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

Friday, 31 October 2014

Review: Alfie's Big Wish

When Alfie’s friends move away, he feels very sad and alone. Playing with the animals isn’t quite the same and the other children are all much bigger than he is.

When Alfie sees a shooting star, he knows what to do. He wishes for a fun new friend, and goes to sleep waiting for the friend to arrive. When he wakes the next morning, he hears a rustling in the grass. Has his wish been answered?

Spooky Books for Halloween October 2014

Kids love a good spookfest, and with the increasingly popularity of Halloween in Australia, these fabulous new books are sure to rattle their creepy bone.

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett (Koala Books, $20.99, 9781783700295, see our review here)

Orion is scared of A LOT of things, but most of all he's scared of the dark. So one night Dark decides to take Orion on an adventure. Emma Yarlett's second picture book combines incredible illustrations and spell-binding storytelling with inventive die-cut pages that make Dark come to life in the hands of the reader.

Monster Chef by Nick Bland (Scholastic, $24,99, 9781742838250, see our review here)

"Marcel was a monster of medium size With crotchety horns and googly eyes. He was lumpy and grumpy and suitably hairy. But Marcel had a problem ... he just wasn't scary."

Marcel is not very good at being a monster. He doesn't seem to be able to scare anybody! But one day, Marcel discovers that his gruesomely-good cooking can give kids a real fright! From the creator of internationally best-selling Very Cranky Bear!

Ten Monsters in the Bed by Katie Cotton and Aaron Blecha (Koala Books, $14.99, 9781742761176)

A monstrous take on 'Ten Green Bottles' and Ten in the Bed with farty, burpy, slurpy sounds! Ten monsters are very squished on a bunk bed. On each spread, a monster gets pushed out onto the floor, making a disgusting noise. Eventually, all the monsters end up on the floor ... and realise theyre more squished than ever! 

10 Spooky Bats by Ed Allen and Shane McG (Scholastic, $9.99, 9781742839301)
Ten spooky bats doing flying tricks. Ten spooky bats doing flying tricks. And if one spooky bat has something new to fix, Therell be nine spooky bats doing flying tricks. Come and hang around with the spooky bats as they count all the way to ten!

KBR Short Story: Amelie's Disappearing Sandcastle

by Rachel Bradbury

“Tadahh!” cheered Amelie Scott, adding the finishing touches.  “My masterpiece is complete.”
“Well done!” called Dad from the water’s edge.
“That’s the tallest sandcastle yet,” said Mum.

The sun was setting as the Scott family gathered their belongings and headed back to their tent.

Amelie couldn’t wait for morning to come so she could build in the sand again.

As the first ray of light shone through the tent’s window, Amelie was up and dressed.  She unzipped her tent and bounded out, only to discover…

Her sandcastle was gone!  She looked up and down the beach, just in case someone had moved it, but her precious sandcastle was nowhere to be seen.

“Nooooo!” wailed Amelie
“What’s wrong?” asked Dad, tumbling out of his tent.
“My sandcastle’s vanished,” sobbed Amelie.
“The tide’s washed it away,” said Dad, patting Amelie on the shoulder.

Amelie frowned.  She didn’t like the sound of these ‘tide’ creatures at all.

Amelie set to work dumping buckets of wet sand onto the beach, until she had built the most extravagant sandcastle ever.

“Let’s see you try and destroy this sandcastle, Tides,” she said, dusting her hands together.
In the morning, Amelie peered out of her tent and couldn’t believe her eyes.  Her super-dooper sandcastle had vanished AGAIN!

“Thief!” called out Amelie.  “Thief!!!”
“What’s going on?” shouted Dad, tumbling out of his tent.
“The Tides have stolen my sandcastle,” sobbed Amelie.

Amelie devised a plan.  In the afternoon she would build another sandcastle and then, at night, keep watch from her tent ready to scare away the sneaky ‘tide’ creatures.

Amelie lay on her tummy.  She could still see her sandcastle in the distance.  Amelie yawned.  Then she yawned again.  She pinched her arms and pulled her hair, but her eyes grew heavier and heavier.

“My sandcastle,” wailed Amelie the next morning.
 “What’s the matter?” asked Mum, tumbling out of her tent.
“Every day I build a magnificent sandcastle,” said Amelie, “and the next day it’s disappeared.  What can I do?”

“There’s nothing you can do,” explained Mum.  “The moon controls the tides and when it’s high tide the waves wash up the sand and clear everything away, like a giant Etch- A-sketch.”

Amelie didn’t know whether to believe her mum or not.  It sounded a bit wishy-washy.

But, later that morning when Amelie had finished her two-storey castle, she noticed something strange happening.  The white frothy waves were coming in closer and closer.  Soon they were lapping at Amelie’s sandcastle, licking it, biting it.

“Mum, Dad!” called Amelie.  “The waves are eating my sandcastle.”
“That’s the tide coming in, Amelie,” replied Dad.
“But I don’t want the tide to wash away my sandcastle,” said Amelie.  “I’ll forget what it looked like.”
“Take a photo,” suggested Dad.  “Then you’ll have the memory of your sandcastle forever.”

Amelie quickly grabbed the camera and clicked away.

Now, every time Amelie visits the beach she takes photos of her sand sculptures before the tide can gobble them up.

Rachel Bradbury lives in Redcliffe, Queensland and enjoys writing children's stories and short stories.  She blogs at Rachel's Book Nook.

KBR Short Stories are a way to get your work ‘out there’—and to delight our KBR readers. Stories are set to a monthly theme and entries are due in the 25th of each month. Find out more here.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Event: Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids Exhibition

Take a magical journey with Australian fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales of Sydney-based fashion house, Romance Was Born. Express Yourself: Romance Was Born for Kids is a free interactive art exhibition for children, at the National Gallery of Victoria. 

From the moment you step through the door, there’s a feast of vibrant colour, intense creativity and an overload of inspiration.  Children will be dazzled by the colours of the rainbow, the Australian bush and imaginary of long ago. 

Each area is cleverly designed to stimulate the senses and encourage creativity, with unique displays inspired by childhood memories and well known Australian children’s literature.

Review: Terry Denton's Bumper Book of the Universe

I have to say: activity books have certainly changed since I was a kid. I can hardly believe how cool they are now, and you know an activity book is particularly tempting when even full-blown adults are snatching up pencils and getting busy with it.

Such was my experience with Terry Denton's latest.

Kids love all things space-related, and this fabulous (yes, it's 'bumper'!) tome takes them on a supersonic journey to the stars, with drawing and imagination prompts, codes, quizzes, mazes, puzzles, seek-and-find and lots of cosmic facts.

Featuring the classic illustrations Terry is renowned for, a whopping 304 pages will have the kids busy well into January, so make sure you snaffle a copy for the Christmas stocking.

Title: Terry Denton's Bumper Book of the Universe
Author/Illustrator: Terry Denton
Publisher: Puffin, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: 22 October 2014
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780143308003
For ages: 5 - 11
Type: Activity Book

Review: Express Yourself! An Activity Book for Kids

What happens when fashion and creativity come together?

Enter the world of Romance Was Born and get ready to express yourself with this new activity book for kids.

This beautifully presented and visually stimulating book inspires children of all ages to use their imaginations, be creative and have fun! Full of vibrant colour, creative patterns and plenty of inspiration, it is jam-packed with opportunity to draw and create.

You will get to know Australian fashion designers Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, of Romance Was Born, and find out where their ideas come from as they experiment with designs and materials to create spectacular outfits. Children will discover their own inner fashion designer as they weave their way through this book to create their very own garments through hands-on activities based on the Romance Was Born collections.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: Big Art Small Art

The front page of this book had mesmerised. And if it had my brain mesmerised, imagine what a five-year-old's brain would do.

Big Art Small Art is a fascinating compilation of artworks from around the world, tucked into a grand format book with content of even grander proportions.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Jessica's Box - Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition

Jessica brings a large cardboard box along on her first day at her new school. Inside is a surprise that she is sure will impress the other children.

Unfortunately, the other students don’t think Jessica’s teddy bear is all that impressive. On the next day, they love the cupcakes Jessica brings inside the box, but as soon as the cupcakes are gone, the children wander away. What will Jessica do next to help her find her fit in and make friends?

This award-winning book by Australian author/illustrator Peter Carnavas has such a wonderful message for young readers about self-worth, friendship, including others and making newcomers feel welcome. The impact of this message is even more meaningful in this special Cerebral Palsy Alliance edition, where the illustration has been reworked to include one extra detail – Jessica is now in a wheelchair.

Review: Orion and the Dark

Orion is scared of a lot of things. The world is full of scary, you see, but the most scary thing of all, according to Orion, is ... the DARK.

Orion has tried all kinds of things to solve his fear of the dark, but but not much has worked. But then one day, Orion becomes so frightened, he gets totally fed up and calls out to the Dark and tells it to GO AWAY!

12 Curly Questions with author Victoria Lane

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve sung in gospel choirs from Sydney to Brooklyn to Brunswick over the years. Singing is such a beautiful break from constant reading, writing and editing; it uses a different part of the brain.

2. What is your nickname?
We weren’t very big on nicknames growing up, but I always answered to Vicki as a child. Now it’s Mum.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Besides spiders, you mean? Nothing much. The only thing I’m fearful about is seeing a big, hairy huntsman spider hanging from the bedroom ceiling. That happened in Sydney. I moved house.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Never underestimate one’s audience -- intelligent writing for curious kids.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Committed, creative, playful, gentle, happy.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie

Lucy’s big sister Claire had a terrible fall in Paris so her mother is rushing to be by Claire’s side. Lucy’s Dad is on contract, working in the outback so that means Lucy has to stay with Aunty Big at Avendale, an isolated country property.

There is no T.V. or computer and you can forget about the internet: Aunty Big likes to read and paint. She’s just plain crotchety and a little bit frail and there’s not a lot to do at Avendale. How will Lucy last the weeks and weeks of summer holidays out there, alone with Aunty Big? To top it all off, the family won’t be together for Christmas. Lucy is convinced that life sucks.

Review: Lonely Planet Kids Amazing World Atlas

What kind of books can you never have enough of? Well, all of them really ... but there are two kinds I almost actively collect--alphabet books and atlases. Adore adore adore.

And who better to come up with a fabulous kids' atlas than Lonely Planet?

This beautiful hard cover, large format book begins with a peek at Earth itself. where it lies in our cosmos and how it has come to support life. We even take a peek inside to see what our planet is made of.

Guest Post: Goldie Alexander on the Difficulties of Writing a Verse Novel

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Goldie Alexander to discuss the challenges she faced trying something new in writing her verse novel In Hades.

We live in an age where more people are being published but fewer have time to read.  It’s not helped by increasing length. Woody Allen once insisted all his films last only ninety minutes. If one could only say that about books. As a firm believe in ‘the pinch test’, recently I became interested in verse novels. I was fascinated by the idea that a novel of some sixty to eighty thousand words could be condensed into less than a third, sometimes even less. It seemed to fit very well into our fast paced lives.

I mentioned this idea to several writer friends. The unanimous opinion was that this was entirely stupid and not to even think of it. But I have a perverse personality. As soon as I am told I shouldn’t do something, inevitably I go ahead and do just that.

At this point I had no idea of how to start a verse novel so I read a lot. Then I immediately ran into trouble. Should the metre be on Iambic Pentameter? Trochee? Spondee? Dactyl? Even Pyrrhic? Should every second line rhyme? How much repetition and symbolism is warranted without overpowering the reader? How will one idea run on from the next?  If much poetry in the past was organised into acceptable lyrics and sonnets, few contemporary verse novels seemed to follow any set rule. And as this was to be a novel, should the verses be divided into chapters? If so, how many and how long?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Review: Mix It Up!

I often wonder if the creative well that is Hervé Tullet could ever run dry. I sincerely hope not. His never-ending artistic surges are such complete joy--for adults as well as those little charges he so exquisitely engages with his colourful tomes.

In Mix It Up!, Tullet takes colour blending to a whole new level, splotching great wads of paint on the page and smooshing them together with the help of little hands and lots of imagination.

'Dip your fingers in the blue ... and gently rub the yellow.' And the reader ends up with green.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review: Follow the Firefly + Run, Rabbit, Run!

This wordless picture book features two stories. Reading from front to back, children follow the firefly as he looks for a flashing light. He journeys through the jungle, getting directions along the way from different animals, until he reaches his destination.

On the final page, where the story would normally end, an illustration shows several animals in cages on the back of a truck. One breaks free and the challenge is now on to follow the rabbit. Retracing their steps back through the book, children read from the back to the front and discover that in each illustration, rabbit is also present. Chasing him is a dog determined to find him and bring him back to where he belongs. Will he succeed?

Review: Howzat!

“In a little English village there’s a cricket match just beginning.”

Cricket is a sport played all over the world, a fact celebrated in this wonderful picture book. As the text by Mike Lefroy takes readers through the experiences of the players during a game, Liz Anelli’s illustrations tell a slightly different story, highlighting the many countries and cultures that enjoy playing cricket.

Howzat! emphasises the way this game connects children around the world as they play cricket with their friends, whether in backyards, parks or on the beach. The rhyming verse text shares some familiar cricketing terminology – wicket, snick, silly mid-on, spin, googly – as it talks through the progress of the game with players coming in and out, hitting sixes, bowling and fielding.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Tina Matthews

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I am so short sighted that when I am reading without glasses or contact lenses and I turn the page, it touches my nose. That’s how I can do such detail in my books; I take off my glasses and get really close to the page.

2. What is your nickname?
Funnily enough my nickname is Tina because my real name is Christina, but no one calls me that. And my uncle Harvey (who the boy in A Great Cake is named after) used to call me Titi sometimes, which is ‘muttonbird’ in Maori. I don’t think Harvey knew that and I’m not very muttony.

3. What is your greatest fear?
That the huge human herd which now lives on planet earth will wipe out all other life and itself in the process. What a shame that would be when so many other good futures are ready and waiting for us.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
I only use words to say what the pictures can’t.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Review: Monster Chef

Nick Bland's iconic books are renowned for their gorgeous illustrations, charming characters and crowd-pleasing antics. It's little wonder his books are frequently chosen for National Simultaneous Story Time--his books have the perfectly blending of read-out-loud perfection, and audience response.

Monster Chef is no exception.

In it, we meet Marcel the monster, who, like all good monsters should, goes to work nightly as a Child Frightener. The only problem is, he's not very good at his job. Kids love him. There is simply no frightening to be had.

Review: Tim and Ed

Tim and Ed look exactly the same. Same eyes, same mouth, same feet, same head. They came from a single egg, you see, so there's just no telling them apart.

One day, Auntie Pim comes to take Ed for a sleepover.

Um... what? What about Tim? Why isn't he going, too? Tim doesn't know what to think.

KBR Short Story: Oomi

by Michelle Lewry

Every school morning, my Mum whips herself into a busy tizzy.
Busy tizzies begin with Mum jamming her feet into shoes with straight laces.
Busy tizzies end with Mum huffing into a paper bag.

In between, Mum whizzes around the kitchen slapping sandwiches into lunch boxes, signing excursion slips, barking orders and burning toast.

I try to relax Mum by asking important questions about toilets in space shuttles.
She flips up a hand, “Hush, James! We’ll be late!”

I tell Mum about Yeti sightings on Mount Baw Baw to soothe her mind.
Up flips the hand, “Hush James! We’ll be late!”

To quieten her nerves, I ask Mum “Who was your best friend when you were young?”
Mum stops whirling. She drifts into her bedroom.
Crystal and I think paper bag time has come early.

Mum breezes back into the kitchen wearing a floaty skirt I’ve never seen before. She’s carrying an equally alarming canvas bag.
“Oomi was my best friend” she says, “out to the car.”
Crystal and I are bewildered.

Wheeling our Beetle out of the driveway, Mum switches radio stations. She starts dooby-dooing and finger-clicking.
Mum winks at us from the rectangle of the rearview mirror.
Crystal and I are dumbfounded.

Mid morning we pitstop at a petrol station.
Mum wrestles down the Beetle’s rusty roof.
We scoot down the highway with Mum’s hair streaming in the wind like bright orange ribbons.
Crystal and I are astounded.

At noon in a car park, Mum orders us out of the Beetle.
She pats down her skirt and pats down her hair.
She checks for her keys, she checks for her wallet.
She huffs once, takes our hands and whispers, “Close your eyes”.

My feet sink pleasantly into something warm and welcoming.
My lungs expand with tangy air.
My ears are greeted with a friendly hush. We open our eyes.
Mum spreads her arms wide toward the rolling sapphire sea.
“Meet Oomi, my best friend.”
Crystal and I are delighted.

With Oomi, we puddle in rock pools and stick our fingers into sea anemones. With Oomi, we don kelp wigs and play seaweed pirates.
With Oomi, we uncover shells and cuttlefish and driftwood; our beach treasure.

At dusk with the sun turning to toffee, we tumble back into the Beetle, full of fun and giggles. Mum’s mind is soothed, her nerves are calmed.
A busy tizzy seems miles away.
Motoring back down the highway toward home I’m glad Mum is wearing her seatbelt.
She seems so light she might float away.

At night, after her three baby bears are fast asleep, Michelle picks up a pen and wrangles words into picture book form. She's pretty serious about writing stories for children and getting them published. One day, she would like to make publishing books her job. You can find Michelle on LinkedIn.

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, 23 October 2014

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Ava’s great aunt wanted to be more beautiful, so she turned herself into a canary and her grandmother can smell the difference between good and bad love. For a family that was never really accepted in the first place, the scales are tipped when Ava is born with a complete set of wings.

Don’t be deceived by the lyrical nature of this tale: it has bite. The occasional reference to violence in early chapters hovers like a warning as the tangle of lost loves and forgotten hopes spreads over the Lavender household.

Review: Annabel's Chewy-Gooey Birthday Cake

Ken Williams was runner-up in the Kids Book Review Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award in 2013. Buoyed by his success, he submitted his manuscript to JoJo publishing and is now a published author! As is often the case on the way to publication, Ken’s original manuscript (Too Plain) underwent a name change and became Annabel’s chewy-gooey birthday cake.

I have one word for the finished product: delicious. The rhythm Ken retains from page to page, and his cheeky addition of over-the top ingredients, are a recipe for just plain fun.

Author/Illustrator Interview: Dave Hackett

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome the irrepressible Dave Hackett, who has recently released two books including a great YA novel, The Summer of Kicks.

You are best known for your cartoons and humorous junior fiction stories. What inspired you to venture into writing a young adult novel?
I really wanted to write something with a lot of heart this time around. I was essentially looking to create a story that was character-focussed, to throw myself the challenge of creating characters who were human and real with likeable qualities and faults and honest feelings, and YA allows a lot of room for that, because those years – the back half of your teens – are such a huge time of growth and learning and discovery and mistakes and awesomeness. As Bryan Adams once said “those were the best days of my life”. (I don’t actually subscribe to his way of thinking on that, however. Your best days are the ones where you allow yourself to be happy. Wisdom lesson over).

Was the writing process for Summer of Kicks different to the way you usually approach writing a manuscript? What did you find most challenging about the process? What was the most rewarding?
I hadn’t actually made the distinction until now, but with each novel I’ve written, I’ve had one spot – that one place that really seems to channel the right mix of energy to allow me to string words together that just seem to fit. It turns out that my geographical muse this time around was my walk-in wardrobe at around 4am. Picture me seated on the floor, my laptop balancing on a pile of jumpers, I’m surrounded by cushions, darkness and silence. Nothing but me and my characters. Pure bliss.

As for the actual structuring of the book, yes – The Summer of Kicks isn’t the longest book I’ve written, but it by far took the longest to write. It sat with me for six or eight months, swirling around in my head before it allowed me to start writing it (they can do that – I tried a few times, but the story wasn’t ready. It needed time for the ingredients to bond together, to form a solid, cohesive batter before I was able to knead it into something that would eventually be digestable).

There was a lot more planning by way of structure and timelining all the events, this time around. I wrote most of the scenes separately, then had to try to piece them all together at the end so that they fit and made sense. For months I carried around a folder filled with flow-charts and character lists, each with their own storylines mapped out. Soooo organised, haha.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review: The Wonder

‘This is a boy whose head is filled with wonder!’

One line in and I’m already hooked. The wonder and imagination of childhood is something so amazing that I can’t help but be drawn to a story that celebrates young minds filled with questions and ideas and creative thoughts.

The Wonder is a truly stunning picture book by author/illustrator Faye Hanson. A young boy with a head filled with questions and creativity finds that he constantly being told to stop daydreaming and pay more attention until a wonderful teacher gives him a blank piece of paper and invites him to use his imagination.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Review: The Ugly Duckling

The Ugly Duckling is a classic Hans Christian Andersen tale which, in my memory at least, always brings to mind Danny Kaye’s performance of the song in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Andersen.

This gorgeously illustrated version will connect a new generation of young children to this story as they discover that the poor ‘ugly’ duckling does have somewhere to belong where he is appreciated for who he really is.

Review: Once Upon an Alphabet

Jeffers Obsessives rejoice! Not 32 but 112--count them--112 pages of Jeffers glory!

Oh yes, Oliver Jeffers serves up a fine feast in this alphabet book of stories, each and every letter treated to a full short story featuring the quirk and dry humour he's renowned for.

With A, we meet an Astronaut. He's been training for ages to go and meet some aliens. But there's a problem. He has a fear of heights.

12 Curly Questions with author Jack Heath

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I waste an awful lot of time trying to invent mathematical formulae which describe the behaviour of music.

2. What is your nickname?
My wife calls me 'Hubsy', and since I spend more time with her than with anyone else, I've started to be more comfortable with it than 'Jack'.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I live in almost constant fear that I'll bump into someone – anyone – that I went to high school with.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Each word surprises, but follows naturally from its precedent.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Fast, careful, enthusiastic, inexhaustible, ambitious.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander feels so like a contemporary kid with every day issues that it’s hard to believe his story was first published in 1972. Forty-two years later, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is still so relevant (and funny) that a version is about to hit cinemas. Here’s how it goes:

Alexander went to bed with gum in his mouth and woke up with it in his hair, then he tripped on his skateboard and dropped his sweater in the sink while the water was running: he could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

Review: Our Stories: Australian Writers of Influence

The Our Stories series from Black Dog Books takes a  fascinating peek into our Australian culture--our cities, our events, our people. In this latest addition, author Bernadette Kelly reveals Australian writers of influence in an informative and engaging way.

The book begins at the beginning--when 'pen and paper ruled the world'--a novel concept for today's children when texting and typing is more the norm. A world of paper and ink? This has to be something that will both boggle and entrance kids.

During this time, in 1826, the very first set of poems were published in Colonial Australia--by an Australian-born author. Entitled Wild Notes from the Lure of a Native Minstrel, the book was penned by Charles Thompson, a public servant and a forerunner for Aussie authors.

Review: Rhymes with Art: Cartooning the Fun Way

The master of comedy strikes again with this super cute book for kids who love to draw. Packaged in a novel-format book, Adam 'Wally' Wallace shows kids how to draw a series of kooky critters, using basic shapes.

Critters are plentiful and include a UFO Dog (it begins life as a UFO, then you add a headlight, then two doors, then ... well, you get the picture ... 'scuse the pun), a Rooster Rabbit,  a Bum Cat, a Dragon Tail Rhino and my favourite - a Reading Bug.

Along the way, Wally peppers his instruction with quirky rhyming text that's sure to raise a smile. Perfect for the upcoming summer school holidays.

Shout Out: Lulu Loves board books

The 'Lulu Loves' board books are a gorgeous new series for toddlers. The first two titles in the series are Lulu Loves Colours and Lulu Loves Noises, with Lulu Loves Numbers and Lulu Loves Shapes coming soon!

Join Lulu as she spots all of her favourite colours — from the bright yellow sun to the warm blue water!

Join Lulu as she listens to her favourite sounds — from the birds singing 'tweet tweet' outside Lulu's window, to the 'ding-a-ling' of her tricycle.

Each book has lots of flaps to lift, making the series perfect for little hands and inquisitive minds. 

Title: Lulu Loves Colours and Lulu Loves Noises
Author: Camilla Reid
Illustrator: Ailie Busby
Publisher: Bloomsbury, $12.99 RRP
Publication Date: October 2014
Format: Board Book
ISBN: 9781408849644 and 9781408849637
For ages: 2+
Type: Picture Book

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: Sally in the Snow

Sally is off to the snowfields to see all her friends. They're so happy when she arrives--they have lots of fun planned!

First it's sledding then saucering (flying down the mountain on a disc) then skiing till tummies rumble and it's time to go back to the lodge for dinner.

Kids will adore this sweet little animal adventure set in the snow.

Illustrations are a visual feast for toddlers, with almost tactile textures and beautiful colouring. High contrast pages will make wonderful viewing for babies, too.


Title: Sally in the Snow
Author/Illustrator: Stephen Huneck
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed, $9.99 RRP
Publication Date: 7 October 2014
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781419712272
For ages: 0 - 3
Type: Board Book

Review: How to Draw Vintage Fashion

I still recall, as a young girl, being obsessed with fashion design--spending long hours creating divine ensembles for beautiful girls to strut the catwalks of Paris and Milan.

How I wish I'd had this beautiful book to fuel my fashionista fire!

Nothing wrong with a 40-something style aficionado getting her fashion drawing on, and I'll be doing just that with this gorgeous book, featuring tips from top designers and muses, including Paul Smith and Twiggy. I'm sure younger drawers would also love to rustle up their glad rags and join me.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review: The Whole of My World

This coming-of-age story is set in the 1980s and told through the eyes of Shelley, almost 15, two years after she and her father have become impotent with grief when death devastates their family.

Shelley decides to try and start a new chapter in her life, moves schools and has some promise of a friendship with her new friend Tara, although it’s a complex relationship, as both girls find it hard to open up.

Shelley’s father has become a shell of the man he used to be and sits in front of the telly for hours when he’s not at work. The two of them don’t talk anymore and seem stuck, never discussing the life changing, catastrophic event. Any easy dialogue between them revolves around footy.

Review: Zero Tolerance (The Odd Squad #2)

If you enjoyed The Odd Squad: Bully Bait (KBR review), you’ll love Zero Tolerance. It’s more of the same sort of humour, but with a darker undertone. While Nick is being his usual scheming doofus, and once more, his genius plots go wrong, there’s a villain at large and he or she is making Nick’s life a misery.

Put the two storylines together and there is confusion, mistaken identities, bad breath and disgusting chewing gum-a-robics.

12 Curly Questions with author David Lawrence

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. To help me get to sleep at night, I imagine I’m bowling leg spin in a test match for Australia. It’s fair to say, I take a lot of wickets with my ‘wrong un’.

2. What is your nickname? ‘Starchy’ – I’ve had it since I was 10 years old, inheriting it from another kid called David Lawrence who left the school the year before I arrived. I have no idea why he was called ‘Starchy’.

3. What is your greatest fear? Magpies – not the ones who play for Collingwood, but the swooping bird with the sharp beak kind. (I’m not that fond of the ones who play for Collingwood either!)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. Comedic and disorganised which means sometimes I don’t finish the

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. Funny, conversational, accessible, entertaining, and … positive.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Review: Alligator in an Anorak

An Alligator in an Anorak? You betcha. A Crab in Caravan? Of course! An Elephant in an Eggcup? Why not!

This alphabet picture book featuring a faunal feast of comical, fanciful illustrations is a wonderful way to introduce kids to their ABCs.

Review: Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach

Noni the adorable pony is back in this beautiful romp of a book for wee pony lovers.

Noni is such a friendly, funny pony. She loves going to the beach on sunny days, along with pals Coco the cat and Dave the dog.

Coco doesn't like getting wet (she much prefers a snooze in a fishing net hammock) but Dave is keen to get close to a whale. He goes a little far out, and let's just say thank goodness for Noni!

KBR Short Story: Hungry Waves

by Natasha Rowland

I love the beach.
I love to swim. I love to fish. I love to collect shells. I love to jump over waves.

But most of all I love to feed the hungry waves.

Along the beach I walk leaving my footprints in the sand.
A wave slides in, a wave slides out and my footprints disappear.
Eaten by hungry waves.

I write my name in the sand.
A wave slides in, a wave slides out and my writing disappears.
Eaten by hungry waves.

I make a pattern with my shells and coral.
A wave slides in, a wave slides out and my pattern disappears.
Eaten by hungry waves.

I make a seaweed picture.
A wave slide in, a wave slides out and my picture disappears.
Eaten by hungry waves.

I build a sandcastle.
A wave slides in, a wave slides out and my sandcastle disappears.
Eaten by hungry waves.

I make a tunnel in the sand.
A wave slide in, a wave slides out and my sand tunnel disappears.
Eaten by hungry waves.

Today I’m going to make the hungry waves a feast.
Away from the hungry waves, I take my bucket and my spade and begin to dig.

I mould sand turtles.
I make sand cities.
I create mountains.
I dig tunnels.
And I decorate it all with shells, seaweed, coral, rocks and sticks.
Dinner is ready.

Today the hungry waves will have to work for their meal.
They’ll have to stretch and ooze up, up, up the beach.
Maybe tomorrow my sand city will still be standing.
I smile.
I doubt it.
I can hear the hungry waves behind me, crashing against the shore, gliding further in, closer and closer.
I offer up treats for the waves to eat, encouraging them closer to the feast, until it’s dark and I’m hungry.

Tucked in my bed, I listen to the hungry waves.
They sound happy.
I dream of the feast they must be enjoying.

Next morning, before the sun has woken properly, I race to the beach.
I smile.
The waves were hungry but they left some for me.

Natasha Rowland is a creative person whose writing, art and music keep her sane. Her children, the creatures living about her house and snippets of conversations are her inspiration sources. Recently she received a 2nd placing and highly commended from the USQ Creative Writing on Country competition. 

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, 16 October 2014

Review: The Billy that Died with its Boots on and other Australian Verse

Now, I’m not normally one for rhyming poetry, but Stephen Whiteside’s rhythm and style based on the style of Banjo Patterson tickles my fancy. His collection includes tales about dinosaurs, historical events, trips to the beach and out in the bush. He takes us around the house, in the garden and onto the street. You name it, Stephen Whiteside has probably written a poem about it.

The wonderful thing about this rhyming collection is that it whets the appetite for stories with rhythm and rhyme, but these poetic tales only truly come to full life when they are read aloud.

Review: Playing Rugby League with Benji Marsall

Kids who are serious about their sport (and so very many are) absolutely love instructional books that give them the ins and outs of play. For rugby league players, personalised instruction from legendary New Zealander Benji Marshall seems almost too good to be true.

The truth shall set you free, young footballer, for here it is--in one mega volume--an instructional tome for both serious players and those who just want to improve their game.

Guest Post: Hazel Edwards with 10 Challenges in Writing a Non-Boring Memoir

Kids’ Book Review is delighted to welcome the wonderful Hazel Edwards, whose beloved cake-eating hippo will be turning 35 next year. (We know! It makes us feel old too!). Hazel is currently working on a memoir and we asked her to share with us some of the challenges she is encountering as she pulls together notes and memories from her years as a children’s author.

Let Hippos Eat Cake: Being a Children’s Author or Not?
Until now, I’ve avoided writing an autobiography or my family history, although I’ve run ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’ workshops. So I’ve helped others tell their stories and craft their anecdotes. Those I’ve mentored call themselves ‘Hazelnuts’.

Why haven’t I written an autobiography? Mainly because I’ve used my experiences elsewhere in fiction. And because I’ve seen too many chronological lists forced on reluctant family readers.

However, this year I changed my mind.

Health issues forced me to stop flying. I needed to downsize, change my work style and declutter my literary files. I have ‘bits’ of ideas in paper, digital and other formats.

I wanted the intellectual challenge of writing in a different way, NOT by chronological listing, but by anecdotal association. Anecdultery I call it. And to explore thinking in fractals, which is how I used to dream. So the memoir was to be an exploration of the process of creativity as a children’s author.

Next year the ‘age-less’ rooftop, cake-eating hippo character turns 35. And I have a significant birthday too. The timing was appropriate.

A ‘memoir’ can be brief. And focus only on an aspect of a life.

My challenges in writing ‘Let Hippos Eat Cake…’

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Author Interview: Pip Harry

Photo credit: Sergio Dionisio
Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Pip Harry to chat with us about her latest YA novel, Head of the River.

There are many aspects of Head of the River that take it outside the experience of everyday teens such as Olympian parents, a highly-specialised rowing event, and an elite private school setting. How did you ensure that the story would still resonate with teens who have no connection with these experiences? Do you think the experiences of Cristian and Leni Popescu do have relevance to the lives of modern teenagers? 
I was careful to make Leni and Cristian relatable and realistic characters - so readers wouldn’t feel alienated from their experience, even if they’d never rowed a stroke or actively avoided sports! Cris struggles with his weight and comfort eats, Leni finds it difficult to maintain friendships and wonders if she’s dating the right guy. They’re both feeling the strain of year 12 study. These are all fairly common experiences for many young adults.

I’ve been so pleased that the non-sporty readers of the book have said they relate to the twins rowing experiences in other ways – i.e. they also pushed themselves academically or in music, art or socially. Feeling pressure to succeed can come in many forms! Leni and Cris are on sports scholarships so their home life is very down to earth, they both have part time jobs and they don’t have the flash cars, holidays or parties that their friends do. Their parents might be extraordinary human beings as ex Olympians, but they’re also regular parents. They worry about social media, drinking and if their kids are happy.

Head of the River deals with the contentious issue of drug testing of teenagers at school sporting events. Do you want readers to draw a specific conclusion from the way events unfold in the story, or are you aiming to spark a conversation about the issue and highlight consequences of drug use in sporting events for athletes of any age?
I’m not interested in writing YA that preaches, but I’m also aware that HOTR is a cautionary tale! Taking PED’s doesn’t work out well for Cris or his friend Adam. They pay a very high price for thinking they can cheat the system. In general with the book I wanted to spark a conversation about the risks of PED’s and their prevalence in elite sports today.  As I was writing the issue became louder and louder.  Rugby, football and cycling were being heavily investigated by ASADA and many high profile athletes were testing positive.

I also researched several local school incidents where students had been pulled up on steroid use. There does seem to be more kids experimenting with PED’s and other supplements these days. I do worry about our kids looking to sports for role models, and ending up being lumped with the Lance Armstrong’s of this world. People who lie, cheat and risk damage to their bodies (even death) to win. I worry about how sophisticated these PEDs are getting, and how freely available they are. I worry about how much emphasis some private schools place on sporting results at events like Head of the River. And if that tempts young athletes to take the step towards illegally pumping themselves up.  I hope the book’s messages around drugs will speak to athletes of any age, but particularly young people, who are so vulnerable to influence.

Speechie's Couch: B is for Babbling

Typically developing infants and young children are noisy – really noisy. Their shouts echo through the house when they wake, their wordless natter fills the air as they play, and a quiet house is a warning sign that mischief might well be afoot.

So what is the function of babbling? Apart from experimenting with vocalization in general, little ones are honing their skills for that exciting milestone: first words. Without the constant repetition of different consonants in combination with vowels, the production of real words will never be possible.

Publisher’s Insider: Structuring a Picture Book

So, you’ve written a picture book manuscript and it’s brilliant! You’ve sent it out to publishers but it keeps getting rejected. Why? Perhaps the answer is that it’s not structured to work as a picture book. Here are four common problems you should consider:

Librarian's Shelf: Where do library books come from?

Libraries house far more books than our own homes ever would, but just where do those books come from? Who chooses and buys library books?

Most libraries buy their books from specialist suppliers - companies whose job is to source both new and existing titles on behalf of libraries. It’s a collaborative effort which starts with specific information provided by librarians, and acted upon by the suppliers, many of whom are librarians themselves. There are two particular methods used: standing orders and profiles. This is what helps get books on library shelves as soon as possible when they are released.