Prepare Yourself for these Film Adaptations

The summer is almost upon us, which means the season for blockbuster movies is here. With the successful adaptation of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn I thought I would talk about some other movies that come from books. Like me, I am sure a lot of people out there would prefer to read the book before seeing the movies so we might be too busy reading to find time to see this films which are out now or coming really soon. I am going exclude The Hobbit and Mockingjay simply because I believe everyone is aware of these books.

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

Starring Nicole Kidman, Mark Strong and Colin Firth, this psychological thriller tells the story of a woman suffering from anterograde amnesia. Every night she goes to sleep and wakes up with no memory of the past ten years. Slowly she tries to reconstruct her memory but how much can she trust what she wrote over the past ten years. S. J. Watson’s debut novel has been a literary sensation and now is our chance to see how it translates onto the silver screen.

A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

Matt Scudder is Lawrence Block’s offering to hardboiled crime novels. With seventeen books in the series, this character has been around since 1976. An alcoholic ex-cop who quit the NYPD after accidentally causing the death of a young girl, he now does favours for people who in return give him gifts of money. Scudder was portrayed in 1986 by Jeff Bridges in Eight Million Ways to Die (book 5) and now Liam Neeson is taking on the role in A Walk Among the Tombstones (book 10).

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper

Jonathan Trooper is the author of six comedy/drama novels but he may be best known for the television series Banshee that he created with David Schickler. This is Where I Leave You is the story the Foxman family. After their father dies, the family finds out that his dying request was for them to spend seven days together; his attempt to bring his family back together has hilarious outcomes. This is a story of a dysfunctional family, full of raw emotions, staring Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda and Tina Fey.

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

The movie was adapted from Dennis Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue” and is the last movie from the late James Gandolfini. A lonely bartender planning suicide finds himself crossing paths with the Chechen mafia. Typical to Lehane’s style you can expect a fast paced and highly thrilling movie. Featuring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and as mentioned before the late, great Gandolfini.

Serena by Ron Rash

I have a working theory that every time Jennifer Lawrence stars in a movie with Bradley Cooper she gets an Oscar nomination. Set in the Depression era Serena is a French/American drama about newlyweds trying to run a timber business. Struggling to keep the business going, things become more complicated for George Pemberton when he finds out his wife cannot bear children.

There are plenty to keep you going; in 2015 there will be plenty more. Including Insurgent by Veronica Roth, 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and Inferno by Dan Brown. We can go on and on with the upcoming film adaptations, what are you looking forward to seeing adapted?

The first official book from international pop-punk sensation 5 Seconds of Summer

9780007594894It’s here! The first official book from international pop-punk sensation 5 Seconds of Summer, Hey, Let’s Make a Band!, chronicling the group’s amazing journey to super-stardom.

These four Australian boys — Luke, Michael, Calum and Ashton — are a global sensation. From posting videos of themselves performing cover versions of hit songs to YouTube, they were spotted by One Direction who invited them as their support act on their first worldwide tour. Little did they know that within a year, their first EP would hit #1 in 48 countries on pre-orders alone, they’d have twitter followers and YouTube hits in their millions, plus a massive family of devoted fans — and all before even releasing their first single.

Having now stormed to the top of the charts around the world with ‘She Looks So Perfect’ and ‘Amnesia’, the boys have been propelled to international stardom in a massive way. With an upcoming sell out ‘Rock Out With Your Socks Out’ arena tour in 2015, on top of supporting 1D on their huge worldwide stadium tour in 2014, writing music with everyone from the likes of McFly to Kaiser Chief’s Nick Hodgson and winning MTV’s Breakthrough Band of the Year award; the guys have a lot to talk about. And luckily for us, that’s exactly what they have done!

A coolly designed, gorgeous package that replicates 5SOS’s signature style, Hey, Let’s Make a Band! is jam packed full of over 100 unseen photos exclusively shot especially for the book. With revealing insights and memories from the boys themselves, this is the only official account from the boys, telling their own story of their incredible rise to fame in their own words.

Buy the book here…

Connected: Phillip Johnson’s Sustainable Garden Designs

ConnectedThe ‘do something you love so you’ll never work a day in your life’ edict is both trite and too often touted. But in the case of Phillip Johnson, it’s probably the one time the saying should be applied: the award-winning landscape designer slash horticulturalist seems to truly have found his perfect-fit career.

Johnson relished being in the garden from a young age. His parents recognised and fostered this love, even carving out a two-metre by two-metre space on their suburban Victoria block for him to cultivate from age eight.

At the same time, Johnson grappled with dyslexia, which no doubt made school a challenge and heightened his love for his non-words-based garden sanctuary. He was also diagnosed as colour blind. How, then, he’s gone on to forge a career combining different hues of plants is impressive and extraordinary.

Johnson advocates creating ‘healing habitats’ to repair the damage we’ve inflicted (and are still inflicting) on the environment. Those habitats also work to heal us.

The forthcoming Connected: The Sustainable Landscapes of Phillip Johnson (by Murdoch Books—thanks to them I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy) features a range of landscape sizes and styles in Johnson’s impressive, grounded, deeply inspiring portfolio.

Packed with vibrant images and accompany explanatory text outlining each garden’s backstory and guiding principles, the book is largely laid out chronologically. It starts with Johnson’s parents’ English cottage garden—the one he grew up in and the first he was ever commissioned to design. It moves on to his own home, with Johnson outlining it as the test site where he devises and refines ideas that filter in to his other designs.

The book then features a surprisingly eclectic mix of properties Johnson and his team have created (it might just be me, but I always assumed it was just the super wealthy who could afford to commission garden design–Johnson shows landscape design to be a lot more accessible).

These range from a tiny Victoria cottage front yard reworked as a testament and celebration of the life of a recently deceased man to a former sewage pumping station. There’s also an urban, produce-producing garden for a beginner and time-poor gardener, a suburban turtle habitat, and rural working farms requiring drought and bushfire considerations. The through line is the focus on native and indigenous plants and the garden designs’ considerations of, and nods to, sustainability.

The book then finishes with slash culminates in Johnson’s award-winning garden show designs (he most recently won Best In Show at the 2013 Centenary Chelsea Flower Show in London—the first Australian to ever accomplish what has been deemed the gardening equivalent of winning Olympic gold).

Both exquisite to admire as a coffee table book and pragmatic to apply to our own lives, Connected’s pages include water tables, diagrams, and plant lists. The underlying thesis is that we can create sustainable landscapes on any plot of land.

My one constructive criticism would be of the book’s image layout choices. With images abutting each other and even used as borders for other images, it’s busy and unclear where one image finishes and another begins. The gardens—and the images capturing them—are breathtaking, but my eyes were desperate for some white space to allow me to fully absorb and appreciate them. I feel this lack of white space diminishes the effect of the images overall.

But that’s a small gripe about what is ultimately a beautifully put together and inspiring book. Connected is characteristic of Murdoch Books’ impressive standard*.

It’s a title I’ll be happy to display on my bookshelf or my coffee table, gift to others, and thumb through for gardening inspiration. Who knows, with Johnson including chickens (AKA chookens) in some of his garden designs, I may be able to glean some ideas for creating a sustainable, chooken- and bee-friendly garden of my own.


*I should also probably apologise to the postperson who had to lug this book to my place and then upstairs to my apartment—this full-colour, glossy-paged book is high quality hefty.

Chrissie Michaels – breathing life into history

Chrissie MichaelsIt was while researching the French explorer Nicolas Baudin that Australian children’s author, Chrissie Michaels came across one of those gems that every writer loves to find. It was the story of a young convict girl, who was transported to New South Wales for theft and ended up as a passenger on Baudin’s ship as he mapped Australia’s southern coastline.

Snippets of nineteenth century journals provided a glimpse of Mary Beckwith’s extraordinary life. From there, Chrissie Michaels filled in the gaps to offer an insight into conditions in the early convict days and the role of French explorers in Australia’s history. Convict Girl: The Diary of Mary Beckwith and Chrissie Michaels’ other intriguing story – Voyage to Botany Bay, are part of the My Australian Story series (Scholastic Australia).

Chrissie joins me today to chat about resuscitating characters from history.

You have two books in the My Australian Story series. I’m particularly intrigued by Mary Beckwith. Can you tell us a bit of the background to Convict Girl: The Diary of Mary Beckwith?

Convict Girl: The Diary of Mary Beckwith is my second novel in the My Australian Story series published by Scholastic Australia. It was while researching the French explorer Nicolas Baudin and his voyage of discovery that I came upon the story of Mary Beckwith. She sailed with Baudin when he left Port Jackson (Sydney) and is acknowledged as the first European woman to set foot in South Australia, at Kangaroo Island.

my-australian-storyConvict girlThe novel is written as a diary from Mary’s point of view and covers the times she lived through after she and her mother were transported to New South Wales for stealing some cloth.

Much of Mary Beckwith’s life remains a mystery. Apart from the Old Bailey trial, and the convict list giving her transportation details, there are only brief remarks made about her in some of the journals from the Baudin expedition. As well there is a reference to her in Matthew Flinders’ diary, made while he was a prisoner in Mauritius. We also know that Mary’s mother later married the colony’s Judge Advocate, Richard Atkins. This gave me great scope to breathe life into her character.

What appeals to you about historical fiction?

I have a thirst for knowledge about the past. Once I go down the road, I have to know what is going on. I turn every corner. You could say I am insatiably curious.

The novels I have written for Scholastic’s My Australian Story series draw upon a particular passion of mine for French history. Both novels feature a French navigator. In Convict Girl Baudin, his scientists and his officers made a wonderful contribution to world knowledge through their magnificent natural history collection. Voyage to Botany Bay similarly traces the earlier expedition of Lapérouse (aka La Pérouse) which touched on the shores of Botany Bay at the same time as the First Fleet arrived. I am pleased to think that my books may help to further our understanding and appreciation of the role that French navigators played in Australia’s history.

Where do find a voice for your characters?

When it comes to finding a character’s voice I think my right brain works better than my left! I tend to carry the character around in my head for quite a while, rather than make character profiles or lists. The characters themselves are shaped by the story, which these days always seem to come from a historical event that has piqued my interest. I try to walk in their shoes during the specific historical period; try to solve their problems for them as they come along.

In Lonnie's ShadowOnce I discover a character’s voice the writing definitely comes more easily. The characters begin to take on a life of their own. I like to see them grow, become more independent, not always accept what is happening to them. Perhaps that is why my choice is to have characters who often live on the edge of the law. I have to make some decisive value judgements about their actions. Take Lonnie McGuinness, who appears in my YA novel, In Lonnie’s Shadow (Ford Street Publishing). He was always going to be a larrikin. However, I knew he would stand apart from gangs like the Push, and the Glass and Bottle, who loitered around the Little Lon lanes and alleyways in 1890 Melbourne. Lonnie always wanted to be his own man. He was never going to be a follower. Like any modern day hero he tried to right the wrongs around him. He looked after his mates, even if how he did this was sometimes questionable.

How much research goes into building authentic characters?

I try to immerse myself in the era that I am researching. Because I tend to approach writing about people who have already lived with a sense of caution, I spend a lot of time cross-checking details. My coffee table collection is pretty impressive! And I spend a lot of time doing initial research via the Web.

There is always an opportunity to network and call on expert help! During my writing of Voyage To Botany Bay I was able to have an on-going correspondence with representatives from the Musée de Lapérouse in Albi, as well as with the late Mr Reece Discombe who was the rediscoverer of the Lapérouse shipwrecks in the 1960s. They clarified lots of details for me about landscape and place as well.

My research for In Lonnie’s Shadow began with a visit to the Melbourne Museum and grew from there. The artifacts from the archaeological dig at Little Lon, shown as part of their Melbourne Story exhibition inspired the narrative structure. Each chapter title is an artifact with literal or metaphorical significance to the storyline. It is only a short walk across town from the museum to the State Library. I spent many an hour immersed in ephemera and trawling through microfiche records of the period (pre TROVE).

my-australian-story-voyage-to-botany-bayThere is much relief in having others validate the accuracy of your own research. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when Martine Marin of the Association of Friends of Nicolas Baudin in France (Les Amis de Nicolas Baudin) recently wrote to me, referring to my latest novel Convict Girl as ‘very well documented’. She also devoted a page to Convict Girl in the association’s latest newsletter and gave it a strong recommendation to readers.

What’s next for you – more historical fiction?

Yes, I am currently researching and writing another historical novel based on an event I came across whilst researching Convict Girl. I hope to have the manuscript completed by early next year.

I also write teacher texts for primary and secondary English and History, and have a few things on the go in this area as well.

Thank you for visiting, Chrissie. Good luck with your next project. 

For further information about Chrissie Michaels’ novels and for teachers’ notes, visit Chrissie’s website.

Visit my blog again soon, or you call follow me on Facebook and Twitter at the addresses below.

Happy reading,

Julie Fison





Meet N.J. Gemmell, author of The Icicle Illuminarium

Nikki_Gemmell_authorphoto_2013SmThanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Nikki Gemmell,  about The Icicle Illuminarium (Random House Australia) and your other books.

It would be fascinating to look inside your brain. Your stories are bursting with interesting, unusual and unexpected ideas, such as the room of a thousand glow worms and the zipping ladders on rails in the Reptilarium. How do you develop your creativity?

Well, I guess my mind never stops whirring. I’m constantly seeking inspiration from everything around me, and jotting it down in a journal that’s always close to hand. I’ve been keeping my notebooks since I was 14. They’re more like scrapbooks, actually; full of clippings, title ideas, character descriptions, quotes, overheard conversations and various nuggety enchantments. It might be a decade or two before an idea in there is actually mined for a book, but I’m constantly dipping into my seventeen (and counting) journals. The aim with all my writing: to enchant, in some way. I have four kids and they’re a good sounding board as to whether I’ve succeeded or not. They’ll tell me quick smart (quite bluntly, actually, the little buggers)if something doesn’t work.   Icicle Illuminarium

Boys and girls, particularly in mid to upper primary school and junior secondary, will  love The Icicle Illuminarium. What bait have you used to get them (and keep them) reading?

I need a story to gallop along. I live in fear of boring the reader. Kids are the most exacting critics and I find kid’s fiction much harder to write than adult’s. The aim, constantly, is to get your reader to turn the page – and children are much quicker with putting a book down if they’re not interested. I remember the books I loved as a kid – Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, the Silver Brumby series, Little House on the Prairie etc. They’d moved me. Make me cry as well as laugh. I aim to do that with my own books, too. Lure readers by moving them, enchanting them, and keeping them obsessed with the story. I love it when I hear kids have stayed up really late, or finished my book in one or two feverish reading sessions.

There are references to war, which add intrigue as well as depth to the story. When are the books set?

The Kensington Reptilarium and The Icicle Illuminarium are set immediately after World War II, in December 1945 and January 1946. It was a time when the world was finding its feet again; a changed world, a dazed, broken world, working out how to get itself back into normality again.

Kensington Reptilarium

Your two children’s books are set in the UK, as well as in Australia. What are some differences between these places and what sort of children do they breed?

So many differences! Which is what this series is all about. It basically transplants four loud, sparky, resourceful Aussie bush scamps from the outback into the genteel world of upper crust England – where children are meant to be seen and not heard. Imagine four Ginger Meggs types ending up in a Downton Abbey world. What results is a huge culture clash, but I do have to say that I think that the Aussies have the upper hand in it (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?) The differences of climate, convention and attitude are enormous and a lot of fun to write – there are lots of laughs along the way. A few tears as well.

And, are your books selling equally well in both places?

I sell more kids books in Oz and more adult books in the UK – but weirdly, one of my strongest markets is France.

Your writing is superb, combining fast-paced plot with strong characterisation and well-placed insights and descriptions to create literary merit. How carefully do you craft the writing?

Thank you so much! I work really hard at it. I want my sentences to sing, and craft them carefully. This involves draft after draft after draft; and I welcome a rigorous edit. I love beautiful writing and use poetry as a tuning fork. I don’t think kids should be denied beauty in their writing – as long as the prose is clear and simple to understand.

I do love your weekly column in the Weekend Australian  Magazine. How invested in people do you feel yourself to be?

My weekly column feels so different to my fiction, but once again I aim for beauty in my writing, and to move readers. To complete 700 newspaper words about life, the universe, and everything else week after week, means you have to be passionately invested in people and the world around you, in all its minutiae. I live by Edna St Vincent Millay’s lines: “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!” I feel that so strongly. There’s so much to be wondrous and grateful about. At this very moment I’m typing under a tree laden with ripe mulberries in the front garden – working under a gloriously nodding, bowing umbrella of green. Tasty, too!  It’ll be in a column on Aussie nostalgia sometime soon, no doubt.

You must be incredibly organised to achieve so much – you’re on the Today program also. Do you have a tip?

Tip: there is no social life. I dream of this one day changing, but am too exhausted by the evenings for anything but a glass of wine and a good lie down. With me, something has to give in that great female triumverate of family/work/social life – and it was the latter in my case. My other tip: when something comes in (like this blog request, for instance) jump onto it immediately and just get it done, or else – sigh – it will never be done (I live in horror of vast piles of to-do stuff cluttering up the place.) You should see the dormant volcano that’s our washing basket of clean clothes in the main bedroom. Just can’t face it – would much prefer to be writing.

Some of our readers will know you for your books for adults. Could you give us a quick run-down on these?Book of Rapture

I seem to write in trilogies. First of all there was the trilogy of coming of age stories about young Aussie women in different landscapes: Shiver (set in Antarctica), Cleave (Central Australian desert) and Lovesong (England’s Cornwall.) Then there was the trilogy exploring female sexuality – The Bride Stripped Bare, With my Body, and I Take You. A one off novel dealing with religion in a post 9/11 world, The Book of Rapture. And a few non fiction books made up of columns and essays: Pleasure, Honestly and Personally. Phew. I feel exhausted just typing all that.

Will we see the characters of The Kensington Reptilarium and The Icicle Illuminarium again soon?

Yes! I’m working on a third book, bringing my four sparky, scampy Caddy kids home to central Australia – all in search of their missing mum. A few of their English friends will be in tow, too, along with Bucket the dog of course. This family will not let me go!

Thanks for you incredibly generous – and speedy – answers, Nikki.

Bride Stripped Bare



It’s No Mystery That Lesley Gibbes Loves All Things Scary: Review and Interview

With Halloween fast approaching, what book would be more fitting than the sensationally mysterious, Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King?!

9781921504631Review: Scary Night
Ready to be horrified? It’s time to hide! Let out a scream, it’s Scary Night!
Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King bring us a spooktacular tale of three brave friends that set upon a journey in the dead of night. Join them for a mysterious adventure!  

Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake, Pig with a parcel. Any guesses as to where they are tip-toeing to under the pale moonlight?  

The animal friends wander far over dark, rolling hills, traipse through the whispering woods and even dare to cross a snapping crocodile-infested creek. Shivering and squeezing each other tight, they continue on their way. Frightening grizzly bears, ghouls in the cemetery and a black bat cave. Is this enough to forfeit this treacherous expedition? No way! They may be scared out of their wits, but nothing will avert these determined characters.  

Despite their absolutely terrifying experience, the friends finally make it to their destination completely unscathed.  

1407287658567.jpg-620x349But where did they end up? Read the book and you will get a BIG surprise!  

Scary Night is beautifully written in poetic prose. Lesley Gibbes so effectively draws the reader in with her interactive, humorous question and answer play and repetitive phrases. She has also provided plenty of opportunity for teachable moments, including phonic awareness, prepositional language and rhyming words. And Stephen Michael King’s expressive, Suess-like illustrations are bold and engaging, with his use of cool, moody colours and white accents of the bright full moon and the characters large, white terrified eyes. Just perfect to create the thrill of the night-time scene.  

Scary Night, a story of courage and friendship, contains all the goodness of fun, adventure, suspense, and just a little bit of bite to keep its young readers entertained many times over. This read-aloud book is a real treat!  

Lesley+GibbesInterview: Lesley Gibbes
Today I shiver (with delight) to conjure some spellbinding details behind Scary Night and what makes Lesley Gibbes tick.  

What was the inspiration behind the story?
As I child I loved exploring. My family home at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches was bushy and led onto a cliff top reserve. It was a great place to explore and go on exciting and sometimes scary journeys. So I wanted a story that had an exciting journey for my SCARY NIGHT characters. I also love scary! So setting the story at night when anything can happen was a must. My own children had a role to play too. The refrain ‘It’s a mystery!’ was all theirs. They had loads of fun answering my questions like ‘Where are your socks?’ with the answer ‘It’s a mystery!’, so I absolutely had to use this phrase. But there’s another less creative and more academic side to the construction of SCARY NIGHT. You see I’m a primary teacher and I wanted certain elements in the text to encourage and support reading. So you’ll find rhyme to support reading, refrains for repetition, question and answers to encourage participation and loads of opportunities for parents and teachers to ham it up for dramatic play. So all up SCARY NIGHT was quite a compilation of thoughts, ideas and inspirations.  

Scary Night is a whimsical rhyming tale. Do you often write in poem or do you have a variety of writing styles?
I love writing in rhyme and as primary teacher I understand the important role rhyme plays in the teaching of reading. But I do write in a variety of styles. I have three new picture books due for release next year and they showcase a variety of writing styles. ‘Bring A Duck!’ illustrated by Sue deGennaro is another rhyme/prose combination. It’s a riotous story about a duck themed birthday party. There’s no rhyme in the bedtime story ‘Little Bear’s First Sleep’ illustrated by Lisa Stewart or ‘White Fin’ illustrated by Michelle Dawson. White Fin is for primary aged children and is a story about the visiting whales in Sydney harbour. I also love writing novels and have a chapter series coming out soon.  

Are they your ideas to include the little illustrative details like spider webs and ghostly shadows in the images, or did you leave this up to your illustrator?
Stephen has such a creative mind I didn’t want to get in his way. All the quirky, interesting details are part of Stephen’s wonderful imagination. My own ideas would pale in comparison.  

What was it like to work with Stephen Michael King?
Stephen’s work is so magical I was in heaven as I watched the illustrations progress. Stephen did have a surprise for me though. He wanted to take the illustrations for SCARY NIGHT digital. Stephen started with hand drawn ink and watercolour then he created a unique look for SCARY NIGHT by working with the illustrations on the computer. So his soft water colour became bold blocks of colour, perfect for SCARY NIGHT.  
Is there anything that you’re really afraid of?
Being made to eat raw eggs! There, I said it. Yuck!  

438311-48df15a6-fb4a-11e3-8cc4-c8f5cb031907Do you have any traditions or plans for Halloween?
My children are very excited because at long last they are old enough to go on their first trick-or-treat romp around the neighbourhood. Costumes have been bought, lolly bags have been chosen and SCARY NIGHT has been pulled from the shelf ready for a night time reading to get us in the mood. I can’t wait!  

What’s the next writing project that you’re working on?
At the moment I’m writing book four of my FIZZ chapter book series for children 6-9 years old.  The series is being illustrated by Stephen Michael King and published by Allen & Unwin. It’s due for release in 2016. Fizz is a feisty dog who, more than anything, wants to be a police dog. But there’s one small problem. Police dogs are big and buff and Fizz is small, white and fluffy. Well you can see the problem! The books are loads of fun and full of laughs. I can’t wait to see Stephen’s illustrations.

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I really appreciate your participation, Lesley!  
My pleasure. Happy reading everyone!  

For more infomation about Lesley Gibbes:

Review and Interview by Romi Sharp

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Does anyone actually read on the beach?

With summer well on the way in Australia, I’ve noticed our thoughts have begun to shift away from snuggling down or curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. Instead we start talking and thinking about lying on the grass with our favourite book, reclining in the sunshine and enjoying a good ‘beach read’.

What is a beach book anyway? I always understood it to be an easy breezy read that didn’t require any brain power in a ‘check your brain at the door’ kind of way. The more I think about it though, the more I disagree. If you’re on holiday and your everyday stresses are out of your mind, wouldn’t this be the best time to tackle a more challenging read? Wouldn’t it be easier to tackle War and Peace while on holiday than during a busy work week?

I recently voted in the Classic Beach Books competition currently featured on The ABC’s Book Club website and found myself wondering if anyone actually reads their book on the beach. I don’t go to the beach much these days, but when I do I love to watch the rhythmic rolling of the waves, the slow movement of the tide, swimmers and surfers frolicking in the water, distant ships and the calming effect of the horizon. I enjoy all of this too much to think of ignoring the scene in front of me and whipping my book out for a sneaky chapter.Beach Read

Even if I could ignore the scene before me, the idea of sunscreen-smeared fingers, squealing kids, squinting in the sunshine, and sand between the pages just doesn’t inspire a relaxing reading environment for me. What about you? Do you read at the beach? Do you enjoy a ‘beach read’ in the summer or any time of the year?

I found this quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Gift From The Sea: “The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.”

I think I agree with her that the beach isn’t a place to read or work, but I think it’s the perfect place to think. There’s nothing better than taking a long walk along the beach and analysing a problem, turning a question over in your mind, or calming down after an argument. The sea and salt water are often cathartic and healing, although I can never still my mind enough to read my book there.

I’d love to know where you enjoy reading over summer and if anyone actually reads on the beach or if this is just a bookish myth.


The Highlights of a Professional Life: An Interview With Ursula Dubosarsky

Ursula_Dubosarsky_publicity_photo_A_2011Ursula Dubosarsky has written over 40 books for children and young adults. Some of which include The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants in This House, Tim and Ed (Tim and Ed Review), The Carousel, The Word Spy series, and The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta series.

She is a multi-award winner of many national and international literary prizes including The Premier’s and State Literary Awards, The Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, The Children’s Choice Awards, The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and The Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

Ursula’s books have been characterised as timeless classics with universal accessibility, always heartwarming, funny and indelible. Her picture books, in particular, emanate energy and delight, wit and ingenuity. She has worked with some legendary illustrators who have brought Ursula’s playful words to life, including Terry Denton, Tohby Riddle and Andrew Joyner.    

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have had this opportunity to discover more about Ursula Dubosarsky’s writerly mind, joys, achievements and plans for the future, and she has been so gracious in sharing her views with our readers.

Where do you get your creativity from? Were you born into a creative family?
Well I was born into a family of writers, although they are more non-fiction writers than fiction writers. But non-fiction demands plenty of creativity, as I discovered when I tried to write non-fiction myself (my “Word Spy” books.) My mother also had an amazingly vivid dream-life -I sometimes wonder if that’s where the story ideas come from…  

What or who are your biggest motivators?
For some reason I find this a very confronting question! and I don’t know how to answer it. Perhaps it’s one of the biggest mysteries of creative acts – why do it? It feels like a compulsion.  

Which age group do you most prefer to write for, younger or older children?
I love the succinctness that is demanded of you in writing for younger children – I love throwing out all the words until you have just that bare minimum. The other nice thing about writing for younger children is you get to work with illustrators, which has been such a pleasure in my life. But of course as anyone would say, each form has its particular rewards (and hardships.)  

the-word-spyWhat has been the greatest response / fan mail to you and your books?
That would be my three “Word Spy” books – non-fiction books about language, particularly the English language. I think one reason they get the most fan mail is that the books are written in character. They are narrated by a mysterious person called The Word Spy. So I think children really enjoy the fantasy of writing to an imaginary person – I enjoy the fantasy of writing back as a character! The Word Spy even has her own blog “Dear Word Spy” where you can see lots of the letters children have written to her – and her answers!

What is your working relationship like with illustrator, Andrew Joyner? Do you or the publisher choose to pair you together?
Oh I love working with Andrew.The pairing came about quite naturally. At the time I was working for the NSW Department of Education’s School Magazine, which is a monthly literary magazine for primary school children. I was doing some editing there, and Andrew happened to send in some illustrations. I just so responded to his work, immediately. Anyway then when I had written the text for “The Terrible Plop” he was a natural person to suggest to Penguin, the publisher, as an illustrator for the book.

Cover_0What was your reaction when ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ was selected for this year’s ALIA’s National Simultaneous Storytime? How were you involved in the lead up and on the day?
That was truly the most thrilling and touching experience. We were just delighted to hear it had been chosen, and I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to see children (and adults!) all over Australia reading our book. ALIA did a brilliant job of organising and promoting the event – we hardly had to do a thing. On the actual day Andrew and I read the book aloud at the Customs House branch of the City of Sydney library down at Circular Quay. I can truly say the National Simultaneous Storytime was one of the great highlights of my professional life.  

IMG_6741You’ve had two of your picture books turned into successful stage productions; ‘The Terrible Plop’ (2009-2012) and ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ (2014). How were you approached / told about the news? What creative input did you (and Andrew Joyner) have in the productions?
In both cases it was a matter of the theatre company (Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre for “The Terrible Plop” and NIDA for “Too Many Elephants”) seeing the book and then approaching the publisher to see if we’d be willing to have the book staged. We were very willing! In neither case did we have a lot of input into the production. The writer/director at NIDA did keep us informed and sent us draft scripts -but I think we both felt it was better to stand back and let her and the actors and the rest of the creative team follow their own instincts. Again, for me and Andrew it was a tremendous experience to see the books transformed and re-imagined.  

What are you currently working on? What can your fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Well Andrew and I will be working together on an illustrated novel, so much longer than and very different to our picture book collaborations. It’s called “Brindabella” and is about a kangaroo. I have written the text already – and am now looking forward enormously to seeing what Andrew does with it.  

What other hobbies do you enjoy besides writing?
I wish I could say something strange and unexpected but it’s just walking! I love to walk the dog, but I also just like walking altogether. And I do like looking for very unusual cake recipes, researching their history and then having a go at baking them. I’m not much of a cook but I enjoy it!

the-terrible-plopFan Question –
Katharine: In The Terrible Plop, where did the bear run to? Did he ever find out what the Terrible Plop really was?

(This question is) something I’ve never been asked before and never thought about! I guess the bear would run home to all his brother and sister and mother and father and granny and grandpa and uncle and auntie bears, who listen to his story and tell him that’s what comes of sitting in folding chairs and that in future he should stay safely inside their big dark cave. So I don’t think he OR any of the others ever find out what the Terrible Plop really is – in fact over time it becomes part of the Great Bear Mythology…

Ursula, thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

Find out more about Ursula Dubosarsky:

Interview by Romi Sharp

Review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

9781846689666It would not have surprised me if this had won this year’s Man Booker Prize. My heart was supporting Richard Flanagan’s magnificent The Narrow Road To The Deep North but I had a feeling this was going to get the nod. In the end it didn’t win but it would have been a deserving winner if it had.

This book ticks a number of boxes for me. It is about a dysfunctional family, it is predominantly set in a college and does both with a very clever twist. It is also told in a non-linear fashion by an unreliable narrator (whose unreliability is perfectly understandable). Just like Jeffrey Eugenides did with Middlesex this is also a compelling exploration of nature vs nurture told with an originality that is fascinating, entertaining, tragic and endearing.

The book is told by Rosemary who in her 40s is looking back at her life. While Rosemary is an unreliable narrator she is upfront about it and in recounting her story out-of-order our judgements and sympathies about her are tempered in different lights.

Rosemary’s childhood was far from normal. She and her twin sister Fern were the subject of a social experiment conducted by her father. The experiment seemingly ended when Rosemary turned five and Fern was sent away. This event was the beginning a fracture that slowly tore the family apart. Rosemary and Fern’s old brother Lowell would eventually run away from home, barely staying in contact, and the unspoken blame for both events would erode Rosemary’s relationship with both her parents and make it hard for her to form any new ones through school and into college.

This is a wonderful exploration of families, siblings and growing up and our are ideas about what they are and should be. It is one of those great novels that not only make you think but change the way you think. Full of humour, empathy and sadness it will ultimately reaffirm the power and importance of family, whatever shape or form it comes in.

Buy the book here…

Five Favs from Afar – Picture books a plenty

Time to feature a few (plus a few more) stories that originate far from our shores but possess buckets of charisma worth sharing with the small people in your lives.

Found by Salina Yoon Found

I am fast becoming a fan of Salina Yoon thanks to her beguiling Penguin picture book series. Her latest (if you don’t count the penguins! –  Penguin and Pumpkin), is Found, a story personifying selfless friendship and sound morals, as anthropomorphically depicted by Bear and Bunny. Crisp, clean narrative accompanies solid simple illustrations that utilise perspective well and convey emotion in a supremely stripped-back honest way. Kiddies 2 – 5 years-old will adore Bear’s attempts to re-home a lost bunny, undoubtedly relating to his consequent heartbreak when he discovers how deeply attached he’s become to Bunny when forced to give him up. May 2014

ThThere's a Dinosaur in My Bathtubere’s a Dinosaur in My Bathtub by Catalina Echeverri

Remember Mr Snuffleupagus, Big Bird’s unerring buddy who never revealed himself to Sesame Street folk? Well, Amelia has a secret too. She has a French dinosaur named Pierre in her bathtub who is even more apt than Snuffy at remaining surreptitious. Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, she and Pierre have terrific fun together. They share galactic hot chocolates and tour magical lands of candyfloss trees; but only during the summertime. Come autumn and it’s time for Pierre to move on. Echeverri paints a fantastical world more enormous that Pierre himself. Bubbling with whimsy and colour and the occasional French phrase, this picture book is manifique for pre-schoolers and dinky di dinoWhale in the Bathsaur lovers. February 2014

(and if you want more great bathtub yarns, check out Whale in the Bath by Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett . A similar tale about dealing with disbelief and wild imagination whilst trying to dislodge a gigantic sea mammal from the bathtub before all trouble breaks out. Massive fun from Allen & Unwin September 2014)

The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne BartonThe Dawn Chorus

This one positively hums with heart. Charm flits effortlessly from page to page. A true tactile delight; from the sumptuous cloth cover to the beautiful collage and painted illustrations. Peep is a little bird with a modest yearning to be part of a greater whole, The Dawn Chorus. However, despite his best efforts, he never makes the morning shift in time and despairs his singing dreams are at an end until he meets someone who sings as sublimely as he does. She too is not part of The Dawn Chorus, for a very special reason. An uplifting fresh look at fitting in and self-discovery. Glorious for 3 – 5 year-olds and those not-so-early birds. June 2014

On My Way to School

On My Way…series

Sarah Maizes and Michael Paraskevas are one of those picture book writing teams that ‘work’. They have created a rollicking series of visually yummy picture books spotlighting various reluctant-child-vs.-pressured-parent situations beginning with On My Way to the Bath. These two, On My Way to Bed and On My Way to School follow the familiar pattern: child asked to do something by ubiquitous unseen parent; child presents argument against request; child (and her companion Froggolini) embark on a series of madcap adventures endeavouring to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. Every double page in each of these books is saturated with bold, zany colourful fun. Mundane is aptly transformed into marvellous with clever child-typical twisty endings. Exasperated On My Way to the Bathparents will find it hard to wipe the smiles off their 2 – 5 year olds’ faces with this one. Hijacking a child’s imagination has never been such silly fun. February and August 2014

There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes

Sticking There's a Lion in My Cornflakeswith another slice of silliness, we end today with the first time collaboration of Michelle Robinson and Jim Field and There’s a Lion in My Cornflakes. Ever wanted something so bad you’d do just about anything to get it? Eric and his brother, Dan make the ultimate sacrifice spending a whole year’s pocket money on one hundred packets of cereal so that they have enough vouchers for a free lion. They endure cornflake overload until Mr Flaky finally delivers their prize, but it’s not what they expected. A quirky, laugh-out-loud tale about the dire consequences of wanting too much and not always getting what you want. It encapsulates the magnetic attraction kids possess for things often out of reach with a wildly whacky style. And, it comes with thirty vouchers to get them on their way! Brilliant. I am in love with Field’s exuberant illustrations too. Suitable for consumption by 2 – 6 year-olds and those who don’t buy breakfast cereals for the taste but for the toys! July 2014There's a Lion illos

All these titles by Bloomsbury Publishing Australia and available now through Boomerang Books.




The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in November


Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief.
Get FREE shipping when you use the promo code “NovBrief”

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed.  Get ready for action on a GIGANTIC scale!


Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

Beloved and bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith lends his delightful touch to EMMA, the next book in The Austen Project. Ever alive to the uproarious nuances of human behaviour, and both the pleasures and pitfalls of village life, beloved author Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is the busybody we all know and love, and a true modern delight.


Lamentation by C.J. Sansom

The eagerly anticipated new Shardlake novel. Still haunted by events aboard the warship Mary Rose the year before, Shardlake is working on the Cotterstoke Will case, a savage dispute between rival siblings. Then, unexpectedly, he is summoned to Whitehall Palace and asked for help by his old patron, the now beleaguered and desperate Queen.


The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

In the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die a decade after the crime. So when Orlando Merced finally succumbs to complications from being shot ten years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but any other evidence is virtually nonexistent. 


The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

Peter Leigh is a husband, a Christian, and now a missionary. As The Book of Strange New Things opens, he is set to embark on a journey that will be the biggest test of his faith yet. From the moment he says goodbye to his wife, Bea, and boards his flight, he begins a quest that will challenge his religious beliefs, his love and his understanding of the limits of the human body.


South of Darkness by John Marsden

Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s. Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business. When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world- a place called Botany Bay – he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life.  A riveting story of courage, hope and extraordinary adventure.

Non-Fiction Books

Australians: Flappers to Vietnam Volume 3 by Thomas Keneally

As in the two previous volumes of Australians Keneally brings history to vivid and pulsating life as he traces the lives and the deeds of Australians known and unknown. As another war grew closer he follows the famous and the infamous through the Great Crash and the rise of Fascism, and explains how Australia was inexorably drawn into a war which led her forces into combat throughout the world.


Gallipoli by Peter FitzSimons

On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in present-day Turkey to secure the sea route between Britain and France in the west and Russia in the east.  Peter FitzSimons, with his trademark vibrancy and expert melding of writing and research, recreates the disaster as experienced by those who endured it or perished in the attempt.


Margot At War by Anne De Courcy

Margot Asquith was a very unconventional Prime Minister’s wife. She was extremely outgoing and spoke her mind which  did not endear her to everyone. She lived in those years that ushered in  the decline of the upstairs downstairs regime. The first world war, Irish home rule, social reform  and suffragettes all contributed to a time of change. Although some things never change and Margot had to endure her husbands love of a younger woman who was her daughters friend. Like the Fishing Fleet this is social history with a real dash of what was going on behind the scenes in those very turbulent times. Chris

Family Food by Pete Evans

With two children of his own, Pete Evans knows how hard it can be to get a healthy and delicious meal on the table night after night. Family Food is filled with Pete Evans’ go-to recipes when he’s looking for something quick, tasty and nutritious to cook for his own loved ones, and these meals are sure to become favourites in your home too.


Abducting a General by Patrick Leigh Fermor

One of the greatest feats in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s remarkable life was the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the German commander in Crete, on 26 April 1944. This is Leigh Fermor’s own account of the kidnap, published for the first time. Written in his inimitable prose, it is a glorious first-hand account of one of the great adventures of the Second World War. 


Lists of Note by Shaun Usher

Humans have been making lists for even longer than they’ve been writing letters. They are the shorthand for what really matters to us: our hopes and aspirations; likes and dislikes; rules for living and loving; records of our memories and reminders of the things we want to do before we die. Just as he did with Letters of Note, Shaun Usher has trawled the world’s archives to produce a rich visual anthology that stretches from ancient times to present day.


Childrens’ Picture Books

The First Hippo On The Moon by David Walliams

First Hippo on the Moon is another hilarious, delightful read from one of our favourite authors.  Fans of the Slightly Annoying Elephant will love this new book. A must have for all David Walliams fans. Jan

The Book With No Pictures

This innovative and wildly funny read-aloud will be the Must Have book of the season. You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except…here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say…BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.

Books for First Readers

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale

Princess Magnolia is not your average princess, she has a secret, she defeats monsters as the ‘Princess in Black’. Will Duchess Wigtower discover her alter ego and ruin everything? This is a great first chapter book for readers who are gaining confidence. Danica

The Cleo Stories by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood

Cleo is a little girl with a big imagination, and she has quite a clever way of working out any dilemma that comes her way. It is beautifully illustrated by Freya Blackwood, and will charm little people and big people alike. A perfect book to read together. Danica

Books for Young Readers

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney

Greg, our hapless hero of the much loved Wimpy kids series is back in an all new adventure. This time he leaves the trials and tribulations of the school yard behind and goes on holidays. Of course nothing every goes smothly for Greg, his family are driving him nuis ….it looks like this trip is going to be a LONG Haul .

Ruby Redfort: Feel The Fear by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort, everyone’s favourite detective, is back and she may be up against her hardest case yet. She has an ivisilbe foe, and how do you catch someone you can’t even see?! Ruby is up for the challenge, and the fourth installment of this beloved series will not disappoint.

Books for Young Adults

Laurinda by Alice Pung

Laurinda is an exculsive school for girls. Lucy Lam has just started as a scholarship girl, and she finds herself being courted by the most powerful girls in school ‘The Cabinet’. Everyone summits to them, even some of the teachers, but it might be time that someone stood up to them. Is Lucy up for task? Danica

Books Gone to the Dogs!

Check out our great selection of Dog Books this week…
Use the promo code “doggone” and get FREE shipping on your order.
Offer ends November 3rd

Top Dogs by Angela Goode

A unique celebration of our remarkable Aussie working dogs, illustrated with photographs taken by the people who love them. This is a celebration of these irrepressible four-legged companions who greet each day with enthusiasm and a wagging tail.

Dogservations by Serena Hodson

Dogs are true masters of mindfulness. Sometimes droll, oftentimes whimsical, and always lovable, they remind us to seize the moment, appreciate the simple things in life, and follow our hearts, no matter what the predicament.

Shake Puppies by Carli Davidson

This highly anticipated follow-up to the bestselling book Shake features more than 130 photographs of adorable puppies. This brilliant, brightly colored collection truly captures the squishy cuteness of a puppy–its tousled fur, floppy ears, and endearing expression–in the moment when our tiny, wide-eyed companion is mid-shake

Underwater Puppies by Seth Casteel

The world fell in love with swimming canines in Seth Casteel’s first book, Underwater Dogs. Now, in more than 80 previously unpublished portraits of underwater puppies, we see man’s best friends at their most playful and exuberant.

Life and Love of Dogs by Lewis Blackwell

Dogs live with us in a way that no other creature does. Their contribution to our history has enabled us to be where we are today. It’s a connection that can even have depths beyond those we have with our own species. For all dog lovers, The Life & Love of Dogs offers an insightful collection of images by acclaimed photographers from around the world.

New book by pop star-turned-professor inspiring a new generation of science fans

& Andrew Cohen


9780007488803Pop star-turned-professor, Brian Cox, is today’s foremost communicator of all things scientific. With the amazing ability to make complex science issues sound simple and entertaining, he has hosted a ground-breaking television series as well as written three successful books.

In Human Universe, Cox will take readers into a whole new dimension, providing a new perspective on human life. Spanning the history of the Universe, Cox attempts to understand the greatest wonder of them all — humankind — as well as addressing the possibility of life on other planets.

Combining dramatic photography and innovative computer-generated imagery with the magical storytelling that has become Cox’s trademark, he will give us his personal take on the past, present and future of humankind.  

Buy the book here…

Following his 2013 sell-out tour of Australia Brian Cox is back this month in the stage presentation

Brian Cox – Making Sense of the Cosmos. 

For more information visit:

Meet Alice Pung, author of Laurinda

LaurindaThanks for talking to Boomerang Books about your outstanding first novel Laurinda (Black Inc.), Alice Pung.

Thanks for interviewing me!

You are well known for your excellent non-fiction, Unpolished Gem, Her Father’s Daughter and as editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia. Why have you sidestepped into YA fiction?

Growing up, I went to five different high schools, and I have always been fascinated by the way institutions shape individuals. In each new high school I felt like I was a slightly different person – not because anything about me had immediately changed – but because people’s perceptions of me had.

High school is the only time in your life where a large part of your identity is actually shaped by other people. As an adult you can choose your friends, and your time is finite, so of course, you try to only spend time with people who like and affirm you. As a teenager, though, you are forced to fit yourself in amongst 200-1000 other people, who are all with you every day. So I’ve always been interested in how teenagers adapt to this. And I wanted to do this through fiction because I wanted to create a character inspired by a number of young adults I’d met and admired.

You are also known for the Asian content and stories in your books. How does this manifest in LaurindaUnpolished Gem

Laurinda, first and foremost, takes a satirical look at class. Lucy Lam, my main character, is from depressed socio-economic circumstances, and I did not want her race to be the main focus. Where many young adult books fall flat, I think, is when they focus on the ethnicity or race as the most important part of their character. The reality is, most teenagers don’t spend time thinking about their cultural background. You don’t wake up every morning aware that you’re Asian, until someone draws your attention to it.

And that’s the paradox with a school like Laurinda – where everyone is so liberal and politically correct and culturally sensitive – the most interesting thing other girls focus on about Lucy is her Asian-ness. The other girls do not realise that she is a teenager in the exact same way they are: Lucy does not know the history of colonial Indochina, is not an authority on oriental food, and is more interested in boys than Vietnam war films.

Did you attend a school like Laurinda? If not, how did you imagine and craft this setting with such verisimilitude?

I get asked this a lot! No, I didn’t attend any school that was as rotten as Laurinda (thankfully!), but I have, like most other students, had teachers who were bullies, been in classes where we bullied the teachers, and seen the whole mean girl dynamic five times over in each new high school at which I started.

I’ve always been a watcher. No one suspects the quiet Asian kid of harbouring very much ambition except ‘doing well at school’, so as a teenager I’ve been privy to a lot of fly-on-the-wall conversations. Sometimes, I even heard some of the most outrageously racist things from other students, and other times I got insight into the struggles of girls I never thought would have struggles.

Also, as an author I have visited hundreds of schools throughout Australia, each with their own culture and traditions. I’ve seen how certain schools promote feminism while others promote a warped sense of femininity that denies competition while pushing success at all costs. I’ve also been to a private school so understand a little about the aspirations of those students, and did not want to tar all the students with the same brush. It seems that all the news and opinion pieces about private schools in the media are rife with so much hyperbole and polarised views. So I hoped that Laurinda would allow people to take a light-hearted and yet simultaneously very serious, nuanced look at why they feel this way.

Growing up AsianThe protagonist, Lucy, is an exceptionally well-created, three-dimensional character. She should become a role model.

Wow. Thank you!

In spite of the vast amount of YA lit I read, I’m excited to have been exposed to new ideas via Lucy, such as needing a group of friends to get a boyfriend at fifteen, and recognising students who are ‘self-contained satellites’.

Could you describe Lucy, or something about her?

When I wrote the character of Lucy, I was very aware of her voice first and foremost, very certain that the reader would be hearing her thoughts and not her words. She’s what school psychologists would now call a classic introvert, but the fascinating thing is that she was not an introvert at her previous school. It is only coming to Laurinda that she loses her speaking voice.

Many young adult books stress the importance of belonging to a group, yet Lucy is content to be by herself at school after she recognises that the institution is rotten. When evil exists, we are taught to do something about it – Lucy’s non-participation in the institution is a form of resistance, and I think it’s pretty stoic. You have to have a strong sense of self to choose to be ‘a loner.’

The ‘Cabinet’, a controlling group of girls, is a masterful, chilling portrayal of teen power. How did you devise their dynamics and role in the school?

I wanted to create characters that were so entitled that they didn’t even realise how entitled they were. There’s the old cliché of the silver spoon, but I didn’t want these characters’ entitlement to be based on wealth – I wanted it to be based on cultural capital: the handed-down power that exists in our society. Their alumni mothers trained them to appreciate Royal Doulton and institutional loyalty, their fathers are powerful men and their school Laurinda trains them to be ‘Leaders of tomorrow.’

So of course they’re going to want to ‘lead’ the school. They feel it’s their birthright. And also, being such perfectionists, they feel a duty to weed out the weaker elements of the school: vulnerable teachers, students they feel are not up to scratch. I did not want the Cabinet to be vacuous ‘mean girls’, but the sort of pressure-cooker girls you would meet at a private school who must be on top of things all the time; and yet whose worlds are so tightly-wound that any threat to their order would ignite them. And I hope readers come away with an understanding that those girls are as much victims of institutional and familial insularity as they are cruel.

You mention a number of literary texts, such as Emma, Romeo and Juliet, The Great GatsbyWhy did you include these? Emma

Those were books I studied as a teenager when I went to a private grammar school. Gatsby is a book about class and a man who will never quite belong because of his pink suit. And when Jane Austen began to write Emma, I think she resolved: “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” because Emma, like the Cabinet, is selfish and entitled. But actually, she is my favourite Austen character because there is a gravitas and kindness to her at the end when she comes of age.

Lucy is informed by the principal that YA literature is not studied at Laurinda. Do you have a personal opinion about this provocative stance?

I studied John Marsden and Isobelle Carmody books at my Catholic College, and a novel about a Cambodian refugee called ‘The Clay Marble’ in Year 7 at a public school. It seems to me that the more ‘elite’ the school is, the more their texts seem removed from the realities of existence as a teenager.

I cannot fathom how you could teach teenagers and yet remove their experience from the whole equation. YA books taught me how to become an adult, how to deal stoically with adversity, how to negotiate with adults around me, how to cope with mental illness: they were the most important books I have ever read in my life.

I love literary classics as much as any author, yet some schools teach the heavy themes in King Lear or the humour in Austen so rigidly, with students churning out essays full of fancy vocabulary and effluent literary tricks. They teach students to be contemptuous of YA literature, and in doing so, make them into miniature, insufferable snobby adults who have to deny their constant true state of existence, which is that they are teenagers!

And you cannot teach teenagers without acknowledging that for six years of their lives, they are inevitably, inextricably in this state of young-adult-hood, with questions about how to live well each day, and how to cope, and how to look forward to things.

What do you hope to achieve with this story? Alice Pung

It’s funny, but I never got asked this question with my non-fiction books, even the book about my father and the Cambodian holocaust! I just hope lots of young adults will read it and be able to relate in some way.

I’ve always been against didactic messages in YA books. If students are studying Kafka in Year 11, then of course they can make up their own opinions!

(I guess that might be one reason some schools put YA off their booklists – some authors feel the patronising need to include ‘a positive message’ and that kills the story.)

Laurinda is an exceptional novel that will be very well received.

Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Alice.

THANK YOU for these excellent and insightful questions, I’ve really enjoyed thinking about them and answering them. Her Father's Daughter


Interview with Jo Emery, author of My Dad is a FIFO Dad

jo emery photoMy Dad is a FIFO Dad, an uplifting story that has already touched the hearts of many families, has beautifully encapsulated the highs and lows of the life of a child with a father who ‘flies in and flies out’ for work. (See Review here). But let’s not forget the strength, courage, commitment and perseverance of the mother who wrote the book, who is raising three children on her own for three weeks in every month. Today we talk with author, Jo Emery, about her moments of heartbreak and joy, her achievements, family life and plans for the future.  

Congratulations on the success of your book, ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’, already sold out on the first print run!
THANK YOU, it’s been a very busy and exciting introduction to the world of children’s books J  

Can you please tell me a bit about your career background, writing history and family?
I have been employed by the Department of Education and Training Queensland for the past 17 years and most recently held the position of Principal at one of the Sunshine Coast’s Primary Schools. I have been on leave for some time (3years) however, to raise my family. I have 3 children, Sahskia who is almost 7, Ahnika 3 and Grayson 11 months. My husband Steve and I have been married for almost 10 years and have been living a FIFO lifestyle for almost 4 years. I’m not quite sure when I signed up for the FIFO commitment but for now; we are making it work as best we can, for our family.  

I have written in poem, song and story for as long as I can remember. It is something I have always enjoyed and felt the need to do. It has given me respite and relief, enthusiasm and enjoyment and in this case an opportunity to help others stay connected to the ones they love the most.  

jo emery family photoWhy you were inspired to write ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’?
The story, My Dad is a FIFO Dad was born out of the raw emotion of our last drop off of Daddy to the airport. We were late for the plane and had to leave Steve in the ‘drop off zone’, rather than park the car. The children were devastated that Daddy was heading back to work and it was the first time that Ahnika, two at the time, had realized that Daddy was going away for a long time. My eldest daughter Sahskia, was incredibly sad as she felt the angst of her sister also. (Needless to say this was our last drop off and my husband now catches the shuttle bus J) It was incredibly heartbreaking to see and to feel and so, as I have often done in many situations, that night I went home and put pen to paper to debrief. The initial draft of my story was penned some 18 months ago. The story is told through the eyes of Sahskia. I tried to capture what I knew she was feeling on that day and mix it with what I hoped she would be strong enough to feel in times to come.  

How has the change in lifestyle affected you and your family?
Firstly, we are separated physically … Steve and I had never been apart longer than 48 hours so weeks on end has been a very big change for us. Our family is apart 3 weeks of every month and together for one. But what we have learned is that our life style is not about the amount of time spent apart, rather the quality of time we have together. Our mantra is ‘To Make Everything Count’. We are a very open family, when we are sad we cry, when we are angry we get angry, when we are happy we laugh loudly and so the openness and respect we have for each other’s feelings helps us to deal with issues and move on. Our kids are very connected with both Steve and me but that is because we work on it. The difficult times we experience because of FIFO,  is on those special occasions that arise when we are apart… birthdays, weddings, funerals, Easter, holidays and so on.  

my dad is a fifo dad page3On the opening page of ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’ there is a child’s beautiful drawing and statement about her dad being the greatest. Can you tell us about that? Who drew the picture?
This picture was drawn by my eldest daughter Sahskia. This is her view of what it means to be a FIFO Dad. Clearly the ‘flying in and out’ component of his job plays on her mind. I love that her Daddy is still smiling while he departs and the family who remain are smiling too; even the man in the ticket box is having a happy day. My kids adore their dad and he knows more than anyone that they consider him to be the greatest dad ever, and that’s because he really is!  

We are then drawn in with fun scenes of an animated dad role playing, riding and reading stories with his kids. What are your partner’s favourite things to do with your three children?
Steve just loves being with them! We live in what we consider one of the most beautiful places on the Sunshine Coast and so visits to the beach, parks and in the pool are all of our favourites. Our kids are heavily into dancing and so having the opportunity to watch them do what they love to do most is wonderful when he is home from work.  

You capture the narrator’s thoughts, feelings and actions of sadness and resilience so well. Are these based on your own child’s words and behaviour, or your experience with dealing with these issues?
I would say that these thoughts are shared from experience, practice and hope. I guess I tried to capture what my child was feeling and mix it with my hopes for what she would be able to feel in the future. My children are very resilient and with age and maturity this is developing more and more. We discuss how to deal with issues of different kinds, very often and I hope that one day it will become second nature. In saying this, the children and I are all sensitive souls and so acknowledging our feelings and working through them is something we will always do.  

What do you hope this book achieves for its readers and the general public?
I hope that our story resonates with others in a FIFO/DIDO situation and that kids that are able to feel ‘OK when Dad’s Away’. I hope the story reassures children that despite distance, fathers can be present in heart, mind and spirit in many situations and those families can work towards building and maintaining strength, resilience and unity. While the platform for this story is FIFO I really think that anyone who believes in the unity of family will enjoy it and take some important messages from it.    

my_dad_is_a_fifo_dad_cover How have you found people’s responses to the book so far?
I have been completely overwhelmed and relieved that all of my readers have loved the story as much as we do. Hearing that there have been tears, laughter and reassurance is the vein in which it was written and I couldn’t be more proud! I have received some beautiful photos of kids reading the book together with sibings, together with mum and together with Dad. In some of the orders I have received, there is a sense of urgency for families to have the book ‘in time for when Dad gets home’, it’s wonderful that the messages within the book are being shared as valuable in advance of them being read.  

As a first time author, how did you find the publishing process, and working with illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn?
I am a true believer that things happen for a reason and firstly I found Ann-Marie and then was lead to Dragon Tales. I have been more than happy with this process and feel that in both, I have made the very best choice! I began my search for someone who could take my words and bring colour and life to them and give the beat of my heart to each and every one. You know you have made the right decision in your choice of illustrator when you open a PDF and your heart swells with emotion. Ann-Marie Finn, gave coloured life to my words and where there were no words her drawings carried the true intent of our family story, like she had known us for a lifetime. I am so very grateful! It is wonderful working with Kaylene at Dragon Tales as I have felt in total control over my work. She has offered constructive feedback and given me the necessary guidance of a true professional in this process, I couldn’t be happier!  

Do you have any plans to write more stories along this line, or on other topics? Will you continue to write picture books?
ABSOLUTELY! I have plans to continue working to provide materials that will support families living a FIFO lifestyle but as well as this I cannot wait to share many other picture books with children and their families.

Thank you for your insights on your journey and for letting us take a little peek into your life, Jo! All the best with your future plans!

For more information about Jo Emery and My Dad is a FIFO Dad, please visit:

Interview by Romi Sharp

Discovering Deborah Levy

Deborah LevyHave you ever found an author that you just want to recommend to everyone you meet? The type of author that you just want to read over and over again. I found this author in 2012 and I am slowly working through her backlist. The first book I read of hers I loved so much that as soon as I finished it, I turned back to page one and read it again. It is a little sad that she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. No doubt, you have read the title of this post and skimmed the pictures, so you know I am talking about Deborah Levy.

Her book Swimming Home was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2012 and in my opinion was more deserving than Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (I know I am bitter).  Levy has this unique style that I cannot really explain; it is razor sharp, witty, wry and intelligent, but it also has a dark-side. If this isn’t enough, her proses are just stunning, lyrical, poetic and bold. That is enough of playing the adjective game; I can’t give you all a copy of one of Deborah Levy’s books but maybe I can convince you to try one of the following.

swimming homeI recommend everyone start with Swimming Home, not just because it is where I started or because of the Man Booker shortlisting but because it is a pretty safe starting point. Set in a summer villa on the French Riviera, a group of tourists arrive to find a body in the swimming pool. At first they thought she was dead but she is very much alive. This self-proclaimed botanist, Kitty Finch walks out of the pool and injects herself into their holiday. A psychological story of love, this contemporary novel is drenched in Freudian ideas of both desire and dread.

black vodkaIf short stories are more your style, I recommend Black Vodka, a collection of ten stories about relationships, sadness, love, being alone and bitterness. This collection really brings out Levy’s views on philosophical ideas, especially when it comes to existentialism. While she was born in South Africa and now resides in England; the stories in Black Vodka, like most of her books, have a very strong European feel to them.

The UnlovedThanks to the gaining momentum for the Man Booker nomination, a lot of Deborah Levy’s books are being republished. Her 1995 novel The Unloved was edited and republished earlier this year. A group of self-indulgent European tourists decide to celebrate Christmas in a remote French chateau. However during their stay one of them is brutally murdered and the unloved child Tatiana knows who did it. The subsequent investigation into this death turns more into an examination of love, desire and rage. This is a shocking and exciting novel, full of characters you can’t help but suspect of murder.

If that isn’t enough to get you started she also has a collection of essays on the writing life called Things I Don’t Want to Know. Also the beautiful new hardcover edition of her poetry called An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell was released this month. I am so glad she has more books for me to discover and enjoy and I hope she has many more in the future. Deborah Levy is such an underrated author in my opinion but I hope many people out there are willing to give her a go.

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From the author of Too Many Elephants in This House and Tim and Ed, The Terrible Plop is another adorably hilarious classic. It involves a lot of manic animals; rabbits hopping furiously away from the Terrible PLOP, and a bear who won’t have a bar of it, until… it’s all too much to bear!
”But what is the PLOP? And where does it hide? Open the book and look inside…”
With gorgeous rollicking rhyme by Dubosarsky, and equally whimsical illustrations by illustrator, Andrew Joyner.

Hazel Edwards discusses collaboration and controversy

Hazel EdwardsOn the day that prolific Australian author, Hazel Edwards was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal for services to literature, her latest young adult novel was receiving a very different distinction at the other end of the country.

Hazel Edwards has written more than 200 books, including the hugely popular Hippopotamus picture book series, but none has provoked the reaction of f2m: the boy within. The book, co-written by Ryan Kennedy, tells the story of Skye who becomes Finn and transitions from female to male.

F2m prompted heart-felt messages of thanks from teenagers facing gender challenges of their own, but it also provoked a hostile reaction from other places.

F2m: the boy within was banned from a library in North Queensland on the day Hazel Edwards was awarded her OAM. Elsewhere, it was thrown in the bin by a teacher who described it as ‘rubbish,’ and left off library lists because of concerns over the sensitive subject matter.

But for Hazel Edwards and Ryan Edwards the story was too important to allow it to be smothered by fear. So, they have extended their project. Ftm: the boy within is now the subject of a documentary and a YouTube clip which highlight the importance of fiction in dealing with sensitive personal issues.

Hazel Edwards chats with me today, about f2m: the boy within, the documentary and diversity.

You are best known for your delightful picture books featuring a cake-eating hippo. What prompted you to write about gender transitioning?

f2mDocumentary-Image-PAGEFtm means female to male transitioning. But our title is f2m, like adolescent texting and also indicates our collaboration. Co-author Ryan is a family friend, whom I’d known since he was 11, and presenting as a girl. I knew he was transitioning from female to male, and admired his courage. A great collaboration. It would have taken me years to research what he already knew. Plus he’d kept a medical diary, and although the f2m: the boy within is fiction, NOT an autobiography, the medical sequences are accurate.

We chose YA novel format because 17-ish is time for photo ID for drivers licence and when most teens are seeking their identity. Ford Street Publishing who specialise in edgy YA, was willing to support our risky project. Brave.

It was short-listed by the internationally prestigious White Ravens best YA fiction 2011.

Can you explain a little about this collaboration?

This project has taken more work than any of my other books, and is probably the most significant.

Since Ryan is New Zealand based and I’m in Melbourne, we wrote on Skype across a year and more than 30 drafts – a few embarrassing mistypings on my part with Skye (the character) and Skype (the process).

Ryan created the book trailer, and has adapted the doco length to go up on YouTube. He also organized the NZ book launch with me present only on webcam on the wall of the Wellington Unity Bookshop.

Initially print published, the e-book is now important for easy access. And we hope it will be translated into other languages and new media.

This was a first: the subject of transitioning gender in a Young Adult novel, co-written by an actual ftm (female to male) author.

Skye transitions to Finn with the help of bemused friends and family, punk music and a Gran who understands because she had a sibling facing similar challenges. Being able to use fiction to initiate discussion has been helpful for families and for gender diversity groups, because ‘it’s the kind of novel you can give to a parent too.’

“Tick the box. M or F. Male or Female are the only options ‘ordinary’ people know about. M for Male. F for Female. You’re one or the other. But what if you’re not? Like me. As I’m finding out.”

What reaction did f2m: the boy within get?

f2mMixed. We’ve had fantastic fan mail, fan art and much gratitude from diverse families who use it as a discussion starter. The subject is controversial, but not our handling of it. Ryan has had poignant e-mails from readers reassured that they are not the only ones, and grateful older readers who wished the book had been available earlier. ‘Might have saved lives and anguish.’

Although widely and positively reviewed, it’s often left off reading lists by apprehensive librarians who fear objections from minorities. Placed on the banned shelf in a public library in north Queensland, the same day I was awarded an OAM for Literature at Government House (not connected), but approved by groups like the Safe Schools Coalition Victoria and word-of-mouth recommendations. It was also short-listed by the internationally prestigious White Ravens best YA fiction 2011. The problem is that if the book is not available, it can’t be read or found.

Were you surprised by the reaction?

No, we’d expected some negative comments. Our greatest surprise was from those who had NOT read the book, yet refused to put it into their libraries or allow others to read it. We thought the literary collaboration between a heterosexual grandmother and an ftm would reassure. It did. We did lots of radio, including ABC Life Matters, which is indexed as a podcast.

Can you tell us about the documentary on reactions to the gender-transitioning subject in f2m: the boy within

Psychologist Meredith Fuller, a co-director of Kailash Studios offered to interview both co-authors as a documentary. It took a year to get us all together to film on the one day. Director Brian Walsh who is also a psychologist, produced the documentary.

The documentary attempts to answer, via interviewing the co-authors the creativity of coping successfully with diversity. Especially when others may fear change or diversity.It has already been screened at festivals such as Shepparton’s Out in the Open, Melbourne’s Midsumma and the international 2014 AIDs conference.

How important is fiction for tackling difficult issues, especially for adolescents?

Vital. YA fiction offers an opportunity to see from the viewpoint of that character for the length of the story and beyond. If you are in circumstances like that character, it reassures you are not the only one. And in the case of transitioning gender, a subject about which there is little information for outsiders, it educates readers, via compassion. It’s hard enough finding your identity as a mainstream adolescent, but the complication of feeling you are in the wrong kind of body, is overwhelming. And if ignorant others shun you, that makes things worse.

Our book has prevented suicides. But a novel can’t just be propaganda, it must be a story in its own right. We avoided ‘sensationalising’ which is what often happens with trans gender in media. Within the novel, we have a range of family and friends, humour and punk music and even a bullying scene.

f2m: the boy withinWhat’s next for you?

Finishing my memoir: Let Hippos Eat Cake: Being a Children’s Author or Not?

Thanks for visiting, Hazel, and good luck with f2m and finishing your memoir.

Author websites:

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.



Review – My Dad is a FIFO Dad by Jo Emery

my_dad_is_a_fifo_dad_coverMy Dad is a FIFO Dad
Written by Jo Emery
Illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn
Published by Dragon Tales Publishing

Brand new and hot off the press, and already sold out on the first print-run is the popular, My Dad is a FIFO Dad!

My Dad is a FIFO Dad was written by Queenslander, Jo Emery, mother of three and wife to Steve who works in Australia’s Resource Industry interstate. She wrote the book as both an emotional outlet and as a means of supporting other families experiencing the hardships associated with a lifestyle where fathers work away from home. This touching tale highlights tender and heartwarming moments; times of sadness, strength and pure joy.  

Dads can still be the greatest, most involved and loving dads, despite working interstate for three weeks in every month. The book begins with a gorgeous sentiment and drawing of an aeroplane by the child narrating the story. We are then captivated by scenes of a fun, animated father role playing with his three children, riding bikes and scooters in the outdoors, and snuggling together for a night time story.  

my dad is a fifo dad pageBut when Dad’s away, the little girl asks her Mum why he has to go away so often. To highlight his job’s importance she explains how Australia utilises its resources, which is nicely weaved into the story; here and again at the end.

”I think that’s pretty important!”  

Also beautifully integrated is the girl’s sense of longing, but also of resilience and warmth as she continues her daily life as a ballet dancer, swimmer, bike rider and at school, and she knows she’s making him proud. Thinking responsibly and positively helps the little girl to solve problems involving having accidents, friendship issues and boredom.  

Dad is always in the girl’s heart and mind; whether they are interacting over the internet, when she expresses her thoughts in her diary, and she especially relishes when they are finally reunited and hold each other in their arms once more.

my dad is a fifo dad page2Funny
Fantastic and
One of a kind.

He’s MY Dad
And I think that’s pretty important!  

Jo Emery’s My Dad is a FIFO Dad has a clear purpose in connecting with other families with FIFO/DIDO work arrangements. A clever inclusion is an activity sheet for children to write about their Dads. The emotions in the story are perfectly depicted in the pictures by the talented author / illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn. The use of mixed media incorporates a wonderful balance of detail and movement in those active moments, and simplicity and calmness of the scene when the little girl reflects.  

My Dad is a FIFO Dad is a touching book about family unity and resilience, with a dash of humour, that young children will both enjoy and gain strength from. It is a relevant and valuable support resource for many families around Australia and the world.  

Look out for a fascinating interview with the author, Jo Emery, coming soon!

You can find more information about Jo Emery and My Dad is a FIFO Dad at the following websites:

Review by Romi Sharp

More about the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

PureheartIt is commendable that recent Prime Ministers have continued the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards even though, as with some other literary prizes, its future has often seemed under threat. It is a prestigious national award amongst the also-important state and other literary prizes. And it is lucrative, with winners receiving $80 000 and shortlisted authors $5 000 – the latter amount equal to winners’ prize money in some other awards.

The complete shortlist is listed here:

I’d like to make some additional comments on some categories and specific titles.

It is excellent to see that poetry has its own category here, as in other awards. There is a thriving Australian poetry community and publishing output that readers might not be aware of. As a starting point, explore the Thomas Shapcott Prize, an annual award for emerging Qld poets, which reminds us of the exquisite poetry and prose of venerable Shapcott himself.

The fiction category includes the delightful Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest (Penguin: Hamish Hamilton), which may have been shortlisted for as many recent awards as Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage). Australian writers and readers are still celebrating his well-deserved Man Booker Prize win, almost as though we won it ourselves. Moving Among Strangers

Gabrielle Carey’s Moving Among Strangers (UQP) about Randolph Stow and her family appears in the non-fiction category. I chaired a session with Gabrielle at the BWF several years ago and was interested then to hear about her research on this important Australian poet and novelist.

Merry Go Round in the Sea

Shortlisted in the history category, Clare Wright has been scooping awards for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text Publishing). She is also a knowledgeable and entertaining conversationalist.

The Young Adult fiction shortlist deservedly emulates some other YA awards, affirming Melissa Keil’s debut, Life in Outer Space (Hardie Grant Egmont), The First Third by Will Kostakis (Penguin) and The Incredible Here and Now by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo). It is great to see Simmone Howell’s edgy Girl Defective (Pan Macmillan) and Cassandra Golds’ groundbreaking Pureheart (Penguin) included. But where is Fiona Wood’s Wildlife (Pan Macmillan), which won this year’s CBCA award for Older Readers?

I have blogged about some of these books here:

Most State Awards have a children’s category, although it is inexplicably missing in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Children’s books are the foundation of our publishing industry – and keep it afloat. If our children are not encouraged to read, who will buy and read books in the future? How literate will Australia be? Most of the PM children’s shortlist has been appearing on shortlists across the country this year, reinforcing the quality of these books. Barry Jonsberg’s My Life as an Alphabet (Allen & Unwin) has been straddling both the children’s and YA categories. This, as well as Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester (Puffin) and Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette) have already won notable awards. It is great to see Julie Hunt’s original fantasy, Song for a Scarlet Runner (Allen & Unwin) appearing on yet another shortlist and Bob Graham, Australia’s world-class author-illustrator, has done it again with his latest picture book, Silver Buttons (Walker Books).Song for a Scarlet Runner

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Review – Imagine a City

Imagine A CityThe sumptuous cloth cover and unfurling clouds swirling across the end pages indicate something special about Elise Hurst’s latest picture book, Imagine a City.

You’ll recognise Hurst’s illustrations from her other picture books such as The Night Garden, Flood and The Midnight Club to name a few. Imagine a City is a glorious collection of Hurst’s artwork woven together into a magical tale of surrealism that feels like a fantastic carpet ride.

Imagine a City illoTwo young children and their mother embark on a regular train ride into the city, which is where ordinary stops. All at once, their imaginations assume an Animalia magnitude with Mary Poppins possibilities as they meander through their day, stopping to admire, savour and marvel. I expect mother is on some sort of mission buImagine a City illo 2t this is happily forgotten as she joins her young wards in their jolly.

They are shadowed on every page by bunnies who surreptitiously guide them through fantastical locations and situations where ‘the fish fly through the sky’ and the world is ‘without edges’.

This is a picture book that takes little time to read yet entices you back for a closer look, challenging you to take another journey and seek out a different story. In the same vein as the wordless picture books of Shaun Tan, Imagine a City promotes out-of-the-box thinking, a sense of discovery and more than a touch of soul searching in readers of all ages.

Elise HurstCreatures of every description are featured in this whimsical world where the past is indefinable and readily defies magic. Hurst’s  spare narrative and colourless crosshatch pen and ink illustrations submerse you in fathomless detail and textures that will leave you breathless and wondering.

I recently shared this book with an older special needs reader who positively radiated from the notion that reality is simply the combined images of our own experiences and aspirations and therefore unique and different to each of us. But of course, imagination is not restricted to the imaginative alone and neither should this picture book. Imagine a City is an enriching exploration of dreams and possibilities that will mean something profoundly unique to each reader, each time they lose themselves in it.

Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia June 2014


The autobiographical account of the youngest ever solo circumnavigation of the Earth

If you want to see the other side of the world, you can do two things: turn the world upside down or travel there yourself…

 …which is exactly what 14-year-old Laura Dekker did.

One Girl, One Dream is her incredible story.

9781775540458Laura Dekker was 14 years old when she started her solo navigation around the world in her 12 metre yacht, Guppy.  She was just 16 when she completed the journey in 2012, making her the youngest person to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe.

If Laura had had it her way, however, she would have set out from Holland when she was only 13 years old, straight after she sailed her 22 foot yacht across the English Channel alone.  Publicly announcing her intentions immediately landed in her in the custody of Dutch child services and sparked a massive international media debate about parental responsibility. For over a year, at a time when most 14-year-olds worry about what other people think or what to wear, Laura doggedly pursued her dream against all the odds.

The debate was still raging when she slipped out of port to sail via the neutral British territory of Gibraltar using on her New Zealand passport and on to St Martin in the Caribbean where she would begin her journey.

One Girl, One Dream is Laura’s own remarkable account of her journey and what it is like to sail the great oceans of the world solo, and the determination it takes to do this at such a young age.  Exciting, awe-inspiring and infinitely inspirational, One Girl, One Dream is a real-life adventure for readers of all ages.

These days Guppy is berthed in the marina at Whangarei, New Zealand. Laura lives on board when she isn’t travelling the globe sharing her story and having other — sometimes — more land-based adventures.  

‘I hope to inspire other people to pursue their dreams and to stand up for what they feel is right.’  Laura Dekker

Buy the book here…

Did Jessica Shirvington predict the Apple Watch?

The destructive technology in Jessica Shirvington’s duology may not be as futuristic as it seems 

When a certain multinational corporation announced the creation of the Apple Watch, 9780732298609Jessica Shirvington fans were buzzing.

Not because they were excited about Apple’s newest product but because the watch bears an eerie resemblance to the M-band technology used in Shirvington’s Disruption duology.

‘When I started writing, I never guessed that, before the second book was even released, a similar concept of technology and design would be hitting the ‘real-world’ market,’ says Shirvington. ‘It’s exciting, but after having taken just one fictional road exploring how far things could go…it is somewhat daunting as well.’

An evolution of the smartphone, the M-band can do everything from monitoring your heartbeat to determining the identity of your perfect match.  The technology, created with seemingly good intentions, goes on to ruin lives and tear families apart.

Buy the book here…

2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists


In a year of outstanding achievement by Australian writers, today the Government announces the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists.

These awards recognise the role Australian writers play in enlightening and entertaining us, reflecting on our history and taking our stories to the world.

Australia’s writers are ambassadors for our stories and our cultural life and experience.

The 2014 shortlists feature some of Australia’s most significant and recognised writers, as well as gifted debut authors across all six award categories: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, Australian history, young adult fiction and children’s fiction.

The shortlists span many genres, styles and subjects, reflecting on contemporary Australian life, significant moments in Australian and world history as well as gripping readers with fictional stories that captivate young and old readers alike.

These thirty books have become part of the contemporary Australian literary canon.

A number of the shortlisted books reflect on World War One and the Anzac story – the crucible in which the Australian identity was forged. These works are essential resources to remembering the tide of events that shaped our nation and that still cast a shadow over the wider world.

The 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlists are:


A World of Other People, Steven Carroll (Harper Collins)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan (Vintage Australia)
The Night Guest, Fiona McFarlane (Penguin: Hamish Hamilton)
Coal Creek, Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
Belomor, Nicolas Rothwell (Text Publishing)


Tempo, Sarah Day (Puncher & Wattmann Poetry)
Eldershaw, Stephen Edgar (Black Pepper)
1953, Geoff Page (University of Queensland Press)
Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call, Melinda Smith (Pitt Street Poetry)
Chains of Snow, Jakob Ziguras (Pitt Street Poetry)


Moving Among Strangers, Gabrielle Carey (University of Queensland Press)
The Lucky Culture, Nick Cater (Harper Collins Publishers)
Citizen Emperor, Philip Dwyer (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Rendezvous with Destiny, Michael Fullilove (Penguin)
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John, Helen Trinca (Text Publishing)

Prize for Australian History

Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Joan Beaumont (Allen & Unwin)
First Victory 1914, Mike Carlton (Random House)
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II, Hal G.P. Colebatch (Quadrant Books)
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy, Michael Pembroke (Hardie Grant Books)
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Clare Wright (Text Publishing)

Young Adult Fiction

The Incredible Here and Now, Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
Pureheart, Cassandra Golds (Penguin)
Girl Defective, Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan)
Life in Outer Space, Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont)
The First Third, Will Kostakis (Penguin)

Children’s Fiction

Silver Buttons, Bob Graham (Walker Books )
Song for a Scarlet Runner, Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
My Life as an Alphabet, Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)
Kissed by the Moon, Alison Lester (Puffin)
Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette)

Established in 2008, the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards are Australia’s richest literary prize with a total prize pool of $600,000 to winners and shortlisted authors across the six categories.

These awards are testament to the strength and talent of Australia’s writers.

Winners will be announced before the end of the year.

Browse the books here…

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Offer ends 27th October

Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty changed the way people cook and eat. Its focus on vegetable dishes, with the emphasis on flavour, original spicing and freshness of ingredients, caused a revolution not just in this country, but the world over. Plenty More picks up where Plenty left off, with 120 more dazzling vegetable-based dishes.

The New Easy by Donna Hay

Quick and easy tricks, tips and recipes for super easy, super delicious meals. Donna Hay is all about making life easier. With her new book, Donna is all about giving you simple, easy and no-fuss recipes, techniques, tips and tricks to make cooking meals super easy, super delicious and super quick. The New Easy makes cooking fast, fun, easy and enjoyable, and is the perfect companion for every busy cook.

Delicious Love To Eat by Valli Little

There’s no better way to bring fresh inspiration to your everyday cooking than looking beyond your own kitchen. In Love to Eat, you’ll find a feast of 120 new recipes with a global twist, all translated into simple, exceptionally delicious dishes to take you from weeknight dinners to stress-free entertaining.

Jamie’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Jamie’s new cookbook brings together 100 ultimate comfort food recipes from around the world. 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.


Adam’s Big Pot by Adam Liaw

This is a cookbook for modern families. Adam Liaw takes a practical and creative approach to family cooking, creating new flavours from ingredients you already know, all in just one big wok, pan, dish or pot.


The Spice & Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill

 This expanded and completely revised new edition is the culmination of Ian Hemphill’s lifelong experience in the spice industry. It is a fascinating and authoritative guide. Hemphill describes a wide range of global herbs and spices used in modern kitchens either alone or in wonderful blends. He completely demystifies the art of combining herbs and spices and home cooks can meet and enjoy a world of flavours previously found only at internationally inspired restaurants.



Doodles and Drafts – A bewitching encounter with Angela Sunde

Hold on to your brooSM.cover.119KBmsticks because today we have someone special visiting. She’s a bit of a drafter and doodler, a fellow resident of the magical Gold Coast and a wickedly wonderful conjurer of stories. Snap Magic is her latest light-hearted, fairy tale inspired fantasy novel about friendship and young girls approaching the precipitous edge of puberty.

She has a predilection for kissing princes, sipping champagne and pumpkin soup, and looks ridiculously cool in witches’ britches.

So grab a goblet of pumpkin juice, sit back and meet Angela Sunde, author of just released Snap Magic and its predecessor, Pond Magic.

Who is Angela Sunde? Describe your writerly / illustrator-self.ASunde.1d.WEB

I aim to be professional in all that I do. If I don’t feel my work is up to industry standard, then it is shelved and I move on to the next project. I am not too precious about my writing and receive feedback and critique with interest and a positive motivation to improve. I am constantly setting myself challenges that are just beyond my comfort zone and experiences. This means I may sometimes undertake more than I should, and then I’m working into the wee hours of the night. I enjoy volunteer work, which supports children’s access to reading, and other writers and illustrators on their creative journey. As an experienced teacher I enjoy mentoring and being mentored.

How do you wish to be perceived by your reading audience; as primarily an author; mostly an illustrator or a happy combination of both?

Angela Sunde ArtMy readers consider me primarily to be an author and engage with me thus. Illustrating is a passion of mine from childhood. I am always returning to it and the urge cannot be ignored. I enjoy small projects, especially illustrating children, and offer ‘Picture Book Children’s Portrait’ commissions. Clients can have their child illustrated as a picture book character to frame. It’s a lot of fun. I’m also working on the storyboard for a new picture book manuscript I just love; it’s very personal to me. Five years in the future I would like to be considered a combination of author/illustrator.

In a past life you were a high school linguistics teacher. How did this shape or influence your writing career? Have you always written? When did you begin drawing?

I taught German from Year 5 to Year 12 for decades. My broad understanding of how we develop language, whether it be our first or our second, has enabled me to write with a clarity, simplicity and efficiency of words. One reviewer of my first book, Pond Magic, called it ‘deceptively uncomplicated writing.’ I wrote poetry and songs when I was young, but I drew from the moment I could hold a crayon. I think it was a picture of my dad on the tractor and trailer, driving through the orchard with a load of fruit on the back.

Snap Magic features Lily Padd, a character we met in your first book, Pond Magic. Can kids read Snap Magic without having read the first one?

Pond Magic 2Yes, nothing is given away. Snap Magic is a stand-alone sequel. Rainier has gone back to France and Lily and her best friend, Maureen, have a new set of problems to face, although the ultra-annoying Rick Bastek is still there.

How long had the idea of Snap Magic been brewing for? What finally ignited its creation?

It hadn’t really brewed. It ignited suddenly when I decided to use a short story I had written called Snap as the springboard for a new Lily Padd story. Snap had been shortlisted for the Charlotte Duncan Award in 2009 and I’d been itching to place it somewhere. Then it was just a matter of brainstorming a plot.

What was the hardest thing to get right in Snap Magic? What aspect of the story’s creation did you most enjoy?

I can’t actually remember anything being too difficult. It’s based on my own experiences in intermediate school in New Zealand. It’s a mid-grade school system where all the students are between ten and twelve – perfect tweens. I did base the mean girl, Ellen, on someone I knew in high school, so I most enjoyed making life difficult for that character. Mwa ha ha… (*evil author laugh.)

I found Maureen particularly endearing. Is she based on a childhood friendship you may have had or one you wished you had? Was there any particular message you set out to convey in Snap Magic to girls of this age?

Maureen is partly me and partly my best friend – strong-willed and determined. She won’t let anyone push her around and she’s staunchly loyal to Lily. That’s how we were.

Messages find their way into books naturally. They can’t be forced. If you are true to the characters, their motivations and goals, the message will float to the top. In Snap Magic Lily learns that trust in others must be carefully placed. Can she trust Ellen? Can she tell Maureen her secret? The other message is that bullying has consequences for the perpetrators, very bad consequences… Mwa ha ha…

Is Lily Padd likely to be involved in any more magical adventures?

I’m thinking, will she ever be quiet in my head? I write Lily’s stories for my own enjoyment and there is a full length novel in progress.

What is your favourite colour? What does this choice reflect about you?

As a child it was yellow. Years ago I went through a low period with my health. I asked my husband to paint our family room yellow and I felt happier straight away. I also find blue so soothing. But I almost never wear either colour. I like to wear red and black because they give me confidence.

Did you ever dress-up and go trick-or-treating as a kid? With your own children? Now? If so, what is your favourite Halloween character and why?

No, I didn’t. But we did throw my daughter a Harry Potter party when the first book came out. Her teacher had read it to the entire class and we had a bunch of very excited little witches sitting on the ‘sorting chair’ desperately hoping the ‘sorting hat’ would call out Gryffindor! The hat’s voice was on a hidden recording made by a radio announcer friend of my sister’s with a very deep and scary voice. Of course he called Gryffindor! Every time.

What’s on the drawing board and or draft table for Angela?

I’m flying down to Sydney at the end of the month for a week’s residency at Pinerolo Children’s Book Cottage as Illustrator in Residence to work on a storyboard for a picture book that is very dear to me. And next year will see me in New Zealand researching a historical fiction novel based on my grandparents’ migrant experiences.

Just for fun question: If you possessed magical powers, which trick or spell would you relish using every day? Why?

Flying. The closest I’ve come to it would be snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, just that feeling of weightlessness, of floating above looking down, so calming. Of course I am scared of heights.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog today. I really enjoyed the questions!

Thank you Angela. It’s been spookily sensational!

Delve into more enticing facts, articles and reviews about Angela and her books here as she brooms about her Snap Magic Blog Tour. Just click on this banner for full dates and details. Snap Magic Banner

Red Pedal Press October 2014



Talking about crime with Sue Bursztynski

I’m a firm believer in the old adage that “the truth is stranger than fiction”. In fact, I’ve living proof. Not too long ago I was swimming at Four Mile Beach in North Queensland when a garfish, not much bigger than my middle finger, jumped out of the water and speared me in the ear. I needed a three- hour operation to remove the spear! While I was in hospital, my son fell out of a tree and broke his wrist. I couldn’t make that stuff up!

Sue BursztynskiChildren’s author, Sue Bursztynski clearly has an eye for bizarre true stories, too. In her book, Crime Time, she’s unearthed the antics of Australia’s weirdest criminals – from the poison toting granny to the robbers who wore name tags. There are more than a hundred crime stories in the book, all packaged up for children.

Sue joins me today to share an insight into writing non-fiction.

JF: What prompted you to delve into Australia’s most notorious characters?

SB: I was commissioned to write a companion volume to Meredith Costain’s book Fifty Famous Australians, as Fifty Infamous Australians. I said, “Okay, but that title has to go! Kids will think it’s for helping with their homework.” As it happened, I’d just done a piece on forensics for the NSW School Magazine, which covered everything from Otzi the Ice Man (a 5000 year old murder victim) to the murderer who was caught because of some white cat hairs, and I was absolutely thrilled to be able to continue the crime theme. And there’s an embarrassment of riches in Australia’s crime history.

JF: Can you share a couple of the more unusual stories that you unearthed?

SB: One I liked was the story of the con man Murray Beresford Roberts, who actually wrote a book about his crimes! Out of print, but I found a copy online. He tells of the time when he was in India and managed to con a jeweller into giving him a diamond tiara, which he broke up and swallowed. Then he took a plane to England, where he went to the toilet to expel the gems, cleaned them up and sold them.

I had been asked to write something about Tony Mokbel, who was in the news at the time. I couldn’t think of anything about him that would entertain children, but I was having a coffee one day and reading the papers, when I found a double page spread about his bizarre escape from Australia and knew I had my story.

Crime TimeJF: How much time did you spend researching the book?

SB: I spent about three months reading and reading, choosing and drafting. I have a full time day job, but I was on long service leave when I was commissioned, so I could go to the library for books and read newspapers both print and online. The editing continued after that, of course, and I went back to research some more. I had fifty main stories and was asked to also add some “Did You Knows”. There must be around a hundred stories, long and short, in the book, and I researched them all thoroughly. I wouldn’t write a chapter unless I’d read a bare minimum of two sources, usually more, because of potential bias. That takes time – and when my leave was over I’d have to go back to work. So it was an intense three months.

JF: Did you ever find yourself so disturbed by the subject matter that you questioned the project?

SB: Sometimes I did feel queasy, though never to the extent of wanting to pack it in. My poor editor, Saralinda Turner, was a lot more stressed than I was, after I’d turned in several chapters about serial killers, and she asked if there was a lot more of this stuff coming, but she bravely kept going, bless her. I asked my friends to suggest crimes that weren’t serial killing. Kerry Greenwood suggested the story of the murderer who got his idea from a campfire discussion with the novelist Arthur Upfield. She said it was every crime writer’s nightmare. There was a murder, but it was so over the top, I couldn’t resist going off and researching it. And my friend Chris Wheat (author of the YA novel Screwloose) told me about the April Fool’s Day attempted robbery at the Cuckoo restaurant at Olinda, where a couple of klutzy robbers escaped with a bag of stale bread rolls and one of them was accidentally shot in the backside. I have that chapter up on my blog, if any of your readers want to look at it. There were other quirky crime stories in the book, so that helped keep it balance.

JF: How did you convert the information into a book suitable for children?

SB: I had to tread carefully. On the one hand, kids simply love gruesome tales. On the other hand, you do want parents and libraries to buy it – and you want the kids to say, “Oh, brilliant!” and not to get nightmares. There were things I had to leave out – but not enough to lose my readers’ interest. This isn’t a book to help with homework. It’s reading for enjoyment. I chose a lot of quirky stories, especially for my “Did You Know?” sections. In the Ned Kelly chapter I added a “Did You Know?” about a Kelly brother who lived a quiet, law-abiding life and died in about the 1940s. I wrote about the Dumb And Dumber robbers, who kept on their name tags while committing a robbery and flashed their staff passes to use transport after. The kids to whom I read this, love it. One day, at a bookshop event, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of children about five or six years old and simply couldn’t read to them from the book, so I told them, instead, about the “very naughty nana” who poisoned her family (“YOUR nana wouldn’t do that!”). That got a lot of giggles and some older siblings who were listening bought the book.

JF: Tell us about some of your other work?

SB: For many years, I wrote fiction and non-fiction for small-press science fiction magazines before I won the Mary Grant Bruce Award for children’s literature and realised that what I enjoyed most was writing for young people. I have written ten books, one of which, Potions to Pulsars: Women doing science, was a Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council Awards. Another, Starwalkers: Explorers of the Unknown, was nominated for the NSW Premier’s History Award.

When not writing, I work in a school in Melbourne’s western suburbs. I enjoy reading, music, handcraft and old science fiction movies. My current books are Crime Time and Wolfborn. 

JF: What’s next for you?

SB: Mostly short fiction, possibly including a story for the next Ford Street anthology – that will require research too, because I’ve been asked for historical fiction. I have a story coming up in the Christmas Press anthology, Once Upon A Christmas, and I’m working, very slowly, on a prequel to my novel Wolfborn. There’s not much market for non-fiction in the trade publishing industry, alas, and it’s very hard to get into the education industry these days, as they tend to have stables of regular writers. So it’s fiction for now.

JF: Thank you for joining me at Boomerang Books, Sue. All the best with Crime Time.

I Am Malala

I Am MalalaIf the author being the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee—and winner—isn’t impetus enough to warrant seeing what this memoir is about, nothing arguably is.

Famous for advocating for education for all—male and female, all around the world—and for surviving a roadside assassination attempt by the Taliban, who were unimpressed with her efforts, Malala Yousafzai is a force to be reckoned with. I mean force to be reckoned with the most complimentary way.

Intelligent, articulate, ambitious, and yet still the girl next door who fights with her siblings and who is anything but a morning person, the Nobel Peace Prize co-winner (she shares the 2014 spoils with Kailash Satyarthi), is at once recognisably ordinary and elusively ethereal.

By that I mean she’s like every girl you’ve ever met and like no girl, and her ability to punch through inequality and prejudice without fear is admirable. I can’t help but think Malala and someone like Emma Watson, who recently delivered a knock-out speech to the United Nations assembly inviting men to help address inequality, have something extra the rest of us don’t. When Malala and Watson speak, the world truly listens.

It really needs to be noted that while Malala is incredible, such incredibleness doesn’t spring, fully formed, from nowhere. What’s clear from reading the book is that she has some pretty incredible parents. Though poorly educated herself, her mother is the family’s sage bedrock—and in recent times she’s even begun to learn to read and write and to learn English. Through hard graft and against the grain, her father started and ran a school to enable education for all. In some ways Malala has learnt from the debilitating effects a lack of education has meant for her mother and has picked up her father’s message and is running with it.

Malala’s father is famous for saying that Malala used to be known as his daughter; now he’s known as her father—and he’s proud of it. He also told media the way he came to have such a talented, world-changing daughter was that he hadn’t clipped her wings. At one stage in the book he tells her not to worry: ‘I will protect your freedom,’ he says. ‘Carry on with your dreams.’

Such statements blow my mind for their humble simplicity and matter-of-factness. As many have stated (and I’m paraphrasing here), a girl with a book and a pen is much more dangerous than a man with a semi-automatic weapon. The fact that the Taliban called for—and attempted—schoolgirl Malala’s execution is testament to that.

I’m normally pretty cynical of memoirs written while someone’s still in the throes of pimply puberty. But Malala’s memoir is perhaps one exception to that rule. Her efforts have been so groundbreaking so young, and her story is so compelling and important to empower and inspire everyone to pursue education around the world, there’s plenty that warrants being written down.

The book opens with the day of the shooting. Malala has overslept through a combination of being a night owl and because she stayed up late studying. She rushes to school to sit an exam—one on which she finds out months later, during her rehabilitation, she achieved a perfect score.

On her way home, the school bus she’s travelling in with her friend is stopped by a gunman. He asks the passengers: ‘Who is Malala?’ While none apparently spoke her name, some eyes flitted to her to gauge her response and essentially gave her away. The book’s ‘I am Malala’ title is ostensibly a clear, proud, fearless response to that question.

Malala was shot point blank (and some other girls were injured too), but miraculously survived (as did the others). She was airlifted to receive state-of-the-art medical treatment in Birmingham in the UK, where she still resides today. It’s too dangerous for her to return to Pakistan, and her Nobel Peace Prize recipiency that we’re celebrating and marvelling at has probably compounded that danger—the news was reportedly met with some negativity by the Taliban in Pakistan.

But the book doesn’t focus solely on the shooting—Malala notes that she understands why people focus on it, but for her it’s a speed bump in her activism efforts and much less interesting than everything else going on. The book instead concentrates more on her early years in Pakistan, her school life, her friendships, her family life, and her present-day life in the UK, all the while providing insight into the wider cultural and political issues in which she—and her desire for education—got swept up.

Malala is what one family friend describes as pakha jenai (or ‘wise beyond her years’) and someone you’d nominate in your high school yearbook as the girl most likely to change the world. (Coincidentally, the morning of the shooting her father had been joking that when Malala was president, her brother, with whom she regularly has sibling-rivalry fights, could be her secretary.)

What’s striking about Malala is her nuanced understanding of the world, its injustices, and her pragmatic, straight-to-the-point logical solutions. She understands, and articulates, this stuff better than I do—and I’m roughly twice her age.

And, although she and her family have suffered immensely and unnecessarily through foolish, misguided efforts to prevent girls obtaining an education (seriously, why anyone would want to prevent anyone from being educated is inane and abhorrent), she’s ultimately having the last laugh (or whatever the appropriate term is here). Malala writes: ‘The Taliban shot me to silence me. Instead, the whole world [is] listening to my message now.’

The Australian I Am Malala edition cleverly comes with discussion questions at the end and downloadable teacher resources tailored to the Australian Curriculum, making it ideal as a set text. But, truly, it’s one for all ages and that shouldn’t need being part of the curriculum to inspire us to pick it up—this is a book we should be championing (along with education) for all.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North wins the 2014 Man Booker Prize


9780857980366Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Richard Flanagan’s affecting and harrowing story of the Burma “Death Railway” and the Australian prisoners of war who were forced to build it has trumped over 150 of the English-speaking world’s best novels to carry off the prize.

The Tasmanian-born author is the fourth Australian to win the coveted prize joining fellow Australians Thomas Kenneally (Schindler’s Ark, 1982), Peter Carey (Oscar & Lucinda, 1988 and The True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001) and D.B.C. Pierre (Vernon God Little, 2003). Flanagan was presented with the £50,000 (A$91,233) award at London’s Guildhall.

9781741666700The Narrow Road to the Deep North is Flanagan’s sixth novel, and explores the experiences of an Australian surgeon in a POW camp on the Thai-Burma railway. It has already won numerous awards, including the Indie Book of the Year Award and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. It was also shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

The novel tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor who falls in love with his uncle’s wife before the war and who survives the ordeal of the railway and Japanese mistreatment to return and be adopted by his country as a hero when he feels anything but. Flanagan’s victory has an added poignancy in that his father, who died on the day the book was finished, was himself a survivor of the railway.

The judges deliberated for some three hours before agreeing on the winner. The judging process, said AC Grayling, Chair of judges, exposes quality because the best books bear re-reading. It was, he said, “a privilege to be on the Man Booker panel in a year with such extraordinary books”.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North bears 9780701189051a dedication to prisoner san byaku san ju go, Flanagan’s father’s Japanese prison number, 335. The author himself now has a number of his own – number one.

Read our blog review here

Buy The Narrow Road To The Deep North in paperback, hardback and on audio here with FREE postage…

Weekly Boomerang Books LIKE, SHARE AND ANSWER TO WIN Competition: Win a copy of Travelling To Work

Win one of two copies of Travelling To Work by Michael Palin 

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Which new business book is Rupert Murdoch buying for all his senior managers?


Rupert Murdoch has indicated via Twitter that he will be buying a copy of Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One for each of his senior managers.

Peter Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook. In the Spring of 2012, he gave a lecture course at Stanford for software engineers, calling on them to think boldly and broadly about how they might use their skills to shape the future, and imparting the lessons he has gleaned from his own experience. One of the students in that class – Blake Masters – took notes and posted them online. The blog posts became a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of pageviews, and became the basis for Zero to One.

We live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by our new mobile devices to notice. Progress has stalled in every industry except computers, and globalization is hardly the revolution people think it is. It’s true that the world can get marginally richer by building new copies of old inventions, making horizontal progress from ‘1 to n’. But true innovators have nothing to copy. The most valuable companies of the future will make vertical progress from ‘0 to 1’, creating entirely new industries and products that have never existed before. Zero to One is about how to build these companies. A business book that also provides insight into the world of start-ups from a Silicon Valley icon, Thiel shows how to pursue your goals using the most important, most difficult, and most underrated skill in every job or industry: thinking for yourself.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter to endorse the book. Theil’s book Zero to One covers his thoughts on startups and the motives behind entrepreneurship. The book deals with the business challenges of the future and how successful innovation shapes society. It’s already received rave reviews from Mark Zuckerberg who says: “This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.” Zero to One is going to be required reading at Murdoch’s headquarters with the billionaire tweeting that he will buy a copy for each of his senior managers.

Be like Rupert Murdoch and buy the book here…

Review – Hurry Up Alfie by Anna Walker

hurry-up-alfieHere comes Alfie! Bursting onto the scene. So much to do, so little time. Alfie is plenty busy… too busy to get ready to go out.

With classics including the I Love series, I Don’t Believe in Dragons and Peggy, and her beautiful illustrations for Jane Godwin’s All Through the Year, Starting School and Today We Have No Plans, award-winning author / illustrator Anna Walker knows kids. And here is no exception with her easily-distracted, stubborn and fun-loving crocodile in her latest release, Hurry Up Alfie.

‘Alfie’s in no hurry to get up… until he finds out he’s going to the park!’

But in typical kid fashion, Alfie’s handstands are more important than eating breakfast, as is chasing Steve McQueen the cat. And looking for undies unexpectedly leads to the discoveries of missing items and different ways to use your pyjamas. What else?!

Alfie thinks he’s finally ready. It’s coming up to midday on the clock, and an ever-so-quickly-losing-patience-parent informs him that it is not an umbrella needed but rather some clothes!

The battle to get dressed eventually ends when a compromise is made, and parent and child make their way to meet Bert at the park; clothes, umbrella and all. However, there’s sure to be a re-match when it is time to go home!

hurry up alfie page 2As a mother two young girls, the struggle to get out of the house on time is all too familiar. Anna Walker similarly understands these daily pleasures and the joys of negotiating with an ‘independent’ pre-schooler, with so much warmth and humour. Her trademark illustrative style of watercolours, pencil, textured patterns and photo collages once again so perfectly compliment the gentle and whimsical storyline, as well as adding to the detail and movement, and making each scene so real.

Hurry Up Alfie is an adorably funny read that rings true for any household with young children. It’s a gorgeous story about asserting one’s independence, learning to focus on a task, self-expression and cooperating with others, but also enjoying the simple pleasures in life. If only we could all be so care-free like Alfie!  

Review by Romi Sharp

The Strays by Emily Bitto

The StraysWho are the strays in Emily Bitto’s literary novel, The Strays (Affirm Press)?

The new Melbourne Modern Art Group tries to set up a bohemian utopia paralleling Sunday and John Reed’s Heide group, or Norman Lindsay’s enclave, on affluent Evan and Helena Trentham’s property during the Depression. Patrick is a stalwart and Ugo, Maria and Jerome are artists who seem to relish the opportunity to receive the patronage, protection and stimulation of famous Evan.

It may be the three Trentham daughters who are most affected by these living arrangements, although the temporary residents take some of the burden off the eldest daughter, Bea, in raising the younger girls. Painter, Evan, and miniaturist, Helena, are neglectfully preoccupied.

A fourth girl, Lily, meets middle daughter, Eva, when she moves to the local primary school. Lily is an only child and revels in the verdant exotica of Eva’s family, home and garden and, especially, of the art. Her own family seems dull and conventional beside the excesses of the Trentham lifestyle and Lily becomes a surrogate daughter, perhaps displacing youngest girl, Heloise. Lily’s relationship with Eva is close, in that first chaste trial marriage between girls. They are bound by bonds of imagination and, in Lily’s case, of some envy. As an observer of this sought-after life, Lily possibly becomes benignly manipulative.Shelley

Artist prodigy, Jerome, loves the work of poet Percy Shelley, husband of Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley, and is creating a series of art inspired by Shelley’s work. Like Jerome’s artist community, the Shelleys were part of an intimate circle that included Lord Byron, and Bitto casts allusive ties between these two groups. Jerome shares the poems with Lily but it is Eva who agrees to pose topless for him.Frankenstein

Descriptions of the garden and, particularly, the art are provocative. It is not surprising that politician Robert Menzies and the established arts community of the day viewed these avant-garde artists with suspicion. They were the antithesis of the adored late nineteenth century Heidelberg School of Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton.

Lily relates her story as a girl growing into a teenager but the narrative is encircled by an account of her life as an older woman. Her reluctance to accept an ordinary life remains.

The Strays was shortlisted for the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and is recommended for fans of Siri Hustvedt’s exceptional The Blazing World (Septre) and Alex Miller’s, Autumn Laing (Allen & Unwin).Blazing World



Books At The Movies

Use the promo code “atthemovies” and get FREE postage.
Offer ends 20th Oct.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The most addictive page turner of the decade! Nick returns home of his 5th wedding anniversary to discover that his wife Amy has gone missing. He contacts the police and reports her missing. Meanwhile you read portions of Amy’s diary detailing how she and Nick met and the cracks in their marriage. Then Nick admits to lying to police and the rolelrcaoster ride begins! Jon

The Drop by Dennis Lehane

This is absolute vintage Dennis Lehane. Lehane effortlessly bring his characters vividly to life. This is a true craftsmen at work, building his pieces, putting them together and then sadly watching them fall apart. If you have ever wondered why such high praise is heaped upon Dennis Lehane, The Drop is why. Jon

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Christine wakes in a strange bed beside a man she does not recognise. In the bathroom she finds a photograph of him taped to the mirror, and beneath it the words ‘Your husband’. Each day, Christine wakes knowing nothing of her life. Each night, her mind erases the day. But before she goes to sleep, she will recover fragments from her past, flashbacks to the accident that damaged her, and then-mercifully-she will forget. Chilling, exquisitely crafted and compulsively readable, this is a psychological thriller of the highest order.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Poor Judd Foxman returns home early to find his wife in bed with his boss – in the act. He now faces the twin threats of both divorce and unemployment. His misery is compounded further with the sudden death of his father. He is then asked to come and ‘sit Shiva’ for his newly deceased parent with his angry, screwed-up and somewhat estranged brothers and sisters in his childhood home. It is there he must confront who he really is and – more importantly – who he can become. Funny, moving, powerful and poignant.

A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block

Big-time dope dealer Kenan Khoury is a wealthy man. One fine spring morning his wife Francine is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. Kenan pays and his wife is duly returned to him-in – small pieces in the boot of an abandoned car. PI Matt Scudder is left to speculate on the motives of a very unusual kidnapper. And soon he is on the trail of a pair of ruthlessly sadistic psycopaths whose cruel games have only just begun…

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside. All they know is that every morning when the walls slide back, they will risk everything – even the Grievers, half-machine, half-animal horror that patrol its corridors, to try and find out.

Review – A House of Her Own

A House of Her OwnFive something-year-olds can be delightfully brutal and unsparing with their observations and subsequent proclamations on life. Audrey is one such five year-old. She may be younger or slightly older; but one thing’s for certain, she does look bigger than she did yesterday, which is why she announces to her father that, ‘your house is getting too small for me’. What Audrey needs is a house of her own.

A House of Her Own is the latest collaboration between the relatively new picture book pairing of Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley. It’s a partnership that works a treat, gently examining the taste for independence pre-schoolers begin to develop as they become more self-aware.

A House Illo 2Audrey is a young lady with specific tastes however so finding the perfect location to build her dream dwelling takes some time. Eventually she reasons that the tallest tree in the garden is the only site that satisfies her daily ‘growing bigger’ dilemma and instructs Dad to commence construction.

Again, Audrey’s exacting requirements take some time for Dad to fulfil, but with infinite good patience, he builds her a ‘place to play, with a bath tub for snorkelling’ and ‘a blue bed, to keep secrets underneath’; features that would please the most discerning home renovator.

It isn’t until Dad packs up for the night, leaving Audrey to fend for herself in her new abode, that doubt begins to seep in, causing Audrey to question her rash quest for independence. Dad is delightfully indifferent to her growing concerns until he suggests a place she’ll feel safe and warm in, a place where she is always welcome, no matter how much bigger she becomes.

Jenny HughesAs a parent, A House of Her Own made me grin with intuitive understanding and compassion. I mean, who doesn’t want a tree house of their own. Jenny Hughes weaves typical pre-schooler indignity with humorous clarity into a tale singing with emotional insight and warmth. It’s The Block meets Play School, with characters better defined and more recognisable than found in some older-audience aimed works of fiction.Jonathan Bentley

Hughes’ delicate treatment of a comfortably repeating narrative enables the tender relationship of the occasionally irascible Audrey and her single-parenting father to really shine.

Jonathon Bentley’s watercolour and pencilled illustrations lend more than a note of whimsy to the story line. There’s a sunny backyard openness that filters from each page deep into your (childhood) heart. Each illustration explores every perspective and angle of Audrey’s project and emotional quandary, with detailed sensitivity that lures your eye to the page and keeps it there.

A House of Her Own Illo spread A House of Her Own is an anytime story that begs to be read again and again – at least my young miss thought so. It highlights the realisation that fanciful desires don’t always match with a longing for security, but also reaffirms that, making a stance in life need not isolate you from others or those who love you, something many teenagers would do well to accept. A beautiful tale brimming with affection, perfect for anyone with lofty dreams and sky-high expectations.

Little Hare Books imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont September 2014

Review – The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

9781444776775Translated by David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida this is a fascinating look into the world of autism. Written by a 13 year old boy, using an alphabet board, this book is a first hand account of what it is like for somebody with autism.

There is not a lot known about autism and I personally do not know anybody diagnosed with the disorder. The are a lot of myths about autism and assumptions made by people like myself who have no second hand experience with the disorder. A book like this gives an amazing insight and perspective into what the disorder is like and the effects confusion and misunderstanding has on those diagnosed with autism.

The book is set out as a series of common questions about autism that Naoki tries to answer. His answers are clear and empathic. They do not offer solutions or any advice but simply convey what dealing with autism is like for him and an attempt to try an explain the reason behind behaviour and emotional responses. There are no clinical explanations just the thoughts and observations of a thirteen year old boy which ultimately give a unique and brilliant insight into a disorder we still know so little about. Interspersed with Naoki’s answers and observations are short stories he has written that further demonstrate the intelligence, empathy and creativity he possesses.

This is a remarkable book about a remarkable disorder written by a remarkable person.

Buy the book here…

Want to Win Lunch with Lauren Kate in LA?


9780857532312To celebrate the release of Lauren’s latest book, Waterfall, we’re giving one lucky person and their companion the chance to fly to LA and have lunch with Lauren.

Enter now to go in the running to win two $3000 Flight Centre vouchers plus lunch to the value of $US200 per person at a restaurant chosen by Lauren in LA.

Hurry! Competition closes 11.59pm AEDT on Friday, 30 January 2015.


1. Buy a copy of Waterfall with the ISBN 9780857532312 from Boomerang Books

2. Keep the email receipt showing proof of purchase

3. Visit and tell us in 50 words or less why you should be the fan who has lunch with Lauren.

Buy the book here…

New Cookbook from Donna Hay


135+ clever solutions and f lavour-packed recipes for weeknights and weekends

This book is all about new ways to make cooking easier and captures how most of us, including Donna Hay, like to cook.

It offers solutions to the age-old dilemma of cooks everywhere – what can I put on the table through the week for the family that’s fast and delicious, and what can I serve on the weekend that’s a little more special when I have more than 10 minutes up my sleeve?

It recognises the position most of us find ourselves in during the week, juggling work, kids, personal commitments and the like, when what we need is a fast and delicious dinner, and that on weekends, we have time to relax and spend more time in the kitchen.

It’s about making things faster, simpler and tastier.

Full of short, concise recipes that are big on f lavour, the new easy offers five chapters: weeknights, weekends, sides and salads, baking, and desserts.

Each chapter contains clever and versatile ideas to restyle particular recipes, so if you loved Tuesday night’s lemongrass chicken, learn how to transform it into a chic starter for Saturday’s dinner or a tasty sandwich for Sunday’s picnic. These twists are all about versatility for a whole new and easy repertoire. Happy cooking!

Buy the book here…