Top 10 War Novels: A Response

You might have seen the great post by Jon Page entitled My Top 10 War Novels. Like most people I was entertained and added more books to my ever growing ‘to be read’ list. I was also thinking about all the great war novels that were missed; in fact I made a mental list of my favourite war novels and we share no books in common. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers just missed my top 10 but that was the closest common book I found. What I enjoy about war novels is exploring the human connection, the struggle with the horrors of war and its aftermath. So I thought as a response to Jon Page’s post here are some great war novels that were missed.

10. Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone dog soldiers

This cult novel seems to capture a unique mood of Americans during the Vietnam War. This book deals with some different themes, not just the war and its effect on America, but it takes a look at counter culture, drug trafficking and the corruptibility of authority.

the narrow road to the deep north9. Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

I feel an Australian perspective is needed on the list and Flanagan offered a great option last year. This book focuses on not just the cruelty of war and its after effects but the impossibility of love, especially when so damaged.

8. Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding painter of silence

This novel looks at Post World War II Romania under the brutal Stalinist regime. This looks at the devastation war had on Romania, providing not only hopelessness and despair but also great beauty. This is a novel that feels like a piece of art and yet it still managed to capture the mental and physical burdens of the characters living in this post-war town.

Maus7. Maus by Art Spiegelman 

This graphic novel tells the story of a Jewish family living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. This offers a unique perspective of a type of story that has been told time and time again. Maus is also the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

People of Forever are not Afraid6. People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu 

This is the story of three normal Israeli girls who go from passing notes in school, talking about boys to turning eighteen and being conscripted into the army. For the most, this book is about a perpetual state of war.  The conflict between Israel and Lebanon still puts them into real danger, it is here we explore the idea of self-discovery when they are thrown into such an extreme situation.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain 

This entire book really showed the disconnection between the military and civil life in the modern day. American wants revenge for 9/11 but they are not willing to sacrifice some like a Thanksgiving football game for it. This is a powerful book in the same vain as Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse-Five.

Constellation of Vital Phenomena4. Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra 

Chechnya is in a fragile state due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991) followed by the Chechen-Ingush ASSR split (1992). This novel takes place during the second Chechen War. This is a beautiful novel of human connection and the struggles found in an abused country. This was one of the best novels of 2013 (for me anyway).

catch 223. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 

This satirical masterpiece is a novel I’ll never forget; it was surprisingly funny but also remained insightful. This novel talks about the mental suffering caused from war but also the absurdity that can be found in bureaucratic operation and reasoning.

war and peace2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

This Russian classic depicts the French invasion of Russia in 1812. True to Tolstoy form, War and Peace also looks at classes and the impact of the Napoleonic invasion on the Tsarist society. One of the things I love about Tolstoy’s writing is the way he looks at a situation as a whole; he had a unique ability to capture the lives of everyone involved in one war.

slaughterhouse-five1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

This story just has so many layers to try to explain, but it makes for an interesting read. Billy keeps randomly traveling to the Past, Future and a planet called Tralfamadore; this may seem weird but this classic really captures the effects of war on its survivors and the mental scaring it causes.

My Top 10 War Novels

There has been a resurgence in war novels in recent years as veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq return from the conflict and begin to try and make sense of what they have experienced and what the future holds for themselves. I am a huge fan of war fiction. Fiction about war I find is so much more powerful than non fiction. Non fiction is limited by facts and hindsight. In the case of biography it is limited to one point of view (which is also often the case with some history books). Fiction however has no such limits. Fiction can go inside the heads of people, in can give us both sides of the conflict, in can be in the ‘here and now’ or it can be reflective and it can trigger an emotional response rarely found in non fiction. 2014 has delivered another two wonderful books about what it is like to go to war, Redeployment by Phil Klay and Fives And Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre, so I thought I would list my Top 10:

10. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden9780143037071

Just pipping Birdsong this fantastic novel is about two Native Canadian friends who are  both expert sharpshooters and, using the field craft they learned hunting in the forests of Hudson Bay, quickly become accomplished snipers on the Western Front. However the horrors of the war will not only test their courage and sanity but also their friendship.

97814088544579. Five And Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

War is never one-sided. It is all-encompassing and personally harrowing. Pitre has captured this aspect of war with compassion, complexity and clarity. It maybe a cliche to say that this is an important book about war that we should all read but it is only a cliche because it is true. We can’t understand a war until we have seen all its sides and Michael Pitre’s powerful debut novel is the first to explorer the pain and destruction wreaked on both sides of this long and different war.

8. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien9780006543947

The way Tim O’Brien blends fact and fiction, short stories and a long narrative is breathtaking in its scope and emotional resonance. There is a reason why this is considered an absolute classic.

7. Fields Of Fire by James Webb

9780553583854Webb presents the war in all its twisted glory and shame but without breaking the bond the reader quickly develops with the lead characters. You are immersed in the jungle and its claustrophobia, the monotony and futility of life as a soldier and the fear and insanity of being in combat.

6. Regeneration by Pat Barker

9780241969144Easily the finest novel about the First World War. Barker’s novel is set in Scotland and explorers the effects of shell-shock and the experimental means of treating it. Featuring Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen this a powerful psychological portrait of the effects of war and what it takes to return to the frontlines.

5. City of Thieves by David Benioff

9780340977392Captures the absurdity of war perfectly. Set during the Nazis’ siege ofLeningrad the futility of war is explored through an absurd life or death mission. In a city that has been cut off from the outside world, a 17-year-old boy and a Red Army deserter, must survive the starving, shell-ravaged city and the dangerous, lawless countryside in search of a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a Russian Colonel’s daughter.

4. Redeployment by Phil Klay

9780857864239This collection of short stories is unlike anything you have read before. Each story examines a different part of the decade long war in Iraq. From coming home to staying behind, from soldiers to civilians and all the chaos that war can cause.

3. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. Which sounds odd for a novel about war but Kevin Powers is able to evocatively 9781444756142capture not only what is happening to the physical landscape of the novel but also the mental landscape. I have never read a book that captures the disintegration of humanity but also the power of humanity quite like The Yellow Birds.

2. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

This isn’t a war novel about heroes. It is not a war novel about politics. Although both are factors throughout the s9781848874961tory. This is not about why America was in Vietnam, because the characters in the story didn’t get a choice in the matter. This is about men and boys who experience something that changes them forever and it is about societies that will change forever. It is about war, but the biggest battles are those that the men of Bravo Company have to fight with each other and themselves

1. The Thin Red Line by James Jones

I have not read another book that comes close to the raw emotion displayed in this novel. The vast 9780141393247array of characters, from PFCs to Colonels, gave a unique insight into the life and experience not only of an individual soldier but an army company as a whole. Charlie Company was a character in the book and the ridge they had to take was a ‘dancing elephant’ that was alive and violent.

What are your favourite war novels?

Review – The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

9780670015672The third and final volume in an absolutely brilliant series is a truly fitting finale. It is everything you want from the final book in a series. Loose ends are tied up, the gang gets back together for one last, possibly world ending, epic quest. Grossman throws you straight back into the world of Quentin Coldwater without missing a beat and five pages in your already start to dread that this is going to be the last book, the last adventure with these great characters.

Things aren’t looking too good for Quentin. He’s been kicked out of the fantastical land he has always dreamed about being a part of and is on his own back in the ‘real’ world. After a failed attempt to go straight (as straight as a trained magician can go – teaching magic of course) Quentin find himself drafted into a makeshift band of would be magical criminals who have been hired to retrieve a mysterious, and highly sort after, object. Meanwhile the end of Fillory is nigh and High King Elliot is determined not to let it happen.

One of the things I really loved about this last book was the perspective Grossman tells it from. We are introduced to a new character, Plum, and much of Quentin’s story is told from her perspective. This is a wonderful change as you are allowed to see Quentin in a new light, as the adult he has become over the course of the three books. Quentin has been far from the perfect hero. He has been selfish, self-absorbed and obsessed. The power he has gained from learning to become a magician made him (more) arrogant and privileged. Yet he has paid the price for his flaws and grown as a person which is one of the most enjoyable parts of this highly enjoyable series. To see a character grow, not always in a good way, but to be part of that journey. It is just brilliant.

We also get parts of the story told from Elliot and Janet’s perspectives which hasn’t happened in the previous two books. We get to know them a bit more this way too by being privy to their inner thoughts and motivations and again this allows Grossman to shed to new light on other familiar characters. In fact most of Quentin’s story in this book is told from others’ perspectives which just adds another layer of enjoyment.

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable trilogy which I will definitely be revisiting. A satisfying end but with room for possibilities…

Buy the book here…

The book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids or work…

The Elements of F*cking StyleThe book this post features—and therefore this post—is not safe for kids. It’s also not safe for work.

The book’s about invaluable subject matter: grammar and punctuation. But it’s delivered in a far-from-the-traditionally-dry fashion.

Penned by Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen, the co-authors of a similarly entitled blog The F*cking Word of the Day, The Elements of F*cking Style book delivers style tips through accessible, sass-filled language and dirty—and therefore eminently memorable—examples.

As a writer and editor who spends a good portion of her time trying to commit grammar and punctuation rules to memory and then apply them with some authority and consistency*, this book taught me moar useful stuff than all the manuals currently lining my shelves combined. As Baker and Hansen point out, the guides we use (and continue to inflict on ourselves and others) are woefully outdated.

For example, seminal text The Elements of Style, which has sold more copies than Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code collectively, was first published in 1918. That was, they note, a time when words such as ‘gay’ had entirely different meanings from which they do today. Yet the manual hasn’t been overly updated to reflect our new era’s meanings and our less formal, more interactive means of engaging with texts.

You may not have a taste for trucker talk as I do, but Elements of F*cking Style is undeniably unforgettable. Which is precisely the point. As Baker and Hansen note, it’s easier to recite lines from Pulp Fiction than from King Lear. I’ll choose memorable over I might be offended every single time.

The book is slimline, meaning it’s both concise and less intimidating than the tome-like style guides we’re familiar with. I wish it existed when I was starting out. And I wish university courses, schools, and beyond would make it required reading, conservative, easily offended lobby groups be damned.

The Elements of F*cking Style features fantastic subject headings/areas, including ‘Commas are f*cking fun’, ‘Words Your Bound to F&ck Up’, ‘A colon is more than an organ that gets cancer’, and ‘Use strong, definite language in your writing. Make that sentence your b*tch’.

Most of the examples provided by the authors aren’t safe for publication on a family friendly blog such as this, so I’ll stick to mentioning a few of the more neutral ones. This includes the advice to get someone else to proofread your work for you as ‘even the clinically insane make sense to themselves’. Or this one:

Reading a paragraph that jumps from past to present and back again is a f*cking drain, isn’t it? As a reader it’s difficult to read a paragraph like this and not be p*ssed off at the writer. Couldn’t he or she keep it together for a few goddamned sentences?

My favourite part, though, is the end where Baker and Hansen write: ‘Holy sh*t, you made it to the end of a book about f*cking grammar.’ It’s a fair call, but after patting myself on the back, I considered that the real heroes are Baker and Hansen for making the book so easy to read I’d made it to the end before I realised.

Sure, I’m a writer and editor and this is the kind of book I should reach the end of. But have I ever read more than the specific entry I need, much less then book it its entirety, of any other grammar guide?

I’ve done that with precisely zero. Based on the grammar crimes committed daily in text messages and on social media, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the number of non-word-nerd people who’ve actually read a style manual is equally low.

‘Grammar isn’t a sexy subject,’ Baker and Hansen write in their introduction. With that, I’d wholeheartedly agree. But with Elements of F*cking Style they’ve at least made explanations of it and its complicated quirks clear and helpful. This is definitely going to be the go-to guide for me when I next need a refresher (or when people as for a recommendation for where to learn our language’s finer points). And with Christmas around the corner, this may be appearing in a few people’s stockings…

 

*And I’m bound to have mucked something up in this here post—I’m human, I’m tired, I don’t have someone with fresh eyes currently available to proofread my work. If you spot a typo or some punctuation or grammar ineptitude by me, please feel free to flag it in the comments below.

Feathers, Scales, Fur or Skin: Tales of Friendship and Being Yourself

The Lucky Country. That’s Australia. We embrace difference. Celebrate diversity. Stand up for what we believe in. Be ourselves. Show compassion for those in need.  

The following picture books, as chosen for the 2014 Speech Pathology Australia Books of the Year shortlist, all share common themes; diversity, friendship and uniqueness.  

the+short+giraffe The Short Giraffe by Neil Flory, illustrations by Mark Cleary, is a fun, humorous story that highlights the importance of inclusion, especially when one feels like an outcast. Boba the baboon is photographing the tallest animals in the world; the giraffes. But there is a tiny problem, Geri the giraffe is the shortest giraffe ever and is not visible in the camera shot. Instead of excluding Geri, the compassionate, accepting giraffes attempt various creative ways to bring him up to their height, all however leading to disastrous, yet comical circumstances. Finally, it is a tiny caterpillar that points out the most obvious solution; to bend down to Geri’s level, and they capture the perfect photo.  

bea_cover Now, here’s a character who is not embarrassed to be different; it’s Bea, written and illustrated by Christine Sharp. This whimsical story explores diversity of the mind, rather than physical appearance. Whilst the other birds peck at the ground, flock together, build nests, chirrup and hippity hop, Bea is most unusually baking biscuits, disco dancing, travelling the world in a hot air balloon, and bussing through the country. It is until Bea meets her friend, Bernie, then we realise that having ‘unusual’ tastes are not so unusual when they are enjoyed and shared with others. ”A joyful story about being true to yourself and daring to be different.”  

Jonathan Speaking of being ‘daring’, it’s Jonathan!, written by Peter Carnavas and illustrated by Amanda Francey. Engaging rhythm and action in the text, and pictures to reflect the same. Jonathan! is a cute story of a boy who certainly isn’t ‘afraid’ to be his cheeky self, but in a way that he has fun changing his persona with different costumes. As he consistently attempts to scare his family members with frightening voices and ingenious outfits, his efforts prove superfluous. Jonathan unexpectedly meets and befriends a large, teeth-gnashing dinosaur who helps him triumph with his pursuit. That is, until, in a twist of fate, we are surprised by both the dinosaur’s identity and Jonathan’s reaction.  

9780670076765In Starting School by Jane Godwin and illustrations by Anna Walker, we meet more excited children who are keen to have fun and discover new things. Tim, Hannah, Sunita, Joe and Polly are starting their first day of school. In a gentle, informative story we learn about each child and their perspectives on the routines and events that occur as they embark on a huge adventure that is primary school. Throughout the day we observe them organise their belongings, familiarising themselves with their classmates, forming bonds, exploring the school grounds, establishing rules and routines, learning new subjects, and reflecting on the busy day. Godwin makes learning fun with some funny mishaps like spilling juice, fiddling with a girl’s hair and losing a pencil case. Whilst Walker so beautifully ties in all the minute details with her watercolour and collage characters, school related belongings, food, furniture, real life pieces of work, toys and buildings. Starting School is a perfect representation of the importance of accepting others, getting along, individuality, responsibility and resilience.

davy-and-the-ducklingAnother tale of best friends is Margaret Wild‘s Davy & the Duckling, with beautiful illustrations by Julie Vivas. When Davy meets the duckling, they look deep into each other’s eyes. Already smitten, the duckling follows Davy around the farmyard and all the way back home. Davy shows true adoration and cares for the duckling like a baby. We watch as they both grow, and we see not only companionship, but empathy, support, pride and encouragement as Davy achieves special milestones. In a touching moment, an old, achy duck seems to regain some youth when it hears that Davy is to become a father. And it is so sweet to observe a role reversal to complete the story, as the duck now leads baby Molly around the farmyard and all the way back home.  

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Player Profile: Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls

9780733630033Kimberley Freeman, author of Evergreen Falls

Tell us about your latest creation:

Evergreen Falls is set at a luxury hotel in the Blue Mountains in the 1920s. A forbidden love affair sets off a chain of events with tragic consequences, and it all gets covered up. In the present, a young woman arrives at the same hotel and stumbles across a bundle of old love letters and starts to wonder…

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

Brisbane, Queensland.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

 I always wanted to be an author or a rock star. Given I don’t like performing, it seemed safer to go with the former.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

Evergreen Falls is my best work. It’s my 25th novel (my 6th as Kimberley Freeman) and I feel like I’ve finally figured out what makes a novel tick.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I write a lot in bed, in my pyjamas, with two chihuahuas sleeping on me. It’s not very glamorous. My desk, when I do use it, is immaculate and my pens are all lined up. I’m tidy to the point of being quite quite boring.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

 I love reading Marianne Keyes, and I love reading non-fiction especially about history.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. To this day, I used it as a test of people. If they loved Anne with an E, they are okay by me. My 11 year old son read it last year, and I feel as though I initiated him into a secret club.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I’ve always felt an affinity with Jane Eyre. She has a good moral compass and a strong sense of self. I think I’d like to be more like that. I have a feeling I might be more like Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, always brooding and losing my temper.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I’m a mad-keen cyclist and my favourite kind of riding is hill-climbing. I live at the foot of Mt Coot-tha and I cycle up and around it regularly. I have thighs of steel.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Tea and a crumpet. Hands down.

Who is your hero? Why?:

I admire my mother so much. She is calm and patient and we have never fought (I’ll just let that sink in… not even when I was a teenager). If I had half her wisdom and grace, I’d be a better person.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Getting people off Facebook. And that includes writers.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KimberleyFreemanAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimberleyTweets

Blog: www.kimberleyfreeman.com

Review – When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett

9780733626586Past The Shallows was an exceptional novel and Favel Parrett has out done herself with her new book. When The Night Comes is a story of growing up, both as a child and as an adult. It is about journeys into the great unknowns. And that anything in life is possible.

The story alternates between two points of view; Isla, a young girl who has moved to Hobart with her mother and younger brother to leave behind their life on the mainland. And Bo, a Danish sailor who crews an Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan.

Parrett’s writing is truly mesmerizing. Her words immediately draw you in and you are swept away. Poetical, evocative and truly moving Parrett will not only have you immediately falling for her characters but she will also have you falling in love with a ship.

Favel Parrett has carefully crafted an exquisite novel. Skilfully written, elegantly constructed, beautifully told and an absolute pleasure to read and experience.

Buy the book here…

Guest Post: The Little Red Ship – Nella Dan

Author Favel Parret on the inspiration behind her new novel When The Night Comes

images (1)When I was about thirteen, the Antarctic supply vessel, MS Nella Dan ran aground on the windy and mysterious mountain in the Southern Ocean – Macquarie Island.

Everyone was evacuated quickly and without injury, thanks to the organised crew and the LARC drivers (amphibious trucks). Staff at Macquarie Island worked hard to give everyone hot showers and meals and a warm place to sleep. The base was packed to bursting and no one knew what was going to happen. Some of the crew and passengers were sent back to Hobart on another supply vessel, but they were certain they would see Nella Dan again by Christmas.

download (1)Over the next 21 days people fought and argued and had their opinions about what the future of Nella Dan should be. There were three insurance companies involved, which made things complicated and drawn out. Australian polar explorer, Phillip Law raised a lot of money to try and get Nella Dan back to Australia, and many were sure she would be towed ‘home’. But that was not to be. It was decided by the powers that be that Nella Dan should be scuttled in deep water off Macquarie Island.

The Captain and Bosun and some other officers stayed on Nella Dan, without heating or power. They would not leave her. They had lunch together after they were told she was going to be sunk, and afterwards they threw their used plates down the shaft. They said that the sound of the plates breaking was devastating.

9780733626586While writing this book, I often thought of those Danes who stayed with their ship. How their hearts must have ached as they watched her being put down. And then they had to injure a crowded voyage to Hobart on the tug, Lady Lorain. They got little sleep.

For many, Nella had been home for a long time. She was home. Even people who only sailed on her once talk about her as if she was special. She old fashioned, small and comfortable. She had a grace and an air about her. She always felt safe even in huge swells, even though often many passengers were very sea sick on board.

Writing this book has brought back a lot of memories for me, and I love Nella Dan more now than I did as a child. But some of the mysteries are still that – mysteries. I will never know everything about her last days.

I have read so many reports and talked to a lot of people. I have travelled to Macquarie Island, to Antarctica, to Denmark. It’s been quite a journey. Without Nella Dan, I would never have travelled to such wonderful places, or met so many incredible people. I feel very blessed.

Favel Parrett

Buy the book here…

Don’t Forget Dad! – Picture Books for Father

A picture book may not be every dad’s ideal Fathers’ Day gift, especially if he is really counting on more socks and jocks. But think about it, what better vehicle than a picture book to share some real short but sweet moments of physical and emotional connection between a father and his offspring.

Tossing a footy around together is cool too. Whipping up a Book Week costume is a definite contender (the male’s job in our realm). However, very little compares to a snuggly story-time session. It’s gorgeous to behold and enriching for the participants (granddaddies included).

My Dad is a BearConcentrating on the littlies this time is Nicola Connelly’s and Annie White’s My Dad is a Bear. Charlie has something to share, his dad is a bear, or at least his dad displays the same traits as a bear: ‘he is tall and round like a bear’, he ‘has big paws like a bear’, and ‘he even sleeps like a bear’.

In just twenty-eight pages, Charlie manages to describe what I’d wager is the vast majority of ‘typical fathers’. However, it is not just senseless physiological satire. Connelly thoughtfully includes a few more active pursuits like fishing and climbing to enhance Charlie’s metaphoric revelations and thus broaden the typical father figure image. All are adeptly aided by the bearily beautiful illustrations of Annie White.

Like Kisses for Daddy, I love how there is not a single human in sight which makes the twist ending all the sweeter. Pre-readers will gain much through the shared interactive reading this book promotes while beginner readers should have little trouble mastering the straightforward sentence structure and similes. New Frontier Publishing August 2014

Another bear book bowling off the New Frontier shelves is Peter Carnavas’s, Oliver and George. Like his previous picture book, Jonathan!, Oliver and George will find its mark with younger readers aged 2 – 6 years.

Oliver, a box-hat wearing, skDSC03037-001ydiving, sword-wielding young boy is ready to play. He has his playmate sights set firmly on George (represented be a glasses-toting brown bear). To Oliver’s dismay, George is too busy to play. He is engrossed in his book and no amount of cajoling or niggling by Oliver annoys him enough to turn away from it, not even a bowl of porridge tipped over his head!

Oliver is crestfallen, but like all young children bent on their egocentric missions, he quickly recovers and tries again to gain George’s attention, this time resorting to the most arresting action he can think of to thwart George’s enjoyment of his book.

Although George and Oliver’s subtly implied father and son relationship may seem obvious, Carnavas’s anthropomorphic use of a teddy bearish ‘older other’ cleverly intimates many typical child / parent situations: parent, carer, or teacher.

Oliver’s lament is familiar; his obsessive desire to be with George overrides all else, until he is finally rewarded with George’s attention then promptly forgets his former fever. This scenario of precious determination and contrariness is so typical of kids; it makes my heart dance.

Peter Carnavas 2Carnavas never over complicates his tales, nor are they ever overtly visually overblown. Yet they deliver maximum impact with a mere sprinkling of words and a few ingenious strokes of the brush. Oliver and George is no exception.

It will be interesting watching how children react to this witty portrayal of themselves. Utterly beguiling and a subtle reminder for us bigger people to spend more ‘now’ time with our little people. Due out September 2014.

Stayed tuned for more beaut Fathers’ Day reads you can share with your child. Till then,

Happy Fathers’ Day!

The Monthly Book Brief – The Very Best New Release Books in September

 

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief

Fiction Books

When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett

A story of growing up, journeys into the great unknowns and that anything in life is possible. Parrett’s writing is truly mesmerizing. Her words immediately draw you in and you are swept away. Poetical, evocative and truly moving this will not only have you immediately falling for her characters but also have you falling in love with an Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan. Favel Parrett has carefully crafted an exquisite novel. Skilfully written, elegantly constructed, beautifully told and an absolute pleasure to read and experience. Jon

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

David Mitchell fans will absolutely love this book and it will definitely create new ones too as you are swept away by the storytelling, the language and the imagination. The novel opens in 1984 in England. We meet Holly Sykes, aged 15, who has run away from home. In the process Holly becomes part of a chain events outside her, and our, comprehension. Holly inadvertently makes a promise the consequence of which will have repercussions for many lives. Jon

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

A love story full of surprises. A crime story of immense tension, a deeply satisfying read. Set in 1920’s London, this is an atmospheric portrait of that fascinating period. A time when women have to make many choices about surviving without fathers and brothers and an income. A mother and daughter decide to take in paying guests (lodgers only they don’t use that word) . The arrival of a young couple into this seemingly quiet and ordered household has dramatic and disturbing consequences.  Chris

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s new novel is one of his best. His delicate and smooth tone pulls you into a thrilling novel with a moral dilemma at its core.  A High court judge is about to have her private life shattered and her professional life compromised. What makes this an exceptional novel is the way it is told. Full of compassion, so unpretentious and tender towards all the characters and ideas. Chris

Lock In by John Scalzi

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. 4% suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And 1% find themselves ‘locked in’ – fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. But then two new technologies emerge that gives people hope. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

Non-Fiction Books

This House of Grief by Helen Garner

On Father’s Day 2005 a father and his three sons plunged into a dam. The boys drowned and the father survived to face a murder trial. Why does Helen Garner choose to write such uncomfortable and confronting books and more to the point why do we read them? I think it is because we want to understand ourselves and other people. Helen Garner is the best writer for such a task. Her eye for detail, her precision and clarity of writing plus her non-judgemental attitude make this a formidable read. Chris

Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s new cookbook brings together 100 ultimate comfort food recipes from around the world. It’s all about the dishes that are close to your heart, that put a smile on your face and make you feel happy, loved, safe and secure. Inspired by everything from childhood memories to the changing of the seasons, and taking into account the guilty pleasures and sweet indulgences that everyone enjoys, it’s brimming with exciting recipes you’ll fall in love with.

Lego Architecture by Philip Wilkinson

These amazing LEGO Architecture sets showcase incredible buildings from around the world. From the Empire State Building and the Guggenheim, to Farnsworth House revealing amazing exploded images of the LEGO Architecture models, showing every LEGO brick involved in the build. This is perfect for architects, designers and architecture enthusiasts of all ages.

1-Minute Gardener by Fabian Capomolla & Mat Pember

As the brains behind The Little Veggie Patch Co., Fab and Mat have taken the mystery out of – and put the fun back into – growing fruit and vegetables. 1-Minute Gardener features 70 fast, illustrated step-by-step guides to edible gardening essentials, from preparing and caring for your patch through to harvesting the rewards (and getting the kids involved along the way).

Strictly Parenting by Michael Carr-Gregg

In his work as a family psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg has noticed a worrying trend in our modern parenting styles, which sees kids running riot and parents running for cover. In our desire to give our kids the best, we may have given them way too much, and overlooked the importance of setting boundaries. He believes it’s a recipe for disaster. In Strictly Parenting, Michael asks parents to take a good hard look at the way they are parenting – to toughen up and stop trying to be their kids’ best friends.

Travelling To Work: Diaries 1988-1998 by Michael Palin

These latest Diaries show a man grasping every opportunity that came his way, and they deal candidly with the doubts and setbacks that accompany this prodigious word-rate. As ever, his family life, with three children growing up fast, is there to anchor him. Travelling To Work is a roller-coaster ride driven by the Palin hallmarks of curiosity and sense of adventure. These ten years in different directions offer riches on every page to his ever-growing army of readers.

Childrens’ Picture Books

Is There A Dog In This Book? by Vivian Schwartz

Tiny, Moonpie and Andre are scared of dogs, and there might be a dog in this BOOK! What are they going to do? The dog could be anywhere, on any page, there are so many hiding spots in this book. So funny! You’ll love it! Jan & Danica

A House of Her Own by Jenny Hughes

Audrey is getting bigger and bigger, so she decides that she needs a house of her own. Her dad builds her a fabulous treehouse, but there is something missing. A story of the need for independence and the importance of family. Such a charming read! Jan

Books for First Readers

Squishy McFluff and the Supermarket Sweep by Pip Jones

You might have thought that you’d seen the last of Squishy McFluff, but he is back and as funny as ever! Perfect for a new reader that needs a bit of a challenge. Ian & Danica

Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown

I could not wait for this book to come out, and now it’s here! This book made me laugh so hard. You don’t even have to be a Star Wars fans to enjoy this book, but if you are then you’ll love it all the more. Great for kids who are becoming confident readers. Danica

Books for Young Readers

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

It’s here! It’s here! It’s here! The wait is over! Andy and Terry have added ANOTHER 13 storeys to their treehouse and things are more hilarious than ever. Come and get your copy today! Danica, Ian & Jan

Loot by Jude Watson

International jewel heists, a twin that March never knew he had, and a curse that destroy them all. This book is packed with more action and intrigue than any book we’ve read in a long time. Great for girls and boys alike, everyone will love this book! Ian & Danica  

Books for Young Adults

The Mission by Allen Zadoff

If you loved ‘Boy Nobody’ as much as we did, then you going to absolutely love the sequel! It’s even better than the original, and that’s saying a lot. Get this book into every teenager’s hands that you know! Danica & Ian

The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

This is the latest installment in the ‘I am Number Four’ series, and it won’t disappointment fans waiting to read about what happens when Seven fights back. A gripping read from start to finish!


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Australian Classic Read-Along

There are just too many Australian classics I haven’t read and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. I always have the intention of getting to them, but there are so many other great books and new releases clambering for attention on my TBR (to-be-read) pile, that it’s difficult to achieve.

Does anyone else in the Boomerang Books community feel the same way? If you do, would you like to participate in an Australian Classic Read-Along?

How would it work?
First we’d need some suggestions in order to come up with a range of Australian classics to choose from. Depending on your feedback and requests, we can then determine the most popular/requested novel. I’ll create a reading schedule for us and each week we can discuss our thoughts online here on the Boomerang Books Blog by leaving comments on the weekly posts.

Advantages of a read-alongBoomerang-Books Australian Classic Read along
A read-along can inspire you to read a book (in this case an Australian classic) you’ve always been meaning to read.  You’ll enjoy the bookish conversation and feel like you’re part of a reading club. You might even meet likeminded booklovers like yourself.

What should we read?
That’s up to you, what would you like to read? You can click here and browse books from some of these lists, but some suggestions to get us started could include: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay or The Harp In The South by Ruth Park.

We could also choose a contemporary Australian classic, such as: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The possibilities and choices are endless.

Suggestions welcome
Now it’s over to you. Are you keen to read an Australian classic with likeminded readers or know someone who is?

Leave your novel suggestions below and we’ll see if we can drum up some interest. You can also make your request on Twitter, just use the hashtag #bbooksreadalong and don’t forget to tag us @boomerangbooks

According to Mark Twain, a classic is: a book which people praise and don’t read. Let’s see if we can change that!

Goodnight Darth Vader

Goodnight Darth VaderI figured Jeffrey Brown had exhausted the Star Wars novelty with his boy- and girl-themed books for children and their Star Wars-loving parents.

If you haven’t already seen them, fallen in love with them, and given them as gifts to any and all of your friends with young children, Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess present an alternate universe in which Luke and Leia grow up with their dark side-hugging dad.

Luke and Leia see and treat Vader not as an evil, chokehold-dishing-out doer to be feared, but as their father—a guy who’s increasingly being worn down, wearied, and bemusingly befuddled as he tries to navigate the challenges of parenting.

The results are some fantastic scenarios that both reference the film while marrying the nods and winks with some situations all too recognisable to parents.

Brown’s back with Goodnight Darth Vader, proving I know nothing about novelty and that some concepts really have legs. But I should have expected as much from Brown and his stellar publisher, Chronicle Books, which seems to have a knack of finding and publishing top-notch books.

Picking Goodnight Darth Vader up, I assumed it to be piggybacking off the Go the F*ck to Sleep book that took the interwebs, tired parents, and bemused people without kids by storm a year or two ago. But it’s not, weaving a rhythm and theme all of its own.

The book is ‘Episode Eight PM’ writ across the page in the iconic yellow running text that’s the hallmark of the films’ openings. Vader has commanded Luke and Leia to go to bed, but the knee-high twins have other ideas.

Meanwhile all the creatures and droids in the Star Wars universe are preparing for bed, and there are some fantastic good-night scenes and film nods. My favourites include the battle droids taking an interminably long time to say goodnight (‘Roger Roger’, ‘Roger Roger’). Meanwhile General Grievous, with his extra limbs, gets ready for bed four times faster than anyone else.

The Millennium Falcon is wished goodnight with the play on the adage with ‘Don’t let the space slug bite’, while the Ewoks determine it’s easiest to sleep ‘when the Empire’s been silenced with rocks’.

Goodnight Darth Vader is one for the collection for adults and kids alike, with the illustrations and text providing dual-level entertainment. Without giving my Christmas shopping plans away, it’s safe to say this book will be making an appearance in my gifts-to-give list for friends with young children.

I’ve also learnt my lesson not to assume this is going to be the last in the Vader-and-kids series, so I’m instead going to hope Brown and Chronicle Books continue to come through with Vader spoofs for future Christmases and birthdays…

Review – Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

9780340822807This is an absolutely wonderful coming-of-age novel by a writer who cannot put a foot wrong. David Mitchell doesn’t just get inside the head of a thirteen year old boy but brings teenage adolescence to life like I have never read before. David Mitchell captures the innocence, the naivety, the pain and the joy so acutely that you are transported back to your own time as a teenager.

Jason Taylor is navigating the thirteenth year of his life and it is of course a tumultuous one. It is 1982 and Britain is about to go to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. At home something is happening between Jason’s parents and his sister is about to leave for university. Meanwhile at school Jason tries, fails and tries again to fit in with the other boys.

The novel brilliantly captures and portrays the inner battle everybody goes through over who we are and who we want to be. Jason is desperate to fit in with the other boys and stave of the bullies. He suppresses parts of himself to fit in; his bookishness, his poetry, his stammer. His loyalty to true friends is tested by their relative popularity. Everyday is a constant tightrope where one false move could see him become the class laughing-stock. David Mitchell mixes this all in with the ups and downs of life as seen through the eyes of a thirteen year old boy.

I’m loving how all of David Mitchell’s novels are interconnected no matter how unrelated they appear. I could seriously live off nothing but David Mitchell books but with only two more books to read I’m also dreading running out of new material.

Buy the book here…

Meet Jared Thomas, author of Calypso Summer

Jared Thomas, thanks for talking to Boomerang Books. 

Calypso SummerCalypso Summer (Magabala Books) gave me a break-through insight into a young Aboriginal man. Calypso is a brilliant character. He tries so hard to make his life, and the lives of those around him, work, but it’s tough. Could you tell us about him and his cousin, Run?

Calypso and Run are young Aboriginal men trying to exist in a difficult world. Their interaction with each other, family members and others is framed by a history of dispossession, racism and discrimination that has contributed to some of the lowest levels of education, highest levels of unemployment, and poorest health conditions amongst any Australian people.

Having money and getting work plays heavily on both Calypso and Run. However, while Run is defeated and takes drugs and does petty crime to survive, Calypso attempts to change his life in order to obtain personal goals.

What is the importance of family, tradition and country to someone like Calypso?

Calypso’s love for family and his understanding of tradition and country provide him with a greater sense of purpose, a strength that enables him to cope better with challenges. It helps him to put things into perspective.

What is your background and why have you written Calypso Summer?

My father’s family is Nukunu and Ngadjuri from the Southern Flinders Ranges and Scottish, and my Mum’s Aboriginal family is from Winton, Queensland and her European family are Irish.

I wrote Calypso Summer because I want to raise awareness of how racism has and continues to impact on the lives of Aboriginal people and to show the positives that can occur if the right types of opportunities are available.Deadly Unna?

Cricket is the backdrop to your novel but I watched the movie Australian Rules, based on the novels Deadly, Unna? and Nukkin Ya by Phillip Gwynne not long before reading Calypso Summer. You do mention the game of Australian Rules briefly in your novel.

If you’ve seen the movie or read these novels, would you recommend them?

Phillip Gwynne’s Deadly Unna is a useful text in communicating the futility of racism, also providing important explorations of sexism and domestic violence.

Media relating to the release of Australian Rules, the film adaptation of Deadly Unna reveals much controversy as the story is based on the murder of two young Aboriginal men and consent wasn’t requested from the relatives of these men when writing the story.

The controversy prompted Screen Australia, then the Australian Film Commission, to employ Terri Janke to write a position paper for working with Indigenous content and communities. This formed the basis of Screen Australia’s Pathways & Protocols, a filmmaker’s guide to working with Indigenous people.

I’d recommend Deadly Unna and Australian Rules to be read and viewed by students in association with an introduction to protocols for representing Aboriginal people in various media.

If Phillip Gwynne had consulted with Aboriginal people in the writing of Deadly Unna and Australian Rules, they would be much more celebrated works.

Are there other relevant books you would prefer to recommend?

Killing DarcyI would prefer to recommend Melissa Lucashenko’s young adult works such as Steam Pigs, Killing Darcy and Hard Yards.

Who have you written Calypso Summer for – young adults, adults or both?

I have written Calypso Summer for young adults but know that it also appeals to adults.

What do you hope for young men and women like Calypso?

I hope that young men and women like Calypso come to the realisation that in a society where Aboriginal people make up an outrageous proportion of the prison population, that being educated, healthy and employed, preferably within or contributing to our own communities is the most rebellious act that one can do.

What else have you written?

My young adult novel ‘Sweet Guy’ is published by IAD Press and my children’s novella ‘Dallas Davis the Scientist and the City Kids,’ is published by Oxford University Press. ‘Songs that Sound like Blood,’ will be released by Magabala Books in mid 2015.

I’ve also published academic articles, articles, short stories and poetry in various anthologies.

My first major work was a play called ‘Flash Red Ford,’ which was produced in Kenya and Uganda in 1999.

Thanks very much, Jared.

You can also listen to Jared’s interview with Daniel Browning at

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/awaye/2014-05-24/5473904

 

 

 

 

 

Player Profile: James Carol, author of Watch Me

11886a7ef65c3f7fdc925bcbb07f4402James Carol, author of Watch Me

Tell us about your latest creation:

The next book in the Jefferson Winter series is WATCH ME. This time Winter is heading to northern Louisiana to investigate the murder of lawyer, Sam Galloway. All he has to go on is a video of Galloway being burnt alive…

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

St Albans. It’s a cathedral city just outside London.

watch-meWhen you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

 I wanted to be a rock star.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

 I’m really hoping that my best work is still to come. I’d hate to think that I’ve peaked already!

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

 Complete chaos. I write at the kitchen table, and I have two children aged 2 and 5. Let’s just say that it gets interesting at times.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

 I read most things, but my favorite writers are Stephen King, Lee Child and Jodi Picoult – their books go straight to the top of my reading pile.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. I was 11 when I got hold of a copy, and reality has never been the same since. I reread it recently and it was as amazing as I remember.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

 I think it would be fun to be Hannibal Lecter for a day or two…

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

 I train horses and riders, and I teach guitar … but not at the same time!

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Favourite food: duck pancakes with hoisin sauce
Favourite drink: Fortnum and Mason tea

Who is your hero? Why?:

 I’m going to have two. Stephen King is my literary hero and John Lennon is my musical hero. The term genius is overused these days, but I think it is more than appropriate to use it in these two cases.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

The biggest challenge is getting kids to read. They’re the readers of the future, and without them the publishing industry will wither and die.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/james.carol.90

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JamesCarolBooks

Website: http://www.james-carol.com/

Top 5 Book Publishing Mistakes

9780857984357In light of the news that He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont and Linton Besser has been withdrawn from sale and recalled by the publisher due to legal reasons we though we would list our top 5 publishing mistakes. Let us know ones we have missed!

5. Goodbye Jerusalem by Bob Ellis

Bob Ellis was sued for defamation by Tony Abbott and Peter Costello over his  book Goodbye Jerusalem. His previous book Goodbye Babylon was also withdrawn and pulped. ( Bob Ellis later sued another author for defamation over a biography they had written about him!)

“The first edition of Goodbye Jerusalem was pulped following a successful defamation case brought by two Liberal cabinet ministers, Tony Abbott and Peter Costello, and their wives. The publisher, Random House, accepted that the disputed content was a falsehood and the book was removed from sale. ACT Supreme Court Justice Higgins awarded the two politicians and their wives a total of $277,000 damages. A new edition of the book was published three months later which omitted the defamatory passage.” 

4. Jonestown by Chris Masters

ABC Books wouldn’t publish Chris Masters’ Alan Jones biography Jonestown. Allen & Unwin picked it up and it was a huge bestseller.

3.  The Hand Signed The Paper by Helen Demidenko (Darville)

Helen Darville not only duped her publisher and readers but also the judges of the Miles Franklin Award. The novel was purported to be based on a relative but all was revelaed to be a fake including Helen Demidenko herself.

2. Forbidden Love by Norma Khouri

Another case of an author pretending to be someone they were not. Published to great fanfare and an author tour featuring large security it later emerged all was not as it seemed.

“On July 24, 2004 Malcolm Knox, literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, revealed that Khouri was not in fact living in Jordan during 1993-1995 (the timeframe of Forbidden Love), but was living in Chicago with her husband, John Toliopoulos, and her two children. She had not lived in Jordan since her early childhood, except for a three week stay during which she apparently researched the background for her book. Knox further revealed accusations that Khouri had left the United States while being investigated for the fraud of an elderly neighbor.”

1. The Penguin Pasta Bible

The case of the very bad and very expensive typo. Instead of asking for “ground black pepper” to be added to a recipe it asked for “ground black people“.

“PENGUIN GROUP AUSTRALIA turns over $120 million a year from printing words but a one-word misprint has cost it dearly. The publishing company was forced to pulp and reprint 7000 copies of Pasta Bible last week after a recipe called for “salt and freshly ground black people” – instead of pepper – to be added to the spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto. The exercise will cost Penguin $20,000, the head of publishing, Bob Sessions, said. At $3300 a letter, it’s a pricey typo.”

Awesome Author Interview: Adam Wallace

received_m_mid_1408443449328_c66032bcbb1d9cf649_0I recently had the pleasure of meeting funny man and children’s book author, Adam Wallace, creator of titles including Mac O’Beasty, The Negatees, The Pete McGee series, Jamie Brown is Not Rich, and Better Out Than In. I am even more fortunate that he has agreed to answer some of my questions!

Firstly, congratulations on being shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards 2014 for Better Out Than In Number Twos!
Thanks heaps, Romi! It was definitely a shock and a thrill. I am in very esteemed company too, nominated among names like Griffiths, Jennings and Marsden. I mean, I’ve never heard of these wannabee authors, but someone tells me they’re pretty good. I might check them out sometime.

9780987463531Can you please tell us a brief run down on what the story is about?
Well, it’s all very sophisticated, a story of class and romance … oh no, wait, that’s not my book, that’s Pride and Prejudice. Mine has six short stories, all in rhyme, and all extremely gross, disgusting and funny! It’s the sequel to Better Out Than In, which was all very sophisticated … ah dammit, I did it again. That one’s gross too. Basically, I wanted to make children laugh and get a buzz out of reading, so it’s about things that make kids laugh.

Considering the nature of this series, I’m a bit wary to ask… how did the idea for these come about?
Well, they’re all based on my wife, Andrea … haha, just kidding. Actually, there is one story based on something she did once but I won’t tell you which one it was.
It was Bob’s Burp.
I wrote the very first story, Whoops, because I had been writing stories with messages. They were still funny, but I wanted to write something that was just funny. So I wrote it, read it to some kids at the After Care I was working at, and they loved it and asked for more stories on similar topics and I just went from there.

Do you have plans to write Better Out Than In Number Threes? Fours? Fives?
Haha, I wasn’t going to, but then a kid at a school said that if I did a third one I should call it Better Out Than In the Turd. I was gobsmacked. I thought it was genius, pure genius. So now I am slightly tempted to give it a go, but only after I have finished the projects I am currently working on.
Better Out Than In the Turd.
Hahahaha. Genius.
Sounds awesome! Do it!

Besides writing disgustingly funny stories, I understand you make visits to schools around Melbourne. What’s it like meeting a bunch of excitable kids?
I love it! It is so much fun. It is totally draining at the same time, but it really gives me a buzz. They have such great energy, and are such an honest crowd. They will only react to something if they really like it (or don’t like it), so when you can get a whole group laughing you know you have earned it.

What are your favourite things to do with them?
I do readings, I do brainstorming activities, and I do cartooning with them, and they’re all my favourite! With the reading I love getting a laugh out of them, and with the brainstorming I love the brilliant and often hilarious ideas they come up with. With drawing, I love seeing them take what I show them and turn it into their own unique version.

What’s the most impressive piece of work or display, relating to you, that you’ve seen from the kids?
I went to Tucker Rd Primary School in Bentleigh the other week, and they had done a display covering an entire wall. It had facts about me, questions for me, Wanted posters about me, pictures of me and, most impressive of all, a working toilet on the wall! When I say working, you could pull a string and the lid would open up! So awesome!
A tribute to Adam Wallace… nice!

Have they said anything funny or shocking that caught you by surprise? How did you deal with that?
One time I gave what I thought was an awesome session to some preps, and at the end I asked if there were any questions. One kid up the front put up his hand and said, ‘Why are your ears pointy like an elf?’ It had obviously been playing on his mind the whole session, so I thought I should answer him honestly and openly.
‘Because I’m half-elf,’ I said.
‘Okay,’ was his response.
I have got some mileage out of that one!
Then last week I had this great exchange.
Kid: Does your hand get sore when you write your stories?
Me: Sometimes, because I hold my pen funny.
Kid: YOU WRITE YOUR STORIES WITH A PEN??????????
Me: hahahahahahahahahahahaha

Do you ever get time away from kid-type ventures? Do you have any other hobbies?
Ummm, does an afternoon nap count? Oh, actually, I guess kids do that too. If I call it a siesta I think that makes it grown up, though! I do have some hobbies. I love playing golf, although don’t do it nearly enough. I also love going to live comedy and live music, and do that as often as I am able. I am also trying to teach myself piano. I learnt when I was about 8, so it is slowly coming back to me.

Are you ever serious? Or is there constant laughter in your household?
I tried being serious once, but I wasn’t very good at it. It was kind of boring, and so was I!!! We do like to laugh a lot in our house, often at my dancing skills, but I haven’t tried to get my wife to piggy back me since the great piggy back dancing debacle of 2013.
Let us never speak of that again.

Can you reveal any more that us ‘Adam Wallace’ fans can expect from you in the near future?
Well I can’t reveal too much. Last time I did that there were police involved! Oh … you mean books! Whoops!
I have a book called Random which is currently being edited and laid out, and there is a tentative release date of early 2015. That’s just a random collection of random things and random pictures scattered randomly throughout a random book!
I also have a book about to be illustrated by the awesome James Hart that will hopefully be out at around the same time. That one’s called Accidentally Awesome, and is the first of what will be a long series. It’s a about a totally clumsy kid whose clumsiness leads to awesomeness … eventually.
That sounds very exciting! We’ll be sure to look out for your new releases!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Adam! It has been a blast!
My pleasure, thanks for letting me answer them!

Discover more about the scintillatingly hilarious Adam Wallace at:
www.adam-wallace-books.com

PhotoGrid_1408524981113

Awesome Giveaway!
To WIN a SIGNED COPY of Adam Wallace’s Better Out Than In Number Twos, all you need to do is head over to My Little Story Corner, and answer the following question by 11.59pm AEST Friday August 29, 2014:
What are the TWO (2) titles of Adam Wallace’s books that are due to be released early 2015?

www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

Children’s Book of the Year

Rules of SummerIt is the time to celebrate the CBCA Books of the Year: a plethora of excellent books. No one will be be surprised that Shaun Tan’s inimitable Rules of Summer has won Picture Book of the Year. From a visual literacy perspective, it excels in composition – what is put where and how distance and depth is created; salience – what is most prominent on the page; juxtaposition – contrasting elements such as light and dark and texture; and symbolism. Congratulations to Bob Graham and Nick Bland for their Honour awards in this category. Graham’s Silver Buttons was always a contender with its consummate celebration of the ‘everyday’ and Bland’s award for King Pig, a fable about selfishness, power and redemption, also reflects his enormous popularity. Such a shame that Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood’s peerless The Treasure Box wasn’t recognised, and Danny Parker and Matt Ottley’s brilliant Parachute may have fared better in Early Childhood.

The SwapThe judges got the awards in the Early Childhood category absolutely right. The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner uses subtle humour and retro illustrations to look at sibling jealousy and love. I’m a Dirty Dinosaur is a rhythmic swamp romp by Janeen Brian, illustrated with pencils and mud by Ann James. Banjo and Ruby Red is a tale of farmyard friendship by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers is an unusual shortlist, particularly because only five of six possible books were shortlisted so a fine book for this important primary age-group was omitted. Catherine Jinks, a well-regarded writer, won the category with her Victorian gothic, A Very Unusual Pursuit. No surprises that the award-scooping My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg is an Honour book but less expected is Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmonds’ Light Horse Boy, which many would have shortlisted in the factual Eve Pownall category. It is disappointing not to see Julie Hunt’s Song for a Scarlet Runner receive an Honour but it has been acclaimed in other awards.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurSome of my personal favourites missed out in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, particularly the well designed, Meet … Captain Cook by Rae Murdie and Chris Nixon but due regard to winners Christopher Faille and Danny Snell for Jeremy, which explains the life of a kookaburra at a perfect level for very young readers and Honour recipients Peter Gouldthorpe for Ice, Wind, Rock, which tells the important story of Mawson, and the commendable Welcome to My Country by Laklak Burrarrwanga and family, which has also been acknowledged in an outstanding new YA novel, Nona and Me by Clare Atkins.

ParachuteWildlife by Fiona Wood is a completely deserving winner of the Older Readers category and Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near and The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn are meritorious Honour awardees.

(See my previous posts on Older Readers and Eve Pownall)

 

 

 

Artfully Yours – Connecting with Picture Book art

Book Week Logo 2014Today officially heralds the start of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week 2014. This year’s theme: Connect to Reading – Reading to Connect can be interpreted in many ways just as ones connection with art can take place on several levels. I have long purported that the humble picture book is one of our most powerful and meaningful manifestations of art. Why? Because of its ability to entertain, educate, enlighten, and enthral at a level wordless infants and the most mature members of society are able to appreciate.

There are few finer expressions of tenderness, joy, comedy, and pain than the marriage of images and words in a picture book. They represents true art, able to transport anyone, anywhere to other times and worlds with the flick of a page. This selection of picture books aptly illustrates my point. All are artful in their own ways. You will not love them all equally, just as you will not love everything you see on the walls of an art gallery, but therein lies the enigmatic beauty of the picture book.

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art Lisa Absolutely Loves Art by Sophie Norsa is a brief visit with some of our great artists and their well-known paintings through the eyes of young Lisa as she plunges into the dreamlike world of her local art gallery after her runaway cat, Picasso. Her search for him transports her through the 1800’s, capably combining impressionism and post-impressionism art forms in an on-canvas adventure, only ending once she returns to where she began.

Norsa is a young artist herself whose reproductions and interpretations of the techniques and style used by some of our most recognisable artists are artfully rendered in this unique picture book for pre-primary art lovers and artisans alike. New Frontier Publishing July 2014

Outside Outside by Libby Hathorn and Ritva Voutila is a glorious sensory celebration of what it is to be a child, carefree and at one with nature. The magic of being outdoors, of having grass beneath ones feet and clear bird-filled skies above is something not all young children are able to take for granted. Hawthorn’s poetic, repeating verse centres around the single question – ‘What’s that?’ between a curious young boy and his sister as they venture through their backyard on ‘a summery day’.

This is an unusuOutside illos spreadal picture book, lulling the reader into an almost hypnotic rhythm of straightforward explanation while steering us close to the nonsensical thanks to Voutila’s surreal illustrations: the cat looks almost human, the sky is a tapestry of patterned colour, the sun blazes stylised fleurs-de-lis. I found these digital creations rich and complementary to the text however not all young children will agree. They may find the oversized heads and features of the human characters a little too bizarre to comfortably relate to. A lavish homage to the simple things in life and being young nonetheless. Little Hare Books imprint of HGE August 2014.

Mr Chicken London Mr Chicken lands on London. The passion one feels towards art, something that monumentally moves and inspires them can be likened to love. This love need not be confined to one line or one picture; it may encompass a whole city and culture just as it did for Leigh Hobbs and Mr Chicken.

I know many adults and youngsters alike who have nibbled their nails down to the quicks in anticipation of the return of Mr Chicken since his flamboyant debut visit to Paris. Thankfully, they do not have to wait a minute longer and neither does Mr Chicken who is returning to his favourite city in the whole wide world, London.

Hobbs, creator of Old Tom, shares his love for London with Mr Chicken in an adroitly accurate, subtly comic, whirlwind tour of some of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Mr Chicken illoOur canary yellow, oversized poultry protagonist cuts a striking contrast amidst the common placed drabness of the city as one by one, he ticks off his must-sees and dos. His encounter with Her Majesty is amusing to the extreme but it is Mr Chicken’s moon lit stroll over Westminster Bridge that truly rings my bells.

A pictorial postcard of London that will resonate with both past visitors and those yet to experience the city’s many allures, not to mention 4 – 7 year olds who love talking, walking drumsticks. And, like fine art, Mr Chicken lands on London is something to savour. Allen & Unwin July 2014

Connect here with the CBCA 2014 winners and more great reasons to read.

Review – Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

9780571258093I’ve been on a bit of backlist bender lately and with one of my favourite books of 2014 being compared to this I thought I’d give it ago. This is one of the most haunting coming of age novels I have ever read. Set in England in an alternative late 1990s the story is narrated by Kathy who is a carer for a series of donors. Kathy is looking back on her life which brings her back to her most formative years at the exclusive Havisham School.

At first Havisham appears to be an elite school for the brightest and gifted. But as we slowly learn more about the school and its students we discover what their gifts really are and what they are being prepared for. Central to the story is the friendship of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. Each of whom is struggling to come to terms with what is expected of them and what their future holds. The naivety of the three main characters is slowly eroded as they age however there is always acceptance of what their role in life is meant to be.

Ishiguro underplays his hand perfectly making any revelations seem normal and familiar. And in doing so makes the story even more tragic. A morally complex look at the value of life that acutely captures the fragility, despair and uncertainty of growing up.

Buy the book here…

Vanguard of Debut Children’s Authors

Tiger StoneA surge of debut novels by talented Australians for children and young adults may be on the way. Deryn Mansell’s Tiger Stone  (Black Dog Books), an original, intricate mystery set in fourteenth century Java for upper primary and junior secondary readers and Caro Was Here by Elizabeth Farrelly (Walker Books) are some forerunners.

Caro Was Here is also aimed at upper primary school children. Rather than a historical mystery, it is a cool, contemporary mystery adventure. It’s an addictive, pacey read and is today’s equivalent of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five but better written and with more depth of characterisation (not to detract from Blyton, whose books I, and practically everyone else, relished as a child).

Caro is a fascinating character – a bit over-confident, a bit opinionated and a rule-breaker. The novel begins just before the Easter break when twelve-year-old Caro inadvertently sticks up for ‘poached-egg glasses’-wearing nerd, Nigel Numbnuts on the bus. She’s not sure that it will help her chances of becoming Year Six Winter Captain but she has to do it. Her election speech is eclipsed by new American girl, Ellen Aurelia Dufresne, who later becomes part of the group who wag the last afternoon of term.

Ned, Caro’s younger half-brother, Nigel and Ellen, as well as one of her best friends, Tattie, follow Caro to Sydney Harbour. After Caro makes them put their phones in a locker at Circular Quay to enhance the adventure of their afternoon, they miss the ferry to Cockatoo Island and have to catch the boat to Goat Island instead. Some of the history of the island interests them but is convict Charles Anderson’s fate a foretaste of what might be lying in wait for them? Goat Island

When they miss the last ferry and have to spend the night on the dark island in the rain, they realise that they’re not alone. The author continues in the vein of contemporary adventure to create a deliberately uber-thrilling situation, while adding backstories and depth to the main characters.

The cover is perhaps the only downfall of the book. I assumed it signalled introspective realism because of the stylised images of a hand and matchstick, but these components do make sense when you read the story.

Overall, Caro Was Here, Tiger Stone, and other current works by debut writers, seem to be the vanguard in an exciting new era for children’s literature. And thanks also to the farsighted publishers who are delivering works by new authors.

 

Review – Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood

banjo-and-ruby-red Banjo and Ruby Red has been shortlisted for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Early Childhood Book of the Year Award, and rightfully so. It is an emotive story that tugs on the heart strings, created by the dynamic duo, Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, who also collaborated on award-winning Amy and Louis, Half a World Away, and Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House.

Banjo is an old farm dog and Ruby Red is a haughty chicken, and they never see eye to eye. Can they ever be friends?
This funny and touching story of antagonism and love is by award-winning author Libby Gleeson, with illustrations by internationally acclaimed Freya Blackwood.  

Bark. Bark. Bark.
Banjo is the best chook dog. He works hard and always successfully hustles all the squarking chooks back to roost. All except Ruby Red. She’s more interested in watching the sky, giving the old dog more exertion than he needs.

But one day, as Banjo is rounding up the chooks, he discovers that Ruby Red is nowhere to be found and he searches all over the farm. Our hearts drop when we finally find her lying still with her eyes closed.

Will Ruby Red survive?

It is through true loyalty, care and compassion that Banjo takes the chicken’s life in his own paws. He lays with her, keeping her warm for days, and we watch as a miracle unfolds before our eyes.

It is the finale that captures the most heartwarming, touching moment, so warmly depicted in the beautiful illustrations.
Bark. Bark. Bark.
Squark. Squark. Squark.
Chooks fly into the yard, peck at the ground and settle on their roosts.
Except Ruby Red.  

I love how illustrator, Freya Blackwood has integrated feelings of both still and movement, calm and chaos; from the smooth lines of dozing animals to the sequences and rougher sketching of a leaping Banjo and wildly flying chickens. She has also cleverly used text to add to the impact of the noisy animals, to draw the reader right into the scene. The soft earthy tones of the paint, mixed with the outlines and shadows of black pencil, are perfectly suited to an active chook dog rounding up lively chickens in a farm yard.

Banjo and Ruby Red is an absolutely gorgeous story about the friendship between a lovable, spirited dog and an obstinate chicken, with a touch of humour, and stunningly captivating illustrations. Definately a book to capture the hearts of readers of any age.

This book review can also be viewed at www.romisharp.wordpress.com , and on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory What The

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryBook covers are something of an obsession for writers, editors, and booksellers. A good cover sells itself, achieving the almost elusive combination of intrigue and aesthetic that makes you itch to pluck the book from the shelf to read its contents.

Creating such a cover is, of course, part design skill, part muse-inspired, and part magic, which makes good ones much lauded and bad ones much not lauded.

The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover due to be launched on September 4 is, based on the internet’s thunderously unanimous reaction, clearly the latter (which seems especially depressing given how iconic Quentin Blake‘s illustrations have been to date).

I’ll not deny I’m more than a little confused by the cover. For a bunch of reasons. (If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s got a Lolita-ilk doll front and centre, with a woman doll’s body partially visible.)

One reason I’m puzzled is because I genuinely couldn’t tell what was going on with the cover—to whom do the various limbs belong, and why does it look like the girl doll is sitting between the legs of the woman doll?

Another is because the cover’s a newly commissioned, freshly minted update to celebrate the book’s 50th anniversary. That is, it’s a fancy version of a cover of a perennially bestselling book that has a significant number of covers from which to draw inspiration and to reference and build on.

Also, the book’s important to both our collective book-loving memories but also to Penguin Modern Classic’s stable of profitable books. Those factors combined with the significance of the half-century anniversary would, you would think, warrant the publisher putting their best design minds on the job.

So what the hell happened?

In a case of it truly looks like the wrong file was sent to the printer world-is-fukt style, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been printed with a cover better suited to Lolita.

We’ve come to expect better—much, much, much better—from Penguin Modern Classics. In fact, when I first saw the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover design, I thought Facebook had done that annoying thing it is wont to do: display an image unrelated to the post unless you remember to go in and cycle through to select the one you actually want. Many other fans, it appears, thought it was a spoof.

LolitaOr worse, the designer and the managing editor (or whoever signed off on this disaster) hadn’t read the book. This is kind of inexcusable both because of its long-time-loved status—even if you hadn’t read it, you should know the gist of the tale—and because there were also a number of movies made about it too.

If you hadn’t read it, you could have cheated high school-style and watched a film. Failing that, wouldn’t you go for something literal, like a reference to chocolate or a chocolate factory as hinted at through the title?

And am I the only one to wonder why there’s a girl on the cover when the book’s protagonist is a boy?

Sure, there were a couple of girls in the book, but they were part of a cast of snotty-nosed children Charlie encounters and none of them are worth singling out on the cover. If they were going to reference the other children, they should have had an image that represented more than one of them.

BuzzFeed has collated the best internet’s responses so far, which makes for head-nodding- and guffaw-inducing reading.

Some of my favourites include:

  • You know how it always looks like a cover designer’s never read the book?
  • Just so we’re clear, that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover is one of the biggest publishing mistakes ever. Hitler’s Diaries bad.
  • Remember that really famous part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the terrifying dolls? Nope. Me neither.
  • Jon Benet and the Chocolate Factory. Creepy. Not in a good way.
  • Publishing protip: If readers confuse a book cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Lolita, not a very good CHILDREN’s design.

With this new version to be released in just under a month, I suspect this isn’t the last we’ve heard about this horror design…

Review – Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

9780732295547This book needs to come with a warning that if you don’t have time to read it the rest of the day don’t start it! Lauren Beukes takes her writing and her dark imagination to another level following the utterly amazing The Shining Girls.

Beukes has chosen Detroit for the setting of this novel, the perfect place for broken things. Detroit is a broken city and is literally broke (bankrupt to be exact). Once an industrial heartland its industry is now broken and run down. Families are broken and so is any sense of community.

Detective Gabi Versado is trying to make sense of the small horrors she sees everyday. Her daughter Layla tries to make sense of a teenage world where social media is more of a social weapon. Johnno is a broken journalist who has gravitated to Detroit to try to find a story no one else is looking at. And TK is a man who is slowly putting his broken life back together and trying to help those around him do the same. When a brutal murder occurs and the victim is found in a bizarre, possibly ritualistic, fashion the whole city threatens to explode.

Beukes alternates between her characters with expert precision, unfolding the story and their connections to it with subtlety and skill. At the same time she explores a broken city and the places where it is trying to grow back. There is a supernatural theme to the killings and like True Detectivethe lines between imagery and an actual otherworld are so entwined and blurred that the truth is almost lost and everyone with it.

There are so many elements Beukes has combined in this totally absorbing and addictive thriller confirming her as one of the most original and exciting writers of the crime genre (and other genres) at the moment.

Buy the book here…

Double Dipping – Comic Strip Comedies

Derek Danger Dale Secret AgentJunior book series – do they sell? Often it is a question of semantics. Do kids love them? That answer is a no-brainer and when they are as first-rate as these are, it’s no wonder why.

Michael Gerard BauerHot on the heels of the sensationally popular Eric Vale series by Michael Gerard Bauer is Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale The Case of Animals Behaving Really, REALLY Badly. It’s hard to imagine a storyline more epic than its 13-word title, but Bauer manages it with trademark, laugh-out-loud lunacy.

Derek Dale spins straight off the pages of Eric Vale’s journal, springing from imagination into real life with the fearless and somewhat increDerek Danger Dale imagedulous abandon of a male pray mantis looking for love. He is swarthy and buff, with a Dr. Chris Brown jawline that makes your eyes water. And he’s the worst hope Secret Agents R Definitely NOT Us has of defeating the vile genius of evil Doctor Evil MacEvilness. Doc Evil is on a mission to abscond with the world’s biggest diamond by duping the four most deadly animals on the planet into servitude. Can Derek Dale bumble his shirtless way through their attempts to destroy him and outwit MacEvilness while maintaining his secret-agentness and remaining in his boss’s good books? You’ll have to laugh your way through this tongue-in-cheek high-energy spoof to find out.

Bauer, along with his talented son, Joe Bauer’s cartoon-strip-esque illustrations, elevate Eric Vale’s imagined adventurer into riotous superhero status. Secret Agent Derek Dale dispenses with the emotional depth of Eric Vale, being more suited to the younger siblings of readers of the first series but still delivers the laughs and packs plenty of goofball punches. Move over Captain Underpants, there’s a new hero in town, who really, REALLY needs a shorter name.

WeirDo 2Speaking of shorter names, spare a thought for Weir, Weir Do. WeirdDo 2 Even Weirder! is Book 2 in a zany new series for 6 – 8 year-olds by award winning author and hilarious stand-up comic, Anh Do (as in rhymes with go – getting it now?).

Illustrated by Jules Faber, WeirDo 2 follows the popular format of heavily illustrated cartoon-like, side-splittingly humorous novels that cause kids to smash open their piggy banks.

Anh Do

Weir is the product of a weird family. His mum is cheap, his sister is borderline obsessive compulsive, his little brother, Roger chucks everything into the bath, and his dad has an uncanny way of drawing out his bodily emissions. It’s all pretty straightforward bizarreness until Weir gets hung up on the seventh best-looking girl in school, Bella. He is keen to impress her the best way he knows how, with one of his drawings.

He thinks he’s in with a chance when she invites him to her birthday party but things turn typically weird starting with a severe case of the ‘finkles’. How Weir and his family turn disaster into divinely good fun makes for one of the most wacky, comical reads I’ve had for a while. WeirdDo 2, Even Weirder! is a rib tickling and surprisingly tender look at today’s social diversity, family make-up, and how little kids with unfortunate names fit into the mix. Plus it has a snazzy animated motion cover too. Ripper!

Both books available now here.

Scholastic Australia 2014

 

Review – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

9780340921586My obsession with David Mitchell continues and is getting more intense. There are books you devour. There are books you savour and never want to end. And then there are David Mitchell books which are both.

I went with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet because there was a reference and crossover with The Bone Clocks. It is the most linear chronologically of David Mitchell that I have read so far but in no means does this curb his imaginative scope. It is a love story, a historical novel of the highest class, it is a Japanese story of intrigue, honour and betrayal. It is quietly simply one of the most beautifully books I have ever read.

Set at the turn of the 19th century in Nagasaki the book focuses on a Dutch East Indies trading outpost, Dejima. Foreigners are not allowed on Japanese soil so the Dutch instead have created an artificial island from which they are allowed to trade. Jacob De Zoet is a new arrival tasked with the inevitable job of cleaning up the outpost’s highly corrupted books. De Zoet becomes not only enchanted and intrigued by the tightly closed and controlled feudal Japanese society but also a young midwife who is determined to learn the best of Dutch and European medical practices.

David Mitchell plots his story magnificently. Slowly placing all his pieces on his rich board before scattering things in ways only his imagination could conjuror. Rich in historical detail, deep in cultural complexities and with the perfect mix of tragedy and intrigue. David Mitchell is an absolute genius and I have to read everything he has written.

Buy the book here…

Competition Winner Is Announced

The competition to WIN a copy of Betrothed and Allegiance by Wanda Wiltshire as well as a handmade bookmark made by the author recently closed.  Fans and would be fans of the Betrothed series had some moving entries and pledges to very worthy causes.

Wanda and I discussed each of the entries before declaring Ashlee Taylor as the winner!

Congratulations Ashlee!!

Here’s Ashlee’s pledge of allegiance:

I pledge my Allegiance to the children all around the world without families, children that starve everyday, children that are hurt during a war they have nothing to do with. I pledge my Allegiance to them because no one else does, someone needs to stand up and help them through the pain the are feeling, show them the light in life that they don’t see. Show them that there are people that care about all of them, every single tiny soul deserves a chance in life.

The prize pack includes these two books from Australian author Wanda Wiltshire
The prize pack includes these two books from Australian author Wanda Wiltshire

Ashlee, please email Jon Page (jon@boomerangbooks.com.au) with your postal address and your prize will be on its way to you soon.

Thanks to all those who entered and of course to Pantera Press.

You can read a FREE extract of Betrothedhere.
You can read a FREE extract of Allegiance here.

The Call of the Wild

Some things demand to be written about. For me, it’s orangutans. I first encountered them twenty years ago. I was holidaying on the island of Borneo and came across a sanctuary where young orphaned orangutans were being returned to the wild. The Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is now a well-organised stop on the tourist trail, but at the time, visitors could wander unrestricted into the jungle as rangers took food for the young orphans. When the orangutans heard the sound of a ranger they would appear out of nowhere and descend to the ground to grab a piece of fruit from the ranger’s bucket.

The Call of the Wild It was an incredible experience, made all the more special because we were able to get so close to the orangutans. One cheeky chappie stole a friend’s scarf from her neck, played with it for a bit and then tossed it aside. A little while later, he came down from his treetop vantage point, unzipped a girl’s money belt, started pulling out notes and eating them. Every time she pulled his hand from her money belt, he used a foot to help himself to more cash.

As we were leaving the sanctuary the same orangutan was sitting on the boardwalk, like he was planning to wave us farewell. But that’s not what he had in mind. As I walked past, he grabbed my hand. I tried to pull it free, but he was way stronger than me. I was stuck. With no sign of the ranger, I had to bribe the orangutan to let me go, handing over a silver pen to secure my free passage.

The orangutans really got to me and I’ve been trying to find a way to include them in a story ever since. Now I have!

The Call of the Wild is my newest Choose Your Own Ever After story for tweens. In this pick-a-path story, nature-loving Phoebe has to choose between going to a super-cool party with her friends or helping out at a save-the-orangutan fundraiser.

The story is light and fun, but the facts behind it are serious. Orangutans are rapidly losing their habitats in Asia due to widespread palm oil cultivation, logging and fires. At the current rate orangutans will be extinct in the wild in the next ten years in Sumatra, and soon after in Borneo. What a tragedy – one that some hard-working charities are fighting to avert. Will they win or will they lose?

I wish I could make a choice on that one.

Feel free to visit my website or you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy reading,

Julie Fison

 

Player Profile: K.T. Medina, author of White Crocodile

L1050082Katie Medina, author of White Crocodile

Tell us about your latest creation:

The name of this novel, my debut, is White Crocodile.

White Crocodile is a thriller set in the land mine fields of northern Cambodia.  Teenaged mothers are disappearing from villages around the minefields, while others are being found mutilated and murdered, their babies abandoned.  And there are whispers about the white crocodile, a mythical beast who brings death to all who meet it.

Tess Hardy thought that she had put Luke, her violent husband firmly in her past. Until he calls from Cambodia and there is something she hasn’t heard in his voice before.  Fear.  Two weeks later, he’s dead.  Against her better judgment, Tess is drawn to Cambodia and to the killing fields.

Caught in a web of secrets and lies that stretches all the way from Cambodia to another murder in England, and a violent secret twenty years old, Tess must find out the truth, and quickly – because the crocodile is watching…

9780571310753Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I live in Wimbledon, London, virtually next door to the All England Tennis Club where the Wimbledon tennis championships are held.  I am also lucky enough to have a tiny, three hundred year old thatched cottage by the sea an hour’s drive from London, where I go for weekends and holidays with my husband and children.  My mother is from Brisbane, Queensland and so I have duel British and Australian nationality. I lived and worked in Sydney for two years, ten years ago and would love to repeat the experience.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

My parents have a photograph of me, aged five, with a crew cut, wearing an Army camouflage outfit. I was an outdoorsy tomboy and always wanted to be a soldier, which is probably why I ended up spending five years in the Army Reserve, and working for Jane’s Information Group, the world’s leading publisher of defence intelligence information as Managing Editor, Land-Based Weapon Systems.  However, I have also always loved to read and write, and much of my childhood was spent immersed in stories.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

White Crocodile is my first novel, but it is very personal to me and, as such, will probably always be my favourite.

I had the idea for the novel while working at Jane’s.  As part of the role, I spent a month working alongside professional mine clearers in Cambodia, to learn more about the information they needed to help them clear mines more safely.  I was privileged to be able to get to know both Western and Khmer clearers and to spend time talking with Khmers who had lost limbs to land mines.

Separately, I also met a professional mine clearer, Paul Jefferson, who had been seriously injured in a land mine accident in Iraq. He is now a good friend, and I have dedicated White Crocodile to him.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I work in a small attic room, which is freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.  However, because I have three children, two dogs and a cat, the location gives me space to escape!

I am not a tidy person – something the Army tried and failed to knock out of me – and so my work space is a litter of paper and post-it notes.  I spend a couple of months laying out a detailed plot on the wall with post-its before I start writing.  The plot of White Crocodile is complex and contains multiple interrelated sub-plots and I would have completely
lost track without my post-it note map!
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I am an avid crime and thriller reader, which is why I chose to write in that genre.  I love writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole, Mo Hayder, Michael Robotham and Lee Child among others.  One of my favourite books is Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, which I think is an enduringly excellent thriller.  I also enjoy books that explore people’s psychology, such as the classic Lord of the Flies, as I have a degree in Psychology and am fascinated by human behaviour.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

Two books spring to mind: Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird.  They are both fantastic children’s psychological thrillers, with great story lines and vividly drawn, memorable characters. I have read these novels a number of times over the years and never fail to appreciate them.  I was also an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and, in common with many other tomboys, wanted to be George.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

I would like to be Jack Reacher, because of the freedom that he has to go wherever he wants and to behave however hewants, without rules or boundaries. I think it would be incredibly liberating to have no home, no possessions, no commitments and no dependents – for a while at least.  I also love the fact that he knows how to handle himself.  No body gets one over on Jack Reacher!

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

Apart from reading, I spend as much of my spare time as I can by the sea.  I am probably more Aussie than Brit in my heart, as I love being outdoors, love the beach, swimming, sailing, and anything to do with being out on the water.  I also have a vegetable patch, which I find fascinating. My home grown vegetables always look wonky and never quite the
right colour, but they taste fantastic – much better than shop bought

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

In the winter, which is unfailingly cold and rainy in England, I love roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and a cup of tea.  In the summer, it has to be shellfish and a cold glass of Aussie
sauvignon.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My hero is personal to White Crocodile and to me, and is Paul Jefferson, the friend who was badly injured while clearing land mines in Iraq.  He lost a leg and is blind, but continues to lead a more active life than many of the able bodied people I know (including myself) completing a degree in Archeology, travelling, working for charities, renovating a house in France and leading an active social life.  He never complains, is energetic and fearless, and I find him incredibly inspirational.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

I think the biggest challenge for books and reading is lack of time.  The world feels as if it is getting increasingly challenging and competitive, and people have to run faster just to keep up. It can be hard to find the time to curl up with a good book – though there are few things more enjoyable when you do.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Whitecrocodilebyktmedina

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatieMedina11

Website/Blog: www.ktmedina.com

A writer’s journey

On WritingWriters have a tendency to gather in groups, large and small (I wonder what the collective noun would be? A scribble?). They conglomerate at festivals, frequent bookstores and go to each other’s book launches. So, as an author, I know lots of other established authors. I also know lots of aspiring and emerging authors. People always want to know about the writer’s journey of established authors. There are blogs and articles and books full of these journeys. But aspiring and emerging authors also have interesting and inspiring stories to tell. Yes, they are still in the early part of their journeys — but sharing those journeys can be wonderfully inspiring for other writers who are at a similar stage. So I asked friend and emerging author Karen Carlisle to share her story on this blog. Take it away Karen…

When George asked me to write a post for his blog, I thought: Me? What can I say that would be of any use to other writers? I am just starting out on my own writing journey? I think that was the point. There are many people who want to be writers but they do not do the one thing that a writer should do — write. Thank you for asking me to share your space, George.

Here is the thinking behind my journey…

When I grow up, I want to be a writer
By Karen J Carlisle

I love stories. I used to collect the Target Doctor Who books in the 70s and 80s. I read every Star Wars book I could afford. I wrote my own adventures. I longed to travel to different worlds and accompany The Doctor on his travels through time.

I longed to grow up and become an astronaut, a Time Lady or a writer. Though I excelled at both English and Physics at school, I did not have the advanced maths skills to be an astronaut. (Sadly I was not born a Time Lady).

Both halves of my brain — the Logical Left and the Creative Right — fought for control. I was encouraged to follow a stable career path. My urge to write was shelved (for a few decades); I finished my Bachelor of Applied Science and became an optometrist. I never had the courage to follow my dream. Not practical.

Now I have all grown up. I have a career. I have a family. I have a home. Sometimes life has a way of throwing things at me — circumstances have rekindled my dream. I still want to be a writer — more than ever!

But what did I need to do to achieve my dream goal of becoming a writer (dare I say — possibly a published writer)?

The Logical Left side of my brain went into full gear: You used to get 95% for essays in high school. You can do this!

My plan of attack was:
1. Posit the question
2. Research
3. Practical work
4. Discuss conclusions. (There was no escaping the university scientific training.)

1. The Question: What was the secret to successful writing?

2. The Research: Writing is a skill. Like many skills, training is required. I devoured books and followed blogs by authors and publishers to learn their secrets. The following points kept popping up:

9781599631400Read or write every day.

The most influential piece of advice I have read was: Write (or read) 1000-1500 words a day (not always achievable, mind you). In 2009, Malcolm Gladwell proposed the 10,000-hour rule — to become an expert at anything, requires 10,000 hours of practice. Though not a guarantee, it was obvious that I would need to practice writing every day.

Finish and Submit the Work.

Anything can be proven by manipulating statistics but any way you spin the following, it is scary. Maybe 3-5% of writers finish their work. Of these, 3-10% might submit their story. (Stats vary but it is safe to say it is a very small percentage.) To have any chance at success, I would have to finish and submit my work.

In my final year of high school, I wrote a science fiction/comedy novel. It is in our shed… somewhere… unread by more than two people. So I had finished one book. Surely I could write another? This time round, I resolved to improve on the ‘submitting’ phase.

Learn to handle rejection.

Very few writers succeed with their first book. Even JK Rowling got rejected a dozen times before being published. Rather than discouraging, the statistical reality actually consoled me. If I finished and submitted my work, then I would be ahead of 95-99% of other writers. This increased my chances of success significantly. Game on!

3. Practical Work: Time to put my research into action.

Reading was the easy bit. Regular writing required some organisation. My plan would begin with writing short stories and a personal blog. This would get me into the habit of the good ‘work practice’ of writing daily.

Both short stories and my blog exploit my obsession with completing things to a deadline. A blog is public. If I don’t write, there is a vacant space on the Internet. I can’t fake it. My readers will know. Though less public, short story competitions have a deadline and the added incentive of prizes.

A year of competition entry rejections has been beneficial. I have adopted an excellent piece of advice — wallpaper my room with the rejection letters! Each one is proof that I am a writer who can (at least) finish in that 1-5%!

4. Conclusion/Discussion: Statistically I have come out on top.

Of my twenty short stories submitted for competition, I achieved one short listing. (I am told this is good.) This year, I joined NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo (online incentives to finish up to 50,000 words in a month). I completed my goal for ‘Camp’ in April (10,000 words) which then grew to become my first completed novella of 35,000 words (now in rewrites and edits). I have completed 30% of a novel length manuscript and have a rough outline for a first draft of another steampunk novella length story (for NaNoWriMo in November). I am happy with this progress.

Currently I am preparing to publish a series of short stories in the steampunk-alternative history genre — my current passion. Without it I would not have been inspired to begin my writing journey… all over again.

9781599632124George’s bit at the end

Thank you Karen, for sharing your journey. I’m sure that other writers will find it inspiring. I certainly did. To find out more about Karen and her writing, check out her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

For those of you who are interested in reading more about writing, Karen supplied me with a list of some of the instructional books she has read…

Happy reading… and writing.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

AltantisCheck out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: Blu-ray Giveaway  — Altantis

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Silver Shadows

Silver ShadowsYou know you’re excited about a book’s impending release when you’ve literally instigated a countdown. And you’re emailing a friend and co-fan who happens to be in Europe for four months, telling her if she’s in doubt about returning to Australia, rest assured: the book will help smooth her potentially bumpy I’m-not-in-Europe-anymore arrival.

Silver Shadows, Book Five in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy* spin-off Bloodlines, has just been released (Still with me? The series and spin-off and book titles can be confusing and I have to admit I still refer to everything as a Vampire Academy book).

It picks up where Book Four left off—if you haven’t read this yet, now’s the time to do the reading equivalent of lalalalala, AKA stop reading this blog post). That is, Alchemist extraordinaire Sydney Sage has been kidnapped and imprisoned by the Alchemists in an underground ‘re-education’ facility. Moroi lover Adrian Ivashkov is losing his mind with grief and frustration as he tries to use mental-health-destabilising spirit find out where she’s being kept.

With Sydney trapped in a seemingly-impossible-to-escape prison, I truly expected Rose and Dimitri to feature heavily in this tale (in truth, I expect that every book). But Mead surprised me and again kept them to cameos—she really does seem to mean what she said about being done with following their stories. That said, the way the book finishes has me convinced that the next one will surely see them come to the fore (in truth, I’ve thought that every book too).

The Silver Shadows contains less sassy repartee than previous books, but that’s both because people are trapped alone in various locations and in their heads, which makes the requirement of having someone to trade repartee with rather troublesome. Besides, the subject matter—torture, prejudice, and mental health and alcohol issues—makes for some reasonably bleak reading. In the most gripping, tale-inhaling manner, of course.

There are a few moments, though, such as when Sydney first encounters her uptight, Type A roommate, AKA ‘the Sydney Sage of re-education’. There’s also some banter about which car Adrian and Marcus should take on a roadtrip to find Sydney: a Mustang or a ‘lame yet highly fuel-efficient’ Prius that would require fewer stops and, therefore, hasten their mission.

The book touches on some more adult themes. And by adult, I mean challenging, life-changing stuff such as battling deteriorating mental health and grappling with feelings-suppressing alcohol addiction.

Vampire AcademyIt handles it in a way that’s respectful, demystifying, and de-stigmatising, which is all you could ask of a young-adult text. (Forgive me for getting my responsible adult hat on, but hopefully the young adults and not-so-young adults reading the series will feel a little less hesitant to ask for help sometime if they ever need it.)

Overall, though, not a lot happens in Silver Shadows. At least, not compared with other Vampire Academy slash Bloodlines books. But the tension around Sydney’s circumstances and whether Adrian, who’s self-destructing, will be able to hold it together, propel the story tensely forward. It’s also setting the scene for a bigger shebang, which Mead cruelly (and by cruelly I mean niftily) drops on us in final words on the final pages.

Which means that, having inhaled the book that answered the year-long what’s-going-to-happen-to-Sydney-in-re-education-camp suspense, that suspense has now been replaced with what’s-going-to-happen-with-[I’m not going to issue that spoiler so soon after its release—suffice to say, the plot twist and its ramifications are big] agony.

What I am going to say is that Mead had better been well on her way to writing Book Six. Let the countdown begin.

*As a side note, the covers continue to be terrible. I’m glad someone’s finally shifting the Vampire Academy titles to a more generic VA. They need to do similarly with the Bloodlines series. Pouting generic blondes and brunettes don’t cut it. For starters, Sydney Sage wouldn’t pout lustily at a camera…

August – celebrating children’s books

Pig the PugAugust is an important month for Australian children’s books because the CBCA Book of the Year is announced on 15th and National Literacy and Numeracy Week is held from 25-31 August.

The aim of NLNW website, as stated on their website is:

National Literacy and Numeracy Week represents a collaborative approach by the Australian Government and school communities to highlight the importance of literacy and numeracy skills for all children and young people, with a specific focus on school-aged children.

The Week gives schools the opportunity to be involved in a range of literacy and numeracy activities. The Week aims to recognise locally the achievements of students and the work of teachers, parents and members of the community who support young people to develop stronger literacy and numeracy skills.

One of the literacy activities is Read for Australia. This is a simultaneous read where groups from around Australia read the same book on Friday 29th August at 2pm EST. A video of the book with Auslan for the hearing impaired, captions and a transcript will be released a week before the read.

The book selected for 2014 is Sunday Chutney, a picture book by Aaron Blabey. This book looks at friendship and what it’s like to be different. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Australian Book Industry Awards as well as the CBCA Picture Book of the Year. I was Queensland CBCA judge at that time – and thrilled that it was shortlisted.

Sunday Chutney

Teacher Notes for a range of ages is available on the NLNW website.

I’ve written notes for Years 5-6, which include a focus on the ‘panelling’ (a feature of graphic novels and some picture books) in the illustrations.

The author of Sunday Chutney, Aaron Blabey is a talented man. Some may remember him as the award-winning TV star of the political satire The Damnation of Harvey McHugh. He is a visual artist (much of his work is strictly for adults not children, though!) as well as a respected and popular writer and illustrator of a plethora of children’s picture books.

His most recent release (July 2014)  Pig the Pug is published by Scholastic Press. This is a very funny rhyming story about a selfish pug called Pig who won’t share his toys with his flatmate Trevor the sausage dog. This leads to a dire but hilarious comeuppance. Blabey’s illustrations have a distinctive style. His characters frequently have wide, puppet-like faces with popping eyes. He often uses a predominately brown palette, which sets his books apart from the pack – and works! He is a fitting ambassador for NLNW.

Review – Vanilla Icecream

Vanilla Icecream 2You might as well know my weakness. It’s ice cream. Any flavour, most kinds, regardless of country of origin. I am extremely ice cream tolerant and I wonder if Bob Graham had similar thoughts when he penned his latest picture book masterpiece, Vanilla Icecream.

Vanilla Icecream is an eloquently articulated tale about a young curious sparrow whose world revolves around a dusty truck stop in the heart of India. He enjoys his existence and relishes his freedom with the blithe objectivity of all wild things until one day his pluck and appetite hook up with fate, which escorts him south across rough seas and through dark nights, eventually delivering him ‘into a bright new day’.

Unperturbed by his new environment in a different land, the truck stop sparrow chances upon a new eating hole and Edie Irvine, a toddler whose young life is inextricably changed forever because of him.

Bob Graham Graham’s dramatic narration of the little sparrow’s epic journey stuns you with its beautiful brevity and makes you want to follow the courageous new immigrant and know if Edie’s and his paths will ever cross again. This is a largely self-indulgent desire on my part as I get quite caught up in Graham’s snapshots of life, wanting them to never end. Nonetheless, end they must and this one’s delicious denouement is as immeasurably satisfying as a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Icecream EdieThere are numerous wordless pages in this picture book as Graham shapes much of the narration visually with his splendid, slightly sassy, culturally sensitive illustrations. Graham has the unique, unaffected knack of suffusing modern day nuances with old-fashioned appeal into his pictures that draw the eye of young and old alike deep into the story in spite of the apparent simplicity on shown on the page.

This story allowed me to sift through memories, mostly glorious of my own ‘firsts’ and it reminded me of my daughter’s wonderment when discovering her first time, life-changing tastes, notions, and realisations. What Vanilla Icecream evokes in you depends entirely on your own memories and attitude towards new people and new experiences, and your fondness for ice cream of course. However, you will be hard pressed to find a better way to introduce the complex ideals of human rights, fate, and immigration to young ones where a lightness of touch is more readily comprehended than harsh dry facts. As Amnesty International UK proclaims through its endorsement of Vanilla Icecream;

‘…we should all enjoy life, freedom, and safety. These are some of our human rights.’

Vanilla Icecream is quite simply a stunning picture book. Quiet and unassuming in its appearance. Complex and multi-layered enough to warrant spirited discussion with 3 to 103 year olds.

The perfect scoop.

Walker Books UK  2014

Bob Graham fans in our southern states should not miss the ACT Museum+Gallery Exhibition: A Bird in the Hand! Bob Graham: A Retrospective on now until 24th August 2014, in Canberra. A must see.bobgraham_banner