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

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review: Sword Girl series

Being a girl in the middle ages, Tommy should be stuck as a kitchen maid for life, but she yearns to learn how to fight. Tommy’s daydreams lead her to discover that the castle’s animals can talk, and this gift of understanding leads to the job of sword keeper. And so her adventures begin.

There’s friendship, bad guys and dilemmas in every book in the Sword Girl series, from a plot to poison the king, a castle under siege and an unseen prankster in their midst, mysteries are ever-present.

Review: Shot, Boom, Score!

Instead of punishing Toby when he accidentally-on-purpose double-bounces his sister on the trampoline (and she breaks her arm), Toby’s parents issue him with a sporting challenge: Take 20 wickets in the cricket season and make 10 tries in rugby and you’ll earn the latest GameBox.

Shot! Toby can’t believe his luck. Being a crack spin bowler means those wickets are in the bag even before the season starts. That is, until a new boy starts at Toby’s school. How can you get 20 wickets when Malcolm McGarvey seems to relish dropping unmissable catches? And why is he trying to block Toby from his dream goal anyway?

Review: Little Piggy’s Got No Moves

It's the school disco and Little Piggy is worried.

Mouse can do the Macarena. Toucan is totes into the Tango. Hippo can mash the Mashed Potato. And Seal can do the Slide.

But Little Piggy's got no moves.

He consults Daddy. And Mummy. And Grandma and Grandpa. He even asks Brother and Sister Piggy, but they all seem to agree -

12 Curly Questions with author Alison Reynolds

1.Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I can touch my nose with my tongue (a very useful thing to do).

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t have one. My mother always made my friends call me by my full name and it stuck.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Curly questions and snakes.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
I think lots, write fast and then edit, edit, edit.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Imaginative, eclectic, succinct, funny and adaptable

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Tintin –  I like adventures,  standing up for what  is right, and I have a cute small dog.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Review: Ice Breaker

Set in a futuristic world where machines are considered evil by the land dwellers, a machine-run ship sails the frozen southern seas. It has been avoiding  land for hundreds of years. Deep within the ship’s bowels hides a secret so old that those on board are no longer sure whether this secret is real or mythical.

Petrel, better known as Rat Girl, lives aboard. Caught between the opposing tribes of Engineers, Cooks and Officers, Petrel belongs to no one. She hides in the shadows, snatches leftovers when she can and avoids those who like to harass her for sport. Her best friends are two talking rats.

Review: Being Frank

Being Frank takes us on a journey to the weird and wonderful world of diplomacy and tact. Children are told not to lie, but the truth can lead to trouble. Feelings can get hurt and friendships irreparably damaged when unnecessary truths are shared.

Frank has a tendency to blurt the most hurtful facts and then be bamboozled that others don’t appreciate his truthfulness. As we journey with him, we find it is possible to mention positive truths and overlook those that might hurt people’s feelings.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Tania's Picks: Box World Adventures

We all know how utterly entranced children become by a simple--empty--box. A box can be so many things, with so many adventuresome stories and possibilities. And with Box World Adventures, the adventures are not only unlimited, they're very, very pretty.

This stunning folder contains a world of box-enhancing imagery and ideas. Inside you will a little book which shows you the possibility of crafting cardboard projects to die for.

Review: Mind Games and Tomb of Doom (Zac Power)

Zac Power books have brought many reluctant readers to words and literacy. They have little literary merit but are filled with action, excitement, terrific gadgets, imagination and adventure, and hold the reader’s interest. They are aimed mainly at boys but many girls will certainly find them to their liking.

Twelve-year-old spy Zac Power and his family work for the GBI (Government Investigation Bureau). With his SpyPad that has built in GPS and code-breaking apps, Zac is able to retrieve from his disc — containing classified information and encrypted passwords — a breakdown of what his current mission entails.  

Review: These Broken Stars

Nothing is as it seems in this high-action sci-fi romance. With the emphasis on action one moment and futuristic fantasy the next, there seem to be more twists than a bowl of spaghetti. However, every moment is believable. That’s what hooked me in. Totally.

These Broken Stars is made up of three alternating parts. Each chapter begins with the question-answer format of an interview then either Lilac or Tarver take charge of the journey from their point of view for just a few pages. The rapid change from his point of view to hers heightens the tension, the emotion and the humour.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Australia's Brand New Children's Laureate

Kids’ Book Review congratulates beloved author Jackie French, who was today announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate.

As an acclaimed, bestselling author of more than 140 books, and with a writing career spanning twenty-five years, Jackie French is in a perfect position to take over from the inaugural Children’s Laureates, Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor, as ambassador for Australian children’s literature for the next two years.

In a special event at the National Library of Australia, an audience of book lovers was treated to a lovely performance of ‘We Are the Young’ by a choir of Canberra school children, before actor, director and former Play School presenter, Rhys Muldoon officially revealed the identity of the new Laureate and presented Jackie with the Magpie Award, which is a symbol of the Laureate.

Review: How Pirates Really Work!

Anyone who has ever wondered absolutely anything about what it's like to be a pirate is sure to love every page of this book! A visual feast, this is the ultimate reference to the world of pirates, privateers and buccaneers (and it even tells you what the difference is between them).

Review: 100 People

The creator of 100 Things, Japanese artist Masayuki Sebe is back with this stunning picture book, packed with a multitude of faces ... ready and waiting for little eyes to find.

Whenever I come across books that so visually delight me, I always wonder: if the book affects me so much, how much would it affect children?

The answer, I believe, is: LOTS!

Author Interview: Maree Coote

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Melbourne author and artist Maree Coote to discuss the concept behind her latest book, Alphabet City Melbourne. Maree's thoughts on creativity and belonging make me want to organise a photography outing with my children to capture the images that best represent our home town. I'm sure you'll feel the same way as you read this interview.

You have an obvious fascination with Melbourne. What is it about the city that you find so appealing?
I have vivid memories of childhood trips to town with my mother. For a 1960s bayside beach baby it was like another planet – loud, exciting, alien. Fashion was starting to swing, especially at 60s fashion headquarters like the In Shoppe and  'Merivale & Mr John'. To my young eyes, Melbourne seemed labyrinthine back then, and I loved how it was Mum's territory. It was she who was the gatekeeper of this particular big adventure, not Dad who usually was our explorer-guide in other activities. This was women's territory, and Mum knew it all.

The city seemed to be built for the women. It was a shopping world filled with courteous lift attendants, Ladies Lounges and women-only places. It was for women's business. Of course there was the throng of John Brack's worker drones, but for me a trip to town was always Mum's magical mystery tour. We explored laneways and viaducts, rooftop carnivals and basement cafeterias. We window-shopped, ate rum cakes and wondered at the rarefied goings-on inside Le Louvre at the Paris end of Collins.

The Melbourne Book focuses on the people and history of Melbourne and The Art of Melbourne on the way Melbourne has been represented in artwork. What prompted you to photograph letter formations as a way of capturing images of the city?
The idea occurred to me and so it seemed to me that the book just had to be done. Alphabet City Melbourne is a part of my new Alphabet City Project, in which I try to get people to take up noticing, which I think is a dying pastime and fast losing favour with the e-distracted young. With their indoor lifestyles, prescribed entertainments, and with their heads stuck in screens and devices. At worst they’ll get hit by a tram, at second worst they’ll miss out completely on their own time and place. This is their city, their time, their place, and their story. They should own it.

With this book, (and also with When You Go To Melbourne), I hope children will learn to discover their city in a fun way, that parents will explore with their children to find these letterforms and landmarks in-situ, and that children will learn to be alert to and inspired by their environment. I hope to encourage a sense of belonging and a sense of place in Melbourne’s tiniest minds.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Event: Upcoming Events at May Gibbs' Nutcote


Nutcote Christmas Carols! 
Dec 1 2013 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Christmas time is approaching so come and celebrate this wonderful time of year at our Nutcote Christmas carols event! Bring the family and your own picnic, or enjoy food from our BBQ and Tearoom before joining in singing Christmas carols in our beautiful Nutcote garden.

Nutcote caterpillar hedge
Get Crafty Week at Nutcote!
Come and enjoy a wonderful children’s program of art and excitement at May Gibbs’ Nutcote from the 15th – 19th of January 2014.

Wednesday 15th January 11.30am – 2.30pm: Paper craft activities: There will be lots of fun and different things to make with beautiful coloured tissue papers. Cost: $25 per child.

Thursday 16th January 11.30am – 2.30pm:  Clay Banksia Men: Make one of your own big bad Banksia Men! Cost: $25 per child.

Banksia craft at Nutcote

May’s Birthday! Friday 17th January 201411.30am – 2.30pm: Celebrate May’s 137th birthday by making & decorating Gumnut Baby fairy cakes. Cost: $25 per child.

May’s Birthday Celebrations!
Sunday 19th January 2014 all day. Come and join in all the celebrations of our famous Scotty Day at Nutcote to celebrate May’s Birthday!

For all enquiries, please email adminATmaygibbsDOTcomDOTau or visit the Nutcote website.

Harbour views at Nutcote

Review: How to Make Small Things, with Violet Mackerel

The thing about Anna Branford, other than her consummate ability to write beautiful stories, is that she's quite the craftswoman. Yes, she simply adores creating beautiful things ... and you can see just some of her handmade treasures here.

So, it's no surprise that her adorable book character, Violet Mackerel, has inherited the same handmade gene, with this absolutely delightful book for creative types.

Review: Once Tashi Met a Dragon

Tashi is back! The much-loved character who has been the star of over 32 stories, selling over one million copies in Australia and New Zealand alone, now continues his adventures in a gorgeous picture book.

Every year, the dragon is responsible for bringing the rains. But this year, the rains don't come. The creeks dry up, the rice blackens in the fields, fires spark in the forests and the earth turns to dust.

12 Curly Questions with Katherine Battersby

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Ooh – that is curly! Considering I’m quite a mild mannered person, it might surprise people to know that as a teenager I slapped my brother in the face … with a cake mix.

We usually got along quite well, but we were trying to bake a cake together while home alone, which was a recipe for disaster (gotta love a good cooking pun). I was likely being a bit bossy and he was annoying me and getting up in my face. I was holding the unopened cake mix in my hand. Finally I snapped. I slapped him with it. I was so shocked I’d done it that I immediately burst into tears. He was so shocked by my reaction that he burst out laughing!

2. What is your nickname?
You know, embarrassingly enough, Squish was actually one of my nicknames. There we go. I said it. Not just out loud either, but in writing. Here’s why: ever since I was a little girl I have been very cuddly. I love to snuggle and cuddle and snook up close to others. I’ve been told I’m nicely squishy when I give hugs.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Drowning. A strange fear, considering I spent most of my life on the beach. I think it came from the fact that when I was eight-years-old we moved to a house on a cliff top overlooking the ocean. I was terrified a tsunami would wipe us off the hill, and at night the sound of the waves filtered into my sleeping mind and gave me awful nightmares. But it never stopped me swimming and boating and loving the water. I only ever feared the water when I wasn’t on it.

I also have an irrational fear of cockroaches. And empty houses. And chickens (so does Squish Rabbit). It turns out I have lots of fears!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Playful and quirky with a good dose of heart.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: Beautiful Horses

Horse lovers the world over will tell you there's no such thing as a 'non-beautiful' horse but I have to say, this striking collection of images featuring some of the world's most stunning breeds, is an extra special treat.

Subtitled Portraits of Champion Breeds (yes, equine fanatics, I can hear you whinnying in anticipation) this gorgeously-designed book begins with an introduction in celebration of the unique, defining characteristics of the many breeds.

Shout Out - Saddle Club Bindup 1 and 2

The Saddle Club stars three heroines, Stevie, Carole and Lisa, who form The Saddle Club at the Pine Hollow Stables. Each character has a distinctly different personality but all share an equal love of horses and a strong loyalty to each other. Random House have released bindup versions of the classic books, with two stories per volume.

Saddle Club Bindup 1: Horse Crazy / Horse Shy

Carole Hanson and Stevie Lake have been best friends ever since they met at Pine Hollow Stables. So when Lisa Atwood shows up for her first riding lesson dressed in fancy riding gear - acting chummy with the snobbiest girl in town - the girls aren't sure she'll fit in.

But Lisa works hard, and Carole and Stevie can't help admiring her natural riding talent. Most importantly, the three girls share a special bond that make them fast friends: their love of horses. With the formation of the Saddle Club, the girls start making plans for the long awaited Mountain Trial Overnight Camp.

A tragic accident makes Carole lose the one thing she loved most in the world and she swears to never ride again.

Random House, 9780857980632, $12.95

Saddle Club Bindup 2: Horse Sense / Horse Power

Stevie Lake, Carole Hanson, and Lisa Atwood are the best of friends and charter members of the Saddle Club. But now the Saddle Club is in trouble. It seems Carole and Stevie are too busy with other things and Lisa is getting tired of being the only one at club meetings.

Unless the threesome decides to stick together, there won't be any Saddle Club and no fun at Pine Hollow Stables. With the approaching gymkhana the girls pull together. They have waited for this event for so long!

As the day draws near, Carole introduces the other girls to her new friend Kate Devine. Carole begins to teach Kate the basics of riding, only to find out that Kate is much more experienced than she's letting on - she's a champion rider!

Could Kate become the fourth member of the Saddle Club? Plus, Stevie's brother Chad starts to ride at Pine Hollow and guess which member of the Saddle Club he has a crush on?

Random House, 9780857980649, $12.95

Guest Post: Richard Tulloch - From Page to Stage

Kids’ Book Review is delighted to welcome writer and playwright Richard Tulloch to share his insights on adapting novels for performance on the stage. Richard is well known as the writer of the Bananas in Pyjamas television series. He has recently been involved in the stage adaptations of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s The 13-Storey Treehouse and Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything.

I like the word ‘playwright’. I like its association with other ‘wrights’ like cartwrights, wheelwrights and shipwrights. The word suggests that a ‘playwright’ is an honest, toiling tradesman. Creative writers who dream up novel, original stories are ‘novelists’.  Playwrights roll up their sleeves and do a job.

I’ve done that job often, perhaps most successfully with stage adaptations of Robin Klein’s Hating Alison Ashley and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, and more recently Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything and Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s The 13-Storey Treehouse

Adapting a book for the theatre feels more like a craft than an art.

If it’s a good book (and why pick a bad one?) the brilliant author has already taken care of the difficult stuff – setting, theme, characters and plot. If I’m lucky they’ve also invented powerful, economical dialogue and maybe a few jokes. Famous authors even provide a ready-made audience of fans who love their books.

So all the playwright has to do is type it out, omitting the ‘he said’s and ‘she sneered’s, and assume the story will entertain an audience for an hour or two. It ought to be a pushover. Very occasionally it is. Very often it’s not.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

KBR Recommends: New Middle Fiction, October + November 2013

Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan, Random House, $17.95, 9781864718195

John Flanagan makes a spectacular return to the world of Ranger's Apprentice - but what has happened since you last saw Will and his friends might shock you!

Will took an oath when he joined the Ranger Corps. Does it mean nothing to him now?

After a senseless tragedy destroys his life, Will is obsessed with punishing those responsible – even if it means leaving the Ranger Corps. His worried friends must find a way to stop him taking such a dark path.

It is Halt who suggests the solution: Will must take an apprentice. The candidate Halt has in mind surprises everyone – and it's a request Will cannot refuse.

Training a rebellious, unwilling apprentice is hard enough. But when a routine mission uncovers a shocking web of crime, Will must decide where his priorities lie – finishing his quest for revenge, or saving innocent lives?

The final book of the Ranger's Apprentice series raises the stakes higher than ever. Is Will on his last mission for the Ranger Corps?

KBR Recommends: New Junior Fiction, October + November 2013

The Christmas Surprise (Ella and Olivia) by Yvette Poshoglian and Danielle McDonald, Scholastic, $7.99, 9781742839219, ages 5 - 8

Ella and Olivia can't wait until Christmas! But will their secret plan to open their presents early ruin the Christmas surprise?

You can read more about Ella and Olivia's adventures, play games and find other fun information at the Ella and Olivia website.

KBR Recommends: New Picture Books, October + November 2013

What Do Werewolves Do When it's Not Halloween? by Heath McKensize, Scholastic, $14.99, 9781742838793, ages 3-8

But what about werewolves? Where do they go? What do they do through the year? Do they groom? Do they howl? Do they listen to jazz? Or watch movies and shed a small tear? What do werewolves do when it's not Halloween? Perhaps they're lurking where you least expect! Featuring vampires, witches, zombies, ghosts and skeletons, this is a SPOOKY and KOOKY Halloween treat for all to devour!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Review: Truly Tan - Spooked

Tan is a warm, intelligent child who is currently one of my favourite characters in children’s books. Her sense of fairness, and good a manners towards everyone even her quirky sisters, makes her an outstanding role model for young readers. Her love of adventure and ability to imagine and create always brings me laughter and enjoyment.

Between updates about her cat E who is currently penned in and all the non-stop happenings that surround the Callahan family’s life, Tan continues her diary entries.  These are full of entertaining information about the problems she is currently facing, mysteries to be solved at World Headquarters, and her thoughts on everything. Tan’s stories hold wonderful themes about family unity, friendships and challenges that children encounter on a daily basis.

Review: Smash - Trial by Fire

Can an ordinary boy gain superpowers? Ten-year-old Andrew’s favourite superhero is Defender, and daydreams of being like just like him. One day something happens that means Andrew might get his wish to be super fast, super strong, and able to fly.

When Defender falls victim to one force he can’t repel, Andrew is in the right place at the right time - or maybe it will turn out to be the wrong place at the wrong time.

Review: Inside Out & Back Again

In Australia, at least, the issue of refugees is particularly topical, so it's perhaps easy to forget that people have been fleeing conflict and seeking a safer place to live since human settlement first began. Inside Out & Back Again certainly reminded me of this and brought the refugee experience to life like no other book I've read.

Ten-year-old Hà has lived in Saigon all her life. It's a city of vibrant markets, rich tradition and close-knit family and friends. But now she and her family are forced to flee as the Vietnam War reaches into her city and tears apart her entire world.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Andrew Cranna

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Although I loved drawing, I didn’t study art at school as I was advised I should take more serious subjects. So I taught myself how to draw while sitting up the back of Economics and Geography classes. I would study my teachers and classmates features until I could draw them perfectly. My text books became my sketch books which would infuriate my mother as she could never sell them at the end of the year. Now, whenever I get bored in a meeting or on a bus, I simply take out my sketchbook and draw.

2. What is your nickname? 
When I was 12, my schoolmates christened me with the nickname Chops because I had some whopping big red chubby cheeks. I later grew big bad sideburns and the name stuck! Now I’m sometimes called Choppa, Choppsey, Fatti Chops, Choppy Pop, Chopperoonie … it all depends on the day and which friend.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Sleeping in a bed of funnel web spiders while dreaming about being lost at sea, surrounded by a school of crazed piranha with razor sharp teeth while being sucked into a giant whirlpool
… and Brussels sprouts.
… and clowns.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Shout Out: Little Mates: Yum Yum Yoshi and Zippy Zoe

The last of the adorable Little Mates alphabet series by Susannah McFarlane and Lachlan Creagh are here. Yum Yum Yoshi and Zippy Zoe round out a fabulous collection of small-format picture books for little ones, covering the alphabet from A - Z with a cast of adorable characters, and sweetly alliterated tales.

Yoshi is a yellow-bellied glider who thinks his favourite foods are yum yum! Join Yoshi as his friends come to the rescue when suddenly everything he eats is yuck. Yikes!

Zoe is a very zippy zebra finch. Join Zoe and her friends as they zip from zero to a zillion!

The Little Mates series, $4.95 each, paperback, Scholastic, 1 November 2013, Yum Yum Yoshi 9781742837420, Zippy Zoe 9781742838847.

Remembering C S Lewis

Photo by Norman Parkinson/Corbis
Illustration by Dave Stevenson
Source: HarperCollins
Today, 22 November 2013, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of author C. S. Lewis (1898 – 1963), whose work has been translated into 46 languages and sold over 100 million copies. Considered the most influential Christian writer of his time (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce), and an “intellectual giant”, Lewis created some of the world's most-loved children's books: the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The Narnia books have hooked children into reading ever since, and are loved just as much by adults, many of whom remember them as having a special place in their childhood. The world of Narnia stands the test of time, cleverly merging fantasy with reality, and has been recreated in three major motion pictures – it was recently announced that The Silver Chair, the fourth in the Narnia series, will also go into production. 

Did you know?
  • Clive Staples Lewis, known to his friends as Jack, was born in Belfast, Ireland.
  • He was an English Fellow who tutored English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford for thirty years.
  • In Oxford in 1926, Lewis became friends and colleagues with J. R. R. Tolkien.
  • The Inklings was the name given to the club formed by a group of writing friends which included C. S. Lewis and his brother Warren "Warnie" Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams.

Review: Manatee Baby

Manuela lives with her father Silvio in the Amazon rainforest. Silvio's a fisherman and when she's not at school Manuela gets to go with him in the boat. One day, Silvio catches and kills a manatee — it's illegal to do so, but everyone turns a blind eye as a manatee will fetch a high price and has so much meat on it that it can feed an entire village.

It's a moment of triumph for Silvio, but one of desolation for Manuela. Killing the manatee doesn't make her feel proud or excited as she thought it would. Instead, she feels sad. And when she realises the manatee has left behind a calf, she decides she has to do whatever she can to keep it safe.

KBR Short Story: Dragon Earwax

by Zoë Disher

It’s yellow and sloppy. It has to be custard, right? I let some drip from my spoon into the bowl. It goes ‘glop’.

‘Eat up your earwax, Liam,’ says Gran.

‘It’s not earwax, it’s too runny.’

‘It’s dragon earwax, dear. It’s runny because it’s hot. It’ll go hard if you leave it.’

‘Dragon earwax? No way. It’s custard.’

‘No, it’s earwax. Eat up now, it’ll give you lovely golden scales,’ says Gran.

‘Wow!’ says Moira. ‘Golden scales — just like a real dragon.’

We are staying with Gran for the weekend. So far she has served us spider bikkies, unicorn sausage rolls and green frog milkshakes. Now, it’s dragon earwax for dessert.

‘I had a terrible time getting it you know,’ says Gran. And with that she is off on some crazy story about a cave and a sleeping dragon and scraping out its ears with a very long spoon. The flickering candlelight makes her eyes glint. Her arms throw shadows around the room.

Moira listens with her mouth open. She loves Gran’s stories.

‘Dragons don’t have ears,’ I say, waving away a moth that is dancing around the candle.

‘No? Well how do they hear then, smarty-pants?’ Gran chuckles. I know she is joking.

Moira gulps a spoonful of custard.

‘It’s delicious, Gran,’ she says. ‘It’s like eating sunshine.’

I roll my eyes. Moira’s always saying things like that. She says ponies are saying 'I love you' when they whinny. She says rainbows fall from heaven if you’ve been thinking good thoughts. My sister would believe anything.

So far Moira has eaten everything Gran made. She even drank the green frog milkshakes — and they tasted like cough medicine. Gran said they’d give you a tongue like a frog but I know it was green food colouring, really.

‘And I had to run like the clappers down the hill with the dragon trying to roast my bottom.’ Gran finishes her tale.

I’m too old for fairy stories.

I lift my spoon again. The custard isn’t just yellow, it’s so bright it’s almost glowing. It smells funny — a bit like lemon and a bit like banana.

I take a sip. Then a slurp.

It is custard.

I knew it. It’s sweet and warm. I finish the bowl and sit back. That was really nice. A fuzzy glow spreads from my tummy to my arms and legs. I take my jumper off.

I am full. I slump down in my seat and watch the moths. There are more of them now.

It’s funny though, my skin does look kind of yellow and scaly. It must be the candlelight. I scratch my arm. It makes a rasping sound, like dry leaves. I don’t care. The custard has made me feel deliciously warm and relaxed.

Moira looks happy too. She is smiling with a golden shine on her face. A moth lands on her bowl, and she grins even wider.

‘Yum!’ she says, and she flicks out her tongue to catch it.

Zoë Disher writes and daydreams in Newcastle, where she does her best not to be late for anything important. Find out more about Zoë and her work at her website.

KBR Short Stories are a way to get your work ‘out there’ — and to delight our KBR readers. Stories are set to a monthly theme and entries are due in the 25th of each month. Find out more here.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Book List: Dystopian Worlds

Dystopian fiction tells the stories of alternate realities - places where life is somehow different. In this selection of thought-provoking stories, the protagonists encounter social, environmental, political and other major threats to their worlds.

Uglies (Uglies #1) by Scott Westerfeld, Simon Pulse, $17.99, 9781442419810.

Review: Arclight

Light is all that keeps the remaining humans safe in a terrifying, post-apocalyptic world. No one ventures into the Dark — home to the deadly Fade — and no one has ever come out of it … except for Marina.

So how did she survive? After all, everyone in the Arclight knows that in the war between Fade and Human, it's the Fade who win.

Tightly constructed with a plot that twists, turns, weaves and backflips, Arclight is narrated from Marina's perspective, enabling us to experience her confusion as everything she believes to be true is put to the test. In a world where nothing is as it seems, who can she trust? Why can't she remember her life before the Arclight? What is it about the Dark that calls to her? And are the Fade really what they seem?

Review: Doctor Who - The Official 50th Anniversary Annual

If you have a mad, young Doctor Who fan in the family, they will love this special anniversary edition of the official annual.

On 23 November 2013, it will be fifty years since the first episode of Doctor Who was screened on television, and this is the fiftieth anniversary annual, packed with pictures, stories, and plenty of entertainment.

Bookish Places: May Gibbs' Nutcote

Playing dress-ups at May Gibbs' Nutcote
The Kids' Book Review Bookish Places posts are a chance to celebrate museums, galleries and other places with a connection to children’s literature and reading. The posts are compiled by KBR's Consultant Librarian, Sarah Steed.

Nutcote is the historic house and garden of May Gibbs, who is recognised as Australia's first full-time, professionally-trained children's book illustrator.

May Gibbs was born in England in 1877, and migrated to Australia with her family at the age of four. She returned to England in 1901 to study art, and after several trips back and forth, remained in Australia from 1913. Along with her iconically Australian Gumnut Babies and other characters, May wrote and illustrated many stories and comic strips, and designed postcards for soldiers in World War One.

Nutcote, described as Mediterranean in style, with “early English/Baronial character” inside, is now a museum celebrating May’s life and work, and decorated as it would have been in the 1920s and 1930s. Scenes recognisable in May’s illustrations can be found in the garden, which has views of Sydney Harbour.

Read on to learn more - thanks to Stephanie for answering our questions. Hopefully you will feel inspired to visit and discover this piece of Australian history for yourself. Nutcote can be found at 5 Wallaringa Avenue, Neutral Bay, in Sydney.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Review: How Many Sleeps Till My Birthday?

Along with “When will it be Christmas?” and “Are we there yet?”, one question parents of young children will be familiar with is “How many sleeps till my birthday?” That’s the premise of this story written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Sebastien Braun, both of whom have created a bunch of other picture books.

Little Pip is extremely excited and anxious to know how long he has to wait until his birthday. In fact, he is anticipating it so much that he wakes up one morning and tells Daddy Grizzle that the very special day has already arrived.

Review: Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes

When the Australian cricket team defeated England by just seven runs at the Oval in London on 29 August 1882, a reporter for The Sporting Times published an obituary notice for English cricket. How did this tongue-in-cheek response to England’s loss lead to what we now know as The Ashes, the ongoing cricketing showdown between Australia and England?

Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes is a fictionalised account of the events of 1882 linked to the creation of The Ashes legend. The story, told from the perspective of six-year-old Russell Clarke, explains how the English cricket captain came to be presented with an urn of ashes that remains a symbol of the cricketing rivalry between Australia and England to this day.

Review: Ruby Red Shoes Goes to Paris

We first met Ruby, the little white hare who loves red shoes, in the gorgeous Ruby Red Shoes (see KBR review here). Now she and her grandmother, Babushka Galina Galushka, are leaving their cosy caravan for a holiday — and the first stop is Paris!

Unfortunately, not everyone is excited. Ruby's chickens are devastated at being left behind, as they've been working hard at their French lessons and now all have impeccable accents. But Ruby soon leaves thoughts of her chooks behind as she boards her Flying Hare flight and finds herself transported to a top-floor Paris apartment, reached by a rattling lift and a narrow, twirling staircase.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book List: Death and Dying

Whether expected or unexpected, death is difficult for both children and adults to understand. These stories introduce the concept to young children, with the death of grandparents, pets, and siblings amongst those discussed.

Old Pig by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks, Allen & Unwin, $27.99, 9780140562118

Review: Clara Button and the Wedding Day Surprise

Clara loves to draw and design clothing. Her older brother Ollie loves to invent things. They are both busy doing their favourite things when an invitation arrives inviting them to a very special wedding. Clara spends a lot of time daydreaming about beautiful wedding dresses and wondering what the bride will wear.

Clara chooses her very best dress to wear to the wedding, but it just doesn’t seem fancy enough. She tries goes through all of her shoes and jewellery and accessories, but nothing seems to be fancy enough to wear to a special wedding. The night before the wedding, Clara has a brilliant idea for a way to make her outfit more colourful, but things don’t quite go to plan. Will she be able to turn something messy into something beautiful in time?

Review: The Grace Stories (Our Australian Girl)

Our Australian Girl is a series I adore. A great deal of history can be gleaned from the contents of these books for readers of all ages. This compilation of four books in one is fantastic for there’s the continuity of one story after another. The pleasure is accentuated by Sofie Laguna’s magical way with words.

This is set in a historical era. The descriptions of poverty and brutality against and between children are at times disturbing. But industrialisation was underway, forcing the loss of jobs that caused many families to become destitute and desperate.

12 Curly Questions with author Dianne Bates

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I have a deformed bellybutton, the result of a circus pony biting me when I was nine years old.

2. What is your nickname? 
Daisy, Di and Di Di 3. What is your greatest fear? Losing my darling husband, Bill Condon (also a children’s author)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Fast paced, memorable, ruthlessly edited.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Professional, prolific, persistent, creative, proactive.

6. What book character would you be, and why? 
God (why goes without saying)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Event: Grug At Pinerolo

Tania's Picks: Alphabetical Sydney

Having quite the obsession with alphabet books, and quite the obsession with Sydney ... Oh, and quite the obsession with picture books and with unusual picture books and with stunning illustration and photography ... well. It was absolutely no surprise I tripped and fell headlong into this beautiful book.

Hilary Bell and Antonia Presenti have taken Sydney and assembled into a divinely visual alphabet treat with this gorgeous picture book.

Yes, there are kookaburras and the Harbour Bridge and the ferries, but for the most part, this talented duo have bypassed the stereotypes and instead embraced the true essence of this world class city I once called home. I truly love that about this book. I love that we have Mr Whippy for W and terrace houses for T and nature strip for N.