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

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Posts of Halloween Past: Meg and Mog

When Meg the witch and her cat, Mog, head to a Halloween party with the other witches, things take an unexpected turn.

We are taken through each step as Meg wakes at midnight, serves breakfast and gets ready for the spell party, meets up with her friends and casts a spell that changes the lot of them. 

Posts of Halloween Past: Scarygirl

This large format graphic novel picture book by the talented Nathan Jurevicius is a true riot of visual splendour. Virtually wordless, the incredibly beautiful, almost fluorescent paintings are a sight to behold.

The edgy, emotive and lusciously-coloured illustrations lend a haunting element to this story of a little, scarred ‘girl’ who lives alone in a dark forest. One cold dark night, a large octopus-like creature discovers the girl and – it’s love at first sight.

Posts of Halloween Past: Hubble Bubble Granny Trouble

My granny is a little bit different to other grannies. She wears a funny hat. She has a menagerie of interesting pets - like bats, frogs and cats. She cooks icky soup (no fish fingers allowed at her house!) and drives a skinny car with no windows or doors, and a bushy thatch of straw on the end.

She can even make things disappear.

Posts of Halloween Past: The Witches

No Halloween book line-up could be complete without the master of strange, Roald Dahl. He may be overtly known for his nonsense stories, but Dahl was also a writer of eerie renown and The Witches is one of his best.

The thing about Roald Dahl is that he not only writes amazing stories, he writes well. I think it's easy to forget how fluidly he writes because we all get caught up in the bizarre and hyper-creative stories that squidged from his pen.

Posts of Halloween Past: The Scariest Thing of All

Pip is a little bunny who lives in the woods with lots of other bunnies - little bunnies, big bunnies, medium-sized bunnies. Pip is extra small. And he's always scared.

Pip is scared of a lot of things. The usual things. The less usual things. Things that are just plain weird.

Posts of Halloween Past: Mommy

Maurice Sendak and pop-ups. What more could you possibly need? Honestly?

Not much. This book has proved to be one of our family’s favourite books – for both kids and adults – and what better time to showcase it than right on All Hallow’s Eve?

In Mommy, a little boy searches the pages of a spookified castle looking for his mummy – er… mommy – but everywhere he looks, there is nothing but ghoulish surprise after surprise.

Will mommy be hiding in the castle’s dank basement chamber? “Mommy?” No, it’s only a mad scientist working his lab. Will she be round a dark corner? “Mommy?” No, it’s just a vampire in need of a dummy (pacifier).

Along this spooky journey, our little boy is totally unphased as he meets Frankenstein and werewolves and a real live mummy – but who will his mommy turn out to be?

With stunning papercrafting pop-ups on every page, with a bonus flip-out-pop-up, too, this is a book kids will love exploring over and over again. Funny, charming and only a little bit spooky.

Review by Tania McCartney

Title: Mommy
Author/Illustrator: Arthur Yorinks for Maurice Sendak
Paper Engineering: Matthew Rheinhart
Publisher: Scholastic, A$39.95RRP
Publication Date: 1 September 2009
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780439880503
For ages: 2+
Type: Pop-Up Book

Goulish Posts of Halloween Past!


Welcome to Kids Book Review's GOULISH posts of Halloween past ...

WE are frightfully glad you have joined us. 
We stitched our heads together at KBR to come up with our favourite spooky books to bust out when celebrating All Hallows' Eve.

WE are just DYING to share them with you ...

Happy Halloween guys and ghouls.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

12 Curly Questions with author Jeannette Rowe

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Everyday I feed our family of Magpies on my front door step. There are four of them. Bill, Shirley, Hooky, and Scrawny.

2. What is your nickname?
My family nickname is ‘Nettie’ short for Jeannette.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being locked in small spaces! Definitely.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Playful, child like, humorous, verging on silly and very fun.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Review: Nobody's Boy

Award-winning author Dianne Bates has written another superlative novel following her impressive Crossing the Line. She is a writer who knows and understands her subjects well. She writes from the inside out, exposing all the raw emotions experienced by her characters, with a moving, deliberate and successful intent to engage the reader from the first to the last word.

Ron Green at ten years old has learned how to ‘keep his gob shut’. He is a boy who doesn’t feel loved. All he wants to do is be with his dad. His mother, an alcoholic with a history of living on the streets with her son, has been arrested and jailed. Ron’s father has remarried and his wife, Anna, sees Ron as the enemy.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Mem Fox + Judy Horacek at Gungahlin Library

As part of the annual Get Reading campaign, big-time authors are on the move, visiting libraries all over Australia and delighting crowds everywhere - none more so than Mem Fox who visited Gungahlin Library here in Canberra today, touring with illustrator cohort Judy Horacek to read their delightful books - the immensely popular Where's the Green Sheep and their newbie - Goodnight, Sleep Tight.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Blog Tour - 12 Curly Questions with author Deborah Abela

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I first realised I was claustrophobic when I woke up in my sleeping bag at Hill End, Bathurst and thought I’d stop breathing if I didn’t get out fast! I froze because I slept under my sleeping bag instead of in it . . . but I survived. I’m still claustrophobic though I do manage to get into sleeping bags.

2. What is your nickname?
I have a few . . . 'Six’ because I had a favourite shirt with a ‘6’ on it that I used to wear a lot when I first met my beautiful partner, and my best friend calls me Abby which is a kind of variation on Abela and a favourite scene from a Mel Brook’s film.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Mmm . . . of all the ones I have, being trapped sums up them all . . . it’s about not having control and someone else deciding my fate . . .

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Fast-moving, playful but with moments of poignancy - at surprising moments.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Determined, passionate, easily enchanted, curious.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Isabella Charm from my book Grimsdon. She faces a great calamity and finds herself the guardian of three young children. She has her own fears and nightmares, but she is loyal, brave and a fierce rival if anyone dares threaten those kids.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
The 1920s. The war was over, women had newfound independence and were being given the right to vote in many countries, there was economic prosperity, flapper dresses and an optimism that would have been infectious.

8. What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
‘You did it! Even though you thought it was a fanciful dream that only happened to other people, you’re a writer!’

9. What/who made you start writing?
Books were a safe haven when I was a kid . . . no matter how frightening the book, I always felt there was hope and a way out and via the most imaginative means.

10. What is your favourite word and why?
One favourite word from a writer? Ahh! How about of the many - chiaroscuro. It’s from the Italian of words of chiaro meaning clear and bright and oscuro meaning dark and obscure. I think a lot of life is exactly that . . . multi-dimensional, with hidden depths and light pleasures, sometimes all at the same time.

11. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, it is all-enveloping and warm and playful and dark . . . chiaroscuro.

The first two books in Deborah's brand new junior fiction series - Ghost Club - are out now! Stay tuned for a giveaway of these fabulous books, right here on KBR - Monday 10 December. In the meantime, learn more about Deborah's books at deborahabela.com. 

This is the last stop on Deborah’s fabulous tour. 
Did you miss the previous stop? See: 
To see all the stops on the tour go to: www.deborahabela.com

If you are an author or illustrator who thinks they are BRAVE enough to answer our questions, 
OR if there is an author or illustrator you would like to hear from, LET US KNOW! 
We will see if they are up to the task. Just email: kellyATkids-bookreviewDOTcom

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Review: I Wish There Were Dinosaurs

Who needs monkeys and elephants and bats in the zoo? I mean, they're great, they're special - but what would be totally cool at the zoo?


A brachiosaurus as tall as the sky. A plesiosaur sharing swim-space with the seals. A T-Rex with extra strong jaws . . .

Review: The 39 Clues #2 One False Note

This book is all about the second clue from the 39 clues. It's a series where 14-year-old Amy Cahill and her 11-year-old brother Dan Cahill travel to Vienna to hold onto the second clue. These two are from the most strongest most courageous family in the world.

Over the centuries, the Cahill family had lots of powers, but one of the powers had been lost, so they head to Vienna on a train to find Mozart’s sheet of music. The sheet of music has the clue. They need to find it and bring it home but they probably they won’t make it because the Holts are on their heels.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review: Look! A Book!

Okay - I have to say, I'm thrilled to add another title to my Fave Books of All Time list. I can't even tell you how much I love this book. It's kind of hard to know where to start.

The illustrations. Let's start with them. They are kooky good. I mean - really really really good. They have that striking retro 50s-American vibe, but they are also fresh, modern and ultra cool. They're the type of illos that just pull up the corners of your mouth, you know what I mean?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

12 Curly Questions with author Oliver Phommavanh

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I have a soft spot for cheesy pop songs. Yes, that includes Justin Beiber and One Direction.

2. What is your nickname? 
Ollie! They used to call me Oliver Winfree in High School, cos they couldn't say my surname (and er...thought my name was Oprah)

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Heights, without a doubt. Sky diving, bungee jumping, living in a two storey house, ain't gonna happen for me.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Funny, quirky, weird, full of heart, punchy, sharp, WOO HOO!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Guest Post: Richard Newsome and his Billionaire series

KBR warmly welcomes Richard Newsome, author of the Billionaire Series, with this guest post on his very favourite book of all . . . and how it helped shaped the newest book in his sensational Billionaire series.

I’m often asked what is my favourite book. That’s simple. It’s 32 pages long, has almost no words and has a few stamps smeared throughout it.

It’s my passport.

While I love immersing myself in imaginary worlds, riding the whims and fancies of an author’s dreams, there is nothing quite like having your passport in one pocket, an airline ticket in another and a vague notion of going someplace else, just as long as it’s not here.

The lure of the open road, and all that.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review: 1001 Aussie Crack-ups

Kids love jokes and it often seems that the cheesier the joke, the better they like it.

I love the way my children come home from school to excitedly tell me the latest joke that one of their friends made up. Of course, it’s a joke that I thought my friends and I created when I was at school. The jokes seem to seep into the brickwork of the playground so that they can be rediscovered by each new generation of students.

Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Would you be surprised to see a white rabbit take a watch out of his waistcoat pocket? It certainly seems a remarkable sight to Alice and, full of curiosity, she follows him down a rabbit-hole into a very strange world.

I am very grateful that Alice tumbled down into that rabbit-hole, rather than shaking her head, rubbing her eyes and convincing herself that she was just dreaming. If she had, then generations of readers would have missed out on the amazing story of her adventures in Wonderland and that would be a very sad thing indeed.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Review: Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations

Which country is responsible for inventing the Hills Hoist clothes line, black box flight recorder and the cochlear implant (bionic ear)?  Most of you would know that the answer is Australia. What about the disposable syringe, baby safety capsule and stay-sharp knife? That’s Australia again.

Over the years, Australian inventors and innovators have had a profound impact on international society. From saving lives to saving time, Australian thinkers, scientists, engineers and designers have an impressive history of coming up with practical and useful solutions to significant problems.

Review: The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book

Beloved kiddy icon, singer, actor, performer and actress Justine Clarke has turned her hand to yet another genre of the Arts - writing. Penned with New Zealand screenwriter and comedian Arthur Baysing, this hard cover picture book introduces us to a curious little critter - the gobbledygook.

A gobbledygook, you ask? Like my own beloved childhood picture book friend, the Hurdy Gurdy Gondelope, this nonsense creature is a furry, space travelling, custard-slurping, dino roaring book lover . . . and reformed book eater.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Preview: Goldilocks Variations by Allan and Jessica Ahlberg

We know what happened when Goldilocks was confronted by three bears, but what would happen if she had to deal with 33 bears, or three little pigs, or a strange-talking Blim?

Father and daughter team Allen and Jessica Ahlberg have combined their talents to provide readers with variations on the well-known tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Not convinced that you need another fairytale book on your shelves? You need to watch this beautiful video of Allen and Jessica discussing the story behind their picture book – the way the idea for Goldilocks developed and the process of creating a gorgeous, interactive artwork that also happens to be an entertaining children’s pop-up, lift-the-flap picture book.

Doesn’t that just make you want to rush out to get a copy? Don’t you wish you were part of a family that could collaborate on such gorgeous projects together?

We’ll be featuring a review and giveaway of Goldilocks by Allan and Jessica Ahlberg in early December so stay tuned. If you can’t wait, the book will be released in Australia on the 23rd October, so you’ll be able to visit your favourite bookstore to pick up a copy very, very soon.

Title:  Goldilocks (The Goldilocks Variations)
Author: Allan Ahlberg
Illustrator: Jessica Ahlberg
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, $27.95 RRP
Publication Date:  23rd October 2012
Format:  Hardcover
ISBN: 9781406330052
For ages:  4+ years
Type: Picture Book, Pop-up book

Review: Inside Asperger's Looking Out

When a child is diagnosed with Asperger’s, it is the beginning of an incredible learning curve not only for the child and their family, but for extended family and friends. For those with no previous contact with anyone with Asperger’s Syndrome, it can be confusing and confronting to deal with some of the behaviours and mannerisms common to many ‘Aspies’.

With a combination of colour photographs and direct, first-person text, Inside Asperger’s Looking Out provides a simple overview of many of the typical traits associated with Asperger’s and offers some insight into how those traits impact the individual experiencing them.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review: Good Night, Sleep Tight

It’s Friday night and Bonnie and Ben need to go to bed. Their babysitter, Skinny Doug, knows how to settle the busy brother and sister for the evening. It’s time for some favourite nursery rhymes!

Skinny Doug shares nursery rhymes he learned from his mother including ‘pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake’ and ‘round and round the garden’. Bonnie and Ben love the rhymes and beg Doug to repeat them until their bedtime can’t be delayed any longer.

Review: The Children of the King

I was a little daunted launching into a Sonya Hartnett novel - I have never fallen about in rapture over her YA books but was nevertheless interested to see what she could do with a fiction novel for younger readers.

And the verdict? I liked it. A lot.

Perhaps the stunning cover drew me in (one that is perfectly aligned to the story, in so many ways). Perhaps it was the hint of history. Perhaps the title. But I literally rushed to open the book's cover - hoping to tumble in . . . and tumble I did.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Slave Girl

I am thrilled to have had the chance to read Slave Girl. It is a historical time-travel fantasy (one of my favourite genres) written for tween girls without the romance involved with a young adult or adult book.

In Slave Girl we meet 13-year-old Jenna Bookallil-Brown - from Erskineville, Sydney, Australia - who is an exchange student in New York. She is introduced as an angry fashionista who later develops into a loyal and appreciative teenager.

Review: Yellow Dress Day

Ava loves a pretty frock. She has them in every colour of the rainbow. Every day, when she flings open her bedroom window, she knows in her heart which colour dress she needs to wear today.

When she wears her red dress, things are crackling hot and sunny. When she wears her pink dress, spring is in the air. When she wears her blue dress, snowflakes tumble from the sky and land on Ava's nose.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

An Evening with Graeme Base

What a unique and wonderful experience at Paperchain, Manuka tonight. Canberra welcomed a flying visit from Graeme Base, internationally-renowned children's book writer and illustrator, whose book career spans an impressive 30 years. It was an honour to speak to him tonight and share in his diverse and creative world.

Review: Herman and Rosie

The smooth, summery lilt of the New York jazz scene is resplendent in this beautiful new book by the superlative Gus Gordon.

Herman Schubert and Rosie Bloom live in a very busy city. They are neighbours but they don't even really know it yet. Herman loves the oboe (and bosenberry yoghurt), Rosie loves singing and listening to old jazz records (and toffees that stick to her teeth), but both of them frequently feel a sense of loneliness, even though the city is one of the most buzzing and busiest places around.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Gus Gordon

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I play a blues harp (badly).

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t really have a proper nickname but I do get ‘Gussy’ a lot (mostly from my daughter).

3. What is your greatest fear?
Geez, I can’t really pick one but something bad happening to my kids would be high on the list. Being abandoned at sea would be scary followed closely by being mauled by a goose. These things freak me out – always have.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Melodic, whimsical, quirky, soulful, warm, conversational, restrained (have to be).

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Passionate, dogged, inquisitive, hopeful, green.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Huckleberry Finn. He has miles of good time to explore, use his imagination and have brilliant adventures. Plus he never has to grow up.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?

- The 1920s. I would tell the inventor of television John Logie Baird to invent something worthwhile before the collective masses’ imagination is devoured by a cathode ray tube.

- The Dinosaur age (any one of them). As long as I could get out of there quickly, it would surely be the ultimate visual destination ever.

- The music scene in New York in the 1960s was such a fertile, energetic period. I would love to attend an early Bob Dylan gig in Greenwich Village. Maybe I’d just stay there.

8. What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
1. Wait, someone actually pays me to draw?
2. What happened to my jet-black hair?
3. Why am I wearing blue jeans? Since when did pastel go out of fashion?
9. Who is your greatest influence?
My mother. She always allowed me the freedom to use my imagination and explore all its creative avenues in any way and every way, even when the possibility of failure was high.

10. What/who made you start writing?

- MAD magazine comics.

- My early English teachers Stuart Macdonald, Mark Harrison and Susan Hoddinott.

- Writer and Comedian Spike Milligan.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
It changes all the time but at the moment it’s ‘succulent’. That is one sensual word.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Just one is REALLY hard but if I were forced to choose I’d say The Lord of The Rings. It’s big, fat and full of so many ripping tales.

 Learn more about Gus at www.gusgordon.com or www.facebook.com/GusGordonbooks and stay tuned for our review of Herman and Rosie later today!

If you are an author or illustrator who thinks they are BRAVE enough to answer our questions, 
OR if there is an author or illustrator you would like to hear from, LET US KNOW! 
We will see if they are up to the task. Just email: susan@kids-bookreview.com

Monday, 15 October 2012

Guest Post: The Return of The Magic Finger, with David Mackintosh

KBR is thrilled to welcome mega-talented author/illustrator David Mackintosh with this fascinating guest post on beloved childhood books.

As a child, I didn’t have too many books, maybe too few, but I did have some good ones: a big illustrated edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and another of The Arabian Nights, Fairy Stories illustrated by Edmund Dulac, Tomi Ungerer’s The Three Robbers, The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse, Grimble by Clement Freud and Quentin Blake, several Dr Seuss titles, Busy, Busy World by Richard Scarry, and The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, illustrated by William Pène du Bois.

Librarian's Shelf: Reading with Rhythm

Rhythm is an essential part of language and therefore also an important part of reading. When you read a book with clear, consistent rhythm, clapping or tapping along to the beat helps reinforce it and makes the experience even more fun.

You’ll find many wonderful picture books that have great rhythm. Two that are amongst my favourites are We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, and Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is particularly suited to young children, but was originally a camp song/chant and can be enjoyed by a wide age range. It involves a group of children of various ages going on a walk - one which turns out to be an inadvertent bear hunt.

The best way to read it is as though it's being sung slowly, line by line, and pausing in between each line for children to echo - repeat - the line. The inclusion of onomatopoeic words like swishy-swashy adds meaning and excitement, and if you feel comfortable enough, you can make it even more interactive by including actions to go with them - parting the grass, swimming, and so on.

Tanka Tanka Skunk might seem like it’s for slightly older children, but it’s great for all ages. The two main characters, an elephant and a skunk, named Tanka and Skunk, explain the concept of syllables with the help of their animal friends. Here’s an example:

"This is kangaroo. His name has three beats, like this ... kan-ga-roo.

And this is caterpillar. His name has four beats, like this ... cat-er-pil-lar."

There’s plenty of rhyme and alliteration throughout, and a recurrent chorus of “Skunka, Tanka, Skunka, Tanka, Tanka, Tanka, Skunk!” Be sure to read this one through yourself before trying it with children though, as it can be quite a tongue twister.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Tanka Tanka Skunk are books that demand to be read out loud, and as you progress you’ll find you can’t help but get faster and louder. Be prepared to read both over and over again, because they’re heaps of fun for everyone, big or small!

Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books. 

Publisher's Insider: Never Judge a Book By Its Cover!

I can truthfully say that if there’s one saying that nobody in book publishing really believes it’s ‘never judge a book by its cover’! More time and money can be spent on designing a book’s cover than on almost any other part of the publishing process. It’s also often the cause of the biggest arguments or emotional outbursts, as when it comes to covers, everyone has an opinion!

In theory, the process should run something like this:
  1. Editor consults with author/illustrator as well as sales and marketing and then prepares a brief for the designer.
  2. Designer reads brief and prepares four or five different cover concepts.
  3. Concepts are narrowed down to a couple of favourites that are then refined.
  4. Final cover is selected.
  5. Everyone is happy.

In practice, the process often looks more like this:
  1. Editor consults with author/illustrator as well as sales and marketing and finds opinions are completely at odds regarding what the cover should look like. Editor attempts to reconcile differing views in the design brief.
  2. Designer reads brief, panics and throws together four or five different concepts hoping one will miraculously make everyone happy.
  3. Everyone likes a different concept. No agreement can be reached.
  4. Designer is asked to start again from scratch. More concepts are produced.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 are repeated until print deadlines are so pressing that in sheer desperation the editor selects a bit of each person’s favourite cover and asks the designer to create a new composite one. Incredibly, this actually works and everyone is happy.

Okay, that might be a bit tongue-in-cheek and is probably fuelled by memories of a recent book (and its cover) that I’ve just managed to send to print!

In all seriousness though, an enormous amount of thought goes into a book’s cover. Apart from the obvious requirement that it reflects the overall look and feel of the content, nowadays publishers need to ensure the cover will not only stand out on a bookshelf but will also look good when viewed as a thumbnail image on an online retailer’s site.

And different markets like different things. It’s not uncommon for US, UK and Australian editions of the same title to have different covers, reflecting each market’s individual preferences — the Harry Potter covers for the US and UK are a great example of this.

So next time you buy a book, please spare a thought for what’s gone into creating its public ‘face’. Publishers around the world will thank you!

Anouska Jones is our KBR Editor. Mum to a gorgeous little girl, she has nearly twenty years' experience in the book publishing industry. A publishing consultant and editor, Anouska is obsessed by all things to do with words, writing and books.