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

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Review: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

It’s been a few weeks since Albie’s scientist mum died. When dad tries to explain death to the intelligent Albie, he uses parallel universes and the way they work, as an example. He explains how things that happen in one universe don’t happen in another. This awakens in Albie the possibility of utilising this information to find his mum.

Albie reads his dad’s published research to learn how to go about it. The information on Schrodinger’s Cat helps. The rest involves a box, his mum’s prototype quantum computer, and a rotting banana. First he tries it out on his neighbour’s psycho cat. When it works, he tries it on himself.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Review: Natural World

Our natural world is indeed a wonder, and this stunning book will have both kids and adults wide-eyed at the depth of it all ... from the living world and its classifications, through to the curiosities of both flora and fauna at vast extremes... from the ocean bed to the mountain peak.

Amanda Wood and Mike Jolly have provided a fascinating and carefully-honed peek into our living creations. Spreads feature such topics as What is a Bird?, The Fight for Survival, Food Chains and Webs, Warning Colours, The Art of Disguise, All About Feathers, and much more.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Mick Elliott

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I once worked with Justin Timberlake. For 4½ minutes. (I filmed a promo with him for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. We had five minutes. I work fast.)

2. What is your nickname?
Mick. My real name is Michael, though only my mum still calls me that. Mick is my mickname.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being eaten  by a tiny squid.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
Inky. Thinky. Crinkly. Stinky. Icky. Sticky. Manky. Tasty. Scary. Hairy.

5. What is your favourite word and why? 
Cumquat. It is the perfect addition to almost any sentence.

Review: Disappearing Acts

Subtitled A Search-and-Find Book of Endangered Animals, this highly-detailed visual creation takes kids on a journey around the world--peeking under the ocean, scaling the highest mountains, and deep into the most tangled rainforests.

Rather than categorising animals by country, the book very cleverly features each creature by habitat. We meet a snow leopard, a panda, a mountain gorilla and pygmy possum in the mountains.

We meet Elkhorn coral, a dugong and social wrasse on the reef.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Review: My Magnificent Jelly Bean Tree

What a glorious feast for the senses this book is! Some people say jelly beans don't grow on trees, but the little boy in this story knows better. All that's needed is for him to nurture a little jelly bean until it sprouts, then carefully watch over it as it grows and grows … Until, voilĂ ! A jelly bean tree!

There are many wonderful things about jelly bean trees. Fresh jelly beans are much better than any you can buy in the shops. Jelly bean trees are so big and strong that you can build jelly bean houses in them — with slippery dips to get down. All kinds of weird and wonderful animals are attracted to them. And, of course, if you have a jelly bean tree then you can crown yourself Jelly Bean King!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Review: Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain

I have long adored Edward Ardizzone's work. For me, his illustrations were some of the very first 'modern style' creations for children's books, at a time when more traditional artworks were more often used. His beautifully-crafted watercolour illustrations put me in my of more contemporary creators such as Quentin Blake and Bob Graham.

First published in 1936, Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain takes children on a journey to the sea where we meet a little boy who very much wants to be a sailor.

Little Tim astounds his parents by how much he knows about the sea and ships, but when Tim asks if he can go away to sea, they simply laugh and say he's too young.

Tempted to run away, the young lad pounces on the chance to join a local boatman, paddling out to a steamer to say goodbye to a friend. Of course, Tim can't help himself--he hides on the steamer and the ship leaves with the boy on board.

And that's when his adventure begins.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

10 Quirky Questions with Wendy Orr

1. What's your hidden talent?
Singing to animals

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Captain Hook. He’s purely evil… but I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him. Especially about his hand.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Jane Austen, Rosemary Sutcliff, Jules Verne, William Shakespeare; Ursula le Guin
(I also have a much longer list of living author friends but I’m not going to hurt anyone’s feelings but leaving them out!)

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Time travel

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Slow, tortured, obsessive, all-consuming, satisfying

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Honest, uplifting, page-turning, inspiring, entertaining

Friday, 24 June 2016

Review: Marmaduke the Very Popular Dragon

We first met the lovable Marmaduke and Princess Meg in Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon. Since then, their friendship has gone from strength to strength. They do everything together and are 'brilliantly, happily different' to all the other dragons and princesses.

Until, one day, a brave princess called October decides she would like to join in the fun and asks to play with them. Word spreads and soon Marmaduke is the most popular dragon in the kingdom. He has so many friends now that he doesn't see Meg as much as he used to, but that's okay. She's happy that he's found his place in the sun, and she knows that they're still best friends. After all, they're competing as a team in the upcoming Whizz Cone Tournament.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Review: The Harp and the Ravenvine (The Keepers #2)

When we left Horace and Chloe at the end of The Box and the Dragonfly (see review here), they had emerged battered but victorious from their encounter with Dr Jericho and the other Mordin. Horace had also discovered that his mother understood far more about this new world of Keepers and Tan'ji than he could ever have imagined. Book 2 continues the story of Horace and Chloe, and their respective Tan'ji, but adds new characters and further depth to what is an enthralling series.

Miles away from the Keepers headquarters at the Warren, a young girl called April has found a delicate piece of jewellery at a flea market. Crafted in the shape of a curling vine, it fits around her ear as if it were made for her. A piece has clearly broken off, but April is still captivated by it and wears it constantly. What she didn't anticipate was her newfound ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of all the animals around her — from her dog Baron to the smallest ant.

Blog Tour Guest Post: Wendy Orr on Visiting the Dragonfly Song Locations

Photo credit: Robert Gould
Kids' Book Review is thrilled to welcome author Wendy Orr as part of the blog tour for her latest book, Dragonfly Song (Allen & Unwin). Wendy shares the thrill of visiting the locations where her story is set. Make sure you check the list of blog tour stops at the end of this post.

Dragonfly Song is set on a fictitious northern Aegean island, and in Knossos in Crete. As in most of my books, I used a mixture of research, imagination and logic to create my versions of these places – despite a lifetime of longing to see them, I’d never managed to get there.

But the book I’m working on next needs much more specific, less documented knowledge, and so in May, my husband and I headed to Crete. I’d been corresponding with the archaeologist Sabine Beckmann for some time, reading her papers and bombarding her with questions. When I got an email from her one evening, inviting me to spend a couple of days with her, I was too excited to sleep. The reality was even better than I’d imagined, because she also helped structure the rest of our time there – not just where to go, but what to look for.

Wendy in Knossos

So, early the first morning, we headed to Knossos. Knossos is the site of a palace – or temple or administrative centre – that was built, burned and rebuilt several times until its final destruction around 1450 BCE. It was excavated and partially reconstructed by the British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 20th century.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: Let's Play

Herve Tullet continues to delight with this achingly creative book for little ones. With a sturdy hard cover and thick pages, tots and preschoolers will dive in wholeheartedly and have a lot of fun along the way.

Little yellow dot is bored silly. He wants you to come along and play. But first, you must press the top right corner of the page. What do you think might happen?

As kids rock and roll and turn and flip the book, stand on their head and wave their arms around the room, be prepared for stacks of laughter, honed spatial and fine motor skills, and imagination expansion. Not too shabby an outcome from one little book!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Robert Vescio

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’m obsessed with Mickey Mouse. He is the epitome of magic, imagination and hope.

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t really have one but I sometimes get called Rob.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I have a fear of spiders.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
From personal experience with some magic and adventure mixed in.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Creative. Imaginative. Experimental. Resilient. Focused.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Batman. He is the king of gadgets.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Review: Chooks in Dinner Suits

Many Australians would be familiar with the true story of how one man's idea to use Maremma dogs to guard the last remaining penguins of Middle Island ended up saving the colony. It's a story that is now recounted here in this delightful picture book.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review: What is a Child?

Beatrice Alemagna's work could never be described as pedestrian or mainstream. It's the kind of work that's clearly soul-led, and perhaps something you either resonate with, or you don't.

I do.

In this warmly-narrated tome, we learn about children. How they are small. But they only stay small for a little while. They do grow. And they do so even without thinking about it.

Children are often in a hurry to grow up. They look to adulthood and how cool it will be--no one to answer to, making all the decisions, flying free. An irony, then, that once these kids grow up, they tend to think how hard it is to be an adult, to have to decide everything yourself, how hard it is to feel free.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Review: Americanine

This is such a cool book. Not only because it's about New York, because it's--like--the coolest place around. But because it's about a travelling dog. And it's humorous and dry. And it has wildly random illustrations that just make the heart sing.

Our little friend has travel to the Big Apple. He's just come back and he's telling his canine pals all about it, in that 'wow, you won't believe it' kind of way.

For example, there's all these people everyone in New York. Some of them run inside on these contraptions that go nowhere and there's not even a ball in sight. Others have their paws painted different colours.

There's a lady on Liberty Island who must have a really sore arm from holding up a big torch. And there's this big windy tunnel under the ground that people scurry into, in order to get to other places. And Grand Central Station is really kooky, because people go there to run in all directions, trying to get out of town.

12 Curly Questions with Caroline Tuohey

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I can tap dance.

2. What is your nickname?
My family call me Carol.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being on a reality TV show.  And being in a plane that’s about to crash.  They hold equal fear for me.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Poetic, rhythmical, succinct, generally typo-free, to be read out loud.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Persistent, pedantic, courageous, entertaining, diverse.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
The Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher.  I love her style, confidence, independence and her ability to sort through the rot in an exciting, adventurous way.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? 
That is a really difficult question to answer – what significant moment in history would I like to be a part of?  What terrible event would I stop occurring?  Would I simply go back a few weeks and choose the correct Oz Lotto numbers (which if I’m honest, is what I’d really like to do)?  But if I had to do something to feed my soul, I would travel back to 1508 and watch Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Review: Captain Pug: The Dog Who Sailed the Seas

This is the first book in a new series perfect for fans of Squishy McFluff.

Pug is the pampered pet of Lady Miranda. He lives a life of luxury with jam tarts for breakfast and a comfortable four-poster bed to sleep on. Lady Miranda has a maid and two footmen, and a very large wardrobe, and does pretty much as she pleases.

Pug loves Lady Miranda and loves doing things with her. Well, most things. He quite likes staying at home, and he's not a big fan of the water. So when their plans for the day involve a pedallo adventure on the local lake, Pug isn't as excited as he might be. His cute little sailor suit helps him feel somewhat better, but he's still worried that he's not going to be the impressive 'sea captain' Lady Miranda seems to expect.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Guest Post: Author Deirdre Brocklebank on Changing Unhappy to Happy

Suraya’s Secret For You is a self-help book for primary school children which was inspired by my love for kids. It is about learning how to change how they feel when they are worried and not happy.

I’d like to share with you my motivation for writing the book.

Suraya is my grand-daughter, and as I watch her grow up, I see her encountering many of the same issues that worried me as a child.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review: This Girl That Girl

Oh this book is fun! This girl is kinda neat and tidy. She likes things to be organised. Right next door lives that girl. She's not so tidy. She's more of a free spirit, who likes things to be a little unexpected.

Of course, with perfect irony, this girl's dad is just like that girl. And that girl's dad is just like this girl!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Tommy Wallach

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I am able to do the basic moves of contact juggling. (Side Note: The inventor of contact juggling, Michael Moschen, is actually standing behind Bowie in this scene, doing the moves through the great man's jacket.)

2. What is your nickname?  
My name is sorta my nickname. I'm Tommy: always have been, always will be. But my birth certificate technically says Thomas.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Flying. It's ridiculous we do that on a regular basis.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
So good it makes the angels cry tears of envy.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Sedulous, scrupulous, sensuous, sinuous, serendipitous

Monday, 13 June 2016

Review: Me First!

If you like your picture books funny and divinely illustrated and resplendent with brilliant messaging, then Me First! is one to add to the pile.

Mama Duck says it's time to go outside. It's a lovely day and there is lots of fun to be had.

The duck siblings rally excitedly, but one duck, in particular, is desperate to be ahead of the pack. 'Me first! Me first!' he cries, as they head out for the day.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Review: Ollie's Odyssey

I love the work of William Joyce. The man behind Toy Story, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore and The Guardians of Childhood is a creative genius who builds worlds that children and adults alike adore. I'm ridiculously happy to say that Ollie's Odyssey is no exception.

I'm sure all of us can remember our favourite toy. The toy that slept on our pillow. The toy that listened to our fears and shared our dreams. The toy that felt our tears. And the toy that we hugged tighter than tight. Ollie is Billy's favourite. And Billy loves him with every ounce of his being.

But not all toys are good. Zozo was once a happy clown toy, king of an amusement park stand. Children would try to hit him with a soft ball, and if they succeeded, they got to choose a toy to take home. But the amusement park fell on hard times, the owner of the stand changed, the soft balls turned hard, and Zozo became chipped and battered. Finally, one day, Nina the dancing doll — the toy Zozo himself loved — was won by a little girl and taken from him. His favourite was gone …

Saturday, 11 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Sally Fawcett

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I don’t like driving over bridges.

2. What is your nickname?

3. What is your greatest fear?
Driving over bridges!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Succinct - allowing the illustrations to do much of the work.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Succinct, dedicated, quick, creative, collaborative.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Mary from The Secret Garden.  I was spellbound by this book as a child. Mary had a mansion and huge gardens to explore. I’ve always found English walled gardens so enchanting.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Review: What Do Grown-Ups Do All Day?

Yes - what exactly DO grown-ups do all day? Well?

I'll tell you.

They actually get kind of busy. The ones who spend a lot of time outdoors--they do things like fishing. Or watching the coastline. Or looking after trees or national parks. They also dive into the ocean and look after animals there.

What about grown-ups who spend their day in the hospital? Well, some of them look after patients. Some of them drive ambulances. Some of them deliver babies or dispense medicine to make us well.

And grown-ups who have an action-packed day? Well, they might protect us. Or put out fires. Or even walk on the moon.

Guest Post: Tommy Wallach - No Promises

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Tommy Wallach, author of YA novels We All Looked Up and Thanks for the Trouble, to share his perspective on the obligation of fiction to reflect the realities of life's uncertainties. 

In my short year and a half as a published author, I have found one tried-and-true, never-fail method for immediately alienating the entirety of my audience at any given event: describe my problem with the ending of Harry Potter.

Now, if you're an obsessive Potter-head who refuses to hear of any possible flaws in the most famous seven-book series of all time (sorry C.S. Lewis), read no further. But if you think you can handle it...get ready to have your world rocked.

The epilogue to Harry Potter is lame. It’s SUPER lame. It’s so lame, I'm getting bummed out just thinking about writing about it. You know the part I’m talking about, right? It's where we jump forward into the future and discover that Harry has married Ginny and Ron has married Hermione. Not only that, but they have children. Not only that, but their children are about to head off on the exact same journey that their parents did, enrolling at Hogwarts School of Wichardry and Wizcraft (I got that right, didn’t I?).

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Review: The Memory Keepers

What would you do to survive if you’d been alone since you were small? Appropriate goods to sell? In futuristic London, memories are the currency of worth so Seven steals them. He knows he faces the death sentence if he’s caught but that’s the cost of living for Seven.

When he is caught in the vault of London’s criminal prosecutor, he thinks his life is over but Alba, the prosecutor’s daughter is far from the arrogant spoilt rich girl Seven expected. The two take tentative steps to connect despite the chasm that separates their worlds and life looks up for both of them. But when people close to Seven are attacked as a result of the memory he stole, life tilts irreversibly for both of them.

Review: Matthew Quick Boy 21

Finley’s life has been tough but shooting hoops with his girlfriend and playing point guard on the school team keeps him going. When Coach asks him to befriend a newcomer in the off-season everything turns on its head. This newbie happens to be the hottest junior point guard in the country when he’s on-song. However, since his parents were murdered, Boy 21 has wanted the world to believe he is from outer space.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Guest Post: Imagining a Fantastic Future with Simon Torok and Paul Holper

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Simon Torok and Paul Holper, authors of the latest CSIRO Publishing book for children, Imagining the Future: Invisibility, Immortality and 40 Other Incredible Ideas. Simon and Paul explain here why it is important to engage young readers with science.

We’re living in a rapidly changing world – are you ready for it?

Around the year 1900, the amount of human knowledge doubled every 100 years. It now doubles almost every year, and by 2020 could double every day. When most of today’s primary school students grow up, they’ll have jobs that don’t exist right now, and they’ll be using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve things we don’t know are problems yet!

Technology has already transformed our world and our way of life. Many things that you use in your day-to-day activities would be unrecognisable by your great-grandparents. Just imagine what the world of your great-grandchildren would look like to you!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

12 Curly Questions with Patrick Guest

1.Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’m scared of possums

2. What is your nickname?
It depends on the friend, but some of the keepers are Gibbon, Hound, Forest Gump, Dr Rooney and Mr. Nah-Nah (to my daughter Gracie)

3. What is your greatest fear?
Giant, blood-sucking possums

4. Describe your writing style in ten words
Four chords and the truth (except for that last answer)

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Straight from the heart (& quirky)

6. What book character would you be and why?
The shepherd boy from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. A dreamer with friends in high places.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Review: Ralf

Ralf is just the cutest dog. He's a sausage dog, and that makes him a very long dog indeed.

His family love him very much, but they're becoming rather frustrated by Ralf's long, sausagey body. He just keeps getting in the way, taking up so much space. The bed. The bath. Things are getting so irritating, one evening he's told -- 'GET OUT!'

Poor Ralf. He's in the doghouse. Literally.

But then, what's that? Sniff sniff. Smoke!


#LoveOzYA May/June Update with Kylie Fornasier

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 June is Kylie Fornasier, author of Masquerade and the newly released The Things I Didn't Say.

What are you currently reading?
The Light Between the Oceans by M.L.Stedman. This is the first book that is not YA that I’ve read in a while. I saw the movie trailer and was really intrigued. I love stories about moral dilemmas. The Australian backdrop of this book is so beautifully portrayed.

What are your recent OzYA favourites?
I’m still shouting my praise for the wonderful books of my fellow YASquad2016:  Frankie by ShivaunPlozza, Yellow by Megan Jacobson and The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis. These moving, funny and brilliantly-crafted books will forever be among my favourite OzYA.

What 5 OzYA titles are currently in your TBR pile?
Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale
The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

What advice would you give to aspiring YA authors?
Be brave. Writing a book can be a scary process, even if it’s your tenth book. Just typing the first sentence takes courage. Be brave to start. Have courage to keep going. Share your work and learn from feedback (this can be really scary). Believe in yourself and your story.

Can you tell us a little bit about your current writing project?
Having only finished The Things I Didn’t Say moments before it went to print and on tour in March, I’m still in the process of deciding what to write next. I don’t like to think about the next book until my last book is completely finished (otherwise I’ll get distracted). I have a few ideas for the new project but since writing a book is a huge time commitment, I have to make sure I choose the right idea. I’d love to write them all but that would take a lifetime. In general for my next book, I would love to write a story that is set in space with lots of action and kick-ass characters.

Visit Kylie Fornasier's website for more information about her books and author events. Kylie's latest novel, The Things I Didn't Say, is now available published by Penguin.

May YA New Releases

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me by Michael Gerard Bauer (Scholastic)

Split Infinity by Thalia Kalkipsakis (Hardie Grant Egmont)
The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier (Penguin)

June YA New Releases

Game Theory by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)

One Would Think The Deep by Claire Zorn (UQP)
The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale (Random House)

Read more of our LoveOzYA updates here.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Review: Cracked

Clover doesn’t have a mobile phone and her mother has a permanent ban on Facebook. It’s hard to fit in with such levels of deprivation. When Clover is sent to the Principal’s office over two little words that slip from her lips, she reconnects with Keek, a boy from her old Primary school. They take up smoking, start hanging out together and Clover feels her world ease.

When the new Art teacher introduces unusual creative methods and the cool girls draw Clover into their circle, Clover wonders if the the world is righting itself, especially when the boy of her dreams starts circling. But betrayal, broken promises and an aging family dog send Clover’s world into a downhill spiral. When Clover gets caught in an act of environmental protest, she faces losing everything but things still haven’t hit rock bottom.

Review: The Girl from Everywhere

Sixteen-year-old Nix is a time-traveller, one of only a handful of people who can navigate to any place and any time in the world simply by following a map.

From modern-day New York to ancient Rome, as long as the map is accurate, Nix can use it to take herself, her father and the crew of their ship The Temptation there. There's only one catch — each map can only be used once.

Actually, there's another catch. Her father is desperate to go to one particular destination: Hawaii in 1868. At this time, in Honolulu, the love of his life, Nix's mother, was still alive … but Nix wasn't yet born. So if they do find the right map, and Nix does take them there, will Nix even exist anymore?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Review: Frankencrayon

Do you think the cover of this book looks intriguing? Perhaps the idea of a Frankenstein’s monster crayon has you itching to open the cover?

Well, sorry. Too bad. This book has been cancelled. You need to put the book down and find something else to read.

The crayons are annoyed. Plans were underway for a performance of Frankenstein. Everything was going smoothly. The costumes were coming along nicely and everyone knew their lines, then suddenly the lights went out and when they came back on there was... scribble! All across the page! Then more scribble and more. Clean up was impossible. The book was ruined!

12 Curly Questions with Pamela Freeman

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I like tubas.  There should be more tuba music, especially jazz.

2. What is your nickname?  
I’m not sure I have one.  I used to be called ‘the walking encyclopaedia’ in primary school, but I’m not sure if that was a nickname or a taunt.

3. What is your greatest fear?
As a mother, my greatest fear is always for my child.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Clear. Easy to read. Occasionally lyrical. Story = character/character=story.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
(This is hard!) Committed to storytelling.  Hopeful.  Um… compassionate?

6. What book character would you be, and why?
See, book characters go through bad things – that’s why we read the stories, because stuff happens to them, and often the stuff is really awful. So I think I’d like to be Clover Pink, a secondary character in my Princess Betony series, because a) no really bad things happen to her (yet) and b) she gets to learn magic and c) she can be friends with Betony, whom I really like, which is why I keep writing stories about her.  And Clover’s mum is a Chief Palace Gardener so she lives in a beautiful garden. And I have plans to send Clover off on a graphic novel adventure when she gets a bit older.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Review: Bob the Artist

Bob has very, very skinny legs.

Not that skinny legs are a problem for Bob. Alas, they're seemingly a problem for other animals, who feel compelled to comment on his stick-like appendages, and funny 'stick walk'.

This all makes Bob very sad (as it would!), so he sets about trying to expand their puny form. This didn't work very well. Neither did eating too much or wearing disguises.

Guest Post: Pamela Freeman on writing Desert Lake

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome well-known Australian children's author Pamela Freeman to share the inspiration for her latest picture book, Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, published by Walker Books.

In early 2009, there were big floods in Queensland. The water flowed down to what was then Lake Eyre (now Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre), beginning the extraordinary explosion of life which occurs there only once every ten years or so.

I’d always been fascinated by the lake – most of the time it is a salt pan: dry, dead, deserted. But one-sixth of the continent drains into it, and when there is rain in the north, the lake fills.

Fish and other river-life are swept into the lake, birds gather to nest, and insect, shrimp and other eggs hatch. Frogs wake up from a kind of hibernation (called estivation). They all live and mate and have young and then the lake dries out again and all the life either buries itself or leaves – until the next time.

I really wanted to go to Lake Eyre and see this for myself – and it occurred to me that it would make a great picture book. I pitched the idea to my editor at Walker Books, Sue Whiting, and got the go ahead.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Review: The Outliers (The Outliers #1)

Wylie is sucked into a swirling world of deception when her ex best friend, Cassie, goes missing late one night. After insisting she has no idea where Cassie is, Wylie receives a text from Cassie, begging for help. Cassie’s boyfriend, Gideon, turns up on Wylie’s doorstep soon after, expecting her to help him with his search and rescue bid.

Is Cassie playing with them both or is she really in serious trouble? Wylie can’t refuse to help, but doing so means breaking through her own debilitating barriers. Life spirals further and further out of control as Cassie’s texts become more bizarre. With attempted murder, a desperate race for freedom in remote woods, and imprisonment in a town far from home, each partial answer Wylie and Gideon find increases the number of unanswered questions.

Meet the Illustrator: Sally Fawcett

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Children full of emotion and wonder in the natural world.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Drawing board, light box, ink pencils, paintbrush, coffee and music.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Derwent inktense pencils are my thing at the moment.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Picasso, Steven Michael King, Oliver Jeffers.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The cubist period.  I am not a fan of realism. I appreciate the amazing skill that it takes to create a realistic piece of art, however I love seeing art that depicts the world in a new way that can only be seen through that piece of art or through the artist’s eyes.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Review: What Could It Be?

This shape is a circle. What else could it be?

With that question, readers are invited to look at the illustrations, and the world around them, to find circles in unexpected places – the shell of a snail, fruits in a fruit bowl, spectacle lenses, flowers, insects and more.

What Could It Be? offers an interactive reading experience for preschool and early school-aged children. The sparse rhyming text flows well, the colourful illustrations are fun and engaging for young readers, and the leading questions – What else could it be? Can you find a green square? How many other triangles can you find? – encourage children to examine the details in the illustrations.

Review: Desert Lake - The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre is the latest book in the award-winning Nature Storybook series from Walker Books.

Written by Pamela Freeman and illustrated by Liz Anelli, Desert Lake combines narrative and informative text to invite readers to explore the landscape and wildlife of Kata Thanda (Lake Eyre) in central Australia.

The text shares fascinating details about the landscape and weather patterns that control the appearance and disappearance of the Lake. It also introduces the diverse wildlife that calls the Lake home and explains adaptations that enable the animals and insects to survive in the desert environment.