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

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Guest Post: Sally Hall of Need to Read This

Kids Book Review warmly welcomes dedicated kids' book aficionado, Sally Hall of Need to Read This. Here she tells us about her wonderful new website.

The idea of a website dedicated to Australian Authors was suggested to me by children’s author Sandy Fussell (of Samurai Kids fame). Sandy is full of amazing ideas but she didn’t have the time to make this one come to life so she ‘gave’ it to me.

I researched existing websites and found lots of older style sites that hadn’t been updated regularly. While many author websites list links to their favourite sites, I couldn’t find a contemporary website that acted as a ‘hub’ to promote not only Australian books but also the authors who created them.

Interview: Margaret Wild

Kids Book Review is truly to thrilled to welcome the lovely Margaret Wild - esteemed and award-winning author - with this fascinating interview. I met Margaret in Canberra last year when she released her Itsy Bitsy Babies (see our review here) and it was so lovely to hear her read in person, along with author/illustrator Jan Ormerod. Enjoy!

Welcome, Margaret! Tell us a little bit about you.
I grew up in South Africa and came to Australia in the early 1970s. I have worked as a journalist and a book editor, but I now write full-time. I have two children, both grown up, and two grandchildren. Jack is three years old, and it’s wonderful to see his joy in the smallest things in life.

How long have you been writing?
My first books, including There’s a Sea in My Bedroom, illustrated by Jane Tanner, was published in 1984 – and I’ve been writing for children ever since. As long as I have ideas and something to say I’ll just keep on going.

Friday, 29 April 2011

KBR Recommends: Picture Books - Apr 2011

Hamilton’s Handstand by Dave Hackett
(Penguin, $14.95, 9780143504351, Jan 2011)

Holly says her dog Hamilton can do amazing handstands.
But can he really?

Everybody watches . . . 

. . . everybody waits . . .

Can this little dog perform on queue? or is his best performance saved only for Holly? With fabulously fun and bright illustrations, this is a humorous yet poignant picture book.

Review: And Red Galoshes

Remember your English teacher saying you must never start a sentence with 'or', ‘but’ or ‘and’?

Whilst learning the ‘correct’ English is absolutely vital and I must admit, I’m a bit of a stickler for it, I do love a bit of creative license when it comes to the written word. Love a little irreverence. Love a lot creativity and the acknowledgment that kids speak very different to us adults. Yes, that’s right they does.

Review: Hunting for Dragons

Not only do Bruce Whatley's illustrations tug at the heartstrings of a childhood long-gone, his stories also seem to hark back to another time.

This talented author/illustrator tends to use time-honoured techniques when he produces books, making for classic tomes our kids and their kids' kids will enjoy.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

ebook Review: Nighty Night

Parents the world over lament bedtime for toddlers - it can be a challenging and exhausting time for everyone. As any book lover knows, reading is a wonderful way to ritualise the bedtime routine and help kiddlings achieve the sleepiness they need to cuddle up for slumber.

In Nighty Night, an interactive bedtime book for wee ones aged one to four, we're introduced to a sleepykins farmhouse, all hunkered down for the night, with nightlights burning.

Interview: Louise Fulton Keats

KBR warmly welcomes Louise Fulton Keats, author and granddaughter of Australian culinary doyenne, Margaret Fulton. Here Louise talks to us about her beautiful new book - My Grandma's Kitchen.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Balmain, Sydney with my husband John and our 15-month old son Harry. We often spend weekends at our farm in Kangaroo Valley where all our animals live - horses, cows, chickens and ducks. Harry loves to help me feed the chooks and then collect their freshly-laid eggs for our breakfast.

What inspired you to write My Grandma’s Kitchen?
One event that prompted me to write the book was Harry's arrival last year. He is the first grandchild and great-grandchild in the Fulton family so his birth was met with enormous excitement all round.

My mum Suzanne and my grandma Margaret have been so loving and so involved in his upbringing, it had me reflecting on the importance of grandmas.

Review: Planning With Kids

Book giveaway coming soon!

I first met blogger Nicole Avery at a local blogging meet-up last year. I knew who she was as soon as she walked in the room - the charisma and presence that comes across on her blog was unmistakable in real life.

The second thing I liked about her was that she had thought to make and bring BLTs for everyone, whipping them out just as we all began thinking how hungry we were. (Lifesaver!)

Recently, Nicole was approached by Wright Books to turn the idea of her blog into a book. Lucky woman, you might say. Yes, that's true - but it's also a result of sheer hard work.

And, of course, planning.

Review: Lost and Found

“Once there was a boy and one day he found a penguin at his door.”

This is the story of a boy who takes it upon himself to help a lost penguin find his way home. His first quest is to find where the wordless penguin has come from. But no-one seems to be missing a penguin. He finally discovers that penguins hail from the South Pole. So now the boy finds himself facing a bigger problem: How will he ever get the penguin home?

And so begins a story of determination, journey and most of all, friendship.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

ebook Review: The Lorax

One of my very very favourite books in the world is The Lorax by Dr Seuss, so I was delighted to come across this ebook app offering an interactive way to read this time-honoured tale.

The Lorax features the original pages of the book with soft music and sound effects like whistling wind creaking and cawing birds; the books' entrancingly moody pages are perfectly complemented in this way.

Review: Like a Lizard Lapping Dew

I personally adore multi-media picture books. They can bring an educational element to books that enriches the storyline and really charms children,

This story about a series of lizards and their forays into the wild, from trees to warm rocks bathed in sunshine, was penned by Coleen Heathwood, who also took the photos for the book.

Review: The Adventures of Pinocchio

"Lies are easily recognised, my boy, because there are two kinds. There are lies that have short legs, and lies that have long noses."

The ultimate tale of misadventure has been interpreted from Collodi's original Italian story and re-released for children (and adults!) to enjoy once again.

Kids might be aware of the story of this little wooden boy via modern adaptations, but there is so much more to this tale than the Disney portrayal.

Review: Sebastian Lives in a Hat

In this very sweet book, originally published over 20 years ago, we meet Sebastian, a baby wombat rescued and cared for by an (unseen) family. Sebastian in particular, loves his brown, woolly hat.

There are a few themes in this book – the concept of caring for animals, native wildlife and the unfortunate death of Sebastian’s mother – that make this book’s recommended age group a little more important than usual.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Interview: Author Sophie Masson

KBR is really delighted to welcome acclaimed author (and all round nice gal!) Sophie Masson with this wonderful interview. We hope you enjoy - and make sure you check out Sophie's amazing new book - My Father's War.

Bienvenue, Sophie. What inspired you to write My Father's War?
It started off really with a memory of a visit we had paid to the big Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux many years ago when the kids were small. We'd made a detour on a long trip from Paris to the Channel ports, it was a bleak grey day, and I remembered the effect of all those white headstones on the hill, the sheer sense of all those young lives that had been so brutally cut short, and yet the dignity of the sorrow too, and the strong links that were forged between Australia and France during that time, which appealed to me too because I share in both heritages and I wanted our children to understand that too.

KBR Recommends: New Junior Fiction, April 2011

This grab-bag of great new titles - some part of a series, some stand alone - will have your young ones hunkering down with their noses buried deeply in the pages. This batch of books would suit both boys and girls aged 6 through 12.

Battle Boy: Super Soldier and Battle Boy: Sky Wars by Charlie Carter
(Pan Macmillan, $9.99, 9780330403993, Apr 2011)

The next instalments in the wildly successful Battle Boy series (no.s 11 and 12, respectively), our time-travelling hero Napoleon Augustus Smythe is back with more enthralling adventure.

In Super Soldier, he visits the Battle of Thermopylae, 380 BC, when Persian King Xerxes I fights Greek forces led by the Spartans.

Review: Sir Edward Weary Dunlop

When I was in Primary school, history was a bunch of boring dates and place names. New Frontier’s Aussie Heroes series is anything but boring. The past springs to life through the stories of real people. Quirky details allow me to identify with these people and follow their lives with interest.

Weary Dunlop started life as just another kid in the neighbourhood. Life was tough in the Victorian bush and money was scarce. Weary was a lateral thinker, making do with what he had. Fish traps materialised out of bike hoops and he supplemented the family income by selling fish as well as possum skins. I couldn’t wait to see what other brainwaves he’d come up with over the years and I wasn’t disappointed.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Review: Tales from the Secret Annexe

If The Diary of Anne Frank touched the lives of readers all over the world, this further peek into this young writer’s life, will be certainly make many breathless.

Anne was only thirteen years old when her family was hidden from the Nazis in the Secret Annexe of her father’s office building. In order to cope, this talented young girl wrote. And wrote and wrote. Her musing and revelations, are of course, now famous, as is the tragedy of her death in a German concentration camp.

Review: The Heroes of the Kokoda Track

There are plenty of new release faction books cropping up of late – which are always a wonderful way for kids to learn about history through fictionalised tales. But sometimes it’s really nice to get the facts straight up, and this new release compiled by Nicholas Brasch does just that.

Review: The General

General Jodhpur is a general much like any other. He rallies his troops, he instructs them in shooting, he made sure they polished their boots and badges to shining. In his spare time, the General liked to read up on famous battles and the armies who had won them.

KBR Recommends: Books for ANZAC Day

For such a young country, Australia has an incredibly rich and diverse history. It’s therefore been a joy to witness the increasing spate of excellent historical fiction on the market of late, and the following books are no exception. In honour of one of our country’s most sacred memorial days – ANZAC day – here is a fine collection of books to treat yourself – and your children to. Lest we forget.

Simpson’s Donkey: A wartime journey to Gallipoli and beyond by Peter Stanley
(Pier 9, $14.99, ISBN: 9781741968118, March 2011)

Based on the most famous animal in Australian history Simpon’s Donkey tells the story of the donkey’s service in Gallipoli where for three weeks he helped Simpson carry wounded men down to Anzac Cove.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Review: Oliver

This is just one of those books that is so totally on the mark concept-wise, you'll laugh out loud then read it over and over again, even though it will take you just 15 seconds each reading.

Consisting of just 7 pages, Oliver is about an egg. An egg that's pretty much like any other egg. He can roll. He can stand on his head. And that's about it. He is what he is.

Until one day. Everything changed.

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.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter Review: The Odd Egg

It must be so wonderful for Gravett to have such creative license with her books. Opening The Odd Egg is like a birthday gift - every page is like tearing off a new wrapper, heart thumping at the surprise lurking within as each shred of wrapping peels away...

The opening endpaper, for example, features a single floating feather. Then the ensuing page also features a floating feather, only this time there is a gorgeous duck chasing that feather.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Review: The Rabbit Problem

You know I have a new favourite author, don’t you? I first fell in love with Emily Gravett’s books with Wolves and have since immersed myself totally in the sheer cleverness and unique nature of Gravett’s multi-media brilliance that really sets her high in the children’s book stratosphere.

Review: Knuffle Bunny

When little Trixie misplaces her best friend, Knuffle Bunny, at the laundromat, who knew this small crisis would instigate a major, life-changing event in a young toddler’s life?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review: Here Comes Easter

This is a simple but cute story about a little girl’s search for five colourful eggs.

This book has it all for any toddler who delights in books: textured elements, flaps to lift and a toddler’s trusty friend.

A number of textured objects feature throughout the book, starting with a basket- an essential item for any good egg hunt. Textures in books are a great way to introduce toddlers to some common adjectives like rough, bumpy and fluffy.

KBR Recommends: Easter Books

Happy Easter, Curious George by H A & Margret Rey
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 2010)

George and the man with the yellow hat head to the park on a fine Easter morning. George sees the children in the park enjoying all kinds of activities, including dyeing Easter eggs.
George has never dyed eggs before and he can't wait to join in. He has so much fun playing with colors and patterns. Then he sees a man losing the eggs they have decorated, so George decides to help as only a monkey can.
But wait! Can George help find the missing Easter Bunny too?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review: Hunwick’s Egg

Hunwick’s Egg is a heart-warming story about a little old bilby named Hunwick who lives on the edge of an Australian desert. One day after a terrible, terrible storm where '(t)he world was tossed inside out and upside down', Hunwick stumbles across an egg. After no-one claims it as their own, Hunwick nudges it into his burrow and decides to take care of it himself.

Review: I Love Easter

The superlative Anna Walker is back with this beautiful little hard cover book - perfect for stashing in the Easter basket with the chocolate eggs and chicks.

Little Ollie is heading off to the Easter Fair, but first he needs to make a bonnet - of course - and his friends join in the fun. At the Fair, they delight in the baby chicks and ducklings and take part in an egg hunt for chocolately treasure.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

KBR Recommends: Vintage Easter Books

Looking for a really cool vintage Easter book? Here are KBR's recommendations for some egg-cellent Easter reading.

Easter Egg Farm by Mary Jane Auch
(Holiday House, 1994)

Despite her yellow feathers, the personable Pauline is a hen of a different colour - a sensitive fowl unable to 'concentrate in all the confusion' of the henhouse. Her eggs, when they do appear, are of assorted vivid designs and colors, influenced by the objects she has just seen.

Mrs Pennywort, the farm's owner, senses an Eastertime gold mine and begins taking Pauline on field trips for inspiration. Nature takes its course, however, and soon kaleidoscopic chicks emerge from the shells. In time, Pauline's chicks produce their own coveted eggs, and mother enjoys a well-earned, colorful retirement.

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…

Review: I Like Chocolate

KBR favourite, author Davide Cali, has certainly had the fortune of working with an astounding array of high-impact illustrators. And his written work honestly deserves the best. In I Like Chocolate, striking pictures by Evelyn Daviddi perfectly chocolate coat another divinely sweet story.

Writing the type of books all authors wished they’d thought of, this talented writer pens another winner in I Like Chocolate. I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate? Well, one person I met once – but considering the amount of people I’ve met in my lifetime, this is one teensy percentage.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Review: Out of the Egg

I love the light-hearted and playful picture books that portray Easter egg hunts and other fun Easter traditions. But, I’ve also been searching high and low for a picture book that gently portrays the essence of Easter. I think Out of the Egg fits the bill.

Out of the Egg is a modern take on the folktale, The Little Red Hen. In this version of the folktale the hen has her own chick who teaches the characters in the book, and also the readers, a very special lesson.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Review: My Little World

The world of children, particularly very small children, is very different to our own . . . not only when it comes to comprehension but also in terms of what they actually see - the underside of tables, fat crumbs on the floor, teensy insects and their little wavy feeler-things, clinging to a strand of grass on a bush walk with Gran.

Blog Tour: Julia Cooke launches My Little World

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome new author Julia Cooke in celebration of the launch of her beautiful book My Little World. You can follow Julia's blog tour right here!

I had the most wonderful day last Saturday. My Little World was launched at the Australian National Botanic Gardens, a perfect location because the gardens are nestled at the foot of Black Mountain where the book is set.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Guest Post: Writing Picture Books - it's not as easy as it looks

Dr Virginia Lowe, author and founder of Create a Kids' Book, tells us about the process of writing picture books...

It seems that when most people think of writing for children, they think of picture books. This is probably because picture books are the type of children’s literature they encounter most frequently, reading them aloud to their own children or to playgroup, kindergarten or primary school classes. In most cases, fortunately, it’s not because they think it will be easy to write them because they are so short. (Though very occasionally I receive a story with the cover note that ‘I was waiting at the swimming class, and put together this story’ or ‘I had a spare Saturday afternoon so thought I’d write a children’s book.’)

Review: Hooray for Fish

Lucy Cousins is probably best known for her Maisy books but this is an incredibly sweet story of a little fish going on an adventure through the sea meeting all manner of 'fishy friends', stripy fish, thin fish, curly wurly fish until he meets the one he 'loves best' his Mummy fish.

Review: The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate

A fierce, red-headed little woman lives on a house on the end of a very long pier.

She has a curious house. In the summertime, she can open a trapdoor in her floor and plunge into the ocean for a swim in the briny deep. In the winter, she can sit by her fire and throw a fishing line down the trapdoor hole and fish for dinner.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Review: Click Go the Shears

You just can’t help but sing along in your very best voice to this iconic Australian tune – click go those shears, boy, click click click! Call me a monumental sook, but I can't read through this book without pesky tears welling in my eyes.

Review: The Dot

Vashti sits in art class uninspired and frustrated. When her teacher suggests she just ‘make a mark and see where it takes you’, Vashti defiantly places a dot in the centre of the page and hands in her work.

Her teacher’s response sets Vashti on a wonderful journey exploring the many ways she can make her mark using dots until she finds herself able to use her experience to encourage another frustrated young artist.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

ebook Review: The Heart and the Bottle

It goes without saying that one should own every Oliver Jeffers book on the planet because he is truly a masterind of the picture book. I adore his work.

But now his cleverness has entered a whole other realm of beauty and delight (if that's at all possible).

In this stunning app (my favourite ebook app yet), we get to enjoy the beautiful and heartfelt story we've already experience in hardback form (read our review here), but with all the added interactive elements and audio components that make epicturebooks such a joy.

Review: Minkie Mary the Dummy Fairy

Many children use a dummy (pacifier) to soothe and settle to sleep, and lots of those will wean themselves from doing so.

Many will not, and rely more heavily on their dummies as they grow. There reaches a time when parents know their child can and should remove the dummy from their routine, but the child is hesitant or frightened about it.

That's where a magical fairy from a far away land is needed. Enter Minkie Mary.

Review: Never Smile at a Crocodile

Remember that song? It’s oh so true. You must never smile at a crocodile. Particularly if you are a rather small bunny, monkey, frog, bird or – is that a wombat? And you must also, at all costs, not tease a crocodile – you’re just asking for it if you do.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Interview: Ink Robin

Kids Book Review is delighted to welcome Jo Rivard from Ink Robin - a new children's ebook production company based in Toronto. We have just reviewed the team's latest book - Will & Kate - see the review here!

Tell us about Ink Robin. We’re two Toronto-based couples: Tim & Norma Penner and Matt & Jo Rivard. We’ve been friends for a long time and we’re used to embarking on adventures together, including travelling around the world with Habitat for Humanity. This is our first creative project together, though.

Matt and I started Ink Robin in order to publish a series of short stories I’d written, and when we came up with the idea for Will & Kate, we asked Tim and Norma to join us.

Our collective backgrounds are in design, illustration, animation and writing, and we all dabble in photography, so this book was the perfect opportunity to work together. We’re also firm believers that collaborating yields much more exciting rewards than working alone, and we’ve definitely found that to be true.

Review: Into the Unknown

WOW! I knew I’d love this book. There’s nary a book I pinpoint and don’t enjoy but I just love it when a book blows even your highest expectations out of the water.

Humans have a natural inclination to explore, and none more so than children. As fact is always far stranger and more dramatic than fiction, what better way to entrance children with voyages into the unknown, than opening the pages of history?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

CBCA Book of the Year 2011 Shortlist Nominees

So exciting to see the shortlist announcement today - the Children's Book Council of Australia has revealed shortlist nominations in five categories - enjoy this peruse! And make sure you check out the CBCA website for more information on the Notable Books and Chrichton Shortlist for new illustrators. The winners will be announced on Friday 19 August 2011. Highlighted titles are books we have reviewed right here on KBR.

Book of the Year: Older Readers
Crowley, Cath
Pan Macmillan Australia
Hartnett, Sonya
The Midnight Zoo
Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Horniman, Joanne
About a Girl
Allen & Unwin
MacLeod, Doug
Penguin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Marchetta, Melina
The Piper’s Son
Penguin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Wood, Fiona
Pan Macmillan Australia

Book of the Year: Younger Readers
Bauer, Michael Gerard
Just a Dog
Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia
Bongers, Christine
Woolshed Press, Random House Australia
Branford, Anna
Ill. Sarah Davis
Walker Books Australia
Carmody, Isobelle
Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
McKinlay, Meg
Ill. Leila Rudge
Duck for a Day
Walker Books Australia
Murphy, Sally
Ill. Rhian Nest James
Walker Books Australia

Book of the Year: Early Childhood
Champion, Tom Niland & Niland, Kilmeny
Ill. Deborah Niland
Allen & Unwin
Dubosarsky, Ursula
Ill. Mitch Vane
The Deep End
Puffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Lester, Alison
Noni the Pony
Allen & Unwin
Niland, Deborah
It’s Bedtime, William!
Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
Norrington, Leonie
Ill. Dee Huxley
Allen & Unwin
Ormerod, Jan
Ill. Freya Blackwood
Little Hare Books

Picture Book of the Year
Baker, Jeannie
Walker Books
Bancroft, Bronwyn
Why I Love Australia
Little Hare Books
Greenberg, Nikki
Allen & Unwin
Kane, Kim
Ill. Lucia Masciullo
Family Forest
Hardie Grant Egmont
McKimmie, Chris
Allen & Unwin
Riddle, Tohby
My Uncle’s Donkey
Viking Books, Penguin Group (Australia)

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Brasch, Nicolas
Theme Parks, Playgrounds and Toys
Macmillan Education Australia
Brooks, Ron
Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir
Allen & Unwin
Davidson, Leon
Zero Hour: The Anzacs on the Western Front
The Text Publishing Company
Dubosarsky, Ursula
Illustrated by Tohby Riddle
The Return of the Word Spy
Viking, Penguin Group (Australia)
Lloyd, Alison
Illustrated by Terry Denton
Puffin Books, Penguin Group (Australia)
One Arm Point Remote Community School
Magabala Books