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

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Review: Helper and Helper

Best friends Snake and Lizard return with another collection of stories to help you reflect on the importance of an adaptable relationship between friends, and how necessary compromise is between people that matter to each other.

Snake always wants to be first in all things, especially having his name before Lizard’s on the notice board advertising their help services. Lizard feels it’s time for a reshuffle of their partnership. He’s fed up with Snake’s bossy attitude. 

Review: Through the Gate

Children rarely have a say when changes affect their family, especially big ones: like moving home and leaving friends behind. Forever.

Sally Fawcett's illustrations of an ordinary view at the front gate of the new house show how what we perceive can be a window to our hearts.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Junior Review: The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart

A book overflowing with scrumptious chocolate and marvelous characters with an ingenious twist at the end, this book has everything!  

The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart is an incredible book about an adventurous young dragon called Aventurine who decides to journey out of the safety of her cave to prove herself to her family. 

Disaster soon strikes when a dragon’s most dangerous prey, a human uses an enchanted hot chocolate to transform her into a human girl. Now Aventurine must survive in unfamiliar territory, a human village. 

Review: Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts breathes new life into ancient fables through an easy-to-read and fun-to-explore graphic novel style.

The book includes ten stories from across the globe—old and famous fairy tales from Russia, Germany, America, Ireland and more. 

And while you may not be familiar with some of the tales (many were new to me), you will no doubt spot the warnings and lessons about courage and obedience that seem to repeat in these kinds of stories, no matter their origin.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Review: Ella Saw the Tree

Mindfulness has become a popular concept in today's bustling world, especially for children. It's about living in the moment and taking notice of the little things in life.

Here, Ella is so busy creating and exploring that she has never really noticed the tree in her back yard. When she finally sees the tree while playing outside one windy day, Ella is convinced the tree is crying as it showers leaves on the ground.

Giveaway: Ella Saw the Tree

Thanks to the good people at Big Sky Publishing, we have two paperback copies of Ella Saw the Tree by Robert Vescio to give away.

Simply answer the following question in 25 words or less. How do you teach your children the important skills of mindfulness? For example, Ella finds her self-awareness while sitting quietly, or taking a walk, or eating a sandwich.

Email your answer along with your name and postal address to dimity@gmail. The two responses we like the best will win a copy of the book. Competition is open to anyone, worldwide, so long as they have an Australian postal address for delivery of the book. Please note, we cannot deliver to PO Boxes. Entries without a name and street address will be ineligible. Winners will be announced right here on our website on Monday 7 May 2017.

Competition runs from 5am Friday 28 April to 9pm Friday 5 May 2017. Adults can enter for those aged 17 and under. This is a game of skill, not chance. The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Check out for our review of Ella Saw the Tree, here.

Review: Night Swimming

Kirby Arrow and her best friend Clancy are the only two seventeen-year-olds in a town where everyone knows everyone.

They're opposites and want different things out of life; Clancy wants to go to the city and pursue his musical theatre dreams and Kirby is content living with her mother and grandfather who has dementia and help out in their goat's-milk soap business.

Kirby is an apprentice carpenter, has a pet goat named Stanley, and chooses not to leave home and go to university because she likes being with her family in a small country town. Besides, her family has a history of leaving, and Kirby doesn't wish to continue the pattern.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: The Building Boy

Deeply moving, intense and imaginative, this picture book is about life and death, grief and loss, but still, a story full of hope and resilience. It is about the bond between a child and grandparent.

Grandma and the boy live together in a house filled with love and dreams for the future. In her youth, Grandma had been an architect, and had built countless impressive structures. But age had caught up with her and it was time for her to leave life. How does a boy come to terms with such loss?

Review: Sachiko – A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story

Sachiko, a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story has received no less than sixteen commendations and awards since its publication in November 2016.

However, I was still reluctant to pick it up. I've always been wary of stories about terrible wartime events.

But everything changed when five-year-old Sachiko sat on a worn woven tatami mat and stared at the solitary boiled egg on the family dining table. Would it be shared between the seven people sitting there? I was riveted.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Review: The Forbidden Library (Book 1)

Alice is a rule follower. She is intelligent, patient, kind and obedient, but she is always treated as an equal by her father and therefore finds no reason to rebel or break any rules.

When her father leaves on an unexpected trip and does not return, Alice finds her world turned inside out. Her father's house and belongings are all sold, she is told she has nothing left, and is sent to live with an uncle she's never even heard of.

Upon her arrival, Alice notices that things at her Uncle's mansion are...odd. Being a curious girl, and with no one forthcoming with answers, Alice begins to explore the old mansion and it's oddly forbidden library, and it is here that she stumbles upon secrets that she could never have imagined in her wildest dreams.

Review: The Cave

Some picture books have an amazing ability to leave you feeling happy and satisfied.

It’s the stories that capture you at the start, make you smile or laugh (or both) and end with awesome twists and surprises.

These are the books you remember and reach for again and again. And The Cave, I am thrilled to tell you, is one of these books.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

12 Curly Questions with author Elaine Harris

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I joined my first choir when I was seven.

2. What is your nickname? 
There are many but Laine is the most often used.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: Nibbles: The Book Monster

Meet Nibbles, an adorably too cute monster who likes to nibble on everything, from socks and clocks, to toes and soap, but Nibbles' favourite thing to nibble on?

Why books of course! In fact, he seems to have nibbled his way right out of his own book and in to a few others...

This is such a fun story, asking for the reader's involvement to track, spot and eventually capture Nibbles as he chomps and chews his way through books other than his own.

Guest Post: Kate and Jol Temple on Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot

Sometime inspiration will jump out and grab you like a sticky handed sasquatch, squeezing you until you fart. Other times it’s more like looking at tadpoles in a septic tank – fruitless and smelly.

The point is, I don’t really know where to find inspiration or if you can even attract it by leaving out little shortbreads in the shape of sausage dogs. This is what I do know:
You need to be open to it, all the time. Also some of the very best ideas seem really boring and usual at first glance. The mundane stuff we all do like go to the toilet, eat breakfast, do homework, paint the cat… all that stuff has lots of funny quirks about it. We all do it slightly differently and I find the little differences can be a source of so much good writing.

But you can’t just sit around writing about eating breakfast all day (well maybe you can, and if you can I would sure like to read THAT book) so what I like to do is mix it up. Like in Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot. It’s a mix of crazy stuff like: building a robot, hunting for treasure, pirates who don’t use email and then I mix it with the usual stuff like trying to teach a baby Morse Code. When you mix up the real world and the wildest ideas you end up in a pretty cool place.

Some people say, “No idea is a bad idea.” But that’s not really true. There are lots of BAD IDEAS (eating a swarm of bees for example) but the trick with BAD IDEAS is not to throw them out but use them as a little step ladder to something even better. To me writing is a lot like working with clay you start out to make a vase and you end up with a gargoyle eating hot chips.

For our review of Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot visit, here.

Bookish Places: Green Gables Heritage Place

Green Gables Heritage Place (Photo: Sarah Steed)

The Kids' Book Review Bookish Places posts are a chance to celebrate museums, galleries and other places with a connection to children's literature and reading. The posts are compiled by KBR's Consultant Librarian, Sarah Steed, our intrepid traveller and hunter-gatherer of amazing places!

Anne of Green Gables, the creation of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, has been loved by generations of readers since she first appeared in print in 1908.

So much so that part of Prince Edward Island, the setting for the Anne series, has become known as Lucy Maud Montgomery's Cavendish National Historic Site of Canada.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Review: The Giant Jumperee

A pairing of two greats such as Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury came with high expectations, but The Giant Jumperee did not disappoint.

The story is about Rabbit. Rabbit wants to go inside his burrow, but a giant jumperee has taken up residence in there, and it wants everyone to know its as scary as can be. 

Cat, Bear and Elephant all try to help, but the Giant Jumperee calls out a warning to each of them, and none are brave enough to enter the burrow and face the mysterious creature… until Frog comes along.

Review: The Eagle Trail – Who is the Traitor Among Us

Sixteen-year-old Paul and his parents live an ordinary life in Antwerp, even after the Nazis invaded. At least, that's what Paul's parents want him to believe while they establish a small Resistance group.

Then everything unravels. Paul watches Nazi soldiers gun down his father and hears that his mother has been taken into custody for questioning. He has no choice but to flee.

Jos, a friend of his father's and a member of the local Resistance movement, whisks Paul to safety and organises his escape. So begins a cat-and-mouse game between the Resistance and Nazi collaborators. Potential traitors are everywhere.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review: The Red Book

Okay, I admit it, I was skeptical at first. The Red Book is a book filled with red animals and objects -- or so the narrator tries to convince you.

In reality, the majority of animals and objects aren't red at all. Not even the purple, white and yellow cover with 'The Red Book' written in bold. But therein lies the fun of this story.

It's the latest in Beck and Matt Stanton's Books That Drive Kids CRAZY series. After trialing this on my three-year-old, I can confirm, they certainly do drive kids crazy -- in a fun and educational way.

Review: I Can Only Draw Worms

This is a fun, quirky and different kind of picture book.

It’s a little bit counting book, little bit wacky story and a whole lot of fun.

In I Can Only Draw Worms, author/illustrator Will Mabbitt introduces ten worms, one by one, because, as he tells us at the beginning, he can only draw worms! 

It sounds simple, and I guess the concept is, but it’s also really, really funny.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Review: Charlotte and the Rock

'Charlotte and the Rock' was read three times through within half an hour of having it home.

Each reading was met with gleeful giggles of pure enjoyment from my three year old (and perhaps one or two from myself if I'm completely honest).

Charlotte wishes for a pet more than anything else in the world. She doesn't much mind what her pet is, just so long as it is hers. On her sixth birthday, her wish finally comes true. Sort of.

Review: The Leaky Story

Devon Sillett’s first picture book is interesting and unique in concept. It’s aimed at getting children to actually read books. It opens up the possibilities that hide between the pages, and sees the book as more than paper with writing on it, but something with heart and a lot to offer.

Review: Road Trip

If only I had a dollar for every time I'd heard (or asked) the question, 'Are we there yet?'

I'm pretty sure Danny Parker, like most parents, has heard it a few times, too. Together, he and Nathaniel Eckstrom have created the perfect antidote.

Here, father and son embark on, what the son seems to think, is a long and tedious journey. But the father is having a wonderful time, making pit stops, playing games and noticing all the little things along the way.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Terrific 10: Anzac Day - Remembrance

The ANZAC Tree by Christina Booth, Scholastic Australia, $24.99, 9781760154226, 5-9, KBR Review

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg and Robin Cowcher, Walker Books Australia, $24.99, 9781922179050, 5-10, KBR Review

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan, Hachette Australia, $16.99, 9780734405456, 8-12

Meet the Illustrator: Annie White

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Expressive, joyful, traditional and fun.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Good light and time to think.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Water colour, pencil, oils.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Honore Daumier, Shaun Tan, Bob Graham.

Review: The Anzac Tree

Once in a while something special comes along; a unique treasure. The Anzac Tree is just that.

Filled with layers of history, timelines and individual family stories, The Anzac Tree is a reflection on Australia's war history.

Inspired by real people and events, The Anzac Tree tells the story of generations spanning over a century, through one family who sent their loved ones to war and those who remained behind to wait in hope of their return.

Before brothers Percy and Roy went to the First World War, they each planted a tree. Roy's tree grew strong while Percy's tree didn't survive. Roy returned from war but Percy didn't. As years pass by, the next generation gathers around Roy's tree to remember and reflect on the wars that were and how these continue to affect them.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Terrific 10: Anzac Day - Experiences of War

Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood and Annie White, Scholastic, $24.99, 9781743621295, 6+, KBR Review

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, Harper Collins, $24.99, 9780732292263, 8+, KBR Review

Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan, Scholastic, $24.99, 9781742833460, 4+, KBR Review

Review: Amazing Animals of Australia's National Parks

This is a book everyone in the family will love. It’s jam-packed with information about Australian animals and their national park habitats, and it’s superbly designed to be user friendly.

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks, by Australian author Gina M. Newton, is truly amazing! And here’s why:

Information: There are fun and interesting facts about more than 120 Australian animals. Learn what they are, where they live and what their lives are like. Newton has picked a wonderful selection of animals, from Australia’s most iconic to the wonderfully hilarious and mysteriously obscure. 

Review: Jack of Spades

Rosalind Duke is just the kind of plucky heroine I love at the centre of my historical fiction. She's happy to step outside the social norms of her time and she keeps a cool head about her in thrilling circumstances. And there are plenty to be found in this fast-paced adventure.

When she receives a mysterious Jack of Spades card in the mail from Paris, the 16-year-old, known as Linda, believes her widowed father – a Shakespearean academic – is in serious danger.

It is well known in her family that the card symbolises treachery and so Linda hotfoots it across the channel to Paris on her own – a daring enough undertaking at that time.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Review: Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot

What's a boy like Jimmy Cook - Captain Jimmy Cook - to do when he makes a discovery so extraordinary that it could make him as famous as that other Captain Cook? Certainly not let parents or teachers, or a few rules and expectations stand in his way.

Jimmy knows exactly what to do, and he'll make sure he does it wearing his ubiquitous captain's jacket. Because Jimmy has discovered a dinosaur.

Well, a dinosaur's footprint really. And he needs top notch digging equipment to get stuck into the dig. Although, all that digging and a big hole draws attention, which is not what an explorer like Jimmy wants just at the moment.

12 Curly Questions with author Terry Whitebeach

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was small, I called myself Helena Poppelina and would make up long stories for my sisters in bed at night, but only if they called me Helena Poppelina. Only one of my sisters remembers this.
 But something nobody else knows is that I made up a language when I was a child and drew maps of the pretend country in which this language was spoken.

2. What is your nickname?  
Now: My husband calls me Sweetie Pie. Then: As a child, my nickname was Cherry Pie (later shortened to Chep or Cheppy) because when I was very small I had a red-and-white knitted outfit and very pink cheeks, with dark hair and eyes, and my grandmother said, 'She's so sweet, just like a cherry pie.'  

Monday, 17 April 2017

Review: The Kids' Survival Guide

I didn’t realize kids still thought like this! Reading this book has been a learning experience for me. It’s like a handbook on how to be sneaky, a smarty-pants, and how to get out of anything. 

It even has lessons on how to suck up to parents to get your own way. But then I realized it’s written by an adult who has got the full measure of children that are cheeky and think they know all the answers.

Review: Night Wanderers

Rosie and Ti were closer than sisters: that was the trouble.

Rosie thought "It all started with a poo in a flowerbed" but there were warning signs long before that, signs Ti was going too far, signs Rosie was losing control.

Night Wanderers ventures to the edge of sixteen where parental boundaries are just suggestions, where sneaking out at night is a right of passage and the adventures that follow about the adrenaline rush. And then some.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Review: The Silent Invasion

In the first of a Young Adult trilogy, The Silent Invasion is an alien invasion book with a difference. It's set in Australia and has a plot that will have readers riveted.

It's 2027, and ever since she can remember, Callie lives in a world where all life form on earth are slowly being targeted by alien spores.

The Quarantine immediately detect who has been infected and take them away – most likely to be terminated.

Callie's dad was taken away by The Quarantine when she was young, leaving Callie and her beloved half sister, five-year-old Gracie, to be raised by Callie's stepmother and her new family.

Review: The Rabbits

Perhaps one of the most powerful picture books I have ever read, I still distinctly remember reading it for the first time and being absolutely blown away. That was about 15 years ago.

Each time that I reread it, even now, I have the same intensely emotional reaction. It gives me goosebumps. Every time.

'The Rabbits' is a story that will speak across generations, both reaching back to connect with older readers as well as reaching forwards to the youth of the future. It is a book that is timeless, graceful, both beautifully written and exquisitely and intricately illustrated.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Review: It's My Pond

'It's My Pond' takes the typical toddler behavioural issue of sharing and puts a slightly different spin on it, creating a fun and unexpected tale about what it really is to share with one another.

A duck finds a pond and after declaring it to be MY pond, jumps in and begins to swim around. A second duck arrives, and also declares it to be MY pond, but this of course does not sit well with the first duck.

Winner! Jack of Spades

Congratulations to:

Mattea Little, NSW

You have won a copy of the book, Jack of Spades plus an Eiffel Tower book mark!

Thank you to all who entered. It was fun visiting Paris.

Review: William Wenton and the Luridium Thief

William is in hiding. No-one can crack codes like he can but his secret skill must remain hidden. When the Impossible Puzzle comes to the museum, can he resist the urge to sneak in and try to solve it? What will happen if he is found out?

This is the first in a fantastic new middle grade series that will have kids hooked! Who can resist a code breaking boy genius on the run, being chased by killer robots whilst he tries to solve the mystery of his grandfather’s disappearance?

This is a fast paced, action-packed page turner of a story that you will not want to put down. It is filled with mind-blowing technology, enthralling cryptology, cybernetic creatures and killer robots!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Review: A Lullaby for Little One

Rhyme, alliteration and assonance add beauty and rhythm to this delightful story about father rabbit and his little one. It is a story of love and the importance of play, especially before bed to secure sound sleep.

This beautifully illustrated board book will become a favourite with toddlers. Gorgeous full page colour illustrations and double spreads give a panoramic view of the forest where the two rabbits prance. Close-ups of butterflies and flowers, grass and tree trunks, give the impression that you are walking in the forest with the animals. The images invite the child into the setting. They appear so close.

Review: A Walk in the Bush

A Walk in the Bush is the first offering from the new children's arm of Affirm Press, and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, this gem by illustrator and former animator Gwyn Perkins is pure delight.

It's a typical, modern-day scenario: Little Iggy doesn't want to go anywhere, but Grandad seeks him out and insists - a bushwalk together will be great fun. And he's right. Grandad takes Iggy on a magical journey through the bush, introducing him to a glorious array of wildlife, from birds and goannas to wallabies.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review: Millie Loves Ants

When Jackie French wrote her Diary of a Wombat in 2002, the world fell in love.

Not only did Jackie bring the antics of an adorable Australian creature to life, her particular wombat echoed to perfection typical two-year-old behaviour. While children were entranced, carers chuckled in  recognition.

In Jackie's latest picture book, she ponders my favourite creature: the echidna. With a young girl living on the land as our guide, we watch echidna's dogged pursuit of food while its prey – ants of every shape and size – provide the entertainment.

Sue deGennaro's slightly ridiculous, super-sized ants carry away everything from soap and rolling pins to socks and an electric drill. Not only will readers of the future be engrossed in the story at hand, their eyes will be searching for the unexpected booty these six-legged stars manage to haul.

Review: I Don't Want Curly Hair

This book is vibrantly brilliant. The title attracted me in the first place, but my goodness the illustrations are boast-worthy.

Anderson's red-headed, curly haired protagonist leaps off the page with her impossible-to-tame curls and zesty personality.

The girl's ongoing battle with her own curly hair is, unfortunately, one that I am all too familiar with.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Guest Post: Ursula Dubosarsky on The Blue Cat

Times are changing

“Germany must strike soon, either in England or in Africa. We must have plenty of strong protection to shelter us from the mad Nazi holocausts…With Australian faith in Australia, the Gestapo shall not rule us. We, every one of us, are in this war today. The result of this “Battle for Rights” hangs the destiny of the world.”

A few years ago, my dad received a surprise in the mail. It was a copy of a little newspaper, the ‘Schoolboys Chronicle’ which he had created when he was eleven years old, at Neutral Bay Public School in 1940.

Review: Mindfulness for Mums and Dads

This is not a book you read and forget. This is a book you read, think about, explore, read again and, dare I say it, attack with a highlighter and sticky labels.

Dr Diana Korevaar is a consultant psychiatrist who specialises in women’s health, pregnancy and perinatal psychiatric disorders. 

Her book is packed with science (but delivered in non-science talk) and brings together the experiences of real parents dealing with real problems.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Review: Knock! Knock! Where's My Bear?

Here’s one out of the box - literally! Contained in a slipcase, this book is visually entertaining and highly original. I have never seen another like it. 

Fully illustrated cardboard pages fold out in a zigzag fashion to show and tell the story, leaf by leaf. Full colour on one side, black and white on the other, each image shows a different view of the story’s progression.

12 Curly Questions with Davina Bell

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, highest mountain in Africa. For real! I stood on the summit in the snow and everything. I’m not a sporty person, so most people would be a little shocked by that.

2. What is your nickname? 
In Western Australia, it’s Beans. In Melbourne, it’s DB.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Undercooked chicken.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Non-existent until there’s a deadline looming. Whole lot of feelings!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Review: My Brother is a Beast

Alliteration, assonance and rhyme form a tribute to brothers of every kind in the fourth book of this highly entertaining series. Whether they are in kilts or tights, sweep straw from stables or scrub with sponges, it seems no one can compare to the girl’s brother.

There’s nothing boring about brothers. The girl’s brother has hairy paws, and pointy claws. He is a beast when it comes to creating entertainment. He’s someone new each time. Her brother knows how to play. He’s full of imagination, adventure and brave ideas. What more could a child ask for?