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

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Look What I'm Reading! Meredith Costain

Meredith Costain is a versatile writer for children whose work ranges from picture books through to poetry, series fiction and non-fiction. 

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with a variety of pets who frequently wrangle their way into her stories. 

Her latest books include new titles in the quirky Ella Diaries and its sister series, Olivia’s Secret Scribbles, illustrated by Danielle McDonald, and a picture book, Grandmas Are Lovely, illustrated by Nicolette Hegyes.

Which children’s book are you currently reading?
I usually have several books on the go at any given time. The one I am currently reading is Grace’s Secrets, the first book in a time-slip mystery/adventure series by Louise Park.

Can you tell us in two sentences what the book is about?

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have moved from sunny Broome to a new life in a village castle on the other side of the world. Grace is soon hurled into new adventures in both the past and the present, traversing the secret passages of the castle as she searches for the truth about her family and friends.

How much did you enjoy/are enjoying this title?
Very much! It’s both fast-paced and reflective, with great insight into Grace’s character and why she behaves the way she does. There is enough mystery and intrigue to keep you turning the pages to find out what will happen next. We are also introduced to some of the great writers of the past who help Grace escape from danger: Charles Dickens, Charles Dodgson (creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and one of my personal writing heroes, Louisa May Alcott.

What made you choose this title? Was it a review, advertising, the cover, the blurb, the author/illustrator, or the subject/genre?
I love time-slip fantasy (Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park is a big favourite) so I was really looking forward to reading this book, particularly as I’d been hearing snippets of the plot-line from Louise herself over the months that it was being written.

What other titles are on your bedside table /To Read Pile?
The latest title in the Mr Chicken series, Mr Chicken All Over Australia, by former Australian Children’s Laureate and illustrator extraordinaire, Leigh Hobbs. Who doesn’t love Mr Chicken? Can’t wait to see what shenanigans he gets up to in the far corners of our sunburnt country.

Having just visited an exhibition of (mainly) dragon paintings by Deltora Quest illustrator Marc McBride, I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into his latest book with Emily Rodda, The Glimme.

I’m slowly working my way through a stack of psychological thrillers by crime writer Michael Robotham. And I’m laughing my way through the antics of wannabe blockbuster movie star/martial arts expert James, in James Gong: The Big Hit, by Paul Collins – a jumping, spinning, side-kicking martial arts expert himself!

How did you come by these titles: personal choice/request, publisher’s review copy, or other?
Personal choice mainly. Many of the books I read are by writers and illustrators I’ve met over the years – it’s always great to keep up with what other people are creating. I also organise reviews (by young readers) for kids’ magazines, so I receive books or information about new books from publishers for these. So many great books – so little time to read them all!

Do you have a favourite genre? If so, what is it, and why do you prefer it?
I’ll read anything – I love seeing different ways that words can fit together. Having said that, I think I probably most enjoy books that focus on character and emotion – I think the term is ‘contemporary realism’. I know that a book has worked for me when I can’t bear to reach the end because then I’ll no longer get the chance to spend time with its characters. (Thankfully, this is why series were invented. J)

Do you read from printed books or some other medium? Please expand a little on the why of your choice.
I definitely prefer to read from ‘real’ books – they’ve just always been there, part of my daily habits. They feel comfortable in my hands and don’t hurt my eyes (especially if I’ve already spent the day staring at a computer screen and a winking cursor). I’ve downloaded a few books to my iPad to read while travelling but find that the lines and chapters often go out of whack. It’s also much easier to get distracted by the many other whiz-bang functions of an iPad! A book is a book is a book.