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

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review: What is Poetry? The Essential Guide to Reading & Writing Poems

The brilliant Michael Rosen’s latest offering, What is Poetry?, introduces the many faces of this underrated genre. He shares his knowledge on how to appreciate, read, understand, and write poetry properly. 

Through the deconstruction of poems, Rosen reveals what poetry is, what it does, and how it expresses views and feelings. He shows by example how poetry plays with words in a symbolic way, and tells stories in an abbreviated manner.

How and why is personification used in poetry? What role do the borrowed voices of monologue play? Why does the clever device of irony allow the reader to interpret the poem in their own way? 

Review: A Canadian Year and A Kiwi Year

These books are so cool! I’m a big believer in introducing my kids to other cultures, other countries and how other kids around the world live, but I’ve often struggled to find engaging ways to do it.

Well, problem solved. Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling’s Kids’ Year series is the answer. Perfect for kids, with entertaining facts and funky illustrations, these books are fun, engaging and informative.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

12 Curly Questions with JC Burke

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I’ve had the same best friend since I was three years old.

2. What is your nickname?
Josh, Jazz, JJ, Juice.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing my mind.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Saying a lot, in as few words as possible.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Sensitive, observant, honest, unpretentious, succinct.

Review: The Prehistoric Times

The Prehistoric Times is straight from the Natural History Museum in London, to readers around the world.

Designed to look like a cross between a newspaper and a magazine, A4 in size, and produced in black, white, and red.

With headlines, feature stories and plenty of images, The Prehistoric Times includes dinosaur trivia, quizzes, drawing activities, and a variety of puzzles.

Dinosaurs are profiled throughout, with a 'Prehistoric Profile' on each page. The dinosaurs are each described in terms of their size, noticeable features, most interesting facts, and peacefulness (zilch, low, pretty high, and so on).

Monday, 29 May 2017

Review: Ballad for a Mad Girl

Vikki Wakefield is a master at capturing YA plus suspense, plus teens, in country Australian towns.

Just like her other novels, she once again effortlessly portrays the culture and issues affecting not only the teen protagonist and their peers but the spirit of everyone and the town around them.

In Ballad for a Mad Girl, Wakefield does it again, this time raising the bar with a riveting, beautifully told ghost story that draws you in until the very last page.

Seventeen-year-old Grace Foley has always been a prankster. Daring, funny, bold and audacious, she revels in overstepping the line and getting a laugh, no matter what the consequences. Grace isn't afraid of anything, according to her best friend Kenzie.

Review: Pete With No Pants

Delightfully obscure, Rowboat Watkins has created yet another fantastically hilarious oddity of a picture book, that most parents of a pants-reluctant three year old will completely relate to.

Pete is trying to understand who and what he is. He is grey. He is not wearing pants. He must be a boulder! But being a boulder turns out to be quite boring so Pete changes his mind. He is grey. He is NUTS about acorns. He is not wearing pants. He must be a squirrel!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Review: Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair

Steven Herrick is a master poet.

He drills to the core of story in a few short words, then with surgical skill, he cuts to the heart with gentle humour.

Jack and his older sister, Desiree, sit on the roof of an old shack in the golf course when they need to. It's where they try to make sense of their Mum dying too young, their Dad unable to find up and their own struggles.

Desiree is Jack's closest confidante but she's not the greatest when it comes to advice about girlfriends or boyfriends. Or sex. Then there's Annabel, the girl of Jack's dreams.

Like so many of Steven Herrick's stories, Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair crosses emotional and physical boundaries. It's a story of heart-breaking grief, recovery and everything that happens in between and it will leave you satisfied.

Winner! Raymie Nightingale

Congratulations to:

Joseph Spanolo of NSW

You have won two copies of the book, Raymie Nightingale, one for you and one to share with your bestie!

Thank you to all who entered.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Review: Footloose

Footloose is a book that you immediately have to open if you loved the movie ‘Footloose’ and the song from 1984 or the rebooted movie from 2011.

So how do the words suit a children’s book? Kenny Loggins has written new words/lyrics to suit the story’s setting, a zoo.

Review: There's a Moose on the Loose

Oh, no! There’s a moose on the loose! Can you spot him running across the pages?

Can you spot the troop of characters chasing him through the city?

There’s a Moose on the Loose is a fun and interactive picture book written by Lucy Feather and illustrated by Stephan Lomp. 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Review: Harvey the Hero

Harvey the Hero is a sweet book without the oft-annoying didactic overtones that come with this sort of story.

I admit, when I first started reading the book I expected the conclusion to be the cliched "He was a hero after all..." sort we've all come across.

Happily, I was proven wrong. Harvey could best be described as a hapless hero perhaps.

Review: Rose Campion and the Curse of the Doomstone

Rose Campion, sharp-minded and observant, is back to try and save Campion’s Palace of Varieties and Wonders from financial ruin. The sequel to Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret sees Rose using her detective skills to solve mysteries and weed out pretenders. 

She leads a cast of amazing and complex characters that hide secrets. The whole story is swathed in mystery, and propelled by a chain of extraordinary adventures, including murders to solve. Fast-paced and tension filled, you can’t put this down.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: There's Broccoli in My Ice Cream!

Do you have a fussy-eater in your house? Many children go through a phase of not wanting to eat fruit and vegetables. 

The family in Emily Mackenzie’s new book There’s Broccoli in my Ice Cream! are in a similar situation. This funny, read aloud story is sure to delight both children and parents.

Review: John Ronald's Dragons

When I heard there was a picture book about JRR Tolkien, I just had to have it!

Tolkien was the master of fantasy. He brought Middle-earth to life in the imaginations of generations of children and adults alike, taking us on a journey to Mordor and introducing us to hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards.

But who was he? What was he like as a child? How did he create these amazing worlds which encompassed us, enveloped us and transported us to another realm?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Review: The Thank You Dish

Trace Balla has done it again, creating a sweet and whimsical picture book with a gentle social conscience.

It's dinner time and Grace and Mama are giving thanks for the varied ways they came by their meal. Mama starts with simple things, thanking the rain, soil and sunshine. But Grace has a surprising list of thank yous, from kangaroos (for not eating the carrots) to roadworkers (who fixed the path so they could ride to a stall to buy corn and kale).

Review: That Bear Can't Babysit

Mr and Mrs Burrow have been invited to a party, but they have SEVEN little bunnies and no one wants to babysit.

Well, no one except Bear.

With a few concerns about Bear's abilities, but no other options, Mr and Mrs Burrow reluctantly leave him in charge. But can Bear babysit? 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Review: Goldilocks and the Three Potties

Hi Leigh Hodgkinson, it's me, your biggest fan-girl.

To everyone not named Leigh Hodgkinson, if you enjoy quirky, fresh picture books, then stop wasting time!

Don't even finish this sentence. Go to your local bookstores and snatch up one of her books! Now!

12 Curly Questions with author RA Spratt

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I like to espalier fruit trees.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear
Permanently psychologically scarring my children.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Stunningly brilliant comedic insight into human behaviour with hilarious dialogue.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Super-model beautiful. Very funny.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Review: Alex Approximately

Bailey aka Mink is falling for Alex, her online film fan buddy – big time

Knowing that Alex is on the other side of the country helps her to relax and be more completely herself than she could in real life. After all, she's never going to meet him in the flesh, right?

When Bailey moves to Alex's Surfside town in California to live with her Dad, she decides not to tell Alex straight away. What harm can there be in checking him out first?

Then there's Porter with his sculpted surfer torso and shoulder length ringlets. It's almost hate at first sight. Then something odd happens. The high energy that fuels the fiery arguments between Bailey and Porter fuses into passion.

Review: Boy

This is the tale of a village, a king and his knights, and a dragon.

Perhaps more importantly, it's also the tale of a young boy who teaches everyone how to live in peace and without fear.

The boy, who is never really named, cannot hear and communicates through his 'dancing hands' and by drawing pictures.

He's unusual in his community and they don't understand him, mostly ignoring him.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Review: My Body Belongs to Me: From My Head to My Toes

The topics of body protection and sexual abuse prevention can seem very intimidating to approach with young children.

There are a number of great resources available to help lead families through these conversations, while guiding parents and caregivers in answering the more difficult questions that may arise.

My Body Belongs to Me is a great resource to start from around three years of age, to teach children about their rights to privacy and safety when it comes to their own bodies.

Review: Origami Finger Puppets: Fun Origami for Pinkies, Pointers, and Thumbs

Looking for advanced origami creations?

Origami Finger Puppets: Fun Origami for Pinkies, Pointers, and Thumbs is Muneji Fuchimoto’s newest origami book. 

He began to create origami designs after being inspired by a project in his son’s kindergarten class. Fuchimoto’s other origami books include Robogami and Origami Racer Kit.

Origami Finger Puppets provides instructions for readers to create twenty-five finger puppets. The puppet characters come from popular fairy tales; Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and much more. The book also contains directions for few finger puppets for Christmas and Halloween. Twenty-five sheets of paper are included so you can begin your origami straight away.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Event: Library and Information Week & National Simultaneous Storytime

From Monday 22 May until Sunday 28 May, libraries across Australia will be celebrating Library and Information Week.

Library and Information Week aims to raise the profile of libraries and librarians in Australia, and showcase the many and varied resources and services that libraries provide to the community.

The week is organised by the Australian Library and Information Association to promote the value of reading and literacy, the importance of Australia's book industry and the role of libraries.

The theme for Library and Information Week 2017 is 'Celebrate', and we encourage you to celebrate by visiting your local library and borrowing plenty of books to show your support! If you're looking for appropriately themed books, check out our libraries book list.

If you have young children, be sure to ask about National Simultaneous Storytime, which will be held on the morning of Wednesday 24 May for the 17th year. This year, the book being read to hundreds of thousands of children across the country is the hilarious The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood.

Review: The Star-Touched Queen

Princess Maya is seventeen and her horoscope has deemed her cursed from birth. Set in India, she leads a solitary life in her father’s palace, shunned, yet safe in the knowledge that she receives solace and happiness in her books. 

Who would want to marry someone to whom marriage will only bring death? That changes when her father arranges a marriage to Amar and she will become the queen of Akaran.

It is a forced marriage arranged by her father in the hope of averting conflict between the kingdoms. Hurt and bewildered, Maya has no choice but to obey her father.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This brand new, hardcover edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an encyclopedia of all the magical creatures you could want to know about, all that populate the Harry Potter universe.

Anyone familiar with Harry Potter will know that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an approved textbook at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And if you've seen the recent Fantastic Beasts movie adaptation, you'll find the creatures from the movie in this book.

Review: Piggy

Piggy is a pig with a passion for reading. He spends most of his time wearing his huge red glasses and his head buried in a book. This makes him oblivious to the world around him. 

Down to his last book, he wants to share the ending with a friend. But reading alone fills his life. Piggy realises it’s time to look around; to find someone to share things with.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Review: Robyn Boid: Architect

Once in a while I come across a picture book that makes me sit up and pay attention. This gem of a book is unique, witty and clever, crafting an original narrative approach to introducing non-fiction concepts.

Robyn Boid is a little bird with a big dream. She lives at the university on the ledge of the architecture school. Here she listens, she learns and she experiments. She wants to be an architect.

She builds domes and triangles, archways and entrances. But do they work for a nest? How do you ‘think outside the circle’ when it comes to nest design?  

Meet the Illustrator: Cara King

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
I would call my style a little bit whimsical with a touch of quirky.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My watercolours, lots of 2B pencils and my smudgy pencil thing that Sam Cohen (fellow illustrator friend) put me onto.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I use mostly grey lead pencils, fineliners, pencils and watercolour. Sometimes only a touch of colour in my images.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
I adore the work of Charles Blackman and Arthur Boyd and the anitipodean artists that shared the same space and vision. And through the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, I’ve become enamoured with a number of artists work, particularly the free-style watercolour splashings of Leonie Cheetham.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review: Shearing Time

I really enjoyed this informative and educational book on shearing. What a gem! 

Kids will love reading all about what happens on a sheep farm, as it begins and ends with a whole, very busy day of shearing.

It is told in the voice of a young girl that loves shearing time. We accompany her through her day on the farm, which begins with mustering the sheep. 

Giveaway: Raymie Nightingale

Thanks to the good people at Walker Books Australia, we have ten copies (five prize packs of two books each)of Kate DiCamillo's Raymie Nightingale to giveaway. This is a book about friendship so what better way to celebrate friendship than by sharing this prize with your bestie. All you have to do is tell us, in 25 words or less, what makes your friendship so special.

Email your answer along with your name and postal address to dimityspowell@gmail.com. The first five responses we like the best will win two copies 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 Sunday 28 May 2017.

Competition runs from 5am Thursday 18 May to 9pm Thursday 25 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.
You can read our review of Raymie Nightingale, here. 
Kate is touring Australia from late May. Visit her website for more exciting opportunities to meet this internationally best-selling author.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review: Gaston

A litter of four perfectly precious french poodles are born, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston.

Mother Poodle teaches them the fine art of being a french poodle, to sip (never slobber!), to yip (never yap!) and to walk with grace (never race!).

No matter how he tries though, Gaston can not quite manage to be as perfectly poodle-y as his three sisters, but he works doubly hard nonetheless.

On a trip to the park one afternoon, our Poodle family meets another dog family. A family of French Bulldogs, that also has four puppies, Ricky, Rocky, Bruno and Antoinette. They are brawny, they are brutish, they race, and they yap!

Review: Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere

Olga loves animals.

She adores everything about them, even their farts and poops.

It's her life long ambition to become a famous animal scientist so she documents everything in her diary.

Olga confides everything through her illustrated pages. It's here that she reveals she feels much more comfortable with animals than she does with people.

One day, Olga discovers a strange creature in her rubbish bin, a creature with slightly dumb eyes and a pudgy shape. This unusual animal drops rainbow coloured poop.

Is it an alien? A new species? There's only one way to find out and that's to investigate.

12 Curly Questions with author Kate DiCamillo

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Um, I put peanut butter in my oatmeal. I’m embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. I love peanut butter.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear?
Oh, man. I have so many. For now, let’s say: filling out forms. I break out into a cold sweat when I have to fill out forms.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Hopeful, short, odd, predictable, unpredictable. I know. It’s only five words. But still. And, look, it kind of describes me, too!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Winner! Circle

Congratulations to:

Louise Brooks, QLD

You have won a copy of the book, Circle!

Thank you to all who entered.

Review: The Beast of Hushing Wood

This is a mysterious and haunting novel with a hint of magic. Strange things are happening in Dell Hollow. Ziggy Truegood can feel the change. The unease. Hushing Wood, usually a place of comfort, now has her afraid. Something is lurking in the wood, stalking her, leaving a trail of silvery hair...

Ziggy knows that this mystery has something to do with her. She senses her grandfather knows how to help, but his mind has clouded over and when she visits him now, sometimes he barely recognises her. Can she get through to him? Can she confront her fear to find out what is lurking in the wood?

Review: The Special Ones

Em Bailey (best-selling author of Shift) offers up another captivating read with The Special Ones.

Four young people forced to live in a cult-like existence, by a dangerous leader they've never seen who controls their existence by cameras and written instructions.

Esther, (the narrator) has been held captive for two years and must play a certain role or risk being asked to leave the house like past Special Ones. No one knows what became of the others; are they still alive?

The Special Ones live in an isolated farmhouse far from prying eyes and any chance of escape or rescue and are all given roles to play. They must become people from another era who lead lives untainted by technology and present temptations, and exist on meagre rations of food.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review: SnoozeFEST

SnoozeFest introduces us to Snuggleford Cuddlebun, a sloth who is so sleepy that she only properly rises for one thing, and that is the annual snooze festival.

All of the sleepiest animals - koalas, bears, wombats and cats - attend Snoozefest, where there is warm milk and honey and a great pyjama fashion show. But it is after they set up their beds in the great NuzzleDome and all turn on their night lights from home, that the magic really begins.

Review: How to Bee

After the great famine, the world changed.

Farms needed people to pollinate crops because there weren't enough bees. Homeless families moved to the country on the promise of food and shelter in exchange for work.

So began a new world where children could win the honour of becoming a 'bee'.

Peony and her sister are 'pests'. It's their job to kill insects that threaten the fruit. Chooks wait below their trees to eat the fallout of their good work. Peony is happy enough, but she's busting to become a 'bee'.

Then everything changes. Peony's mother wants to take her to the city so she can work and earn money. Peony doesn't want to leave the place she loves but more than that, she can't bear to leave Mags and Gramps. She fights with all her might to stay with her family on the farm.

Then Peony is kidnapped.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Review: Nanette’s Baguette

Nanette is a little frog, living in a town where flies are pets, and baguettes are simply irresistible.

The text of this story is reminiscent of Dr Suess’ Cat in the Hat, with short, rhyming, tongue twisting sentences,

‘Today is a day Nanette won’t soon forget … Is Nanette set to get the baguette?’.

And so on the story goes, in which Nanette does get the baguette, but is unable to quite make it home with the baguette intact. Will Mum be upset?

Review: Archie and the Bear

What is it about bears that makes them so utterly endearing, especially in picture books?

Archie loves bears, too. In fact, Archie thinks he is a bear, although to most people he just looks like a boy in a bear suit.

Fed up with having to explain himself to people, Archie leaves home and heads to the forest, armed with his bear sack and some honey sandwiches.

Friday, 12 May 2017

12 Curly Questions with Leanne Barrett

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I used to be so shy. I would never contribute in class discussions unless called upon by the teacher.

2. What is your nickname? 
Sometimes my family call me Lily or Lil.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Enclosed spaces.

Review: I Don't Draw, I Color!

Some people have a real flair for drawing, but the main character in I Don't Draw, I Color! believes he is not one of those people.

But that's okay, he doesn't mind, because instead of drawing, he colours.

Through funky splashes of scribbles, this book explores how emotions, concepts and stories can all be represented with colours alone—no pictures required.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review: Doodle Cat is Bored

'I'm bored!' It's a phrase parents are all too familiar with. Some of us dread it so much we fill our children's days, lining up an array of extra-curricular activities, plying them with books and toys at home, and always having some electronic device on hand 'just in case'.

But, the truth is, a little boredom is wonderful fodder for the imagination and something our cherubs should experience more of.

Review: The Tree

What a simple but powerful story. This book contains little more than 50 words yet it brings home an environmental message that moved my seven-year-old to tears.

This is a book where the words and pictures dance a beautiful duet to tell the story of a tree. Just a tree. A tree that has a nest. And a hollow and a burrow. A tree that is home to a multitude of creatures enjoying their quiet lives. Until the newcomers arrive. With their plans.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Review: Say Yes – A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope

Jennifer Castles witnessed the incomprehensible damage caused by unjust Australian laws through her sister's lifelong friendship with Mandy Brown.

Margaret Castles, a white middle class girl struggled to remain close with Mandy who was aboriginal, despite laws from the early 1900s that tried to force them apart. The struggle these girls faced was seared into Jennifer's consciousness.

This book that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the vote to accept indigenous Australians as citizens of Australia, is the result.

Review: This House, Once

This House, Once is a goose-bump triggering picture book. A beautiful story brought to life through stunning illustrations, it is different and wonderful and glorious.

The story is about a house, what the house is made of and where its individual parts come from. 

It’s a story about small pieces adding up to a beautiful whole. It’s a story about nature and the different ways our natural world provides us with the things we need—like doors and walls and the roofs upon our homes.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Review: Diva and Flea: A Parisian Tale

Diva and Flea: A Parisian Tale is a gorgeous new story, told in thirteen short chapters, by the award-winning Mo Willems (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny, Elephant and Piggie).

Diva is a small, white dog who lives in Paris with the gardienne (caretaker) of an apartment building. Diva is also a gardienne, standing guard at the gate, although rather wary of the people and their feet who pass by.

Flea is a big, black cat who lives somewhere different each day. He's a street-wise and confident flaneur (someone who wanders around exploring and experiencing new things).

12 Curly Questions with author Sophie Masson

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My parents first thought of calling me Virginia. They settled on Sophie only when I actually appeared.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear?
Losing the ones I love.