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

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Review: Alyzon Whitestarr

This is a re-issue of Isobelle Carmody’s book which was first printed in 2005. That year, it won the Golden Aurealis Award for the best novel. A magnificent piece of work, it is a stunning portrayal of human ability to create or destroy, to choose love to rule, or use power to execute horrendous deeds.

Alyzon is nothing like the other members of her multi-talented family. She sees herself as a ‘chook in a house of peacocks’. After she is hit on the head by a car boot, she wakes from her coma to realise life is changed forever. She has acquired specific gifts that none of her family have. Her senses are greatly magnified, particularly her sense of smell. This enables her to differentiate between good and evil people due to the odour they emit.

Exhibition: Seeing Stories

John Barrow by Ann James
Lovers of art and children’s books, young and old, have an exciting new exhibition to explore in Canberra. Seeing Stories is presented by the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature and features the work of ten amazing artists: Terry Denton, Peter Gouldthorpe, Bob Graham, Leigh Hobbs, Elizabeth Honey, Ann James, Alison Lester, Andrew McLean, Patricia Mullins and Julie Vivas.

The exhibition includes a “special exhibit of material about the artists, an artists' workspace, book reading corner and art activities.” At its launch, illustrator Ann James and author Jackie French spoke passionately about the importance of stories, especially those told without words through the pictures we see in books.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review: Wholesome Food for Busy Parents

Restructuring children’s and adult eating habits can be a challenge. This book is about helping parents and carers through sometimes slow, but successful steps, towards the preparation of nutritional food.

The recipes in Wholesome Food for Busy Parents are based on food found easily and often in our kitchens. Hints and Tips are reminders of things we know, but that perhaps have slipped to the back of our minds due to the time poor and busy lives we live today.

Many recipes can be cooked in bulk and frozen. Storage and Freezing Techniques gives helpful information on how to preserve your delicious and healthy creations.

Review: The Giant Game of Sculpture

Herve Tullet must be having an absolute ball producing these organically-created, effulgently artistic books for kids.

This latest creation stands over 40cm tall, and bills itself as a game of sculpture, where kids can take a seemingly large-format book and use it to fashion a wonderful 3D sculpture.

The 'book' opens into a concertina spread, with cut-outs and pop-out shapes that children can remove and re-insert in innovative ways.
Children can also insert their own items--pieces of card, paper, sticks, paper rolls, cloth--all manner of craft items, before taking it all down and starting over again.

Tania's Picks: An April of Sensational Books

April has seen yet another clutch of delicious books--sourced in local bookstores online (if the bookstores are out of stock). I love that some of these books are new release and some are titles I've been seeking out for some time now. Isn't it wonderful when you can finally track down a gem?

Herewith are just some of the gems I've located for stacks of reading pleasure during April. All highly recommended.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: Ten Little Princesses

Don’t let the vibrant – almost lurid – pink foil cover trick you into thinking this is just another hot pink silly princess story. Ten Little Princesses is so wonderfully fun, with bright cartoonish artwork and quite a number of references to well known fairy tales throughout the illustrations.

The rhyming text sets a good pace, starting with “Ten little princesses, going to a ball, trotting on their ponies, past the castle wall”. With each new page a small tragedy befalls one of the Disney-esk princesses, allowing the readers to count down backwards from ten with the number of princesses left shown in both alpha and numerical form on the next page.

Meet the Illustrator: Jon Foye

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Random, silly, oddball & quirky. My birds have teeth.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Layout pads, pencils & inks … my Mac & the scanner.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Conté crayon/Lead pencil & ink wash

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman and David Shrigley

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The Golden Years of Metal. Give me any Motorhead, Iron Maiden or Metallica album cover and I’m there!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Review: Maisy's Amazing Big Book of Words

Maisy’s Amazing Big Book of Words is a treasure trove for toddlers who are always (and often swiftly) increasing their vocabulary. Broken into themed sections, readers can experience words associated with specific topics and activities. Most toddler day time experiences are included (getting dressed, eating, bath time, bed time etc) and there are also special events and activities (birthdays, gardening, making music), particular interests (animals, on the farm, things that go) and other topics such as cleaning, indoor and outdoor activities and the weather.

Review: Pop-Up London, Paris and New York

Modern day babies and toddlers are no strangers to travel, and even if little ones (or mum and dad!) would rather venture no further than the back yard or local park, encouraging kids to stretch their internal horizons via the pages of a book, is absolutely priceless.

This is why I love Lonely Planet's children's books so much. The publishers clearly understand the importance of travel and wider horizons and cultural understanding ... by journeying through the pages of a book.

In this latest series of small-format pop-up books, Andy Mansfield's illustrations and paper engineering form a magical and colourful trip to London, Paris and New York, where iconic buildings and monuments reach for the sky.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Review: This is Not a Book

This wordless picture book is simply brilliant!

I've been handing it around to friends ever since I received it and it's put a smile on every single person's face — kid or adult. What's more, it's not just entertaining. It's also a really clever way to get people thinking about perspective, and how everyday objects can be transformed with just a little bit of imagination.

The magic lies in the detail of these deceptively simple illustrations. The visual games begin with the cover, where the front and back covers show what's happening on either side of a door. Then it's on to the opening spread — a huge gaping monster mouth. My friend's little boy couldn't resist chasing his brother around, 'snapping' the book's 'jaws' shut on him!

Review: Whatever Happened to My Sister?

Things have been suspicious for a while now. Changes have been happening. Things are no longer the same. Someone has replaced my older sister and I have no idea who it is.

This is a truly gorgeous book about growing up. Our little narrator has no idea where her play pal or yore has gone. She's turned into some laptop-addicted, bedroom-haunting 'no' person. Gone are the days of giggles and smiles and playing together, dressing up the cat or trying on costumes.

Instead there's only frowning and secrets.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Anzac Day 2016 Book List: Books about War for Children - New Release Books

As we approached Anzac Day 2016, we once again received several wonderful picture books that deal with themes related to war and conflict. While some prefer to leave such topics until children are older, others want to explain issues from the news, Anzac Day marches, and dawn services to their children.

For those who are looking for books that deal with the theme of war and military conflict in a sensitive way that is appropriate for children, the following books are new in 2016 and offer an age-appropriate way to start conversations with children about Australia's military history.

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg, illustrated by Robin Cowcher, Walker Books, $24.99, 9781922179050.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Shout Out: Big Hug picture book series by Shona Innes

The Big Hug Book series is a collection of resource books focusing on social skills and emotional intelligence topics. Presented in picture book format, the books a gentle and age-appropriate explanation to help children navigate what can be very complicated and confusing social interactions and emotions.

The author, Shona Innes, is a qualified clinical and forensic psychologist. Her experience working with children facing challenging emotional and social situations has clearly motivated her to provide parents and teachers with these useful books as a resource for starting conversations.

Review: Can I Eat That?

Life can be so confusing. When you're young, it seems impossible that anyone would eat a snail. Or a sea urchin. Or a tornado.

Well, actually, you can't really eat a tornado, but you can eat a tonnato, a tournedos and a tostada, which sort of sound like 'tornado'.

And while we're on the topic of tornadoes, can you go pickle-picking? Well, sort of. You can pick cucumbers, yes, and then later you can pickle them for that juicy snap and tang. And what about jellyfish? If you can eat jelly and you can eat fish, can you eat jellyfish?

This gorgeous book, illustrated by one of my favourite artists, is a joy of kooky fun, plays on words and questions and answers that will have the cogs in any child's brain almost literally turning.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Review: Mad About Monkeys

It's been wonderful watching Owen Davey's career progress, and his latest offering is further confirmation he's heading in a phenomenal direction.

With a cloth-bound, embossed and foil-titled cover, Mad About Monkeys is one of a new breed of sophisticated 'information' book that's been peppering our market of late. Exquisitely illustrated (we simply must talk about the illos first) with moody colours, divine visual texture and plenty of quirk, the layout of each page is superb--perfectly balancing information with image in a way that's not only pleasing to the eye, but easy to navigate.

The book covers all manner of monkey--firstly discussing what actually typifies the monkey, followed by how they live, what they eat, their family tree and--something I didn't know--how monkeys are divided into two main groups--Old and New.

10 Quirky Questions with Nicki Greenberg

1. What's your hidden talent?
Making really good sandwiches.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Captain Hook from Peter Pan. I was both frightened and fascinated by him as a kid. So dashing! So alluring…

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Whichever ones will help with the dishes.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Paddington Bear.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Disciplined, playful, solitary, scribbly, ESPRESSO.

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Had her cake. Ate it.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Review: What Pet Should I Get?

Isn't it just sheer delight to enjoy posthumously-published works by the great Dr Seuss (aka Theodore Giesel)?

Shortly after the author died in 1991, his wife Audrey discovered a box crammed with current and past projects. It was put aside and rediscovered by Ted's longtime friends Audrey and Claudia Prescott in 2013, and one of treasures inside was the manuscript and line art for What Pet Should I Get?

Ted was a real animal lover, and this fabulous rhyming tale features all manner of creatures as two kids head to a pet shop to decide which pet would best suit their needs.

Review: Percy and His Amazing Box of Disguises

Percy Pimpernel is a rather adventurous and fun-loving rabbit. He lives in a nice burrow, up on a hill, in the countryside. He loves digging holes wherever he pleases, running around wild and free, spending his days frolicking and skipping.

At the bottom of the hill, in a little house, live a dog, cat and two furry hamsters. Percy feels rather sorry for these animals; they are not wild and free, and they don't get to do just as they please. So, he comes up with a plan to set them free — a plan that involves a big box of amazing disguises!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Phil Lesnie

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
“I guess it’s not completely horrible, for a first attempt”

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My tilting drawing table. I’m not sure what the tilting is for, but it definitely makes me feel like a real illustrator person. And my big silly beanbag. Without it, the cat would never visit me while I work.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Watercolours! There’s nothing so magic in all the world as the way paper drinks up water and pigment, the weird fractal blooms of a wet wash painting, clouds blotted away with wadded-up tissue, the transparency, the perfect white of the paper, AAAGH, THE CAT JUST WALKED ACROSS THE WET PAGE (so that’s what the tilting table is for!), it’s alright, I’ll just touch it up with gouache, no, no, that’s much worse, just so much worse.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Freya Blackwood, in a heartbeat. Whenever I’m stuck, or something isn’t working, I go lie down and pore over all of Freya’s books. And then I steal, steal shamelessly!
And Jillian Tamaki. Every comic I own of hers has pages warped from tears and effluvia.
And Armin Greder. Who still hasn’t responded to my invite on Xbox Live.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Review: Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan. He can't remember anything about his parents other than for a hazy memory of his mother — a small, gentle woman who smelled like strawberries and used to sing to him.

But no one has sung to him for many years now. A resident of Crosscaper Orphanage since the age of two, Denizen has one real friend, Simon Hayes, a fellow orphan. They've learned to keep their heads down, accept that life at Crosscaper isn't particularly cheerful and just make the best of it until they're old enough to leave.

All that changes when Denizen receives a note from the director of the orphanage informing him that his aunt wants to take him away for a few days. Denizen didn't even know he had an aunt — and if she's been around all this time, why does she only want to see him now?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

12 Curly Questions with Jon Klassen

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I'm trying really hard to be good at running but I'm really bad at it.

2. What is your nickname?
My actual name is "Jonathan" so I guess "Jon" is my nickname.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Snakes. All of them.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Deciding how to tell it decides how the story goes.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
careful, trusting, hopeful, economic, learning

6. What book character would you be, and why?
I'm reading The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy right now and the title character has a pretty good thing going. His life seems quiet, which is something I'm increasingly interested in. I haven't finished it yet though, so maybe it doesn't end well for him.

Monday, 18 April 2016

CBCA Notables 2016 Book List

Today the Children’s Book Council of Australia announced their list of Notable Books for 2016. This list acts at the long list for the 2016 Children’s Book of the Year Award (with the short list announced at the CBCA Conference on 20 May and the winners and honour books announced on 19 August.

Books are judged in several categories (as listed below. We are thrilled to congratulate Kids’ Book Review founder Tania McCartney for her listing in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books section with her book Australian Kids’ Through the Years (which was illustrated by Andrew Joyner and published by NLA Publishing.

We are fortunate to have many wonderfully talented authors and illustrators in Australia (with publishers producing a huge range of fantastic titles for children and teens. Congratulations to all of the authors (illustrators and publishers with books included in the Notables List for 2016. We don’t envy the judges as they deliberate to select the final winners from such an amazing selection of books.

Visit the CBCA website for more information about the Book of the Year Award. You can also keep up to date with CBCA announcements by following the CBCA Facebook page.

CBCA Notables 2016 

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

  • Alfie’s Lost Sharkie by Anna Walker by (Scholastic)
  • As Big As You by Sara Acton (Scholastic)
  • Bogtrotter by Margaret Wild and Judith Rossell (Walker Books)
  • Frog Finds a Place by Sally Morgan (Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Dub Leffler (Omnibus)
  • Hop Up! Wriggle Over! by Elizabeth Honey (Allen & Unwin)
  • I Need a Hug by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic)
  • I’m a Hungry Dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Ann James (Viking)
  • Meep by Andy Geppert (Tiny Owl Workshop)
  • Mr Huff by Anna Walker (Viking)
  • My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester (Viking)
  • Ollie and the Wind by Ghosh Ronojoy (Random House)
  • Perfect by Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood (Little Hare)
  • Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic)
  • Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic)
  • Puddles are for Jumping by Kylie Dunstan (Windy Hollow)
  • Small and Big by Karen Collum (Windy Hollow)
  • The Cow Tripped over the Moon by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood (Scholastic)
  • The Very Noisy Bear by Nick Bland (Scholastic)
  • This and That by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek (Scholastic)
  • This is a Ball by Beck Stanton & Matt Stanton (ABC Books)
  • Thunderstorm Dancing by Katrina Germein and Judy Watson (Allen & Unwin)
  • Too Busy Sleeping by Zanni Louise and Anna Pignataro (Little Hare)
  • What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker (Viking)

Picture Book of the Year

  • Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst (Allen & Unwin)
  • And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Eric Bogle and Bruce Whatley (Allen & Unwin)
  • Bob the Railway Dog by Corrine Fenton and Andrew McLean (Walker Books)
  • Eye to Eye by Graeme Base (Viking)
  • Flight by Nadia Wheatley and Armin Greder (Windy Hollow)
  • How the Sun got to Coco’s House by Bob Graham (Walker Books)
  • In the Evening by Edwina Wyatt and Gaye Chapman (Little Hare)
  • Lara of Newtown by Chris McKimmie (Allen & Unwin)
  • Mr Huff by Anna Walker (Viking)
  • My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley (Walker Books)
  • My Gallipoli by Ruth Starke and Robert Hannaford (Working Title)
  • Numerical Street by Hilary Bell and Antonia Pesenti (NewSouth)
  • One Step at a Time by Jane Jolly and Sally Heinrich (MidnightSun)
  • Perfect by Danny Parker and Freya Blackwood (Little Hare)
  • Platypus by Sue Whiting and Mark Jackon (Walker Books)
  • Ride, Ricardo, Ride! by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries (Omnibus)
  • Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley (Viking)
  • Teacup by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley (Scholastic)
  • The Eagle Inside by Jack Manning-Bancroft and Bronwyn Bancroft (Little Hare)
  • What’s Up MuMu? by David Mackintosh (HarperCollins)
  • Where’s Jessie? by Brian Janeen and Anne Spudvilas (NLA Publishing)
  • Why I Love Footy by Michael Wagner and Tom Jellett (Viking)

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

  • 300 Minutes of Danger by Heath Jack (Scholastic)
  • Bella and the Wandering House by Meg McKinlay (Fremantle Press)
  • Bridget: A New Australian by James Moloney (Omnibus)
  • Helix and the Arrival by Damean Posner (Random House)
  • Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (Text)
  • Run, Pip, Run by J C Jones (Allen & Unwin)
  • Shadows of the Master by Emily Rodda (Omnibus)
  • Sister Heart by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press)
  • Soon by Morris Gleitzman (Viking)
  • The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Pan)
  • The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Cut Out by Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Fourteenth Summer of Angus Jack by Jen Storer (ABC Books)
  • The Hush Treasure Book by various, Karen Tayleur (ed) (Allen & Unwin)

Book of the Year: Older Readers

  • A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell (Allen & Unwin)
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood (Pan Macmillan)
  • For the Forest of a Bird by Sue Saliba (Penguin)
  • Freedom Ride by Sue Lawson (Walker Books)
  • In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)
  • Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield (Text)
  • Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
  • One True Thing by Nicole Hayes (Woolshed Press)
  • Rich & Rare by various, Paul Collins (ed) (Ford Street)
  • Talk under Water by Kathryn Lomer (UQP)
  • The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney (HarperCollins)
  • The Flywheel by Erin Gough (Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Pause by John Larkin (Random House)
  • The River and the Book by Alison Croggon (Walker Books)
  • A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (Walker Books)

Eva Pownall Award for Information Books

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Review: Frida Kahlo

The latest in this superb series of biographical picture books, we follow the life of Frida Kahlo, her journey through misfortune, love, tragedy and most of all... art.

Frida lived an incredibly rich life, stretched over several countries and places. Her life was also rich in colour and creativity, but also intense physical pain, which left her somewhat crippled, and suffering an early death.

Nonetheless, this abridged bio that will appeal to upper primary and older, is magically-told, written with just enough detail to enchant, and plenty of positive and uplifting beauty.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

12 Quirky Questions with Nova Weetman

1. What's your hidden talent?
Hiding an impressively large stash of chocolate in the cupboard where nobody else can find it.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I have a favourite group of villains rather than a single one. The Bottersnikes in SA Wakefield’s children’s series, Bottersnikes and Gumbles are villainous green, wrinkly creatures with long pointed ears that turn red when they’re angry. They eat mattress stuffing, are the laziest creatures alive, and spend their days trying to shove the sweet giggly Gumbles into baked bean tins and roll them down the hill. Brilliant stuff.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which 5 authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
I would invite five authors who have had a hold over me at various periods in my life. In sequential order they are: Dr Seuss, Judy Blume, Agatha Christie, Sylvia Plath and Helen Garner.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Well I’d quite like to be able to escape to a fantastical world, particularly one that involves battles and talking animals. So I’d have to say the wardrobe in the CS Lewis classic, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Review: Milo, A Moving Story

Milo's a pretty ordinary dog. He lives in a decent part of town in a nice kennel. He's got great friends and he has a job — every second day he works as a messenger. Life's good.

But one night he has a dream about being tossed about in a little boat on a stormy sea. He doesn't sleep well and the next day he's tired and cranky. Then his friend Snombo drops by and goes on and on about his poetry. It's more than Milo can handle and he snaps at Snombo — who slinks away, hurt.

A breeze gets up. It turns into a gale, then a full-blown storm. All through the night the wind rages and when Milo wakes up he finds his nice kennel is no longer in a decent part of town. It's been picked up by the wind and deposited on the top of a skyscraper!

How on earth is Milo going to get home?

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy

Set in the poppy fields of France in World War II, A Soldier, A Dog and a Boy dips us into the action through dialogue.

Born from a photo of an orphan smuggled into Australia in a soldier’s rucksack, this fictional tale brings France in World War II to vibrant life. In just a few words, we learn the plight of French orphans, how soldiers adopted the occasional lucky dog to be mascot and how lonely soldiers were in those days.

Meet the Illustrator: Ambelin Kwaymullina

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Little dogs who lie at my feet while I paint.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Dub Leffler, Emily Kngwarreye, Bronwyn Bancroft

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The present, because we have such incredible and inspiring Indigenous artists and illustrators here in Australia.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I wrote a story (Crow and the Waterhole) and it was very special to me so I wanted to do the pictures myself.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Review: Frankie

Frankie is like any girl trying to balance final year school pressures, part-time work and a cheating ex-boyfriend but monster memories lurk under her everyday surface, threatening to tear her world apart.

Enter Xavier who claims to be her half-brother and Frankie’s world free falls into recollections of a mother who dumped her at four years of age, early childhood memories Frankie managed to smother for years. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box and best not to be within reach when red spots cloud Frankie’s vision.

When Xavier disappears off the face of the earth, Frankie can’t let it rest. She needs to find his sorry ass so she can tell him to get out of her life for good. But he just won’t be found. Xavier’s burgling partner with the impossible good looks might have answers but he has trouble written all over him.

Review: The Prince and the Porker

Oh, my. Joy. Firstly at the coupling of two of my fave book creators of all time, but also because of what they've managed to cobble together with their respective modest (!) talents.

Princely, porky, perky and immensely funny, we meet two kindred souls of such varying ilk, they can't help but draw together like opposite magnetic poles.

When a pig with a penchant for buns becomes lured by the treats outside the Palace kitchens, he is soon also lured inside to see if there is more. Spotted by the cook, he tears up the royal staircase and takes solace in the Prince's bedroom, from where a case of seriously funny mistaken identity takes hold.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Review: No, No, Gnome!

It’s time to harvest the school’s garden. Everyone has a responsibility, even Gnome, until he starts making a mess. “No, no, Gnome!” the students shout. No matter what job Gnome is given, even watering or collecting clippings, he can’t seem to last without going a bit rogue, so he is sent back to the classroom and harvest is postponed.

When Gnome finally sees the consequences of his behaviour and how it has upset his schoolmates, he sets out to make amends. As the students return to school the next day they are excited to discover he’s tidied up and their garden looks beautiful again. “Oh, oh, Gnome!” Now they can all happily bring in the harvest.

12 Curly Questions with Inga Simpson

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was a teenager I earned money as a calligrapher.

2. What is your nickname?
The only nickname I ever carried for long was “Feisty” – courtesy of a government workplace.

3 .What is your greatest fear?

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Spare, grounded in nature, populated by trees, birds, and (I hope) – heart.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Dedicated, strong sense of place.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Perrin – from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. He is part-wolf.

Monday, 11 April 2016

#LoveOzYA April Update with Kaz Delaney

To support the #LoveOzYA initiative, each month Kids' Book Review will ask an Australian YA author to share their favourite Australian young adult titles - what they are reading, what they've read and what books are on their TBR pile. We'll also include a list of Australian author YA new releases for the month. Our guest author for April is Kaz Delaney, author of books for children and teens. Her YA titles include Dead, ActuallyAlmost Dead and her latest release, The Reluctant Jillaroo (Allen & Unwin).

What are you currently reading?
The Midnight Promise – Crime Debut by Zane Lovitt, a young Melbourne guy.  Interesting style.

What are your recent OzYA favourites?
Risk by Fleur Ferris – amazing!

What 5 OzYA titles are currently in your TBR pile?
  • Summer Skin (Kirsty Eagar)
  • The Stars at Oktober Bend (Glenda Millard)
  • The Sidekicks (Will Kostakis)
  • Iris and the Tiger (Leanne Hall) 
  • The Yearbook  Committee (Sarah Ayoub)  
What advice would you give to aspiring YA authors?
Know your genre, respect your audience, love your audience.

Ensure your character’s decisions make emotional sense.  The teenage years are the greatest and most fertile learning period in our entire lives.  Just ensure, for your story’s sake, that those decisions at least make emotional sense.  Even if the decision he/she makes seems illogical, it must be able to be rationalised through her emotional viewpoint; gel with her situation, her character and personality. It may seem foolhardy to the reader, but if you play it right, the reader will understand WHY she’s made that decision.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current writing project?
The follow up to The Reluctant Jillaroo. Another Rural Romance YA. (YARURO?) We wanted to see how Jillaroo was accepted before we dived back in, and it seems to be doing well, so it’s back to horses, cows and scary, slimy other creatures. And oh, cute boys! This time it’s Harper’s ‘real’  turn to experience falling for a guy when you’re least expecting it and when romance is so not on your radar.

Visit Kaz Delaney's website for more information about her books and author events.

April YA New Releases

Dreaming the Enemy by David Metzenthen (Allen & Unwin)
Frankie by Shivaun Plozza (Penguin)
The Special Ones by Em Bailey (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Read more of our LoveOzYA updates here.

Review: Into that Forest

Set in the late 1800s in Tasmania, Into that Forest is a heartfelt tale of friendship and survival under the harshest of conditions. Hannah, our adult narrator looks back to her childhood. In broken English, she tells how her parents took her and a friend on an upriver picnic when she was six.

The boat never made it home. Lost and alone in the Tasmanian wilderness, Hannah and her friend do what they must to survive. Without their most unlikely of protectors, the girls would have perished within a week. Instead, their time in the wild spans years. Their story is gut wrenching and heart warming at the same time.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Review: The Three Ninja Pigs

The three ninja pigs of this story dress in coloured suits and masks and everywhere they go, they wreak havoc (HEE-YA!), that is until they are sent on a mission somewhere else, with the admonition “No … more ... TROUBLE!”

This happens repeatedly and their journey takes them from home to a house in the forest, over a bridge, to a building site and then a shop. All these places are recognisable because The Three Ninja Pigs is an amusing mashup of multiple fairy tales, namely The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Cinderella, and Rapunzel (plus a couple of others).

Review: Hop

Shhh. Be quiet. Listen. You might just catch glimpse of the sweetest little family of bunnies, hiding in the long grass.

There they go! Hopping over the green. Hiding in the hollow of a tree. Nibbling on grass and petals.

The bunnies love to play, but they freeze when an eagle flies overhead. And what about sly old fox? They are very good at hiding, too.

This adorable picture book with the most darling illustrations, features a single word per double-page spread--from listen to peek and play and nibble.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Review: Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #10)

Greg (aka the Wimpy Kid) Heffley’s diary entries promise more side-splitting stories in the tenth book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Old School. It’s not enough that his pet pig sits at the table to eat now Grandpa has moved in and taken over Greg’s room. The oldies talk continuously about the good old days, before electronic technology took over the art of conversation and communication.

Greg finds it hard to imagine life without his electronics. Things get serious when his mum starts a petition for a park clean-up on an electronic-free weekend. Her goal is to get the town’s people together on a community project and resurrect some interest between family members, friends and neighbours.

The project gets consent. The park area has been so neglected that no one knows what to do or where to start. That’s where the Girl Scouts take control.

10 Quirky Questions with David Metzenthen

1. What's your hidden talent?
I’m smarter than I look.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why? 
The hound in The Hound of the Baskervilles, because I like dogs.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
F. Scott-Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac, Martin Amis, JK Rowling, Tina Fay.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
A time machine would come in handy...

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Slow, hopeful, less-than-perfect.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Review: The Adventures of Alice Laselles

This exquisite and decorative book recounts the created lives of 8 cut-out dolls, written by Queen Alexandrina Victoria when she was almost eleven years old. The story that was a class composition and dedicated to her mother is based around the main character Alice Laselles.

The original, much longer story is housed in the Royal Archives at Windsor Palace, along with Victoria’s two albums of coloured-in cut-out dolls. It has been reproduced here with brilliant illustrations by Cristina Pieropan which were digitally cut out and manipulated by Felix Petruska. I was so impressed by the amount of work that went into creating these illustrations, it made me re-think the value of each picture book I read.

Victoria, as she came to be known, showed great talent as a writer at an early age. She kept journals from the age of thirteen, was clever and artistic, and had an extraordinary imagination.

Guest Post: Aleesah Darlison - Zoo Ball Bounces into the World

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome award-winning author Aleesah Darlison to share about her latest picture book, Zoo Ball. Published by Wombat Books, Zoo Ball is a collaborative effort between Aleesah and the winners of the Wombat Books Illustration Challenge, a creative challenge for school-aged aspiring illustrators.

I was on an author tour in Melbourne almost three years ago when my publisher, Rochelle Manners at Wombat Books, phoned me to discuss an exciting new concept she’d come up with. Rochelle had developed the idea of creating a picture book, which she wanted me to write, and which she wanted to be illustrated entirely by Australian school children.

Rochelle wanted to establish the Wombat Books Illustration Challenge to provide aspiring young illustrators with the opportunity to be published in a professionally produced children’s book and gain an introduction into the world of illustrating.

The idea was that once I’d written the text for a picture book, entry forms would be sent to schools across Australia for children to choose a page or scene from the book to illustrate in full colour.

I loved the idea and thought it worked well with the ‘Making Picture Books’ workshops that I already ran with students. I knew that not all children thought textually or wanted to write. Rather, many children think visually, and are incredibly talented artists, even though they’re young. Also, many children simply love to draw to express themselves. I’d witnessed this so many times in the classroom already.

The Wombat Books Illustration Challenge seemed like the perfect project for me to get involved in.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: Hello!

Australia is a wonderfully diverse and multicultural country. And this book is a wonderful way to introduce kids to some of the many languages that are spoken here.

Hello! begins by introducing us to a group of Australian children. They all speak English but they also all speak another language too. Three indigenous languages are featured — Murrinhpatha, Kaurna and Kala Lagaw Ya — as well as nine other languages that are commonly spoken in Australia: Vietnamese, Thai, Lebanese Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Indonesian, Greek and Chinese.