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

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Review: Thunderstorm Dancing

Sometimes, when you read the text for a book, you feel an inherent connection with words that were so purely designed for children. For the way they think, feel and respond.

There's something about the word choice, the rhythm, the concepts--that make it oh so scrumptious for the ears of little ones. And Katrina Germein does this oh so well.

10 Quirky Questions with author Katrina Germein

1. What's your hidden talent?
Koala spotting - although it’s not really hidden because I post pictures on Instagram every Sunday. I’m not sure that it’s a talent either, because koalas don’t move much so they’re easily spotted.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The big bad wolf because he likes to keep us guessing; just when you think you know what he’s up to he goes and does something different.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Are airfares included? I’d like to invite interstate friends because I don’t get to see them enough – Rosemary Sullivan, Trudie Trewin, Karen Collum and Kat Apel. I’d use the fifth space for a dead person because, well, you offered, and I think it would be kind of cool to have a ghost at the party. So maybe, Maurice Sendak.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: Dinosaur Roar

This one's for the kiddies who are in that dinosaur-lovin' stage. Dinosaur Roar! teaches children useful adjectives, and does so using dinosaurs to grab (and hold) their attention:

'Dinosaur fast, dinosaur slow, dinosaur above and dinosaur below'. You get the picture.

Towards the end, the rhyming narrative about opposites somehow transitions into rhyming adjectives describing the dinosaurs eating lunch. Plainly put, it's kind of an odd transition, but my 21-month-old really doesn't care so I'm not sure I should either.

THE WINNERS! KBR Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2015

Our 2015 AWARD WINNERS. . .

We are thrilled to announce the winners in our 2015 Unpublished Manuscript Award for a Picture Book! The following entrants have won for the Manuscript and Illustration sections...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Review: Alfie's Lost Sharkie

I simply adored the first book in the Alfie series--Hurry Up, Alfie!--by the superlative Anna Walker. I loved it for its adorable relatability (both from the parent's AND the child's perspective) but also for its gentle yet punchy illustrations, using the classic Anna Walker colour, pattern, texture and whimsy I so adore.

Now, Alfie is back--and this time he's not being nudged to get out the door--he's lost Sharkie.

Review: 100 Great Children's Picture Books

This is a true celebration of the picture book as an art form. The author, Martin Salisbury, has chosen 100 picture books from the past 100 years or so, to create a catalogue of the best in picture book design and illustration.

The result will delight anyone with an interest in design, illustration or children's literature.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

12 Curly Questions with author Peter Millett

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I’ve appeared in a blooper scene for a television soap opera. The footage is on YouTube. Find it if you can (it will be harder to locate than a needle in a haystack).

2. What is your nickname?
I’ve never had a nickname. I think it’s because ‘Pete’ is too hard to shorten. ‘Pet’ would be just weird sounding!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being bored on a 32 hour flight to London sitting next to person with no sense of humour. Makes my skin crawl.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
A sit down comedian doing improv in front of the computer.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Irreverent, observant, consistent, unpredictable, researched.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Review: Double Dare You (Ella Diaries #1)

Meredith Costain has a natural gift when it comes to using a child’s voice and thought. Her writing, characters and storylines always impress. The light-hearted tone and focus on important themes entertains while imparting strong messages. I was hooked on Ella from the first page, and was overjoyed that there were two books together to read.

The design of the book is similar to Tom Gates’ in doodles and picture format. The main character Ella loves to write poetry and draw stylish clothing. She is confident wearing what she likes which is an unusual mix of patterns, shapes and colour. She also likes to illustrate her thoughts and feelings. I loved the idea of hearts taking the place of dots over the letter i.

KBR Short Story: Words and Pages, Illustrations

by Natasha Rowland

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Thoughts and pictures from your wildest dreams
Nothing is strange in a book it seems

Polka dot elephants dancing a jig
Talking lady birds and a crowned King pig
A treehouse so high it kisses the sun
Tangling vines with nipping bugs, what fun!
Swimming with sharks, mermaids and piranhas
Dancing wearing invisible pyjamas
A magic wand to erase all your fears
Discovering treasures hidden for years

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Open one wide and leap inside
Be swept away on a fantastical ride

Burping out butterflies, farting out flowers
Eating boogers that give super powers
Sailing deep seas on a raft of spaghetti
Tea parties with monsters you won’t be forgetting
Oodles of puppies, trillions of kittens
A walk with a gator, try not to get bitten
Talking in gibberish, munching on worms
Licking your fingers, forget about germs

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Anything is possible, the absurd becomes real
Open a book, immerse yourself in the surreal

Today you’re a princess ruling the stars
Yesterday a toad strumming a guitar
Tomorrow a leaf drifting on the breeze
Or a snot-nosed hippo that does nothing but sneeze
A sad, broken car, a busy buzzing bee
A train shooting down a hill shouting, ‘You can’t catch me!’
A doctor, a dentist, a lawyer holding court
Blasting off in your spaceship, now an astronaut

Words and pages, illustrations
Off and away with your imaginations
Opening pages and drifting far away
A couple of words and you’re now worlds away

Open a book
Close your eyes
With words in your head
And pictures to guide
Shoot off on a magical imagination ride

Words and pages, illustrations
Remember to pack your imaginations!

Natasha Rowland is a creative person; writing, art and music keep her sane. Her children, the creatures living about her house and snippets of conversations are her inspiration resources.  In September 2014 she received a 2nd placing and highly commended from the USQ Creative Writing on Country competition, then in October had her first short story, 'Hungry Waves', selected by KBR. Fingers crossed there'll be a third.

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, 26 March 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3)

Grieving, shaken and feeling very much alone, Rory’s life as a member of the Shades of London has changed irrevocably. It’s only been a matter of hours since Stephen was taken from her, possibly for ever. Her classmate Charlotte is still missing, kidnapped by the same people who tried to take Rory. Rory is no longer a schoolgirl haplessly involved in the dealings of a secret government unit. She is their weapon in a matter of life and death.

Maureen Johnson’s The Shadow Cabinet is the thrilling third instalment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling series- Shades of London.  Picking up from where book two ended, Rory gets back to work. Charlotte must be found.

Review: Why I Love Footy

This is a picture book for all young lovers of Aussie Rules football, told from the perspective of a boy who is a big football fan. As far as he’s concerned there are a bazillion reasons to love footy!

The boy, who is never named, gets ready to go with his family to watch his favourite team play live. He wears all his footy gear (jumper, hat and scarf) and travels on the train to the football ground with a bunch of other fans. There’s a great bird’s-eye view illustration of the ground to explore, with all the key positions marked.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: Notes from the Teenage Underground

Seventeen year-old Gem hangs out with best friends Mira and Lo. They are cool, sassy and edgy, risk takers who like to push the boundaries and be different to the ‘barcode’ kids. They come up with a new theme for the summer, last year’s was ‘All Things Occult’, this year it’s ‘Underground’ – to be extreme and revolutionary, inspired by Andy Warhol. They decide to make an underground film.

Gem is a film buff who lives with her mother Bev, a hippy, alternative, feminist art teacher who named Gem after her idol, Germaine Greer. They’re into movie nights, open communication and their divination book, the I Ching. But Gem can’t share everything with her mum, especially not what she gets up to with her friends or her crush on Dodgy, her co-worker at her part-time job at the video store.

Review: A River

Follow the journey of a river in this beautiful piece of art from the award-winning Marc Martin.

The cover of A River is gorgeous, embossed and decorated in blues and greens, and the illustrations inside, including the endpapers, use different shades of colour to great effect. Text is used sparingly and lends atmosphere to the story.

A River is a story of nature and all the places connected to the river. It starts at the centre of a city filled with traffic and factories, and wends its way past farms that look like patchwork, and into the lush green countryside.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Review: Dexter - The Courageous Koala

My heart sings when I read a story about one of Australia's most-loved animals. Throw this against a backdrop of Australia’s own Byron Bay, and Jesse Blackadder’s new book is sure to delight. Dexter -The Courageous Koala is the final book in the ABC Books series celebrating Australia's animals.

Twelve years old and animal-crazy, Ashley has longed for a pet of her own. When the plans for her new puppy suddenly fall through, her parents send her on holiday to cheer her up. But the ‘holiday’ is nothing like she expects.

12 Curly Questions with author Andrew McDonald

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I read my own books out loud to myself.

I only ever do this when I’m writing or redrafting a story, but I find it really helps to uncover clumsy sentences, bad writing and typos. Of course, I only ever perform my books like this in private. If anyone ever overheard they’d think I was crazy or self-obsessed or possibly both.

2. What is your nickname?

Please, no cheeseburger jokes.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I’m not a big fan of snakes. Or anacondas. Or boa constrictors.

I put this fear down to a song we sang a lot when I was at kindergarten called ‘I’ve Been Eaten By A Boaconstrictor’, which was written by Shel Silverstein. The song wormed its way into my brain and continues to haunt me to this very day. I mean, why would someone being eaten alive by a giant snake start singing when they should be fighting for their life? Although, now that I think it through, maybe singing about the experience was the only way the victim could make sense of what was happening. Maybe the victim was an artist. Either way, I still bear the emotional scars from that song and continue to be terrified of serpents. And songs about serpents.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Funny, weird and distracting so readers don’t see twists coming.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Review: Elmer

There are some books that are destined to be shared from generation to generation. Elmer has got to be at the top of this list.

The story is about an elephant, Elmer, who is born unlike the other elephants; he is patchwork coloured! Where the other elephants in his herd are elephant-coloured, Elmer's hide is yellow, white, black, orange, pink, purple and more. Elmer is not only patchwork, his personality is all sorts of fun and goofy. This is not your standard elephant, people!

Review: A Tale of Two Beasts

Put simply? This is such a charming story. Not only does it do 'different' so beautifully well, it has a classic narrative with a beautifully-thought-out plot that both embraces and goes beyond the classic picture book structure.

Although the word count is succinct, Fiona Roberton manages to engage the reader with not one, but two parts to this tale--from the first-person perspective of not one but two 'beasts'.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Review: Max's Bear / Max's Bath / Max's Wagon

Little Max has a favourite bear. He loves the bear. He kisses it. But he also bites it. And throws it. Because that's what toddlers do. They live their life in full, unadulterated expression--kind or aggravated--it's all out on the table. There's no thinking about it.

The same thing happens with Max's bath. Everything goes in the bath. The ball. The truck. The bear. Even his cookie. There's no thinking about it.

Everything goes in Max's wagon, too. The ball. The cookie. The dog. But wait--where has the cookie gone?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: The Last Leaves Falling

Sora is seventeen. He's smart, would love to grow up to be a professor and, like most teenagers, spends an awful lot of time on internet chat rooms.

He's also dying.

A cruel disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis will slowly take away every aspect of his mobility, leaving him helpless and in pain, until gradually his body gives out altogether. The process has already started and all the signs are that it's accelerating.

12 Curly Questions with author Kirsty Murray

1. Can you tell us something hardly anyone knows about you?
When I was seventeen years old and in Year 12, I played the part of Ado Annie, the comedy lead, in my high school’s production of the musical Oklahoma.  I loved singing ‘I’m just a girl who can’t say no’ and pretending to be a sly bimbo but the song, and the role, has haunted me ever since.

2. Do you have a nickname and if so, what is it?
No one at my primary school had heard the name Kirsty when I started there in 1966. It was a name that didn’t become popular until the early 1970s. The bullies in the school yard called me ‘Cursed’. Even my sisters were embarrassed about calling my name out across the playground because it was ‘weird’. So one of my older sisters began to call me ‘K’.  My siblings still often call me ‘K’. One day, I’d like to make it further into the alphabet so I could be could be ‘M’ - it has a much more dramatic ring to it.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I actually find this question really difficult to answer as I’ve spent most of my life working through my fears and trying not to be afraid of anything. Of course I have the usual fear of something bad happening to members of my family but mostly if something frightens me, it means I have to do something about it.

One embarrassing fear that I’ve had to overcome in adulthood is my terror of puppets. From when I was tiny, they made me nervous. It was so easy to imagine them coming to life and their expressionless faces freaked me out.  Then I married a puppeteer. We live with hundreds of puppets and our front hallway is lined with them. I’ve banned the ventriloquist dummies from display - they still make me shudder - but I’ve managed to come to terms with Punch and Judy and every other scary puppet you can name.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Review: The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert

Jukuna Mona Chuguna was a Walmajarri woman from the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia. Together with her husband, she lived and worked on cattle and sheep stations during the 1950s before becoming a highly regarded artist. She passed away in 2011.

Pat Lowe is an Englishwoman who settled in Western Australia and who, for a time, lived in a desert camp with some of Jukuna's family. Later, when Jukuna and Pat both found themselves in Broome, they embarked on recording Jukuna's stories of indigenous life in the desert. The result is this fascinating collection of semi-autobiographical stories.

KBR Short Story: If You Swallow a Book

by Dana Sterner

If you swallow a book you might be surprised. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

I swallowed a book about Dinosaurs, about a Stegosaurus and a Spinosaurus, and before I knew it, I was a Megalosaurus. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you chomp on a book about slaying a dragon, and finish before bed, you could be knighted for bravery - by your mother the Queen. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you chew on a book about pirates and treasure, and eat the whole book you could learn all their tricks then dig up their gold. But you might have to share with your sister. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you swallow a book about an African safari you could learn about jungles, and make your sister run from the lions, scream at the snakes, and laugh at the gorillas. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you swallow a book about outer space you could chart the galaxy, chase a comet, and discover new stars. All in your very own space ship. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you swallow a book about Ancient Rome you could build cities and roads, bridges and walls, and a big palace where your mother brings you cookies. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you gulp down a book about racing you could speed around obstacles, splash in the mud, squeal your wheels, and leave tracks on the floor. You could win the grand prize, and the crowd would cheer. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you swallow a book about super heroes - be prepared to fly around the room, knock down tall buildings, and defend the universe! That’s what I did, and so could you.

If you swallow a book about American History, and wear a stovepipe hat, and give a long speech, your mother will clap. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you swallow a book about another country you might learn their language, and tell your father “auf wiedersehen” when you leave for school. That’s goodbye in German. It happened to me. It could happen to you.

If you snack on a book about solving a mystery you could become a detective, and crack the case of who took the last cookie.

If you swallow a book about an Olympic gold medalist, a famous inventor, or maybe a writer - you could be that too!

So don’t be afraid to swallow or chomp, chew or gulp, nibble or snack on a very good book. It’s always an adventure, and it could happen to you.

Remember - you are what you read!

The inspiration for this story came from Dana’s son who is an avid reader with a vivid imagination. As a Registered Nurse, Dana Sterner has written for health and fitness magazines, but her real passion is writing stories that will encourage children to read. You can email Dana here

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, 19 March 2015

Review: Dinosaurs: My Beastly Activity Book

Big Bang Theory, the evolution of Earth, the prehistoric timeline — all this and much more are tackled in the most gloriously entertaining way in this activity book.

Victor Escandell is the master of making complex concepts totally accessible to kids (and their scientifically challenged parents). This book was going to be a gift for a dinosaur-mad friend of my daughter's. But then I got my hands on it and now it's not going anywhere!

Author Interview: Stephan Pastis

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

Stephan Pastis is a cartoonist whose first children’s book Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made hit the New York Times bestseller list. Timmy Failure is now a hit around the world with a series of three books, and a fourth on the way. Stephan is visiting Australia on a promotional tour, and agreed to answer a few questions from Kids’ Book Review.

Timmy Failure is a bumbling boy detective, and his business partner is a polar bear named Total. How did you come up with these characters and their story?
I really liked the idea of a detective who was not smart at all and could not solve any mystery.  And I thought it would be funny to give him a big, inept partner.

Which come first, the words or pictures?
For me, it's always the words.

Timmy Failure has been enjoyed by readers around the world. Why do you think they respond to the series?
I suppose because they find it funny.  I think that's the key.  And it also has some heart to it.

What’s the most satisfying response you’ve had from readers and why?
For me, it's always hearing that a kid who never showed any interest in reading was given a Timmy Failure book and read the whole thing in one sitting. I love that.

Do kids ever suggest characters or ideas for you to use? Any that you’ve been tempted to include?
Yeah, all the time.  At the last school visit in Sydney, one kid wanted me to incorporate a rich, evil donkey.  I haven't used any yet, but I might one day.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Review: Thelma the Unicorn

Pig the Pug is a tough act to follow, but Thelma the Unicorn certainly has her own unique charm in this latest Blabey fun fest.

Thelma the beige pony is forlorn. More than anything in life, she wants to be a unicorn. A pink unicorn. With sparkles.

Otis the donkey likes her just the way she is, but Thelma isn't swayed. She ties a carrot to the top of her nose and hopes against hope that one day--maybe one day, she'll be pink, besparkled and unicorny.

Guest Post: Jesse Blackadder Warns us to Watch out for Drop Bears

Have you heard of a Drop Bear? It’s a big, powerful marsupial, closely related to the koala, but with one major difference – instead of chewing on gum leaves, it eats flesh. It lies in wait in high trees, pretending to be a sleeping koala, until unsuspecting prey comes within range – then it drops up to eight metres onto its victim and bites it on the neck. Once the Drop Bear has stunned its victim, it hauls it up a tree to devour it at leisure.

Don’t believe me? Well, the Australian Museum is in on the joke too, as it dedicates a whole page to “Drop Bears” (calling them Thylarctos plummetus), and Australian Geographic once ran a spoof story warning tourists that drop bears are less likely to attack people with Australian accents – complete with photos of creepy koalas with fangs.

I guess it’s a way of getting attention for koalas, which in reality are slow, sleepy creatures who are hard to spot in the wild and don’t do much to get the limelight. Far from dropping down onto their prey, koalas are more likely to drop from their trees because of illness, injury or disease.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Review: An Armadillo in Paris

I love how this book begins ... about having an 'itch'. An itch that can only be relieved once an adventure begins.

And so, Arlo the armadillo from Brazil, heads off on a glorious adventure, inspired by the collection of journals his grandfather Augustin bequeathed his grandson.

12 Curly Questions with author Prue Mason

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I lived in a house where there was a ghost.

2. What is your nickname?
Everyone calls me Prue but my proper name is Prudence. Mum was the only one who called me Prudence and it was only when she was cross with me.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Hurting anyone unintentionally

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Fast-paced plot that's reliant on setting and an adventurous situation.

5. Tell us 5 positive words that describe you as a writer.
Persistent, flexible, playful, enthusiastic, intuitive.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Review: Book-o-Beards

A wearable book? Why, yes! Why not?

The tactile appeal of books for tots cannot be underestimated, and in Book-o-Beards, kids not only get to ogle fanciful fuzzy-chin creations, they get to wear them!

(Note to self: red curly beards aren't as flattering on 40-something blonde women as Santa's snowy beard.)

THE SHORTLIST! KBR Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2015


We are thrilled to announce the shortlist for our 2015 Unpublished Manuscript Award for a Picture Book! The following entrants have shortlisted for Manuscript and Illustration sections...

Manuscript Section SHORTLIST

Albie’s Favourite Book by Mish Gittens

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse by Jacqui Halpin

Wake Up, Jane! by Stacey Hill

King Mumpish and the Quest for a Key by Rhian Williams

Bedslug by Paul Russell

The Reluctant Apprentice by K Robinson

Rumble by Stacey Hill

One author will win $200, a manuscript appraisal, and the chance to submit their work directly to Walker Books. Two runners-up will win a manuscript appraisal. Highly Commended and Special Mention entries will also be nominated.

Illustration Section SHORTLIST

Home Sick by Aśka

The Awakening by Raffaella Picotti

Maya's Tree by Karen Erasmus

King Of The Jungle by Scott Butler

Venice Pigeons by Suzanne Houghton

Magic is Everywhere by Raffaella Picotti

Balloon by Lucie Mammone

Herbie Hopping Mouse by Severgnini

Hidden by Heidi Cooper Smith

The Happy Tree by Jess Racklyeft

One artist will win $100 and the chance to show to Walker Books. Five runners-up will have the chance to show to Walker Books. Highly Commended entries will also be nominated.


Don't forget we will be announcing highly commended and special mention entries for both authors and illustrators, so do check back to see if your entry received this nod.

Winners will be announced right here
on Monday 30 March.

Good luck!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Review: Where is Pim?

From the creators of Pom and Pim, this Swedish book dynamo continue to delight with another installment in this adorable series.

Pim the stuffed toy is feeling like he wants to fly. Up up up into the air he goes, thrown by Pom. When a scampering dog happens to snaffle Pim midflight, Pom is left utterly bereft. Will he ever see his friend again?

Librarian’s Shelf: Library Makerspaces

Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills. This is what libraries are all about - learning and sharing information and ideas.

Some examples of Makerspaces activities around the world include 3D printing and laser cutting, Lego robotics, digital media and making ‘green screen’ videos, e-textiles, electronics, and computer programming.

So it should come as no real surprise that many libraries are embracing the concept as an exciting way to engage children (and adults) in learning, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. After watching and having the chance to play with these activities, children are bound to find science books fascinating!

At the same time, these activities are an opportunity to connect them with more traditional aspects of the library – ie: books.

Makerspaces make learning fun and are usually open to a wide range of ages. They motivate, inspire and encourage problem-solving. They’re all slightly different, but they’re all creative and hands-on. Ask your local library about makerspaces and see if they have plans to start one. They might already be offering these activities under a different name.

Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books. 

Publisher's Insider: Excuses, Excuses!

The other day, a friend of mine mentioned that she’d ‘always wanted to write a book, but was probably never going to get around to it’. I hear this a lot. But the KBR Unpublished Manuscript Award is proof that hundreds of people, judging by the volume of entries we receive, do manage to sit down and write that elusive book, so here — hopefully — is some inspiration.

You are never too young or too old.  
There are several examples of young authors writing great books. In recent times on KBR we’ve featured 12-year-old Hannah Chandler, author of I Don’t Like Cheese and Lucy Saxon who was snapped up by Bloomsbury for a six-part series that she started writing when she was just 16. At the other end of the scale, there’s the indomitable Pamela Allen, who has written and illustrated over 30 picture books and is still going strong at 81!

You are never too busy. 
We are all busy these days, but I know that even when my plate is overflowing and my husband is placing meditation CDs in strategic locations around the house, I can still find time for something I’m truly passionate about. Literature is littered with examples of authors who have written masterpieces in less than ideal conditions. If you’re not able to find the time, then maybe writing a book just isn’t for you.

Your grammar/spelling/punctuation isn’t so awful that you’re unpublishable. Well, actually, it might be, but there are reference books you can consult, websites you can visit, and courses you can take to fix the problem. If that seems too hard, refer to my point about never being too busy.

So, there’s no time like the present. If you have a book inside you that needs to get out, then it’s time to scratch that itch. Sit down and start writing!

Anouska Jones is our KBR Senior Editor. Mum to a gorgeous little girl, she has over twenty years' experience in the book publishing industry. A publishing consultant and editor, Anouska is obsessed by all things to do with words, writing and books. 

The Hugest Thank You from IBGD

KBR welcomes our dear friend, My Book Corner creator, Emma Perry, with this moving report on this year's International Book Giving Day.

You do know that books have taken over 14 February, right? Forget those overpriced roses & clichéd pink cards, 14 February is all about getting books into the hands of as many children as possible. It's International Book Giving Day.

I loved every single moment at the helm of this second year of IBGD. Why?

Because this happened:

  • In Nigeria, One Child One Book took to the streets in Lagos and gifted books to children walking down the street.
  • In Nova Scotia (Canada) a Book Fairy was spotted delivering books to children. In Uganda, many children were presented with the first book they could truly call their own.
  • In Cape Town, South Africa a new library has been created for children in a safe, violence-free zone.
  • In Australia, the Itty Bitty Book Van gifted books to pre-schools in Geelong.
  • In Romania the Bartók Béla Elméleti Líceum Secondary School gifted books to their pupils.
  • In Minnesota, USA over 1,000 books gifted to kids at a local elementary school ... these acts of unadulterated generosity represent the very tip of the iceberg.

These are just some of a huge range of generous acts that helped to ensure IBGD’s success.

Did you see this year's official poster? Picture book aficionados will no doubt spot Chris Haughton's unique style.

Gus Gordon kindly took the time to produce a wonderful bookplate featuring a book-reading badger (underwater no less!), whilst Anna Walker's lovely bears graced the most divine bookmark. These were all ready to download and tuck into the books people gifted on the day.

Oh, and did you see those winning bookmarks from the competition posted on the 52-Week Illustration Challenge??

On 14 February 2015, a worldwide community of book-loving people came together to get books into the hands of as many children as possible. And they achieved that. Brilliantly. Thank you. Thank YOU.

Here's to 14th February 2016.

Personally I can't wait!!

Emma Perry is a freelance writer, reviewer, founder of My Book Corner (@mybookcorner) and organiser of International Book Giving Day. She studied English Literature at Kent University and teaches at primary schools in her spare time.

Interview: Jen Storer on Never Giving Up

KBR warmly welcomes the multi-talented (and lovely!) Jen Storer, with this insightful (and enouraging!) interview.

Truly Tan is a well-established series for middle readers but when and where did the idea for Tan originate?
It’s difficult for me to remember exactly, but I think I began the first book in 2003.

The first book was simply a stand-alone. I had no plans for a series. I just wanted to write something funny and lively … I didn’t even plan the spy angle, it just happened. I had no idea who Tan was when I first began writing. All I knew was that she was in a tree house muttering to herself. And she owned a telescope.

How many publishers did you approach before Tan was first published? How long did it take to get that first break? What was the title of this first publication?
Tan was picked up immediately by Penguin. I had already written an Aussie Chomp (I Hate Sport) and an Aussie Bite (Sing, Pepi, Sing!) for them, so I had established a lovely relationship with the children’s publishing division. The team at Penguin were very supportive of my work and had a huge influence on how I developed as a children’s author.

Interview: Di Bates and Buzz Words

KBR is delighted to welcome longtime KBR friend Di Bates, with this interview on industry e-zine Buzz Words!

How and when did Buzz Words begin?

Many years ago, when I lived in a remote region, I felt isolated from the children’s book community. I decided to make regular contact with those I knew through a free, weekly newsletter about anything related to the children’s book industry.

Eventually I had hundreds of people receiving it. As it became burdensome to produce, I handed over the email database and format to Jackie Hosking who called it Pass It On (PIO).

A few years later, in 2006, I founded Buzz Words, which is a subscriber-based, twice-monthly online magazine exclusively for people in the Australian children’s book industry. The aim of the magazine is to keep readers abreast of current happenings in the children’s book industry, including opportunities for possible publication.

How would you summarize all the wonderful information Buzz Words provides?
Every issue contains the following: local and international news, publishing house profile/s, short profiles of people in the industry, an interview, opportunities, markets, competitions and awards, recommended books and websites/blogs, festivals and conferences, workshops, article/s, subscribers’ achievements, letters to the editor (have your say), and of course book reviews. There are lots of links provided to all of the above.

Who would be interested in Buzz Words?
Subscribers include authors, writers, illustrators, librarians and publishers – in fact, anyone interested in children’s books.

What is unique about Buzz Words?
In each issue there is an interview with someone in the industry who is rarely heard from. This includes publishers such as Dyan Blacklock (Omnibus), Eva Mills (Allen & Unwin) and Margrete Lamond (Little Hare) as well as book reviewers, booksellers, librarians, designers, etc. Buzz Words tries to give book creators as much information as possible (such as markets and other opportunities) to help them further their careers.

The other unique aspect of Buzz Words is that it has a children’s book review blog. Over thirty Australian publishing houses send their recent titles to Buzz Words reviewers who read and review their books within a month. Their reviews are then posted on the blog and linked to the magazine. I believe Buzz Words reviews more children’s books than any other organisation in Australia.

How can people subscribe to Buzz Words?
Before subscribing, you can receive a free copy of Buzz Words to see if it fits your needs. Just send an email to dibates@outlook.com. The cost is just $48 for 24 issues per annum (and it's a tax deduction!).

Speechie's Couch: E is for Everywhere, Everything, Every Time

Writing is all around us and on everything. We need literacy skills all the time in order to get the most out of life, but that can seem like plain hard work if decoding is difficult. So how can reading be made fun everywhere, all the time with everything?

How about letting your young reader take charge of the shopping list (even if this means some unexpected extras are added). If a birthday or special event is nearing, work together to create a list of all the special foods you want to buy for the special day.

Then there’s the kitchen. This mecca for magnificent flavours can become all the more fabulous if you share the cooking journey. This will not only enhance reading of recipes, but also introduce some handy mathematical skills.

And what about a good old-fashioned navigational adventure? The local street directory might be out of date, but following the roads to a surprise picnic destination is excitement plus. Or you could set up a treasure hunt where finding the answer to a written clue leads to another reading puzzler, and another, until the prize is finally revealed.

The ability to read timetables is another critical life skill, so why not plan a trip to the other side of town using a combination of routes? Download the relevant bus, train, tram or ferry schedules and let the fun begin.

Need I say more? Opportunities for reading, writing joy are absolutely everywhere, so let the fun begin, and continue daily. 

Jo Burnell is KBR's Development Editor and resident paediatric speech pathologist. A reviewer of children’s and YA books and shortlisting judge for Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year, Jo is familiar with effective writing for Upper Primary and Secondary students. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Book List: Picture Books about Mathematics

March 14th is International Pi Day. The date can be written as 3.14, which matches the most basic numerical value for pi (π). Picture books that feature numbers and counting abound, but International Pi Day seems like the perfect time to put together a list of picture books that offer slightly more complex mathematical concepts for young minds.

Engibear's Bridge by Andrew King and Benjamin Johnston (Little Steps, $24.95, 9781925117059) KBR review

12 Curly Questions with author Jane Higgins

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was twelve I came eleventh equal in art class at school because our kind-hearted teacher couldn’t bear to rank anyone beyond the top ten in the class. About twenty of us came eleventh equal that year.

2. What is your nickname?
Janis Ian – which is longer than Jane, but hey.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Well, there’s the obvious: losing people dear to me. And then there’s flying. But actually, my greatest fear is that my generation, which is taking this beautiful planet to the climate change precipice, will push it over the edge because we’re too craven and greedy and short-sighted to take the actions needed to save it.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Sparse, with an ear on cadence, an eye on clarity.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Reader. Word nerd. Speculative. Patient. Attentive.