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

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review: Extra Weird (Weirdo #3)

Weir Do’s life is strange and unpredictable. Murphy’s Law shadows him. Yet things always have a way of turning out for the best. Weir’s family is blessed with strange skills and these skills are the basis for each chapter in this book. School mates and friends play a part in the havoc that is Weir Do’s life.

The whole Do family is weird but so happy. Each member has the utmost confidence in themselves and they enjoy life to the max. Mum’s favourite expression is ‘just in case’. This validates all the unusual decisions she makes. The decision to enter a competition to win a year’s supply of dog food without owning a dog proves that she does well to stick to her motto.

12 Curly Questions with author R L Stedman

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I hate sewing! When I was growing up clothes were expensive, and girls were expected to make their own clothes. (Boys used to be able to buy them. Lucky boys) My mother, who loved sewing and couldn’t understand that I did not, sent me to a sewing class. It was run by a lady called Mrs Little and it was hideous, because Mrs Little had absolutely no sense of fashion or humour. I spent ages making an extremely ugly nightgown and in the end I failed the class because I could not make the stripes match.

By way of revenge I often have something about making clothes in my novels. In my first novel, A Necklace of Souls, my character hated embroidery. I thought I’d better do something different for Inner Fire, so in Inner Fire my character loved sewing. It was a bit of a stretch, writing that…

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t have one! My kids call me Muuuuum.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Spiders. And not being able to finish the book I’m currently working on.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Clarity, brevity and wit. And hopefully my writing is entertaining.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Sing a story! Draw a story! Swap a story! Celebrate a story!

Today Jackie French, Australian Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year, launches the 2015 Share a Story Calendar. The best-selling author has published over 140 books and in her role as Laureate strives to enrich the lives of young Australians through the power of story and develop a culture of reading.

‘Stories tell us who we are. They teach us empathy so we understand who others are. They give us the power to imagine and create the future.’ – Jackie French

This fun calendar, with a different theme each month, encourages children to share, enjoy and create stories together. Children, parents, avid readers, booksellers, teachers and librarians can interpret each theme in many different ways:

Readings, projects, murals, book swaps, book trailers, snap chats … other ideas can be found on our website, along with monthly newsletters and blog posts from Jackie. The first Share a Story newsletter will be released on Monday 2nd February with the theme ‘Hunt a Story’ to tie in with Library Lovers’ Day on the 14th of February. March’s theme ‘Navigate a Story’ invites children to seek out adventure stories and will follow Jackie’s trip to the 2015 Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy where she will participate in the second International Children’s Laureate Summit.

The Share a Story Calendar can be downloaded, along with other free literacy resources, from the Laureate website: http://www.childrenslaureate.org.au/project/share-a-story/

‘There are a million ways to share a story. To read to a child on your lap; to have a child read to you while you cook dinner; to read to the dog; to join a storytelling session at your library.’ – Jackie French

Share your story ideas, favourite authors, paintings, or whatever this project has inspired you to create on our: the Australian Children’s Laureate's Facebook page or on Twitter: @Ozlaureate

Poka and Mia: At the Cinema

Kitty Crowther is an award-winning Belgian author/illustrator, whose books have been translated into twenty languages. In 2010, she won the world's most prestigious prize for children's literature: the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Now, for the first time, her delightful Poka and Mia series has been translated into English, for an entirely new audience to enjoy.

Poka and Mia are two insects; Mia is the child and Poka is the parent. Through a combination of simple words and endearing illustrations, Kitty Crowther brings vividly to life all the frustrations that can arise from a simple visit to the cinema.

KBR Short Story: The Creepy School House

by Susan Hili

The door opened slightly with a creak… “Push harder,” Jade said.

With another push the door swung open and two girls landed in a heap on the floor.

“WOW!” Erin said as she got up and walked around the classroom. “It gives me goose bumps.”

“I told you it’s creepy,” Jade replied.

The old school house had been closed for many years - ever since the new school was built.

“This is where my granny went to school,” Jade said looking around.

“It’s so dark,” Erin whispered.

“Your eyes will adjust,” Jade replied.

It was still dark and gloomy, even after their eyes adjusted. The windows were covered with white sheets.

“It smells like an old wet dog,” Erin said with her nose screwed up.

They heard faint singing.

“Is that children singing?” Jade asked.

“Yes I think so,” Erin replied.

One of sheets covering the windows started to flutter like a sail on a boat.  All of a sudden it flapped into the air and cracked like a whip. It became loose and started flying around the room.

“It’s a ghost!” Jade blurted.

Shaking with fear Jade and Erin backed into a corner. The ghost hovered, and with huge black holes for eyes gazed down at them. Huddling together shaking with fear they planned their escape.

” Woo Woo!” the ghost wailed.

“Let’s get out of here!” Erin screamed.

They raced towards the door but it slammed shut!

The singing became louder and louder.

Woo…Woo! The ghost came closer. Jade and Erin ducked under a desk. The ghost floated above  them and slowly settled on top of the desk like a tablecloth.

Jade and Erin crawled out from under the desk with the sheet covering them.

Jade peeked out from under the sheet as she guided Erin towards the door. She turned the knob. This time the door opened!

Both squeezed through the small doorway and in their panic stumbled down the steps.

Landing in a tangled mess, they jumped up and unravelled the sheet while hopping around like they were on top of an ants nest.

As they ran away from the school house screaming for their lives, they heard a sound like laughter.

“Keep running! I think it’s a kookaburra,” Jade yelled.

Watching were Ben and Jacob, who were laughing so hard they nearly wet their pants.

“That was so funny,” Ben said as he wound the string up with the sheet trailing behind.

“I’m so glad you heard Jade telling Erin about the creepy school house,” Jacob said.

“You can turn off the CD player now,” Ben said with a snigger.

“I turned it off!” Jacob replied.

Ben and Jacob stared at each other in horror. Inside they heard the children sing louder than ever.


Susan Hili has secretly felt a need to write ever since she was very young.  Recently retired, she now has the time to pursue her passion for writing children stories. The wonderful environment around her home in the Blue Mountains sends her imagination loose, as does spending special time reading stories with her gorgeous granddaughters.  She find walking her dog inspires her to develop ideas for her stories. She also has a passion for illustrations.

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, 29 January 2015

Review: There Will Be Lies

Seventeen-year-old Shelby Cooper leads a boringly routine life. She lives with her mum, Shaylene, who home-schools her, and she pretty much never goes out. Except for Fridays, when she and her mum have a regular appointment at the baseball batting cages followed by ice cream for dinner.

Above all, her mother emphasises, Shelby must stay safe. If she strays from the routine, anything could happen to her, especially as Shelby is deaf.

Review: Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau

Going from strength to heart-thumping strength, this talented creative team continue to win my heart with their latest collaboration.

Madame Chapeau is a hat-maker extraordinaire--indeed, the world's finest. Her hats are painstakingly created with the very best of materials--each feather and bow meticulously placed; each heady creation unique and breathtaking.

Yes, Madame is a dedication soul, to the detriment of her social life, and many an evening she eats supper alone.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Book List: Je suis tolérante

Books, both fiction and nonfiction, can provide stories that offer insight into extreme situations and allow us to experience someone else’s life. This select list represents different cultures, both contemporary and historical, and encourages us to be tolerant and peaceful in a world where there is conflict.

* Je suis tolérante (I am tolerant) has been chosen as a title for this book list in recognition of the need for peace and understanding in the world, and in acknowledgement of the freedom of speech slogan Je suis Charlie.

A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird, Pan Macmillan, $13.99, 9780330437431.

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses #1) by Malorie Blackman, Random House, $16.99, 9780552555708.

Review: A Dog Day

Our darling terrier is off for a walk to the park. It's his favourite place of all and the lead is pulled tight as he makes his way through the town's streets with his owner.

He's hoping he's not forgot the ball.

Ah--there's the park, behind that wall. There's the gate. But wait--where are we going? We're not stopping? Why are we going into the shops? First the hardware store, then the butcher, the cafe, even stopping in the street for a natter.

Will we ever get to the park!?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

12 Curly Questions with author Vicki Englund

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I studied piano at the Queensland Conservatorium and taught piano for 13 years before deciding that writing was what I wanted and needed to do. I still love playing piano.

2. What is your nickname?
My oldest friend, who I’ve known since we were about four, calls me Vic. She’s the only one.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I’m chronically claustrophobic, which means I can’t watch war movies when they dig tunnels and stuff like that.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
I write because I can’t not write. It’s necessary therapy.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Heartfelt, determined, happy, dedicated, caring.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Okay, here’s my credibility out the door. In a weird sort of way I’d love to be Bella Swan from Twilight. I know, it’s cheesy and has a lot of other faults but the intensity of the emotions taps into the 18 year-old girl inside me and it would be wonderful to have a handsome young vampire devoted to me for eternity! Unlike some people who have criticised the character for not being a good female role model, I think Bella is very strong, determined and courageous.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Review: Everything Beautiful

Riley Rose has big plans and they don’t include Spirit Ranch Holiday Camp, but what can she do when it’s her punishment for being sprung, big time? There is no choice, unless her getaway plans work.

The first time I read Everything Beautiful, it took my breath away, but I wanted to hide it from my daughter so she wouldn’t get any ideas. The second time I read Everything Beautiful, it took my breath away again. I suspect it will every time I read it over the years.

Riley wants to be a badass but she can’t help caring in spite of herself. She might want to be partying, but she is the party, if only she could see how she inspires life and energy in those she meets.

Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Last year, I had my first taste of E. Lockhart's brilliant writing with her critically acclaimed and bestselling book We Were Liars (see our KBR review here).

In the wake of that book's success, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks has now been published for the first time in Australia (after numerous awards and nominations when first published in the US back in 2008). And I'm so glad it has!

When we meet Frankie, she is fifteen, very smart and a privileged student at the elite Alabaster Academy. Over the summer holidays, she has grown taller, filled out in all the right places, tamed her frizzy hair and become head-turningly attractive.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Review: Square Eyes

Craig Smith, who brought us the phenomenally successful The Wonky Donkey (KBR review), adds another fun sing-a-long story for kids to his repertoire with Square Eyes.

As you can probably guess from the title, Square Eyes features a group of characters (a rather cute panda and his animal friends) who spend way too much time sitting in front of the television. The lyrics of the song, illustrated by Scott Tulloch, encourage Panda and his friends to take some time away from the television to exercise and find other fun things to do like reading, playing games, visiting the library and using their imagination.

Review: Rita's Rhino

Rita is desperate to have a pet, but her mother really isn't keen. After all, pets are stinky, greedy things that require taking for walks and cleaning up after. But when Rita agrees to take on all the responsibility of caring for a pet, her mother relents — Rita can have a pet flea!

The flea, however, isn't such a success, as Rita can't even see it. The tadpole isn't a hit either. But the rhino from the local zoo, who just happens to come home with Rita one day, is absolutely perfect!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review: Pearlie's Ghost (Our Australian Girl: Pearlie #4)

Pearlie's Ghost, the fourth and last book in Pearlie’s story, focuses on the Japanese bombing of Darwin. Pearlie misses the evacuation ship and is separated from her parents and brother due to her search for Tinto, her friend Naoko’s pigmy marmoset that she was caring for.

Amidst the chaos, she finds a letter addressed to her from Naoko, who is now in Adelaide working with her mother at a Reverend’s house. Her dad is in an internment camp and they are unable to visit him.

People are being moved to a place of safety after the bombing. Half-castes are separated from whites and Pearlie manages to travel till Adelaide with Hazel on a goods train.

Guest Post: Alyssa Brugman - Five Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Began Publishing Novels

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Alyssa Brugman, author of numerous books including Alex as Well, Girl Next Door, and junior fiction horse books, The Shelby series. Alyssa has some straight-talking advice for writers just starting out on their writing career as she shares the five things she wishes she had known before she began publishing novels.

1. It takes a team to publish your book
You can’t typeset. You can’t. You can’t design a cover. You don’t know when is the best time to release your book. You don’t know what other books are about to come out, but your publisher does. When your editor says a paragraph you spent four hours writing sucks, it probably does. Change it. They are experts. They have trained and have much more experience publishing books then you do. Be graceful and let them do their job.

2. Get to know the person on the front desk, or the work experience kid
Publishing is well populated by women, and women frequently have babies. They go on maternity leave all the time, which means that succession planning in publishing is a big deal. It also means that people lower in the ranks can be promoted relatively rapidly. The person on reception could be the commissioning editor much faster than you might imagine. Of course, we want to be courteous to everyone, because that’s nice manners, but take the time to remember everyone’s name. Talk to them and find out what they’re about. You don’t know where they will end up.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Review: The Big Switch (Kaboom Kid #1)

Who better than a cricketer to write children’s books around cricket? David Warner has written a series of four books about Davey Warner who is passionate about cricket, and his mates at school and their cricket team, the Sandhill Sluggers. His bat is named Kaboom, and his dog is Max. Max helps the team practise as he’s an expert at catching them out.

Summer holidays are over. Mr Mudge, their teacher again this year, is as crabby as ever and doesn’t want to hear a word about cricket. Although Davey and his mates are in the same class, they are scattered all over the place and bully Mo Clouter is next to Davey making his life miserable. On the first day Davey gets detention after Mo uses Davey’s ruler to fire spitballs. But this act leads to a light bulb moment for Davey, and he comes up with a way to win the next two critical cricket matches.

KBR Short Story: The First Day of School

by Kym Langfield

Katie stood clinging to her mum’s hand, her knees wobbling like crazy.

Suddenly a huge, green monster with a hairy chin lunged at her.

“Hello dear,” it shrieked. “I’m your teacher.”

“No!” Katie screamed.

Just then, Katie felt someone shake her awake.

“Katie, are you alright?”

She sat up.

“Mum, I had a bad dream!”

“Well it’s all over now,” her mother kissed her forehead. “Besides, it’s time to get up…it’s your first day of school!”

“Oh no,” Katie cried, “I don’t want to go!”

“It’s going to be fine.” Her mother handed her a school dress.

“I don’t like this uniform,” Katie grimaced. “It’s too stiff.”

“You’ll get used to it.”

Katie trudged into the kitchen.

“I don’t have any friends,” Katie moaned into her cereal bowl.

“You’ll soon make some,” her mum said cheerfully.

“What if I need to go the toilet?” she asked.

“You can ask your teacher.”

Katie pictured the green monster and shuddered.

She thought she might just hold on.

“What if I get hungry?”

“You will eat at recess and lunch.”

“But I don’t know how to read yet,” Katie exclaimed. “Everyone will laugh at me!”

“They’re all learning too,” her mother explained. “You’ll learn lots of wonderful things like writing, counting and even sports.”

Just then, Katie’s older brother Tom ran in.

He threw his school bag over his shoulder and grinned.

“Don’t worry Katie - I was scared on my first day too, but school is heaps of fun! Mum, can we go now?”

“Soon,” she smiled. “I’ll just pack Katie’s lunch.”

She placed a cheese sandwich, a homemade muffin and a bottle of water in Katie’s colourful lunch box.

It looked delicious.

But Katie still didn’t want to go to school.

“Come on,” her mother took her hand. “I’ll be with you every step of the way.”

They walked along the footpath to school and butterflies darted around Katie’s stomach.

Then a big bike flew past them, making Katie jump.

“G’day Tom,” the rider called back. “See you at school.”

Katie didn’t like the look of the big kids.

They walked through the school gates and the bell rang loudly.

“I want to go home,” Katie whimpered.

“It’s going to be okay,” her mother whispered. “Come on, let’s meet your teacher.”

Katie was on the verge of tears as they approached a bright, red building.

Children were running around everywhere.

They didn’t look scared.

“Katie, there’s your teacher,” her mother cried.

Katie gazed up fearfully but then gasped with surprise.

Her teacher was not a monster at all, but a young lady with long, dark hair and blue eyes that sparkled.

“Hello Katie,” she smiled, her eyes crinkling in the corners. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

Katie’s fears melted away instantly.

She grinned back. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you too.”

Then she took her teacher’s hand and went into the building, not looking back once.

She knew everything was going to be fine.

Kym writes novels and short stories for children and young adults. She has published a book with The Book Company and was recently awarded third prize in the Writers' Unleashed Picture Book Competition 2014 for "The Baby's Enormous Cry". She is a mum of two adorable girls and is a primary school teacher. Kym is passionate about children's literature. She loves sharing adventure and magic with young readers and runs writing and book making workshops for children. 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, 22 January 2015

Review: Duelgum - The Story of Mother Eel

This is the story of Duelgum, the mother eel. She goes on a long journey from her waterhole on the banks of the Brisbane River to the sea at Morton Bay where she lays her eggs in the seagrass in the special nesting ground at the bottom of the ocean before returning home.  

The story then focuses on the journey undertaken by her babies as they hatch and travel to the waterhole, a place of safety where they belong and have everything the need.

Uncle Joe Kirk, the Brisbane and Wakka Wakka elder who shared the story of Karana: The Story of Father Emu (KBR review), brings another Indigenous Australian tale to life for young readers. Duelgum: The Story of Mother Eel follows the life cycle of the eel, from waterhole to ocean and back again. The freshwater eel plays a significant role in the Wakka Wakka culture and is a spiritual totem related to ‘belonging’.

Review: Monsters Love Underpants

Take a group of fun-loving monsters, add a dazzling array of underpants in all shapes and sizes and you've got a recipe for toddler entertainment!

This bright, bold book is laugh-out-loud gorgeous. From the monsters prowling through dingy dungeons in their armour-plated underpants to the large beach-loving monster doing battle with the mother of all wedgies, every page will inspire chuckles from kids and adults alike.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Review: When Lollipop Ladies Attack!

Abby is dreading Monday at school. Her Mum is the new Lollipop Lady (sorry, School Crossing Supervisor) and Abby is so embarrassed. What will all of the other students think when they see her Mum in the glow-in-the-dark coat and hat, holding the big ‘lollipop’ STOP sign?

When a driver challenges her mother’s authority, will Abby still be wishing her mother had a normal job like the other mothers, or will she be proud to be the daughter of the Lollipop Lady?

This sweet junior fiction novel by Australian author Vicki Englund is ideal for early readers, sharing the story of Abby’s feeling about her mother’s new job simply but with humour and in a way that young children will easily relate to. What young child hasn’t wished at least once that their parents had ‘cool’ jobs like the parents’ of their friends or been a little bit embarrassed by something their parent does or says in front of their friends?

Review: Far Far Away

Tom McNeal is one of my favourite authors (his adult novel To Be Sung Underwater is one of the best books I've ever read), so I was thrilled to discover his recent book for young adults. And it didn't disappoint.

Jeremy Johnson Johnson lives in the small town of Never Better with his dad. His mother left several years ago, at which time his father pretty much took to his bed, where he's remained ever since. Jeremy is also the owner of the Two-Book Bookstore, which stocks only the two volumes of his grandfather's autobiography and which he inherited when his grandfather died. Book sales are, understandably, slow and Jeremy and his dad are mere months away from financial ruin.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Review: This Shattered World (Starbound Trilogy #2)

Captain Jubilee Chase is trying to crush the rebellious colonists on Avon, an outpost planet. Little does she know it, but young, good looking Flynn Cormac, as one of the Rebels’ strongest leaders, is her archenemy. The two should never meet, but desperate conditions lead to desperate measures.

This high action sequel to These Broken Stars (KBR review) is not what you’d expect. The characters are as different to those in Book 1 as is their habitat, but don’t be concerned. The stakes are just as high and so is the action. This time, however, entire communities are at risk rather than two individuals.

The threads of mystery and intrigue that wove through These Broken Stars continue in This Shattered World, elusive at times but always hovering in the background.

12 Curly Questions with Hannah Chandler

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I participated in my first public speaking competition at the age of 4. I was only learning to read properly at the time which meant my speech had to be written using pictures rather than words.

2. What is your nickname?
Punky. It was given to me by my Dad when I was a little girl.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Birds.I don’t like it when they fly close to me, they creep me out!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Fun,but with an educational message. (Sorry, that’s only 6 words!)

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Excited. Evolving. Imaginative. Fun. Grateful (extremely grateful that Exilse Publishing has given me this opportunity at such a young age).

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review: Quest

Quest is the second in this wordless picture book series. It takes two children into small cameo moments where they must problem solve their way to the next step and also across sweeping landscapes. As this boy and girl use their wits to save the king of colours, there is much to discuss.

What sort of king has crayons for treasures? What does his map of coloured lines mean and where are all the crayons? Is that purple bird magical? Where did it come from? Can the children trust a purple bird when they are in danger? What would you do?

Review: Breakdown

It's 2084 and the world is a cruel and brutal place. In the aftermath of a nuclear catastrophe, food is scarce, law and order have evaporated, and the daily struggle for survival is all-consuming. Melissa and her Nan don't have much but at least they have each other — until, that is, Nan goes out in the freezing night to get shoes for Melissa's birthday and falls, breaking her ankle.

A simple accident but one that leads to Nan's death and Melissa's kidnapping by a ruthless gang.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Review: Excavate! Dinosaurs

So Christmas and New Year have passed and the school holidays still have a few weeks to go. If your young ones are dinosaur enthusiasts, however, then you're in luck, as this awesomely wonderful activity book is sure to keep them occupied for hours if not days!

Starting with a brief explanation of palaeontology, Excavate! Dinosaurs then goes on to examine the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods before giving a detailed guide to twelve of the most amazing dinosaurs that once lived on Earth. From Triceratops horridus to Allosaurus fragilis, each dinosaur is beautifully illustrated, while fascinating facts provide plenty of 'Did you know …?' fodder for the aspiring palaeontologist.

12 Curly Questions with author Paul Russell

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I learned to type on a typewriter and to this day still touch type with nine fingers because I wasn't strong enough to press down any keys with the pinkie finger on my right hand when I was learning.

2. What is your nickname?
'Russ' short for Russell, my friends are a creative bunch.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Growing up and having to act like an adult.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Verbose, quirky, whimsical, humorous, unplanned, uplifting and childish (I hope).

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Optimistic, ambitious, imaginative, passionate, amusing.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Arthur Dent. If I was going to be the last human alive after the world had been destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway, I always hoped I would handle it that well and I have also never been able to get the hang of Thursdays.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Review: Relax Kids - How to be Happy

Beautifully presented, Relax Kids: How to be Happy, is a gorgeous book full of brilliant ideas encouraging children to spend quality time with their families, while helping them manage their worries, anxiety and emotions as they grow up to be confident and happy.

It’s marvellous to find a book that inspires a positive attitude and self-esteem in children, while helping families create happy memories together without costing a packet. Children are motivated to use their imagination, with make and do activities that reap the huge emotional rewards of attention, affection and affirmation.

KBR Short Story: I'm Not Going

by Jenny Kingsford

‘I’m NOT going!’ Ruby said as she crossed her arms and pouted.

‘Come on, you’re a Big School Girl now. Let’s get your uniform on.’

Mum wasn’t getting it. There was NO way she was going to put that yucky, stiff uniform on. Ruby was going to wear her purple, sparkly dress to Rainbow Preschool. She would hug her favourite teacher, Miss Angelique, then do the teddy bear puzzle then paint a purple painting for her Mum. Then she’d play dress-ups with her best friend, Charlotte. She was NOT going to Big School.

Mum was still holding out that new blue uniform to her. She was tapping her foot and frowning.

‘I know it’s a bit scary to go to a new school without Charlotte but it’s time to get ready.’

Ruby’s face felt hot and Mum’s face was blurry. Ruby was NOT going to cry.

‘I told you. I’m NOT going!’ Ruby ran to her bedroom and hid under the bed. She buried her face into her doll, Matilda. She smelt the faint whiff of strawberry and felt better.

When Ruby went to Kinder Orientation last year the teacher, Mrs Williams had smiled at Ruby but it didn’t reach her eyes the way it did when Miss Angelique smiled at her. Her lollies had been peppermints, which Ruby hated. Miss Angelique’s raspberry heart-shaped lolly-pops were just for birthdays and they made your tongue bright red for hours.

Ruby had not said a word at Kinder Orientation. She’d decided that if she was quiet enough, she might become invisible.When a girl with the longest, blonde plaits Ruby had ever seen said, ‘Hi, I’m Sienna’ with a big smile, Ruby still remained silent.

Mum poked her head under the bed. ‘Come on, Ruby. Remember Mrs Williams said you could bring a toy on the first day, so Matilda can come too.’

Mum wasn’t giving up. Ruby sighed and got dressed.

As they walked through the school gate, Ruby held tight to her Mum’s hand and squeezed Matilda. Kids were running, skipping or playing with balls. It was so noisy Ruby wished she could cover her ears but didn’t want to let go of Mum’s hand.

As Ruby looked around she saw Sienna. She still had really long plaits and was holding her Dad’s hand and a battered, purple rabbit. Big, fat tears were rolling down her cheeks.

Ruby let go of her Mum’s hand and walked over to Sienna.

‘Hi, Sienna. My name’s Ruby and this is Matilda. Your bunny is my favourite colour.’
Sienna gave a small smile. ‘You remembered my name. This is Carrots.’ She rubbed the bunny to her face so her tears were gone.

The bell rang and the children started to form lines. Ruby took Sienna’s hand. They swung their arms, just like she used to do with Charlotte.

Ruby turned to her Mum. ‘Bye, Mum. Sienna and I have to go to Big School now.’

Jenny Kingsford lives in the Blue Mountains where she has worked as a teacher and psychologist. She is now enjoying her passion for 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, 15 January 2015

Review: As Stars Fall

As Stars Fall is a unique and entrancing read. Christie Nieman has produced an emotional, multi-layered novel of substance that depicts a cascading chain of events two months after a bushfire and its devastating consequences.

The story is told over approximately eleven days and is split into seven sections.

The main character is Robin, who has moved, against her will, to the city with her mother. Her world is scrambled. She is unsure if her parents’ separation is permanent, needs to acclimatize to the city’s beat and her new school is a far cry from her old nurturing country school. She misses her friends and life in country Victoria.

Robin’s life intersects with her strange new friend, tiny, introverted Delia, who is withering since her mum’s death. Then there’s Seth, Delia’s brother whose life has turned into a train wreck. He stumbles from cigarettes to drugs to stub out the pain and his narration is often told through a drug-induced, altered state.

Review: Legacy of the Claw (Animas #1)

In Aldermere every person bonds for life with a particular animal (their Animas). Everyone except Bailey. Instead of an Animas, he has an Absence — no magical bond, no extraordinary abilities, nothing.

So when he takes his place at Fairmount Academy, it's something he tries to keep secret. After all, how is he going to win a place on the school Scavage team if everyone knows he has no Animas? His friend Hal (Animas Bat) knows Bailey's secret, but his other friends — Phi (Animas Falcon) and Tori (Animas Snake) — only suspect what might lie at the heart of Bailey's insecurities.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Review: Magpie Baby

Magpie Baby is a musical story for babies and toddlers, featuring eight short songs accompanied by a brief description of little Anna Dorothy as she grows from a sleepy baby to an active, confident toddler and beyond.

The book is accompanied by a CD with a recording of each of the eight songs performed on a combination of harpsichord, recorder and cello, with the text of teach story read as an introduction before each piece.

The combination of words, pictures, music and lyrics combines to create a musical story of Anna Dorothy’s development.

Review: Tate Kids Modern Art and British Art Activity Books

Oh Tate, how I love you. You're always so pretty, so clever, so lustrous on the production-front. In these two new activity books, you've done it again.

Art and design aficionados, both books feature to-die-for graphic design elements and peeks at some of Britain's finest artworks, bringing both British and modern art to life.

British Art has zany activities based on artworks by some of Britain's most exciting artists. Play a game of 'Formaldehyde and Seek' inspired by Damien Hirst. Find out how to capture the spectacular glow of Turner's painted sunsets with a torch and some cellophane.

Modern Art is based on 10 major modern and contemporary artworks. Fun facts and games will fire kids' imaginations, while each activity is carefully designed to encourage a deeper understanding of the artist's approach and the concepts behind each artwork.

Packed with James Lambert's energetic, colourful illustrations, these activity books show that art can be accessible, enjoyable and above all, fun, even for the very young.

Title: Tate Kids Modern Art and Tate Kids British Art
Author: Sharna Jackson
Illustrator: James Lambert
Publisher: Tate, $15.40 RRP
Publication Date: 1 January 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781849762410/9781849763035
For ages: 4 - 9
Type: Activity Book

Review: On the Jellicoe Road

It’s been said that reading (at least one of) Melina Marchetta’sbooks, should be one of the “Top 10 things to do” in your lifetime. I utterly agree!

Marchetta is a master when it comes to crafting words, creating characters you will fall in-love with and immersingthe reader into worlds fullof soul you won’t want to leave, feeling a myriad of emotions along the way. Pure genius!

I had the honour of meeting Melina Marchetta last July in Sydney and listened to her speak about her writing, directing and the making of Jellicoe Road, which is currently in production.
So it is with great trepidation and respect that I attempt to review this book.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Review: Hope in a Ballet Shoe

Michaela DePrince was born Mabinty Bangura in the war-torn country of Sierra Leone. By the age of four, her mother had died of famine and her father had been killed by rebels.

Fearful, hungry and riddled with disease, Mabinty was surviving as best she could in an orphanage when one day the wind blew a magazine through the orphanage gates. On its cover was the picture of a young ballet dancer and, in that moment, a spark flared in Mabinty's heart.

12 Curly Questions with author and illustrator Frané Lessac

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
In high school, I took art as an elective. My grades were so bad that after school I would crawl through the classroom window and change my grades in the teacher’s book.

2. What is your nickname? 
 “Frangipani”. It’s my jumbie name given to me by the people of Montserrat. Jumbies are mythological ghost spirits in Caribbean folklore.When the spirits don't know your real name, they can't find you.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Not being upgraded on an airplane…I wish.

It’s having an incorrect date or time for a flight. I once got stuck on a Tahitian Island for three days because of mixing up departure details!

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words.
Self-taught, childlike, naive, primitive, with a touch of whimsy.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as an illustrator.
professional…tenacious…imaginative… colourful … fun.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Review: A is for Australia

A is for Australia is a gorgeously illustrated alphabet book for children introducing them to some of Australia’s special places. From the ocean to the outback, author and illustrator Frané Lessac takes readers on a visual tour of familiar and not quite so familiar Australian places as she works through the alphabet.

With only 26 letters, it is impossible to feature every major city or landmark, but A is for Australia offers a wonderful selection of places that demonstrates the incredibly diverse geography and experiences to be found in this country. From Bondi to Kakadu, Oodnadatta to the Torres Strait Islands, by the end of the book readers will have a chance to visit every state and territory, beaches, outback, cities, wetlands and more.

Interview with author Gabrielle Tozer

Kids' Book Review was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with author Gabrielle Tozer about the release of her latest book, Faking It. Published by HarperCollins, Faking It continues the story of fledgling writer and journalist Josie Browning, first introduced to readers in The Intern.

Faking It is a fabulous follow up to The Intern (KBR review). Did you always intend to write a series of books, or did it surprise you that there was more of Josie’s story to tell? Will we see Josie appear in a third book?
Thank you so much – thrilled that you enjoyed it! Funny you should ask: I’d originally pitched THE INTERN as a stand-alone, so it was a lovely surprise when there was more of Josie’s story to tell. I was finessing an early manuscript draft to send to HarperCollins when I realised I had more ideas buzzing around in my head. I knew that if they weren’t interested then the first book would stand on its own, but I jumped at the chance to share Josie’s next adventure – and I’m glad they agreed!

As for a third book, I wouldn’t say never… but I’d only ever pitch something if the right idea tapped me on the shoulder.

What has been the most enjoyable or interesting part of writing for a teen audience? What has been the most challenging?
I love remembering those years. They were tough, and amazing, and awful, and awkward, and the best at all once – mainly because you experience so many ‘firsts’. First kisses, first loves, first heartbreak. As a writer, it’s interesting to explore those feelings again and again in different ways. I love it – and the passion of a teen audience. If they love something, they love it passionately… and they’ll tell you and everyone around them. The challenge is, if they don’t love something, they’ll also tell you! Ha!

Nah, truthfully, the most challenging part for me is not getting to spend enough face-to-face time with my readership. I’ve been juggling fulltime work and books for three years now, so have been limited by how many schools I can visit… but this year, I’m going freelance, so hopefully I can change things up a bit!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Review: Frogs Play Cellos (Did You Know?)

Did you know that “the hyperbass flute is pitched so low that it’s outside what scientists consider the range of human hearing!”

The latest in the Did You Know? series is Frogs Play Cellos, and it’s all about music and instruments.

In keeping with the rest of the series, this book has its quirky characters (frogs, cats, rabbits, pigs and many others) to accompany you as you dip in and out of musical trivia. First things first, though, frogs do play cellos, but not the way you might imagine. Apparently “every bow has what is called a ‘frog’ … the part of the bow you hold when you play a string instrument.”

Review: The Book With No Pictures

The Book With No Pictures has everything you'd want from a picture book; it's silly, fun and colourful. Except for the obvious catch: there are no pictures!

So what, you may ask, is a picture book without pictures about? It's about making kids laugh at the power of words, books, and reading aloud.The book is full of silly gibberish that the reader must read aloud because, as everyone knows, you must read everything that is in a book!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Review: Atlas of the Human Body

This stunning book is as informative as it is beautiful. Older kids and adults alike are guaranteed to leave its pages with a far greater understanding of the workings of the human body, while being in awe of its complexity.

Intricate die-cut illustrations take the reader, layer by layer, deeper into the body, with each body part clearly labelled. In the second part of the book, our organs, senses, blood, bones and joints are looked at in detail via a combination of simple explanatory text and more illustrations.

Atlas of the Human Body is ideal for the budding doctor or scientist in the family, but it's also a useful quick reference for any biology student.

Title: Atlas of the Human Body
Author: Dr Vanessa Jessop
Illustrator: Kanitta Meechubot
Publisher: Cicada, $29.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2014
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781908714176
For ages: 10+
Type: Non-Fiction

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Gregory Mackay

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was a teenager I worked at a special effects company for a while. It introduced me to industrial arts and machine building for artistic practice. It also made model making cool for me.

2. What is your nickname?  
My nick name in school was ‘Star-fighter’ because I liked science fiction movies. Looking back, it may have actually been derogatory. Those meanies!

Nowadays, it’s ‘George-ory’ because many people can’t pronounce Gregory it seems.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I have an unreasonable fear of planet wide gravity failure. It’s not going to happen, but have you ever just laid down in a field on your back and looked at the sky? Yikes!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Miyazaki meets Peanuts at a party in a 1930’s coffeehouse.  I refer to Miyazaki’s comics, not his film making, and George Schultz’s early comics, before his animation too.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Review: Faking It

Josie Browning returns in this entertaining sequel to Gabrielle Tozers’ 2014 hit The Intern (KBR review).

Josie’s world is just about perfect. She has her dream job as a junior writer for the website indi, she is living in the city and has a wonderful boyfriend. Looks like Josie is finally a bona fide ‘grown up’.

Of course, if she really was all grown up, she probably wouldn’t be bothered that her mother seems to be too busy to chat, or stressing about whether she should or shouldn’t do ‘it’ with her boyfriend. She’d know exactly how to go about securing the star attraction for the indi launch and she’d be able to work out how to stop making a fool of herself in front of her work colleagues and associates.

Friends, frenemies, family, relationships, work – there are so many things Josie is still working out. How long before someone discovers that when it comes to being grown up, Josie is just faking it?

KBR Short Story: Back to School Blues

by Sharon Hammad

I used to love to go to school;
It was my favourite thing,
Except for plunging in a pool
Or soaring on a swing.

But everything has changed this year.
I’m feeling rather blue.
I fear that trouble will appear
Before the day is through.

My baby sister’s grown a small
Bit trying, as a rule.
It’s irritating to recall
She’s starting at my school!

My mother hardly shed a tear
When I first waved goodbye.
I might have even heard her cheer
Then sniff as if to cry.

And now my sister’s turn has come
To venture from the nest,
You’d think my mum would welcome some
Uninterrupted rest.

Instead, the tears flow down Mum’s face.
She moans, ‘My chick has flown.
The house will be an empty place
While I am all alone.’

I want to shout, Please get a grip.
You don’t need to complain.
I’d offer her this handy tip:
It’s me who’ll bear the strain.

Who wants a little sister bound
To nag and aggravate?
I bet she’ll follow me around
As if she’s my best mate.

What if she wants to swap her lunch,
Her apple for my pear?
I’ll tell her, ‘No way. Thanks a bunch,
I do not wish toshare.’

And if I’m playing basketball,
She cannot join my team.
It’s her choice if she wants to bawl,
Throw tantrums, kick or scream.

Too bad if she should skin her knee
And blood spurts everywhere.
Then let the teacher go and see;
I’m sure that I won’t care.

So if a bully treats her mean,
Says nasty things all day,
The principal should intervene.
I’m staying well away.

Oh, here she comes, all dressed up in
Her uniform to show.
Her face is sunshine with a grin,
Excited eyes aglow.

She’s filled her backpack to the top
With books from off her shelf.
I wonder should I help her ─ Stop!
She’ll carry it herself.

No matter if Mum gives me hugs
And tells me I’m so strong,
I’ll answer her with don’t-care shrugs
And tell her that she’s wrong.

Well, I’m not reconsidering
Though sis is kind of sweet.
At least I haven’t had to bring
Her shoes or touch her feet.

It’s time to go. We’re at the door;
She calls to me to wait.
Her bag lies lumpy on the floor
But I won’t hesitate.

And then… I turn and walk straight back.
Her smile warms up my spine.
I shoulder up her heavy pack
And take her hand in mine.

Sharon Hammad lives in the Blue Mountains. She writes short stories and poems for adults and children. For more information, visit Sharon's 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, 8 January 2015

Review: Anders and the Comet

It’s time for the school holidays and Anders has a homework task to complete during the break – writing a report on all the activities he enjoys while he is away from school. Anders, Eden and their new friend Bernie fill the days with so many amazing adventures that writing the report is easy!

Anders and the Comet is a wonderful cartoon-style adventure story sure to delight young school-aged readers, who will relate to Ander’s dismay at being given a homework assignment to complete over the school holidays.

Anders, Eden and Bernie enjoy all the usual holidays activities: outings with their parents, playing video games and playing at the local park and simply having fun with friends. Together, they explore their local park and discover the secret behind the myth of the Green Grabber as well as finding a wonderful new pet, Skip, who can do some amazingly unexpected tricks.

Review: 123 versus ABC

This book is fun, a little quirky, and definitely silly. In fact, the characters in this book are confused as to what this book is even about!

The number 1 is pretty sure the book is about numbers (because why wouldn't it be? Numbers are naturally superior to letters!), whilst the letter A is pretty confident the book is about letters (as it should be! After all, books are written with letters, of course!).

Chaos and mayhem ensue when more and more characters enter the book, each able to represent both a number and a letter, eg: 1 alligator, 3 cars, 5 eggs etc .. This does nothing to resolve the dispute, but what it does do is make for a zany read.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1)

Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant physicists. She is more interested in expressing herself through art than science, but she knows enough about her parents work to know that it is unlikely that her father’s sudden death is an accident. Someone wants to sabotage or steal her parents work.

When her mother’s assistant Paul suggests that they use her mother’s latest invention – a  device called Firebird that allows inter-dimensional travel – to chase her father’s killer, Marguerite agrees. It seems the killer is another of her parents’ students, Theo, and Marguerite can’t bear to think that he will escape the consequences of his actions. Together, Marguerite and Paul travel sideways into alternate realities, chasing Paul and gradually unravelling the story behind Dr. Caine’s death.

When Paul and Marguerite are separated, things seem to go from bad to worse, but Marguerite is about to discover that appearances are misleading. Marguerite must quickly work out who she can trust if she wants to return to her own world safely, because her father’s killer is after her too and it is becoming increasingly difficult for Marguerite to distinguish between friend and foe.