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

Friday, 29 September 2023

Review: Sunshine: How one camp taught me about life, death and hope

Sunshine: How one camp taught me about life, death and hope is a memoir in the form of a graphic novel.

Created by Jarrett J Krosoczka, Sunshine is the story of a memorable summer in his teenage years. It's an experience that changes his life.

When he was sixteen, Jarrett spent one week as a student leader at Camp Sunshine, a holiday camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, and their families.

At Camp Sunshine Jarrett meets people like thirteen-year-old Diego who has a brain tumour and uses a wheelchair. Jarrett's interest in art and his drawing abilities provide an opening for developing a friendship with Diego, and the other kids.

He learns some of the challenges, frustrations and impacts of cancer and its treatment. And he discovers that when you're faced with a life-threatening illness, personally or by close association, the way you look at life changes.

Review: Australian Backyard Birds

Nature-lovers will love Myke Mollard's Australian Backyard Birds.

This book is packed with information and illustrations about more than 150 birds. It starts with the end papers which offer an identification guide to birds of prey, and is followed by a regional exploration of birds that we know well, and some that are not as famous.

Bird highlights are given for each state and territory, accompanied by beautiful illustrations. There are full page pictures packed with bird portraits and collages set amidst beautiful landscapes.

Some birds are given a bit of extra page time, with special features. From birds that roam the highest reaches of the sky, to those that prefer the cover of night.

Thursday, 28 September 2023

Meet The Illustrator: Binny Talib

Binny Talib

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Contemporary, Whimsical, quirky, nostalgic, pointy, stylized, graphic

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I have a large 40cm Astro boy statue that has been on every single studio desk since university, even moving with me to Hong Kong for a few years.
My large Wacom Cintiq
My Mac book pro
My pantone colour book
Drawings and sketches on the wall
My collection of beautiful children’s books and general inspiration bits and pieces
A window if possible
A notebook to scribble in
A3 printer

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Review: The Isabelle Stories Vol. 2 - Hurry Up, Harry

The Isabelle Stories are a delightful look into Isabelle’s life in chapters. It is compiled of four stories that show the importance of little things in life.

Sleeping Over - Isabelle loves Year 2. With her best friends, Harry and Izzy, she is looking forward to a new teacher and new experiences. 

The first is the school sleepover.

There is a list of necessary things to pack, and choices to make about which favourite toy will accompany them. 

Coloured hairspray and glitter is also involved. 

So are sleeping bags.

Away from home for the first time is making Isabelle feel uncomfortable and she can’t understand why. 

Izzy too, is not herself. Will the sleepover turn out to be what the friends expected?

Review: Blair Moon: How To Be Cooler Than The Moon

They say surprises are the spice of life. I say incongruous pairings are equally as stimulating. Blair Moon is both. This debut middle grade novel from Aussie author, Ashleigh Mounser, is a curious beast as is Blair Moon herself – a moniker even her mother uses in lieu of just ‘Blair’.

At first the reader may feel slightly off kilter by the use of so much ‘adult’ discourse and the sophisticated lexicon of Blair Moon wondering if the author has chosen the right voice for this unique 11-year-old. I assure you she has! 

It is the voice of reason and logic, entrenched in a solid appreciation for common sense, varnished with a sheen of unwillingness to accept the ridiculous points of views of others. It’s the voice of someone with vast lived experiences, befitting someone living in an old people’s home, which is exactly where Blair was raised and lives. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Guest Post: Ryan Abramowitz on Creating Elegy For An Elephant

Join author illustrator, Ryan Abramowitz as he unpacks the artistic shapes of loss and love through animal allegory with the creating Elegy for an Elephant. We recommend you first read Elizabeth Vercoe's stirring review of this incredible new picture book release. 

How does the passing of my father catalyse the migration of an elephant crossing picture book plains? 

Views of the world outside windows have always framed elements of authoring and illustrating my debut picture book Elegy for an Elephant (EFAE). I was staring at the sad fog outside the courtyard of my Copenhagen dormitory studying abroad when my sister called to tell me our father had ended his life. 

10 Quirky Questions with author/illustrator Jess Racklyeft

1. What's your hidden talent?
Growing wild (ok, messy) gardens!

2. Who is your favourite literary villain and why?
It would have to be a Dahl villain like Agatha Trunchbull or Veruca Salt. So much character they dripped off the page and into your dreams.

3. You're hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors would you invite? (alive or dead)
Well, now I feel like Roald Dahl should come, and some friends like Anna Walker, Davina Bell, Anden Wilder and Claire Saxby.

Monday, 25 September 2023

Review: Granbad

Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reason.

In this funny picture book adventure, sibling protagonists introduce us to their grandad, who they affectionately call Granbad?

Why? Because Granbad likes to break the rules. He eats the wrong things. He doesn’t listen to his doctors, and he’ll do whatever it takes to save the forests and the greater gliders who live there.

Review: I'm A Frog!

From the award-winning author of Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus, comes I’m A Frog! – another Elephant and Piggie book that is chock-full of funny business, quirky characters and surprises.

We meet Piggie as he bounces about on the page, jumping like a frog and ribbiting as though his life depended on it. 

Gerald the elephant is, understandably, curious about and concerned for his friend. After all, Piggie’s a pig, not a frog. Why the bouncing and ribbiting?

The friendship between the two characters who are so very, very different, is presented through colour, fun and movement. 

Piggie’s chaotic energy is contagious. Gerald’s anxiety is crippling. Yet as readers, we love and accept them both!

Willems has done a superb job as an authorstrator (a new word I learnt this week!) and the book rollicks along with clever, witty wording, and perfect pictures. The narrative is full of giggles, innuendo and subtle facial and bodily expressions, along with delightful banter.

Told completely in speech bubbles with a wonderful repetitive use of familiar phrases, this book is the perfect companion for children who are just learning to read.

The narrative incorporates universal themes such as worry and anxiety, to then cleverly harness such ideas as friendship, optimism and pure unbridled joy as natural antidotes.

 A timely and very wonderful part of this book is that it addresses the elephants in the room (which are both Gerald the elephant and his elephant-sized anxiety) with warmth, dignity, fun and sparkle.

Title: I’m A Frog!
Author Illustrator: Mo Willems
Publisher: Walker Books, $27.99
Publication Date: 2 August 2023
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781529516081
For ages: 4 +
Type: Picture Book

Friday, 22 September 2023

Review: Aggie Flea Is NOT A Liar

Move over, Barbie - there’s a new girl rocking the pink all over town, and hers is fluoro! 

Meet Aggie Flea, whom you will immediately fall for,  because she’s inquisitive, imaginative and completely inept in most situations. Really, she’s a bit like Anne of Green Gables in that she never intends to be troublesome but somehow always ends up being so.

Aggie is ten, lives with her long-suffering mother and older teen brother, Jack, who thinks he’s the man of the house now that their dad has moved to London. 

Thursday, 21 September 2023

Review: Until the Road Ends

After years of eking out an existence on the streets, Beau is saved from death by Peggy Alford. The rescue is life-changing for both animal and human.

Mabel the cat, already a permanent resident in the Alford household, is owned by Peggy’s brother Wilf. When Beau joins the family, great discord surfaces between him and the vain, selfish, and territorial Mable.  

Enter Bomber the courier pigeon. Then there were three. It is the animals’ narrative that controls the story.

In Europe, Hitler’s war has broken out. Dogs and cats are being euthanised, food becomes scarce, and children, including Peggy and Wilf, are sent to the countryside for safety.

Mr Alford is not conscripted due to his asthma but is allocated the duty of air raid warden.

Review: Cub And Brown

Cub is a boy scout on camp - a young lad full of tips and hints for outdoor survival. He knows all about the sensible and necessary things in life like tying shoe-laces, wearing a hat and carrying a shovel. 

As with all good boy scouts, his motto is Be Prepared. And so, he is prepared for anything. Anything that is, except for meeting a bear in the woods.

Brown is a bear in the woods, who lives in a very messy (human) house, is scared of rabbits and wears shoes with laces that he can’t quite do up.

What are the chances that these two will meet – and in the woods, no less?! You guessed it correctly! About one hundred percent.