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

Friday, 28 February 2014

Review: Mi and Museum City

Love a quirky picture book, me, and particularly love quirk when it sidles up to unique. In Mi and Museum City, it's very clear a great deal of passion and creative license has been applied to this work--and I, for one, am enormously grateful.

Museum City is filled with ... museums. There are museums of every single kind you can possibly imagine, from the Museum of Bad Smells to the Museum of Dot and the Museum of Dash. In this city, lives Mi, and Mi is, well, bored of this city. He's tired of the uninteresting buildings containing uninteresting things. And he's more than a tad lonely.

Review: Night Monsters

Kids absolutely love a good, healthy spooking, and author Nina Poulos does just that in this spine-tingling romp through the Aussie bush.

The animals are night-nervous. Waddle the Wombat swears he saw a witch in a black hat with a warty face. Her teeth went clack!

Rowdy Roo is certain of a loud hiss that left his knees shaking. Ernest Echidna was also shaking in his quills when the snarls of a massive dinosaur raced on by, and Doris Dingo scattered as fast as she could when a growling bear tore through the trees.

KBR Short Story: The Groundskeeper’s Son


by Kristy Jaeckel

The king sat with head in hands. The groundskeeper’s son swept the garden path.

“Forgive me, Your Majesty. I am just your groundskeeper’s son and have no right to speak to you, but you seem troubled,” he said.

“I have mountains of gold and could path my kingdom in jewels, but I cannot buy my beautiful daughter what she has asked for,” said the king.

The groundskeeper’s son rested his broom. “What has the princess asked for?”

“She has asked for a rainbow and will not smile until she has one! I had my most skilled artist paint her a rainbow, but she said it was ordinary. I called on a wizard to conjure one, but she was not impressed. I would give anything to make my daughter smile.”

The groundskeeper’s son thought for a moment. “I know a way to catch a rainbow.”

“You do?” the king asked in surprise.

“To catch a rainbow you must first plant 1000 roses - as red as rubies.”

“Then let it be so and I will reward you with 1000 gold coins!”

The king sent his men out in search of 1000 red roses. The groundskeeper’s son got to work planting while the princess watched from her window. She did not smile.

When he was finished, the king asked, “Where is the rainbow that you promised?”

“I give my word that the princess will have her rainbow, but l will need 2000 lilies - as orange as the sunset.”

“Then let it be so and I will reward you with 2000 gold coins!”

The groundskeeper’s son got to work planting orange lilies next to the roses while the princess watched from her balcony. Still she did not smile.

“Still no rainbow?” asked the king gruffly.

“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but catching a rainbow takes time. I still need 4000 daffodils - as yellow as the sun.”

“Then let it be so and I will reward you with 4000 gold coins.”

The groundskeeper’s son planted the daffodils next to the lilies while the princess watched from her step. Still she did not smile.

“We are closer to catching a rainbow!” the groundskeeper’s son assured the king.

Irish Bells were next- as green as meadows. The king promised jewels. The princess watched from her swing. Still she did not smile.

Next were Irises - as blue as the sky. The King promised land. The princess watched from her garden bench. Still she did not smile.

Finally, as the king was growing impatient, the groundskeeper’s son planted indigo - a sea of purple. The king promised him a noble title. The princess watched by his side. Suddenly, the sky opened and rain began to pour. The princess rushed inside.

When the rain had stopped, the king stepped into the garden.

“I have promised you gold and jewels, land and nobility. What else do I need to give you to catch a rainbow?”

“Princess Violet!” the groundskeeper’s son called out to the balcony.

The princess looked out into the garden ... and smiled. 


About Kristy 
Kristy Jaeckel is a mother who loves to write for her boys, Dexter and Wesley, who love to listen to her stories. 


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 submissions are due by the 25th of each month. Find out more here

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: Lilli-Pilli's Sister

Anna Branford uses Lilli-Pilli the fairy to answer some of the questions and concerns young children have when a new baby is expected. Things like … Will the tiny bed be the right size? Why is mum so tired and her belly so big?

Lilli-Pilli is also helping her dad to get everything ready for the baby. They make sure furniture is smooth and safe. And later, to make the crib soft, she asks kookaburra for a feather, moth for an empty cocoon, and the river bird for a tiny nest.

Review: Midnight: The Story of a Light Horse

The poignancy of historical picture books is a joy to immerse oneself in, but most particularly when it's work done by this formidable creative duo - husband and wife team, Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood.

In their latest book, Midnight: The Story of a Light Horse, we're taken on a journey back to 1917 and the battle of Beersheba in the Middle East, close to the Turkish bastion of Gaza.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review: 1841: The Bushranger's Boys (Do You Dare? series)

What would you do if you were forced to leave home to work for the man who shot your beloved dog, just like that? And how would you survive the cold and loneliness of homestead life without your dad?

From the moment Captain Ross shoots Jem’s dog, Jem dreams of getting the Captain back somehow, so when a bushranger takes the Captain’s horse and clothes, Jem isn’t upset. Not one bit. Still, Jem is still stuck on the Captain’s homestead far from the only family he knows.

Review: Little Red Riding Hood

Here the tale of Little Red Riding Hood as been rewritten by Katie Cotton. Mrs Hood who owns the tea shop in the Fairytale Village makes a red cloak for her daughter; then the story continues.

What makes this book different from every other one of the same title is the stunning combination of illustration and design.  It is unique due to the challenge for young readers to discover characters from other fairytales within the artwork. This will encourage interaction and stimulate interest.

Event: Canberra Book Lovers and Storytellers Festival

www.canberrawritingschool.com.au

Event: Libby Hathorn: Find Your Inner Poet



SCWBI Event Monday March 17
6 - 8pm

An evening with brilliant poet and author,

Libby Hathorn 

Libby Hathorn is an award-winning poet and author of more than 50 books for children and young people, as well as books for adults. Translated into several languages and adapted for the stage and screen, her work has won honours in Australia, the US, Great Britain and Holland.

Libby loves poetry. Reading it, being inspired by it, reciting it, teaching it, writing it and dreaming about it. Many of her novels and picture books are inspired by poetry entirely. She is currently working on a World War 1 novel entitled Eventual Poppy Day (Harper Collins 2015) and her latest picture books are A Baby for Loving and Outside! (Hardie Grant Egmont/Little Hare 2014)

www.libbyhathorn.com, www.libby-hathorn.blogspot.com

LIBBY’S TALK: FIND YOUR INNER POET

Come spend some time with poetry devotee Libby and scribe some lines for entertainment or reflection, for bragging or for just plain satisfaction. Libby will take you through her foolproof steps to successful poetry writing.

WARNING! Not just poetry will come out of this workshop- there may well be a novel or short story lurking, just waiting to be released by poetry power.

LOCATION: Hughenden Hotel, 14 Queen St, Woollahra
TIME AND DATE:  6 - 8pm Monday 17 March 2014
COST:  $25 SCBWI members coffee/tea, light refreshments

PAYMENT: Call the Hughenden Hotel on (02) 9363 4863 or email reservations@thehughenden.com.au to pay by Visa or Mastercard,
or by direct deposit to the SCBWI acc BSB: 082 187 Acc No: 79540 2096
For those who can’t be there, we’ll put a full report on the SCWBI website and Facebook page.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: Dying to Tell Me

When Sasha’s father takes up a post as a remote area policeman, Sasha and her brother have no choice but to follow him to the country town far from everything they know.

There is something not quite right in Manna Creek and Sasha is determined to find out what it is. Not only that, she starts having premonitions about events that happen in the local area and she seems to be able to communicate with her father’s new police dog, King.

Sasha was in trouble back in the city and her bad luck and bad choices seem to have followed her. Can Sasha solve the mysteries of Manna Creek, both in the present and the past, and come to terms with her own unusual gifts?

12 Curly Questions with author Sherryl Clark

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I think everyone probably knows I grew up on a farm. But most people don’t know that my mum died when I was fourteen. She was a hard-working farmer’s wife and she had a heart attack.

2. What is your nickname?
A couple of people call me Shezza sometimes, and sometimes Clarkie. Clarkie reminds me of my nephew – that was his nickname when he raced motorbikes. 

3. What is your greatest fear?
Once upon a time I would have said spiders! My nana tried to get me to overcome my fear when I was little by getting me to hold a wolf spider from the wood pile. I refused and ran off screaming. I’m better now – I don’t scream nearly as much.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Fast at first, then slower as the work gets better.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Review: Bug Bingo

I know we review books here at KBR, but occasionally a fabulous game comes along that's a must-see--and Bug Bingo is one of them.

Who doesn't love Bingo? Who doesn't love bugs? Combined in this luscious board game, this is learning-personified.

The game includes a fold-out board containing a series of insects from bees to butterflies, bugs and roaches. Players choose a bingo card and a caller plucks squares from a fabric bag, calling out each insect.

Review: I Was Only Nineteen

Can a song become a children’s picture book?

John Schumann, songwriter, poet, singer and musician wrote about the Vietnam War in his song I Was Only 19.  The incredibly talented Craig Smith has translated John Schumann’s marvellous and moving lyrics into a visual feast for children aged 8+, and adults that adore picture books (like me!).

The answer is yes, a song can become a children’s picture book and much more. It can be a teaching tool, an historical document, an acknowledgement of sacrifice, evidence of loyalty and camaraderie, and the list goes on.

Review: Maisy's World of Animals

It's so lovely when two loves are combined--Maisy and pop-ups ... I'm not a toddler and even I was clapping my hands in glee!

Part of Maisy First Science Book series, this adorable book features a slew of animals set in various parts of the world from the Arctic to the mountains, ocean, desert, savannah, jungle and south pole.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: Toucan Can!

Toucan is a clever bird. He can do lots of things. He can dance, he can sing, he can bang a frying pan.

Can you do what Toucan can?

He can also swing, slide and hide. He can even juggle a frying pan and a stew pan while performing the cancan on a fruit can!

Can you?

BUT there are some things Toucan can't do. He can't stomp like you. He can't romp and hop because he might skip, trip, flip and flop.

Interview: John Schumann

John Schumann, Australian songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer of the former folk group Redgum, now known as The Vagabond Crew, has resurrected his iconic song I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) in a picture book illustrated by the talented Craig Smith. Anastasia Gonis asks how the book came to life and if there is more of the same to come.

What significance does this song have for you, and what motivated you to give it visual life through a picture book?

In many ways this song changed my life. When I wrote it and started playing it live with Redgum, I had absolutely no idea that it would take me around the world - from Belfast to Belgium, from Adelaide to Afghanistan. On the back of  Nineteen I have met some amazing people and done some extraordinary things, things that most people can only dream of. But most importantly, '19' has earned me the real and lasting friendship of many people in the veteran community. These friendships are the most valuable things to come from I was only 19.

To be frank, I never considered this song as having any potential as an illustrated picture book. And, in truth, the motivation was not mine. The potential was actually drawn to my attention by my friend, author Phil Cummings. I’d written a suite of songs for his book, Danny Allen Was Here. During one of our long, rambling conversations, Phil suggested that '19' might work as a picture book. I was somewhat doubtful - I couldn’t quite see how a graphic song about the effects of war on the soldiers who were sent to fight it could work in that way.

Phil was insistent, however, and he connected me with his agent. One thing led to another and Allen & Unwin jumped on it with decisive speed! There was some serendipity here because I’d been idly looking at publishers to approach about another project I had in mind. I really liked the look of Allen & Unwin: I liked the fact that they’re Australian, independent, and run by intelligent, capable women.

Acknowledging that all picture books are not only for children, for what specific age group did you aim this publication?

In the beginning, I didn’t have a specific age-group in mind. I still don’t, really. The people from Allen & Unwin, however, had it in their minds that it would work for kids between the ages eight and fourteen. I am being guided by them - and they are convinced!

For a while I couldn’t quite see how the book was going to resonate with young kids and I was racking my brains as to how I could contextualise it. (While I was pondering this, Craig was sending through his ideas which, frankly, blew me away. It was very clear to me then why he is ‘the man’ in the world of illustrated picture books.)

Anyway, I was up in Sydney in the A&U office looking at Craig’s roughs one day and I hit upon the idea of a grandfather telling his grandson the story of his tour of duty in Vietnam. Anna McFarlane from A&U loved the idea and once I saw what Craig did with the opening and closing illustrations I came to accept, finally, that it does work well as a kid’s book!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Review: History of Britain and Ireland

Subtitled The Definitive Visual Guide, this stunning tome presents history in a way unique to DK--a publisher world-renowned for its aesthetically-striking books.

Ideal for visual learners, and to aid and abet student retention, the history of Britain and Ireland is resplendently showcased, with page after page of paintings, diagrams, photographs, text boxes and fascinating, clearly-written content.

12CQ with author Lynnette Lounsbury


1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
I used to collect bones. (Ones I found … I didn’t kill anything!) I had a huge collection up in our back shed when I was a kid. I was planning on becoming a Palaeontologist. There was a full python skeleton, a horse skull, a few rat skeletons — lots of things. I had them all labelled and in display boxes. Of course, it didn’t always smell great and when a well-meaning friend dropped a cow skull at our house that hadn’t fully decomposed, my mum put her foot down and that was the end of it.

2. Do you have a nickname?  
Mostly I get 'L' — which is as short as my name will go, but there have been a few friends over the years who’ve called me Smurfette (just because it rhymes … I’ve never had blue hair) and my little brother still thinks its pretty funny to call me 'Fishnet' (it's not).

3. What is your greatest fear?
Swimming in places where you can’t see the bottom and it’s all slimy and gross when you put your feet down. I stood on an eel once and it bit me and I’ve never fully recovered from how revolting the experience was. Mostly I wear reef shoes in river water now, but even in the ocean I tend to keep my feet up.

4. Can you describe your writing style for us in ten words?
Action, coffee-fuelled, thoughtful, historical, intense, fairly serious, detailed, expansive.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Review: Beyond the Page

One of my favourite illustrators is Quentin Blake. His work is colourful, quirky, expressive, and distinctively unique. His pen and ink artworks, which are sometimes black and white, but more often brightly coloured, appeals to something in me that I can’t quite put my finger on. His observation and pictorial commentary of animals and people at work and play, often depicts unusual or surprisingly juxtaposed characters and situations.

This book complements another called Words and Pictures, which was first published in 2001, and more recently in paperback for the first time. Although perhaps best known as a book illustrator, Quentin Blake has had a broad-ranging career and been featured in numerous exhibitions. He was Britain’s first Children’s Laureate, has been awarded much international recognition for his work (the Kate Greenaway Award, Whitbread Medal, Hans Christian Andersen Award and others), and in 2013 received a knighthood.

Review: Afterworld

Dom Mathers and his sister Kaide are both adopted. The children of rich American diplomats, they live lives of privilege. Kaide is joyful, always laughing, going with the flow, attracting people to her like a magnet. Dom is a quieter soul, a thinker, the dark to his sister's light.

On their way home from a day spent working at their parents' latest charitable cause, a medical clinic in India, they are involved in a massive car crash. When Dom wakes up, everything's changed. To start with, he's dead.

KBR Short Story: The Pet Rainbow


by Zoë Disher

Gracie found a rainbow, lying in a puddle. It was a bit squashed and a bit dog-chewed but mostly it was wonderful. The colours shimmered and it made a faint humming noise. It smelt like sunshine after rain.

Gracie took the rainbow inside.

'Mum! Look! I found a rainbow!'

'That's nice, darling,' said Mum, from the kitchen sink.

‘What can I keep it in?'

Mum gave her an ice cream tub and kept washing. Gracie wiped the mud off the rainbow with a tea towel and put it in the tub.

'I will call her Shiny-Shiny-Sparkles,' she said. ‘Sparkles for short.’

‘Okay, sweetie,’ said Mum.

‘Look at her, Mum, she’s beautiful!’

‘Yes,’ agreed Mum but she didn’t look away from the eggy frying pan. ‘Now, go and play while I finish cleaning.’

Gracie had a tea party for Sparkles but Sparkles’ colours started to fade. Gracie found Mum in the living room.

'Mum, what do rainbows eat?'

'Pardon?' shouted Mum over the buzz of the vacuum cleaner. 'I can’t hear you!'

‘What do rainbows eat?’ yelled Gracie.

‘Have a banana if you’re hungry,’ called Mum as she pushed the sofa away from the wall.

‘It’s not for me, it’s for Sparkles!’ yelled Gracie but Mum wasn’t listening, she’d found a pile of dog hair in the corner.

Sparkles didn’t eat any banana. Soon her colours disappeared altogether and the humming stopped. She looked like a slug - flabby and grey.

Gracie went and found Mum again.

‘I think she’s sick.'

‘Who is?’

‘Sparkles. My pet rainbow.’

‘Oh,’ said Mum, as if she was thinking, but all she said next was, ‘Don’t walk on the floor, Gracie. Can’t you see I’m mopping?’

Gracie stamped her foot. 'Mum, she’s losing her colour,' she cried. Then – SCHPLOP – she tipped the blob out at Mum’s feet.

‘Gracie! I just mopped there,’ cried Mum. She poked Sparkles with the mop. ‘What is that thing?’ Sparkles smelt bad, like a muddy puddle. She looked like she belonged in the compost.

‘It’s Sparkles, my rainbow,’ said Gracie. Her lip wobbled and tears stung her eyes. ‘I think she’s dying.’

Mum put down the mop. She pushed the hair out of her eyes and looked at Gracie properly for the first time all morning. Then she knelt down and gave her a hug.

‘Rainbows like sunshine and rain, sweetheart.'

‘Can we help her, Mum? Please?'

In the garden, the sprinkler drummed on the ice-cream tub as the sun beat down.

‘Look Mum, it's working!’

Sparkles squirmed as her colours started to shine again. Then she leapt in the air and formed an arch over the lawn.

‘Oh, Gracie!’ cried Mum, ‘She’s beautiful.’

They watched together as Sparkles grew bigger and bigger and when she finally faded into the sky, Mum gave Gracie another hug. ‘Will you miss Sparkles?’


‘A little bit, but Sparkles is happy now,’ said Gracie. ‘And so am I.’ And she hugged Mum back.


About Zoë 
Zoë Disher is a writing mum, living in Newcastle. She likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. See more at www.zoedisher.com.au. 


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 submissions are due by the 25th of each month. Find out more here.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Review: Rabbit's Hide-and-Seek

I think almost every child loves to play hide-and-seek. Just like Rabbit in Rabbit’s Hide-and-Seek where he and his friends are having a picnic and playing games.

Ruth Paul’s pastel-coloured illustrations and simple text show the animals hiding in various camouflaged situations. First of all Rabbit has to find everyone - duckling, hedgehog, red panda, mouse, and bushbaby. One of the animals has hidden particularly well, though, so Rabbit decides to play a trick, and entice that last animal out of hiding. But there’s one final surprise.

Review: My Two Blankets

I'm not one to enter politics, especially Mid-Debacle, but frankly, this beautiful book couldn't be more timely.

A young, cartwheeling girl leaves her war-ravaged homeland and arrives in Australia - we do not know how, but she [miraculously] arrives and begins an achingly slow integration.

Everything is strange here. The people are strange. The food is strange. Even the wind is strange.

She doesn't speak the language, and all around her is a waterfall of bizarre sounds - cold and intimidating and lonesome.

Review: Kiss Kiss Goodnight

Bedtime has never been so delightful! This beautiful board book of rhyming verse with its gorgeous padded cover is a great way to prepare young ones for sleep. Made up of a double spread for each animal, bunnies, kittens, lambs, bear cubs and chicks fill the pages with images of tenderness and love.

Its delicate expression of the mother and child relationship; the protection, caring and warmth that mother and child share, is deeply moving. Cuddles, kisses, wriggles and changing positions all come into play before the final settling down.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Review: Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is a sensible, practical girl. She trusts science and facts and has no time for stories about ghosts and wizards and magical messengers. She is struggling to adjust after her mother’s death, feeling disconnected from her busy father and distracted sister.

Ophelia and her family travel to a snow-covered city where her father is in charge of arranging a sword collection for an upcoming exhibition. The museum contains many wonders that will challenge Ophelia’s sensible outlook on life, especially the young boy without a name she discovers trapped in a room. He claims to have a message from the wizards for the One Other who will defeat the Snow Queen and Ophelia wonders what trick he is trying to play.

Gradually, she is drawn into the boy’s story and her adventure begins as she tries to rescue him from his prison and help him find the One Other, who will save them all before the Wintertide Clock chimes and the Snow Queen triumphs over them all.

Blog Tour: Karen Foxlee on Kids' Book Villians

Kids’ Book Review is delighted to have author Karen Foxlee stop by on her blog tour for Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy. This wonderful middle fiction novel features an evil Snow Queen in the role of villain. Karen shares with us why she feels this villainous role is so important in children’s books. Make sure you check out the other blog tour links at the end of this post for more informtion about Karen and Ophelia.

Why are there are so many villains in children’s books and what purpose do they serve? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, since one turned up in my own; a snow queen, an icy villain, utterly evil, and intent on destroying the world.When she first arrived in my story I sat for a long time at my desk wondering what to do. She made me feel uneasy. What unsettled me most was my overwhelming desire to make her as terrifying on the page as I could.

In the stories of my childhood there were some terrible villains! There were wicked queens, wicked step-mothers and wicked fairies. Wicked witches were thick on the ground (Lewis’s White Witch, Baum’s Wicked Witch from the West, and Dahl’s Grand High Witch). They did horrible and unfair things, just for the sake of doing them and I was shocked by the injustices they meted out. I was traumatised for years by thoughts of walking the plank thanks to Barrie’s Captain Hook.

And in the stories of my childhood there were some particularly nasty wolves. Don’t even get me started on the wolves! But Andersen’s Snow Queen, she was the worst of all!  She slid up in her sleigh and stole away a small boy.  Nestled in my mother’s arms I can remember having the wind knocked out of me by that.  A beautiful, nice smelling woman, offering warmth from the cold, was about to steal a boy. Surely he wasn’t going to get in that sleigh right?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review: Busy Wheels series



Four new books have come out together in the Busy Wheels series for pre-school children. This is a terrific collection that showcases specific vehicles, their use, where and when they are needed, and the significant parts they are made up of. They follow the same design, but use different animal characters for each title.

Review: The Cuddliest Hug

Little Baby Kanga has lost her mum. Hopping through the trees, she asks her Aussie animal friends if they can give her a sleepy-time cuddle.

Echidna happily obliges but Kanga finds her too prickly. Platypus is quick to offer, but he's so wet and slippery! Even Koala offers use of her pouch, but Kanga is a teensy bit too large.

Enter Crocodile. He's more than happy to give Kanga an open-mouthed snuggle (yikes!) but Dingo senses danger and wise old Jabiru knows just what to do.

12 Curly Questions with author Meredith Badger


1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
At the moment I live in Germany.

2. What is your nickname? 
‘Meri’ or ‘Mere' are the most common ones.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Forgetting to save my work or not backing it up properly on the computer.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
I always end up writing more than I am meant to.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
That’s a really hard question! Here are five words I would love to hear used about my writing: funny, surprising, interesting, enjoyable, entertaining.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Review: Billie B Mystery #1 and #2


Billie B Brown is growing up. Her adventures are changing and so are her challenges. These first two books in the new Billie B Mystery series might still be early chapter books, but they pack a punch.

Should you scare your friends on purpose, especially when you know what they are most afraid of? And what happens if they do the same thing to you? How far would you go to help out a friend in danger? Could you overcome your fears to help them out?

Review: Boy

There's something about Roald Dahl.

It goes beyond his stories. Or perhaps, more accurately, it lies deeply entwined in his stories ... that laconic yet intense persona, packed with mischief and glee but complemented by the merest sinister twist.

In Boy, Dahl's memoir of his early childhood ('Boy' was what his mother called him and was the moniker he always used to sign his letters home), we learn about the authors earliest years in Wales.

Review: The Tinklers Three: A Very Good Idea

Mila, Marcus and Turtle are three rather unusual children. To start with, their parents are away in the circus, so the three kids live alone, taking care of themselves.

Marcus's older sister, Mila, is full of ideas. In fact, every time she sneezes, she gets a new idea — some of them good (the best food for breakfast is chocolate ice cream), some of them not so good (a bird's nest makes a good hat).

Younger sister Turtle likes to eat lettuce and growls a lot. Logical really, given that she thinks she's a turtle, but a bit confusing for those who just see a little girl.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review: Changeling (Order of Darkness #1)

The Year is 1453 and all signs point to it being the end of the world…

Well known author Philippa Gregory brings her impeccably researched, character driven historical drama to the young adult genre, introducing teen readers to Italy in the 15th century. In a time of religious instability and superstition, 17-year-old Luca Vero is expelled from his monastery for asking too many questions – a quality that makes him perfect to take on a role with the Order of Darkness, a group commissioned by the Pope to investigate reports of events and fears that point to the End Times.

Guest Post: A Horsey Chinese New Year with Author Sarah Brennan

KBR warmly welcomes dynamic Hong Kong-based author Sarah Brennan with this fabulous peek at the next book in her Chinese Calendar Tales series--along with a delicious Chinese culture lesson!

Hong Kong is still celebrating Chinese New Year as I write; the holiday officially lasts 15 days which can be great fun or a bit annoying, depending on how much work you want to get done!

It starts when the moon is at its thinnest sliver and ends when it is at its fullest - hence a different start date each year to keep us all on our toes, and to make it perennially tricky for those born in January or February to determine to which Zodiac species they belong! My brother labored under the delusion that he was a fiery Dragon for years before I finally informed him that in fact he was a fluffy Rabbit. Poor chap.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review: Diary of a Super Swimmer

9-year-old Marcus Atkinson isn’t really all that interested in sport. Unfortunately, his self-help guru dad is convinced that Marcus is a sporting star – he just hasn’t found the right sport yet.

Young readers will be laughing out loud as Marcus tries to convince his Dad that he will never be a Super Swimmer. He tries his best, but he just doesn't seem to be able to do anything well - diving, polo, backstroke, butterfly or freestyle. Will he ever be able to achieve anything in the pool?

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Peter Carnavas

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve bought so many random coffee cups from op-shops that they don’t fit in the cupboard anymore.  So now I use some of them for my painting. 

2. What is your nickname? 
I’m trying to get everyone to call me Pedro but it’s not really catching.  Some of my family call me Peteyboy, including my daughters.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I’m not great with heights or water.  So I guess I can rule out cliff diving for my next holiday.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
Little stories about big ideas, accompanied by some quiet animals.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Productive, despite all the day-dreaming.  (Is that five or six words?)

Librarian's Shelf: Find Ten Minutes A Day



Albert Einstein was quoted as saying: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” I believe what Einstein was really getting at, is that reading something that engages the imagination, expands the mind. It might be a fairy tale but it might also be a brand new picture book or a silly poem.

Reading to your child for ten minutes a day can make all the difference in their life. It’s not so much about what you read, but that you read at all. Whatever you read, it will help broaden your child’s vocabulary and create a bond between you.

There are lots of ways to make reading to children a routine part of life, and to help kids as they learn to read and progress along their reading journey. Three Australian authors who clearly know something about books, and what children like to read, have shared some of what they’ve learnt by writing books for parents, too.

Mem Fox, Jackie French and Paul Jennings can help you discover ways to make reading for ten minutes a day a rewarding experience. You should be able to find each of these books at your local public library:

· Reading Magic by Mem Fox

· Rocket Your Child Into Reading by Jackie French

· The Reading Bug and How You Can Help Your Child To Catch It by Paul Jennings

Read more on Reading to Children with the new Australian Children's Laureate, Jackie French.


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

Speechie's Couch: Amazing Aliteration



When tapping out syllables is fun and predicting rhyming words is a wonderworld of discovery, pre-schoolers are finally ready for the first giant leap into pre-literacy. It is at this time that something quite magical happens in the developing pre-schooler brain. Children begin to notice that the first sound in words can be different.

Now sound-awareness games can begin.

This is the time when long car trips can be filled with loads of wordy fun. Call out a word, any word, and see who will be the first to find the sound it begins with. ‘I Spy with My Little Eye’ will be a winner, too, but watch out - children at this pre-reading stage don’t really care about letter names. They are focussed on how a word and its parts sound.

When I was about five, I had my entire family flummoxed. My ‘I Spy’ clue was ‘something beginning with ch’. My answer was ‘tree’. It sounds like it starts with ‘ch’, doesn’t it? You should have heard my older brothers and sisters groan.

And so it is with children at this critical sound-awareness stage. It’s all about letter sounds, not letter names. So, don’t bother with alphabet books at this stage. Instead, it’s time to embrace tales where the first sound in a word is featured.

Alliteration stories like Six Sleepy Sheep (Jeffie Ross Gordon and John O’Brien) and Don’t you Dare, Dragon! (Annie Kubler) are perfect for this stage. Can you hear all the words that start with the same sound?

Look-and-find books will also provide hours of fun. Who can find the most things that start with a particular sound?

Words are everywhere and so are the sounds they start with, so get ready to enjoy the ride as your pre-schooler explores words in a totally different way.


 
Jo Burnell is KBR's Development Editor and resident paediatric speech pathologist. A reviewer of children’s and YA books and shortlisting judge for Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year, Jo is familiar with effective writing for Upper Primary and Secondary students.