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

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Review: A Waltz for Matilda

Australia, 1894.

A time of drought, of establishing life in this new country, a time of great change.

Not yet one nation, Australia was merely a number of states sitting side by side. It was a land where anything went; men could be forced to work long hours for the bare minimum, children could be taken from school and forced to work, and racism did not exist - people being treated not just differently, but inhumanely, was simply a fact of life.

Moving into the twentieth century was an intriguing time for Australia - a world so different from the one we now live in, and one that Jackie French immerses us in completely.

Review: 101 Things to do on the Holidays

The holidays are coming, and the cries of ‘I’m boooooored’ might be more than you can handle for those long weeks. And once that call starts, it’s hard to get rid of.

Enter Anna O’Donnell and Tessa Wilson who, at the ages of twelve and thirteen respectively, have written a book to help kids combat holiday boredom. And it’s brilliant.

Announcing the Shortlist for KBR's Favourite Books of 2010!

We are delighted to announce the inaugural...

KBR Favourite Books 2010!

We love children’s books so much that we go all weak at the knees when we read a great one. And we want to share the books that made us especially wobbly during 2010.

What are the criteria for selecting our Favourites?

1. The books must have been reviewed by us in 2010.

2. They must have been released during 2010, and authors and illustrators should have been published in 2010.

3. The books must catch our attention amongst the hundreds we read during the year; by being unique, insightful or just plain fun.

4. The books, authors and illustrators we choose are people whose talent we really admire, and whose work we want to look out for in the future.

So, without further ado, we give you shortlists in several categories for the KBR Favourite Books for 2010

Monday, 29 November 2010

Review: I Don't Believe in Dragons

Along with singing with the voice of Ella Fitzgerald, my great life dream is to illustrate like Anna Walker. There is something so delicately beautiful and childlike in her work that just transcends the viewer to another world.

I can't get enough of Anna's work, and in I Don't Believe in Dragons, I have been very sated, thankyouverymuch.

Blog Tour - My Little Bookcase

KBR is delighted to welcome friend and all round clever gal Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase - who is launching a fabulous, new-look site dedicated to all things kid lit. Enjoy this wonderful guest piece on Film Adaptations of Books.

‘Hurry Sickness’. Have you heard of it? Sufferers of Hurry Sickness regularly feel rushed as they work frantically to fill their day with tasks and activities. They are always searching for a way to complete tasks more quickly and regularly get frustrated with any type of delay.
Although it has probably always existed, Hurry Sickness has become a common ailment of the twenty-first century.

Children and teenagers are not immune to the sickness either. They have been born into a world where there is almost always a piece of technology or an electronic gadget to help themachieve tasks more quickly. Instant access to information, services and products has never been easier, and there’s a worry among teachers and parents that reading books is an endangered activity for children, as they perceive it to be a laborious and lengthy process. Filmson the other hand are appealing to children because they receive the instant gratification to which they have become accustomed.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Review: Who Do You Think You Are?

I love a bit of genealogy, and am keen to pass this love on to my kids, so I was delighted by this gorgeous book, inspired by the hit BBC TV series.

Kids have an inherent need to find out who they are - and what better way than delving back into the past. Designed for young children, yet incredibly comprehensive, this amazing book will draw kids in faster than a new Nintendo chip.

First Books and Early Language Development

KBR contributor Jo Burnell treats us to this amazing post on the correlation between early language development and choosing first books for your child. Jo is an experienced paediatric speech pathologist with a passion for books.

‘What’s the point of all this alliteration business, anyway, and why do we bother to make things rhyme?’

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Review: The Rain Train

This rainy night lullaby calls through drizzle-ridden pages, inviting us pyjamas and all, to board the Rain Train.

Elena Roo’s words match Brian Lovelock’s illustrations to perfection. Tissshhhhh. The Rain Train slides into the station.

This will be a rainy day favourite for years to come.

Riley and the Curious Koala Reading at Paperchain

Bring the kids along to this fabulous book reading at Paperchain bookstore in Manuka, Canberra! At 11am this Sunday 28 November - this is a fun morning out with the kids. There will be koala masks, goodie bags, a book giveaway and book signing! Hope to see you there!

Review: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot

Violet Mackerel is a special kind of girl, that one in a million who can capture your imagination and make every little girl want to be like her.

Violet has a theory. Her theory is that whenever you spot something small and special on the ground, you must try to remember what you were thinking about at the very moment you saw it. That is because whatever you were thinking at that moment is a very important and brilliant idea.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Review: Room for Children

You don’t need to be a design lover to crave a beautiful space for your children for sleep and play, and this stunning new book by Susanna Salk certainly provides the inspiration to create something whimsical, functional and memorable.

Review: Steve Parish Pop-up Books

All the animals are working together to prepare for the barbecue - the Tassie Devils, parrots, dingoes, hopping mice and, of course the kangaroo. Where else would you find such a lively bunch of critters working together? Such is the unique appeal of a Steve Parish Publishing children's book.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Review: Incy Wincy Spider

A timeless nursery rhyme is brought to life as the opening poem for this gorgeous new book by NLA publisher Susan Hall. Featuring a photo of a rusting tap against corrugated iron, a native Australian spider climbs the water spout via a sliding tab… an image taken from the enormous collection of Library images.

Review: Something Beginning with Blue

It’s just so wonderful to stretch the brains of our little ones by offering them text that confuddles the norm and leads them to think outside the box.

In Something Beginning with Blue, this clever author duo write in colour. What begins with blue? No, it isn’t the sky, nor the deep blue sea… it’s a blue whale, 555 times bigger than me!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Help the NSW School Magazine

Sheryl Gwyther, children’s author, writes:

The School Magazine, at 95, is the world's oldest literary magazine for children and is published by a small, dedicated and skilled staff who are part of the NSW Department of Education and Training.

There are four separate titles for a total of 160,000 readers across Australia each month, for 10 issues a year. Children, teachers, librarians, parents, authors/illustrators enjoy the range of stories, poems, plays, articles, comic series and activities in the 36 full-colour pages of each of the 40 magazines each year. Subscriptions are as strong for 2011 as ever.

The School Magazine now faces the threat of cutbacks.

Review: Precious Little

It would be easy to allow the visuals of this book to take centre stage – they are truly stunning – a carnival of colour, a splash of riotous circus-like detail, beautifully rendered and visually-overwhelming – a Willy Wonka of candy-striped beauty.

But the story is equally charming.

Review: The Monster Maintenance Manual

Who knew a writer of all things scientific could be funny? Award-winning author Peter Macinnis bares his olecranon (that’s funny bone to you) in this fabulous book – a must-have manual for all things monsterly.

We all know the fastest way to dissolve our fears is to face them, and in The Monster Maintenance Manual, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way to helping kids get control of the monster trembles.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Hullabazoo: The Making of a Picture Book

Ever wondered how two people work together to create a gorgeous picture book? Well, everyone undertakes this process differently of course, but the approach of author Lisa Hollier and illustrator Tracey Roper sounds like lots of fun!

Watch this short video for a glimpse into the creation of a beautiful new picture book, Hullabazoo:

(Having trouble viewing the video? Here's the YouTube link.)

Review: How to Catch a Star

I recently read this story to my two-year-old daughter for the first time. It won't be the last.

This is the tale of a little boy who watches the stars and dreams of catching one. He can just see himself walking side by side with a star, playing games and being friends. All he has to do is catch one.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Review: Ned Kelly and the Green Sash

It’s dangerously easy to turn outlaws and murderers into heroes… pirates are a case in point, and Ned Kelly has oft skirted the boundaries of unstated heroism.

In Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, author Greenwood writes in the first person, from Kelly’s own mouth, in a book that doesn’t romanticize nor laud Australia’s most famous criminal, but rather presents a point of view on Kelly’s life that… well… makes the reader think.

Guest Post: Writing Historical Fiction

Ann Chandler, author of the newly released young adult novel Kootenay Silver, joins us today (all the way from beautiful Canada!) to talk about writing Historical Fiction.

History is fascinating! There’s nothing more exciting than opening a diary and turning each yellowed page of fountain pen script to peek inside the heart and head of someone who lived long before me. Or gazing at old faded photographs of people I never knew. What were they thinking? What news did they read in the daily paper? How did their houses look inside? What did they long for? Who did they love? The challenges were often greater, the work harder, the tragedies and losses more frequent, and yet somehow, I think, that made achievements more fulfilling, loving more intense, and victories more euphoric.

Great Activity Books for Kids

This bumper crop of activity books takes interactive books to a whole new level - and yes, we've published it just in time to gather decent stocking-stuffers. Information-packed, educational and of course – lots of fun – this variety would make Santa's stocking complete, and are perfect school holiday accompaniments. Any excuse to dive into a book - yes, even ones you can draw in.

Illustrator Denton is an experienced expert when it comes to silly and fun – his books have been making kids laugh for a long time, and now kids have the opportunity to interact with an Aussie mastermind of Fun in this Bumper Book of Silly Stuff to Do.

Yes, parents, I know you want it. Christmas hols are on the way and the bumper nature of this book will keep ‘em solidly occupied while simultaneously expanding the imaginative components of their brains we all desire to hone. What more could you want?

This is some imaginative, artistic book. Large format, in black and white, there are stacks of creative prompts and everything is beautifully done. A book about ‘drawing and creative ideas’, the only thing kids will need are ‘a brain, one or more eyes and hands, lots of drawing tools and an imagination’.

If you can drag your kids away from a computerized screen, you might be surprised to see just how imagination they have left.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Curious Koala Book Launch Party - a glimpse!

Here is a little taste of the amazing launch party we had at Dalton's bookstore here in Canberra today for Riley and the Curious Koala... I'm posting more comprehensive peeks on my blog, so check them out - we really had a blast!

Thanks so much to the multi-talented Jen Leheny of Red Instead for these fabulous images, and to all my fabulous sponsors for making this launch so very special.

And so here ends my book launch blog tour - tomorrow, Kids Book Review returns to 'normal'. I hope you had fun soaring around the blogosphere with Riley and see you next November with another Riley book!

Kids' Book Characters Rendered in Cake

Can you believe how amazing? Here are my Riley book characters rendered in cupcakes! by the incredible, and I mean incredible - Elizabeth Wright of pARTy cakes.

Liz created this incredible structure for my Riley and the Curious Koala book launch party in Canberra this morning. Check out the entire post on the Sydney-themed candy bar here... and more photos on the launch soon!

My Favourite Children's Books

As part of KBR Founder Tania McCartney's book launch blog tour, we share with you this post on favourite children's books. What are your favourite books? Leave a comment below!

Asking an author (or anyone, for that matter!) to name their favourite children’s books is not only thrilling, it’s somewhat disabling. How oh how to choose?

Having a severe kids-book addition is not something I regularly talk about in public – it’s kind of something I keep hidden behind closed doors, sitting snugly alongside a mountain of books we have to shove aside every time we open the front door.

Review: Riley and the Curious Koala

With the kind permission of Susan Stephenson from The Book Chook, we are proud to reprint this review of Riley and the Curious Koala!

Here's a new title from Australian author, Tania McCartney. It's the third in a series of children's picture books about Riley, and titled: Riley and the Curious Koala, A journey around Sydney. The first two were Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, and Riley and the Dancing Lion (my review).

In this latest adventure, we see Riley zooming around Sydney in his little red plane in search of a koala, a most curious creature indeed. Riley is accompanied by the characters we met in the earlier books, Panda, Dragon and Lion. I loved that McCartney has chosen my hometown as the setting for this book, and enjoyed recognizing Sydney scenes during Riley's quest.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Book Launch Blog Tour - Live Question Time with Tania!

WIN! A copy of this gorgeous new book.
Ends 30 November. Click here to enter!

In celebration of the release of Tania McCartney's new book Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney, Kids Book Review is hosting a live question-and-answer session with Tania!

Do you have a question about writing picture books? About self-publishing? Approaching publishers? Working with illustrators? About Riley and his friends? About whether nor not Riley actually finds the Koala in this book? because let me tell you - it doesn't look good for a while there...

Any questions at all?

Tania is here to answer ALL DAY LONG! Yes, you heard it right. She's sitting here staring at the computer screen, even as you read this, waiting for your question... do send her one now. She is waiting and drinking far too much coffee and nibbling on far too many iced vovos.

Just post a comment below and she will ping one back to you! Comments can be left any time, even after LIVE CHAT is over.

Come on - gather the kids and join in the fun! Just click on the comments link below.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ask Sheryl: How can I Encourage my 4-year-old With Writing?

Dear Sheryl,
My four-year-old daughter is already starting to form letters and develop an interest in writing. They do a few things to work on this at her preschool, but is there anything I can do to help encourage this at home? Anna

Thanks for your question, Anna.

If your daughter is starting to form letters (maybe in her own name?) and she is keen to do it, then it’s a great time to encourage her interest in words, letters and sounds.

Here are some suggestions you could try at home:

Review: H.O.U.S.E.

I have a new infatuation… it’s Gecko Press (New Zealand) and their incredible line-up of sensational, artsy, whimsical books, which they republish from talented authors and illustrators all over the world.

And nothing typifies the Gecko book style more than H.O.U.S.E.

Indigenous Literacy: You can help

Did you know? Four in five Indigenous children from remote communities are unable to read to the minimum standard.

The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) is working to close the gap and reverse this statistic.

During November and in the lead-up to Christmas, the ALNF annual Wall of Hands Indigenous Literacy Appeal is aiming to raise $150,000 to establish effective and practical literacy programs in the many remote Indigenous communities the ALNF is still to reach.

How can you help? 

Review: Star Jumps

The winner of the inaugural Prime Minister's Award for children's literature was recently announced... as this little treasure, Star Jumps.

Of course, we had to have a look at this book that was deemed so impressive that it beat several other fantastic books to the mark for this huge honour.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Review: Kahlil Gibran: An Illustrated Anthology

There is no human way that I can read through ‘On Children’ without having a meltdown. It’s impossible. I love this piece from Gibran's The Prophet so much, I know it by heart… and I can’t even repeat it in my own head without losing it - most embarrassingly.

I don’t think anyone born has more eloquently expressed the beauty and purpose of children, nor the role parents play in their lives. It’s unbelievably beautiful, and if you haven’t read through this small part of Gibran’s exquisite work, you really must do so immediately.

Review: Peeking Ducks

Having spent four years living in China and a week cruising the Li River, I was most keen to see Krista Bell’s Peeking Ducks. Having also a severe infatuation with a retro book by Marjorie Flack entitled The Story About Ping – I was even more keen to immerse myself in this quacky tale, hoping it would anywhere near enchant me as Ping did as a child.

And enchant it did.

I did expect Peeking Ducks to be beautiful. I did expect it to be adorable (it features ducks, after all) but what I didn’t expect was for it to be funny. I laughed out loud at the final page… and went back and read the whole thing again.

Review: Spoon

Look at that beautiful spoon on the cover! Don't you just love this little character already?

This is the story of Spoon, who lives with his family (the splade is seemingly the outsider in this mob), listens to stories (his favourite is the one about his great-grandmother who ran off with a dish) and is generally happy.

At least, he was happy.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Review: Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley

Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are the best of friends, but couldn’t be more different if they tried. While Pearl Barley is loud and boisterous and talkative, Charlie Parsley is quiet and shy and likes to sit and ponder. While Pearl likes to take risks and solve mysteries, Charlie likes to take baths and watch his garden grow.

They are opposite in almost every way, but these differences help them to appreciate and look after each other.

Review: A Girl Called Harry

Harry - full name, Harriet Jasmine Emerald Florence Mabey McDonald - has an imagination that could run its own race in the Olympic Games.

Her best friend, Jessica, is the exact opposite of Harry, and loves to shop and play sports - which Harry hates.

When a new girl, Mallory, starts at school and forges a tight friendship with Jessica and the other girls, Harry is left out and must learn to find her new place in life.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Review: The Innocents

This latest addition to Nette Hilton's already impressive and celebrated bibliography is truly stunning.

When a young girl dies, everyone assumes it was an accident. But Missie Missinger knows more about what happened that day than anyone could imagine.

Review: Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure

I don't think there's anything better than the things a child's imagination can dream up.

So a book about this very idea should be fantastic, right? Well, let's see...

Pyro is stuck with his Aunt Mor (and her latest boyfriend) in her old campervan while his mother is away and his father is busy at work. And he would rather be anywhere but here. He wants to escape.

So, escape he does - via his imagination, that is. His alter ego, San Simeon the brave and daring pirate, goes on adventures far and wide with his trusty crew.

Review: The Adventures of a Late-Night Swearer

I love it when I come across a book with a really unique take on the world... and this is one of those.

The 'warning' at the beginning says it all:

"Reading this book is a bit like walking through long grass. Or a messy bedroom. It's pretty easy to lose your way and go off on another track or find an interesting something to ponder. Never mind about this, just keep going. Sooner or later you'll get to the end (or the other side of the long grass or the bedroom) and you have made your own pathway (which is pretty exciting stuff when  you think about it)."

You can't help but wonder what you're in for with an introduction like that.

Author Interview: Nette Hilton

We're thrilled to welcome prolific author Nette Hilton to Kids Book Review, as part of our final Behind the Books feature for 2010. Nette shares with us her joy for writing, and you can find out more at her website, nettehilton.com.au and her blog.

Tell us a bit about you. I live on the far North Coast of NSW in a dear little house that I planned myself so I always have sun in winter and breezes in summer – and, to make it close to totally perfect, the beach is up the road. The gardenias are in bloom at the moment as well as star jasmine and paw-paws and soon there’ll be lemons and later, mandarins and oranges. And later, as soon as I get the chook-pen sorted, I have a couple of fluffy white chooks as well.

I have three dogs – two ancient Maltese who feature in A Grave Catastrophe as Block and Tackle. They’re still ambling along, noses to the ground following wherever the newest smell leads them (which makes them interesting to try and take on a walk). My latest dog, Bonsai, is a teacup Chihuahua who is very, very lively. He’s a bit like a delinquent in an old dog’s home – but he manages to find lots of ways to keep himself amused – and the old folks shuffling along.

My kids are grown up but they come and visit often and bring my lovely grandkids – all four of them. They are all amazingly clever – as you’d expect!

How long have you been an author and did you always want to be one? I’ve been writing books – as in they are intended to be published – for 22 years. This is a fairly long time and it is always a surprise when I meet mums who tell me A Proper Little Lady was their favourite book and now it’s their children’s favourite as well. It doesn’t seem that long and I hope I never, ever have to stop.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Review: My Silent World

The story of a young girl getting used to a hearing aid, My Silent World explores the ways in which sound changes the world.

Used to experiencing her environment through sight, this girl must become accustomed to hearing. This is a child who is used to feeling actions and sounds rather than hearing them – “Music? I know music. I’ve seen it in the quickness of dust…” and “I can almost feel the thrust of the waves before the spill…” – and she’s wary of this change.

Review: Star of the Show and Star of the Circus

Aimee is sick of Serena Sweetmay. Serena is always the centre of attention, she's pretty and talented and everyone loves her.

When it comes time for the school play, Aimee just wants to outshine Serena. Just once, she wants to be the star - especially when she discovers a man who makes television commercials is coming to see the show. But how can she compete with this girl as her rival?

Fun Facts with author Nette Hilton

Author Nette Hilton, in our latest Behind the Books feature, has shared with us some interesting facts about herself - a real glimpse into the person behind the books...

  • Before I was an author I was a tax officer, a governess on a sheep station, a receptionist for an Italian company (that was fun especially since I didn’t speak Italian – I learned fast, though), a receptionist in a car-sales yard for half a day, and then a teacher. I was a teacher while I was writing many of my books which meant I worked late into the night and now... tra-da!... I’m a full time, rootin’-tootin’, cotton-pickin’ writer.

Review: A Proper Little Lady

This proper little lady is turning twenty-one this year, yet her story has not aged one bit.

My daughter, two years old, now includes this book amongst her favourites and often quotes from it. Just as Australian children have done for two decades before her.

Young Annabella Jones is trying her best to be a lady. She dresses in her beautiful dress, petticoat, second-best knickers, lacy socks, shiny shoes, hat, white gloves and necklace, heading out for the day looking rather beautiful.

And she is determined to remain clean, tidy and proper.

Bibliography: Nette Hilton

Nette Hilton's career has spanned over two decades - and is still going strong. This highly acclaimed and well-loved Australian author joins us for our final Behind the Books feature of 2010.

As always, we begin with a bibliography:

The Long Red Scarf (1987, Omnibus) - CBCA Honour Book of the Year 1988

Dirty Dave the Bushranger (1987, Roland Harvey Press)

A Monstrous Story (1989, Five Mile Press)

Prince Lachlan (1989, Omnibus)

A Proper Little Lady (1990, HarperCollins) - Shortlisted, CBCA Book of the Year Awards 1991

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Guest Post - Motion Math

Kids Book Review warmly welcomes this guest post from Gabriel Adauto from Motion Math - an educational app that makes learning maths super cool. While this is not a book, we at Kids Book Review love to report on any educational component that may aid a child's capacity for learning and we do hope parents and educators find this behind-the-scenes post interesting.

As with many topics in the subject of math, students struggle with fractions. Difficulty with early math concepts can inhibit progression to pre-algebra and other advanced topics, and even students who show proficiency with fractions lack a deeper sense of how multiple representations of fractions (pie charts, percents, number lines, etc) relate to one another.

Vintage Book Review: The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Generations have grown up with Peter Rabbit and friends. Beatrix Potter’s first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published over 100 years ago in 1902.

Peter Rabbit is not like his siblings Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail who are quite content to gather blueberries. Peter’s natural curiosity leads him to Mr McGregor’s garden, which just so happens to be where his mum tells the naughty bunny not to go.

Review: All Through the Year

"Open this book and travel your way
all through the year and treasure each day."

Sigh. This book is truly beautiful.

This is a trip through one Australian family's whole year, month by month.

January: "A time for games and sunny weather, Mum and Dad and us together". February: "New girls, new boys, a new class pet, 'Which new teacher did you get?'" And so on.

There isn't any corniness or commercialisation to be seen in this story. Christmas is celebrated with excitement, but beautifully rather than cheesily. Mothers' Day is treated in the same way, each one a nod to events through the year, but with a classic feel.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Review: Animalia

I just about squealed out loud with pure delight when I saw this gem sitting alone in my local second-hand bookstore. Even the booksellers oohhed and ahhhed as I passed it over the counter.

Graeme Base’s perennial classic was first released in 1986 and was one of my absolute favourites when I was a child. Actually, reading it again after all these years … it still is.

Author Interview: Kate Forsyth

Fantasy author Kate Forsyth joins us on Kids Book Review today, telling us about her journey to becoming a writer. Read more about Kate on her website.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I was born in Sydney and have lived here ever since. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a writer – I was writing stories and poems from the time I could hold a pencil and I wrote my first novel when I was not yet eight.

I used to wish on the first star, every night, ‘let me be a writer when I grow up!’ I don’t know why I had such a desperate longing - maybe it’s in the blood (I come from a long line of famous writers, with my great-great-great-great-grandmother writing the first children’s book published in Australia) – maybe it has to do with growing up in a family of storytellers, and in a house full of books – maybe it’s just because I have always loved reading so much.

What genre do you now write in?
Half of my books are for children and half are for adults, but all of my books are filled with adventure, suspense, romance and magic, and draw upon history, myth and fairy tales for their power. They range along the spectrum from classic high fantasy to magic realism to historical fiction with just a touch of the uncanny.

What other genres have you written in?
I have also written a couple of picture books and some small chapter books for younger readers, and have had a collection of poetry published, called Radiance.