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

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review: Picture Me Gone

Meg Rosoff’s writing is always full of surprise; always spectacular. She has become one of my favourite writers. Her ability to transfer a world of thought and meaning into every sentence magnetizes me. This brilliant story is told in the narrative voice of twelve year old Mila, born to Gil, a translator, and Marieka a talented musician while both were in their forties.  Mila is a mature, clever, insightful observer who registers everything she sees.

The story is set up beautifully beginning with the disappearance of Matthew, Gil’s best friend. Mila and her father travel from London to America to find an answer to this mysterious happening. This journey becomes an astonishing sequence of secrets, revelations and explosions.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Review: Cars: A Pop-Up Book of Automobiles

If you haven't yet experienced Robert Crowther's work, you're in for a major treat. And this stunning book on cars is a great place to start.

This landscape book on, essentially, the history of cars, opens in the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s, with the rise (and rise!) of the machine--the precursor of the modern day car engine.

Pages are not only dotted with pockets of fascinating (but nicely succinct) information, we are also treated to a catalogue of push, pull and pop up action, with pull tabs that drag along the Benz Velo (1898), complete with spoked wheels, to a miniator pop-open booklet on the great car inventors, including Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Henry Ford.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Guest Post: Reviving Classic Dr. Seuss Characters to Teach Kids in the Digital Age

Kids' Book Review would like to extend a warm welcome to Shannon Valdes from Oceanhouse Media, a company that is sharing classic Dr. Seuss stories and characters in digital format. Shannon explains how Oceanhouse Media uses Dr Seuss stories and characters to engage, entertain and educate chlidren.

Dr. Seuss books are one of the most enduring series of all time. No matter your age, chances are you grew up reading The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and your parents probably did too! So how is the good doctor keeping up with today’s generation of readers? He’s bringing his classic characters to the iPad with science-themed book apps.

Why did Dr. Seuss go digital? Check out these revealing statistics from a recent Common Sense Media study: Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013
  • Mobile media usage of kids ages zero to eight has tripled since 2011
  • Ownership of tablets has jumped from 8% to 40% among families with kids eight and under
  • 38% of toddlers and infants under two have now used mobile devices, as compared to 10% in 2011

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Review: Gaia Warriors

Zoologist Nicola Davies is certainly a modern day warrior when it comes to enlightening kids on the Real Deal--on animals, on life, on the environment. This dedicated educator pens glorious books stacked with guts and courage. Gaia Warriors is no exception.

In cahoots with the renowned scientist and inventor of Gaia Theory, James Lovelock, this is a book of extreme passion that will both fascinate and fire up children as young as 10.

Broken into three sections, the book first takes kids on an exploration of the concept of Climate Change and its effects on the future of our planet.

Friday, 27 December 2013

KBR Short Story: Amelia’s Squish-a-licious Christmas

by Rachel Bradbury

Amelia and her mum were watching the Christmas Parade by the sea. Dazzling costumes, flashing lights and glittery tinsel sparkled.

“Would you like a sweet?” a ballerina fairy asked Amelia, holding out a basket.

“Yes please,” said Amelia, taking a bright pink sweet and popping it into her mouth. “Mmm, squish-a-licious!” she said.

“What’s squish-a-licious?” asked Mum.

“This raspberry bubblegum,” replied Amelia.

“Hmm, but what does it mean?”

“Squishy and delicious,” Amelia said.

“Like a marshmallow?” said Mum.

Amelia giggled. “Yes, or gooey chocolate pudding.”

“Stop it, you’re making me hungry,” said Mum.

Santa’s sleigh came to a halt in the middle of the road. An elf spoke into the loud speaker.

“Attention boys and girls. We have a problem. Santa has discovered a hole in the bottom of his sack. Can anybody help?”

The crowd fell silent.

“I can!” yelled Amelia, putting up her hand.

“Come on up young lady,” the elf said.

Amelia climbed up onto the sleigh.

“How are you going to fix Santa’s sack?” asked the elf.

“I’ll need some sweets please,” she said to Santa.

“Take what you need,” said Santa.

First, she chewed on a Mintie, but it was too hard and got stuck in her teeth. Next she sucked on a sherbet stick. But the sherbet tickled her tongue, and disappeared! She bit into a toffee, snapping it in half. That was no good. She gobbled a handful of jellybeans. Delicious, soft and sticky, but they wouldn’t do.

Amelia sighed. “I’m sorry Santa. I can’t fix your sack. Not one of these sweets is stretchy enough.”

“Perhaps there’s a squish-a-licious sweet you haven’t tried?” whispered Santa.

Amelia thought for a minute. She picked up the loud speaker.

“Fairies, I need bubblegum!”

With a flutter and a shimmer, a sparkle and a glimmer, the fairies brought her the gum. Amelia stuffed five pieces into her mouth. She mashed the gum between her teeth. She pushed it with her tongue and she chewed and chewed and chewed, until her jaws ached and her cheeks bulged.

Then, she took out the huge ball of soft, squishy gum and twisted it round and round her fingers. She squashed it flat. And then she stretched it over the hole in Santa’s sack.

But there was still a gap. A rumble echoed through the crowd. What could be done?

A boy on his father’s shoulders, shouted, “You can have my piece!”

“And mine,” said a girl, walking towards the sleigh.

“Thank you,” said Amelia, kneading the two pieces of gum together and sealing the gap.

Santa winked at her. “What a squish-a-licious idea. That will definitely do the trick. Now I’ll be able to deliver all these presents on Christmas Eve without losing any. And it’s all thanks to you, Amelia.”

Amelia grinned. This was the most squish-a-licious Christmas Parade ever!

Rachel Bradbury enjoys reading and writing children's picture books. She blogs at Rachel's Book Nook.

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

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas from KBR!

To our fabulous, loyal readers, followers and friends -

We at KBR want to thank you for our most sensational year yet. Thanks to you, we have grown enormously in 2013 and have loved every moment sharing and reporting on and reading (on your behalf!) some of the best books available for children (and adults!).

We hope you've enjoyed our dedication to bringing you the best news, reviews, interviews and literary articles in 2013, and so look forward to an even bigger and better 2014.

Wishing you a blissful Christmas Day! filled with love, joy--and books.

Tania, Susan, Anouska
Jo, Sarah, Anastasia
and all our fabulous 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Review: My Merry Christmas

A reindeer heralds the festive season and Australian birds and animals work together to choose and decorate a tree, prepare the food and complete the arrangements.  A simple, perfect Christmas message of togetherness and sharing is created by Rosie Smith’s carefully chosen text and Bruce Whatley’s bold and expressive illustrations.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Review: My Christmas Crackers

What do you get if you eat Christmas decorations?

Tinsellitis, of course!

Everyone loves a good joke book and this sweetly-illustrated, hard cover book will make for some festive frivolity on Christmas morning, with a series of giggle-worthy jokes that kids will readily 'get'.

What is Santa's dog called? Santa Paws. What's the best thing to put in a Christmas pudding? Your teeth.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Review: The Christmas Caravan

When Simon puts his whole heart into decorating his caravan for the local Christmas competition, the world around him begins to change. Without the money to buy decorations, he collects rubbish from around the caravan park. A Christmas wonderland with a difference is born and the caravan park is cleaned up in the process. Simon waits in proud excitement for the judges to see his handywork, but they don’t come.

Simon’s mother phones the council to find out what happened and learns that the town’s big houses with their elaborate lighting displays took up all the judges’ time. The mayor has the cheek to admit he thought a caravan wasn’t really a home.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: Christmas in the Trenches

Based on the wartime Christmas truces of 1914 and 1915, John McCutcheon’s fictional account of this real event never fails to give me goose bumps. The raw desolation and fear of living in shallow trenches one breath away from death is in stark contrast with voices raised in song and hands held out in friendship.

Up to 100,000 soldiers took part in Christmas truces up and down a frontline that stretched four hundred miles through eastern France and from the Belgian coast in the north to the Swiss border in the south.

Friday, 20 December 2013

KBR Short Story: Christmas in Cuffs

by Stacey Hill

Mum went a bit crazy this Christmas.

Who would have thought that some light bulbs would result in Mum being handcuffed and escorted out of Jimmy’s Amazing Christmas Shop by the Police?

It all started on the 1st of December. As is tradition, we decorated our house with Christmas decorations. Snow globes, wreaths (four to be exact), animatronic reindeer ... you name it, we have it. At last count there were forty-three Santa ornaments ... and that was just in the lounge room!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas but my Mum––well let’s just say there’s a reason everyone calls her 'Mrs Claus'.

Mum’s most prized decoration is the tree. There is not a single branch that doesn’t hold a bauble. In a word, it is EPIC!

There is only one problem with a tree of such epic proportions. The lights have to be just as awesome. Which is why we have a thousand fairy lights on our tree. Fairy lights don’t always want to work so every year Mum checks them all, replacing any blown or broken bulbs along the way. It’s a three-week process.

This year, however, was supposed to be different. Mum had replaced her old lights with the latest range of energy efficient LED lights. Jimmy, from Jimmy’s Amazing Christmas Shop said the new lights would never have to be replaced.

Mum was very pleased.

That evening was the big reveal. We all did a drumroll as Mum flicked the switch and ... nothing.

Not a single fairy light was twinkling.

Dad suggested plugging the lights in a different outlet. It didn’t work. The tree was still shrouded in darkness. Mum’s eye began to twitch.

We tried a new adaptor. Still no lights. Mum’s teeth began to grind. Dad and I looked nervously at each other as Mum started checking every bulb.

Five hours, later Mum wiped the sweat from her brow and slowly extended her finger towards the switch. Dad and I held each others hand. The switch was flicked.

The lights did not turn on.

Calmly, Mum picked up a nearby snow globe, whispered, “I’ll be right back,” and walked out the front door.

The police called an hour later. They told us to meet them at Jimmy’s Amazing Christmas Shop.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was a broken storefront window followed by Mum being escorted away in handcuffs. The shop owner, Jimmy, had arrived at the same time.

“I don’t know what came over me!” Mum exclaimed.

“I think you should see this,” said the officer, and he ushered us inside where we were greeted by the most incredible display I have ever seen.

Every tree was decorated, wreaths adorned every door, reindeers and paper snowflakes hung from the ceiling, tinsel swayed between shelves, Christmas music blared through the speakers and everywhere you looked, a Santa was waving back at you.

Mum was released from gaol two hours later.

Jimmy didn’t want to press charges. He wanted to give Mum a job!

Stacey Hill's friends call her Stack. She writes, doodles, juggles, flies her toy helicopter and takes photos of her feet - just your average girl really. Learn more about Stacey at her blog skHILLed.

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, 19 December 2013

Review: Redcap's Christmas

Redcap wants to work in Santa’s workshop, preparing the toys for delivery on Christmas Eve, but what he really wants, more than anything else in the world, is to meet Santa.

Redcap knows that if he wants his dream of working for Santa and meeting the man himself to come true, he will have to work hard. What he doesn’t realise is that he will also have to deal with all sorts of mishaps and adventures and the chaos created by his new friend Jellybean. Can Redcap save the day and earn the chance to meet Santa?

Review: The Grumpy Shepherd

With so many Christmas tales filled with joy and wonder, sometimes the grey of life can be missing, so I was so delighted to find a grumpy nay-sayer as the main character in this slightly different Christmas tale.

Obed the shepherd complains about the weather and his lot in life. In fact, he complains about everything. He even complains about his sheep. He can’t see what all the fuss is about when an angel appears to announce that a baby has been born. His first reaction is priceless: ‘Big deal… Another yowling baby to keep us all awake!’ You get the idea.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: Kangaroo for Christmas

Uncle Dingo sends Kathryn a large box for Christmas. And when she opens it, out hops a kangaroo — that Kathryn promptly calls Adelaide. Kathryn decides to go and visit grandma, so jumps on Adelaide's back, and off they go. And this is where it all starts to go wrong …

Adelaide gets frightened by a dog and hops faster and faster. She ends up in the middle of the street, gets hooted at by drivers, shouted at by police, hops through windows, zooms through a bakery, zips along telephone wires, and somehow gets stuck to a car. It's up to Grandma to get Kathryn and Adelaide home safely.

Review: A Christmas Tail

Even mice have homes; they eat and sleep, get into mischief, and occupy themselves in various ways. Cherrywood Cottage has such a family. The cottage sits near a window in the attic of a house that faces onto an orchard.

It is Christmas time and Melanie, Monty and little Peter Mouse are preparing treats for Santa Paws. The homeless Rupert Rat (who is also Peter’s secret friend) and his mate Clive Cat have their eyes on the food, or at least an expectation of leftovers from what Santa Paws might bring. The two mates have been undiscovered visitors to the cottage for a long time.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Review: Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker

Blossom Possum finds Koala Claws deep in sleep and ‘stripped down to his jocks’. ‘Wake me up in five’ he’d said. Unable to wake him to his Bush Christmas duties, Blossom Possum is faced with the dilemma of ‘who will do his job?’

Blossom Possum sets out along the track and past the black stump in search of a solution. The animal group increases as he continues on his quest to save Bush Christmas. It is when they come across Jingo Dingo preparing to take home dinner in a sack that a solution presents itself to Blossom Possum.

12 Curly Questions with Dawn Meredith

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I have a collection of toy robots, including Bumblebee, Optimus Prime and Robbie the Robot.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Forgetting something important

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
My characters always include a girl with attitude

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Great dialogue, characters with ‘issues’

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: Three Little Owls

We all know that reindeer are popular at Christmastime. Owls … not so much. Which is precisely why this gorgeous picture book is such a wonderfully refreshing addition to the Christmas line-up.

Our three little owls start their adventure on Christmas Day, by each laying a shiny white egg on top of the wardrobe where they live. But they're not sticking around to see what happens next. No, they're off on a year-long journey around the world.

Review: A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas

The divine May Gibbs and her adorable gumnut babies have their very own Christmas special with this adorable hard cover book.

It's one more day until Christmas and Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have had lots of things to do. Cuddlepie had been busy collecting bush tucker, making a cake and washing placemats.

Snugglepot, on the other hand, has plucked a raspberry from Cuddlepie's cake, ate one bush tomato, and oh - hung out one red pillowcase.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Review: The Twelve Days of Christmas Island

On the first day of Christmas, the Island gave to me
An Owl in a Lilly Pilly tree.

Australia’s Christmas Island is home to hundreds of species of birds, native plants and wildlife, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The Twelve Days of Christmas Island uses the format of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas carol to highlight some of the amazing fauna and flora of this special place.

KBR Exclusive: Our New Children's Laureate--Jackie French

KBR favourite and dedicated author and speaker, Jackie French, has become our second Australian Children's Laureate, following in the formidable footsteps of co-first Laureates Boori Monty Pryor and Alison Lester. Jackie spoke with us about her new role in this fabulous, exclusive interview.

Jackie, congratulations on your new role! How did it feel to be asked to become our next Australian Children’s Laureate?
Terrified. What if I trip—literally or metaphorically? Can I learn to spell 'laureate' correctly without my spell checker? What if there are things that could be done in the next two years that aren't?

But also utter joy—the chance to celebrate ALL of Australian children's literature in the next two years.  

Our literature, like no other country’s, is: deep, fresh and original, punching far above its weight in awards and world sales. We are talking about the world’s great literary figures like Academy Award-winner Shaun Tan who, like fellow Australian author, Sonia Hartnett, has also won an Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (often referred to as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature); of world best-sellers, like Andy Griffiths, Mem Fox and John Marsden.

It is an extraordinary privilege to be given two years to celebrate Australia's stories; to be able to dream of projects that will help bring kids to the power and wonder of books, in all their many forms.

How did you celebrate?
I started work.

Favourite Christmas Books

Ever wondered what Christmas books your favourite literary stars are particularly obsessed with? We have! We're thrilled to present these favourite festive books from a slew of literary people, from award-winning authors and illustrators to publishers, librarians, bookstore owners and website editors. Enjoy!

Susanne Gervay
Author, Regional Advisor SCBWI Australia East and New Zealand
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Quentin Blake

Dimity Powell
PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail by Dimity Powell

Rebecca Newman
Editor of Alphabet Soup's Blog
The Sugar-Plum Christmas Book by Jean Chapman and Deborah Niland

Michael Wagner
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Jackie French
Author and Children's Laureate
The ABC Book of Christmas retold by Mark MacLeod, with a variety of Australian illustrators including Stephen Michael King, Anna Walker, Sally Rippin, Greg Roberts.

Ursula Dubosarsky
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

Christina Booth
Horrible Christmas (Horrible Histories Series) by Terry Deary and Martin Brown

Nicky Johnston
Christmas as Grandad's Farm by Claire Saxby and Janine Dawson

Tony Flowers
Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs 

Stephanie Owen Reeder
Author, Illustrator, Editor and Reviewer
The Night Before Christmas: A Magical Cut-Paper Edition by Clement C Moore and Niroot Puttapipat

Paul Collins
Author, Publisher
The Down-under 12 Days of Christmas by Michael Salmon

Sharon McGuinness
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and P J Lynch

Emma Perry
My Book Corner
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Felice Arena
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
(and Fleech highly recommends this version for kids)

Sue Whiting
Publishing Manager, Walker Books Australia, Author
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Suess

Meredith Costain
The Gift of the Magi by O Henry

David Murphy
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore and Matt Tavares

Jackie Hosking
Children's Author, Editor www.passitonmagazine.com.au
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

Adam Wallace
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

Jackie Small
Teacher, Mum and Editor of My Little Bookcase
Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

Sandy Fussell
Mum, Author, Computer Programmer (in that order!)
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline

Megan Daley
Teacher Librarian, Blogger @ www.childrensbooksdaily.com
The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski

Jasmine Berry
Read to My Child
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox and Kerry Argent

Paul MacDonald
The Children's Bookshop
Wombat Divine by Mem Fox and Kerry Argent but also Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

Andrew Joyner
Honey’s Dream by Ursula Dubosarsky and Ron Brooks 

Vicki Stanton
Editor www.buzzwordsmagazine.com
Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King

Chelsea Hall (5 years)
Book Lover and Daughter of Angela Hall
Bug in A Book
Where’s Santa? Around the World by Louis Shea

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Review: We Wish You a Ripper Christmas

Colin Buchanan, king of the musical book, is back with this Aussie rendition of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Featuring Roland Harvey's brilliant, lolloping illustrations, in his inherently gorgeous, Australian-without-schmaltz style, we meet a wombat Santa and his Australian animal believers, awaiting their bounty from the sleigh, pulled--of course--by flying kangaroos.

Review: A Guinea Pig Nativity

Looking for a Nativity story with a difference? Having trouble keeping young children interested in the story of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus? Want to share the story of the first Christmas in a way that will delight children of all ages?

A Guinea Pig Nativity is the book you are looking for. It is the classic biblical Christmas tale featuring an undeniably cute cast of guinea pigs.

12 Curly Questions with author Mandi Greenwood

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’m a good old-fashioned traditional witch!

2. What is your nickname? 
Mands, or Moo, or just plain Mum

3. What is your greatest fear?
It’s a bit heavy, but probably losing a loved one.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Upbeat, modern, with an uncomplicated result that’s easy to read.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Expressive, creative, articulate, unique and fun!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Book List: Activity Books for the Holidays

The school holidays are almost upon us, so now might be a good time time to invest in a few activity books to help keep the kids entertained. Here are some recent releases that should do the trick …

Pick Out a Penguin by Chuck Welon and Sophie Schrey, Chirpy Bird, $9.95 RRP, 9781742977775.

Make Faces: A Silly Scribble Activity Book by Christopher Harrisson and Abigail Burch, Ivy Kids, $19.95 RRP, 9781782400677.

Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book by Mo Willems, Walker Books$17.95 RRP, 9781406347319. See our review here.

The London Activity Book by Ellen Bailey and Andrew Pinder, Buster Activity Books, $9.95 RRP, 9781780550954.

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book by Johanna Basford, Laurence King Publishing$19.95 RRP, 9781780671062. See our review here.

The Super Book for Super Heroes by Jason Ford, Laurence King Publishing, $19.95 RRP, 9781780673059.

Review: The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition

Have you ever wondered how Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice? How does he decide who deserves toys in their stockings and who deserves a lump of coal? All is revealed by one of Santa’s own Elves who, through exciting rhyming text, explains to her new family all about her job of watching for good deeds as well as bad, before reporting everything back the big guy in red.

KBR Short Story: Operation Candy Cane

by Rebecca Sheraton

Mint crisis! The world ran out of mint—and just before Christmas. All mint products sold out—minties, mint chocolate biscuits, chewing gum, toothpaste, after dinner mints and NO CANDY CANES!

“Santa, where are all the candy canes?” asked Smartie the Elf. “The workshop was full of them and they’ve vanished!”

Headlines spread worldwide panic, No candy canes this Christmas! The world yearned for their hardened, minty, swirled sweets.

“Think of the children!" cried the elves. "It’s just not Christmas to give cards without candy canes!”

“There’s no need to panic just yet,” said Santa, but secretly, he was worried.

Everyone tried to make candy cane substitutes. People twisted pipe cleaners, swirled snake lollies and plaited liquorice. Nothing tasted the same. Santa knew the situation was dire when people stole barber shop poles but children just chipped their teeth.

“Yuck, it’s plastic,” complained the children.

Then, just two weeks before Christmas, a toothpaste company released minty Chrissy toothpaste. It sold out. Desperate consumers froze the toothpaste into candy cane shapes to eat.

A suspicious reporter asked, “How have you made minty toothpaste without mint?”

“It’s a secret ingredient,” replied the company spokesperson.

The next morning, Smartie the Elf noticed something funny when he brushed his teeth. His new toothpaste had minty flakes. It had the usual striped look, but tasted sweeter.

He reported his findings to Santa. “Let’s investigate,” he said. So Santa, Smartie and the elf crew flew off in Santa’s sleigh to the toothpaste company’s headquarters.

“Rudolph, blink your nose to warn us if we’re in trouble,” said Smartie.

When they reached the factory, elves rappelled down the side of the building and some made it through the ventilation system.

The exterior team radioed through—“Smartie, there are minty chips on the dock. Find out what’s been delivered.” The interior team high-tailed it to the production room when they found a gigantic candy cane stockpile. Their minty Chrissy toothpaste fears were justified!

The crew had to act fast. Rudolph blinked his warning nose light to notify the crew the security guards were nearby.

“Let’s save the day! All reindeer to the dock!” called Smartie. 

“How will we get the candy canes back to Santa’s workshop?” asked a crew member.

“Let’s use Santa’s sack,” said Smartie. The whole crew shoved the candy canes inside Santa’s bottomless sack.

Footsteps approached. As they opened the roller doors, Smartie shouted, “Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! Light the way, Rudolph!”

The guards were stunned as the crew took off into the sky and flew direct to the North Pole where they were greeted with cheers from everyone at Santa’s workshop.

“Congratulations Candy Cane Crew!” cheered Santa. “Smartie, thanks for making Christmas minty again!”

On Christmas Eve, Santa left a candy cane and card under everyone’s tree. It said: “Merry Mintmas!”

Rebecca Sheraton is a children’s writer and a primary school teacher. She lives in Brisbane and loves coming home to write and let her imagination overtake. Playing with her nephews lets her be a kid again, and they inspire many funny stories. Find out more on 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, 12 December 2013

Dee's Top 30 Writing Competition Tips

Author, speaker, writing mentor and all-round wonderful writerly gal, Dee White, is launching her first writing competition for adults this summer.

Dream of spending your summery days penning fabulous stories? Well, get penning, then submit your tales to Dee's writing comp for your chance to win some truly sensational prizes including mentoring and publication in an e-anthology. Dee is also offering feedback for every single entry.

Get your creativity flowing with Dee's Top 30 Writing Competition Tips. Happy writing!

  1. Always read the guidelines carefully.
  2. Before you send your entry off, make sure it follows the guidelines set out for the competition.
  3. Stick to the specified word count.
  4. Formatting can vary from competition to competition so make sure you supply your entry in the correct format. This includes the font you use and the layout on the page.
  5. Hook the reader with a strong beginning - they need to know who your main character is, where they are and what's happening to them right from the start.
  6. Try to think of an original story line or a new slant. Challenge stereotypes. For example, make your action hero a woman or a small child.
  7. Use language to paint unique and powerful pictures for the reader.
  8. Develop compelling characters who the reader will care about.
  9. Dialogue must be authentic - it must sound like real people talking. So it should include body language, pauses and interruptions like real conversations.
  10. Look for ways to add depth to your story through sub-plots, tension, imagery, menace and tension.
  11. If the competition has a theme, make this an intrinsic part of your writing.
  12. Use active rather than passive voice.
  13. For short stories, try and stick to one point of view character so you don't confuse the judges.
  14. Use strong verbs rather than adverbs.
  15. Remember that the judge might have to read hundreds of entries so try and make your story stand out for its great writing, compelling characters and unique ideas.
  16. Try and surprise the judges by making your story less predictable (but in a logical and believable way)
  17. Think of new angles on old themes
  18. Choose your words carefully. Every word should earn its place in your story.
  19. Use metaphors and similes but don't overdo them.
  20. Read your work out loud before you send it in. Does it flow? Have you repeated words or phrases?
  21. Show don't tell.  Allow the story to unfold through the actions and reactions of the main characters.
  22. Be original with your ideas and language - don't use clichés.
  23. Make sure your story has a clear central theme that you follow throughout the piece.
  24. Don't overload your story with too many themes or big ideas.
  25. Judges are always looking for a strong voice. Try and inject your own personality into your writing.
  26. Make your story ending, believable, surprising and memorable.
  27. Think about/do some research on who is likely to be reading and judging your story. What do they like to write and read?
  28. Write from the heart and don't be afraid to use humour.
  29. Edit your work until it shines.
  30. Proofread your work. If you're not a strong speller, find a reader who is.

Dee White is the author of 16 fiction and non-fiction titles for children and young adults. She has also had a number of short stories published for both adults and children.

She is a qualified writing teacher and mentor, passionate about encouraging new writers. Her blogs writingclassesforkids.com and deescribewriting.wordpress.com are full of career and writing tips.

Dee has run many writing workshops for adults and students in various states of Australia with sessions focussing on story ideas, plotting and character development.

Review: A Small Miracle

A Small Miracle is a wordless picture book, but each image within the comic strip format  is an intricate painting.

An old woman treks through the snow to town on Christmas Eve, hoping to earn a few coins by singing in the street. When no one seems to notice her, she is forced to sell her beloved accordion in order to eat, but a bike thief steals her money as she leaves the Pawnshop.

The old lady treks sadly home through the snow, but when she sees the same scoundrel racing out of the church, she wrestles the church’s donation bucket from him.

Vintage Review: Letters from Father Christmas

There have been various editions of this wonderful collection from J. R. R. Tolkien, originally published in 1976 as The Father Christmas Letters. The copy I have was a Christmas gift, and is a revised hardcover edition called Letters From Father Christmas, complete with reproductions of the many original letters and drawings, including some previously unpublished.

Each Christmas, Tolkien’s children received a spidery, handwritten letter which appeared to be from Father Christmas himself. They were sent in carefully decorated and addressed envelopes, with unique stamps and postmarks designed to match. Just as he did with the world of Middle Earth, Tolkien created an entire world inhabited by Father Christmas, polar bears, goblins and a host of other characters. Life at the North Pole is not boring.

Review: The Naughtiest Reindeer

Rudolph the reindeer is bedridden with a cold. The other reindeer are stricken with anguish. It’s Christmas Eve. What is to become of the deliveries? 

Ruby, Rudolph’s cheeky sister, is available. ‘NOT RUBY!’ is the united response as the other reindeer list her shortcomings. But whether they like it or not, and much to Ruby’s delight, she is the only replacement.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Review: Christmas Steam (Little Peter's Railway)

Christmas is almost here, but for the families of Yocklett’s Village this year just won’t feel like Christmas without Santa’s Grotto at the Village Hall. The Hall has been closed by Council and the Grotto has been cancelled.

Young Peter comes up with a wonderful plan to make sure that the local children can still enjoy a visit to Santa’s Grotto to share their Christmas wish list. Peter and his grandfather work together to create a wonderful grotto in Bluebell Wood. They plan to use their miniature railway line and engine ‘Fiery Fox’ to transport the children from the village so they can visit Santa. Can they get Santa’s Grotto ready in time and save Christmas?

Shout Out: The Nanny Piggins Guide to Conquering Christmas

Watch out Santa! Nanny Piggins is coming to town this Christmas!

Yes, Nanny Piggins is doing Yule with these fabulously fun festive frivolities fans will furiously faint over.

But this is not a survival guide to Christmas, no no. This is a guide to conquering the Yuletide season!

That's right, it is time to take a stand – don't suffer through another year of Brussels sprouts, gift-wrapped socks and slobbery kisses from great aunts who forget to put their teeth in.

Take control of your Christmas and put the happy back in your holiday, using the handy hints, games and inspiring stories within this book.

Fabulously funny, with the perfect smattering of bah humbug. Do Christmas YOUR way! I particularly love the Holiday Fashion Advice ...

Title: The Nanny Piggins Guide to Conquering Christmas
Author/Illustrator: RA Spratt
Publisher: Random House Australia, $15.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 November 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780857980922
For ages: 8 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction