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

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Author interview: Gus Gordon

We are just so delighted to welcome talented and very lovely author/illustrator Gus Gordon to KBR today with this colourful and creative interview. There's even a sneak peek at his new book, out September. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Who are you? Gus Gordon, I’m told.

What do you do? 

I write and illustrate books for small people and older people who like small people’s books.

Where can we drool over your stuff? 
Well, you can see some of my stuff here: www.gusgordon.com and facebook.com/GusGordonbooks or just go into a bookstore and ask. If they don’t have any of my books, get very angry. Make them cry if you can.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

ebook Review: Trees are Best: FACT

Oliver T Baker is a young lad in love with trees. His friend James Pendlebury thinks diggers are the best, but he is wrong, oh so wrong. Trees are the winners. They are great for lots of reasons – like being extremely nice to look at. They make great listeners, too – they never interrupt. And they give us air to breathe.

Trees are great for climbing. And did you know paper is made from trees? The leaves make food for both the tree and other animals, and you can tell the type of tree but its leaf. There's just so much to love about trees.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: Mockingbird Song

A traditional song is warmly retold in this adorable book by Carol Thompson. Beginning with the well-known verse –

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word . . .

– our wee little man is told that if his mockingbird don’t sing – papa’s gonna make you a daisy-ring. And so on goes this wonderful series of promised gifts, from making him a sailing boat to finding a four-leaf clover and releasing a butterfly into the sky.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Review: Note on the Door

Lorraine Marwood’s Star Jumps won the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, but I think Note on the Door is even better.

This collection of short simple verse triggers a surprising variety of emotions. One tale resurrects wistful memories of childhood while another has me grinning with delight. At times I have to hold back a tear. I never thought it could be possible, but I really liked almost every poem in Note on the Door, without exception.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review: Madeline and the Cats of Rome

What more joyful way to tour Rome than through the eyes of sweet little Madeline, the little girl from Paris who lived in a house covered in vines (and whenever she left it was in two straight lines).

In The Cats of Rome, Madeline and her eleven little friends, along with Miss Clavel, are off on a train through France and the Alps and northern Italy… leaving behind the cold harsh winter of monochrome pages to the glorious, sunshiny, full-colour springtime of Rome!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Review: The Box Boy

There was a young boy who loved to collect things. What he loved to collect most was boxes. Big boxes. Small boxes. Any boxes at all. His boxes fuelled his imagination and he used them to create rockets and towers and all sorts of other amazing things.

This fun picture book celebrates that wonderful ability children have for taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, not because they are striving to create an artwork but simply because they have found something that appeals to them and sparks their creativity.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

ebook Review: The Very Cranky Bear

At KBR, we loved that very cranky bear in book form (and the very itchy bear, too) - and this iPad version is just as much fun, if not more so, thanks to some super cute music and animations that bring Nick Bland's gorgeous illustrations to even greater light.

It's raining in the Jingle Jangle Jungle. Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep take refuge during the deluge - in a dark cave. But who should be sharing that cave but a very cranky bear! ROAR!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: Fearless in Love

As soon as I saw this book, I had a smile plastered to my face. Dogs represent all that is good with the world. Loyalty, love and forgiveness. C'mon, look at that little bulldog face ... I am already in love with Fearless.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

ebook Review: Sarah the Little Fairy: Grandma Get Lost!

Grandma Mary is coming to live with Sarah. She has a funny condition called Alzheimer's and Sarah helps look after Grandma and help her remember objects. Then, one day, Grandma disappears. Sarah needs help from her special fairy doll - and fast. Interspersed with occasional interactivity in the form of short games, animated visuals and sound effects, this story enlightens kids on this all-too-common disease.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Review: Find the Footy and Bumper Footy Colouring Book

Want to travel the world, via the pages of a book and search for an iconic Aussie Sherrin all at the same time? Brownlow Medalist and NAB AFL Auskick Ambassador, Robert 'Dipper' Robert DiPierdomenico, wishes he was a kid again, he loves this book so much, but frankly you don't need to be a kid to have fun with this book.

Featuring big, colourful photos of some of the world's most popular landmarks, kids are invited to visit these spectacular vistas and search for not only a footy, but goal posts, light towers and footy boots - in this classic seek-and-find book.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review: Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids

This is just the sweetest little book - and a priceless handbook for all young ones, most especially those children who are sensitive or emotionally tender.

Featuring an adorable little poppet, we follow her thoughts as she navigates the challenges of 'going within', of being mindful of her mood and her reactions to the world - and learning to honour her need for space and time.

She also learns how to wait, stop and think a minute before speaking, and that feeling sad is okay and that what is especially better than feeling sad is doing things that make her feel happy.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

ebook Review: It's A Small World

Well, I mean, what do you expect from Disney? This amazing app (whilst not technically an ebook, it does feature literary aspects) takes kids on a voyage around the world via the classic song, with a mindboggling array of stunning illustration and interactivity.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Review: Gangsta Granny

Ben’s Granny isn’t all that different to many other grannies - she has white hair, false teeth and tucks tissues up her sleeve.  She does have a few unique quirks though. There’s her fondness for cabbage and a small detail about her past. You see, Ben’s granny was an international jewel thief.

Little does Ben suspect that his gangsta granny is still planning her greatest jewel heist ever – stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London. Friday nights with Granny have suddenly become the most exciting part of Ben’s week.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

ebook Review: The Pirate Koostoe

Young Koostoe wants to be a pirate because - of course - they can do whatever they want . . . and the best part about being a pirate is that they get to search for treasure.

Koostoe's friends don't think being a pirate is fun - they steal, they plunder - they're not very warm and friendly, but Koostoe is convinced that a pirate life is best. Seeing as though he doesn't have a ship, Koostoe tries to pirate on land. But that doesn't go very well.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Review: Winnie-the-Pooh (and Friends) Hide and Peek

Winnie-the-Pooh has been charming readers for around eighty six years ( in 2006, Pooh celebrated his 80th birthday). Pooh appears in four books by A.A. Milne, all of which were published in the 1920s. Pooh and friends have now appeared in various re-imaginings and been retold through other mediums such as television shows, theatre and movies.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

mega national launch for National Year of Reading 2012

Today, all around the country, at libraries and halls and schools and centres, a mass celebration took place. It was the launch of the National Year of Reading 2012 - and right there in Canberra, we were treated to a right royal bonanza in the Theatre at the National Library.

First we heard from Anne-Marie Schwirtlic, Director-General of the NLA, then glorious book-loving host Jennifer Byrne (above), journalist, publisher and First Tuesday Book Club patron, introduced us to the likes of the hilarious and gorgeous William McInnes (author, actor and NYR12 Patron), ministers Simon Crean and Peter Garrett (OMG, Midnight Oil concert flashbacks) and - drum roll, please - PM Julia Gillard herself.

After Julia's inspiring speech, we heard from author/actor William McInnes, who is as funny, intelligent and charming as he rightly should be.

Next it was the fabulous Boori Monty Pryor - children's author, NYR12 ambassador and Children's Laureate - who brought in a classroom of school kids. Well, actually the children were actually delayed because the PM just left, and they ensnared her outside the theatre for a time. As a result, Monty and William regaled us with, well - just being funny.

Finally, the kids did arrive, and Monty knocked their socks off with a resounding tale about didgeridoo spit - and had everyone in serious stitches.

The event was also peppered with some wonderful short films and snippets, including a piece from co-Children's Laureate Alison Lester. We also heard about the NYR12's aims, upcoming events and initiatives, and the glorious news that Disney have paired with NYR12's Reading Hour (25 August).

We also heard from Education Minister Peter Garrett, who asked the kids to make the NYR12's official signing - LOVE 2 READ - with their hands.

Monty hams it up with the kids
me with William McInnes... well, everybody else was doing it!!
ACT NYR12 ambassadors, including Jack Heath and Senator Kate Lundy (either side of me) and local NYR12 organisers Rachel Davis and Vanessa Little (centre front)

This is a very exciting year ahead - make sure you check out the NYR12 website for more on how you can get involved!

Valentine's Day Special: Books to Fall in Love With

Have you ever, seriously and truly, fallen head over heels in love with the book? We at KBR frequently have this experience - so much so, we were compelled to ask some well-known literary faces for their secret children's book crushes.

In support of the National Year of Reading, here are the books making hearts aflutter all over the country . . .

Monday, 13 February 2012

Review: Head Hog

Constantine is a responsible pig. A serious pig. A pig who takes his job very seriously… watching the other pigs, taking care of the other pigs, being there for the other pigs. Constantine is Head Hog, and he likes to keep his trotters clean.

One day, a little pink pig named Aristotle asks the Head Hog why he never has any fun.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Review: Having Fun! and On the Go!


Being a toddler is all about having fun, of course - and these bright and tactile books from Child's Play epitomise the early years and their adventuresome antics.

In Having Fun!, two little tots roll and wrestle just like dogs on the grass. They splash and splosh like dolphins at the beach. They slip and slide like otters on a sled. It's all about movement and exploration when you're little, and with lift-the-flap pages paralleling kids with the antics of animals, little ones will warmly relate to both image and text. I particularly love the use of onomatopoeia.

In On the Go!, a series of toddling babies meet a line-up of animals who jump, waddle, crawl and climb their way through the book. Opening the lift-the-flap recto page showcases, once again, the child paralleling the animal on the preceding double page spread.

Beautifully-designed with striking, totally toddler-friendly illustrations by Jess Stockham, these books are just two in a gorgeous series of Just Like Me/Just Like Us board books. See more at the Child's Play website.

Title: Having Fun! and On the Go!
Author/Illustrator: Jess Stockham
Publisher: Child's Play, $12.95 RRP
Publication Date: December 2006
ISBN: 9781846431784 / 9781846430497
Format: Hard cover
For ages: 0 - 3 
Type: Board Book

Saturday, 11 February 2012

event: What's Coming Up at Pinerolo

Want to know what's coming up at Margaret Hamilton's glorious Pinerolo? Check out these tempters...


Eckersley's Art Supplies, in collaboration with the Australian Society of Authors, is providing workshops for illustrators - to demonstrate new materials and latest techniques. There will also be an attractive discount on products purchased at the workshop.

When: Friday 24 February
Where: Pinerolo
Time: 10 am to 12 noon
Cost: $10.00

Bookings essential. Click here or call the office on 1800 257 121 or (02) 9211 1004
. Maximum 20 participants.


Our popular and very successful one-day course on creating children's picture books. Award-winning illustrator Dee Huxley and former publisher Margaret Hamilton lead you through all the steps involved - everything you always wanted to know about picture books but were afraid to ask. 

When: Saturday 25 March
Where: Pinerolo
Time: 10 am to 4 pm

Booking and pre-payment essential. See here for full details.

Pinerolo, the Children's Book Cottage, 116-120 Shipley Rd, Blackheath NSW

ebook Review: My Very First App by Eric Carle

Who better to take kidlings through their first app experience than the superlative Eric Carle? This gorgeous app for iPhone and iPad may be simple but it's beautifully-designed and enchanting for kids.

In Colours, kids have three game options - easy, medium and hard. Swiping the images left or right, kids can match the object to the colour. Medium and hard are matching games.

In Animal Homes, kids match the animal to their environment with similar games.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Review: Diary of a Soccer Star

Marcus Atkinson is 9 years old. He likes computer games and he doesn’t like sport. Marcus’ father is sure that if he just gets involved he’ll discover hidden sporting talents. Marcus isn’t so sure.

Marcus decides to keep a diary to record the horrors that he is certain are on the way when his father signs him up with a local soccer coaching program. With a combination of words and drawings, Marcus shares the ups and downs of the soccer season and the surprise result of the soccer tournament final.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

ebook Review: Big Nate Comix by U

Big Nate is a success unto himself – his comic style books a hit with kids all over the world – but imagine your very own comic strip capability, creating your own Nate cartoons using the man himself, his friends, teacher Mrs Godfrey, and Spitsy the dog.

This super cool app is a creative wonderland for kids who like to both write and draw. Gorgeously designed on exercise book paper, kids can create a comic strip using a pre-formatted Story Starter (to get those creative juices flowing) or they can start completely from scratch.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Event: NYR12 Community Party, Canberra

Event: Wheeler Centre Children's Book Festival

The big event on the calendar of all lovers of children’s literature is back! On Sunday 25 March, your favourite authors and illustrators will be taking over the lawns of the State Library (328 Swanston Street, Melbourne) for a day of books, books, books.

Get yourself into the city for a huge celebration of children’s books that’ll be even bigger than last year. There’ll be performers and readings, music and magic. And most of all, there’ll be the people who created your favourite stories.

Festival day is Sunday 25 March, but on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 March, the State Library of Victoria will host a programme of activities and events for primary school classes.

With fun activities organised by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Playgroup Victoria, Books Illustrated and others, you’ll barely have time to stop for an ice cream … but you can.

Events include:
• Meet the Author/Illustrator • Workshops • Activities • Author storytelling • Theatre performances • Petting Zoo • Face painting • Music • Book signings • ABC outside broadcast • Publisher tents

Check the Wheeler Centre website for more details of events, activities and guests!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

ebook Review: Jeannette Rowe books

I received a wonderful surprise recently - a phone call from Jeannette Rowe, one of Australia’s best selling pre-school authors. Jeannette called to tell me about a new digital initiative she has embarked upon.

Giggle Kids Games is creating children’s apps for preschool and early school age children. These innovative apps are the first of their kind in Australia to combine established children’s picture books and games in such a highly interactive and educational way.

Monday, 6 February 2012

National Year of Reading Upcoming Events

Wowzers! Have you seen the incredible line-up of events celebrating the launch of the National Year of Reading? There's around 30 pages of Australia-wide and online events and celebrations, so you're more than likely to find something near you. The event entries are even colour-coded by state to make finding something easier. Check it out here!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review: The Brilliant World of Tom Gates

I am Tom Gates. When my teachers don’t have their beady eyes on me, I like to draw pictures and think of ways to annoy Delia.

Do not read if you are:

1. My grumpy sister Delia

2. Marcus Meldrew (who is an idiot)

3. Mrs Worthington, who has a moustache (it's tricky not to stare)

Tom Gates is a ten year old boy who has a best friend next door called Derek, also a ten year old boy, but the bad thing is they are in different classes (but still in the same grade). They can't chat in class too much, so they chat on the way home.

This book is brilliant because it’s a funny and ha ha book. Also when you start to read it, it gets better and you will keep on reading and reading until you are done!

- this review by Riley (9)

Title: The Brilliant World of Tom Gates 
Author: L Pichon
Publisher: Scholastic, $17.95 RRP
Publication Date: 4 April 2011
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781407120690
For ages:  7 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction

Review: New Girls for Our Australian Girl Series

KBR loves the Our Australian Girl series, published by Puffin, and the success of the first four girls - Rose, Poppy, Grace and Letty - is testament to how much young girls are loving the series, too.

25 January saw the release two new girls to this historical fold - Nellie and Alice.

It's 1849 and Nellie O'Neill is arriving in South Australia on a ship bringing orphan girls from Irish workhouses. Nellie and her best friend Mary have left the famine in Ireland far behind, and are full of hopes and dreams for the future. Nellie longs to learn to read, to be part of a family once more and never to be hungry again. But with no job and no one to turn to, how will Nellie make her wishes come true?

It's 1918 and Alice lives with her big family by the Swan River in Perth, while on the other side of the world, the Great War rages.  Alice's deepest wish is to become a ballerina, and when she auditions for a famous dance teacher from London, it seems as if her dreams might come true.  But then there's a terrible accident, and Alice must ask herself whether there are more important things than dancing.

Once again, these two first books will be followed by six more, rounding out four books per character. Showcasing our girls through time, the Our Australian Girl series beautifully melds history with entertaining and enlightening storylines. Perfect for girls aged 6 to 10, but older girls will appreciate them, too.

Title: Meet Nellie / Meet Alice
Author: Penny Matthews / Davina Bell
Publisher: Penguin, $14.95 RRP
Publication Date: 25 January 2012
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143306238 / 9780143306290
For ages: 6 - 10
Type: Junior Fiction, Historical Fiction

Saturday, 4 February 2012

ebook Review: Apps and Books for Toddlers by Night & Day Studios

Night and Day Studios have been quite prolific of late, adding consistently to their impressive repertoire of classic storybook apps. Following are the best of the best – perfect for beginner iPad users – yes under-fives, I’m talking to you (and maybe a few adults, too!). Have fun!

Richard Scarry’s Busytown, A$2.99 on iTunes

Scarry’s iconic Busytown is such a fabulously vibrant place to visit. All his classic animal characters are here – cats, pigs, foxes and bunnies – and kids get to choose their preferred animal, name them from a series of options, then dress them from a selection of cool outfits.

Then it’s into the action. With a series of scenes to choose from, including rooms of the house, the firehouse and grocery store, kids are instructed to find certain objects in a very busy scene (of increasing difficulty). As the child taps on each object, its word appears and is sounded out until the right object is tapped.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Guest Post: The Benefits of Audiobooks for Children

Kids Book Review welcomes freelance writer and audio book advocate Peter Markovic, with his thoughts on the ways children can benefit by downloading audio books online.

We all know that kids love stories, even toddlers. Most youngsters will be drawn into a good tale of comedy or drama. Audio books for children offer an affordable and convenient way for them to take their stories with them, and use their imaginations, even when an older person is not available to read aloud to them.

Review: VIII

Handsome, charming, talented and athletic, Hal is a young man who believes he has been chosen for greatness, even though his father insists he is simply a ‘spare’ son, valuable only if something happens to his older brother.

But Hal is right, for he goes on to greatness after his brother dies unexpectedly. Yet the shining promise of Hal’s youth is tainted as he ages and becomes one of history’s infamously cruel leaders. This is the story of Hal, better known as Henry VII.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

NYR12 news: Charity Partners

One of NYR12's campaigns key ideas for 2012 is to support the work already being done in Australia to support reading and writing, and in particular by those organisations working in some of the country's remotest territories and communities. The following organisations are working in conjunction with NYR12 to improve literacy, and so improve people's lives.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation aims to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Australians living in remote and isolated regions. This is done by providing books and literacy resources to Indigenous communities and raising broad community awareness of Indigenous literacy issues. Visit the website to learn more about the wonderful programmes and events they have planned during 2012.

The Smith Family is a national, independent children's charity helping disadvantaged Australians get the most from their education. The organisation's work in 95 Australian communities is extended and enhanced by the 20,000 VIEW Clubs members, along with nearly 6,800 community and corporate partners and volunteers. Visit the website to get involved.

The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) is dedicated to raising language, literacy and numeracy standards in Australia, and raises funds to develop, implement and sustain innovative projects for individuals, families and communities. Their Share a Book program perfectly complements the National Year of Reading. Find out more here