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

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Review: How to Grow a Friend

How to Grow a Friend uses growing a plant to help explain to littlies what it takes to make friends and over time how to look after their friendship.

Using this metaphor the story can be shared at multiple levels, depending on your children's ages.

Sara Gillingham's bright, charming, stylised illustrations bring the story to life.

The insightful images show pre-readers, actions they can take to grow a friendship and a seed.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Review: Miss Eliza Flowerdew Can Nearly Touch the Ceiling

Lucy is five. She is curious as to how long it will take her to do and see as much as grown-ups can. Her grandpa changes a light bulb without a ladder. Her mum can reach the clothes line, while Lucy can only now, reach the biscuit tin. She wonders how high someone 100 years old is able to reach. She’s determined to find out.

She discovers Miss Eliza Flowerdew, who is 99 years old, lives next door! Imagining at that age she could reach the ceiling, Lucy sets out, tape measure in hand, to get solid proof of her theory, and be witness to this mind-blowing event.

Guest Post: Helene Magisson on The Secrets Behind Illustration

When reading one of my latest picture books, a 10-year-old little girl asked me this question:

‘What do you tell in your illustrations that is not mentioned in the text?’

I was amazed by the relevance of this interesting but rarely asked question. 
And yet it is exactly this question that gives my profession its fascinating spark. 

Illustrating is not translating words into pictures but rather building on the text to tell a story in parallel, being between the lines and saying with pencils and brushes what the text does not. It is a way for me to enrich the child's imagination, to invite him to question himself, to make him react, and nourish his visual and artistic language.
In the book Miss Eliza Flowerdew Can Nearly Touch the Ceiling, published by Red Paper Kite, Lucy has just turned 5 and she thinks that the older we are, the taller we are.
Her grandfather himself is so tall!

Her neighbor Miss Eliza Flowerdew is 99 years old, but Lucy has not had the opportunity to see her yet.
Curious, Lucy decides to meet her. 

She goes on her little adventure and will meet a very surprising Miss Eliza. 
But what you may not know, not even my publisher Red Paper Kite, is that I myself met Lucy mentioned by the author Brenda Gurr in her manuscript and everything that is told with my brushes was actually whispered by Lucy.

I would like to reveal here some secrets about the story of Miss Eliza at a specific moment of her life.
With the magic of a few words, Brenda Gurr makes us understand that Miss Eliza once had a life full of adventures.
So I tried to emphasize this trait of her personality and enrich her character through my illustrations.
On one of the pages Brenda Gurr writes these words:
'She boomed summer-sweet music into the dusky night.’

So here I am with my brushes, watercolors, gouaches and some pastel pencils. 

In a corner of the page we see Miss Eliza showing photo memories to Lucy who seems captivated (as much as the cat by the way, who is not mentioned in the text, but Lucy absolutely wanted him to be represented on each page).
So Lucy imagines...
She imagines a group of musicians standing on the roof of a van, lost in the deep night in the middle of a lunar landscape.
‘Could it be somewhere in the Australian desert?’
A man applauds them with eyes full of admiration.
‘Is he a lost camper too? Where does he come from?’ 

The van with its hippie look tells us that we could be in the 60s / 70s when this trend inspired young generations.
On the roof we see Miss Eliza playing the bass. One plays the trumpet, another the clarinet and the singer brandishes in the sky a tool that looks like a microphone. 

'But who are they?’
Maybe some of Miss Eliza’s best friends with whom she loved to travel all over the world, and one of them might even have been his life companion as we see him on a photo posing with Miss Eliza just beside. 

Also Miss Eliza kept in her memories a flyer that indicates the name of her band: the 'Bribie Band' (a little wink to Lucy who is Australian). 
They probably had some success as the flyer mentions 'Sold Out'. We can also notice it on the pole just next to the van. Nothing is left to chance.

‘But why are they on the roof? How did they ever end up like this?

The van is old, which is revealed by a subtle detail that will not go unnoticed to the sharp eye of some readers: one of the tires is flat, worn out by miles of road-tripping across the country. They are traveling through Australia, playing in villages and cabarets during their long adventure. 

So, we can imagine that on that particular day, late in the night, they found themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere, entangled with this old van. And instead of lamenting themselves, they created a magical moment, thanks to their youth, their spirit of adventure, their imagination and their joie de vivre.

They set up lanterns, arranged old chairs, the van's roof turned into a stage, the stars became the lights of an enthusiastic audience, with the camper as the main fan.

Voila. I wanted this illustration to convey a whole story on its own thanks to Brenda Gurr’s magic words.

‘But then, what happened after this impromptu concert?’

That, I leave to your imagination, and let us listen to them instead. 

Helene Magisson started her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination. Helene has lived in Africa, France and India. She is now settled down in Australia with her family. Her travels both inspire and enrich her work.
In 2013, she started a new career in children’s book illustration. Since then, she has illustrated several books including classics like The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco and more contemporary stories like Slowly! Slowly! by T.M. Clark, CBCA 2018 notable picture book of the year. Helene is an award winning illustrator (first prize CYA conference 2013).

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Review: Animals At Night

The sun sets at the end of another day, but have you ever wondered what happens after dark? 

This beautifully illustrated book shows different parts of the world and the animals that come out after dark. 

This is so much more than a picture book; it really is an introduction to animals and their homes.

Author Katy Flint has written this book with younger readers in mind who are just learning about animals. 

It features an overview of the selected area and provides pockets of information about the animals and their habitats.

Meet The Illustrator: Leanne Watson

Name: Leanne Watson

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
My illustration style is traditional and contemporary Darug Aboriginal art.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
It is essential that I have art paper, canvas, paints, brushes and ink. My space is comfortable and has good lighting.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
My favourite medium is acrylic and ink printing.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
My mum Aunty Edna Watson, My brother Bundeluk Watson and Leanne Tobin.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Look What I'm Reading! Karys McEwen

Karys McEwen is the librarian across both Prahran High School and Richmond High School in Melbourne, Australia. 

She is the current President of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Victorian Branch and a judge for the Older Readers category in the 2020 CBCA Book of the Year Awards. She is also the 2019 Books + Publishing Junior columnist. 

She is passionate about the impact of literature and libraries in the engagement and wellbeing of young people.

Review: Liarbird

Have you ever told a lie? A little white lie, or a big porky-pie? Well, the lyrebird learns how to lie from the day it hatches. And this lyrebird loves it.

From impersonations to big fat whoppers, he soon becomes 'the best in the bush at fibbing, faking, fabricating and fake-news creating'.

Adults and children alike will get plenty of giggles out of this modern-day Australian fable, which is more a commentary on social etiquette than simply just telling the truth.

Of course, the lyrebird eventually takes his lying too far and learns that terrible things can happen when you stray from the truth.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Review: Hello, New Zealand

Fourth book in the Hello… series is New Zealand. It made me take out my travel book and start making plans for a longed-for dream. From the North to the South Island, a wondrous wonderland of the senses unites with countless cultural experiences.

Northland is where the giant kauri tree is found. Hobbiton was built for the filming of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies. Flat-bottomed boats travel along the Avon River, and Heritage trams through the streets. 

The TransAlpine train travels through the native beech forests and along the Waimakiriri River. In Queenstown the Remarkables mountain ranges loom, and Arrowtown boasts an historic gold mining settlement; Milford Sound a world-famous fiord.

12 Curly Questions with author Edwina Wyatt

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I can play almost any song on the piano (very poorly) from memory, if I have heard it once before. It’s one of my favourite things to do. I follow my poor husband around the house (and into the bathroom…) with a keyboard under one arm, begging him to give me requests like some sort of deranged busker: “Give me another!”, “Wait for it…!”; “Just one more”. We’re talking pop songs, movie sound tracks, national anthems. Christmas carols are the best. No jazz. Too hard. Working out how a song goes is my equivalent of doing the Sunday crossword. I drive my kids nuts: “What about Humpty Dumpty? Flight of the Bumblebee? Any takers? No?” It’s a truly pointless skill; an exercise in mediocrity.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Winner: Sound Stories Set

And our lucky winner is...

Shelly Linderman, QLD


You have won a stunning prize box of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set of Sound Stories that helps children learn to speak, read and spell to the value of $95!

We hope you enjoy this prize.

Thank you to ALL who entered.

Review: Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing!

Weird, Wild, Amazing! is exactly that. A modern, educational exploration of fascinating creatures with astounding facts.

This fabulous resource book, begins with a background of the author; the very interesting Tim Flannery, and explains concepts such as climate change, evolution, extinction and conservation. It then explores details of over 50 creatures broken into environment based chapters of water, sky, forest and desert and grasslands.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Review: The Human Body

The Human Body by Karen Seinor provides an overview of many aspects of the human body, in a way that is clear, concise and interesting. The level of detail is just right - enough to provide a working level of understanding, but not so much as to be overwhelmed by the body's complexities.

Author and teacher, Karen Seinor, writes in an engaging style, with Fun Facts interspersed throughout. Information covers organ functions and how systems interact with each other, as well as clarifying some common myths.

This book provides an overview of the main systems in the body, including the nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, skeletal and other systems. The organs covered include brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Some aspects are not covered, e.g. the endocrine system and the male and female reproductive organs.