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

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

ebook Review: Mr Wolf and the Ginger Cupcakes

I'm kind of getting over the app producers relying on classic fairytales to pump out ebooks (part of the Great Rush, I suppose) but I must admit, this rendition of the classic Red Riding Hood is something quite out of the box.

And we love out-of-the-box at KBR.

Review: Chase Through Venice

I remember my visit to Venice very clearly. It's a city with a certain mystery to it - I recall thinking, it's busy and smelly and dirty... and yet, I love it. Venice has a real charm that just can't be defined.

When I saw a picture book about Venice, I wondered if that essence of the place would carry over to a picture book.

Chase Through Venice follows a young boy, Marco, in his life as a gondolier's son. As he races through the narrow streets to find a tourist who left his camera on the gondola, he searches frantically for the man's red cap amidst a sea of people.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Review: Playground

A stunning collection of facts and real-life stories, this book provides a voice for dozens of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to tell their stories.

“In traditional time, kids didn’t have to set off from home in the morning in order to go to school. The whole country was a vast outdoor classroom, which contained everything that the First Children needed to know. The land was also their playground.”

Sunday, 29 May 2011

KBR Recommends: New Non-Fiction, May 2011

As great fans of non-fiction, KBR is delighted to reveal another sensational list of books your kids will absolutely adore. Oh - and you will love them, too.

How to Live Forever by Alok Jha
(Quercus Publishing Plc, $24.99, 978-1849164825, Feb 2011)

How can you live forever? What does it take to create life? How can we find other universes? Will we ever talk to aliens? What do you need to build a brain?

How to Live Forever is the essential survival guide for anyone who has ever been baffled by science.

Embarking on a journey from the very small to the very big, readers will be taken on a glorious tour of the universe, taking in cloned sheep, alien worlds, bizarre life forms, quantum weirdness, parallel dimensions and dissected brains along the way.

You'll discover how to travel through time, how to start (and cure) a plague, how the mind works, how to turn sunbeams into oak trees, how to boil a planet, how Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility works and much, much more.

Both informative and enjoyable, this is a rip-roaring tour through the wonders of the natural world.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Review: Hattie and the Fox

Mem Fox and Patricia Mullins bring us a farmyard spectacular in this fun story about Hattie, a 'big black hen' who spies something in the bushes. Firstly, she sees a nose. Then a nose and two eyes. Then a nose, two eyes and two ears. The animal in the bushes is revealed bit by bit.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Guest Post: Writing Exercise with Doug MacLeod

KBR warmly welcomes the talented (and very funny) Doug MacLeod with this fantastic guest post... or should we say Writing Exercise... on how he came up with his CBCA Book of the Year shortlisted book The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher.


I love the 9.15am spin class at St Kilda gym.

There are usually around a dozen of us; people who work unusual hours and like to visit the gym when it's quiet.

The great thing about a spin class is its simplicity. You climb on an exercise bike and you do what the instructor tells you to do, while the music plays.

Review: Outside Over There

When Papa goes way to sea, young Ida spends time helping her mother look after the baby. But when Ida isn’t looking, the goblins come and steal and the baby and leave a changeling in its place, as cold as ice. Ida smashes it to the floor then rants and raves as the rolling ocean outside the window also takes on a vengeful, thundering state.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Review: All About Food

It’s so hard to believe this wonderful series of books from Gecko Press are newbies, and not some long lost relic of a delicious retro past. From its creamy almost ‘aged’ pages to its smile-enducing 70s images, this is a book that both parents and kids will tussle over. My 8-year-old football-loving son and his football-hating 10-year-old sister and their non-football-loving mother equally adore it, all three.

Review: If the World Were a Village

This updated edition of the popular book for 7 to 12 year-olds is filled with current facts and interesting info.

The concept of this book is wonderful: there are more than 6,900,000,000 people on the planet, but to comprehend that number of people is difficult for any of us - enter the global village.

We are taken through the facts and figures of a village consisting of just 100 people (each representing 69,000,000 people in the world). Of these 100 - 61 are from Asia, 14 from Africa, 11 from Europe, 8 from South America, 5 from North America, and just 1 from the Oceania countries.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Guest Post: illustrating with woodblock prints

Author/illustrator Tina Matthews joins us today to tell us about her very special illustrative process...

The top of a tree always seemed a very safe place to me when I was small. Even at school we were allowed to climb the huge trees and I can remember how smooth and shiny the bark was in the places where shoes and feet had found their footing as kids of all ages climbed to the top. In the weekends and after school, from way up in the big trees at home, I could see places I knew, tiny in the distance. I could hear people I loved near by. And I could feel the world turning as the sun and the sickle moon went down.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Review: Animal Tales

This gorgeous new series from the National Library of Australia is a welcome hark back to more traditional days - with a classic storyline, the sweetest of soft illustrations and a format that echoes the books of Beatrix Potter - hardcover small format books with dustjacket.

Written by Susan Hall, this series was inspired by the National Library's collection of paintings showcasing animals as seen by Australia's first white settlers. Marvelling at these oddly curious hopping, paddling, burrowing and duck-billed furballs, early artists created fascinating renditions of Australia's unique wildlife.

Review: Boris Sees the Light / Ready Set Boris

I just adore this little warthog. He’s such a sweetie pie and these attractive books by the talented Andrew Joyner are in a format I adore – because they are so so readable and so much fun.

Sorted into brief chapters, the Boris series is a perfect first chapter book for young readers moving on from picture books. The text is broken up with plenty of wonderful, full colour illustrations and speech bubbles, giving the books a lovely cross between readers and comics.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / The BFG

My name is Adam Wallace, and I am a children’s author. My claim to shame is this … until recently I had never read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG.


I have always been a massive fan of Roald Dahl. I grew up on The Twits. But I had never read two of his most well-known and renowned children’s books.

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago I sat down for a couple of mighty reading sessions and I knocked off both books.

Review: London: A Three Dimensional Expanding City Skyline

The Royal Wedding may have been a tempter, but I certainly never need a reason to reminisce over London and wish I could jump on a magic carpet and swoop low along the Thames to Covent Garden for some hot roasted chestnuts and a fizzing shandy at the Lamb and Flag pub.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Review: A Bit Lost

If the gorgeous illustrations aren't enough to draw you in (what’s not to love about that owl?) . . . this sweet story about a little owlet who falls from his perch will certainly make you smile.

Gotta love a picture book that begins with ‘oh-oh! bump bump bump’… but what you’ve got to love even more are the consistent and very clever parallels between how a young owlet sees the world (as opposed to how everyone else sees it).

Review: The Aunties Three

We’re great fans of Nick Bland here at KBR and wait with breathless anticipation when a new book is announced. With The Aunties Three, the breathlessness was soon sated by yet another cleverly penned and lustrously-illustrated book.

When the three hoity aunties coming knocking at the door, our three little wide-eyed kids scrabble to prep the house, proffering uprooted flowers from an indoor potplant as the three prissed-up aunts stride through the door.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Review: Duck, Death and the Tulip

Death in a plaid smock can be a somewhat confronting image, most probably most especially for adults, not necessarily for children. The smallest of children have a padded concept of death and its meaning, and older children probably also lack a full grasp on its finality.

Review: A Penny in Time

Yared was born in Ethiopia, but was adopted by Australian parents. He is Australian, but others find that hard to believe when they see him.

And if he wants some Australian stories to tell, his nanna is just the person to share them with him.

Finding a box of old pennies in his nanna's house, Yared is intrigued by the history and the tales behind the coins.

Each chapter represents another story shared between grandmother and grandson, and each story gives the latter a small piece of Australia to hold in his heart.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Review: There Was An Old Sailor

We all adore that time-honoured classic There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly; I know its delectable lilt still meanders around my head, and many's the time I've read new versions of this classic to my kids (even sometimes invoking the tune).

Event: Animal Tales Book Launch

When Europeans first came to Australia, they were intrigued by the unique animals they found inhabiting the landscape. The Tales of Wil Wombat, Kyla Koala, Peek Platypus and Kaz Kangaroo tell of the hair-raising adventures of these animals and their encounters with white settlers.

Animal Tales is a brand new series published by the National Library in association with the RSPCA. Written by Susan Hall and presented in classic, Beatrix-Potter style, this quartet of beautiful little hardcover books feature their very own dust jacket and whimsically soft illustrations by Ben Guy. An absolute classic in the making.

Come along and meet author Susan Hall who will be joined by some furry friends from the RSPCA!

Saturday 28 May 2011

2pm – 4pm

National Library of Australia, Canberra
Foyer (Ground Floor)

Free. Includes book signing. Bookings essential 02 6262 1424 or nlshop@nla.gov.au

Review: Monkey Red Monkey Blue

Monkey Red and Monkey Blue don't feel like going to sleep, so they decide to have a midnight feast instead.

With the encouragement of a cheeky chameleon friend, they eat their way through popcorn, spaghetti and pancakes. But they might just find their big feast ending in disaster!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Review: The Legend of the Golden Snail

"The Legend of the Golden Snail was Wilbur's favourite story. He imagined the Golden Snail sailing through the Magical Realm to its home in the Spiral Isles, and he listened with wide eyes to the part where the Grand Enchanter banished it to the Ends of the Earth. There it was doomed to remain, so the legend went, until a new master came to claim it."

If you're not familiar with the magical story-telling and stunning illustrations of Graeme Base, then be prepared to fall under his spell instantly. Base creates stories that children want to read. And read again. Base is that wonder among chidren's authors - he doesn't churn out books at a headspinning rate, but when he does bring out a new book, you know you will just have to have it.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Off the Shelf: a free resource for teachers

Click on the image to view this month's
edition of Off the Shelf
Penguin has released a new online magazine! 

Off the Shelf is a free resource for teachers and librarians, and it's full to the brim with great books for kids (from primary school to young adult), classroom activities, teaching notes, interviews and more.

Head to the Penguin Teachers' Corner to subscribe.

Guest Post: Claire Saxby on There Was an Old Sailor

KBR is delighted to welcome author Claire Saxby with this wonderful insight into her processes behind her award-winning book - There Was an Old Sailor. This gorgeous book has just the peer-voted SCBWI Crystal Kite Award.

There Was an Old Sailor is a book that so very nearly didn't happen. The story itself was a gift really.

My son was doing circus classes and we parents waited for the duration usually, as it was too hard to bundle up other children, go home then bundle them up again and go back to collect circus child.

One day, a storyteller friend (her daughter also attended the classes) rushed in late and flopped down in a chair, exhausted from a day's storytelling with kindergarten-aged children. Why, she ruminated, was there not a cumulative rhyme on sea creatures in that Year of the Ocean. Something, she suggested, like There Was an Old Lady.

Ooh, I'll have a go, I said.

And lived happily ever after...

Review: The Great Expedition

On May 8, a young girl took on a nerve-wracking mission. She was to listen to a story she had never before heard. She sat down, looking expectedly to her senior officer and waited.

That story was The Great Expedition.

And she not only loved it, she requested it again and again.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Review: Bumface

Angus Solomon is a parent well before his time. Both big brother and dad to kid brother Leo and baby sister Imogen, Angus has some seriously tied-up and tangled apron-string issues going on.

While his famous soap opera mother absconds to the television set 20 hours a day, Angus is trying to get ahead at school, wants to secure a role in the school play, needs to take care of some irksome nappy changes and is also called upon to balance his relationship with three - soon to be four - fathers.

Author Interview: Morris Gleitzman

We're thrilled to have bestselling author Morris Gleitzman join us today, as part of our special Behind the Books feature. Here, Morris tells us about his life as a writer, and shares some wonderful advice about writing for kids.

How long have you been writing? I started my professional writing career at 17 when I sold a short story to Dolly magazine – a moving story of love, loss and redemption. I was particularly moved when I saw my name in print for the first time. That was 41 years ago.

What inspired you to write for children? For the first ten years of my career I was a freelance screenwriter, writing movies and TV comedy, mostly for adults but sometimes for children. Towards the end of that time I started meeting young characters in my imagination who brought with them slightly more challenging stories, and at first I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.

Review: Once

Oh my.

There's a reason I have never read a single book on the Holocaust - other than the Diary of Anne Frank, and even that was an emotionally-wringing experience for me... it's because I just can't cope with the heart-wrenching insanity of it all.

The soul-level disbelief.

Then there was Once. I did it. I read it. I wept like a destitute waif, but I got through it and I have never been more glad of any book read in my life.

Review: Too Small to Fail

I love how Morris Gleitzman consistently manages to combine really intelligent and advanced themes with an intensely childlike sense of fun.

In his latest junior fiction novel, this talented writer takes on the complicated world of finance and bundles it up with a fantabulous plot that combines road trips, animal welfare, stocks and shares, camels and bribery – all in one whacky story that somehow also manages to touch on the meaningful nuances of life.

Review: Teacher's Pet

Ginger is allergic to cats. So ending up at school with a cat in a schoolbag is never going to be a signal of a good week.

Threatened with having to change schools, told she doesn’t fit in with her family, ruining the best day of school for everyone, and sneezing from her allergies amidst it all, Ginger is having the worst week ever.

Ginger must try to solve all these problems before life can go on as normal.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Guest Post: Morris Gleitzman on Two Weeks with the Queen

Last year was the 20th anniversary of Morris Gleitzman's Two Weeks with the Queen. Here, he shares with us a (slightly adapted) special introduction he wrote to the anniversary edition of the book.

In 1988 I lived next to a large suburban bush gully which was home to many of Sydney’s flying-foxes. I quickly discovered they were the most interesting neighbours I’d ever had.

Each evening at dusk the sky darkened dramatically as thousands of them, little furry bodies suspended from huge leathery wings, swooped off to claim their share of Australia’s export fruit industry.

I had an idea for a story about a girl who discovers the bats are under threat. It seemed a good choice for a young author who’d read all the writing manuals and was struggling to obey the rule that said write about what you know. The problem being that outside of his backyard he didn’t know much.

The notion of a feisty young character defending her furry leathery friends from disapproving adults and their even more disapproving dogs, all in familiar surroundings, appealed to me a lot. It was an idea I was happy to spend a few months exploring in a book. Or so I thought.

Fun Facts: Morris Gleitzman

Want to delve a little more into the creative mind of Mr Gleitzman? So do we! Enjoy this little peek . . .

Morris writes his books between two offices - one at his Sydney home and one in his Melbourne home. 

If he couldn't be a writer, he would do something involving travel, wine or stationery.

Morris likes to cook, tidy up the house and play table tennis.

He's very good at making lists and finding bargains at the shops.

Morris wrote his first book - The Other Facts Of Life - in 1985.

He never gets bored because he has a very active imagination.

Morris is a Capricorn (his birthday is 9 January, in case you're thinking of sending presents).

His eyes are grey and his favourite colour is black.

Lots of things inspire Morris to write, including stationery.

He likes to write lists.

Morris used to be married to Christine but now he's married to Mary-Anne.

He has two children, Sophie and Ben, and two step-children, Tom and Jamie.

One of his favourite words is 'bum'.

And lastly - how on earth do you pronounce his last name???

Let's hear it from the man himself. . . "Well, Gleit rhymes with light, white and bite, which makes me sound more like a dairy product than I really am."

Review: Second Childhood

Mark is doing badly at school. Very badly. His teacher is angry and he’s terrified about telling his parents about it.

He’s going to be a nobody.

Until he finds out about reincarnation, and goes searching for who he was in a past life. When he and his friends reach their conclusions and discover their previous identities, they’re stunned. They really were Somebodies.

The only problem now, though, is the impact their previous lives have on modern times. Can they manage to fix all their mistakes?

Review: Wicked!

With six books in one, this is the ultimate book for any Jennings or Gleitzman fan.

Each book in this series – The Slobberers, Battering Rams, Croaked, Dead Ringer, The Creeper and Till Death Us Do Part – follows the adventures of two step-siblings, Rory and Dawn.

The pair must find out why animals are turning into gruesome monsters – and fast. Each story introduces new creatures that just get weirder and weirder, from slurping slobberers to giant frogs and steel sheep that want to smash them to pieces.

And, if that isn’t enough, life is changing for both of them and there are lots of surprises in store.

Review: The Other Facts of Life

Ben is ready for the talk. He needs to hear the facts of life. And so his dad begins the talk, only to find out…

NO! he doesn’t mean those facts. The other facts. Ben has some serious questions to ask about life, but – in his words – “Typical. I ask him a serious question and all he wants to talk about is sex.”

He tries to talk to his mum about what’s worrying him, but she doesn’t want to know about it either. And his sister is too busy worrying about how fat she is. Everyone seems too busy to talk about the big issues.

Ben must go to extraordinary lengths to make them listen.

Bibliography: Morris Gleitzman

KBR is thrilled to welcome one of our very favourite authors Morris Gleitzman in this very special Behind the Books two-day special. Enjoy this peek into the life of a master writer, starting with a book list to drool over.

and out May 2011 . . .