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

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Review: Crikey and Cat

What would you do if the sky was dark and starless? What would you need to fix such a terrible situation? A ladder? A friend? A dog and cat? An all-night hardware store?

Crikey and Cat is another wonderful celebration of the power of imagination by Australian author and illustrator Chris McKimmie. The paint and collage illustrations remind me of the limitless possibilities open to children when their imagination takes flight.

Review: Children's Imagination

Ursula Kolbe knows kids. An artist and internationally recognised author of books about children, Ursula has forty years’ experience in early childhood education as a teacher, university lecturer, writer and filmmaker. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia Educational Project, Ursula has travelled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, on three occasions to visit the preschool and infant toddler programs. Her passion for harnessing the creativity of children is palpable.

Review: Crawf's Kick It To Nick series

When AFL football fun combines with seriously deadly swamp monsters, you get an early reader with kick. Nick is just another player in the Under Eleven Cobar Creek Crocs team until he is named captain. Nick is determined that his captaincy will mark the beginning of a new era: could the Crocs can even win a game for once? But things are never that simple.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: Master the Arts!

Published to coincide with the Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado at the National Gallery of Victoria, Master the Arts! – A Kids’ Activity Book About Italian Masterpieces is a wonderfully interactive introduction to art for children.

Featuring a mixture of colour illustrations of nine artworks from the Italian Masterpieces collection, information, and art activity pages, Master the Arts! encourages children to think about art and artists and use some of the ideas and techniques used by famous artists in their own drawings.

Shout Out: The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta

Meet Coco Carlomagno, Chief of Police in Buenos Aires, and his cunning cousin Alberta. Together they solve crimes by thwarting the plans of criminal masterminds and clearing up misunderstandings and confusion.  Who are these amazing crime-fighters and defenders of public order?

Why, they are guinea pigs, of course!

The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta is a fantastic humour-filled junior fiction series by talented author/illustrator team Ursula Dubosarsky and Terry Denton. Filled with adventure, word play and puzzles to solve, these books are ideal for confident young readers looking for challenging first chapter books.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Review: The Black and White Club

There is a new club at the Heavenly Hippos Wildlife Park – The Black and White Club. Anyone can join, as long as they are black and white. Or black. Or white.

The penguins, zebras, skunks and other black and/or white animals get together for a fantastic party including some thrilling games of dominoes, but none of that helps poor George the Giraffe. He isn’t black or white and he can’t join in the fun.

Review: Now Look What You've Done (Timmy Failure #2)

Self-confident, bumbling and always triumphant despite the chaos he creates, Timmy Failure is irritatingly adorable. When you realise that his business partner really is a semi-hibernating polar bear, the stage is set for an out-of-ordinary tale.

Timmy spends a lot of time considering his own genius without bothering to actually think very much. Convinced he is the world’s best detective, Timmy sits back and waits for the answers to find him.

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Michael Camilleri

 1. Can you tell us something hardly anybody knows about you?
I have recently become addicted to cooking game shows

2. Do you have a nickname and if so can you tell us what it is?
My son is seven and he has the same last name as me, so I’m not telling.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Sometimes I feel like the experience of being alive is empty and pointless and no connection between people is real or even possible and everything I will ever be or make is worthless.  My greatest fear is that it’s not just depression.

4. Can you describe your illustration style for us in 10 words?
little bit Rembrandt, little bit kid-scribbling-on-his-desk.

5. Can you tell us five positive words that describe you as an illustrator?
Ambitious, dramatic, thoughtful, symphonic, scratchy

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Scary Night

Once upon a scary night, three friends set out on a journey. Hare, Cat and Pig wander through the darkness. Where are they going? What will they do there? Will they arrive safely or will the scary forest send them running back home before they can complete their journey?

Do your little ones enjoy a story with a little bit of suspense and a slightly spooky edge? Do they like to cuddle under the covers, tucked up safely against your side as they hold their breath in anticipation of the turn of the page, filled with a mix of apprehension and excitement? Scary Night is the book for them (and for you)!

Guest Post: Lesley Gibbes

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Lesley Gibbes who shares with us her journey to publication and her tips for want-to-be authors. Lesley has just released her debut picture book Scary Night, published by Working Title Press.

It was a gardening day at Flower Power when my phone rang and I got the call every want-to-be writer dreams of, a call from a publisher who’s just pulled your manuscript out of the slush pile and loves it.

I was so excited when the person on the phone said she was Jane Covernton from Working Title Press and she was interested in my picture book Scary Night. What followed was a lengthy conversation about what type of story Scary Night was and what I was visualizing as I wrote the sparse text. It was a bit of a struggle to answer her questions and embarrassingly, I had to ask if she would put our conversation into an email because my two very young children were bickering and tugging on my trouser legs in the Flower Power play equipment area, competing for my attention.

Finally, Jane asked would I mind if she took Scary Night to the next level. Well, I had no idea what the next level was so of course I said yes! The next level, as it turned out, was to give my manuscript to an agent and see if an illustrator, a very particular illustrator, was interested in taking it on.  It turned out this illustrator was interested and guess who he was…Stephen Michael King! I was tickled-pink!

What came next was a two and a half year wait until publication and that awful feeling that perhaps you’re just a one hit wonder. So after a bad bout of writer’s block (6 months), I set to work and secured an agent, had another three picture books accepted for publication and landed a chapter book series too. It’s been such an extraordinary journey.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Review: Russian Roulette (Alex Rider)

“Living as a boy of fourteen in a Russian village, it had never been my intention to become a contract killer.”

Meet Yassen Gregorovich. Once a boy named Yasha who lived in Estrov, a poor country village. Then an incident started a chain of events that changed his life dramatically.

It all begins at the factory where his parents both work. When there is an accident and his father refuses to obey instructions, Yasha suddenly discovers the truth about what they do and must run for his life. His survival depends on escape from the soldiers who descend on the village, so he travels to Moscow by way of Kirsk. There is no-one and nothing left for him in Estrov, but the help he thought was waiting only brings more danger.

Review: Mr Chicken Lands on London

It's been a few years since we first met Mr Chicken — that enormously oversized bird complete with tiny top hat — in the multi-award-winning Mr Chicken Goes to Paris. But now he's back … and it's been worth the wait!

London is Mr Chicken's favourite city in the whole world and he can't wait to see all the sights. He's a chicken with style, so naturally he stays at the Savoy. After a full English breakfast, first stop is Buckingham Palace — time to visit his special friend, the Queen.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Review: Princesses are Not Just Pretty

Princess Allie, Princess Mellie and Princess Libby were enjoying a well-earned rest under the rose trellis after a busy day of princessing. Mellie encourages the others that despite their hectic schedule they still manage to look fabulous. Of course, Princess Mellie acknowledges, she looks the prettiest, but the others manage to still look quite lovely too despite their fatigue.

Cue a battle royale over who is really the prettiest. Of course, each princess is convinced that it is her and in the end, it is obvious that the issue will not be resolved without a formal beauty contest. All three princesses primp and prepare for the big day, but when it comes, will they choose arriving at the competition looking perfect over taking care of the responsibilities of the Princessdom?

Review: One Minute's Silence

On Remembrance Day, in one minute of silence, you can imagine a war long gone - Australian soldiers fighting and dying on a distant shore, the sound of gunfire, and the courage and fear of young men far from home.

If you really try, one minute of silence is also long enough to think about the enemy, another group of young men filled with courage and fear, fighting and dying for their homeland.

One Minute’s Silence is an incredibly moving account of the Gallipoli campaign, portrayed in a way that emphasises the similarities of the young men on either side of the battlefield in what is arguably Australia’s best known military battle.

12 Curly Questions with author David Metzenthen

1. Is there something that many people don't know about you?
Yes, I was once bitten by a coyote at the Melbourne Zoo, whilst trying to pat it through the wire, which was rather dumb, looking back.

2. Do you have a nick-name?
Not that I know of, but if I did, it would have to be something like Occasionally Quite Vague or Saam (Stubborn as a Mule).

3. What is your greatest fear?
To wake up and discover that coffee, cinnamon donuts, and liquorice bullets hadn't been invented.

4. What is your writing style?
I think.... think... think... type slowly...have coffee...revise... hope!

5. Five words about your writing.
Thoughtful... hopeful...careful...slow...committed!

6. If you could be someone else, who would it be?
I'd like to be Robinson Crusoe for a week or so, living on a deserted island... then off home I'd go!

Friday, 25 July 2014

KBR Recommends: New Middle Grade Fiction

Up for some sensational new middle grade fiction for your kids of library? Here is the pick of the bunch of some recent titles that will engage and delight kids aged anywhere from 8 to 14.

The Bourne Identity meets The Terminator in this fast-paced technothriller for boys aged 10 to 14. It was only a matter of time until one escaped. Bram just wasn't expecting it to be today. In the sky, drones are hunting him. On every corner, machines are waiting to kill him. But Bram has a plan. First, scatter and hide. Then, with his best friend and wise-cracking roboduck, help to save the world. Random House, $17.99, 9780857982766

Dax Daley is on his way to prison. But it turns out prison is actually a school - for superheroes! 40 superheroes, to be exact. But Dax - Number 41 - does not belong. He can't turn himself invisible. Or see in the dark. Or read minds. And he definitely will not fight the strange things looming around the corners of Scragmoor Prime. Because Dax Daley doesn't have any superpowers...yet! Orchard Books, $14.99, 9781408328286

The long, bitter winters are getting worse, and a state of emergency has been declared across Europe. In Poland, where fifteen-year-old Magda lives, there are frequent power cuts and fuel shortages. After the death of her grandmother and the evacuation of her village, Magda joins forces with the arrogant, handsome Ivan and smuggles her way on to a truck bound for London, where she hopes to find her mother. But London, when they reach it, is a nightmarish and far-from-welcoming world. Riots are commonplace, and the growing chaos is exploited by criminals and terrorists alike. Magda's mother is nowhere be found, and as the lost girl struggles to come to terms with her changing situation, she is befriended by a ragtag group of travellers planning a new home and future. Together they will need all the cunning they possess to survive in the frozen wilderness of Britain, which has become just as lawless as the city. Pan Macmillan, $14.99, 9781447202455

[Out 1 August 2014] With a father more interested in money than family, a brother in prison, a sister with a secret, and a mother in denial, it's no wonder Jeff buries himself in the safe world of mathematics. When a storm hits Wellington, a strange old woman is blown into Jeff's life, challenging everything he thinks is true. A beautifully written, sophisticated novel about a family in crisis from one of New Zealand's most beloved and award-winning authors of children's books. Gecko Press, $20.99, 9781877579936

"I found Jean's friend dead in the river. His name was Colin Kirk. He was a homeless man, but he still wanted to live." There's been a murder, but the police don't care. It was only a homeless old man after all. Kieran cares. He's made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you're going to do it, for real. He's going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It's a good job Kieran's a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade. But being a detective is difficult when you're Kieran Woods. When you're amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof. Pan Macmillan, $14.99, 9781447272762

Award-winning author Tom Angleberger flexes his comic muscle in this hairy adventure story with twists at every turn. Regular kid Lenny Flem Jr. is the only one standing between his evil-genius best friend--Casper, a master of disguise and hypnosis--and world domination. It all begins when Casper spends money from his granny on a spectacularly convincing fake mustache, the Heidelberg Handlebar #7. With it he's able rob banks, amass a vast fortune, and run for president. Is Lenny the only one who can see through his disguise? And will he be able to stop Casper from taking over the world? Abrams, $12.95, 9781419711633

In the third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series by Chris Colfer, the Brothers Grimm have a warning for the Land of Stories. Conner Bailey thinks his fairy-tale adventures are behind him--until he discovers a mysterious clue left by the famous Brothers Grimm. With help from his classmate Bree and the outlandish Mother Goose, Conner sets off on a mission across Europe to crack a two-hundred-year-old code. Meanwhile, Alex Bailey is training to become the next Fairy Godmother...but her attempts at granting wishes never go as planned. Will she ever be truly ready to lead the Fairy Council? When all signs point to disaster for the Land of Stories, Conner and Alex must join forces with their friends and enemies to save the day. But nothing can prepare them for the coming battle...or for the secret that will change the twins' lives forever. The third book in the bestselling Land of Stories series puts the twins to the test as they must bring two worlds together! Little, Brown, $36, 9780316406819

A brand-new series of interactive novels for the highly adventurous. Read if you dare! Mistakes will cost you dearly! YOU CHOOSE . . .

Ghost hunter extraordinaire or lost soul forever!  You've heard spooky stories about the old house on the hill in your street. It's been said that a man was found mummified inside the house long ago. Your friends dare you to go inside and investigate. Do you really believe that it's haunted? There's only one way to find out . . .  This could be your chance to be a hero. Do you change the course of history, or do you meet a ghostly fate? Random House, $14.99, 9780857983862

Master of the maze or eternity in a nightmare labyrinth! You decide to try the lame-looking Maze of Doom at the fun fair. But once inside, you realise that this is no ordinary amusement. The maze is massive and there are traps and mysterious creatures at every turn. Then you come across an old fortune-telling machine, which predicts an eerie future . . .  Will you discover the maze's secrets and riches, or will you be trapped inside forever? Random House, $14.99, 9780857983855

Review: Feast for Wombat

Wombat has been happy burrowed under the ground, but he finally decides it is time to come out into the sunlight for a dust bath. Wombat sees his friends Goanna, Magpie and Dingo and marvels at the amazing things they can do. Compared to them, he doesn’t feel very special at all.

Feast for Wombat is a lovely story about friendship and the power of encouragement. Wombat can easily see the talents of his friends and he praises their skills, but he isn’t quite so good at noticing what he can do well himself until they encourage him in return.

KBR Short Story: The Assignment

by Stacey Hill

The house is shrouded in darkness. Night has descended. Everybody is asleep....except me.

Why did I decide to leave my assignment to the last minute?

The computer screen is too bright in my otherwise dark room. It hurts my eyes. I blink. They are dry and I feel my eyelids scratch across the surface of my eyeballs. I rub them. It doesn’t help. I’m so tired, I just want to sleep!

Who cares about the lifespan of a gnat anyway? Or gnats at all for that matter. They’re just tiny flying insects. The end. How am I supposed to write about gnats in 500 words?

For the record, gnats live for about 2 to 4 months. A lot longer than my “care factor” about this assignment.

I am so bored!

Why couldn’t our assignment be about space, or dinosaurs, or knights? You know, cool stuff.

Maybe if I rest my head on my hand, I’ll be able to concentrate more.

Ah, that’s better. I am so comfy right now. It’s like lying on pillow. I feel my eyelids start to droop.

WAIT! STOP! I must not fall asleep. Maybe a snack will help?

I tiptoe to the fridge and discover a leftover piece of chocolate cake. Perfect gnat assignment writing food.

I sneak back to my bedroom and devour the cake while I click on image after image of gnats. They’re not even nice to look at.

I start to spin around in my chair. One rotation. Two rotations. Oh, let’s see how many times I can spin around in one go.

Six rotations later...

Why did I eat that chocolate cake? Ok, focus. Gnats. Did you know that gnats don’t buzz? Hmm. That’s slightly interesting. Oh, you know what’s more interesting? My latest comic book purchase. Maybe I’ll just read a couple of pages....

NO! I need to focus!

How many words have I written? Ten. Ok, well that’s not good.

Maybe listening to music might help. I turn the radio on and concentrate on the computer screen. This song has a cool beat. I start to tap my pen against the desk.

Tap, tap, tap. I grab another pen. Tap, tap, tap.

My foot begins to thump the floor. Boom, tap, boom, tap.

I wonder if my parents would let me take up drum lessons. I know what I want for Christmas now. Time to put my “drumsticks” down and concentrate.

I stare at the screen.

I hear a buzzing sound near my ear. I follow the sound as it moves towards my screen. I see a gnat. Then another. And another. Oh no! My room is full of gnats! The constant buzzing is driving me insane.

Wait a second. Gnats don’t buzz.

I slowly open my eyes. My room is too bright. I blink. My alarm buzzes. It’s morning.

I glance up at the computer screen. How many words have I written?


Uh oh.

Stacey Hill’s friends call her Stack. When she’s not writing or blogging, you can find her enjoying a cup of tea with The Wifey, playing hide and seek with their kitten, photographing her Converse hi-tops and dreaming of one day being immortalised in action figure form. Learn more about Stack 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, 24 July 2014

Review: 10 Clumsy Emus

To the instantly recognisable tune of Ten Green Bottles, it’s easy to see why 10 Clumsy Emus is an ‘emusing’ children’s picture book sure to delight. With clever rhyming text by Ed Allen and hilarious illustrations from Wendy Binks, 10 Clumsy Emus is a bright Australian counting book for preschool children.

Just like the other Scholastic counting titles (10 Green Geckos, 10 Funny Sheep and 10 Hooting Owls), each page is filled with colour and humour. The ten quirky emus get up to all sorts of fun, from roller skating down a hill, to playing games of basketball and musical chairs, flying model planes and even tidying their room. Until the emus clumsily trip, slip, get tangled or break something and then one by one disappear.

Blog Tour: Review: Roses are Blue

In celebration of the blog tour or Roses Are Blue, we're delighted to feature this review of a very special book. You can find a link to Sally's entire blog tour at the bottom of this review.

Amber's mum is different. I don't want to tell you how different she is because finding out was one of the most breathtaking parts of this novel and I simply can't spoil it for you.

Needless to say, Amber's mum is indeed different to most mums and all Amber knows is that this difference is hard to cope with. She misses her old mum. The one who used to sing and dance and paint and smile.

The kids at school don't know about Amber's mum, not even her best friends who are all named after colours, trying in with a beautiful art thread in this story. Amber is frightened to tell them. The kids at her old school were mean and children sometimes don't react well when they see her mum, so Amber keeps her secret close.

Blog Tour: Roses are Blue: Poetry is Perfect!

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Sally Murphy. As part of the blog tour for her latest junior fiction verse novel Roses are Blue, Sally has offered to explain just why she thinks poetry is perfect! Check below for links to the other stops on the Roses are Blue blog tour.

Roses are Blue is a verse novel, which means that it is a narrative told through the form of poetry. This is my third published verse novel, so obviously it’s a form I love. I’ve also had lots of individual poems published (mostly in the NSW School Magazine) and a collection of performance poetry for schools. So, you won’t be surprised when I say that I love poetry.

But it’s not just as a writer that I love poetry. Poetry was one of my first loves as a child, when my mother shared the Dr Seuss books with me, AA. Milne’s collections, RL Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and more.  At school I always loved poetry lessons and learning to recite poems by CJ Dennis and others, as well as the poems in school magazines which came regularly. Then, as a teacher and a parent, I loved sharing poetry with my own children and the children I taught.

Now, I’m not just writing poetry but also doing a PhD project entitled Belonging: Writing Children’s Poetry.

So why do I think poetry is so important?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Hasel and Rose

Rose is a new face on the street. The unpacking is done and it’s now time to start living, but, as is the way with children moving to unknown places, the loneliness is palpable.

Rose copes by making a wish. She doesn’t even know what she’s wishing for, yet she wishes with all her might, on starlight, star bright.

The wish doesn’t come. Rose tries calling but her wish thing has no name—at least none that she yet knows. Things feel sad.

Review: All My Kisses

Abby LOVES getting kisses. She collects her goodnight kisses in a special bucket that she carries with her everywhere.

Abby loves to receive kisses, but she doesn’t like to share. Her collection of kisses are too special, precious and fragile to give away. Abby’s bucket of kisses is ready to overflow and she is about to discover what happens when kisses aren’t shared.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review: The Cake

The animals are hungry. They want to make a cake. But what kind? So many to choose from! Bunny thinks it should be a carrot cake. Bear wants a fish cake. Dog wants a bone cake and monkey wants—you guessed it—banana.

But tiger thinks the cake should be chocolate (who wouldn’t?) and this causes a big problem. Monkey hates butter. you see. Bunny thinks eggs are disgusting. Dog hates sugar and flour makes bear feel sad. So what’s the compromise? A bone-banana-carrot-fish cake, of course!

Alas, this suggestion causes another problem … tiger thinks such a cake would be revolting and he tells his friends just that. That’s when things turn to custard.

12 Curly Questions with author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs

1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
I didn’t read many kids books when I was a boy. I preferred reference books with pictures. I especially liked books about famous people, artists and  explorers. As well as books about history, art and architecture.

2. Do you have a nickname and if so, what is it? 
My parents called me ‘Jimmy’. They never referred to me as Leigh. I didn’t think to ask why.

3. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is the world knowing my greatest fear.

4. Can you describe your writing style for us in ten words?

My text says the opposite to what’s in the illustrations.

5. Can you give us five positive words that describe you as a writer?
This question is too difficult.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Old Tom. He’s  a survivor and he’s got someone who loves him.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: Here is the World

Diversity in children’s books has been a hot topic of late, and we recently enjoyed a guest post from author Wai Chim on this very topic. For me, diversity has always been a personal love—diversity in subject matter, perspective and of course—culture.

I’ve always said travel is a phenomenal way to both educate and expand the mind of children, so paying witness to the other ways of the world via books is certainly a fantastic way to armchair travel. I particularly love the traditions and holidays of other places, and in this truly gorgeous book—Here is the World—we are treated to an entire year of Jewish celebrations that will both charm and enlighten.

Review: Wednesdays in the Tower

Life has returned to normal at Castle Glower after the uproar caused by the recent plot to overthrow the King and Queen. Well, as normal as life can be in a castle where new rooms, hallways and towers appear seemingly at random.

Princess Celie is just getting back into her routine when she stumbles across a new tower that contains a mysterious egg. As the weeks go by, Celie returns to the room to check on the egg, until one day, to her great surprise, it cracks open to reveal a griffin!

Can Celie keep this new pet hidden from her family and from the intrusive wizard Arkwright, who seems intent on interfering with all of Celie’s plans to learn more about griffins and the history of Castle Glower? Can she find out why the Castle is suddenly behaving so strangely? What other secrets does the Castle have for her to discover?

Review: The Croc and the Platypus

The Owl and the Pussycat were an unlikely couple — and so are our own dinky-di Aussie version, the Croc and the Platypus! But that just adds to the fun of their rhyming romp through the Australian outback.

Author Jackie Hosking is an accomplished poet and her skills with rhythm and rhyme are evident in this, her first picture book. With the classic Edward Lear nonsense poem as her inspiration, instead of going 'to sea in a pea-green boat', our trusty duo trundle off 'in a rusty old Holden ute'.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Shout Out: Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robots

Ricky Ricotta has a problem. He doesn’t have many friends and bullies pick on him all the time. Ricky’s life is changed when he takes the time to save the life of a mighty robot. Now Ricky has an amazing new friend and he isn't lonely any more.

Together, Ricky and his robot have some amazing adventures, saving Squeakville from a variety of evil villains.

The popular Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot graphic novel series by Dav Pilkey has had a makeover, featuring all new colour illustrations by Dan Santat. A fantastic next step for young readers wanting to start chapter books, the Ricky Ricotta stories are filled with action, adventure and humour sure to keep kids engaged.

Review: Kick With My Left Foot

A young boy prepares for a game of footy, pulling socks onto his left foot, then right foot. Next come the boots – left and right. Now it’s time to practice some skills – bouncing, catching and kicking. 

This simple story about a young Aboriginal boy preparing for a game of AFL captures the energy, excitement and frustration of a young child learning to play. The way the boy’s dog features in the illustrations also highlights the wonderful way children often regard their pets as playmates, involving them in their games.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Review: 30-Second Elements

The chemical elements are the building blocks of life. We utilise various chemicals and chemical reactions every day, mostly without any conscious thought of the processes involved.

For those who do like to have some idea of the how it all works, 30-Second Elements offers an overview of 50 of the most useful and interesting elements of the Periodic Table, offering readers an understandable and fascinating introduction (or refresher course) into the chemistry of our everyday lives.

Elements range from the familiar (sodium, calcium, iron, copper, gold, oxygen) to some elements that I definitely don’t recall from my high school science lessons (technetium, hafnium, ununseptium, flerovium).  Each entry includes a 30-second summary, a list of related elements, names and dates for scientists involved with the history of the element in some way, and a 3-second summary containing the chemical symbol, atomic number and the source of the element name.

Review: How to Train a Train

“So you want a pet train? Well, of course you do!”

So begins this picture book guide to everything you need to know to train your new pet train.

First you need to find the train that is just right for you. Then you need to choose a name (Morgan? Smokey? Little Miss Muffinhead?) Next is the fun part – games and tricks and spending time together. Before you know it, you and your new train will be the best of friends.

12 Curly Questions with author Kathryn Apel

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was a baby, I slid out of the pram and into the gutter — and my mum was so embarrassed, she almost left me there.

2. What is your nickname? 
I was dubbed Mrs Katswhiskers by a group of Preppies 5 years ago, after I sent them an email with my katswhiskers logo down the bottom … and it’s stuck. I’m glad, cause it sounds adorable! Especially when they’re going through that toothless stage. (Though it does cause some confusion with the parents.)

3. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest? I’m a woman of many fears. But on a mundane — daily threat scale, I think I’d have to say …

Friday, 18 July 2014

Review: Anything To Have You

Natalie and Brooke are opposites, but they have been best friends forever. Natalie is quiet and studious, Brooke is the life of the party. They’re both on the threshold of adulthood, making decisions about their future and facing their final year of school. Nothing can come between them.

Then something happens, something with such significant consequences that even their friendship can’t escape the fallout. What do best friends do when they are confused and feeling betrayed? When their friendship is truly tested, will it survive?

Review: Fire

From the first page, Fire is a tribute to the Australian countryside, its propensity for dryness and the devastation that follows contact with a single spark.

In stark contrast to the short turn-around they had for the sister book, Flood, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley spent three years working together, crafting images and text to create this timeless work of visual and word art.

KBR Short Story: Charlotte's Bedtime

by Dianne Bates

Charlotte couldn’t get to sleep. Mummy had told her a story and Daddy had brought her a drink of warm chocolate. Mummy had sung her a song and Daddy had whistled a tune.

It was no good. Charlotte tossed and turned and wriggled about but she didn’t feel sleepy one little bit.

“Just close your eyes,” said Mummy. “Close them tight and tell yourself a story. You’ll soon be fast asleep.”

Charlotte closed her eyes.

“I’ve closed my eyes,” she said to herself. “Now I must tell myself a story.”

Charlotte thought very hard for one whole minute. Then she opened her eyes again.

“I don’t know any stories,” she said.

Mummy sighed. “Yes you do,” she said. “Think of the story I told you tonight.”

“Oh yes,” said Charlotte. She shut her eyes, and then opened them again.

“I can’t remember that one,” she said. “Couldn’t you tell it to me again? And then I’ll go to sleep very quickly.”

“No,” said Mummy. “No more stories.”

“What about a song?” asked Charlotte.

“No,” said Mummy. “No more songs.”

Charlotte was quiet for a moment. Then she looked at Daddy.

“What about a tune?” she asked.

“No,” said Daddy. “No tunes either. If thinking of a story is too difficult, just shut your eyes and think of something lovely. You’ll soon be fast asleep.”

“All right,” said Charlotte. She shut her eyes.

“My eyes are shut,” she said to herself. “Now I must think of something lovely.”

Charlotte thought very hard for two whole minutes. Then she opened her eyes.

“Are monsters lovely?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” said Daddy.

“Oh,” said Charlotte. “Because all I can think of is monsters. Big fat hairy ones with long teeth and sharp claws.”

Daddy sighed. “I thinking of something lovely is too difficult,” he said, “maybe you could shut your eyes and think of all the things you’d like for your birthday.”

“All right,” said Charlotte.

“My eyes are shut,” she said to herself, “Now I must think of all the things I want for my birthday.”

Charlotte thought very hard for three whole minutes. Then she opened her eyes.

“When is my birthday?” she asked.

There was no answer. Charlotte sat up. Mummy and Daddy were both fast asleep.

“Oh,” said Charlotte. “I wonder if they thought of all the things they wanted for their birthday? Or if they told themselves a story? Of if they thought of something lovely?”

Charlotte lay down to think about it.

“I know what they thought about,” she said. “They thought of something lovely.”

She yawned again.

“They thought about ME!” Charlotte said, and then she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Sometimes known as Daisy, Di Bates wrote this story for her grand-daughter Charlotte who lives in Canada and speaks French (as well as English). Di has published many books for children. The next one is a junior novel, A Game of Keeps (Celapene Press). You can read more about Di and her author husband Bill Condon on their website www.enterprisingwords.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 entries are due in the 25th of each month. Find out more here.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Review: I Love You Night and Day

Bear and Bunny love each other a high as the sky, as deep as the ocean and as wide as the whole world in this joyful celebration of love and friendship.

Written in rhyming text by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and accompanied by delightful illustrations by Alison Brown, I Love You Night and Day is a gorgeous story celebrating relationships with all their highs and lows and just how much our friends and family mean to us.

Review: Pig the Pug

While Aaron Blabey's 'darker' picture books have that wonderful mystical essence to them, I must admit, I simply adore it when he wades into the oftentimes treacherous waters of Funny.

But there is no treachery here. There is only Funny. And clever. And sweet. And massive smiles bumped around a little by hearty guffaws.

From the smile-curling cover through the endpaper with 'PIG' flagrantly scrawled on a official-looking This Book Belongs To bookplate, the swiftly-moving storyline and priceless ending, this is one humdinger of a canine romp.

Review: Bully on the Bus

Leroy doesn't want to go to school. He doesn't want to have to catch the bus. Because every day he has to face DJ, the bully on the bus.

She picks on him and calls him names. She steals his lunch. She eats the cupcake he decorated for his teacher, Mrs Wilson. Every time he thinks about DJ or catching the bus, Leroy feels sick. His sister Ruby wants him to tell their parents, but he just can't.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Head of the River

Gifted athletes Leni and Cristian Popescu are set to row in the most elite school sporting event in the country. Competing in different divisions, they will contest the Head of the River race, covering two kilometres of river with their crews to gain the prize.

The twins are the offspring of Olympic medallists and they have a lot to live up to. With six months until the Head of the River, they are both on track to become champions.  The pressure is high and they will be put to the test physically, mentally and emotionally. Can they remain focused or will they falter mere months before they achieve their goal?

Review: Marlo Can Fly

Young magpie Marlo is determined to march to the beat of her own drum. No flying for her. Just because she is a bird, it doesn’t mean she has to do what other birds do. She can find her own way to get about.

Marlo’s determination to hop, swim or slither is admirable, but will she be willing to fly if it means helping a friend?

Marlo’s refusal to fly seems to be part of her determination to be different. She ignores the discouraging comments of the other animals and continues to strike out on her own, but is there a deeper reason for her refusing to fly?