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

Monday, 31 October 2016

Review: Somewhere Else

The long-anticipated Next Book from Gus Gordon flapped its wings and flew into my mailbox some months ago now. Sorry for holding off on you (but embargo dates are embargo dates).

Nevertheless--we have now arrived at publication date! and I herewith spill the beans for all you ravenous Gus Gordon fans out there.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Review: Pancakes! An interactive recipe book

The cleverness of picture books for tots is having the ride of its life right now, with fabulously interactive and thoughtful books that put paid to electronic gadgets--at the touch of no button.

In Pancakes! this 'interactive recipe book' is entrancing for any age (some may have tittered over this middle-aged woman transferring cardboard pancakes to cardboard plates only moments before penning this review).

Review: Magritte's Apple

I just adore biographical picture books. They contain two of my favourite genres--biography and picture book--what's not to love? A fascinating life, exquisite artwork, adventure...

In Magritte's Apple, Klass Verplancke has created a succinct, accessible and delightful account of the life of Belgian surrealist artist--René Magritte.

The story begins with René being unable to paint. He so wants to be an artist but doesn't know how. What is his 'thing'? So, he paints an apple. Which becomes a hat.

An applehat.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Review: Highly Illogical Behaviour

Lisa Praytor is smart, attractive and the girl who everyone at school would probably vote as 'most likely to succeed'. She's also determined to get out of Upland and secure a place in the Woodlawn University psychology program.

To do that, she needs to write an essay on her 'personal experience with mental illness' that will convince Woodlawn she has what it takes to win their full scholarship. And that's where Solomon Reed comes in.

Solomon Reed is also smart and he's not bad-looking either. However, he's not the boy everyone at school would vote most likely to succeed. In fact, since a panic attack three years ago that saw him end up sitting in the school fountain in only his underwear he hasn't attended school … or even left the house.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Meet the Illustrator: Tania McCartney

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, colour-driven, quirky, sweet, textured, layered, detailed, orderly, retro-modern, ever-evolving.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
For practicalities: watercolours, silky brushes, fine-liners, my tablet, computer and digital software. For inspiration: light, silence, polaroids, artwork on the walls, books, plants, coffee, tea.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Watercolour, without doubt. It's absolutely magical. It has a life of its own.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Anna Walker, Gus Gordon, Charley Harper + around 300 more. (See a blog post with more than 80 of Tania's favourite illustrator websites right here.)

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
The mid- to late-1800s, which was the first Golden Age of illustration and children's books. Advances in technology allowed inexpensive and beautiful art reproduction, and books for children featured stunning artworks by luminaries like Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway, Howard Pyle, John Tenniel (who illustrated Lewis Caroll's books), Beatrix Potter and Edmund Dulac. What they created back then still enchants today.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review: Molly and Mae

I have to say this: I love how the brain of Danny Parker works. I love how he takes stories and designs their words in a way that defies the norm--and so utterly delights the reader.

I love how his voice is sophisticated yet nuanced in a way that's totally biased towards kids (as, of course, it should be). I love that he's not trying to write for any other reason than the clear pleasure he gets from weaving words into story. And that's also how it should be--because that's how readers so fully engage with and get so much from books. When the author creates from pure pleasure.

And oh how this shows in Molly and Mae.

Review: The Fail Safe

Fero continues his high-action escapades between enemy territory and home but he’s no longer sure which is which. Fero had believed Kamau was an innocent country besieged by vicious Besmarians. Now, he wonders if the reverse is true.

There are no clear-cut answers to even the simplest questions. Why can’t Fero remember his childhood? Are Fero’s parents real or trained spies? And what about Besmar and Kamau? They are on the verge of wiping each other off the face of the earth: is either country in the right? Fero faces life or death stakes in which his actions could precipitate the final stage of all-out war or save both countries. Even though he has no idea what to do or how to avoid disaster, Fero throws himself headlong into the action.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Review: Toto's Apple

Meet Toto. And an apple. The apple is up high in a tree. And Toto, alas is down low on the ground. How will Toto get to the apple?

As a bird flies by, he has an idea. He gets busy with his plan. Then he waits. The bird is foiled by his crafty little pink-worm-painted stick and Toto hitches a ride on the bird's back, high up into the tree!

But. Uh-oh and consarnit. It's the wrong tree! How will Toto get down??

This is one inventive, persistent, courageous and gorgeous character, who children will absolutely love.

Tania's Picks: Heart-Thumping Picture Books, October 2016

It's so very important that we frequent our local bookstores.

The 'revival' books have experienced since the industry's Annus Horribilis of 2011, has been, in part, the direct result of people craving that return to Real Living. Strolling into a bricks-and-mortar bookstore--that heart race, that knees-going-weak, overwhelming sigh of a feeling. Oh the choice. The calamity of where to look, where to start first. It's like falling in love.

Then there's the perusing, the deciding, the purchasing, the squirrelling books home to purr over them with tea and cake. That feeling of paper in hand. The weight of a book. The curl-up-in-bed-ness. The smell of the paper and ink, the dramatic pause as each page is turned...

And children's books are faring the very best of all, making up over 30 per cent of book sales in Australia (yet with a mere fraction of the exposure and credit they deserve--via the media, funding or otherwise) and more often than not, sitting firmly in the Top 10 weekly sales list--oftentimes at least half of said list being kids' books.


So do do do haunt your local bookstore frequently. Not only are they a heart-racing place to be, we need to support the booksellers who work so hard to support us creators who work so hard to give you and your kids sensational books to curl up with (preferably with tea and cake).

And, also think outside the square when it comes to purchasing books. Why not visit your local art gallery or museum or art supplies store? You could find some incredible kids' books--oftentimes books that sit outside the 'mainstream' flow--books that will stun you. Why not drop into a childrenswear or toy store, or a gift shop--and see what books they carry?

I found most of the following at the National Art Gallery and the Portrait Gallery here in Canberra--two of my favourite places to buy books. I pop in at least every couple of months, treat myself to a gallery peruse, and then spend just as much time in the bookstore!

I hope you enjoy these heart-thumpers--you will like them very, very much. At a bookstore near you. (And remember, if you can't find what you're looking for, your friendly bookseller will order it in for you and phone you when it arrives!)

The Book of Bees by Wojciech Grajkowski and Pietr Socha, Thames and Hudson, $35, 9780500650950, ages 6+
One of my favourite books of 2016, if not all time, I have also reviewed this stunning title. You can see it here.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review: The Road Home

The Road Home is a lyrical journey from somewhere else to somewhere familiar--from far away treetops and the skies over rivers, to nests of straw and the endless vistas from a clifftop.

Following the movement of a range of animals, the reader is swept up in the concept of both creating and seeking and refinding what it means to be 'home'.

Sweetly-penned, oftentimes relatively abstract text may appear a little too sophisticated for the intended readership, however, an early introduction to poetic writing is a wonderful thing--even for the ears of the tiniest mice.

KBR In Top 100 Review Blogs


KBR is delighted to come in at no.23 in the Top 100 Review Blogs. What a huge achievement for what began as a humble little blog, and is now one of the best children's review sites on the web.

Thank you to our fabulous, dedicated team--Anouska Jones, Jo Burnell, Sarah Steed and our tireless contributors past and present, for making KBR what it is today. The site could never have become what it is without you.

KBR is run voluntarily by Australian children's book industry lovers and professionals, As ever, we are dedicated to bringing you the best books, across a broad range of genres, from baby board books to young adult fiction. We do this as part of our passion for great children's books--and sharing them with the world.

We hope you are also enjoying our posts featuring authors, illustrators and other industry professionals, as well as our news and events. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

See the full Top 100 Review Blogs right here.

Tania McCartney
KBR Founder and Editor-at-Large

Review: Old MacDonald's Things That Go

Meet Old MacDonald. His farm doesn’t have things that go moo, neigh, baa or woof. Instead he’s surrounded by sounds like beep, zoom, chugga-chugga and rattle-swish.

If you have a child who prefers vehicles over farm animals, Old MacDonald’s Things That Go is the perfect solution. The focus in this version of the classic Old MacDonald nursery rhyme is all the vehicles on and around Old MacDonald’s Farm - a bike, car, combine harvester, plane, bus, tractor and more.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review: The Book of Bees

Be still my buzzing heart.

Get set to be swept inside the nurturing hum of a real life bee hive in this astonishing, stunningly-illustrated and presented large format book.

It's actually hard to know where to start with this book. The striking cover? The sunshine yellow? The exquisitely-crafted pages and immaculately researched and fascinating text? The illustrations so beautiful, it's utterly impossible to pinpoint a favourite (thought I'm sure I'll try!)?

The warm, delectable buzz?

Review: Australia Illustrated

I’ve waited for the release of Australia Illustrated with great anticipation. It has been inspiring to watch from the sidelines as author/illustrator Tania McCartney focused her considerable creative energy and talent into developing her illustration skills and I knew that when this book was published it would be something special.

Beautifully presented with in a textured hard cover format, Australia Illustrated is a treasure trove of images of Australia. Travelling from state to state (and territories, of course), there are illustrations of iconic buildings, geographic features, foods, celebrities, activities, animals, plants, and a multitude of other items that represent the Australian lifestyle and culture.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Review: The Royal Bake Off

Prince Pepino’s uncle Sam, Emperor of Americanada, challenges the world to a rather unusual Bake off. Little do Molly, Anna and Pepino realise, they might not escape this adventure with their lives.

King Steve, Pepino’s dad, enlists the three friends as assistants and the craziness begins. After powering their flight by running on treadmills, the children collapse exhausted in their edible accommodation. Uncle Sam cheerily explains that every cooking challenge is CAKE or DEATH. Deadly circumstances abound: the only way to get fresh eggs in the desert is by tightrope walking to a vulture’s nest; whisking egg whites requires running at top speed on a barrel at the edge of a murderous waterfall. You get the idea.

In Memoriam: Narelle Oliver

It is with deep sadness that KBR honours Australia author, illustrator, teacher, printmaker, wife, mother and respected children's book industry creator.

A critically acclaimed and multiple-award winning creator,first became interested in children's books while working as a teacher at the Queensland School for the Deaf. Using picture books in class with her students, she was inspired to write and illustrate her own books.

Birds and the environment featured prominently in Narelle's books, which often combined linocuts, digitally-enhanced photos and collage. In fact, her interest in the environment is what inspired her to begin her writing career. In the early 1980s, she traveled with her environmental scientist husband, exploring many national parks on the east coast of Australia. Narelle believed there is a great need for picture book stories about the less well-known Australian animals in their own unique habitats. She was especially interested in showing how these animals adapt to their surroundings.

KBR has reviewed several Narelle Oliver books. Just click the book covers to view.




You can also learn more about her work and publications at her website - www.narelleoliver.com.

Our thoughts are with Narelle's family, friends and colleagues. She will be so deeply missed.

We hope you enjoy this video peek into her stunning work and processes.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: A Dog Called Bear

A Dog Called Bear is a quirky story about pets and differences, and it starts with fabulous endpapers that look like fur.

Lucy loves dogs, and having saved her money and read all about dogs, she sets out to find the perfect one to have as a pet. Her search brings her into contact with other animals who try to convince her that they would be a better pet than a dog. Frog can have a bath every day and fox would prefer to be a part-time pet.

Then Lucy meets an animal who claims to be a dog, a newly invented dog, but doesn’t look like any of the dogs she’s ever seen in her books. His name is Bear and he is soon on his way home with Lucy. Lucy and Bear have real personality, and Bear does have a special touch of ‘dog’ about him (I particularly loved the picture of him lazing in a dog basket with a smile on his face).

10 Quirky Questions with Karen Foxlee

1. What's your hidden talent?
I wish I had an exciting hidden talent like whip-cracking tricks or mountain-climbing. I have a range of fair to middling talents instead. I can sketch good eyes. I can bake really nice chocolate chip biscuits. And I’m reasonably talented at toilet-training kittens.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
The Snow Queen. I can still remember how shocked by her I was as a child. A beautiful female driving around luring children away. Like all great villains I find her incredibly lonely and there is something quite sad about her. As a child she intrigued me and I always wished for her back story; how did she end up there, like that, hell-bent on making everything wintery?

3. You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Roald Dahl, Hans Christian Andersen, Douglas Adams, Marilynne Robinson and Charlotte Bronte. Then I’d worry all night that everyone was getting on okay and I’d be so so so nervous.

4. Which literary invention do you wish was real?
Gosh, that’s an interesting question. An invention? I always love anything to do with being able to change times or enter magical worlds. Whether it is the clock striking thirteen in Tom’s Midnight Garden (Phillipa Pearce) or the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S Lewis), or the subtle knife in Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy….. I wish that was real.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Review: A World Between Us

I knew zippo about the Spanish Civil War that preceded World War II, had no idea volunteers from around the world flocked there to prevent Franco from taking over as Dictator ruler. Until I read A World Between us. Through Felix, Nat and George, this world springs off the page into vibrant, gritty detail. 

Unable to explain to family or friends, Felix runs away to volunteer as a nurse in the hope she might find Nat in Spain. She battles alongside medical colleagues to save patients with a minimum of resources. Meanwhile, Nat and fellow untrained volunteers receive a hero’s welcome on Spanish soil. He worries he will go into battle with a useless wooden replica of a rifle. George, originally in Spain only to search for Felix, is confronted by truths Britain doesn’t want to hear.

Review: The Gobbledygook and the Scribbledynoodle

The Gobbledygook is back in this rhyming romp for little ones.

Gobbledygook is in his favourite place--the library. He's reading his favourite 'mon-story' book, gobbling up the storyline. He mixes up the words, whispers and shouts--that's why he's called the Gobbledygook!

But goodness me--what's this? His favourite book has come alive! Out jumps a monster, right off the page! This scribbly creature is called the Scribbledynoodle and he quickly sets to work scribble-scrawling hither and thither, all over the books.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Review: The Way We Roll

Will and Julian sucked me into the vortex of their opposing worlds from the first page. They were witty, physical, heartfelt and real. I recognised their voices, could see Julian’s swagger and felt Will’s attempts to keep Julian out of his life. I didn’t know who to barrack for when they fought.

Despite the fact Julian did time for assault and Will went to private school, the two had so much in common. Yet nothing was as it seemed. I inhaled the pages in my rush to discover Julian’s secret and was floored when I did. Is there a way back to wholeness after unimaginable betrayal? Can friendship be stronger than family?

Review: Atlas of Animal Adventures

This stunning publication is from Wide Eyed Editions, the publishers of the amazing Atlas of Adventures, and Destination: Space. Extraordinary in every way with illustrations in coloured inks, this oversized 85 page book is an atlas of information on animals. It covers their incredible and at times unbelievable behaviour, migratory habits and life systems.

Added to the 31 comprehensive, double spread entries in full page colour, is a World map and six other double page maps that cover Africa Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Australia and Oceania, North America, Central and South America, and Antarctica.

The detailed life and habits of the animals belonging to each area are presented under their country headings. There are miniatures of each map in a circle on the introductory page of each entry. A framed picture points out the major parts of the designated animal’s body and their use, and a large block of facts introduces the main information.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Review: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park is a novel about two sixteen year-olds from Omaha, Nebraska in 1986 and teen love against the odds.

Eleanor is new in town. Eccentrically-dressed, chubby and with unruly flaming red hair, she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Eleanor comes from a troubled family, is withdrawn and for the first time, the school misfit. Park is the quiet and steely half-Korean boy trying to stay off of everyone’s radar whom Eleanor has no choice but to sit next to on the school bus.

Eleanor and Park overcome their bus-seat discomfort each morning by slowly communicating non-verbally, through shared interests in comic books and music. They bond over songs and rock groups. Slowly, they fall in love and non-conformingly defy all and everyone around them to be together. Even if, for Eleanor’s safety, it means keeping their relationship a secret from her family. Even if it means that Park has to fight for Eleanor.

Review: Hello Atlas

It's just so lovely to see books that do things differently--I know I go on about this all the time--but it's so important. Most books are 'new' to children, especially the very young, but adults adore and value children's books, too, and there's nothing nicer than opening a book without thinking 'seen it before'.

Kids also need a massive amount of variety in books, to encourage engagement and finding something that resonates with them.

Hello Atlas is another addition to a very popular genre at the moment but it still manages to stand alone in terms of originality.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Review: Midnight Creatures

A Pop-Up Shadow Search? Have you heard of such a thing? Does it not make you to rush for a torch, bring on the night, and hide in a darkened room to discover the creatures inside these pages?

If you're me, the answer to that question is yes!

What absolute fun. A book of full double-page pop up pages with cut-outs that silhouette all manner of animals against the bedroom wall--a fork-marked lemur, a greater mouse-deer, and a nine-banded armadillo are just some of the creatures to be found in the dense, moonlit jungle.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Review: small things

Mel Tregonning was a world-renowned Manga artist. She began illustrating this wordless graphic novel, centred around feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, in 2008. Each of her images bears silent witness to the quiet but invasive influence negative feelings can have if they are left unchecked but also to the powerful positive impact small actions can have on a sensitive soul. Tragically, Mel took her life in 2014.

Mel’s family has worked together with Shaun Tan to complete Mel’s unfinished work, which I believe will become a legacy of love and hope for anyone struggling to overcome sadness, anxiety or depression. The final three illustrations contributed by Shaun Tan remain true to Mel’s original collection while adding the gentlest note of hope: something we all need when times are tough.

Review: Destination: Space

We are invited by five young people to accompany them on an adventure into Space on a mind-blowing journey of discovery. The journey begins with, and explanation of, the Origins of the Universe and our planet - the Big Bang - and moves right up to the Universe today.

Whatever you have wanted to know about the Universe is told here in brief. But it will satisfy young searching minds, and generate an interest to further research this cluster of invaluable subjects.

We are told how atoms were formed, about the expansion of the Universe, and our Galaxy. There is a Time Line of Events, Space Shuttles, comparisons of Matters, and the science and physics behind the stars. This is only a part of what in included.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Review: Alby and the Cat All Holed Up

Alby is no ordinary dog. Alby and the Cat All Holed Up, is the third book in a series written by Leanne Davidson. Alby, the hero of the story, is companion and guide dog to Jim.

When Alby, Jim and Jim’s wife, Ellen, visit the local school to share their experience about what it’s like to be blind and have a guide dog, Alby suddenly recognises a boy who had previously terrorised and antagonised him.

Alby can’t relax and he can’t stop thinking about the boy.

Cat advises Alby to take revenge, however Davidson’s clever storyline forces Alby to confront the boy. In an unexpected turn, Alby has the upper hand and an important decision to make. Should he help the boy or punish him?

Review: Du Iz Tak?

I beyond adored Carson Ellis' first both written-and-illustrated picture book--Home (see a review here), and have been waiting ever so patiently for a follow-up.

Here it is--Du Iz Tak?

And lo, it is good. It's good because it's a book that sits so firmly outside the square, first and foremost. It's also clever, charming, meaningful and, of course, so gorgeously illustrated.

In the opening pages, we meet two bugs who happen across a green shoot, peeking from the soil.

'Du iz tak?' asks one.

'Ma nazoot,' says the other.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

12 Curly Questions with Elizabeth Kasmer

Credit: Larissa Salton
1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’m really bad at leaving messages on answering machines.

2. What is your nickname? When I was a child my nickname was Beth. This lasted until I was around ten and my mum handed me a copy of Little Women. I vividly remember reading about one of the sisters called Beth who was quiet, meek and mild – just like me. But then Beth got sick and *gasp*… she DIED! For some reason my ten-year-old brain thought that somehow this meant I would die, too. As soon as I finished the book I changed my name back to Elizabeth.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing someone I love.

On a lighter note, spelling someone’s name wrong or calling them by the wrong name. Gah!

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Writing heaps and then getting happy with the delete button.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Optimistic, dogged, diligent, empathetic and hopeful.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Review: Pandora

Pandora is a wee fox who lives alone in a destitute place. Perhaps there was once a war here. The mountains of rubble and discarded objects she forages in feel deeply sad, yet in a house on stilts, perched on nearby hills, is where she calls home.

Pandora spends her time recycling and upcycling the objects others have left behind. Her house is a patchwork of re-used treasure--and her mission is to bring forgotten things back to life.

But Pandora is lonely.

Review: We Found a Hat

That bear may have got his hat back and that fish with its jaunty bowler may be in a whole lot of trouble, but in this third book in the Hat trilogy by dead-pan humourist Jon Klassen, we have actually found a hat.

We are two turtles. We find a hat. It looks good on both of us. But there is only one hat. So we must forget we ever saw the hat.

Must we not?

Yet another dry tale about the agony of material desire, these adorable turtles had me smirking my smirk off, as one, in particular, cannot help but stare at that striking headwear from afar, pining... pining... pining.

Will he forsake friendship for a jaunty-looking accessory?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review: Skylarking

Told from Kate’s viewpoint, Skylarking is as startling as it is heart warming. It cracks open the unfathomable tensions and emotional games that can play out between erstwhile best friends and in doing so, lifts the curtain on a tragic historical event. 

Kate Mildenhall’s debut historical fiction, Skylarking explores what happened between Kate and Harriet over their growing years through the recollections of Kate who, like any young girl, is buffeted by emotions and jealousies. We see, feel and consider for ourselves what might have precipitated that irreversible tragedy.

Review: Cook Me A Story

“Once upon a kitchen” there were 17 recipes dished up for eager young cooks. Cook Me A Story offers stirrings for breakfast, snackings for anytime, suppings for lunch and dinner, sweetings for dessert, and sippings to drink when you are thirsty.

However, this is more than a cookbook. Each recipe is linked to a classic fairy tale and told in a story format interspersed with cooking instructions. Each step in the recipe is indicated by a picture of a golden crown, and when a grown-up is needed to help out, there’s a picture of a magic wand, so this is a book kids will learn to read and use solo, even if they need help to get started or at some points along the journey.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Review: Bicycling to the Moon

Bicycling to the Moon could be a bedtime tale for little ones or a read-alone story for independent readers but its universal themes will be popular with all ages. Purdy, a self-obsessed cat with delusions of grandeur, is forever upsetting the rhythm of everyday life. Barker, his ever-faithful housemate spends his life trying to rebalance their world.

Purdy spends much of each day curled up comfortably, dreaming: of bicycling to the moon, flying away when winter nears and even becoming Supercat. Barker, on the other hand, loves growing vegetables and turning the soil. Their life together seems hard-wired for conflict but the two remain inseparable.

Review: Blue the Builder's Dog

Blue is a dog who likes to work on building sites. He likes to work with his mate and ride in his ute. He likes to be the guard of all the tools and he even likes putting his pawprints on concrete slabs that are still drying!

But the difficult thing is, Blue doesn't haven't his own home. He sleeps in a cold shed and he's not happy about that. He's a Working Dog and he wants his own place. He deserves his own place. So what does he do? He quits his job and builds a home!

But maybe he wasn't meant to be a builder ...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Review: The Great Sock Secret

Do you know where missing socks go? Susan Whelan’s answer to this ageless question is a fun-filled tale in which a young girl protects the culprits from her mother’s best investigative efforts. With the family dog as her trusty assistant, Sarah does everything she can to keep missing socks and their new owners hidden. Sarah’s stupendous unhelpfulness at housework time is sure to trigger a wistful smile from more than one carer.

The Great Sock Secret works on several simultaneous levels. While offering a fun-filled bed-time tale that is sure to fill little minds with happy dreams, there is also an element of seek and find to every page. How many uses for socks can you find? Which sock use do you think is the most ingenious? Where else could a missing sock go? Which fairy do you like best? Gwyneth Jones’s adorable illustrations includes a Rastafarian, complete with dreadlocks and colourful beanie – my personal favourite.

12 Curly Questions with Judith Ridge

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve had cosmetic surgery! When I was 8, I had my ears pinned back. They were serious Dumbo ears—I was born without the cartilage that makes the fold in your ears—and my parents decided to have the surgery done before I became self-conscious about them.

I remember Dad sitting me in front of Mum’s dressing table mirror and explaining it all to me; that one day, when I was older, I might want to wear my hair behind my ears (which indeed I do), and with my big shell ears I might feel self-conscious.

I imagine these days people might talk a lot about consent and so on, but I have never had a moment’s discomfort with my parents’ decision. And I have terrific ears!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Review: Patch and Ruby

Patch the pony has everything he could wish for: a home, lush grass, lively companions. He tries to join in with the chooks, ladybugs and mice but he never quite fits. Even Sam, his special girl can’t fill his void.

Then Sam has an idea. It’s risky but there’s a chance Patch will never be lonely again. Patch and Ruby is a heartfelt metaphor about everyone’s yearning for a soul mate and the inevitable obstacles along the way. While younger children will embrace the humour and quirkiness of gossiping poultry and tiny guardians of the veggie patch, the deeper tale of finding someone to call home resonates on every page.

Guest Post: Karen Foxlee shares her Writing Routine

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome author Karen Foxlee to talk about her daily writing routine. Karen is the author of young adult and middle fiction, including the newly published A Most Magical Girl (Bonnier, 2016).

I write in the mornings. Other things might change about my writing process. How I piece a novel together, how I lay down a map for where everything belongs in a story. But I always write in the morning.

Early morning writing started out of necessity. My first novel The Anatomy of Wings was written while I worked shifts as a nurse. In those days I’d rise at six a.m. on the days I worked evening shifts and sit at my computer until eleven o’clock. If I worked a morning shift I’d arise at five and belt out a page before I had to get ready to go.

For my second novel The Midnight Dress I had a baby. I thought that story would never be written. I snatched tiny parcels of time to write. I left the baby with my mother for an hour here and there, I one-finger typed while I breastfed. But it wasn’t until I started arising at four a.m. that The Midnight Dress was sewn together. It was winter. I can remember donning a beanie and fingerless gloves to write. My baby, now a toddler, would lie beside me on the sofa covered with several blankets. It took me three months of writing from four until seven a.m. for the story to come together.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Review: Smart About Sharks

Oh my. If you've seen Owen Davey's Mad About Monkeys (our review here), you'll be hiring a speedboat to get a copy of Smart About Sharks.

From its Deco colour palette to its exquisitely-crafted pages, this is a visual treat like no other (except maybe Mad About Monkeys), and one that will elicit equal peeps of glee from both adults and kids.

Deliciously laid out with striking digital imagery, the book covers all manner of sharkish facts--from types of fins to what they eat, how they eat, their social life, sizes, habits--even mythology and their endangerment status.

Review: The Little Zebra Who Learnt His Colours

Little Zebra loves painting, and where better to find all the colours of the rainbow, than in the garden. Little Zebra’s garden has poppies and buttercups, tulips and marigolds, and other flowers. There’s also a vine that reaches far up into the sky.

Little Zebra adds the red, yellow, blue, pink, green, white, orange and purple of his garden to his painting, and as he does, we learn which colours go with each of the plants. When the artwork is complete, Little Zebra unveils it to an appreciative audience.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Review: Grumpy Cat: The Little Grumpy Cat That Wouldn't

Who doesn't love a Golden Book? They bring back such fond memories for anyone aged 74 and under Can you believe the first books were published in 1942 - 12 books were released at once, including The Little Red Hen and The Poky Little Puppy and cost just 25 cents. 1.5 million books sold out within five months. Amazing.

Over the years, Little Golden Books have taken on the likes of Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh, Bugs Bunny, The Wiggles and Disney characters, not to mention the Bible and even Barbie. They have also covered literary or fairy tale classics like Heidi, Annie Oakley, Hansel and Gretel and Rumpelstiltskin.

And now--drumroll, please--enter Grumpy Cat. Everyone's favourite feline grumpster stars in this classic-in-the-making, pop-culture triumph.

12 Curly Questions with Krystal Sutherland

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was terrified of the dark as a kid. Like, morbidly terrified, slept with the light on every night. I was convinced – well into my teens – that velociraptors were a feasible threat to my safety.

2. What is your nickname?
My little sisters call me Bobby. I have no idea why.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights and frogs. A frog jumping on me while on the edge of the roof of a skyscraper would probably literally kill me.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Quirky, witty, playful, full of pop culture and multi-media.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Pyjama enthusiast. Tea drinking fiend.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Review: Dance with Me

We all have treasured childhood possessions. We all grow up and leave these beloved items behind for a time. Dance with Me celebrates the joy of those erstwhile treasures and reassures these happy times don’t have to be forgotten forever.

The ballerina in a musical treasure box longs to share her dance forever. She rejoices each time a little girl winds up her box and dances alongside her. When the little girl finds other pastimes and different friends, ballerina goes in search of new companions but she never finds anyone as special as that little girl. Until one day, many years later, small hands lift the lid of Ballerina’s box and the music begins once more.

Review: Lots

One look at this spectacular cover, and you'll totally 'get' my rabidly beating heart, even if you suffer the misfortune of never having laid eyes on a Marc Martin book. If you have indeed experienced his work before, then you'll no doubt already have Lots in hand, as you read this. And aren't you a lucky soul?

It's so happy-making to follow the careers of children's book talent, and my favourite creators are often those who change things up, who grow and develop their work, and try new things. Marc Martin does just this, and the Lots experience certainly gave me lots to be happy about.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Review: A Child of Books

When we are forced to wait expectantly for the release of a certain book, we often end up glamorising and even aggrandising the work in our own minds--even when we try our very hardest not to.

I deliberately resisted all temptation to seek out sneak peeks of A Child of Books, and even stopped short of looking at the internals in bookshops before my review copy arrived. I wanted it to be special. A long overdue moment of bliss between me and the book--between me and the creators--picture book legend Oliver Jeffers and typographic fine artist Sam Winston.

Well. Was the wait worth it?

Meet the Illustrator: Gwynneth Jones

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Poetic, welcoming, nostalgic, whimsical and emotive.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
ABC radio, my glass drawing table and my water pen. Also coffee, sometimes wine. And the dog underfoot of course.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I think it would be black ink and a water brush on paper. If I grab materials to take away, that’s what it will be. I am also very fond of watercolour pens now. Anything that bleeds

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
I am inspired that there are so many ways of illustrating out there and that anything goes!

I am drawn to Chris Riddell’s fine line work, watching Anna Pignataro do watercolour over her pencil drawings inspires me to free up and stop rubbing out, and Armin Greder’s style and take on the alphabet makes me want to be adventurous.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Review: Colour with Chipmunk and Count with Panda

One of the things I love about lift-the-flap books, is the more flaps to lift, the more enjoyable the read.

These two gorgeous lift-the-flap books by Katie Saunders will help littlies explore the concept of colours and counting, with countless flaps to lift on every page, offering an array of interactivity and opportunity to explore and learn.