Meaningful Moments in Picture Books

Nearly every single picture book I read holds meaningful moments for me, some sliver of specialness or hug-full of hope that can empower and illuminate. These next few examples exhibit strong messages using memorable characters in ways young children can easily interpret and appreciate. A few words about each hardly do them justice, so please look these ones up to enjoy them for yourself.

Reena’s Rainbow by Dee White and Tracie Grimwood

Subtle, sweet and oozing with that sort of sophisticated simplicity that makes you love a story when you are not even sure why. Reena and Brown Dog feel a little outside of normal, not quite the same as everyone else. Reena is deaf but not oblivious to the world around her. Brown Dog is homeless but not without a need to love and protect. Together they find their true worth and meaning and along the way, lasting friendship. Gracefully told and delicately illustrated, Reena’s Rainbow will fill your heart with colour. Highly recommended.

EK Books September 2017

La La La A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo and Jamie Kim

An eloquently told, almost wordless symphony of colour, light and sound reverberating the liberating quality of hope. It’s about making a call, daring to speak out, and enduring the quiet moments in between waiting for a response with grace and patience. As Kate proclaims, ‘it is a story about singing your song and the world answering you back…a story that needs intimate reflection’. I encourage you to do so.

Walker Books Australia October 2017

Continue reading Meaningful Moments in Picture Books

Doodles and Drafts – All of Us Together with Bill Condon

 bill-condonBill Condon is a man of modest expectations that do not match his considerable abilities. He writes with charm, wit, sincerity and affection. His novels for young people, of which there are many resonate a genuineness that fascinates newcomers and for many older readers, transports them back to the idle days of their childhood, warts and all. We are fortunate to have Bill at the drafts table today to reveal some of the mental conflicts he still encounters prior to penning a new story (a predicament faced by nearly every author) and some insights behind the inspiration for his latest junior novel, All of Us Together.

All of Us Together is a tale of warmth, heartache, tragedy and hope all rolled up in one very threadbare blanket that was the Great Depression in the early 1930s. The heroes of this tale are ordinary folk trying to etch out a life during an extraordinary period of Australia’s pre-World War II history. Poverty and having to grow up sooner than you ought to thankfully are not issues many modern day Australian youngsters have to deal with on a day to day basis (although unfortunately they are never completely absent from any society). Condon manages to infuse enough hope into what appears an untenable and inevitable situation for Daniel and his family when they are forced to leave their family home and begin afresh, without being morose. All of Us Together is a realistic and unapologetic view of life with an emphasis on the positive power of sticking together through thick and thin.

Here’s what Bill has to say:

On Writing

Recently I started to watch a movie called Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I didn’t care for it very much and turned it off after a short while. The thing that struck me most about it were the very first words spoken. A teenage boy says: ‘I have no idea how tall-of-us-together-front-covero tell this story’. This is exactly how I feel every time I go into battle with the blank page. One of the problems I have is that usually my mind is blanker than the page.

Although I have been at this game for a long time and have published many books, writing doesn’t get any easier. In fact, it often feels like I’ve never written anything, and have no idea how to go about it.

As gloomy as it may sound, one of the great motivators for me has long been the prospect of death. From the early 80s I wrote children’s poems and plays, short stories, and non-fiction. This was my comfort zone, and I was fairly successful at it. However, I felt that a novel was beyond me.

One night I was talking to one of my two wonderful sisters, and she hinted very tactfully, that perhaps I should try to push myself a little with my writing. I think she even put it more delicately than that, but it was enough to stir me into action. When I was 50, I at long last took the plunge and attempted a young adult novel. I was afraid that I’d fail, but I was even more afraid that I’d die without having tried. The book was called Dogs and it won an Honour Award in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards. Awards are such a lottery, but I was lucky. Perhaps if it hadn’t done well I might have gone back to doing what came easier to me. Even so, it was another five years before my next young adult novel appeared. I’ve now written eight novels, and each one has been a huge struggle.

the-simple-thingsIn 2014 I had a junior novel called The Simple Things published. I thought writing for younger kids would be easier than writing for teenagers, but I was so wrong. It seems any kind of writing is just plain hard for me. I’d written that book and had it accepted in 2012, but it took two years to get published. Then another two years went by, in which I was unable to write anything. So for four years the blank page won out. The one thing that finally got me going again was my old friend Death, or the fear of it.

At the start of this year I had a lot of medical tests done and I’d convinced myself that the results wouldn’t be good. ‘Just one more book’, I told myself. So I went back to a story I’d tried to write the year before, only to give up on. This time I attacked it as if I had a very pressing deadline. From the outset I had a title, All Of Us Together. I knew it was a junior novel set in the Great Depression in Australia, but like the boy I mentioned at the start of this piece, I had no idea how to write it. Then memories kicked in.

When I was young my parents told me of their Depression experiences. If only I’d known that I’d need their help in writing a book one day I would have listened much more closely than I did. But as young people often do, I took them and their stories for granted. I’m sorry to say that it was pretty much a case of in one ear and out the other.

Luckily, some things stuck. I remembered my dad talking about Happy Valley, a ramshackle unemployment camp near Sydney. There were similar camps all over Australia, set up to cater for people who had lost their jobs and homes and had nowhere else to go. I remembered my mum telling me about the tramps who would regularly turn up at her parent’s door to ask for a handout. She said they were always given something to eat.  Both of these memories – Happy Valley, and the tramp asking for food – made it into my book. And too, I borrowed from my own life, as I usually do. When Daniel, the main character in the story, gets into strife, his misdeeds are ones that I got up to when I was a child.

Slowly I got to know and understand Daniel and his sisters, Adelaide and Lydia, as well as their parents, and instead of dreading the thought of going to my computer, I actually wanted to spend as much time as I could with my fictional family.  They had become almost real to me, and I hope readers will feel the same way.

Once I’d found my way into the story and the words were starting to flow, I received my test results. All is fine.  This leaves me free to get on with life, and keep on hoping, for one more book.

We hope so too, Bill!

Thanks for visiting. Discover more bookish revelations about Bill as he continues his Blog Tour around Australia.

About Kids Books November 2016

BLOG TOUR DATES

17 November Di Bates http://www.diannedibates.blogspot.com.au

18 November Clancy Tucker http://clancytucker.blogspot.com.au

19 November Sally Odgers http://promotemeplease.blogspot.com.au

20 November Sandy Fussell www.sandyfussell.com/blog

21 November Dee White http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
22 November Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

23 November Elaine Ousten http://elaineoustonauthor.com/
24 November Melissa Wray http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au
25 November Susan Whelan http://www.kids-bookreview.com
26 November Romi Sharp http://www.justkidslit.com

#ByAustralinaBuyAustralian

 

 

MILLIE’S SPECIAL SOMETHING

I was drawn to this book immediately because I love David Miller’s artwork. His colourful paper sculptures are amazing.

And in Millie’s Special Something, David’s artwork works so well with Tania Cox’s simple cumulative text.

Big, bad Reggie loves to scare Millie.

It’s fun. But not for Millie. It’s frightening!

Her friends each have a special something to feel brave.

So why doesn’t she? Or does she?

Millie’s Special Something is a positive book about friendship and loyalty. When Reggie threatens Millie, all her friends come to her defence and protect her from the fearsome Reggie who is so much bigger and stronger than Millie.

But Millie knows that somehow she’s going to have to find her own way of dealing with Reggie and stopping him from scaring her. She discovers the solution quite by accident, but soon realises that it’s a very powerful tool.

This is a poignant story of a little dinosaur’s quest to find out what’s special about her, and to live in a world without fear. It’s a book about self-esteem and facing up to the things that scare you.

Millie’s Special Something is a great book for class discussions or for reading in the home and getting kids to talk about the things that scare them, and helping them to overcome them.

Young readers will also love the fact that the characters and setting are from the age of the early dinosaurs.

Millie’s Special Something is for pre-school and early primary readers. It’s written by Tania Cox and illustrated by David Miller.

Millie’s Special Something is published by Working Title Press.

 

JAKE’S CONCERT HORROR

Jake’s Concert Horror is the latest in the adventures of an engaging character created by Ken Spillman.

Jake’s previous adventures include Jake’s Gigantic List, Jake’s Monster Mess, Jake’s Great Game and Jake’s Balloon Blast.

A school concert sounds like FUN. Jake could scamper across the stage in a monkey suit. He could CLASEH swords with Jonah.

Even being a prince might be okay – as long as princesses are kept WELL CLEAR.

But Mrs Paul has other ideas…

In Jake’s Concert Horror, Jake has been given the leading male role in the school play, The Little Mermaid.

Even worse than being centre stage and having to remember a heap of lines is the fact that Jake is going to have to kiss his female co-star Stephanie in front of the whole school.

Jake is sure he’s going to forget his lines or that some other disaster will happen on the night to make him look like a complete fool – he even has nightmares about it.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is that it explores real fears experienced by kids this age and is realistic in its portrayal of how a young boy would handle this situation.

Written by Ken Spillman, Jake’s Concert Horror is another entertaining and believable read in the Jake series.

It’s an exciting and fast-paced text complimented by the hilarious black and white illustrations of Chris Nixon.

Jake’s Concert Horror is an easy read with a central story that kids of many different ages will relate to.

Jake’s Concert Horror is published by Fremantle Press and is an entertaining book dedicated to “Every kid who finds a way of facing fears”.

It will be released in April 2012.

 

 

 

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT

Queen of the Night is the follow up book to Leanne Hall’s award winning, This is  Shyness.

The dark is dangerous. So is the past. So are your dreams.

For six months Nia—Wildgirl—has tried to forget Wolfboy, the mysterious boy she spent one night with in Shyness—the boy who said he’d call her back but didn’t.

But when Wolfboy calls her back, it’s not just about them. Wolfboy’s friend Paul is in trouble. He has fallen under the spell of the charismatic and manipulative Dr Gregory. On the rebound from love, he has been tempted over to the dark side by Dr Gregory who supplies him with drugs in exchange for information about Wolfboy.

Wildgirl also discovers that Wolfboy did call her back earlier, but someone has tried to keep them apart.

Queen of the Night takes the reader on a darkly tense journey as Wildgirl and Wolfboy race against time to save Paul from his dreams.

This is another beautifully written, unusual book with a magic all of its own and a surreal quality that draws the reader in. It explores relationships, the world’s fragility, and the vulnerability of love and the human spirit.

Leanne Hall takes us back into the world of Shyness where the sun doesn’t rise and dreams and reality are difficult to separate—but all of that might be about to change.

As a reader, I was drawn into the spell of this haunting but beautiful world and found myself wanting to know more about the characters in it. I’m hoping there will be a follow up book to Queen of the Night.

Queen of the Night is published by the Text Publishing Company and is available as both a paperback and an e-book.

 

PROFESSOR FRED HOLLOWS

Professor Fred Hollows is the latest book in New Frontier’s inspiring Aussie Heroes Series.

According to the late Professor Fred Hollows “Three out of four people who are blind don’t have to be. They are blinded by poverty alone.”

Popular author, Hazel Edwards takes us through the life of this inspiring man and his amazing achievements.

Fred qualified as an eye doctor and moved to Australia. He gave ‘vision’ to more than one million people. He worked in remote and Aboriginal communities providing much needed aid, often for free.

Fred Hollows worked tirelessly to heal the eyes of people suffering from cataracts and glaucoma. He treated everyone the same regardless of wealth or status; his one priority to restore their sight.

He pioneered mobile health clinics and set up factories in Eritrea and Napal to manufacture intraocular lenses at an affordable price. By doing this he was able to reduce the cost of the lenses from $200 to $10 each, making the treatment far more accessible.

Hazel Edwards has meticulously researched Fred Hollow’s life and achievements and presented them in an easy to read text that makes Professor Fred Hollows very accessible to readers and an important addition to school libraries.

Pat Reynolds full colour illustrations work with the text to provide an engaging biography of a man who achieved so much in a relatively short time.

Educational Resources are available for Professor Fred Hollows from Hazel Edward’s website.

 

 

SAD TO BE LEAVING KIDS’ BOOK CAPERS

After two years blogging for Boomerang Books at the Kids’ Book Caper’s blog, it’s time for me to say, “Goodbye”.

I’ve had a blast, read shelves full of fabulous books and met many amazing creators. I’m going to be sad to leave, but I’ve realised recently that it’s time for me to spend more time on my own writing.

I have too many works ‘in progress’ that haven’t been ‘progressing’, and now it’s time to focus on them.

I have quite a list to work on already, and I can’t wait to immerse myself again in these characters and their worlds. I want to finish my YA thriller trilogy, my mid grade inventor series, my non-fiction manuscript, my adult novel…and all the projects that are just seeds in the back of my mind waiting to be nurtured.

I’m very excited about this next phase in my writing life. I feel I have learned so much from the books I have read and reviewed and from chatting with the people who create them. I’m sure my own writing is better for it.

In the 24 months I have been running the Kids’ Book Capers’ blog I have published around 300 blog posts, profiled over 20 creators and read/reviewed over 350 books

Thanks to all the publishers who have trusted me with their books and all the creators who have shared their work. It has been a privilege to read each and every book and to meet all the wonderful authors, illustrators and industry professionals who have been involved over the last two years.

There are so many things I’m going to miss about being at Kids’ Book Capers. Top of the list is my wonderful fellow blogger, Tania McCartney whose creativity, energy and dedication have inspired me.

I’ll miss all the wonderful blog readers who take the time to comment on my posts and the books they have read or can’t wait to read.

I’ll miss the anticipation of going to the post office box and wondering what exciting new books have arrived in the mail that day.

The good news is that Kids’ Book Capers will be left in good hands. The talented and enthusiastic Tania McCartney will continue to blog about kid’s books and the  people who create them.

So thanks to everyone who has supported me at Kids’ Book Capers, who have read my posts and shared my love of books. Thanks to Tania and the team at Boomerang Books who have been wonderful to work with.

Hopefully, in time I’ll have some new books of my own to add to the Boomerang Books catalogue.

In the meantime, if you want to follow my writing journey, I’ll be blogging about it at http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

Happy reading:)
Dee

 

RAVEN LUCAS – BOOK 1, MISSING

Raven Lucas – Missing is the first book in a new 3 part mystery series by popular Australian children’s author, Christine Harris.

Raven Lucas appears to have everything. But something is missing form her life. Her father. He has disappeared, suddenly, mysteriously, with no words of goodbye. Has he simply left his family and didn’t have the courage to explain why?

Is he dead, either by his own hand or another’s?

Has he been kidnapped? But why has there been no ransom demand?

Raven is determined to find out what happened to him.

Even it if kills her. And it just might.

There is plenty at stake for Raven in this fast-paced book and the stakes just keep getting higher. Raven’s mother isn’t coping with Dad’s disappearance, and seems headed for another breakdown.

Dad’s business partner, Uncle Gerald seems intent on stepping in to save them, but Raven doesn’t trust him one bit. So it seems like it’s going to be up to her to look after Mum and little brother, Jake and keep the household together…and find Dad.

Just as well she has great friends to offer her support and help her when the going gets rough. But not everyone in this book is who they seem, and Raven makes some surprising discoveries.

There are so many twists and turns in Raven Lucas – Missing that by the end of it, Raven and the reader are left wondering if anybody can be trusted.

Raven Lucas – Missing features a strong female character, easy to read text and gadgets and technology for the Gen Z reader.

Those who like a mystery and enjoy the unexpected will be compelled to keep reading to find out where this journey will take Raven and whether she will find her Dad.

Raven Lucas – Missing is published by Omnibus Books for readers aged 9 to 13.

TRANSFER STUDENT – LAURA ELLIOTT’S NEW TEEN SCI-FI

Transfer Student takes the reader on a spellbinding journey into the lives of  popular earth-dwelling high school student Ashley, and Rhoe from the amazing planet Retha.

When Ashley looks into a telescope, her life is changed forever.

I think of my Aunt Jenny. I make my very first wish upon that beautiful, very hypnotic star.

“Save me from myself,” I half-beg, half-whisper.

I peer through the eyepiece, wanting to see the star twinkle to seal the deal, to make my wish real. But, the only thing I see is a violet bug-eye staring back at me.

When she looks through the telescope, former Miss Popularity, Ashley is transported into the body of alien geek Rhoe who has been working for some time on developing a travelscope. Ashley has a hard time adjusting to becoming a boy, having webbed feet and trying to fit in on the planet Retha. To make matters worse, she falls in love with Rhoe’s best friend, Yuke, who happens to be the hottest guy on the planet.

Laura Elliott’s descriptions of the two different worlds where the story is set are so vivid that they put you right there in the moment.

Stargazing is fake. Just like yellow stars. Which is why I’m thrilled today. I’m sitting next to my best frenemy Tiffany, stuck in traffic on The Field Trip from Hell to the Griffith Observatory.

I slide my window open and almost pop off an acrylic in the freaking process. I hate freeway air and the resulting freeway hair but I hate sweat more. Every other bus rolling up the Hollywood Hills suffers from yellow-star-drawer infestations. Freaking kindergarteners. All around me. Joy. In front of Tiff and me, Sean pounds the back of his seat like he’s playing with the Red Hots at The Whisky a Go Go. My head’s a hollowed-out rock with little pebbles inside. Every time Sean slaps the green vinyl my head pebbles rattle into a maraca migraine.

Laura’s characters are strong individuals who engage you from the start.

I smile my no-teeth smile, the one reserved for those trying to get back on my good side, like flattery will make me forgive Tiff for dissing me to Sean the other day. Props to my scoop-loving minions.

We are introduced to two worlds, the one of Ashley the star gazer and Rhoe who comes from the stars and live in a world so different from earth, but still with many of the same issues.

When their lives are switched, Rhoe and Ashley both have a hard time fitting in and preserving each other’s lives. How is Rhoe going to win the surfing championship that will secure Ashley’s destiny and how will Ashley be a good enough storyteller to save the lives of Rhoe, his family and friends?

Transfer Student has believable, engaging characters and heart-stopping tension to keep readers turning the pages.

It’s told in the points of view of both Rhoe and Ashley and the reader is drawn close to both characters. During their difficult journeys both Rhoe and Ashley gain deep insight into themselves and are changed forever

Transfer Student is a compelling sci-fi adventure that also reflects the lifestyle and dilemmas faced by today’s teens, and the world as a whole.

This book has many layers and is a compelling read from start to finish.

 

SAM THE CAT

Sam the Cat is a picture book written by Sam Bowring and illustrated by Andrew McLean. It’s based on a true story, and even though at the end you’re asking yourself, “Did that really happen?”, you know that it must have because the story is too bizarre for someone to make it up.

Sam lives very happily in a tumbledown house with Jane and Ian. But when Jane and Ian bring home a baby boy, not only does he get all the attention – he even steals Sam’s name.

Having a son called Sam who loves cats, I was immediately drawn to the title and I know that kids will be too…and thanks to Andrew McLean’s wonderful illustrations, Sam is a particularly appealing kind of cat – one with a smiling face and intelligent looking expression.

Apart from the gorgeous illustrations and wonderful text, I love the way that Sam is a cat. Really, this is a book about adjusting to a new baby in the house, but it’s so cleverly done from the cat’s point of view that I can see small children relating to it and gaining understanding. Seeing as the main character is a cat, it’s totally non-confronting.

A child who’s not in this situation themselves will still be able to gain empathy for Sam and perhaps relate what he’s going through to children they know.

This is a gentle book with  illustrations that reach into the hearts and minds of small children and clearly reflect how it feels to have things that you have no control over changing within the family. Sam the Cat provides lots of room for discussion about families, pets and names.

Sam the Cat is a bit like my cat, Charlie

I really enjoyed this book, but I do have to confess an additional bias besides having a son called Sam.

I also have a cat called Charlie who bears a startling resemblance to Sam the Cat. Sam the Cat is written by Sam Bowring and illustrated by Andrew McLean. It is published by Working Title Press for readers aged 5+.

 

ALL MONKEYS LOVE BANANAS

All Monkeys Love Bananas by Sean E Avery is a truly unique picture book.

Sean is a Western Australian Graphic designer, author, sculptor and illustrator whose artwork is featured both here and in the USA. Sean commenced work at the ripe young age of 12 with his own Sunday column in the local paper. He has since gone on to carve himself a career in sculpture using recycled man-made materials. Sean wrote, illustrated and co-designed All Monkeys Love Bananas.

All Monkeys Love Bananas is a wonderful book for the imaginative and tactile young reader. The cute and active monkeys on the front cover are made of felt and their hilarious antics start here.

The book tells the story of young Lou McGrew who is not your average monkey.  He is sick of bananas and when he visits his bunny friend, Sue Hopaloo, he discovers that she suffers the same problem with carrots.

Apart from the hilarious illustrations that accompany the text, I think young readers will be engaged with the story itself. How many young kids encounter food dislikes in their lifetime and come up with creative ways of dealing with them?

This book has a kind of Dr Seuss flavour, but Sean E Avery has his own unique and appealing style.

All Monkeys Love Bananas is published by Fremantle Press, and it’s easy to see why this book has been chosen as one of 26 books Australia-wide to feature in the Hello! From Australia exhibition at the 2012 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

You can check out Sean E Avery’s website at www.seaneavery.com

 

AUSTRALIAN STORY BY TANIA McCARTNEY

Tania McCartney has a wonderful new book published by the National Library of Australia.

Australian Story, an illustrated timeline is a pictorial and textual delight.

Did you know that Indigenous people arrived in Australia between 40,000 and 65,000 years ago? Or that Mount Gambier was the last volcano to erupt on the Australian mainland, or that the first steam railway opened in Melbourne in 1854?

Australian Story – An Illustrated Timeline is full of fascinating facts about Australia’s history.

I can imagine young readers pouring through this book to find out all sorts of  interesting information about how Australia came to be the nation it is today.

They can travel through the decades and discover how the famed Pavlova got its name, and when television first came to their state…and so many other surprising snippets of history.

Clearly, a huge amount of research has gone into creating this presentation of Australia’s colourful past.

Australia may be young but its history is fascinating, diverse and steeped in one of the world’s oldest living cultures.

From creation and Dreaming to the twenty-first century, Australian Story – An Illustrated Timeline takes us on a journey through time, exploring the rich tapestry of events that has shaped our beautiful country.

Australian Story – An Illustrated Timeline is packed with images from the National Library of Australia and scattered with beautiful full colour illustrations by Peter Shaw.

Tania McCartney’s research is meticulous. She has clearly thought a great deal about selecting facts that will most intrigue readers.

The book is packed with information, but the format is easy to read and visually appealing.

Australian Story – An Illustrated Timelin is published by the National Library of Australia as part of its objective to interpret and highlight the Library’s collections and to support the creative work of the nation’s writers and researchers.

I can see this engaging presentation of Australia’s history becoming a valued and much read book in many Australian households and school libraries.

BLOG TOUR

Tania is visiting many great blogs on a tour to celebrate the release of her new book.

Here’s where you can find her:

Australian Story Blog Tour, March 2012

 

Monday 5 March

Blog Tour Schedule and Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

 

Book Launch Party Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

 

Book Giveaway

Alphabet Street

alphabetstreet.com.au

 

Tuesday 6 March

 

Book Review

Buzz Words

buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com

 

Australian Story Research Process

DeeScribe

deescribewriting.wordpress.com

 

Book Review and 10 Reasons Why History is Exciting

Soup Blog

soupblog.wordpress.com

 

Wednesday 7 March

 

Australian Story Teaching Notes for Key Stage I

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog

sherylgwyther.wordpress.com
Book Review and Teaching Notes Ideas for Key Stage II

The Book Chook

thebookchook.com

 

Book Review

Kids’ Book Capers

content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog

 

Image-Sourcing for Australian Story

Blue Dingo

bluedingo.ning.com

 

Thursday 8 March

Book Review

Reading Upside Down

readingupsidedown.com

 

Book Review

Pass It On

jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

 

Book Review

Bug in a Book

bugreviews.wordpress.com

 

Friday 9 March

 

Book Giveaway

HerCanberra

hercanberra.com.au

 

The Writing Process for Australian Story

Sally Murphy’s Blog

sallymurphy.blogspot.com

 

Book Review

Books for Little Hands

booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com

 

Book Review

ReadPlus

www.readplus.com.au

 

Saturday 10 March

 

Book Review

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

 

Book Giveaway

Posie Patchwork Blog

posiepatchworkblog.blogspot.com

 

Book Review

Suite 101

suite101.com/worldliteratures

 

Sunday 11 March

 

Book Review

My Little Bookcase

mylittlebookcase.com.au

 

Book Giveaway

Australian Women Online

australianwomenonline.com

 

Blog Tour Wrap-Up

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 


DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA – SALLY MURPHY’S NEW BOOK

Today, award-winning author, Sally Murphy is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about the inspiration behind her latest book, Do Not Forget Australia.

Ideas for stories can come from anywhere. In the past I’ve been inspired by a humorous word combination (Head Hog), a poem out of the blue (Pearl Verses the World) and a fable (The Floatingest Frog). But the seed for Do Not Forget Australia came from a photo.

My then thirteen year old son, Tom, had just been chosen to travel on the WA Premier’s ANZAC Student Tour. At a parent briefing we were shown slides of a previous tour, including a photo of a previous tour group standing in front of a big sign that said Do Not Forget Australia.

The sign, we were told, was at a school in Villers-Bretonneux in France, the main destination for the tour group.  I had seen photos of this sign before, knew a bit about Villers-Bretonneux , but it was only now that I was struck by the fact that this sign, written in English, was hanging in a school in France.  What was the full story behind it, I wondered.

Back at home I started researching, and learnt of the village which Australian soldiers had fought to save, of the men who were buried there, and of the relationship born between the two countries from that day. And I wondered if the people of modern Australia were as familiar with the story as the people of Villers-Bretonneux   were. It was time, I decided, to tell the story to Australian children.

It took quite some time to find a way to share the story in a way that was accessible to children. At first I simply read and researched. I talked about the story with my husband (an unusual thing for me to do in the early stages of a story), and I thought and thought. Then, On ANZAC Day 2008, as I watched the service being broadcast from Villers-Bretonneux   on television (catching a glimpse of my son laying an official wreath), I finally found the way to start the story and sat and wrote the first draft.

That draft was only the first of many.  It was nearly two years before I had a version which was accepted for publication by Walker Books, and another two years before it was ready for publication. Now it’s out – ready to take on the world. I hope that it will be read by Australians young and old, and that they too are taken by the story of friendship between two countries, which is acted out with a focus on two boys (one in each country).  It’s an important story, and I just hope I’ve done it justice.

DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA REVIEW

Do Not Forget Australia is a beautifully told story of two young boys living a world apart, one in Australia and one in France. The stories are linked by the two boy’s experiences of the same war. Both have fathers away fighting, both know what is to be growing up with absent dads.

This story is based on the world’s first tank battle that took place in Villers-Bretonneux on 24th April 1918. The Germans held the village but later than night, Australian soldiers won it back. Twelve hundred Australians died in the battle and the town has not forgotten Australia, naming its main street Rue de Melbourne.

This moving story is about Henri and Billy, two boys who never meet. Great writing and beautiful illustrations draw the reader into the boys’ worlds and bring them and their stories to life.

Instead of a building and children and trees, his school was little more than a pile of rubble. It was as if a giant had squeezed the schoolhouse in its hand and scattered the splintered remains.

Illustrator, Sonia Kretschmar captures the mood and the situation with sensitivity and realism in her compelling pictures.

Clearly, both author and illustrator have meticulously researched for Do Not Forget Australia, and it’s not just an account of history, it’s a beautiful story with messages of courage, generosity and hope.

Do Not Forget Australia is a powerful book with positive themes and introduces young readers to a part of their country’s history in an engaging way.

Sally Murphy is visiting Kids’ Book Capers as part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Do Not Forget Australia

GREAT BLOGS SALLY IS VISITING ON TOUR

1st March 2012 Let’s Have Words

2nd March 2012 Kids Book Capers

3rd March 2012 Running With Pens

4th march 2012 Read and Write with Dale

5th March 2012 Karen Tyrrell

6th March 2012 Writing for Children

7th March 2012 Spinning Pearls

8th March 2012 Katwhiskers

12th March 2012 Pass It On

12th March 2012 Kids Book Review

13th March 2012 Under the Apple Tree

14th March 2012 Lorraine Marwood. Words into Writing

 

 

NATIONAL YEAR OF READING – PUBLISHER PROFILE – HARPER COLLINS

This is the second part in our series of posts about the publishers – the people who make the books we read. Today we feature HarperCollins, publisher of many well-loved books for children and young adults.

Melanie Saward from HarperCollins talks about the company and the wonderful books they are publishing.

What kind of books do you publish?

HarperCollins publishes lots and lots of different books. We have lots of beautiful picture books, interesting non-fiction, exciting novels, and great stories on our list.

What do you love most about your work?

As a kid I always used to get report cards that said I would be a better student if I ‘put down the book.’ One teacher told me that I needed to concentrate on other things because reading books under my desk wasn’t going to get me a job. I love that I proved him wrong and that reading books is a HUGE part of my job (and that I don’t have to read them under my desk).

Thanks for sharing this wonderful anecdote with us, Melanie. So many readers will relate to this one. I love that you proved your teacher wrong too.

2012 is The National Year of Reading. Why do you think reading is important for both children and adults?

I could go on about why reading is important for hours!

One of the big reasons it’s important, in my opinion, is because reading opens up different worlds, cultures, ways of living and makes the world just that bit smaller. A really good example of that for me recently was reading Anna Perera’s The Glass Collector. This story, about a boy who collects, sorts, and sells the rubbish of Egypt, made me look at things in a different way, and educated me about a group of people I had never heard of before.

What is your current submissions process for authors and illustrators?

We don’t currently accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you’re an aspiring writer or illustrator, I’d recommend contacting your local writers’ centre for advice, or, keeping your eye out for competitions and mentorships that can not only help you develop and refine your skills, but can help catch the eye of agents and publishers.

What were some of your favourite HarperCollins book titles from 2011?

I loved Exile and Muse by Rebecca Lim, which are the second and third books in Rebecca’s wonderful Mercy series about an angel who has been exiled from heaven and who is doomed to return repeatedly to earth inhabiting different people’s bodies and lives; Silvermay by James Moloney, which is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy by one of my favourite authors; Nanberry Black Brother White by Jackie French made me laugh and cry; Divergent by Veronica Roth—a book that was so fast-paced and exciting I didn’t want to put it down; and, the return of Mothball Wombat in Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.

What titles do you have coming up in 2012 that you’re really excited about?

We have so many great books coming this year. One in particular that we’re all really excited about is The Industry by Rose Foster. This is an exciting YA thriller about Kirra Hayward, an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl who stumbles across an unusual puzzle on the Internet and solves it. She’s Kidnapped by a shadowy organisation known only as The Industry, Kirra soon discovers how valuable her code-breaking skills are. And when she stubbornly refuses to help them, they decide to break her by any means at their disposal.

The Hunger Pains by the Harvard Lampoon is a hilarious send-up of the extremely popular Hunger Games and it’s out now! The hero of the story, Kantkiss Neverclean feels unprepared to fight in The Hunger Games, the second highest rated reality TV show in Peaceland, right after Extreme Home Makeover. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss finds that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart, which is unfortunately on a battlefield.

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig is also out now. This is a wonderful book about an eleven-year-old boy who witnesses a murder while spying through the window of a strange house. Now, having been seen by the angry murderer, he is a kid on the run. With only a shady grandfather, a professional standover man and an incongruous local couple as adult mentors, he takes refuge in the dark drains and grimy tunnels beneath the city, transforming himself into a series of superheroes and creating a rather unreliable map to plot out places where he is unlikely to cross paths with the bogeyman.

And some last mentions: Fury is the last book in the Mercy series by Rebecca Lim and it’ll be out in May; Tamlyn, the second book in the Silvermay trilogy will be released in June; and, keep an eye out for a gorgeous picture book by Kate Knapp called Ruby Red Shoes in November (and if you’d like to see some advance cuteness, have a look at Ruby’s blog: http://red-shoes-news.blogspot.com.au/

Thanks for sharing all this great information about your new and existing titles, Melanie.  It sounds like Harper Collins has some great things planned for 2012.

 

BLOOD RUNNER – The long race to freedom

Blood Runner is a thought provoking new novel by James Riordan about courage, hope and the strength of the human spirit.

Samuel’s parents and sister die in a bloody massacre. His brothers retaliate by joining the anti-Apartheid movement, with guns and terrorism as their weapons. But Sam decided to fight prejudice in his own way – as a runner.  Against all odds – from a poor township childhood to the Bantu homelands, from work in a gold-mine to competition for gold – he focuses his mind, body and heart on the long hard race to freedom…

Blood Runne is the story of a boy growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. Samuel’s idol is Nelson Mandela, and he is running for his president and his country. Samuel is determined to run faster than any white man.

Although Blood Runner is a story of much sadness and tragedy, Samuel’s character is compelling with his honesty, humbleness and hope. It’s about pride and how far one man can go to follow his heart, his talent and the courage of his convictions.

It chronicles an important piece of history, and will engage and inform young readers.

Blood Runner is historical fiction for readers 12+ and is published in Australia by Walker Books.

LADDER TO THE MOON

Ladder to the Moon is written by US President, Barack Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. It is a magical tribute to their mother.

The title comes from a postcard of the 1958 Georgia O’Keefe painting, Ladder to the Moon.

In this beautiful picture book, the text and illustrations work as one. Illustrator, Yuyi Morales talks about her connection to the story and this comes through in her pictures.

Little Suhaila wishes she had known her grandma, who (her mother tells her) would have wrapped her arms round the whole world if she could. And one night Suhaila gets her wish when a golden ladder appears at her window and Grandma Annie, arms outstretched, invites the girl to come along with her on a journey.

In a rich and deeply personal narrative, Maya Soetoro-Ng distils her mother’s love for family, her compassion and her ethic of service into the story of a remarkable meeting between grandmother and grandchild. Yuyi Morales’s vibrant, emotionally resonant artwork illuminates this dreamlike tale, reminding us that loved ones lost are always with us – and that sometimes we need only to look at the moon and remember.

Ladder to the Moon has  universal themes of love and acceptance. Its global message makes it a great book to be discussed within families and the classroom.

A number of religions are represented and there’s a message of tolerance and hope in this story.

It’s about a love that links families through the generations, even when they have never met.

Ladder to the Moon is published in Australia by Walker Books.

NATIONAL YEAR OF READING – FORD STREET PUBLISHER PROFILE

2012 is the National Year of Reading.

So at Kids’ Book Capers we’ve decided to profile the people who make the books we love to read – the publishers.

Our first profile is Ford Street Publishing and today we welcome Paul Collins.

What kind of books do you publish?

Picture books through to young adult and crossover.

What do you love most about your work?

One has to be reasonably passionate about books, of course. I love working for myself. The more you put into your work, the more you get out. This means working seven days a week. When you work from home you never leave work! When I was a room service waiter back in the 70s a supervisor said to me, “You don’t like authority, do you?” And I guess she was right. I’ve worked for myself ever since.

What is the hardest thing about promoting books?

Promoting books is easy. It’s getting people to pay attention to what you’re promoting that’s the hard part. It’s a long and laborious job harvesting email addresses, building up databases, and hoping the people you’re adding to them actually want to be told about what you’re doing. There’s always the unsubscribe icon, of course, and sometimes I’m a little disappointed to see certain people unsubscribe from my newsletters. Of course, we all get unsolicited material via emails. I usually simply delete. No hard feelings that way, and it only takes a second. Paying for ads is also easy, but I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you bulk promote a product with ads, then you’re simply wasting money. Because books are a low ticket item, many forms of advertising are out of the question — TV, radio, billboards, etc.

2012 is The National Year of Reading. Why do you think reading is important for both children and adults?

There’s a hulking manuscript of an answer here, but suffice to say reading opens one’s mind to other people’s thoughts. It educates and expands the imagination. If nothing else, dare I say people who read are more successful in life than those who don’t.

Where do you see the children’s book market in five years’ time?

Kids will still be reading, but more online or via devices than printed books. A hardcore readership of print books will exist for a long time. But economically, the print books won’t be mass produced, more they’ll only be available via print on demand. This is itself might prove a hassle in the long run, so even those sales will dwindle. Once that happens, it won’t be feasible to have POD technology, so kiosks will fade away to be replaced with new technology.

My main problem with ebooks is that there’s no way to actually “show” them to people. Go to amazon and unless you know what you’re after, you’ll never find a good book, unless you have hours to trawl. I don’t see online booksellers ever competing with brick and mortar shops, although they will dominate. Much like VHS beat Beta. Beta was the better product by all accounts, but VHS had better marketing. Mac are better than PCs, but PCs won over, sales wise.

What is your current submissions process for authors and illustrators?

We’re closed to submissions. I’m still trying to get through the unsolicited material submitted last year.

What were some of your favourite PUBLISHING HOUSE book titles from 2011?

Tania McCartney’s Riley and the Grumpy Wombat was fun to work on. I’m also pleased with the way The Key to Starvelt by Foz Meadows turned out. We worked on Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s Ships in the Field. Although this book was published in February, I think of it as a 2011 title since all the work on it was done during 2011.

What titles do you have coming up in 2012 that you’re really excited about?

I’m excited by everything Ford Street publishes. I’ve contracted the next Toocool and Marcy books from Phil Kettle and Susan Halliday; a picture book from Michael Salmon; a YA book from a new author called Michelle Heeter; my own Dyson’s Drop which is a sequel to Mole Hunt.

I think Ford Street’s best selling title this year will be Trust Me Too, an anthology comprising 58 contributors including Shaun Tan, Leigh Hobbs, James Roy and Michael Gerard Bauer.

 

LIGHTNING JACK

Sam Tully eyed the brumbies at the muster in the park and among them as they galloped he saw one that stood apart…

a stallion, black as midnight, on his brow a jagged blaze.

A gallant horse, a midnight horse,

a horse called Lightning Jack

Lightning Jack is a the gorgeous new picture book for lovers of horses and Australian icons. It’s the result of collaboration between two of Australia’s favourite and highly-acclaimed picture book creators, Glenda Millard and Patricia Mullins.

When Sam Tully sees the free spirited horse Lightning Jack, he dares to ride him. Together they muster a herd of steers into their stable, escape a grazier’s deal and fly into the air with Pegasus wings. Then when they are ambushed by the notorious outlaw Ned Kelly, Lightning Jack leaps out of trouble and back to the wilderness. But then Sam can’t resist a race and rides Lightning Jack against the ghost of Phar Lat at Breakneck speed…Sam’s horse is a gallant horse, a midnight horse, a horse in every dream.

The text is written in the rhyming style of Australian literature greats like Banjo Paterson. It moves the story along at a cracking pace and keeps the tension rising.

The words are brought to life by the stunning pictures of Patricia Mullin who uses vibrant colours and fluid illustrations to authentically depict the movement in the story.

Each double page spread is a memorable visual experience.

Lightning Jack is published by Scholastic Press for readers aged 4+.

QUEENIE – One Elephant’s Story

There was a time when for tuppence you could ride on the back of an elephant at a zoo. Queenie was one such elephant.

In Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, award-winning team of author Corinne Fenton and illustrator, Peter Gouldthorpe tell the remarkable true story of this special elephant.

Until her death in 1945 Queenie carried up to 500 passengers a day. She trod the Trail of Elephants around the Melbourne Zoo, and many visitors came to see, touch and ride this famous elephant.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story tells the story of the elephant’s birth in a jungle in India more than one hundered years ago and how she became an icon at the Melbourne Zoo.

Clearly a huge amount of research has gone into this book and the sensitive telling of Queenie’s story reflects how much she touched author, Corinne Fenton’s heart.

In her dedication at the start of the book, Corinne says,

Why did the life of one majestic elephant keep drawing me back to investigate the story further?

Perhaps the answer is simple, in that Queenie gave of her heart, performing a tireless task for almost 40 years. She was loved and remembered by generations of children and adults and was an icon in the days when a visit to the zoo was often the most important event in a child’s social calendar.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story has just been released in paperback and this authentic Australian story was an Honour Book, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, CBCA Awards in 2007.

What’s extraordinary about this book is that it’s not just a historical account. It’s a moving story about a real animal who clearly found her way into the hearts of both Corinne Fenton and the illustrator of Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, Peter Gouldthorpe.

Between them, Corinne and Peter have poignantly brought Queenie’s story and her place in history to life.

The beautifully illustrated picture book is for readers aged 5+ but it can be enjoyed by adults and older readers too. It is published by Black Dog Books, an imprint of Walker Books

MAYA AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL

Maya and the Crystal Skull is a story of intrigue, family loyalty and challenging your beliefs.

12 months ago, Maya’s mum died in a car accident. Now it looks as though she might lose her dad too.

He’s been in Mexico looking for the crystal skull and now he’s disappeared. Uncle Peter is supposed to go looking for him, but unfortunately he has a fear of flying.

So now it’s up to Maya to go to Mexico to save her father.  But with her awful guardian Sophia in tow, things are going to be a lot harder.

Apart from discovering her whereabouts, Maya finds that she has a special talent; she can see and communicate with her spirit guide, Ethan, a boy her own age. Maya soon discovers that she’s going to need Ethan’s help to survive this adventure.

What does the legend of the crystal skulls have to do with her father’s disappearance?…How can Maya’s destiny have anything to do with the future of humankind?

The Mexican jungle, ancient Mayan ruins, dangerous bounty hunters and evil kidnappers…

Yes, Maya’s life has changed.

The fate of the world now depends on her.

Maya and the Crystal Skull is the latest action-packed adventure from bestselling children’s author, Robyn Opie Parnell.

It’s a novel for readers who aged 10+ who love history, great characters and plenty of plot twists.

For more information, check out Robyn’s website at

http://www.rnrbooksfilmmusic.com.au/maya.html


 

 

CLASS NOVELS – MAKE THEM A POSITIVE READING EXPERIENCE

Seeing as it’s the start of the school year and that 2012 is the National Year of Reading, I thought it would be a good time to talk about making the class novel a positive reading experience.

A couple of years ago I was visiting a school when an enthusiastic English teacher asked me if I could suggest new ways to engage students studying a class novel. Following on from this, I did a talk on New Ways To Present Class Texts at a 2010 VATE (Victorian Association of English Teacher’s) Conference.

At the time it struck me that the getting the most out of the class novel isn’t just about the teacher. It’s about collaboration between teacher, parent/caregiver and student.

As an author and parent, I want my kids to feel inspired by their class novel. I want them to learn about the book and how it was created; to help them gain an increased understanding of the way it was written and the themes and topics covered.

I think there’s a lot that parents/caregivers can do to help this process, and the first thing is to read the novel ourselves so that we model good reading, and that we’re in a position to have informed and insightful discussion about the book within the family.

Sarah Mayor Cox at the Great Escape Bookshop, Aireys Inlet

Sarah Mayor Cox, a Lecturer in Literacy Education Children’s and Young Adult Literature at La Trobe University, Bendigo believes this too.

Sarah recently spoke on Central Victorian Radio on this very topic and offered some great tips for parents and students, and she has kindly agreed to let me share here.

SARAH’S TIPS FOR PARENTS

  1. Read the book too – lead by example.
  2. Don’t be negative about the book, even if it’s not to your personal taste – once again, lead by example. The student still has to study the book whether they/you like it or not.
  3. Make predictions about the book, ask questions about the book & the way it works.
  4. Offer to help your child if they are having trouble, reading, interpreting or understanding the book.
  5. Suggest books on similar themes that your child might like (teacher/librarians can help here).
  6. Watch the film/TV series or read graphic novel of the book if there is one, discuss the differences.
  7. Show your child where to find extra detail about the book and/or author: Publishing house websites (many books these days have free accompanying teachers’ notes, which will help you understand how the teacher is thinking & often where the assignments have come from).
  8. Visit author/illustrator websites.
  9. Join reviewing websites (eg. Inside a Dog – Centre for Youth Literature @ The State Library, Goodreads – Facebook for Book nerds).
  10. Be proactive as a parent and if you’ve read the book/s then you can contact the school with suggestions or questions about better or different texts to list.

SARAH’S TIPS FOR STUDENTS

1.    Be an enthusiastic & engaged student – it will help energise your teacher.
2.    Spend time getting to know your texts.
3.    Get hold of an audio version of the book & listen along (Louis Braille Audio, ABC Audio Books, Bolinda) in the car, while doing other jobs around the house, in the heat of the day.
4.    Chunk the book: Read one or two chapters (or 15 mins, whichever comes first) each day.
5.    Use an A4 lined piece of paper to use as a bookmark, fold it in half.
6.    Do a web of relations between the characters.

  • List main characters in circles of differing sizes/colours
  • Connect these circles showing the relationship between the characters

7.    Do a story map (include the main plot points, on a timeline or drawn as a story board, showing where and how themes and character development occur).

MY TIPS

1.    If your child likes to draw, get them to draw a picture of the main character and discuss why they have drawn the person this way – what they know about the main character from reading the book?

2.    Recently, a 15yo reader wrote to me about my book Letters to Leonardo and said,

I really enjoyed the book. It reminded me a lot of my own situations,

and while reading it I often thought about my family…

That’s what readers are looking for in a book – a shared experience. So as a parent, try to find someone or something in the book that you think your child can relate to. This could be where you start your discussions.

3.    Encourage siblings who have studied the book to join the discussions and talk about how their own responses to reading it.

4.    Read the book together aloud – read a chapter each. This works better with younger children. For older students, parent and child can read a chapter/s separately and then discuss what they have read before moving on to the next part.

5.    Bring the main character to your dinner table – discuss who they are and why this has happened to them. Perhaps there is someone the family knows personally who reminds them of the character in the book.

6.    Make book discussion part of your lifestyle.

MORE TIPS

Some tips from Miffy Farqhuarson (Head of Library at Mentone Grammar, former CBCA Book of the Year Judge, 1/3 of The Book Whisperers):

  • Speak to your child’s Teacher -Librarian.
  • Speak to teacher about online resources for the text being studied (there are lots of great teachers’ and student notes).
  • Do your own research about the text.
  • Use RSS feeds.
  • Use Scoop-It.

No student will love every class novel. But there is something to be learned inside the cover of every book, even if it’s about identifying your own reading tastes and why a particular novel is not for you.

Thanks to Sarah Mayor Cox and Miffy Farquarson for their fabulous tips.

If you have any other tips on encouraging students to have a positive encounter with their class novel, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

 

 

SHIPS IN THE FIELD

Ships in the  Field is Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s beautiful new picture book about a little girl whose dearest wish is to have a dog. But it’s not just about a dog. This dog symbolises hope, peace and security.

Ships in the  Field is a story of  many layers and Anna Pignataro’s illustrations are a perfect compliment for the text, and add so much to this poignant story. Her centre page spread of the refugees filing onto the boat that will take them to safety is a moving illustration that needs no words.

Just like many refugees, the little girl in this story has no name, no identity in her new country.

Underlying the little girl’s dream of having her own dog is the story of refugees; of what it’s like to find yourself in a new land, having survived the ravages of war and left your home behind.

Award-winning author, Susanne Gervay and award-winning illustrator, Anna Pignataro are part of that immigrant and refugee story.

Susanne’s parents were post-war Hungarian refugees who migrated to Australia and Anna’s parents were post-war Italian refugees facing the same kind of displacement.

So it’s not surprising that this book is so authentic in its joy and sadness.

You’ll have to read this amazing story for yourself. I’m not going to tell you why this book is called Ships in the  Field, but it’s the perfect title.

The text is heartwarming and full of hope and Anna Pignataro’s evocative watercolours will make you feel as if you are reading this story from inside the book. Look for the little details that tell a big story.

I loved the strength of the relationships in Ships in the  Field, and the hope and love woven through this story.

This is a brave and important book with a strong message told in a gentle and thought provoking way.

Ships in the  Field is for readers 7+ and is published by Ford Street Publishing.

HOPSCOTCH – Golden Scarab by Ian Trevaskis

Golden Scarab is the second action packed adventure in the Hopescotch series by Ian Trevaskis. A game of hopscotch and a simple chant is all it takes to transport Hannah and Jake into an ancient world of treachery and danger.

After a hazardous adventure in book 1, Hopscotch, The Medusa Stone, Hannah and Jake are reluctant to play, but  Kostas the  Game Master of the Gods has promised them an amazing prize if they bring him back three things from Ancient Egypt.

They must take a shabti to the tomb of Thutmose the Third and swap it. As well as the exchanged shabti, they must bring back the Sorcerer’s Sceptre and the Pharaoh’s flail.

At first their task doesn’t seem too onerous, especially when the sceptre falls into Jake’s hands not long after they arrive in Egypt. Problem is that the Golden Scarab, which is their means of getting back to their present day homes has been stolen by tomb raider Osorkon

To make matters worse, it soon becomes apparent that Osorkon is working for the traitor, Siptah who has been charged with the task of taking them to The Valley of the Kings to place the shabti in the tomb of Thutmose the Third.

Siptah has organised an ambush, and Hannah, Jake and their guide and friend, Shakura soon find themselves locked in a tomb without weapons and with little hope of survival. Luckily they come across some scrolls that Shakura can read and guide them to safety.

Young readers will be enthralled with the action and engaged with the great characters and the subtle humour. Golden Scarab also has educational value for young reader studying Ancient Egypt. There’s a comprehensive glossary at the back of the book full of fascinating facts about ancient Egypt.

This historical adventure is also a story about loyalty and friendship. It is published by Walker Books for readers aged 9-12.

GUNNEDAH HERO – BLOG TOUR STOP

Today I’m pleased to welcome Clancy Tucker who has dropped in as part of a blog tour to talk about his new book, Gunnedah Hero.

This intriguing book for kids brings together the lives of two characters who lived 100 years apart, and introduces the reader to the life of pioneering Australians.

Today, Clancy will chat to us about how he became a writer and the fun of writing Gunnedah Hero.

How did you become a writer?

Reading great Enid Blyton books as a kid inspired me to write my own stories. Having a vivid imagination helps.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

  • The ease with which it comes. I’ll never live long enough to write what’s in my head.
  • Inventing and spending time with my characters – good, naughty, happy and sad ones.
  • Being so absorbed in a story I can smell the gum leaves.
  • When my 17 critique readers return my questionnaire, having read a manuscript. Their comments are so honest.
  • When a young reader shyly asks you to sign a copy of your book. That’s a real buzz!

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Dealing with publishers can be challenging. However, rejections slips make you a better writer. Writing teaches you patience, perseverance and discipline.

What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?

Where do I start? Senior public servant, truck driver, farmer, business person, speech writer, union official etc. I’m well-travelled and have lived in four countries.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Winning two awards in the National Literary Awards was pleasing.

What are you working on at the moment?

Two books. One is a book of anecdotes from my interesting life – ‘A Free Spirit’. The other is book three in the ‘Gunnedah Hero’ series. It will be called ‘Magic Billie’.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

  • Find something you are passionate about and write passionately about it … and never give up.
  • Always retain your own voice – always.
  • Write for your reader, not for yourself.
  • Be passionate, but don’t waffle.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

I have 17 young readers who read my manuscripts and complete a simple questionnaire – that’s the deal. The kids are between 8 – 16, Aboriginal, Muslim, Indian, Christian and Jewish and most come from broken homes. They are my biggest asset because they cut to the chase. They love being my readers because: I am the only author they know, the only adult who asks them to rate them out of 10 and the only person who sends them mail and seeks their opinion. You will see their names in the front of ‘Gunnedah Hero’ under ‘Acknowledgements’. Love ya work!

ABOUT GUNNEDAH HERO

What inspired you to write this book?

I wrote ‘Gunnedah Hero’ because most people have no idea about the ‘long paddock’ (the road edge – in drought, many cattle breeders had to resort to taking their cattle on a long trek along the public roads to find food to keep them alive). Also, I have a great appreciation for our pioneers, and there is a serious lack of Australian history taught in our schools.

What’s it about?

A modern teen reads a manuscript written in 1910 by his great-great-grandfather, Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson, when he drove cattle up the ‘long paddock’ during a drought.

The teen, Gunnedah Swenson Danson, was named after his great-great-grandparents, Molly Swenson and Smokey Danson. Smokey’s story is exciting and adventurous, but there are devious things happening at Wiralee Station as Gunnie is reading the awesome manuscript.

What age groups is it for?

It was written for teenagers but is suitable for anyone from 8 to 80 years-of-age.

Why will kids like it?

This book contains two stories in one – modern (2011) & historical fiction (1910). They will relate to the modern story and be enthralled by the harsh life and adventures depicted in the 1910 story. Both stories have a wonderful connection. Gunnie reads an awesome manuscript written by his great-great-grandfather. Both of them, Gunnie and Smokey, are the same age, fourteen, yet they are 100 years apart.

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

There are two main characters that are equally important: Gunnie in 2011 and Smokey in 1910. I love them both. As you read the story, you will see how people refer to young Gunnie as ‘Gun’, a nickname given to his great-great-grandfather, Smokey ‘Gun’ Danson. Although they live 100 years apart, you can see how similar Gunnie is to Smokey in temperament, courage and spirit.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Yes, many things. It is two stories in one. The characters are so real, you can feel them. Besides the adventurous story, it has a glossary of terms, a family tree and six bush poems. It will make you laugh and cry. Trust me. You will smell the gum leaves.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Creating the characters and deviously developing ‘connections’ within the story to seduce my readers to keep reading. Example: there is an envelope mentioned in the story, but you only find out what it contains in the last three pages.

Developing credible characters that readers will fall in love with – believable people and situations.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Nothing! It was an absolute pleasure. Ninety-eight per cent came from my head; based on real life experiences. It took three solid months.

GIVE-AWAY: As a part of this blog tour, Morris Publishing Australia and Clancy Tucker are giving three eBooks to readers of the blogs. Go to http://morrispublishingaustralia.com and use the form on the Contact Page. Fill in your first name, email address, and put Blog Competition and your preferred eBook format in the message. You and your children will love this heart-warming story. (Choose from ePub, PDF, Kindle) The winners will be drawn on January 31st, 2012. All winners will be notified by email and their eBook will be attached.

GREAT BLOGS CLANCY IS VISITING ON TOUR

January 14th http://www.kids-bookreview.com – Author Interview

January 15th http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com – Book Review

January 16th: www.buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com – Article – Writing Historical Fiction

January 17th: http://carolwarner.wordpress.com/ – Author Interview

January 18th: http://elaineoustonauthor.com/ – Review

January 19th: www.buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com – Review

January 20th: http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com – Author interview

January 22nd: https://www.facebook.com/aussiebookreviews – Review

January 23rd: http://www.morrispublishingaustralia.com/news-update-blog.html

January 24th: www.sherfordbear.co.uk – Review

January 25th: http://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com – Author Interview

January 25th: http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/kids-book-capers-blog/ – Author interview

January 26th: Grand finale – http://www.blogbud.com/clancytucker – What’s next for Clancy


 

 

 

 

VULTURE’S GATE

Vulture’s Gate is a compelling novel for teen readers by Kirsty Murray set in the future. It has a spellbinding plot, and strong themes that reflect on our modern day world and the repercussions of how we currently interact with our environment.

Kirsty Murray depicts a frightening but very real world in which girls are thought to be instinct due to a terrible plague, and the land has been destroyed by war and greed.

But not all girls have been exterminated. Bo, one of the main characters is very much alive. Raised by her Poppy until he was killed, she has survived on her own, helped only by her Robotraptors, especially Mr Pinkwhistle.

But everything changes for Bo when she rescues a young boy, Callum in the burning desert.

She is forced to leave her underground home. In search of Callum’s fathers, they journey across a dangerous continent, escaping outstationers, street gangs and terrorists, but nothing can prepare them for the world that awaits in Vulture’s Gate.

Callum has been kidnapped and is forced to perform in a freak show. The skills he acquires there hold him in good stead and provide him with the flexibility, balance and survival skills he’s going to need to survive in the new world.

Once they join forces, Bo and Callum look for a safe haven, but it’s not easy to find in a world where factions are fighting against each other – runaway boys against religious terrorists.

As well as being an action packed adventure, this book explores the vulnerability of both genders as the two protagonists struggle to survive in their harsh new environment.

Vulture’s Gate reflects on the intricacies of society and examines themes of loyalty, adaptability, friendship and belonging.

The relationship between Bo and Callum is real and courageous and is an authentic portrayal of two characters moving towards adulthood and the new responsibilities and difficulties that brings.

One of the most poignant things for me about this book was that children in this society are not raised in a nurturing environment, but rather one where they have to fight for their survivl.

Vulture’s Gate hooked me from the first page and kept me mesmerised till the end.

I’m hoping there will be a Book 2 to follow.

Vulture’s Gate is published by Allen & Unwin.

 

ROSIE BLACK – EQUINOX – Book 2

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS INTO THE FUTURE

the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the ‘Centrals’; the have-nots, the Bankers; and the fringe dwellers, the ‘Ferals’.

Rosie Black is a courageous but vulnerable 16 year-old who lives in a futuristic world where it’s hard to know who to trust and bad choices can prove fatal.

After losing her mother and her best friend, Rosie’s world has been turned upside down and her priorities have changed.

Rosie is hell bent on helping develop a cure for the disease that killed her mother and almost claimed her father’s life. The disease has been manufactured by the Helios regime. They are intent on taking over the world, but Rosie Black is equally determined to bring them down.

Equinox, by Lara Morgan is the second book in The Rosie Black Chronicles. It’s just as action-packed as the first book, Genesis. If you loved Genesis, you’ll love Equinox and like me, you’ll be hanging out for the third Rosie Black Chronicle.

Equinox has great characters, non-stop action and a fascinating world where space travel and all sorts of things are possible.

Lara Morgan creates such a vivid place for her characters to inhabit that I found myself totally believing in it.

Rosie is placed in life threatening situations but she still faces normal teen dilemmas like being torn between her first love, the Feral, Pip and  Dalton, the ‘Central’ who appears to have everything.

Her attraction for the charming Dalton is tempered with mistrust. Why would someone from a privileged background like Dalton be interested in helping her and ‘the cause’.

Riley, who’s in charge of operations isn’t telling Rosie the full story and when he puts an implant in her brain it turns out to be more than routine and when it malfunctions, it puts her life in jeopardy.

Rosie is reluctantly forced to see the help of Cassie, Riley’s gorgeous but unfriendly sister.

And just when Rosie, Pip and Dalton seem to have everything under control, Rosie is double crossed by Agent Sulawayo and might be forced to make a deal to save them all.

Equinox is tightly written and although the fast-pace draws the reader forward, we still feel connected to the characters as if we know them.

Equinox is written by Lara Morgan and published by Walker Books.

 

 

 

 

 

HARRY’S WAR

Grandpa talks about his war adventures all the time. And Harry loves listening. His father was a soldier too, in a different war. But Harry never knew his dad, and his mother won’t talk about him. In finding out why, Harry discovers a deeper truth, one that will change his life forever.

Some wards don’t just happen on a battlefield…

Harry’s War by John Heffernan is a book about truth, discovery and consequences.

Harry is confused. His grandfather is a war hero and his father was in a war that nobody talks about. Harry’s not stupid. He knows there’s a secret about Dad that everyone else knows – that the whole family is keeping from him. Harry has a feeling it has something to do with the way Dad died.

But what’s the secret and how is Harry going to find out? And when he does, is he going to be able to cope with the truth?

Harry is a typical adventurous kid, always getting his best friend Will into scrapes and becoming increasingly unpopular with Will’s family. Lately life seems to be throwing up so many challenges, but Harry is a courageous kid who faces things head on and proves himself to both Will and his family.

Harry’s War by John Heffernan is a book about friendship, loyalty and heroes. And finding explanations that make sense, that a young boy can live with. It’s also learning how to deal with people who disappoint you.

Harry’s War is a powerful novel published by Scholastic for readers aged 10+, examining truths about family and war.

The relationships between the characters are authentic and Harry is a brash but vulnerable boy who draws the reader into the story.

Although there are many difficult things for Harry to deal with, the reader is left with a feeling of hope that Harry will overcome all the obstacles that are being put in his path. That Harry will find his own way in the world in spite of the past.

Harry’s War is a tension filled story that confronts important issues head on and presents them in a way that young readers will readily relate to.

Harry’s War is published by Scholastic.

 

 

 

 

HAL JUNIOR – The Secret Signal

Hal checked nobody was watching, then scooped up the earphones and placed them on his head.

“Tiger One…docking successful. The board is green. I repeat, the board is green.”

He could hardly believe it. He was listening to the pilot of a real spceship!

Hal Junior, The Secret Signal is the first book in new science fiction series for junior readers by Simon Haynes. It’s full of great characters, wacky humour and adventure.

With a and a best friend called Stephen ‘Stinky’ Binn and his own patented inventions, the reader knows right from the start that Hal Junior is not your average kid and his life is far from ordinary.

Hal Junior’s wild ride starts with a confrontation with a recycling chute and he is saved only by the electronics expertise of Stinky who reverses gravity in the chute.

Hal is a great character. He’s smart, funny and just a little bit naughty. Hal is a bit of a trouble magnet. He means well, but his wild schemes and crazy plans never turn out as expected.

His relationship with brainiac Stinky also provides great humour and they have complementary qualities that allow them to get out of some serious scrapes.

One of the things I liked about this book is the clever way Hal and Stinky use basic science principles. Readers will enjoy the futuristic space station setting which provides the perfect backdrop for adventure.

Written and illustrated by Simon Haynes, Hal Junior, The Secret Signal is dotted with quirky black and white pictures.

I can see this book appealing to kids who like fun, adventure and science fiction. There are a lot of sound effects written into the text that give the book a cinematic quality, adding something extra for reluctant readers.

Hal Junior, The Secret Signal is for readers aged 8-12.

 

FASCINATING FACTS AND DOWNRIGHT FUNNY

Scholastic has just released a number of books for the young fact lover and for those young readers who like a book that makes them laugh.

WEE ON A JELLYFISH STING and other fibs that simply aren’t true

It’s amazing how many half-baked notions, crazy rumours from the internet and recycled must old myths get mistaken for the truth. Many well-meaning people may not realise that what they are telling you is, in fact, complete twaddle. Maybe it sounded convincing to them, or maybe they think it’s a useful fact. But sadly, no.

WEE ON A JELLYFISH STING and other fibs that simply aren’t true busts some popular myths about all kind of things including the memory of a goldfish and  that touching a toad can give you warts.

As well as the funny bits, there’s all sorts of useful information like how to get out of quicksand and the fact that an aardvaark can half a million termites in one meal. Topics include history, health, animals, places, the human body and crazy stuff.

WEE ON A JELLYFISH STING and other fibs that simply aren’t true is cleverly written by Tracey Turner and hilariously illustrated by Clive Goddard.

EVERY MINUTE IN AUSTRALIA

In the minute it takes for you to read this, AMAZING things will be happening all over the country.

Every Minute in Australia is full of amazing facts about Aussie food, Aussie animals, Aussie sport, Aussie culture and much, much more.

Every Minute in Australia has been meticulously researched by author, Yvette Poshoglian and is full of surprising facts like ’13 litres of tomato sauce’ are consumed per minute. I’m not saying all the information is something you need to know, but it’s fascinating nonetheless and great for young readers who love collecting facts.

It’s a bit different from your normal ‘fact fest’ because of the theme of ‘every minute in Australia’. There are even some ‘only in Australia’ activities so that the reader can really get involved. Every Minute in Australia is an easy to read format with cartoon style illustrations breaking up the text.

From car racing to training your pet, there’s something for everyone in Every Minute in Australia. It’s one of those books that make for fun dinner table conversation. Every Minute in Australia is published by Scholastic.

 

 

 

 

MEET LILY, THE LITTLEST ANGEL

Lily gets her wings and Lily has a secret are the first two books in the Lily, The Littlest Angel series written by Elizabeth Pulford with illustrations by Aki Fukuoka

LILY GETS HER WINGS

In book one, Lily gets her wings, Lily dreams of earning her wings so she can attend Amelia’s Angel Academy, but someone has hidden her practice wings. If Lily can’t find them in time to take the test, her dream will be shattered.

Being an angel isn’t easy for Lily. She has a sweet nature and means well, but somehow she always finds herself in trouble. And whenever she’s in trouble, her rival for the last spot at the Academy, Tisa, never seems too far away. And when Lily accidentally damages a third year angel’s wings she knows she’s in serious trouble.

Eventually, Lily finds her own wings, but they don’t seem to do what she wants them to. And how will she pass the seemingly impossible test of making Professor Glumbo laugh. There’s only one spot left at the academy and it seems that Tisa will be the one to get it.

But Mother Angel has a surprise announcement for both of them.

LILY HAS A SECRET

In book 2, Lily has a secret, Lily rescues an injured kitten, but one of the rules at the Academy is “No animals allowed (except Frumplepuss)”. As a new recruit to the Academy, Lily can’t afford to break the rules, but she can’t let anything bad happen to the kitten either.

But when Lily gets distracted by the kitten and breaks the beautiful golden harp, things can’t get much worse.

Lily is an appealing character who will endear herself to readers. Even though she’s an angel, she’s far from perfect.

Little girls will be drawn to the appealing design of these books and the lively pictures. They’ll be swept along by Lily’s latest mishap, wondering what will happen next and whether Lily will get out of yet another scrape.

Lily, The Littles Angel’s adventures are gentle stories with authentic characters and events. They make a pretty and charming addition to a little girl’s book collection.

Lily The Littlest Angel series is published by Scholastic.

Lily, The Littlest Angel is a charming new chapter book series for readers aged 6-9.

TROPICAL TROUBLE

Tropical Trouble is the third book in the Totally Twins series written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes.

Persephone and Portia Pinchgut are going on holidays to Fiji with Grandma. The only problem is they have been forced to take their annoying 7 year-old neighbour, Dillon Pickleton with them.

Things don’t start out well when they land in Fiji and the twin’s luggage is missing. And that means buying new clothes in Fiji that aren’t to Perse’s fashion taste at all.

Almost as soon as they arrive at the Coconut Cover Resort, the outgoing Portia makes friends with Rushani and Gigi, two girls their age. But Persephone, being the shy twin feels left out again.

I love the way author, Aleesah Darlison gets into the head of Portia and Perse and even though they are twins, they are clearly, very different.

The story is told through Perse’s eyes as she writes down everything that happens in her ‘Fabulous Diary’. Once again, Perse’s voice is very strong and her humour and self-honesty endear her to the reader. She admits her own faults and this makes her real and allows the reader to empathise with her.

We also empathise with Perse because we can see that she cares about others, and she’s the one who looks after Dillon, who is feeling homesick. It’s also Perse’s kind nature that attracts the interest of Ashton whose parents manage the resort where they are staying.

The relationship between the twins is realistic and even though they have their differences, there is clearly a strong bond between them.

Travel writing Grandma who has taken them to Fiji is a great character who never takes sides.

The Pinchguts are a quirky but loveable family and I like the way author, Aleesah Darlison has created such authentic relationships between the various members.

Tropical Trouble is another entertaining and engrossing book in the Totally Twins series written by Aleesah.

Complimenting the text are the hilarious illustrations of Serena Geddes who accurately captures these characters and their personalities with simplicity and wit.

The Totally Twins series is published by New Frontier Publishing and there are more titles coming in 2012.

 

THE KEY TO STARVELDT

The Key to Starveldt is book two in The Rare series by Foz Meadows and it’s a gripping read.

Solace Morgan was born a vampire.

The castle of Starveldt is waiting. Having escaped once from Sanguisdera, Solace and her friends are in desperate need of guidance.

Seeking to unravel a cryptic prophecy, they travel to the Rookery, an otherworldly place governed by the enigmatic Liluye. Magical and wiild, the Rookery tests them all in preparation for the crossing to Starveldt. But the group is starting to fracture.

The threat of Lord Grief continues to grow; old betrayals, lies and secrets boil to the surface – with startling consequences.

As danger closes in, can they make their peace before everything falls apart? Or will the Bloodkin triumph?

I love the twists and turns of the plot in this book and the way the setting is so integral to the story and has been given so many dimensions and nuances that it becomes like another character.

Foz Meadows uses humour to make the characters more real and it also helps build the suspense.

There are plenty of surprises and characters who are not who or what you think they are. The Key to Starveldt has disappointing betrayals and unflinchingly loyal characters prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

I enjoyed the unique world of this story. Foz Meadows makes these unfamiliar places seem believable and enables you to picture yourself there side by side with Solace as she battles terrible foes on her quest.

Although there are a number of characters central to the story, each has a unique voice that sets them apart. The third person omniscient point of view allows the reader to get inside each character’s head and experience their thoughts and emotions.

Each character has rare and unique qualities that make them an asset to the group and help them combat ongoing danger.

The Key to Starveldt is a compelling novel for young adult readers with strong themes of friendship, loyalty and belonging. It is published by Ford Street Publishing and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Falling into Midnight.

 

 

STRESSHEAD – REVIEW

Dennie is a Stresshead, and she has a lot to stress about. Things are not going well with her long time boyfriend Jack and her Year 11 results are due out, and being part of a high achieving family, she feels a lot of pressure to get good marks.

On top of that, her pilates loving, veggie eating, health freak Mum is suffering from the same illness that killed her grandmother, but Mum’s keeping it to herself and seems to be in denial about the whole thing.

And her best friend Kat has always been there for her, but now Kat appears to be having problems of her own.

When Dennie is suspected of cheating on one of her Year 11 exams she’s not sure what to do. Who can she go to for advice when everyone is deeply immersed in their own issues?

I’m TOAST. I’m burnt toast. I’m the charcoal you scrape off the toast with your knife. OMG. Year Eleven results are out TODAY, my boyfriend is MIA and my mum is acting TOTALLY WEIRD. I’d turn to my BF, Kat, but her life has gone from hero to ZERO. I don’t know who to talk to and everyone’s got their own problems. Would life be better if I wasn’t such a STRESSHEAD?

STRESSHEAD is written by Allayne Webster and published by Scholastic. It’s a very realistic account of the turmoil of a teen who finds her life unravelling as things just don’t seem to be working out as planned. Dennie is forced to work through the turmoil and find a way to accept the things she can’t change and be proactive about the things she can.

She’s an empathetic character who clearly has a lot going on in her life, but faces up to her realities with honesty and maturity.  Things are changing for Dennie and she has to learn to adapt. She’s a strong character with her own ideas, but she cares a lot about people and that’s what makes her life so difficult. She also finds that she’s made her own assumptions about people like Mum’s best friend Clara, that are quite far from the truth.

STRESSHEAD is a compelling coming of age story about a teen facing up to some difficult decisions in just about every aspect of her life.

Allayne Webster is a South Australian writer and more about her work is available from her website.

 

The Friendship Matchmaker – Review

I remember Grade Five as being one of the hardest years of my school life. I’d just started at a new school and everyone already had firmly established friendship groups that didn’t seem to be able to make room for me. So The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah was a book that really resonated with me as I’m sure it will with many young readers.

Lara Zany is Potts Court Primary School’s official Friendship Matchmaker. She is certain her Friendship Rules work. She can take the Loneliest Loser (LL) and help make them a best friend.

Lara has built herself a reputation for helping build great friendships, and helping friends get over their differences. She appears to have it ‘together’, but Lara has some friendship scars of her own – and these are what motivate her to help other people.

Although Lara’s methods aren’t always foolproof, her heart is in the right place – and although she does some things that make the reader cringe, she’s a character that endears herself to us very early on.

Lara tackles friendship problems that most readers would have come across in the playground at some time.

She’s writing a manual to help the friendless and shows empathy for fellow students, and understanding of the complexities of friendship.

She says, “If you’re reading this Manual it’s probably because you’re sick and tired of feeling lonely. Or maybe you have a friend but you’re not sure where you stand with them. Or maybe you’re the third wheel in a trio. Or can’t work out how to strike up a conversation with someone in the canteen line. Maybe you’re the one who gets picked last at sports.”

From the first page, Randa Abdel-Fattah has found common ground with her young readers.

Lara has a ‘heart of gold’ like she mentions a number of times in the book, but she runs into trouble when Emily Wong shows up. Emily breaks all the rules and to make matters worse, she has challenged Lara to a ‘Friendship Matchmaker’ contest that’s going to put her rules to the test.

Lara discovers that she has a lot in common with the socially awkward Tanya who she has to find a best buddy for if she’s going to win the challenge with Emily.

Lara has to decide whether to break one of her own rules and become best friends with Tanya. Not only that, she must decide whether she can move on from a bad personal friendship experience and whether she’s ready to take the emotional risk that comes with having a best friend.

The Friendship Matchmaker sensitively handles an important topic in young reader’s lives. Randa Abdel-Fattah uses humour to build the tension and bring the characters closer to the reader.

The Friendship Matchmaker is an entertaining read which tackles important subject matter. It is published by Scholastic.

 

RECON TEAM ANGEL, ASSAULT – BRIAN FALKNER’S NEW BLOCKBUSTER

Recon Team Angel, Assault is the first in a trilogy by the master of action and suspense, Brian Falkner.

The year is 2030 and the world is at War with an Alien Race, the Bzadiens. The battle ground is earth.

Recon Team Angel, Assault (Book 1 in the trilogy) is a science/fiction paranormal for readers aged 14+. It stars an impressive list of 16 year-old characters trying to infiltrate the enemy camp inside the belly of Uluru, and save the human race.

There’s Lt Chisnall, his second-in-charge, Brogan Hunter, Price and Monster. They all have their special skills and talents. The problem for Chisnall is that one of his team is a traitor intent on sabotaging the mission.

In order to outwit the enemy, Chisnall and his team have undergone extensive training and a physical transformation to disguise them as Bzadiens. They’ve even learned the Bzadien language and customs.

But it just takes the smallest slip in detail to blow their cover, incur the suspicion of the enemy and bring on life threatening consequences.

Recon Team Angel has to blast and shoot its way into Uluru and once they’re inside, they make a shocking discovery.

The Bzadiens have been hiding a terrible secret, and their devious plan to destroy the human race has been going on a lot longer than people realise. It’s up to Recon Team Angel to put a stop to The Bzadien’s plans and save the human race.

Uluru makes a great backdrop for this thriller and the author is masterful in the way he weaves the setting into the plot.

Recon Team Angel is full of quirky characters and non stop action covering a five day mission that leaves you breathless.

Brian Falkner has paid a lot of attention to detail with everything from weaponry to clothing, food, sleep and technology. He has built a fascinating but believable world for the reader.

Recon Team Angel is a group of the most disciplined, highly trained, tech savvy, strategic teens I’ve ever come across – and that’s what makes these characters so impressive. They also have great human quirks that make them individual.

Can’t wait to read the next adventure of Recon Team Angel.

 

 

 

 

 

PAN’S WHISPER REVIEW – A BOOK BLOG TOUR

Today, Kids’ Book Capers is one of the stops on author Sue Lawson’s blog tour to celebrate the release of her new YA novel, Pan’s Whisper.

Pan’s Whisper is a deeply moving book about a damaged girl trying to move on from her past and build a new life with strangers who seem to want to get close to her no matter how much she fights against it.

Pan Harper is brash, loud and damaged. Ordered into foster care, Pan is full of anger at her mother and older sister and is certain that she knows the reality of her past – until she meets Hunter, the boy who understands her story better than anyone else, and who just may be the key to unlocking the truth of Pan’s memories.

But are some memories best left forgotten? And is Hunter worth Pan breaking her most important rule? Never. Trust. Anyone.

Pan is a sensitively drawn character who has faults and does things that make the reader cringe, but her honesty and vulnerability make us forgive her in the same way as the characters in the story do.

Pan’s Whisper is told in first person from Pan’s point of view and third person from her sister, Morgan’s and this helps to clearly differentiate the two characters. It also foreshadows for the reader that for some reason, Morgan can no longer become completely involved in Pan’s world.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it’s such an authentic representation of the vulnerability of small children and the fact that what they remember or think they remember can be different from a reality they can’t remember or don’t want to face.

Pan’s first instinct is always to flee from reality, but through the love and support of her newfound family and friends she learns to confront the things she fears most and find a way to acceptance within herself.

This poignant book is beautifully written with the scene clearly set and the characters full of qualities and foibles that endear them to the reader.

There are strong themes and issues handled with such sensitivity that the reader is aware of them throughout but they have not been allowed to take over the story of Pan’s Whisper.

Things will never be the same again for Pan but there is hope at the end of the book as the reader sees her turning her life around.

Tissue box warning for this one but it will leave you feeling uplifted and optimistic about Pan’s future.

Pan’s Whisper is published by Black Dog (an imprint of Walker Books) for Young Adult readers.

Follow the Pan’s Whisper blog tour at these great blogs:

Blog tour stops:

Monday 12 December Claire Saxby Let’s Have Words
Tuesday 13 December Emma McCleary Booksellers New Zealand
Wednesday 14 December Dee White Dee Scribe Writing
Thursday 15 December Shirley Marr Life on Marrs
Friday 16 December Steph Bowe Hey Teenager
Monday 19 December Michael Earp Little Elf Man’s Random Thoughts
Tuesday 20 December Sue Whiting All in the Telling
Wednesday 21 December Anna Dolin Cherry Banana Split

 

 

 

 

 

MORE GREAT PICTURE BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

Today I wanted to talk about three different picture books, all unique and appealing in their own way. All great Christmas presents for the young book lovers in your life.

PRUDENCE WANTS A PET

What kid doesn’t want a pet of their very own?

Prudence is so desperate for a pet that she befriends a branch, a twig and an array of unlikely objects. But after a while, her ‘pets’ either break or lose their appeal because they don’t respond to her love. You’ll have to read Prudence Wants A Pet to find out whether Prudence gets her perfect pet.

Cathleen Daly really gets into the point of view of a small child with her simple but poignant text. Stephen Michael King’s hilarious illustrations make the journey twice as meaningful for a young reader.

This book is a joyful one and the illustrations are so expressive. When I read it, I was inside Prudence’s head and heart, feeling her desperate longing for a pet. This book will be loved by both young readers and their parents.

Lemony Snicket said about Prudence Wants A Pet,

I admire this book so much I have adopted it as my pet. I drag it around with me wherever I go, never letting it out of my sight.

Prudence Wants A Pet is published by Scholastic.

MR DARCY

Mr Darcy appealed to me because it’s ‘ a new twist on Jane Austen for five year olds.’

It’s a story about Mr Darcy, who is a reserved and gentle duck who feels he is a bit too important to socialise with the other ducks. This makes him very lonely. In this book he discovers the importance of friendship.

I enjoyed the subtleties in Mr Darcy and of course, the gorgeous illustrations by Peter Carnavas.

Mr Darcy is written by Alex Field, who many people will know as Sophia Whitfield, publisher and co-owner of New Frontier Publishing. It’s a colourful, humorous picture book that provides a unique way to introduce young readers to the world of Jane Austen.

Mr Darcy is published by New Frontier Publishing

ABOUT FACE

About Face by Robert Moore is a story that explores and introduces young readers to the features of a face and the roles each one plays. Ears, eyes, nose and mouth become characters in the story.

I can imagine young readers being fascinated with this one, and parents will find themselves smiling at the funny twist at the end.

About Face has striking 3D illustrations by MonkeyStack that seem to leap out of the page at you. The raspberry pies in the story made my mouth water.

About Face is published by IP Kidz.

 

 

CHRISTMAS CHEER

Christmas is always a great time for giving books and there are always plenty of cute new Christmas picture books that come out this time of year. Here are a few for your Christmas list.

LILY’S WISH

Lily, is separated from her grandmother by distance and this Christmas she only has one wish. But will Santa grant it for her.

This book is a little different from your usual Christmas story because it’s about a Christmas gift that the little girl Lily doesn’t want for herself – it’s something very special that she wants to make someone else happy. This story is simply but poingnantly written by Barbara Pyett and sensitively illustrated by Serena Geddes. It’s a gentle, heartwarming book that will leave you smiling.

Lily’s Wish is published by New Frontier

WHERE’S SANTA?

Where’s Santa, by Louis Shea and published by Scholastic is a fun ‘spot the Santa’ book to keep kids amused for hours. Elvy the Elf has taken Santa’s sleigh and become lost. Readers have to help Elvy find his way back to the North Pole.

SANTA’S AUSSIE MIX-UP

Santas Aussie Mix-Up is a colourful Christmas story by Colin Buchanan and Simon Swingler. It comes with its own CD so you can sing along to the tune of Advance Australia Fair.

Santa is looking for an Australian animal to help him out but none of them seem suitable until Kangaroo and Emu turn up. They are both keen to do the job and Santa can’t choose between them. I loved the humour in both the text and illustrations in this book. It’s something the whole family can sing along to and the hilarious CD is recorded by popular children’s performer, Colin Buchanan.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH

Also coming with its own Christmas CD and published by scholastic is All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth. This is another cute, funny book with lots of colour and appeal. And young readers will relate to the problem of not being able to whistle and talk properly because they have lost their two front teeth.

MARJORIE GARDNER – ILLUSTRATOR OF GRANDPA’S PLACE

Today, I’m pleased to welcome illustrator, Marjorie Gardner to Kids’ Book Capers. Marjorie is the illustrator of many popular children’s books. Her most recent release is Grandpa’s Place, written by James Stead and published by Windy Hollow Books.

Marjorie, have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, ever since a small child. I’ve always loved bright colours and vivid patterns, same as now!

How did you become an illustrator?

I studied at RMIT for three years, completing an Associateship Diploma of Graphic Design.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Everything around me, exhibitions I go to, travel to other countries, movies, television, books…but probably most realistically the manuscript in front of me!

GRANDPA’S PLACE

What inspired you most about illustrating Grandpa’s Place?

The words. I immediately conjured up what the characters looked like, and the detail of their daily lives.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Probably the grandfather. I saw him as vulnerable, but independent and interested in life, with set routines and habits, who loved his grandson and valued spending time with him.

How did you decide what the main character would look like?

I just played around with various “looks” until he appeared on the page.

Can you tell us about the illustrating process for this book?

I spent ages doing rough drawings on tracing paper; a lot of them were quite detailed. This was a follow up to “Grandma’s Place” so I was very aware of making it look similar, but different. “Grandpa’s Place” had a lot more other characters in it, and more variety in the outdoor settings.

Once I completed the roughs I showed them to my editor, Cristina Pase of Windy Hollow Books, who onsent them to the author, James Stead for his feedback.

There were a few minor tweaks to be made and then I was given the nod to do the finished art.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

The colouring in.

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Getting the roughs right. Sometimes it takes forever; sometimes it just works like magic. With “Grandpa’s Place” I had to resist the urge to make his home look too feminine and ordered.

Did you get to collaborate with the author or did you work fairly independently?

The author, James Stead, only saw the roughs when I had finished them. I knew he’d liked what I had done on “Grandma’s Place” so was hopeful he’d like the sequel too.

Can you tell us about the medium you used to illustrate this book?

Once I’ve traced (using a lightbox) the roughs onto Schoellershammer paper with a black Rotring pen, I colour in all the drawings in felt tipped pens. Then I colour them all again with colour pencils. This gives the illustrations a richness and depth, and always seems to reproduce well. I occasionally add very fine details with paint. Final stage is to go over the black lines with a 000 brush and black ink. Done!

No, I don’t work digitally.

How long did it take to illustrate?

Three months

How many books have you illustrated?

About 250. I’ve done many, many educational readers over the years, which cranks up the numbers!

What number is this one?

Not sure, but I’m on the lookout for the next one!

Any tips for people who would like to become children’s book illustrators?

Don’t give up your day job until you have enough clients to sustain you. When I first started I had a part-time job for a number of years till I had enough clients to keep me going.

Look at other peoples’ work, attend galleries and conferences, network as much as you can. Don’t work for nothing; put a high value on yourself.  Always keep to your deadlines. Try to always negotiate royalties, not a flat fee.

Endeavour to meet editors face to face; don’t just rely on email and couriers. And don’t just rely on one publisher/client; if they go under or your favourite editor leaves, you could be in trouble!

Thanks for visiting Kids’ Book Capers, Marjorie and generously sharing your tips. More about Marjorie and her work can be found on her website.

 

A CHRISTMAS COLLECTION FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

The National Library of Australia has published a beautiful series of books for young readers about some of my favourite Australian animals.

Written by Susan Hall and beautifully illustrated by Ben Guy, these books tell the stories of  Kyla Koala, Kaz Kangaroo, Wil Wombat and Peek Platypus.

These Animal Tales are set at the time when Europeans first came to Australia…The Europeans had never seen anything like them and were not quite sure what they were. To make sense of them they compared them with animals they knew – badgers, ducks, rabbits and bears.

Each book has its own story with text and illustrations to enthrall young readers. At the back are fascinating facts about each featured animal.

When Europeans first saw a platypus, they did not believe it was a real animal. They thought that someone was playing a trick by sticking a duck’s bill onto a mole’s body.

As well as being exciting adventures, the stories share information about the historical significance of the animal they feature.

Each book also features historical illustrations of the animals, many of which are on display at the National Library of Australia.

These Australian Animal Tales are a quality hardback production but they’re also a convenient size to fit in a handbag and take on holidays or for entertainment on a long car trip. (or slip into a Christmas stocking).

There’s also a fun companion picture book, 10 Bush Babies, written by Susan Hill and illustrated by Naomi Zouwer.

This counting book for young readers also introduces them to some well known and not so well known Australian animals. There are fun ‘flip out pages’ and some interesting animal facts for young readers to enjoy.

Our Australian animals are so unique. It’s wonderful to see them featured in books and series like The National Library’s 10 Bush Babies and their Animal Tales series.

I can see these books finding their way into many Christmas stockings.