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

Sunday, 30 November 2014

12 Curly Questions with author Dimity Powell

KBR's Managing Editor reveals a little more about her bookishg world!

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve crossed the Atlantic ocean twice on a luxury motor yacht and survived the phenomena of passing through the Bermuda Triangle. Strange things really did occur…

2. What is your nickname? 
Dim – but nice. Fairly accurate summation.

3. What is your greatest fear?
My own-kind scares me the most. I’m also a bit nervy about the absence of fear. Without the effort to master it (fear), we lack the momentum to keep moving forward, just ask any wildebeest.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
A bag of liquorice allsorts: mellifluous, satirical, quirky, pure-hearted, inspired.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Tenacious, generous, committed, evolving, genuine.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

When you are enjoying your summer holidays and your mum says “We’re going on a road trip!” Would you be excited? Well here’s one thing we all know, Greg Heffley would not.

The 9th book in the adventurous Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is full of ups and downs and even tragic situations.

Jeff Kinney has continued to use his skills and attributes that he possesses to the maximum with books like this one.

12 Curly Questions with author A L Tait

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I draw smiley faces on my hardboiled eggs so that I know they’re cooked.

2. What is your nickname?  
Everybody calls me Al.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing the people I love.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
Fast, furious and adventurous, with underlying humour and warmth.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Curious, Accessible, Disciplined, Excitable, Passionate.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Hmmm. Maybe Frodo Baggins: a huge adventure, an amazing friend in Sam, and five breakfasts a day.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Review: Meet... Nancy Bird Walton

Meet…Nancy Bird Walton is another stunning book in the ‘Meet Series’, profiling extraordinary Australian men and women who have shaped Australia’s history.

Nancy Bird Walton grew up during the golden age of aviation. By the time she was 13, Nancy knew she wanted to fly. When she was 18, Nancy studied under the famous aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. This story details how Nancy began her career and became Australia's first female commercial pilot.

Review: The Dragon and the Knight

Robert Sabuda is a leading children's pop-up book creator and paper engineer. But his version of 'pop-up' is very different to most people's!

The intricacy and sheer scope of his creations has to be seen to be believed. Entire houses spring from the pages. Dragons roar and paper flames shoot out from the book. And adventurers sail forth in paper ships that are accurate to the tiniest detail. These pop-ups are true artworks.

KBR Short Story: Sheoak

by Su White

Su White is a writer based in Melbourne. A former IT consultant and graphic designer, Su began writing soon after becoming a mum. Her work has been shortlisted in four national writing competitions, published in two anthologies and performed on stage. One day Su hopes to write a story her young son will love to read. You can find Su 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, 27 November 2014

Review: Hootie the Cutie

Hootie the owl lives in an enchanted forest. She doesn’t like being the smallest: she wants everyone to know how brave she is, but there’s a hitch. Her father tries to protect her from so many things, with the words ‘No, Hootie, this is not for you.’

But one day, the forest is aflutter with fear and there is only one owl small enough to investigate. Can Hootie the Cutie become Hootie the Brave? It’s as much about parents letting go as it is about finding strength deep inside to face the unknown.

Review: Meet the Anzacs (Meet... series)

With the recent flood of ANZAC books on the market, Meet…the ANZACS is something special.

An integral part of the‘Meet Series’about extraordinary men and women who have shaped Australia's history, Meet the ANZACS tells the tale of how the ANZAC legend began.

The acronym ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps; the name given to the Australian and New Zealand troops who landed at Gallipoli in World War I. The name is now a symbol of bravery and mateship, and this story captures these themes beautifully.

Guest Post: Diana Weston discusses Magpie Baby

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Diana Weston to share the inspiration behind her lovely new picture book, Magpie Baby, published by Captain Honey. Diane shares here the important role music can play in connecting children with stories.

Most people these days expect to see every children's storybook full of interesting illustrations and vivid colours. BJ Novak recently created the exception to prove this rule with his wonderful The Book With No Pictures. But generally the importance of the visual in engaging and maintaining a child's interest is undisputed. What is not so appreciated is that the aural is of equal importance.

Continuous living traditional cultures such as the Australian aboriginals show that music has been entwined with storytelling for thousands of years. Other ancient cultures such as the Roman and Greek suggest, through visual representation, that music accompanied dramatic and special events and epic tales.

Modern-day science has been able to demonstrate that there are centres for musical appreciation in the brain; that immature brains make important intellectual connections under the influence of music; and that music helps in brain development on many fronts – social , physical, emotional, creative and for literacy.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Guest Post: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Australian author Teena Raffa-Mulligan with some words of advice for children's authors who aren't sure how to proceed when a manuscript is rejected. Read on as Teena encourages you to 'see the possibilities'.

You’re a writer and you want to be published. You know you’ve got the ability, the discipline and the dedication to make the grade. You’re prepared to work hard at achieving your author dream. But let me ask you—do you also have an open mind?

Hmm, I hear you thinking. What’s that got to do with success as an author? Think again. Your perspective can be the difference between remaining a wannabe author forever and becoming published. If you’re too set in your ideas and expectations about your writing, it can prevent you from seeing all the possibilities and being open to opportunities.

Often when we set out to become authors we have one type of publication in mind—books—and the goal is for a multi-book contract with a leading international publisher. The reality is that it’s tough to crack the market, especially now when the only constant is change. But take a broader perspective and that published author dream can come true in unexpected ways.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: Sunker's Deep (The Hidden series #2)

Sharkey is a teenage ‘Sunker’. His people are submarine dwellers who, for three hundred years, have been avoiding the ‘ghosts’ who hunt and destroy people who use machines. The Sunkers remain underwater by day and surface to replenish their air and power supplies by night.

Sharkey and his little crew are on a small submersible when the last surviving underwater mother ship is bombed and sunk. Now is Sharkey’s time to be a real hero, but can he unwind the web of lies he’s created over the years? And what does he do with the young ‘ghost’ they rescue from the water? Is it true these ‘ghosts’ are just people too?

Review: Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret

On Archie Greene's twelfth birthday he receives a mysterious present: an old book written in a language he doesn't understand. Its arrival triggers an avalanche of strange events.

First, he has to leave his grandmother (whom he's lived with since the death of his parents and sister) to find an aunt, uncle and cousins he never even knew he had.

Second, he discovers a world of magic and enters the Museum of Magical Miscellany, where people are divided into finders, binders and minders — those who find magical books, those who bind and repair the books, and those who then look after them.

12 Curly Questions with author Gary Crew

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t write.

2. What is your nickname?
Gazza (from my friends???) or Grumps (from my grandchildren)

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights and snakes. Like stepping on a snake on the edge of a high building

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
I love what I do.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Review: In Hades

In Hades is the new fantasy YA verse novel written by the talented and successful Australian author Goldie Alexander. YA verse novels have become increasingly popular and successful in Australia and overseas. As Goldie expressed in her guest post on KBR on 27 October, “we live in an age where more people are being published but fewer have time to read”. So, what better way to reach young adult, reluctant and male readers than to write a condensed (In Hades is 15,000 words) and engaging novel?

The first short chapter draws the reader in with a fast description of a car accident. Seventeen-year-old Kai is killed. He’s a street kid who steals a car to go on a joyride with his autistic younger brother Rod who also dies. From there, the story takes up in Hades, an in-between place in the afterlife that will determine Kai’s fate.

Whilst anxious about the whereabouts of his brother, he meets an anorexic girl who initially doesn’t speak. He names her Bilby.G after the bilby tattoo on her shoulder. They encounter an old blind man who tells them they are in Hades, the isle of the dead, and they must seek forgiveness for their earthly deeds before their souls will rest in peace.

Review: Please Mr Panda

Mr Panda has a tray of delicious doughnuts. Very politely, he asks each of the animals whether they'd like one. Naturally, they all want one (who wouldn't?) but for some reason Mr Panda changes his mind and doesn't give any of them a single doughnut.

Until, that is …

Shout Out: Tashi and the Wicked Magician

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Tashi! The much-loved storyteller has also made his television debut with the series showing in Australia on Channel 7 this year and on the ABC in 2015 (for a look at the official trailer click here).

So, to celebrate all these achievements, Tashi has returned with four fabulous adventures of mystery and magic. There's a Magnificent Magician with a greedy plan; a haunted house about to go up in flames; ruthless ruffians after a rare orchid; and a quest for the bravest person in the land to face the fire-breathing Red Whiskered Dragon.

Here's to another 20 years of courage and daring, Tashi-style!

Title: Tashi and the Wicked Magician
Authors: Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg
Illustrators: Geoff Kelly and Kim Gamble
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781743315088
For ages: 8+
Type: Junior Fiction

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Review: Whisper the Dead (The Lovegrove Legacy #2)

We first met cousins Emma, Gretchen and Penelope in A Breath of Frost. Debutantes in Regency England, they are also all Lovegroves and therefore members of one of England's oldest witch families. In the first book, the focus was on Emma. Now we turn to Gretchen.

Feisty, fun and unbelievably frustrated at always having to act like a lady, Gretchen chafes at the demands of high society. She's smart, resourceful, full of opinions and not afraid to share them — basically, she's more than a match for any nobleman. She's also coming to terms with the discovery that she's a 'Whisperer'; not only can she detect spells but she can also hear centuries' worth of witches whispering spells in her head.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review: Maps

Sometimes it's hard reviewing books. Not because you have nothing to say, but because you don't even know where to begin.

Such is my conundrum with Maps. Sometimes words don't cut it, but I'll try.

This is a big book. A big, beautiful, impressive book. There are a lot of pages, too, and each and every page has been crammed to bursting with countries. And cities. And towns. And villages.

There are also kids. And adults. And people in local costumes. Flora, fauna, food, sites, sights, monuments, buildings, rivers, lakes, mountains, sportspeople. Even the oceans are stuffed withe whales and dolphins and fish and crustraceans.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Christina Booth

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I'm terrified of heights (and spiders, and fast cars, and creamed spinach)

2. What is your nickname?
I've had a few but the one that is the most endearing is Min, from the Goon show. My Dad always uses nicknames for people and he adored the Goon's, we were raised on them. I was Min and my brother was Eccles. Dad was Blue Bottle.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights (spiders, being in a fast car, having to eat creamed spinach)

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Starts a bit wordy, disorganised, ends up prosaic and hopeful.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Thoughtful, focused, evolving, adaptable, passionate.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Possibly Robyn Mathers from John Marsden's Tomorrow series. Not that I'm as good as her, but I relate to her pacifism and her faith. I think I am strong in a similar way, and loyal.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Review: It Wasn't Me

Finnigan is forever getting into strife. The bath overflows, his breakfast spills everywhere and an indoor plant falls out of its pot, forever broken. ‘But Mum, it wasn’t me,’ is always Finnigan’s reply.

Look carefully and you will find his imaginary monster friend hiding on nearly every page. This imaginary friend’s mischief is big and the adventures that he creates are monster-sized.

Review: London Sketchbook

My heart beat out of my chest when I first laid eyes on this book. And its interior sent it galloping (don't you love it when that happens?).

In this follow-up to Paris Sketchbook, this visual treat by graphic designer and fashion artist Jason Brooks, sends readers straight to the streets of London ... to its iconic buildings and landmarks, yes, but also its stylish fashionistas - the bustling footpaths slick with rain, the breezy parks aflutter with pigeons and the prettiest of shops, tinkling with china, white and blue.

It's London at its most beautiful, most intimate, most intricate--with scenes from the inside of some of the world's most beautiful restaurants, to exclusive peeks behind the scenes during Fashion Week.

KBR Short Story: The Big Stump Ghost

by Robert Walton

Grandfather, are we lost?

Grandfather leaned on his staff.  “Of course not!”

The boy remained silent.

“I’ve walked this path a thousand times.”

The boy pointed to where moonlight drifted between black trunks like falling snow.  “What’s that?”

Grandfather peered through shifting shadows. “Ah, the Big Stump!”  He cleared his throat. “I took you on this scenic route tonight.”

“Thank-you, grandfather.”

“Don’t mention it.  Come along.”

Grandfather patted The Big Stump when they reached it.  “Have a seat, boy.”

Moonlight dusted his dark hair with silver as he sat and looked at the stump’s great breadth.  “It’s huge!”

“The greatest tree ever to live.”

“Who cut it down?”

“Now, that’s a story.”

The boy looked up expectantly.

“Trees long ago had spirits and the greatest of those spirits walked just as men do.”



The great oak’s spirit was tall as a bear and guarded the forest from greedy woodcutters.  One day, a crow whispered news into his ear that took him deep into the mountains.  He came to a twisted pine.

The pine’s twisted spirit spoke, “Welcome, Great Oak.”

“You sent for me?”

“There is trouble nearby.”

“Show me.”

Pine limped up a steep path on skinny legs. Oak followed.  They came to the forest boundary and stopped.


” A dozen yards away an oak seedling drooped near death.

“How did it get there?”

“No knowing,” answered Pine, though he knew very well that Crow had dropped it there.  “But you must save it!”

“My powers cease beyond the forest’s boundary.”

“Surely you may go that small distance!”

“I’ll try.”  Oak stepped toward the seedling and his knees buckled.

Pine signaled and Crow darted away.  “Now I shall rule the forest!” he thought.

Oak went forward on his knees.

Crow swooped down to a group of men carrying axes and saws.  When Crow rose, the woodcutters, trooped toward the great oak.

Oak crawled.

Shining blades bit.  Chips and sawdust flew.

Oak cried out, “Steel!”

The great oak shivered beneath cruel blades.

Oak cupped the seedling in his hand, rose, staggered and fell across the boundary. He placed the seedling on rich earth.

The great tree fell and shook all the forest.

“And so the Oak’s spirit disappeared and only the Big Stump remains.”

“What happened to Pine?”

“That’s another story.”

 The boy thought for a moment. “Do you think that the Big Stump’s spirit might yet live?

“Some say he was saved by the seedling, but I don’t think so.”

Three fairies, blue and glowing, flitted from beech boughs above and hovered behind grandfather’s head.



“Are there fairies in this forest?”

“Of course not!”

The fairies giggled like tiny bells tinkling.

“Don’t be foolish, boy!”

The fairies drew miniature bows tight and shot silver arrows into Grandfather’s left ear.

“Ouch!”  He slapped his ear.  “Pesky mosquito!”

A great, green hand swept down from above and gently scooped the fairies into its palm.


 “What, boy?”

The hand disappeared behind black branches.

“Nothing, grandfather.”

Robert Walton is a retired teacher and a life-long rock-climber and mountaineer. His writing about climbing has been published in the Sierra Club's "Ascent”. His novel "Dawn Drums” recently won the 2014 Arizona Authors Association prize for best published fiction. He and his wife Phyllis live in King City, California and have done so for forty-two years. See more at his Chaos Gate website.

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, 20 November 2014

Review: Matisse's Garden

A slice of the works of French artist Henri Matisse is brought to life in this semi-biographical picture book featuring striking papercut illustrations by Italian illustration Cristina Amodeo.

Capturing Matisse's obsession with papercutting (which he turned to in the 1940s), Amodeo has beautifully captured his lusciously-coloured style in this book, penned by Samantha Friedman.

Primarily known as a painter, Matisse was also a printmaker, sculptor and draughtsman. He was also a formative creator of plastic arts. Matisse began papercutting (called gouaches découpés), after becoming wheelchair bound, post-surgery, in 1941. He created cuttings sometimes on an enormous scale, and called his creations 'painting with scissors'.

Review: A Compendium of Collective Nouns--Books I and II

If you don't fall in love-at-first-sight with the covers of these books by Tassie author/illustrator Jennifer Skelly, you'll have fallen head-over-heels by page one. Not only for the divine illustrations but the for the literary pleasure her work encompasses--from her personal passion for the idiosyncrasies of our incredible English language, to how smitten this animal lover is with the glory of our collective nouns.

Guest Post: Frances Watts - Roman Omens and Baked Dormice

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome award-winning author Frances Watts to discuss her latest book, middle fiction novel The Raven's Wing. Frances shares the challenges and excitement of the research needed to write historical fiction.

Last year, I fulfilled a dream: I went to Ancient Rome.

At uni, I studied both literature and history, mainly Roman history, and when it came time to choose a major I was torn. Although I chose literature, I did always think that one day I’d like to immerse myself in history again.

When I started writing, I saw my chance—why not write historical novels? But I didn’t quite have the courage. History is so…big. I was overwhelmed by the thought of the research involved, by the responsibility to Get It Right.

Writing the Sword Girl series, set in a medieval castle, gave me both practice and confidence. Because the books were aimed at a younger audience, I could paint the setting in quite broad brushstrokes, though I always aimed for historical accuracy as far as possible. (I must confess, however, that the talking swords, talking cat and crocodiddle in the moat are not strictly accurate…)

And I loved the research. The more knowledge I acquired, the easier it became to walk those medieval streets. And so I finally felt brave enough to don Roman sandals…

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Blog Tour: My Unforgettable Year

KBR welcomes author Adem Besim on tour for the release of his new young adult novel, My Unforgettable Year. This is a coming-of-age story about triumph and tragedy, love and loss, acceptance and letting go. We hope you enjoy this interview, which sheds some interesting light on Adem’s writing.

When did you begin your writing journey?

Besides the stories I wrote as a teenager, I began writing this novel in January 2012. I worked on it on and off throughout that year. I finally struck a motivational nerve the following year in March during my course, and got back to it. I finished it around May/June of this year.

What is your greatest joy in writing?

My greatest joy in writing is the achievement of creating a story in your mind with realistic characters, settings, and a plot, and executing it. I also love hearing that my readers were hooked on my work and actually wanted to read it.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Review: Regal Beagle

When the queen of a small kingdom dies, everyone is in mourning. The queen was a good, wise, wonderful queen whom everybody loved. But she never married and had children, and there are no other relatives, so now there is no one to take her place! What are they going to do? Who will rule the kingdom?

Proctor Kindly, the queen's advisor, has no choice but to consult the royal scrolls. There he discovers that if there is no relative to take the queen's place, then her 'best friend' must become the new ruler. But the queen's best friend was Lucy, her dog!

Review: Little Elliot Big City

Little Elliot the Elephant lives in a magnificent Brownstone in New York City (green!). He loves living in a big city but sometimes it's hard being so small in such an enormous place.

When you're so little, you have to be very careful not to be stepped on. It's tough reaching doors and let's not even talking about hailing a cab or buying a cupcake at a local shop where you practically appear invisible, even when you're the cutest spotted elephant around.

12 Curly Questions with author and illustrator Belinda Landsberry

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I think I may be psychic. Not charms, or tarot cards or crystal ball psychic – I just have an uncanny intuition about certain things at certain times. It’s weird. But it’s also very cool!

2. What is your nickname?
Well, since childhood I’ve had many, including Minnie, Bindi, Boo Boo Bear and Miss Mouse to name a few. My family have always called me Minnie because my little sister couldn’t say Belinda. That’s why Miss Mouse has endured over the years as well.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being stranded on a roller coaster either at the top of the biggest rise - or even worse – up-side-down! Aaaarrggghhh!!!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words
I write mostly in rhyme. I just can’t help myself!

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

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review 123 Peas

From the author of New York Times bestseller LMNO Peas, this gorgeous board book is a giggle-worthy trip into the very active life of a community of peas who love to fish, row, garden, swim, travel and much more.

Cute rhyming text and onomatopoeia works beautifully with busy, bright-pastel illustrations featuring large numbers, both numeric and as text.

Numbers run from 1 through 20, then by decade to one hundred.

With firm board pages and rounded corners, 123 Peas is sure to outlast many a repeat read.

1 - 2 - 3 ... adorable!

Title: 123 Peas
Author/Illustrator: Keith Baker
Publisher: Little Simon, $9.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 June 2014
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781442499287
For ages: 0 - 4
Type: Board Book, Toddler Book

Review: Up Down

By now, you should be well aware of how much I love the Total Package when it comes to baby books and toddler books.

By Total Package, I mean a clever concept, high production values and of course, beautiful illustrations.

Herewith: Up Down. Total Package.

Guest Post: Alex Field - Christmas in the Regency Era

One of the joys of writing the Mr Darcy series is that Jane Austen has already set out such a fabulous cast of characters. The challenge has always been to keep the books true to Austen’s time during the Regency era.

In Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck I used Mr Darcy‘s famous quote as inspiration:

"Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.”

 A maypole was featured (drawn by the talented Peter Carnavas) which Jane Austen referenced in a letter to her sister Cassandra. It was a good way of incorporating the theme of dance into the picture book. Animals in a ballroom would not have worked, but outside in the garden they could come together to celebrate the beginning of spring as they danced around the maypole.

When I began writing a Christmas story for Mr Darcy I had to research Christmas during Regency times. Often Christmas came and went without much fanfare.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review: A World of Your Own

Meet Laura.

She really hates standing in lines (who doesn't?!).

Laura loves to create her own world, so her lines aren't queues, no no. They are swirling curling slides. They are people walking along a path. They are whatever she chooses them to be.

Like her own house. It might look pretty boring in real life, but she can make it anything she wants it to be. She can add curly slides, bigger windows. A swimming pool on the roof. And she can sit it at the tippety top of a palm tree.

Review: Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding

Mr Darcy the Duck is back in this gorgeous festive tale and the importance of opening our hearts to all during this special time of year.

Our dapper young duck is prepping his house for Christmas. Securing mistletoe to his front door, he spies Mr Collins the Cat taking far too much interest in Maria the Mouse. Rescuing his young friend, he takes her inside the house.

Caroline the cow, Bingley the horse and Lizzy Duck and her sisters soon arrive. It's time for that classic British tradition--Stir-Up Sunday--when families come together to prep the Christmas pudding.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Review: My Little Star

There are quirky picture books. There are funny picture books. There are clever picture books. And then sometimes there are picture books like this one — sweet, simple and the perfect bonding experience for parent and child.

Review: The Big Question

Elephant is curious. She has a pretty big question. A difficult question. And she can't get it out of her mind.

Fortunately, the Big Meeting is about to begin, and she knows she can ask her friends. Maybe someone will know the answer.

The question is this: How do you know when you love someone?

Of course, everyone has their own interpretation of love.

12 Curly Questions with author Sue Bursztynski

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I have the wrong birthdate on my birth certificate. I discovered this when I was researching in old newspapers and found that while I was born on a Friday - and I know I was, because of what my mother says about that day - my official DOB the year I was born was a Thursday.

2. What is your nickname?
I don't have one. When I was at school, it was Professor, not because I was a nerd (though I was), but after a certain wrestler, because I was feisty. The people who called me that, by the way, were the first to ask me if I was still writing when I met them again years later.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights! Well, not heights as such, I love a great view. Heights with no protective railing.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Quirky, silly, over-the-top, funny, occasionally serious, but only occasionally. Okay, that's eleven. But I say "occasionally" twice.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Funny, exciting, unexpected, versatile, quirky.

Literacy: a Passion, a Skill Set and an Asset for Life

The Reading for Australia (RFA) website started in May 2013 to promote the Kids’ Lit Quiz by providing an online presence to enable all interested in children’s literature find out about this international literary competition for 10 to 13 year old readers.

The Kids’ Lit Quiz started in Australia in 2012, having originated in New Zealand in 1991. Quizzes are also held in the UK, South Africa, Canada and the USA, Singapore and Hong Kong. Regional winners proceed to National Finals, then National Finalists are invited to compete at the World Final (in Connecticut, USA for 2015).

Librarian's Shelf: Reading Doorways

When you find a book that you enjoy, or that your child enjoys, you will probably find that there is something about the way it is written that is particularly appealing. This can be helpful when looking for other books to enjoy.

Librarian Nancy Pearl explains this using the concept of books having ‘reading doorways’. It’s the idea there are four main appeal characteristics - story, character, setting and language - and that each book has a dominant characteristic, or doorway, that attracts the reader. This doesn’t mean there is only one doorway to that book, or that readers only like stories with the same doorway, but they may find that the books they enjoy most tend to have the same doorway.

Speechie's Couch: C is for Communication

Is there a link between communication and literacy skills? You bet there is. Mountains of research now link the ability to produce sounds in words (articulation), the ability to hear sounds in words (phonological awareness), the ability to put words in sentences (grammar), word finding (semantics) and listening (comprehension) skills to the successful development of literacy. Direct formative links exist between age appropriate language development and the emergence of literacy skills.

So how do you know if your child is developing communication skills along expected lines? Speech Pathology Australia offers easy to read guidelines on normal communication development for children with English as their first language. For guidelines for children from 0 – 3 years read more here.

Publisher’s Insider – Illustration Notes: The Dos and Don’ts

I am often asked by aspiring picture book authors how they should present their illustration notes within a manuscript. So, here are a few dos and don’ts.

Only include illustration notes if they are absolutely essential. There is no need to include notes that simply describe what you have already conveyed in your text. You also need to give the illustrator the space to bring their own talent and imagination to the story.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Review: In the Lion

'In the city there's a zoo. In the zoo there's a lion. And in the lion there's … a dentist.'

Whoops! What's a dentist doing in there?!

In the tradition of 'There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly', this hilarious romp of a read builds ever more crazily on just what's inside the lion. A hairdresser? An armadillo? What next?

Review: Animalium

This large format wonder of a book, commanding an imposing place on the bookstore shelf, well deserves its place. From its striking cover to smooth, matte pages and eye-boggling illustrations, you'll be certain you've tripped and fell into the depths of a Natural History Museum the moment you open the cover.

Indeed, I believed I had fallen into a museum of art, let alone one of natural history, when I first saw this book--so rich and detailed were the astonishing illustrations. Expecting it to be a compilation of works from masters past, I was instead amazed and delighted to discover that every single illustration in this book was created by one woman--Katie Scott.

KBR Short Story: Music in the Trees

by Melita Turale



Be still, breath slowly and listen. Listen to the music. Listen to the music in the trees.

Can you hear it? Listen.

Listen with your ears.

The melody swirls and twirls around the bark covered tree trunks. It hums gently like an old man relaxing in his favourite chair.

Can you hear it? Listen.

Listen with your eyes.

The harmony creates an illusion of colours as it rolls and coils along the dancing branches at
twilight. It sparkles and flashes like a hundred ideas yet to be explored.

Can you hear it? Listen.

Listen with your mind.

The song plays widely though the leaves of gold, like a treasure hunter’s hands searching for the last precious coin.

Can you hear it? Listen.

Listen with your body.

Sway with the music. Feel it as it covers and melts all over you like a spell of warm magic.
The music in the trees is one of nature’s ancient instruments.



Listen to the music in the trees.

Melita Turale has been a primary school teacher for almost 19 years. As well as writing, she exhibits her own intuitive artworks. Some of these works are inspired by her writing.

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, 13 November 2014

Event: Monty C. Turtle Learns to Swim Launch

Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of going to the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium for a very unique book launch. What kind of book launch takes place in an aquarium? One about a baby turtle, of course!

Set in Western Australia, Monty C. Turtle Learns to Swim is a heartwarming picture book about a late-hatching baby turtle who wakes up to find that his brothers and sisters have already left for the ocean, but he himself is unable to swim yet. In his journey to learn how to swim and join his siblings, he encounters various Australian sea creatures and ultimately learns that, in order to swim, he has to embrace his own unique abilities.

Review: How to be a Space Explorer

Lonely Planet have come out with another superb batch of Lonely Planet Kids books, just in time for Christmas, and this wonderful hard cover tome will have intrepid outer-space explorers donning their space suits.

In How to be a Space Explorer, kids can explore The Planetarium, learn all about telescopes, the intensity of the sun, and the mind-bending tremendousness of our solar system.

They can enter a gravity and light year simulator, learn all about rockets and become a space cadet (in the literal sense), with briefings on protective clothing, spacewalking and walking on the moon.

Guest Post: Lu Rees Archives - Books Tell Their Stories

We are delighted to welcome Belle Alderman, Director of the Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children's Literature Inc to tell us a little bit about their collection and the way that they source the books included in the Archives. Be warned - if you're a lover of children's books, reading this post is likely to have you booking a trip to Canberra to visit the Archives in the near future. It's hard to resist the thought of so many gorgeous Australian children's books gathered in one place.

Books tell stories, but what about the stories behind the books? The Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children’s Literature collects books and their stories. Both are part of our national heritage.

The Archives began in 1974 so we have been collecting books for many years. One of our major sources is the Canberra Lifeline Book Fairs. Canberra is a reading community, but children outgrow their favourites. Many are donated to Lifeline, then the Archives’ treasure hunters find the books we need for our collection and we buy them. Over the last 30 years, two Lifeline book sorters, Valerie Irwin and Angela Brown, have gone through the thousands of books flooding in and found ones we are missing.

Imagine our excitement when we found a Colin Thiele book that had been on our wish list for 12 years! Before computerised catalogues, Valerie would come out to the Archives to check what we had. These days, our online catalogue makes checking more straightforward. This also results in triple the number of books. In recent years, we are finding more books than we have funds to spend, so we are crowdsourcing through GoFundMe. Our current campaign is almost complete.

We are preserving not just books of high literary quality and award winners. We collect many books that children have loved, then left behind. These include Paul White’s missionary stories, Mary Poppins’ sequels by Pamela Travers, myriad monster tales created by Michael Salmon and the sparkly pink fairy books by Shirley Barber.