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

Friday, 30 March 2012

Review: Why We Broke Up

Min and Ed’s relationship is over. Min goes through the box where she has gathered all the mementoes of their time together – movie tickets, bottle tops, a coin, rose petals. She writes a letter to Ed, working through the memories triggered by each memento and explains just why they are breaking up.

Why We Broke Up captures the intensity of young love. As Min works through her memories and emotions, her recollections are a mixture of the idealism of youth and the wisdom that comes with hindsight.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

ebook Review: Try!

Kids Book Review is delighted to host author Sharon McGuinness on blog tour with her very first chapter book - Try! 

Sharon, a teacher librarian, says - "I was inspired to write this story a few years ago because of a couple of my (then) Yr 1 students who would continually hound me for stories about rugby league. There are still none available for younger readers . . . and those two boys are now my Yr 5 students!"

Sharon has worked very hard to self-publish this chapter book for younger readers, and is making it available in ebook format - as both an ebook and flipbook.We hope you enjoy this review!

Jesse Baxter wants to play football. He doesn't want to play AFL. Neither soccer. And no, no, no - not rugby union. He wants to play rugby league - and nothing else will do.

When he begs his mum to let him play, Jesse is disheartened by Mum's reluctance - Jesse is not nicknamed 'Flea' for nothing - he's simply not built for the rough-and-tumble world of rugby league.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

event: LOOK! the art of Australian Picture Books Today

Review: Edge of the World

This is an amazing work of art and prose in the category of outstanding picture books created by Margaret Wild and Shaun Tan, which separate themselves because of their unique and individual content.

Trevaskis draws pictures with his words. Harris challenges the reader to look deeply into his pictures, to observe and read without words. Together they have produced a collector’s dream seven years in the making.

Fisherman Toby McPhee is swathed in his grief. All colour left his life when his family was stolen by the sea. His sadness has permeated the village at the edge of the world where nobody smiles as they go about their lifeless, daily routine.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Review: Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day

Brothers can be so annoying. Particularly brothers who destroy special hats. And most especially when you are a totally hat-loving girl.

Poor Clara - her beautiful, whimsical hat is ruined by Ollie - a hat that once belonged to Clara's Granny Elsie. A milliner with a penchant for beautiful creations, Elsie died long before Clara was born, but left her granddaughter with a serious love of gorgeous, brimmed creations.

To cheer her up, Clara's mum takes her to the Victoria and Albert Museum, a place also brimming with hats. Hoping she might find a milliner who could repair it, Clara tucks Granny Elise's hat into her backpack.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Review: Grandpa Green

Tracking down a copy of Grandpa Green became a bit of an obsession with me last year. I finally managed to snaffle a copy in an out-of-the-way country bookstore, of all places - and the wait was well worth it.

Lane Smith is one of my favourite authors, and - after the international success of It's A Book, I was kind of dumbfounded as to why Grandpa Green was so hard to find. Smith's work is so consistently good - and covetable - it should be found on every bookshelf in every bookstore; I love his work that much.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

ebook Review: Leonard

I first went bananas over Ink Robin's first e-book back in April 2011. Will & Kate: A Love Story was released just in time for the spectacular nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton - and lo, it was also spectacular.

This brand new release - the second ebook for the talented team at Ink Robin, may be quite different to the team's first book, but it's just as much fun.

Little Leonard has an excellent imagination. Along with his persnickety blue cat, Leonard can take something as simple as a paper hat and a wooden spoon . . . and become a pirate, rollicking the rolling seas.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Review: Look-Alikes - The More You Look, The More You See

Clever books will grab my attention every time and this wonderful 'spot the details' picture book is very clever indeed. Children and adults alike will be entranced as they search with Where's Wally-like intensity to spot the many items used to construct the illustration collages.

The story of a journey and holiday including train trip, hotel stay and visit to the circus are illustrated using collages constructed of various everyday items. From coffeepots to bottletops, batteries to chopsticks, author/illustrator Joan Steiner has created scenes with a wonderful 3D effect and a myriad of items for readers to search for.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Event: State Library of Victoria Children's Book Festival 2012

Sunday 25th March 
on the lawns of the State Library of Victoria
10.00am – 4.00pm

Sunday 25th March will see the return of the Children’s Book Festival, with an even bigger celebration of all things related to children’s books! Stop off first at the State Library’s lawns where there’ll be marquees, musical acts, roving performers, and even the chance to join the teddy bear’s picnic!
Little Lonsdale Street will be lined with marquees full of fun activities, including: arts and crafts, publishing your own book, competitions, author appearances and lucky dips. Keep an eye out for the petting zoo and the fire truck! Along Little Lonsdale Street, you will find the Wheeler Centre which will host authors and illustrators in conversation.

Inside the Library, visit Experimedia for storytelling or go up to Queen’s Hall where you will have the chance to meet your favourite authors and illustrators or attend a workshop run by them. In the Library’s Village Roadshow Theatrette you will enjoy a range of theatrical performances suitable for all tastes.

Families can enjoy Goss Community Choir, Mudcakes, Valanga & Leo, Children’s Laureate, Cha Cha Sam, Paul Jamieson the Music Man, Kazoos, The Mighty bUZZniks Duo . . .
. . . there will be talks, workshops, readings and book signings with such esteemed authors as Boori Monty Pryor, Hazel Edwards, Anna Walker, Mark Wilson, Gabrielle Wang, Anna Pignataro, Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths, Leigh Hobbs, Alison Lester and Graeme Base!
There will also be a fire truck, petting zoo, Kids’ Own Publishing Book Cubby, face and henna painting, and much more!
Don't miss this extraordinary event. See the website for the full programme.

Review: Ships in the Field

It's war time. A little girl and her stuffed toy dog Brownie are waiting for Papa to come home. Papa works in a car factory all day long. He used to be a farmer back in the old country. But now he's not.

The little girl's mother used to be a teacher. But now she's not. Now she makes dresses all day. Things are different for this family now, and the sadness and loss is palpable.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review: The Goblin and the Girl

What sort of child were you (or are you)? Were you brash and brave? Or were you shy and lacking self esteem? When you are a child things like acceptance can be scary and confusing. Especially if you are shy.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Review: The Very Hungry Bum

Many of us grew up alongside the gastronomic travails of a very hungry caterpillar, in Eric Carle's ubiquitous picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I can still remember sliding my teensy fingers into the holes left by that ravenous little worm as he munched his way through a fricasée of fruit before moving onto lollipops and sausages, watermelon and chocolate cake (I can also remember my youthful envy!).

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Are We There Yet? exhibition opening at Civic Library, Canberra

I was thrilled to attend the opening of the Are We There Yet? touring exhibition at Civic Library here in Canberra this week - showcasing the multi-step creation of Alison Lester's iconic picture book. This was some amazing experience - to see Alison's original work and all her inspiration up close, was glorious.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Interview: KBR Unpublished MS Award Winner Rebecca Colless

even as a tot, our winner was a creative soul
In just one month, Kids Book Review is launching its second annual Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award. We've made some changes to the award, making it easier to enter - with a larger cash prize for the winner. But most exciting of all, we have a wonderful publisher who is willing to look at the winning manuscript!! We will reveal ALL on 16 April . . .

To celebrate our second year running this award, we are taking a look back at our 2011 award - and are excited to introduce you to the winner of our Unpublished Author category - Rebecca Colless - whose fabulous story - Bollinger's Feast - was an absolute joy to read.

Enjoy this peek into the life a true lover of words - and stay tuned for our interview with our Published Author 2011 winner - Catriona Hoy.

Who are you? Is this a trick question?

What do you do? Currently, I am developing a non-fiction picture book for our local water supplier. It’s for toddlers. I previously developed a kindergarten book for the same business. I also manage the marketing for my husband’s business: www.redbeardbakery.com.au. And I’m a mum. In my spare time I sing, walk and read (not always simultaneously).

Friday, 16 March 2012

Review: One Long Thread

When quiet, creative Ruby’s parents divorce, her world is turned upside down. Not only does her mother leave, she takes Ruby’s vibrant, outgoing twin sister Sally with her.

Over the years, Ruby holds on to the dream that her family will once again come together, but a tragedy puts an even greater distance between Ruby and her sister and leads Ruby on a journey that helps her to reconcile her future with her past.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Review: Look, a Book!

Two little poppets find a book. It's laying in the dust by the fence outside a rickety house.

They gather the book smartly and climb away atop the old outdoor loo to read it. Take care. Be careful with it. Must not get dust on it.

But a sudden gust of wind unhands the book and a dog takes off with it. Must not let the dog chew on it! Must not let it get wet by the rain.

Hold it close and share it. Treasure it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Review: What's the Matter Aunty May?

What's the matter Aunty May indeed! If I was Aunty May, I would need a stiff drink and a lie down after this young chap's visit!

He is not a nasty boy. Oh no. He is just trying to help is Aunt with a spot of cleaning. Think Denis the Menace with a dustpan and broom. He means well but things just don't seem to go to plan.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Guest Post: E Met Book with Nick Bland

KBR is thrilled to welcome Nick Bland, beloved Australian author/illustrator of children’s books with this eye-opening guest post. Here he talks about the logistics behind his foray into e-books.

Publishers used to love the letter ‘e’. The most-used letter in written English, it always sat innocuously at fifth place in the alphabet and second to ‘A’ among vowels. ‘E’ spent most of its life in publishing coming in at the back end of words. It made the word ‘olde’ somehow seem older than ‘old’.

In recent years, ‘e’ has been roaming the world brandishing a hyphen and in some cases laying claim to word status. ‘A’ envy, perhaps.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Review: Northwood

I opened Northwood with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Brian Falkner’s high action, futuristic young adult novels kept me on the edge of my seat. Could he work the same magic for a younger audience?

Cecelia Undergarment, the heroine of Northwood, is unusual. This is not because she lives in a house shaped like a giant bunch of balloons, although it does make things very interesting from the start. No, her most unusual feature is that she understands animals and they understand her. She doesn’t guess what animals say, she knows.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Review: Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline

This book made me feel like an idiot. Yep, you heard me. An idiot. There are so many things about this country I didn’t know, nor had I even thought about. But isn’t that the beauty of books, you learn something new everyday. Or in this case … about 50 things!

Guest Post: U-Tales and The Friendship Alphabet

At the end of last year, KBR welcomed Nils von Heijne from uTales.com with a post on picture books for a better world. Nils has returned with news of this unique children's ebook project. Welcome, Nils!

The Friendship Alphabet is one of our most exciting projects yet. More than 30 authors and illustrators from fifteen different countries have created a digital picture book together. The ebook can be read online at uTales.com and uTales apps for iPad and iPhone, and all earnings from it will go to uTales' charity partner Pencils of Promise to help them build new preschools in developing countries, such as Laos and Guatemala. 

The Friendship Alphabet teaches children the alphabet through the concept of friendship, while showcasing different styles of illustration and storytelling from around the world. The idea for the book came from Anders Lindholm, illustrator and member of the uTales community, and he then engaged other uTalers from USA, Canada, The UK, Israel, South Africa, Greece, France and Italy etc. The simple idea was to teach children about friendship by having the book be created based on the artistic friendship among uTalers.

The concept of having so many different creatives come together to create one fun and educational ebook for charity is fairly unique, and uTales founder Nils von Heijne says he hopes to see more projects like this in the digital book space soon.
You can purchase the ebook for $1.99 or start a full uTales subscription for $9.99/month (which will give you access to hundreds of educational ebooks for kids, while supporting charity). You can also claim a free uTales trial at uTales.com.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Creative Reading Prize

Want more competitions to encourage reading? Just want to encourage reading full stop? Whichever way you swing, there's no doubt kids all over Australia are having a blast falling in love with books.

The Read This! Creative Reading Prize is now on. Get your kids into the spirit and think up a creative way to nominate their favourite book - something they love so much, they just have to share.

Kids simply submit a creative idea in any format they like. Example:

Write a short story using the characters/setting from your favourite book (feel free to add zombies)
Make a video trailer or a machinima trailer
Write a poem or a song
Illustrate their favourite scene/character
Sew a costume
Make a model
Create an art piece
There are $40,000 worth of prizes to be won. Entries opened 1 March and close 31 May 2012.

Get cracking!

Greatest Reading Super Hero

It goes without saying that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the joy of books. Since the National Year of Reading kicked off this February, many wonderful events and initiatives have been launched to help encourage kids (and adults) to read.

Scholastic have now got on board with this wonderful reading challenge. The search has now begun to find Australia's Greatest Reading Super Hero.

A Reading Super Hero knows the awesome power of reading and loves to read for at least 10 minutes every day. The Reading super hero could be your mum, your dad, your teacher, your grandma or it could even be you. All you need to do is tell Scholastic who your Reading Super Hero is and you could win an amazing prize!

The National Prize is the ulimate Apple home system including a Mac Book Air, iPad2, the latest iPod and a massive Scholastic book prize, all valued at over $2500! The school of the National Winner also receives $5000 worth of supplies from Scholastic and an iPad2!

There are also State Prizes to be won. Head to the Scholastic website now for more details.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

News: Closing the Gap on Indigenous Literacy

During the past month, Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a major speech reporting on the Government’s progress on Closing the Gap. For The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Closing the Gap means working as a community to deliver literacy resources, supporting community initiated literacy projects and working closely with a small number of communities on early literacy resources for preschools.

Let’s halve the gap in literacy and numeracy achievements for children by 2018 so more Indigenous children know the love of books.

Let’s halve the gap for Indigenous students in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020, so more young people are ready for life and a job.

Let’s ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities by 2012, so more Indigenous children are ready on their first day of school.

YOU can help. Make a donation today and help the ILF reach their 2012 goal to deliver 15,000 books to remote communities, schools and service organsations.

Help them work with community initiated literacy projects that ensure some Aboriginal stories, themes and life in remote communities are recorded.

Help them build literacy skills at the earliest age. Their goal is: $600,000 and they have $560,000 to go. Every little bit helps.

Head to the ILF website for more www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au

Review: Wonder

The universe was not kind to August Pullman.

Ten-year-old Auggie doesn't tell you what's wrong with his face. He tells you that whatever you think he looks like, it's probably a lot worse. He was born this way. And life has been far from easy.

Embraced in a loving family, with a big sister Via, Auggie has suffered a lifetime of horrified stares and gasps and double-takes. He has been homeschooled by his mum his entire life, but when faced with the prospect of going to a real school - to further advance his already impressive studies - Auggie is horrified.

How will the kids react? How will they treat him? Kids can be so cruel. Especially kids in middle school. Can Auggie navigate the travails of fitting in, of showing his true insides, of proving he's no 'freak' and is not the product of his horrible physical  disfigurement?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

News: Creative Net

If you are a librarian or teacher interested in author visits, Creative Net is a truly wonderful resource. Facilitating author and illustrator participation in schools, libraries, conferences and festivals, Creative Net do not charge an agency a fee. 

Simply choose an author or illustrator from their extensive listing, nominate your preferred dates, and they will confirm details with the requested speaker. Once the date is set, you are put directly in touch with the author or illustrator concerned, to sort out speaking fees and visit details. 

The impressive array of Creative Net authors and illustrators cover picture books through to young adult fiction. They are all experienced and consistently receive excellent feedback.

Creative Net expects their list to grow so keep an eye on their site for updates!

Review: All Monkeys Love Bananas

Sometimes you are just drawn to a book. You see it and you must have it. I immediately fell in love graphically with the cover. I love the minimal use of colour, the cheeky monkeys and the furry looking type. There is a little bit of The Mighty Boosh's style in here. Not to mention the tactile cover with furry monkeys! Everything, to me, says GIMMIE!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Event: Are We There Yet?

In celebration of the National Year of Reading, Are We There Yet?, an iconic Australian picture book by Alison Lester, is being featured in a touring exhibition, showing both the original illustrations as well as the preliminary and developmental stages in the making of the book.

Audiences will delight in Alison's children's actual travel diaries, through text, illustration and design drafts, to the final published book - including a number of folios of developmental drawings.

From 12 March, the Are We There Yet? exhibition will be showing in Canberra. Class or group bookings can be made by visiting www.library.act.gov.au or by calling 6205 9000. Check the NYR12 website for details on when the exhibition will tour near you. ENTRY IS FREE. Class and group bookings are encouraged.

On the website, you'll also find a number of free downloadable resources are also available including:
· Penguin Educational Notes
· Australian School Library Association associated teaching unity and resources
· Children’s activity sheets
· Are We There Yet? colouring sheet

To view the teaching unit and other resources visit Love2Read wiki.


In conjunction with the exhibition, children 12 years of age and under are invited to enter the Are We There Yet? competition. There is a separate competition for each state and territory and prizes for different ages.

NYR12 want to find out about kids' favourite places. Kids can send in a description as a short story, in 200 words or less, or as a picture (original work). NYR12 judges will choose the ones they like best and the winners' story or picture could be part of our National Year of Reading children’s gallery

There’s a separate competition for each state and territory and there are prizes for different ages, so there are lots of opportunities to win. Kids can enter by themselves, or as part of a school or kinder class entry, and there are $40,000 worth of prizes including author visits, book packs and game.

Age categories are:
Pre-school (for under five-year-olds)
Early primary school (five to eight years)
Later primary school (eight to 12 years)

Learn more here.

Guest Post: UK Literary Landmarks for Kids

Planning on travelling any time soon? Bring bedtime stories to life with a trip to one of the UK's many novel places to visit. Whether it's a site that inspired a classic story or an attraction that celebrates a timeless tale, we take a look at some of the best destinations for exploring the worlds of your favourite books.

Harry Potter

Kids hooked on the world of Harry Potter can explore many of the book and film locations in the City of London on a number of guided or walking tours. Follow the Death Eaters' route of destruction, taking in Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge, or admire the exterior of the Ministry of Magic at Great Scotland Yard, or Gringotts Bank at Australia House.

Take a stroll down Diagon Alley (or Goodwins Court near Leicester Square), or along Charing Cross Road, where the Leaky Cauldron is supposedly located. Or visit Kings Cross Station to see the Platform 9 3/4 plaque and a trolley disappearing into the wall.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Review: With Nan

Talk about heart-warming.

When little Simon goes on a walk with his Nan, she shows him (as only grandparents know how) that things aren't always as they seem.

A leaf that flutters away? A stick that eats? A sliver of ground the scampers? Exploring the great outdoors is certainly an eye-opening adventure when you look for things that are ordinarily hidden in the great expanse that is nature.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Review: How Do You Feel?

Newborn babies burst from the womb focused on faces. Toddlers begin to read feelings into of facial cues while preschoolers learn to unlock the cause-effect aspects of actions and feelings. (i.e. if I hit my baby brother, he will cry; if I hug my Mum, she will smile.)

How Do You Feel? offers a monkey’s point of view. Short simple sentences keep toddlers’ attention while large simple drawings with clear outlines will engage even younger babes.  

Friday, 2 March 2012

Review: Skin Deep

Ugly people don’t have feelings. They don’t notice if you stare at them in the street. They’re not like real people. Or that’s what I used to think. When I was younger. Before I learned.

Such is the enigmatic back cover blurb of this interesting teen novel. They are also the first words the novel’s central character Jenna shares with readers after the account of the horrific car accident that left her physically and emotionally scarred.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Events: Australian Story Book Launch

Review: Where on Earth is the Moon?

The night Luna was born, the moon was fat and glowing in the sky – and as she grew older, she watched the moon nightly and soon became entranced by its comforting presence.

She also dreamt of the moon – crescent moons, half-moons, full moons – but most of all, she dreamt of walking on the moon.

During the day, however, Luna wondered where the moon disappeared to. How could she find out? Stay awake? Not go to sleep? Keep watch for where the moon might go?