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

Monday, 28 February 2011

Shaun Tan wins an Oscar for The Lost Thing


Our HUGE congrats go to children's author Shaun Tan for his spectacular Oscar win for his short film, based on his picture book, The Lost Thing.

Shaun gave us a sneak peek of the film at last year's CBCA conference in Sydney, and I remember the audience sitting in awe-struck silence... Shaun and his team so deserve this wonderful accolade. Congrats from all of us at KBR!

Review: Mini Chef - Cooking With Kids

"The ability to cook (is) one of the most important things we can pass on to our children."

These words from food writer Sheridan Rogers lead us in to a book that hits all the right flavours.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

KBR Recommends: Young Adult Fiction - Feb 2011

Haven Moore has always known she's different: there are the talents that can't be explained; the knowledge of places she's never been; and then there are the visions that overwhelm her - terrifying visions of a life that ended tragically two decades earlier and more than a thousand miles away in New York City. The citizens of Haven's rural, highly religious community, believe that she's been possessed by a demon. But this is no demon: it's reincarnation.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Review: Rabbit's Year

I’d like a friend in Rabbit. Creative, musical, happy and generous, this gorgeous little bunny wants nothing more than someone to be with, someone to play music with. All the other animals play music together, but Rabbit is too shy to join in. He instead plays alone… and his music becomes louder…

…and louder…

Thursday, 24 February 2011

New Enid Blyton Story Unearthed in the UK

Experts say a previously unknown novel by prolific children's writer Enid Blyton has been discovered more than 40 years after her death.

The fantasy tale, Mr Tumpy's Caravan, was among a collection of Blyton manuscripts bought at auction in September by the Seven Stories children's book centre in Newcastle, northern England.

Review: Alison Jay's Nursery Collection

This collection of beautiful books, in board-book format and with simplified text, will make the perfect gift for a baby or toddler in your life.

Containing four of Alison Jay's well-known and much loved books, your little ones will be flicking through these pages for hours at a time.

Events: Workshops at The Children's Bookshop


There's an amazing line up of events at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft this coming Easter holidays. You don't want the kids to miss out on these! Book early to avoid disappointment.

Calling all Future Writers! Author Sue Whiting will be leading a writing workshop for students aged 9-12 years. Participants in this workshop will be exploring the writing process, focusing on writing skills and gaining tips on developing plot, character and setting ! Activities will be hands-on and students will particularly gain insight into ways to improve writing skills.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Review: Monkey Magic: The Curse of Mukada

There's magic afoot in the jungles of Borneo.

When Romy, the daughter of environmental primate specialist Dr Jeremy Alexander, accompanies her father on a trip to the Mukada Nature Reserve, she knows she's going to experience a formidable opportunity to discover why the local orangutans are acting strangely.

What she doesn't know is that an incredible series of events - and secrets - will reveal much more than bizarre monkey behaviour.

Event: National Simultaneous Storytime


National Simultaneous Storytime

Wednesday 25 May at 11am

Australia-wide

Really lovely to see KBR's nominated Favourite Book of the Year - Feathers for Phoebe by Rod Clements - as this year's book of choice for National Simultaneous Storytime.

This gorgeous book will once again be enjoyed by thousands of kids all over the country - in stereo! - as Phoebe is read aloud at venues and events all over the country.

National Simultaneous Storytime is a fun, rewarding event, which promotes reading and literacy for young people. KBR's own Tania McCartney will be reading the book at Civic Library in Canberra at 11am... see here for more information.

Learn more here - and get set to host your own event!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Review: Mademoiselle Lisa

Totally love a book with anything foreign inside - like visits to Paris. And also totally love a book that thinks, looks, acts and reads outside the fomulaic square.

Mademoiselle Lisa does all of the above. Nice.

When the Mona Lisa gets a tad tired of her role as the most-observed artwork in the world, she absconds. During a film at the cinema, she not realises popcorn can get itchy, but that she must go to America and seek her fortune.

Event: Children’s Choice Book Awards in the ACT

Nominations are now open for the Children’s Choice Book Awards in the ACT. The hunt is now on for students to nominate their favourite books for the 2011 Children’s Choice Book Awards Shortlist.

The books kids nominate as their favourites will be put together with nominations from other schools and libraries across Australia. The ten most popular books in each category will appear on the short list for that year.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Review: Seasons

Oh, this is my kind of book. From one of my favourite publishers - New Zealand-based Gecko - comes this illustious tome of eye candy - Seasons.

Illustrated by famed French comic artist, Blexbolex, this stunning book has been created using his iconic layered screenprinting techniques and has been printed on lusciously thick, textured paper, giving the entire tome a heart-palpitatingly retro feel.

Make Your Own Baby Book

KBR's talented contributor Belinda Butler joins us with a sensational bookish idea - making your very own picture book for baby. We love this idea. Get busy with it!

It's no secret that babies love books and the only thing better than a shop-bought baby book is a home-made one.

Sure, one that comes from a store has interesting pictures of the world around, but the advantage of making your own at home means that it can be filled with pictures of baby's favourite things (or people), from her own environment.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Review: Last Tree in the City


We've made it pretty clear how much we love books by Peter Carnavas here on Kids Book Review, and Last Tree in the City is no exception.

Young Edward lives in a big city, devoid of colour - most particularly the colour green. His one respite is the last tree in the city where the young lad spends many a whistful hour, indulging in the beauty of nature.

But then one day, the tree is gone.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Review: Edsel Grizzler, Book 2: Rescue Mission

It's Verdada, Jim, but not as we know it! (go on, do the accent, you know you want to!)

The Verdada that Edsel Grizzler knows is a place of forever fun! Pizza for breakfast, no bedtime and no parents!

What on earth (or perhaps more appropriately ... what on Verdada) could have happened to turn it into forever dead and boring?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Review: The Little Prince Graphic Novel Edition

Ah, any excuse on heaven and earth to revisit this timeless classic by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, and even more fun to peruse this stunning tale effected so beautifully in a graphic novel by the talented Joann Sfar.

Perhaps this amazing book will spawn many a graphic novel adaptation of classic books, particularly given the current resurgent popularity of the graphic novel... for a graphic novel is not only a cool comic-style way to intimate a story, it's a fascinating way to see inside a story like never before.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Review: An Awesome Book of Thanks

It's, like, so typical for awesome US author Dallas Clayton to write a follow up to his An Awesome Book (see KBR's interview here) which focuses on gratefulness. That's just the kind of guy he is.

His first book (self-written, self-illustrated, self-published and self-promoted to cult-following status) was a gift to so many - and indeed, the author gifted as many books as he sold - yet he is the one giving thanks.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Pinerolo's First Event for 2011 - Joe Delaney

fabulous opportunity to hear the inside story from a successful author and gain an insight into where he finds his inspiration for these compelling, exciting and very popular stories.
Margaret Hamilton's beautiful Children's Book Cottage - Pinerolo - in the Blue Mountains is hosting a very special afternoon with author Joe Delaney.

Don’t miss this

There are seven books in the series, with books 8
and 9 on the way in 2011 and 2012.

This special event will be held on Saturday 5 March at 4.30pm. For more information or to book, contact email here. Entry to the event is $45 and includes afternoon tea. Bookings close on 3 March.
You don't have to know the Spooks books to enjoy the series - they are all stand alone and are absolutely haunting.

Guest Post: A Race Adventure with Jason Alter

KBR is delighted to welcome US author Jason Alter, whose action-packed nighttime stories to his kids not only became part of his family's life, they fulfilled a lifelong dream... published work. Enjoy this intriguing insight.

I’ve always loved writing and in my professional capacity I write quite a few technical articles. However, it’s fair to say that my greatest writing challenge was John Fastramp and the Dakota 3000 Challenge.

The story about a group of great friends, a unique race car and colorful villains didn’t come easily nor early in my writing career. John and his friends first became available on Amazon in 2007 when I was….. older.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Review: John Fastramp and the Dakota 3000 Challenge

I'm eight years-old, in front of the TV cross-legged watching my Saturday morning cartoons, cereal precariously balanced on my lap... okay... so no I'm not, but that's exactly how I felt when I was reading this book!

Remember that feeling?

John Fastramp is a brilliant race car driver with an even more brilliant car, the Blue Spider. It is a sleek, low racer that gives the impression that it's moving even as the car is standing still. Only a handful of people know of the wonderful inventions that fill the Blue Spider, like lasers, special tyres and protective armour! Put it this way, Inspector Gadget would be mighty impressed!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Guest Post: Writing and Bruce Lee - Finding Your Voice

KBR is thrilled to welcome the fabulous and fun Adam Wallace to our pages for a wonderful insight into finding your voice as a writer. Enjoy!

Yep, you read that right. Bruce Lee. I know. It seems like strange connection. But Bruce Lee was more than you may imagine. He was a teacher, a philosopher, and an author, along with being, of course, a fairly okay martial artist.

Event: Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead Book Launch


Don't miss this wonderful event - the launch of Jacqueline Harvey's newest book - Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead. Click poster to enlarge.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Review: There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Chook

"There was an old bloke who swallowed a chook. I don't know why he swallowed a chook... by cripes, that's crook!"

This Australian version of the classic "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly" is hilarious.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Guest Post: Daniel Errico

KBR is delighted to welcome US author and e-book aficionado Daniel Errico to talk to us about the virtual e-book storm raging around children's literature. It's exciting times.

Children's literature is officially taking the digital world by storm. It may have been the slowest to join the party but e-readers and smart phones are recognizing that handheld devices and children's literature are an obvious marriage.

The affect that e-books, mobile apps, and online media are having on children's literature is becoming more evident by the day.

Ebooks only account for a smaller percentage of the overall industry, however, they're increasing at an incredible rate. As of June, they were up 204.2% year-to-date, and hard-copy children's books were down 16.7%.

Decorations for the School Library


Some time at the end of last year, I had a discussion with the lovely librarian at our kids' school about providing hanging decorations for a large space between a ground floor and mezzanine level in their beautiful new library. In large spaces, it can be a challenge to find items big enough and bright enough to really make a visual impact... so I wanted to create something large, book-related and striking.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Author Interview: Jackie French

As part of our special Behind the Books feature on Jackie French, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her. Here, she tells us about her latest book, her life as a writer... and the wombats.

First, we must ask – how are the wombats? Mothball is fat and grumpy. She doesn’t like the rain- or having to swim through the creek to reach the back door and her dinner. Wombats aren’t supposed to swim - but that doesn’t stop Mothball.

Your latest novel, A Waltz for Matilda, is an intriguing insight into how our nation came about. What was your initial inspiration for this story? The song - any who has farmed sheep knows that you can’t stuff a jumbuck in a tucker-bag so easily - or even catch a sheep unless you have dogs and a sheep yard. And where did the troopers come from? There were about 25 troopers for 10,000 square miles- how did they manage to turn up just then?

Encouraging your kids to read with Jackie French

Keen to make readers out of your kids? here are tips from a master storyteller - from babies through to school age. These tips have been taken from Jackie's website, with her kind permission. Enjoy.

How to help babies become readers
Reading to your kids is great. It teaches them to focus on words and to associate books with love and cuddles. But reading to your kids isn't enough! Kids need MANY skills to learn to read.

Review: The Tomorrow Book

I was quite literally gagging to read this book and so couldn’t wait for a review copy. I hotfooted it to Borders and came home with my lovely hardcover treasure.

Not only do I love Jackie French’s work, I’m also a bit of a fan of the person herself. I know she has a great respect for nature and I’m delighted to see her cover the theme of conservation in this beautiful book.

So where do I start?

Review: The Night They Stormed Eureka

When Sam, a modern day teenager, is transported back in time to Ballarat in 1854, her life is thrown into uncertainty and chaos. And when she realises where she is, and the date, she knows what's coming - but how can she keep the people around her safe?

The Puddlehams are struggling to make ends meet as they dream of building a better life in the city.

Review: Josephine Wants to Dance

Josephine longs to dance. She spends her days practicing: swaying to the breeze, bowing with the brolgas and learning to point her toes like an emu.

Then the ballet comes to town, and Josephine watches their rehearsals day after day, yearning to join them. She spends her nights dancing the routines, spinning, twirling and imagining herself on stage.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Review: Queen Victoria's Underpants

Jackie French once again perfectly combines history and fabulously fun storytelling in Queen Victoria's Underpants - a tale at the tail end of one of the world's finest monarchs.

Who'd have thought Queen Victoria would have been in need of knickers and in so doing, change the course of history for women's undergarments everywhere?

Review: The Secret World of Wombats


For anyone who knows the least bit of anything about Jackie French, you'll certainly know about her love of wombats. This accomplished author has a bit of a thing for these famous Aussie critters (including a resident wombat at her farm) and after the success of her glorious Diary of a Wombat picture book, this non-fiction companion is a must-read.

Review: The Goat Who Sailed The World

This is the story of a goat and a young boy on board The Endeavour, experiencing the voyage of a lifetime as they sail around the world. From Tahiti to New Zealand and finally in search of The Great South Land, Isaac and the Goat form a friendship founded on trust, mutual loneliness and the sharing of extraordinarily difficult times.

Writing Tips - by Jackie French

Need some tips for your own writing?

Who better to provide advice than Jackie French!

  • A great book will be published. A good book has a chance.
  • Some books are 97% great and 3% amateur - and that 3% can mean the whole book fails.
  • No amount of rewriting images and changing paragraphs will help a book if the story, theme and characters aren’t strong enough.
  • Chocolate helps.

Review: Baby Wombat's Week

The wombat is back – and this time she has a baby!

French and Whatley’s beloved wombat now has an energetic little baby, who is more interested in playing than his sleepy, hungry mum.

Baby wombat manages to find himself a baby-sized human friend, and together they play games, cause mischief and explore the world.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Jackie French - 10 Fun Facts


There's so much to learn about our favourite authors... here are 10 fun facts you may not have known about Jackie French, in her own words...

1. I make the best choc chip biscuits, pineapple crush, salad dressing and icecream in the universe (when they work).

2. One ear sticks out, but it's hidden by my hair.

3. I hoot back at powerful owls and can speak a few words of wombat.

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: Rocket Your Child Into Reading

Jackie French’s experiences with dyslexia encouraged her to write this book as a reference for parents. Providing hope to countless children, proof that pushing through to achieve your dreams is possible despite signs indicating otherwise, French says: “my experiences have allowed me to see how reading problems can take over a child’s life, so that even when they become adults, they secretly remain convinced that they are dumb”.

Review: Diary of a Wombat

I want to share with you my daughter’s first reactions to this picture book, because although at the age of two she isn’t yet at the target age for the story she showed me why this book has been such a hit.

The illustrations won her first. Right from the very beginning – that is, the cover image – she was in love with this wombat. She wanted to know what would happen with it.

Bibliography: Jackie French


KBR is delighted to welcome award-winning and immensely talented author Jackie French to our stable of Behind the Books features... our first for 2011. Jackie's books run the gamut from picture books to historical novels and encyclopaedic gardening tomes, so providing a bibliographical listing here is difficult.

We therefore provide a listing specifically focusing on children's books - but be warned, that too is long! As Jackie is such a prolific writer and also writes for established series like the Mates series, this list is incomplete and may be slightly inaccurate for dates.

Enjoy this peek at Jackie's books and stay tuned for a wonderful two days of fabulous French fun, and don't forget to check out her website for fascinating inside information on Jackie's writing processes.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Literary Resources for Kids at My Little Bookcase


The very clever and dedicated Jackie at My Little Bookcase has recently expanded her site even further to include some really fantastic resources for kids, parents and reachers.

One of Jackie's fabulous initiatives is posting on books in categories or themes, like her recent line up of books on heading back to school.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Review: Smarty Cat series

Do you have a little one who likes to know why things are the way they are? Do they ask you all the tricky questions? Well, here's the answer.

The new Smarty Cat series features a range of titles answering those questions in a fun, visually entertaining way.

Review: Our World

When I first picked up this book, I was utterly entranced. From the striking front cover to the lustrous and colourful contents, I just smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled.

This amazing book has been written and illustrated by the children and teachers of the One Arm Point Remote Community School at Ardiyooloon on the Dampier Peninsular, 200km borth of Broome.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Author/Illustrator Interview: Peter Carnavas

We love the work of Peter Carnavas, so we're thrilled to have him join us on Kids Book Review today. In this interview, Peter tells us about his life writing and illustrating picture books.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I grew up in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, worked in central Queensland as a primary school teacher and now live back on the Sunshine Coast, having gathered a lovely wife and two daughters along the way. I still have my big toe in the waters of teaching but am spending more time drawing pictures of ducks and funny little people.

Review: Lilli Pilli the Frog Princess

Lilli-Pilli is unlike other princesses. A pretty young girl with greeny-gold hair this unlikely heroine has the legs of a frog. Her father, King Nasturtium, is a frog, after all.

But Lilli-Pilli's parents are worried. Who would ever want to marry a half-princess, half-frog?

Queue the Royal Ball and the chance to snaffle a husband by dance-encounter. Difficult when your legs want to hop, not dance... but then, I suppose it all depends on your dance partner...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Review: Big River Little Fish

Every now and again you read a book that takes you by surprise. Surpasses your expectations. This is one of them.

Every now and again you read a book where you are in complete awe of the writing. Yep, this is one of them.

Set in Australia in the mid 50's along the Murray River in South Australia, Big River Little Fish tells the story of 15-year-old Tom Downs. Tom is different. He is a young boy trying to fit into a world that doesn't seem to have a place for him. He was told he came out backwards when his mother gave birth to him, which was probably the last thing that made sense for Tom.

KBR Recommends: Picture Books - Feb 2011

Build your baby's vocabulary with this new Baby Einstein first words book. Split into familiar categories such as animals, nature, food and babies themselves, the youngest learners will be able to identify the names of familiar objects.

Title: Baby Einstein First Words
Author: Julie Aigner-Clark
Illustrator: Nadeem Zaidi
Publisher: Disney, $12.99
Publication Date: 2008
Format: Board book
ISBN: 9781423113027
For ages: 0+
Type: Picture Book

The ballerina theme will prove irresistible to little girls and little-girls-at-heart. Cover features exquisite, eye-catching glitter. Internal novelty features include a mini envelope with pull-out invitation, and a removable list. Princess and Fairy have been invited to attend the Ballet Frou-Frou, where they'll both see their idols Coco and Bijou! Two pairs of red, enchanted ballet slippers are waiting to fly them there!

Hop in and join Princess and Fairy-the two most adorable bunnies in all of Fairyland-as they pirouette across the pages in their latest glittering adventure.

Title: Princess and Fairy Twinkly Ballerinas
Author/Illustrator: Anna Pignataro
Publisher: Scholastic, $19.99
Publication Date: November 2010
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781741695359
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture book

I didn't find a friend in a bag of chips . . .
I didn't find a friend up a tree . . .
I didn't find a friend in a puddle . . .
I found a friend and my friend found me.

An irresistible picture book about the delights and niggles of first friendships.

Title: I Found a Friend and My Friend Found Me
Author/Illustrator: Beth Norling
Publisher: Penguin, $24.95
Publication Date: August 2010
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780670072590
For ages: 0+
Type: Picture Book

When a pair of adorable kittens joins the family, Marley is so excited to have two new friends to play with that he follows the felines everywhere. But Marley is no graceful kitten. By imitating their gentle behavior, he unintentionally makes a mess all over the house and gets into big trouble for it. What did I do this time? he wonders. Marley is afraid he may have lost his number-one status in the household . . . until an unlikely pair reminds him and his family that no one's purrrrr-fect!

Title: Marley and the Kittens
Author: John Grogan
Illustrator: Richard Cowdrey
Publisher: HarperCollins, $12.99
Publication Date: April 2010
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780061714863
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

This wonderful picture book by acclaimed author Mem Fox has a wonderful, rollicking, rhyming text reminiscent of Where is the Green Sheep? And just like the super successful Green Sheep, early readers will be memorising the simple text - as well as honing their numeracy skills with all the crazy goats to count!

Title: Let's Count Goats
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Jan Thomas
Publisher: Penguin, $19.95
Publication Date: October 2010
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780670075058
For ages: 0+
Type: Picture Book

Introducing Little Red Ute! Fourth and final book in the four-book series. It's perfect for little children who love cars and trucks.

Little Red Ute enters his first parade but Green Wheelbarrow is left behind. How can the foreman help the two friends make this parade the best ever?

Title: Little Red Ute and the Ute Parade
Author: Mitch Lewis
Illustrator: Nahum Ziersch
Publisher: Scholastic, $9.99
Publication Date: November 2010
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 9781862918795
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book