other witches, things take an unexpected turn.

We are taken through each step as Meg wakes at midnight, serves breakfast and gets ready for the spell party, meets up with her friends and casts a spell that changes the lot of them.

Meg and Mog is a highly successful series that has stood the test of time. Having been on shelve since the early 1970s, it has proven to be a timeless classic that children still love.

Review: Z

I LOVE it when you discover a new author that just has the innate sense of a storyteller and combines that with an interesting idea.

Z is a fantastic, can’t put down, great read. It is set in the future but this is subtly alluded to throughout the book, so you gradually piece together that although the people are human, we are on planet earth in an ordinary city, changes have happened that have effected society, landscape and how people occupy this space and it is not the world as we understand it.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Review: The Witches

No Halloween book line-up could be complete without the master of strange, Roald Dahl. He may be overtly known for his nonsense stories, but Dahl was also a writer of eerie renown and The Witches is one of his best.

The thing about Roald Dahl is that he not only writes amazing stories, he writes well. I think it's easy to forget how fluidly he writes because we all get caught up in the bizarre and hyper-creative stories that squidged from his pen.

Review: Scarygirl

This large format graphic novel picture book by the talented Nathan Jurevicius is a true riot of visual splendour. Virtually wordless, the incredibly beautiful, almost fluorescent paintings are a sight to behold.

The edgy, emotive and lusciously-coloured illustrations lend a haunting element to this story of a little, scarred ‘girl’ who lives alone in a dark forest. One cold dark night, a large octopus-like creature discovers the girl and – it’s love at first sight.

Review: Halloween in Christmas Hills

This is a multi-layered book. Multi-layered with goodness. Or not-so-goodness (as in spooksdom).

Set in the Christmas Hills, in Ash Crescent, we meet the Johnson family – Mr and Mrs J and their five kids, including Miles Cameron Johnson, who is kid no. 5.

The Johnson family love celebrations – from Australia Day through to Christmas, they love dressing up and celebrating the traditions of the season, and everyone in Ash Crescent thinks the family are lots of fun – except Mr Jack who lives in no. 6.

Review: Mommy

Maurice Sendak and pop-ups. What more could you possibly need? Honestly?

Not much. This book has proved to be one of our family’s favourite books – for both kids and adults – and what better time to showcase it than right on All Hallow’s Eve?

In Mommy, a little boy searches the pages of a spookified castle looking for his mummy – er… mommy – but everywhere he looks, there is nothing but ghoulish surprise after surprise.

Review: Gross Me Out

With hilarious and very gross front cover cartoons and the subtitle 50 nasty projects to disgust your friends and repulse your family, this totally gross book from Lark Books is the perfect collection of the sickest, most vomit-coated projects and science experiments for your beastly child.

Frankly, this book couldn’t be a more perfect book for imps during Halloween.

Spooky Book Reviews for Halloween

Mortals beware! A spooky event is nigh... the time when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest... All Hallow's Eve is upon us... it's...


Mwah ha ha haaaaaa! And in celebration of this freakiest time on the Georgian calendar, we invite you to sit back and take fright in this haunting collection of books that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck and maybe even make your eyeballs boil.

Tread carefully... you wouldn't want to wake the dead.

Disclaimer: all following reviews posted on the topic of Halloween are rated PG, however, no responsibility for kids being turned into mice is taken by the good people at Kids Book Review.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Review: The Best Nest

This is another beautiful book from the National Library of Australia.

Basically, the NLA has taken an archived book from 1945 by C.E. Stamp and added illustrations from their national collection to produce a wonderful exploration of Australian birds.

Review: The Big Elephant in the Room

"Can we talk about the big elephant in the room?"

This one little question makes the donkey nervous. Clearly he has a guilty conscience, and begins asking if the "big problem" in question is because he ate all the ice-cream? Maybe it's about the video game he hadn't yet returned or the backhanded compliment he gave his friend or made fun of him?

Well? Which is it?

Event: Stew a Cockatoo Afternoon Tea

Calling all junior chefs!
Here is your chance to meet award-winning author/illustrator Leigh Hobbs!
Come along to an afternoon tea to celebrate the launch of Ruthie May and Leigh Hobbs’ new cookbook for kids - Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook.
We are also searching for Beecroft's inaugural Junior Chef. All are invited to collect entry forms at the shop which outline our new competition. Kids need to invent and cook an original Aussie recipe, write out the recipe and complete the entry form by Saturday 13th November. Two $50 Book Vouchers to be won!
 Where? The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft, Sydney
When? 16 November 2010
What time? 4.30 - 5.30pm
Cost? FREE!
RSVP here

Review: The Australia Book

Anyone who has read my reviews for a while now knows my deep love for three specific elements in a children’s picture book. Different. Vintage. Educational.

Of course you can stack on top of that: beautiful, moving, whimsical, among many other things, but for the purposes of this review, let’s stick to the top three – plus one other that’s personally dear to me – books on Australia.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Jackie French wins Young People's History Prize

Congratulations to Jackie French whose book The Night They Stormed the Eureka has won the Young People’s History Prize in the NSW Premier’s History Awards!

For more, head here.

Congrats, Jackie, from Kids Book Review!

Review: The Little Red Fish

Author Taeeun Yoo created The Little Red Fish during her master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The book is a dreamlike journey a little boy – JeJe – makes with his goldfish.

When JeJe joins his grandfather, who is a librarian at an old library in the middle of the forest, he takes his little red fish with him. Setting the bowl on the floor, JeJe explores the massive array of books before falling asleep on the floor.

Review: Willbee the Bumblebee

This is a cute little rhyming story about a little bumblebee, Willbee, whose jersey/jumper unravels on a rose thorn. It leaves him stranded and naked in the garden.

It’s the end of the day and the cold is setting in and just what is a naked little bee to do? Thank heavens for others in our lives that help us out of embarrassing situations and Willbee the Bumblebee manages to teach this lesson of gratitude to the young in a lovely light-hearted way.

Blog Tour - Angela Sunde

Kids Book Review warmly welcomes new author Angela Sunde on her spectacular blog tour for the launch of her new book Pond Magic! We hope you enjoy this very interesting post on writing to the Aussie Chomps format. Get your pencils ready, everyone!

The Aussie Chomp Format

I never set out to write an Aussie Chomp. The focus for me was the story itself. I find it is the story which dictates the genre, not the other way around.

Pond Magic started off as a tale about a girl called Lily Padd, whose problem (besides her name) was her inability to stop burping and her fear of turning into a frog.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Review: Worlds Next Door

Magic, sci-fi, fantasy – these books have undergone a resurgence since Harry Potter burst forth from Privett Drive – and a clutch of clever authors are producing some very exciting, highly imaginative tales that transport children to other worlds at the flick of a page.

Because there is just so much out there, it’s really lovely to come across a book that gives us tempting little slices of cleverness in the realm of magical writing... Worlds Next Door gives voice to magical writers both known and relatively unknown - but all with imaginations so rife, it's like someone in the heavens coloured them in with a mystical crayon.

Want to chat with the Wimpy Kid?


Hey, Wimpy Kid aficionados! Want the chance to chat with Jeff Kinney live by Skype?

All you have to do is register with Super Clubs Plus and you could be chatting with the Wimpy Kid creator himself this Friday!

The chat will take place at 10am ESDST, so you'll have to con mum and dad to take the day off school... (but don't say we told you to do it...).

Review: Old MacDonald Had Some Land

WOW! What a great adaptation of a classic.

Watch for the parade of native Australian animals that inhabit this Old MacDonald’s land but to add to the well-known sing along quality of the rhyme are clues to hidden delights - for added to this traditional story is a lift-the-flap adventure with a clue to the animals’ identity on the flap as well as in the rhyme.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Review: Diary of a First-time Mum

No matter how long you’ve thought about having a baby, how many books you’ve read, and despite nine months of knowing that there is an imminent arrival, nothing – I repeat, nothing – can prepare you for becoming a mother.

This is exactly what Nicole Hall discovered after the birth of her first son. Like all new mothers, she battled with the emotions, the weight of responsibility and the constant challenges of having a baby. She was overwhelmed by the depth of the love she felt, the amazingly happy times and the pure joy of being a mother.

There is one thing that makes this book worth a read: it’s the same as any new mother feels.

Review: Gallop! and Kick!

Each page of this book features an animal – a horse, cat, turtle, amongst others - that move as you turn the page. The animation in the book uses Scanimation technology invented by the author, Rufus Butler Seder. The images are black and white and literally move.

The fascinating pictures are surrounded by eye-catchingingly colourful words, using some great rhymes and alliteration to draw in young readers and parents alike. It is mesmerising... at least for the first 100 times you read it!

Review: Charlie and Lola Books

Any Charlie and Lola fans out there? I’m a real fan – and have been for a long time. In fact, Lauren Child is one of my top three authors I wish I could have been (but I really am truly also very happy to be me).

Anyhoo – if you love pink milk and imaginary friends, you’ll love this line-up of the some of my favouritist Charlie and Lola releases from this and last year.

My Best, Best Friend

I must admit, I love it when little Lola is faced with challenging situations. Not because I want her to suffer, but because I love how she deals with them – or rather, how big brother Charlie helps her deal with things.

When Lola’s best friendship with Lotta is skewed by the arrival of a – gasp – third person, Lola is crushed. So Charlie helps Lola find a way to show Lotta who her true best friend really is. Not through exclusion or manipulation, but rather through Being Oneself.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Review: Junior Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife

My first thought when I saw this book was, If only encyclopedias had been this beautiful when I was a child!

Luckily for this next generation, though, reference books are no longer the dull things they used to be. Now, they're bright and colourful and packed with well-presented and interesting information. Especially when they come from the capable hands of the team at Steve Parish Publishing.

This Junior Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife covers everything that even the most curious child wants to know about animals, birds and fish in our great land.

Review: Twinkle

I’m extremely fond of this book, and with its author/ illustrator for that matter. I found Nick Bland’s previous work, The Wrong Book, quite charming and colourful. Twinkle, though, has managed to nestle its way into my heart.
You feel like you’re about to embark on a magical, mysterious story by simply looking at the front cover, and indeed you do. It has also been thoughtfully constructed and presented. The combined story, illustrations and layout encourage the reader to explore, predict and use their imagination.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Author/Illustrator Interview - Grahame Baker-Smith

Kids Book Review is all verklempt at featuring awesome talent Grahame Baker-Smith in this sensational interview. This incredibly talented illustrator recently released a beautiful book – Farther – which we reviewed right here on KBR, and he’s also just the loveliest man ever. Enjoy!

What’s your story? I was born in a small village in England near the town of Bicester surrounded by fields and farms. I remember being outside most of the time, playing in the woods and by the stream a half-mile away from our house.

Review: Pond Magic

For a first Chomp, Angela Sunde has written a mesmerising tale in Pond Magic. Beautifully-written, cleverly detailed and reminiscent of fairytales, I immensely enjoyed her first book - a tale for the Aussie Chomps series.

When Lily Padd finds herself burping and turning green, she could never imagine the fate she has in store... even her toes have become webbed and the kids at school have started calling her 'Pond Slime'.

Review: You

This lovely picture book filled with Stephen Michael King’s gorgeous watercolour and ink illustrations celebrates the richness of life, especially the special people that make life so colourful, musical and exciting.

This very simple story features two friends, a sweet rabbit-like character and a little bird. They think about the things that make their world colourful, musical and exciting, but they always return to the thought that the most special part of their world is each other.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Review: The Heart and the Bottle

Every once in a while there comes a talent who can do no wrong. Since his first book was published in 2004, Belfast author/ illustrator Jeffers has consistently created classic, utterly beautiful books honed purely from an endless soapstone of creative talent.

From the daffodil yellow cover to the endpapers scattered with 1940s fathers interacting warmly with their daughters, The Heart and the Bottle is a feat in modern picture book making. The colour, the achingly subtle sentiment, the imaginative splendour that tumbles from its pages… so glorious.

Review: Cracking the Footy Codes

"Australians are obsessed with sport... and it is the four major football codes that have us most obsessed."

So writes journalist Squires in this guide to learning all about football in Australia. Covering AFL, soccer, rugby league and rugby union, this is the only book you'll need to know it all - and impress everyone around you with this newfound knowledge.

Review: Mr Elephanter

I have a new favourite book! How could one little book have just everything I love all rolled into one papery package?

First of all, it's hard cover with dust jacket. Love. It's pastel-whimsy-illustration-perfect. Love love. It's adorable storyline is retro-charming and so beyond cute, there exists no word to describe it. Love love love. (I love being rendered speechless.)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Review: Piano Piano

Oh how I love different! Oh how I love retro! Oh how I love clever! And how I love Davide Cali – my new favourite author. Wilkins Farago publish many of this talented author’s books here in Australia, and it’s clear to see why.

You see... the author is psychic.

It’s seems Mr Cali has infiltrated my house via mental telethapy, because Piano Piano is really about my daughter. The one who begged until she was purple until we invested in a piano – and the same one WE begged until WE were purple to complete her daily practise.

Author and Illustrator Interview: Lisa Hollier and Tracey Roper

Author Lisa Hollier (left) and Illustrator Tracey Roper (right)

This author/illustrator team has one thing many others don't: a close family bond. These two sisters worked together to create the picture book, Hullabazoo! - their first book, and one that you have to see to believe (read our review of it here). Author Lisa Hollier and Tracey Roper talk to Kids Book Review about how they came to create this amazing piece of work.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story?
Lisa: My sisters and I grew up moving from one remote, small Queensland town to another, but eventually, we settled near Brisbane and I headed off to University to study Architecture. After four long years of study, with my degree in my hot little hand, I went out and found work as an architectural draftsman. Another two years later, I was married, and it seemed to me that my life was firmly set on the course that I had planned for it, until...my son Lochlan was born.

Tracey: When I was younger, I didn’t consider pursuing a career in art or illustration. I loved musical theatre and always planned to follow a career on the stage. But as it turned out, I didn’t enjoy the spotlight as much as I thought I would and so eventually I settled into an office job in Brisbane. After five years of office work, I knew it just wasn’t for me, so once again I started looking for a change. It was at this time, that my sister Lisa and I started to map out some plans for an entirely new career.

Review: Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper

Charlie Minelli is a kid with a taste for chilli. She knows her plants so well, she's convinced her beautiful habanero plant could win the Flaming Hot Chilli Competition.

But the competition is tough, and bully Ben Sticker's dad wins every year... can Charlie give Mr Sticker a run for his money?

Launch of Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper

Black Cat Books & Cafe invites you to celebrate the launch of Sheryl Gwyther’s latest book Charlie and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper!

Friday 22 October 2010

6pm for 6.30pm start

Black Cat Books & Cafe
179 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington, Brisbane

Come along be HOT like a Habanero - wear some chilli colours!

Guest speaker: Michael Gerard Bauer, author and friend.

RSVP by Wednesday 20 October to
3367 8777 or info@blackcatbooks.com.au

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Author Interview - S.Smith

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome S.Smith -  the creator, author and illustrator of adorable series Hey Silly Cat!  

When I began my first children's picture book, I wanted to offer kids and adults something which both could enjoy, together, without all the mess of a message or moral. 

Simply a funny story. 

Or perhaps not even a story; maybe just a funny character with whom they could interact, and through which they could interact with each other.

Thus did I imagine Hey Silly Cat! a series of books for kids and their adults in which a naughty cat - and what is a cat but naughty? - rhymes about all manner of mischievous things he wishes to do to some unfortunate animal. (In his first book, for example, the cat wants to tease a dog.)

Event: Children's Week at the State Library of Victoria

In celebration of the Children's Week the State Library of Victoria will be hosting two special story-time sessions incorporating the week’s theme, ‘A Caring World Shares’.

The events for children aged three to seven will include games, quizzes and giveaways, including a free book from award-winning author Jeannette Rowe’s SmartyCat series for every child who attends.

The special storytime sessions will be held on Tuesday 26 October between 11:00 – 11:45am and 2:00 – 2:45pm at Expermedia, State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Review: Princess and Her Panther

From the author of Nim's Island comes this picture book about bravery, imagination and togetherness.

Set in a suburban backyard, a very brave princess takes her caravan of camels through the desert (the sandpit) in search of the perfect resting place for her exotic tent.

Review: The Team series

This series of junior fiction for football addicts is written by ex-footballer Bedford – a Brit who played for Appleton FC and Sankey Ranges. A qualified scientist, the author began writing novels and picture books which he now does full time – to much success.

His Team series follows the sporting travails of super-striker Harvey and his soccer-loving friends, plus a rather cool, rather smart robot with a propensity to explode.

Plenty of soccer action and all the cool moves will keep football-addicts totally engaged, as will the simple but well-written plots and kid-friendly, warm use of language.

Event: One Funky Monkey Reading

Stacey McCleary, author of gorgeous counting picture book One Funky Monkey will be at Enchanted By Books in Williamstown, treating kids with a book reading!

Children can also enjoy a free craft activity and there's a prize for the best "funky monkey dancer".

Don't miss the monkey shenanigans and the chance to meet Stacey.


Saturday 30 October 2010

Enchanted By Books
177 Ferguson St, Williamstown, Melbourne

Bookings essential - call 03 9397 1154 or email events@enchantedbybooks.com.au

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Review: Chill

Gee Little Hare are producing some gorgeous picture books. Another triumph on their literary list, Chill is a sweet, hopelessly charming story that will hook little ones in faster than a dotty-coated ice cream cone.

Written and illustrated by Thompson, this is a story about a best friend duo – Dolly the Pig and Jack the Rabbit – and how wonderfully fun friendship can be. Until… a minor misunderstanding frays the edges of fun.

Guest Post - Susan Hall, National Library of Australia

Hi – my name is Susan Hall and I manage and commission all the children’s books that are published by the National Library of Australia. What? I hear you say – I thought the Library collected books, not published them!

In fact, the Library collects lots of things...
Here you can find Billy Hughes’ false teeth; James Cook’s original journal written aboard the ship Endeavour on its voyage to Australia; 918 flower paintings by the amazing Ellis Rowan who travelled remote outback country alone in her long skirt and gloves at a time when women could not even vote; one of Mawson’s socks; paintings of Sydney birds and plants by an artist on the First Fleet in the 1780s; an oil-stained suitcase used by Charles Kingsford Smith to transfer oil from one failing engine to another mid-air…