As the author of A Duel of Words about the battle in the Bulletin newsaper between Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson, I’ve always had a fascination for these writers, and believe they shaped an important part of our history.

So I was very excited to see some of their works brought to life again for young readers in Oakie’s Outback Adventures, a new series by Troy Dann.

Troy Dann was the original outback hero. He brought the outback into a staggering 100 million homes when his top rating lifestyle series, Outback Adventures With Troy Dann was at its peak.

Troy’s enthusiasm and passion for Australian culture, literature and songs comes through in his new collection, Oakie’s Outback Adventures.

Oakie’s Outback Adventures is a 5 book collection of beautifully crafted  hardcover books with striking 3D illustrations. Each book is an adaptation of works by a well loved Australian writer.

These books reflect Troy’s love for his country and his determination to “preserve our heritage from the onslaught of commercialised American film culture.

The books for children aged 4-10 years include:

The Man From Snowy River

Waltzing Matilda

The Loaded Dog

Mulga Bill’s Bicycle

A Bush Christening

Troy has found a unique way to bring these much loved classics into the Australian home. The set of five would make a great Christmas gift.

They also make a colourful and important edition to any school library.

Oakie’s Outback Adventures are created by Troy Dann with images by AUS Animations.

They are published by New Holland Publishers and have their own website.






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

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

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

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

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

Captain Blunderbolt is another fun read in the Mates series.

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile

A Wiltija

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

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

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

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

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

This wonderful book is edited by Andy Griffiths who says,

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

DC Greens unique humour will appeal to young readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


STAY WITH ME – by Paul Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay with me is published by The Text Publishing Company.




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

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

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

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

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

Book 1

Quinn’s Riddles

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

Book 2

Willow’s Challenge

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

Book 3

Krystal’s Choice

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

Book 4

Ellabeth’s Test

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

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

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

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



Aleesah Darlison is the author of the new Unicorn Riders series from Walker Books for readers aged 8+.

Books 1-4 have just been released and Aleesah is currently working on books 5 & 6 in the series. Today she visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk to us about her magical unicorn journey.

What inspired you to write this series?

I was always fascinated by the beauty, majesty and magic of unicorns as a child. I don’t think I’m the only one who has wished they were real! I used to collect unicorn figurines, stickers, paintings, pens – anything to do with unicorns, I kept. Often when I’m writing for children, I look back to my own childhood for inspiration. It’s the old adage: Write about what you know. Write about what you love. I’ve always loved unicorns so it seemed natural for me to write stories about them.

What’s it about?

Unicorn Riders is set within the make-believe kingdom of Avamay where anything can happen. Avamay is a magical yet dangerous place where the Riders and their unicorns serve as peacekeepers, rescuers and protectors. With the help of their magical unicorns, Riders face challenges and enemies that threaten to undermine the Queen and destroy peace within the realm. There are four Unicorn Riders: Willow (Head Rider), Quinn, Krystal and Ellabeth and four unicorns: Obecky, Ula, Estrella and Fayza. Each unicorn has their own unique magical ability. You can find out more about the characters in the Unicorn Riders series here:

What age groups is it for?

The series is for girls aged 8 years and over.

Why will kids like it?

It’s full of action, adventure, laughs and strong characters. Oh, and unicorns too!

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

There are four main characters: Willow, Quinn, Krystal and Ellabeth and I love them all. There are tiny pieces of me, and tiny pieces of people in my life, in each of the characters. Willow is the capable and fair leader, everyone loves and respects her, but sometimes she faces challenges she fears she can’t overcome. Quinn is small for her age and has had a tough upbringing, but she’s clever and gentle and generous despite it all. Ellabeth is feisty and courageous, but sometimes she rushes in or says things she shouldn’t. Krystal is beautiful and intelligent, but can occasionally be a self-absorbed. The girls are all courageous but are still fallible. They’re just like real people.

Is there something that sets this series apart from others?

The Unicorn Riders books aren’t your typical cute and fluffy or benign unicorn and fairies stories – they’re about strong, independent girls protecting their kingdom and their people from evil threats. The characters are strong role models and I think they have a lot to offer modern readers.

What did you enjoy most about writing this series?

The whole process has been a blast. In terms of writing the stories, the elements that most excite me are the planning of the action sequences, throwing challenges in the way for my characters to overcome, cooking up cliffhangers, creating new fantasy creatures (which are then brought to life by Jill Brailsford’s illustrations) and developing the relationships between the Unicorn Riders themselves.

What was the hardest thing about writing these books?

Meeting all the deadlines! To launch four books at once often Mary Verney, the editor for the series, and I were working on several books at once, writing or checking text and illustrations, of which there are quite a few in each book. There’s a lot to keep track of – and make sure it’s all done in time. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Friday, The Unicorn Riders series is reviewed here at Kids’ Book Capers.



Mr Sergeant and the Dodgeballs of Doom is a hilarious new book by Matt Porter set at Outback Creek Primary School.

It features Steele Buckle, class leader of Grade 6 B, in charge of a mission – to defeat the Dads in the annual Dodgeball Challenge.

The kids have never won and Steele knows that victory is not going to come easily. The Dads are prepared to fight to the death – even cheat to win.

To make matters worse, all the kids are not on Steele’s side. Radley and Weasel have always hated Steele and it seems as if they don’t care if the dads win or the kids get wiped out in the process.

And Steele doesn’t think the crazy new relief teacher, Mr Sergeant is going to be any help either. Mr Sergeant is ex-military and thinks the class needs to be run like a battalion. He also has weird ideas like “Bricks deserve respect.” Mr Sergeant even gives the bricks names like Barry and tells Radley and Weasel, “You’ll never be half the brick Barry is.”

But Steele soon realises the the Crazy Relief Teacher’s skills might be just what they need to win this war and that smart thinking could win the day.

Mr Sergeant and the Dodgeballs of Doom is full of funny and likeable characters and there’s plenty of action to keep readers entertained.

Author, Matt Porter is a primary school teacher and his grasp of the classroom and the players in it is very evident in the Dodgeballs of Doom. Clearly he knows just how schoolyard politics works and the quirky Mr Sergeant and loyal Steele will endear themselves to readers.

Mr Sergeant and the Dodgeballs of Doom is published by Celapene Press for readers aged 8+.

I can see this being a book that kids who love sport but not necessarily reading, would be happy to take home.



All I Ever Wanted is the debut novel of Vikki Wakefield.

Mim knows what she wants, and where she wants to go – anywhere but home, stuck in the suburbs with her mother who won’t get off the couch, and two brothers in prison. She’s set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them.

All I Ever Wanted really resonated with the teen in me. As teens we have big dreams of the future beyond our existing lives, leaping into the adult world where we can escape the restrictions of home and anything seems possible.

Vikki Wakefield captures this teen feeling so authentically in her main character, Mim who others see as brave and fearless, but who has her own insecurities and dreams.

Mim lives in a household where drugs are bought and sold, where classmates are intimidated by her family’s reputation. She fights against her upbringing and everything her family seems to represent. Her new friend Kate comes from a completely opposite background but she doesn’t fit in either.

Kate describes it as being, “Like being stuck where everyone else fits, but you don’t.”

Mim makes life work by creating rules for herself that set her apart from the family she is being raised in.


I will not turn out like my mother.

But Mim discovers that her rules might not be practical in the real world and that her family are not as black and white as they seem.

Mim has more power and control over her life than she realises. As Kate says, “You’re brave. You’re honest. You affect people….You’ve changed me already.”

I like the way Mim makes new friends but is able to expand her circle to include her old ones as well.

All I Ever Wanted is a powerful story told with reality and humour. Vikki Wakefield combines page turning tension with beautiful language and setting descriptions so vivid that the reader feels they are sitting in Mim’s bedroom, sharing her life.

The only corner that’s really mine has my bed, a three-legged bedside table and a dressing table with a mirrorless frame. I still have the Eiffel Tower quilt cover from my eleventh birthday and an original lava lamp that was Mum’s when she was a teenager. A World globe with a skewer stuck through it hangs above my bed by a strand of fishing line. The opposite corner is empty, but there’s a smoke blackened stain that flares up to the ceiling like a ghost, from when Tahnee and I set a toaster on fire after a night out. Only my bookcase stands new and tall, everything at right angles, each book in its place.

All I Ever Wanted is a gripping thriller with strands of first love and friendship deftly woven through it.

It brings change,  revelation and hope for main character, ‘almost seventeen-year-old’ Mim, and also for the reader.

All I Ever Wanted is published by Text Publishing




Seeing as it’s bunny week at Kids’ Book Capers, Tania and I have invited some special guests to hop over and talk about their favourite books. Yesterday the white bunnies talked about their favourites, today it’s the  brown bunnies’ turn.

So please put your paws together today to welcome Max McCartney and Cosi White.


Knuffle Bunny – written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

Hello. I’m a very fluffy, brown lop-eared rabbit. After a rather confronting run in with ‘the snip’, I must admit I’m not the powerhouse I used to be. Although I may not be ‘all there’ – and now prefer reading a good book to gadding about – I can still pack a punch when need be.

Another thing that packs a punch with me is Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny series. I laughed so hard when I read book one – A Cautionary Tale – I blew a grass seed out my nose. True story.

Knuffle Bunny belongs to Trixie. He’s a soft, floppy rabbit who suffers the indignity of being left in the wash cycle at the local laundromat. Horrified to learn Knuffle Bunny is missing, Trixie goes into meltdown until her bunny can be found.

This book is hugely indicative of the love little kids feel for rabbits. Doesn’t matter that they’re real or a little unreal – there’s just something about a bunny that pulls the heartstrings. I know I can sit in front of a mirror for hours, admiring my own fluffball of cute.

Mo has since written more books in the series – book two A Case of Mistaken Identity and book three – An Unexpected Diversion. Bring on book four.

Rabbit’s Year – written by Melissa Keil, illustrated by Jedda Robaard.

My owners, Ella and Riley, spent four years of their childhood in China, and although I’ve never been there, I really love this book about a really cool Chinese bunny who makes for an excellent friend. It’s especially poignant during this Year of the Rabbit.

I know I already have a very close friend in Mango (sometimes too close), but I must say I would like to make a friend of Rabbit. He’s a shy bunny – a bit like me, especially since ‘the snip’ – but he’s also a courageous soul.

Rabbit likes to play music but is too shy to join the other animals of the Chinese Zodiac – until one day, he begins playing his music louder and louder and louder, until the other animals can’t help but acknowledge him.

This book is not only really amazing to look at, I just love how it goes on to explain the varying personality traits of all the other Zodiac animals… and the best thing of all is that rabbits, as always, come out best.

Favouritism? Me???

Cosi Rabbit


The House of 12 Bunnies – written by Caroline Stills and Sarcia Stills-Blott.

My favourite book is The House of 12 Bunnies. It’s written by Caroline Stills & Sarcia Stills-Blott and I love the pictures drawn by Judith Rossell.

I love living with Pickachew Rabbit in our burrow, but I sometimes think I’d like to live in The House of 12 Bunnies because it looks like so much fun. There are bunnies in the bath, at the piano, sitting in chairs and doing all kinds of fun bunny things while they are looking for something they have lost.

That happens to me sometimes, the juiciest carrot goes missing…then I see it in my friend, Pickachew’s mouth.

My favourite part is at the end when the 12 snuggly bunnies are warm and cozy in bed together.

Princess and Fairy by Anna Pignatoro

I also really like the Princess and Fairy books because they are so full of pretty things and they are Look and Find books so it’s lots of fun to turn the pages and ‘pawse’ to look at the great pictures.

Princess and Fairy are two rabbits who always look pretty and do fun things like play dressups and imagine stories and read them ‘under the fair starlight.’

After I’ve had my bunny nap I like to open the pages and look for all the small things in the pictures. I’m very good at spotting them.

I like the way Princess and Fairy dress up in costumes, have fun with the friends and do all sorts of things that small rabbits like to do.

Tania and I have had such fun having Pickachew, Mango, Max and Cosi to visit. We hope you’ve enjoyed it too.



It’s the Year of the Rabbit so Tania and I thought we’d let the rabbits have their say this week on Kids’ Book Capers.

We’ve brought our bunnies, Cosi and Pickachew (who live at the White household) and Mango and Max (who are fluffy McCartneys) along this week to talk about their favourite books.

Not surprisingly, every book they chose features a rabbit or close relative.

So please put your paws together today to welcome Pickachew and Mango rabbit talking about what they love to read. Today it’s the White Bunnies turn and tomorrow the Brown Bunnies will be here to talk about their favourites.

Pickachew Bunny


Squish Rabbit – written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby.

Pickachew is a white rabbit just like Squish in Katherine Battersby’s new book, Squish Rabbit.  This could explain why he likes Squish so much, but Pickachew says he has other reasons.

Squish is just like me. I was a lonely rabbit with no friends until Cosi rabbit hopped into my house. Every rabbit needs a friend.

My friend, Cosi is like Squish’s friend, Squirrel; cute, kind and loves to play. Squish Rabbit is one of my favourite books because I know what it’s like to be a little white rabbit in a big world.”

The Fidgety Itch – written by Lucy Davey and illustrated by Katz Crowley.

“Twas only a niggle…

the teensiest titch

but that fidgety feeling grew to an ITCH.”

I love this book, not just because it features my cousin, Fuzzy Hare, but because I can so relate to that feeling of having an itch that just won’t go away, that really needs to be scratched.

I’m lucky I have my friend Cosi Rabbit to do it for me.

I really like all the friends Fuzzy O’ Hare has in this book too. Like Timpkin the mouse, “gleefully gobbling his cheese beneath the fru-fru trees”. And Possum Pie and Feather McDoo.

The pictures are great and I like the way everyone helps each other in this book.


The Rabbit Problem – written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.

I’m a soft, white Netherland dwarf – but don’t let that fool you – I’m also a feisty bunny with big ideas …. just like Emily Gravett, who is one of my fave authors because she really knows her bunnies.

In The Rabbit Problem, we meet a pair of rabbits who come together to… er… multiply. It’s not done in an obvious way or anything, so it’s totally suitable for kids.

When, seemingly overnight, the multiplication gets kind of out of hand, the pair realise overpopulation is not their only problem. There’s also teeming rain, a carrot shortage, a plague of crows, a too-hot summer and carotene-fuelled weight issues.

Like any intelligent species, however, they soon work out just what to do. Complete with chew holes and pop-ups, this book makes me feel like ‘home’.

Wolves – written and illustrated by Emily Gravett.

I know, I know – it’s another Gravett book, but I already told you I was a serious fan.

Now, many would say this book is anti-rabbit … but I disagree. It’s important that young rabbits are made aware of the dangers out there in this big bad world, and Wolves certainly tells it like it is – no carrots barred.

The star of the book – a RABBIT – goes to the library to burrow [sic] a book on wolves. As he reads through it, he becomes more and more wide-eyed and nervous – clearly, too much information may not be a good thing … especially when the rabbit discovers what wolves like to serve up for dinner.

I know for a fact that no rabbits were harmed in the making of Wolves – and I do feel that although this book is somewhat confronting, there’s nothing wrong with injecting a little fear into the current crop of young upstart rabbits who think they’re utterly invincible.

Wolves are everywhere. This is an important book.

Pickachew and Mango had so much fun playing together today and talking about their favourite books. Tomorrow, Cosi will meet Max rabbit and they’ll be talking about the Brown Bunnies’ Best Books. Hop on over and meet them.






As part of Bunny Week at Kids’ Book Capers we are thrilled to welcome Katherine Battersby, creator of Squish Rabbit, a picture book that’s bound to delight all ages.

Clearly, Squish is a character who is very close to his creator’s heart.

Squish is such a great character. He could be any young animal or even a child. Why did you decide that Squish had to be a rabbit?

Thanks Dee! I didn’t really choose his form so much as Squish demanded to be just what he is. I often find myself chasing my characters around my mind, trying to capture them on paper, as opposed to feeling like I really create them myself. Squish has taken on a few different forms over the years but he has always been a rabbit. He’s always been kind of soft looking and squishy, and always very small.

He’s like that little whimsical part of me that never really grew up and certainly never grew any taller. I always did feel kind of short as a child!

What have you loved most about creating and getting to know Squish?

Squish was the first time my illustration style really came together as my own. It was such a thrill when he appeared on the page, and I could see from people’s reactions that he was something a little bit special. Once I found it, his story and illustrations came at a rush. For me, Squish is such a joyous little guy to spend time with. He’s tiny and cautious and a little self-doubting, but he’s also clever and loyal and wonderfully quirky. He’s certainly a character I can relate to, and I think my affection for him probably comes across in his story.

How have you drawn on your own experiences to create Squish?

As a young writer I was frequently told to ‘write what you know’. I’ve learnt over time that this isn’t meant to be taken literally – it actually means ‘write to your emotional truths’. If you write about the feelings you know and have sat inside of, then your characters and stories will be that much more alive.

Looking back on my childhood, Squish Rabbit certainly captures my emotional truths. I recall vividly what it was like to feel small in a big world. I remember the first time I lost my mum in the supermarket – the panic was so big it filled up my small body, so that I honestly believed I would never see her again. I remember having important things to say in a world where big people get listened to first. I recall having thoughts and questions and ideas bubbling up inside of me, and yet having no clue how to say any of it.

This is ultimately why I started writing and drawing – to express all those things I had trouble voicing. This is also where Squish comes from. He is that small part of me that was at times unseen and unheard. I suppose he is that secret part of anyone that has ever felt small or different and alone in it all.

How long did it take for Squish to hop from an idea in your head to the bookseller’s burrow?

This can be a tricky thing to pinpoint as ideas brew and broil together in one’s mind over many years. Squish Rabbit was actually one of the very first stories I wrote (when I first began pursuing writing seriously) back in 2006, although like with most first stories … it was really bad. Luckily I kept writing and drawing, and many years later rediscovered this little character filed away in my drawer (and my mind).

My style had developed a lot over that time so when I started drawing Squish again he looked quite different. I decided his old story was well and truly deceased, and spent some time with him to figure out his true story. It emerged in early 2009, and mid-year it got the attention of my wonderful agent who sold it to Viking (Penguin US) on my September birthday that year. I developed it with my publisher over the next year, then it sold to my amazing Australian publisher, UQP, in early 2011. It’s now been in bookstores nearly 2 months, coming out over here August 29th.

Do you have any more adventures planned for Squish?

He’s so alive to me, I can’t help but daydream what other adventures Squish gets up to. I had a secret little hope I might get the chance to tell another Squishy tale, so when my publisher asked for book two I was thrilled. His second book should be in coming out August 2012…

If so, can you give us a sneak peek at what he might be up to next? Does Squirrel join him on his next adventure?

Yes, squirrel plays more of a starring role alongside Squish this time (and she even gets a name!). The story is about another problem Squish encounters due to being small – namely that there are many big things to fear. His greatest fear is the dark, which is so big it’s everywhere. He’s pretty good at hiding from his fears, until Squirrel goes missing late one afternoon … I only hope Squish can find the courage to go out into the dark and find her.

Thanks for chatting with me, Katherine. I’m so pleased to hear there will be another Squish adventure. I can’t wait to hop into it.

A ‘Squish’ Review

Squish Rabbit is a little rabbit with a BIG problem…he doesn’t have a friend.

Simply told, this book is so insightful. It delves right into the heart and mind of a small child, making up a pretend friend because he doesn’t have a real one.

Then he meets a squirrel who invites him to play, but can Squish save his new friend from danger?

Squish has a very large heart but nobody can see it, because they don’t look at him, seem to notice he’s there. As small children, how often do we feel unnoticed and afraid in the big wide world?

Although Squish is a rabbit, his feelings, emotions and fears are very genuinely those of a small child.

Squish thought no one was watching so he threw a tantrum.

This response is so childlike yet even when he is scowling and throwing himself on the ground, just like a small child, Squish manages to look cute.

The authenticity of Squish’s dilemma and the way he handles it makes the story all the more poignant.

Katherine Battersby has clearly captured her characters feelings of being alone and small in a big world. Even as adults, we still experience these feelings and this is probably one of the reasons this book will appeal to adults as well.

Katherine has an obsession with textures and she has brought this to the story, using all sorts of materials to provide the layered illustrations in the book. Her use of this method is combined with clean lines and bright colours to provide an original and striking look for Squish Rabbit.

The words and pictures work in perfect harmony in this book. So much is left unsaid in the text and told in the pictures.

The illustrations are deceptively simple, yet they convey so much. The text is sparse with not a word out of place, not a word wasted.

Squish Rabbit is beautifully produced to evoke maximum response and even has a squishy cover.

I can see this one being handed down through the generations.

Squish Rabbit is written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby and published in Australia by UQP. I look forward to Squish Rabbit’s next adventure.



VIOLET MACKEREL  thinks she would QUITE LIKE to own the blue china bird at the Saturday markets.

This is not just a SILLY WISH.

It is instead the start of a VERY IMPORTANT idea.

But what she needs is a PLOT.


I wasn’t surprised to see Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot win an honour book at this year’s CBCA awards.

Written by Anna Branford and illustrated by Sarah Davis, this book is one that I can see kids keeping on their bookshelves and handing down to future generations. (Yes I have faith that print books will be around for many years to come).

Violet Mackerel, the central character has a small goal, to own a small china blue bird she has seen at the market where her mother has a knitting stall on a Saturday morning.

But this blue bird is special and it’s going to take a brilliant plot to make it hers.

Violet believes that collecting small things can lead to something big, even brilliant. In fact she has a Theory of finding small things and hopes that this will help her get her blue china bird.

Anna Branford really gets inside the head of a small child in this endearing story. I remember being Violet’s age and wanting a horse. There was one I particularly liked and I used to plan and dream about how I could get it to follow me home.

I think that every small child had goals and dreams that even their parents don’t know about and this is depicted so authentically in Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot.

Violet is very endearing in that she is fiesty, determined, but honest in her goals and how she goes about achieving them. And just as small children do, she becomes totally distracted by another project and forgets about her original goal.

In the end it’s through her kind nature and generosity of spirit that Violet gets what she wants in the story.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is a sensitively told tale that kids will enjoy reading or having read to them.

Sarah Davis’s beautiful black and white illustrations bring Violet’s story to life, showing her character and the emotions and turmoil she is going through. They are lively and sensitive illustrations with a touch of humour and bring the reality of Violet’s emotions closer to the reader.

There are even instructions at the end of the book showing the reader how to make their very own Box of Small Things.

Check out Violet’s website, to find out more about her adventures.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is published by Walker Books.



Today I’m pleased to welcome Anna Branford to Kids’ Book Capers. Anna is the author of the highly acclaimed, Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot. This beautiful book, written by Anna and illustrated by Sarah Davis was an Honour Book in this year’s CBCA awards.

How did you become a writer?

I suppose I’ve always been writing something or other ever since I first learned to write, but I started writing children’s stories right after I finished my Ph.D thesis. Maybe doing all that disciplined, analytical writing made me crave the opportunity to write something more creative and colourful. Also, as part of my Ph.D research I read lots and lots of children’s books, so my mind was brimming with stories and ideas.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

One of the most exciting parts is seeing the illustrations. There is something really magical about dreaming up characters and places in the privacy of your own imagination and then getting to see what they look in the imagination of another person – especially if that other person is someone like Sarah Davis, who is already a bit magical to begin with, I think.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

For me the hardest thing about being a writer is trying to be other things at the same time. As well as being a writer I am also a full-time lecturer at a university. So sometimes I’m right with Violet, figuring out one of her theories, and then the phone rings and I need to snap out of her world and into the world my students are in, of tricky questions and lost essays. At other times I’m in the middle of explaining a complex idea in a lecture and suddenly a good idea pops into my head for a story I’m working on. I love both of my jobs, but I don’t always love trying to do them at the same time.

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

For two very long weeks I was a truly dreadful waitress. Then for a little while I worked in an aged care facility, mainly delivering people’s lunches and making them cups of tea and cleaning, which I was a bit better at. Then for many years I worked in crèches and childcare centres and as a nanny, which I loved. And for the last few years, as well as my university job, I have been a maker of dolls and other things.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Well, it was very, very exciting to be nominated in the CBCA awards and even better to find out that Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot was an honour book. But I have also had two kind messages from people saying that the book was the first story their child read independently and that they had made it all the way through and enjoyed it. I vividly remember the satisfaction of the first book I read independently and I am very honoured that someone experienced something similar with Violet. I think that might be the achievement I’m most excited about so far.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have a few different projects I’m working on. One is a fairy book, which is a brand new genre for me, and another is a new installment in the Violet Mackerel series.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Yes –read, read, read absolutely everything in the genre you’re working in. I think its good to read a balance of your own childhood favourites but also brand new books, to keep you in touch both with what you love in a story but also what others are loving.

Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?

I didn’t notice while I was writing them, but I think in retrospect that all my main characters share quite an important characteristic. They’re all people who think very hard and very resourcefully about the problems they need to solve and are brave enough to put their plans into action. Those sorts of people (whether child or adult) are my own favourite sort, so I suppose it’s natural enough that they should find their way into my books!

How many books have you had published?

So far I’ve had four books published – Sophie’s Salon, Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot, Violet Mackerel’s Remarkable Recovery and Neville No-Phone. The next book in the Violet Mackerel series, Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat, will be out in October.

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

Perhaps just that I have a blog of my own at which, in addition to all sorts of random thoughts and ideas and updates, has a few detailed posts on how I came to have my stories published that I hope other new writers might find helpful.


What inspired you to write Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot?

I first had the idea of the Mackerel family when I was at an early morning market selling dolls I make. It’s quite a special market just beside the Yarra Ranges in Victoria called St Andrews, and it feels particularly magical there very early in the morning when it’s still dark and everyone is unpacking and setting up. Some families who work there have children with them who I got to meet and chat to a little bit. They were lovely and they gave me all the ideas I needed for the characters in the book.

What’s it about?

The book is about a girl called Violet whose family works at a morning market. She has spotted something there that she really wants. It’s a blue china bird, just the right size to fit in the palm of her hand. But it costs ten dollars and she doesn’t have any money, so she goes about devising a plot.

What age groups is it for?

I wrote it with seven-year-olds I knew in mind, but it could certainly be read aloud to smaller children and I’ve been lucky enough to have lovely emails from adults who enjoyed it too.

Why will kids like it?

I think children will like it because Violet is the sort of character who helps you to think differently about things, because she has an interesting sort of family who are fun to meet, because her plot takes all kinds of unexpected twists and turns and because Sarah’s illustrations are so utterly exquisite.

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

I don’t think there is anything I dislike about Violet! She is exactly my favourite sort of person – a deep thinker, a noticer of small things, someone who acts bravely even when she is nervous or disappointed and someone who has excellent ideas.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

In some ways I hope not. I would love it to slip in among the sorts of books I read as a child and carry children some of the way along the same journey I was lucky enough to travel. But I do think the Mackerels are quite a unique family and that Violet in particular has an unusual and special way of viewing the world. So I hope perhaps the book might offer something new in that respect.

What did you enjoy most about writing Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot?

I especially enjoyed sharing it with my Granny who lives in England and is nearly a hundred years old. Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is dedicated to her. Sending her new drafts as I wrote them, then copies of new illustrations as Sarah drew them, then a copy I bound together myself and finally the real thing – perhaps that was the best part of all.

What was the hardest thing about writing Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot?

I think it was just that I kept having to stop – to go to work, to feed the cat, to make the dinner, to answer the phone. There was nothing hard about the project itself. I loved every part of it.


Just a Girl

Jane Caro’s amazing Just a Girl captures the fear and confusion, Queen Elizabeth 1 must have felt growing up as a teen in an environment where nobody could be trusted and beheadings were commonplace.

Just a Girl is historical fiction that tells a true story with elegance and sensitivity. It’s a novel for young adults detailing Elizabeth’s life up to the time she became queen.

Even though there is so much death and sadness surrounding the young Elizabeth, Just a Girl is an optimistic read. Elizabeth doesn’t give up hope that things will get better and she learns to handle the complexities and treachery of the world around her. She faces the circumstances of her birth and her life with courage and understanding.

From the moment her father, Henry V111 executes her mother, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth is forced into competition with her sibling Mary and later, Edward for their father’s love. She is also in competition with them for the throne of England.

Even if you’re not a lover of history, you’ll be captivated by Elizabeth’s story. Without her intelligence and wisdom beyond her years, Elizabeth would not have survived the plots to get rid of her and the insecurities and treachery of her own siblings.

In the gilded corridors of the royal palace, enemies she couldn’t see – as well as those bound to her by blood – plotted to destroy her.

I loved the title of this book – its layers of meaning. Elizabeth has already lived a lifetime, even though she is ‘just a girl’. She also has to endure prejudice and opposition to her goal never to marry, simply because she is ‘just a girl’.

Author, Jane Caro has deftly crafted Elizabeth’s character. Elizabeth’s voice is authentic to the time in which she lived, and so believable that it draws the reader in, making you feel as if you really knew this young royal.

It was also fascinating to see other well known characters come to life on the pages of this book, and to be introduced in such detail to the era in which they lived.

Just a Girl is rich in language and setting, and full of historical detail that is both surprising and intriguing. Although the story is based on actual events that the reader may know the outcome of, there is still page turning tension to keep you hooked till the last page.

This book could be enjoyed by both teen and adult readers. Just a Girl is published by UQP




Phoenix is the debut YA novel of Victorian author, Alison Ashley.  Book one in a paranormal series, the fifth shadow, it’s a truly remarkable story that weaves back and forth between the present and war torn England.

Twins, Katie and Ally have left Australia to look after their aging grandfather in England. They’re not at all thrilled about the idea of leaving behind the life they have always known.

For Katie and Ally, it’s not just about their future, but it’s also about a journey back in time and righting past wrongs.

Katie and Ally both have strong psychic powers – the difference between them is that whilst Katie embraces hers, Ally is in denial. This is a source of conflict between the twins and nearly costs one of them her life.

Apart from the shadow from the past that lurks in the family, I was also intrigued by the father’s rejection of all things paranormal. I wondered why he was like that when psychic connections so obviously run in the family.  What happened to him to make him banish psychic books and discussions from their lives? I expect these questions will be answered in future books in the series and I’m looking forward to finding out more.

Phoenix has plenty of action and suspense – a chilling message, a family secret and a tragic crime. All the threads are cleverly pulled together in an engrossing plot that hooked me right to the end and left me wanting to read book two in the series, Revival.

Phoenix is told from both Katie and Ally’s point of view but the author has managed to give them both very distinct voices – both authentically teen.

The contemporary lives and loves of today’s teens are well depicted but the two main characters also have deeper dilemmas to address – facing up to who they really are and the fact that if they change the past, it will also affect the future in devastating ways.

The sensory description enables the reader to become immersed in Katie and Ally’s world and to step back and forwards in time along with the story.

The candlesticks and the bucket in the corner trembled with the sounds of distant rumbling and explosions and the air was tainted with damp earth and a waxy odour.

Phoenix is a YA paranormal that could be enjoyed by lovers of both contemporary and paranormal YA. It’s an engrossing story with engaging characters, set in a believable world with not a vampire in sight.

Phoenix is published by Warrambucca Books. More about this book is available from



A mysterious apothecary, a magic book, a missing scientist, an impossible plan

Just some of the hooks to be found in The Apothecary, Maile Meloy’s first venture into writing for young readers.

Maile is the award-winning author of short story collections Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Half in Love and novels, Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, and her skills as a writer are clearly evident from the first page.

Straight away she draws the reader into the 1950s setting and introduces the strong-minded 14 year-old Janie and her closeknit, slightly quirky family.

Janie has just moved to London from LA and is feeling uncomfortable in her strange new school until she is given a homesickness remedy by the local apothecary.

But the apothecary, is no ordinary man and neither is his son, Benjamin who Janie quickly forms an attraction to. Their relationships is sensitively portrayed showing the times they live in and the tentativeness and insecurities of first love.

And after Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, and they are entrusted with the care of an ancient, magical book, the Pharmacopoeia, there’s little time for romance anyway. Especially not when there are Russian spies, traitor police officers and lives in danger.

The Apothecary is fast-paced but it also allows the reader time to engage with the characters and become immersed in their world. Janie is a strong and believable heroine and of course there are obstacles in the way of her feelings for Benjamin, including the gorgeous and disdainful Sarah Pennington who doesn’t miss an opportunity to belittle Janie.

In The Apothecary, Maile Meloy keeps raising the stakes for her main characters until it seems that victory is impossible.

But it’s hard to keep these characters down, and their ingenuity and determination bring them out of the pages and make them real for the reader. This book is full of magic and sparkle, spies, evil and global intrigue.

Ian Schoenherr’s amazing illustrations capture the world, the mystery and the mood of The Apothecary and bring the reader closer to the characters and the action.

The Apothecary is an exciting, well-researched adventure that readers will find hard to put down, no matter what genre they favour. It’s a book that can be enjoyed by readers aged 12 to adult.

As the Weekend Australian said of Maile Meloy. She is ‘A master of her craft.’

The Apothecary is published in Australia by The Text Publishing Company. Teachers’ Notes are available at




Today we bring to you a very candid interview with Maile Meloy, a wonderful writer and the author of a brilliant new YA adventure, The Apothecary.

How did you become a writer?

I read a lot, as a kid, and I wrote long letters to friends who lived far away.  I was an English major in college, and my friends were all going off to fancy consulting jobs or medical school, and I didn’t know how to do anything except read and write my native language.  My thesis advisor told me to try writing a short story, so I did, and it instantly felt like the thing I wanted to do.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The middle of a novel or a story, when you know what it is but you don’t really know what happens next, and you’re along for the ride.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Certain moments when the first flush of enthusiasm has passed and you still haven’t quite figured the story out, and it’s like pushing a rock up a hill.

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

I wrote my first short story when I was twenty-one, but I had a lot of different jobs while I was learning how to write them: I was a river ranger in Utah, I worked on a political campaign in Montana, I taught in a bilingual grade school in Costa Rica, I worked in a health food store, I taught swimming lessons to the children of movie people, I read scripts for a production company, and I was a development assistant at Disney in Direct-to-Video Animation.

What are you working on at the moment?

A second Apothecary book, under terrifying pressure from the kids who read advance copies of The Apothecary, who want to know the exact date they will find out what happens to Janie and Benjamin next.

(So pleased to hear this, Maile. I was wondering the same thing.)

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read all you can and write all you can.  Read lots of different kinds of books, and don’t worry about whether what you’re writing is any good or not.  Be bold.  You can always throw things away—and definitely don’t be afraid to do that, either.

Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?

The books are all very different, set in different places, but they’re all about love and loss and the accident of birth, and what happens between people, especially when they encounter the unexpected turns life sends you.  That’s what’s most interesting to me.

How many books have you had published?

The Apothecary is my fifth, and my first for kids.  The previous books are two novels and two collections of short stories.

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

Ian Schoenherr did the beautiful illustrations, and he’s incredibly talented.  He really captured the texture and the fantastical element of the book, and because he has a wonderful realistic, technical drawing ability, the magical aspects feel real.  He was the perfect illustrator for it.


What’s The Apothecary about?

It’s about a girl who has to move to London, leaving behind a life she loves, and about a boy who doesn’t want to be an apothecary like his father—he wants to become a spy.  When the boy’s father disappears, he leaves behind an ancient and powerful book, the Pharmacopoeia.  The kids have to learn who the apothecary really was and how to use the book’s transformative powers, so they can escape his enemies and prevent an impending nuclear disaster.

What age groups is it for?

The main characters are 14, and I thought of it as a book for teens when I was writing it.  A smart 9-year-old friend of mine had it read to her, and then re-read it herself at 10.  And my sister’s boyfriend just read it, and he’s 30.  That’s what I want: both the 9-year-olds and the 30-year-olds.

Why will kids like it?

It’s a spy novel with a magical element, but the magic is akin to science—it has to be learned.  It’s about independent kids figuring stuff out: they learn how to become invisible, and how to fly as birds.

Can you tell me about the main characters?

Janie Scott is smart and curious and sometimes insecure and stubborn: she’s a real girl.  Her parents are TV writers and they’re the funniest people she knows.  Benjamin Burrows is defiant and willing to stand up to authority, but sometimes frustratingly so.  Their personalities complement each other: even when they disagree, they make each other braver, and work better as a team.

Are there any teacher’s notes or associated activities with the book?

Yes, Text, the publisher, has a wonderfully thorough and inventive teacher’s guide, with questions and activities.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

It’s both sophisticated and wholesome: it deals with difficult problems in the real world, with accusations and suspicion and the fear of nuclear weapons, and the characters are smart, but they’re also 14 in 1952, and there’s an innocence to them.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The first draft.  I wrote it in six weeks and had no idea how I was going to get out of each scrape.  I felt like I was along for the ride.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

The second draft: making the story and the puzzle-like plot all fit together and make sense.  It made my brain hurt.

Thanks for visiting, Maile. This afternoon, we’re reviewing The Apothecary here at Kids’ Book Capers. So make sure you drop back and find out more about this definite page turner.


The Golden Door – Book One in Emily Rodda’s THE THREE DOORS Trilogy

Those who loved Emily Rodda’s Deltora books will be delighted to see her moving back into the world of Deltora with her latest release, The Golden Door.

The Golden Door is the first book in The Three Doors trilogy and I have to say that my biggest disappointment with this book was that the next one isn’t out yet.

The trilogy is set on the Island of Dorne, a small island to Deltora’s East, across the Sea of Serpents. The Golden Door tells the story of Rye, the youngest of three brothers who has always looked up to his older siblings and never considered himself to be much of a hero.

But when Dirk and Sholto don’t return from their searches  for the source behind vicious attacks by ferocious flying creatures called Skimmers, it’s up to Rye to try and save the citizens of Weld, and bring his lost brothers home.

Along the way, Rye meets Sonia, a strong-spirited girl who becomes his ally and whose belief in him boosts his confidence and helps him to believe he can do extraordinary things. Rye discovers powers and strengths he didn’t know he had, and he’s going to need them to survive what’s on the other side of The Golden Door.

Rye’s sense of adventure, friendliness, loyalty and humility endear him to the reader. He’s the kind of unlikely hero that people want to see triumph.

Emily Rodda has built a world that readers can easily step into and follow the characters through danger and triumph. There are fierce and terrible creatures to keep the tension mounting, but there are also characters of great gentleness and loyalty to provide the balance.

Rye and Sonia have been through The Golden Door and I’m pretty sure their next adventure could take them through the silver one. I can’t wait to go there with them.

There’s page turning action, an intriguing world and great characters to barrack forThe Golden Door is published by Scholastic for readers aged 8 to 12, although I can see some much older ones enjoying it.

Teachers notes are available on the Scholastic Australia website.




Emily Rodda - photo courtesy of Michael Small

We are lucky to have Emily Rodda visiting Kids’ Book Capers today.

Emily has stopped in on her tour to promote the Get Reading Program, an annual celebration of books and reading to encourage Australians to pick up a book.

Can you tell us about your involvement in the Australia Council Get Reading Campaign and why it is so important to you?

I wrote the book The Land of Dragons, which is the giveaway book for the promotion, and to celebrate the Get Reading Campaign. My book The Golden Door was selected for the ‘Top 50 books You Can’t Put Down’ and as a result I will be touring and speaking to children about my books and writing. It’s fabulous to be involved in this program, as it encourages reading, and books are my passion.

I believe you are touring Australia as part of the program. Can you tell us a bit about the tour? How long does it go for and how many venues will you be visiting?

I start my tour in Melbourne as I am part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Then to Geelong to do an event for Get Reading which starts on 1 September. Following that I return to Melbourne for some more Get Reading events then back to Sydney. After that I go to Brisbane, where I will also attend the Brisbane Writers Festival before touring again with Get Reading out to Redcliffe, the Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, and the Gold Coast. Finally I will visit Adelaide and some regional areas of South Australia for Get Reading.

So many, many venues, and many many events!  We will be on the road for about 3 weeks.  But check the Get Reading website for my tour dates and contact details.

Congratulations on The Golden Door, the first book of your new Three Doors trilogy. Where did the inspiration for these new books come from?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that our choices lead us on to different paths.  I love the notion of a choice of three magic doors, each of which leads to a different place.  This is partly because I see books as ‘doors’ into other worlds.

Where is your new trilogy set, and what is the first book about?

The trilogy is set on the Island of Dorne, which is a small island to Deltora’s East, across the Sea of Serpents … It’s about a boy called Rye, who lives in a walled city called Weld with his mother and two older brothers. Their city has been besieged by skimmers: savage, bat-like creatures that fly in hordes over the Wall from somewhere outside Weld, looking for human and animal prey. The Warden of Weld offers a large reward to any young man who can defeat the Enemy sending the skimmers. Rye’s eldest brother, Dirk, is among the first to volunteer, and his second brother, Sholto, goes too. Rye is not old enough to volunteer. Weld’s three secret magic doors are the key to the brothers’ quest.

What age groups is it for?

Approximately 8 to 12.  Some older kids are probably going to enjoy too.

Why will kids like it?

I am hoping they will find the adventure exciting and the world of Dorne intriguing.

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

The main character is a boy called Rye who is the youngest of a family of three sons.  He’s a friendly, adventurous and confident but as the youngest he is very aware of his two elder brothers’ strengths; the eldest is strong and brave, and the next a great scholar. They are much more likely to be heroes than he is.

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

Yes, they are available on the Scholastic Australia website.

What did you enjoy most about writing the first book/the trilogy?

One of the things I partly enjoyed about writing The Golden Door was moving back into the world of Deltora. I also very much enjoyed writing about the relationship between three brothers and the choices they make.

What was the hardest thing about writing the first book/the trilogy?

I suppose the hardest thing must be to establish the characters and the settings when you are beginning a project like this.

More information about the Get Reading program is available at

This afternoon at Kids’ Book Capers, we’re reviewing Emily’s new book, The Golden Door.





Today I’m thrilled to welcome Tania McCartney to Kids’ Book Capers.

Tania will now be blogging alongside me, reviewing great Australian kids & YA books and speaking with their creators.

Lately, I’ve been receiving up to 50 books a month to review, as well as numerous requests for author/illustrator profiles. So when I put out the call for help, thankfully, the lovely and talented Tania answered.

So, now we’re going to be blogging together to bring you even more facts and fun reading at Kids’ Book Capers.


Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne (Ford Street, 2011) and Australia: The Timeline (National Library of Australia, 2012). Currently working on several children’s books and adult lifestyle books, Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.

We’re so happy to have Tania here at Kids’ Book Capers, but need to point out that she will still be continuing her wonderful Kids’ Book Review site, and all the other amazing things that she does.


To make things simpler for publishers, authors and illustrators, Tania and I will be dividing the reviews etc between us in the following way:

DEE – Will continue to read, review and report on books published in Victoria, Tasmania, QLD, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Enquiries to: dee*AT*boomerangbooks*DOT*

TANIAWill take on responsibility for books published in NSW, ACT and South Australia.

Enquiries to: Tania McCartney books *AT*taniamccartney *DOT* com

Welcome aboard, Tania.

So pleased to have you joining me at Kids’ Book Capers.



Goldie Alexander’s book, The youngest Cameleer brings to life the exploration to the interior led by William Gosse in 1873. She has based her story on Gosse’s own journal.

Goldie has chosen to tell this story from the point of view of 13 year old Ahmed Ackbar, the youngest cameleer who has to cope with homesickness and the perils of the expedition.

He is also grieving for his father who died in mysterious circumstances that Ahmed is determined to get to the bottom of. Ahmed suspects that his father’s brother, Uncle Kamran was involved, an added uncertainty he must deal with on the trip.

Goldie Alexander blends fact and story seamlessly in The youngest Cameleer to create a fascinating work of historical fiction that both informs and entertains.

She also captures the unpredictability of the Australian wilderness.

“It being close to dusk, we were trekking along a dry riverbed when I heard the sound of rushing water. I ran to where the bed takes a sharp turn. To my astonishment a stream of frothing brown water was heading straight at me. Meanwhile up ahead came cries of ‘Watch out! Flood’!”

Ahmed is an engaging character and the reader is introduced to his Muslim lifestyle and the cultural differences of the participants of the expedition.

There was also plenty to learn about camels and the way they live and how their bodies have adapted to the harsh environment in which they live.

The youngest Cameleer is told in diary form with Ahmed giving all kinds of details of the trip and his experiences.

“The nights are so cold, I wear my pakal and my coat, and even then I’m half-frozen.”

As the expedition continues so does Ahmed’s story and when he confronts uncle Kamran about his father’s death, the truth is not what he expected.

The youngest Cameleer is a book for readers who enjoy history and adventure. It is published by Five Senses Education. Teachers’ Notes are available on Goldie’s website



I’ve always had a fascination for Leonardo da Vinci and camels. Leonardo, I understand – the camels, I can’t explain why. Perhaps it’s because camels are such a good example of nature’s ability to create animals with incredible skills and characteristics that enable them to adapt so well to even the harshest environments. How can an animal survive so long with such meagre food and water? For me, camels are a constant source of wonder.

Okay, so you know I love camels. So it probably comes as no surprise that I was enthralled with Rosanne Hawke’s new book, Taj and the Great Camel Trek from start to finish.

The book chronicles the adventures of explorer Ernest Giles on his second attempt to cross the Australian desert.

The expedition is based on historical fact and Rosanne has obviously done an incredible amount of research as demonstrated by the double page spread of sources and research materials quoted at the back of the book.

It’s rich in history, but Taj and the Great Camel Trek is told through the eyes of a fictitious character, Taj, the twelve year old son of the group’s cameleer.

It’s Taj’s perspective that makes this story so accessible to kids. Taj is desperate to be chosen for the trek with his beloved camel, Mustara but he soon discovers that an explorer’s life is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds.

Taj and the Great Camel Trek has a strong narrative arc but it’s also an accurate account of Australia’s early exploration.

Seamlessly interwoven with the story of the expedition is Taj’s own personal journey and his discovery of family secrets and what really happened to his mother.

I love this kind of book for the fact that it teaches the reader so much about history and the human spirit without them realising they are learning. For the reader who doesn’t want to delve below the surface, Taj and the Great Camel Trek is a cracking adventure.

“wild dogs, scorpions, poisonous snakes and a constant shortage of water mean they are never far from disaster.”

This book also a tribute to the Afghan camel drivers who helped explore Australia and the beasts who endured such hardship on expeditions.

Taj and the Great Camel Trek informs and entertains. It is a captivating read for adventure lovers, historians and readers who simply enjoy a study of interesting and well crafted characters.

Taj’s voice is so strong that I found myself living inside his head as I followed his journey.

This exciting story by award-winning author, Rosanne Hawke depicts tough times in Australia’s history.

Taj and the Great Camel Trek is published by University of Queensland Press for 9-13 year old readers.



Me riding a camel at Kings' Canyon

Anyone who knows me well will know that I have a fascination for camels so this week I couldn’t resist celebrating two great books for kids on just that subject.

Today, Rosanne Hawke is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about Taj and the Great Camel Trek. I’ll be reviewing her book later on this afternoon at Kids’ Book Capers.

She is the author of 17 published books and consistent themes in her books seem to be about displacement and culture –  covered in Taj and the Great Camel Trek


1.  Be persistent – if you feel this is what you were born to do, then keep practicing, reading, learning the market.

2.  Never compare your work to another’s unless it is to learn something for there’s a place for all of us as long as we’ve done our best. Comparing only leads to a lack of confidence and jealousy. When you read a book that is better written than yours, thank God for the talent of that writer and learn.


What inspired you to write this book?

After I wrote Mustara, the picture book, I’d look at those beautiful end pages that Robert Ingpen painted and I’d think, This story isn’t finished yet.

What’s it about?

It’s the story of Taj and Mustara joining Ernest Giles exploring expedition to Perth in 1875 and what happens on the way.

What age groups is it for?

Ten plus.

Why will kids like it?

It’s an adventure, it’s exciting, and it’s basically true, except for Taj.

Can you tell me about Taj and what you like/dislike about him?

Taj is a twelve-year-old boy with an Afghan dad and an Irish mum. He does have a problem as he can’t come to terms with his mother leaving. He thinks she didn’t love him. This makes him a bit wary of making new friends and he can get a bit solemn at times. But there are other characters who teach him a lot about loosening up.

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

Yes on my website there are teachers’ notes and other info. I’m still putting more of this up. UQP and Penguin also have the notes on their sites.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

It is totally based on a true event and I have tried to show the culture, language and thought processes of Taj and the other members of the expedition faithfully.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Getting to know Taj better – he’s really nice and likes Emmeline so much. It would be interesting to see what they do when they are older.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

It was very difficult getting the balance of history and fiction right so that it would be an exciting read for modern kids. It took me four years to write.

Thanks for visiting, Rosanne and sharing your journey with us. This afternoon, I’m reviewing Taj and the Great Camel Trek here at Kids’ Book Capers.




The Ernie and Maud books are full of humour and heart for newly independent readers.

In Ernie and Maud’s latest adventure, Heroes of the Year, kids will relate well to MC, Ernie who has never won at anything…and Marvellous Maud, the ‘greatest sheep in history’.

Now Ernie has a chance to win something. As trainee Superheroes, he and Maud could be in the running to win the “Heroes of the Year”.

“Ernie’s eyes were drawn back to the centre of the photo. ‘That trophy,” he said. ‘Is that — is that what the Heroes of the Year get?” His mouth had turned dry. A ribbon was one thing, but a trophy? A trophy was better than a ribbon…A trophy was better than three ribbons! ‘I’ve never won a trophy before,’ he added shyly.

In Heroes of the Year, Ernie and Maud are on a quest to catch, Pencil Pete, a moustache drawing fiend who has ‘passed through Beezerville and wreaked havoc all over town.’

Of course there are plenty of obstacles standing in their way but the more Ernie sees of the trophy, the more he wants it.

“Ernie felt something stir inside him as he gazed at the glowing trophy. He could just imagine the look on Lenny Pascale’s face when he saw it. Suddenly, he wanted a golden trophy more than he’d ever wanted anything before.”

Ernie looks for clues in Super Whiz’s book, 100 Handy Hints for Heroing. Maud is happy to be involved in Ernie’s quest but she is a gymnastics enthusiast with a goal of her own – to be able to do the splits.

The two use masterful disguises and determination on their mission, but will it be enough to catch the clever Pencil Pete?

The humour, action and quirky characters make these books an enjoyable read. Although Maud seems to go against current publishing trends, I for one enjoyed meeting a talking sheep in a children’s book.

Frances Watt’s fun text is accompanied by hilarious illustrations from Judy Watson

Heroes of The Year is the fourth book in the Ernie & Maud series from ABC Books.



Today, Judy Watson, the charming illustrator of 19 books including the Ernie & Maud series is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her creative journey.

Have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Oh yes! Just try to stop me! My Grandma worked that out when I was about 3. She gave me coloured chalks and sent me out to draw on the paling fences in the back yard. Then, embarrassingly, but strangely pleasing too, she called all her neighbours over and made them admire my scribbles.

How did you become an illustrator?

Well, first there was Grandma and the chalks. (Thanks Grandma.) Then there was a lovely art teacher named Cecily Osborn at my school. (Thanks Mrs Osborn!) A little later on there was a lot of painting and drawing and a bit of living the artistic life in London.

Then I came home to Australia and met some publishers and got to know some other illustrators and writers in Melbourne and found my way around the publishing scene.  And eventually, a publisher phoned me to ask me to illustrate a little reader called Yucky Poo! I was earning money doing freelance graphic design work at the same time, so it didn’t matter that it took a little while for each illustration job to come along.

Where does your inspiration come from?

When I’m illustrating somebody’s story, the inspiration comes mostly from the text. As I read a manuscript for the first time, images pop into my head, sometimes in a vague way, and sometimes complete with the medium and other details.

As for the characters, well, if it’s a Frances Watts text, it’s pretty clear to me what the characters look like, because she describes them so well. Not just their appearance, but their personalities and little quirks too. And the rest of the inspiration comes from my childhood, my two children and the world around me!

What inspired you most about illustrating this book?

Well, a real villain in Baxter!! How exciting! And all those disguises. What brilliant fun to put a false moustache on top of the superhero costume. A double secret identity!

Who is your favourite character and why?

That’s a tough one! I’m very fond of HouseCat Woman, because she says so little and yet her presence is there all the time, listening, raising an eyebrow, even stretching if she’s feeling very energetic. And she can fire up most wonderfully if required. Fabulous claws!

But on the other hand there’s the irrepressible Desmond, and the almost irrepressible, yet deep-thinking Maud. No wonder Desmond loves Maud. They are both so positive about life.

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

Well, despite what I said earlier about finding Frances Watts’ characters easy to draw, the first time I drew Ernie, I got him wrong. He was too ‘super’ looking. Not at all the person he is supposed to be. I foolishly gave him extravagant curly hair and a self-assured super pose with head held high. What was I thinking?!

Frances tactfully reminded me what Ernie was all about, and soon we hit on the brown-haired, kind-hearted, slightly self-conscious little fellow that he is today.  Ernie isn’t an athlete. His feet turn inwards a little on the cover of the first book. He is very brave, but a little shy, so he carries his chin lower than Superman. And sometimes, he hides his eyes behind that floppy bit of hair at the front.

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

In this case I already knew the characters from the previous three books. That made it easy, right? Well, sort of. But I did need to get to know them again. The first drawings of Ernie and Maud weren’t right at all!

So first I did some scribbles, to practice. Then I got straight into putting down pencil sketches for the actual illustrations required. If the pose was tricky, I either did an internet search for helpful reference images (‘enthusiastic sheep in cape and leotard, jumping over gate’) or made a note of it and took photos of my husband and sons doing the required action. (That was funny, I can tell you!)

The pencil roughs were scanned and emailed to the author and editors who gave me feedback. I then made any changes required and inked the illustrations. The inked pictures were scanned and tone added on the computer, and the finished work was emailed through to the publisher for comment. Finally, after any necessary alterations were made, the artwork was emailed to the publisher again, and forwarded on to the typesetter.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

The colouring in! Oh well, you know what I mean. The ‘greying’ in.

When all the tricky bits are over – getting the hands to be on the ends of the arms and the thumbs on the right side and so forth – then I can sit and listen to a talking book as I colour in the pictures and watch them take on a little bit of three dimensionality.

And adding the shadows. I love shadows. Did you notice? ( I did, Judy. They are great. I’m an author so to me, shadows seem really hard to do well.)

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Getting the idea in my head to appear on the paper the way it does in my head! In a few of the pictures I never quite managed it, even at the end. This tricky part is usually at the pencil rough stage.

Oh, and there’s a little thing called ‘character continuity’. What a pain that can be!

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

The Ernie and Maud books are definitely a collaboration, although Frances was so busy this time around, that she didn’t have time to say much more than ‘bravo!’ or ‘A little more to the left!’

Our wonderful editors Chren and Tegan were able to help with more detailed feedback. ‘A little more to the right and up a bit!’

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

I used a dip pen (with a nib) and Noodlers Ink to do the drawings. And then I scanned them and added the grey tone on my computer in PhotoShop. It’s lucky that I can use PhotoShop because sometimes I accidentally do get the thumb on the wrong side of the hand or forget to draw somebody’s ears or something.

Happily I can draw the ears or the new hand on a separate bit of paper, scan it and alter the original picture on the computer. I use such tiny stitches that you can hardly see the scars. Have you spotted any?

How long did it take to illustrate?

About 4 months

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

Practise drawing lots of people, especially hands. That way you’ll probably get the thumbs on the right side and be able to draw anything you like! Practise drawing backgrounds too. It’s really good to be able to draw a bathroom, or a toaster, or the inside of a cupboard, the underside of your bed, or the top of a dog kennel looking down from the tree house.

Take a little sketchbook and pencil with you in your pocket, and you’ll be all set to draw at a moment’s notice.

Note: I often forget my little sketchbook, and that is one of the reasons my house is full of little bits of paper with doodles on them, and also the reason I have so much trouble drawing the top of a dog kennel.

Thanks, Judy, I really enjoyed your honesty and insights into your creative process.

This afternoon, we’re reviewing Heroes of the Year here at Kids’ Book Capers.



Today, Frances Watts visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her journey and Heroes of the Year, the latest book in the popular Ernie & Maud series.

How did you become a writer?

The first step to becoming a writer was by becoming a reader, and falling in love with books and stories. That certainly inspired me to write my own. But it was really through writing my first book—Kisses for Daddy—that I developed the confidence to keep writing. And the act of writing one book unleashed a floodgate of ideas!

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

There are so many things I love about writing it’s hard to say what I enjoy most! I particularly like bringing characters to life, becoming so caught up in their stories that they seem real to me. And, of course, it’s wonderful when those characters become real to other people.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

It can be hard sometimes to make the words on the page live up to the ideal in your head. And the ideas don’t always flow when you want them to.

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

I was—and still am—a book editor, a job I find very rewarding. I work freelance and divide my time between editing and writing.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

I’d say that touching people with my books is the greatest achievement. Having parents tell me that Kisses for Daddy is a book the whole family loves and shares, or a teacher say that she uses Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books with her students, or a child tell me that the Ernie & Maud books are the funniest things they’ve ever read or that they can’t wait for the next book in the Gerander Trilogy. It’s when readers connect with my books that I feel like I’ve really achieved something.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on the final book in the Gerander Trilogy. It’s exciting to be revealing secrets I’ve held on to since the first book, The Song of the Winns—but also sad to be saying goodbye to characters who have been living in my head for a long time.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Definitely I’d say: read. And think about what you’re reading, think about how the book is crafted. Then I’d say: write for yourself. Don’t try to write for a market or follow a formula; write because you have a story in you that’s busting to get out. Once you have written that story, find yourself a reader, someone who will give you honest feedback, and be prepared to keep working—rewriting and editing—until your manuscript really represents the best you can do.

Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?

Because I write for several different age groups, on the surface they don’t necessarily have that much in common…Then again, I think there is a certain idealism, a certain quirky sense of humour—and there’s usually a talking animal or two!

How many books have you had published?

My new book, Heroes of the Year, is my tenth book.

What inspired you to write this book?

Heroes of the Year is the fourth book in the Ernie & Maud series. In each of the books in the series the main characters face a moral dilemma and, through their friendship, learn something about themselves. This book in particular was inspired by the idea of learning to accept that it’s okay to lose.

What’s it about?

Extraordinary Ernie and Marvellous Maud are two very unlikely superheroes—Ernie because he’s just an ordinary kid, and Maud because…she’s a sheep. In Heroes of the Year Ernie and Maud are in the running to win the Superheroes Society’s Heroes of the Year award. But when they’re faced with a terrible dilemma, they have to decide how far they’ll go in their quest for the prize…

What age groups is it for?

Ages 7-10.

Why will kids like it?

It’s full of false moustaches! I think kids will love the humour, while identifying with the characters. And Judy Watson’s illustrations are, as always, hilarious.

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

I love Ernie for his honesty and good-heartedness, and Maud for her loyalty and determination. (There is also a group of older superheroes who act as mentors to Ernie and Maud, and they are terrific fun to write, having very human flaws and foibles.)

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Did I mention the moustaches…?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

It’s great to have the opportunity to revisit much-loved characters and see them grow and develop across a series. I also really loved plotting this book and working to achieve a humorous trajectory that ties together different threads in a satisfying resolution.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

See above re the humorous trajectory and satisfying resolution!

Thanks, Frances for visiting Kids’ Book Capers.

Tomorrow, Judy Watson will be here to talk about the illustrating process and in the afternoon we’ll be reviewing Frances and Judy’s new book, Heroes of the Year. Hope you can join us.



Jon Klassen is the author and illustrator of the delightful new picture book, I Want My Hat Back. Today he’s visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his journey and creating this book.

1. Can you tell us briefly about how you became an author/ illustrator?

I went to school for animation, but the part I liked best about making animated films was designing the backgrounds and figuring out the colours. I worked for some studios doing that for a few years, and got more interested in doing smaller things on my own. I’ve always liked books and book illustrations, so I guess my own things alluded to that and I got lucky and some publishers saw my work.

2. What was the idea for I Want my Hat Back inspired by?

It was thought of first as the title matched with a hatless character on the cover. A bear seemed like a good choice because you don’t really know what he’s going to do about it. 

3. How long did it take you to create this book from start to finish?

About 4 months, give or take. The roughs were pretty straightforward, and although it took a little time to figure out a good technique for the final artwork, once it was nailed down it was a pretty smooth process.

4. Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about them?

The main character is a bear who has lost his hat. He is polite about asking around for it, but near the end he realizes he’s been deceived and his politeness is sort of forgotten. I like that he is polite, but also I like that he sort of loses himself for a second in this story. I think at the end he’s not quite sure what to think of what’s gone on. 

5. This is the first book you have both written and illustrated? How have you found this process different from previous works where you’ve illustrated books written by someone else?

It’s much different. Getting the chance to do both is a real privilege. You get to tailor the writing to the pictures and go back and forth between the two things until they are both working together.
Doing illustrations for something written by someone else is fun too, because you get to take something you didn’t know about before and interpret it and the results are always a bit of a surprise because most of the time it’s not something you would’ve thought of doing.

6. What did you enjoy most about writing and illustrating this book?

I really enjoyed doing the final illustrations. They are very simple, but they had a context I liked thinking about and working to, and that makes illustrating really fun. 

7. What was the hardest thing about writing and illustrating this book?

The writing was tricky. It took some time to figure out that it could be done with just dialogue. Before that, I was a little intimidated by narration, but after that was done away with, the writing came easier.

8. What is the target readership for your book and why will readers like it?

I’d like to think it can be for a number of age groups. We tried to make it a book where the basic story wouldn’t be lost on anyone, but where the explanation of the events at the end was subtle enough that older kids would pick up on some things that younger kids might not.
Thanks for visiting, Jon. Enjoy the rest of your tour. Check out the schedule for all the other great blogs Jon’s visiting.



BEN & DUCK by Sara Acton

Ben & Duck is a beautiful story about a boy who befriends a curious and fun loving duck.

Written and illustrated by Sara Acton for readers aged 3 and over, Ben & Duck is the story of a boy who goes to the park and meets a duck who becomes his special friend.

Duck isn’t just ‘any’ duck. This duck squeezes under hedges, climbs trees and follows Ben everywhere…until he hops on the bus.

Ben & Duck is a story of friendship and sharing and what it’s like for a boy to have a true friend. They accept each other’s differences unconditionally and find common ground for their play and friendship. Ben & Duck are happy to play games and eat food that’s different from what their first choice might be.

With these themes gently introduced into the book, Ben & Duck lends itself to discussion both in the classroom and the home.

Ben & Duck is a very simple story with uncluttered, expressive illustrations and a gentle narrative as Ben and Duck develop their new relationship.

The beautiful watercolour images are full of movement and tenderness. This is a heartwarming story that will appeal to young readers, especially those who love animals.

Ben & Duck is published by Scholastic Australia and comes in 32 page hardback format.



The Hazard River series, by J.E. Fison continues with two new action-packed stories, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money. Julie started the series after a family holiday on the Noosa River, but she looked to another waterway, a little further south for inspiration for one of her latest adventures.

Author, J E Fison says,

Kids, adventure and money – it’s a heady combination, so I couldn’t help getting excited when I picked up the Sunday newspaper one weekend and found a story about two teenage brothers who were fishing in a quiet creek west of Lismore and found a bag containing one hundred thousand dollars! The bag of cash had apparently been washed into the creek during a flood. The boys agonized for two weeks about what to do with the cash before handing it in to police.

The news story went straight into my journal (which is more of a plastic folder than a journal) and emerged a year later on the banks of Hazard River, in the latest adventure, Blood Money.

Just like the boys in the real story, the kids at Hazard River find a bag of cash and just like the real boys they face a moral dilemma about what to do with the money. Add to this a few snakes, some troublesome meatballs and a nasty neighbour and everything is in place for a rough ride for the newly cashed-up kids of Hazard River.

In Toads’ Revenge the kids of Hazard River find themselves thrown into a dystopian toad-infested new world when they accidently fire themselves into the future. Although it’s a bit of a departure from the usual Hazard River story line, it’s not too far from the real world.

Cane toads, once confined to northern Queensland have advanced as far south as Sydney and into Western Australia, threatening native animals and fragile wilderness areas along the way. These super-resilient, poisonous reptiles are incredible breeders. Females lay up to 35,000 eggs at a time and the toads’ march across the continent is proving impossible to stop. Recent media coverage of the toads’ march inspired me to make them the bad guys of Toads’ Revenge.

For more information on J.E. Fison and the Hazard River series you can visit her website at or read her blog at







Toads’ Revenge features all your favourite Hazard River characters in a new world, literally. They’ve climbed aboard a time machine and travelled ten years into the future only to discover that their beloved Hazard River has been turned into a wasteland by an environmental disaster ten years earlier.

Can they get back to the present day and will they do it in time to prevent the disaster from happening?

Jack, Ben, Mimi and Lachlan will need the help of Josh, the son of Just Orsum, but they’ll also have to rely on their own wits and cunning.

There are some really nasty giant mutant Cane Toads that they’re going to have to outwit and a future they will have to change, but these kids are resourceful.

Toads’ Revenge is an action-packed page turner from page one and there are some really gross bits that kids will love. The characters stay true to form in this adventure and I like the way that Jack always manages to save his younger brother Ben, even if it’s sometimes a bit reluctantly.


What kid doesn’t want to be rich? Jack’s latest plan for making money is selling coconuts so…

When Jack and his friends find a bag full of money, it looks like all of their dreams have come true.

But as they soon discover, sometimes money buys a whole lot of trouble. It really seems as if the money is cursed. First they’re chased by a red-bellied black snake, then when they find blood on the money, it seems as if things could get even more serious.

They decide to spy and see just who owns the loot, but the stakeout proves fruitless and when they return home, they find Jack and Ben’s father in a fury because someone has trashed his shed. Straightaway, the kids think it could be the owner of the money.

When they realise the money could belong to their cranky neighbour, they go looking for clues and discover endangered reptiles in cages – something is definitely not right in Hazard River.

Blood Money is another new action-packed adventure in the Hazard River series.

As always, the story is narrated by Jack and I enjoy his dry humour.

I take a piece of white soggy stuff out of the tree. I hold it up for Ben to see. ‘It’s toilet paper, not a Mummy’s bandage,’ I say.

The Hazard River books are written by J E Fison and feature amazing covers by Marc McBride. The characters, action and the language make them a great read for even the less confident reader.


Today, Riley, the star of Tania McCartney’s beautiful new book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his latest adventure. He’s touring with Tania to celebrate the release of his latest adventure and you can find out more about where he’s going if you click here.

Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy?

Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers, Riley. It’s lovely to meet you and thanks for answering questions about your new book.

Can you tell us about your nanny’s garden? what does it look like? Is it a fun place to hang out?

Nanny’s garden is like heaven. I love it best because it has the coolest mud patch down the far right hand corner, tucked right into the fence. Right near it is a fish pond with those super bright coloured fish, and I’ve seen lots of frogs there, too. There are lots of trees and bushes in Nanny’s garden. Most of them are natives – there are banksia and wattle and some eucalypts, too. Koala likes hanging out there because of the gum trees. The only problem is, when he nibbles on the leaves, he drifts off to sleep. Dragon also likes to sleep, so they curl up together. Panda and Lion love the mud – they dance and play in it – in fact, Lion never stops dancing. Have you ever seen a lion tap dancing in the mud? It gets very messy.

Have you ever been to Melbourne before?

Yes, I’ve been heaps. My Nanny lives there and my Granny and Granda, too. I also have cousins there but they’re all girls, every single one of them. Groan. My sister is a girl, too. So is Wombat, actually. But she’s cool.

What was the thing you liked most about Melbourne?

I like Melbourne because it has all these really amazing things to see and do. There were so many extra places I wanted to see during our hunt for Wombat, but you know – I have to get back to school so can’t stay anywhere too long. Mum gets the irrits, otherwise (and I must admit, I do like school). The thing I liked the best of all about Melbourne… well, there are three things. First – the goodies at the cafes on Lygon Street – oh man, they are delicious. I love the Italian pastries and Mum and Dad go bananas over the coffee (as usual). The other thing I like is the Great Ocean Road just south-west of Melbourne – it’s awesome and it was so cool to fly my plane over the Twelve Apostles. Have you seen these? They are AWESOME! The last thing I loved was digging all over St Kilda beach with my low-frequency robotic burrowing machine. It was the first time I’d tested him out and he did a great job, although I couldn’t get Dragon out of the holes for ages. It was funny, though. We laughed a lot.

What’s it like having books written about you?

It’s fun. I don’t know if you know, but my mum actually writes the books. My sister isn’t happy. Well, she’s ok about it. She’s really patient, as Mum says all the time. Ella wants a book about her and horses but Mum is allergic to horses, so it may not happen. Anyway, back to me – yeah, having a book series written about you is pretty cool. At first, when I was really little, it was kind of embarrassing because everyone would look at me at book launches. We were living in China and people would want to pat me on the head. That was kind of annoying. But since coming home to Australia, it’s ok now – and I’m used to all the attention. I really like having an excuse to visit other countries and other cities and places, too. We’ve always travelled with Mum and Dad – they love to travel and I really like it now. At first it was annoying but now I love it. I really want to set the next book in America because I want to play NFL, but Mum says we need to do more Australian places first. I kind of agree – in a way – because Australia is pretty amazing.

Do your friends like being in books too?

They love it! They think they are superstars! Lion particularly loves it because he’s an extrovert and loves to perform. Dragon spends a lot of time sleeping and Koala acts kind of strange sometimes (it’s all that eucalyptus oil) but they really enjoy it. The one who loves it best of all would have to be Panda, though. He’s been with me from the beginning and he’s a seasoned traveller. He’s my co-pilot, really – and he was really – what do you call it… ‘instrumental’ in helping me create my series of wombat-seeking contraptions for the Melbourne book. He may be small and fluffy and he may eat far too many jam sandwiches, but he’s very clever.

What does a wombat look like close up?

She’s seriously fuzzy. And did you know wombats are super strong? She’s, like, really strong. She could crush me if she wanted to, but she won’t because she’s a cool wombat. You should see what she makes at the end of the Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – I mean – it’s really mind-blowing. Hardly any animal could do that, but Wombat did it. She’s a bit gobsmacking.

Are all wombats grumpy or was this one just having a bad hair day?

I think most wombats are pretty grumpy. I haven’t met many happy-go-lucky wombats. They like to put their head down/backside up and get on with things. They’re not very airy-fairy – they’re practical, strong, no-nonsense animals and spend most of their time alone, digging burrows, living in the dark. Come to think of it, no wonder they’re grumpy. But the best thing about wombats is this… they may take a long time to accept you as a friend, but once you’re in their heart – they’re not letting you go in a hurry. They would do anything for you.

How did you get around Melbourne?

I have this really amazing red tine plane. Mum found it in an antiques market in Beijing. It’s a pretty magical plane. China is a magical place, and some of it rubbed off on that plane. I’ve spent a lot of time adapting the plane – and my greatest achievement has been the contraptions we built into it (with the help of supersonic illustrator Kieron Pratt) for Grumpy Wombat. As each new journey unfolds, another animal joins me for the next book in the series, so pretty soon we’re going to need to swap the plane for a double decker bus or something. Or a jumbo jet. Kieron is working busily on how we can accommodate all these extra critters… we were just talking about it yesterday, and we were thinking of attaching a hot air balloon to the back of the plane and pulling it along. We’ll see…

Where are you off to next?

Canberra! I can’t wait! It’s a great place and I don’t think many kids know how fantastic it really is. The city is going to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2013 – so the book will be released just in time for that. And I’m going to be tracking down a very common animal to the Canberra scene – it’s found frequently on suburban streets, hopping around. My friend even saw one at the end of his driveway the other day. A big one! This particular animal is going to be another girl – and she has a little surprise, too. It’s going to be really great.

Thanks for having me, Dee! I think Kids’ Book Capers is cool, and you’re cool, too. You’re not even grumpy, either.

Thanks for visiting us Riley and good luck with your tour for Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.

Later on today, at 2.00 pm, we’ll be reviewing  Riley’s latest adventure, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.



Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Riley sets off to investigate why the wombat is so unhappy.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is the fourth book in the popular Riley series written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Kieron Pratt.

Riley’s latest adventure takes readers on a tour through some of Melbourne and Victoria’s best-loved places – and some of mine, too.

Riley and his friends visit Lygon Street, Bourke Street, Flinders Street Station, Sovereign Hill and many other iconic sights in search of the Grumpy Wombat which seems to need their help.

Although they are full of wonderful black and white photos and vibrant illustrations, the Riley books are not your standard picture books.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is a travelogue with clear educational benefits, but it also features endearing characters and an engaging story line. I really enjoyed the language in this book and the way the author imparts knowledge, but doesn’t talk down to readers.

Riley’s amazing array of gadgets will appeal to young readers. Some of his equipment includes exceptional wombat seeking telescopes, a grumpy wombat search net and automated whiz-bang ground hugging projectiles – and that’s not to mention his cute red plane.

The illustrations by illustrator and cartoonist, Kieron Pratt are humorous and vibrant and will also help engage young readers. I found the smiling wombats skiing on Mount Hotham irresistible.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is published by Ford Street Publishing. Other books in the Riley series include Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, Riley and the Dancing Lion and Riley and the Curious Koala.

Riley has toured around Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and now Melbourne – next stop, Canberra. I can see Riley and his friends injecting life into a geography lesson.

The Riley books are written for readers aged 6 to 10 years.




Nick Bland’s new picture book, Some Dads has been released just in time for Father’s Day.

It heralds the return of the star of the best-selling, The Very Cranky Bear.

This is another story about why Dads are special. Whether Dads are naughty, careful, in a hurry or loud, they are special to their children no matter what.

Every spread in this colourful picture book features a Dad from the animal kingdom doing fun things with their children, just like human Dads. There are bears and elephants, peacocks and giraffes plus an assortment of other animals frolicking with their kids.

Some Dads features vibrant illustrations and clever humour. Each spread shows a father-child relationship that will make kids giggle and Dads smile proudly.

This is a great book for Dads to read to/with their children.

Best-selling picture book creator, Nick Bland, brilliantly captures the simple joys all dads bring to everyday life.

Some Dads is published by Scholastic.


It’s Father’s Day this Sunday so we thought we’d pay a tribute to all dads and grandads this week at Kids’ Book Capers by featuring some great books about these very special people.

Today we’re looking at Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa.

These gorgeous new books are in the popular Why I love my… series by Alison Reynolds and Serena Geddes.

They’re perfect partners for Why I love my mum and Why I love my grandma released earlier this year from The Five Mile Press.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa are written in an appealing style with fun illustrations.

They’re also books that can be personalised for the reader, allowing them to insert a photo of their own dad/grandpa on the front cover.

Alison Reynolds’ quirky text is full of warmth and humour, and Serena Geddes’ illustrations capture the hilarious antics of Dad and Grandpa.

Why I love my dad

Young readers will relate to all the antics of this scooting, hulahooping, kite flying dad. They’ll love him for the way he’s prepared to give just about anything a go, even if it’s not something he’s good at.

Why I love my grandpa

Who could not love a stilt-walking, hand shaking, VERY flexible Grandpa? This Grandpa clearly enjoys spending time with his granddaughter doing the things that make her happy even if they’re not the kind of activity he might normally do.

My grandpa can’t wear a ponytail and My grandpa can’t climb trees were the pages that gave me the biggest giggle but I’m sure young readers will enjoy every single one of the double page spread.

I enjoyed these books for their ‘have a go’ Dad and Grandpa and their warmth and colour.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa come in a durable hardback format that can be slipped easily into a nappy or other carry bag – and they’re the kind of books to encourage discussion about what family truly means.

They even have space at the back for the reader to fill in with favourite things they like about or like to do with Dad or Grandpa.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers we’re featuring Nick Bland’s, Some Dads.


Gamers’ Challenge is the action-packed sequel to Gamers’ Quest by George Ivanoff.

Zyra and Tark are shocked to learn that they are not the only Zyra and Tark in the game…and in fact, Zyra has a daughter, Hope.

Now that Zyra and Tark have broken the rules, they can no longer play the game, but how will they find their way out of it? Now they have a new mission, to find The Ultimate Gamer who just might have the key to solving their problems.

For Tark and Zyra, life was literally just a game, controlled by the all-powerful Designers. But then they broke the rules and life got a whole lot more complicated…and deadly.

Pursued by a powerful computer virus they must locate the Ultimate Gamer with the help of some unexpected allies, and face their greatest challenge – finding a way out of the game.

And with the VIs hot on their trail it’s going to take all their stealth and ingenuity to escape. According to Professor Palimpsest, the VIs are some sort of virus and they’re not going to be easy to defeat.

Gamers’ Challenge has everything – dragons and knights (the sort of players you’d expect to find in a quest), and even zombies and unicorns.

Zyra and Hope whirled back to the doorway. As the row of zombies stumbled along, one of them stepped out of line towards Zyra. It held a dismembered human in its hand, blood still dripping from the end. And it was looking straight at her.

It soon becomes clear to Zyra and Hope that the zombies and other creatures in the game can see them, even though they’re not playing anymore – and this makes their attempted escape a lot more dangerous.

Gamers’ Challenge offers another thrilling ride for readers. It’s fast and fun and full of the same complex detail, and twists and turns that kids enjoy in a computer game.

There are all sorts of quirky challenges for the characters to face like the game of Sudden Death Pinball where you get hit by the ball and you die,

And once they find the Ultimate Gamer he’s not what they expected – and he has no interest in leaving the game because he says it offers him all the freedom he wants.

“The freedom to play. The freedom to win. The freedom to be whoever I want to be.”

But he’s not going to let them out of the game either unless they fight him and win. And what will that really mean for the victor?

Readers who enjoyed Gamers’ Quest will love Gamers’ Challenge and the new action-packed adventures of Tark and Zyra.

Gamers’ Challenge is to be released by Ford Street publishing on 1st September, and there’s an official Gamers’ Quest website at:

Gamers’ Challenge is written by my fellow Boomerang Books’ blogger, George Ivanoff who blogs at Literary Clutter.



Warambi is Aleesah Darlison’s latest picture book and it’s a delightful story about a young bent-wing bat’s journey from just born and totally dependant on her mother to becoming independent and able to leave the forest cave that is her home.

She was no bigger than a bean. Her eyes were sealed shut and there wasn’t a scrap of fur on her body.

In the safety of the nursery cave, she practiced flying with the other pups until she was ready to go outside.

This simply told story manages to endear Warambi’s character to the reader and at the same time introduce them to the reality of the life of a baby bat.

One day Warambi’s world is thrown into turmoil by an excavator that destroys the bat’s cave home and separates her from the rest of the colony. Wanting to know the young bat’s fate will keep readers turning the pages..

One of the things I enjoyed most about Warambi was the way three important threads were woven seamlessly together – Warambi’s story, facts about bats and the impact of man on the environment.

The author uses beautiful imagery to allow the readers to picture the world in which Warambi lives. “Sunlight and metal burst into the darkness.”

Warrambi is a narrative non-fiction picture book and the text is taken to a new level by the illustrations of former zoologist, and well-loved illustrator, Andrew Plant. His understanding of, and appreciation for wildlife are apparent in his stunning pictures.

As well as being a visual delight, Warambi offers many layers of meaning for the reader, and the end papers are full of additional interesting facts about bats.

Lower Primary readers will find a lot to enjoy about Warambi. The story is based on a real event and has been released in the “Year of the Bat.”

This book tells two stories – the true life story of a bat’s life cycle and Warambi’s journey.

Warambi is published by Working Title Press.





Before reviewing The House of 12 Bunnies, I have to declare for the record that I live in a house with two bunnies, so this book was always going to have appeal for me.

But I was also drawn to the fun of a houseful of young rabbits causing chaos as they go about their business. I enjoyed their childlike actions – and the way they cover just about every piece of floor space with their toys and precious belongings.

Sophia, a cute white bunny is the star of The House of 12 Bunnies due for release by Little Hare books tomorrow.

Being completely white she is easy to distinguish from the other bunnies and can be seen peering over fences, among toys and between boxes; her little white face sometimes only just visible.

Written by mother and daughter, Caroline Stills and Sarcia Stills-Blott, The House of 12 Bunnies is an entertaining read with beautiful illustrations by Judith Rossell. She has drawn each rabbit with its own endearing personality.

Sarcia was 8 when she wrote the first draft of this story and seems to have injected a child’s sense of fun into The House of 12 Bunnies.

This picture book has so many layers and Judith Rossell’s images offer something different for the reader every time they open the book. The closer you look the more you realise how much fun these bunnies are truly having.

The storyline is something small children will relate to – losing an important  possession just before bedtime. I’m not going to give away the ending but the resolution will leave the reader content and ready for sleep.

There is also a learning component to the book with opportunities to count and add up and to identify different animals and objects.

“In the playroom there are 5 teddy bears, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 1 duck and a giraffe with stuffing coming out.”

There was so much to enjoy about this story and the gorgeous pictures, that I couldn’t choose a favourite scene, but bunny bathtime and bunnies bouncing on the bed sure brought back memories of when my kids were little. And that’s where I think The House of 12 Bunnies will have appeal for small children and adults alike.

As the blurb on the back of the book says, “When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly bust with fun things…”

And of course there’s the fact that The House of 12 Bunnies is published by Little Hare



Today, illustrator of The House of 12 Bunnies visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk about being an illustrator and why she chose bunnies for this book.

Have you always enjoyed illustrating?

Yes, when I was small, like many kids, I liked to write stories and illustrate them.  I was one of those children who was always getting in trouble for drawing in class, when I should have been doing something else.

How did you become an illustrator?

I used to do greetings cards and other small illustration jobs all the way through school and uni. I remember doing a design for the mining engineering student society’s badge, and getting paid $20 and some beer. I was pretty happy about that! I studied science, and worked for 7 or 8 years, and later I became a full time illustrator. I started out mainly illustrating educational books, greeting cards and a bit of commercial illustration. Now I mainly illustrate children’s books. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.

Where does your inspiration come from?

From all around the place! Recently, I’ve been doing more drawing from life, which is good practice for me, and also makes me look at things properly. I also like to look at other illustrator’s and artist’s work.

What inspired you most about illustrating this book?

I liked the idea of a house full of messy characters. I have friends with little children, and a messy house gives you the impression that there are lots of  fun things going on! Originally, the text was for a house of 12 children, and I made a start drawing them, but it wasn’t really working, and so I tried creating 12 rabbit characters instead, and they seemed much more appealing!

Who is your favourite character and why?

I tried to give each of the 12 rabbits his or her own personality. In each picture, there is a sad little grey rabbit who often misses out. He might be my favourite, I feel a bit sorry for him.

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

The main rabbit is Sophia, who is looking for something. I chose to make her a plain white rabbit, so she stands out from the others and is easy to recognise even if you can only see a tiny part of her, like the tips of her ears.

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

Firstly, I planned the characters, and it was at this stage they changed from being people to being rabbits! Then I made pencil drawings of all the pages, and sent them off to the editor for her feedback. The designer used these pencil drawings to make the layout, which was great, because then when I came to make the final illustrations, I could incorporate the changes she wanted. It’s great to work with a good designer! Then I went ahead and transferred the pencil drawings to the watercolour paper. Then I painted them.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

I quite like making the final artwork. I tend to watch DVDs when I work, and make lots of cups of tea. I like colouring in!

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Doing the rough drawings is sometimes quite difficult. In a book like this, where each page has the 12 rabbits in a different room, I tried hard to make sure that all the pages worked together, but that there was also enough variety on each page so they didn’t look too similar.

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

Fairly independently. I didn’t have any communication with the authors.

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

Pencil and acrylic (which I use like watercolour).

How long did it take to illustrate?

About 6 weeks.

How many books have you illustrated?

About 80

What number is this one?

Perhaps 81?? I’m not sure.

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

Practice drawing things! In particular, children and animals. Be brave and take your folio around to show publishers.

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

People might be interested to know that my cat Fidel now weighs more than 7 kg!! (haha!) Also, a picture book I wrote and illustrated, ‘Oliver’ is going to be published by Harper Collins in the US next year. I’m very excited about it!

You can find out more about Judith Rossell by checking out her new website at