THE AUNTIES THREE

As you’d expect from bestselling and popular Australian picture book creator, Nick Bland, his latest offering, The Aunties Three is a riot of colour and fun.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

Pack up your games, dismantle your toys,

practise your manners and muffle your noise.

Straighten your face, where your smile used to be,

for coming this way are The Aunties Three!

Although I have to admit those Aunties Millicent, Alma and Ingrid are downright scary, Nick Bland still manages to bring hilarity into the picture – replacing fear with awe.

Even as adults we can relate to visitors you have ‘behave’ for – the ones you don’t smile in front of, “burp or sniffle or sneeze.”

Speak when you’re spoken to, never before,

take a deep breath and open the door.

The kids in this book are full of fun until the aunties arrive. As soon as there’s a knock on the door they try and put on their best manners, but no matter how much the children try to impress, it’s just not going to happen.

These Aunties are not just scary looking, they’re bossy and demand tea, shoe polishing, foot rubs and sweets.

First the cat steals Aunt Millicent’s hat, then Aunt Alma sits on the broken chair, then there’s the cooking accident that puts paid to Aunty three who is determined to stay for tea.

I loved the hilarious and expressive illustrations The Aunties Three. There’s so much movement and liveliness in these full colour pics. I loved the facial expressions on the characters – the fear of the children, the arrogance of the aunts. There’s the quirkiness of what the kids are wearing – the toddler dressed in a pig’s outfit, the boy with the colander on his head. Added to that are the background details; the flying books, the cat drinking from the milk jug.

The rhyming text is engaging and hilarious and moves the story along at a frantic pace that will keep young readers mesmerised.

I also love the way this book ends. Nick Bland builds up the tension with the Auntie’s arrival but the ending has an optimistic resolution that would allay the fears of any child who might have been worried about fierce aunties like this turning up at their front door.

The Aunties Three is published by Scholastic for ages 4+

 

 

The Reader Symposium

About a month back I attended the Queensland Writers Centre’s The Reader symposium.

I’ll admit that I had to look up what a ‘symposium’ was, precisely, having assumed it was a fancy word for a conference or conversation but, not actually having attended one before, not being entirely sure. Thanks to the Macquarie Dictionary, I can now confirm that it is, as I suspected, a fancy word for a conference or conversation.

I was also intrigued as to how this symposium was going to approach the topic of the reader—the third but oft-forgotten figure in the trifecta that includes the writer and the publisher. It is, after all, a fairly elusive concept, especially in the current Chicken Little climate, which is seeing the publishing industry run around like headless chooks claiming that their sky is falling down.

The ridiculous panic is another blog altogether, and one I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm for right now. Let’s just say that as a Gen Y on the cusp of Gen X and nowhere near the Baby Boomer age bracket, I see ebooks not as the death knell for life as we know it, but as another reading opportunity that will see us read more and might even get some non-readers in the door.

But, given that I didn’t know what to expect from said symposium, I came away with some food for thought—not least talk about how we could play a ‘reader’ drinking game, knocking back shots for every mention of such words as ‘physical book’, ‘game changer’, ‘ebook’, ‘the smell of books’. It earned a few chuckles, as we all hunkered down for a day of debating the apparent reading revolution.

Some of the other gems I learned included (in no particular order):

  • The future is already here—it’s just unevenly distributed (this is a quote, but from whom I’m not sure).
  • A few years ago, electronic publishing was daggy—Stephen King abandoned his experiment in it and Amazon was originally mocked for the Kindle.
  • Authors no longer need publishers, but neither authors nor readers have abandoned the traditional publishing model—they’ve just expanded on the spectrum, if you like.
  • There’s still a publishing gate and gatekeepers—it’s just that the gate is no longer attached to a wall.
  • There’s been a shift towards community, which is why we’re talking about readers.
  • We have an ingrained need to tell stories that pre-dates the invention of the book and that will post-date it too.
  • The conversational style of Twitter leads people to say things in public that they shouldn’t.
  • Social media is about conversation—it’s not a one-way broadcast system—and readers expect it to go both ways.
  • The invention of the book allowed for private reading, as opposed to public, communal reading.
  • Health professionals used to consider reading novels the main cause for uterine disease (another example that truth is indeed stranger than fiction).
  • Our reading habits have changed. We used to be scuba divers, but these days we’re jetskiiers who skim and have a broader knowledge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • We read websites like the letter F. If it’s important, don’t put it in the bottom right corner.
  • With the advent of technology and wifi in our homes, we have very little actual need to go out.
  • We’re attached not so much to the book, but to the sentimental values and memories and experiences we have while reading it.
  • As we’ve seen with Borders, books are not potatoes (teehee).
  • Libraries and bookshops have never really cannibalised each other before, and this is likely to continue.
  • You leave a little bit of yourself behind in a book (ewww).
  • Book buying can be determined by location. For example, if you’re in a physical book store, you’ll likely buy the physical book in front of you. If you’re at home and can’t be bothered going out, you’ll buy and download the ebook.
  • The book is a new technology—it’s just been around long enough that we don’t tend to think of it that way.
  • How do writers change the way they write for the digital environment? Write less (it got a laugh, but it’s true).

The symposium didn’t necessarily provide me with the answers I’m after about how the ebook war will turn out, but then nobody yet has them and we’re all kind of watching from the sidelines and waiting for the war to end and the dust to settle so we can move on. It’s frustrating for someone like me who doesn’t see this so much as a war but as an opportunity.

But, as I said above, that’s a blog I can’t be bothered writing right now. Until then, I’ll continue to ponder the gems the symposium threw out and remind myself that I now know what a symposium is.

Recent Acquisitions (The Shipwrecked Edition)

Is there anything that screams danger and adventure in books more than a journey by ocean?

For my birthday recently, my best bud contributed to my growing Penguin collection, by presenting me with The Odyssey, by Homer. As you can see by the picture to our left, the cover is gorgeously patterned waves of aqua against a forbidding sea-green cloth background, as only Coralie Bickford-Smith knows how to do. It’s been one of my favourites of the Penguin collection so far, and has only recently been trumped by the new version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (have you seen it?).

I confess, however, that this isn’t the first time that I’ve been dreaming of the salt-spray hitting my face, sails flapping above me, albatrosses circling ever closer. Despite its best efforts, my very pretty new gift of one of the most classic sea journeys ever did not completely satisfy my cravings for the sea air. So I’ve turned to other reads, in the hope that I will be cured of ocean-lust for at least a few months…until it’s warm enough to brave the beach on the coast again.

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
I’ve raved enough in the past about Libba Bray’s wonderfully-realised Gemma Doyle trilogy, but this is a true departure from the Victorian boarding school witchcraft I’ve come to love and expect from the author. Beauty Queens, released this month, is the story of pageant contestants who are stranded on a desert island after their plane takes a dive. A satirical take on the whole Lost / Lord of the Flies tale of psychological survival, Beauty Queens doesn’t appear to sugarcoat the beauty queen stereotype – I’m expecting a book where we laugh at the characters’ expense, often. From early blog reports, Beauty Queens is a book you’ll either love, or you just won’t get. I’m interested to see which group I’ll be part of once I sit down to have a read of it. And at the very least, I am a huge fan of the cover (are lipstick bullets not the best invention ever?).

Jamrach’s Managerie, by Carol Birch
Ah, Jamrach’s Managerie. I’m expecting beautiful prose, and a fantastical story of Jaffy the Zookeeper’s assistant, saved from the jaws of a Bengal tiger and sailing the high seas, a story infused with a bit of real-life history too. Not recommended for those with a weak sea-sick-prone stomach, I’ve heard Birch talk of how she was not particularly happy to hear so many readers felt nauseous from the realistic descriptions contained within the novel, but she did like that it moved her readers. I hope it moves me, too – even to cradling the toilet bowl.

Leviathan, by Philip Hoare
Finally, we have Leviathan. Alternately titled The Whale, Philip Hoare explores the wonderful and wacky world of this majestic sea creature. Fascinated by the story of Moby Dick , the author sees the parallels between that classic fictional adventure and the journey of the modern whale, and its strange and often arduous relationship with man.

***

Have you read, or are planning to read any of these books? What books have you got to read next on your nightstand?

How To Be Single If Being Single Isn’t Bad?

How To Be SingleWhile my book-reading tastes are broad and varied, and my blog-writing efforts subsequently so, even I’m surprised by the book I both recently picked up and that I’m blogging about right now.

Entitled How To Be Single—I know, I know, please stay with me here—it didn’t make the splash its book half-brother He’s Just Not That Into You did when it hit the marketplace.

In fact, I didn’t even know this book existed and only stumbled across it and then succumbed to its guiles during a moment of my-soul-has-been-crushed-by-a-stinky-stinky-boy weakness while rifling through a bin at a garage sale.

I’m not the kind of girl who’s on the quest to find ‘the one’—I think there are careers to pursue and social and environmental issues to tackle and that matters of the heart, while important and valid, shouldn’t be one’s sole focus in life.

Nor am I convinced that there’s a happy ending waiting for everybody, and think that if you’ve staked your efforts and your sanity on trying to find someone to look after you and make you happy, well, you’re playing with it’s-going-to-end-badly fire.

How To Be SingleWhich goes at least part way to explaining why I picked up and purchased this novel by Liz Tuccillo, one half of the He’s Just Not That Into You book, which swept the single women’s world like wildfire and spawned a flippant, simplistic phrase that makes single women the world over want to slap somebody.

I’m not jaded, honest. I’m actually more interested that someone finally approached the issue from another angle: that of being and staying single and whether that’s such a bad thing. I mean, I can’t help but wonder if there is and should be more to life than getting coupled up.

How To Be Single’s premise (and the opening paras) is as follows:

It’s the most annoying question and they just can’t help asking you. You’ll be asked it at family gatherings, particularly weddings. Men will ask you it on first dates. Therapists will ask you over and over again. And you’ll ask yourself it far too often. It’s the question that has no good answer, and that never makes anyone feel better. It’s the question, that when people stop asking it, makes you feel even worse.

And yet, I can’t help but ask. Why are you single? You look like an awfully nice person. And very attractive. I just don’t understand it.

But times are changing. In almost every country around the world, the trend is for people to remain single longer and divorce more easily. As more and more women become economically independent, their need for person freedom increase, and that often results in not marrying so quickly.

A human being’s desire to make, to pair up, to be part of a couple, will never change. But the way we go about it, how badly we need it, what we are willing to sacrifice for it, most definitely is.

He's Just Not That Into YouSo maybe the question isn’t anymore, ‘Why are you single?’ Maybe the question you should be asking yourself is ‘How are you single?’ It’s a big new world out there and the rules keep changing. So, tell me ladies, how’s it going?

Although I was incredibly embarrassed to be seen reading this book in public, and was worried that I would either run into someone I knew, or would drop the book I’d been surreptitiously reading on the train with the cover in full view, I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, a lot more than I thought I would.

I’d even go so far as to say that I think Tuccillo, who was an executive story editor of the Emmy Award-winning and cult classic Sex and the City, is a good storyteller (and better when the voice is just her own—geddit, a single writer?).

How To Be Single is fiction, but it appears to be based on non-fiction interviews, and I’d hazard a guess it’s based loosely on Tuccillo‘s own experiences and those of her friends.  She travelled around the world interviewing single ladies (and yes, writing that made Beyonce just leap into my head), and I can’t help but notice that the book was a little bit Sex and the City and a little bit Eat Pray Vom, I mean, Love.

Eat Pray LoveThere were five characters instead of four, but they all neatly filled a different niche of woman without straying too strongly into Carrie/Samantha/Miranda/Charlotte territory. In fact, they didn’t know each other overly well and there wasn’t a Samantha among them.

The locations of said interviews included Bali, Australia, Iceland, Brazil, France, Italy, and India, and I was a little bit suspicious that we were going to get an Eat Pray Vom meeting and marrying of the perfect man in Bali, but the book thankfully steered clear and didn’t offer a perfectly neat, happily-ever-after dénouement. Besides, I think some of the best insights came not at the summing-up stage, but in short revelations throughout the text.

This will probably be one of the only love-life-focused books I’ll read or review here, but I can’t say it was a bad one to have done. I think the catch phrase should be not ‘He’s just not that into you’, but ‘Is it so bad to be single?’ or ‘How to be single if being single isn’t bad?’

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam

I loved the rhythm and humour in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.  This book is cleverly written by Juliette MacIver with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Davis.

There are plenty of tongue twisters in this chaotic adventure to delight both the reader and the listener in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.

All a-quiver by the river where Marmaduke swam,

Marmaduke Duck

eating Marmalade jam.

Marmaduke’s marmalade isn’t ordinary marmalade, it’s made from grapefruit – quirky, just like everything else in this book. There’s a llama with a panorama, a farmer in pyjamas, a ram named Sam and a lamb named Pam and they’re all

In haste for a taste of the marmalade jam.

Marmaduke Duck’s jam is unique and all the other animals and birds seem to think so too, and they want to help her eat it.

Young kids will love the liveliness and fun of this book. It’s a great one to read out loud and  Sarah Davis’ beautifully drawn characters are full of amazing expressions guaranteed to make you giggle.

Apart from the colour and hilarity in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam., kids will be drawn to the food references and the ‘hearty old party’ with the ‘might feast’.

There’s plenty of movement in this book as the animals sway, swim and dance their way across the pages.

Kids will love the language and vibrant pictures in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.

With its themes of friendship, ownership and sharing, this book also paves the way for discussion on these topics.

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam is published by Scholastic.

 

Hunting Moles with Paul Collins

I’ve just finished reading a rather exciting, action-packed book. A good old-fashioned science fiction epic with spaceships, aliens, amazing technology and an anti-hero with plans of universal domination. The book is Mole Hunt. The author is Paul Collins. The publisher is Ford Street Publishing, which also happens to be run by the aforementioned Mr Collins. And he’s here with us today to tell us about his book and why he decided to publish it through Ford Street. Take it away Paul …

The Maximus Black Blog Post
By Paul Collins

Writing novels can be tortuous. Authors can spend a year plus writing something and there’s absolutely no guarantee that it will ever be published. So imagine working for someone for a year — maybe as a carpenter, plumber, whatever — and getting told after a year that your work isn’t up to standard and sorry, we’re not paying you.

More authors than not go through this scenario. I went through it with Mole Hunt. It was submitted to most of Australia’s major publishers and some via an agent in the UK and the US. Many replied saying how good it was, but …

Penguin UK praised it to the hilt saying if they didn’t already have Artemis Fowl, the young James Bond, etc, they’d be keen. Another prominent Australian publisher told me Mole Hunt reminded her of what she used to love in science fiction … but it wasn’t for her imprint, which was more contemporary literature. But of course, rejection is rejection.

Cutting a long story short, I decided it would be a Ford Street title. After all, I’ve been through the above scenario before. Dragonlinks was rejected by every publisher in Australia back in 1998/99 — a year or two before the big fantasy craze in Australia (ahead of my time as usual!). The publisher at Penguin left so I resubmitted it without telling her replacement that Penguin had already rejected it. It was finally accepted. That was 2001. It was published in 2002 and is still selling now. (A tip for aspiring writers — persistence is the key word!)

After so many rejections a very small part of me wondered if I was maybe on to a loser with Mole Hunt. After all, Maximus Black is, as the name suggests, all bad. Was I ahead of the pack with an anti-hero as I had been with fantasy novels a decade before the major Australian publishers discovered the genre? (As an aside, dystopian fiction is huge right now – but I wrote Mole Hunt three years ago – hmmm, I see a thread here!)

But then I read Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz. Crikey, his baddies make Maximus look like a boy scout. Max only kills a few people in the first couple of chapters. Anthony’s baddies kill — I dunno, I lost count. But the body-bag ratio is high.

Still, I reckon the kill-rate and action overall matches Scorpio Rising. Bookseller + Publisher says it’s “bitingly clever” and a cross between The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Dexter and Total Recall. Buzz Words says its pace would give Matthew Reilly a nosebleed and Kids’ Book Capers says they couldn’t put the book down.

Maybe I’m on a winner after all!

But I’ll let you be the judge of that. Here’s a run down of the plot:

Special Agent Maximus Black excels at everything he attempts. The problem is, most of what he attempts is highly illegal. Recruited by the Regis Imperium Mentatis (RIM) when he was just fifteen, he is the youngest cadet ever to become a RIM agent. Of course, being a certified sociopath helps. He rises quickly through the ranks, doing whatever it takes to gain promotion. This includes murdering the doctor who has certified him, as well as a RIM colonel who Black deems to be more useful dead than alive. Now seventeen, he is a valuable member of a highly secret task force whose assignment is to unearth a traitorous mole. Unfortunately for RIM he is the mole, a delightful irony that never ceases to amuse him.

In the two years he has been with RIM he has only met his match once. Anneke Longshadow, another RIM agent, who nearly succeeded in exposing him. But nearly wasn’t enough. Now she is dead and he is very much alive to pursue his criminal activities.

Right now, Black has a new problem — one that will challenge him to the max. He has a lot of work to do and little time to do it but as with every facet of his life, he plans each step with meticulous precision.

Maximus needs to find three sets of lost coordinates to rediscover the power of the dreadnoughts – a powerful armada of unbeatable power, long since put into mothballs by the sentinels whose job it is to keep peace and harmony in the ever expanding universe.

Sadly for Black, complications arise. It seems Anneke Longshadow isn’t dead after all. Every bit his match, Anneke eludes the traps Black sets for her. Born on Normansk, a planet with 1.9 gravity, Anneke is more than capable of defending herself against Black’s hired help, the insectoid Envoy, and his professional mercenary and hitman, Kilroy.

Power-hungry, Black usurps the throne of Quesada, a powerful crime syndicate. His ultimate aim is to replace the Galaxy gate-keepers, RIM, with his own organisation. Matching him step by step, Anneke collects as her allies all those who Maximus has deposed in his march to becoming ruler of the universe.

If this sounds like your type of book, I know it’s available on this site.

George’s bit at the end

It is, indeed, an exciting read!

And if you’d like to come along to the launch of Mole Hunt, here are the details …

Friday 10 June 2011
8:30pm – 9:30pm
Melbourne’s Swanston Hotel, Grand Mercure (Ether Conference Centre), 195 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Paul Collins will be presented with the A Bertram Chandler Award. This will be followed by the launch of Mole Hunt. Hugo-shortlisted author Sean McMullen will launch the book. Please RSVP before 7 June to: [email protected]

The launch is being held on the opening night of Continuum 7, Melbourne’s Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture Convention (check out my previous blog post). All of Friday night’s activities are FREE… so come along. For more info about Continuum 7, check out their website. Hope you see you there!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

.

REVIEW: Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

TITLE:  Gillespie and I
AUTHOR: Jane Harris
PUBLISHER:  Faber  (June 2011)
ISBN: 9780571275168      504 pages.

Reviewed by Ann Skea ([email protected]).

It is April 1933. Harriet Baxter is eighty, unmarried, of independent means and consumed with the urge to write of the time forty-five years ago, in 1888, when she was “friend and soul-mate” (as she puts it) of the Scottish artist Ned Gillespie.

It has to be said the Harriet is also a well-meaning busybody with a high opinion of herself. Although, as she notes, it was not hard in 1888 Glasgow for folk to demonize her, an outsider, as a well-off, interfering  old maid from ‘down South’ who has designs on one of their men. And this, she claims, is what they did.

Harriet tells us right from the beginning of her account that she had “profound rapport” with Ned who, in her “humble opinion” was, at the time of his suicide, “about to reach the zenith of his creative powers”. She also mentions “that silly white-slave business and the trial”. So we, who are occasionally addressed in the Jane Austen manner as “Reader”, know that she is about to reveal details of the “sequence of profoundly affecting events” which wiped out Gillespie’s work, his life and their “most intimate of friendships”.

Harriet likes to tease her readers with hints of terrible revelations. Some, such as her discovery of the potentially scandalous and damaging (to Ned’s career) homosexuality of Ned’s brother, Kenneth, she discloses quite quickly. Others, like what happened to Rose, Ned’s youngest daughter, must wait. She implies early on that something bad happened to Rose, but just how bad and whether and in what way she was responsible, she does not discuss until much later. Even then, in spite of references to published reports and quoted testimonies, we have only Harriet’s version. We must trust her memory and her honesty. So, by the end of the book you feel you may need to read the whole thing again, especially as she develops a habit of interweaving chapters into her account which relate her current suspicions about her resident maid, and one begins to suspect that she is losing her grip on reality.

There is no doubting that Harriet’s first meeting with Ned Gillespie was accidental. Nor could she have engineered her life-saving intervention in the bizarre accident with false teeth suffered by Ned’s mother, Elspeth. She did not at the time even know that this was Ned’s mother and it was only at Elspeth’s bossy, extrovert insistence that she visited Elspeth’s Daughter-in -law’s home for afternoon tea and unexpectedly met Ned again. However, as more visits take place it becomes clear that however much Harriet rationalizes her actions she is more than casually interested in Ned. It is his art, of course, which interests her and which she evaluates, encourages and admires; and naturally the well-being of his whole family’s is of concern to her. Asking Annie, Ned’s wife, to paint her portrait is a shrewd and generous move, after Ned has declined the commission; and confronting caricaturist, Mungo Findlay, about a scandalous cartoon featuring Ned and his brother, which is due to be published just before a meeting of the Fine Arts Committee at which Ned’s suitability as a Royal portraitist will be judged, is a necessary intervention. Maybe Harriet’s enrollment in Ned’s art classes is a little suspect, but she is genuinely interested in art.

Harriet’s own word-portraits of Ned’s children Sibyl and Rose show that she has little experience of childhood jealousies, tantrums and mischief. She finds Sibyl difficult, sly and malevolent. But Sibyl, in fact, does perpetrate some awful deeds and she does become mentally deranged when her sister, Rose, disappears and she appears to have been responsible for this. And the whole of Harriet’s story, her relationship with Ned and his family, ends with the events which resulted from Rose’s disappearance.

Harriet’s story-telling style is lively, wry, opinionated and often very funny. In her, Jane Harris, has created a character we can believe in and, although you may not much like her, you can understand her and are inclined to take her at her word. The effect is subtle and only the dramatic events towards the end of Harriet’s account make you re-assess your trust in her. As, it seems, Ned did, too.

Only at the end of the book, too, are you likely to note that in Harriet’s preface to her story she gives her reasons for not writing sooner. “Perhaps I needed to gain some distance from a sequence of profoundly affecting events”, she writes. “Perhaps the act of committing this narrative to paper will free me of certain recurring dreams and (God willing!) diminish my eternal aching sadness about Ned Gillespie”. “Fair enough”, you think.

But then, in her penultimate chapter, she drops in a sentence about the recent publication of “a certain provocative little pamphlet” and offers a scornful but brief rebuttal of “Kemp’s theory”. Who, you wonder, was Kemp? Looking back, you find that Harriet mentions Kemp only once before as an “ink-slinger’, an “intrepid newspaperman” who rented a room opposite the Gillespie’s home in order to spy on them after Rose’s disappearance. She describes him as “a sallow, reptilian creature” whose “horrid visage” became “a permanent fixture in the lodging-house window”.

Was Kemp a despicable media hound or an astute journalist? Was he right about Harriet’s cunning? As always, we have only Harriet’s words on which to judge him and his accusations.

Copyright Ann Skea 2011
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

THE GREAT EXPEDITION – PETER CARNAVAS

I’ll admit straight off that I love Peter Carnavas’ work so I find it extremely hard to be objective about his new picture book. Peter’s stories are simple tales told with lively illustrations and telling detail and The Great Expedition does not disappoint.

With a cover featuring five kids studying a map; one with a dog perched on their head, you know that you’re in for an adventure.

The Great Expedition is based on the tale of Burke and Wills, but fortunately for the protagonists in this story, it has a happier ending.

The expedition is led by Robert, Will is the navigator, Henry the biologist and Ivy the botanist. Lily is the animal handler and it’s her job to keep the dog under control, which is difficult to do because the dog spends most of its time pulling Lily off her feet or sitting perched on her head.

With Robert in front and Will pointing the way, they head off on their hazardous journey,  where they encounter some of the obstacles faced by Burke and Wills.

The date of the journey, the dig tree, the names of the two main characters and some of the events in the book are true to the original Burke and Wills expedition.

The antics of the kids are funny but I have to say I was totally distracted by the actions of the dog.

You start to doubt whether the heroes will reach their destination, especially after they lose the map, but they trudge on regardless.

I can imagine young readers acting out this book in the backyards and sandpits of their own home. As a parent, I could relate to the playground being a hazardous place for a kid to navigate across.

Burke and Wills goal was to become the first Europeans to cross Australia from Melbourne to the north coast. Robert and Will display the same courage and determination in their Great Expedition.

The Great Expedition has themes of friendship, loyalty, resilience and leadership. I love how this book introduces young kids to history in an adventurous and non-confronting way.

It is delightfully illustrated in watercolour and ink.

The Great Expedition is published by New Frontier.