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

Monday, 29 February 2016

Review: Mummy and Mumma Get Married

When Phoebe’s favourite football player gets married, she starts to think about all the people she knows who have been married recently. She then wonders why her parents, Mummy and Mumma, aren’t married.

When she asks, her mothers tell her that they can’t get married until ‘You-Know-Who comes to the party’. With her faithful cat Biscuit by her side, Phoebe decides to plan a wonderful wedding surprise for her mothers, sure that You-Know-Who, whoever that might be, won’t be able to resist coming along to the celebration.

Peter Millett - Publishing Kids' Books in a Multimedia World

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome New Zealand children's author Peter Millett. Peter has created a trailer for his latest Johnny Danger junior fiction novel and shares how and why of creating a book trailer video.

Writing the Johnny Danger series has been one of the most enjoyable projects of my career. It has taken me from my hermit-like home studio in Auckland to being on television in Melbourne, to arriving on stage with a parachute in Los Angeles, and finally to visiting schools in Scotland dressed as James Bond, and carrying around a loaded banana phone on the streets of Sean Connery’s hometown, Edinburgh.

All of this started from my daughter helping me to film a funny video down at the beach which involved me pretending to be a secret agent lost at sea on a paddle board. I shot this video to promote Johnny Danger #1: DIY Spy as my character did numerous dangerous things (unlike me). More than a few people saw this video and it got me thinking that I should embrace multimedia as an integral part of how I operate as an author and how I present my books to the public.

My readers are surrounded by apps, video games and every other gadget imaginable, and I wanted my series to embrace these new technologies in both storylines and how I promoted the books.

In my latest Johnny Danger book, Lie Another Day, music plays a key role at the end of the story where opposing forces have a ludicrous hip-hop battle in the jungles of Brazil featuring the tunes/beats of Gangnam Style and Uptown Funk. I got the idea of doing a music video parody trailer after an audience member at a recent school visit asked me if I could sing to the crowd because I was wearing a tuxedo and holding a microphone.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Review: Something Wonderful

Sam is a curious, tactile child who exemplifies what it is to be a child--carefree, at one with nature, free from responsibility.

He loves to chase feathers in the wind, spin on the washing line, climb trees and take things apart ... before putting them back together again.

In this sweetly-penned story, we gallop along with Sam as he lives life with vigour and enthusiasm--oftentimes exasperating his Dad as he forgets his chores around the family farm.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Guest Post: Kirsty Eagar - writing about sex and intimacy in Summer Skin

Photo credit: Carol Gibbons
Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Australian author Kirsty Eagar to discuss her latest YA novel, Summer Skin (published by Allen & Unwin). Summer Skin is a contemporary YA novel dealing with the topic of older teen relationships, sex, feminism and identity.

Summer Skin is the book that I would have liked to read in my late teens or early twenties, but it’s written with this generation of young adults in mind, the digital natives. That wasn’t how it began, though. In the beginning, I wanted to go back to college. Literally, as it turned out—the first draft was set in the nineties.

But then my agent commented that it read very much like a contemporary story, and, instead of feeling disheartened, I actually felt like I’d been handed a permission slip. For some time, I’d been thinking about what impacts social media and having access to so much sexual content online might be having on relationships, and a college story suddenly seemed the perfect setting to explore just that.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Review: Clancy of the Undertow

Barwen is a dead-end small town where even the smallest difference makes you stand out. Sixteen-year-old Clancy has no chance of passing unnoticed. She’s bright, a loner, attends nature club, and has a crush on Sasha, the local hot girl. As if that’s not enough to make her the town freak, her family is now at the centre of a town tragedy after her father is involved with a fatal car crash.

It’s at this lowest point that Clancy is surprised by the unexpected; a new girl in town who just might become a friend and the longed-for attention of Sasha. With her father becoming the target of town anger, her mother’s silence, her brother’s weird conspiracy theories, and potential new friendships (and perhaps something more), it’s time for Clancy to work out what she wants from life. If she can.

Review: Penelope Perfect - Very Private List for Camp Success

Penelope Kingston has decided she won’t feel anxious about school camp. Not at all. Even though camp last year was a disaster, Penelope knows that this year will be better. She’s even written herself a very private list of rules to make sure that everything goes to plan.

Unfortunately, some of the other girls in Penelope’s room don’t realise that if they only listened to her, everything would be done the right way and they could all enjoy camp. Not only that, they don't seem to realise using Penelope's ideas is their best chance to win the prize for best hut.

Penelope is about to learn that sometimes trying new things and helping friends is more important than being ‘right’.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Review: Yellow

Fourteen-year-old Kirra feels like her life is in crisis. She’s questioning her friendships, family relationships, goals and identity. What’s the point of trying to achieve anything when everyone who is supposed to care about her simply points out her flaws and inadequacies?

Targeted by her bullying friends, Kirra feels like she is all alone until she has a chance encounter with a ghost. Perhaps if Kirra can help the ghost to bring his murderer to justice, the ghost can help her reconnect with her friends and get her recently separated parents back together.

If only it were that simple.

Review: The Mice and the Shoemaker

Although this review comes a little late for Christmas for which it was intended, the beauty of this incredible book justifies an appearance at any time of the year. Highly talented West Australian artist and illustrator Gabriel Evans has reinterpreted the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker. His delightful series about the Woodland Whiskers family of mice now extends to this offering.

The Woodland Whiskers’ home is flooded several weeks before Christmas. They have nowhere to go until the place dries out, except Grandpa Squeak’s house under the floor boards of a cobbler’s dwelling.

But Grandpa Squeak and his wife are now old. The shoes they make are no longer of the fine quality they used to be therefore very few people purchase them. The elderly couple are hardly making ends meet.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: The Power of Henry's Imagination

Henry is despondent because he has lost his favourite toy, his rabbit Raspberry. It had been a gift from Grandpa. The whole house is turned upside-down without any sign of him. As usual, Grandpa has a suggestion. Henry must visualise that he has found Raspberry. He must believe that he is with him already. As always, Henry follows Grandpa’s advice.

He imagines Raspberry is with him everywhere he goes. They share each activity and together they become explorers and climb mountains. They are pirates that sail the seas together, astronauts and dragon catchers. Henry’s imagining that he is with Raspberry is so strong, that he feels as if his friend isn’t lost at all.

World Read Aloud Day: Story Box Library Tips for Reading Aloud

Story Box Library showcases a huge variety of storytelling techniques, having featured almost 50 diverse individuals reading aloud some of Australia’s best picture books. To celebrate World Read Aloud Day, the team at Story Box Library has shared some of their favourite tips for reading aloud to children, as demonstrated by the talented comedians, actors, singers, writers and entrepreneurs that can be seen reading at Story Box Library.

1. Find a comfortable place to read. 
Getting comfortable helps you to relax the body and let go of any tension. It’s the best way to help words flow freely as you read aloud.

There are many ways to get comfortable. Try:
  1. Getting cosy on a day bed laden with cushions (Emily Barrett reads Today We Have No Plans
  2. Chilling out on a banana lounge (Andrew Hansen reads What’s Wrong with the Wobbegong?
  3. Finding a safe haven in a blow-up boat (Brian Nankervis reads Yak and Gnu)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: The Dance of Death

Thirteen year old Adam has big dreams of adventure. He wants to explore the world, but it’s the year 1348 and Adam’s world is restricted to Brampton, the small village where he lives with his parents and older brother, Will, and spends his days looking after sheep and playing with his friends.

The Dance of Death takes its title from a traditional story acted out by the villagers on All Hallows Eve, as a reminder that death will come to everyone one day. In this period of time, the 1300s, most people Adam knows die before they reach forty years of age. The Dance of Death is a story that gives Adam nightmares, and Will a chance to tease him. This year, it is a story more prophetic than anyone could imagine.

Shout Out: The Original Handwritten ‘Alice’

Photo source
Classic children’s stories often have fascinating origins. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland started life as Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. The original manuscript is now part of the British Library’s historical collections, and they’ve made it available to read online.

Last year, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, two special editions, reproductions of the original Alice’s Adventures Under Ground manuscript, were produced with the support of the British Library, and funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

The result is a beautiful little book, in keeping with the original, with gold foil embossed writing on a black leather cover. Lewis Carroll’s handwriting is extraordinarily neat, quite easy to read, and complemented by decorative chapter headings. The title page has been carefully illustrated, and there are also 37 black and white illustrations, again all by Lewis Carroll. He was quite an accomplished artist!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Review: Wordburger

This delicious Wordburger is brain food of the superior kind. Full of anagrams, word puzzles, wordplay, crosswords, palindromes, pangrams, tongue-twisters - the list is endless. If it has to do with words and games, it will be found in this comprehensive and entertaining book. I can see kids struggling with parents for possession of this gem.

With a toss and tumble or a shuffle of letters, the words are recycled into new ones. There are lots of challenges for the brain along the way with answers found in discreet (tiny) letters along the page.

This book is a celebration of sound, whether it is onomatopoeia or phonaesthesia, anagrams or homophones, they are ‘words about words’ although it was all Greek to me.

Review: The Bathing Costume

Subtitled The Worst Vacation of My Life, this gorgeously-illustrated book is a high text story (would suit older or independent picture book readers) that so many kids could relate to. And many an adult would have major flashbacks, too.

Myron is going on extended holiday at Grandma and Grandpa's house in the country. His grandparents live in an overgrown home and don't even have a telephone, so Myron is feeling a little desolate. Grandma tells him they'll have to write some old fashion letters to mum and dad back at home.

When Myron's cousins turn up, things are irkier still. You know--short-sheeting beds and  chasing with the hose and all that kind of rough-and-tumble stuff. And no mama's arms to snuggle into.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review: Arthur and the Curiosity

There's always been a fine line between the imagination and reality, and this new book from debut author/illustrator Lucinda Gifford perfectly encapsulates that magical line.

Arthur is a curious little soul. Whilst on excursion to the museum with his class, he regularly strays to take a peek at a curious creature--the Curiosity. The museum attendant has no idea what it is, and, indeed, the plaque on the cabinet simply says: '?'

Friday, 19 February 2016

Review: Spellbound

I’ve long been a fan of Melbourne artist Maree Coote’s books for children. The typographic illustrations in Alphabet City Zoo and Letters to Melbourne are quite fascinating and every time I read these books, I’m impressed once again at how it is possible to create such engaging images using only letters in different colours and fonts.

When I heard about Maree’s latest book, Spellbound, I was prepared to once again be impressed and intrigued and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, my level of appreciation was taken up several levels as this book shares not only the fascinating typographic illustrations, but also information about how the images are created and inspiration and advice to help readers attempt their own alphabet pictures.

Tania's Picks: Five Exquisite Picture Books

We're so fortunate at KBR to be sent hundreds of books throughout the year--something that truly delights our book-obsessed team. But we also purchase many books, and for me, most of my purchasing goes into picture books (my true obsession).

Here are five exquisite books I've recently purchased and I can't recommend them highly enough. Both complicated and divinely simple, three are wordless. If you haven't explored wordless picture books yet, well--you simply must.

Bird by Beatriz Martin Vidal, Simply Read Books, 9781927018644, $27.99, 4+

This is quite simply one of the most stunning wordless picture books I have ever seen. It left me silent, entranced and completely moved. With an abstract storyline that nonetheless will resonate deeply with kids (even if they don't consciously understand its message), I was struck by the illustrations that showcase subtle emotion and 'knowing' like nothing I've ever seen before. Coupled only with a series of time-markers, this is a superb production that will sit as wall art near my desk for a very long time.


The White Book by Silvia Borando, Elisabetta Pica and Lorenzo Clerici, Walker, $24.99, 9781406363173, 0 - 3
Another wordless book that will entrance the younger set, as a little boy paints white walls with striking colours, only to reveal a series of creatures that appear as white outlines through the paint. The boy then reacts with these creatures in fun ways. Simple in design yet so beautifully-elegant and charming for both kids and adults. Perfect for design lovers.


The Prince and the Porker by Peter Bently and David Roberts, Andersen Press, $32.99, 9781783441082, 4+
Could it be? Two of my very favourite creators in the one book? Oh my--I was hopping when I saw this on the shelf. And it's every bit as glorious as I knew it would be. Featuring the superb, textured, humorous and drool-worthy colouring and styling Roberts is renowned for, I was in sheer heaven reading this story about a case of mistaken identity and its propensity to cause a ruckus. Rhyming text has not only been beautifully-done, it really suits the 'flavour' of this storyline that combines a clever concept with loads of humour. A new fave.

The Land of Lines by Victor Hussenot, Chronicle, 9781452142821, $19.99, 5+
Part picture book, part graphic novel, this virtually wordless story follows a boy and a girl from different lands who come together to explore new territories--basically page after page of incredibly-detailed line drawings in both red and blue (the girl is red and the boy is blue). As they continue to explore, they meet a yellow creature who joins the quest for exploration--until they find home. Absolutely jammed with eye-boggling line-drawing detail, this is designed for slightly older children, but kids as young as preschool age could absolutely spend time exploring the pages, and absorbing the understated nuance.

Plip the Umbrella Man by David Sire and Thomas Baas, Little Gestalten, 9783899557381, $38.99, 3 - 10
The illustrations in this book are what immediately drew me in--superbly-crafted, retro-inspired and a delectable colour palette of pistachio, black and red. While they look like a lot of kooky fun, the underlying themes to this book are a lot deeper and a lot darker. They cover deep sadness and depression, but not in a gloomy way. In a hopeful, creative and inspiring way that is deftly woven into the story with childlike appropriateness. These undertones are so well-crafted, they're certainly something that can be explored as children get older, but still 'felt' when they are young. The story is subtle, exquisitely illustrated and important.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Shout Out: Jinny & Cooper series


When Jinny asked for a pet guinea pig for her 10th birthday, she imagined a sweet, soft, golden-furred guinea pig that she could cuddle and care for. Instead, she came home from the pet store with Cooper, a scruffy guinea pig with an attitude who can also talk, make himself invisible, and translocate. Not what she expected at all!

Jinny and Cooper are the stars of a new junior fiction series by Tania Ingram. The stories have a paranormal edge, featuring tales of witchcraft and magic along with adventure and a large helping of humour courtesy of Cooper’s quirky personality.

Meet the Illustrator: Ben Wood

Credit: Kathy Luu Photography
Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Traditional and digital soup! Yum.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Good lighting is essential! But so is seating, and furniture flow. As an illustrator who paints both traditionally and digitally, I’m always moving from my computer to my painting area. Workspace set up is really important to keep my work fluid. My computer has its own space, and so does painting. Piles of books seem to appear everywhere though, and get in the way a lot.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
In my personal sketchbooks I love to use watercolour and pencil. But I don’t think I have an absolute favorite. I love being able to mix it up. From watercolour, gouache, ink, acrylic, pencil, to digital work. It really depends on how I feel or what project I am working on.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
This is always changing. Long-term favorites are:
Hayao Miyazaki: His animated films are designed with so much detail and magic.
Tove Jansson: Her Moomin books are a beautiful balance of words and images.
Norman Lindsay: His line work is incredible!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review: The Bakehouse

Bert has just returned from his elder sister Betty’s funeral. At age 84, his memory has faded to a large degree but when his unknown great-grandson turns up, he is forced back into the past. Erueti wants to learn about his family line. More threatening is his request to learn about the building with the strange name of the Geronimo bakehouse.

Bert’s life during the WW2 is revealed with each memory soon linking to another. But he realizes there is one memory, a guilty secret he has kept all these years that must not die with him.

Bert discovers the bakehouse which has been hidden for years. He decides to clean it up and stock it with supplies to use as a bomb shelter when it is needed. But days into his plans, he finds a sick soldier hiding there. Bert with his elder sister Betty and little Meg keep the soldier’s secret and squirrel food, medicine and basic needs to keep him alive. They live in fear when the military police come searching for the deserter. But the outcome is nothing like they had anticipated.

Review: Trouble at Home

It all happened about two weeks since next Thursday. Georgia's house is taken by a dragon. A large green dragon with blue wings and red scaly bits around its ears. And inside her house, at the time, was Georgia's toddler brother Godfrey.

Georgia's parents are beside themselves. The police are useless. And of course, no one believes Georgia for a moment. Yes, a dragon stole their house with a toddler inside. Riiiiight...

Frustrated, Georgia ropes in younger brother Henry and takes matters into her own hands--to seek out that dragon and rescue what is rightfully theirs. As a bunch of useless adults sit about waiting, it's a joy to see these kids not only find that dragon, but set about repairing injustice.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Review: Chess - Be the King!

Did you know the “expression checkmate originates from the Persian word Shah Mat, which means the king is paralysed”?

One of the most popular games in the world, chess can be a little confusing if you’ve never played before. Chess: Be the King! is a great primer if you want to learn how to play, and is also a fantastic guide for anyone whose skills are more advanced.

This 150+ page book starts with the rules, terminology and history, then moves onto explaining tactics and strategies, as well as what to look out for and avoid. There’s also an explanation of chess notation which is used to indicate which piece is moving to which square. Throughout the book you’ll find chess exercises and multiple choice questions which give you the chance to test your knowledge of the game, or practice making particular moves in an attempt to checkmate an opponent.

Review: Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust (Squishy Taylor #2)

Meet Squishy Taylor, the heroine of a new junior fiction series by Ailsa Wild.

Squishy is curious and energetic, keeping a close eye on what is happening around her as she looks for mysteries to solve. When strange things start happening in the apartment of her grumpy neighbour, Squishy knows something isn’t quite right. It doesn’t take long before she is convinced her neighbour is connected with diamond smugglers. How is he involved? Well, Squishy will just have to investigate to find out.

Squishy draws her sisters into her investigation and together they think they have solved the mystery of the missing diamonds. Now they just need to find an adult who will believe them. Can they uncover the diamond smugglers before time runs out?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Review: Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep!

Seeing the cover of a Maisy book always takes me back to reading Maisy stories with my children when they were very young. The bold lines and bright colours drew the kids’ attention from an early age and the easy to follow stories of Maisy’s adventures with her friends were just right for a toddler story time.

Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep! is a  relatively new addition to Lucy Cousins’s collection of Maisy stories. Readers follow Maisy and mother hen as they wander about the farm trying to find 10 chicks, who are hiding behind gates, in the garden, in the pigsty and elsewhere. Each double page features at least one flap for children to lift as they search for the missing chicks.

Review: Timeline: A Visual History of Our World

Sometimes a book comes along that makes you marvel. Marvel at its structure, its content, its illustrations, its production., it's diversity and detail.

Timeline is just such a book.

Large format and visually striking, this is a heart-racer for sure. Anyone with even the merest adoration for illustration will be inherently drawn in, as will the history-buff, the adventurer, the time traveller and ... the child.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

What do you Love about your Library?


What do you love about your library?

14 February is Library Lovers’ Day. If you’re a booklover, then you’re probably a library lover, too. When they provide access to so many books, and all for free, what’s not to love?

We’d love to hear from you what it is you love most about your library. Share your stories in the comments below, or on social media (use the hashtag #LibraryLoversDay or #librarylove and tag @KidsBookReview and @ALIANational). And remember to visit your library and tell the librarians how much you appreciate them.

International Book Giving Day 2016!

http://bookgivingday.com/

Today, 14 February, is International Book Giving Day!

Perfectly timed with Valentine's Day--what could be more loving that giving the gift of story ... and literacy?

You can give books to your kids, to your partner, to your friends or colleagues. You can give books to medical centres or women's shelters or to strangers. Or you can even give them to yourself.

Here are some other ideas, too ...


Who will you be giving a book to this IBGD? Be sure to use the #bookgivingday hashtag to share your activity!


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Review: Atmospheric - The Burning Story of Climate Change

Atmospheric is written by Carole Wilkinson, who is well known for books like the Dragon Keeper series and the Ramose series, amongst many others. This particular title is part of a non-fiction history series called The Drum. It shares one of her passions, a concern for our climate and what we are doing to it.

“Over the past few decades, weather has become the most important topic in the world …. The weather has started a global debate.”

Atmospheric is a discussion of climate change and the history of our environment. It distills a complex subject into small chunks that are easy to read and understand. It’s filled with information from diverse sources (referenced at the back of the book), and complemented by a timeline, glossary, recommended websites, and numerous photos, diagrams, and sidebars.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Review: Bullet Train Disaster (Countdown to Danger)

My first Jack Heath experience was Third Transmission. You can read my fingernail-gnawing review here. Not being the 'typical' target audience for his books, it surprised me how much I enjoyed (loved, actually) Third Transmission.

And now--these years later--I've had a very similar reaction to Bullet Train Disaster--the first in this series of choose-your-own-path stories.

Written in third person narrative, YOU are the star of this book, which means 'you' can be anyone. Including me. You have a kooky friend named Pigeon and you are taking a ride on a supersonic train that's about to blast up the side of an icy mountain--Mt Grave.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Lucy Cousins

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Strong, bright colours, a bold line, child like images.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
A cup of tea, a radio, and, if possible, sunshine

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Gouache. for it’s vibrant, opaque colours and it’s texture

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Matisse. Picasso. My dad, who is a painter/ graphic designer. He does wonderful, quirky, funny drawings on birthday and Christmas cards.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Review: Fetcher's Song (The Hidden #3)

Get ready for the fast-paced finale to The Hidden series. Fletcher’s Song rolls out twists in the tale while the action flows. Every unanswered question form Ice Breakers and Sunker's Deep is answered but not until the last possible moment.

Crew from the ‘Oyster’ and survivors of the ‘Sunkers’ submersibles lay siege to the citadel where the Devouts are holed up while Petrel and her friends search for the song that will free the world from these dreaded anti-machine Devouts.

But the song eludes them.

Review: Afterlight

All her life Sophie has believed in ghosts; she even met one when she was small. But there’s no hint of her parents after they die. They’d have pushed through any barrier to contact her if they could, wouldn’t they? Sophie decides ghosts can’t exist.

Then Eve decides to haunt the waking hours of Sophie’s nights. Eve needs Sophie to tie up some loose ends and she won’t leave Sophie alone until she agrees. Eve might be a ghost but she can ‘push’ Sophie physically.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Guest Post: Colour Me PNG with Jodie McAlister

KBR warmly welcomes Jodie McAlister to talk of her truly inspiring journey to create Papua New Guinea's first colouring book. Jodie, an Aussie who lives in PNG with her two small children, curated, facilitated and launched the book at Port Moresby Nature Park on 14 December.

In early 2015, I had the privilege of moving to Papua New Guinea for my work. To have the opportunity to live in PNG with such a unique and diverse culture, and such a rich and amazing natural environment, is something so special for me and my family. My passion for the region and for PNG ramps up when art is involved. There are so many uniquely talented artists, and it is this passion that has driven the creation of Colour Me PNG—PNG’s first colouring in book.

10 Quirky Questions with author Belinda Murrell

1. What's your hidden talent?
I’m a secret cow-girl! One of my favourite activities is mustering cattle up on my brother’s farm. I keep my horse there and love the joy of riding all over the farm, rounding up the cattle and getting them into the yards for check-ups. It’s hard, hot, dusty work but great fun, and so very different to my every-day life.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Lord Voldemort - ‘he who should not be named’ in the Harry Potter series because he is so very villainous, frightening and evil.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Mine are all dead! Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, C.S Lewis, JRR Tolkein and the most fascinating guest for me would be Charlotte Atkinson (my great-great-great-great grandmother who wrote the first children’s book published in Australia in 1841) .

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Definitely a time machine! But the next best thing is books that make you feel that you’ve gone back in time!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: The Big Orange Splot

I am beyond excited to review this book for KBR. The Big Orange Splot, written and illustrated by Daniel Manus Pinkwater, left an indelible mark on me as a child. The illustrations are so fun and the plot has an important takeaway.

Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where all the houses look the same. Everybody liked it that way. "This is a neat street," they would say.  Until one day, a seagull dropped a big orange splot of paint on the roof of Mr. Plumbean's house.

Book List: Books about China for Children

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.

To acknowledge the festivities underway for Chinese New Year, we've compiled a list of picture books, junior and middle fiction novels, and junior non-fiction books that celebrate China and Chinese culture.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, Sally Rippin and Regine Abos, Walker Books, $24.99 RRP, 9781742031231

Riley and the Sleeping Dragon by Tania McCartney and Mo Qovaizi, Tania McCartney, $16.95 RRP, 9780980475005

Riley and the Dancing Lion by Tania McCartney and Kieron Pratt, Tania McCartney, $16.95 RRP, 9780980475029

New Year Surprise! by Christopher Cheng and Di Wu, NLA Publishing, $24.99 RRP,  9780642278838

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Review: Cicada Summer

Eloise’s Dad has been moving from one exciting project to the next and one girlfriend to the next ever since Eloise’s mother died. With each change, Eloise becomes quieter until she forgets how to find the words.

When her Dad takes Eloise to meet Mo, his estranged mother, he promises that this time everything will be different. Then he leaves with no promise of when he will return.

As Eloise wanders through the property Mo has signed over to her dad, strange things happen. Is she seeing ghosts? Is it possible to travel through time? Is it all in her imagination?

Saturday, 6 February 2016

10 Quirky Questions with author Kaz Delaney

1. What's your hidden talent?
Singing in the shower. I am amazing. Seriously. Big Bands, rock groups and musical productions alike would cry in despair of never being able to include this voice should they ever hear it. But alas, my heart belongs to the literary world, so yes, those fortunate few music people who’ve had the privilege of catching that angelic voice, sometimes hauntingly heard wafting though the sultry night air, will weep and gnash their teeth but my heart will stay true.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I love a good villain but I’m not sure I have a favourite. Glancing down my bookshelves, perhaps the collective Witches in Roald Dahl’s The Witches? They are just so bad! Dahl pulls no punches when creating bad people, and you can’t help but love them and abhor them at the same time.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
After the last answer, I would have to invite good old Roald, right? Now assuming these aren’t people with whom I usually imbibe, then I must cast my search further afield.

2) Hmmn, I’m back at my bookcase. So, 2) Ally Carter, because she’s a bit of a YA goddess.

3) Agatha Christie  - do I need a reason? I think I’d lock her in a room and just talk to her forever.

4) Lee Childs because I think he’s brilliant and I’d like to know what he thought of that whole Tom Cruise thing. Really? Tom Cruise?

5) Wow, I could fit a hundred people onto that one last chair… Maybe because of some things I’m writing I might like to include Janet Evanovitch. Or then again, Elizabeth George whose subtle humour and exquisite turn of phrase is breathtaking. Or maybe  M.R.C Kassian who reminds me of Elizabeth George and whose books I have fallen in love with… or. No, I must stop. Wow, that was/is hard! But I’d never give this party. Mine would be huge because I am surrounded daily (in a cyber sense) by brilliant writer friends both on my doorstep and all over Australia and they’d get the first invitations. Watch the mail, Susan Whelan.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: The Skunk

What do you do when you want to get away from someone? Leave, of course. But what if that someone follows you wherever you go?

This delightful tale presented in a black, white and red retro style is full of the energy of a hide-and-seek game. I could feel the man’s heartbeat rise with each new attempt to escape. The suspense of wondering whether he has finally broken free from his pursuer is delicious. No wonder it was on the New York Times best illustrated picture book list for 2015.

Guest Post: Saffron Howden, editor of Inkling News

credit: 702 ABC Sydney, Amanda Hoh
Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Saffron Howden, editor and founder of Crinkling News, to discuss the inspiration for this exciting new newspaper initiative for children.

I know a young man. He has a kind disposition, a solid sense of right and wrong, and a trusting nature that sometimes lands him in trouble.

Throughout his childhood he was cared for with an attentiveness many kids would envy. He grew up in a loving family, was well educated, had tutors to help him through Maths and English, and he ate well with plenty of sport and exercise in between.

Let's call this nice young fellow Jack.

Jack was unique in one way. He did not grow up with his biological parents. Instead, the state and charities subsidised his upbringing for as long as he remained a child.

All of that changed when he turned 18.

Overnight - a rather arbitrary night in the scheme of a human life - Jack was an adult. A man. Someone required to vote in elections, earn his keep, pay taxes, fill out forms, and sign long and complicated legal contracts for mobile phones and utilities. For Jack in particular, becoming an adult also meant the immediate loss of all the financial and practical assistance he had enjoyed just the day before his 18th birthday.

Seeing Jack stumble through this monumental change got me thinking: how well do we prepare our children for the adult world that is foist upon them so suddenly?