Review: A Hero in France by Alan Furst

9781474602914No other writer of historical espionage fiction is as capable of capturing the sights sounds, and tensions of the time as Alan Furst. Not only does he saturate the reader in the fine details, but his characters always resonate – even when they are distinct archetypes – and his plots are always complex and rollicking.  A Hero in France – published as a Hero of France elsewhere – is no different. It’s not quite peerless Furst – veteran readers will likely point towards Midnight in Europe or Mission to Paris as their favourites (or maybe that’s just personal bias…) but it’s a fine example of what the author is capable of. And thankfully, if you enjoy this one, you’ve got thirteen other World War II Europe-based suspense novels to discover. Lucky, lucky you.

Mathieu is the leader of a French Resistance cell in Nazi-infested Paris. Mathieu is not his real name, but in this time of war, his true identity is irrelevant. Set in a key period during the war – when Britain had stepped up its bombing campaign, and just prior to Hitler invading the Soviet Union – the book’s plot follows several of Mathieu exploits. From concealing downed British pilots and smuggling them home, to the nitty-gritty of being a resistance leader and securing funds and garnering allies, Furst portrays the difficulties of Mathieu’s wartime mission with aplomb. He does this by highlighting the scarcity of items we take for granted, and letting his characters truly luxuriate with them when the opportunity arises. And it’s these moments that truly elevate A Hero in France. While other writers can match Furst in the suspense stakes, few are as capable of humanising their characters.

The novel possesses a sombre tone – appropriately so, too – but its characters never wallow. A Hero in France is a novel about heroes, and presents courageous men and women doing their utmost to protect and defend the principles they believe in. While its concluding pages are a tad trite – plot threads tie together a little too neatly, which momentarily suspends its authenticity – readers looking for a short, impactful burst of World War II escapades should look no further.

Buy the book here…

YA 2016 June And July Releases To Watch Out For

Keeping on top of the new releases is always hard when it comes to Young Adult books. Why? Because there are so many! And they all seem so epic! How does one even know what to choose?! Luckily for you, I am here to point you in the direction of upcoming epicness and keep your to-be-read piles taller than the Eiffel Tower. I know you’re so relieved. You are most welcome, my bookworm friends.


J U NE   &   J U L Y    2 0 1  6    R E L E A S E S

9781785652745This Savage Song


This story is set in a dark Gothom-style city were monsters rule the world. You can pay the mafia to keep you safe — or you can get your soul eaten. Good times. It’s dual narrated by Kate, who’s the stabby daughter of one of the crime lords, and by August, who is a very sweet kind…monster. I love how it contrasts humans vs monsters and asks what truly makes you a monster. It also has a Romeo and Juliet style story line but with actually no romance! It’s stunningly written. Definite must-read!

9780702253942 (1)One Would Think The Deep


This is by the wonderful Australian author, Claire Zorn, who writes astoundingly gorgeous novels like The Protected and The Sky So Heavy. This time, the novel is set in 1997 and features Sam who’s suffering from the grief of losing his mother. It also promises surfing (I mean look at that fantastically trippy cover) and strange relatives and a boy learning to live again.

29753111When Michael Met Mina


This is another glorious Aussie author creation! It’s about refugees and the “boat people”, which is a very apt topic for today and I can’t wait to read this book and see how the author handles things! It features two kids from opposite sides: Mina, who came from Afghanistan on a boat, and Michael, whose parents adamantly protest the refugees. It promises love and injustice!

9780544805095With Malice


This is a YA thriller pitched as for fans of We Were Liars and The Girl On the Train. So, woah, you know you’re in for a wild time! It features Jill who was supposed to have a nice holiday in Italy…but she wakes up in a hospital with her body damaged and a 6 week memory gap. What happened? What was the accident? Was it even an accident?

Forgetting Foster | REVISED FINAL COVER x 2 (18 April 2016)Forgetting Foster


I was absolutely captivated by Aussie author, Diane Touchell’s first book A Small Madness, so I’m super excited to try Forgetting Foster! It sounds like it’ll be another heartbreaking tale, this time about a little boy who’s father is forgetting things…more and more things until eventually Foster is the one being neglected and overlooked. I have so many questions! I can’t wait to read this!

9780552573740And I Darken


This is an epic fantasy that features a dark and brutal princess. She is a pawn in a power game for empires and thrones and she’s planning revenge on the people who stole her birthright. The blurb promises battles and wits and a toxic and deadly love triangle. Which all sounds very exciting and dramatic. I can’t wait!

Review – Dragonfly Song

Wendy Orr’s latest novel has the sweeping majesty of an epic novel and the thrill of a mid-grade fantasy that will win leagues of young new fans. Powerful, eloquent and moving, Dragonfly Song is a story you will never want to leave.

Dragonfly SongAt first glance, Dragonfly Song is not for the faint hearted, weighing in at nearly four hundred pages, however do not be disheartened for from the moment Aissa slips into existence, you will be enthralled and the pages will float effortlessly by. Aissa is the first-born daughter of the high priestess of an ancient island nation. She is however, imperfect and so is abandoned, thus determining not only her destiny but the fate of her island home and all its inhabitants, as well.

Aissa’s people are emerging from the time of flint and spears into the mythical Bronze Age. Her world possesses a strong Byzantine period feel for me at least, where hierarchy, occupation, and bloodline dictate survival. Having endured a childhood of servitude and persecution, Aissa is unaware of her own ancestry and link to the goddesses or even her true name until she is twelve years old. Her fellow islanders consider her the bad-luck child, a curse to all who cross her, and abhor her. Yet she is resourceful, curious, and oddly revered by the island’s animals (snakes, cats, bulls) and although mute from the age of four, she slowly begins to grasp the power she has to sing them to her biding.

It is this power that both exalts and alienates her to the Bull King and his Lady wife, the Mother. At the age of thirteen, Aissa finds herself in the land of the great Bull King, interned as a bull dancer, eventually dancing for her life and the freedom of further tributes (aka human sacrifices) against her island home.

Aissa is manOrr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gouldy things: of pure blood, a priestess in the making, a talented bull dancer, spirited, obedient, loyal, a privy cleaner, displaced but above all, resilient. It is hard not to fret over her emotional well-being and want to call out encouragement for her. Her story is both bleak and horrifying at times but ultimately her tale of rising out of the quagmire of the downtrodden soars with optimism and promise.

Orr masters this with incredible ease. Her artistry with language is unforced and sublime. Part prose and part verse novel, I was utterly swept away by the beauty and tragedy of Aissa’s plight. The use of verse to relay Aissa’s internal dialogue and inner most dread and desires is genius and executed with such finesse I wished it never ended.

Dragonfly Song is an adventure story, a tale of daring and hope and a quest for love and acceptance that will have you weeping and cheering. Gripping, artful, and exciting, this novel has broad appeal for both male and female readers aged twelve and above.

03To discover the heart and soul behind the writing of this novel, see my Doodles and Drafts post with Wendy Orr, here.

Allen & Unwin June 2016

DOODLES AND DRAFTS with Wendy Orr on the inspiration behind Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly SongHang onto to your bronze daggers as you are in for ‘a riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure’ –  we have the remarkable Wendy Orr at the draft table today, escorting us on her Blog Tour for her stunning new novel, Dragonfly Song. And like all terrific stories, there is usually an even more fascinating story behind it; how it came to light, what energies and events conspired to motivate its first heartbeat. Today, Wendy shares her inspiration with us.

Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould


Welcome Wendy! Tell us, what was the inspiration for Dragonfly Song?

Sometimes it’s easy to see where an idea’s inspiration has come from. Sometimes it’s not – and sometimes some of the things that inspire it don’t end up in the story. Dragonfly Song is one of those mysteries.

Certainly one thread comes from childhood and teenage reading of Greek myths and Mary Renault’s retelling of the Theseus myth, The King Must Die. (There are many stories about Theseus, a king of Athens with a typically complicated hero life. However he is best known for being one of seven youths and seven maidens sent as a tribute to King Minos of Crete. Minos sent them into a labyrinth to be devoured by the half-man, half-bull monster, the Minotaur – but luckily, Theseus defeated the Minotaur instead of being eaten.)

04Then, about twenty-five years ago, I dreamed about a white robed priestess leading a long torchlight procession up a steep green volcanic mountain.  As a story grew around the dream, I started reading up on the intriging civilization that flourished in Crete around four thousand years ago.  The Minoans seem to have worshipped a mother goddess and been ruled by a priestess until they were taken over by the warlike Mycenaeans of mainland Greece. Their palaces had grand court02yards and stairways, flushing toilets, lightwells, and painted frescoes on walls, ceilings and floors. They had beautiful art, gold and jewellery; images of priestesses holding snakes and of young men and women leaping over the backs of giant bulls. What if these bull-leaping games had inspired the original myth of Theseus?

Although the rather melodramatic novel I wrote then was, luckily, never published, the images of that world never left me. Eventually I started playing with the idea of a completely new story set in the same era.

It started to take shape on a 2010 visit to New Delhi. Culture shock can be a great inspiration: new sounds and smells; beautiful buildings and overwhelming poverty. Home again, doodling with a fingerpaint app, I sketched a girl with a sad twisted mouth and tangled black curls. This wasn’t the direction I’d expected, but one evening in my tai chi class, the form of the story appeared in a luminescent blue bubble –  and no, I can’t explain it exactly what I mean by that, but it was powerful enough to bring me to tears. The next day I saw a dragonfly, the exact same colour as the bubble.

And dragonflies kept on appearing whenever I made a significant decision or saw something that helped to shape the story:  finding an offcut of chipped flint on a Danish island; visiting the mysterious deep blue source of a French river that would have seemed even more mysterious and holy in ancient timeDragonflySongBlogTourGraphics…

Ah the synchronicity of life…Thank you, Wendy!

Watch Wendy explain more, here. Catch up with her again as she continues her DragonFly Song Adventure and tour.

Stick around for my full review of Dragonfly Song coming soon. Meantime you can get it now, here, if you can’t wait to read it first!

Allen & Uwin June 2016





Review: Black Teeth by Zane Lovitt

The Midnight Promise announced9781925355147 Zane Lovitt as a great new talent in Australian crime fiction. His new novel is even more incredible. Lovitt takes a wicked sense of humour and clever plotting to once again brilliantly subvert the crime genre.

The novel opens with a piece of classic noir. A man opens his door to an insurance salesman. He wants to take out life insurance because he is planning revenge and he doesn’t expect to survive from taking it out. By the end of the first chapter the subversion is already apparent and you know you are in a very different kind of crime novel.

Lovitt adds another piece to this revenge story and another character. Jason Ginaff is a bit of a social outcast. He spends his days vetting people online for companies, finding people’s darkest secrets online and showing them to their current, future or former employer. Jason often works under an alias, primarily because he is much more confident when he is trying to be someone else and it helps him remain private. When he has to be himself things tend fall to apart. So when he finally tracks down the man he thinks is his biological father, does he meet him first as Jason or as somebody else?

Lovitt quickly has these two seemingly disconnected stories weaved inextricably together. Lovitt plays off the conventions of the crime genre fantastically which makes for some darkly comic moments as well as plenty of surprises which will have you flicking back chapters discovering other bits you may have missed the first time around. The ending is mind-blowing and I am still trying to get my head around it, which I love.

Move over Peter Temple, your heir apparent has arrived and is breaking all the rules of crime fiction with a talent and skill that is unique, daring and quite simply a pleasure to behold on the page.

Buy the Book Here…

Review: The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller

9781925106954Norwegian By Night was one of my books of the year when it was published in 2012 and we loved it so much in the shop it was our bestselling book of that year (it even outsold Fifty Shades that year!). It was a literary thriller like no other that had a deep emotional resonance. In many ways it was a book that is almost impossible to follow up but Derek Miller has done just that in his timely new novel.

Before publishing Norwegian By Night Derek Miller worked in international affairs for over twenty years. In his new novel he calls upon his wealth of knowledge and experience to give us another emotionally moving thriller that looks at Iraq and the mess The West has made in the Middle East in the last twenty five years (and more). Miller makes what many say is too complex to understand and puts it in a context that is clear, precise and telling without ever being simple. He shows us the beginning of the mess that was made with the first Gulf War in 1991, the consequences this had for the second Gulf War in 2003 and shows how each war and our reaction in the West to both has ultimately led to the rise of ISIL and ISIS and how our continued attitude to the region is fuelling the problem.

The novel opens in 1991. The Gulf War is over and Kuwait has been liberated. US Army soldier Arwood Hobbes is stationed at Checkpoint Zulu, 240 kilometres from the Kuwaiti border where he meets British journalist Thomas Benton. They are both about to observe close hand the massacre of a Shia village by Saddam Hussein’s forces. Helpless to intervene they are forced to witness the death of a young girl wearing a green dress. Twenty-two years later Arwood contacts Benton. He has just seen a video of a girl in a green dress in a mortar attack on the Syrian/Kurdish/Iraqi border. He is convinced it is that same girl and that she is still alive and that this time they both must save her to right the wrong of the past that has had a deep impact upon both their lives.

Like Norwegian By Night, another writer could have taken this story in a variety of directions and delivered a completely different kind of novel but Miller cuts through the rhetoric and the cynicism and gets to the heart of what is happening in our world at the moment. A heart that, while it is full of conflict, is also full of hope. Miller manages to convey all this to the reader in a page-turner that is both funny and sad, intelligent and full of hope. This is a must read from a writer of extreme talent and compassion.

Buy the Book Here…

YA Books About The Afterlife

Death and the afterlife are huge questions most humans ponder upon. So naturally there are YA books that ask the same questions! Which leads these books to be about (excuse me while I aptly quote The Princess Bride) characters who seem only mostly dead. Life ain’t over for these folks! And the afterlife speculations vary from Egyptian folklore to comedy to second-chance situations.

So let’s have a “mostly dead” list of YA books about the afterlife.


9780141334479The Catastrophic History of You and Me


Brie is 16 and very decidedly dead. But she’s also still watching her world play out in the aftermath of her departure. Brie has to pass through the stages of grief before she can move on — with help from Patrick (ooooh, cue romance!). The book balances humour and pizza and dark themes super well and is written in an addictive quirky way. Totally recommend if you like death and pizza.

9781634501736It’s a Wonderful Death


This is about RJ who is…kind of horrible? And also dead. But she swears it was a mistake and is petitioning angels to review her case and send her back. It’s full of comedy and gallows humour as RJ navigates the many “waiting areas” of heaven and hangs out with the Saints and angels and meets Death who wears a Hawaiian shirt. AS YOU DO. She also has  gooey moment of learning to be a better person…because, well, the heat downstairs is a bit real now.



It’s set in a paranormal world where your life (as we know it) is only the “first” part. When you die, you choose between two warring afterlife cities and start your second life which is infinitely more amazing apparently. But Ten, the protagonist, doesn’t want to make the decision and ends up in an asylum to be tortured into a choice. Everyone wants to recruit Ten (because of SECRET SPECIAL REASONS) and she doesn’t want anything to do with it. But she has to choose eventually…OR ELSE.



This one is written by an Aussie author (cue cheering!) and takes a look at the more mythological side of potential afterlives. It’s heavily based on Egyptian mythology which is super interesting! The plot follows Dom who is dead (surprise) and in a waiting area. This place is full of super creepy Nephilim who force people to play in gladiator style games. So basically Dom has to complete trials and then a maze in order to get to the next level of death…but the universe is against him and apparently there are worse things than dying.

9781406350487More Than This


This is a super hard book to summarise because it’s incredibly unique! AND GLORIOUS. (Of course it is…it’s by the literary YA genius author, Patrick Ness!) It’s about Seth who drowns himself…and comes-to in a strange world. Was everything in his previous life a stimulation? His neighbourhood looks the same except it’s entirely apocalyptically empty and dusty. He needs answers. He teams up with two unlikely companions and purses the truth of his life, or afterlife.

Being You is Best – Picture book reviews about Self

Teddy illo spreadIt is sheer coincidence that the following picture books lie on my desk at a time when the tenets of tolerance, acceptance and being yourself are being so brutally questioned again, (when are they not). However, it is heartening to know that equally powerful positive messages are available and as accessible as picking up one of these books and sharing it with the next generation. The message is clear and simple: being you best.  It’s ok. It’s empowering. It’s beautiful. And it is not wrong. Here are some awesome new publications, which emphasis this conviction.

Being You is Enough Being You is Enough and other important stuff by Josh Langley

Josh Langley produces a number of inspirational, aphorism-infused illustrated books but I especially warmed to this recent release aimed fair and square at primary aged readers. It contains ‘all the important stuff a kid should know…’ conveniently listed from 1 to 11. Loud, bold, and just a little bit irreverent, Langley encourages youngsters to recognise and listen to their own superpower, the voice in their heads.  This voice can mislead you but also be your best friend and guide you to other awesome thoughts.  He goes on to reveal ways to combat angry feelings, bad thoughts, and many other internal conflicts common to young kids.

There is no sugar coating the message here, the advice is simply described and plainly delivered. This honest and straightforward approach will appeal to under 10-year-olds and frankly anyone else who is suffering from a touch of self-doubt. Langley’s line illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to his affirmations, quirky and kid-like, again bursting with appeal.

Being You is Enough is a terrific green light of a book to strengthen kids’ self-awareness, acknowledge their need to ride unicorns and reinforce the understanding that they are loved and never alone. A must read, wonderful bunch of little miracles between two covers.

Big Sky Publishing February 2016

Introducing TeddyIntroducing Teddy A Story about being yourself by Jessica Walton Illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

I could not wait to read this one. Errol and his teddy, Thomas are the best of friends. They do everything together but increasingly, Thomas feels less and less like playing. Something disturbs him so deeply that he is terrified it will destroy his friendship with Errol. A mighty conflict of self is raging within Thomas who eventually reveals to Errol that he wishes his name were Tilly, not Thomas.

Walton’s sensitive narrative escorts young readers through the tricky landscape of gender awareness and acceptance. It is a watershed picture book for it not only exposes children to different family models, equality, and tolerance of others, it gently challenges the paradigms of society whilst highlighting its diversity.  MacPherson’s charm-laden illustrations ably reinforce Thomas aka Tilly’s growing discord and eventual surrender to being herself.

Full of relevance and grace, Introducing Teddy is tastefully rendered and should be on every classroom bookshelf.  Suitable for early to mid-primary readers and anyone fearful of questioning their own sexuality.

Bloomsbury Publishing May 2016

The Mozzie with the Sharp SnozzieThe Mozzie with a Sharp Snozzie by Irina Goundortseva

Resonating the delightful tones of the Ugly Duckling, The Mozzie with the Sharp Snozzie is a delightful visitation of one little mozzie’s sense of self. Our chipper little protagonist lives by the pond in perpetual awe of the beautiful butterflies who flutter about being beautiful all day long. She yearns to join them, to be as beautiful as them but they shun her because of her ugly and boring appearance. Disheartened, Mozzie retreats then embarks on a plan to elevate her popularity by disguising her true self. The shallow butterflies are enamoured by their beautiful new friend until disaster strikes and ‘things go from bad to worse’. Will Mozzie abandon her newfound friends and self-appreciation to save the day?

Vibrant illustrations accompany a lively text and storyline that will have little ones enthusiastically page turning to the very end.  Mozzie… is an invigorating tale about the benefits of being proactive, being yourself, and loving who you are. In addition, it does wonders for the esteem and profile of mozzies everywhere, which I think is reason enough to hunt it down to enjoy.

Big Sky Publishing August 2016




Discovering Adventure with Leila Rudge’s Picture Books

Her indelibly gentle style, warming tones, infallible use of mixed media, energetic and always gorgeous characters bounce from her pictures every time. Including titles such as Ted and Mum Goes to Work, illustrator Leila Rudge knows just how to capture the heart, soul and spirit of her characters in all of her books. Here are a couple of newbies to set you on course.

imageGiving preschoolers many themes and topics to explore, Leila Rudge‘s Gary, the racing pigeon, drives this adventure story home with its grit and determination. If he is a racing pigeon then why doesn’t he fly? That, we are unsure, but Gary finds other ways to get around. In similarity to Anna Walker’s Peggy’, this accidental hero breathes adventure and travel and no high rise obstacle will stop him.

The stories from the other pigeons and his scrapbook collection of mementos give Gary a sense of place in the world, even though he only knows his own backyard. Then one day he is mistakingly taken in the travel basket a long way from home. But how could Gary feel lost when he had already studied the city from back to front? Gary’s adventure concludes with a little ingenuity and a whole lot of inspiration.

imageI loved Gary’s accepting yet curious personality, and the way Leila Rudge has written his story with verve and sensitivity. Her illustrations are equally as charismatic and layered with their mixed collage and pencil drawings of maps, souvenirs and adorable racing pigeon outfits!

Gary is a sweet, charming story of passion and opportunity, and challenging one’s own abilities. I’m sure children from age four will be dreaming to accompany Gary on more adventures in the future.

Walker Books, 2016.

imageIf you ever want a book to test your dog-breed knowledge, your linguistic gymnastics and your wit, get The Whole Caboodle! Author Lisa Shanahan has lined up a beauty with this energetic and playful counting canine collection of cross-breed ‘oodles‘. And Rudge‘s illustrations achieve this characteristically zealous greatness in leaps and bounds. As the text bounces ahead, so do the characters across the softly-shaded mixed media, double page spreads.

The little dog (perhaps some kind of Terrierdoodle) wakes his peachy-pear, grizzly bear, fizzyjig, whirligig owner in a rush to visit the park. It takes from one to ten rollicking, rhyming, imaginative adjectives and dog breed terms to count from home, through the neighbourhood, across the fairground and in to the park.

With phrases like “Four tumbly-rumbly Goldendoodles” and “Six dizzy-whizzy Spitzoodles”, plus plenty of doggie shapes in the illustrations to find, The Whole Caboodle will certainly lead children from three into fits of giggles and thrills.

Scholastic Australia, 2016.

See Dimity‘s fab review here.

For more information on Leila Rudge visit her website and Facebook page.


Who is Oliver Phommavanh’s The Other Christy?

olivercomic1Oliver Phommavanh’s new novel for children, The Other Christy has just been published by Penguin Random House.

It has a very appealing storyline and characters, voices some important issues with a light touch, and is told with the author’s trademark big heart and humour.

Thanks for speaking with Boomerang Books, Oliver.

No worries Joy.

Where are you based and how involved are you in the children’s lit world? (you often seem to be on a stage …!)

I’m based in Cabramatta, South-West Sydney. I’ve been fortunate to appear in many writers festivals and school literature festivals across Australia. I’m involved with organisations such as the CBCA Northern Sydney Sub branch and SCBWI as well. I’m also an ambassador for Room To Read, a non-profit organization that brings literacy to developing countries.

How is this related to being a stand-up comedian?

I love making people laugh, so I divide my time doing kids comedy in my books and adults comedy on the stage.

How else do you spend your time?

I’m a lifelong gamer so I try to play video games in my downtime. I also like jogging and hanging out with friends.

Tell us about The Other Christy.Other Christy

It’s a story of two girls named Christy in a class. It’s a friendship between a quiet girl with loud thoughts and a popular girl who discovers that she’s quite lonely.

Who particularly do you hope reads it?

Anyone who might feel a little strange or weird. I hear them, I want to be a voice for all those kids who feel left out.

Have you come across kids with the same name in a class or somewhere? How did people differentiate them? Was one called ‘the other Oliver’ or something similar?

I was the only Oliver in my primary and high school days, but Oliver’s a popular name now so I got lucky. I’ve taught classes with kids with the same name and we usually went with their last name, like Matthew Brown and Matthew Galway.

Is it more fun to write about the mean kids or the others?

I have fun writing about the other kids, especially the ones who blend in the background. Mainly because they usually have something unusual or strange about them.

I’ve read a memoir recently where the church was the most helpful group in helping new refugees. Someone from the church also helped Christy and her Grandpa find somewhere to live. How true to life or typical is this?

I drew from experiences from my own church, we are one of many churches out in south-west Sydney that have welcomed new arrivals and have helped them settle in the community.

Thai No MiteYou write a lot about food in this book. What’s your favourite food mentioned/not mentioned?

My favourite dessert is chocolate brownies, which is mentioned in the book. My favourite food is pizza, burgers and hot chips, which have been featured in my other books haha

What happened at the launch of The Other Christy? Was there good food?

It was a delightful afternoon with plenty of loved ones, friends and fans. You bet there was delicious food hehe. There were loads of sweet treats for our cake stall. My wife and extended family made a lot of the treats, so it was all made with love!

How is this book different from your others? Thai riffic

This is the first book with a main character that isn’t a part of me. It’s a story where I’ve had to draw from my own observations as a primary school teacher, teaching shy students like Christy.

Have you received any responses from readers about The Other Christy that particularly resonate with you?

I’ve spoken to many kids who are in a class with another person with the same name. Some become friends, others are more like friendly rivals. I’ve also had kids come up to me and can relate to Christy and her desire to find a best friend.

Which Australian authors do you admire?

My biggest influences are Morris Gletizman, Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths.

ConNerdWhat have you enjoyed reading?

I’m currently reading The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale. I’ve finished The Enemy series by Charlie Higson with the last book, fittingly titled ‘The End.’

Thanks and all the best with The Other Christy and your other books, Oliver.

My pleasure!

Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was delightfully messed up. It’s a whimsical YA contemporary with a fairy tale vibe that nearly makes it seem magical realism. And it’s basically populated by slightly psychotic characters. But don’t fret! They’re adorable psychos. (Ahem.) After finishing my brain basically just spun with emotions and I feel like I did paddle in a bucket full of crazy. With no regrets.23203106

What To Expect In This Story:

  • Magical, fairy-tale whimsical writing
  • A love triangle
  • But the most messed-up triangle you have ever seen
  • Mind games
  • Characters who mess with each other because what the heck; they’re teens; it’s summer; lets read your tarot cards and predict DEATH MWAHAHHAHA
  • Minor magical realism
  • Plot twists that will leave you splattered upon the ground
  • So many strawberries
  • Toxic friendships
  • Feelings of strangulation towards the characters; but also sadness and the need to possibly cuddle or protect them all.


I definitely did enjoy this one! It’s told by 3 point-of-views, which usually is not my favourite, but I quite enjoyed how the author pulled it off. Plus everyone had very different voices! Wink’s chapters always read like a fairy tale, while Poppy’s were feisty and Midnight’s morose. The combination just made me feel like I fell into a magical fairy tale summer.

  • MIDNIGHT: He’s like this very sad lonely pancake that everybody adores and wants to maliciously devour. I felt rather sorry for him. He’s trying to get away from the toxic relationship he had with Poppy but she acts like she owns him. Midnight was super cute! I do think he was emotionally/sexually abused by Poppy which made me so sad for him.
  • POPPY: She’s a psychopath. Like, the end. SHE IS ONE. She plays mind games, hates everyone, has no feelings, and ruins lives for the “lolz”. She’s a manic pixie dream mean girl.
  • WINK: She’s Midnight’s new next-door-neighbour…the feral wild child who’s grown up with a tarot-reading mother and 5 siblings and they all just tumble around in permanent fairy tales. She believes in supernatural mystical things. She’s just not really into reality, okay? Which is fair, reality sucks. But she’s so very calm and unemotional the whole book, which makes me suspect she has psychopathic tendencies.


Wink kissed deep. Deep as a dark, misty, forest path. One that lead to blood and love and death and monsters.

It’s basically a revenge/mystery/discovery plot. Midnight wants to get away from Poppy; Midnight falls for Wink; Poppy tries to break them up; but Poppy has a thing for Wink’s brother. It’s like a love triangle, but it’s much more complicated. And even though I’m an avid triangle hater, I enjoyed the twisty-ness of this one.

It is very vivid with the description! (Although at times it got rather repetitive.) But it drew you in with vibrant colours and sensory details so I felt like I was experiencing the summer with the characters.

“You just have to eat a strawberry and then wait for tomorrow.”


I also listened to the audio book which I can’t recommend enough! It has 3 audio narrators too to differentiate between the characters. It also flowed so nicely and musically that I’m super glad I chose this way to devour the story, although I did feel the narrators read a little slowly. So be prepared for that.

I definitely enjoyed Wink Poppy Midnight. It was such a different story and all the mind twisting had me wondering who was telling the truth. I honestly had no idea what exact crazy twist would happen or whether ghosts and murderers would pop out of the woodwork.


[buy it here]

Everything’s Archie

Last year I picked up and read a copy of Afterlife with Archie. It was unexpected, surprisingly intelligent and utterly BRILLIANT! And it reminded me of how I loved reading Archie comics as a kid. So I hopped online and ordered a selection of Archie graphic novels. Did they meet my expectations? Were they all as brilliant as Afterlife with Archie? Read on and find out…

archie_afterlife01Afterlife with Archie Book 1: Escape From Riverdale (2014) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
This graphic novel is about the zombie apocalypse starting in Riverdale. I expected it to be a bit of diversionary fun – something amusing and silly. But what I got was something unexpectedly BRILLIANT! It’s dark and broody, intelligent and with a surprising amount of heart and pathos. The story takes the clichéd, caricature-ish inhabitants of Riverdale and turns them into real people – and then starts killing them off. There are genuinely brutal and disturbing scenes in this book – made more so by the fact that you feel like you know the people it’s happening to (after all, even if you haven’t read the Archie comics, the characters are such an ingrained part of popular culture). The artwork is stunning. Rather than the cartoony style of standard Archie comics, this one is dark, gritty and more realistic. If you only ever read one Archie graphic novel, make it this one!


archie_spyArchie: The Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. (2011) by Tom Defalco and Fernando Ruiz
This is a cool little spy send-up. There is nothing particularly earth-shattering or game-changing about this book. In fact, it’s a bit on the clichéd side. The characters and the set-up of the Archie universe are not tampered with too much. But it is enjoyable. And there are lots of cute pop culture references. This book also includes a never before published story from the mid-1950s about Archie’s cousin Andy Andrews, in a cold-war story called “The Iron Curtain Caper”. The book is worth it for that alone.


archie_cyberArchie: Cyber Adventures (2011) by Stephen Oswald and Joe Staton
Silly but fun. Leave your brain at the door and it’s possible to enjoy this ridiculous story of Archie and the gang being sucked into the virtual world.


9781936975044Archie Meets Kiss (2012) by Alex Segura and Dan Parent
OMG, this is awful! Any potential it may have had to be witty and silly fun is thrown out the window by the terrible plotting. It is so badly written that it is embarrassing. There is no nice way to say this – it is a cringe-worthy piece of CRAP!


archie_marriedArchie Marries…  (2010) by Michael Uslan, Stan Goldberg and Bob Smith
Now this one is really interesting. Archie walks up Memory Lane (instead of down) and gets a glimpse of possible futures. It is a twin-storyline set in parallel timelines — in one Archie marries Veronica; in the other Betty. It takes a mature approach to the subject matter, while still retaining the fun you come to expect from the Archie comics. Well worth reading. I’ve got the lovely hardcover edition that’s presented in a slipcase with a cut-out heart.


I started with brilliance… and thankfully concluded with it as well…

archie_deathThe Death of Archie: A Life Celebrated (2014) by Paul Kupperberg, Pat Kennedy, Tim Kennedy and Fernando Ruiz
Wow! It takes the idyllic fantasy setting of all-American Riverdale and thrusts it into the real world. Yes (spoiler alert) Archie does DIE in this. But it’s not the fact that he dies that makes this book special… it is the way it is handled. It pulls no punches. It is very matter-of-fact about it. But it also gives Archie fans a chance to look back, as the residents of Riverdale grieve and remember him. Outstanding stuff.


So… what did I learn from all of this? That most Archie comics are probably fun but uninspiring. But that when an established pop culture icon is experimented with, extraordinary things can happen.

The story begun in volume one of Afterlife with Archie is continuing in single issues, and a second collected volume is due for release in Feb 2017. I’ll be getting it. I might also seek out a few of the other more unusual ones including the two weird cross-overs Archie vs Predator and Archie Meets Glee, and spinoff Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Catch ya later, George

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Review – Disastrously Daring! by Adam Wallace

Disastrously Daring!, Adam Wallace (author), James Hart (illus.), Krueger Wallace Press, 2016 (the year of the ninja).

imageOn par with it predecessors, Accidentally Awesome! (review) and Blunderingly Brilliant!, Disastrously Daring! knows laughter is the best medicine. However, we all know that Jackson Payne’s recipe is so often one for disaster rather than a cure!

Adam Wallace and James Hart once again brilliantly combine for some eye-balling, head-smacking cracking good fun in this ‘whack-y’ illustrated chapter book for kiddos from age seven. With plenty of live action, mild violence and slapstick humour to keep its readers on their toes, this one hits a hole in one for the biggest (and tiniest) of golf enthusiasts.

Jackson’s Dad has only but the best of intentions for his son, hoping to encourage him to overcome his clumsiness and move past the obviously clear failings at anything sports related. But Jackson’s Dad’s genuine humility turns into nothing more than total humiliation… again and again and again (x lots).

imageIt doesn’t take long for the disasters to start rolling out. In fact, it happens the minute they step out of the car with a toe-studded mishap. And that’s just the beginning. Jackson’s day on the golf course is one unfortunate ball-to-head-bumping incident after the other. The poor, unlucky victim is snooty club member, Darnell; a funny moustache-sporting, villain-look alike with a posh voice. He is hosting Jackson and his Dad on the course for the day. But in Jackson’s well-intentioned efforts to make his dad proud, Darnell is knocked out on many occasions and is also Jackson’s suspect of some evil, suspicious and criminal behaviour.

After an exhausting, embarrassing (and hilarious) series of stray balls, trudges through bunkers and swamps and lunatic golf cart driving, Jackson is ready to surrender to sports all together. Thank goodness for Jackson’s gorgeous Nan who tries ever so hard to talk some sense into the senseless head of his.

Two important successes are achieved: 1. He is able to explain his feelings to his Dad without judgement, and 2. Darnell IS in fact an evil, suspicious and criminal villain as Jackson, most disastrously daringly, uncovers his stolen jewels and thieving record. What a champion!

Adam Wallace’s mission is clear; to facilitate and empower ‘awesomeness’ within his readers, and to stuff them with endless laughs and cringes that they will be bursting to read the whole ‘Jackson’ series again and again. And James Hart’s scattered, witty illustrations throughout the book perfectly complement the sharp comedy and energy that the story conveys.

Disastrously Daring! suits those silly-and-ridiculous-book-loving independent readers to a tee, or is it tea? Whichever!

imageFind out more about author Adam Wallace, illustrator James Hart and crook Darnell at the end of the book.

Adam also has a website and a blog showcasing his new initiative for encouraging ‘awesomeness’. His campaign for his book and inspirational course, ‘Zombie Inspiration’, ends soon so be sure to pledge here.

James Hart can be found at his website.

Darnell would rather not be found. Besides, I don’t think jail cells have a website address.



Review: The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno

The Lost And Found by Katrina Leno is a precious little bookish creature built for anxious people with internet friendships. It’s so very relatable! I immediately felt at home with the teens who confessed it’s easier to make friends online sometimes. (YES IT IS.)

Although, be ye warned: It’s actually contemporary with a slight dose of magical realism. The magical aspect isn’t going to drown you, but it’s still there. Things go “missing” in the story and end up appearing in impossible places.

9780062231208What’s It About?

Frannie and Louis met online when they were both little and have been pen pals ever since. They have never met face-to-face, and they don t know each other s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, really, things just seem to . . . disappear.FOUNDLouis and Frannie both receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.

The story is dual narrated by Frances and Louis. Both narrators have very distinct voices and I was invested in both their lives. Frances lives with her grandparents because her own parents are pretty crazy. And she’s wondering if a famous movie star is actually her father. Louis has severe PTSD and anxiety after his twin sister fell out of a window and lost both her legs. And he’s a tennis champ. And he’s not sure if he should move off to college. Because anxiety.

I adored Louis and his twin sister, Willa. Their relationship was fantastic and full of sibling banter and tension. Willa’s really matter-of-fact about her disability and basically lets nothing stop her. She puts up with stares and discrimination over it, but it doesn’t get her down.

The story also is full of diversity! Louis and Willa are half-Indian. Willa has no legs. France’s adopted cousin, Arrow, is Vietnamese. It talks openly and honestly about anxiety disorders.

I also am a huge fan of the way it portrayed internet friendships! So often I see books only outline all the horrible things that can happen on the internet…but that’s not always how it goes down, okay?! Sometimes you meet the nicest most special people online! Louis and Frances had been friends online for several years before they decided to meet up. I mean, they were safe about the meet up. They took friends for backup. But ultimately, it was all sweet and real! It’s a great reminder of the power of internet friendships.

As for the magical realism aspect? Both Frances and Louis are always LOSING stuff. It just disappears. I did like this a lot, because when you have anxiety, you actually often lose track of things. So I appreciate how it added in something real like that, but put in a magical twist.

Ultimately, this book resonated with me so much! Coupling internet friendships with accurate portrayal of mental illness and witty banter and delicious tacos…I had no choice but to adore it! It’s also entirely quotable and precious. The writing was utter perfection and it was fast and easy to read, yet complex and poignant.



Review – One Would Think the Deep

One Would Think the DeepIf you thought Claire Zorn’s first two YA novels, The Sky So Heavy and The Protected, were brilliant, you’re going to need double tinted Ray Burns for her latest masterpiece, One Would Think the Deep.

Zorn manages to mould rough edged, grit-encrusted reality into exquisite accomplished prose with the mere flick of her fingers. One Would Think the Deep is a story that surges with emotion, confrontation, and ultimately, hope.

If I were to reflect on Sam’s story too deeply, I’d be overwhelmed with the melancholy of it, of him but this is not a tale of woe and hopelessness, in spite of its gently grim beginning. Its sincerity and swagger from the opening lines swept me along and held me afloat until the very end.

Shortly after one fateful New Year’s Eve, Sam Hudson finds himself suddenly orphaned, teetering on the precipice of shock, grief, graduation and homelessness. My stomach filled with sick ache for him as he called his Aunty Lorraine to inform her of his mother’s premature death.

With nothing more than his skateboard and a collection of 90s something mixed tapes (he listens to Jeff Buckley on his Walkman with the same obsession I did to ABBA), Sam lingers uncomfortably in the small coastal town of Archer Point with his aunty and cousins, Minty and Shane. He is caught in a turbulent no man’s land of past boyhood memories and buried family secrets, incapable of finding his fit. Grief and despair are his most loyal companions, second only to his cousin, Minty with whom he spent a chunk of his childhood.

Minty is the laWavetter day version of Taj Burrows, young, gifted, a surfing legend amongst the local crowds. His laconic life views and ability to work any wave endears Sam to the ocean. But it takes a few months before his newfound surf therapy begins to take effect. Despite the elegant monastic simplicity of ‘a life in the water’, Sam’s life continues its complicated hurtle toward (his) self-destruction. He pines for a past he doesn’t fully understand, yearns for the affections of a girl he can barely speak to and is constantly at crushing odds with most of his family members including, Nana. Sam’s emotional dichotomy of good boy battling the bad within is fascinating and heart wrenching at times. It’s impossible to dislike him because of what you feel for him feeling so much.

Sam’s story of hurt and healing is beautifully rendered. Even the most vicious of emotional situations are depicted with refined tenderness so that I found myself weeping emphatically throughout, not just at the end where you’d expect a need for tissues.

Each character is drawn with knife-edge sharpness. Each speaks with a clarity that never dulls. Every sense is heightened by the wrenching complexity of the lives of this very inconsequential, simple group of ordinary individuals. And it’s not just Sam who is damaged and vunerable. Each is noticeably flawed or at least weighed down by their own limitations to a point of exquisite confusion. I loved them all.

It’s not the surf, time, or chance or even family that ultimately saves Sam in as much as they all conspired to also undo him.  It’s that old chestnut love, which I believe is the true nucleus of One Would Think the Deep (the moments between Gretchen and Sam are incomparable).The ability to surf the ‘glistening wake’ of your leviathan fears and laugh about the results with people who love you is ultimately the key to surviving the ride.

If you are experiencing loss and your soul feels displaced, if you have a passion for the waves or you are still in love with the sounds of the 90s, then you must submerse yourself in this book.  I can almost hear Jeff Buckley crooning Hallelujah

UQP June 2016

Claire ZornStick around…in the coming weeks I’ll be chatting more deeply with Claire about her latest work and how she developed such impressive surfing lingo.  Meantime, you can find all her great reads, here.


Quirks, Quandaries and Quips – Picture Book Reviews  

I love coming across books that allow the freedom to ‘think outside the square‘, so to speak. Books that play ‘chasey‘ with your imagination and let you run wild. And books that at the end of a chaotic day leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart. The following three picture books do all those things in their own special kind of way.

imageStanley, written and illlustrated by Colin Thompson, takes quirky to a whole new level. Thompson, a legend in the children’s book world, superbly paints a solid picture of his unique characters, both conceptually and visually. Focusing on the themes of non-judgement and individuality, his descriptive language, gangly humans and mixed media images align perfectly.

Stanley may look as if he was “built out of bricks that had been leant against and rained on and loved…, as strong as a mountain” but in truth he was “as soft as a pillow.” Adorably depicted across the page is Stanley in his muddy glory, sitting wide-eyed and innocent under the spotlight. As you will see, the thing that makes Stanley happy and his tail quiver most is his red ball (and his human, Gerald). Life with a small family (Stanley, Gerald and his mum) has its perks and responsibilities, but at times he feels lonely. One day, Stanley is disappointed after an unfortunate occurrence at the park. Then, without realising how it happened (since dogs usually don’t understand the intricacies of people’s bonding process), his house is filled with a new family. Stanley may not realise the connection between his park experience and his current living situation, but he finds himself enjoying the baking smells, extra company… and a brand new red ball. Although, he probably could have done without the tablecloth bridesmaid’s dress!

Stanley is a witty and gentle book about the complexities of human personalities and relationships and the simplicities of a dog’s life. There is also a subtle yet valuable message about taking risks with understanding people (and dogs) and looking beyond the exterior. Recommended for primary school children.

ABC Books, 2016.

imageChasing her previous excitable tale, Clementine’s Walk, Annie White‘s latest delight follows suit in the same charismatic demeanour; it’s Clementine’s Bath.

Guaranteed to whip preschoolers along on this wild romp, Clementine and her smells sure do arouse. Pongs from rubbish piles are not quite considered the bed of roses that this carefree pooch relishes, and the family won’t have a whiff of it. So now she finds herself in a bit of a quandary. Bounding off in rhyming couplets, Clementine makes her dash away from the dreaded B-A-T-H and all through the house. Hiding in an assortment of obscure places, like between pot plants, into the shed and inside the toybox, Clementine’s efforts fall flat and she, to her dismay, surrenders with a SPLASH! But perhaps there are perks to being clean and pleasant-smelling, after all.

Delightfully energetic and fast paced in all the right places, Clementine’s Bath exudes this chaotic liveliness that most dog owners know all too well. With softness, warmth and colour, this book will groom young readers into the excitement of caring for a pet.

New Frontier Publishing, 2015.

imagePreschoolers will take absolute pleasure at the quips these characters have prepared for their readers. This is a Circle by Chrissie Krebs is no more than an all-rounded, wise-cracking, rhyming pursuit in top form. With bold, vibrant colours and animated personalities much in likeness of Ben Wood’s illustrations, here is a page-turning, eye-catching and whimsical tale with an abundance of energy.

It all looks innocent enough when we are introduced to the seemingly-friendly characters and a random selection of labelled objects. But things quickly turn sour when animal turns against animal and objects are used for pure selfish gain. First the tap-dancing goat climbs the enormous box. Then the song-singing cat is cat-apulted up there due to his own reckless driving habits. A violent pant-wearing fox angers the wild-looking bear who chases him around and up to the top of the box (with the help of a pile of the randomly-selected shapes, objects and vehicles). And so now that they have successfully squabbled their way to the top, what will be their next quandary?

A highly entertaining collection of giggles and teachable moments with its clever integration of concepts and rhyming words. The text highlights those key words with bold and enlarged print, enabling young readers to identify the sounds and main elements in the story. Oh, not to mention the slick, tactile cut out circle on the front cover is a great way to hook readers in! Funny, innovative and engaging, This is a Circle will have children from age three running in circles to have this book read to them again and again.

Penguin Random House Australia, 2016.

For more concept-related books see Dimity‘s list here.


Review: Starflight by Melissa Sanders

Starflight by Melissa Sanders was an incredibly fun surprise! I didn’t have very high expectations because the author’s previous book, Alienated, was cute but a bit unimpressive for me. Yet Starflight?!? IT WAS AMAZING. It was like Cinder meets Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and it was stuffed with action and hilarious dialogue. This is the kind of quality intergalactic space shippy books I want to board immediately.9781484723241

I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi (space opera?) before this. So I literally have nothing to compare it to. But Starflight is basically about Solara who is a criminal and Doran who is son of rich galaxy company dude and how they end up working for each other — and hating each other. Solara is a mechanic. And Doran is an entitled selfish grape who gradually shows he is a small gooey chocolate pudding whom I adored. They get caught up in space-chases, get into trouble with pirates, and end up with assassins hunting them down. As you do.

The hate-relationship between Solara and Doran was definitely my favourite. I love this romance trope! It starts off as aggressive arguments and the small wish to boot each other off the galaxy….and then warms to an adorable romance I can’t help but root for. Plus there’s plenty of excitement around them. Doran treats Solara like a peasant to begin with, and then she stun-guns him and cons him into working for her. They fight endlessly and it’s hilarious.

“Scoot over,” she whispered.
The mattress shook with his movement.
“A little more,” she said.
“If I get any closer to the wall,” he hissed, “I’ll have to buy it dinner.”

The plot is monstrously action filled too. There’s definitely no chances to be bored because you’re too busy wondering what calamities these two are going to accidentally throw themselves into next. They’re either zooming through space, running from assassins, getting conned into pirate marriages, getting drunk tattoos, stealing things, or complaining about the lack of bed space on board the ship. And the writing was just downright pleasant to devour. It made 3rd person so personal and I really connected to both Solara and Doran. I can’t even choose a favourite.

Also it has amazing witty banter! I laughed out loud. (Which doesn’t happen very often for me.) The sarcastic quips were amazing and clever and definitely had me wishing I could think up such snarky comebacks.

“Demarkus invites you to join his table.”
Solara’s prideful grin faltered. She wanted nothing to do with Demarkus. Besides, nobody had told her about pirate dinner protocol. She might use the wrong fork and start a war.


I’ve definitely found a new favourite sci-fi book that I’ll basically recommend to everyone of ever. It’s such a fabulous feeling to finish a book and just feel so happy about how awesome it was. It was fun and exciting and hilarious and I loved the complex characters and their amazing development. The writing was perfection. My only sadness is that this is a standalone! I could’ve read a ton more books about these characters!


[Purchase Here]

The 2016 CBCA Early Childhood Picture Books

Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press) begins,

‘Hey there, guys. Would you like a banana? Piranhas

What’s wrong, Brian? You’re a piranha.

Well, how about some silverbeet?

Are you serious Brian? We eat feet.

Or would you rather a bowl of peas?

Stop it Brian. We eat knees.

Well, I bet you’d like some juicy plums?

That’s it, Brian! We eat bums!’

This gives an idea of the ‘Blabeyesque’ humour. The book also promotes healthy eating.

PerfectPerfect by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood (Hardie Grant Egmont) is a story about being inside and outside. There’s plenty of drawing, art and creativity and even a picture from Freya Blackwood’s book Maudie and Bear on the wall.

Many of the activities, such as drawing outside with chalk, could be emulated by children to also make a perfect day.

My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester (Penguin Random House) is similar in illustrative style to the author’s Noni the Pony books. A dog, Bigsy, sleeps quietly with a little girl at night but barks around the farm in the morning. He chases the cockatoos out of the orchard. He sends the kangaroos back over the fence. He talks to the horses and they ‘Neigh! Whinny! Snort!’ back. He herds ducks into the dam and they complain.Bigsy

The girl hears Bigsy spooking the sheep: ‘I bet those sheep are running away.’ But the pigs aren’t scared of Bigsy.

The story is very auditory – the girl hears all Bigsy’s noises and knows his routine even before she gets up.

Directionality is unobtrusively taught by how the animals and birds face right at the start. This leads the eye and prompts the reader to turn the page.

The map endpapers have dotted lines with arrows to show the direction of Bigsy’s route, and a dog poster with labels and arrows showing a special scratching spot, silky ears and clickety clackety claws, add appeal.

Ollie and the Wind by Ghosh Ronojoy (Random House Australia) centres on the theme of friendship.Ollie

Ollie lives on an island without many other inhabitants. No people are shown but there are signs of life such as houses on other islands and passing ships. The wind took Ollie’s hat, scarf and balloon but he couldn’t catch the wind to find out why it’s taking some of his things but not others, such as the fire truck. The wind is personified as it gets Ollie’s attention, wanting to play.

The different endpapers are worth comparing. The long horizontal spreads create a sense of space. The patterned surfaces could be compared with Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ On a Small Island.

HuffMr Huff by Anna Walker (Penguin Random House) could also be read and appreciated by older readers. Mr Huff is a cloud-like spectre representing sadness or depression. He grows and diminishes in size according to Bill’s mood. Watercolour, pencil, ink and collage are used to create the illustrations and young readers could spot the differences in the endpapers, particularly by comparing the different versions of protagonist Bill (who wears blue).

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson & Laura Wood (Scholastic Press) is a fractured nursery rhyme based on Hey Diddle Diddle, with themes of perseverance and the power of supportive friends.Cow

The cow makes numerous attempts to jump over the moon and it could be interesting for young readers to compare and contrast this version with the original rhyme.

Curious Concepts – Concept picture book reviews

Concept picture books play a huge part in shaping a young person’s perceptions. They are capable of unlocking an inquisitiveness that hopefully sticks around for life and are crucial for developing critical thinking, reasoning, and logic. However, important educational concepts need not be strictly didactic and dull as these entertaining picture books clearly display.

Garden FriendsGarden Friends by Natalie Marshall is a Touch and Feel board book, sturdy and bright in appearance in the same vein as the That’s not my… series. This one directs 0 – 3-year-olds to experience their tactile investigations within a garden setting using short verb orientated phrases – ‘Duck is quacking!’ It’s joyous and sensual and a nice shift from the usual ‘touch and feel’ concept.

The Five Mile Press March 2016

Counting Through the DayCounting Through the Day by Margaret Hamilton and Anna Pignataro escorts pre-schoolers through a typical day from sunrise, to breakfast, to visits with Nanna and finally back off to bed. Along the way, our young protagonist gently encounters many fascinating objects and situations from two sturdy feet to five broody hens and even ‘thousands of raindrops falling from the sky’. And as children are wont to do, they count each and every one of them.

Hamilton’s gently rhyming verse and affecting choice of counting objects harness a child’s every day pleasures, highlighting the world around them: their toys, meals, the weather and so on. Numbers 1 – 11 are shown numerically and in words while Pignataro’s combination of drawn, painted, and collage illustrations are simply marvellous. The end pages alone will provide hours of delight and interest.

Counting Through the Day is as much about story as it is about learning to count. I love that readers are taken past the obligatory ‘10’, and are introduced to 11, 20, hundreds and even millions, exposing young minds to a universe of infinite possibilities. Easy to grasp and absolutely beautiful to enjoy.

Little Hare Books imprint HGE 2016

For someone whose spatial awareness is not as sharp as it could be, the next two picture books are a real boon. They encourage an understanding of the relationship of objects to oneself and in ones world in a clever and entertaining way that ensures high levels of reader investment and interest.

The Shape of My HeartThe Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring Illustrated by Alys Paterson is a board book sized banquet of colour, shapes, and rhymes; images guaranteed to captivate 0 – 5-year-olds. This is no ordinary ‘this shape is a…’ book. It expands the notion of appearance and form by depicting the most obvious shape to start with – you and me. From there, readers are shown the various shape of parts of our anatomy (eyes, mouth, feet) the environment in which they live (sun, houses) and those shapes that inhabit the world with them (birds, vehicles, creatures in the zoo) and so on. I love how the shape you can hear with (ears for instance) leads to a myriad of other shapes that make up our existence. Sounds confusing to describe but not to behold and read thanks to Paterson’s cheerful and shapely illustrations. Reminiscent of Mem Fox’s Where is the Green Sheep? in parts, The Shape of My Heart combines visual literacy, introduction of sounds, and rousing vocabulary whilst neatly implying that everything that shapes our lives fits within our hearts and you can’t get any more spatial than that. Highly recommended.

Bloomsbury for Children February 2016

What Could it BeWhat Could it Be? by Sally Fawcett is a fascinating picture book initiative combining the best bits of storytelling, creative stimulation, and subliminal learning. Displayed in complementing double page spreads, Fawcett gently introduces young readers to some well-known geometric shapes and colours. Pre-schoolers and early primary schoolers may already be loosely familiar with shapes such as circles, ovals, and even octagons. They are probably discovering the mysteries of an artist’s palette, as well but in What Could it Be?, they are challenged to delve deeper, look more closely and investigate the world of possibilities surrounding them.

With the help of, a young boy named Max, readers are prompted to answer the ‘what if’ inspired notion to think outside of the box and tap into their creative souls. Each page of story is gloriously illustrated by Fawcett who cleverly secretes dozens upon dozens of obviously hidden aspects in each scene to be discovered by roving little eyes. I say obvious because this picture book adventure serves to show that every conceivable form, colour and object in our worlds are there for us to find if we just look hard enough and perhaps use a little imagination.

Children will delight in the seek and find quality of What Could it Be?. In addition, this book has far-reaching usefulness in homes, schools, and early learning centres. I see a future for it in home schooling, too as it fosters a genuine exploration and appreciation of the world around us. At the book’s conclusion, children are invited to go one-step further and are encouraged to think, experiment, create, and share for themselves.

Unleash your child’s creativity with this one!

EK Books June 2016





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YA Books With Super Long Titles

Giving books titles is really hard. We can’t all have short punchy ones like “Power” and “Blood”, I suppose, so it makes sense that some titles get…lengthy. Super lengthy. Some titles end up as entire sentences, honestly. And while it takes us half an hour to recall and spit out the book’s title, at least we know it’s original and unique!

So here is a list of YA books with seriously incredibly ridiculously long titles.


9781782953463The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


This is about an Autistic boy who discovers his neighbours dog murdered and embarks on a mission to find out who. And why. It’s an excellent story, honestly, and gives you a great inside look at what it’s like to live with Autism.


9781408309513I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You


This is about a school for girl spies, masquerading as just an average boarding school — because OF COURSE. It features Cammie and the calamities she gets into. Because hey it’s hard falling in love for the first time when your boyfriend can’t know anything about you.



9781780339818The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Yes you will need about half an hour to say this title, but at least it’s beautiful?! I haven’t read this one yet, but it apparently features a girl named September and her journey through fairy land. Also there are keys and dragons, so what more could you want really?

9781471124594Me Being Me Is Exactly As insane As You Being You


This story is told entirely in lists. Yes. LISTS. It might be 600+ pages, but it actually goes by very fast because of the list-factor. It’s about Darren’s painful life, where his parents are divorced, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he doesn’t have a life basically, and growing up is just all round difficult.

9781442408937Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe


This is the kind of book where you just want to devour the beautiful lyrical writing. It’s incredible! It’s a coming-of-age story about Ari, a Mexican boy, who’s trying to figure out who he is and what he wants in life and if he’s in love with his best friend, Dante.

9780553497786The Smell of Other People’s Houses


This is a story of 4 teenagers in the 1970s and what it was like to grow up in Alaska. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and sensory, so you really feel like you’re in the story. There are runaways, a teenage pregnancy, a ballerina trapped in the fishing life, and an abused girl who just won a lot of money. There is also delicious pie, so clearly this book is a winner.

9781406331165The Rest of Us Just Live Here


This is a story about the superhero kids that save the world…no wait, it’s actually about the OTHER kids who no one talks about while those superhero kids are saving the world. It’s such a unique story! It features Mikey (who has an anxiety disorder) and his coming-of-age story while the world is being smashed about by those powerful kids. And the writing is just phenomenal. Highly recommend!

War and the CBCA 2016 Shortlisted Picture Books

War is a recurring theme in the 2016 CBCA shortlisted books and dominates the picture book category.

RideRide Ricardo Ride by Phil Cummings, illustrated by Shane Devries (Omnibus Books, Scholastic Australia) has an Italian war setting, where the soldiers are portrayed as menacing shadows. It particularly looks at the relationship between Ricardo and his father, who work together on Ricardo’s bike  (a major symbol in the book).

The illustrations include panels superimposed over larger digital paintings and strategic cropping of heads, and it looks to be influenced by the artwork of John Brack.

Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela, illustrated by Matt Ottley (Penguin Random House) has the inevitable sorry pairing of war and refugees.Suri wall

Suri is treated with suspicion by the other children who live with her behind the wall because she is tall. But her height enables her to look over the wall to see the devastation beyond. However, she tells them tales of very different settings inspired by imagination and beauty. Themes include occupation, difference, imagination, resilience, compassion and hope. Books with similar issues and themes are The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis, The Wall by William Sutcliffe and The Kites are Flying by Michael Morpurgo.

FlightFlight by Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Armin Greder (Windy Hollow Books) has already been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary awards – the Patricia Wrightson prize. It begins with a small family fleeing into the desert to escape persecution, which parallels the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing to Egypt. It shows how “an ancient story becomes a fable for our times”. The merging of the Biblical story with a contemporary refugee tale has been more than seven years in the making with prominent author Nadia Wheatley (My Place, Papunya) writing many drafts.

And the BandAnd the Band Played Waltzing Matilda by Bruce Whatley & Eric Bogle (Allen & Unwin) is a confronting anti war cry. It is a ballad as a protest song – and is not for young readers. It’s about Gallipoli, although written in response to the Vietnam War. It is structured around the Eric Bogle song, as well as Waltzing Matilda.

The illustrations could be compared with Whatley’s illustrations for Jackie French’s The Beach they Called Gallipoli (digitally manipulated photos & pen in watercolour and acrylic collages). Here the illustrations feature searing line drawings, allusive blood splotches and are dominated by the narrator soldier’s direct gaze.

stepOne Step at a Time by Jane Jolly (who wrote Tea and Sugar Christmas), illustrated by Sally Heinrich (Midnight Sun Publishing), explores the repercussions of land mines in Burma. The illustrations are reproductions of hand coloured lino prints. Panelling (panel strips) and movement lines are used effectively across the cover and elsewhere. Repeated motifs of elephants and other symbols make decorative borders but the underlying issue in this book is not pretty.

My Dead BunnyMy Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen, illustrated by James Foley (Walker Books) is not a war story in the conventional sense, although it is raising heated views. It is a zombie rabbit tale, told with over the top humour and rhyming couplets: “I poked at Bradley with a stick – his fur was muddy, damp and thick, and in his final resting place, the worms had tried to eat his face”. The illustrations are in digital comic style using a predominately black and white colour scheme with sparing touches of lime and orange.

Janeen Brian’s Hunger for Stories Leaves us Wanting More

imageJaneen Brian is the much-loved, award-winning author of over 90 books for children, many of which have been translated and distributed around the world. Some of her most popular titles include I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, I’m a Hungry Dinosaur, Where does Thursday go?That Boy, Jack, I Spy Mum!, Hoosh! Camels in Australia, Silly Squid! and Pilawuk- When I was Young. Janeen is also widely known for her wonderful contributions to the industry, winning the Carclew Fellowship 2012, being Ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge, and presenting at a number of conferences and schools. It is an honour and thrill to have had the opportunity to find out more about Janeen and her latest gorgeous books, Mrs Dog, Where’s Jessie? and Our Village in the Sky (reviews here).

Where did your passion for books and writing children’s stories begin? Are there any particular books or authors that have played a significant role in where you are today?

I think the passion was always there. I can’t remember a time when words and stories didn’t fascinate me. The sound and power of words has always intrigued. However, we were a book-poor family. And I went to a book-poor school. It was just how it was. I now realise I’ve always carried that ache inside of me. So, I guess it had to come out somewhere, sometime. I’m grateful it did. I would probably credit becoming a teacher and having daughters of my own with the eventual, tentative, stepping out into the children’s writing arena. But I also had a couple of angels in my later adult life who gave me a nudge.
Without a childhood plethora of books or reading matter, I’m on a constant treadmill, trying to capture the thrill of books which are embedded in the psyche of many of my writing colleagues, for whom those books were friends. And so I swing; to read back to my childhood and forward to what is out there today. I’m constantly reading. At times, I wonder if I evaluate enough of what I read. It just seems that I’m hungry or thirsty for stories and poetry. So many authors affected me, but two who immediately spring to mind are Robin Klein and Ruth Park. Their writing touched me; it was full of exquisite detail, rich in character and expressive in language. And they spoke of our country and culture, and at times, our history.

Your writing style varies between heartrending poetry, to playful rhyme and informative and lyrical narrative. Do you have a preferred style of writing? How has your style evolved over the years?

I think once again it comes down very much to what pleases me, particularly aurally. I don’t have a particular favourite way of writing. I write in the style that suits the work. And I find it interesting that although the style might differ according to what I’m writing, people still say they can recognise my work when they see or hear it. I guess my style is like a maypole, with many ribbons attached – each one individual but connected. I think, or hope, that my style has become more honest and richer as it’s evolved. That would please me.

Some of your recent books, in particular Our Village in the Sky, Where’s Jessie? and Mrs Dog, all carry a timeless feel with their beautifully lyrical language and images, as well as encapsulating more sophisticated topics such as cultural differences, loss and survival. What draws you to write with these kinds of themes?

Although at times, I can feel like a suburban fringe-dweller, I have to remind myself that my life has been full of interesting twists and turns and often it is the idea of survival that is uppermost. I think that many everyday people are heroes, tackling life’s mountains. However, from different, and sometimes difficult challenges comes strength and confidence. The word used a lot today is resilience. I think I try and show that in my work. We all battle at times, in various ways, and sometimes we have to dig deep to find courage or strength to continue. Or to look at a situation in a different way. Often, too, help can come when one person takes the hand of another.
I love to see a world of real things; kindness, laughter, nature, play and creativity. I’m not much of an adult in the highly commercialised world.
I think all of this affects the kind of stories and poems I write – and the themes and language embedded in them.

Your most recent release, Mrs Dog, is a truly moving story of unconditional love, nurturing and courage, with elements of humour and adversity blended in the mix. Did this story emerge from a personal experience? What aspect of the story is most meaningful to you?

imageLike in most stories, Mrs Dog is a mixture of experience and imagination. Over a period of years I had collected two names. They sat around in my head for ages with no story. Over time I linked them to farm-style incidents told to me by my husband, and then changed the ideas during many drafts until the final story emerged. It certainly wasn’t one whole package to begin with. I really like the fact that when under pressure, a person/creature is often able to rise above their own expectations, as Baa-rah did in his effort to save Mrs Dog.

What has been the most insightful feedback or response to Mrs Dog so far?

The unconditional love and compassion shown within an unlikely inter-generational relationship.

Illustrator Anne Spudvilas has provided the spectacularly dreamy artwork for both Where’s Jessie? and Our Village in the Sky. How did the pairing come about? How do you feel her illustrations complement your words? Were you able to work closely on each book?

imageIn both instances, I was able to work closely with Anne, which is not the usual experience with author and illustrator. Often seeds are sown many years before eventualities and this was the case in our first collaboration, Our Village in the Sky. Anne and I had become friends through many creator-style catch-ups, and she liked the photos and experiences I told her of my stay in the Himalayan mountains. When I later applied for a Carclew Fellowship for the 2012 Adelaide Festival of Literature, I devised a picture book of poems as a potential project and asked Anne if she’d illustrate. Fortunately I won the award, and in a serendipitous situation, Anne took her sketches and several of my poems to Allen and Unwin, who subsequently published the title.
Anne was able to use images from my photos to create her scenes and characters and we worked closely on the layout and flow of the book, with me making several trips interstate.
In both books, Anne’s palette and style suit the stories perfectly and I am full of admiration for her work. It evokes both emotion and sensory appreciation.
Where’s Jessie? is a story triggered from the sighting of a real teddy bear that’d travelled to the outback on a camel. Because I’d earlier researched and written an award-winning information book, Hoosh! Camels in Australia, I was able to provide Anne with much visual material. Anne could also access the historical database of Trove in the National Library of Australia.
There was story collaboration, too, when Anne suggested changing the character of the person who eventually finds Bertie, from an Afghan camel boy to an Aboriginal boy.

Where’s Jessie? is based on the real life travels of Bertie the bear through the outback in the early 1900s. What was it about Bertie’s story that caught your attention? What was it like to research, and how did you feel meeting the daughter of Bertie’s owner?

imageWhile visiting a country Cornish Festival in South Australia in 2011, I entered a church hall to view a collection of historic memorabilia. The real Bertie bear was seated on a chair, looking slightly tatty but well-loved. The note attached mentioned two facts; he was 101 years old. And he’d travelled to Alice Springs by camel. What a thrill! I had no idea of what I might do with that information, but I was finally able to track down the now-owner, the daughter of the original-owner, who’d been a baby at the time she’d received the bear. I’d had enough experience in the outback (flash floods, included) as well as my earlier research with camels, so it was really the story I needed to work on. At the launch of Where’s Jessie?, the now-owner spoke movingly about how well-loved the ancient bear still is within their family; citing that he is still the comforter of sick children and the soother of bad dreams.

Our Village in the Sky is beautifully written in angelic language that reflects the perspectives of different hard-working, yet playful, children in a remote village amongst the Himalayan mountains. This book is based on your observations whilst living there. What else can you reveal about your experience? What was the most rewarding part about writing this story?

imageI felt compelled to write about this village, and particularly the children, because I was able to interact with them at the time, using sign language or games. Or I simply watched them. Only a few villagers spoke any English at all, and it was very minimal. Culturally, and because of the language barrier, it was not possible for me to ask about many things pertaining to women or family life. So my focus was the children. I noted and photographed. I wrote a diary of my feelings and thoughts. But, back home, when I came to write, it was the children I wanted to write about. The images in my mind decided that the ‘story’ would be a series of poems depicting their life, so different to children in the Western world. The most rewarding part was the connection I felt through the words, and that I had acknowledged my experience in that area of the world.

What do you hope for readers to gain from this book?

Curiosity. Understanding. Awareness. And being able to relate to the child-like aspects in each poem.

Can you please tell us about your working relationship with illustrator Ann James on the I’m a Dirty/Hungry Dinosaur books? Was this collaboration any different to any other of your author-illustrator partnerships?

imageAnn and I had been published together in a book called Dog Star, an Omnibus/Scholastic chapter book in the SOLO series and we’d become friends mainly through catch-ups at various festivals and so on. At one festival at Ipswich in 2009, I asked Ann to consider a poem I’d written. It was called I’m a dirty dinosaur. Over discussions, Ann agreed to illustrate it and with the poem and a few sketches the material went first to my agent, Jacinta di Mase, before it was picked up and published by Penguin Australia. (now Penguin Random House Australia) Ann and I chatted about the text and pictures throughout the process, just as we did with the second book, I’m a hungry dinosaur. Both books have been a lovely culmination and collaboration of ideas.

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating the ‘dinosaur’ books?

imageWorking with Ann is a joy. She is alive with ideas, energy and enthusiasm. We both enjoy the playfulness of the books, and the act of play and fun with language is important to both of us. Ann also likes to minimalise her line work to give the maximum effect and I think she’s done this brilliantly in both books. I also like to hone down my words so they shine without any extra unnecessary baggage.
There’s also an integral trust between the two of us, which is wonderful.
The challenge came in the second book. It’s not an unusual dilemma. The first is the prototype. The second must follow the format yet still have its own life. We believe we achieved that in I’m a hungry dinosaur!

If you could be any kind of dinosaur, what would that be and why?

I guess if I could be any dinosaur it would be the one Ann created!

As an experienced author, what advice would you give to those writers just starting out?

Apart from reading and writing, I think it’s interesting to write down passages from other authors’ books. Writing slows your thinking down. You might enjoy reading the passages, but when you write them down, you are considering the authors’ motivations and reasons for writing those particular words. You might notice more fully the effect those words have. You might feel the pull of a different style, which could loosen your own, stretch it or challenge it. Finding your own voice can often take a long time. But playing around with other people’s words can sometimes be quite surprising.
Work hard. Understand that writing is a craft. As such, there is always room for improvement. And improvement brings you closer to publication.

And finally, if you could ask our readers any question, what would that be?

Some authors write in a particular genre. Their readers know what to expect. However, I write in many different genres. Do you see this as problematic in your reading of my work? **

Thank you so much for the privilege, Janeen! 🙂

Thank you, Romi. Your wonderful, thoughtful questions were much appreciated.

Janeen Brian can be found at her websiteFacebook and Twitter pages.

** Please respond to Janeen’s question in the comments below, or head over to Twitter and join the thread at #JaneenBrianAsks


YA, NA and MG Fiction Defined With Recommendations

Most readers will be familiar with the genre of books referred to as YA, but what about NA and MG?

Young Adult (YA)Eleanor & Park
YA fiction generally contains novels written for readers aged in their teens, or more specifically between the ages of 13 and 20. The stories feature teenage protagonists and often explore themes of identity and coming-of-age. Having said that, YA novels can be from any genre, science fiction, contemporary, fantasy, romance, paranormal etc. Some popular YA novels include the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games series, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Middle Grade (MG)
MG novels are generally written for readers aged between 8-12 years, with main characters less than 13 years of age. Themes can include: school, parents, relationship with siblings and friends, being good or misbehaving. Just like every genre, some MG books can have an underlying message (e.g. be kind to animals).

Some examples of popular MG novels include: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

New Adult (NA)A Court of Thorns and Roses
NA fiction is a relatively new genre in publishing, and in my opinion grew from the popularity of adult audiences reading and enjoying YA novels (Twilight and The Fault in Our Stars). The genre is situated between YA and adult fiction and protagonists are generally between 18-30 years of age. Themes include leaving home, starting university, choosing a career, sex and sexuality.

Some popular NA novels include: Slammed by Colleen Hoover (called CoHo by her fans), The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and The Elephant Tree by R.D. Ronald.

On my TBR ListInheritance
I have a number of books on my to-be-read pile from the genres mentioned above, including: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob Grimm, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes and 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson. What’s on your list?

Whether you enjoy MG, YA or NA fiction, the most important thing is that you don’t allow yourself to become pigeon-holed. Enjoy your reading, keep an open mind and explore new authors. You never know where your next favourite book might come from.

Spinning Tales – Cricket inspired Young Fiction

I realise it’s brass-monkey weather already and for many a young sportsperson, rugby jerseys are in preference to baggy greens. However, the warming image of red leather cracking against willow against a burnished summer sky is one I am in dire need of right now. Therefore, here are a few of some recent favourite cricket inspired reviews. I use the term favourite with reserve for if not for this selection of picture books and novels, I might still not know my googlies from my dot balls.

Picture Books

Knockabout CricketKnockabout Cricket by Neridah McMullin Illustrated by Ainsley Walters

Until last year, I had little idea of the exact history of Australian cricket and was unaware that one of our first International cricket stars was an unassuming bloke called Unaarramin, otherwise known as Johnny from Mullagh Station in WA.

Knockabout Cricket is a fictional portrayal about Johnny’s appearance onto the 1860’s cricketing landscape. Through the eyes of a pastoral station’s son, James, readers are introduced to a tall Aboriginal boy whose natural aptitude, ball skills and ability to ‘read’ the ball is nothing short of spectacular. A team of indigenous players is soon formed and admired by all who watch their daring and athletic play.

Johnny MullaghThe subsequent matches played between the Aboriginal 11 and the Melbourne Cricket Club become the catalyst for what is known today as the Boxing Day Test and eventually, the first tour of England by an Australian cricket side in 1886.

McMullin’s narrative is complemented by informative text neatly incorporated into each page of Walters’ illustrations. The overall effect is alluring and maintains interest but perhaps the most fascinating addition for me was the handy field position drawing and photograph of the Aboriginal cricketers alongside the Melbourne Cricket Ground Pavilion in 1867.

A worthy introduction to a sport legend for early primary readers.

One Day Hill Publishers February 2015

Boomerang and BatBoomerang and Bat by Mark Greenwood Illustrated by Terry Denton

This long awaited picture book release does not disappoint. This time the story of the First Real Eleven is told through the eyes of Johnny Mullagh himself thereby evoking a slightly more personal feel. Where before, we knew the names of the indigenous team thanks to a photograph, in Boomerang and Bat, Greenwood involves each of the shearers and station hands by name from the start.  Within pages, we are familiar with Cuzens’ barefoot bowling; Dick-a-Dick’s heroic parrying displays, and Johnny’s exceptional batting prowess.

Under the tutelage and determination of captain-coach, Charles Lawrence, the team eventually makes it to the MCG. However, Lawrence has more far-reaching plans for his team and so covertly smuggles them aboard The Parramatta Clipper bound for England thus initiating the first international tour for an Australian cricket side.

Johnny’s team went on to delight and excite crowds at Lords, whilst proudly donning caps with the emblem of a boomerang and bat. They earned standing ovations and considerable admiration until the demands of touring and occasional discrimination became too strenuous, killing one teammate and eventually sending the others back to Australia. Despite their amazing sporting achievements abroad, there was little fanfare to welcome the Australian 11 home. Johnny continued to play the game he loved with amazing adroitness often scoring a hundred runs, however it would be another ten years before another Australian cricket side would leave the country again to compete. For this reason alone, Johnny and his teammates are Australia’s first true international cricket stars.

Boomerang and Bat illos spreadGreenwood’s balanced narrative is both touching and colourful conveying fact with soul. Denton’s illustrations capture the humour and atmosphere of not only the pastoral settlements and rugged proving grounds of our players but also the refined serenity of the playing fields of the home of cricket.

An awesome historic picture book to share with pre-schoolers and above.

Allen & Unwin April 2016

Meet Don BradmanMeet…Don Bradman by Coral Vass Illustrated by Brad Howe

Being a non-sporty, bookish type of kid who gained much of her Australian contemporary history knowledge from the TV mini-series of the 80s, I had but a peripheral knowledge of last century’s cricketing legend, Don Bradman. Thankfully Random House’s Meet..series is around to fill in some of my sporting history gaps and educate new generations about one of our national heroes.

Vass’s narrative opens with Don as a small boy, completely engrossed with the game of cricket. He practises daily, studies the form of players constantly and one day, in spite of his smallish stature, takes up the bat. Instead of a meteoric rise to cricketing stardom, life pitched a few dot balls of its own and Don had to work and wait his way to his dreams like the rest of us. Thankfully, he never declared them over. His spectacular batting ability was soon signed up by the St George team in Sydney allowing to him compete in the national Sheffield Shield competition for NSW. He debuted by scoring a century. Not bad for ‘the Boy from Bowral’.

Meet Don Bradman illos spreadWith the help of Howe’s cartoonesque illustrations reminiscent of 30s and 40s comic strips, readers follow Bradman through his career as he sets new records, scores new highs and helps Australia win and retain the coveted Ashes (1934 and 1936). Even the controversial Bodyline tactic devised by the English Cricket team in the 1932-1933 Ashes series was not enough to curb the brilliance of one of Australia’s most impressive sportsmen to date.

Captivating end pages and a succinct timeline pay further homage to ‘our Don Bradman’ and ensure another part of our cricketing heritage is not lost to new generations.

Random House Children April 2016

Mid-Grade Novels

Lucky BreakGlen Maxwell Lucky Break by Patrick Loughlin Illustrated by James Hart

If modern T20 cricket is more your thing, cast your beau peeps on this exciting series by Penguin Random House. The first book of this cricket series endorsed by T20 Player of the Year, Glen Maxwell, hit the stands in 2014. Since then Academy All-Stars, World Domination and State Showdown have bowled into bookstores.

Highly recommended for any kid who has a passion for team sports, cricket whites or even just a thirst for exciting dual gender inspired adventure, the Glen Maxwell series penned by sporting enthusiast, Patrick Loughlin rings with solid spotting voice, tween humour and plenty of fast paced action. They are perfect reads for those needing an excuse to read something that thrills rather than bores.

Glen MaxwellI do not know cricket, do not watch cricket, nor even profess to love cricket. However, I thoroughly enjoyed these books thanks to the energetic storylines, bolstering words of encouragement from a real-life sporting icon and (thank goodness) a comprehensive glossary of cricketing terms that means this summer those tedious hours spent in front of the tellie watching seagulls scatter across the pitch will suddenly become much more meaningful.

Random House Children’s Books December 2014 – November 2015