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

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Review: Kerenza - A New Australian

Kerenza isn’t happy about leaving her home in Cornwall and emigrating to Australia. Her parents tell her that Australia offers potential for a much better life, but Kerenza isn’t so sure. Moving to Australia means a perilous sea journey and leaving behind everything that is familiar and dear, including her older sister and grandmother.

Australia seems so vast and strange when Kerenza and her family arrive. Everything is different and the wonderful future they imagine is only possible if they are willing to work hard to clear land and build everything they need. Everything about their daily life is challenging and Kerenza is sure that the Mallee will never feel like home.

Review: I Wish You More

What do you wish for your most beloved one?

You might wish them more ups than downs. More give than take. More hugs than ughs.

You might wish them more will than hill. More pause than fast-forward, more umbrella than rain.

You might even wish them more treasure than pockets.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Review: Butterfly Park

It’s hard to adjust to a new place, especially when it is devoid of the things you love—like birds and butterflies. Butterfly Park is a simply written tale that shows how adjusting to a new place involves so much more than get used to a different landscape.

By connecting with her neighbours, this little girl, who longs for the butterflies she left behind, finds so much more.

Review: Shadowcat

Since her baby brother arrived, Edith feels she’s become invisible; an inanimate object like their garden gnome. She’s sad, withdrawn, and it seems can’t do anything right. She lives under a cloud. She sees emptiness and feels only her nothingness.

Then one day the Shadowcat comes. It teaches her to dream again; to dance and be happy once more.

This is a thought-provoking, in-your-face book. Its strong underlying messages demand attention be paid to how older children can often feel diminished when a new sibling joins the family. Furthermore, how parents can become swallowed up in the demands, care and attention of a new baby, that they can lose sight of their other children’s needs.

12 Curly Questions with author Christopher Cheng

photo: Marco Del Grande
1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a little boy had short, short (very short) hair!

2. What is your nickname?
There was a time when I was called Sunlong (remember those TV commercials for rice). Maybe Chenga, Chengie, or China … none of which I would respond to. And a very dear friend of mine calls me Cheng - he is the only one who ever gets a response to that!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Blood … I can’t even watch those medical television programmes (argh, irk, turn-the-head-away and cringe before screaming ‘why didn’t they warn us first!!!’) … just ask Bini what happens! argh!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Write, read, edit, repeat (and again), ponder, ready? Then send to editor (I was not too good at maths at high school).

Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Risk

Taylor and Sierra have been friends their whole lives, but Taylor is getting tired of Sierra’s endless need to be in the spotlight. Sierra is often reckless and thoughtless, assuming that Taylor will cover for her and lie to their parents if the opportunity arises for Sierra to have some fun.

When Taylor and Sierra start chatting to the same guy online, it doesn’t surprise Taylor that Sierra is the one he chooses. It’s typical Sierra and Taylor’s had enough. She refuses to take any interest in Sierra’s plans to meet up with the guy in real life. When Sierra doesn’t return home as planned, Taylor doesn’t even care. It’s not the first time that Sierra’s been so caught up having fun that she’s forgotten to touch base.

Except this time, Sierra hasn’t forgotten. Something has gone terribly wrong and Taylor and her friends are about to discover that Sierra’s recklessness will cause more problems than getting grounded and losing screen time.

Review: Chooks in Space (Funky Chicken #3)

The Funky Chicken rockets into Space for a planet-hopping adventure, in Chris Collin’s third book about the wacky chicken with an over-active imagination. I have grown to love this chook character that I confess is absurd but endearing.

On Bob and Sue’s Egg Farm outside of Humpy Doo, Funky Chicken has dreamed up another grandiose scheme. He wants to be the first ever chook astronaut. He imagines finding feathered family in Outer Space. But how will the inspired chook fulfil his dream this time?

Lots of scrap and rubbish can be found. Funky Chicken and friends join together in a monumental project that could become historical, as well as hysterical. But where will this adventure lead and what exactly is the chook searching for in Outer Space?  What’s more, how long can the scrappy rocket hold out? All is revealed in a clever, classic rhyming feast of words, and vibrant images created by the talented Megan Kitchin.

Review: Ink and Bone (The Great Library series #1)

What if the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed? What if the knowledge contained in books was what ruled the world? What if librarians were the most powerful people on earth because they controlled the books? Welcome to Ink and Bone — where all this and more combines to create a story that I couldn't read fast enough.

Set in the near future, this is a world of war and treachery. The Great Library is now established as an independent country with its own army to protect both it and the books it contains. Ownership of private 'original' books is strictly forbidden. Originals are only allowed to exist in the Great Library, from where their contents can be downloaded via the Codex into 'blanks' for people to read. This technology is made possible by the powerful Obscurists, a special order of librarians with the innate ability to manipulate the code that underpins the system.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Review: Being a Boy

Everyone has questions as puberty looms, but who do you trust enough to ask? What if your mates think you’re crazy? And who knows what loony has posted that stuff on the Internet?

James Dawson knows his stuff and he’s funny. His words, together with Spike Gerrell’s cartoons lighten the load. Any question goes and no one is judged for it. From surviving your bodily changes and the social scene to being a boyfriend, sexting and porn, James actually does cover it all.

Review: All the Buildings in New York / in Sydney

When Australian illustrator James Gulliver Hancock set himself the task to illustrate every building in New York City, he probably never dreamed how utterly enchanting this project would become to the rest of the world.

James' illustrations have been exhibited in galleries around the world--and he's worked for such companies as Coca-Cola, Herman Miller, The New York Times and Simon and Schuster.

His whimsical, detailed illustrations and dual-tone colour palettes are the stuff of dreams, and although the two books featured here are not strictly children's books, they would enchant a child as much as any adult type person.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Review: Foxtrot

Meet Foxtrot the dancing fox. He loves dancing, seriously loves it. Foxtrot dances from the time he wakes until he goes to bed at night. No one can dance like Foxtrot.

Unfortunately, Foxtrot’s dancing disrupts life for everyone else. But how can he stop dancing when he loves it so much? Should he have to? Foxtrot’s friends try all kinds of things to help, but nothing works. He gives other activities a go - things like acting, rock climbing and drag racing - but doesn’t enjoy them at all, and isn’t much good at them either. Foxtrot still wants to dance.

12 Curly Questions with author Michael Wagner

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My family won first prize in Tattslotto when I was 14, then lost it all by the time I was 19.

2. What is your nickname?
Wags, Waggles, Micky Wags, Mick, Mike, Mikey and The Lord (they’re all true)

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights. I can’t stand heights. I can’t even watch anything on TV if someone is too high off the ground!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
At its best, it’s playful, sincere and economical.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Playful, sincere, economical, original, honest

6. What book character would you be, and why?
I wish I was Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. But not so much the guy who turns up in the sequel. Atticus, as he was in the original story, is the most wise, gentle and humane character I’ve ever read about. I would love to be more of all of those things.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: Small and Big

A young boy, Big, is travelling with his parents into the city. Tucked under his arm is his best friend, a bright yellow dinosaur called Small. Together, Small and Big explore the city but they notice very different things. Big is loud and boisterous and he notices the large buildings, the busy streets and the crowds of people. Walking along the same streets, Small notices tiny insects, drifting autumn leaves and tiny droplets of water.

Small and Big are so fascinated by the things they are seeing that they lose track of each other and eventually, Small realises that he is lost. Can Small and Big find each other again in the busy city before Big and his parents have to board the train to return home?

Review: Flyaway

In Flyaway, a young princess loves to hear her bird sing, but a careless accident lets the bird escape from its cage. So begins the princess’ many attempts to recapture the bird.

The bird traverses the castle, up and down stairs and through arches, passing lords and ladies, musicians and maids. A flap included on each double page spread plays an important part in the story, freeing the bird and leading the reader onwards. There are also objects to find and count on each page.

When the princess finally recaptures her bird, she discovers it no longer wants to sing. It longs to be free to fly with the other birds, and so the princess has an important choice to make.

Review: Blue Whale Blues

When we meet Whale, he's singing softly to himself, 'I've got the Blue Whale Blues, Blue Whale Blues'. You see, Whale has a problem with his bike — he doesn't know which way up it should go — and that's making him feel a little sad.

Fortunately, happy-go-lucky Penguin is around to help. With a cheery laugh, Penguin soon has Whale's bike the right way up.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review: A Great Big Cuddle - Poems for the Very Young

A Great Big Cuddle is a collection of poems for very young children, written by former UK Children’s Laureate, the award-winning Michael Rosen.

Over seventy pages are filled with poems about subjects, objects and situations we can all identify with, along with silly rhymes that will simply make readers laugh. They make inventive use of language (plenty of onomatopoeia is in evidence, for starters), and some are real tongue twisters, so be prepared!

Review: The Cut Out (#1)

Move over Anthony Horowitz. Jack Heath is here to stay. With a list of high action tales already under his belt, this new series starting with The Cut Out has it all: intrigue, action, the occasional gadget and end of the world, life and death scenarios.

One thing Jack has over Horowitz (sorry Anthony) is that amidst the world falling apart, Fero’s story is that tiny bit more believable. He really is just a kid caught up in the weirdest of situations. The gadgets he gets always feel possible and the mammoth obstacles that get in his way, not too out of the ordinary. The delicate web of questions that close in as the pages fly are grounded in reality too. I bet you won’t see the final twist coming. I didn’t.

Review: The Boy Who Loved the Moon

This book was born from the award-winning animated film The Boy and the Moon. Usually it’s the other way around, and the book is created first. Readers have the privilege of being able to watch the short film of this book and hear it read online.

Rich with metaphor, the story tells of a boy longing for something beyond his grasp. The boy sets out to find something that will win the Moon’s heart. To gain the unattainable, he offers the Moon a magnificent rose but is rejected. Then, he goes in search of a priceless pearl hidden in the depths of the ocean. Again he is denied his heart’s desire. His quest continues when he slays a dragon and takes his diamond eye as an offering to his love.

Even though he learns that many had tried to win the Moon’s love and had failed, the boy refuses to give up. Will his last attempt bring him what he longs for the most?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review: Bob the Railway Dog

Based on fact, this gorgeous book shares the story of a dog that had an amazing life travelling the tracks in the early years of Australia’s railway network in the late 1800s.

Rescued by a station guard from a carriage load of dogs heading to outback South Australia to be rabbit hunters, at first Bob waited at the station for his master to return each day. Eventually he joined Guard Ferry on his journeys and, finally, Bob travelled the tracks alone, befriending other guards, drivers and porters and always finding a warm bed at night wherever he travelled.

Review: Shoctopus - Poems to Grip You

Shoctopus is a collection of poems written by Australian author and poet Harry Laing. The book is quirky and fun and Laing isn't afraid to play with language.

The book features an eclectic mix of topics; from funnel-web spiders to seasons to tyres, Laing embraces the freedom of language.  I'm always a proponent of freeing yourself from the constraints of the rules and boundaries associated with language, especially when it comes to poetry and especially when it comes to children.

Review: What Do You Wish For?

Ruby loves Christmas. There's always so much to look forward to! Especially the tree. The Christmas Wish tree.

Each and every year, Ruby and her friends write a wish to hang on the tree. Some wish for puppies. Others for lollipops. Some wish they could go camping or that their Lego would come alive.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Review: My Happy Sad Mummy

Bipolar disorder brings unexpected, even frightening extremes, especially for children. My Happy Sad Mummy tackles this difficult subject from a little girl’s point of view and in doing so, opens up a space for little ones to talk about their experiences.

Sometimes Mummy is so happy she laughs and talks all day. She can be so full of energy that she doesn’t want to sleep, even when it’s way past bedtime. Sometimes she is so sad she doesn’t want to get out of bed. Then she doesn’t notice her family.

12 Curly Questions with author Dr Stephanie Owen Reeder

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
As a child, I was a bit like Lucy from Peanuts –– I had naturally curly hair, was a tomboy and a bossy-boots! In my defense, I was the oldest of four children.

2. What is your nickname?
I used to be called Nephie –– my little brother’s way of saying Stephanie, but also a reference to my Nefertiti–like profile and long neck!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Not having enough time to write and illustrate all the books that I have jostling for attention in my head!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Constantly searching for the perfect combination of words and ideas.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Review: The Crocodolly

From the creative genius who gave us The Octopuppy (see review here), we now have The Crocodolly!

Adelaide is a very handy little girl. She can make all kinds of things in a mad-inventor, hit-or-miss kind of way. Nothing seems to go quite according to plan, including when she bakes a cake. As she cracks one of the eggs, out falls not the anticipated yolk and egg white, but a crocodile!

Guest Post: Ellie Royce on Picture Books and Dementia Awareness Month

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Ellie Royce to share on a subject close to her heart - the impact of dementia and the role picture books can play in raising awareness, helping children to understand and connecting people dealing with this isolating condition.

September is Dementia Awareness month. The 21st of September is World Alzheimer’s Day. According to the Alzheimer’s Australia website there are more than 342,800 Australians living with dementia - from age 30 upwards.

As an author who works in Aged Care facility, I interact daily with people affected by dementia and their families. This interaction was what inspired my picture book Lucas and Jack. I hoped reading it might help people understand that what they see on the surface of an older person, especially a person with dementia, is not the whole story.

The theme for this year’s Awareness Month is “Remember Me”. Perhaps one of the most painful presentations of Dementia symptoms is the loss of memory. The inability of a loved one to remember special times and people can be truly hurtful and difficult for families to cope with. For young children, symptoms of dementia in a relative can be frightening and upsetting.

However, the latest dementia research shows that there are still many ways for us to remain connected. Some of the most successful seem to be based around arts and creative sessions such as storytelling and music. These are exciting breakthroughs in managing the journey through dementia, meaning less isolation and distress and more connection and quality of life, for both the person with dementia and their family.

I believe that all stories are bridges. They are bridges TO things and ideas like empathy, literacy, resilience and imagination. Perhaps most important of all, they are also bridges BETWEEN things, such as people who think they are too different to be able to connect. I see picture books one of the most magical manifestations of story because they speak symbolically through pictures as well as logically through words, to our conscious and unconscious mind in equal measure.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Outstanding in the Rain

Frank Viva is not only a superlative illustrator, he's a very clever storyteller who never fails to delight with his penchant for creating 'different'.

In Outstanding in the Rain, you might readily guess that we have a delightful play on words in this quirky story about a young lad heading out with his mum to celebrate his birthday.

'Ice cream,' I say, my birthday surprise. 

The word 'cream' sits firmly on the recto page in a cutout circle, peeking through from the next page.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Review: Ollie and the Wind

Ollie lives on a small island. There aren't many people around, but he does have lots of space to play.

One day, the wind steals his hat. Mmm, sneaky! Ollie tries to catch the wind in a net so he can ask it what it's done with his hat. But, no luck.

12 Curly Questions with illustrator Lucinda Gifford

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I like instant coffee. It makes for a convenient, coffee-flavoured drink. Instant coffee reminds me of my teenage years – catching up on gossip round the kitchen table, eating buns and drinking something warm and brown. Of course single-origin lattes with organic frothy milk are nice too – but less instant.

2. What is your nickname?
None – these days, anyhow. I grew up in a small coastal town in north-east Scotland. A normal name was Fiona, Alison or Morag – Lucinda sounded flowery and posh. But I bore the name throughout, and so I’m bleedin’ sticking with it now – no ‘Lucy’, ‘Lulu’ or ‘Cindy’ for me!

3. What is your greatest fear?
Sometimes, after I’ve completed a gruelling household shop, I’ll ‘reward’ myself by getting a teeny little pack of chippies and eating them in the car on the way home. My fear is that I’ll choke to death on a Cheeto at the lights.

4. Describe your illustration style in ten words. 
The completed artwork looks somewhat like the style originally intended.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Review: Where I'd Like to Be

Again an incredible and well-rounded story has found its way to me. Where I’d Like to Be had me riveted from the first page. I didn’t stop reading till the last word. Themes of place, home, a need to belong, and the importance of story, emotionally engage the reader’s attention in every scene in a meaningful and moving way.

Eleven-year-old Maddie is plain in appearance but bright and artistic with a loving nature. Abandoned by her mother and raised by Granny Lane, she was told that, as a baby, she was saved by a ghost. Granny’s blindness sees Maddie move from one foster home to another until she reaches the East Tennessee Children’s Home. Although she accepts that adoption is improbable for her, Maddie still dreams of having a home of her own when she grows up.

Guest Post: Bianca Ross on the Inspiration for the Herbert Peabody Books

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Bianca Ross to share the inspiration for her junior fiction series about Herbert Peabody, a friendly farmer who teaches young readers about where their food comes from.

Kids not eating veggies? Herbert Peabody is here to help

Enticing children to eat their vegetables in a fun way has been close to my heart for a long time. I’m a small-time farmer turned author. After playing the corporate game in marketing children’s dairy and juice products, I moved overseas and changed careers to advertising. When I returned home to the foodie frenzy gripping Australia, I noticed something.

I saw many fabulous books connecting adults with food through growing and cooking vegetables, but there weren’t many options for kids. As part of my work, I'd been involved in research groups, observing children trying new products. In one of the sessions, a four year old boy asked me why there was a cow on the frozen yogurt tub. I explained milk was an ingredient, and milk came from cows. He informed me milk came from cartons at the supermarket.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Review: Nona and Me

Rosie lives in an outback community in the Northern Territory with her mum. Adopted by the same local Yolnu family that adopted her father and her grandfather, Rosie’s early childhood is steeped in shared experiences of the land. Her indigenous sister or yapa, Nona, has long since moved away to be with her family.

The story opens with Rosie in year 10, settled in life with a group of white teenage friends at the town school. Without warning Nona arrives to begin studying at the school.

Clare Atkins opens up a world I could never otherwise imagine. She provides my first glimpse of the complexities of life in Yolnu culture, the reasons why white people might struggle to understand and the incredibly difficult decisions teenagers can be forced to make to belong.

Meet the Illustrator: Paul O'Sullivan

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
A cacophony of mechanical mayhem, punctuated by the odd successful combustion...sorry that’s slightly more than 10 words!

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I’m old school, so my Grant enlarger for scaling up thumbnails or rough sketches, my A0 drawing desk, numerous lights, a light box, French curves and of course pencils. You can say a lot about pencils! I used to buy very posh Derwent Graphic pencils for inordinate sums of money. Then I discovered a $2 pack of pencils from Woolworths for writing which are the best I've ever used

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I’m actually trained as a Informational Illustrator so in the past have largely worked in Gouache with either brush or airbrush...this is actually where I'm most happy.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

KBR visits the Lu Rees Archives

Last Thursday, four members of the core KBR team had the great pleasure to visit the Lu Rees Archives of Australian Children's Literature--a divine literary space housed in the library of the University of Canberra.

Headed by the truly dedicated Belle Alderman and her team of amazing volunteers, the Archives aim to house every Australian children's book--and all its editions, onshore and international. With over 26,000 book copies (and rapidly growing), the Archives are well on their way to achieving this aim.

On top of this, the Collection includes over 450 carefully-sourced files on Australian children's book creators (as well as publishers), and a boggling and priceless collection of artworks, ephemera and in-process pieces of the book creation puzzle, from entire book mock-ups to photographic inspiration for illustrators.

Guest Post: Roz Hopkins on writing Mummy and Mumma Get Married

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author and publisher Roz Hopkins to discuss her picture book project Mummy and Mumma Get Married. Roz shares here why she is so passionate about this project, and why she believes picture books are a vital part of helping children appreciate diversity.

Picture books with a same-sex theme have a proud history of controversy, particularly when they have been made available for children to read at school. There are numerous examples of this overseas, perhaps most famously Heather Has Two Mommies first published in the US in 1990 and re-released this year.

Controversy has been notably absent in Australia because, amazingly, it seems there have been no children’s pictures books published in this marketplace that have a same-sex narrative at the centre. In our new book, Mummy & Mumma Get Married, we are seeking to take a small step to redress this.

A book is powerful thing. The printed word has an authority that the ‘screen word’ lacks. My partner Natalie and I have dedicated our working lives to book publishing, as a book designer and publisher respectively. A couple of years ago, when we started our own company, Captain Honey, we emphasised the importance of the physical book. We wanted to play our part in stemming the flow of readers towards ebooks. But we needn’t have worried because readers, particularly of children’s books, have made their own choice about this. Sales of children’s picture books continue to hold firm, even increasing by 8.7% in 2014, according to industry analyst, Nielson BookScan.

Physical books endure. They sit on our bookshelves, adorn bedside tables, lie scattered on the floor of our children’s rooms. They are felt, touched, shared, sometimes through generations. I have a copy on my bookshelf of A A Milne’s Now We Are Six that was given to my father in 1934 and I can’t wait to read it to my daughter. The sooner she knows Alexander Beetle the better.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Review: Underneath a Cow

Madge the cow is a caring kind of cow. So when storm clouds loom over the farm and several animals find themselves caught out in the rain, far away from their homes, Madge is only too happy to offer them shelter.

First, it's Lally the rabbit who hops under Madge to take cover from the storm. Robinson the dog is next. Lally is a bit anxious about this — dogs chase rabbits — but these are unusual circumstances and Robinson puts his instincts aside. Fortunately, he's also able to refrain from biting the chicks when they join the party under Madge and hang off his ears!

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Daniel Corcoran

KBR is delighted to welcome funny man Daniel Corcoran, creator of rib-tickling word and image!

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I used to be a break-dancer; dragging large sheets of cardboard to school to do back spins and head-spins with my rock-steady crew!

2. What is your nickname?
It used to be Corky but now it’s ‘Daaaaaaad!’.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Wasps and sharks or worse - Sharky wasps.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Combine some rhyme with colour; then add some giggly fun!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Fun, creative, visual, positive, relaxed.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Review: Herbert Peabody and the Incredible Beehive (Herbert Peabody #2)

Herbert (Herbie) Peabody is a fruit and vegetable farmer at Mulberry Tree Farm.  He talks to the insects that share the ground in his garden and exchanges information. He is a friend of all living things. Herbie’s friend Bee is looking for a new place for her hive. There isn’t enough pollen for honey anymore, because there aren’t enough plants and flowers.

It is the day of the soccer finals and the ball is kicked over the fence into the gardens of Huffelton House, a building that is said to be haunted by the Voice That Belongs to Nobody. Herbie offers to get the ball. He discovers badly neglected gardens, and ground perfect for growing vegies. He knocks on the front door and The Voice That Belongs to Nobody tells him to Go Away!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review: A Bed for Bear

Bernard the Bear is getting sleepy. It's nearly time to hibernate and he must start looking for a bed. He isn't interested in a bear cave--too noisy and crowded for him. It might be good for some bears, but not Bernard.

So the young bear sets out to find his cosy spot.

He asks Frog if he can try his lily pad. But it proves a little bit wet.

He asks Bird if he can try his tree. But it's a little bit windy.

Review: Herman's Holiday

Herman and Henry are back! We first met this loveable duo in Herman's Letter (see review here), and now it's time for their next adventure. They're going on holiday together!

A quick look at some travel brochures reveals that while there are many exciting places they could visit, the best ones all seem to be very expensive. Herman and Henry just can't afford them. Then Herman comes up with a great idea — they'll go camping!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Review: As Big As You

Claude is a big elephant. A very big one. When he trumpets, the earth shakes. His trunk can hold enough water to shower a herd of elephants. He can charge far and fast.

Finlay is a small elephant. A very small one. He doesn't trumpet, he squeaks. His trunk can only hold enough water for a few drips. And he quickly gets left behind when Claude charges, until he finds himself all …

… alone. Oops.

10 Quirky Questions with author Coral Vass

1. What's your hidden talent?
Winning Pictionary!

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The Grinch! Not only is he adorably green, but his little heart grew three sizes the day he discovered Christmas didn’t come from a store, proving that we can all change

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Ernest Hemingway, Lynley Dodd, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Jane Austen, C.S.Lewis

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
The cleaning machine (Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger) in The Cat in the Hat that cleans the house in an instant

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Imagining, Researching, Persisting, Re-reading, Editing

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Entertaining, Engaging, Encouraging, Generous and Fun

7. Picture your favourite writing space. What are five objects you would find there?
Light-filled windows, a comfortable chair, a reliable computer, a desk piled with gorgeous picture books and a great cup of coffee.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Review: And Away We Go!

Fox has received a special delivery. A hot air balloon! He plans to make a trip to the moon and his friend Elephant is keen to go along.

'Hop in!' says Fox, but before they leave, the grab some pizza for the long journey ahead.

Just as they're about to go, Giraffe begs to come along. 'Hop in!' says Fox, but before they leave, they really do need to pick up some milkshakes.

Review: You Are Here

This is a gorgeously fun introduction to geography and how we view our world. From the opening pages that encourage kids to think about perspective by drawing their bedroom from various angles, to the fact-filled sections on countries and continents, this is a well-thought-out, cleverly structured book that will keep young minds engaged for hours.

You Are Here is divided into five, broad, colour-coded parts: Where is Here?, In Our World, Who We Are, Under the Sea, and Out of Our World. The thick, high-quality paper will easily cope with Textas and crayons, as kids make their own charts to compare the populations and geographical size of some of the world's major cities, or design their own mode of transport. They'll also learn how to draw simple maps of their neighbourhood, and even get to grips with the effects of the sun and moon's gravitational pull.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Review: Pig Dude - He Can Do ANYTHING!

Pig Dude is convinced he can’t do anything right, until his Mama assures him that she believes he can do anything.

Filled with confidence at Mama’s words, Pig Dude decides to tackle the impossible. He wants to fly! Not surprisingly, Pig Dude’s various attempts to fly don’t work out so well, however his Mama’s belief in him helps him to overcome each setback to try again.

This simple story is filled with humour as we follow Pig Dude’s attempts, and failures, in his quest to fly. Written by Michael Wagner, popular author of The Undys and Maxx Rumble series, Pig Dude: He Can Do ANYTHING! is ideal for young readers transitioning from picture books to first chapter books. The layout has minimal text on each page with lots of white space and colourful, entertaining illustrations by Adam Nickel to keep developing readers engaged.

Review: Venom Doc

Bryan Grieg Fry is a venomologist. He loves all things to do with poison and poisonous animals, and his work has taken him to over 50 countries. He's handled venomous water shrews in Siberia, giant octopuses in Antarctica, vampire bats in the Amazon, and king cobras in Malaysia.

He's been bitten by 26 venomous snakes, been stung by three stingrays, and survived a near-fatal scorpion sting in the Amazon jungle. He's also broken 23 bones, including his back in three places, and had to learn to walk again.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Review: Paper Zoo: Create Collage Animals

Collage is such an exciting and luscious artistic medium, and children, in particular, love the freedom and artistic expression that comes with its random effects. Even the littlest fingers can tear and arrange paper, and create striking imagery that's sure to secure prime position on the fridge.

Review: The Big Book of Animals of the World

This absolutely gorgeous, large format book is a toddler's dream (and shhh ... an adult's dream, too). Featuring animals from all over the world, double page spreads showcase two 'unknown' countries with background scenery (desert, jungle, ocean, islands) and the endemic animals--birds, mammals, reptiles, fish--of that particular region.

Ole Könnecke's iconic illustrations provide a feast for the eyes of readers large and small--and I simply loved guessing which region or country each page might represent. Australia was pretty easy! and we share space with our neighbours, New Zealand--unless Kiwis have made it across the ditch!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Review: Is There a Dog in This Book?

There’s a lot happening in Is There a Dog in This Book? and it’s filled with flaps to explore. It’s the third book of its type by author-illustrator Viviane Schwartz, and yes there is a dog in the book, but the main characters are actually three cats.

The narrating cats speak directly to the reader, and at the beginning of the book they are not too keen on dogs. Unfortunately for them a dog does appear in the story. The cats, and the reader, hide around the house, trying to stay clear of the dog. The dog, on the other hand, is trying to find them.

10 Quirky Questions with author Jen Storer

KBR is peeping with glee to welcome author and friend Jen Storer with these delightfully delicious 10 Quirky Questions.

1. What’s your hidden talent?

I play the Irish fiddle. My talent is hidden from everyone but me.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?

 Macbeth. That guy was seriously messed up—but oh so fascinating. Don’t get me started on his mother issues.

3. You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead).
Diana Wynne Jones. Clarissa Dickson Wright. (Have you read her memoirs? She wrote beautifully and had a formidable intellect). Neil Gaiman. Daniel Handler. Geoffrey McSkimming. This lot would keep me in awe (and in stitches) for hours.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

We know - all too well - the story of the dog eating our homework. It's amazing how many dogs have a taste for such things. And we all know the fires and floods and tornadoes that have prevented us from getting to school (or work!) on time.

But in this quirky picture book, the King of Quirk, Davide Cali, takes it up a notch, with a series of excuses by an overslept boy, and a teacher who spends a heck of a lot of time raising her eyebrows at each and every one.