Writing Queensland

The name ‘Queensland’ conjures up images of tropical beaches and suntanned surf goers, but not so much vibrant, industry-leading writing community. After all, writers tend to be kind of pale, not so sporty, and spend copious hours agonising over blank pages. But there is a strong writing community here that is, through some fantastic leadership, only getting stronger.

Bizarrely, I don’t consider myself a Queensland-based writer—I don’t consider myself a writer based anywhere in particular. I’m someone who has a laptop and a mobile phone and who, as long as I have an internet connection, can work from wherever.

Which is precisely what I do, travelling light and often, with much of my work completed in random places quite literally all over the country and sometimes all over the world. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that more of my Book Burglar blogs have been written outside of Queensland than in it.

But each time I return to the state, I’m impressed at how much is going on in its writing sector and how much I want to be a part of it. My unsubstantiated guess is that not having had traditional publishing models (there’s really only one or two publishing houses here) means that Queensland’s well positioned to take advantage of emerging technologies and opportunities.

Combined with leaders who recognise the potential of them (instead of focusing on what’s being lost and not understanding what and why things are changing) and who want to develop the industry, there’s a lot to like about the Queensland writing sector.

I might not consider myself a wholly and solely Queensland-based writer, but it is where I most often visit/stay, that I’m most excited about, and that I most want to be a part of. I’ve been asked to contribute to a plan of action to help shape and grow this sector, which is why I’m asking you for help too. There are seven (reasonably tricky—or at least significant thought-requiring) questions I need to tackle, listed below.

1. What will success for the writing sector in Queensland look like in five to 10 years’ time?

2. What kind of products and services will writers be creating and providing in the next five to 10 years?

3. How can the sector capitalise on the opportunities digital technologies are bringing about?

4. Can Queensland provide leadership for the writing sector nationally and internationally?

5. What kind of investments in the writing sector will make the most difference in the next five to 10 years?

6. What roles do individuals, organisations, businesses, and government potentially have in leading development of the sector locally and beyond?

7. What can be achieved by the Queensland writing sector working more collaboratively to leverage current and future investments?

I realise not all of you will be based in Queensland, but the questions and issues the questions raise speak to broader writing sector issues and opportunities. If you replace Queensland with your location of choice, is there anything you’d like to share or recommend for each or any of the questions? Who knows? Maybe one day the word ‘Queensland’ will conjure up images not just of sun and surf but of an innovative writing and inclusive writing community.

ANOTHER GREAT MATE – CAPTAIN THUNDERBOLT

No wonder kids love the Mates Series published by Scholastic. These ‘Great Australian Yarns’ are hilarious.

Written for readers aged 8+ these junior novels have hilarious full colour illustrations and easy to read text designed to extend the readers vocabulary.

Captain Blunderbolt is the latest great Mate. Written by Carol Martin and Illustrated by Loren Morris. Captain Blunderbolt tells the story of a hapless bushranger who just can’t seem to get things right. In fact, the bushranger is just plain bad at his job. Alberta, Maudie and Tully think they know who he is but they are definitely on the wrong track.

When a trap is set for Captain Blunderbolt they are terrified he might fall into it, but Miss Chumley the school teacher saves the day.

Only the most astute readers will anticipate the hilarious twist at the end.

Captain Blunderbolt is another fun read in the Mates series.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger GamesTwo readers of this very blog introduced me to The Hunger Games, a trilogy by Suzanne Collins that’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where the US has collapsed and folded itself into 12 discreet districts overseen by a Big Brother-like Capitol. I need to thank those two readers. The first book of The Hunger Games, which I wrapped up very late last night, was fantastic.

Their recommendation came about when I was complaining that Richelle Mead’s Succubus series wasn’t up to her Vampire Academy series’ scratch. What the hell, I wanted to know, could I read to fill the Vampire Academy-shaped hole that had punctured my reading life?

I saw an ad for The Hunger Games’ film adaptation when I was suffering through the after-midnight previews before Breaking Dawn kicked off. How had I missed a series that was successful enough to warrant a silver screen version, I wondered. And when I asked a friend and fellow editor if she’d heard of or read the series her response was: ‘I have friends who literally won’t talk to me any more until I read The Hunger Games. It’s on my list.’

Uhuh, I thought. Guess I’d better get reading.

Collins’ young-adult series was inspired by—what else?—late-night TV channel surfing. She was flicking back and forth between a reality TV show where young people were competing for money and fame and footage of young people fighting a real-life war.

‘…I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story,’ Collins writes in the Getting To Know Suzanne Collins at the back of the book. It perhaps explains the dark and haunting themes of near-future The Hunger Games, which is both the name of the book and the gladiatorial battle to which its protagonists are subjected.

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark come from District 12, a poor mining town where most of its residents are living hand to mouth. Since her father’s death during an explosion in the mines, Katniss has hunted illegally in the nearby forest in order to help her family survive. When her 12-year-old sister, Prim, is drawn by lottery to be the town’s ‘tribute’ or effective sacrificial lamb to The Hunger Games, 16-year-old Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

It’s effectively a death sentence as, under The Hunger Games rules, competitors are placed in an arena and left to fight to the death until only one remains. With 23 others to contend with, including Peeta, the son of the District 12 baker and someone who gave her bread when she and her family were close to death from starvation, Katniss will be lucky to survive.

On a scale of one to Vampire Academy, The Hunger Games is probably an eight, but that’s huge kudos as that’s the closest any young-adult series has come to date. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to stomach the gruesome parts—logic, after all, dictates that the book has to catalogue 23 characters’ most likely harrowing, bloody deaths. But it was smarter than that, with the focus not on the deaths but on the battle of wits and survival.

Collins’ tale surprised me at every turn, with both her writing and her execution lending new life to an age-old tale of survival of the fittest, albeit one set in the future. It’s better written than Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and Katniss is everything you could ask for in a female protagonist—she’s smart, self-reliant, has spunk, and doesn’t pine for a physically and emotionally unavailable boy (well, not much).

In fact, I couldn’t help but note that if you put Bella in the arena, she’d kill herself tripping over or by giving herself a paper cut long before the other competitors got to her. I have to admit that I also chuckled at Meyer’s inadvertently amusing book blurb: ‘The Hunger Games is amazing’. Like her entire writing style, it’s not exactly the most sophisticated, mind-blowing, or insightful statement.

Still, Meyer has a point: The Hunger Games is amazing and gripping from the very first paragraph of the very first page. I was, thankfully, and in this one instance, forward-thinking enough to order all three books in one hit. Instead of scurrying online to order and then wait for the second book in the series, I’m immediately able to pluck it from my to-be-read pile and crack its spine. I’ll check back in once I’ve read it, which should be, oh, in about two days’ time…

Reviewing Rosie Black

In December last year, I read and reviewed Genesis, the first book in The Rosie Black Chronicles (see “The Rosie Black Chronicles”). I found it to be a good read, but lacking a certain spark. I concluded that I would happily read the second book, but that I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out. Well, thanks to the people at Walker Books, Equinox did happen to cross my desk, and since I was going to be interviewing the author (see “The marketing of Lara Morgan”) I read it straight away. And I’m very glad that I did.

In the first book, teenager Rosie Black is inadvertently drawn into a world of corporate espionage, trying to stop the powerful and corrupt Helios corporation. With the help of her pilot aunt, a feral teenager named Pip and a mysterious man name Riley, she destroys the Helios base on Mars, where innocent people were being experimented on. But Helios are not beaten yet. In Equinox they have other plans on the boil, and Rosie is drawn into things yet again. This time she has help from a mysterious boy named Dalton, as well as from Pip and Riley’s sister Cassie. As Helios closes in on Riley, he disappears, leaving Rosie and the others to fend for themselves. Together, they set off to close down the new Helios base.

I thoroughly enjoyed Equinox — much more than I did Genesis. The plot is more inventive, the characters more interesting and the villains more believable. More is revealed about the Helios organisation, and we discover that they have some pretty grand plans. We also discover that they are having some internal problems, with a looming power struggle. This makes Helios a lot more intriguing. A bunch of new characters are introduced in this novel, including the acerbic Cassie, the charming and mysterious Dalton, and the even more mysterious Sulawayo. They all add to the dynamic, making for some great character interaction.

Senate agent Sulawayo is not what she first appears to be. Her development and revelations had me intrigued and I’m hoping to see a lot more of her in the next book. Dalton is the new boy — rich, handsome, talented and hiding a secret. Rosie’s uncertain attraction to him is well handled, as are the eventual difficulties when Pip (the object of Rosie’s affections in Genesis) reappears. Cassie is Riley’s sister, and her abrasive personality makes for a great counterpoint to Rosie, while her unfailing loyalty and faith in her brother softens her a little. A very interesting group of characters!

Riley is not as prominent in this book, but his motivations are explored. The lengths to which he will go to bring down Helios are revealed, showing that some of his methods can be rather questionable. This adds a little darkness to his character, and makes him that much more interesting.

For me, the weak link in the story is Rosie herself. I don’t particularly like her, especially in the first half of the book where she is being whiney. She gets better as the story progresses and I hope that this will continue into the third book. I want to like her… but I’m not there yet. [Am I being too harsh? If anyone out there has read the book and would like to disagree, please leave a comment.]

Nevertheless, after reading Equinox I’m now very much looking forward to the next instalment. It’s definitely a book that I’ll be seeking out.

Don’t forget, we have a copy of Equinox to give away. So, if you would like A FREE COPY, you can enter HERE!

Catch ya later,  George

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Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

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Interview – Bookish Adventures with Alice-Miranda

Welcome Alice-Miranda, it’s so lovely to e-meet you!

I hear you are just seven and one-quarter years old yet you get up to some mighty adventures. Would you call yourself a brave kid?

Good morning Tania, it’s lovely to e-meet you too.  I’m very excited because I’m almost eight now – this year has just flown by.  No I don’t think I’m especially brave but I do love adventures.

What’s life like at Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies?

School is always very busy and I absolutely adore it.  My favourite class is definitely English with Miss Reedy – she’s as mad about books and reading as I am.

Our cook Mrs Smith makes the most delicious food – my favourite dinner is rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, carrots, zucchini and lashings of thick gravy and her chocolate brownies are scrumptious. I like them for afternoon tea with a lovely glass of ice cold milk.

I think we’re especially fortunate to have so many great teachers and people who work at the school.  Mr Charles has a wonderful garden and Mrs Howard is the sweetest housemistress and of course Miss Grimm and Mr Grump make it feel like one big family.

What was it like to have a book series written about you?

It’s a bit strange really but lots of fun.  My best grown up friend Jacqueline Harvey writes them.

You’ve already had some awesome adventures through four spectacular books. Which adventure has been your very favourite and why?

Mmm, that’s a very difficult question because every one of my adventures has been special.

You know that when I first came to school Miss Grimm hadn’t been out of her study for rather a long time and so it was lovely that we became such good friends in the end. On holidays we had so many mysteries to solve and I was very glad that Aunty Gee wasn’t hurt by those terrible kidnappers, who were actually after Mrs Oliver (but the two ladies look so alike that they took the wrong person).

It was wonderful to meet Lucas and so exciting that Aunt Charlotte and Mr Ridley became engaged. I had a lot of fun back at school when we did the play with Fayle School for Boys and I met Miss Hephzibah who I simply adore and then when we went to sea for Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Lawrence’s wedding it was fantastic to meet Neville and be able to help him on his very special mission.  I really don’t think I couldn’t choose

Can you give us the dirt on WDAPYL Headmistress, Miss Grimm?

Miss Grimm is one of the most wonderful people I know. When I first met her she was rather cross and seemed quite upset, but I discovered that she had a badly broken heart, and when I met Mr Grump on my wilderness walk and convinced him he should come back to school and see her it was wonderful – and then they got married and Miss Grimm hasn’t stopped smiling since.

She’s very elegant and she always looks beautiful and she’s just made a decision (which I can’t tell you about just yet) which has made the girls and staff happier than they have ever been.

Ooh – how exciting. Can’t wait to hear more. I’ve been wondering . . . did you get seasick during Alice-Miranda at Sea?

No, I seem to have good sea legs.  I hadn’t been on The Octavia before but I have been on some other large boats.  My Mummy’s poor cousin Lady Sarah got very sick and so did her two daughters, Poppy and Annie.

You’ve certainly overcome some challenges. How important is it for kids to remain positive and determined?

I think being positive is one of the most important things of all.  No matter what happens, if you can try to find something good in every situation, then life just seems so much better.

It’s the same with people. Nobody’s perfect but everyone has strengths and I like to believe that people have good hearts. Sometimes they might not behave quite as well as you’d hope but there’s usually a reason behind it. Rather than looking for a person’s bad points it’s much better all-around if you can focus on the positive.

Determination will help you get through all sorts of situations. I think my friend Jacinta is one of the most determined people I know. She trains so hard and wants to get to the Olympics for gymnastics. I’m sure that she’ll get there and I can’t wait to go and see her.

Would you say that Jacinta Headlington-Bear is your very best friend?

My two best friends at school are Millicent Jane McLoughlin-McTavish-McNoughton-McGill, but she prefers to be called Millie, and Jacinta Headlington-Bear.

Millie is lots of fun and she’s quite straight to the point. Jacinta is too actually, and can be a little blunter than Millie. Jacinta has a hard time with her mother and father because they’re not around for her very often. But it was lovely when her mother came to Aunt Charlotte’s wedding and I really think there was a great change for the better between the two of them.

What’s author Jacquie Harvey really like?

Jacqueline Harvey is very busy. I don’t have nearly as much time with her as I would like. She’s been teaching me a few writing tricks of my own though (I love writing too and I’m planning to write some books with her help – stay tuned for more exciting news about this soon).

Were you named after anyone in particular?

Mummy always liked the name Miranda and Daddy liked Alice so they tried them out together, Alice-Miranda.  They said that it just worked.

What your favourite ice cream flavour and why?

My favourite ice cream is vanilla bean with chocolate topping. It’s scrumptious!

Describe yourself in five words.

Talkative, happy, positive, determined and friendly.

Can you give a sneak peek at your next adventure? I have a feeling it might be somewhere very special indeed!

I’ve just had the most wonderful time in New York City. I went to school there too for a month at Mrs Kimmel’s School for Girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I made some good friends, Lucinda, Ava and Quincy and would you believe I ran into an old friend from Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale (but you’ll have to wait and see who that was).

Mummy and Daddy were in New York to oversee the grand re-opening of Highton’s on Fifth which is a beautiful department store. We stayed in our apartment at the very top of the building overlooking Central Park. Daddy and I did lots of exploring in the city – poor Mummy had a few problems at the store so she wasn’t able to come out as often as she would have liked.

One of my favourite places was The Metropolitan Museum of Art – the locals call it The Met and we had our art lessons there. It was also where I met someone very special – but I’m not telling who that was either. You’ll have to wait and read all about it in February next year.

I can’t wait! Your wonderful escapades have recently been published in the USA and also in Indonesia – congratulations! Will you head over on holiday to visit everyone and celebrate?

Next year I am hoping to do lots of travelling to meet my friends all over the place. I think we’ll start in Australia and then head to the United States and also to England where my first adventure will be published in March. I might try to skip over to Turkey where the first book is due out before the end of this year and who knows, perhaps Indonesia on the way home. Jacqueline Harvey is also very keen to take me on a trip to New Zealand too.

Happy travels, Alice-Miranda, and do come visit us again soon!

Learn more about the lovely Alice-Miranda at her very own blog, and don’t forget to check out what author Jaqueline Harvey has been up to, at her website.

 

King Brown Country gets crowned

While the ARIAs may have got most of the picture coverage (it’s hard to complete with Kylie’s shining smile and perfect bottom) last night was also a big night for non-fiction reading with Russell Skeldon’s King Brown Country being crowned the year’s best nonfiction book at the 56th Walkley Awards Gala Ceremony in Brisbane.

It’s said that everyone has a book in them and each year many Australian journalists put a pen to paper (or, realistically, fingers to the keyboard or iPad) in the attempt to get that book out and published. The Walkley Book Award recognises some truly exceptional Australian nonfiction literature and long-form journalism. After winnowing down the field three titles were shortlisted:

Skelton is a contributing editor to The Age and no stranger to winning awards for his journalism – he has received the prestigious Grant Hattam Quill award for investigative journalism and a United Nations Association Peace award for his reports on Aboriginal disadvantage. King Brown Country is the culmination of a five year’s work and a challenging read that presents Papunya, a Western Desert community known for its achievements in art in the 1970’s and 80’s, as a community in a severe crisis.

King Brown Country, with its unflinching coverage of the horrors of substance abuse in a neglected community, stirred up plenty of controversy and the Walkley’s three shortlisted titles were drawn from a long-list of titles that included some of this year’s most contentious Australian books; John Howard’s infamous “love him or hate him you need to read this” autobiography Lazarus Rising; Barrie Cassidy’s The Party Thieves; Karen Middleton’s harrowing An Unwinnable War on the Australian involvement in Afghanistan.

The books might not be anywhere near as frothy as the Singing Budgie’s dance floor fillers but there are plenty of options for people looking for a lighter read; Michael Gordon’s love song to surfing Bells: The Beach, the Surfers, the Contest; and Hamish McDonald’s fascinating analysis of the personal and professional feud between world’s two richest brothers, Mahabharata in Polyester.

A complete list of all categories and finalists is online at the Walkley Foundation Website and you can see all the long-listed books on the Boomerang Blog. If you’ve been struggling for a gift idea for the non-fiction fan in your life, one of these books might be the perfect thing for them. That, or a carol from Kylie on Christmas Day.

REVIEW: GRANTA 117: Horror by John Freeman

TITLE:  GRANTA 117: Horror
EDITOR: John Freeman
PUBLISHER:  Granta (12 Addison Ave.London, W11 4QR, U.K.) (21 November 2011)
ISBN: 9781905881369         256pages.

Reviewed by Ann Skea (ann@skea.com).

This is no collection of ghosts, ghouls and gruesome fantasies. Indeed, there is enough real horror in the world for imagination to be unnecessary. So, Granta’s ‘Horror’ covers Will Self’s thoughts on his own rare blood disease; Tom Bamforth’s field notes from a humanitarian mission in a lawless area of Sudan; Paul Auster’s reactions to the death of his mother; and Santiago Roncagliolo’s memories of returning to Peru as a worker for the Public Defenders Department and working with the Belgian human rights activist, Father Hubert Lanssiers, interviewing convicted, potentially violent, terrorists in an overcrowded, high-security prison. Mark Doty writes about eroticism, desire, insatiability, addiction and Bram Stoker and Walt Whitman; and Julia Otsuka examines the strange world of memory loss.

Fiction is not completely absent from this collection. Roberto Bolano’s ‘The Colonel’s Son’ (translated from the Spanish) traps you in the fertile mind of a man obsessed by a film story; Rajesh Parameswaran shape-shifts into a man-eating tiger; Dan DeLillo follows in the steps of a film-obsessed stalker; Sarah Hall creates a weird and frightening dog story; and Stephen King tells a ghost story with a sting in its tail.

Sometimes, however, fact is weirder than fiction, like the crypto-gothic fight club in Los Angles which is visited by Daniel Alarc Cave Woman fights The Hammer, Arctic fights The Mad Monk, and rivers of fake blood flow across the floor so that your shoes stick to it.

Poetry and art, too, explore death and disease. D.A.Powell’s poem ‘Quarantine’ suggests a black future in which the world becomes “one great gall'” and Kanitta Meechubot gathers life, love and death into her unusual images of ‘The Garden of Illuminated Existence’.

There are nightmares and terrors enough, here, to haunt the imagination and keep you awake at night. And, as usual, Granta has chosen the best people to tell you about them.

REVIEW: Free Range in the City by Annabel Langbein

I’m buggered if I know where November has gone to, but it’s just about over and I can feel the beginnings of a rising panic whenever my thoughts stray to Christmas.  It will have a bit of an extra frisson to it for me this year as my mother will be celebrating a ‘significant’ birthday on 22 December, necessitating extra frivolities and the influx of family from the far-flung regions of Queensland and New Zealand.  Nagging thoughts of Christmas menu planning and shopping are now knocking at the back door of my brain so this seems a great time to share one of the more recent cookbooks to pass across my desk.

When it comes to fresh, regional/local seasonal food, New Zealander Annabel Langbein has one of the most impressive pedigrees around.  She has a degree in Horticulture, is the self-published author of numerous cookbooks, has a successful cooking television show in New Zealand which focuses on the seasonal produce of her own vegetable garden and she also has a past history of hunting her own food – so, no flash in the pan here.  Her latest book, “Free Range in the City” aims to show the urban dweller that it is still not only possible, but immensely satisfying to offer simple, sustainable food from your kitchen.  There are over 200 recipes in this book, most gloriously photographed and all of them using fresh, accessible ingredients to turn out meals that any cook – however experienced – would be proud to offer either family or friends.

The recipes are indexed in several different ways to make the book as versatile as possible.  There is the alphabetic index at the back, the contents in the front are divided into events – coffee break, barbecues, dinner in minutes, party plates, etc – and further in the book all the recipes are listed again under the categories of “Impromptu”, “Make Ahead”, “Portable”, “Freezable”, “Vegetarian” & “Gluten Free”.  This is enormously practical depending upon your requirements at any given time.  Each dish comes with snippets of extra information, the book is dotted with shopping, cooking and serving tips and hints and – joy of joys – it always stays open on the page you are working from.

My recently-released domestic goddess cooked up several dishes from the book last week and was utterly thrilled to find that they all made up a very respectable amount of food and all worked out exactly as stated – not a situation that always occurs with new cookbooks, much to her chagrin.  The one I’ll share with you is Annabel’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I know, I’m just so very predictable, but I was quite pleased with the way my photo turned out for this one and just had to show it to you all.

Like her other recipes, this makes a big batch of cookies so I rolled half of the dough up into a log, wrapped it firmly in plastic wrap and foil and popped it it the freezer for later.  I used a combination of Lindt 50% and 70% because I’m fussy about my chocolate, but if all you have on hand are choc chips they’ll be fine.  A word of warning – don’t do what I did and leave the dough in the fridge overnight.  It sets like a rock and is then very difficult to work with for quite some time. Annabel’s recommendation for 15 minutes in the fridge to chill would be more than adequate.

Annabel Langbein’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

500 gms soft butter (NOT magarine)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup condensed milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 1/2 cups plain flour

4 tsp baking powder

500gm dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Instructions

Preheat oven to 160C (I used 170C) & line baking trays.

Beat butter & sugar until creamy.

Beat in condensed milk and vanilla.

Stir in flour, baking powder and chocolate until just blended.

Chill dough in fridge for 15 minutes until firm.

Roll into walnut sized balls and place on tray, leaving space between each.

Flatten firmly with your hand and then flatten again with a fork to make thin.

Bake 15 minutes, until golden.

Cool on trays.

Amanda McInerney
http://lambsearsandhoney.com/

REVIEW: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

TITLE:  The Sense of an Ending
AUTHOR: Julian Barnes
PUBLISHER: Random House (1 August 2011)
ISBN: 9780224094153    150 pages.

Reviewed by Ann Skea (ann@skea.com).

“some approximate memories, which time has deformed into certainties”, that’s how Barnes’s narrator, Tony Webster, describes this exploration of his past. He begins with schooldays, because, “that’s where it all began”. And in his memory he re-creates the friendships, the teenage ambitions and uncertainties, a youthful love affair, a marriage and an amicable divorce, all culminating in a comfortable, reasonably active retirement. It is an ordinary story of an ordinary man, until a lawyer’s letter arrives to disturb his complacency.

Barnes is very good at capturing what it is like to be a bright boy at school testing a growing awareness of the world in interactions with friends and school masters. Tony and his good friends, Colin and Alex, share this experience. The inclusion of Adrian, clever and more serious, in their group changes the dynamics subtly but the friendships last until university, careers and marriages draw them apart. It is Adrian, however, who marries Tony’s first serious girl-friend; and it is Adrian who commits suicide at the age of twenty-two, and who, years later, precipitates Tony’s self-examination.

For some reason, Barnes divides this book into two. The first part, which is lively and youthful, ends with Tony in retirement looking back on the memories of a survivor. For a paragraph or two in the second part, I expected a different narrator with a different perspective on the past. But, no, it is still Tony, although he sounds more subdued, older and more orientated to the present. In part two he is less sure of himself, reliant on the views and advice of his former wife, and more self-deceiving. He is still relying on memory to recount events but it is much more recent memory, disturbed by his obsession with obtaining Adrian’s diary, which has unexpectedly and bizarrely been left to him by Adrian’s mother-in-law. It is easy to lose patience with Tony in this second half, and the delaying tactics of the author are more obvious as we are led towards a revelation which will make us, the readers, re-assess our understanding of Tony’s story; just as it made him re-assess his memory of his own past.

“What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed”, Tony says at the start of this book. But can you be blamed for a chain of events which began with something you did witness – something you did and then forgot about?

“Towards the end of your life”, says Tony, “You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong?”. It is an interesting question but one which few of us have to face in quite the way Tony did.

Breaking Dawn and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Part 2)

KevinPart 2

Going from Breaking Dawn to We Need To Talk About Kevin (from here on in referred to as ‘Kevin’) was something I was a little worried about—the two don’t exactly go hand in hand.

Moreover, finishing with Kevin, a film that examines the maternal aftermath of a Columbine-style school massacre, was likely to put a bit of a dampener on the Breaking Dawn frivolity and fluff. After all, the controversial, award-winning book by Lionel Shriver, a woman whose name has her often confused for a man, had utterly destroyed me.

The book wrestles with myriad complex and taboo topics, not least whether killers are born or made and whether it’s a mother’s fault if her son turns out to be very, very bad. The narrative base is that accomplished business-woman and traveller Eva Khatchadourian never quite bonds with her son, Kevin. The book charts this difficult relationship.

It offers a subjective, guilt-ridden, hindsight-is-a-beautiful-thing analysis on the before and after: before, Kevin is a difficult child; after, he is a jailed killer of his fellow school students, whom he slayed in the school gymnasium. The tale is told through Khatchadourian’s diary-like letters to her husband, Kevin’s father, during which she says ‘We need to talk about Kevin’.

I still didn’t know what I thought about the book, which I read years ago, when I saw the film just last week. It was the kind of book that floored and haunted me simultaneously, with Shriver weaving a complex world not where one person is good and another evil, but one where there are shades of grey on top of shades of grey on top of shades of grey.

What I did know is that although she wouldn’t have come to mind as the person best cast as Khatchadourian, as soon as I heard Tilda Swinton was I was absolutely certain there was no one more perfect to play that role. And perfect she was.

Kevin was always going to be difficult to translate to screen because it’s wholly introspective, based on the protagonist’s penned letters about her thoughts and feelings. Swinton was simply magic as Khatchadourian, not overplaying it, but conveying loneliness, horror, and self- and socially-inflicted torture with such nuance I could watch her and her alone all day.

Unfortunately, while Swinton was flawless, the film as a whole struggled with the translation difficulties. The mentally tormenting coulda, would, shoulda of the book’s letters were hard to verbalise, in particular, as Khatchadourian spent much of the film on her own.

I entered the film armed by enough tissues to cater for me and three friends—one of whom who’d read the book and been similarly affected; two who knew not what they were about to encounter. It’s telling, then, that not one of us needed a tissue. Nor did we spend hours, post-movie, dissecting its angles (instead we talked non-stop about the aforementioned Breaking Dawn).

But I will say that the film was exquisitely shot. One friend replied ‘Uhoh’ when I told her that. ‘If you’re commenting on the cinematography,’ she said, ‘you weren’t really taken on the journey.’ No, I sadly wasn’t, but I did feel that I was watching beautiful, otherwise impressive art for the most part.

The recurring use of red, for instance, was well executed. As was the composition of the shots. The handwashing had hallmarks Lady Macbeth’s ‘out damn spot’. The moments that highlighted and compounded Khatchadourian’s isolation, such as the vandalism of her house and the smashing of her carton of eggs, were perfectly chosen.

The appearance of the bow and arrow set and father-son bonding as Kevin learnt to use it was made all the more eery and sinister by the seemingly fun sequence within which it was set. The lecherous co-worker who turns nasty when politely rebuffed as well as the moment Khatchadourian realises her son was not the victim but the perpetrator, courtesy of spotting some distinctive bike locks he’d used to barricade his victims in, were outstanding.

Unfortunately, those moments weren’t enough to convey the subtleties of the book and its issues—a kind of ‘the book’s better than the movie’ scenario. So, while I’d definitely recommend seeing Kevin, I’d recommend even more strongly reading the book.

Breaking Dawn and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Part 1)

Breaking DawnAs a big reader, it’s rare for me to catch two films in a year much less two in 24 hours. But that’s what I managed last Thursday, sacrificing sleep in order to see two films I’ve long, long been waiting to see: Breaking Dawn and We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Both were much-anticipated adaptations of bestselling books. Both were films I knew would be, for vastly different but no less complex reasons, difficult to translate to the silver screen.

I’ll tackle each in this two-part blog, starting with Breaking Dawn, which is part one of a two-part film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s final vampire-romance hit series. I’ll start tackling it by saying: OMG is was bad but gold.

Part 1

Fans of Meyer’s series will admit that Breaking Dawn the book bordered on—if not tipped over into—the ridiculous. Critics of it will say that the whole series did. Nevertheless, the pregnancy with the half-human, half-vampire baby, the uber-juvenile ‘Renesmee’ naming (seriously, that’s the kind of name you make up when you’re 12), and the imprinting took it to a whole new, previously inconceivable level. I think it was a case of an author becoming too successful and no editor being game to reign her in.

Nor was I sure how the film would handle what had been silly enough on paper, especially as its lead actors weren’t known for their strong performances. Oh, and I was desperate to see Bella’s wedding dress.

It’s become something of a tradition that I go to the midnight screening by myself and I loved that the cinema broke into spontaneous applause when the film started. And I laughed out loud when Jacob took his shirt off less than 20 seconds in. Seriously, that’s faster than even in the trailer we’ve all obsessively been watching for months and made the price of the ticket worth it there and then.

Even better, it continued to be good in its traditional, so-bad-it’s-good, laughing-at-itself way. The wedding was done well. Bella and Edward both looked hot. I didn’t hate the dress, although I’ll admit I didn’t like the front of it—‘frontally offensive’ was how my friend Carody later described it.

The honeymoon was romantic, even if it was slightly too long—truthfully, though, after three books/movies of no action and bucketloads of sexual tension, had they skimped on that there might well have been an in-cinema riot.

Bella looked suitably gaunt and anorexic during the pregnancy and the aspects of the baby breaking her from the inside out were cleverly and correctly underplayed. Even the imprinting part wasn’t too corny and, in fact, the naming part, which they cleverly took the p*ss out of, warranted a wry smile and a sigh of relief—they showed that they too know how stupid the name is.

Sure, there were some OTT moments. The CGI werewolves, which haven’t worked at the best of times, had a serious, heckle-raised showdown that was so lame all dramatic tension was rendered completely undone.

The dummy they used during the whole CPR scene was quite obviously a dummy. And Bella’s concave stomach was never going to pass for pregnant—I think every girl in the universe secretly despised Kirsten Stewart in that ‘oh look at how impossibly perfect my body is, but I’m going to pretend I’m pregnant’ scene.

Mostly, though, the film took us through the book with a nod and a wink. It even included a great scene and a joke after the final credits that editors or sticklers for spelling, punctuation, and grammar would enjoy. I can’t wait for Part 2.

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers

Talking cats, spoiled brats and a young girl starting at a new school are all the ingredients you need for a hilarious read. And that’s what kids aged 6 + will get with Sarah Horne’s charming book, Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers.

We’ve got Bring Your Pet to School Day on Thursday and I don’t have a pet! What am I going to do?

Of course, Molly could always ask to borrow Mimi. But taking a talking cat to school is sure to spell only one thing – T.R.O.U.B.LE.

Kids will love the characters in this book – Molly , the kind and sensible heroine, Mimi the mischievous talking cat and the mean spoiled Saffron Von Volavon who gets her just desserts, but who the heroine is still kind to in true heroine style.

Bring Your Pet to School Day is such a favourite with kids of all ages so you know they’re going to enjoy this one. The easy-to-read-text make Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers a great book for newly independent readers.

I loved the humorous text in this book and the black and white illustrations are hilarious. There’s also plenty of action and tension leading up to the Pet parade finale.

Parents and readers will like the way Molly is magnanimous in her victory and generously shares her rewards. Mimi, the harsh but fair talking cat keeps life interesting for both Molly and Saffron.

Sarah Horne’s charming illustrations bring the characters to life. This is Molly & Mimi’s second adventure and is a fun choice for young readers. Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers is written and illustrated by Sarah Horne and published by Scholastic.

Should Have Finished It In Three

InheritanceInheritance, the fourth book in Christopher Paolini’s trilogy (no, that’s not a typo—I realise trilogies should be three) has reportedly become the fastest-selling book of the year so far, with one selling every 5.5 seconds since its release (in the UK, but presumably around the world too). I have to admit that I’ve contributed to that selling success, having long pre-ordered my copy. Albeit, it should be noted, entirely begrudgingly.

Paolini came to fame as a child prodigy with Eragon, a book he penned while he was still in his teens. I considered it pretty much a classic hero’s-journey-slash-Lord-of-the-Rings cliché, but enjoyable enough that it kept me reading. Besides, Paolini had done what I hadn’t, which was to write a best-selling breakout book—I had to try to read between the lines to glean some pointers.

I read books two and three for the aforementioned reasons. Plus, when you read the first book of what you know is going to be a trilogy you know you’ve effectively signed up for all three. What I didn’t originally sign up for was a fourth book and I was, frankly, pretty damn grumpy when I got to the end of the third and Paolini shrugged (well, not literally) and told us he was extending it to a fourth. And that we’d have to wait years for him to write said book.

I wholly admit and own that I came to Inheritance with a little you-lied baggage. But is it just me, or was Inheritance 849 pages of time-dragging sideshow before we finally got to the one thing we were there for: the showdown between Eragon and Galbatorix, his archenemy?

Maybe I’m being harsh, and my enjoyment was hampered by having read the previous three books a long way back and retaining only a hazy memory, but I felt that Inheritance started slowly. The Varden were just fighting some random dudes from another random city that didn’t really matter, while rehashing things like how Roran was brave and lucky in battle. That and Paolini was making up ridiculously and unnecessarily long and unpronounce-able names for things. Like ‘Thardsvergundnzmal’, which appears on page 210 and which apparently means ‘a fake’. Urgghhh. I actually snorted in derision at that.

EragonI felt that none of the Inheritance scenarios or manners of overcoming them were as clever as they’d been in previous books, and I was willing Paolini and his characters to just get on with it. It wasn’t until page 286 that something happened, which was 285 pages too late for me; all I wanted to do was get to the end of page 849.

There were, of course, moments that I enjoyed. But they were far outweighed by the moments I didn’t. And that I wondered how Paolini or his editors thought they were good—or even feasible—ideas. Say, for example (and I’ve kept it vague but am still issuing a spoiler alert here), when:

  • a character spirits away a spoon as a weapon with too much ease
  • a seemingly indestructible character that’s killed even the most powerful of elves is brought down with something (and by someone) much less powerful (and mortally injured, to boot)
  • much is made of a character’s fingernails and then it never goes anywhere
  • a character isn’t quite as devastated as he should be when his dragon is killed
  • complex and interesting characters that Paolini’s spent three books hinting he’ll eventually explain never get explained. Angela the herbalist is one such character. He actually apologises for not unpacking her in his note at the end of the book
  • there’s no pay-off pash. No, really.

I realise this blog sounds like a grump-fest, and for that I’m sorry. But I feel as though Paolini subjected me to a fourth book and countless pages of not advancing the story and then cheated me out of the few good bits I wanted.

I wanted a page-turning, climactic finish to the trilogy. I wanted to be impressed by Paolini’s ability to weave and weft a compelling story. I wanted Elva to do something really incredible. I wanted to know about Angela. I wanted a mind-blowingly clever fight between Eragon and Galbatorix.

And I wanted Eragon to get the girl. This was not because I need every book to have a happily-ever-after ending, but because Paolini was steering us towards it at every turn. Then there wasn’t a romance, a wedding, or even a pay-off pash.

Was it just me, or did you spend the book thinking: ‘This wasn’t worth the wait. There’s nothing new in this book and, in fact, nothing that warranted stretching this story out. You could—and should—have finished it as a trilogy’?

Non-Stop News November: Part II

Gleebooks’s ebooks site.

Google has announced that it will power ebook offerings from national retail chains The Co-op Bookshop (which sells primarily academic and trade books on-campus) and QBD The Bookshop (a clearing house and discount specialist) soon (in addition to those of launch partners Dymocks and Booktopia, whose Google eBooks-fed sites went live three weeks ago).

Like Amazon, Google has an affiliate program whereby booksellers, publishers, web site operators and bloggers can sign up to take a commission on books sold when they refer their users to Google eBooks.

It sounds tempting to a blogger like me until you consider the fact that you’re sending your readers’ money offshore, rather than supporting a local business like Booku or your local bricks and mortar indie, an thus potentially encouraging the contraction of the market. One of the main reasons I still buy the odd printed book is to make sure my local indie, and its equivalents in various holiday destinations, stay in business.

Hopefully the indies are looking at options for offering a similar set-up to like-minded bloggers and publishers.

Speaking of indies, other adventurous bricks and mortar bookshops (in addition to those working with ReadCloud as mentioned in the previous post here) that will face the search engine results challenge from Google are those in partnership with another cloud-based ereading start-up, Melbourne’s Booki.sh.

Booki.sh, which is based on a web browser rather than downloadable file model, partnered with Victorian indie chain Readings to launch a pilot store in January this year. In November, they helped Sydney favourite Gleebooks, Tasmania’s Fullers, Queensland’s Mary Ryan’s (also in Byron Bay), Melbourne’s Books for Cooks and Brisbane’s community minded Avid Reader to enter the ebook market.

All of the indies battle existing giants The Book Depository and its new owner Amazon as well as Apple and Kobo (which powers Collins Booksellers’ ebook offerings here as well as the now Pearson-owned Borders/Angus & Robertson online store and the standalone Kobo online store).

Speaking of giants, Pearson is the parent company of Penguin Books, and speaking of a big month in the book industry, Canadian-founded Kobo was bought out (for $US315 million) a few weeks back by Japanese ecommerce company Rakuten in a move expected to encourage its growth.

On Kobo, did you know that like Dymocks, it has recently followed in Amazon’s footsteps and announced plans to publish books as well as being a seller of them?

Are you keeping up with the nation’s most recent book news? It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

I haven’t even gotten to the Federal Government’s Book Industry Strategy Group, which handed down its final report on November 9 (the same day as the ReadCloud/Pages & Pages event and the day after Google eBooks arrived in Australia), or the planned Australian Publishers Association/Bowker Titlepage-based ebook retail platform (the final piece in the ebook retail puzzle in this country).

My take on those in the next post, Part III, coming soon to uBookish. Read Part I here.

Non-Stop News November: Part I

Click on the image to see the Google advantage in action.
After more than two years of watching their local publishing colleagues get digital, tech giant international competitors eat into their market, and a handful of locals like Booku.com enter the fray, many of Australia’s top independent booksellers are finally, happily, in a position to provide their customers with ebooks … in time for Christmas, too.

It’s great news for the industry and for consumers. The more players there are in the market, the more seriously the publishers will have to be about meeting our demands, by which I mean providing us with the ebooks we want to read, at an appropriate price point, when we want to read them.

The more Australian retail players there are in the ebook market, the more virtual hand-selling of our own authors’ works there will be, and, one would hope as a result, the more Australian authors being published.

The opportunity that indie ebookstores bring to sell Australian – and in specific cases, hyper-local – books to a global market has to be a good for our literary scene too.

Serendipitous meetings with books we’re sure to love are just as much more likely in an online indie as a bricks and mortar in my view. See how long it takes you to find a book you’d like to buy when browsing in Apple’s iBookstore compared to Booku and you’ll see what I mean.

Speaking of multinationals, it intrigues me that while Google had been talking about launching its ebookstore in Australia for more than a year, it chose to go live the day before the first of several independent bricks and mortar Australian booksellers opened their own ebook arms last month.

The search engine behemoth announced the opening of its own ebookstore, and two others in which is partner (with Dymocks – which is separately soon to launch its own publishing arm, D Publishing – and Booktopia), on November 8, several days after the invitations for the November 9 opening of Mosman indie Pages & Pages’ launch (in partnership with Australian social reading tech start-up ReadCloud), had gone out. A coincidence? Perhaps.

Pages & Pages will be followed later this month (or not long after) by fellow ReadCloud partners including Better Read than Dead (of Newtown), Shearer’s (Leichhardt), Abbey’s (Sydney city) and indie chain Berkelouw. ReadCloud says it is working with some 200 bookstores.

Some will sell the previously mentioned Cumulus tablet.

All of them will face a great challenge from Google in that many of their customers will find them via a Google search. Will Google eBooks pop up in those same search results? A quick test suggests yes, it will, though not at the top of the page. Not yet, not on my terminal, anyway. That said, take a look at the image below and see where Google eBooks appears when you search for “eBooks Sydney”.

For more on Google’s plans in Australia and details of the latest Booki.sh-powered indie ebookstore launches, see Part II here.

The Smell Of Books – Mythbusters’s Edition

The “smell of books” is an evocative phrase and a contentious subject. Our ebooks’ (or should that be ubooks’) blog was even originally named for it with the first ever blog post taking on the idea directly. Fans of the paper book (or “dead tree”, as it is less kindly known) rhapsodise lyrical about the joy of the feel and distinct smell of older books, and during the week I came across a tumblr image giving what seemed to be a scientific endorsement of that love.

The image is that of a quote, apparently from a book called Perfume: The Guide, which reads:

“Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.”

A quick google revealed that the quote has really got around with over sixteen thousand results from bookshops and book-publishers and book bloggers and more.  It’s a wonderful quote; evoking instant nostalgia for browsing second hand book stores and dawdling in comfy chairs in the library. It sounds, simply, too delicious to actually be true.

Well, there’s the sad bit – it probably isn’t true. Old books don’t always smell of vanilla – as a quick sniff through the more elderly titles on my book shelf told me. Even with my beloved copy of the Never-Ending Story (30 years old, and done in three different shades of ink) I was getting more of a musty damp smell than the urge to lick the page.

I decided to look it up. The quote is indeed from a book called Perfume: The Guide but – according someone who works in the book business – it’s not particularly accurate, and they made their own image (complete with a NSFW word meaning male bull excretion stamped over it, so be warned if you click at work) to refute it.

“Old books don’t smell good. They’re also not made from lignin. They are made from cellulose. The lignin is the sugary glue that holds the cellulose together in the form of wood. When the paper is made, they cook the lignin out of the wood to get cellulose. The lignin is a waste product that’s usually burned in a boiler. It doesn’t make it into your book and doesn’t smell like vanilla. It smells like molasses. This whole thing was pulled from someone’s ass to make you feel good about old books.

Signed, someone in a paper factory.”

But now I had two opinions on the smell of books, neither of which seem particularly unbiased. I did a bit more digging and found a slightly longer and more scientific (and less sweary) explanation in an interview conducted by the Naked Scientist with the Head of Laboratory for Cultural Heritage at the University Library of Slovenia:

“An odour of a book is a complex mixture of odorous volatiles, emitted from different materials from which books are made.  Due to the different materials used to make books throughout history, there is no one characteristic odour of old books.  A professional perfumer has evaluated seventy odorous volatiles emitted from books and described their smells as dusty, musty, mouldy, paper-like or dry.

The pleasant aromatic smell is due to aromatic compounds emitted mainly from papers made from ground wood which are characterised by their yellowish-brown colour.  They emit vanilla-like, sweetly fragrant vanillin, aromatic anisol and benzaldehyde, with fruity almond-like odor.  On the other hand, terpene compounds, deriving from rosin, which is used to make paper more impermeable to inks, contribute to the camphorous, oily and woody smell of books.  A mushroom odour is caused by some other, intensely fragrant aliphatic alcohols.

A typical odour of ‘old book’ is thus determined mixture of fragrant volatiles and is not dominated by any single compound.  Not all books smell the same.”

So, is there a smell of books? Yes, but not just one and not always as pleasant a one as the phrase “smell of books” tries to conjure. Sometimes it’s a touch of vanilla, other times it’s a touch of damp wood. Does this mean I’ll be junking my collection of beloved older books for a smell-free electronic version? Definitely not. I just need to pull them out more often to air – it’s a great excuse to read them anyway. What’s the oldest book on your shelves, and what does it smell of for you?

The marketing of Lara Morgan

Equinox, Book Two in The Rosie Black Chronicles is out! And its author, Lara Morgan, is here for a chat about marketing and promotion. But before we get started, I need to tell you that you could WIN a copy of Equinox. Want the details? Click here!

And now, it is my great pleasure to welcome Lara Morgan to Literary Clutter

These days, authors are called upon to do more and more promotion for their books, which many authors find difficult. Do you like doing promotional activities or do you try to avoid them?

Like many authors I’m part hermit, so I can find promotional work quite taxing, but it’s a necessary part of the job so I make sure I make it part of my work for every book. Some I do enjoy, such as the Internet based activities like my blog or just using sites like GoodReads. This book tour for example can be quite fun because I can answer by typing and interact with people from my own home so it’s more relaxing, plus I get to blather on about me and stuff I like in questions like this. I worked at a newspaper for ten years so any kind of media interview is quite easy for me, especially radio.

What’s your favourite form of promotional activity? And your least favourite?

My favourite is the online stuff I just mentioned. Though I find public speaking exhausting, I quite enjoy doing panels at conventions or festivals because I’m with other writers and we talk off the cuff, so that can be fun and often the topics are really interesting and it’s a good place to meet people who love the same things. My least favourite is the solo presentations because there’s a lot of energy and planning that goes into it and there is some pressure to entertain people as well as sounding like you know what you’re talking about. I come off them drained.

Do you have much input into the overall marketing strategy for your books, or do you leave that to your publisher?

We discuss what could be done and I suggest things I could do, opportunities I might have heard of and they tell me what they think could happen. It’s a joint effort really and I always prefer to know what’s going on so we can make the most of any opportunity to promote the book. I’m limited because I live so far away from the action so we do as much as we can online.

Many YA authors market their books by doing school visits. Do you do school visits and if so, how do you approach them?

I’ve just started doing school visits so have only done a few so far, but when I do I like to be as prepared as I can. It depends what I’m going there to do as well. I’ve done planned 45minute talks and just quickly organised visits where I just did a short talk and then question and answer, but I think the most important thing is to know what age group your audience is and to have some personal stories you can share.

Do you think it’s more important for The Rosie Black Chronicles to be marketed as YA or as science fiction?

Definitely as YA. Even though it is set in the future, I see it more as a futuristic action fantasy than science fiction and I wouldn’t want people picking it up thinking it’s going to be something it’s not.

Reviews are, or course, an important part of marketing. It’s great when you get a positive review… Not so great when you get hit with a negative review. How do negative reviews affect you? Do you think they have much impact on the marketing of your books?

I try to avoid reading any reviews until after the book’s been out for quite a while because of course a bad review can be crushing and even though you might have had ten good ones to one bad, it’s the bad one that always gets under your skin.  If I do read a review where someone doesn’t like my work I have a friend I ring who I can rant and cry to who always makes me feel better, and family are very good at soothing the shattered ego as well. At the end of the day though, it’s one person’s opinion and I make an effort to remember that. It doesn’t make it easier, but it can be a reminder to our writer egos that what’s important is the creation of the work. After it’s out there, in some ways it doesn’t belong to us anymore and readers need to be able to respond honestly to their own reading of it.

I don’t think a bad review impacts the marketing of books as everyone knows you can’t please everybody and generally the worst thing you can do is respond to a bad review, so as for the marketing it’s a case of chin up and keep going with the plan.

Book trailers are the latest thing in book marketing. YouTube is full of them, both good and bad. Many authors and publishers have embraced them, while others shun them as a waste of time and money. What’s your view of book trailers?

I really like them. I made my own for a fantasy book I wrote previously and really enjoyed doing it, but I think as a marketing tool they are only effective for certain types of books. Young adult books are I think one of the types that can benefit from trailers because the people the books are marketed for spend a lot of time online and almost expect to see one. Science fiction and thrillers are two other genres that probably benefit from them, but I wouldn’t bother making one for a literary release.

You have a rather stylish trailer for Equinox, with a really great song. How much input did you have?

I wish I could say it was all me! But the extent of my input was to say, yes that is fabulous, and sign off on it. All the work was organised by Walker Books and done by very talented people who aren’t me.

What has been the most successful promotional activity that you’ve tried?

I think the blog tour I did for the first Rosie Black book, Genesis, was really effective in terms of the coverage it gained, hence the reason I’m doing it again!

George’s bit at the end

Many thanks to Lara for answering my questions. To find out which other blogs Lara has been visiting on her tour, check out the Rosie Black FaceBook page.

Catch ya later,  George

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Review – Me and My Dad by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Talented mother and son team Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina reunite in this beautiful picture book, about a young lad and his dad.

Dad is not afraid of sharp shells, crazy crabs or tumbling sandcastles, no no. Angry dogs don’t deter him. Neither giant waves. Slimy seaweed? Not a problem. But there is one thing he’s a bit afraid of… Lucky his young son is not.

This is a sweetly simple story about the friendship between father and son, doused with loads of sunshine and delicious humour. The pages are typically tropical or islander Australian, giving it a decidedly patriotic feel.

Illustrations by Matt Ottley showcasing beautiful beach and oceanic scenes are a true highlight, as are the faces on father and son as they romp warmly in the sunshine. Particularly loving the inset images and comic-strip style pages, combined with gorgeous full-page spreads.

This is a gorgeous book that would make a perfect gift for dad at Christmastime (or stashed away til Father’s Day).

Me and My Dad is published by Little Hare.

 

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

A Wiltija

Recently my 15 year-old son had a life changing experience. He spent 3 days with a group of 20 teens from his school doing voluntary work at a remote aboriginal community.

They built a Wiltija to provide shade for the elders. They built 5 park benches and did many other small tasks around the community.

They met wonderful people and experienced a way of life that most people never see.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is allowing us all to share the kind of things my son experienced through The Naked Boy and the Crocodile, Stories by children from remote Indigenous communities.

The stories are funny, fascinating and scary and each page is uniquely illustrated. There are thirteen stories about life and the things that happen.

This wonderful book is edited by Andy Griffiths who says,

In this book there are stories about the simple pleasures of playing with friends, riding motorbikes, picking berries and hunting for emu eggs and wild pigs sitting alongside tales of terrifying turkeys, angry mamus, farcical football matches and crocodiles with an unfortunate – but completely understandable – preference for eating naked people.

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is a project of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and aims to improve literacy in remote Indigenous communities around Australia.

When you buy this unique book you’ll be helping the Indigenous Literacy Foundation but you’ll also be experiencing something unique.

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile belongs in every Christmas stocking.


Snazzy book launch

Yesterday evening I attended an extremely snazzy book launch. And I wasn’t even invited! No, no… I didn’t gatecrash. No chance of that, as there were several burly security guards at the venue. My publisher, Paul Collins over at Ford Street Publishing, was invited… and he brought me along.

The book being launched was Janet De Neefe’s Bali: The Food of My Island Home. More than just a cookbook, it explores culture and ingredients, accompanied by an amazing array of spectacular photographs. I had a good look through the book, and it’s definitely the sort of book I’d be more than happy to own.

But I don’t own it yet. [hangs head in shame] You see, I committed a major book launch faux pas last night — I didn’t buy a copy of the book being launched. Not because I didn’t want to — rather it was simply because I was somewhat short of cashola. Pity, as it would have been nice to get Janet to sign a copy. But I will pick up a copy eventually and then maybe I could stalk her until I get that autograph. 😉

Janet De Neefe, by the way, is more than just an author. She also happens to be a restauranter, proprietor of a cooking school and the brains behind the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

Anyway… back to the launch. It was held at Rosati Restaurant in Melbourne. The highlight of the evening was definitely the food. An amazing array of Balinese inspired finger food, including an absolutely sublime mushroom risotto.

Another interesting aspect of this launch was the entertainment. Aside from the usual speeches that you get at these sorts of functions, we were also treated to some Balinese dancing, a band and some performance poetry. I felt very sophisticated, sipping my drink as I listened to the poetry.

There were lots of people there! More than at your average launch. Although there was at least one familiar face (a big ‘hello’ to fellow blogger Angela Meyer), I did not know anyone else. I’m not especially good in social circumstances where I don’t know people (it’s the hermit-writer syndrome), so the sea of unfamiliar faces was a little daunting at first. But, as I’ve mentioned, my publisher brought me along so I wasn’t left to fend for myself. I got to meet and chat with a bunch of interesting people (including the editor of Bookseller and Publisher). All up, a very enjoyable evening.

Of course, I forgot to bring my camera along… so I have no evidence to back up anything I’ve just said. You’ll have to just take my word for it.

It’s not often that a book launch like this comes along. Most of the time, launches are much more low-key affairs, usually held in bookshops or libraries, with some basic drinks and nibbles. Now, I’m not suggesting that elaborate launches are always necessary… but I will certainly remember Janet’s launch for a long time to come… and, as a result, her book is likely to stay in my memory until I have the opportunity to purchase a copy.

Catch ya later,  George

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Review – Tin Toys by Bruce Whatley

It’s nearly Christmas Eve at the toyshop and every toy is hopeful they will be snaffled for the festive stocking. All the shiny new toys are the most popular, of course . . . they come and go quickly, and never last long enough to make friends of the other toys.

At the very back of the toyshop, covered in a layer of dust, an old fashioned wind-up toy sits forgotten – its glory days long past. The older toys well remember Space Ride and its fabulous whirling glee – but alas, this vintage toy needs a key to get whirling, and that key is long gone.

The older toys try to get Space Ride working again. They try Annie’s pretty golden key. They try Chirpy Chick’s small silver key and Doris the Dial-Up Typewriter’s key – to no avail.

The new toys just don’t understand. They don’t need keys to light up their whiz bang special features! So, how can the older toys recover Space Ride and show the new toys just how fabulous a vintage toy can be? There’s one key left to try . . . can the toys recover it without scaring the pants off the elderly shop keeper?

The highlight of this book is the lustrous Pixar-style animation – so realistic, you can imagine it popping to life on a movie screen. From the endpapers to the divine characters and typefacing, this latest book by the masterful Bruce Whatley is a true delight in retro design. Co-written with Whatley’s son Ben, this is a simple, sweet story with a strong illustration focus.

Tin Toys is published by Random House.

REVIEW: Private Journal of a Passage to Australia by James Bell

TITLE:  Private Journal of A Voyage to Australia
AUTHOR: James Bell. (Introduction and Epilogue by Anthony Laube).
PUBLISHER: Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 978 1 74237 795 7         202 pages.

Buy it here…

Reviewed by Ann Skea (ann@skea.com).

In 1838, when 21-year-old James Bell set sail from England on the long voyage to Australia, he began to keep a journal. Somehow, at some time in the 150 years since then, that journal made its way back to England where it was found on a stall in a London street market, auctioned by Bonhams for A$22,000 to the State Library of South Australia, and returned to Adelaide. James Bell would have been amazed to know that what began for him as the fulfillment of a promise to a friend would end up being published, especially since he had stated plainly that “it must never be read by a third party”.

Tantalizing as that prohibition is, young James was a pious and rather Puritanical young man and there is nothing scandalous about his writing or his behaviour. Unfortunately, he could not say the same for his fellow passengers. “I am sure”, he writes, “no person of any principles of virtue could call himself quite comfortable while his eyes and ears were annoyed every day by people who have long since rendered themselves insensible to the admonitions of conscience, or…are gratifying their depraved senses by revelling in the ignominy of Vice”.  Even as his journey is nearing its end, he is still worrying that “as water wears away the flinty rock” so contact with these people would gradually undermine his own “principles of virtue”.

So, James goes into little detail about the vice he sees. Instead, he assiduously charts the ship’s progress (or, more often, lack of progress) from day to day, recording the weather, the discomfort, the homesickness, boredom and quarrels, a birth and a death, the brief spells ashore, and the captain’s incompetence. And his was not an uneventful voyage, especially as just a third of the way through it the crew mutinied and the passengers were obliged to take over the sailing and security of the ship until they arrived in “Rio Janeira”.

James was an interested observer in Rio, where he was “much struck” by the appearance of slaves and much bitten by mosquitoes; and in the early South African settlement of Algoa Bay, where he describes the few houses, the settlers (only 2,500 of them), and the native people. But he was not a born storyteller. His journal is sparse and factual and dotted with quotations from his favourite poems. Yet it does convey what it was like to be confined for months on a small ship with limited supplies, and in the company of strangers. His ‘home’ was a two metre square, ‘Intermediate’ class cabin below deck; the ship was becalmed, lost masts and sails in terrifying storms, and several times came close to disaster; and it was an era in which navigation and charts were unreliable and landfall uncertain. The good ship Planter was constantly and frustratingly overtaken by other ships, including one of the new iron steam ships which filled James with delight and envy at her speed. A day when he could write “we make 4 to 5 miles an hour” was a good day. It took 9 days of waiting for favourable weather before the ship could leave the Thames estuary behind at the start of this voyage and it was a seemingly interminable 169 days before James finally set foot in Adelaide on the South Australian coast.

Anthony Laub, an historian and a librarian at the State Library of South Australia, deciphered and transcribed James’s journal and has provided footnotes and an interesting introduction which describes the convict-free, land-development scheme which attracted migrants such as James to South Australia. He also provides an epilogue telling us briefly what became of James and some of his fellow passengers after they arrived in Adelaide. In spite of all that James observed of them, many seem to have become good and respected citizens.

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

The quick ebook fix vs library loans

How good are ebooks for instant gratification?

Want to read a book now, right now, rather than heading to a bricks and mortar bookshop or library, or waiting till Christmas on the off chance that someone will buy it for you? Download an ebook.

I loved libraries as a child, but in recent years have found my impatience to read the latest/newest/most popular book when I want to read it means they’re not much use to me.

When I heard that my local library service here in the ACT was offering ebooks, I saw the potential for dramatic savings.

I popped into the Kingston library and joined. With library card (and its magic numbers) in tow, I signed up online for Libraries ACT’s digital service.

The range is small. Few publishers have signed up – probably because they’re concerned that people will stop buying their ebooks if they can simply borrow them digitally instead.

The first book I tried to borrow, Anh Do’s The Happiest Refugee, was available for ebook loan. But there was a waiting list of 35 people ahead of me. I’ve wanted to read this book for quite some time – it’s won so many awards and I expect it will be an uplifting tale with plenty to remind us of how lucky we are – so I figured I’d wait.

Publishers could in theory make their books available to every potential library borrower instantly. They choose to impose digital rights management (DRM) restrictions on each title so that it can only be shared with a certain number of readers at any one time, and/or for a certain amount of time. The library runs this warning on its ebook pages: “Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period.”

Some three months later, in the middle of a massive deadline week for the magazine I work on AND for the class I teach at uni, I received an email to let me know it was my turn at last. If I logged on within five days, I could download The Happiest Refugee and read it on my iPhone or iPad instantly.

I read the email then went back to more urgent tasks. On Saturday morning, I remembered, hunted down the email, and clicked on the link that would take me to the book.

Noooooo! I’d taken longer than five days, and had the option of forgetting all about it, or moving back to the bottom of the waiting list. There are still a couple of dozen ahead of me, and I’ve decided to buy it from Booku instead so I can read it over the summer.

Another book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, had a shorter waiting list. My name reached the top after only a month-long wait. I downloaded it immediately to avoid any risk of missing out again, and was reading within a couple of minutes. Now I can’t stop.

If you haven’t read The Kite Runner, join the 20 million or so who have bought a copy to date and make some time to do so soon. Like the Happiest Refugee, it is moving and devastating yet inspirational. I can’t stop thinking about it. Vividly drawn scenes are replaying themselves in my mind constantly. I’m grappling with issues raised each time I put it down (well, put down the Sony Reader upon which I’m immersing myself in the experience). You can buy it instantly here for $10.18, and at that price, why wouldn’t you?

ERASMUS JAMES and the GRAT SIEGE

Erasmus James and the Grat Siege is the third book in DC Green’s hilarious and action packed series about a boy who has a lot going on inside his head.

Thanks to a galactic Zapp machine that his father invented, Erasmus James has the power to travel to the Zapp worlds existing inside his brain.  Here, he finds giant chooks (roccors) and all manner of weird and wonderful creatures – both friend and foe.

In this fast paced adventure, DC Green uses action to seamlessly introduce the unusual setting and make readers feel that the world they are stepping into is a bit different, but perfectly believable. For example on page 14,

A distant cloud swelled and boomed like 1000 crazy jungle drums. Or the sound of many hooves.

DC Greens unique humour will appeal to young readers

Beside him dozed Sanders, a chook so ancient she had left her purse on Noah’s Ark and I leaned back, my belly fuller than a millipede’s sock drawer.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book and I think that kids will too is the role reversals. There is nothing stereotypical in Erasmus James and the Grat Siege. Erasmus is totally switched on while Dad’s the one who is always vague and leaving things behind.

Once again, Erasmus is forced into battle with the evil Queen Dice.  The Kingdom of Uponia is under siege. King Whizman has gone AWOL and left a horse  (Marindi) in charge. Erasmus must use his courage and intelligence to combat an attack by giant warrior rats called Grats who have already taken over a substantial part of the universe.

Erasmus has a great sense of humour but his self-honesty is also endearing: How many more would die? Die, coz of a war I’D CAUSED? And you can’t help but love his hilarious but perceptive observations. I was less popular than poo at a pool party.

In a typical DC Green manouvre, there’s a tension filled war scene where Grats try to infiltrate the castle. And just when all seems lost, they are saved by Igby’s hairdryer/sonar gun invention.

The lighter moments in the book help build the tension and there’s a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter to keep readers turning the pages.

Once again, DC Green and Erasmus James add a new dimension to the universe.

Erasmus James and the Grat Siege is an unforgettable book of beasts, battles and bizarre bodily functions.

 

Cumulus adds colour to the ereader scene

The Cumulus at Pages & Pages.
Started your Christmas shopping yet?

I’ve been wishing my family all had ereaders so that I could give them Booku vouchers, or that I had enough cash stashed away to buy them a Kobo, Sony Reader, Kindle, iPad or the newest kid on the block, the Cumulus.

The Cumulus is a colour tablet based on Google’s Android mobile operating system. It’ll soon be available in a handful of bricks and mortar bookstores, mainly in Sydney. Some of our more cutting-edge outlets, like that of Australian Booksellers Association president Jon Page, Pages & Pages in Mosman, Sydney, have decided to encourage ebook reading rather than hoping the digital revolution will go away.

I had a play around with the Cumulus last week at its very own launch party at Pages & Pages (which coincided with the launch of that retailer’s own ebookstore, powered by Australian social reading start-up ReadCloud).

The Cumulus has some positive selling points: it’s cheap for a colour device at $199, it’s smaller and lighter than the iPad (and not that much heavier than e-ink devices like those from Kindle or Kobo), and given it runs on Android, offers access to plenty of unbookish apps and content as well as ereading. Users can download books from most ebookstores (including Booku.com) and read them on the device, which makes it much more versatile than a locked-in-to-Amazon Kindle. There’s even a camera, though not a very powerful one (1.3 megapixel).

The Cumulus measures 193mm x 115mm x 12.5mm and weighs 380g. The battery lasts for seven hours and takes three hours to fully charge.

But the 7″ capacitive touchscreen frustrated me. No doubt I’ve been spoilt by the super responsive screens Apple’s iGadgets sport.

A year or so ago I reviewed Telstra’s ridiculously named Telstra’s T Touch Tab, or was it Touch T Tab? Not a name that will be remembered as one of the greats.

Cumulus, now there’s a name suited to our cloud tech times.

Anyway, the Telstra tablet was awful. It was heavy, clunky, and featured a strange metal fold out stand and a touchscreen that required extra oomph in each swipe or tap. My mother received a free one with her home broadband bundle a few months later and never even took it out of the box. I read recently that they’ve discontinued the product and was not surprised.

The Cumulus’s screen reminds me a little of that of the T Tab. It was more reactive, but not as sensitive as those of my iPhone or iPad.

I’d always be prepared to pay more for a device with a responsive touchscreen, especially for reading where swiping to turn the page is a fairly regular occurrence.

So as it turns out, I won’t be buying a Cumulus, or a Kindle, for either of my parents this Christmas.

I am still keen to take a look at the Kobo Vox, which is $100 more expensive than the Cumulus but hopefully worth it, and to compare the new e-ink Kobo Touch and latest Sony Reader.

The Vox is due to hit the market here later this month, but the Sony Reader is available now. Sony have lent me one for a week to test. Stay tuned for my review.

A second chance for Janie (+ this book)

The book's original cover.

When did you last read a book you knew nothing about by an author you’d never heard of?

If you’re anything like me, recommendations, reviews and revisits to favourite authors past play a big role in your reading choices.

So when a colleague who reads a book a week told me back in April 2007 that she thought I’d really enjoy Growing Up Again by Catriona McCloud, I took it home and put it on the to-read bookshelf. I’ve moved house five times since, adding the very purple-covered book to a box, lugging it from one house to the next, and placing it back on the shelf each time.

It survived My Great Big Book Cull (last time we moved I vowed to buy only ebooks from then on and sorted my printed books into those I can’t live without – 20 cartons – and those I can bear to part with – 20 cartons).

Last week, I had to do a further cull to make room for all those self-improvement books I mentioned here recently, so I picked up Growing Up Again to toss it in an out-box, thinking that if I hadn’t read it yet, I probably never would.

I decided to have one last read of the blurb on the back cover. If my aforementioned colleague thought there was something in it for me, she must’ve had a reason.

“Janie Lawson’s life hasn’t turned out quite the way she’d hoped. Nearly forty, she’s in a marriage that’s frozen over with a mother-in-law she despises …”

Ah ha! That was the problem first time around. In 2007, I was years from 40, co-habiting but not yet engaged, and thought I’d end up being great friends with my future mother-in-law. I’ve grown into this book.
I read on.

“Before Janie can make the final step toward divorce, though, her fate is taken out of her hands. Janie wakes up in her old bedroom and finds it just as it was in her teens …”

Swept back in time, and into her 15-year-old body, Janie sets out to right some of the serious wrongs of the 1980s – starting with saving Lady Diana Spencer from the clutches of the Camilla Parker Bowles-loving Prince of Wales. She tries to prevent the Tiananmen massacre and warn authorities about serial killers, nuclear disasters and terrorist attacks.

It was the Lady Diana reference that made me open the book and start reading rather than sending the book to the departure lounge. I remember the engagement of Charles and Diana vividly. I was one romantic little girl. If I’d known then what we know now, I would’ve been devastated for Diana, and tried to save her from heartache too.
Janie is a sweet character, and the maturity and charm with which she steers her parents and friends towards better lives is fairy godmother-like.

The cover (whether the original as pictured on this page or current as seen here) leads you to believe you’re picking up a work of chick lit, but there is no time travel in Bridget Jones. I daren’t compare Growing Up Again to The Time Traveller’s Wife because I made the mistake of seeing the film before I read the book. The film was so awful, I’m not sure I can be bothered to read the book now.

If you’re looking for a light summer read for the beach bag, you could do worse than McCloud’s book. It’ll demand your attention from start to finish, and make you giggle as well as frown at times. It addresses some serious issues, from gambling and alcoholism to Down Syndrome and dyslexia, amid the froth and frivolity.

I’m glad I gave it a second chance, and am now pondering what I’d do differently if I had my time again.

Read more books? Definitely!

Growing Up Again is on sale here at Booku.com for less than $9.

Rosie Black is back!

In December 2010 I reviewed Genesis, the first book in the Lara Morgan’s YA, dystopian, science fiction, adventure series, The Rosie Black Chronicles. (Check out the review.) Well, Rosie Black is back! The second book, Equinox, is out this month.

Lara Morgan is off on a blog tour to promote the new release, and she’ll be here at Literary Clutter on Thursday 24 November to answer my questions about promotion. To find out about her other stops on the tour, keep an eye on Lara’s own blog and the Rosie Black FaceBook page.

I’ve just finished reading Equinox. It’s an exciting read and I enjoyed it more than Genesis. I’m looking forward to reviewing it… which I will do here on Literary Clutter, right after my interview with Lara. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, today’s post is here to whet your appetite. Let’s start with the book trailer for Genesis

It’s a stylish trailer with great music. But the new trailer is even better…

And now, to really get you all interested, here is the exciting beginning of Equinox

Rosie took a steadying breath, licked her finger and touched it to her eye. The identification distorter lens stuck to her skin and she lifted it off her iris. First one, then the other. She stuck them in her mouth and swallowed them. Gross. She gagged and leaned on the sink. They always tasted foul, like rotten fish scales.

“That’s three minutes,” Riley’s voice came through the receptor in her ear.

“Put the new ones in and get out of there.”

Rosie didn’t bother replying. He couldn’t hear her anyway; they never used reverse coms for a job because the signal could be tracked. Helios thought Riley was dead, and he wanted to keep it that way.

Rosie rubbed her eyes. The disintegrating lens made her nauseous, no doubt affected by the message capsule she’d swallowed earlier. She ignored it as best she could, her hand only a little shaky as she carefully slipped the replacement lenses on. Now any ident readers would clock her as Bridget Faraday, a scientist’s daughter. The lenses had a microscopic camera in them as well, so when she looked in the mirror Riley could see her. She blinked, speaking slowly so he could read her lips.

“Are they working?”

“Vision’s clear,” he said. “Get out of there.”

She tossed the Central dress she’d been wearing in the rubbish disintegrator, ran the decolouriser over her hair to strip out the blond, and chucked that in as well. She ripped her clothes out of her bag and re-dressed in her own pants, black singlet and white over shirt. She gave herself a final once over in the mirror.

“Rosie, get going.” Riley’s tone was sharp.

She resisted the urge to mouth something else at him and turned to the corner above the bathroom door and pointed the jammer at the invisible surveillance hub. The jammer flashed once, giving her ten seconds before the shuttle station cameras kicked in again. Rosie slipped the device in her pocket and headed out.

Interested? Want your own copy? Well, the wonderful people at Walker Books have provided us with a giveaway copy. For your chance of winning it, make sure you come back and read the interview with Lara Morgan on Thursday 24 November. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter.

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

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Review – Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

When I first lifted this groaningly weighty tome, I cringed. Yes, the cover was mesmerising, as was the title – but my goodness me – did I really have three weeks to wade through this brick? No, I did not.

Just as I put the book to one side, I noticed the oddly-shaded page ends. Curiously, I opened the book right to a central page, and there I was – my feet swept away from underneath me and tumbling forward through the page, expedited into another time and place.

It was instant. I was struck.

Wonder Struck, by bestselling Caldecott-winning author Brian Selznick (of The Invention of Hugo Cabret fame) is quite an extraordinary book. Comprising arguably 70 or even 80 per cent illustrations, this graphic novel come picture book come fiction novel is a feat in creativity. Striking pencil-sketched images and text tell a parallel journey between a half-deaf boy of the 1970s (Ben) and a deaf girl from the 1920s (Rose).

Ben has just lost his mother, and is pining for the father he never knew. He is living with his aunt when one dark and stormy night, he returns to his mother’s house to find a book with a curious inscription inside. He also discovers a book mark that quite possibility holds the key to finding his father. When he phones the number on the book mark, a lightning rod strikes the house, rendering the boy unconscious – and profoundly deaf.

Waking up in hospital, Ben soon plans an escape to New York, where he’s determined to pursue the search for his father – and where he uncovers extraordinary family links at the American Museum of Natural History.

Rose is the daughter of a famed movie star. Her profound deafness means she is relatively house-bound, and hardly ever sees her mother. She, too, escapes her miserable life and ends up in New York where a man named Walter takes her under his wing. But who is Walter? And moreover – what ties Rose and Ben together? And how can a fifty year separation bring them together?

This beautiful tale, told in two parts – the text talks of Ben, the images talk of Rose – is a delicately-penned story with an emotional ferocity that stuns. The blending of carefully plotted threads, images and divine historical and faunal referencing is a joy. Adults will swim in the heady detail and emotional swirl, children will be wide-eyed at the imagery and mind-challenging twists.

Enriching, clever, astonishing, and possessing the power to wrap you up snugly until the last page is turned, this film-like book renders the iPad useless.

A must-read.

Wonder Struck is published by Scholastic Press.

 

STAY WITH ME – by Paul Griffin

Stay with me by Paul Griffin is one of those books that ‘stays with you’, long after you’ve turned the final page. There’s so much to think about. It’s a story of first love, but so much more.

Paul Griffin brings together an unlikely and lovable trio: a gifted student, a high school dropout with a talent for training dogs, and a pitbull dog named Boo.

15 year-old Mack is the new delivery guy at the place where Céce works. Anthony, Céce’s older brother has signed up for the army and encourages a relationship between the two teens, knowing that his sister will need someone while he’s gone.

Pretty soon Mack and Céce’s lives are permanently intertwined and it seems that nothing will be able to tear their love apart. But then something happens to rock their world and things can never be the same again.

Stay with me is about two teens discovering their real gifts and who they really are, and that some things can’t be changed no matter how much you want them to be.

Paul Griffin’s storytelling skills are gripping. He is a master of tension. Just when you think things will be okay for the main characters, he introduces something you think they can never recover from.

There are some pretty dark issues covered in this book yet it’s still full of hope and optimistic characters who temper the intensity of the darker moments.

Paul Griffin’s damaged teens are so realistically depicted that it was no surprise to me to discover that the author also works as a teacher, mostly with at-risk kids in high schools and juvenile detention centres.

There’s a great blend of characters in this book, and each one has been seamlessly developed so that they seem like real people and you feel and believe exactly what they’re going through.

Humour and humanity help build the tension as the stakes for both main characters just seem to get higher as the book moves on.

Stay with me is told from the POV of both main characters, Mack and Céce and this provides an intimate perspective for the reader. It also provides a realistic insight into the way teen boys and girls think so differently.

Beautiful use of language and  great characterisation draw you into the worlds of Mack and Céce.

The door opens, and this guy comes in, kind of tall, clean cut, definitely nice-looking, but there’s something wrong with him. He strikes me as both wounded and perhaps a little dangerous.

Stay with me is a gripping read for young adults, but I can see it also being enjoyed by much older readers.

Stay with me is published by The Text Publishing Company.

 

 

Writing Without Reading?

Wanting to write without wanting to read is like wanting to ____ without wanting to ____.

That’s the premise this Salon.com article put forward in discussing the rise of wannabe writers who aren’t avid readers. I know, right? How could you have any desire to write if you don’t like reading? And doesn’t that mean you wouldn’t want to read your own work?

The article’s author very validly points out that, unlike writing, which is practically the equivalent of simultaneously opening a vein and banging your head against a brick wall, reading is largely effortless, calming, inspiring and, frankly, fun:

Reading, on the other hand, is not a struggle. It is an utter pleasure. And it is in this pleasure where I first took up the challenge of writing, in trying to emulate the wordsmiths whose stories possessed me so completely that the rest of the world would fade away so long as I kept turning the pages and allowed their words to fuel my imagination.

I mean, what inspired them to write if not an incredible writer whose work they’d read? And who’d want the pain of writing without the pay-off fun of reading?

I’ve always, unequivocally, wanted to be a writer. I just said vet in the early days because I didn’t know that someone could be paid to do something so incredible and as—occasionally, when the muse is playing fair—fun as putting words on a page. But that writing career was inspired by a love of words and letters and ideas introduced to me through reading. How else, I really want to know, could you get there?

Steve Himmer, quoted in this Salon.com article takes it one step more profound:

…I can’t help but remember that reading—both the careful selection of books and being given enough privacy to quietly read them myself—was among the first freedoms I had.

The article’s author continues the deep-thinking philosophical bent: ‘Humanity,’ he says, ‘is losing its ability to be alone with nothing but our thoughts.’

Hmmm, puzzling thoughts for a Tuesday, and ones that both perplex and frustrate me. What do you reckon? Can you be a writer without being a reader? Why would you want to be? And do you have any suggestions for filling in the above blanks—I haven’t yet come up with anything particularly clever.

Passive-Aggressive Notes

I Lick My CheeseIf my memory serves me correctly, I’ve blogged previously about awesome post-it note messages flatmates have left for each other over time—many of which have been passive-aggressive.

Recognising their gold, designer Oonagh O’Hagan compiled them into a cute-as-a-button book entitled I Lick My Cheese, which is a reference to one flatmate’s note to another to try to put them off stealing and eating their store of cheddar (or the like).

Stumbling across a notes version of this concept in the form of www.passiveaggressivenotes.com took me back to my own flat-sharing days, particularly as the first entry I saw was this, the Toilet Paper Manifesto.

Without getting graphic, I recall a specific share house where a certain flatmate never, ever, ever contributed to the household expenses or chores. I arrived home late from work one night to be met in the hallway by two of my other flatemates with a roll of toilet paper. ‘We’re conducting a social experiment,’ they said, ‘to see how long it takes [insert name of dodgy flatmate here] to buy toilet paper.’

The long and short of the story is that we had to take our own assigned rolls of toilet paper into the bathroom with us, which was a royal pain in the wazoo and that saw me caught out more than a few times. And instead of solving the mystery, it deepened it, because said dodgy flatmate took some three weeks to eventually crack and we still don’t know what he did in the interim. Shudder.

There’s lots of other gold within this website’s virtual pages, including:

  • people using notes to quibble about whether a toaster is, in fact, working
  • shushing a neighbour who has an annoying, early morning habit of incessant clapping
  • a guy being shamed for peeing out the window
  • threatening to disable walking-stick thieves with, er, walking sticks
  • an ‘individual’ obsessed with drawing phalluses
  • comments for the wait staff who congratulated a customer on their, er, pregnancy
  • and a hole sequence of ‘this is not a door’ images.

But those warrant discovering all on their own. Happy reading.

Mid-month round-up – the larger than life edition

This month I have mainly been reading the biographies of people who have become legends in their own lifetime, through talent, accident or sheer bloody-minded willpower.

Larger than life Shatner Rules by William Shatner

William Shatner is not a man for false – or indeed any – modesty. In fact, William Shatner isn’t a man at all but is, in many ways, the biggest character Bill has ever played. This is not a biography of Bill but the story of how he became William Shatner, a character larger than life and twenty times as confident.

Shatner Rules is his guide to becoming William Shatner, or at least taking on enough of the lessons he has learned to become usefully Shatneresque when you’re in need of a bit of a boost. It’s filled with comedy and glorious hyperbole; its blurb states it will give you “a look at the man, the myth, and the magic that is William Shatner”. It could have been tedious but Shatner carries it off with enough self-depreciation to stay engaging and enjoys poking fun at his over-the-top image (along with his former co-stars, Facebook and most of Canada). The book isn’t a biography but a guide, filled with lessons learned and “rules” to apply to pick up a touch of Shatner’s positivity and magnetism.

It certainly worked in my case. I bought the book as I was heading in for day surgery and needed something entertaining enough to distract from the pain but light enough to be readable when I was off my head on leftover anesthetic. Shatner Rules did the job perfectly and had the bonus effect of making friends with every single person I met that day in the hospital as they all stopped to ask if it was good. Doctors, nurses, co-patients and some bloke on the train – it appears that interest in Shatner is the great uniter.

Look, I’m not saying you could definitely use this book to make friends and attract people while feeling less than stellar but who couldn’t do with a touch of the Shatneresque occasionally?

And twice as loud Life by Keith Richards

The blurb has a scrawl from Keith, written in red: “This is the life. Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten anything.”

It might seem like an unbelievable boast from a man renowned for embodying all the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle. Denis Leary once quipped, “Keith Richards says that kids should not do drugs. Keith, we can’t do any more drugs because you already did them all, alright? There’s none left! We have to wait ’til you die and smoke your ashes!”

And while Keith’s biography backs up that point, with plenty of hair-raising drug busts and close shaves, his memory is as clear and complex as one of his solos. It’s not a love of drugs and hazy excess that comes through – it’s the love of music and the freedom to play it as he chooses. Keith chronicles his love affair with music in all the forms it took; from listening obsessively to the radio as a teenager to slumming it in a squat with struggling start-up band to the Stones and his solo work. Keith’s diaries and letters occasionally do the leg-work in remembering, as do numerous asides from partners in crime over the years, but it’s mainly Keith’s unique voice taking you though his life as he experienced it. And what a life it is.

A legend in the making –  The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

‘I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.’

This one is a bit of a cheat but Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of The Wind is, while not an actual biography, a fictional take on writing up the biography of a legend, according to the author, Patrick Rothfuss.

“In some ways it’s the simplest story possible: it’s the story of a man’s life. It’s the myth of the Hero seen from backstage. It’s about the exploration and revelation of a world, but it’s also about Kvothe’s desire to uncover the truth hidden underneath the stories in his world. The story is a lot of things, I guess. As you can tell, I’m not very good at describing it. I always tell people, “If I could sum it up in 50 words, I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole novel about it.””

I’m glad he did, and even better that he plans a series of novels as Rothfuss is an excellent story-teller. The Name of The Wind is the first book in a trilogy, the Kingkiller Chronicles, and an excellent coming of age story in the fantasy writers such as Robin Hobb.

Succubus Snickers

Succubus DreamsI blame the recent, brain-addling flu I had for my purchase of Succubus Dreams. That and the dearth of simple-carbohydrate books I could devour with Twilight, Harry Potter, Sookie Stackhouse, and Vampire Academy having come to an end with no films/series in reasonable sight.

And really, who isn’t fascinated by the word ‘succubus’, which is both sharp and soft in pronunciation and simultaneously predatory and sexy in meaning?

Even if my brain was fried when I ordered it, it wasn’t by the time I read Succubus Dreams. And by goodness this book is bad. I’m not very good at determining what predates what, but I’m pretty sure that Richelle Mead’s succubus series predates her Vampire Academy one.

I ordered this book because I figured that even some of Mead’s earlier works were guaranteed to be better than not having any of her works to read at all. I know, I know, but my Vampire Academy withdrawals are just. so. bad.

Not having done my research, I unwittingly lobbed myself into the middle of this series, which features Georgina Kincaid, a succubus owned by hell whose main task for all eternity is to sleep with men and suck out their souls/power by doing so. Cue eye-rolling snickers now.

Of course, she can’t sleep with her human boyfriend because she doesn’t want to ruin him or shorten his life. Cue more eye rolling and contemptuous snickers.

The book’s actually as bad as it sounds, with the level of ridiculousness amped to the max. It opens with Georgina sleeping with a guy, and basically has her sleeping with guys left, right, and centre. I’m not a prude, but (and I know writing that just about immediately contradicts the fact—sort of like saying ‘I’m not a racist, but…’ does) I was kind of surprised at just how much sex or how many sexual references this book offhandedly contained. That in itself is not a bad thing, but without a really strong storyline to link it together, it’s just a bound book that contains a lot of sex scenes.

Truthfully, when I wasn’t worrying about people seeing and judging me by the book’s cover on public transport, reading Succubus Dreams made me feel like I was catching a glimpse of Mead’s writing future. The strong, sassy female lead and the witty one-liners were beginning to take shape, and there were moments when I thought Georgina was Vampire Academy’s lead character Rose by another, unpolished, not-yet-fully-formed name.

That’s completely understandable and actually kind of a relief­—it’s nice to know that Mead’s writing genius has taken some honing and that she doesn’t get her storylines and skill via a direct line to muse-laden heaven. And I will admit that although I hated Succubus Dreams, I didn’t hate it enough not to finish it and I even fairly avidly read the teaser chapter of the next instalment of the series.

That said, I can’t quite bring myself to recommend it, unless you’re either as desperate in your Vampire Academy withdrawals as I am or up for some serious scoffing. Me? I haven’t yet ordered the other succubus books, but no matter how bad they are, I’ll never say that I never will.

Review – The Little Refugee by Anh & Suzanne Do

Anh Do – Vietnamese refugee, comedian, Australian, and all round lovely guy has a powerful tale to tell. His best-selling autobiography – The Happiest Refugee – has won numerous awards, including Best Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2011 Indie Awards, and tells the tale of his original voyage to Australia aboard a crowded fishing boat – the quintessential horror journey for any refugee.

In this beautiful picture book, an abridged retelling of this fateful oceanic journey, Anh and his wife Suzanne tell of a voyage of courage and hope. After fighting for Australia and America in the Vietnam War, Anh’s dad needs to take his family to safety. There is no other way. They must leave everything behind and board the boat.

Anh was just a wee lad when he left his war-torn home – along with his mother, father and baby brother – in search of a better life. A group of 40 men, women and children crammed into that small fishing boat and set sail, though searing heat and wild storms. The boat was even robbed by pirates, Anh’s baby brother Khoa dangled dangerously over the side of the boat, ready to be tossed asunder.

The pain and fear his parents would have experienced – I can’t even imagine, yet, the family held hope. Indeed, even when the boat was rescued and Anh began a new life in Australia (which beset a whole other set of challenges) his mother oft repeated that their fortunes would one day turn around. And indeed, through perseverance and faith, they did.

This is a beautiful, touching and insightful book. Watercolour illustrations by the masterful Whatley have a Japanese-style feel in their construction, and perfectly wrap this remarkable story – one experienced by so many around the world – in visual splendour.

Most generously, 100% of the profit from The Little Refugee will be donated to the Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program, run by the dedicated Sister Trish Franklin.

The Little Refugee is published by Allen & Unwin. Visit Anh Do’s website to learn more about his inspirational life journey.


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (or me Coughing and Sniffling)

Wild Snail EatingYou know you’re sick when you can’t even summon the concentration, energy, or book-holding muscles to read. That’s how I’ve found myself these recent weeks, having made it through winter with not so much as a sniffle only to be mowed down by a heavyweight-hitting November flu, which flattened me so comprehensively I begged my parents to make and bring me over the other thing I could swallow: mashed food.

You’d think that this unexpected but enforced downtime (even from writing for this here blog) would mean maximum time for reading, but sadly not. Instead, there’s been a lot of time lost to the unproductive illness-and-foetal-position ether.

I have to say that there’s something particularly galling about not even being able to walk to the bathroom without thinking you’re so fatigued you just might die but that then, after crawling back into bed, neither being able to sleep nor pass the healing time by reading. In fact, I think I’ve discovered what my definition of hell is and hope never to experience it again.

Coincidentally, I listened to a podcast of Radio National’s The Book Show (and even struggled to do that) where they interviewed author Elisabeth Tova Bailey about her book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. I haven’t read the book yet, but I recognised well the premise of Bailey’s (or is it ‘Tova Bailey’s’?) experience that in turn led her to write the book.

Basically, an immune-depleting illness meant that she spent a very, very long time confined to bed, unable to read, write, or essentially do anything. Much longer than my week or two and I, frankly, don’t know how she didn’t lose her mind. It was during this confinement that she started to observe a common woodland snail (neohelix albolabris). It became a kind meditative lesson in observation and life and, of course, a way to prevent her from going completely batty.

I’m not good at drawn-out contemplation and have long acknowledged that I’m a plot-driven reader and need to be taken somewhere in order to stay engaged, so it’s highly likely that a book observing a tiny snail on a nightstand might just break me. Especially as that sense of frustration of being too sick to function but unable to truly rest is still too fresh.

But I can appreciate the cleverness of the idea, and its execution is, if the resoundingly positive reviews are anything to go by, incredibly well done. You can watch a small YouTube trailer and listen to the sound of a wild snail eating here.

Darth Paper Strikes Back

Origami + Star Wars = a fun series of kids’ books. Intrigued? Read on…

Last year I came across a rather oddly titled book — The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger. The title alone was enough to spark my interest, but the blog posts I read about it convinced me that I should buy myself a copy. (Check out my post “Following the blog posts to Origami Yoda”.) I’m so glad I did. It is a charmingly original and highly entertaining read.

It’s a children’s novel about a group of middle school kids and an origami Yoda puppet. One particularly weird kid named Dwight, brings the origami Yoda to school and starts dispensing advice. Miraculously, his advice turns out to be very helpful and so the kids begin to wonder if this finger puppet really is imbued with the power of the Force.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was a runaway success. So now we have the second instalment, Darth Paper Strikes Back.

But now Origami Yoda has to contend with the power of the dark side — in the form of Darth Paper, a new origami puppet on the finger of a rival kid named Harvey. Darth (and Harvey) manipulate a situation to ensure that Dwight is suspended from school and threatened with the possibility of being sent to a school for difficult students. So now, it’s up to Dwight’s friends to build a case to present to the school board in the hopes of saving Dwight and his origami Yoda.

As you would expect, both books are chock full of Star Wars references — some obvious, others more obscure. Even the school names, such as McQuarrie Middle School, are references. But these references never overshadow the storytelling and are very much in context.

I loved the first book, and my biggest fear was that the sequel would simply be a cash-in. I am relieved to say that it is not. Darth Paper Strikes Back recaptures the charm and interest of the first. The main characters are likeable and each gets his/her time in the spotlight.

This book is also interesting for it depiction of the American public school system and its bureaucracy. It is not at all complimentary. In fact, it is this bureaucracy that is the real villain in the story.

Without actually giving away the ending, I need to mention that I love the way things are resolved. There is no neat contrived solution in which the evil Empire of bureaucracy is defeated. Yes, things work out for the main characters, and yes, Dwight gets a happy ending… but it is brought about through a decision to no longer engage with the enemy. It is a very satisfying ending.

I’m now hoping there will be a third book.

You definitely need at least a passing familiarity with the Star Wars films to enjoy these books. But you don’t need to be a hard-core fan. While there are many obscure references, not getting them all will not hamper your enjoyment of the story.

If you’d like to find out more about these books and their author, Tom Angelberger, check out the Origami Yoda website.

May the Force be with you,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll send the origami Imperial troops around to your place.

 

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Who wants books for Christmas?

I always loved getting books for Christmas as a kid (in fact, I once got in trouble for burgling my books out from under the tree to read before the big day) but not every kid instantly embraces the concept of books as gifts. Here is a reaction that you don’t want to get; after opening a whole bunch of toys this three year old comes across a present packed with books and only books.

As you can see, little Michael is not delighted by the books. The books are, in fact, “a poo”.  While it certainly seems the child is less than impressed, his parents (who shot and uploaded the video) wanted to assure viewers that he’s not a budding book-hater but just a small kid over-excited by the day.

“Keep in mind that this was kinda like his first “real” Christmas and he’s only three years old and that he could just about understand and get the concept of the whole gift getting thing. I guess he was  under the perception that you only get “toys” for christmas. To him books are the fun time we spend reading every night before he goes to bed. He really does love books but I’m guessing he was overwhelmed after opening way gifts and I think he felt “tricked” when he opened the books.”

While his reaction was amusing, the family wanted to make sure that he realised that books could be great gifts the next time present season rolled around. The next year they gave him a few more books to unwrap and the reaction was definitely better this time around. “Just to make sure Michael understood that books for Christmas is perfectly OK to get, we wrapped up a few more books from Santa and waited to see how he reacted. To say I wasn’t a little nervous would be a lie but all went well and smooth!”

And, while he may have learned that books make good gifts his family also reminded viewers that the most disappointing gift you can give a small child had yet to make an appearance – clothes. “On a side note, the wife and I realized he has yet to get any clothes from Santa, like socks or a tacky sweater… we decided to not push it and wait till next year. One hurdle at a time!”

Thanks to the Writing Bar blog of the Sydney Writers’ Centre that put me on to this one.

If you want to gift books to kids this year but would like a few tips to avoiding this reaction, head over to the Kids’ Reading Guide 2010-2011 to the Perfect Present hosted on the Boomerang site (it’s in the left side-bar, just under the categories and above the annual Boomerang Books Survey).

You’ll find a thirty page guide packed with some of the best recent books for kids, including recommendations of books for toddlers, an extensive range of picture books and the top picks in for fiction for the various age groups right up until Young Adult. And it’s not just fiction you’ll find; there are Information and Stuff to Do sections with everything from gardening to art to building a robot in there.

Definitely better that a pair of socks any day. If any one is thinking of buying me socks or a jumper with an amusingly deformed reindeer on it this year please be informed that I would much rather instructions to build my own robot. That and my poor plants would probably thank you for sending on a beginner’s guide to gardening, even if that beginner is assumed to be under the age of ten.

 

YABBA dabba do!

A post about Fred Flintstone on Literary Clutter? Well… actually… NO! This is a post about YABBA — Young Australian’s Best Book Awards. The 2011 winners were announced this Wednesday at a special awards ceremony held at Trinity Grammar School. I thought I’d tell you about it.

YABBA is the Children’s Choice Book Awards in Victoria. All books are nominated and voted on by kids… NO ADULTS ALLOWED! So the books being nominated are those that kids are actually reading and enjoying… rather than the books the grown-ups decide they should be reading. And this years books are…

Section 1 Picture Storybooks

Section 2 Fiction for Younger Readers

Section 3 Fiction for Older Readers

Section 4 Fiction for Years 7-9

As they do every year, the organisers invited numerous authors and illustrators to attend the awards ceremony. The ceremony was a terrific event, and was followed by book sales and signings with the guests. Guests in attendance were: Robyn Bavati, Claire Saxby, Terry Denton, Corinne Fenton, Bob Graham, Andy Griffiths, George Ivanoff (Hey, that’s me), Nicky Johnston, Gabrielle Lord, Sally Rippin, Gabrielle Wang and Carole Wilkinson. Here are some photos of them. (Although you will notice that Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton do not feature in any of them. That’s because they were constantly surrounded by their fans and I couldn’t get close enough for a photo.)

Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially to the winners. I’m already looking forward to next year’s awards.

Catch ya later,  George

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UNICORN RIDERS REVIEW

Unicorn Riders is a new fantasy adventure series written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Jill Brailsford set in the land of Avamay.

Avamay is a magical yet dangerous kingdom. The Unicorn Riders protect the people with courage and skill. They ride as one.

The Unicorn Riders series launched with four new books, Quinn’s Riddles, Willows Challenge, Krystal’s Choice and Elizabeth’s Test.

Each book features a different Unicorn Rider and their unicorn. Each unicorn has special powers. Obecky has the gift of healing and strength, Fayza has the gift of speed and can light the dark with her golden magic, Ula has the gift of speaking and can also sense danger, and Estrella has the gift of enchantment.

Each story involves a quest where the central character must overcome something or face a challenge in order to achieve their goals.

Book 1

Quinn’s Riddles

Queen Heart’s son has been kidnapped and the Unicorn Riders must rescue him. The only clue they have is a trail of taunting riddles. Will Quinn be able to solve the riddles in time?

Book 2

Willow’s Challenge

The Unicorn Riders must travel to Arlen to deliver a magical elixir to Willow’s dying uncle. When old friendship’s are betrayed, the town falls under attack. Can Willow find the courage to forgive and help her uncle save the town?

Book 3

Krystal’s Choice

Children are disappearing from Miramar. When the Unicorn Riders investigate, Krystal gets a tempting offer and must decide if she wants to remain a Rider. Will Krystal’s decision put her friends and their mission in danger?

Book 4

Ellabeth’s Test

The Unicorn Riders are on a mission to collect diamond scales from the Dakkar Serpent. When Willow is injured, Ellabeth must step into the role of Head Rider. Can Ellabeth overcome her fears and self-doubt to complete the mission?

The Unicorn Riders‘ books are for ages 8+. They have colourful covers, striking illustrations and unique quests designed to appeal to adventurous young spirits.

I can imagine readers having fun choosing their favourite from these unicorn riding girls who seem to have a talent for putting things right.

The publisher, Walker Books has a host of downloadable resources for the Unicorn Riders available at their website including sample chapters, character profiles and colouring sheets.

 

Review – Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay

Oh, there is just something so hysterically funny and freeing about the rudie nudie dash. We did it. Our kids all did it. The freshly washed and powered bare backside of a kidlet is something truly scrumptious as it flashes, peach-cheeked, by – on its way to rambunctiousness.

In this latest romp by the talented Emma Quay, we meet two little poppets, fresh from the bath, quickly-towelled and still quite damp – who make a break for it. Off and out the door, over the floorboards, fluffy on the rug, lickety-split across the prickly doormat, tumbling through the fresh just-being-made bed – and out the door!

Mum soon corrals the pesky nudie pair and it’s into fresh jarmies (rudie nudie no more) and snuggled under the covers for bedtime stories and a well-deserved sleep.

Quay’s divine, sketchy illustrations do more than just delight the eye with their colour-blocked sorbet glory – they also perfectly convey the fresh and freeing tactile bliss children so enjoy with a rudie nudie run.

The soft rug on a bare tum. The fresh sheets on sweet little shoulders. The dipping leaves of a backyard willow tree brushing little armpits – a tickly under there! The faces on these illustrated children is truly priceless – childhood joy and innocence in a gorgeous book that truly harnesses the physical freedom of being young.

A new classic that all kids – big and little – will fall in love with. Be prepared for major repeat-readings. And some rudie nudie copy-cat dashes.

Rudie Nudie is published by ABC Books. Don’t miss our interview with Emma right here on KBC.