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

Friday, 31 January 2014

Review: The Kensington Reptilarium

Meet the Caddy kids: Thomasina, Ralph, Albertina, and Phineas, otherwise known as Kick, Scruff, Bert, and Pin. When their oft-adventuring father goes missing, the kids are yanked from their carefree independence in the Australian desert to live on the other side of the world, in London. Life so far from the place they know as home is as different as night is from day, and not at all what they expected.

“A towering, six-storey house that gives nothing away except a curmudgeonly wish to be left utterly alone. Paint peels from the walls like giant sunburn, dead vines spill from neglected windowboxes, long smears of dirt run down the facade like the grubbiest of tear-streaked faces, rogue sproutings of grass emerge triumphant from cracked marble steps and a high mound of leaves laps at the door.”

Review: Forevermore

Forever More is a wonderful combination of mystery, magical fantasy, spirits, and the warring of good and evil. It includes a romance with a handsome ghost, and is set in the rugged Scottish Highlands. Themes of friendship, trust, and new beginnings bring a sense of reality to this interesting tale of magic and love.

Ivy has moved from America to Glenmorrag, Scotland, ‘a mystical place filled with enchantment’, after her mother’s marriage to a Scottish laird. But there is a sinister shadow that stalks Ivy, and Great-grandmother Elizabeth’s spite towards the girl is a palpable force ready to consume her.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Herman's Letter

Herman the bear and Henry the raccoon are best friends. They love playing together. Then one day Henry moves a long way away, and Henry and Herman promise each other they will stay in touch.

Henry’s little fold-out letters to Herman are important to Herman, sharing what he’s doing as he settles into his new home and makes new friends. Young children are sure to love opening and reading them, too. Unfortunately, hearing about Henry’s new friends makes Herman jealous. Herman misses Henry and tries to find things to do to keep himself busy.

Review: Crinkly Books of Aussie Animals

Once in a while, books come along that are so good, they make me want to have another baby. I know!! Yes, that's how much I love these books--the 'Crinkly' series by artist Jill Brailsford.

These soft, tremendously tactile books pack an auditory punch, with crinkle-lined pages creating a delicious, understated racket when baby grabs the page. Featuring a palette of pure black and white, the silhouetted images are ideal for baby's eye development--and will totally engage and stimulate tiny brains.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Review: Dig In!

Until recent years there were surprisingly few picture books featuring trucks and tractors and the like. For that reason, whenever I see a new one, it piques my interest.

Dig In! is a board book with rhyming text and movable parts, sure to enthuse young readers. Little mice workers are in control of a worksite where “Crew arrives at break of day. Get to work, right away.” The rhyming seems a bit forced at times, but can be forgotten amidst the action on site which includes “goop galore” in the cement mixer that you have to “spin to mix, reverse to pour” and rolling mountains “nice and flat”.

Review: The Naturals

This fantastic psychological thriller, the first in a series, introduces a group of gifted young profilers that have been recruited by the FBI for their Serial Killers branch. They are smart and born with the natural ability to read people and crime scenes. The story is told from Cassie’s point of view and the occasional view of the serial killer referred to as 'You'.

Cassie’s mother was murdered five years ago but her body was never found. She realizes she’s has extraordinary abilities that enable her to see things others don’t. When Michael comes to the cafĂ© where she works and leaves a business card, her boring world becomes a maelstrom and her past takes over her present.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Review: Sick

Brian isn't a model student and he has no problems skipping class with his friend Chad. He's recently broken up with his girlfriend Laura — she has anxiety issues that he found difficult to handle — but he thinks about her all the time. And he's fiercely protective of his younger sister, Kenzie, who's in remission from leukaemia. All in all, he's your typical teenager: complicated!

But today is not a typical day at Phoenix Metro High School. Kids seem to be going crazy, attacking each other, biting each other, gnawing on each other. Their skin is changing, becoming crystalline. They can't stand up straight, instead shuffling along the ground like … well, like zombies.

12 Curly Questions with author Amra Pajalic

1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
I have a rose tattoo on my arm.

2. Do you have a nickname? 
No, but when ordering takeaway I call myself Amy so I don’t have to spell my name.

3. What is your greatest fear?

4. Can you describe your writing style for us in ten words?
The story is the star, the words are the props.

5. What are five positive words that describe you as a writer?
Tenacious, dedicated, diverse, constant learner.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: A Very Singular Guild (City of Orphans #3)

This is the final book in this meticulously researched trilogy set in 1870. The machine age has brought changes to London and new beginnings to Ned Roach, who is now employed full time by Alfred Bunce the bogler. The Metropolitan Board of works has created the new Committee for the Regulation of Subterranean Anomalies and Alfred now works for the Sewers Office. The Committee is seeking a scientific way to kill the monsters and remove the need for child bait making Ned and Alfred question their future.

A new type of bogle emerges; one that can be killed by anyone.  As Alfred contemplates his limited options, Ned acknowledges he is luckier. Although illiterate, he is bright, daring and resourceful enough to reshape his life. But there are mysteries to be solved, and journeys to be undertaken through a trail of magic and folklore.

Interview: Catherine Jinks and her City of Orphans

KBR is delighted to welcome gifted author Catherine Jinks, who spoke with Anastasia Gonis about her City of Orphans trilogy, what inspired her, and how she researched and created the story. Fellow writers will also delight in Catherine's writing processes!

What or who inspired City of Orphans?

I first had the idea for A Very Unusual Pursuit when I was thinking about one basic problem you always have when writing for what the Americans call 'middle-grade' children; namely, the fact that primary-school kids these days tend to lead very circumscribed lives, at least in the western world.

Their economic importance is quite indirect – because they're largely consumers, rather than producers – and you don't see them hanging out in public much, except on weekends.

I was trying to think of a setting where children were central to the economy, and I ended up in the Victorian era, when children were everywhere – selling things, stealing things, sweeping streets and chimneys, working as apprentices and factory-hands, begging, performing … the lot.

It's easier to write about kids having adventures when they're running around doing pretty much everything an adult would do.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review: Why I Love Australia

Bronwyn Bancroft is a descendant of the Bundjalung people of northern New South Wales. She is also an award-winning illustrator and a leading Australian artist.

Fortunately for us, she has drawn on all these elements in this inspiringly exquisite tribute to the Australian landscape.

Review: Australia: A Three-Dimensional Expanding Country Guide

Following on from Sarah McMenemy's gorgeous fold-out books, this beautiful rendition by Charlotte Trounce really typifies the glory of our country, its beauty, its icons and its nuances.

Slid into a little box-like folder, the book can be slipped from its case and unfurled like a concertina, with cut-outs and pop-ups of iconic Australian scenes, including Sydney's opera house and bridge, Parliament House, The Twelve Apostles, Port Arthur, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Review: Pantone Colours

Calling all graphic designers, toddlers and other colour-obssessives. Get set to enter rainbow nirvana.

Pantone is in the house.

Graphic Designer extraordinaire, Helen, Dardik, has teamed up with Abrams Appleseed to create this simply stunning tome of colour referencing that will send anyone straight to their paint box (overwhelmed with the desire to create or at least colour-in).

12 Curly Questions with author Demet Divaroren

1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
I have the nose of a bloodhound! No smell escapes my nostrils!

2. Do you have a nickname? 
Plenty! Demsim, Dem, Demi. Damn it.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights give me pins and needles!

4. Can you describe your writing style for us in ten words?
A magical road of discovery, words, worlds and characters.

5. What are five positive words that describe you as a writer?
Never gives up on dreams.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Review: Pluto's Secret

When I was young and learning about the solar system, Pluto was the ninth planet. It seems strange to think that only a few years ago it was decided that Pluto was no longer a planet at all. Pluto’s Secret, told in narrative form, is the story of how that came to be.

For children who may never know any different, this is a handy insight into Pluto’s history and the world of astronomy generally. The story of Pluto begins with a search by astronomer Percival Lowell, who was convinced there was another planet out there past Neptune. That planet’s eventual discovery by Clyde Tombaugh, an employee at the Lowell Observatory, came in 1930. Originally called Planet X, it received its official name courtesy of a suggestion by an English school girl.

Review: Hudson Hates School

Hudson really doesn't like school. He loves painting and making things and building models and making cakes. But he really doesn't like going to class each day, and poor mum has to virtually drag him (with big smiles) to the schoolyard gate.

Hudson hates the spelling test. He has to stay behind at lunchtime because he never gets it right. Everyone else is outside playing in the sunshine and poor Hudson is desk-bound.

It's no wonder he hates school. When mum comes to collect him, he bursts into tears, and honestly--you may just tear up, too.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Review: Six Steps Down

Aisley and her family have moved into a century-old mansion with lots of restoration needed. But when the history of the house and its former owners is researched during a school project, secrets, truths, a story of love and a ghostly presence are also uncovered.

Full of mystery and romance, friendship and animosity, this wonderful debut novel by Australian author Mandi Greenwood, is a promise of things to come. The strong flowing prose and fantastic characters are impressive, but it’s the well-crafted storyline that took the prize as it kept me riveted right from the start.

Review: An Invisible Flower

Abstract expressionism? Yoko Ono? In a picture book? Of course! Would we expect anything less?

An Invisible Flower is the height of abstract expressionism. A manuscript written by Ono when she was just 19  years old, it was the artist's son Sean who discovered the work 'sticking out from the mouth of some old books like a tongue' at his mother's home.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Review: A Breath of Frost (The Lovegrove Legacy)

It's Regency England. Emma and her cousins Gretchen and Penelope are part of 'high society', members of the English nobility. Their world revolves around an often boring whirl of debutantes balls, eligible young men and meaningless gossip.

But there's another world they know nothing about — a world of witches and warlocks, goblins and gargoyles. And these two worlds are about to collide …

Guest Post: Cassy Liberman

Illustration by Lucy Desbordes from Nancy Wake: Fighting for Freedom
Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Melbourne author Cassy Liberman as she shares about the inspiration for her picture book series on inspirational Australian women.

Some years ago, a girlfriend and I were discussing her daughter’s school project. Her daughter was to give a talk to the class on an inspirational Australian woman – and she instinctively chose Nicole Kidman.

It was one of those parenting light bulb moments. You are always subliminally aware of the various influences on your children, the music, the games, their social group, their peer group and school. But how often do you sit back and reflect on the breadth and quality of the role models that you are providing for your children or the role models that they are seeking out for themselves.

It was a moment that resonated for me.

After that conversation, I began to reflect on my own journey to find role models for myself and for my children. I realised that there are not many opportunities for children to have exposure to a variety of role models outside their family and school environment and beyond pop culture. I realised that I had gone searching for my own role models in my 20s and 30s. But for children – there is very little that is accessible, fun and inspiring.

I have three boys. What kind of role models do I want for them?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Review: Explore! The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time

Explore! examines the accomplishments of twenty adventurers from history. Most names you’ll recognise, but perhaps you won’t know the details of all their stories. Here readers get a glimpse of the dangers involved with being the first to try something, or go somewhere new.

It begins with a timeline of exploration, starting with Marco Polo travelling to China in the 1200s, and going right up to 2012, when James Cameron travelled solo in a submersible to the deepest part of the ocean, and Felix Baumgartner skydived faster than the speed of sound from the edge of space.

12 Curly Questions with author Coral Vass

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I use to hate tomatoes but now I love them

2. What is your nickname?

3. What is your greatest fear?
Big black rats

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
A splash of rhythm, drop of rhyme, stirred with fun

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Creative, Colourful, Choosy, Capable, Conscientious

6. What book character would you be, and why?
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR because after eating so many yummy things, he simply turned into a beautiful butterfly.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Just Ducks!

I must admit, I tend to follow the books of illustrators as much as authors, and the books of artist Salvatore Rubbino are some of my very favourites.

The fact that, in this case, Just Ducks! has been co-created with author Nicole Davies, hits a sweet picture book spot, because I adore the work of both these talents.

A classic-style picture book in the Walker Nature Storybook series, this blend of fiction and non-fiction follows a young girl as she marvels at and enjoys the quacking ducks who take up residence on the river outside her home.

Review: Vegetabibbles

We all know the tastebuds of a young child are geared towards the sweetness of breast milk--and that the chlorophyllic tang of a pea may take some getting used to, but what better time to start kids on a nutritional journey than while very, very young?

I'm a strong advocate of starting the wholefood journey early, and, like all things in life, what better way to encourage poppets to do anything, than with a book?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Review: Octopus's Garden

From the multi-talented Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr, comes the song Octopus’s Garden played out in pictures against pages of underwater scenes. The illustrations by Ben Cort with their stunning colours will remain memorable with their dominating blue shades throughout the book.

The text is positioned in various ways upon the pages. Words circle the children as they dance with the octopus below the sea, and other verse demands the book be turned lengthways to get full benefit of the picture as well as the text.

Review: Dinosaur Farm

It's tough being a farmer (don't Aussie farmers know it!?). You have to wake early. There's stacks of manual labour. Your animals need you. And they need lots to eat.

Especially when they're dinosaurs.

Told in the third person, this is such a simple yet divinely clever twist on the typical farm book for wee ones--even those kids not particularly interested in dinosaurs will love the quandaries our farmer finds himself in while trying to operate a prehistoric farm.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

12 Curly Questions with author Helen Ross

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I sometimes wear a pink wig around the house – for fun.

2. What is your nickname?
Hellie. In high school (middle years) it was ‘Hurk’ as I used to run, with one of my girl friends, through the school’s side garden bush grunting ‘Hrrrrrk’. So my girlfiriend nicknamed me ‘Hercules’. Then it was shortened to ‘Herk’, then ‘Hurk’. We replaced the ‘e’ with ’u’ because we thought it looked better. I used to finish off my English class assignments, signed ‘Hurk’. Oh the whimsy of being a teenager.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I do have a couple but won’t divulge as I try not to focus on any fears as I believe you can ‘bring’ them on. However, I do have lots of things I wish to accomplish so would be disappointed if I left this planet before I had achieved them. One is to be involved in the ‘Save the Orangutan’, learn the saxophone, travel more, and so on.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
In terms of my children’s writing: A mixture of fun, creativity, and education.

In terms of my article writing: Quirky with a sense of honesty and openness.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review: Time for Bed, Fred!

Fred the dog doesn’t want to go to bed. As soon as he hears the clock strike eight and the word ‘bed’, he runs to hide in the garden. Eventually, Fred puts so much effort into avoiding going to bed that he wears himself out.

A perfect picture book to read with young children who aren’t keen on bedtime, Time for Bed, Fred! has repeated phrases that make it particularly fun to read aloud and Fred's antics as he avoids bedtime will have children laughing as they cheer him on.

Review: Knightley and Son

Darkus Knightley has had a problematic few years. His father has lain in an impenetrable sleep — a coma, to all intents and purposes — for the last four years. His mother has remarried, and his stepfather Clive seems determined to dress only in unattractive synthetic shell suits. Meanwhile, his stepsister, Tilly, is the daughter of his father's former assistant Carol, herself the tragic victim of a car accident … or was that murder?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review: The Adventure Set

‘We believe that children deserve reading material as rich as their imagination.’

With a philosophy like that, I was curious to see what kind of books Home Grown Books would produce to engage the attention and imagination of young readers. I was delighted when I received one of the four book sets offered by Home Grown books to encourage an interest in reading and storytelling in children aged 3-6 years.

The Adventuring Set is a collection of seven books filled with watercolour illustrations by artist Case Jernigan. The text is written and edited by Kyla Ryman, a reading specialist, mother and teacher with a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

Review: You Are the Pea, and I Am the Carrot

Some things in life are just made for each other. They're perfect partners. A match made in heaven. There's butter and bread. A burger and chips. Caramel chip and vanilla bean ice-cream. Eggs and ham. You get the idea …

It's these kinds of blissful pairings that are celebrated in You Are the Pea, and I Am the Carrot, as a couple of friends together create the perfect 'recipe' for friendship.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Review: The Last Wild

An impressive piece of first work, The Last Wild engaged all my emotions and at times brought tears to my eyes. The prose is exceptional, and the storyline unique with an imaginative plot. Piers Torday has woven a fantastic adventure of amazing proportions with strong themes of power, control and manipulation vying against the strength and unity of nature.

Kester has been locked away from his father for six years in Spectrum Hall for Challenging Children. The children live in a glass-encased environment as protection against a virus that reportedly was carried by animals which have now all been slaughted. Manufactured food alone is now available through a singular outlet.

Review: Chick's Sick!

Chick clucks, plucks, tugs at worms and scrabbles in the dust. As chicks do.

As the sun sets, she's off to bed in the hen house, and when she wakes, to her sudden surprise ... no eggs.

What wrong? Is she sick? She asks sheep to fetch duck, who presumes chick's eggs are stuck. Duck squeezes chick. Chick wheezes.

No eggs.

Goose chimes in, suggesting an upside down shaking. Chick develops wobbly legs. But no eggs.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Event: Almost Dead Book Launch

I first heard Kaz Delaney speak at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in 2013. Kaz was part of two different panels, one on romantic fiction and the other on crossover fiction (books that target both teens and adults). I loved Kaz’s insights, attitude and approach in both sessions, so I was keen to pick up a copy of her YA novel Dead, Actually, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading (see our KBR review here).

Since then, my 12-year-old daughter has attended one of Kaz’s writing workshops with a friend. Both girls came out of the two-hour session chattering enthusiastically about the things they had learned and talking almost non-stop on the trip home about how interesting and exciting Kaz’s presentation and writing exercises were. I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

It is therefore no surprise that my daughter and I were both very excited to discover that Kaz Delaney would be launching her latest YA novel, Almost Dead, locally. At almost 13, my daughter is at the lowest limit of the target audience for the book, but her enthusiasm for Kaz had her saying ‘Yes!’ to the possibility of attending the launch before I had even finished sharing the details of the invitation.

Review: Almost Dead

It’s all fun and games until you find a dead person in your bedroom.
Another one. 

And I so didn’t need this today.

As if her dysfunctional, fractured family and absentee best-friend weren’t enough to deal with, Macey is getting some serious flack after her recent scathing review of the band 'Pashon' and now she has a ghost hassling her. Well, he says he isn’t a ghost, he’s just astral travelling, but either way he’s a pain in the neck and Macey doesn’t need the extra drama.

Unfortunately, things are about to get much worse as Macey starts finding threatening notes and her family issues go from bad to unbelievable. Maybe this mystery ‘traveller’ can help her sort things out so that her life can get back to normal or maybe gorgeous surfer Finn is the one she should be looking to for help.

12 Curly Questions with author Kaz Delaney

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My kidneys are in the wrong place. True!!! LOL. My veins also twist and curl around my arm instead of travelling in any kind of logical direction. Makes having blood taken a lot of fun for all. Obviously whoever made me was having an ‘off’ day as I’m not put together very well…

2. What is your nickname? 
Kez or  The Ditzy Diva. Or just ‘Ditz’. It speaks volumes and requires no explanation.  

3. What is your greatest fear?
Snakes. I have said all my life that if I lived in the country that I would have to always carry a gun with me, because if I came across a snake I’d have to shoot myself. ;-)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
I hope others would agree they would include: Funny, mysterious, heart-warming. Easy, laid back  - but tense where it has to be tense. Relevant. I wanted to add gripping and ‘un-put-downable’, but really? I’ve already given myself such a swelled head that I hit it on the forty-seven metre high ceiling when I went to get a drink a moment ago! 

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Enthusiastic. Passionate. Determined. Resilient… Is that five? Oops – Maths is not my thing…

Monday, 13 January 2014

Review: Rainforest Lullaby

Laughter comes from the kookaburra at dawn, ‘but when the sky with stars is touched, kookaburra’s laugh is hushed’. It is then the lullaby of nature begins and the Australian forest animals snuggle to sleep.

Ringtail Possum is curled in a hollow; Tree Frogs cling, ‘green-on-green’ as butterflies pass. Devil pups ‘snuggle in a furry heap’ and Cassowary and chicks in ‘feathered stripes’ cuddle together. The Water Dragon dreams ‘of an ancient time’, while Boobooks roost at the end of day. Echidna, full of yummy ants ignores the ‘steamy hours’. And the new born baby sleeps.

Review: Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey

I confess I am a late-comer to the work of Michael Morpurgo. Author of War Horse (read KBR's review of the illustrated edition here) and a former British Children's Laureate, he really is someone whose work I should have read a lot sooner! But he's now firmly on my list of favourite authors, a position only strengthened by the delightful Jo-Jo the Melon Donkey.

First published in 1995, this is a new illustrated edition of this classic story. Every day, Jo-Jo the donkey carries his load of melons to the great city of Venice. Every day, all day, he is bullied by his owner and pestered by flies, and he longs with all his heart for something more … to BE something more than just a donkey.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Review: Monster Truck Mountain Rescue

Mouse is readying his monster vehicle for the monster truck rally--and what an impressive specimen it is. What giant tyres!

Mouse works hard on his truck, and has all the specialised equipment, including a fireproof suit, safety helmet and safety harness.

The race is about to begin! Bang! the starter pistol fires and he's off! Grrrowl! goes the monster engine. Roar! goes the massive tyres as they crush a line-up of damaged cars.

Guest Post: Grandparents and Grandchildren Reading Together

Kids’ Book Review is pleased to welcome Dawn MacKenzie – nurse, midwife, author and grandmother of eight – as she shares how reading with her own grandchildren inspired her to write stories for children.

Grandparents have bucket loads of love and time to give to their grandchildren. There is no better gift to give than the joy of books and education. It is a time of bonding, listening and communication.

Grandparents are from an era of books and storytelling that is a diminishing craft. Passing an appreciation of this interest and skill on to the next generation provides an extra dimension to their lives.

Hard copy books are competing with computer games, e books, apps and DS devices. There is room for both formats, so it is important that the grandchildren have an appreciation for hardcopy books and the grandparent learns about reading tablets and other electronic devices.

From a few months of age, I shared books with my grandchildren so that they could have a tactile experience and gradually learn to turn the pages. It is a wonderful experience to have infants and children with you while you read their favorite story to them. Experts indicate that a positive relationship between a grandchildren and grandparents, particularly in relation to reading, is good for the children’s brain development and provides a sense of security.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review: Starting School

There are lots of things that might make a child nervous about starting school – new routines, new people, new surroundings and worries about making friends and fitting in.

Starting School covers all this and more in a way that is positive and inclusive, helping children to see that they aren’t so different from the other kids who are starting at school. Everyone has trouble remembering names, keeping track of their things and following all the new rules and everyone has moments when they feel a little overwhelmed and lost, but best of all, everyone gets the chance to make new friends, learn new things and have lots of fun.

12 Curly Questions with author Izy Penguin

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My own Grandma used to walk backwards down the stairs.

2. What is your nickname?
Izy Penguin.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Big Spiders - it’s their Knees.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Fun, quirky, charming, creative, amusing, simple, dark, entertaining, imaginative (I also like using alliteration).

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Quirky, silly, childlike, imaginative, down to earth.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Review: Hold on Tight

Hold on tight to my hand today.
You wouldn’t want to blow away.
Would you?

As a mother encourages her daughter to hold on tight on a blustery day, she inspires a wonderful flight of imagination as the girl thinks about all the wonderful thinks she could do if she was able to drift on the wind.

Author/illustrator Sara Acton’s wonderful ink and watercolour illustrations give a wonderful sense of breezy freedom as the girl imagines riding on the leaves with her teddy, sharing tea parties in the tree tops with the birds, and practising tumbling tricks with a troop of ladybirds.

Review: Hello in There!

One of the most dramatic and life-changing times a child can go through is the introduction of a baby sister or brother. The excitement, the uncertainty, the world turning upside down--all of these things combine to make it a very challenging time, but what challenging time cannot be eased by a great book?

In Hello in There! (a big sister's book of waiting), Jo Witek takes young readers on a delightful journey to that enormous balloon-like structure that has become mum's belly.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Book List: Picture Books about Starting School

Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or starting at a new school, the first day of school can be a daunting day for children as they face uncertainty about friendships, expectations and unknown class routines.

Reading picture books about starting school can create opportunities for children to discuss their fears and concerns, as well as talk about all the wonderful new things they are about the experience. Encouraging your child to ask questions and  talk about their expectations will offer opportunities for you to calm their fears and help them to look forward to this new adventure. 

My First Day at School by Meredith Costain and Michelle Mackintosh, Windy Hollow  Books, $25.95, 9781922081254. KBR review here.

Review: Line 135

Another example of two superlative talents coming together, I adore this Zullo/Albertine blending, in a book of such divine simplicity, you close the last page and head straight to the start again.

A child walks hand-in-hand with a parent, and boards a train for Grandma's house in the country.

Along the way, the child narrates her thoughts aloud--and we are privy to each and every thought she has.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Review: Ike's Incredible Ink

Ike wants to write a story – an incredible story – but something seems to be missing. What does Ike need to get his ideas down on paper? Ink! Of course!

Join Ike as he goes on an amazing adventure to collect everything he needs to create the ink that will allow him to write his incredible story.

As an aspiring author, I couldn’t help but smile at Ike’s procrastination at the beginning of the story. He is ready to write his incredible story so he spends time finding his favourite pen, chatting with his best friend and doing some cleaning. It sounds eerily familiar.

Review: Deadly! The Truth About the Most Dangerous Creatures on Earth

Masterful information-hound and animal-lover, Nicola Davies, spills her Zoologist credentials in this fabulously fun book about the deadliest creatures on earth.

This high-text picture book is a clever amalgamation of information book and comic book, with vibrantly kooky illustrations, speech bubbles, dynamic typeface and plenty of gory fact (the bloody endpapers are clear warning).

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Review: First Day

Are you ready? Let’s have a yummy breakfast first. (Whatever you want. Porridge? Fruit salad?)

Then it’s time to get dressed. It’ll be fun. You’ll meet new friends. New BFFs! You might have to be a bit brave…

The first day of school can be a challenging experience for both children and parents. This fun picture book by Australian author Andrew Daddo gives children the opportunity to encourage their fretting parents and remind them that change can be a good thing.

12 Curly Questions with author illustrator Binny Talib

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
My real name is Belinda, but I have been known as Binny for many years.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear?

4. Describe your Illustrating style in ten words. 
Influenced by textile and graphic design, whimsical, modern and sometimes cute, textural, surreal.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as an Illustrator. 
Mischievous, messy, playful, curious, whimsical.