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

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Review: Tricky Teens

It can be described as a war of independence; a rocky road of arguments; a roller-coaster of emotions, epidemic tantrums and an era of silence. Welcome to the world of tricky teens!

The adolescent years can be highly distressing for both parents and teens alike, while the art of raising teenagers and remaining sane can be curiously elusive in today’s society.

Tricky Teens: How to create a great relationship with your teenager without going crazy! is an insightful parenting tool to help parents safely navigate and survive these challenging years. Author and clinical psychologist, Andrew Fuller, says understanding the ‘neurochemicals and hormones washing around in the massive soup bowl’ of the teenage brain, can be lifesaving and sanity preserving.

Review: The Great Garden Mystery

Somebody is stealing the beetroots from the vegetable garden, but this time it's not Peter Rabbit! In fact, it's a very Australian collection of animals who gather round to examine the clues and solve the crime.

The hare is relieved to be able to clear his name. Poo from a hare is round, but the culprit's is square. The guilty party has only left a small hole under the fence, which rules out the horse (too big), and the cockatoo (why dig a hole when you can fly?).

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Sarah Davis

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was a kid, I planted a sunflower seed, and sang to it every day. It grew 3 metres tall, with 29 flower heads on it.

Also, I never catch colds or flu.

2. What is your nickname?
When I was a baby my nickname was Wibbly Wobbly Wol (which is Owl spelled wrong) because I had very big eyes and was kind of funny looking. I’ve grown out of that one, so if anyone wants to give me a new nickname … now’s their chance!

3. What is your greatest fear?
That as a species our cleverness will continue to grow faster than our wisdom - we have the knowledge to destroy the planet in a hundred different ways without the compassion and self-restraint needed to protect it.

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words.
Ad Hoc. I’m making it up as I go along.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a illustrator.
Inventive, funny, expressive, experimental, versatile.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Review: The Year it All Ended

Tiney Flynn celebrates her seventeenth birthday on Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I and the start of a new era. Together with her three sisters, Nette, Minna and Thea, she looks forward to her brother Louis returning home from the Western Front, and perhaps even cousin Will, although he fought for the Germans so might not be allowed to return to Australia.

This is a difficult book to review without giving away too much of the story. Suffice to say that what I loved about it was the vivid way in which Kirsty Murray has bought a period of history to life.

Review: The Wild One

Charlie first met the wild one when he was very young. They spent lost hours playing together in the great outdoors-- and when it was time for Charlie to return to school, the young lad was reluctant.

School was for learning the names of planets. It was for studying Vikings and the wherewithal of electricity. It wasn't about tadpoles wriggling in exploring young hands or splashing in puddles or throwing leaves into the wind.

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

Alba loves life just as it is – she has her drawing, her best friend Grady, a fun group of friends, and a wonderful home living behind her mother’s bakery/cafe in the small town of Eden Valley. Alba would be happy if nothing ever changed.

As Alba and her friends finish school, she is continues to deliberately avoid thinking about the future, but sometimes life has a way of making you face the things you fear most. The boy Alba thought had gone from her life forever suddenly returns to town and Grady, her dependable, always-there-when-she-needs-him best friend is acting weird. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of a TV doomsdayer announcing that Alba’s home town will be the best place to view the the end of the world, which is scheduled for New Year’s Eve.

If Original Ned’s prediction is right, it looks like Alba won’t have to worry about what the future holds after all.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review: Peter Loves Penguin

A sweet and gentle story about two friends: a young boy and his penguin.

Beginning and ending with the words “Peter loves Penguin. Penguin loves Peter”, the simplicity of this book is one of the things that makes it work so well. There is just one short, simple sentence on each page, and an uncluttered picture to match, with plenty of white space.

Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead

Walloma is a typical small surfing town--six degrees of separation is alive and well; everyone has some school connection, some crush, some secret to hide. There's also the typical segregation: the cool kids and brainy kids from high school never got along.

Libby is one of the brainy kids. She was once friends with Claire--one of the hot, cool chicks--but things went awry back in high school, as they often do. Now young adults, the girls' paths once again cross when Claire's ex, Cooper Bartholomew, falls head-over-heels for Libby, shaking up an already fractious past.

Review: My Heart is Laughing

Little Dani is sad. Her best friend Ella has moved to another town and she misses her so very much. The other girls in her class just can't compare and when one of the cute boys shows Dani some attention, two of them become rather nasty indeed.

One particular day in the canteen, they gang up on Dani and start pinching her. Overwhelmed, Dani squirts them with a sauce and accidentally gets the teacher! Mortified, she runs all the way home to hide.

Luckily, Dad finds Dani, but he also finds her bruises--and he very quickly marches down to the school to deal with the bullies.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: The Human Body in 30 Seconds

Just about everything you need to know about your body (or at least some of the simple concepts) is shared in short summaries in The Human Body in 30 Seconds.

Broken down into six sections: body bits, body structure, survival systems, brain and nervous system, senses, and your amazing body, each section has a short glossary and helpful diagrams. Within sections there’s a double page spread for each topic - the first page with key facts and the second for pictures of skin cells, skeletons, and digestive systems, amongst others.

Review: Oliver and George

George is busy reading. He's enjoying his book, but Oliver wants to play.

He keeps asking if George is finished yet. But he isn't. Oliver waits but George keeps reading. So Oliver throws a paper plane at George, who keeps reading. So he breaks George's chair ...

George keeps reading. So Oliver keeps pestering.

12 Curly Questions with author Anna Branford

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was in primary school I won a mug with a pink elephant on it for knowing all my times tables. I still have it. (And I still know all my times tables.)

2. What is your nickname?

Lots of people in my family call me ‘Mouse’.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Parties! I am also not very keen on snakes, but I think I prefer them to parties.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.

Like a quiet friend chatting with you on the train.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.

Gentle, friendly, open, easy-going, peaceful

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: State of Grace

Nothing lives beyond the garden where Wren and her fellow creations live, but that is okay. They have everything they need – shelter, food, company, and a gorgeous environment – all thanks to their creator, Dot. Life is perfect.

Or is it? Wren is having strange thoughts and odd sensations of having been places outside of the garden. She is remembering strange words and people who aren’t part of Dot’s creation. Fellow creation Blaze also seems uneasy while Gil is determined to crush anything and anyone who challenges Dot’s teachings. How long can Wren’s faith hold out when every day brings fresh challenges that force her to acknowledge that things aren’t as perfect as they seem?

KBR Short Story: Ryan the Lion

by Shannon Wong-Nizic

I’m Ryan … But I really wish my mum and dad had called me William. Or Wallace. Or even Wolfgang.

Y’see, I’m not friends with the letter ‘R'. No siree. We’re deadset enemies.

When I say rabbit, it sounds like 'wabbit'. When I say run, it sounds like 'wun'. When I say ridiculous, what do you think it sounds like? Yep. You guessed it. Widiculous.

The other kids made fun of me. So I just kept my mouth shut most of the time. In my own little world, I pretended that I was William. Or Wallace. Or even Wolfgang.

That’s why Mrs Turner made me a lion in the class play. 'You just have to stand there and not say a word,' she said.

At the first rehearsal, Mrs Turner asked me to stand on stage next to the giraffes. 

'Wyan, are you weady to wehearse?' I heard Jeremy the lead giraffe snicker.

I didn’t say a word.

At the next rehearsal, I heard Millie whisper, 'Wyan, maybe you should stand near the whinocewoses.'

When the other monkeys laughed, I didn’t say a word.

On opening night, I pulled on my mane and pinned on my tail.

Just as we were going on stage, I heard Jake the Snake say, 'There goes Wyan the Lion.'

I know I wasn’t meant to say a word. But my blood was boiling.

'ROAR!'

The audience erupted into applause. I had done it! I had just beaten my deadset enemy, the letter ‘R’.

Nevermind being called William. Or Wallace. Or even Wolfgang. Now everyone calls me Ryan the Lion.

Except Ella Fantini. She calls me the King of the Jungle.

I’m cool with that.

Shannon Wong-Nizic is a Kindergarten teacher who believes that reading is as important as breathing. She blogs about picture books, sweet treats, craft and life at www.ohcreativeday.com

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, 25 September 2014

Review: On a Small Island

This book is a beautiful and unique story about Ari who lives on a small island in a gigantic sea. Ari loves to collect materials he finds washed up on the beach. He can see other islands on the horizon and can see large ships pass by, but they never stop at his island.

One day, a ship does stop by and Ari is told all about the wonderful land on the horizon and how they always stop there.

When they leave, Ari becomes upset, as his land is not as wonderful. He longs to see the land on the horizon, and feels alone and sad, but when a mysterious object washes up on the shore, Ari has an idea.

Review: Daisy Saves the Day

Author and illustrator Shirley Hughes is one of my favourites and her latest book, one of more than 200 she has created, is Daisy Saves the Day, the story of a scullery maid living in England at the time of King George’s coronation.

When the story begins, Daisy Dobbs has a new job working for two elderly sisters, the Misses Simms. Daisy washes dishes, peels potatoes, scrubs the floor, and carries buckets of coal for the fires. It’s a lonely life for Daisy who has to live in the house where she works, and misses her mum and twin brothers. When she is offered the chance to borrow books from the house library, she jumps at it and is able to read in bed at night. The stories help her felt less alone.

Review: Engibear's Dream

Engibear loves his work and he loves to dream – but there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do both! Engibear comes up with a solution – a robot to help him get his work done so that he has more time for other things.

Join Engibear as he works through the process of designing a robot from the first Bearbot prototype through to Bearbot Type Ten in this wonderful picture book that introduces younger readers to the world of engineering and robotics.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Review: A House of Her Own

When Audrey announces to her father that his house is getting too small for her, good ol' Dad doesn't bat an eyelid. Instead, he agrees that she looks much bigger than she did yesterday, so the house probably would seem a bit small. He's even happy to help her find a new home.

They check out the chicken coop — too small. Then the garage — too big. They're just going to have build Audrey a new house. Up a tree. She has quite strict specifications: staircase, bathtub for snorkelling, somewhere to sip tea (and hide the dirty cups!), a blue bed … the list goes on. Dad happily accommodates them all. In no time, her house is built and her father wishes her a cheery goodnight.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review: Squishy McFluff: Supermarket Sweep

Squishy is back! and I, for one, couldn't be happier. I simply adored the debut book in this series, and in this second book, Ava and Squishy are planning a fabulous day of action-packed fun.

Only trouble is, Mum insists they need to go run some errands. Fun spoiled. Ava tries to get out of it by insisting Squishy is sick, but Mum again kyboshes that by saying Squishy can stay home.

Reluctantly, Ava and Squishy jump in the car. The two would MUCH rather explore the forest, but they nonetheless head off with Mum, ending up at the supermarket. Boring! To make it fun, Ava and Squishy start a race--with less than peaceful results.

Review: The Simpsons Family History

Love them or hate them, there's no denying the pop culture impact The Simpsons has had on our modern day life--from catch phrases to a whole newly-dry American humour that really packs a punch.

In this comprehensive compendium, the Simpsons celebrate 25 years (which in itself is more than extraordinary) of family fun with a well-designed peek into the funniest and most memorable moments from the past quarter-century.

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Liz Anelli

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was once interviewed on Kazakhstan TV. They forgot to give me the English translation headphones so I have to this day no idea what they said about me…

2. What is your nickname?  
My husband calls me Bug

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing a good friend

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words.
Insane amount of detail -a triple Salchow (ice-dancing) that might just come off. I can’t possibly restrict myself to 10 words when I use so many different elements in my illustrations.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as an illustrator.

Happy, layered, busy, passionate draw-er

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Baby Glue

Charlotte is so excited. She's awaiting a new baby in the family, but she's not the only one.

Mummy is carrying the baby in her tummy. Dad is reading to baby, through the walls of her belly. Nan is knitting for baby and Pa is putting the cot together.

Aunty Jen and Uncle Wade are helping, too, and even the neighbours, teacher, doctors and nurses are involved. They all care about the new baby. They all have a role to play.

Review: The Jewel (Jewel Trilogy #1)

Today her name is Violet Lasting. She has a family and friends. She can choose what to eat and what to wear.

Tomorrow, she will become Lot 197 and everything about her life will be determined by another woman – what she eats, who she talks to and where she lives. Her life will be lived at the mercy of her owner, the Duchess, and her worth will be determined by her ability to act as a surrogate to ensure that the Duchess can continue her family line.

Violet’s future seems certain, and bleak, until she meets Ash, another captive. The time Violet steals with Ash makes her wonder if a different future is possible; one where she makes her own decisions and chooses her own destiny.

Blog Tour: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Kids' Book Review is delighted to have Amy Ewing stop by on her blog tour for The Jewel, the first book in an exciting new dystopian trilogy published by Walker Books. Amy kindly took some time out to answer our questions about The Jewel. You can follow The Jewel blog tour via the links shared below.

Congratulations on The Jewel. It’s such an interesting story. How did the idea come to you – did you start with characters and build a story around them, or did you start with the story concept and then the characters developed to bring it to life?
The concept for The Jewel came from a lazy Sunday afternoon I spent watching movies on basic cable. Taken came on, and I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? I like Liam Neeson.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, there is a scene when his daughter (the one who gets taken) is paraded onto a stage and bid on by powerful men who want to buy her as, essentially, a sex slave.

As I watched that scene, I wondered to myself what it would be like if, instead of men, it was women bidding on her. Why would a woman buy another woman? I thought at first it would be to carry their children for vanity purposes. Why go through nine months of hormones and stretch marks and dietary restrictions when you can have some other girl do it for you? Slowly the idea evolved to the point that these women needed these girls. That generations of inbreeding had caused too much chromosomal damage, and that these surrogates had the power to fix it. And so, the Auction was born, and Violet’s story came to life.

The Jewel is the first book in a trilogy. What are the challenges and benefits of writing a series? Did you have the entire storyline mapped out from the beginning, or did it continue to unfold after the first book was completed?
The best part is definitely getting to explore more of the world I’ve created and watch the characters grow and change. The hardest part is figuring out all the plot points, and getting them to blend together the way I want. The synopses of books two and three that I originally submitted when I sold The Jewel have been completely scrapped. I work pretty organically, just mapping out basic plot points and figuring out how to get there as I write. But now that I’m almost done revising the second book (yay!), the third book is becoming clearer and clearer in my mind. Let’s keep our fingers crossed it stays that way!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review: Peck Peck Peck

'Today my daddy said to me, "It's time you learnt to peck a tree."' And so begins a very busy day in the life of this little woodpecker.

First, under Dad's careful supervision, he holds on tight to the tree, and peck peck pecks at the wood. Soon enough, he's pecked a hole. There's a corresponding hole in the page of the book, emphasising his success.

Blog Tour: The Summoning of the One: Interview with Royce Bond

KBR welcomes author Royce Bond, on tour for the release of his new fantasy novel The Summoning of the One. We hope you enjoy this interview which sheds some interesting light on the author process.


Who is your favourite author and why?
I have two favourite authors, C.S. Lewis and Tolkein. I love the worlds they created and have spent numerous hours in those worlds.

My wife and I actually purchased a Chronicles of Narnia book on our honeymoon. She began reading it to me aloud and this continued almost every night for thirty years. It’s only in the last four years that we have stopped this habit, but now I’m writing this, I feel I’d like her to start again.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Exhibition Event: Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective


Hairy Maclary, Slinky Malinki and Scarface Claw have all become household names;making their way around the world and into our hearts.  Their creator, Lynley Dodd, has sold more than five million copies of Hairy Maclary alone. She has written and illustrated thirty books and has won the Children’s Picture Book of the Year award four times.

A rare treat to hit Australian soil, the Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective exhibition celebrates the work of this beloved children's author-illustrator. It showcases a collection of 59 original drawings from her books, and details her journey in becoming a dynamic force in the children’s picture book industry.


12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Asphyxia

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I come from an enormous and very quirky family, with seven brothers and sisters, and hordes of cousins.  I grew up in a very communal household with no doors or light switches, which meant little privacy and darkness in my room when my younger siblings went to bed!

2. What is your nickname?
I am often called Fixie, which is what you get when you chop the A’s off either end of my name.  I’ve actually called my blog and art business Fixie’s Shelf – a shelf where I put all the things I make.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Having nothing to do!  Being locked in solitary confinement without so much as a pen and paper.  I think I would die.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Strong female characters, and themes that are important to me.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Character Design: From the Ground Up

Character Design: From the Ground Up is a comprehensive introduction to creating characters for stories in a graphic way. As the blurb on the back of the book says, “from films to games, books to comics, all stories need refined, beautiful characters.”

Character Design is divided into three parts: basics, process and projects.

In ‘The Basics’, Kevin Crossley takes you through everything you’ll need to know to get started, beginning with having reference materials, drawing equipment and computer software. An understanding of the fundamentals of anatomy is provided to help with creating convincing figures, and looks at the skeleton, muscles, head and face. Next is using design templates to make drawing quicker and easier, and then a short section on working with clients.

Review: Tom Gates 7: A Tiny Bit Lucky

Everyone including me should have read and loved the series of Tom Gates.

Now brings a new book. It's about Tom wanting a dog so he can walk it, instead of other things he does not want to do.
However, Tom's annoying sister Delila, is allergic to dogs (of course she is!).

Once again, Liz Pichon always takes a step further when creating books. She is extremely creative, which I like, and the nice little illustrations are really equivalent to the words. Gosh, she is so creative, even I am jealous with the book's ‘doodles'.

Also, Liz doesn’t put a boring, old cover on the front of the book. She takes her time to make a wonderful cover, and it's worth it. All this is why I choose her as one of the most creative authors I know.

The price is about $16.99 and age recommended age is 8 - 12 but other ages would love it, too.

- this review by Riley, age 11

Title: A Tiny Bit Lucky
Author/Illustrator: L Pichon
Publisher: Scholastic Australia, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743625347
For ages: 6 - 12
Type: Junior Fiction

KBR Short Story: The Toucan's Song

by Kym Langfield

The hot sun was setting when the animals of the jungle gathered at the water hole. A meeting had been called to discuss some important news.

Cheetah spoke first. His eyes were wide with worry. 'The people are coming — they’ll be here in the morning.'

Wise Old Monkey sighed. 'I have seen this before. They’ll bring machines as terrifying as monsters.'

The animals gasped.

'What does this mean?' Hyena asked.

'It means our home will soon be gone.'

Cries of sorrow filled the air.

'I will not allow this!' Lion stood tall and shook his flowing mane. 'We will fight this war. Nobody takes our home.'

The animals roared in agreement. Then they got to work, making their plans to stop the humans. There would be snapping and snarling and attacking, of course.

All this time, Toucan was sitting in his tree hole, chewing on guavas and listening intently. Suddenly, he poked out his colourful beak and announced, 'I want to help too.'

The animals stopped and stared before bursting into laughter. 'You want to help?' they jeered. 'You couldn’t hurt a fly!'

Night set in and the animals went to sleep. Only Toucan stayed awake, vowing, 'I will find a way to help.'

The blaring sound of engines woke the animals the next morning.

'They’re here,' Lion growled. 'It’s time to show we won’t be beaten.'

The animals tore through the trees, towards the noise, roaring with all their might. But the people were ready. They carried weapons and nets and soon every beast was trapped.

The destruction began. Machines roared to life and the trees came crashing down. The animals looked on, whining with sadness.

But then a piercing screech rang through the air. The humans stopped in surprise. What was that curious sound?

Suddenly Toucan appeared and perched on a tree that was about to be cut down. He opened his beak and released a tune that was beautiful and happy.

The humans just stared, they were mesmerised. They’d never heard music so lovely.

The machines were turned off and the weapons put down. How could they destroy the jungle, when there was such beauty around?

Then they quietly left the area safe and sound.

The animals gathered near the little toucan.

'We were wrong to doubt you,' Lion said. 'You were more courageous than any other beast.'

The creatures all roared in triumph and decided that the next time Toucan sings they will all stop and listen.

Kym writes novels and short stories for children and young adults. She has published a book with The Book Company and has self-published two other stories. She is a mum of two adorable girls and is a primary school teacher. Kym is passionate about children's literature and loves sharing adventure and magic with young readers. To find out more about Kym and her work, visit her on Facebook.

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, 18 September 2014

Review: The Five of Us

Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric are friends. Each one is amazing in their own way. Angie has incredible vision. Ollie has incredible hearing. Simona and Mario are unbelievably strong. And Eric has his own particular talent.

What's not said in the text, but is evident from the illustrations, is that each of the friends has their own disability too. They just don't let it stop them.

Review: Stuff Happens: Jack

Stuff happens, right?

Well, with this book in the series, Jack had done a mistake on the oval at lunchtime, with his friends. It's a game that is forbidden at school and things soon become dramatic.

I really like this book because of its funny, nice, simple font and interesting story. All this is very necessary to publish a wonderful book. I really like how the smiley faces change through the book depending on how Jack is feeling.

My opinion is that the cover of the book makes you want to read it.

Guest Post: Lisa Holzl on Upcycled Art

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome artist, teacher and author Lisa Hölzl to discuss the inspiration for her latest book, Found and Made: The Art of Upcycling, published by Walker Books.

Having kids and making art have at least one very important thing in common: they both make us see the world in new ways. This in turn helps us find meaning and joy in unexpected places.

Looking at the world from a child’s perspective often brings into focus the easily overlooked. We’ve all experienced the love children have for finding a small fragment of something discarded on the ground and carefully placing it safely in their pocket. They retrieve it later to play with, perhaps transform into something completely different, or add it to a collection of other small and treasured things.

For a few years now, whenever I begin to come up with artmaking projects, I seem to lapse into what seems like the foraging mode of a child.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Guest Post: Kerri from the Itty Bitty Book Van

Credit: PhotoArt Geelong
We were delighted to discover The Itty Bitty Book Van - a gorgeous mobile bookshop. 'Enid' the vintage caravan travels to various locations in Victoria, inviting children to browse the shelves and 'test drive' the books in story time sessions. We asked owner Kerri Bennett to tell us how she chooses which titles make it on to the Itty Bitty Book Van shelves.

Selecting children’s books for the Itty Bitty Book Van is a difficult yet delightful task. Such limited shelf space inside the van means a rather careful selection process is required.  It’s still an evolving process but there are a number of criteria that we apply to help us take the emotion out the formidable task and we’d be happy to share them with you.

When we launched the Itty Bitty Book Van in February 2014 we always intended to stock a high percentage of Australian titles and the popularity of these titles have been so positive that we are now proud to have an entire wall of the van dedicated to Australian authored children’s books.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Grandma, the Baby and Me

A new baby has arrived at Henry's house. Grandma says 'here's trouble'. Big sister Josie can't wait for a cuddle but Henry is not so sure. Everyone wants to kiss the baby.

Henry tells Grandma he doesn't like kisses.

When Grandma leaves (which makes Henry sad), the baby cries until bathtime. Henry splashes like a turtle but Mum says to stop. Grandma calls. 'Trouble?' she asks Henry.

12 Curly Questions with author Scott Prince

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I'm scared of cockroaches and spiders, so I yell out for my wife to remove them from the house...haha...Big strong footballer, well not really!

2. What is your nickname?
Princey (not sure why?)

3. What is your greatest fear?
Its a bit gross, but the thing that I fear most is being eaten alive...second to that would be going to school/work in my pyjamas - always had nightmares about this one as a kid.

4. Describe you writing style in ten words.
Just need the one...DEADLY!!!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Colourful, energetic and … full of fun and mischief! Is that too many? Ha ha.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Dave Hartley

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was a mascot at the footy as the Gold Coast's only superhero, Titus.

2. What is your nickname?
Davo.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being eaten by a shark. I would definitely hate to be eaten by shark. Being eaten by people comes a close second.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Simple, fun and keep the reader guessing. Is that ten?

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Creative, mysterious, mischievous, exciting, compassionate.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: I'm Going to Catch My Tail

Whether you’re a cat lover or not, you’re sure to recognise the antics of real life cats in this bright, cartoonish picture book, where the only character in the amusing story is a crazy, orange kitten.

It’s a kitten who, upon waking from a cat nap, has a conversation with its tail. Yep, crazy kitten! What ensues is a chase through the bedroom, the bathroom (where it makes a mess of the toilet paper), and an assortment of clothes. It’s there the kitten comes unstuck, getting so tangled in an item of ladies underwear that it can’t see where it’s going.

Review: Danger is Everywhere

Docter Noel Zone is going to take your kids on a ride. A very safe ride, tucked in with a safety belt, knee pads and helmet. At a very low speed. You see, Docter Zone thinks the world is a verrrrry dangerous place, and we need to be on full alert at all times, lest we want to end up in serious trouble. Or even dead.

Before even opening the book, Docter Zone advises against reading this book while crossing the road or flying a helicopter, but most especially not when wrestling lions.

Review: Bubble Trouble

Rueben and Felix are the best of friends. They live next door to each other, they're exactly the same age, and exactly the same height (well, Rueben's ears make him a little taller!), and they're both left-handed.

They also both love to blow bubbles. In fact, blowing bubbles, especially BIG ones, is their favourite thing to do together — until Rueben says he can blow a bigger bubble than Felix …

Speechie's Couch: A is for Articulation


Although most children vocalise from the moment they are born, the ability to produce speech sounds for communication is not innate. Surrounded by a multitude of sensory information at birth, babies take time to process speech, sound, light, shade, movement and even touch. It takes even longer to make sense of all these rapidly changing stimuli.

So how do children learn to copy speech sounds? It all begins with closeness. Research has found that infants are attuned to faces from their earliest days. When others come close and chat, babies become very still. Over time, babies begin to mimic facial expressions and to make little sounds at their turn in the ‘conversation’. These little sounds are usually vowels. The mouth is open, the tongue is flat and the vocal cords vibrate together to create voice.

Librarian's Shelf: Poems and pictures



For the uninitiated, including many children, poetry can be confusing or boring, but the right book can change that, and there are many to choose from. Aside from a growing body of verse novels, there are also some fabulous picture books to read and enjoy, and they are the focus here. There’s an important rule for these books though, they really must be read aloud for the best effect.

One of my personal favourites is Mulga Bill’s Bicycle. The rollicking poem was written more than 100 years ago by Banjo Paterson. In the 1970s sisters Kilmeny and Deborah Niland visually captured Mulga Bill’s hilarious, wild ride perfectly. It’s a wonderful way to introduce children to Australian poetry, and just as entertaining today as it was fifty or a hundred years ago.

Publisher’s Insider: Big v. Small


Writers (and illustrators, in the case of many children’s books) want to be published. They want to see a book with their name on the cover. They want their efforts to be enjoyed by a wider audience than just their family and friends. But a surprising number of unpublished authors choose to ‘hold out’ for one of the big publishers to pick them up — somehow, a small/boutique/independent publisher isn’t quite good enough. 

I confess I wasn’t really aware of this phenomenon until a writer friend mentioned it to me, but since then I’ve encountered it a few times — ‘Oh, I don’t want to send my manuscript off to X publisher, because I’m hoping I’ll be accepted by one of the major ones’ — so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the great Big v. Small debate!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Review: Loop Loom Bracelets

Loop Loom Bracelets is a new offering from Scholastic’s Klutz range of books. It’s a simple introduction to making “super stretchy” bracelets, which are a variation on the ‘friendship’ bracelets that pop up at regular intervals.

A great feature of the Klutz books is all the diagrams and photos which are easy to follow, and the ready to go kit that comes with it. The kit includes: elastic cord in seven bright and sparkly colours, coloured beads (to add to your bracelet designs if you’d like to), three little trays (for working with the beads), a crochet hook, and the Klutz loop loom tool. There’s enough cord in the kit to make at least five bracelets.

Review: Big Pet Day

It’s Pet Day and Lily’s class has become a squawking, grunting, peeping, barking menagerie. Courtney has her hermit crab. Ahmed his peach-faced parrots. Ming has brought her grey mouse and Caleb has his puppy. But what does Lily bring? Her pet dragon, of course, but Courtney is not happy. ‘There’s no such thing as dragons,’ she says—and continues to assert as the hours go by.

Everyone has lots of fun with their pets through the school day. The kids are asked to draw a picture of their pet and everyone loves Lily’s picture the best because she’s flying on her dragon’s back. All the kids wish they could be flying on their pet’s back. Except, perhaps, Courtney.

Review: The Rescue Ark

The animals went in two by two the Noah’s Ark, that’s for sure, but in this delightful Aussie version, it’s not elephants and giraffes and camels that plod up the gang plank—it’s endangered or vulnerable Antipodean animals like the Australian Sea Lion, Western Ringtail Possum, Pygmy Bluetongue Lizard, Tasmanian Devil, Numbat and Native Bee. And it’s no great flood they’re escaping from, either—it’s instead their very own environment, and the appalling loss of habitat contributing to each species’ demise.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review: A is for Awesome

My mum has lots of books by Dallas Clayton because she thinks he's cool. She said people say he's like the modern day Dr Seuss and I can see why.

This book contains the alphabet with names describing the letter. For example, A is for Awesome, like the title of the book. Then other letters stand for other cool words like brazen and beautiful, cool and collected.