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

Sunday, 18 March 2018

International Read To Me Day

Tomorrow is International Read To Me Day, a worldwide campaign aimed at getting each and everyone of us to sit and connect with a child through word and story with the aim to improve literacy and empower children to enter into conversation about what they read.

Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation. ... to make meaning from print. *

But it is so much more. It is a sharing of pasts and futures, a relaying of cultures and beliefs, and a portal for discovery and realisations that can shape and influence not just a child's literacy but their entire understanding of the world in which they live...and beyond.

Reading is an intensely intimate experience; one which a child can experience for themselves after they've develop the skills to interpret the written word but before that, reading represents an opportunity to connect with a child like nothing else, both emotionally and physically.

It is not just language and comprehension that are enhanced when you read to a child, you are reinforcing their attachment and nurturing their relationship with you every single time you take the time to share a story. For the very young, it's as much about sharing that time with you as it is a cultivation of audio and visual literacy. The importance of this can not be overvalued, ever.

So, take a few moments or more to enrich a child's day, any child, with a book and read to them.

Then do it again and again and again.

Discover more about this annual campaign and the amazing people who drive it at the Read To Me website, here. Get involved - find out how, here.


* What is Reading? blog post by Diane Henry Leipzig - Reading Rockets Blog

Review: I Remember

I Remember is a gorgeous story about memories, as an elderly woman recalls the family camping trips of her childhood.

Set in the Geraldton area of Western Australia, Joanne Crawford’s text is simple and yet profound. It’s written in such a way that makes you feel you’ve been there; that you’ve experienced the memories for yourself.

Visually Kerry Ann Jordinson exquisitely portrays the landscape through illustration. Using soft pastel and a stunning colour pallet, children will appreciate each illustration as the story unfolds.

Review: Bertha and Bear

As a big fan of Christine Sharp's earlier picture books, I was (and you'll have to forgive the pun) absolutely buzzing about this new release.

Bertha and Bear
is positively luminous with Christine's distinctive illustrations and charm. Each page shines with hues of gold, orange and green to reflect her natural subject matter. The aim? To celebrate bees and their vital role in our ecosystem, while highlighting the plight of their declining numbers.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Review: Nexus

Our small band of anti-heroes meet their match and then some in Nexus. 

After breaking Bellweather out of a high security prison and racing to New Orleans where something big is about to go down, the edges of this motley group begin to unravel.

While they are struggling to work out who they trust, all hell breaks loose.

Murder is on the cards – murder on a much bigger scale than anyone imagined – and it all centres around a new Zero with irresistible charisma.

Can the original Zeroes learn to trust each other enough to overcome her plan to decimate civilisation as we know it?

Review: How Many Kisses?

Looking for a counting book that’s special and different? How Many Kisses? delivers.

It has everything you’d expect in a counting book.

There are large, bold numbers that stand out on the page, and a visual representation of each number to get some counting practice in.

The numbers span from one to 10 (with extras at the end for special counting fun), and the text is simple so as not to distract from the purpose of the book.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Review: My Sweet Orange Tree

Translated into English for the first time, this International bestseller is a stunning work of great literary merit. Deeply moving, it tells the story of the highly intelligent but mischievous prankster Zeze, whose tremendous capacity for kindness, is matched only by his naughtiness. He pays for this naughtiness with severe beatings from his family members.

Zeze longs for tenderness. His mother is always absent, working to keep the family alive. His father is angry and distant, the result of being unemployed for ages. Zeze replaces what he doesn’t have with a fierce imagination; a creative ability to hear trees talk, to create imaginary friends, and to spin stories to entertain his beloved younger brother, King Louis.

When Zeze finally meets someone who recognizes his pureness of heart and abounding gifts, life has meaning at last.

Review: Easter Croc

One of the special things about Easter morning is waking up to find that the Easter Bunny has left a range of eggs for you to eat.

But how would you feel if you weren't left any eggs?

In the story Easter Croc, Roger Riddy's new pop-up and lift the flap book, children will discover that the only way one gets eggs from the Easter Bunny is to use good manners.

The Easter Bunny has finished her rounds and she has not left any eggs for Crocodile. Croc really would like an egg so he sets off to search for one.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Review: The Silver Sea

The Silver Sea is a truely magical picture book. 

It's something special, something different and something both children and adults will adore.

The collaboration of esteemed children’s authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin AND kids from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, the story follows a boy and girl as they explore the depths of the ocean, meet colourful sea beasts and travel home again.

Review: Ruben

Ruben is the latest book from the talented Bruce Whatley, and it's beautifully artistic.

An unusual story with stunning, black and white pencil illustrations, Ruben seems somewhat otherworldly, and yet not.

It's set in what appears to be the future, a place where a young boy lives and survives alone.

Ruben's life seems bleak. He has surrounded himself with items that mean something to him, and records his life in a journal he constructed from bits and pieces.

Ruben is a maker, an innovator, because he has to be. There's no other way for him to live. He's independent, a loner. In fact, there appear to be few other people in his world.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Review: The Usborne Big Book of the Body

The Usborne Big Book of the Body is a beautifully produced picture book style non-fiction title, with four fold out sections (equal to four pages attached together) that allows kids to start to develop a real sense and understanding of the different parts and functions of the human body.

The fold out sections are very well designed to open in and out smoothly, covering the topics of bones, muscles, the digestive system, and the heart/blood vessel network, all with aesthetically pleasing cartoon style illustrations that are guaranteed to not gross out even the most squeamish of readers.

Review: A Bear is a Bear (Except When He's Not)

In this funny, rhyming picture book by Karl Newson and Anuska Allepuz, poor Bear is having an identity crisis.

He’s actually forgotten he’s a bear, so he tries being other animals to see if he can figure out what he’s meant to be. 

A bird, a moose, a fox, a squirrel — poor Bear is none of these. 

He retreats to a cave for a little (or big) nap, and in doing so discovers exactly what he is.

A Bear is a Bear (Except When He’s Not) is a fun and funny story kids will love. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Cover Reveal: Maya and Cat

Announcing something new and more than a tiny bit special. Soft cat paw drumbeats for...

On a roof, as wet as a seal, as grey as a puddle, Cat was rumbling, a rumbly purr. What does Cat want most? Feather boas? Pretty pink shoelaces? A boatful of fish under a tiny tin sail – or perhaps something much more valuable?

Walker Books have a super adorable picture book called Maya and Cat coming out in August. Affectionate and evocative, Maya and Cat follows a child’s kindly impulse to an unexpected conclusion. Maya and Cat is by renowned author/illustrator Caroline Magerl. 

Caroline’s stunning artwork has been exhibited widely overseas and in Australia, in 2001 she won the Children's Book Council of Australia Crichton Award for new talent in children's book illustration for her picture book Grandma's Shoes (written by Libby Hathorn). 

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Joanna Young

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I danced in Rio Carnival when I was 15. We had just moved there and my parents thought it would help us integrate. So my brother and I joined the samba school Estacio de Sa. We had to learn the words to the song on the way to the sambadrome, and got hit with long sticks if we stopped singing or dancing. But it is a great memory.

2. What is your nickname? 
Poge. Short for Jogey Pogey. Strictly for family, although friends of family also seem to use it.

3. What is your greatest fear? 
Losing someone I love. Isn’t that everybody’s?

Monday, 12 March 2018

Review: Imagine

The words of John Lennon’s famous song are just as relevant today as when they were first written nearly 50 years ago.

Most of us probably take for granted the words, so embedded in a generation. An anthem for peace, a calling for an end to war and conflict and a focus on tolerance and love.

This beautiful picture book uses the words of the classic song to tell the story of a lone pigeon on a journey around the world to spread his message of peace.

Review: The Red Dread

Shrew and his forest friends are feeling kind of nervous.

The Red Dread is thumping through the trees and no one knows who will be snatched up next.

Thump, thump, thump, thump goes The Red Dread. 

Rabbit disappears. 

Then Chicken disappears. 

Who will be next?

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Review: My Brigadista Year

It's 1961 in Cuba.

Fidel Castro has overthrown Batista and declared war against illiteracy (among other things).

Thirteen-year-old Lora volunteers to be one of Castro's literacy champions, much to her parents' consternation but she is determined to go, despite the fact that there is no guarantee she will be safe.

Lora talks directly to me as I read so it feels like I'm sitting in her pocket as the action unfolds.

From the emotional wrench of saying goodbye to the strangeness of training camp and on to the distant hills where there is no power and little in the way of creature comforts, Lora shares all.

Review: Dress Up with Ted

Here are two more titles by Sophy Henn in her Ted series of educational early learning board books for toddlers and perhaps children a little older. 

In Dress Up with Ted, the focus is on the experience of creative play and imagination. 

Children learn to role play, examine different characters, their clothing, appearance, games and language associated with Ted’s chosen dress up. A basket of clothing and odds and ends will soon be gathered together.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Review: Lucie Goose

Geese in picture books are historically portrayed as very silly creatures, but Lucie? Well, Lucie is different. Lucie Goose is actually very practical, quite frank and unusually self assured... especially for a goose who is continuously being Raaared, Rorioored and Roaaared at by wolves, bears and lions.

Once she understands that they expect her to be scared, and in fact, they expect her to run away so they can chase her, Lucie wastes no time in informing them how silly that would be. And actually, would they like to come and have tea and cake with her instead?

Review: The Hole Story

Charlie finds a hole and picks it up. He puts the hole in his pocket. Very quickly Charlie learns that holes are not a great place for a pocket nor your backpack.

So what do you do with a hole you don't want?

Kelly Canby has written and illustrated a fanciful and whimsical story, The Hole Story, that answers this question.

Charlie decides to take the hole into town to find it a new owner.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Giveaway: Little Fish

Thanks to the fantastic people at Walker Books Australia and to celebrate the release of the adorable board books, Where Is Little Fish? and Count With Little Fish, we have two Little Fish Lunch Box packs to giveaway.


To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less what you think Little Fish would have in his lunch box.

Each pack includes a luxury limited edition Little Fish lunch box, a Little Fish sticker and copies of Where Is Little Fish? and Count With Little Fish.

From Lucy Cousins, the multi-award-winning creator of Maisy, comes another adorable character to fall in love with. First introduced in Hooray for Fish!, Little Fish is a spotty, playful fish who loves to splish and splash with his friends. This pack will really make your little fish stand out in the 'school'.

Email your answer along with your name and postal address to dimity . The two responses we like the best will each win a 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 Monday 19 March 2018.

Competition runs from 5am Saturday 10 March to 9pm Saturday 17 March 2018. 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.

Review: The Alphabet of Alphabets

This is one of the best alphabet books I have ever read!

It’s like 26 books in one, with a theme for every letter of the alphabet (B for Bugs, I for Inventions, T for Toys). And within each theme you'll find 26 relevant objects/critters/people from A to Z. That’s 676 things to spot!

But that’s not all.

Each themed alphabet is presented differently, creating a range of fun games to play as you read. 

On some pages you have to spot each object/critter/person from A to Z (because they aren’t in order). 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Review: Bird to Bird

Bird to Bird begins with a seed being dropped by a bird. It's followed by a journey that traces what happens to the tree that grows as a result.

The tree is eventually chopped down and sent to the city where it is turned into bunks on a convict ship.

When the ship arrives at its destination, the wood on board is recycled on land, first as a weaving loom, then a supporting beam in a house.

As time continues to pass, and the wood ages with its surroundings, it is salvaged by a crafter who turns it into a wooden bird.

Review: Three Cheers for Women

Bessie Coleman, the Bronte sisters, Edith Cowan, Florence Nightingale, Anne Frank, Cathy Freeman, Malala Yousafzai and Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman to go into space, are just a few of the 70 plus profiles that appear in this wonderful book. It’s a celebration of inspirational and amazing women and their achievements.

Many firsts are registered in these entries compiled of two sections: Famous Women and Hooray for Leaders and World-Changers. Included are sportswomen and creators, scientists, pioneers and adventurers.

Presented in a comic strip style that will appeal to reluctant readers, the fine-lined illustrations are humorous and expressive, and will delight readers of any age. Biographical information is presented below the illustrated squares which share the characters thoughts through speech bubbles. Further informative, annotated historical facts are found in the margins.

Meet the Illustrator: Martina Heiduczek

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Quirky, fun, poetic at times, textured, mostly colourful.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
My very cheap sketchpad (so I don’t think I’m going to mess up a beautiful book) and pencils, graphic tablet, a view and coffee.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Gouache, coloured pencils, digital – and mixing it all up!

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Ana Juan, Felicita Sala and Chagall.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Review: Missing

Mackenzie’s mum Maggie is a bat specialist, who sets out on a trip to the jungles of Panama and never returns. She is now missing without a trace. After 114 days missing, dad drags Mackenzie with him to Panama to search for Maggie. He hides many secrets from the thirteen year old who has just started at college. So does her Nan. This undercurrent keeps tension high throughout the book.

This is the story of trauma suffered by the families and loved ones of missing people. It is the unpeeling of hidden truths, lives put on hold and measured by days missing, and the exhausting lengths people will go to in order to find their lost ones.

Sue Whiting has dug deep to present vivid portrayals of the anguish, destruction of family life, the suppositions, regrets and what ifs, experienced by family members who cling to memories and try to hope when there is no hope left.

March Young Adult Fiction New Releases

The latest YA reads leave no doubt in my mind about the quality and diversity in Young Adult Fiction being published now. Here's a selection of the latest releases guaranteed to keep you reading past your bedtime, especially the amazing new #Love OzYA titles by esteemed Aussie authors.

Obsidio - The Illuminae Files Book 3, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, Allen & Unwin, $22.99, 9789251266726, #LoveOzYA

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Review: Not-So-Lucky Lefty (Judy Moody and Friends)

This was my very first Judy Moody book, and I loved it!

Easy to read with gorgeous colour illustrations on every page, if you have a junior reader in your house, I highly recommend Not-So-Lucky-Lefty

And while I haven’t read any other books in this series, they are next on my to-read list and are books I plan to introduce to my kids.

In this Judy Moody adventure, Judy’s brother, Stink, and her dad are celebrating Left Handers Day with a trip to the pretzel factory. 

Judy really wants to go, but Stink says she can only come if she uses her left hand for the whole day. Being left-handed when you’re actually right-handed is, of course, no easy feat, and the day is filled with much calamity. 

12 Curly Questions with author Allayne Webster

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 
I’ve almost died three times.

2. What is your nickname? 
Al or Laney

3. What is your greatest fear? 
On a heavy note? Losing loved ones. On a lighter note? Running out of chocolate or coffee.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 
A manic mess that magically comes good in the end.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
Determined. Dedicated. Passionate. Dreamer. Optimist.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Guest Post: Jodie McAlister on Fantasy Narrative

There are a lot of different types of fantasy fiction. I’m sure we’ve all come across terms like high fantasy, low fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and heroic fantasy – it’s a list we could keep populating endlessly. Like other popular genres, such as romance, there are as many fantasy sub-genres that you can poke a stick at: in fantasy, you can tell a whole myriad of different kinds of stories.

So what is it that holds these stories together as a genre? If there’s so many sub-genres, what is it that makes fantasy “fantasy”?

Review: Visiting You

I’m calling it. This picture book is flawless.

The words, the language, the characters, the story, the illustrations, the message. All flawless. All perfect.

In Visiting You, a young boy travels with his mother to visit a family member. 

They make this journey several times, and each time, the curious and friendly boy asks a fellow traveller 'who are you going to visit?'.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Review: Idle Jack

This is the humorous story of Jack. Too big to go to school, he sleeps - nearly all the time - with his eyes open and a smile on his face. He’s a young man of literally few words, and they are the only things his mother taught him. 

All the neighbours call him useless. His mother refuses to believe the bad things she is told about Jack, whose life of luxurious laziness is punctuated by one adventure after another. Even encounters with pigs, donkeys, and fierce lions are no deterrent for the lazy but lucky Jack.

Jack does nothing, but ends up with everything. Incredibly, he becomes star pupil, actually gets a job, (I won’t say for how long), and finds himself in a coffin. His life journey leads him to a most astonishing outcome.

Review: Look, There's a Tractor!

Esther Aart's front cover of the her new book, Look, There's a Tractor! caught my eye because I love stories about farms, especially ones with a dog, a chicken and a tractor in it.

This story is the perfect adventure for babies and toddlers. They will enjoy pushing their tiny pudgy fingers through the holes to discover what is hiding behind each one.

It is a delightful introduction to farm animals, including all the main ones: cows, pigs, horses, sheep, a dog and a chicken.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Review: The Wild Robot

I'm not into robots. In fact, I think walking, talking robots are a bit creepy. But Peter Brown changed that forever with his personification of Roz, The Wild Robot.

When a ship sinks at sea, hundreds of pre-programmed robots go down with it. Only five crates bob their way to an isolated shore and of these, just one survives.

Curious otters accidentally slap an important button on Rozzum unit 7134 and Roz is born, so to speak.

Roz, true to robot form, has knowledge and a logical way of solving problems but the challenges she faces are not in her programme. The unexpected requires out-of-the-ordinary strategies and Roz is definitely up for the challenge.

Review: Happy Dog and Other Furry Friends

The Alphaprints series of board books for toddlers present a touch and feel experience with Happy Dog and his furry friends. 

From the front cover, the googly eyes appeal to the reader to open the book, to discover and meet the 12 breeds of dog inside.   

Accompanied by a funny rhyme, the dogs have fingerprint embossing which young children will love running their hands over. 

There are a few other textures to discover. The Golden Retriever has a fluffy hind leg, the Bulldog a felt tongue, and the Afghan Hound has a soft strip.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Review: Explanatorium of Nature

This is a visually stunning nature book with exquisite photography and images, amazing facts and a wealth of information about nature and our world.

Open the cover to explore the diversity of life forms on earth, from plants to fish and microorganisms to mammals.

The books focuses on how nature works. So instead of just descriptions of creatures and organisms, it explains how and why they do things and how that contributes to their broader environment.

Review: Splish, Splash, Ducky!

Lucy Cousins is back with another fun and colourful picture book filled with rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

In Splish, Splash, Ducky!, it starts to rain, and Ducky Duckling could not be happier. 

He hops with frog, wriggles with worm, hugs bugs and splishes with fishes. 

But when the rains stops, Ducky gets sad… until his dad shows him there’s still fun to be had in the sun.

This is a beautifully simple story that is super fun to read aloud. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Review: Kate and the Thing

Kate and the Thing is written and illustrated by the hugely talented Heidi Cooper Smith.  Her illustrations are just divine. The back cover is just as gorgeous as the front, drawing you in with the soft movement of falling leaves.

This is a story of starting at a new school.  Feeling alone and afraid, Kate brings an imaginary friend (the Thing) along with her to help with the transition. The Thing is illustrated in white--soft and snuggly, gentle and kind--just what a lonely child needs.

Review: Dig, Dump, Roll

Dig, Dump, Roll is a new book from the team that brought us Roadworks, Demolition and Construction.

Like its predecessors, Dig, Dump, Roll explores the world of big vehicles. It's part story and part guessing game.

Simple, yet realistic and colourful pictures of diggers, rollers, concrete mixers, bulldozers and dump trucks will provide plenty of excitement for young children who love the subject.

The accompanying text is also simple and in large font, making it super easy for children who are learning to read.