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

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Guest Post: Marianne de Pierres

So many ideas were running through my head when I wrote Burn Bright. So many feelings I wanted to capture. Some of them were based on my wonderful teenage memories. My first party, my first school dance, my first visit to a nightclub - all those moments of adrenalin and excitement.

But there was the other side as well. Going to boarding school, feeling alone, deserted, unhappy, scared, unsure.

Review: Ish

Ramon loves to draw – anything, anywhere – but when his brother laughs at his drawings, Ramon loses his confidence and the joy of creating.

After months of frustration, Ramon decides to give up drawing all together, until his younger sister reminds him that drawings don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Review: The Adventure of Life

It’s no wonder I’ve been a Francophile for the past 30 odd years… They not only make great bubbles and cheese but books are something that pour out of France with such creative ferocity and charm, I’m in serious danger of overloading on book bliss.

Our friends across the ditch, Gecko Press, also know a fabulous book and here they have republished a glorious French book – The Adventure of Life – so scores of Antipodeans can join in the fun. The catchphrase for Gecko Press is ‘curiously good books from around the world’ and that about sums it up.

Sue North - from National Year of Reading

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome passionate literacy supporter, Sue North, to tell us about the National Year of Reading 2012. Don't miss this enlightening interview.

2012 will be our National Year of Reading. As a founding member, can you tell us where this idea came from?

The inspiration for the National Year of Reading came from our vision to see all Australians discover the joy of reading. For so many of us who love reading, we take it for granted that this is something available to all of us. Sadly, this isn’t the case. Forty six per cent of adult Australians can’t easily read the printed materials they encounter every day – things like reading the newspaper, following a recipe, reading a bus or train timetable or the instructions on a medicine bottle.

Reading for pleasure has been shown to improve people’s basic literacy skills. By helping people discover the joy of reading, they become more confident readers and this powerfully contributes to literacy, educational achievement and productivity in the workplace – really important things for all of us and for the future of Australia!

In 2008, the United Kingdom held a really successful National Year of Reading and this too has inspired us to venture out on our own unique year of events.

Breaking News: Shaun Tan wins Astrid Lindgren Award!

We are thrilled to hear that Australian author/illustrator Shaun Tan has won the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Congrats Shaun from everyone at KBR!

Event: Billie B Brown's Birthday Bash!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

KBR Recommends: Young Adult Reads

In 1938, Edith and her family joined the many Jewish people forced to leave their homes to escape the Nazis. In a desperate bid for survival, Edith was entrusted to the care of a children's home in Moissac, France, where other Jewish children were hiding. All the people of the town promised to keep the children's identity a secret. Could they possibly succeed? Would Edith ever see her family again?

A dramatic and moving account of one girl's experience during World War II.

This is the true story of Edith Schwalb.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Lithuania, 1941.

This was Stalin’s world, where anyone considered anti-Soviet was either murdered, imprisoned or enslaved in Siberia. It was a war that went on and on, ending only relatively recently. The horror of his reign resulted in the deaths of around twenty million people.

In Between Shades of Gray, Lina and her brother Jonas are at home, when the Soviet Secret Police descend upon their sanctity and arrest them and their parents.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Review: Big and Me

Being paper-obsessed (both books as well as more sculptural forms) I've long been a fan of the extraordinary work of David Miller, whose breathtaking paper creations make for such an intriguing illustration format.

David has created several stunning children's books with his work, and in Big and Me, he creates a story of visual beauty, but also one of astonishing depth.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Review: A Rat in a Stripy Sock

One of the questions authors are asked most frequently is this one: Where do you get your ideas from? Much of the time, an author will say they receive story inspiration from ‘everyday’ sources – from the little things that happen each and every day of their lives.

Review: Bath Time, Beth!

One of the greatest joys I remember as a child were interactive books. And you don’t need to be a child to thoroughly enjoy them. Not only do my 8 and 10 year old children love such books, I still get a total buzz from lift-the-flaps, peek-a-book holes and pop-ups.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Event: Children's Book Festival Family Day, Melbourne

Join in the biggest celebration of children's books that Melbourne has ever seen – featuring heaps of our favourite authors and illustrators.

On the State Library lawns you'll find a petting zoo, marquees, roving performers, fun kids' activities and a stage with music acts.

Around the corner from the Library, the Wheeler Centre will host authors and illustrators in conversation, and upstairs in Queen's Hall kids will be able to meet with more authors and illustrators.

Review: Yates Young Gardener

Yates is certainly renowned in the gardening world as an indispensable authority on all things green thumbed, so you can expect this new guide for littlies will be something special.

The subtitle says it all – Get Your Hands Dirty – and goodness knows, in a world of over-processed hyper-cleanliness, our children so need to sink their hands into the earth more than ever before.

Review: Henry the Goat

Like many children, Ella Watkins has always loved to draw. Children’s illustrations have such an innate charm and beauty that works on so many levels, but the difference with the drawings of fifteen-year-old Ella Watson is that they honestly look like an adult has done them. An experienced, talented adult.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

ILP's I Love Art

Want the chance to win some authentic, real-deal, ORIGINAL children's book artwork and raise money for an incredibly worthy cause all at the same time???

You do?

Then head to The Indigenous Literacy Project's website for this incredible opportunity. Many pieces of art have already sold but there's still four available - by Jan Omerod and Bruce Whatley, no less.

Head here now and snaffle yourself an amazing and historical piece of Australian artwork.

Blog Tour - Ian Irvine's Top 10 Writing Tips

KBR is delighted to welcome author Ian Irvine on his book launch blog tour! Ian is the author of the sensational Grim and Grimmer series and KBR is celebrating the release of his latest book - The Desperate Dwarf - by hosting Ian on tour!

Here Ian shares some absolutely priceless writing tips we know you will love. And be sure to check the end of the post for Ian's blog tour schedule. He's visiting some pretty spectacular sites. Jump on the literary wagon and join the tour!

1. Motivation and Persistence

Whenever I’m giving a talk, I discover that lots of people in the audience want to become writers, but how does anyone find the time in their busy life to do so? Well, writers have to write, and if you only write one page a day, that's a book in a year. If you can't write a single page a day, do you really want to be a writer?

In my view, the most important attributes aren’t writing talent, but determination and persistence. There are thousands of talented writers around, but few ever become published authors. Storytelling is a craft that takes years to learn, and if you’re not prepared to work at it as hard, and as long, as you would to become a concert pianist, a professional footballer, or a lawyer, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed. It took me nine years to find a publisher for my epic fantasy quartet, The View from the Mirror. That’s a common length of apprenticeship.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Review: Stolen Girl

Early in the 1900s, in rural and remote communities all over Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were stolen from their families. They were taken in the day, in the night, whilst alone, and sometimes ripped from the very arms of their parents. They were taken by government officials and many never saw their families again.

Review: Can I Cuddle the Moon?

This beautiful bedtime story follows a conversation between a cute baby owl and his patient mother. With a lovely rhyming text, baby owl keeps asking what he can cuddle – the sky, the stars, the bubbles in his bath and a variety of other impractical suggestions.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Guest Post: Ursula Dubosarsky on The Golden Day

In April this year I’m publishing a novel called The Golden Day. It’s the story of a group of primary school girls whose teacher bizarrely goes missing on a school excursion – a kind of urban Picnic at Hanging Rock in reverse.

Can I say right now just to get one thing clear! This is not a memoir. None of the events that occur in the story ever happened, to me or to anyone else. The girls and the teachers in The Golden Day are not portraits of real people, but strange mixtures of memory, interpretation and mostly sheer imagination. The missing teacher, Miss Renshaw, is a complete figment.

Review: Rex

Rex is the school pet. He lives in a little box in the classroom, but in the evenings and on weekends – the much-adored lizard gets to go home with the kids. Perfect or perilous? This plucky little lizard seems to thrive on a variety of scenarios… he is a chameleon, after all.

Fun Facts: Ursula Dubosarsky

We love learning more about our favourite authors, and Ursula Dubosarsky is not only really really lovely - it's so much fun getting inside such a creative brain!
How do you get your ideas?
From lots and lots of places – ideas are everywhere. I get ideas watching, listening, reading, talking, dreaming, even swimming.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes, since I was six years old. I wanted to write a book about a bus driver.

Review: The Honey and Bear Stories

I must admit, I love an in-between book – a book that nestles sweetly between a picture book and junior fiction. Something mummy or daddy really needs to read aloud to wee ones – or something that provides the perfect new-reader fodder for children still ‘innocent’ enough to enjoy a story bathed in fairytale.

Author Interview: Ursula Dubosarsky

Kids Book Review is absolutely delighted to feature this interview with talented author Ursula Dubosarsky, whose books are big favourites with all of us. This award-winning author writes in many genres and we hope you enjoy this exclusive insight into this wonderful literary mind.

How long have you been writing? Well, I wanted to be a writer since I was six, which is when I learned to read. But my first book wasn’t published until I was 27. So in that sense I’ve been writing for publication for about 25 years.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Review: The Golden Day

It's 1967 and Ronald Ryan has been hanged in Melbourne. Miss Renshaw, the teacher with springy hair and the stance of a lion, tells her girls they will visit the Ena Thompson Memorial Gardens to ponder this tragic occurrence, and to think about death.

So sets a gently ominous tone on the very first page of The Golden Day, the latest novel by talented author Ursula Dubosarsky.

Review: The Word Spy

What has happened to the English language? With technology like mobile phone texting and email, we seem to be getting lazy with our spelling and grammar. When I spotted this book, it was with a feeling of relief that someone was keen to teach children how to use words properly, the importance of spelling them correctly and the reasons they are the way they are.

Review: The Terrible Plop

One can only imagine the subject matter of a book whose title includes the word ‘plop’ so I was both surprised and delighted (though I wouldn’t have minded if it was the other ‘plop’!) when I discovered the plop is nothing more than an apple dropping into a lake.

Or is it?

Bibliography: Ursula Dubosarsky

Talented Australian author Ursula Dubosarsky has written a plethora of divine work from picture books to fiction - we hope you enjoy this glorious Behind the Books feature on what of our favourite authors, starting with this comprehensive bibliography.

Maisie and the Pinny Gig, 1989

High Hopes, 1990

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Review: If I Could Fly

Calypso is running, terrified of both what's behind her and what could be ahead.

But she doesn't know what lies in either place.

Her past is as much of a mystery as her future. She has blocked it all out and has only fleeting glimpses into what might be back there. She needs to remember soon, if she's to make it any further.

But for the moment, Calypso must concentrate on just surviving.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

KBR Recommends: Fiction for Older Boys, March 2011

The transition between primary and high school sees boys hankering for a whole other book experience. These new release books are sure to keep your lads engaged in the best of literary ways.

Extinction, The Day the World Ended by Lizzie Wilcock
(Scholastic, $15.99, ISBN: 9781741696462, March 2011)

The world is going to end on the 21st of September. We know because we've seen it. We were there.

Thirteen-year-old twins Mac and Annie awake one morning to discover that everyone in their town - and, it seems, the entire world - has been wiped out.

Searching for answers, the twins discover they are not alone: three other sets of twins, scattered across the planet, have survived. Given a chance to stop the mass extinction by their newfound ability to travel backwards through time, and their mysterious powers over natural elements, Mac and Annie seek out these twins.

Together they must solve the mystery of why the human race was wiped out, and stop it happening again. Extinction combines fast-paced action and intrigue with Lizzie Wilcock's gift for creating totally believable and compelling teenage characters.

Grim and Grimmer: The Desperate Dwarf by Ian Irvine
(Omnibus, $16.99, ISBN: 9781862918603, March 2011)

Mellie has stolen the unluckiest charm in Wychwold and can't get rid of it. Pook, who has an insane plan to rescue the Collected children, is demanding Ike's help.
The demons Nuckl, Spleen and Tonsil are after Ike's innards. And the Fey Queen, Emajicka, is coming to tear his worst nightmare out of him.

Only Ike can save Grimmery now.

But first he has to win a contest with a lying, cheating scoundrel-the desperate dwarf, Con Glomryt.

Tortall and Other Lands, A collection of tales by Tamora Pierce
(Scholastic, $22.99, ISBN: 9781862919167, March 2011)

Collected here for the first time are all of the tales from the land of Tortall, featuring both previously unknown characters and old friends.

Filling some gaps of time and interest, these stories will lead Tamora's fans, and new readers, into one of the most intricately constructed worlds of modern fantasy.

Review: Ask Me

This simple little book is filled with wonderful questions designed to get conversations started with your preschooler. From basic likes and dislikes to questions about dreams and emotions and behaviour, the questions are ideal for parents and young children to read together and then chat about.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Review: Feeling Fine and Old Macdonald's Aussie Farm

So lovely to see the National Library of Australia's children's books doing so so well, and it was a joy to receive two new board books in the mail, based on previously published work.

The first is Feeling Fine! by local Canberra gal Stephanie Owen Reeder, based on her beautiful lift-the-flap book I've Got A Feeling, which was included on the IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities booklist for 2011.

Feeling Fine! features a line-up of the authors adorable illustrations of a variety of children in all manner of emotional states from excited through to grumpy.

Each child's face is accompanied by descriptive words of that emotion, and asks the child 'how do I feel'? A wonderful way for kids to explore their emotions and to learn a fabulous array of new words at the same time.

Title: Feeling Fine!
Author/Illustrator: Stephanie Owen Reeder
Publisher: National Library of Australia, $12.95
Publication Date: 1 March 2011
ISBN: 9780642277206
Format: Board Book
In Old MacDonald's Aussie Farm, we are treated to an abridged version of Naomi Zouwer's original book Old MacDonald Had Some Land.

What does Old MacDonald find on his Aussie farm? Well, Aussie animals, of course! There's a platypus, an echidna, a possum, a koala and more - all splashing, waddling and hopping their way around the book, with an e-i-e-i-o.

Adorable for Aussie kids as well as our friends and family overseas.

Title: Old MacDonald's Aussie Farm
Author: Susan Hall
Illustrator: Naomi Zouwer and John Gould
Publisher: National Library of Australia, $12.95
Publication Date: 1 March 2011
ISBN: 9780642277213
Format: Board Book

You can buy both these books directly from the NLA website . . . Feeling Fine and Old MacDonald's Aussie Farm.

Review: Dame Nellie Melba

A new spate of faction books – fiction based on fact – have popped up on the children’s literature shelves of late, and I must say, as someone very fond of history, I’m loving it. Children also respond incredibly well to historical fiction, and Australia certainly has a plethora of fascinating characters that make for interesting reading.

Review: Goodnight, Mice!

Four little mice are ready for bed. Clementine is teary and Oliver is weepy. Mitzi and Billy are yawning. Four nodding heads are well prepped for slumber. And so the nighttime ritual begins.

It’s goodnight to Grandpa, then up the stairs they dash! Mum and Dad sigh at the sudden second-wind. An enthusiastic bath, some pretty messy teeth brushing, then skidding and sliding up the hall . . . will our mice be sleepy enough to nod off?

Thursday, 17 March 2011

CBCA Shortlist Showcase Night

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the Shortlist Showcase Night (once known as the Clayton's Night - as in the awards you're having when you're not having awards...) run by the ACT branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia.

I love this evening - not only is it a great chance to catch up with authors and librarians and industry professionals but it's just so much fun to see which books, in all categories, presenters will 'nominate' for the Book of the Year shortlist. It's fun seeing their selection, to learn about new books, and most of all - to know what influenced each presenter to choose their shortlist.

Review: My Sister Olive

Our little heroine loves her big sister Olive. She can tie her stripy shoe laces. She can plait her hair. She can twirl her hula hoop like a pro ride her scooter down hills like a master scooterer.

Review: My Place

I missed reading My Place the first time around, as it was published after I was reading picture books myself and before I was looking for books to read with my children. I’m so glad I came across this 20th anniversary edition, as this book is simply a perfect way of presenting Australia’s diverse multicultural history to children.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Review: Starry Starry Night

The first thing Starry Starry Night did was pull up the corners of my mouth into a lovely and very warm smile. It wasn’t because of the stunning illustrations (though it really should have been that) – it was this line:

“…he dreamt the twinkling dots were stitched together with invisible thread…”

Review: Surface Tension

This is most definitely on my list of favourite kids' books so far this year.

Original, gripping, poetic, authentic - these are the words that spring to mind during and after reading Surface Tension, a book that kept me reading far longer than I should have at each sitting.

Cassie feels on the outskirts of everything. Her family, her life, even her town.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Guest Post: Boris's Big Makeover

Author/illustrator Andrew Joyner shares with us the illustrative journey of his latest character, Boris...

Boris started with a drawing. But he didn’t look too much like the Boris you see in the books. Instead, he looked like this (left).

I was reading Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas, illustrated by the wonderful French cartoonist Sempe, when I just started to doodle this warthog, wearing a shirt, jumper and shorts. The doodle then turned into a drawing, and just on a whim, I decided to turn that drawing into a book cover.

Here it is:

Review: Boris and Boris Gets a Lizard

These full-colour books for early readers are so much fun, young eyes won’t want them to finish.

Before Boris was born, his parents used to go everywhere in their bus. But these days, the bus stays put and this trio never go anywhere. Boris dreams of going to other places, of leaving Hogg Bay, but his parents aren’t keen. They’re happily settled.

Until one day, the bus starts moving and Boris thinks they’re headed for great adventures. Or are they?

Author/Illustrator Interview: Andrew Joyner

Today we're joined by author/illustrator Andrew Joyner, whose new book series contains a gorgeous and loveable pig by the name of Boris. Who could resist that?

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I grew up in Mannum, South Australia, a small town on the Murray River. I now live not too far from there, in a town called Strathalbyn on the edge of the Adelaide Hills, with my wonderful family and a continually expanding flock (sheep, ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, and so on).

I've always loved books and drawing, although I've taken the long way round to becoming a children's book illustrator. I went to uni and studied English Literature — for a little while I even thought of becoming an English academic. And by a little while I mean four (maybe even five!) years, which is how long I spent working on my still unfinished PhD.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Review: Pete the Sheep

The thing about Jackie French is that she’s good with a yarn. She knows how to tell a story – a true tale – and it’s always warm and memorable.

In Pete the Sheep, we meet a sheepdog with a difference. In that he is – err . . . a sheep. And this just doesn’t sit right with the regular shearers at the shed. Things are done a certain way, you see – and we can’t go having things out of the ordinary. And Pete was definitely out of the ordinary, right down to this jaunty hat.

Review: Savannah Dreams

From Sunday to Saturday, Savannah and her family go looking for bush tucker. Her father, mother, brother and sister each find food to bring home to share, but Savannah only finds pieces of rubbish and junk.

At the end of the week, Savannah’s brother is wondering why they bother to bring her along at all, but eventually he discovers that Savannah’s imagination is important too.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The ILP's New Logo Competition

Calling all artists!

The Indigenous Literacy Project is looking for a vibrant, exciting new design for its logo! The foundation actively encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to submit designs.

ILP has grown considerably over the last five years and recently became a Foundation. What an ideal opportunity to develop a vibrant new look. ILP needs a logo that represents its role providing literacy resources to Indigenous Australians in remote locations. The design should be dynamic while respecting tradition . . . fun at the same time as being serious about acquiring literacy skills and aspirational.

Artworks should also involve colours that are typically associated with Indigenous Australians, appeal to all age ranges and be simple yet distinct.

Artists need to hurry! The competition ends April 8 2011

Head here for more information and to download the entry form.

KBR Recommends: New Junior Fiction for Girls, March 2011

There's so many exciting junior fiction books for girls - some part of a series, some stand alone. Here are some books KBR is loving...

EJ12 Girl Hero: Drama Queen by Susannah McFarlane
(Scholastic/Lemon Fizz Media, $12.99, ISBN: 9781921684227, Feb 2011)

Shadow is up to something with the water supply but what it could possibly have to do with the filming of a new action movie?

Special Agent EJ12 needs to keep her eye on the big picture. She needs to infiltrate the movie set and stop Shadow before it is too late.

That's the easy part.

As EJ12, Emma Jacks can do anything.So why is she is getting worked up over little things? Perhaps she isn't, after all.

Review: Fairy School Drop-Out

When I picked up the first book in this new fairy series, I was really really scared I would find myself cloaked by stereotypical, formulaic fairy fluff. But hey presto! The magic of this book is in its avoidance of such formula, but it’s also in its delightful storytelling and most of all – its clever nuances that make good books really really good.