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

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review: The Snow Wombat

A thoroughly Australian story, set in the mountainous high country, The Snow Wombat is a gorgeous tale about a wombat traipsing through the winter.

With a thick layer of snow on the ground and still falling from above, we follow wombat from the stockman’s hut, past sheep and a snow-covered road, along the river, past skiers, trees, and children building a snowman. There are also horses and possums. Eventually the wombat reaches its home, a deep and warm burrow.

Review: The Journey

It's easy to see the personal experiences behind some books, and in this beautiful creation, creator Francesca Sanna has certainly expressed her passion and compassion for the displaced.

After meeting two girls at a refugee centre in Italy, Sanna went on to collect a series of migration stories from all over the world. When settling to study a Master of Arts in illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, she felt inspired to tell a combined story of the refugee tales that had so touched her heart.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Shout Out: Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse

Archie Greene is back! We first met him nearly two years ago, in Archie Greene and the Magician's Secret (see review). That book went on to be shortlisted for several awards and I'm pleased to say that Book 2 in the series is equally enjoyable.

When a strange firemark appears on Archie's hand, as well as those of his cousins Thistle and Bramble, it seems they're part of an ancient curse that threatens the very existence of the Museum of Magical Miscellany.

Together with their friends Arabella and Rupert, the three reform the ancient Alchemist's Club in the hope of being able to write their own magic to break the curse and save the museum.

Just as fast-paced as the first book, and with the same wonderful word play, Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse is a great sequel. In fact, this is developing into a fantastic series!

Title: Archie Greene and the Alchemist's Curse
Author: DD Everest
Publisher: Faber & Faber, $14.99
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780571307418
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Fiction

12 Curly Questions with Stacy McAnulty

Photo credit: Grant Blair with Idlewild Photography
 1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I often eat cookies for breakfast. I prefer homemade chocolate chip or peanut butter, but most mornings it’s Milanos or Oreo Thins.

2. What is your nickname?
Mommy. Not very original, and maybe it’s more of a job title.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Rational: Something awful happening to my children.
Irrational: Jellyfish! Anytime something brushes my leg in the ocean I scream. I’m a lot of fun at the beach.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, short.

Kidding. I’d say:
Simple yet entertaining, relevant but not preachy, often grammatically incorrect.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Dedicated. Passionate. Lucky. Creative. Beautiful.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Curious George. He gets away with everything. Don’t we all want to go to a museum and swing from the dinosaur’s neck or take a firetruck for a spin? Except in real life my role is The Man with the Big Yellow Hat.  I’m constantly keeping my own monkeys in check.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Review: Boomerang and Bat: The Story of the Real First Eleven

Told in narrative form, Boomerang and Bat shares the true story of the first Australian cricket team to tour England, and it’s an important story to remember.

In 1868, an Aboriginal Eleven made a name for themselves playing cricket in Melbourne. They caught the notice of an English player, Charles Lawrence, who proposed they tour England. They were refused permission to leave Australia, but defied the authorities and eventually began a long and roundabout journey through the outback and across the sea.

Boomerang and Bat tells how these events came about, and follows the cricketers, led by Johnny Mullagh, as they play matches all over England. Just like back home, the team is a rousing success, even playing at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

Review: Little People, Big Dreams: Amelia Earhart / Maya Angelou

The latest two books in this divine picture book series - Little People, Big Dreams -  we meet Amelia Earhart and Maya Angelou.

Amelia Earhart, was of course, the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, but she was also the first woman to fly up to 14,000 feet.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Review: Truly Tan Hoodwinked (Truly Tan series)

Tan Callahan has the mind of a great detective: she’s sure of it. In all her previous adventures, she’s tried with every fibre of her being to divine mysteries in need of solving. The fact that others detect nothing suspicious has never been an obstacle for World Headquarters or her Secret Spy Files.

At last in Truly Tan Hoodwinked, a real live mystery, perhaps even a crime, awaits. This escapade might be dangerous. There could even be a criminal involved. If only Tan and her best friend Gloria could make sense of the odd clues. Tan’s line of investigation might not always achieve results. In fact, you could be tempted to think Tan and her best friend Gloria are barking up the wrong tree but the adventure is half the fun.

Review: Hello World

You know those books that you see online or on a shelf and you fall into the cover and are simply unable to extricate yourself, you are so intrigued? That's Hello World.

Subtitled A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities, it's doubly difficult to extricate yourself from the interior--a wonderland of imagery and peppered text that causes the eyes to pop in wonder.

Every time I become enchanted by a book like this, I'm reminded of the impact it must have on children, whose brains are far fresher and are so keenly sharpened for fascinating information and imagery. I imagine the impact of such works on kids, and it makes me very happy indeed.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Review: Here Comes Mr Postmouse

Here Comes Mr Postmouse is the first title in the Mr Postmouse series by Canadian author-illustrator, Marianne Dubuc. Translated from French by Greet Pauwelijn, this delightful story will open the world of animals to the very young.

Mr Postmouse loads up his cart and sets off on his deliveries. He has parcels and letters to distribute to many of the houses in the surrounding area. There is Bear, Rabbit, and Snake (Postmouse is glad there’s nothing for him today); the Birds’ house, Mr Squirrel, Dragon, and lots of other animals. But one parcel is left. You’ll have to wait to discover what that is.

10 Quirky Questions with Dianne Wolfer

1. What's your hidden talent?
I have double-jointed elbows that are able to turn inwards in a strange way.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
I love anti-heroes who come good in the end, or characters like Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series who appear as villains, but are actually working for the greater good. Mrs Coulter (His Dark Materials) is a literary villain who is fascinatingly evil and complex, but I’m not sure that I like her.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
I’ll choose ‘dead’ because there’s always the chance that I may still meet fav ‘alive’ authors and I’ll limit it to Australian authors or the list would be endless.

A girls-night-in dinner party would be fun, so maybe;May Gibbs, Elyne Mitchell, Ruth Park, Dorothy Wall and Ethel Pedley. Can we squeeze in Nan Chauncy and Pixie O’Harris …?

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Harry’s cloak of invisibility.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Review: When Michael Met Mina

When Michael and Mina meet, they are standing on opposite sides of the debate at a rally for refugees. Michael can’t believe it when the beautiful girl from the rally turns up as a new student at his school soon after the event. Unfortunately, as an Afghani refugee, Mina has no time for Michael’s views on closing Australia’s borders, especially when she discovers Michael’s father is the head of a new political party called ‘Aussie Values’ which promotes religious intolerance.

Can Michael and Mina overcome their differences to find some common ground?

I love books that start conversations and Randa Abdel-Fattah’s When Michael Met Mina certainly offers plenty of opportunities to springboard discussions about hot topics such as refugees, racism, islamophobia, religious intolerance, political activism, and social justice. Through the interactions of Michael and Mina, readers are given insight into the impact of racial and religious intolerance on everyday families and the various influences that can impact on how we view political and social issues.

Review: At the Beach

This tiny little creation sure does pack a punch design-wise. Using just a handful of fluorescent colours and loads of cleverness, the retro illustrations are as much a drawcard for adults as they are for toddlers.

A textured cover encases a small format book (perfect for tiny hands) with a series of beach objects and happenings. Shells. Swimming. A sandcastle. A seagull. Snorkeling. Sunglasses. A sail boat (what is it with the beach and everything starting with S!?).

There's also freckles and flip-flops and towels and ice creams, of course. And all of it adds up to a smile-worthy trip to the beach.

Accompanying text makes it an ideal Very First Reader, where kids can associate word structure with image.

Just gorgeous.

Other books in this series include Shapes are Fun!, Let's Go Outside and How Many Legs?

Title: At the Beach
Author/Illustrator: Katja Spitzer
Publisher: Flying Eye Books, $12.99
Publication Date: 1 July 2016
Format: Hard cover, small format
ISBN: 9781909263932
For ages: 1 - 4
Type: Picture Book

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Review: Love, Lies and Spies

Described as an homage to Jane Austen, Love, Lies and Spies takes its nineteenth-century heroine and hero on a rollicking ride in this debut novel from author Cindy Anstey.

Juliana Telford is fascinated by Coccinellidae, otherwise known as lady beetles. They are a hobby she shares with her eccentric father. An interest serious enough that Juliana wants to have their research published. It’s for that reason she agrees to have a ‘season’ in town. She has no expectation nor desire to find herself a husband, unlike her cousin, Carrie and her snooty friend Vivian. Juliana plans put her time to better use meeting with publishers, and hightail it from town as soon as possible.

Review: Noisy Nights

A farm is a noisy place to be at bedtime. All those animals make LOTS of noise. How will Farmer Hayden ever manage to get to sleep?

Well known for her best-selling rural romances, Fleur McDonald brings a rural setting to a younger audience with Noisy Nights, a delightful story about a sleepy farmer and the noisy animals that keep him awake.

With dogs, cows, sheep, horses, foxes, crickets and more filling the night with their sounds, it’s no wonder Farmer Hayden can’t get to sleep. The list of animals and their sounds grows gradually, with the repetition building to a peak where the animals are so noisy they can no longer hear Farmer Hayden’s shouted request that they all ‘Stop that noise!’

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Review: The Amazing Animal Adventure

I squeaked when I slid this book from its packaging. Yes. Squeaked. The cover illustration was instantly enchanting--those adorably cute (not not twee) animals eyeing me from their natural habitat. It was enough to stop me in my tracks, and send me to kitchen to flick on the kettle, and plump the cushions on the couch.

What a joyful book. Subtitled An Around-The-World Spotting Expedition, it truly feels like you're donning your Biggles cap, jumping in a Sopwith Camel and soaring into the sky on a nature world tour when you open the pages of this book.

Along the way, young readers are encouraged (as they so love to do!) to seek and find certain animals and happenings in the busy, beautifully-rendered scenes. We're taken to the Amazon Rainforest, the Russian Taiga, Japanese hot springs (those monkeys!!), the Great Barrier Reef, a mangrove forest, Galapagos islands, an Antarctic ice shelf, and so much more.

Guest Post: Hazel Edwards Behind the Scenes of 'Hippo Hippo the Musical'

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Hazel Edwards to share some behind the scenes secrets and anecdotes from Hippo Hippo the Musical, the nationally touring Garry Ginivan production, inspired by the 36 year old picture book There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake illustrated by Deborah Niland.

As an author, how do you feel about your book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake inspiring a musical?
Thrilled. It's surreal to watch actors sing, dance & play characters who were just in my head. But especially to have others acknowledge that Hippo is theirs.

Any unique moments 'behind the scenes'? 

  • Mummy-bloggers turned up with gift platter of pink hippo cupcakes. Photo taken with hippo but impossible for him to eat as his eyes look through the mouthpiece.
  • In the theatre bar, had a coffee with actor Andrew a.k.a. Hippo. Grinning he said, 'Would you like a cake with that?' He was not in costume.
  • In the National Theatre seat alongside me, my 6 year old grandson was inter-acting with a performance, based on a book inspired by his uncle and Mum, 38 years earlier. 
  • Bus-jam in Gippsland theatre carpark.' Bunyip Line' signage on country school bus. Another imaginary creature? Crocodile lines of excited students, clutching their jungle animal masks, going into the theatre.
  • Theatre truck has been driven through severe storms to ‘bump in’ Canberra, Sydney and South Australian performances. Drip Drip Drip seems apt.
  • Blackout! Lights out due to Upwey storm 20 minutes into the performance. Power failure so Hippo 'mingled' with thrilled children and also gave replacement tickets as power predicted not to return until 1am.
  • Importance of sound/music.  Children with disabilities have always loved the print reassurance of the big, colourful friend with the answers.  But in performance, the music was a cue that hippo was about to appear, and they picked it up intuitively and leaned forward to watch. ‘The hippo is coming now, that’s his music’ said one child.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Review: Looking for JJ

Looking for JJ is the story of a child murderer without the sensationalising. It opens with teenaged Alice reading an article about Jennifer Jones, child murderer, who is due to be released from jail. Why is Alice so obsessed with Jennifer Jones? Does she know what happened that day so many years ago when a young girl died? Was Alice there? What pushes a child to go too far like this? What happens to that person as they grow up? I was creeped out from the first page but needed to know.

10 Quirky Questions with Rosanne Hawke

Photo credit: Dylan Coker
1. What's your hidden talent?

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The phantom of the opera, because he could love and sing like an angel.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Claire Zorn, Kirsty Murray, Tim Winton, Louisa Alcott, Mark Twain

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
The flying carpet.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Mindmaps, objects, images, research, music

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Inspiration, light, joy, love, hope.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Review: Together

The parent and young child relationship is explored in this simple story of a baby sea otter and its mother.

The way the baby and mother spend their days is together, and that’s what the story is called: Together. The sea otters spend their time watching the sun rise and the clouds float by, playing and laughing, sharing and learning new things.

All their fun is told in rhyming text and as the activities enjoyed together are shared, the pictures move between those above water and those that show what’s happening below the surface. Readers can see the baby floating on the top of the water while mum dives below, and reflections of mum and baby as they frolic by the edge of the water.

Review: The Shark Caller

Fourteen-year-old Izzy has lost her twin. Ray was bitten by a blue-ringed octopus and died. She's alone for the first time in her life, but somehow Ray is still with her. She can hear his voice. She knows he's not at peace.

Izzy is of Papua New Guinean heritage. Her family come from a long line of shark callers, able to communicate with their ancestors (their tumbuna, in Tok Pisin, the language of Papua New Guinea) by connecting with the ocean creatures. But this isn't normally a tradition that is passed on to females.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Event: Seeing Stories Finale Event at University of Canberra

Today I had the great pleasure of attending the Seeing Stories Exhibition Finale Event at the University of Canberra. Organised by the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature (NCACL) and featuring hand-picked originals by some of our finest illustration talent, including Terry Denton, Ann James, Alison Lester and Bob Graham, The Hub was alive with stunning artworks, authors, illustrators, kids and book lovers.

This exhibit is but a small slice of the precious John Barrow collection, now owned by the NCACL.

Bob Graham

Review: The Lines on Nana's Face

Well, way to bring on tears and goosebumps!

It's Nana's birthday and the family have gathered to celebrate.

Our little curly-haired poppet, Nana's grandchild, narrates the story. She notices that the lines on Nana's face make her sometimes look sad or worried. So she asks her about them.

Nana tells her that each and every line on her face is where she keeps her memories. Like the time, as a girl, she discovered and great mystery. Or the time she had the best beach picnic in the world with her girlfriends. Or the time she met ... her little granddaughter.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Review: Saving Jazz

How would you respond if your worst mistake became public knowledge? If your lowest moment was captured on film and shared with the world? What would you say if you hadn’t even known that moment existed until your mistake went viral?

15-year-old Jasmine Lovely is living the perfect life until a house party with friends spins out of control. A combination of alcohol and peer pressure results in Jasmine making choices that she will deeply regret - once she remembers what she did.

Looking at the modern issue of cyberbullying from the viewpoint of a perpetrator, Saving Jazz is a thought-provoking exploration of how a few minutes of stupidity can have lifelong consequences in a world where every moment, good and bad, can be captured and shared.

12 Curly Questions with Richard Newsome

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I can wiggle my ears with hummingbird levels of efficiency. On hot days I fan those around me with a cooling breeze.

2. What is your nickname?
My family nickname is Boz. My parents couldn’t figure out what to call me, so for the first few weeks of life I was referred to as Bozo. This was shortened once they settled on a name. Years later I discovered that Charles Dickens’ nickname was also Boz, possibly for the same reason.

3. What is your greatest fear?
That no one has actually finished reading any of my books and they’re all just being terribly polite.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.  
Shove a dictionary in a blender and switch it on.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Persistent. Determined. Brave. Cumquat. Sasquatch.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Review: A Texas Year

There are 14 million cattle in the State of Texas. The name Texas comes from the word Tejas, meaning ‘friends’. This information and more is found in A Texas Year, a title simultaneously released with A New York Year.

Who are the kids that accompany us on our journey through Twelve Months in the Life of Texan Kids?

Mia, whose dad is from Argentina, wants to be a mom and a Tex-Mex cook. Christopher’s dad was born in Texas and his mum in Korea. He dreams of a future as a computer scientist. Alexis wants to be Miss America when she’s older, but is currently a champion Line Dancer. Ethan is African-American and a budding palaeontologist. Luis is born in Mexico and wants to become a rodeo rider. They are a small part of the large group that represents the cultural diversity of Texas.

Review: Pandamonia

I've always thought of pandas as rather peaceful, playful creatures. Not the kind of animal prone to inciting riots. Seems I was wrong.

At the zoo, there's just one rule: don't wake the panda whatever you do!

If you wake the panda, he'll get very grumpy. That, of course, will make the hippos 'all jumpy'. And from there it's a rapid spiral into mayhem. The termites get tickly, the echidna gets prickly, the emus shimmy, the tapirs jiggle, the jabirus jabber, the yaks yak …

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Review: Counting on You

Simply gorgeous to look at and read, Counting On You is another stunning publication by the Melbourne-based dynamic duo, Corinne Fenton and Robin Cowcher,released just in time for Father’s Day.

The perfect partner to You Have My Heart, Counting On You is also based on Parrot’s classification of the six emotions; joy, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and love.

This small simple book with its padded cover is padded with delight.

While the previous publication is centred on ayoung girl and her bright red balloon, Counting On You delivers the same engagement with a young boy and his blue kite floating through each page just like the ever-changing tide of human emotion.

Review: Black

It’s her final year of high school and Ebony ‘Black’ Marshall is counting down the months, weeks and days until she can leave town. A string of unfortunate coincidences has resulted in suspicious locals deciding Black is cursed, and she can’t wait to put the small town gossips and their small town superstitions behind her.

Black is a loner at school and that’s just the way she likes it, until new guy Aiden surprises her by inviting her to the formal. When Aiden ends up in intensive care, some people take it as confirmation that Black is cursed and she goes from being an outcast to the target of a small group of religious fanatics who are determined to ‘save’ her from the cause of her misfortune.

As events spiral out of control, who can Black trust and can she work out what is going on before she becomes the next victim of the curse?

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Review: Too Many Sheep

When Grandpa Jack (with a yarn to spin) tells his young grandson how best to get to sleep, havoc looms as the bedroom quickly fills with sheep… after sheep… after sheep.

As the counting begins, the sheep start leaping through the window and walking through the door. The sheep make themselves at home; jumping on the bed, reading books, playing hide and seek, making snacks in the kitchen, going to the loo and even showering and shaving.

Soon there are too many sheep in the room… and too many to count!

Review: The Cat Wants Custard

There's a saying that 'dogs have owners and cats have staff'. Anyone who loves cats, or has ever been owned by one, will know the truth of this.

In this hilarious picture book — that will appeal to adults just as much as kids — we meet a cat who just can't get his human to understand what he wants, no matter how hard he tries.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Reading Hour is here!


It's The Reading Hour! Tonight, between 6 and 7pm, why not snuggle up on the couch with a mountain of books and get reading with the kids? It's probably one of the best ways we can think of to pass an hour--we hope you'll join us!

Sharing a book with your child for 10 minutes a day, an hour a week is our aim for The Reading Hour on the 16 August 2016. It may not always be possible to share a book at bedtime, but if we  can manage 10 minutes most nights, children have the best chance of becoming a good reader, with all the social and educational benefits that brings. 

National Ambassador Magda Szubanski will be reading up a storm, too. Learn more at www.readinghour.org.au.

Happy reading!

12 Curly Questions with Paul Newman

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I don’t eat butter, never have and probably never will.

2. What is your nickname?
I’ve never really had one that stuck, many have tried and failed. Most people just call me by my surname, a bit like the character in Seinfeld.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being found out.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Blend my favourite writers then add a pinch of Blarney!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Determined, perceptive, enthusiastic, imaginative and, of course, modest.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
Philip Marlowe; the epitome of street smart. Tough, funny and laconic – and he had some of the best lines ever written for a fictional character thanks to Raymond Chandler.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: Magonia

Aza Ray has had trouble breathing since birth. The doctors said she wouldn’t survive a year. Her mother was determined to keep her precious girl alive but drug concoctions have side effects. When fifteen year old Aza sees a ship in the clouds, hallucinations are added to the list of medical side-effects. Then the unthinkable happens.

The first part of Magonia seems so normal, the jump into magic realism is a shock. It’s true there are hints of what is to come but Maria Dahvana Headley’s gift at creating completely believable worlds makes the transition difficult. If you can suspend your disbelief for the few pages in which the real and fantasy worlds collide, you are in for an action-filled ride.

Review: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Trilogy #1)

Lada Dragwlya is the daughter of Vlad Dracul, the warlord prince of Wallachia. But she is most definitely not your average princess. Smart, cunning, vicious and with an instinctive awareness of how to wield power, Lada is everything her sweet-natured younger brother Radu is not. While Radu's smile can light up a room, drawing friends to him like a moth to a flame, Lada's barely controlled brutality makes her an isolated figure, always feared and often hated.

When Lada and Radu are abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman court, Lada's world is turned upside down. All her life she has longed only to please Vlad, to win his affection and admiration, to make him see that his daughter is actually the 'son' he always wanted. Now he has discarded her as a worthless pawn in a political game of chess. Lada realises that if she ever wants to rule Wallachia in her own right, she will have to fight everyone who stands in her path — including her family.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Review: The Detective Dog

Nell is a detective dog. She has an amazing sense of smell (Sniff, sniff sniff!) and it helps her solve mysteries. Whether it is a missing toy, item of clothing, or a strange smell, Nell will ferret it out. Nell is also a listening dog. She loves to listen to stories, and visits the school of her owner, Peter, every week to hear the children reading, with the bonus of all the lovely smells to be found at school: food, furniture, and especially books!

Review: Stripes in the Forest - The Story of the Last Thylacine

National Threatened Species Day is on the 7th of September 2016.  It will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the death of the last known thylacine. This book is a collector’s edition; published as a keepsake of this commemoration.

A powerful and emotive first person narrative is presented by the last thylacine. The text is accompanied by striking illustrations that depict with precision the early Australian landscape, bush forests, and wildlife. Bold text in large font strengthens each word, and calls attention to the significance of its role on the page.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Review: V for Violet

V for Violet is set in London in the early Sixties. The atmosphere and social norm of the times is vividly captured. The youth, their habits and longings, their search for pleasure and identity, and the taboos of the era are superbly depicted.

Violet is sixteen years old. She works daily in her dad’s Fish and Chip shop and sees only futility her life; without hope of change or escape. The library where she spends a lot of time reading has made her an intelligent girl. This is supported by the smart dialogue she is allocated and her excellent thought process.

10 Quirky Questions with Lili Wilkinson

1. What's your hidden talent?
I once won the Red Dwarf Karaoke Competition at a science fiction convention. I don’t know if that counts?

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Draco Malfoy. Because his motivation is so complex and interesting, and it’s not his fault he was born into such a horrid family. Also because of fan-fiction.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
I’d love to have Jane Austen, AA Milne, Meg Cabot, Octavia Butler and Haruki Murakami over for dinner and board games. Dixit, maybe. Or Cards Against Humanity.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
The thing where Mary Poppins clicks her fingers and the house is clean. I realize this is an ability, not an invention, but I really, really hate cleaning the house.

5. What are five words that describe your writing process?
Research. Planning. Self-doubt. Procrastination. Non-chronological.

6. Which are the five words you would like to be remembered by as a writer?
Thought-provoking. Funny. Feminist. Unapologetic. Unforgettable.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Review: Bird and Bear and the Special Day

Here is a story of discovery; an adventure of sorts experienced by best friends, Bear and Bird. The two set out for a special day in the park, full of surprises. It is Bird’s birthday and she secretly wonders if Bear will remember. They have a whole day ahead of them to enjoy each other’s company. Both are determined to have a memorable time.

Shadows and reflections are included in the surprises. But the greatest one is left for later.

The Reading Hour is almost here!


The Reading Hour will soon be with us...

Next Tuesday, 16 August, between 6 and 7pm, kids all over the country will be diving into books. The KBR team will be doing the very same! So why not join us and snuggle up on the couch with a mountain of books?

Sharing a book with your child for 10 minutes a day, an hour a week is our aim for The Reading Hour on the 16 August 2016. It may not always be possible to share a book at bedtime, but if we  can manage 10 minutes most nights, children have the best chance of becoming a good reader, with all the social and educational benefits that brings.

So, if you can't make the 6 - 7pm timeslot, why not organising an hour of leisure reading in your classroom or library? National Ambassador Magda Szubanski will be reading up a storm, too!

Learn more at www.readinghour.org.au.

Happy reading!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: The Wolves of Currumpaw

The winner of the 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal (for Shackleton's Journey), William Grill's newest creation is another explorative tale on the real life adventures of a wolf, and a man who tried to claim him.

Beautifully and evocatively designed, the story was inspired by Ernest Thompson Seton's Lobo, The King of Currumpaw (1898), and follows the trials of Lobo, king of the wolves, and the men who sought his hide.

Set in New Mexico, in the dying days of the Old West, Seton felt called to hunt and capture Lobo after the incessant failure of local hunters. The crafty wolf and his crew had slaughtered one too many livestock ... for over five years, they had reigned in terror over the Currumpaw valley, and it was time to put a stop to that reign. Every cattle baron and cowboy wanted Lobo dead. So much so, a $1000 bounty was placed on the wolf's head (an enormous sum at the time).

Meet the Illustrator: Christina Booth

digital illustration workspace

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Fun, earthy, realistic and a mix of contemporary and traditional.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Creating uninterrupted, cups of tea, and birds outside singing.

painting desk

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
No, they are all fun. I like discovering new ones.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Shaun Tan, Armin Gredder and Ian Fairweather.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The Expressionistic period: because it's when art began to speak.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
My family (lots of encouragement and support), my art teachers.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or areas where you work most often?
I have a large space, all light, messy and airy.

writing space

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Apart from finishing and standing back, the sketching up stage.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming (and develop a rhinoceros hide!).

Christina's latest book, Too Many Sheep, is out now! Learn more about her fabulous books at her website.

Christina works from her Launceston studio overlooking a lake and a variety of wildlife. She illustrates her own books and great stories for other authors. A number of her books have won awards including Kip (Windy Hollow Books), the story of a noisy rooster living in the city, which won an Honour Book Award in the 2010 CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book of the Year Awards and Welcome Home (Ford Street Publishing), the story of a whale as she returns to her ancestors home, which won the Environmental Award for Children's Literature in 2014.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Review: Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep

The theme of Dozy Bear and the Secret of Sleep is one that will be familiar to many people. It’s dedicated to “tired parents, grandparents and children everywhere.” Author Katie Blackburn was inspired to write the story to help get her child (and yours!) to sleep “as quickly as possible …. with the least trauma and tears.”

Dozy Bear doesn’t know how to get to sleep. All the other animals - monkeys, hippos, giraffes, zebras, elephants and birds - seem to fall asleep quickly and easily, but poor Dozy just can’t work it out.

Review: Daddy's Sandwich

A sweet little girl with big love for her dad, stars in this adorable story about a rather odd sandwich that's sure to make Daddy really happy.

When asked if he'd like a sandwich with all his favourite things, our poppet sets to work adding butter and stinky cheese and tomato with the green bit pulled off, and then an entire arsenal of favourite things--biscuits dunked in tea, his tool bel, banjo, deck chair ...

Do you think Daddy will like his surprise sandwich?

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Guest Post: Lili Wilkinson - What is a cult, anyway?

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome Lili Wilkinson as part of the blog tour for her latest YA novel, The Boundless Sublime. Check out the end of the post for information about other stops in the tour and links to Lili's website and blog.

I sighed. ‘What do you even mean by cult? Is every gathering of like-minded people a cult? Is your art class a cult?’

‘No,’ said Minah. ‘A cult is something that indoctrinates you into a restrictive ideology by suppressing your sense of freedom and cutting you off from your friends and family.’

-The Boundless Sublime

I visited a school recently where I told the students I had a new book about a girl who joins a cult.
‘What’s a cult?’ one boy asked.
‘It’s a horse,’ a girl replied.
‘No,’ said another boy. ‘It’s a gun.’

In my research for The Boundless Sublime, I read a lot about cults and new religious movements. And there’s a lot of debate about whether such-and-such an organisation is a cult or not. But really the difference between a cult and a religion is kind of like the difference between a weed and a plant. There isn’t one. It’s just that some plants are unwelcome in our gardens, and we call them weeds.

12 Curly Questions with Steven Herrick

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
If I told you then it wouldn’t be a secret.

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t have one, but in primary school I was called ‘Hairy-legs!’

3. What is your greatest fear?
Something bad happening to my children. And snakes!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Simple, clear, concise.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Dedicated, committed, happy, relaxed, relevant.