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

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Look What I'm Reading! Tania McCartney

Welcome to Kids Book Review’s exciting new posts segment, Look What I’m Reading! This is a monthly post in the form of a questionnaire, answered by people connected to the children’s book industry. 

The premise of these posts is to introduce interesting information from wide-reaching areas of the children’s book industry; to reveal to readers of children’s books which books are being read by the interviewees, and the reason for their choices and their source, so a picture of current reading trends is revealed.

Our guest posts will include publishers, literary agents, writers of all genres, illustrators of varying styles and media, booksellers and book buyers, librarians, teachers, literacy advocates and a great many others from differing imprints and new and established publishers, beginning from board books to Young Adult novels.

Sharing our guests’ reads offers the opportunity for children’s book lovers to learn about children’s books in general, and access behind-the-scenes information about how books are chosen, and why, and by whom. Interested? Join us at our monthly posts. Booklovers of all kind will find something of interest in KBR’s posts to which all feedback is welcome.

We kick off our inaugural bedside table exposé with the ineffable, Tania McCartney.

Tania McCartney is an author, illustrator and editor of children’s and adult titles, a juvenile
literacy ambassador, and founder of Kids’ Book Review and the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. She has 40 books in print or production, and her works have received shortlistings and awards including several CBCA Notable Books and the SCBWI Crystal Kite for Australia/New Zealand (SmileCry). Her latest titles are Merry Everything and See Hear
Which children’s book are you currently reading?
I tend to read about a dozen at a time, mainly because most of them are fiction and non-fiction picture books (though many of the latter are quite wordy). I pile them next to my bed and slowly savour each and every page.

The one I’m nibbling (because I don’t want it to end) right now is called Impossible Inventions: Ideas That Shouldn’t Work by Małgorzata Mycielska, illustrated by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński (Gecko Press, 2017). If anyone else in the family wants to even glimpse this right now, they’ll have to distract me with another book and prise it out of my greedy hands.

Can you tell us in two sentences what the book is about?
The title says it all. From ancient to modern times, the book showcases a stream of unlikely and bizarre contraptions and seemingly impossible ideas and inventions—some that worked, some that never worked and some that (ominously) worked only once.

How much did you enjoy/are enjoying this title?
I am absolutely loving it. I’m part way through, but I’d say the total time spent will be at least three hours. The fascinating text is accompanied by diagrams, labels and cartoonish (funny!) illustrations, making it entrancing for all ages. I thrive on learning new things. Makes me feel like a kid again.

What made you choose this title? Was it a review, advertising, the cover, the blurb, the author/illustrator, or the subject/genre?
I’m always on the lookout for fascinating, beautifully-illustrated/designed and unusual non-fiction. I saw this while shopping in Harry Hartog bookstore in Canberra. I had a gift voucher to spend, and I think 70 per cent of the titles I bought that day were non-fiction. Pretty typical of me.

What stood out was the cover—the unique illustration style. Then the title whacked me right in the cerebral cortex. I grabbed the book and wasn’t letting go. The fact that it was illustrated by two creators I greatly admire, also helped.

What other titles are on your bedside table /To Read Pile?
I have about twenty. Some of the adult books include Stephen King’s On Writing, Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction and Stephen Fry’s Mythos. Adult/kid hybrid books include Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life by Todd Oldham, All the Buildings in Paris and All the Buildings in Melbourne by James Gulliver Hancock.

Kids’ books include The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, The Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum and Gus Gordon’s The Last Peach.

How did you come by these titles: personal choice/request, publisher’s review copy, or other?
The vast majority of books I buy are found while perusing book shelves in stores, or cruising bookstores online, book blogs, and publisher websites. I also come across lots of titles in random places—as part of the zeitgeist; news items and interviews, for example. I follow a lot of authors and illustrators on social media, so I tend to know what’s coming out (the two Gulliver-Hancock books were sighted on Instagram).

I must admit, I do love collecting books from favourite creators, but then I also love stumbling across new talent. I love Aussie titles but a lot of my books are European—most translated, but some not. That's the great thing about picture books. You can 'read' them in other languages.

Do you have a favourite genre? If so, what is it, and why do you prefer it?
Picture books all the way. But there are so many sub-genres in picture books—so it’s a rich field. Fiction, non-fiction, faction, concept books, pop-up books, wordless, graphic novels, biographical, high text, literary, quirky, activity books, and more.

Right now, non-fiction/information/biographical picture books are my preferred choice because they have undergone a revolution of late and there are some astonishingly beautiful, remarkable, collectible works available. I particularly love the large format ones that are too big for any shelf, so you’re forced to display them as art. What a shame.

Do you read from printed books or some other medium? Please expand a little on the why of your choice.
Always printed books. It’s a soul connection thing. The paper, the weight, the sound, the feel. Nothing compares. I stare at a screen all day. Printed books are my respite and my happy place.