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

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Review: Not Just a Book

An exploration of wonder and imagination, Not Just a Book is a super fun story about all the things a book can do.

Shooing away bears, catching fairies, keeping wasps out of your drink, making toy train tunnels, a book can be used for almost anything. 


A book also has power, and this delightful picture book explores this idea by looking at all the ways a book can impact your life. 

Like making you laugh and cry, and staying with you in your mind as you grow. 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Guest Post: Wanda Luthman on Picky Eaters

Do you have a picky eater in your family? Are mealtimes a battle?

I can completely relate. My daughter was super picky as a child and when she was about to be school-aged, I wanted to figure out something she could take for lunch. She liked peanut butter, she liked jelly, and she liked bread so I thought, naively, that she would like a PB&J sandwich. Oh my goodness, did we have a standoff?

Sound familiar?

Don’t despair. Determine which battles you want to pick and be patient. Here’s my story…

My newest picture book, Franky the Finicky Flamingo, was inspired not only by my child's pickiness but my own. I know that's not a very "grown up" kind of thing to admit but alas I am picky. Most of it is due to texture issues but some of it is actually due to taste. Now, don't get me wrong, I was a much pickier eater when I was a child. So, I've outgrown a lot of it. And if you have a picky eater, I believe they're going to grow out it as well.

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Rosemary Wells

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
My Dad fought in the Great War in the Anzac forces. He brought his own horse from Brisbane to France to participate in the 5th Light Horse.

2. What is your nickname?
I have no nicknames!

3. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is Donald Trump.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

Set in 2067, Romy is an almost 17 year-old who was born on a NASA spacecraft during an historic mission manned by her parents. Their mission was to travel to a different star system which would take almost fifty years to reach. They were  to inhabit an alternative planet to earth and guarantee the survival of the human race.

However, due to unexpected events, Romy is the only surviving crew member on this large spacecraft - The Infinity. Romy is extremely intelligent and has been taught almost every aspect of running the spaceship by her father since she was little. The only contact she has with NASA is via emails, which although received daily, take two years to transmit each way.

She is thus informed that a newer spacecraft has just been launched to follow Romy to the new planet. The other much faster ship will meet up with Romy's spaceship in one year and can send and receive emails faster.

Review: Outdoor Learning Environments

Outdoor Learning Environments: Space for exploration, discovery and risk-taking in the early years is a book written for educators but is equally useful for parents. This book outlines how outdoor learning environments contribute to a child's  physical and mental development, interdependence, resilience, emotional understanding and ability to appraise risks in their environment.

Outdoor Learning Environments helped me reflect on the quality of the outdoor play environments that children in my care experience. The book explains the variety of spaces that children require to be able to climb, travel at speed, dig, role play, connect with nature, meet friends, feel secluded and experience play in all weather conditions.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Review: Firefly Home

The Firefly's ability to glow is magical. Like the beetle, Firefly Home attracts the reader's eye, making the book irresistible to pick up and read.

The first double page spread of the story shows a night sky which is beautifully lit with firefly light.  

Then the peacefulness is disturbed by the discovery that one of the fireflies is missing. Help! Florence Firefly is lost.

The author, Jane Clarke, asks the readers to help Florence '...find her way home.' Clarke encourages the reader to turn the page and follow the lights. Let the search for Florence's home begin!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Review: Rain Fall

Fifteen-year-old Annie lives in a rain-forsaken community in New Zealand that relies on mining. Dampness invades every aspect of their lives as does the threat of the mine's closure.

When the police cordon off her neighbour's property, she sits wondering if the boy who saved her life once is still alive. When his house explodes, the mystery deepens. Did he cause the devastation or is he a victim?

The police investigation that ensues brings new people into her life, including a cute guy on a horse.

Ella West's first novel Night Vision was a crime fiction about a girl whose nickname was 'Vampire' because she couldn't go out in sunlight. It intrigued from beginning to end.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Interview: Kate DiCamillo & Harry Bliss on Good Rosie!

Rosie is a good dog and a faithful companion to her owner, George. She likes taking walks with George and looking at the clouds together. But the closest she comes to another dog is when she encounters her reflection in her empty dog bowl, and sometimes that makes Rosie feel lonely.

One day George decides to take Rosie to the dog park, but the park is full of dogs that Rosie doesn’t know, which makes her feel lonelier than ever. So when big, loud Maurice and small, yippy Fifi bound over and want to play, Rosie’s not sure how to respond. Is there a trick to making friends? And if so, can they all figure it out together?

This acclaimed author-illustrator duo creates a new take on the joys of finding your pack. Full of humour and pathos, Good Rosie! is a must-have book for dog lovers and, as Kate says, about 'meeting your people' out later this year. Join us today for this fascinating and entertaining conversation with Rosie's creators, Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Meet the Illustrator: Sylvia Morris

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Trying to inspire my 11 year old self.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Definitely my computer, both for creating the art itself and also for researching interesting people and times and places. A full length mirror and my phone to take reference photos of myself in different poses. A sketchbook and pencil for trying out new ideas and a cup of tea keeps me on task.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
A black pencil--either digital or traditional, I don’t mind which.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Pam Smy, Rovina Cai, and Nuria Tamarit. Ask me tomorrow and it’ll be different though…

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Review: Teresa A New Australian

Teresa and her family live through Hitler's relentless bombing in World War 2 then face destitution in peace times.

Her father makes the difficult decision to emigrate to Australia in the hope that the faraway land of Australia will offer a brighter future.

Through Teresa, Deborah Abela immerses us in the crumbling surroundings of bomb alerts. I felt the ground beneath me shudder with every explosion.

Then Teresa takes us deeper into the reality of war. What would you do if your house was destroyed? How would you feel when you searched the streets for someone you love, not knowing if you'd ever see them smile again?

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Review: Sleepy The Sloth

There are children who have never heard of, or seen much of the wildlife Jan Latta showcases. Her photography and research focuses on educating children about endangered species and bringing the nature world to life.

Sleepy the Sloth, another of Jan Latta’s True to Life Books, took her five years of research to create while encountering lots of obstacles to overcome. 

She finally had to travel to the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Costa Rica to take her photographs of the sloth to fit in with the book she already written and designed.

Sleepy is a two-toed sloth. There are also three-toed sloths. His uniqueness lies in the fact that he lives upside-down. His hair grows from his stomach to cover his back. He is very hairy and smiles all the time. He has the most beautiful face that you can’t help but adore. Just as well as he’s always hanging around!

12 Curly Questions with author Lisa Limbrick

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I like popping bubble wrap.

2. What is your nickname? 
My sister-in-law and I call each other Bauble. For the past 20 years we’ve had a standing joke about just hanging around and looking pretty!

3. What is your greatest fear?
A cruise. Didn’t you ever see Titanic?

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Fun and quirky, with unexpected laugh-out-loud moments.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Review: Peep and Ducky Rainy Day

A fantastic board book for toddlers in a convenient, easy-to- hold size for little hands, Peep and Ducky Rainy Day focuses on the relationship between two friends, and emphasizes the importance of compromise within play, sharing and expressing feelings. 

Rhyming verse, repetition, assonance and alliteration, are used to introduce these concepts to early learners.

Review: Protector of the Small Book 2

Having survived her first year as a probationary trainee knight, Keladry of Mindelan returns the the royal palace to face new trials.

More disconcerting than the enemies who would do anything to have her expelled, are Kel's rapidly changing body and her unexpected feelings for her best friend.

While her newly acquired maid, cantankerous horse and slightly magical army of pets trigger her strong protective nature, her growing circle of friends keeps her grounded.

When Kel and her fellow pages are trapped by bandits, her companions turn to Kel for leadership. Without a steady head, they will all be killed.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Review: Bathtime for Little Rabbit

Bathtime can be lots of fun, and Bathtime for Little Rabbit shows how easy it is.

It encourages young readers to put themselves in the place of the parent or carer who is giving the child (in this case a rabbit) a bath. It's a perspective that is different to similar books.

As the 'adult' in the bathtime experience, you need to squeeze the shampoo to wash the rabbit's ears, and make sure to cover his eyes so the soap doesn't get in them.

Then there's toweling the rabbit dry, blowing his hair dry with a hairdryer, and of course moisturising with lotion.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

Ella Black seems like a fairly normal 17 year-old English teenager -  until her thoughts intrude. It's apparent from the beginning that Ella has dark thoughts she fights against. Is it because her mother is so overprotective, because she's an only child or because the other girls at school can sense there's something different about her? Things take a drastic turn when her parents whisk her away from school with no notice, to Brazil.

Ella is bewildered and suspicious. Her parents won't tell her what's going on. It's then her dark thoughts, or alter-ego Bella, become more prominent. Or is Bella going to help protect her?
The reader  is taken on an unexpected and dangerous journey with Ella, whose life as she knew it was all a lie. Suddenly she must make desperate and life-altering choices to survive.

Review: Look, There's a Helicopter!

Children of all ages exclaim in delight when they spot a helicopter in the sky.

Look, There's a Helicopter! is a delightful early look-and-find board book.

The female pilot is ready to take off on a mission that will encourage child readers to join her, 'Start the ignition!'

Joining the pilot in her cockpit is her pigeon companion who is ready to fly into the sky and over the ocean.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Review: Illumanatomy

Carnovsky's previous book Illuminature wowed readers and so will their new book Illumanatomy. This book is an engaging and educational look at the anatomy of the human body.

Illumanatomy's illustrations may look busy with pink, yellow and green images and lines that look complex to read. However, viewing the book using the tri-coloured lenses turns what was out of focus, into something clear and enlightening.

The lenses make this book a unique experience. When looking through the red lens readers discover the body's skeleton, the green lens the muscles and the blue lens shows organs and blood vessels.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Review: Miles is the Boss of His Body

Body autonomy and privacy are topics that are important to introduce to children from quite a young age, both for their own well being and safety as well as for their development of social awareness and respect of others around them.

As all parents can I'm sure attest, young children are not inbuilt with a respect for privacy or personal space.

Today is Miles' sixth birthday and he is very much looking forward to having a pizza dinner at home with his family, but from the moment he arrives home from school he is greeted with unwanted physical contact.

Review: The Night Box

The magic and wonder of the night is beautifully captured in this bedtime picture book that's destined to become a classic.

Poetic and enchanting, the tale introduces us to Max, a little boy with a magical key to unlock a secret box and release the night.

We feel the building anticipation of dusk as night time draws nearer.

Two eyes, two ears, two wings, wait, as Day inches like a snail, around the clock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Review: Sam: The Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World

Oh how I relish the first viewing of a Mo Willems title - his books are delightful, often charming, always hilarious and so deliciously odd.

Characters do not always act as expected and it is an adventure to read through each new offering that Mo presents, and repeat readings are always must - he is the top of my recommendations list when patrons ask for my assistance at the library.

In this sequel to Leonardo the Terrible Monster (KBR Review here), we learn a bit more about Leonardo's friend Sam who as the title suggests, is the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world. Sam is scared of absolutely everything, well everything except for Leonardo of course, because Leonardo and Sam are very good friends.

Review: Too Many Elephants In This House

Eric loves elephants, especially the ones that crowd his house. But his mother decides they have to go.

Join Eric in this adorable romp around his home where there's an elephant up to something at every turn.

Do you know how many elephants are actually in Eric's house? Can you tell them apart? Get ready for a barrel of counting fun as well as a giggle or two.

Can Eric solve his family's overcrowding problem without giving up a single elephant?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

10 Quirky Questions with Demet Divaroren

1. What's your hidden talent?
I can shimmy and shake my body like a belly dancer.

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
Arghhh, I hate villains. I want to stab them! Especially Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest in the Star Wars movie franchise, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary is the perfect accompanying book for young fans.

True to the excellent Dorling Kindersley style, Star Wars: The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary has lots of photos, diagrams and explanatory information.

Wanna-be Resistance pilots will be able to delve into the fleet starships including the Raddus, Ninka, Vigil and Anodyne. And learn all about the starfighter uniforms and equipment.

It's also important to understand the opposition, so there are also pages dedicated to the First Order ships and key characters.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Review: This Zoo is Not For You

In the book This Zoo is Not For You we meet a scarf wearing, stylish platypus who has driven his bus to hand deliver an invitation to the zoo animals. The tiger at the front gate wrongly assumes that he is there to be interviewed to join the zoo.

One could only assume that a platypus, which is a unique animal from Australia, would pass the interview process easily. Surprisingly this is not the case.

As the platypus meets each interviewer he is rejected and told that 'I think, this zoo, is not for you.'

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Review: David Astle's Gargantuan Book of Words

I must admit I’m a bit of a word nerd. I love words and their origins, and this fantastic activity book engages kids in thinking about where words come from. It’s full of funny, clever and engaging quizzes, puzzles and anecdotes that will get kids thinking and laughing and learning without even realising it.

Speaking of word origins, did you know that around 500 years ago there lived a giant baby named Gargantua who was so big that his pram was a horse bigger than six elephants. And when he needed to wee, the yellow ocean drowned the people of Paris. Thanks to this super story we have the word gargantuan in the dictionary and the name of this book.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Review: Big Fella Rain

Every page of this picture book is a work of art I'd dearly love to hang on the wall. 

From the lyrical text to the exquisite illustrations, Big Fella Rain is a triumph of simplicity and beauty.

It's about the summer rains and the magical transformation of Australia's Top End as everything comes to life when "the mighty storms come".

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Meet the Illustrator: Christopher Nielsen

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Textured and colourful with a nod to vintage children’s books.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Music, dog, coffee cup.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I use a mix of acrylics, stencils, rollers, brushes and pencils and then
put it all together in Photoshop using my Wacom tablet.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Marc Boutavant, Jon Klassen and Miroslav Sasek.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Review: Little Fox Find Your Way Home

If you’re looking for an interactive board book for your very little one, Little Fox Find Your Way Home is the book you’re looking for.

It’s a concept book rather than a story, with a different forest creature on every page, lost and trying to find their way home.

But in the centre of the book is a sturdy plastic covered maze with a little silver ball trapped inside. 

As the kids explore the pages, they need to move the book around so the ball travels around the maze and gets each animal to where they want to go. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Review: A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds

From the world of Stella Montgomery whom many may have met in Withering-by-the-Sea, comes A Garden of Lilies, the book that Stella’s aunts gave her to read in Wormwood Mire. It is not part of the Intrigue series but a stand-alone book on etiquette, manners and decorum; imperative learning material for children of the Victorian era.

Its handbook style covers virtues and vices, moral behaviour, and misbehaviours and their consequences. The lessons are disguised as stories reinforced with a dramatic, abrupt and unbelievable ending.

Using extraordinary examples of bad outcomes due to disobedience and lack of good manners was in fact the way children were taught in the 1800s. I loved the names of the characters and the language used, and found myself easily visualizing those times, habits and customs due to the excellent prose.

12 Curly Questions with author Claire Christian

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I LOVE action movies. The daggier the better. I’m all about big explosions, car chases, epic stunts, bad dialogue – they make me unreasonably happy.

2. What is your nickname? 
Pearl. I’ve had the nickname since I was about five or six. My brother and I started calling each ‘Roy’ and ‘Pearl’ as a riff on ‘boy’ and ‘girl’. I wish I knew the story behind it, because it’s stuck for so long. My brother and I both have Roy and Pearl tattoos and my Mum called her two dogs Roy and Pearl as an ode to her kids who had left the nest. 'Claire and Pearl' is the name of my blog and social media handles now, too.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Guest Post: Interviews with Prime Minister's Literary Award Shortlisters

Winners of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were announced in Canberra at 10.30am on Friday 1 December. See here for details.

Much of our superb Australian literary talent lies within children's literature - fortunately for us all! 

To give you even greater insight into some of last year's winners and shortlisted finalists, here are some bite-sized treats about them to indulge in which, unlike other treats to be had at this time of year, won't leave you feeling overweight and guilt-ridden. Enjoy!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Review: Fingerprint Art Space

From the creators of Meet the Inkies Pet Paradise, comes another wonderful fingerprinting activity book the kids are going to love.

Fingerprint Art Space by Lake Press is filled with alien themed activities for the kids to complete, with step-by-step instructions on how to create funky fingerprint aliens, planets to decorate and scenes to fill in with your own creations.

With a little more guidance and instruction throughout, kids who need a bit more creative inspiration will really like how this one steps them through the activities.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Review: The Big Earth Book

The Big Earth Book is a brilliant introduction to the sciences of geology, chemistry, physics, palaeontology and biology.

The book explores information about the four elements of earth, air, fir and water in an encyclopedic like manner. I was amazed at how much knowledge was complied into only 256 pages.

The information described in The Big Earth Book is comprehensive. It introduces and builds on each elemental concept  page by page. For example the author and science writer, Mark Brake, explains how the Earth is created. Brake then provides information about tectonic plates which is followed by facts and history about volcanoes and earthquakes.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Review: How to Feel Awesome Every Day

If the hectic festive season has left you a little 'meh' about life, here's a gem that promises to help you feel awesome.

Created by vlogger and television presenter Elly Awesome, this busy and vibrant tome is peppered with helpful tidbits on keeping positive, uplifting quotations and easy-to-read snippets of truly awesome advice.

It's jam-packed with all sorts of inspiring thoughts and activities, from seasonal bucket lists, stretches and exercises to lists of Random Acts of Kindness, craft activities and recipes.

Review: This is a Crocodile

Funny, witty and super engaging, This is a Crocodile is a fabulous interactive board book for little ones.

On each page, illustrator Heath McKenzie presents a funky picture and claims it is some kind of animal.

This is a crocodile. No Way! 

But then…

You lift the flap, and there is the crocodile.

It was there all along, but you just couldn’t see it. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

KBR Recommends: Fabulous Non Fiction Finds of 2017

Millennium readers are blessed with a fountain of choices from which to source new knowledge. Before you launch into 2018 with them, explore these 2017 releases. They contain a universe of facts, figures and fun in artful, creative, expressive and colourful ways guaranteed to give any app a run for its money and children plenty of reasons to learn through good old-fashioned page turning.
Create Your Own Christmas by Isabel Thomas and Katie Abey, Bloomsbury, $14.99, 9781408882207 ages 5 - 8

The Awesome Book of Animals – The World’s Most Awesome Facts in Pictures by Adam Frost, Bloomsbury, $11.99, 9781408885130 ages 6 - 10

FACTS! One for Every Day of the Year by Tracey Turner and Fatti Burke, Bloomsbury, $22.99  9781408884621 ages 7 - 12

Illumanatomy by Carnovsky and Kate Davies, Quarto Group UK, $35, 9781786030504 ages 8 - 12 (Read our review later this month)

Highest Mountain, Deepest Ocean – A Pictorial Compendium of Natural Wonders by Kate Baker and Page Tsou, $33, 9781783704842 ages 9 - 12
Australian Animal Atlas by Leonard Cronin and Marion Westmascott, Allen & Uwin, $29.99, 9781760294144 ages 6 - 12

Optical Illusions by Gianni A Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber, Quarto Group UK, $26.46, 9781784938475 ages 6 - 12

Elle Awesome Presents How to Feel Awesome Everyday Illustrated by Astrid Hicks, Penguin Random House, $19.99 9780143786085 ages 7 - 14

It's OK to Feel the Way You Do by Josh Langley, Big Sky Publishing, $14.99 9781925520965 ages 4 - 8 (Read our review, here)

Rock Pool Secrets by Narelle Oliver, Walker Books Australia, $24.99, 9781922179357  ages 4 - 8 (Read our review, here)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Review: Perfect Petunias

Loppy LAC and his friend Curly are well-partnered characters. They were first introduced in Lessons of a LAC, the first book in a series created by two passionate people eager to present strategies for children, on how to manage worry, anxiety, and overcome the need for perfection. 

The second title, Brave, and now the third, Perfect Petunias, serve as valuable resources for addressing the common concerns of the young during early childhood.

Loppy has homework to do. He is trying to do his best writing but gets angry, agitated, and frustrated because his best doesn’t appear to him to be good enough. He sees only the mistakes in his work instead of his achievement. Curly, calm and soothing, and as always full of logic and wisdom, uses the way petunias grow as an example to Loppy of how things sometimes take their own natural course. There are some things you simply cannot control, no matter how hard you try.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Review: Meet the Inkies Pet Paradise

Do your kids like crafty activity books? If they do, this is definitely one to check out!

In Meet the Inkies Pet Paradise, you'll meet eight funky pets, all created from fingerprints. 

With simple and easy to copy designs, these are creations everyone can try, or you can use them as inspiration to create other animals and pets. 

The activity book comes with six bright ink pads (with a useful cover), so there's lots of colours to play with. 

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Jim Benton

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I collect all kinds of fountain pens and dip pens, which are those old-timey pens that you dip into bottles of ink.

2. What is your nickname? 
My dad used to call me JK.

3. What is your greatest fear?
I’m pretty nervous on airplanes.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
Funny focus on how ridiculous the real world can be.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Funny, silly, sarcastic, sincere, heartfelt.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Review: The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders

As a new year begins I thought that it might be appropriate to discover The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders.

Cabinets of wonder were formed as early as the 16th century to collect strange, weird and wonderful objects to entertain and teach. The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders by Lonely Planet Kids brings together objects from museums from around the world in 12 themed collections.

Readers can explore each collection on a double page spread where they can open flaps that look like draws and cupboards. The Incredible Cabinet of Wonders contains 100 treasures to discover.