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

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Review: Leaf

This stunning picture book from Sandra Dieckmann is a visual feast that is a joy to lose yourself in. The lyrical language tells of the arrival of a new creature in the wild wood. He has come from across the sea and is strange and different. The other creatures observe from a distance and live in fear.

The imagery is spectacular. The first few pages evoke a mythical, mysterious feel. A lonely white polar bear is depicted against an effusive landscape of dark blues and greys.

Review: Sophie la Giraffe: Fun First Words

What a fun way to teach a child their first words. This entertaining, colourful sticker book from the Let’s Learn Together series is ideal for teaching early learning activities to the very young.

Images from inside and outside the house are depicted.  Stickers of toys, animals, vehicles, food, musical instruments, basic kitchen furniture and utensils are found on the sticker pages in the middle of the book.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Review: Stubborn Stanley

Stubborn Stanley is the second book written and illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom. Nathaniel has a illustration style that you will recognise from nine other books, including the book Road Trip by Danny Parker.

Stanley is an inventor. He does not need help from any of his friends to make his creations. Soon his friends give up on stubborn Stanley.

Stanley continues to invent alone but months later he realises that something is missing, fun. 'Stanley needed a new plan. But for the first time ever, Stanley wasn't sure what to do next.' 

Review: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares

What I loved most about this book is how the author shines a light on fears and anxieties and the protagonist has the tenacity to attempt to face them head on against a backstory of ever-present fear.

Esther Solar is paralyzed by phobias and superstitions - an unfortunate and debilitiating multi-generational family trait influenced by her grandfather’s supposed curse by Death.

Esther dreads bad luck and is scared of discovering her worst ever fear which could ruin her life like other family members, so avoids most things and hides beneath elaborate movie character costumes each day in lieu of ‘regular’ clothing.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Guest Post: Robert Vescio on Choosing between Right and Wrong

Finn, a young boy, is lonely. Puss, a cat, is lost. Then Finn and Puss meet. Suddenly Finn isn’t lonely anymore, and Puss seems quite happy to be with Finn too. So when Finn sees a ‘Lost’ poster, put up by Puss’s owners, he’s faced with a tough decision. Will he do the right thing?

Finn and Puss is a tender tale that explores ethics and integrity through the friendship of a lonely boy and a lost cat.

Author, Robert Vescio, shares his inspiration for this moving tale and his thoughts behind its meaningful morals.

Review: Dozy Bear and the Secret of Food

Parents with children who are picky eaters, this book is for you.

Little Dozy Bear only wants to eat fish and will not eat the other food his parents offer him.

While everyone else is enjoying an after dinner nap, Dozy is still hungry and sets off to find his own fishy treats, but is convinced by new friends to try something different.

Dozy quite likes the apple Hedgehog gives him, and discovers the blueberries from Owl are delicious and rather filling.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Review: Saving Marty

Renzo's dad died a hero before he met his only son and Renzo's been trying to make sense of the world ever since.

How can you love someone you've never met? And why does his mother seem close to tears whenever she sees how like his dad Renzo is becoming?

Despite a continual stream of late payment notices and pressure from the local real estate agent to sell their property, Renzo finds a reason to hope when the runt of their pig litter escapes the local livestock auction and gets mixed up with the puppies.

Renzo names the piglet after his dad and so begins a heartwarming odyssey. It's one thing to smile at the antics of pig the size of a dog, but when Marty hits 300 pounds, his future is precarious.

Review: Pea Pod Lullaby

This is a bedtime story that won’t lead to sleep because you’ll never want to stop reading it.

It’s beautiful and poetic and it will pull on your heartstrings.

I am the small green pea. You are the tender pod. Hold me.

I am the falling star. You are the catching hands. Catch me.

Pea Pod Lullaby is a beautiful story, by the talented Glenda Millard, about a mother and her children. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review: Jehan and the Quest of the Lost Dog

In Rosanne Hawke’s new novel for young readers, and companion to her previous book, Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll, she returns again to Pakistan. 

Using the floods of 2010 as inspiration and the lead theme of survival, Hawke creates strong images with language and uses metaphors to illuminate her descriptions.

Jehan and his brother Amir are happy children until the early Monsoon rains catch them unawares. Mud home, belongings and the entire family are swept away by the sudden flood that swallows the area. The boys are separated from their parents and each other.

12 Curly Questions with author Meg McKinlay

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was once on a Japanese high school cheerleading team. My role involved yelling: 'Are you ready?' in English to rapturous applause.

2. What is your nickname? 
Megsy. The Moo.

3. What is your greatest fear?
It’s never occurred to me to rank my fears! When I was a kid, I was frightened that wolves would come through my bedroom window at night but thankfully that seems to have passed. I used to love bungy jumping, sky diving and things of that sort, but seem to have become more nervous about heights as I’ve got older.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Review: Being You is Enough

Josh Langley has created a very important book.  It is simple, colourful and humorous, but most importantly it touches the heart.  Being you is Enough shares the messages that it's OK to be different, no-one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes--being you is enough! 

The clear words of wisdom are presented with minimal text, spread out over 117 pages. This format makes for easy reading, ensuring the important messages are easily accessible.

Review: The Scared Book

What do you think a book might feel about the characters that inhabit it?

This highly engaging and interactive picture book explores this very idea, as the book itself proclaims it cannot continue with the story once it discovers it’s all about monsters.

The Scared Book is so scared of the monsters roaming its pages, it asks the reader to help it shoo them off. You’ll have to scratch, rub, shake and flick the monsters away so The Scared Book can get on with the story. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Review: Orbiting Jupiter

Gary Schmidt is a master storyteller. He showed me everything I needed to know about Jack and his parents, about Joseph and his complicated past, about everyone and everything that mattered, with a minimum of words.

Joseph took a pill that made him crazy. He nearly killed a teacher then all his nightmares came true when he was sentenced to Stone Mountain. He was fourteen years old when he was released, knowing that he was father to a baby girl. For all this dark content, Orbiting Jupiter sings of love, fear, hope and pure soul.

Joseph is released to a foster family whose only son is Jack. Despite knowing all about Joseph's past, the family can't wait to welcome Joseph into their home. From that very first moment, I could feel Joseph's healing begin.

Review: Stitches and Stuffing

Carrie Gallasch's first picture book, Stitches and Stuffing is a memorable story about the relationship a little girl has with her favourite toy and her grandmother.

Adeline loved Bunnybear. She had always been with Bunnybear for as long as she could remember.

They did everything together. They played together. In the morning they had biscuits and milk with Nanna. Sometimes when Adeline was busy she would leave Bunnybear behind, almost forgotten, but not for long. Bunnybear was a well loved toy, one of those special toys that over time became thin and a little raggedy.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Review: Pelle No-Tail Pulls Through: Book 3

Pelle No-Tail Pulls Through, the third book in this excellent series, again sees the nasty Mans following one direction in life; making trouble for Pelle No-Tail.

It’s March. Snow covers the streets. This doesn’t deter the jealous bully Mans from going out and stirring up trouble for Pelle, always using Pelle’s lack of tail as the centre point of each attempt.
Pele’s adventures are measured by the seasons and travels with Birgitta and her family to new places. Swing is Birgitta’s current interest. When Pelle mentions it to Mans and his cronies, the king of nasty uses it as the next issue for attack. Hilda and Hulda, cat friends, insist that it is the current craze. That’s not what Mans wants to hear. He is quick to plan and execute revenge for some unseen thing that Pelle seems to have done - again.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Guest Post: Emma Middleton on Lions in Our Living Room

Today we are elated to have the beautiful, Emma Middleton share her thoughts behind her new picture book The Lion in our Living Room. This is Emma’s debut picture book as an author and we can’t wait to share it.

Tom, his older sister Tilly and their white dog Bessie excitedly wonder if the mighty lion will come to play.  When their dad has a nap after lunch, they eagerly await the lion’s arrival. However this isn’t an ordinary lion; this is daddy lion, who plays rollicking games and reads stories late into the night.  

News: A Big Year of Publishing for Kate DiCamillo in 2018

We have some exciting news from our friends at Walker Books Australia that fans of Kate DiCamillo will absolutely adore.

In 2016, two-time Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo’s seventh novel, Raymie Nightingale, was published to overwhelming critical acclaim and debuted as a #1 New York Times bestseller. The deeply moving book about a summer of discovery and friendship went on to be a finalist for the US National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The Walker Books Group is now announcing an exciting follow-up novel release by the author. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Meet the Illustrator: Jules Faber

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Crayon clutched in fist with tongue poking out in concentration!

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My bookcases! I love books and comics and graphic novels. Being able to admire the spines in the frequent moments of just thinking is really inspiring.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I love simple, old-school pen and ink. I always have and always will.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Review: Irish Gold

Head of an Irish family of immigrants from Belfast, Daniel Toomey is a constable in the Port Phillip District during the gold rush of the 1850s. His son, sixteen year old Patrick, his mother and four sisters, are victims of his drunken brutality until it ends when Patrick finally stands up to him.

Seamus is Patrick’s best friend and like a brother to him. They work together on the docks unloading cargo. When the tyrannical Daniel is killed, the Toomey family’s life takes a turn for the better.

Michael Macevoy is the owner of the local tavern, and a rich man from his many enterprises, and well respected throughout the area. He offers Patrick and Seamus the chance to be part of his new venture. 

Review: On the Way to Nana's

An adventure across the Kimberley is told in playful, rhyming language, counting down from 15 to one.

The long journey takes us from Broome, through Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, to the tiny town of Wyndham, in the far north of Western Australia, where Nana lives. It's a trip of more than 1000km and one the authors know well, having driven it many times with their own children.

Their exciting travels across the striking landscape are beautifully captured in this simple counting story.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

12 Curly Questions with author Amanda Holohan

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was a little kid I walked with my toes facing inward. 'Pigeon-toed', they called it. The doctors insisted I sleep with these ugly metal leg braces strapped to my calves every night for months. They looked like something out of a torture chamber. I wailed so much that eventually my parents stopped putting them on me. My mother booked me into ballet lessons. I was the clumsiest ballerina in the class, but pretty soon my feet straightened out all on their own.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Review: Bureau of Weights and Measures

We measure many things: quantity, height, weight, distance, and much more.

But how do we measure emotions? Can they even be measured?

In Bureau of Weights and Measures, a father who is an engineer determines he will find out. The story is told by his son.

The father, Marcel, works at the Bureau of Weights and Measures, and spends his days checking that measurements are correct.

Review: Why Can't I be a Dinosaur?

Nellie loves dinosaurs.

She loves dinosaurs so much she wants to wear her dinosaur costume to Aunt Daisy’s wedding.

Of course, Mum and Dad want her to wear her flower girl dress, so Nellie must try to convince her parents she absolutely needs to be a dinosaur.

She doesn’t win the argument. Or does she?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Review: Further Adventures of Pelle No-Tail: Book 2

It’s spring. Dog violets, blue and white anemones and Star of Bethlehem are in bloom. Birgitta makes a posy for Pelle and clips it to his collar. The posy is all that the wicked cat Mans needs to stir up the cat gang against Pelle once more. His modus operandi is pretending to be friendly towards Pelle to draw him out.

Pelle, having lost his tail to a rat when he was a kitten, brushes aside the continuous ridicule the wicked trickster Mans metes out.

Now living in the city with a loving family and his adoring Birgitta, Pelle accepts what he can’t change, and confidently tries to get along with all the cats he meets.  He is optimistic and friendly, and interested in everything and everyone, regardless of their differences or peculiarities.

Review: Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile

Tarin's twisted leg means he can never join his clan's hunting expeditions.

As he watches the men prepare a final trap before the winter snows, his unstable footing spooks their prey.

The whole community is in danger of starving as a result.

The clan is desperate to survive. Some want to exclude Tarin from their group as punishment. Others believe they must make offerings to the Earth Mother, who is angry with them.

Tarin offers to make the treacherous journey to appease Earth Mother. He might not survive but it is his clan's only hope. So begins an action-packed prehistoric epic for Middle Graders.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Terrific 10: Clever Interactive Books

These books all elicit enthusiastic participatory reactions from their readers. Some do it by addressing the reader and asking direct questions that need to be answered before the story can move on. Some do it by giving instructions and tasks that need to be followed. Others still have a combination of both techniques, however all of the listed titles achieve their interactive elements without the inclusion of flaps, pop ups or other amazing gimics. 

All in all, these books are irresistible to little hands and are guaranteed to be enthralling and exciting on each and every read.

Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson, Harper Collins Publishers, $19.99, 9780062274472, 3-6

This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien, Phaidon, $14.95, 9780714871127, 2 - 100, KBR Review

The Odd One Out: A Spotting Book by Britta Teckentrup, Big Picture Press, $19.99, 9781848773516, 3-8, KBR Review

Review: What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday

What the What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday is a new story in the series, What the Ladybird Heard, by Julia Donaldson, popular children's author of Room on the Broom, Zog, Cave Baby and more recently The Giant Jumperee.

What will the ladybird hear in this story?

Will the robbers Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len be back with a new plan to steal something?

Friday, 15 September 2017

Review: Smarty Pants! (The Tyler Files)

What would you do if your pants started talking to you?

This is exactly the problem Tyler faces in science class when his pants suddenly announce they can talk.

And Tyler’s pants have a lot to say. They also don’t like to be ignored, and they seem to have their own agenda, which isn’t always the same as Tyler’s.

Book one in The Tyler Files series, Smarty Pants! is a fun and funny story junior fiction readers will love. It’s a lovely easy read and it's filled with jokes, embarrassing moments and funny situations kids will find hilarious.

Review: Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Arturo Schomburg loved books. He loved them so much that he built a library.

It wasn't just any library, though. This was a library designed to teach people that 'black heritage knows know boundaries.'

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, shares Arturo Schomburg's story.

Each double-page spread highlights a particular milestone or achievement in his journey.

Arturo was born in Puerto Rico in 1874, and emigrated in 1891, settling in New York.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Review: 101 Collective Nouns

This is the type of book I love to read and own. It’s a lifetime companion book; one you delve into, gain knowledge from, memorise, or just enjoy due to the language. But one you’ll never part with.

It was in 1486 that the first collection of these terms was published. In her introduction, word lover, etymologist, writer and illustrator (amongst other talents), Tasmanian born and bred Jennifer Cossins, gives us an extensive researched history of collective nouns. This is as interesting as the entries that follow.

Review: Beautiful Mess

Life's hard enough for teenagers trying to navigate puberty, senior school pressures and friendship issues, amongst other things, without the added burden and trauma of losing someone they love.

Claire Christian delivers an honest and searing depiction of the flow-on effects of grief in her debut novel, Beautiful Mess, winner of the 2016 Text Prize.

Months after the suicide of her best friend, Ava's life continues to spiral in a fog of anger and bad choices resulting in being expelled for her public outburst with the principal.

The only thing in her life she can tolerate is her part-time job at Magic Kebab where she meets Gideon.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Australian Reading Hour

The idea is simple. 

On Thursday September 14 2017, stop what you’re doing for one hour and pick up a book. We want Australians to either rediscover or introduce themselves to the benefits of reading. 

In children, it has been shown to help with identity formation, setting them up for success in the future. 

In adults, it has been shown to reduce stress by 68% more than listening to music, going for a walk, or having a cup of tea. 

We encourage booksellers, libraries, and teachers to:
- Organise reading events
- Coordinate author events
- Promote the initiative in store and on social media with #brbReading
- Promote their favourite Australian books.

Visit the website to register and become involved in a reading revolution!

Review: Ella Who?

When a baby elephant sneaks into a family's new home on moving day, a young girl tries to tell her family. They're all so busy and distracted, however, that the elephant goes unnoticed.

The new friends spend the day together, until someone comes looking for an elephant named Fiona, who has gone missing from the neighbourhood animal sanctuary. Luckily, the animal sanctuary is close by, offering plenty of potential new friends for the little girl.

This is a simple story about a child's ability to find joy and fun, without the company of grown-ups. It is also about making new friends and the wonderful quality of little people to do it so effortlessly, finding out one another's likes and dislikes, and the things they have in common.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Audiobook Review: The Forbidden Library Series

I devoured the three available Audiobooks in the Forbidden Library series in record time.

Then I noted with dismay that I would have to wait for more to be published before I could continue on with one of the best children's fiction series I have ever read or listened to. I am well and truly hooked!

And, although it is a big call, it is really the only series I feel absolutely comfortable comparing to Harry Potter, as I believe it has real appeal for fans of the infamous series, both young and old. It is a series that I can see myself returning to again and again.

12 Curly Questions with author Gareth Ward

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I played wicket keeper at school and got two black eyes in the same match. I spent a week looking like a panda.

2. What is your nickname? 

3. What is your greatest fear?
The zombie apocalypse – although I sort of secretly long for it, too.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Humorous and sly steampunk with a touch of the ridiculous.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Imaginative, steampunk, fantabulous, magical, happy.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Review: Double Take! A New Look at Opposites

As the title suggests, this book is a new offering on the ever popular topic of opposites. 

Rather than single words conveying the opposites, Double Take! is a complete story that can be read at bedtime, with the added bonus of being a strong learning experience.

What really sets this book apart however, is it's inclusion of relativity. At first the elephant is strong and the boy is weak, but when elephant is compared to a whale, then is elephant still the strongest? 

Review: Pirate McSnottbeard in the Zombie Terror Rampage

Emilie and her brother Will are in a spot of trouble. Their house is floating in the ocean and pirates have kidnapped their parents.

Emilie must find the strength to be brave and bold like her brother, who, it turns out, has a little bit of experience dealing with pirates. Who knew?

To get their Mum and Dad back, Emilie and Will go on an epic journey through time to when dinosaurs roamed, into a wormhole to a warlock’s castle and through a magic doorway to a pirate island.

They face man-eating dinosaurs, an igor and his master, zombies, a gang of parrots and a clan of unfriendly pirates led by the notorious Pirate McSnottbeard.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

I've always shied away from the classics, expecting them to be dry and torturous to read, but Jean Louise, aka Scout showed me how wrong I was when she led me by the hand through her life.

Her eight-year-old eyes revealed the 1930s and the Deep South of America without guile or guise. Despite rampant racism and violence, she had me chuckling at the smallest details that are missed by many adults.

Scout's innocence lays bare the blind prejudices of the time, but also the joy of being a child in any age. From making snowmen with 90% mud and 10% snow, to rolling down the road inside a car tyre, Scout hooked me into her world.

Review: Paddy O'Melon: The Irish Kangaroo

A little joey looks forward to leaving his mother’s pouch. With his first move into the outer world, he wobbles and falls. 

He’s ignorant of the dangers that threaten defenceless animals in the tropical rainforest. Two large dogs off the leash throw his mother over. The terrified joey hides in the shrub as mother races away in fear.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Review: Weird Weirder Weirdest

Weird Weirder Weirdest is the perfect title for this addictive collection of fun and quirky short stories.

A pen that writes what it wants no matter what the holder intends, a watch that can stop time (but comes with consequences), super ugly shoes that make you run super fast.

But my absolute favourite was a futuristic tale about a society that trades energy for education. And to make an energy payment, kids must constantly rotate a mechanical ball with one hand, making playtime impossible.

Review: The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel

Just how many acorns does a squirrel need?

When you are a sneaky, snacky squirrel, it's quite a few!

You can discover just how many that is, in this lift-the-flap board book by Lucia Gaggiotti, called The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel.

Follow squirrel as he tracks down all the acorns he has hidden for later, but cannot remember where.

The acorns are different colours, so look for one red acorn, two yellow acorns, and so on. There are fifteen acorns to find in total, in five different colours.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Terrific 10: Grumpy Books

Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer, Albert Whitman & Company, $33.99, 9780807530757, 2-7

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, Disney Hyperion, $28.99, 9781484730881, 3-8, KBR Review

Penguin by Polly Dunbar, Walker Books, $16.95, 9781406312461, $16.95, 3-8, KBR Review

Review: Fluke

Fluke is a beautiful story based on a combination of real events relating to southern right whales in Sydney Harbour. It depicts the excitement and interest people have in the prospect of seeing southern right whales during their migration to warmer waters.

Fluke is a story that young children can relate to. It expresses the feeling of joy at the time of a new birth but it also shows the gamete of emotions that everyone feels when a child is lost and then found.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Review: Antoinette

From the author and illustrator team that created the Gaston (a gorgeous story about four sibling puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Oh-La-La and Gaston) comes the sequel, Antoinette.

Antoinette's brothers, Rocky, Ricky and Bruno, all have special skills. One is clever, one is fast and the other is strong! 

However Antoinette is a little bit worried that she hasn't yet figured out what her special skill is. Her Mother isn't worried though, she knows that Antoinette has something 'extra special'. She can feel it in her bones.

Meet the Illustrator: Gabriel Evans

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Traditional, contemporary, textured, energetic, versatile, detailed.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
There are the obvious items including paints, brushes and paper. Other essentials include my trusty hairdryer to speed the paint’s drying process, good music – the wrong genre can ruin an illustration, and, of course, good lighting. I’ve heard neat, organised studio spaces are also essential – is this true? I’ve never managed to get it that orderly so can’t be sure...

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Watercolour and gouche – these two mediums, especially the former, are such wonderful and expressive mediums to work in. The creative possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Review: Dance is for Everyone

When the new student at Mrs Iraina's dance class turns out to be a 450-pound alligator, the other students are a little surprised. They decide to roll with it, but prepare well with a large bag of alligator food and a book on living with alligators.

They name the alligator Tanya, after the great prima ballerina Madame Tanya Prefontaine (apparently, there's a resemblance) and she seems happy.