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

Monday, 31 July 2017

Review: The Lotterys Plus One

The Lotterys are an unconventional family. Their name was adopted after they won the lottery which enabled them to give up their jobs and live the life they dreamed about. 

Partnered together are two dads and two mums. Their seven children are a diverse mixture of biological, adopted, handed over and gender-challenged. They live a hippie life, are educated by doing, and together with five pets are an intelligent and supremely happy group.

Review: Guff

Does your child have a special toy they take everywhere? A toy they eat with, sleep with, play with and would take in the bath if they could? Mine does.

My daughter’s special toy is called Pig. In Guff, the little girl’s toy is called Guff. And Guff goes everywhere.

Aaron Blabey has captured the essence of a child’s relationship with a special toy in this beautiful and funny picture book. The story is simple—short sentences, short words—but its simplicity is what makes it magical.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Review: Miracle's Boys

When 15-year-old Charlie returns home after serving time in a Juvenile jail, he's not Charlie anymore.

Lafayette calls him Newcharlie because he's not the loving big brother who went away: he's a real mean replacement.

Ty'ree, their older brother works full-time and tries to hold the three of them together, even though he dreams of studying at University. But it's hard being a family with Newcharlie the way he is.

Poverty and gang violence in an urban US setting are central to Miracle's Boys, so you'd be right to expect this story to be dark. But 12-year-old Lafayette is our guide. His thoughts and words are raw, honest and heart-warming.

Winners! A Monster Calls

Congratulations to:

Vanessa Proctor
Joseph Spagnolo
Rebecca Tolz
Judith Maunder

You have each won a signed copy of Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls. You have also each won two tickets to the movie screening of A Monster Calls, in cinemas from 27 July.

Thank you to ALL who entered.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Review: Playtime with Ted / Bedtime with Ted

These two beautifully presented companion board books are created for preschoolers. Thick and durable pages are perfect for frequent handling. 

They introduce the very young to playtime, and bedtime rituals, with five open-the-flap pages that extend the main picture. Vivid colour fills every page and reflects the joy of early childhood, and the freedom to dream and imagine.

Review: The Alien Zoo... And You!

If you know an eight to 12-year-old who loves reading funny, quirky stories with a healthy dose of grossness, you need to check out The Alien Zoo… And You!

In this fresh and funny junior fiction novel, twins Ben and Jen inherit their grandfather’s job as an alien zookeeper for the secret alien zoo hidden in the mountain behind his farmhouse.

But the alien zoo is falling apart, and on the twins’ first day on the job, the zoo’s creepy official owners threaten to close the zoo down unless Ben and Jen can fix all the problems AND impress a VIP guest with a stellar zoo tour. 

Friday, 28 July 2017

Review: Grandma Forgets

Ageing brings changes that are difficult to understand, especially for children.

When the memory begins to fail, the person who is forgetting might look the same, apart from an extra wrinkle or two.

And a loved one who forgets can often still watch, listen and carry out simple conversations with aplomb. It's just that they don't remember.

Review: The Great Zoo Hullabaloo!

When the zookeepers, Jess and Jack, get to the zoo they discover that it is empty. Where could have all the animals of gone? Being inquisitive young keepers they realise that the animals have left behind a trail of footprints, feathers and scats. Using these clues Jess and Jack split up to search for the animals. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review: Ladder to the Moon

Here is a picture book that will send shivers down your spine with its eloquent beauty. Written by the half-sister of Barack Obama and inspired by the love and spirit of their mother, it evokes an ethereal and everlasting love that binds us all.

Little Suhaila asks her mama what her Grandma Annie was like. 'She was like the moon' her mother replied, 'full, soft and curious…'.

Meet the Illustrator: Penelope Pratley

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. 
Delicate images created to capture the heart of small things.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I need fresh air, lots of light, art supplies (loads of lead pencils, paper, Schminck watercolours and good quality brushes), books (lots of books; story books, reference books, picture books), music, and being by myself. 

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Review: 10 Reasons to Love a Turtle and 10 Reasons to Love an Elephant

When you think about animals and what you know about them, you could probably make a list of facts.

Things like whether they have two legs or four, feathers or scales, or if they can fly or run really fast.

These two books are from London's Natural History Museum, and each share facts about an animal that make them extra special, perhaps even unique.

There are 10 Reasons to Love a Turtle and 10 Reasons to Love an Elephant.

Did you know, for example, that a sea turtle cries real tears? Or that elephants walk on tip toes?

Review: If I Stay

Every now and then you read a book, turn the last page and just ... sigh. At the beauty and power of words on a page and the feeling they elicit. I've been meaning to read this book for a while, and wish I had.

If I Stay tells the story of 17 year-old Mia, an accomplished cellist in her final year, who has a cool and loving family and Adam, a boy she loves. The hardest decision she may have to make is about her college destination which probably won't align with Adam's.

Mia is mature and grounded and besides the fact she's uber talented, is a pretty normal teenager. But then tragedy strikes in the most heart wrenching way possible and Mia is in intensive care fighting for her life.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Review: My Dog Mouse

It’s true when they say the simple things in life are often the best. 

Here it is a dog walk. A little girl takes an old dog, who doesn’t belong to her, for a walk around the block.

12 Curly Questions with author Nicole Hayes

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
The whole time I was playing AFL footy as a girl, which I wrote about in The Whole of My World, I was also studying classical ballet. I loved both for a while, but then I got really embarrassed about doing ballet and quit right as I was learning to go en pointe, which we were all dying to do!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Review: Gemina

If you enjoyed Illuminae, you're going to love Gemina. With the same alternative formatting that includes diary entries, artwork, text that traverses the page as if it was a person crawling through the vents...you get the idea.

Hannah, the Heimdall space station captain's daughter, has spent her life playing military strategy games with her dad. Little did either of them realise how crucial those games would be to her survival and maybe even to the survival of the entire universe.

People might say Gemina, like Illuminae, is a love story but to me, both are a rip-snorting Sci Fi thrillers that would not let me put them down.

In Gemina there's a love triangle, I admit, but there are also bad guys from Beitech trying to mop up potential witnesses left behind at the end of Illuminae, disgusting soul-sucking creatures and hyper-dimensional obstacles. There are also heartbreaking scenes, unexpected deaths and a twist or three.

Weighing in at 659 pages, this tome is best read while seated, which is a shame, because it's the perfect bedtime escape material. No matter which position you take, make sure you're nice and comfortable, because there's a chance you won't be moving far as the pages fly.

Title: Gemina
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Illustrator: Marie Lu
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $22.99
Publication Date: 26 October 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: b9781925266573
For ages: 14 years +
Type: Young Adult Sci Fi

Guest Post: Giorgio Cassella with Five Alternative Children's Books Encouraging Diversity

Take a look at your kids’ bookshelf (or Kindle if you’re so inclined). How wide is the diversity of publications on there?

Introducing children to a wide variety of books is a powerful way of educating them about the wider world, and enhancing their understanding, emotional intelligence and empathy for those they’ll meet throughout their life’s journey.

Below, I’ve listed five books I highly recommend all parents to introduce to their children which provide entertaining, but challenging, reading opportunities. These expertly crafted stories tackle difficult questions around gender, race, nationality, disability and empowerment, introducing and informing children about real-world themes.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Review: Never Say Die

Alex Rider is back in another adrenalin-fuelled adventure.

This is the eleventh story in the series featuring the teenage spy, written by Anthony Horowitz.

You should be aware that if you haven't read Scorpia Rising, then you will run headlong into big spoilers in Never Say Die, and there's no way to avoid them.

At the end of Scorpia Rising, Alex was left broken by his experiences. There's really only one person who could pull him back into the world he had been trying to leave behind.

Someone who Alex believes to be that person makes themself known to him by email early on, which spurs him onto a journey, but to tell you who it is would spoil the story.

The action takes place in the United States, Britain, France and Egypt. And it really is action. Anthony Horowitz writes in a visual and fast-paced style. It's like you're watching events play out on screen, which should be no real surprise given he is also an accomplished screenwriter.

Review: Eric Finds a Way

Eric loves books and the magical worlds he reads about, but he wishes he could find a way to hang out in these wonderful worlds.

He tries to draw his own pictures. He tries to write his own stories.

But they never quite work out the way he wants them to. 

So Eric finds his own way to live in his fantasy worlds. And his idea is kind of genius.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Review: Dr First

Do Mr. Men and Little Miss books have a special place in your heart?

When I spot a new one, I have a burning need to know what is inside the cover. So when I found the mash-up of Doctor Who meets Mr. Men books, I did a little happy dance.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Review: Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days of My Life So Far

Bruno is a cat that wears a blue checkered hat. The ‘more interesting days of his life so far’ are presented in six linked stories using animal characters. 

Beautifully illustrated, the tales are filled with humour and are more than a bit bizarre. It’s a book that will definitely entertain.

Giveaway: A Monster Calls

Thanks to the good people at Walker Books Australia and in celebration of the movie release of the sensational Patrick Ness novel, A Monster Calls, we have FIVE signed copies of the book, A Monster Calls PLUS two tickets to watch the film from 27 July for each winner to giveaway.

Simply answer the following question in 25 words or less. Who was / is your favourite bedtime toy as a child, what was / is their name and why did / do they matter to you?

Email your answer along with your name and postal address to dimity. The response we like the best will win the pack. 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 30 July 2017.

Competition runs from 5am Friday 21 July to 9pm Friday 28 July 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.

Immerse yourself into this engrossing story with our review of A Monster Calls Special Collector's Edition

A Monster Calls, the movie, makes its Australian national debut on July 27, 2017.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Review: Pip and Houdini

After all the danger and excitement of being a fugitive in Run Pip Run, you'd think it would be fair enough for Pip to finally find a place to call home.

But life is never that simple.

Pip seems to be forever getting into trouble when she's true to her principles. But standing up for herself leads to the  unimaginable.

So Pip decides to go it alone.

She tries to leave Houdini behind so he can have a happy life but Houdini is the best four-legged friend a girl could hope for. He refuses to stay put.

Review: The Colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Fabulous Flowers & Perfect Patterns

The colouring Book of Cards and Envelopes: Fabulous Flowers & Perfect Patterns is a fabulously fun collection of cardboard cards and envelopes to colour in and create. 

The black and white illustrations are intricate and detailed, and illustrator Rachel Cloyne has used artefacts from the British museum to inspire their creation.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Review: The Three Legged Kangaroo from Uluru

Here is a story of reinvention, taking a chance, being proud of what you are, and how sometimes you have to make the best of what you have.

This little kangaroo from Uluru was born with a kinky tale that resembles a third leg. He dislikes the way others make fun of him. His friend Emu encourages him to ignore the taunts.

Along come two surfer boys whose van has taken a wrong turn in the night, and ended up in the outback instead of the beach. They ask for directions.

Review: Unfolding Journeys: Following the Great Wall and Secrets of the Nile

Prepare yourself for a visual and information packed journey through Egypt and China in these fantastic new offerings from Lonely Planet Kids. They are both part of the Unfolding Journeys series, a unique series of fold out fact books.

Each book contains a beautifully illustrated pull-out wall-chart nearly two metres long with information galore in around 50 bite sized, non-threatening chunks that kids can explore at their leisure. The reverse side of the chart contains more detailed information on each of the items presented, for those that want to explore further.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Review: Mrs White and the Red Desert

'When I was a child, we played in the mud and drew in the sand to tell our stories.'

So begins this stunning picture book from Magabala Books that is sure to leave you in quiet awe.

12 Curly Questions with author Lisa Shanahan

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
When I was in my early twenties, I accidentally crashed my sister’s VW, whilst dressed as a fairy. I was running late for a performance at a birthday party and I was stopped at a traffic light, staring at a road map on the front seat, when my car suddenly lurched forward. I scrambled out, my glitter wings flapping in the wind, to a chorus of beeping horns and hoots. When the man I crashed into stepped out of his car, he took one quick look at the scratch on his bumper bar and then at me, in my foamy white fairy costume, and leapt into his car and sped away. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Review: Ready, Steady, Hatch!

‘Round and bright, and creamy white, amid the pumpkin patch, a clutch of eggs was sprouting legs. READY, STEADY, HATCH!’

Ten chicks hatch amongst the pumpkins and march into the world in glorious rhyme.

Review: Beyond the Bright Sea

Lauren Wolk depicts a lovely tale for middle grade fiction readers in Beyond the Bright Sea, set in a fictional Massachusetts island in 1920s.

Twelve year-old Crow washed ashore on a boat as a baby and has been lovingly raised by the reclusive artist Osh. Miss Maggie, the local schoolteacher also takes on a constant guiding and motherly role in Crow's life.

Crow hasn't questioned her heritage until now. She needs to know where she came from and why she was abandoned.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Review: Dog on a Digger

Dog on a Digger is the perfect book for young children who love animals or big machines - or both!

It's a wordless picture book which lets children, and adults, tell their own version of the story and is also great for encouraging observation skills.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Review: A Pocketful of Rhymes

It’s so wonderful to see a reprint of the classic A Pocketful of Rhymes, by the late Max Fatchen. Second Look, an imprint of Christmas Press, is breathing new life into old favourites, making them available to a new generation of readers.

The rhyming poems are quirky; most with crazy or twisted endings. No subject is safe. From pole-vaulting to dentures; light switches to switching off teacher’s talk, there are no boring bits anywhere. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Junior Review: Crimewave

Crimewave is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat read that you can’t put down unless you want to go crazy trying to imagine what happens next. Everything about this book is action packed. 

Crimewave is book 5 in a thrilling seven book series. A group of seven, each from a different continent, band together after winning a competition called DARE. 

Each book features a different attack made on the world by the ‘Signmaker’ a mysterious, dangerous character who sends out signs symbolising his next horrific attack.  

Review: The Ice Maze

This is a story that will curl around your mind and have you thinking, questioning and wondering.

A story of courage, friendship and sacrifice, it will stay with you long after you close the book.

In the third instalment of the Kingdom of the Lost series, The Ice Maze, brothers Zluty and Bily continue their quest to find a new home and save their friend, the Monster. 

They must be brave, together and alone, and face a harsh winter terrain, the giant Nightbeast and the mysterious Monks as they travel through the freezing landscape.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Review: No, Nancy, No!

No, Nancy, No! is a fun new lift the flap book.

Nancy has a pet named Roger, who is a 'sausage dog'.

Together Nancy and Roger explore the city of London, intent on finding two children who dropped their bear at Buckingham Palace.

They travel to many places visitors to the city are attracted to.

Meet the Illustrator: Giuseppe Poli

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Emotion, big and small moments, life, energy, movement, colour

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Being surrounded with colour and having my art materials handy for a quick play. I try to make it really easy for myself to create on the spur of the moment and have my current projects ready for me to quickly continue working on. I also love having space to hang my latest ideas on display so as I walk past them I can keep motivated and thinking about the projects I’m keen to finish. Good lighting is very necessary too.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I love the movement and feel of watercolours and inks. The range of expression that you can get with a brush and watercolour is just delicious.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Review: Ollie's Treasure

Who doesn't love a good treasure hunt? Ollie, a cheeky little mouse, certainly does and is delighted when his grandma sends him a map.

Excited at the prospect of the 'treasure' (he's hoping for a truck, walkie-talkies, or a new game), Ollie sets off to perform each of the requests on the map.

Guest Post: Tristan Bancks on Vision Boarding for Writers

I'm a very visual writer. To tell a story I have to see it as well as hear it and feel it. I need to find a personal way in to the story and I need to build the world which, in turn, provides story possibilities and detail to make the story feel real.

Before I wrote books I worked in film and TV for a few years and when you're making a film you gather lots of visual and aural references - images, video, music and maps. I do the same thing when I'm writing a book.

I developed a free transmedia brainstorming tool, 
Story Scrapbook, with my friend Ben Train, to make it easy to gather these references in one place. Anyone can use it for free at www.storyscrapbook.com

Here are some of the key images I gathered during the writing of my new book The Fall and how they influenced the development of the Story, World and Characters.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Review: Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines

Early Australian aviation in all its glory is portrayed in Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines. Showcased are the achievements of ten Australians beginning with William Bland, in1851. Featured are Lawrence Hargrave, George Taylor, Richard Williams, Ross Macpherson Smith, Bert Hinkler, Norman Brearley, John Flynn, Nancy Bird and Charles Kingsford Smith, 1935.

12 Curly Questions with Isobelle Carmody

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
Hmm, I love going places out of season: skiing, swimming, ice-skating, movies. It’s a little eerie and that always wakes up the muse.

2. What is your nickname? 
I do not have one and have ferociously resisted. People have tried though. Izzy, Izza, Iz. Ugh.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Announcing: Unsolicited Review Submissions Month

At KBR, we realise how tough it can be—in a flooded kids’ book market—to get noticed. We are a small team, there are only a set amount of days in the year, and we are already chronically flooded with review copies from major and independent publishers.

However, to give emerging creators and self-publishers a chance, we will be opening our review policy for ONE MONTH—to accept unsolicited review submissions from new, self-published or very small publishers.

Review: One Thousand Trees

This book is a celebration of nature. Written and illustrated by artist extraordinaire, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, it will wow you with its beauty and gorgeous simplicity.

In One Thousand Trees, Frankie sits on a rooftop in a city and dreams of trees. And for the rest of the book, dreaming of trees is what she does. 

Beneath, below, among, between, Frankie explores the beauty of nature from every angle and perspective. And at the end, back in the city…

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Review: Alan's Big, Scary Teeth

Alan is a big, scary alligator who comes from a long line of big, scary alligators, and he just LOVES to scare the other animals in the jungle.

Each morning after polishing his scales, sharpening his nails and brushing his big, sharp teeth, Alan heads into the jungle for a day of scaring.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Review: The Spectacular Spencer Gray

Spencer Gray suspects something sinister is happening in the bushland around his local town. He searches for the truth but quickly becomes entangled in a dangerous situation.

Afraid that telling someone will get him in serious trouble, Spencer confides only to his two best mates, and together they try to fix things alone.

The Spectacular Spencer Gray is a fast paced, addictive read. It’s fresh, relatable and full of intrigue and adventure. With devious crooks, daring escapes and midnight missions, kids won’t be able to put it down.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Review: My Body Belongs to Me

My Body Belongs to Me is a simple and direct text for children from ages three and up, that aims to teach basic body protection skills.

Though the letter to parents at the beginning of the book suggests that it is a resource for up to eight years old, the language and the tone is better suited to younger readers, and I would recommend looking for a more complex book for ages 6 and up.

Giveaway: We're Going on a Bear Hunt Explorer's Pack

Thanks to the good people at Walker Books Australia and in celebration of the release of two incredible spin offs to the golden favourite, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, we have an awesome Bear Hunt Explorer's Pack to giveaway. The pack contains a copy of both new books, My Adventure Field Guide and My Explorer's Journal. Perfect for the adventurous nature lover in your family.

Simply tell us in 25 words or less about a place you would like to explore.

Email your answer along with your name and postal address to dimity@gmail. The response we like the best will win the pack. 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 16 July 2017.

Competition runs from 5am Friday 7 July to 9pm Friday 14 July 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 check out our review of We're Going on a Bear Hunt: My Adventure Field Guide, here. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: We're Going on a Bear Hunt: My Adventure Field Guide

Have you ever wondered how clouds are formed, and what is lightning? Did you know that snowflakes are six-sided? These questions and more are answered in this brilliant and informative field guide to the natural world and ignite children’s awareness of the world outside with a spark. 

Facts appear like gems to be collected and stored in children’s’ knowledge bank. They equally inform and educate an ageless audience (although the book is aimed at the 6+ age group).

Review: How to Draw Cute Stuff

If your kids like to draw, or they're interested in learning how to draw, you need to check out How to Draw Cute Stuff by Angela Nguyen.

This is an extremely easy-to-follow book, with hundreds of awesomely cute things to draw. 

Faces, people, clothing, animals, vehicles, buildings, furniture, food: Nguyen provides simple visual instructions on how to draw them all.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Review: Yuck!

What does our baby want for supper?

A wriggly worm tugged out of the lawn? YUCK!
A rotten egg, all stinky and smelly? YUCK!
A spider with eight hairy legs? YUCK!

That's not our baby's supper!

Explore all the very YUCK! things that a baby bird, a baby lizard, a baby owl and a baby toad might like to eat for their supper. Would your baby like to eat these things? YUCK!

Review: Into the White: Scott's Antarctic Odyssey

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be an explorer? Ever dreamed of visiting Antarctica?

You can experience both by reading Into the White: Scott's Antarctic Odyssey.

But this is no pleasure trip, and the life of an explorer in one of the world's most extreme climates is not easy.

If you know the fate of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, then the hardship of the journey, and the end of the story, will come as no surprise.