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

Friday, 31 May 2013

Review: The Originals

Born as part of an illegal cloning program, 'sisters' Ella, Betsey and Lizzie were forced into hiding when the program was uncovered. To avoid being taken away, the girls have lived as one girl ever since.

Having two sisters your own age has its advantages, but living a third of a life is getting harder and harder as the years go by. Imaging having to consult two other people before choosing your clothes, your hairstyle, or your boyfriend. Imagine having to present a consistent image to the outside world when you actually hate the music one sister listens to and can’t stand the cheerleading practice the other sister loves so much.

Review: The Sandman (The Guardians of Childhood #2)

I absolutely love the work of William Joyce. The author of over fifty children's books, he is also one of the creative geniuses behind films such as Toy Story and A Bug's Life and co-creator of the Academy Award-winning short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

His current project is The Guardians of Childhood, intended to be a series of thirteen books, on which the film The Rise of the Guardians is based.

Book List: 10 Books Featuring Paris

There's nothing wrong with a bit of armchair travel, and the City of Lights is certainly worth the trip. These books will help put the croissant on your virtual tray table.

This is Paris by M Sasek (Universe Publishing, A$34.95 RRP, 9780789310637) KBR review

The Red Balloon by A Lamorisse (Oberon Books, this edition not readily available, 9780385003438, try online)

Paris: A Three-Dimensional Expanding City Skyline by Sarah McMenemy (Walker Books, $12.95 RRP,  9781406337273) KBR review

Madeline and the Cats of Rome by Marciano (Puffin, $16.95, 9780143304623) KBR review

Paris: Everything you ever wanted to know (Lonely Planet, $19.99, 9781742205007) KBR Review

Adelaide the Flying Kangaroo by Tomi Ungerer (Phaidon, $19.95 RRP, 9780714860831) KBR review

Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop by Rupert Kingfisher (ABC Books, $24.99 RRP, 9780733326615) KBR review

Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews (Candlewick Press, $27.95 RRP, 9780763625481) KBR review
Monsieur Rat by Frederica Mossetti (Black Dog Books, A$14.99 RRP, 9781742030630) KBR review

Mademoiselle Lisa by Delphine Perret (Black Dog Books, $14.99 RRP, 9781742031620) KBR review

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review: Funny Bums

The rear ends of animals come in many shapes and sizes. None of them are boring. Find out why some animals have funny bums.

It came as no surprise when my 9-year-old son quickly spotted this book when it first arrived at our home. What young child could resist a book with such a provocative title?

Through the humorous (and slightly scandalous – at least for little ones) chapter titles, young children are drawn into this very basic explanation of how animals bodies are shaped in different ways to help them move, protect themselves, and attract the attention of other animals. Chapter headings such as ‘Sticky Bums’, ‘Smelly Bums’ and ‘Exploding Bums’ will have children giggling and wanting to know more.

Text Prize Winner Announced

The winner of the 2013 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing was announced last night in Melbourne.

The winner was chosen from four shortlisted titles, all by female writers.

And… (drum roll please!) … the winner is:

Diana Sweeney with The Minnow (formerly known as Flood Damage). Diana has won a publishing contract with Text worth $10,000.

This story is simultaneously sad and joyful. Publisher, Michael Heyward said, ‘You know when you pick up a book and it takes your breathe away? Well this book is like that.’ The Minnow is the story of a young girl struggling to find her way after a devastating flood claims the lives of her parents and sister.

Review: Yoo-Hoo, Ladybird!

Green. GREEN with envy that our Mem Fox has scored Laura Ljungkvist as illustrator for this adorable seek-and-find book. I've been a long-term fan of Laura's work and her stunning interpretation of Mem's wordage does not - in the least, tiniest bit - disappoint.

Where is ladybird? She's hiding because she loves it. Yoo-hoo! Ladybird! Where are you? There you are . . . hiding in a bathtub scene of divine, colourful and slightly kooky imagery, collaged into the sweetest and most cohesive scene, using both block and textured imagery, and photography.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: Shift

Olive Corbett is definitely not crazy. Not anymore. These days she takes her meds like a good girl, hangs out with her best friend Ami, and stays the hell away from the toxic girls she used to be friends with.

Olive just wants to fly under the radar and stay out of trouble, but she can’t help but notice new girl Miranda. She seems kind of creepy and her friendship with Olive’s old best friend seems sinister somehow. What if the rumours are true and Miranda is somehow responsible for her parents’ deaths.

Review: Fog Island

No-one has ever returned from the mysterious Fog Island, but when Finn and Cara get cast away on its murky shores, they discover things are not quite as they expect… Will anyone ever believe them?

The colour illustrations by author/illustrator Tomi Ungerer create a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere that beautifully complements this myth-like story. Finn and Cara’s experiences on Fog Island seem both real and a creation of their imagination as they encounter the Fog Man, the elderly long-haired man who creates the fog that hovers about their shores.

Review: Wow! Dinosaur

Think dinosaurs are wow? Sales in dinosaur books for children certainly tell us so - and this compendium of fossiltastic delight will surely hit the right spot for dino-fanatics.

Designed for slightly older kids (around 9 years+), younger children will also enjoy exploring the striking imagery and page layout DK does so well. Overly sensitive little ones may find images of one dinosaur chomping into another (not graphic) a tad disarming, but otherwise this is a book to suit most ages.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: The Selfish Crocodile

Deep in the forest, lives a very large and very angry crocodile. Every morning, he shouts his selfish message: 'Stay away from my river! It's MY river! If you come in my river, I'll eat you all!'

Not surprisingly, all the animals stay well away. Which is just how the crocodile likes it. Until one morning when the forest is filled with the groans of an animal in pain. The crocodile has toothache! But after the way he's treated them, will any of the other animals help him?

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Alison Lester

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I sometimes dance by myself on our slippery kitchen floor.

2. What is your nickname?

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being locked in a coma.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
I try to always write spare, honest and lyrical stories.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Familiar, funny, inquisitive, pithy, subversive.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Pippi Longstocking, free and brave.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Wilderness Society's Environment Award - Shortlist Announced

The finalists of the Wilderness Society’s 20th Environment Award for Children’s Literature brings together a CSIRO ornithologist, a primary school teacher, the National Library of Australia’s art collection, Qantas uniforms and aircraft, 50-metre long public art, a double winner of an Australian Human Rights Commission Award and a three-time winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Children's Book of the Year awards.

The three shortlisted Preschool category books are:

OUR NEST IS BEST by Penny Olsen and Penny O' Hara (NLA Publishing)

KANGAROOS HOP by Ros Moriarty and Balarinji (Allen & Unwin)

THE LAST DANCE by Sally Morgan (Little Hare Books)

The three shortlisted Primary School category books are:

TEN TINY THINGS by Meg McKinlay and Kyle Hughes-Odgers (Fremantle Press)

TANGLEWOOD by Margaret Wild and Vivienne Goodman (Omnibus Books)

BIZI THE MUSK DUCK OF BARREN BOX SWAMP by Ann-Maree Thompson (Ann-Maree Thompson)

Congratulations to all the shortlistees! See the Wilderness Society's website for more.

Review: The Mystery of the Golden Card (Troubletwisters #3)

Twins Jack and Jaide are Troubletwisters, training to take on the position of Warden. Wardens maintain the wards that protect the world from The Evil, an entity from an alternate dimension that is seeking to take over the earth.

Jack and Jaide are still learning how to control the special Gifts they have that will allow them to eventually take on their role guarding the wards. Their inexperience doesn’t stop their father, also a Warden, from giving them a mission to find the mysterious Golden Card of Translocation at Rourke Castle.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

KBR Recommends: New Middle Fiction, May 2013

Cartboy and the Time Capsule by L A Campbell (Allen & Unwin, $12.99 RRP, 9781743314807, ages 8 - 12)

Meet Hal Rifkind. His father makes him take an old lady's grocery cart to school. Now everyone calls him 'Cartboy'.

His history teacher is making him write a journal to put inside a time capsule.

He has to play a stoat in the school play.

What else could possibly go wrong for Cartboy? Read Hal's journal to find out!

How to Scare the Pants off your Pets (Ghost Buddy #3) by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver (Scholastic, $9.99 RRP, 9781407132303, ages 8 - 12)

Billy Broccoli is on a mission. He must work out how to help his ghost buddy (aka the Hoove) become more responsible.

And what better way than getting him a pet? There's only one catch - the Hoove scares dogs out of their fur, birds out of their wings, and fish out of their gills. If Billy can't find the perfect pet, how will Hoover ever learn to make the grade.

You can watch a YouTube clip of the authors discussing the Ghost Buddy series here and there are teachers' notes available.

Hunted (Conspiracy 365: Black Ops #2) by Gabrielle Lord (Scholastic, $14.99, 9781742835198, ages 10+)

Cal is undercover on Shadow Island, investigating the secrets hidden beneath the surface of this tropical paradise. Evading search parties, planning rescue missions and sneaking through a maze of hidden tunnels is now an average day for Cal.

Trapped in the office of the suspicious director, how can Cal evade capture and continue his double-act with his twin brother, Ryan? As dangers multiply at every turn, at least he knows he can count on SI-6 - or can he?

The clock is ticking. Any second could be his last.

Callum Ormond has been warned. He has 60 days. The countdown continues...

For more information, visit the Conspiracy 365 website.

Fetch the Treasure Hunter (The Debt #4) by Phillip Gwynne (Allen & Unwin, $14.99, 9781742378602, ages 10+)

Pay the Debt or lose a pound of flesh...

Dom should not be going to Rome with the rest of the track team. He wasn't good enough. He knows it, Coach knows it. Rashid, who should be going but isn't, knows it. But it seems The Debt has other plans.

Before long, Dom finds himself in Italy on the fourth instalment. He is to find E Lee Marx, the world's greatest treasure hunter, who's become a recluse following the tragic death of his nephew. It will require manipulation and deception, but Dom is fast becoming a master at both. So much so that when he's in Italy, Dom decides to do a little digging of his own. He travels to the very place where The Debt originated.

But the answers Dom gets only lead to more questions. One thing is certain: whatever The Debt wants, they get.

For more details about The Debt series and author Phillip Gwynne, visit The Debt website.

Day of Doom (The 39 Clues: Cahills vs. Vespers #6) by David Baldacci (Scholastic, $17.99 RRP, 9780545298445, ages 9 - 13)

It started with a kidnapping. A shadowy organisation known only as the Vespers snatched seven members of the Cahill family and demanded a series of bizarre ransoms from around the world. Thirteen-year-old Dan Cahill and his older sister, Amy, began a global treasure hunt, determined to bring back whatever Vesper One needed, so long as it kept the hostages safe.

But when they deliver the last ransom, Amy and Dan discover Vesper One's terrifying endgame. The objects he demanded are vital pieces in a Vesper plot that will harm millions of innocent people. Now the two siblings and their friends are in an all-out sprint to stop Vesper One... before the whole world goes BOOM.

Get more information about The 39 Clues, Cahills vs. Vespers, and Infinity Ring series, catalogue your game cards and play 39 Clues games online at The 39 Clues website.

KBR Recommends: New Junior Fiction, May 2013

Ella and Olivia: Pony Problem by Yvette Poshoglian (Scholastic, $7.99 RRP, 9781742837987, ages 5+)

Ella and Olivia are sisters. Ella is seven-years-old, Olivia is five-and-a-half-years-old. They live with their mum and dad and little brother Max.

Ella's friend Zoe is entering an equestrian competition. She invites Ella along to help her groom her horse, Hattie. But Ella has other plans! She ends up entering the pony competition - by accident! What will Ella do? She doesn't even know how to ride a horse!

Pony Problems and Cool Kitties are the latest titles in the popular Ella and Olivia young junior fiction series. You can find out more about the books as well as details on competitions, downloads, activities and games at the Ella and Olivia website.

Text Prize For Young Adult and Children's Writing 2013

On Wednesday, 29th May 2013, the winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing will be announced.

Open to published and unpublished Australian and New Zealand writers of all ages, in 2013 the Prize received a record 350 entries. From these submissions, four manuscripts, all by Australian women, have been shortlisted to compete for the AU$10,000 prize.

Waer by Meg Caddy
An intricate fantasy novel set in an imagined land of waerwolves, thieves and magic. Twenty-one-year-old Perth student and childcare worker Meg Caddy has been working on the novel since she was fourteen, and is following in the footsteps of her author father, David Caddy, who has published several books with Fremantle Press.

Lost Vegas by Jo Hegerty
A funny, heartwarming story for younger readers about a bullied boy and his second-hand, far-from-ideal dog, Vegas. Jo Hegerty is a Brisbane-based journalist, editor and blogger.

Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller
Elizabeth and her imaginary friend Zenobia suddenly find themselves living in the haunted home of Elizabeth’s distant father, Witheringe House. Brisbane-based Jessica Miller has written a fantastically imagined story for 8- to 12-year-olds about all the different ways we can be haunted.

Flood Damage by Diana Sweeney
A timely novel for older readers, Flood Damage explores a young woman’s struggle to regain control of her life after a devastating flood claims the lives of her parents and sister. Diana Sweeney has published a number of papers in academic journals, but Flood Damage is her first novel.

Previous winners:
2012: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts (due for release in August 2013)
2011: Fire in the Sea by Myke Bartlett
2010: The Bridge by Jane Higgins
2009: This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall
2008: The Billionaire’s Curse by Richard Newsome

The overall winner of this year’s prize will be announced on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. For more information about the prize, visit Text Publishing.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Review: When Tom met Tallulah

When Tallulah met Tom the cat, Tom was extremely shy. To help him feel relaxed in his new home, Tallulah did everything she could to make him comfortable. She tried really hard to understand his purrs and miaows.  She made him toys and found him comfortable places to nap.

Tallulah made Tom feel so at home, he thought he should make an effort to understand humans. Tom was so good at copying Tallulah that all of a sudden the roles had reversed. But what was Tom to do when he was much better at being a human than Tallulah was at being a cat?

Review: Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air!

You’ll feel all warm and fuzzy as you read the lyrics of the classic song Love is in the Air accompanied by wonderfully warm and gorgeous illustrations by Shane Devries.

Written by Harry Vanda and George Young, the lyrics of this song bring the voice of Australian singer John Paul Young (JPY) clearly to mind. In fact, it was impossible to read through the book without hearing JPY’s voice in my head and bopping along just a little. OK, a lot.

Review: Little Rabbit Lost

It's Little Rabbit's birthday and, to celebrate, his family are taking him to Rabbit World! Holding on to his red balloon, Little Rabbit leads the way — after all, he's a big rabbit now! — ignoring the calls of his mother and father to not get too far in front.

He runs past the pirate ship and the carrot speedboats. He wants to go on the climbing frame and the big swings, but he's too small. And he won't go on the helter-skelter because that's for babies. Then he sees the Big Hopper … but oh no, he's too small for that as well, so instead he has to stand and watch while his family zooms past on it.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Review: Lunchbox - The Story of Your Food

Who made the bread for your sandwich? What about the cheese slice? Who picked the fruit and where did the chocolate in your biscuit come from?

It would be easy for many young children, born and raised within large towns and cities, to think that the journey of their food starts and ends at their local supermarket.

Lunchbox: The Story of Your Food is a fun and informative look at a variety of foods that young children will be familiar with, following their journey from the source through to the final stages before appearing on the supermarket shelves. The book focuses on seven common items: bread, cheese, tomatoes, apple, carrot, chocolate chips (in choc chip biscuits) and clementines (a type of mandarin).

Review: Joyous & Moonbeam

15-year-old Ashleigh wishes her life wasn’t so messed up. Angry and frustrated by troubles at home, Ashleigh is striking out at those around her. The last thing she wants to do is ask for help.

Fortunately for Ashleigh, she meets mentally-disabled Joyous Bowen with his wonderful philosophy of ‘working things around a little’. Ashleigh thinks she is helping Joyous a part of a community service plan, but she is about to discover that she is the one who needs help as Joyous teaches her what family is really about.

Review: Weasels

Megalomania has never been so furry!

Some of you may be a tad deluded. Some of you may think weasels spend their days eating nuts and berries and frolicking in leaves.

Not so.

What weasels REALLY get up to behind the closed doors of large, top-secret organisation headquarters is . . .

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Review: How to Boost Your Profile (Girl v the World)

Anya needs some serious cheering up. She’s been dumped by a nerd (by text, no less), her parents are splitting up, her older sister never has time for her because of her boyfriend, and her mum’s idea of a first bra is going to ruin her life.

Feeling overlooked by her family, this very normal, everyday girl is about to make some very bad choices in an attempt to make herself feel special and significant. It might be bending the rules, but if no-one gets hurt, how wrong can it really be?

Review: Tomorrow

In the morning you will hear the birds, open your eyes, climb down from my knee, kiss me, tiptoe away and leave me far behind in a book, where we both fell asleep dreaming.

So begins this whimsical celebration of the importance of living in the moment so that we get to fully experience all that life has to offer.

Guest Post: In Other Words Project with 100 Story Building

KBR is delighted to welcome Jessica Tran from 100 Story Building with this enlightening and fascinating peek into the creative work they are doing with children and literacy. KBR loves.

Next to the towering figure of comic extraordinaire Bernard Caleo, the Prep to Grade 2 students of Dinjerra Primary School look impossibly small. But they’re not intimidated.

‘He looks like a chip-man!’ says one, referencing Bernard’s beanpole frame (not his colouring).

‘Are you a girl?’ asks another, obviously very taken with Bernard’s curly hair.

In 2012, Maribyrnong City Council invited 100 Story Building to develop a storytelling program in consultation with Dinjerra Primary School in Melbourne’s west. As part of the council’s ‘River of Words’ early years initiative, we worked with 60 children in Prep to Grade 2 and their families.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

National Simultaneous Storytime Event Report - Canberra

If there's any opportunity to encourage a love of reading in children, you'll find me there. Along with Book Week and The Reading Hour, National Simultaneous Storytime is one of my very favourite bookish events for kids.

Today at Dickson Library in Canberra, it was a pleasure to read Nick Bland's The Wrong Book to a group of book-loving kiddles. At that every same moment (11am), libraries, schools and homes all over Australia were reading that very same book - how I wish I could have heard all voices in unison.

Review: Games Children Sing and Play

The benefits of movement, music and play for children have long been known, and this beautifully-designed book features games that combine singing with movement - ideal for kids aged 3 to 5.

Written by two women who are clearly passionate about early childhood development, the book also has a team of talented contributors, including Maureen Curren, an international movement educator with 30 years' experience.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review: The Perplexing Pineapple (Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno #1)

Two crime solving guinea pigs – one the well-respected, if somewhat easily startled, Chief of Police in Buenos Aires, the other his sensible, puzzle-loving cousin. Together, Coco Carlomagno and Alberta examine all the clues until they can solve the mystery.

In the first The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta book, The Perplexing Pineapple, Alberta travels to visit her cousin who is distressed by the daily appearance of a floating pineapple outside his office window. The appearance of the pineapple is always accompanied by a terrible noise. What could it all mean?

12 Curly Questions with author Ursula Dubosarsky

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was once a member of the Charlie Chuckles Club. It was a children’s club run by the Sunday Telegraph years ago. I still have my club badge! It’s a little silver laughing kookaburra. Club members were called “Chucklers”.

2. What is your nickname?
Urk or sometimes Urkula

3. What is your greatest fear?
Apart from the regular things like illness, death, falling out of the sky in a burning plane, sinking to the bottom of the ocean when your cruise ship is hit by an iceberg, being kidnapped by terrorists etc etc etc I am afraid of being cold and being hungry.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review: Tuesdays at the Castle

Sometimes, when Castle Glower gets bored, it grows a new room. A new turret here, an extra dining hall there. Some people find the constantly changing castle confusing, but Princess Celie wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves to map out the unexpected twists and turns of her enchanted home.

When the King and Queen of Sleyne are ambushed by bandits, Princess Celie, her brother Rolf and sister Lilah must protect each other as they try to find out what happened to their parents. Who ambushed the King and Queen and who can the young royals trust? Can their beloved castle keep them safe until the truth is discovered?

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: Zog

By the award-winning creators of The Gruffalo, this is another wonderfully funny story that is sure to become a bedtime favourite.

Zog is the keenest dragon in school, but he's also the most accident-prone. He is desperate to win a golden star in at least one of the tests Madam Dragon sets for him and his classmates, but each year sees him just fall short. In Year One, he learns to fly … but crashes into a tree. In Year Two, he learns to roar … but gives himself a sore throat. In Year Three, he learns to blow flames … but sets his wing on fire.

Shout-Out: The Little Fairy Sister

The Little Fairy Sister is a real fairy story of Bridget's adventures among the wee people. She meets the most delightful little creatures: the Dragon-fly, the Kookaburra, the Lizard, the Teddy Bears, the Pelican, as well as the Mannikins, the Merman, and of course the Fairies.

This facsimile of The Little Fairy Sister, popular with children of the 1920s, has been reproduced by the National Library of Australia from an early edition of the book.

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite's enchanting illustrations will appeal to children as much today as they did yesterday.

Title: The Little Fairy Sister
Author: Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
Illustrator: Grenbry Outhwaite
Publisher: National Library of Australia, $29.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2013
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9780642277725
For ages: 10+
Type: Junior Fiction/Picture Book

Review: Prodigy (Legend #2)

After escaping from the Republic’s stronghold of Los Angeles, June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. The pair join the Patriot forces to further undermine the Republic and gain access to the Colonies and freedom. The Patriots ask one thing in return for their assistance – June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

Following on from Legend, the gripping introduction to this trilogy, Marie Lu maintains the pace and suspense of this fantastic young adult dystopian thriller. Numerous plot twists and turns keep readers guessing, as June and Day are forced to question all that they believe to be true about the Republic, the Patriots and their own choices in their fight for freedom and revenge.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Book List: Mothers

Who ever needs an excuse to honour their mother through the pages of a book? Here are some fabulous, KBR-endorsed reads about mum.

Are you my Mother? by PD Eastman (Random House, $12.95, 9780394800189) KBR Review

Review: Noah's Ark

Noah and his ark - that Biblical tale - is given the hip, cool, thoroughly modern treatment in this truly gorgeous picture book by classic talent Dick Bruna.

Using his trademark illustrations of delectable block colour and adorable characters, even the typical Dick Bruna text font makes this book pure visual delight.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Review: Maxx Rumble Footy - Stacks of Maxx

Eight Maxx Rumble stories in one? Heavenly heavens for boys!

You know an author has done well when a review copy arrives in the mail and your son leaps around like an AFL best-on-ground footballer and takes a dive straight onto his bed, book tucked under his arm like a red Sherrin.

Yes. This actually happened.