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

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Review: Ruby Red Shoes Goes to London

Oh, Ruby, you darling hare. How I adore your adventures. And even more so when you travel to one of my favourite cities on earth (thank you, Kate Knapp--how did you know??).

In this delightfully-penned tale, Ruby and her Babushka Galina Galushka, pack up and head to London on holidays.

Staying with Aunty pinky and cousins Samantha and Hugo, in their gorgeous townhouse, they take in the delights on English living, and begin to explore the city.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

KBR Recommends Great Reads for Christmas - Non-Fiction

How to Build a Billy Cart and Other Fun Stuff by Robert Palmer, Scholastic, $19.99, 9781743625743

Layer by Layer: Under the Sea by Anne Rooney and Suzanne Carpenter, Silver Dolphin Books, $39.99, 9781626867536, ages 5+ (other titles in the series also available)

365 Things to do with Lego Bricks, DK Books, $39.99, 9780241232378,
ages 7+

Dr Karl's Big Book of Amazing Animals, by Karl Kruszelnicki, Pan Macmillan, $19.99, 9781743547434, ages 6+

Meet the Flying Doctors by George Ivanoff and Ben Wood, Random House, $24.99, 9780143780687, ages 8+

Shakespeare: Investigate the Bard's Influence on Today's World by Andi Diehn and Samuel Carbaugh, Nomad Press, $39.99, 9781619304512, ages 12 - 15

Marvel Super Hero Encyclopedia, Scholastic, $39.99, 9781743811825, ages 8+

Smart Phone Movie Maker by Bryan Michael Stoller and Victor Beuren, Walker Books, $29.99, 9781406373035, ages 7+

Game On! 2017, Scholastic, $19.99, 9781338032727, ages 8 - 12

12 Curly Questions with author Kathy Cyr

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I still sleep with a teddy bear. His name is Arthur. He is 32 years old and flat as can be, but contains all my memories, hopes, fears and dreams.

2. What is your nickname?
I don’t really have one, unless you count a shortened version of my name, 'Kat'.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Never really taking the time or opportunity to really live & losing a loved one.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Imaginative, playful, humorous, full of mythological creatures & magical characters.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Persistent, devoted, hopeful, curious, open.

Monday, 28 November 2016

12 Curly Questions with KBR Team Member Sarah Wallace

KBR is delighted to announce an expansion to our team; we warmly welcome four new Contributors!

Please meet Sarah Wallace. We hope you enjoy learning more about her, and do look back at the posts from today to meet the rest!

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I don’t like heights, which is a pity because some of the best views are from up high.

2. What is your nickname?
Sare. Not very exciting.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Having to give up both wine and chocolate at the same time.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
My writing is emotive, thoughtful, sensory and usually well planned.

12 Curly Questions with KBR Team Member Cate Whittle

KBR is delighted to announce an expansion to our team; we warmly welcome four new Contributors!

Please meet Cate Whittle. We hope you enjoy learning more about her, and stay tuned throughout the day, when you'll meet the rest!

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Shhh ... don’t tell anyone, but I love dragons. What? You knew that? How did you? Um... okay, I love performing and remember all the school musicals I was in with more fondness than any other memories from my school days, even though I can’t sing!

2. What is your nickname?
The only nickname I’ve ever had was given to me by a boy at my high school... something I never particularly appreciated. Otherwise, I answer to almost any diminutive for Catherine. Almost.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Things that go bump in the night ... or, even more so, any ill that might befall the people I love and treasure, which I (typically) imagine whenever they are late arriving home.

12 Curly Questions with KBR Team Member Shaye Wardrop

KBR is delighted to announce an expansion to our team; we warmly welcome four new Contributors! 

Please meet Shaye Wardrop. We hope you enjoy learning more about her, and stay tuned throughout the day, when you'll meet the rest!  

Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I haven’t eaten chocolate since I was 14 years old. Unfortunately, it gives me migraines. [Tragic! - Ed]

What is your nickname?
I’ve never actually had one. I guess that’s the problem with a one-syllable name. It can’t be shortened.

What is your greatest fear?
Spiders crawling across my face.

Describe your writing style in ten words.
Far away lands, magnificent beasts, incredible journeys, brave little feet.

Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Fun, kooky, rhyme-addicted, perfectionist.

12 Curly Questions with KBR Team Member Penny Harrison

KBR is delighted to announce an expansion to our team! 

We warmly welcome four new Contributors, beginning with Penny Harrison. We hope you enjoy learning more about her, and stay tuned throughout the day, when you'll meet the rest!

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was 14, I was the pianist in a band called Zenith. We were not good!

2. What is your nickname?
Mostly Pen, although my little girl sometimes calls me Mama Bear.

3. What is your greatest fear?I'm absolutely terrified of the ocean (and drawn to it at the same time).

4. Describe your writing style in ten words.
Whimsical, lyrical, evocative and uplifting - at least, I hope so!

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Persistent, spontaneous, passionate, redrafter, daydreamer (that's my positive word for procrastinating!)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Review: Prince of Afghanistan

As Mark parachutes into enemy territory, the cold air stings my face. Everything that could go wrong in this attempted extraction of kidnapped medicos, does: everything. Louis Nowra’s descriptions of the action are so vivid I feel I’m in the thick of it. 

Mark, the only survivor, staggers under the burden of losing his closest friend. Injured and in a remote mountainous part of Afghanistan with no communication, Mark wonders if he has the will or the ability to survive. Then he finds his friend’s dog, deafened from the blasts of battle.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Review: Unwanted

Bea Azaeli lives in the last existing city in the world, the only one not overtaken by the Erubii, a city that’s a remnant of conflict and hardship. She’s a cadet about to fulfill her dream to protect the city from the Erubii beyond the boundary wall as a sniper.

Bea has just graduated with her best friend Gus, to become a coveted Dread warrior and will receive her true ink. The ink marks everyone with individual symbols or animals that slither visibly under their skin to reveal emotion and rank in society.

But Bea is haunted by her father’s death and what happened to her mother. Now it’s only her and her sisters Joy and Abby. Joy has become a Stork, carrying a surrogate baby for the council which will help the sisters become financially secure. Younger sister Abby hasn’t spoken since their mother was taken.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Blog Tour: All of Us Together by Bill Condon

Kids' Book Review is delighted to take part in the blog tour for the latest book by Australian children's author Bill Condon. All Together Now (About Kids Books, 2016) is a junior fiction novel set in the Great Depression in the 1930s. Read on to find out how Bill's life experience has influenced his writing.

I was first published as a children’s writer more than 30 years ago. Now I’m a fully-fledged dinosaur of 67, and I’m still getting away with it. I’m a very lucky bloke.

At school my best subject was staring dreamily out the window. As a consequence I didn’t do well in exams. The only subject I was remotely good at was English, so that left a lot of room for disappointment. After failing Year 10 I moved to a different school, repeated the year, and finally passed the School Certificate. And then, as quickly as I could, I left school. I never sat for the HSC. Never went to university. This made me a highly suitable for unskilled work, which I did until my mid 30s. During those years I mowed lawns, chopped down trees, delivered groceries and bread (until I smashed the bread truck), cleaned offices and toilets, and worked for a long time in factories.

However, my school days hadn’t been a complete dead loss, because when I was about 14 there was a teacher who praised me in front of the class for a story I’d written. Time distorts memories, so I can’t be sure if I’m right, but I think it’s likely that was the only praise I had from my teachers. Sadly, I don’t remember the teacher’s name. All I know is that directly because of her, from that time on, I began to dream about one day being a writer.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

KBR Recommends Great Reads for Christmas - Fiction

Fail Safe by Jack Heath, Allen & Unwin, $16.99, 9781925266078, ages 10 - 14

Danny Best: Never Wrong by Jen Storer and Mitch Vane, Scholastic, $17.99, 9780733333347, ages 7+

Lizzie and Margaret Rose by Pamela Rushby, Scholastic, $16.99, 9781742991528, ages 10 - 14

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce, Scholastic, $26.99, 9781407148625, ages 9 - 12

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey, Scholastic, $15.99, 9780545581608, ages 6 - 9

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down by Jeff Kinney, Puffin, $14.99, 9780143309338, ages 8 -12

Tom Gates: Dog Zombies Rule by Liz Pichon, Scholastic, $16.99, 9781743812563, ages 7 - 12

The Secret Cooking Club by Laurel Remington, Scholastic, $16.99, 9781910655245, ages 10 - 14

Hot Dog! by Anh Doh, Scholastic, $12.99, 9781760279004, ages 6 - 8

Liquidator by Andy Mulligan, David Fickling Books, $19.99, 9781910200940, ages 12 - 18

The Incredible Powers of Montague Towers by Alan Sunderland, Scholastic, $15.99, 9781760153649, ages 8 - 14

A New Class: Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jarrett Krosoczka, Scholastic, $25.99, 9780545875738, ages 8 - 12

Meet the Illustrator: Cat Chapman

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. 
Comical, imperfect, lively & endearing.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? Music and coffee first and foremost. Nothing happens without these! I like to work alone, and have the perfect studio in our back garden, removed from the house and my family.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

One Word with author/Illustrator Aura Parker

1. What is the best thing about being an author? Words

2. What’s the worst thing? Doubt

3. How did creating your picture book Twig make you feel? Frenzied

4. What do you hope it brings its readers? Courageandjoy

5. What else do you like to do? Textiles

6. Who has influenced your writing the most? Marena Von Behr

7. What has been your biggest career reward? Response

8. What is the most important contribution an author/illustrator can make to the world? Beauty

9. What’s your biggest writing goal? Morebooksmorebeautifulness

10. What’s next? Anexhibitionandabigliedown

As an illustrator, designer and writer, Aura Parker creates bodies of work, including textile designs, prints and picture books. She is the co-founder of boutique Australian art and textiles label Studio Bonnie.

Aura's divine debut book, Twig, is out now! 
Learn more at her website.

Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is a compelling and challenging new story from the award-winning Melina Marchetta, author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road, and other titles. It’s published as an adult novel, and is reviewed here for its interest to parents, teachers and librarians, as well as older, more mature teenage readers.

As Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil opens, a bomb goes off at a campsite near Calais, in France, and there are fatalities. Bish Ortley’s daughter, Bee, is one of a group of British teenagers caught up in the tragedy.

On Bee’s bus is seventeen-year-old Violette, whose mother was jailed for life after confessing to participating in a bombing in Britain years before. Violette had been living in Australia and was meant to be bushwalking in Tasmania. Was the current bombing terrorism, payback or something else?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review: Welcome

Reading Welcome is an excellent way to introduce young children to the experiences of refugees and migrants.

In Welcome, three polar bears find themselves drifting alone on a piece of ice. They float further and further away from their home and everything that is familiar to them.

Isolated in the middle of the ocean, the polar bears find activities to occupy themselves, playing games like I Spy, but sometimes the experience of trying to find a new home is overwhelming and scary.

Review: Every Day

This novel blew me away. It is so creative and so ...well, novel (pun entirely intended) that it is hard to sum it up for the sake of a review. But here goes:

‘A’ wakes up in a different body every morning. This is how A has awoken for A's entire life. A doesn't know why, and A doesn't know how. What A does know is that there are certain coping mechanisms that make his way of life a little simpler.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Review: How to Be Happy

Winner of the 2014 Text Prize, David Burton doesn’t spare the embarrassing details in his memoir of the struggle to be 'normal'. David delves into the darkness of teenage life with humour and disarming candour. His opening words sum it up well:

I’ve lied to you already.

I don’t know how to be happy.

Yeah, sorry. Awkward.

If you decide to ride David’s rollercoaster, you’ll be entertained from beginning to end but it’s not all laughs. David drills to the core of adolescent agony and discusses what were, until recently, taboo topics like sexual identity and suicide. He doesn’t shy away from personal tragedy, either.

Review: A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

Featuring sixteen marvellous magical creatures from myth and legend, this is the perfect gift for anyone who has ever longed to ride a unicorn, meet a mermaid, or hear a werewolf's howl!

This gorgeous, large-format book is lavishly illustrated throughout, and covers everything from dragons to giants, and elves to trolls. The detailed text gives a thorough overview of that particular magical beast's origins as well as its representation in folklore and mythology around the world.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Review: Ella

This heartrending tale about a baby elephant’s life in chains helps children as young as three feel what it’s like to be forced into servitude.

Demelsa Haughton’s adorable elephant images combined with Nicole Godwin’s text create a palatable tale of suffering, injustice and hope that young children can understand.

Stolen from her mother, baby Ella is forced to comply with her owner’s demands. She poses for photos and learns to paint but the chain around her leg obstructs her freedom.

Review: Roald Dahl's Marvellous Colouring Book Adventure

Dahl fans will revel in this chocolate-coated marvel of a book, labelled 'golden ticket' on the cover, and watering the mouth at the thought of the sweetness wrapped inside.

If you're going to jump on the global colouring book phenomenon, then this is your golden ticket. Who can resist colour-ready imagery that's effectively spilling the imagination of one of the world's greatest storytellers onto the page?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Review: Survivors

Survivors begins with the words:

For as long as people have looked for adventure, some have also found danger, and when it comes to stories of survival few can match the true tales told in this book.

And that pretty much sums it up! This is a fascinating book for the entire family. David Long has done an excellent job of including stories that may already be familiar to many (for example, Antarctic explorers Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton; and Australia's own Brant Webb and Todd Russell who survived two weeks trapped in Tasmania's Beaconsfield gold mine), as well as equally incredible stories of 'unknown' heroes.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Review: The Gloriumptious Worlds of Roald Dahl

2016 is the year of Roald Dahl — a celebration of his life and books to commemorate what would have been his 100th birthday on 13 September. And The Glorumptious Worlds of Roald Dahl is the best possible gift I can think of to give any fan of Roald Dahl — adult or child.

This is the book that takes you beyond the stories and behind the scenes. The large-format pages are packed full of previously unpublished reproductions of imagined letters, artefacts, posters and editing notes from Dahl himself. These contain his background ideas, trains of thought and the inspirations that helped him to create the stories. It all combines to bring an entirely new perspective to the characters and tales we thought we 'knew'.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Review: Atlas of Miniature Adventures

Like your world travels in miniature? Then this is your pocket-sized tome.

The Atlas of Miniature Adventures takes kids on a world tour of some of the coolest miniature spots on the planet, including Beckonscot Model Village in England, a miniature Holland at Madurodam in The Hague, Perzy Snow Globe Museum in Vienna, Austria, and Northlandz Model Railroad in New Jersey, USA.

And this is just a small slice.

Also covered--such tiny delights as the world's smallest teddy bear (smaller than your fingernail!), as well as tiny animals like the hummingbird, krill (whale food!), and teensy tiny butterflies and lizards.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Reviews: A World of Information

Kids love facts. They love information. Surprising, enlightening, fascinating information ... they soak it up like a sponge.

And the desire for fascinating information doesn't stop (or rather, shouldn't stop) as we age--that sense of curiosity that keeps us buzzing and engaged in life.

This large format book--A World of Information--uses retro-magazine-style text layout and tonal infographic-style illustrations to present a seriously cool collection of topics from cloud classification to the periodic table.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Review: Christmas at Home

Following the success of dynamic duo, Claire Saxby and Janine Dawson’s Christmas books (Christmas at Grandad's Farm and Christmas at Grandma's Beach House), comes their latest creation - Christmas At Home.

Written to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”, this fun, rollicking rhyming Christmas book is bound to get you in the festive mood.

Beautiful to look at and touch, with cleverly embossed Christmas related items on the front cover, every page is jam packed with Dawson’s distinctive (almost Anime style) illustrations with an Aussie twist.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Review: Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World

I love non-fiction picture books. They are such a brilliant way to engage young readers with all the fascinating facts that form our wonderful world. And this book is a great example of a non-fiction picture book done well. Each page explodes with astounding facts and incredible artwork. It's fun, fascinating and frickin' awesome!

Kate Pankhurst has drawn from all aspects of life to collect her 'great women who changed the world'. There's Jane Austen, who wasn't even allowed to tell people she was an author when her first book was published. Why? Because in Britain in 1811 people didn't feel it was acceptable for a woman to have a job!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Review: Radio Rescue!

Jim loves his life at Four Wells. His childhood is an outdoor wonderland of hunting rabbits and chasing goannas with his dog Bluey. But he sometimes gets lonely. His friend Frank lives so far away, and Mum and Dad are so busy taking care of the house and working the station.

Jim so looks forward to when those new, fancy radios will be available for families across Australia. How amazing will it be to hear voices from far away?

One hot day, Jim's wish comes true. Alf arrives with a stack of boxes in the back of his truck--and inside is a big wooden box with pedals and all manner of wires. He spends time connecting them up, testing the wires tapping out morse code.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Review: Illuminature


There's been a few colour-lens books hopping onto book shelves of late, and each has been sheer delight. Viewing a wobbly-sort of double-vision image is an artistic delight in itself (I mean look at the beautiful cover of this book) but view the same image through a variety of coloured lenses--et voila--monkeys appear, trees loom, pineapples pop.

It's truly wonderful stuff--and Illuminature is not only another addition to colour-lens books, it's an astonishing addition.

Featuring three separate colours--red to view daytime animals, green to view habitats and blue to view nighttime critters ... readers are treated to a stunning vista of beautifully-crafted illustrations, depending on which lens they're peeking through. And the way each scene appears is something truly magical.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Review: Ruby Wishfingers Toad-ally Magic (Ruby Wishfingers #2)

Ruby Wishfingers inherited a special gift. When her fingers tingle, she can make anything happen if she wishes for it, but there’s a catch she doesn’t know about: a catch that turns her world upside down and her cousin into a cane toad.

Sprinkled with fun and quirky characters, including a very naughty cousin and a selfish cat, Ruby Wishfingers Toad-ally Magic is a perfect tale for emerging independent readers. With non-stop action, the pages will fly under young fingers as they rush to find out what will happen next. Will cousin Todd be a cane toad forever? How much mischief can one cat get into? Will Ruby get her wish powers back?

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Review: Mary Poppins Up, Up and Away

Ah, Mary. How we love you. And we love you even more when delicately crafted in exquisite silhouetted lasercuts, as you pop your brolly and sail through a dark, star-speckled night.


Helene Druvert has added another divine creation to her body of work in Mary Poppins Up, Up and Away. A monochrome palette of black, white and grey takes the reader on a magical nighttime journey, based on the classic novel by PL Travers, and opening with Cherry Tree Lane.