CAROLINE STILLS TALKS ABOUT 12 CUTE BUNNIES

Today, Caroline Stills is back at Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how she collaborated with her daughter, Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) to create their new book, The House of Bunnies.

What inspired you to write this book?

The House of 12 Bunnies started with my daughter, Sarcia. Like a lot of children, she has always been very creative, and spends lots of her spare time typing up stories or drawing pictures. A couple of years ago, I was reading through some of her stories, and one in particular grabbed me as a great idea for a picture book. It was called The House of 99 Kids, and in the story Sarcia (aged 8 at the time) imagined what would be in each room of a house where so many children lived.

I worked on her initial manuscript, adding more rooms to the house and expanding the text, and sent it to my publisher at Little Hare Books. She liked the idea, but preferred to target it to a younger age group, so I re-wrote it as The House of 12 Children, as most children can count to twelve by the time they start school. Then, together, my publisher and I worked on several more versions of the text, adding layers so that we were educating readers in a subtle way as well as entertaining them, and creating a fun narrative, until we were both happy with the final version. And lastly, after seeing the lovely bunny illustrations created by Judith Rossell, we changed the title to The House of 12 Bunnies.

(They are gorgeous illustrations, aren’t they, Caroline? Tomorrow we’re talking to Judith Rossell about how she created them.)

What’s The House of 12 Bunnies about?

This is what is written on the back cover: When twelve messy bunnies live under the same roof, the rooms nearly burst with fun things to find and count. There are twelve chairs, twelve beds, twelve towels, and twelve of just about everything else! In the middle of all the muddle, Sophia searches for the one thing that will get the bunnies to bed on time.

What age groups is it for?

Children aged 2 to 7. The younger children can have fun helping Sophia find what she is looking for and seeing what the bunnies gets up to in each room. Most readers will be able to find the 12 things on each page, and older readers can even attempt some simple addition.

Why will kids like it?

It’s interesting to imagine living with lots of others, and seeing what each of the bunnies is doing. And it’s essentially a fun search-and-find book to learn about numbers and counting.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

I’m proud to have written this book with my daughter. I hope it encourages lots of other children to try writing their own stories. You never know what could happen.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love that this book is a real group effort – starting with Sarcia’s original story. I really enjoyed the collaborative process working with the fantastic team at Little Hare Books, who truly care about creating fabulous books for children.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Nothing. It was a terrific experience and process.

 

CAROLINE STILLS IS PASSIONATE ABOUT PICTURE BOOKS

L-R: Sarcia and Caroline Stills with their new book

Caroline Stills and her daughter Sarcia are the authors of a gorgeous new picture book, The House of 12 Bunnies due for release on 20th August. Today, Caroline visits Kids’ Book Capers to tell us about her writing journey.

How did you become a writer?

I started to take my writing seriously when my first daughter was born, back in 2000. No longer in the paid workforce, I figured that I would have plenty of time to write – after all, babies spend so much time sleeping – right? The reality of the emotional rollercoaster of being a new parent – and sleep deprivation – soon set in, but I did start putting pen to paper, and joined a writers’ group for added support. My first attempts at writing were for adults, but inspired by my children, I wrote the text for a picture book a few years ago, and was extremely fortunate to have the result “Magic Mummy” published as my first picture book.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I love being a writer – it’s fun creating new characters, stories and worlds. The best part is being able to work from home, so I can combine my writing with being a mum, which is my most important job.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Having a manuscript rejected is never easy. And it’s hard to make a living solely from writing, but I’m working on that!

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

Immediately before I started writing, I was co-running a business designing and selling maternity wear, which my business partner and I started from scratch. Before that I worked as a remuneration analyst at a bank and as a Tafe teacher. And before that I did lots of odd jobs to pay my way through University.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

I can’t name an achievement as my greatest – maybe it’s still to come – but I do feel chuffed each time I walk into a shop and see one of my books on the shelves.

What are you working on at the moment?

I always have a picture-book or two on the go, but I am also trying other types of writing. I have just finished my first novel manuscript for middle school aged children, and have just started my first attempt at a Young Adult novel, which I’m excited about and very much enjoying.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

If writing is your passion, enjoy the journey. I also think a good writers’ group is really invaluable, both for what you can learn from each other, but also for the emotional support from those who know just how you feel.

How many books have you had published?

Three picture books:

Magic Mummy, illustrated by Christina Miesen, published by Black Dog Books in 2009.

An A to Z of Pirates, illustrated by Heath McKenzie, published by Little Hare Books in 2010.

The House of 12 Bunnies, co-written with my daughter, Sarcia, illustrated by Judith Rossell, and published by Little Hare Books, has just been released.

Book number four – An A to Z of Fairies – is due for release in a couple of months.

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

We will be celebrating the release of The House of 12 Bunnies, on August 20, 2011. Please see my website for more details; www.CarolineStills.com

On Wednesday, Caroline is back at Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how she and Sarcia wrote The House of 12 Bunnies. Illustrator, Judith Rossell is visiting on Thursday to talk about how she created the wonderful pics, and on Friday there will be a bunny review here at Kids’ Book Capers. Hope you can join us.

 

NOG AND THE LAND OF NOSES

Nog and the Land of Noses is Bruce Whatley’s hilarious new picture book.

It’s the story of Nog who is the only one in town who doesn’t have a nose that does anything useful. His family and friends have noses that can do all sorts of things; sniff out a bargain, play music and even catch fish.

But all Nog could catch was a cold.

Nog would dearly love to have a nose that had some use, but one hasn’t been discovered yet. Grandma has always said Nog has a nose for trouble, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet – until the day Nog sniffs out a pepper storm and saves the town from catastrophe.

Nog didn’t know he had a nose for trouble until ‘trouble’ came to the Land of the Noses!

Kids love playing nose games and the things that come out of noses are of particular fascination so this book has plenty to tickle their sense of humour.

I found so much to love about Nog and the Land of Noses. The text is clever and the illustrations are hilarious. I think my favourites were the blocked noses, the running noses and the picked noses.

While this book is funny and colourful and quirky, it has an important underlying theme – that everyone has their own special qualities.

I can imagine readers of all ages from 0 to adult having a lot of fun with this book.

Nog and the Land of Noses is published by Scholastic Australia.

BUTTON BOY

Button Boy is a charming new picture book by Rebecca Young and Sue deGennaro.

Lots of kids love to collect things and in Banjo’s case, it’s buttons. He collects buttons of all shapes, colours and sizes and grandma sews them onto his jumper.

I liked Banjo’s quirkiness, that he finds something a little different to do to keep himself busy. Buttons seem to be such an easy thing to lose so it’s not surprising that Banjo manages to collect so many.

He has a jumper full of buttons but one day he goes to the banyan tree and finds an unhappy little girl who has lost a button.

Grandma Woolly had sewn the girl’s missing ducky button on his jumper just a week ago.

Banjo gives the little girl back her button and this starts him on a quest where one by one he returns the buttons he has found. Soon people are gathering at the banyan tree to collect their missing buttons.

After he has given all the buttons back, Banjo looks around for something else to collect and discovers something that can bring him even more happiness.

Button Boy is a gentle story about a boy’s journey of discovery, about friendship, love, honesty and how the search for one thing can lead to another.

This sensitive text is created by Rebecca Young and the joyful illustrations are by Sue deGennaro. Button Boy is published by Scholastic Australia.

IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT

What young child doesn’t know and enjoy the song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”?

In P Crumble and Chris Kennett’s colourful new picture book, If you’re HAPPY and you know it!, this song is used to form the basis of a cute Australian tale showcasing some of our best-loved native animals.

This Aussie edition features a climbing possum, a digging wombat, a nose-twitching bandicoot, a bouncing wallaby, a flapping galah, a goanna with a long tongue, a laughing kookaburra, a scratching dingo, a snapping crocodile, a growling Tassie Devil, a spiky echidna and a sleeping koala.

Each animal performs an action that kids will enjoy doing too and at the end of the book there’s a complete verse for each bush creature that young readers can sing.

Kids will love the expressions on the faces of Chris Kennet’s hilarious characters. This book is bright, colourful and full of fun.

Young kids will enjoy having this book read to them and getting involved in all the actions and being able to sing along.

If you’re HAPPY and you know it!, is a great interactive book for young readers.

It’s cleverly written by P. Crumble with beautiful illustrations by Chris Kennett. If you’re HAPPY and you know  it! is published by Scholastic Australia.

BILBY SECRETS

Bilby Secrets is Australian author, Edel Wignell’s latest book and it’s part of the acclaimed Nature Storybooks series from Walker books.

The bilby is an endangered Australian marsupial and Bilby Secrets reveals how it manages to survive the harsh desert environment. Readers discover so much about the bilby – where it finds its food, where it sleeps, who its predators are.

One of the things I liked about this book is the way that the true story of how a bilby lives is presented in narrative so the reader is carried into the bilby’s world.

The reader gets to take a peek inside Mother Bilby’s burrow as she gives birth to her baby and keeps him safe inside her pouch.

The young Bilby grows and becomes independent and finally gets to leave the burrow, cantering behind his mother. Young bilby is introduced to the desert and taught how to find his own food and about the dangers lurking there.

Alongside the bilby story are lots of great facts – the bilby secrets that Edel Wignell reveals. The fact that bilbys have around four litters of young a year but the number varies depending on the food and water supply.

Bilbies have sharp teeth. As they hunt, they store food in their cheeks.

A bilby may have up to twenty tunnels in its feeding area.

Bilby Secrets, the story of mother and baby bilby’s journey is beautifully illustrated by Melbourne-based artist, Mark Jackson. His pictures depict the rich colours of the desert and reflect the busy but perilous life of a bilby.

Edel Wignell’s fluent narrative is accompanied by well-researched facts to engage the curious young reader.

Bilby Secrets is published in hardback for readers aged 3+

 

 

 

 

iHARRY REVIEW

iHarry is a hilarious new children’s book by Australian author, Laurine Croasdale.

It hardly seems fair. Harry’s dad designs mobile phones and Harry must be the only kid on the planet who’s not allowed to have one.

So when Dad is bedridden for a week after an accident on Harry’s skateboard, Harry makes the most of it. Dad has invented an amazing new phone. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to borrow it and take it to school just for one day would it?

At first things start out great! The phone seems like the best invention ever.

“It does his exam, plays his favourite songlist and orders pizza – but it has one MAJOR flaw. He can’t take it off. And that’s when the trouble starts…

When the school principal is sent a text saying her stories are boring, Harry is not going to admit that his super phone was responsible.

Then when the school bully, Bozo steals the phone, it seems things can’t get any worse.

Finally, Harry gets the phone back but it has been ground into the dirt by Bozo. How is Harry going to explain this one to Dad?

iHarry has plenty of tension and excitement to keep readers turning the page. The subject matter is topical and imaginative and the first person point of view brings the reader into the heart of the story.

I’m sure that lots of young readers will relate to Harry’s situation where doing something a bit risky turns badly wrong. They will enjoy the fun technology and what kid wouldn’t dream about having a phone that does their exams and pretty much anything they want it to do – even ask their class ‘crush’ out on a date?

iHarry is a fast-paced, easy to read contemporary story. The characters are well developed and believable and the Harry’s dilemma will appeal to its upper primary school readers; many of whom are desperate to have their own mobile phone.

The colourful and quirky cover illustration is by Heath McKenzie. iHarry is published by Penguin Group’s Puffin Books in their Aussie Chomp series.

 

MEET LAURINE CROASDALE

Today at Kids’ book Capers, we’re talking with Australian Children’s author, Laurine Croasdale, about her writing journey and the inspiration behind her new Aussie Chomp, iHarry Laurine has published around fifteen books in a range of genres and topics.

ABOUT LAURINE *

Laurine started by selling ideas for non-fiction for kids, such as game books and activity books like the Play School Party Book and then she started writing fiction.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The moment when you have a great idea and you can’t wait to start getting words on the page.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Making yourself write when you really don’t want to. Usually that’s the editing/rewriting process on very little sleep.

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

I’d love to think that I was a painter.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Writing a book about bushfires that swept through the street where I grew up. Half the street got burnt down and the whole street was devastated. In the months after I collected everyone’s stories and put them into my book Red Golf Balls. My ‘street family’ loved it and over the years have always given me lots of support. They also put the book in the street ‘archive’ with some other key memorabilia they collected. It is wonderful being able to give people a voice.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have three projects on the go and am writing like an ipod on shuffle.

(Love that description, Laurine. That’s pretty much how I work.)

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Have fun, take heart – there is always room for a good story.

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

I often write about people who are outsiders and people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. I like writing books that make me laugh and hopefully make the readers laugh too. Laughter is such a gift!

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

Writing has been a brilliant part of my life. Not only has it presented me with a puzzle that I have spent most of my life trying to unravel but it has brought me into contact with some amazing people, places and situations. Publication is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rewards and benefits of putting pen to paper.

ABOUT iHarry

What inspired you to write this book?

My son. He never gets off his mobile phone!

What’s it about?

iHarry is about a boy who ‘borrows’ his Dad’s futuristic prototype mobile phone and takes it to school. For a while it’s a dream come true but one day he discovers that it is stuck to his ear and his life goes into freefall.

What age groups is it for?

Upper primary.

Why will kids like it?

The kids I know who have read iHarry think it is fun and funny. It’s about the age group when most kids are desperate to have a mobile phone but have to wait until high school so it taps into their wish list and makes them think ‘what if’.

I did a virtual launch via a Literature Live! video conference to 450 kids and we had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for phones and phone apps and what we could do with them.

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

Harry is the main character. He is a decent guy and normally never does anything wrong so when he is tempted by the phone and takes it to school it goes against his moral code. He stuffs up, gets in trouble, fights with his friends and Dad, and bumbles his way through trying to sort it all out. He is like most kids you meet, a mix of fun, good will, mischief and WHOAAARH! Moments. It’s the WHOAARH! moment that brings him undone!

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

Yes, I have some brilliant teacher’s notes and am happy to send them to teachers if they want to email me l_croasdale*at*hotmail*dot*com. There are things to make and invent as well as questions about the social etiquette of mobile phones and their place in the public arena. In 2016 everyone on the planet will have access to a mobile phone network. The use and reliance on mobile phones has grown like lantana but there seem to be no parameters on how to use them appropriately. I hope iHarry makes kids and teachers start talking about that.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

iHarry is a fun adventure for both girls and boys, asks a few moral and social questions and provides a few laughs along the way.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I had fun dreaming up a mobile phone and apps that hadn’t been invented yet. It made me laugh when I wrote it and that’s always a bonus.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

There wasn’t really a hard part to it. I know, pathetic isn’t it? It would be much better to say I bled from the eyeballs but sometimes stories go your way and this is one of them.

(I’m really glad this story didn’t make you bleed from the eyeballs, Laurine:)

Laurine is available for classroom workshops and visits and more about her is available from the Literature Live website

Laurine also has her own website at www.laurinecroasdale.com

The pic is of Laurine at Berkelouw Books.

A friend told me that iHarry was No4 on their top ten selling books and I had to go and check that my mother had been in buying them all!

For a review of iHarry, come back to Kids’ Book Capers on Friday. Look forward to seeing you here.

 

HEAD SPINNERS

Great suspense, quirky characters, action and humour are features of the six mind twisting stories in Head Spinners by Thalia Kalkipsakis.

Thalia is best known for her Go Girls and Girlfriend Fiction, but she’s really hit the boy’s market running with her new short story collection.

In Head Spinners, There are six engrossing tales featuring different characters and each one has a strange twist at the end.

The six tantalising tales are Tick-Tock Time Machine, It Began With a Tingle, Alive Again, Face the Vortex, Night Sight and Evil Eye.

There are time travellers, special gifts, limbs with an identity of their own, fish with strange secrets and an encounter with great grandma’s ghost.

These stories are fast-paced, funny and sometimes a bit scary. But the language is not complicated and they are easy read and enjoy. They’re told in the first person to draw the reader closer and each story hooks you right from the start.

“IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA at the time. Well no…if I’m being completely honest, I thought it was a risky idea that no one was going to find out about.” (From Evil Eye)

“LET ME MAKE ONE THING CLEAR: I didn’t steal anything from The Big Cow Cafe. Why would I? I don’t even like smoked-trout sandwiches, and I’d already had lunch – a steaming sausage roll with zigzag sauce.” (From Alive Again).

In Head Spinners, there are strong themes of friendship, loyalty, guilt, facing your fears, and standing up for what’s right. But they’re all really good fun stories. The dialogue is realistic and the family situations will be very familiar to many readers.

I loved all six stories and it’s hard to pick out a favourite, but I particularly loved the characters in Tick-Tock Time Machine and the dilemma that Sam the main character finds himself in.

Readers will still be thinking about Head Spinners long after they have turned the last page.

The stories are for mid to upper-primary readers, but they’re something parents will get a giggle out of too.

Head Spinners is published by Allen & Unwin.

 

CHANGING YESTERDAY

Changing Yesterday is the sequel to the highly acclaimed, Before the Storm and is the work of one of Australia’s leading SF and Fantasy authors, Sean McMullen.

It’s 1901, and Battle Commander Liore has travelled back in time to stop a war that will rage for over a hundred years. But time itself is against her. Whenever she changes history, a new beginning to the war emerges and the world once again teeters on the brink of disaster.

To make matters worse, Barry the Bag has stolen Liore’s plasma rifle, the most dangerous weapon in the world. The owner is on his trail, and she doesn’t take prisoners.

One of the things I loved about Changing Yesterday is that it’s a novel that breaks rules. It spreads across so many genres. Action, adventure, science fiction, dystopian, romance, humour – it has pretty much everything. This is a novel that cannot be put in a labelled box and for this reason it will appeal to readers with a diverse range of tastes and interests.

I also enjoyed the eclectic mix of characters – the pathetic unlucky in love Daniel who is stronger than he thinks, the unscrupulous but hopeless Barry the Bag, the treacherous Muriel Baker who the reader gets to know mainly through hearsay, the invincible Liore and the feisty and clever Madeline who I have a feeling may feature in Daniel’s affections in later books. Every one of these characters has their own distinct voice and individual traits that will endear them to readers.

I was very familiar with some of the towns in which the book was set so that was also something else I enjoyed.

Changing Yesterday is one of those rare books you read where you don’t get the feeling it’s the result of blood, sweat and tears. You come away with a sense that this is a book the author really enjoyed writing.

It’s a coming of age story in which the teen characters fight to save the world and find their own path into adulthood. They leave behind family and familiarity, take risks, live by their wits and make choices that will affect their futures. There are also themes of friendship, loyalty and trust. There’s a lot of travel happening in this book – through time – on boats – on trains – by horse – pretty much every mode of transport except planes but this is hardly surprising as the story is set in 1901.

There are plenty of references for the history lover and fascinating detail that kids will love.

Changing Yesterday is published by Ford Street.

 

SILVERMAY BY JAMES MOLONEY

Silvermay is the first book in the Silvermay Series by acclaimed Australian author, James Moloney, and it’s going to leave readers wanting more.

Sixteen year-old Silvermay falls for Tamlyn, a handsome young refugee who comes to live with his ‘wife’ in the village. When the couple are forced to flee once more, Silvermay goes with them to care for the newborn child, named Lucien.

But Lucien is more than he seems and soon Silvermay finds herself in sole charge of him while ruthless forces come searching.

Whom should she trust? Tamlyn, her love, who has no wife after all, or an aging scholar who offers her escape?

I found myself totally immersed in Silvermay’s world. Felt I was side by side with her, battling those who want to take Lucien, the baby she has sworn to protect.

There’s plenty of action as Silvermay faces internal and external conflict, and her story raises moral dilemmas and issues of friendship, loyalty and trust.

There’s a lilting quality to this book; beautiful language and vivid imagery that draw you into the world of the story.

Silvermay is only 16 yet the weight of the world has been placed on her shoulders. She’s vulnerable and likeable. The first person style brings Silvermay closer to her readers and involves you in her feelings and emotions.

Silvermay’s voice helped me connect with her character right from the start. Brave, yet impulsive, wise yet naive, she is a complex mix of contradictions that make her believable and endearing to the reader.

Death had never once asked for my attention in the sixteen years I had spent learning to love the people closest to me. Now it demanded it’s due in one unbearable charge. Rage took hold of me. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, that someone as good as Nerigold could be snatched away, that all the years of love and kindness she would have given to the world would never be lived. If my eyes stayed dry as I leaned over her body, it was because I was willing her to come back and live those years.

I loved the world and the characters created by James Moloney in Silvermay and look forward to reading Book 2, Tamlyn and Book 3, Lucien.

Silvermay is published by Harper Collins and is intended for readers aged 10 + but I can see it appealing to older teens and adults as well. It’s an easy to read book so would also work well as a class text.

 

JAMES MOLONEY TALKS ABOUT SILVERMAY

Award winning author, James Moloney has 35 books published. Today he is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his brand new Silvermay Series.

I asked him how he became a writer.

Once I began to enjoy books and reading, (about 16 years old) I started to think about writing. Early dabbling went nowhere, but when I became a teacher librarian I focused on children’s stories and found I liked it. An additional prompt came when I moved to an all-boys school and found the boys reluctant to pick up novels. The challenge was to get them in with stories I’d written myself.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Not having to work! Actually, writing is hard work, except you have no boss but yourself. You are also living in your imagination instead of doing things that others want you to do which can become tedious or don’t really interest you.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

The isolation is hard, at times. Making yourself do it, having the discipline and patience is a challenge. The first draft of a complicated and intensely emotional book is harder than climbing mountains.

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

I was a primary school teacher and teacher librarian.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

I am most proud of A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove which won the Book of the Year Award, because it is a powerful story of loneliness and redemption.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing a story for 9 to 13 year olds called Only the Heart Knows about an Australian boy who discovers his great grandfather was an infamous stage magician who is thought to have committed a great crime.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read, read, read, first of all. It is the best training there is. Write, too. If you don’t actually sit down and do it out of personal drive and interest, you are probably fooling yourself that you want to be a writer.

On the technical side, plan the ending before you start a story – otherwise you are lost right from the beginning.

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

My fantasy stories are all a struggle between good and evil, which is kind of expected. I like to find different ways to explore this, however. Eg. In the Silvermay sagas, the Wyrdborn act so despicably not because of any evil force inside them, but because they are born without any compassion for others and the ability to feel love.

All my fantasies are all set in a Tolkienesque medieval world because I love shining armour, swords and the rest.

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

I have already written the sequel to Silvermay, titled Tamlyn and it will be released in June 2012. I’ll start the third book soon but it won’t be out until June 2013.

After reading, Silvermay, I don’t think I’ll be the only one looking forward to that one.

ABOUT SILVERMAY

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea of the Wyrdborn as a race who aren’t evil, as such, but act in evil ways because they have no human feelings that guide others to share, to trust, to love etc. I was also keen to try a female protagonist, since that is a challenge for a man. I find new challenges inspiring and without that you can go stale.

What’s it about?

Sixteen year-old Silvermay falls for Tamlyn, a handsome young refugee who comes to live with his ‘wife’ in the village. When the couple are forced to flee once more, Silvermay goes with them to care for the newborn child, named Lucien. But Lucien is more than he seems and soon Silvermay finds herself in sole charge of him while ruthless forces come searching. Whom should she trust? Tamlyn, her love, who has no wife after all, or an aging scholar who offers her escape. This is a rollicking adventure with moments of high romance and the final scene will have readers on the edge of their seats.

What age groups is it for?

As young as 10, but more for 13, 14, 15 and up to adults.

Why will kids like it?

The fast pace, the warm-hearted romance, the mystery, the dilemmas Silvermay faces, her courage and inventiveness. It is not a hard book to read and will get readers in from the first page.

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

It is a challenge to create characters that aren’t simply clichés and stereotypes. I also don’t like female heroines who have to be ‘saved’ or protected by males eg. Bella in Twilight. I think Silvermay is a good balance between a feminine girl who cares about how she looks, but doesn’t count it as the most important thing about her, who can ride a horse and shoot an arrow, even to kill a man if necessary. Yet she cannot take a life without great pain to herself. If there is anything I don’t like about her, it is the way she treats a character called Ryall, a boy her own age who only wants to help, but at first she is mean to him.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

The exploration of evil as the absence of humanity, perhaps.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I loved getting into Silvermay’s head and giving her lots to do. She takes the lead more often than not and comes through, despite her fears.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Avoiding clichés that can crop up in fantasy – magical swords, the use of magic to get a character out of trouble as a kind of cop out.

Silvermay is a great read and I’ll be reviewing it tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers.

 

 

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher is Swiss-born artist and illustrator, Céline Eimann’s first authored and illustrated book.

Céline says, When I was a child my father used to tell me many little stories. I grew up in Switzerland and there we have a saying that If you dig a hole through the planet and throw a stone in it will arrive in China! My father added that the Stone will actually never get to the other side as there is a  green beast called the Stone-Muncher who lives in the centre of the earth that will eat it first.

Lyli is a child with a big imagination and major curiosity, living in the distant planet of Motika, in a city surrounded by great crystal mountains. One day her mother tells her about a great Green Stone-Muncher who ate a path through the mountains.

Lyli knows she should be afraid, but she decides to set out in search of the Stone-Muncher. She takes her cat Tyki with her and finds the secret tunnel and the monster. But what is over the other side of the mountains?

Lyli’s emotions on her journey are clearly expressed and there is humour shown through the antics of Tyki. The big eyes on the monster make it more friendly than scary so young readers will want to go on the journey with Lyli and the Stone-Muncher.

This is an adventure story that also reads a bit like a fable. Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher is imaginatively illustrated by Celine Eimann in a unique style involving various mediums including pencil, collage and other media.

The pictures are full of interesting detail for the reader to explore and enjoy.

There are a number of themes in the book to discuss with young readers including friendship, bravery, the environment and finding your own path.

Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher is for children aged 6-10 and is published by IP Kidz.

It is for parents who wish to give their kids great places to seek out, or encourage them to use their imaginations, looking for ‘monsters’ of their own.

 

 

Céline Eimann – Author and Illustrator

Today we’re talking to author and illustrator, Céline Eimann about her two new books with IP Kidz and her first foray into writing.

How did you become a writer?

I’ve always considered myself as a visual artist, so it almost came as a surpise to become an author. I just had this story in mind and added text to the illustrations. Since I completed this first one many more came to my mind.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I have a lot of fun creating characters and the world they live in.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

I think the hardest part is the rejection of your manuscript as it’s always such a personnal project.

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

I’ve been many things (waitress,receptionist,nanny), but mostly a graphic designer.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

So far ‘Lyli meets the Stone-Muncher’ is my greatest achievement. It first started by winning the first prize at the CYA conference in 2009 to now having it published by IP Kidz. It’s a dream coming true.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on two other picture books. The first one is about a little fairy, the other one about a little girl in trouble. The text part is done, but I’m still working on the illustrations. I’m exploring different visual effects to express the emotions throughout the books.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

I think the best tip in any creative endeavor would always be to believe in yourself and your work. Creating a book might be an overwhelming task but with perseverance, once step at a time you can make it happen.

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

One strong theme in all my stories is friendship even though they all have very different universes.

How many books have you had published?

‘Lyli meets the Stone-Muncher’ is my first book published as an author.
I also had the honor to illustrate the ‘The Sky Dreamer’ written by Anne Morgan both published by IP Kidz and coming out in February 2011. In Switzerland I’m working as an Illustrator for ‘les Editions Notari” which is publishing two books for adults that I illustrated this year as well.

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

We are working on a bilingual version of ‘Lyli meets the Stone-Muncher’ in French and English. I’m very excited about this part of the project as I learned English by reading books myself. I think they’ll become great learning tools.

LYLI MEETS THE STONE-MONSTER

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was a child my father used to tell me many little stories.

I grew up in Switzerland and there we have a saying that If you dig a hole through the planet and throw a stone in it will arrive in China!

My father added that the Stone will actually never get to the other side as there is a  green beast called the Stone-Muncher who lives in the centre of the earth that will eat it first.

When I moved down under, this became a running joke between us. Anytime we’d message each other we would add a post scriptum saying I hope the message gets to you before the Stone-Muncher eats it. At first I wrote and illustrated the story just for him.

What’s it about?

It’s a story about friendship, adventure and extending your horizons.

What age groups is it for?

6 to 10 years old

Why will kids like it?

I think they’d like that Lyli is so adventurous and a little stubborn.

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

I like that she’s curious of the world she lives in and ready to go further than anyone before her.

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

Not at the moment.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

The characters evolve in a universe that is very unique visually. I also like to think that the story is quit lively and inspiring.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Creating the characters, their personality and relationships was the best part. This was the first time I wrote a story. I loved the whole process of adding words to the images in my head even though it was challenging at times.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

As this is my first experience as a writer, the whole process was challenging and completely out of my comfort zone. On top of the lack of experience, another difficulty was the fact that English isn’t my first language. I felt a little bit uneasy with getting the right words sometimes. The process of writing is simpler now, I must be learning with practice.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, we’re reviewing Lyli Meets the Stone-Muncher.

 

Anne Morgan’s Brave Picture Book

Anne Morgan is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about being an author and the difficult journey she took writing her picture book, The Sky Dreamer, published this year by IP Kidz. Anne is the author of seven children’s books and a book of poetry.

As a teenager I used to read bedtime stories to my young brothers. This suited me well, for I was a studying drama teaching at the time, and reading children’s stories aloud provided the perfect opportunity for me to practise my character voices in front of an appreciative audience. Later, when I had children of my own, I spent countless more hours reading aloud to them. One thing led to another and I was soon writing children’s stories for my children and sending them off to publishers. In 1999, seven years after my first tentative submission to a publisher, I had my first book, The Glow Worm Cave, published by Aboriginal Studies Press.

Anne has worked as a pharmacy assistant; speech and drama tutor; kitchen hand; library assistant; English, Social Science, Mathematics teacher; university tutor in educational philosophy; (all in Tasmania); English as a Second Language teacher (NT and China); professional actor (Queensland and Tasmania); waitress and youth hostel receptionist (Ireland); grape picker (France); community development volunteer (England and Belgium); shop manager (NT, for a week ); public administration officer;  journalist; education officer; staff trainer (all in Tasmania) and academic researcher (Tasmania and WA).

She says her greatest achievement has been winning a university medal in 2009 for her PhD in Writing. At the moment she is working on a musical theatre adaptation of her junior novel, Warts ‘n’ All.

ANNE’S TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS

Publishing books is a substantial financial investment. When you ask a publisher to publish your work, you are asking other people to put up thousands of dollars of their money on what is ultimately a gamble in risky financial environment – so try to imagine yourself behind the publisher’s desk before complaining about them not accepting your brilliant manuscripts.

Because publishers have to be ultra-cautious about the manuscripts they accept in order to avoid bankruptcy, it is much harder for an unknown writer to gain a publishing contract than it is for a bestselling author. A new writer, therefore, should aim to produce a manuscript that will, figuratively speaking, leap out of the slush pile and turn summersaults under publishers’ noses, crying,  ‘publish me! I’m going to be the goose that lays golden egg for you! ’

I advise my writing students not to invest too much hope in any one manuscript. Keep writing new manuscripts and polishing old ones until you win that elusive contract. Call it a chook raffle if you like, but having many different manuscripts out there definitely increases your chances of publication.

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

Boats and the sea are a frequent source of inspiration to me. I can’t explain why – perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my surname, Morgan, means seafarer, and Welsh-Irish ancestors reputedly sailed a vessel named the Morgan Rattler.

You can find out more about Anne and her books at  www.annemorgan.com.au.

THE SKY DREAMER

Anne’s poignant new picture book, The Sky Dreamer is based on personal heartbreak and today Anne is sharing this very special journey.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Sky Dreamer is the book I wish I never had to write, for the story was born out of my own journey of grief after my beautiful 18 year old daughter, Miranda, died in a car accident four years ago. During the harrowing times that followed her loss, I sought comfort in poetry, and discovered ‘Beannacht’ (Blessing) by Irish poet, John O’Donohue. O’Donoghue’s verse, and another poem by Seamus Heaney about a group of meditating monks who see a ship appearing in the air above them (Lightenings: VIII), provided the creative sparks for The Sky Dreamer.

As I was writing The Sky Dreamer, I remembered, too, the dreadful impact the death of our family puppy had on me at the age of seven, and I decided that this would be a story for all children who have suffered grief, regardless of whether they have lost a pet, a friend, a sibling, parent, grandparent, or an acquaintance.

What’s it about?

After Liam’s sister Cassie dies, he spends hours watching the wintry sky, hoping that Cassie is out there somewhere. Just before his birthday, Cassie sails a The Sky Dreamer through the night sky and invites him to climb on board and take the wheel.  Liam sails through thunderstorms and a meteorite shower, and begs Cassie to help him sail the boat – but she is too busy sewing. Liam eventually learns that Cassie will not come to his aid and he must conquer his fears and sail solo. Once he has learned to hold the wheel firmly, his world begins to brighten. When he finds himself at home in his bed again, he feels Cassie’s birthday present around him, and sees the world through different eyes.

What age groups is it for?

4-104.

Why will kids like it?

The Sky Dreamer is a heartbreakingly beautiful and ultimately comforting fantasy about a grieving child who learns how to take control of his life. The book is brilliantly illustrated by the gifted young Swiss illustrator, Céline Eimann.

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

Liam’s grief is so much like mine. I was paralysed with grief after the death of my daughter, Miranda. About a year after she died, I realised I had to choose whether or not I was going to become permanently disabled by misery. In the end I decided that the only way I could cope with her loss was to make a conscious effort to see, hear and experience my daughter in every beautiful moment this life has to offer me.

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

Check my website www.annemorgan.com.au for teacher’s notes from March 2011.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

There are mythical, philosophical and poetic elements to The Sky Dreamer, for this is a story about a child grappling with the ultimate mysteries of life, death, time and space, and how to live one’s life after the loss of a loved one.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Dealing with my own grief, while trying to provide comfort to children who are also grieving.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Dealing with my own grief, while trying to provide comfort to children who are also grieving.

Thanks Anne for so bravely sharing your experiences with us.

THE SKY DREAMER – REVIEW

The Sky Dreamer is a touching picture book for readers aged 8 to 12 and I can see this story being a wonderful tool in helping them cope with grief in their life, particularly the sudden loss of a loved one.

When Liam’s sister, Cassie dies, he has to find some way to cope with his grief, and sailing the Sky Dreamer helps him find comfort and take back control of his life.

Colour is an important feature of this book with Liam’s grief shown in the greyness of earlier illustrations that contrast with the bright colours of the rainbow and the world of The Sky Dreamer.

It tackles a difficult subject with sensitivity and imagination. Jack has to weather all sorts of elements while sailing The Sky Dreamer, in much the same way as kids have to navigate the difficulties of life and death. There’s also an astronomical element to the book that will appeal to young readers.

It encourages kids to explore their feelings and find ways to cope.

The Sky Dreamer is published by IP Kidz and the illustrations that effectively complement the text are the work of Céline Eimann.

Readers can meet  Céline tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers and on Wednesday we’ll be reviewing Lyli Meest the Stone-Muncher which she wrote and illustrated. Hope you can join us then.

 

 

 

GOLDEN BAT HAS PLENTY OF SHINE

Golden Bat is the sixth book in Sandy Fussell’s widely read Samurai Kids series and its lively characters, strong themes, fascinating setting and fast-paced action give the book sparkle from cover to cover.

Golden Bat features Sandy’s popular characters; Kyoko the albino girl, Mikko the one-armed boy, Niya, the one-legged boy who narrates the story, Yoshi the boy who doesn’t want to fight, Taji the blind boy and Chen, the young Chinese boy from the streets of Beijing.

Dreaded Oong, the feared pirate captain is holding Mikko hostage and wants to trade him for his own nephew, Yuri who has been kidnapped by a corrupt magistrate.

The Samurai kids have only eight days to complete their mission and their situation isn’t helped when Sensei is seriously injured by a rogue bear and they are forced to seek the help of the Mountain Healer Iseul. Never before has Sensei been so vulnerable or needed the will, determination and courage of the Samurai Kids.

Taji is the central character in Golden Bat and he faces major internal and external dilemmas. The Mountain Healer may be able to restore his sight, but what will that do to Taji’s other talents? He must decide whether to get his sight back and lose his spirit or leave things as they are.

What makes the Samurai Kids’ books unique is that although the character’s lives are far from ‘ordinary’, they face dilemmas and fears that are very real and believable.

Golden Bat is another action-packed Samurai Kids adventure to keep young readers turning the pages; wondering what will happen next and what new dangers await the young Samurais.

It’s an evocative book full of vivid descriptions that place you right into the setting:

“We walk with ears wide open. When you are wary, the night is full of shadows and the forest is filled with whispers. Even our ninja footfalls ring loud in the silence.

The characters are well drawn, each with their own particular talents and flaws – each unique in how they respond to the challenges they are faced with.

Author, Sandy Fussell is meticulous with her research and provides an authentic feudal Japanese setting for Golden Bat.

As always, Rhian Nest James artwork is stunning and beautifully compliments the text.

The Samurai Kids books are lively historical fiction for readers aged 8+. They are published by Walker Books Australia.

 

PIPPA’S PERFECTLY DELIGHTFUL NEW STORY – PIPPA THE PERFECT FLOWER GIRL

Today, Julie Nickerson is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her new Aussie Nibble about the delightful Pippa from Pippa’s Perfect Ponytail.

Pippa’s new adventure, Pippa the Perfect Flower Girl is about Pippa’s very important job as flower girl at Aunty Sophie’s wedding and of course Pippa wants everything to be perfect – but does it turn out that way?

Meet Pippa’s Creator

Julie Nickerson always wanted to write a children’s book, but she didn’t know where to start.

Once I had kids, children’s books filled our home and the desire to write became stronger. Eventually I realized that starting to write is easy – you just need a pen and a piece of paper. I then attended many writing classes and seminars and learnt all I could about the publishing industry. Getting a book published may not be easy, but writing is – you just need to pick up that pen. If you’re a real writer, you won’t be able to put it down.

Julie can you tell us the best and the hardest parts about being a writer?

This is the first job I’ve had where I get to be creative all day, and that’s a lot of fun.

Writing is a very solitary task and sometimes it gets lonely spending all day in your own head. But once your characters come to life, it’s not so lonely.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on another Pippa story as well as a junior novel set in Japan.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read! Especially the types of books you’d like to write. Reading is a great way to learn how other authors construct their stories. Plus, reading is fun.

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

My stories always have some level of humour in them. Laughing is good for you, and if I’m writing a story that makes me laugh, then hopefully it will make other people laugh as well.

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

I talk to myself when I write. No, I’m not crazy, but I like to hear how the words sound together; seeing them on the page isn’t enough. This is why I’d never go to a coffee shop to write like some writers do.

I’m so pleased you said that, Julie. Not many writers admit to talking to themselves, but I’m sure most of us do.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had already written one Pippa book (Pippa’s Perfect Ponytail) and enjoyed working with her character so much that I wanted to write another story about her. I was delighted when my publisher said they’d like to see more of Pippa as well!

Why will kids like it?

Pippa wants everything to be perfect, but as is often the case in real life, things sometimes don’t go according to plan. But Pippa is a resourceful young girl and finds interesting ways to solve her problems. Janine Dawson’s wonderful illustrations add to the humour of the story.

Can you tell me about Pippa and what you like about her?

I like that Pippa is resourceful and looks for solutions for her problems. I dislike that she lives in a house with a cook and I don’t. In my house, the cook is usually me and I don’t find my own cooking very interesting. Either do my children.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

I think Janine’s illustrations make this book very appealing to young readers. She has added so many little details that add to the story but don’t appear in the words. For example, if you look closely at the picture of the wedding, you’ll notice a very special wedding guest. Hint: I want its tail.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Because Pippa’s Perfect Ponytail was already published, I had a clearer image in my head of the characters and the surroundings so I was able to really imagine how the book might look. Imagining Janine’s illustrations made me smile as I wrote it. Also, I’ve never been a flowergirl so I had to imagine what it would be like. I wanted to skip around the room, pretending to throw flower petals. But I’m not going to tell you if I actually did or not …

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

The first idea I had for this story was Pippa playing a game of hide-and-seek, with Pippa going missing when she finds a perfect hiding place. But it wasn’t very interesting and I needed to add another layer to the story. It took me a long time, but I eventually came up with the idea of there being a wedding, with Pippa being the flowergirl. Having the flowergirl going missing just before the wedding raised the stakes and gave me a lot of room to play with different ideas. It was lots of fun to write after that.

A Review of Pippa the Perfect Flower Girl

In Pippa the Perfect Flowergirl, Pippa is once again, ‘perfectly endearing’.

It’s Aunty Sophie’s wedding and Pippa has been asked to be the flower girl and of course she plans to do it perfectly. But typically for Pippa, nothing goes according to plan. While playing a game of hide and seek, she falls asleep and almost misses the wedding altogether.

She manages to get her dress and hair under control but in her rush to get ready, she has forgotten her basket of red rose petals – the ones she practiced scattering all morning.

Pippa loves Aunt Sophie. How could she possibly be Aunt Sophie’s perfect flowergirl without a basket of petals?

Pippa is devastated, but with her customary resourcefulness, she bounces back and finds the ‘perfect solution’ to her problem.

Pippa the Perfect Flowergirl is a simple story, but it has a strong plot arc and presents experiences and feelings that young readers will easily connect with. There’s rising tension as Pippa races against time to solve her predicament.

I love the optimism of this story. And I admired Pippa’s resilience and the way she doesn’t stop till she finds a solution. She doesn’t dwell on her own predicament but her focus is on making everything perfect for the Auntie she loves.

Pippa the Perfect Flowergirl is a tightly written story and Pippa’s character is strongly drawn so that readers empathise with her and care about what happens to her.

Janine Dawson’s lively illustrations complement the text and bring out the feisty, fun side to Pippa’s character.

Pippa the Perfect Flowergirl is another great Aussie Nibble from Puffin Books, aged for readers 6+. I look forward to seeing what Pippa gets up to next.

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL – ROSE

MEET ROSE’S CREATOR, SHERRYL CLARK

Sherryl Clark was born in New Zealand and learnt a lot about European history at school but nothing about Australia. She had no idea how the government worked, or that the states were independent until Federation. Now she lives in Australia and in writing the story of Our Australian Girl Rose knows more about Federation than most Aussies!

Sherryl is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to share the journey that she and Rose have taken together.

What did you enjoy most/find hardest about the research process?

Initially, I thought that Federation would be really hard to write a fictional story around, until I discovered this was also the time when the suffragettes were really active in their battle for the vote for women.

The more I researched about this, the more my story started to come alive. Then I came up with the idea that Rose would play cricket, and be really good at it, but of course at that time it would be frowned upon.

The best part of Federation research was discovering that this was very likely the time when the big Melbourne-Sydney rivalry started! The hardest was, as always, verifying facts – dates, who said what and when. I liked finding out things such as the bubonic plague in Sydney.

What did it feel like to walk in Rose’s shoes?

I searched on the internet until I found an old photo that looked like how I imagined Rose, my character. That, along with the suffragette information and the cricket/bowling talent helped to bring Rose to life for me.

I like to work from images, so I found a photo of a house I thought might have been her family home, and old photos of Bourke Street where her father’s Emporium might have been. All of the photos I found helped in one way or another – I could then imagine Rose in the middle of all of that, and what she would have been most interested in.

What is the most inspiring thing you discovered about Rose?

Although I loved turning Rose into the “real” Shane Warne with her spin bowling talents, what I think really brings her to life is her growing realisation of how life is for the poor in her city. Her family is wealthy, but simply from observing and listening, Rose comes to see that her life is privileged and that she is lucky – it makes her compassionate and someone who wants to help in real terms.

How do you think you would have survived living in Rose’s  era?

I think I would have hated living in that era! The clothing was ugly, the corsets were damaging to women’s bodies and the food wasn’t very nice either.

I would have been a troublemaker like Aunt Alice, throwing off the corset and staging sitdown protests. Women were treated like pieces of furniture, and I get mad enough about inequality now, let alone back then.

What significant historical events are covered in your books?

Federation, of course – the lead-up, the proclamation and the first sitting of Parliament, and also the death of Queen Victoria. Melbourne at that time had very few houses with electricity or telephones, there were few cars (although some enterprising Australians were building their own), and we still had hansom cabs, cable and horse-drawn trams and trains.

One of my favourite things to write about was Coles Arcade – there was a lot more I could have included but space restrictions meant it had to be taken out.

A REVIEW OF ROSE’S STORIES

Rose is the only one of the Our Australian Girls who comes from a privileged background where there is plenty of money and food but Rose has hardships of her own.

Rose is a feisty adventurous girl struggling to be ‘herself’ in a world of corsets, oversized hats and hairpins that made your head ache. She wants the freedom that boys have – to climb trees and ride bikes.

She wants to be like her beloved Aunt Alice who refuses to wear a corset and is campaigning for women’s right to vote.

In book one, MEET ROSE, readers meet Rose at her large house in Melbourne where she would rather play cricket and have adventures than be a ‘lady’ – where she is constantly in trouble for going out without her hat and parasol.

When Aunt Alice comes to stay, Rose’s life changes for the better, but unfortunately her mother and her aunt don’t see eye to eye. Rose has a loving older sister, Martha and a brother Edward whom she idolises, but seems to have problems of his own.

In book two, ROSE ON WHEELS, things get even worse. Mother seems intent on hiring a dreadful new governess, Miss Higgingbottom. Rose doesn’t want a governess, she wants to go to school like her brother, Edward.

Then it looks as if Aunt Alice is going to move to Adelaide to accept a teaching position and Rose will have nobody who truly understands her.

Rose borrows a bike and rides to Melbourne to her father’s work. Her intention is to get him to persuade his sister Aunt Alice to stay.

But things don’t go according to plan and what happens to her while she is riding Aunt Alice’s bike is going to incur the wrath of both parents and her aunt. Will she be able to persuade Aunt Alice to stay? Will she get her wish and be sent to school and avoid the awful Miss Higgingbottom?

Rose lived in an era when it was a lot harder to get around than today. There were few cars and most forms of transport were pulled by horses. Bicycles like the one Rose rides became very popular.

Rose’s story is full of historical detail, and young readers will be fascinated with Rose’s world and the things that young girls weren’t allowed to do back in the early 1900s. I loved her feisty character and think readers will do. Rose is not afraid to flout convention and stand up for what she believes in.

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL COMPETITION HAPPENING NOW!

LAST CHANCE TO WIN!

 

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL – POPPY

MEET POPPY’S CREATOR – GABRIELLE WANG

Gabrielle Wang is the author of the four Our Australian Girl Poppy series featuring Poppy, a Chinese-Aboriginal girl growing up on the goldfields in  the 1860s. Gabrielle is fourth generation Chinese Australian and her maternal great-grandfather came over to the Victorian Goldfields from Guangdong, China in the 1850s.

Gabrielle is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about Poppy’s journey and her creation.

Gabrielle talks us through the research process for Poppy’s story

As Poppy is part Aboriginal and part Chinese the first thing I needed to do was to contact someone who was Aboriginal. I contacted FATSIL (The Federation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture Corporation) and The Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbourne, and they put me in touch with Koorie elder, Uncle John Sandy Atkinson.

Uncle Sandy is a well-known and respected Elder of the Koorie community and also an actively involved member of the Bangerang community. Because my story is set along the Murray River, land of the Bangerang people, he was the perfect person to be introduced to.

I met with Uncle Sandy over the course of five months while I was planning the books. He was so very generous with his time, and the person who gave Poppy and Gus their Aboriginal names of Kalinya and Moyhu. With each book, I also worked closely with Maxine Briggs, the Koorie liaison officer at the State Library of Victoria. Maxine read through each manuscript providing invaluable insights into Aboriginal culture as well as advising me when I was touching on sensitive issues.

I could not have written the Poppy books without Uncle Sandy and Maxine’s help, and I cannot thank them enough. This part of the research process was hard but thoroughly enjoyable.

I also visited the State Library of Victoria and worked for many hours under the beautiful dome in the Latrobe Reading Room. Reading old newspapers stored on microfilm I would too often find myself being sidetracked by an intriguing story that was completely irrelevant to my research. The easiest research was done from home on Google, what a joy that search engine is! I also bought reference books sourced from all over Australia. Once the basic research was completed it was time to begin writing. But this is where the tricky part begins.

There was so much interesting material, I wanted to put it all in. But one of the basic rules of writing for young people is branded onto my brain – if it doesn’t move the story forward, then it has to go.

Apart from meeting Uncle Sandy and Maxine, I really enjoyed making a weekend trip to Beechworth and Wahgunyah.

What did it feel like to walk in Poppy’s shoes?

Poppy’s journey takes place along the Murray River between Echuca to Wahgunyah then on to Beechworth. This was the country my great grandfather travelled during the 1880’s when he cleared land for the pastorialists. So this became almost a personal journey for me.

What was the most inspiring thing you discovered about your character?

There were many surprises. Once I had brought Poppy to life she more or less took control of the story. I didn’t expect Poppy to be so moralistic or so confident. I wanted her to be a little less brave but she wouldn’t have it. I’d find her standing up for herself when I would have expected her to give up. She was very strong.

How do you think you would have survived living in Poppy’s era?

People in the 1800’s were tough, especially women on the goldfields. They endured all kinds of hardships and most lost children. That’s why they had so many to make sure some would survive. I don’t think I would have done very well in those times.

What significant historical events are covered in Poppy’s books?

The rapid decline of the Aboriginal tribes through murder, disease and starvation. The rounding up and putting into missions the remaining Aborigines. The rush for gold which brought thousands of foreigners to Australia. The beginning of the railroads in Victoria and the demise of the paddlesteamers and bullockies.

A REVIEW OF POPPY’S STORIES

Poppy is a gold rush girl who dreams of a better life. Her aboriginal name, Kalinya means ‘pretty one’ but Poppy also has Chinese heritage in her blood.

In book one, MEET POPPY, it’s 1864 and Poppy is living at Bird Creek Mission near Echuca. She hates the mission, especially now that her brother, Gus has run away in search of gold.

When eleven-year-old Poppy discovers she is going to be sent away to Sydney Town, she knows she has to do something. If she goes, how will Gus ever find her?

Poppy decided to escape from the mission but there are so many dangers out in the bush for a young girl. To minimise the risk, Poppy disguises herself as a boy, but all the while worries that her secret will be discovered.

She escapes the mission and embarks on a dangerous journey in search of her brother encountering bushrangers and other perils along the way. She also has to feed herself out in the bush. If only she had been born a boy and taught bush craft to aid her survival?

Poppy will need all her courage and endeavour to survive. She is helped on her journey by a dog called Fisher who becomes her constant companion.

In book 2, POPPY AT SUMMERHILL, Poppy is caught in a dingo trap and found by an aboriginal, Tom who works at Summerhill. He takes the injured Poppy there and she makes a new friend, Noni.

But Noni’s twin brother, Joe seems to have taken an instant dislike to her and believes she is hiding something. Joe is constantly snooping and Poppy wonders how long she is going to be able to keep her secret safe. What will happen if Joe finds out she is a girl?

When Joe tricks her into riding Gideon, the horse that throws everybody, Poppy, who has never ridden before, thinks her life will be over.

Her dream of finding her brother Gus, and living in a magnificent house together seems to be slipping away.

Poppy’s story is set at a time when life could be brutal, particularly for an orphaned Koori girl with nobody but a faithful dog to protect her.

Author, Gabrielle Wang is fourth generation Chinese and the character of Jimmy  Ah Kew is based on her mother’s grandfather.

Young readers will be captivated by Poppy’s story and will keep following  her journey, hoping that she finds the better life she dreams of.

ENTER THE OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL/KIDS BOOK CAPERS COMPETITION TO WIN ONE OF FOUR GREAT BOOKS!


 

 

 

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL – LETTY

MEET LETTY’S CREATOR, ALISON LLOYD

Alison Lloyd is an immigrant Australian girl too. She came on a plane from the USA with her family and enjoyed making mud pies, playing dress-ups and reading. Writing the four Our Australian Girl Letty books felt a lot like pretending to live in the olden days and travelling by imagination back into the past, and those games she used to play.

Alison is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to share her writing journey and Letty’s story with us.

What did you enjoy most/find hardest about the research process?

I was moved by the first-hand stories of early emigrants. I read diaries and letters from the 1830s-1850s, and some of them are truly sad. One father tell us what the sailing weather is like each day, then describes how his two children are fading daily from malnutrition. I knew a bit about the First Fleet and convicts, but I hadn’t realised emigration was so common and so gruelling – early settlers took their lives in their hands to sail here.

On a happier note, I really enjoyed researching Victorian fashion: lots of gorgeous pictures of laces and flounces and intricate hairstyles.

What did it feel like to walk in Letty’s shoes?

Life was tough in colonial Australia. Letty isn’t as destitute as Sofie Laguna’s Grace, but she’s vulnerable. She has to earn a living at a young age, away from her family.

Sometimes authors (myself included!) put their child characters through extraordinary things to up the tension, but in Letty’s case I didn’t have to stretch probability at all. Every difficulty she faces was common for Victorian children.

What was the most inspiring thing you discovered about your character?

In spite of feeling insecure, fearful and inadequate, Letty takes risks. She courageously attempts to help others when she knows she might fail.  (And of course, eventually she triumphs!)

How do you think you would have survived living in Letty’s era?

I don’t think I would have lived to adulthood. I’m pretty short-sighted, and without modern glasses I would have been bowled over by a carriage, or fallen into a cesspit, before long.

What significant historical events are covered in your books?

In 1841 Australia was changing – it wasn’t just a penal colony anymore. 170,000 emigrants sailed to Australia from the UK in the two decades before the Gold Rush. Letty is one of them. Single women were particularly encouraged to come, because men outnumbered women by 5:2 in NSW.  Letty’s sister Lavinia comes out under a paid government scheme. But as Letty and Lavinia discover, these young women often had nowhere safe to turn when they stepped off the ship. Caroline Chisholm (remember the $5 note?) was so horrified by the abuse and prostitution on Sydney’s streets, that in 1841 she set up the Female Emigrants Home and Australia’s first employment office. So that’s where Letty too finds shelter for a while.

A REVIEW OF LETTY’S STORIES

Letty is the creation of popular Australian Children’s author, Alison Lloyd and her story takes place in 1841.

In MEET LETTY, Letty accidentally stows away on a boat that is taking her sister, Lavinia to Australia. Letty’s life is changed forever.

How is she going to manage when Lavinia doesn’t even want her there and what will it be like on the other side of the world?

Things change on board ship when Letty saves her sister’s life, but once they reach land it soon becomes apparent that their problems are far from over.

Lavinia’s promised job doesn’t eventuate and they find themselves in a strange new country without work, family or anywhere to live.

At least they still have a friend, Abner, a young sailor from the ship, but will this be enough to keep them safe?

Even though Letty has not come to Australia as a convict, her life is clearly not going to be easy in New South Wales.

In Letty’s second adventure, LETTY AND THE STRANGER’S LACE, she and her sister find her way to Mrs Chisolm’s house (Caroline Chisolm is famous in history for how she helped women who were new to the colony by providing lodgings for them in an old army barracks that she transformed into the Female Immigrants Home).

But they can’t stay there. Lavinia finds work, but her employer doesn’t want Letty.

But Letty is resourceful and manages to find her own work with the baker, George and his unusual sister, Mary.

Letty is scared of Mary who seems to carry a darkness with her. Letty, whose own mother died is filled with scorn when she discovers that Mary has a husband and son she apparently abandoned.

But things aren’t what they seem and Letty soon discovers that Mary’s melancholy has been caused by the loss of a daughter in childbirth.

She doesn’t realise that Mary is pregnant with another child until she goes into labour and it’s up to Letty to try and save Mary and the baby.

Finally, Letty’s life seems settled but then Mary decides to take the new baby and return to her husband and son whom she left to come to the city to be near a doctor.

Mary wants Letty to go with her, but can Letty leave behind her sister and a life where she has come to feel happy and safe at last?

Letty is another strong character who can be impulsive but is able to think of others, even when her own life is hard. Letty’s caring and courage will endear her to young readers.

Alison Lloyd’s detailed research and vivid descriptions make it easy to picture yourself in Letty’s world and to understand what she is going through.

Letty’s stories are another page turning set of books in the Our Australian Girl series.

MORE CHANCES TO WIN OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL BOOKS


 

 

 


 

 

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL – GRACE

MEET GRACE’S CREATOR, SOFIE LAGUNA

Sophie Laguna was the first Australian Girl born to her parents, a doctor and a nurse who met at a hospital in Sydney after fleeing war torn Europe. Sofie feels lucky to live in a peaceful country like Australia. Here her dreams of writing stories like the four books she has just finished about Our Australian Girl, Grace, has come true.

Sofie is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to tell us about the journey that she and Grace have taken together.

Can you tell us about the research process?

I thoroughly enjoyed the research process for Grace’s story. With an adult perspective and an adult’s capacity for empathy, I could visit early Australian history more fully, and imagine more vividly what life might have been like in the 19th century for those whose destiny was Australia.

The research gave me the opportunity to really consider the struggle of early Australians and it gave me a greater appreciation for the courage it took to survive. I was awed by how adaptable and resourceful those individuals were in the face of challenge. My research began in London’s crowded, polluted city streets and took me all the way to the open, peaceful Australian bush. I was glad that my character, Grace, eventually found home there, after such a tough and lonely life in England.

What did it feel like to walk in Grace’s shoes?

When I was growing up I lived on a farm and I had my own horse. It was thrilling to revisit a young girl’s passion for horses – their strength, power and grace. The first horse I ever rode was called Peggy.

I loved that Grace eventually had her own horse, and that she named her Peggy. Grace was abused and neglected, like so many children in England at the time. I know she suffered unbearable cruelty and isolation, but I always knew that she would triumph, and it was exciting to be on that journey with her.

What was the most inspiring thing about Grace?

The most inspiring thing about Grace was her ability to hold onto her humanity and her heart when she could so easily have made more destructive and selfish choices. She chose to trust even though life had never shown her that there was much worth trusting. She was kind when she could have been cruel. She saved Sally’s life on the ship, she acted as Dorothea’s eyes in Newgate Prison, and she risked her life to save her mistress’s baby.

She was strong when she could have run away or given up. When she needed help to save Glory, she tracked down Mulgo and used the bush medicine that the aboriginal woman showed her. She was bold and adventurous where she might have been fearful and judgmental.

How do you think you would have survived living in Grace’s era?

If, like Grace, I had lived in 1809 I like to think that I would have been a character a little like Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Progressive in my own way. Political through living my truth. I like to think that I would have pushed the boundaries somehow. Would I have written? In what ways would my life have been creative? I wonder… so much depended on class and money. Could I have found a way to live outside of those constraints?

If I had made it as far as Beth and Tom, living in a hut in the bush in Parramatta, I hope I would have been as resourceful as Beth, and as open and adventurous.

A REVIEW OF GRACE’S STORIES

Grace is the earliest Our Australian Girl and her story starts in 1808 with book one, MEET GRACE.

Grace is a mudlarker, earning her living from finding ‘treasure’ in the smelly polluted waters of the Thames. She is being raised by an uncle who has no real affection for her and spends most of his time being drunk and abusive.

Grace is lonely and miserable but her hardship is not uncommon for a girl her age living in England in the early 1800s.

But it’s Grace’s love for horses that gets her into real trouble. She sees a horse (her Pegasus) being mistreated and threatened with the slaughterhouse. Grace can’t let that happen. Poor Pegasus is hungry and worn out, pretty much like Grace herself.

In her first adventure Grace is arrested for stealing apples and for trying to ride Pegasus away to freedom. Her crimes are considered serious and she is desperately afraid she will be hanged.

In spite of how hard and lacking in affection her life is, Grace is a gentle sensitive girl who will endear herself to readers.

BOOK TWO – A FRIEND FOR GRACE

Grace is not to be hanged. Her punishment is a berth aboard the ship, Indispensable bound for Sydney Cove.

Her trip to Australia is difficult with many of the passengers being struck down my fever, but on board ship, Grace meets Hannah and her mother, Liza.

She becomes like a member of their family, even saving Liza from the awful illness that has afflicted so many people on board the ship.

Grace hopes that when they reach Sydney she will be allowed to continue being part of Hannah and Liza’s life, but typically, nothing goes according to plan.

While Grace’s story is fictional, children as young as 9 were sent from England to Australia for crimes they had committed – most of them very minor.

As well as a great story, there is a fascinating historical component to this book. Fact is melded seamlessly with fiction and at the end is a section for readers, “What life was like in Grace’s time,”

Book Two finishes with Grace’s arrival in Australia and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Grace is a brave and endearing character and I’m sure that her plight will touch the hearts of many young readers.

THE OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL COMPETITION CONTINUES


 

OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL SERIES – FROM THE BEGINNING

Today is the start of a fabulous Our Australian Girl week at Kids’ Book Capers. We have some great interviews and reviews planned and there are opportunities to win a copy of one of the fabulous Our Australian Girl books from Penguin Australia.

The series took two years and two months to develop and Publisher, Jane Godwin has taken time out from her busy schedule to talk to us about these hugely popular new books and why their 8-11 year old readers are loving them.

Jane, where did the inspiration/idea for the Our Australian Girl series come from?

I had been thinking that a lot of series material available for 8 – 11 year old girls is similar in content and style – tween-orientated, with the story itself often being secondary to the overall package (website, merchandise, sparkles and glitter).This is all fine and good and there is a perfectly legitimate market and desire for this material, but I suppose I kept thinking is this all we can offer our girls?

At the same time, I observed in the young girls around me a sort of lessening in their expectations of what a book could provide.  I’m generalising here, but it appeared that many of them didn’t really expect to have a memorable, rich or meaningful experience with a book. Or perhaps with a contemporary book.  Many have resorted to books from previous eras if they want to read a ‘real’ story.

Meanwhile, parents everywhere appear to be increasingly concerned re young girls having to ‘grow up too fast’ – from department stores selling ‘sexy’ clothing for pre-pubescent girls, to celebrity, fashion and make-up magazines aimed at eight year olds, right through to the fear of the effect on a whole generation of having been exposed too young and too soon to the now ubiquitous nature of pornography.

Therefore I perceived a gap in the market and a need for a different type of book for today’s 8 – 11 year old girls. I also felt a personal responsibility to offer young female readers a rewarding and engaging reading experience. I wanted to make something that would appeal to all types of readers – to cut across social groups and classes, and across reading levels.

There is a series in America (called American Girl) which we were aware of, so some of the inspiration came from learning about that series, although Our Australian Girl has emerged organically as a very different type of series to American Girl.

Your own personal passion for “reading and kids and stories shines through in this series”. Was it hard to find a team that shared these goals?

Well, I was tremendously fortunate and grateful to work with the team that we gathered for OAG.  The four authors (Sofie Laguna, Alison Lloyd, Gabrielle Wang and Sherryl Clark) were fantastic to work with and were also very committed to making their stories the best they could be.  The talented illustrator, Lucia Masciullo, helped to bring the stories and the eras to life with her delicate and beautiful watercolours throughout the books. Davina Bell (series editor), Katie Evans (editor of the Poppy books) Rita Hart (series consultant) and Evi Oetomo (series designer) and I all shared the same creative vision for the series.

It was a small team for so many books and everyone worked incredibly hard to manage every aspect of the series.  Sometimes I think the stars align with groups of people working creatively and I think they aligned for us!

Why do you think the Our Australian Girl series is proving to be so popular?

From the feedback we have had it does seem to have struck a chord with readers themselves, but also with their parents and teachers and other adults in their lives.  I think the kids are loving them because of the quality of the stories and the strength of the characters.  They really are great stories!

Girls are also responding positively to the look of the series, which is very rewarding because so much thought went into the design.  We wanted the books to look pretty but not saccharine pretty, and not like anything else out there in the market place.  Parents are welcoming the fact that these books encourage girls to feel that they can be valued for qualities other than their clothes or their mobile phone – qualities such as strength, resourcefulness, independence, kindness. And teachers can see that the kids are learning about aspects of our history almost without realising it as they read these stories.

How does the Our Australian Girl series complement the school curriculum. Are teacher’s notes available? If so, can you provide a link.

Our Australian Girl taps into so many aspects of the curriculum and can be used widely in Literature Circles, wider reading, history, English, literacy, SOSE, geography, and even in subjects like philosophy as it can be used as a springboard for self reflection and enquiry into one’s own personal history.

And then as the national curriculum kicks in, educators are having a chance to review history teaching in our schools. All this obviously taps into questions of belonging, of identity, of national self esteem, of what it means to be Australian.

We are a culture characterised by diversity and we want our children to grow up celebrating this rather than experiencing cultural and social discord. It feels as if it’s time to provide a fresh angle in interpreting our past for a new generation, and I believe Our Australian Girl is part of this.  And yes, teachers’ notes are available at

Why do you think contemporary readers can relate to Letty, Poppy, Rose and Grace even though the girls lived in a different era?

In many ways the lives of the Our Australian Girls are very different to lives of Australian girls today, but we really wanted young readers to be able to identify with the characters and almost end up seeing them as friends (and remember them in the way that we as adults remember favourite characters from books of our childhood).  The tagline of the series is ‘a girl like me in a time gone by’ and to achieve this we made sure that there were aspects of each character that young readers today could relate to.  Grace loves horses, Letty has a friend who manipulates her, Poppy meets a dog whom she adores, and Rose feels that sometimes the world is unfair and people are not treated equally.

Young readers today are relating to all these aspects of the stories.  And in a broader sense, all the characters are searching for a place where they fit in, they are exploring notions of independence and finding their way in the world, and really those aspects of life haven’t really changed.

I was at the launch of the Our Australian Girl series and it was clear that it had absorbed the lives of everyone involved. Why do you think this series is so important to the creators?

Well, as I mentioned before I do feel a responsibility not only as a publisher but as a mother and as a female and maybe even as a human being (!) to provide young readers with a rich and memorable experience.

I wanted to give them credit rather than patronise them.  I am very concerned about the broader challenges for young girls growing up today, and here was an opportunity to maybe make a small difference to the way girls see themselves and the way they make choices.  And I am working with people who share these concerns and are passionate about making a difference.  We each believe in the goals and ideas behind the project so fervently that I suppose we probably appear a bit evangelical!  But I do feel this in some ways is the most important thing I have contributed (so far!) in my career as a provider of books for children.

Is there an Our Australian Boy series planned?

Yes!  We have had so many people ask us this question and we are in the early stages of developing something for boys.  I won’t say any more about it here except that it will be quite different from Our Australian Girl but still feature great stories and vivid, memorable characters.  And it will link in with Our Australian Girl so that teachers will be able to use the series alongside each other in the classroom.

What are you enjoying most about working on the series?

At the moment I am enjoying seeing the third lot of books (out in July) land on my desk from the printer.  As each lot arrives, we put them all together and just gaze at them lovingly because the design of the books makes them look so appealing all sitting together, either face out or spine out.  We are also just finishing the editing on the last lot of books (book 4, out in October) and we are starting on two new ones for next year,so we’re reading those manuscripts and working on the new covers.

I think at the moment I’m allowing myself just a few minutes (maybe seconds) to feel a sense of satisfaction in what we have achieved – but it’s bittersweet because we are saying goodbye to Grace, Letty, Poppy and Rose (and to the intense and rewarding relationship we have shared with their four authors over the last two years).  It’s also really enjoyable to read the book 4 manuscripts and see how our little girls have grown and changed through their adventures across the four books.

About the Illustrator

Lucia Masciullo, the talent behind the pictures in the Our Australian Girl Books

Each of the Our Australian Girl Books has beautiful illustrations by Lucia Masciullo.

Lucia was born in Italy, but moved to Australia looking for new opportunities. She thinks all Australians keep in their blood a bit of their pioneer heritage, regardless of their own birthplace.

Lucia is visiting us today to talk about her journey and her work.

I work full time as a children’s book illustrator. And I love it.

I was born and bred in Livorno, Italy and I moved to Australia in 2007 with my partner.

In Australia I have seen my first books published. I was lucky enough to meet and collaborate with fantastic people in the children’s book industry. Among them Hardie Grant Egmont (HGE) publishing director Hilary Rogers and Penguin (Australia) publisher Jane Godwin. I am sincerely grateful to them for betting on me and my artistic vision.

I really liked to work on the illustrations for the Our Australian Girl series.

The most challenging thing for me has been to find images that I could use as references.

All the four stories are well set in a specific epoch of Australian history and I needed exactly the objects in use in those years.

And some of the objects are very rare to find nowadays: I spent weeks studying peculiar things like what kind of tools were in use during the gold rush for example or what kind of saddle people used in the first Australian settlement or the look of a car in 1900 (I didn’t even know they had cars in 1900).

I think has been also a nice way for me to approach Australian history: I have to confess Italian schools don’t teach very much about the topic and I have been eager to learn more about the country I’m going to be living in. But I was fortunate enough to have the authors and Davina to my side who helped me and gave me feedback.

This was the first time I worked with black and white illustrations: I am quite confident using colours  but this time I had to focus more on the different tones of gray and strokes instead of using colors as a means of expression. I really enjoyed the process and I am happy with the results.

For the 64 final illustrations I used watercolor and I added details with a black pencil. I painted the images slightly bigger than the size they are printed on the book. This allows the final images to have  plenty of details while not completely losing my eyesight.

So interesting to hear how you work, Lucia. Sometimes people don’t realise how much time and research is involved in illustrating a book.

Over the next four days, the authors who created the Our Australian Girl characters will be dropping into Kids’ Book Capers to share their journeys and talk about their books.

In the meantime, don’t forget to enter the competition happening this week at Kids’ Book Capers. There are four great Our Australian Girl books to be won.

Enter the OUR AUSTRALIAN GIRL COMPETITION here…



 

 

 

 

LENNIE THE LEOPARD

Lennie the Leopard is the latest book in author and wildlife photographer, Jan Latta’s True to Life Books for kids.

Jan’s books are narrative non-fiction. They are unique in that real photos are taken by Jan of animals in the wild to help tell fictional stories. Jan spends months or even years collecting the information and pictures for stories like Lennie the Leopard.

To create the True to Life Books, Jan follows animals every day, taking photographs and notes which she then uses to create her children’s books on endangered animals.

Lennie tells his own story of his life in the wild – growing up in Africa with his family. He takes readers into the wild on his hunting journey and introduces them to some unique facts about the way he lives.

Jan’s photos are truly stunning and it’s hard not to fall in love with the adorable  cub, Lennie.

As well as telling Lennie’s fictional story, Jan presents the reader with all sorts of true facts about leopards and their habitat at the end of the book.

She talks about why these animals are endangered and what can be done to help them. There are great websites for children to check out and interesting facts that they can use in school projects.

Jan’s pictures tell amazing stories and Lennie’s growth from a cute cub to an elusive hunter is remarkable to witness. Anyone who reads his story will be enchanted by his beauty and power and drawn into the plight of endangered animals.

Lennie’s story is easy to read and a stunning visual adventure. It’s a story that needs to be told. Lennie the Leopard will engage readers of all ages and help them understand the ways of the wild and the importance of protecting our endangered animals.

More about Lennie, the True To life Books and Jan’s amazing adventures as a wildlife photographer and author can be found at her website http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au

You can also buy Jan’s books direct from her website http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au/

 

JAN LATTA AUTHOR AND WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER

Jan Latta is a wildlife photographer and author who spends weeks, months and sometimes years researching for her next book in the True to Life Books series.

Jan is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk to us about how and why she started creating her books for children about endangered animals.

How did you become a writer?

I became a writer after coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla in Rwanda. When my guide said there were only 600 mountain gorillas left in the world, I decided to write books for children about endangered animals. Grandy the Gorilla was the first book.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Writing about endangered animals. I want to speak for them.

I want to write about animals and their survival so children can learn about them.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

For me, it’s finding the wild animals to write their story. I will search for weeks to find the animal that is the focus of the next book. Lennie the Leopard took 15 years because leopards are the most difficult animals to see in the wild.

What were you in a past life before you became a writer?

I was a creative director in an advertising agency.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Writing a 20,000 word journal for the Diary of a Wildlife Photographer book.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m creating 2minute videos of five of the twelve True to Life Book series.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Follow your passion and just start writing. Try to get a good mentor or a writer’s group to help you through the tough times.

How many books have you had published?

14.

ABOUT LENNIE THE LEOPARD

What inspired you to write Lennie the Leopard?

The leopard was a challenge. I wanted to find the elusive leopard in the wild and write about its survival. I wanted to take photographs of this magnificent animal in its natural habitat.

What’s it about?

It’s about the most secretive animal in Africa. Children will discover Lennie the Leopard through his narrative. The photographs tell the story about what he eats, how he hunts and how he survives. Then there are facts about the other leopards in India, China and the endangered sub species.

What age groups is it for? 5 to 8 years

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book? Yes. Some fun activities, questions and poems.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Yes. All the photographs have been taken in the leopard’s natural habitat

in Africa. I have written the story from first-hand knowledge of  a leopard in its daily life.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Living in a tent in Africa so I could research leopards to write their story.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

15 years of searching.

On Friday we’ll be reviewing Jan’s beautiful new book, Lennie, the Leopard here at Kids’ Book Capers.

More about Jan, including links to her stunning videos is available at her website

http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au/

You can also buy Jan’s books direct from her website http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au/

Jan’s new book, Lennie the Leopard is reviewed on Friday at Kids’ Book Capers.

 

IKE AND THE CALAMITOUS QUEEN

Today we have a very special guest at Kids’ Book Capers. Ike, the star of the Grim and Grimmer series has promised us an EXCLUSIVE interview.  He is here to talk about his latest adventure, The Calamitous Queen.

Please be kind to him. He’s never been interviewed before and he’s a bit shy so he’s also brought along his best friend, Mellie.

1. Ike, you have been on such a journey throughout the Grim and Grimmer series. Can you tell us how your adventures have changed you as a person?

‘Thanks for asking, Dee, though I’m not sure how to answer that. I’ve never been much good with words and stuff.’ (sighs). ‘Well, here goes. Um, before I came to Grimmery –’

‘And accidentally betrayed the princess,’ Dee says helpfully.

‘I was hoping you wouldn’t bring that up. Before then I was Useless Ike. I never did anything good; never believed I could. I always gave up.’

‘What made you change?’

‘It wasn’t just me in trouble this time. The princess was going to be killed, because of my stupidity, and I couldn’t bear it. I had to make something of myself. I had to save her, no matter the cost.’

‘How did you make something of yourself, Ike? How did you change?’

‘Er, um.’ Ike struggles to remember the details, blushes, stares at his big feet. ‘Sorry, I’m no good at analysing myself.’

Beside him, Mellie groans, rolls her eyes then elbows Ike out of the way. ‘Luckily I’m brilliant. I’ve been trying to work him out ever since we met.’

‘That doesn’t exactly sound like a compliment,’ says Dee.

‘Who’s telling this story?’ Mellie snaps. ‘Ike learned perseverance under Grogire’s tree, when he refused to give up and made that brilliant, though disgusting, dung balloon. And he overcame his fear of heights when he crawled blind across the beam over the abyss to rescue me from Gorm’s hut. He’s overcome all kinds of fears since he met me.’

‘I’ve had to, the way you keep getting me into trouble,’ mutters Ike.

‘Shush!’ says Mellie. ‘What would you know, anyway? When Nocty attacked the demon, Spleen, as she was carrying us away from Gorm, you showed great selflessness by becoming a night-gaunt to save us.’

‘Great stupidity, you mean.’

‘Yes, but selfless stupidity. Need I go on?’

‘I think Dee’s got the point,’ says Ike.

‘You also learned courage, ingenuity, endurance and so forth. And at the end, you sacrificed one of the most important things in your life, your quest to clear your parents’ names – just to save me.’

‘That was the most painful lesson,’ says Ike.

‘To say nothing of the many faults you’ve learned to overcome,’ Mellie goes on. ‘I can list them, if you like.’ She laughs aloud. ‘I once wrote down all your flaws. Took three sheets of paper.’

She looks up, and the smile fades. ‘Ike’s the bravest boy I’ve ever met, Dee. He never gives up. It’s all because of him that Grimmery has been saved. That’s how he’s changed.’

2. Can you tell us what you like most about your best friend Mellie and why you became such good friends?

‘Mellie is everything I’m not,’ says Ike, eyeing her warily. ‘She’s clever and quick, and … and really pretty too, in a pixyish kind of way. She’s warm and generous, but she’s also terribly reckless, and always carrying out outrageous thefts to prove she’s the best apprentice thief as ever was. But she’s got a dreadful temper, and when she’s cranky even Achernix, the terrible Duke of Darkness, runs for his immortal life.’

Ike ducks, as if expecting her to wallop him one, but Mellie is smiling. ‘I’m not the least bit reckless. I call it bold and daring, and since it got me through my Reckoning, no one can argue.’

Ike stirs, as if to say, But I got you through your Reckoning, then smiles and closes his mouth again. He doesn’t need to say anything.

3. What is the worst thing that happened to you on your journey?

‘I don’t know how to answer that,’ says Ike. ‘Was it the competition I had, as Useless Ike, with Grogire the firewyrm (the most brilliant mind in the world) in her stinky lair? Or the contest with that sly, smirking conman, Con Glomryt, to get through the doors of the dwarf kingdom of Delf? Or my dreadful embarrassment after Mellie’s failed spell blew my bottom up to the size of a small airship, and I spent a whole day bobbing around the ceilings of Delf being mocked by angry dwarves?’

He rubs his bony jaw. ‘No, I think it was the time I had to fight the dreadful night-gaunt in Emajicka’s palace, to stop him tormenting Pook and the other Collected children and stealing their nightmares for Emajicka to bathe in. That was the most awful time I can ever remember. Yet I’ll never forget how brave little Pook was, trying to hold off the monstrous night-gaunt all by himself.’ (Ike brushes away a tear at the memories).

4. What is the best thing that happened to you on your journey?

‘Harrumph!’ says Mellie.

Ike grins. ‘A lot of good things happened, too many to count. One of the best of them was when I worked all night to make that balloon fuelled with exploding firewyrm dung, to rescue the princess. Everyone laughed at me, but when I finally put the balloon together, it floated up into the air just the way it should. It was the first time I realised that I didn’t have to be Useless Ike.’

‘Harrumph, harrumph!’

Ike gives her a sly, sidelong glance. ‘But no, the best thing that happened, the very best in my life, was meeting Mellie and plucking up the courage to ask her to help me, after she’d stolen my magical pen. Mellie’s the first real friend I’ve had, and definitely the best thing that has ever happened to me.

‘Though I wish she wasn’t so darn cranky.’

(Mellie boxes his ear, though she is wearing an enigmatic smile).

5. Where to next for Ike?

I’ll answer that, says Ian. (who has fortunately come along too – otherwise the interview could deteriorate into an Ike/Mellie war.)

Well, Ike’s a Gate Guardian now, though admittedly a very young one, and it’s his duty to guard the four gates into Grimmery and protect this brave little country from all the terrible enemies lurking outside. And none of them have given up.

The Fey Queen Emajicka still wants Grimmery back. Grogire the firewyrm still wants revenge for the dreadful humiliations Ike and Mellie made her suffer, and the Demon Spleen, who is now the Duchess of Darkness, still wants to make them pay for Mellie’s stealing the Bloody Baton and Ike’s burning a hole though the wall of the underworld.

Oh, and Nuckl never forgets. He still wants to eat Ike’s liver.

‘Thanks for asking, Dee,’ says Ike. ‘I’ve never done an interview before. I was really nervous. Hope I wasn’t too awful.’

Thanks for visiting us here at Kids’ Book Capers, Ike, Mellie and Ian. Hope you enjoy the rest of your blog tour (see details at the end of this post about where the blog tour has been already and where it’s going to from here.)

REVIEW OF THE CALAMITOUS QUEEN

The Calamitous Queen is the fourth installment in Ian Irvine’s hilarious Grim and Grimmer series for readers aged 10 +

In this final book everything comes to a head and if Ike doesn’t defeat the evil Emajicka, his good friend Mellie will perish and Grimmery will be destroyed. And even if Ike saves Mellie, has her family been burnt alive by the evil Fey Queen’s minions?

To make matters worse, Mothooliel is out to steal Ike’s eyeballs, Spleen and Nuckle want to eat Ike’s innards, and Grogire the Firewyrm plans a disgusting death for him. Then there’s the ongoing conflict between Lord Monty and his newly reattached head.

Emajicka and her army of a million Fey are marching on Grimmery, and if Aurora isn’t crowned very soon, the kingdom will be lost – possibly forever.

Ike must get the Book of Grimmery to Aurora in time to prevent this from happening, but how can he when he doesn’t even know where it is?

In The Calamitous Queen, Ian Irvine ties up all the loose ends for the reader. We see Ike come full circle and realise how much he has changed and grown over the course of his adventures from the clumsy boy who couldn’t do anything right to the Gate Guardian everyone is relying on to save the world.

Ike finds out who he really is in both the literal and spiritual sense and Mellie faces her Reckoning. There is so much at stake for all the characters in this book. Will Pook free the Collected children and how will Lord Monty overcome the ultimate act of betrayal?

14 year-old Ike has the fate of the world in his hands in this book.

As well as the non-stop action, the humour keeps coming right to the last line of the book, even finishing with a bodily function. The Calamitous Queen is a hilarious and exciting end to the four book Grim and Grimmer series.

You can find out more about the series by dropping in to the other great blogs that Ian is visiting on tour.

IAN IRVINE THE CALAMITOUS QUEEN, BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE



TANTONY – A HAUNTINGLY BEAUTIFUL BOOK

There are some books that are so well written they make you hold your breath. They crawl inside you and inhabit your senses – make you wonder how someone could have thought to put words together in such a hauntingly beautiful way.

Tantony by Ananda Braxton Smith is one such book. It’s unusual title comes from the Tantony pig – the runt of the litter – the swineheard’s favourite. It’s the perfect metaphor for Boson Quirk, a young boy who is found dead,

‘face down in a bog of stars’.

Tantony is told from the point of view of Boson’s twin, Fermion and as if losing her brother isn’t bad enough, their mother, Moo has retreated into a world where she no longer speaks.

Moo had let the fire burn out. In the corner where she sloped and faded, a spider had anchored its silk to one of her fingertips and was swinging wallward. There was to be no brew, no fuss or chat. I dropped my wet-sheep bag and muddy bundles right in the doorway where everybody was sure to fall over them. She didn’t even turn.

In spite of standing right up close, I couldn’t hear her breath. I laid my hand flat on her drooping neck and felt her blood still beating there. She was only pretending to be dead.

Something about Boson isn’t quite right but everyone pretends it’s nothing – until he dies and they are forced to acknowledge his differences. Boson’s affliction is never stated, but it’s there in the background, a shadow threaded through the story like the whisper of the wind.

In her quest to discover what really happened to her brother, Fermion discovers startling truths about the town in which she lives, and about herself. Voices in her head tell her that the truth about Boson can be found on “the Other Island, the one that everyone says is bristling with gods and monsters.”

Fermion goes there accompanied by her faithful dog, Mungo, but will they make it back?

This book has everything – tension, beautifully drawn characters, a compelling story and a lilting style that carries the reader along gently, even though the content is quite stark at times.

Tantony is in the Secrets of Carrick series. I have to admit I hadn’t read the first book, Merrow but I certainly intend to, now. Tantony is definitely a stand alone book that you can enjoy without having read the first book in the series.

Tantony is for young adult readers and is published by Black Dog Books.

 

TANTONY AND ITS CREATOR

Ananda Braxton-Smith is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about being a writer and her extraordinary new book, Tantony and how she created it.

 

How did you become a writer?

I haven’t always worked as a professional writer, but I’ve always written. I wrote my first stories at about eleven; stories I chose to wrote, that is, not stories I had to write for school. My first paid gig, when I was sixteen, was writing scripts for Let’s Join In and Storytime, two radio (!) broadcasts for primary schools in the seventies.

I became an author by not giving up … and by not really being good for anything else. And by always writing even if I wasn’t being paid, thereby getting better at it and being ready for my opportunity when it came.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I have to say I really do love the research. For instance, to write Merrow I had to find out how skeletons fall apart over time, what creatures live in the Irish sea, what skin disease could give you scales, and find somebody who knows the language the Vikings spoke. As well, I had to read lots of stories about mer-people, kraken, water-horses and other legendary beings. It was great!

I also love the surprises that turn up while I’m writing. The characters say and do such unexpected things sometimes.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

The sitting there alone, day-after-day, week-after-week, tippy-tippy-tapping at my keyboard, with a sore back and racked with uncertainty, while outside the sun is shining and people are going out to lunch and talking to each other.

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

I was a bad-tempered doctor in Victorian Edinburgh.

And before that, a bad-tempered monk in ancient China.

And before that, a spiky sea urchin.

Just a guess.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Everything I finish feels like a great achievement.  And everything I manage to turn out that is something like I first imagined it in my mind. I had never thought of writing novels (I like writing short stories best) so conceiving and writing Merrow was a surprising achievement even to me.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m researching the Natural History of the seashore for a third novel in the Secrets of Carrick series. Merrow is the first in that series, and Tantony is the second. I am already half in love with anemones. And did you know sea-stars are carnivorous?

Do you have any tips for new writers?

You have to really, really want to write. Not be a writer, or be published, or be paid; just to write. You have to do it because you love it and it’s what you do. If you do it to be a writer or be published you’re likely to suffer. After that, I would say don’t make characters talk to each other unless they have something definite to say.

And write weather. Weather’s good.

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

At present I’m preoccupied with the way characters grow out of their landscapes. So the Natural History of my settings (sea, bog etc) is a big theme, and all of nature just bristles with symbolism. Understanding where my people live helps me understand who they are, why they are as they are, and what form their supernatural creatures will take.

How many books have you had published?

I have three books out there. The first was a YA history of the bubonic plague called The Death: the Horror of the Plague. It covers 500 years of the plague in Europe up to the discovery of the microbe. The research for that was both fabulous and revolting.

ABOUT TANTONY

What inspired you to write this book?

At the end of Merrow one of my more nosey, prying characters mentions the ‘twins down in Strangers Croft, poor things’. Well, that just got my own curiosity up about them. Tantony is a result of that curiosity.

What’s it about?

It’s hard to say in a few words what my books are about. This story concerns a pair of twins and what happens when one of them sickens and dies. The remaining twin must work out a way to live on, and help her family live on as a new kind of family … one now without one of its members. She takes a sea-journey out to an appearing/disappearing island and while out there finds many remarkable things. Some of which help, some of which don’t. But she learns how to go on without her other ‘half’. I guess it’s about becoming a whole person.

What age groups is it for?

Officially it’s for middle years readers, but as with Merrow it’s secretly for everybody.

Why will kids like it?

I’m hoping they’ll like the world of the islands, their characters and creatures, and will recognize the main character’s journey as she tries to make sense of life and death and families. Also, its got whales, gods and monsters … and a spooky bog.

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

The main character, Fermion, has just lost her twin brother. He has been sickening a long time and she’s had to grow up very fast to look after him, and to take on his duties at home. I like everything about her, even her initial extreme sulkiness. She’s a very determined person with a clear eye for other people’s feelings, though she’s a bit dim about her own. I like the way she lightens up, warms up, over the story as she learns to let her brother go.

What did you enjoy most about writing Tantony?

Researching the Natural History of bogs and their creatures. Finding out about the wacky and marvelous adaptations of life is always a pleasure to me. Then fitting the characters into that landscape so they were a bit like Natural History themselves was fun. And I liked it when suddenly I knew what was going to happen next. It sounds strange but often I had no idea.

What was the hardest thing about writing Tantony?

Not knowing what was going to happen next! It drove me crazy.

As far as the story went, writing the increasingly sad decline of the mentally ill twin was very hard indeed. And the increasing desperation of his sister as she tries to save him. I had dreams about them, poor things.

Tomorrow we’re reviewing Tantony here at Kids’ Book Capers.

 

 

 

THE AUNTIES THREE

As you’d expect from bestselling and popular Australian picture book creator, Nick Bland, his latest offering, The Aunties Three is a riot of colour and fun.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

Pack up your games, dismantle your toys,

practise your manners and muffle your noise.

Straighten your face, where your smile used to be,

for coming this way are The Aunties Three!

Although I have to admit those Aunties Millicent, Alma and Ingrid are downright scary, Nick Bland still manages to bring hilarity into the picture – replacing fear with awe.

Even as adults we can relate to visitors you have ‘behave’ for – the ones you don’t smile in front of, “burp or sniffle or sneeze.”

Speak when you’re spoken to, never before,

take a deep breath and open the door.

The kids in this book are full of fun until the aunties arrive. As soon as there’s a knock on the door they try and put on their best manners, but no matter how much the children try to impress, it’s just not going to happen.

These Aunties are not just scary looking, they’re bossy and demand tea, shoe polishing, foot rubs and sweets.

First the cat steals Aunt Millicent’s hat, then Aunt Alma sits on the broken chair, then there’s the cooking accident that puts paid to Aunty three who is determined to stay for tea.

I loved the hilarious and expressive illustrations The Aunties Three. There’s so much movement and liveliness in these full colour pics. I loved the facial expressions on the characters – the fear of the children, the arrogance of the aunts. There’s the quirkiness of what the kids are wearing – the toddler dressed in a pig’s outfit, the boy with the colander on his head. Added to that are the background details; the flying books, the cat drinking from the milk jug.

The rhyming text is engaging and hilarious and moves the story along at a frantic pace that will keep young readers mesmerised.

I also love the way this book ends. Nick Bland builds up the tension with the Auntie’s arrival but the ending has an optimistic resolution that would allay the fears of any child who might have been worried about fierce aunties like this turning up at their front door.

The Aunties Three is published by Scholastic for ages 4+

 

 

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam

I loved the rhythm and humour in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.  This book is cleverly written by Juliette MacIver with beautiful illustrations by Sarah Davis.

There are plenty of tongue twisters in this chaotic adventure to delight both the reader and the listener in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.

All a-quiver by the river where Marmaduke swam,

Marmaduke Duck

eating Marmalade jam.

Marmaduke’s marmalade isn’t ordinary marmalade, it’s made from grapefruit – quirky, just like everything else in this book. There’s a llama with a panorama, a farmer in pyjamas, a ram named Sam and a lamb named Pam and they’re all

In haste for a taste of the marmalade jam.

Marmaduke Duck’s jam is unique and all the other animals and birds seem to think so too, and they want to help her eat it.

Young kids will love the liveliness and fun of this book. It’s a great one to read out loud and  Sarah Davis’ beautifully drawn characters are full of amazing expressions guaranteed to make you giggle.

Apart from the colour and hilarity in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam., kids will be drawn to the food references and the ‘hearty old party’ with the ‘might feast’.

There’s plenty of movement in this book as the animals sway, swim and dance their way across the pages.

Kids will love the language and vibrant pictures in Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam.

With its themes of friendship, ownership and sharing, this book also paves the way for discussion on these topics.

Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam is published by Scholastic.

 

THE GREAT EXPEDITION – PETER CARNAVAS

I’ll admit straight off that I love Peter Carnavas’ work so I find it extremely hard to be objective about his new picture book. Peter’s stories are simple tales told with lively illustrations and telling detail and The Great Expedition does not disappoint.

With a cover featuring five kids studying a map; one with a dog perched on their head, you know that you’re in for an adventure.

The Great Expedition is based on the tale of Burke and Wills, but fortunately for the protagonists in this story, it has a happier ending.

The expedition is led by Robert, Will is the navigator, Henry the biologist and Ivy the botanist. Lily is the animal handler and it’s her job to keep the dog under control, which is difficult to do because the dog spends most of its time pulling Lily off her feet or sitting perched on her head.

With Robert in front and Will pointing the way, they head off on their hazardous journey,  where they encounter some of the obstacles faced by Burke and Wills.

The date of the journey, the dig tree, the names of the two main characters and some of the events in the book are true to the original Burke and Wills expedition.

The antics of the kids are funny but I have to say I was totally distracted by the actions of the dog.

You start to doubt whether the heroes will reach their destination, especially after they lose the map, but they trudge on regardless.

I can imagine young readers acting out this book in the backyards and sandpits of their own home. As a parent, I could relate to the playground being a hazardous place for a kid to navigate across.

Burke and Wills goal was to become the first Europeans to cross Australia from Melbourne to the north coast. Robert and Will display the same courage and determination in their Great Expedition.

The Great Expedition has themes of friendship, loyalty, resilience and leadership. I love how this book introduces young kids to history in an adventurous and non-confronting way.

It is delightfully illustrated in watercolour and ink.

The Great Expedition is published by New Frontier.

 

Delightfully Haiku

Delightfully Haiku by Donna Smith is a 60 page pocket-sized book full of simple poems that celebrate life’s pleasures.

According to the author,

The book is inspired by family and the natural beauty that surrounds people every day.

As the author states in the front of the book, “Haiku Poetry is very much like a piece of artwork as it captures the feeling and emotion of the moment.

As in the traditional style of Haiku, the poems are simple, but they are also evocative.

Delightfully Haiku has poems for many occasions and themes including seasons, fruit, weather, birds, animals and emotions.

Ladybird

Dew kisses the leaves,

Early morning sunrise

Peeping through the blossoms…

The book is illustrated by Matthew Shires and edited by Tasmania’s most published children’s author, Sally Odgers.

Delightfully Haiku has a blog offering writing tips, mini workshops and competitions at www.delightfullyhaiku.wordpress.com

It also has its own Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Delightfully-Haiku/100479353349360?v=wall and is now available as an e-book.

 

MOLE HUNT

I’ll admit that Mole Hunt, Paul Collin’s action packed new sci fi adventure isn’t the sort of book I normally read.

It’s set in a world I have no experience of, with rules and customs quite foreign to the way I live. Needless to say, I couldn’t put Mole Hunt down.

Maximus Black and his ruthless intentions had me hooked from the first page. I can’t say I liked Max as a person, but he is a very compelling character and I really wanted to know whether he would succeed with his mission.

Maximus is the classic action hero in terms of his intelligence and abilities, but he’s more of a Dexter than a James Bond. In fact, he’s a devious pyschopath, but that ‘living on the edge, take big risks quality’ is what keeps the reader riveted.

Max is RIM spy agency’s star cadet, but he’s also a mole, using the organisation for his own devious purposes. In the Mole Hunt world, unless you’re dead, you can pretty much be repaired so people take big risks and there’s a lot at stake.

Paul Collins gives the reader just enough information to hint that life has not always been kind to Maximus. This suggests a vulnerability that redeems Max to some extent for the reader, but also foreshadows that this could lead to his downfall.

Max has his own agenda – to get his hands on a cache of Old Empire weapons, giving him control of the galaxy and allowing him to extract revenge for the murder of his parents when he was six.

He pits his wits against Anneke Longshadow, one of RIM’s  best agents and someone who also harbours a difficult past. But Anneke’s on the good guy’s side and when her Uncle is murdered, the hunt for The Mole becomes personal.

World building is one of the things that Collins does best and in spite of the unfamiliar names and customs, I found myself totally immersed in the world of Mole Hunt.

Every detail has been meticulously thought out and intertwined with the action to draw the reader into the world of the story. The technological information is authentic and it’s almost as though the setting is another living, breathing character.

The action is non-stop and the dilemma for the reader is who to barrack for – the ruthless but damaged Maximus Black or the equally scarred but righteous Anneke Longshadow. Both character’s points of view are presented to us and like the protagonists, we have choices to make.

I’m looking forward to seeing the tussle between these Max and Anneke in the next book in the Maximus Black trilogy, Dyson’s Drop.

Mole Hunt has strong themes of good and evil, loyalty and identity. It gives the reader plenty to think about including how circumstances and background contribute to who we are, but it’s the choices we make that shape our lives.

This book is recommended for readers 12+, but would also be enjoyed by adults who love the sci-fi genre.

Mole Hunt is published by Ford Street and is due for release in June 2011. Teacher’s notes are available from the Ford Street website

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW OF CAMP CROC

You know that Camp Croc is going to be full of action from the title and the graphic picture of a giant hungry looking crocodile on the front cover.

I was also drawn to the main character, Daks. Who could not love a kid with a name like that? And of course, Mr Longbottom is the ideal name for a teacher – especially from his student’s point of view.

Daks and his mates are off to a once-in-a lifetime orienteering camp but they’re going to find more than they bargained for.

When the kids find a sign, “Danger! Your safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point. Students must stay within camp boundaries at all times”, you know something big is going to happen.

What starts out as a bit of a lark turns dangerous when the kids come across wildlife smugglers in the bush and it seems that their only means of escape is across crocodile infested waters.

And when the plan they come up with backfires they seemed destined to become crocodile dinner.

This is a truly Australian story and I couldn’t help giggling at Trewin’s lively turn of phrase.

“I was swimming one day – in the stinger net – thinking I was as safe as broccoli at a birthday party, when I bumped into a log. Except the log was a five-metre-long crocodile.

Trudie Trewin’s humorous text and great cliff hanger chapter endings keep the reader turning the pages, and despite the heart pounding action, she manages to keep the laughs coming.

The text is broken up with Dak’s hilarious and perceptive Dak’s facts. A school camp is something readers will relate to and the destination, Cape Tribulation provides an ideal backdrop for adventure.

Author, Trudie Trewin seamlessly incorporates the setting detail into the story so that readers can picture themselves there but aren’t distracted from the action.

There’s also the odd gross description to appall and delight readers.

Camp Croc is a hilarious adventure story that will captivate readers. The text is simple, the dialogue realistic and the action non-stop – making it a great choice for reluctant readers.

Camp Croc is published by Walker Books in their Lightning Strikes series. Teacher’s notes are available from the Walker Books website

 

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE INSPIRES “CAMP CROC”

Today, we welcome Queensland author, Trudie Trewin to Kids’ Book Capers. She’s here to talk about her writing adventures and her hilarious new children’s book for readers aged 9-13, Camp Croc.

Writing is something that Trudie says she always thought she’d have a go at “one day”.

But I had imagined I would write for adults. A random comment about children’s stories by a co-worker when I left for maternity leave got me thinking. Eventually, the thinking turned to doing, and I found that writing for kids was something I loved.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Having an excuse to daydream! The freedom of being able to work anywhere, anytime.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Convincing my family that lazing by the pool is how I mull over and fix up a plot I’m having trouble with!

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

In reality, I worked in finance, but if I could have my choice of any career…I’ve always thought being an astronaut would be pretty cool.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Okay, this is pretty hard to admit, but I’m naturally lazy – so every time I move from just thinking about a story and jotting down notes, to the moment I have to actually sit down and write it all out is quite an achievement for me!

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read lots, write lots, talk to other writers lots, accept constructive criticism, and follow your heart.

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

I love to sing, but I am truly terrible at it. When my boys were babies I used to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ to them at bedtime, and without fail they would always put their hand over my mouth, and as soon as they could talk, they would say ‘stop’ as well. Now I sing just to embarrass them!

ABOUT CAMP CROC

It’s about four mates who sneak away from a school camp, only to find themselves getting into hairy situations, or should I say, scaly situations, with both local wildlife and some wildlife smugglers.

What inspired you to write this book?

I read a newspaper article about a woman who went for a swim in one of our local beaches, and really did bump into a crocodile – and lived to tell the tale. I couldn’t stop thinking about what must have gone through her head when she realised that she was face to face with a croc – so I wrote a scene where a boy swims into a crocodile, and Daks was the character that bolted out of the water. I knew then that any character that had been through that ordeal deserved a whole story, not just a scene!

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

Daks has a somewhat dry sense of humour, enjoys the company of his mates, and has an adventurous streak – but like all kids his age, his taste for adventure grows considerably in the presence of his mates. He can be hesitant to make new friends, but once he has he’s very loyal.

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

Yes, on the Lightning Strikes website.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Probably the humorous observations Daks and his friends make. Even in the face of danger they manage to find something funny to comment on.

What did you enjoy most about writing Camp Croc?

The action in it. There were times when my heart hammered faster than the keyboard as the boys lurched from one dangerous situation to the next!

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Trying to work out how the boys were going to get free when they were tied up to the trees. I even tied my boys up to trees to see if what I described was possible! Oh that reminds me…. better go and untie them now…

Camp Croc lovers will be pleased to know that Trudie is currently working on another story involving Daks and his mates.

On Friday we’re reviewing the hilarious Camp Croc here at Kids’ Book Capers.

Pics for this post were supplied from Trudie’s blog.



NEW “READ SMART” PROGRAM FOR SCHOOLS

Boomerang Books has a new Schools Program designed to benefit students, parents and teachers.

Schools that register with the program will be given a promotional code that provides 15% book discounts for library, teachers, parents and students. Schools will also be entitled to a 5% credit on orders and a 3% donation to their chosen charity will be made with each order placed.

According to Clayton Wehner, Managing Director of Boomerang Books the program also has benefits for the environment and the Australian publishing industry.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS

Boomerang Books is a carbon neutral online bookstore and offsets the environmental emissions of every order through the purchase of carbon credits.

THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY BENEFITS

Boomerang Books is an Australian business located in Australia and selling predominantly Australian books to Australian people. They support Australian authors and buy books from Australian publishers and distributors. Unlike foreign online bookstores, Boomerang Books pays GST, employs Australians and pays Australian contractors.

Boomerang Books is also a member of the Australian Made Retail Supporter program. For more than 20 years, the Australian Made, Australian Grown Campaign has been helping consumers to exercise their preference for buying Australian, and promoting Australian products in Australia and increasingly also in export markets.

More information is available at http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/content/main/schools-program.shtml Applications can also be made using this link.

 

 

OUR GAGS – READ ABOUT THE GRANDMA EVERY HOUSEHOLD NEEDS

When I picked up Our Gags, by Catriona Hoy, I thought this is going to be a book full of jokes, but it wasn’t.

Our Gags in this instance are not pranks or puns – Our Gags is ‘our grandmother’ and even though this book isn’t full of jokes, it’s still hilarious.

Our Gags is in the Walker Stories series so its three small stories about the one person – Gags.

In the first story, The Gags Machine, “Our Gags” takes over the running of the house while Mum looks after the new baby.

Gags has it all under control – the housework, the cooking, the dress ups. Clearly, every household needs a Gags Machine.

In the second story, Gags Ahoy, Gags shows that she’s more than just a machine. She also loves to play. Gags is the troll under the bridge, she walks the plank and pretends to be sat on by an elephant – she’s even part of the pirate crew.

Finally, the reader is introduced to Gags on Holiday. Gags goes to the beach, she makes funny faces to distract the baby, she plays ball and makes a great audience for an impromptu show.

Gags is the sort of grandma that everyone loves – busy, funny and full of fun. Young readers will love hearing about her antics. Those who don’t have a grandma like Our Gags will definitely want one.

I love the action and imagery in this book.

“Hmph,” says Gags as she loads the washing machine. I help her chase the socks that have escaped into the hall.

This is a simple story brought to life by Catriona Hoy’s witty text and Annabelle Josse’s gorgeous black and white illustrations.

With three entertaining short stories designed to build reader confidence, The Walkers Stories are the ‘perfect first step into fiction’.

With it’s hilarious illustrations and heartwarming text, Our Gags is another great addition to the series.

WIN A COPY OF “OUR GAGS”

Enter the competition at Catriona Hoy’s blog today www.catrionahoy.blogspot.com

 

OUR GAGS – CATRIONA HOY’S NEW WALKER STORY

Catriona Hoy is the author of many much loved picture books including My Granddad Marches on Anzac Day, George and Ghost and Puggle. Her latest book, Our Gags is her first venture into longer works and it’s published by Walker Books.

Catriona has kindly allowed her main character, Caitlyn to visit Kids’ Book Capers today and tell us what makes her grandma (her Gag) so special.

EVERY CHILDREN’S STORY HAS A MEMORABLE CHILD AT THE CENTRE OF IT

Caitlyn, you are the main character in ‘Our Gags,’ tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Well, I’m about four years old and we just have a new baby in our family. Mum used to have lots of time to play with me but now she’s really busy with that new baby. Luckily, we have Gags to save us.She’s my grandma.

Some days there is a lot of mess around….and smells. Who would think that something so small could smell so bad! Gags comes around to help mum with the house but really she comes to play with me. She is really good at playing games.

Why do you call your grandma ‘Gags,’ is it because she is funny?

She is funny but that’s not why I call her Gags. Mum says, when I was little, I used to say ‘ma ma’ for Mum and ‘da da’ for Dad and ‘ga ga’ for Grandma. So I kept calling her Gaga, even when I was quite big. Now I am really grown up though, I call her Gags for short.

Are all the stories in the book true?

Most of them, especially in the first story. Mum wrote that one first. Gags is really good at cleaning things and she doesn’t like mess. She finds things that are lost, she can make play doh and she loves dressing up too. Gags is also really good at the playground because she plays billy goats gruff on the wobbly bridge. Mum pushes the pram but Gags and me are very busy having fun.

Even the dog in the book is our dog, Leisha. She is a labrador and she loves to eat and eat. She came on holiday with us when we took Gags.

And my Dad really loves the smell when he walks in the door when Gags has been visiting. It smells like cleaning and cooking! Dad doesn’t mind vacuuming but he likes it better when Gags does it!

At first, you don’t seem to find the new baby very interesting, what do you think now?

She was really boring at first. She just slept and ate but it was a lot of work. But then, she got more interesting and I could help feed her and change her nappy. Sometimes I play with her too and can give her a cuddle. She can be part of our games and get eaten by wild teddies and things.

What’s your favourite part of the book.

Hmm, I like the part where Gags is playing that she is being sat on by an elephant and a man comes along and thinks she is having a heart attack.

The author, Gags, Caitlyn (now 13) and that baby Kiera (now 10)

What does Gags think about her story?

Gags is a bit proud that she is in a book. She made mum change some bits though. Mum was trying to make a good story, so she made Gags get stuck in a slide at the playground. Gags didn’t like that so Mum had to change it. That’s why she put the elephant book in. Mum hopes Gags knows she loves her when she reads the book.

Our whole family was at the book launch for our book and Gags was very happy!

(note: Caitlyn is now in year 8, her sister is in grade five and we still call grandma ‘Gags.’ We have a new labrador called Millie, who still likes to eat everything. Sadly, we have to do our own vaccuming now….but Gags still comes to visit.)

On Friday, we’ll be reviewing Our Gags here at Kids’ Book Capers.

MY MUM’S THE BEST

In keeping with this week’s Mother’s Day theme our featured book this morning is My Mum’s The Best by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley.

When you see the pictures in My Mum’s The Best, it’s easy to see why Bruce is such a favourite with the kids. His illustrations are funny and so endearing.

My Mum’s The Best takes kids on a tour of the animal kingdom. It introduces them to all kinds of Mums and the ways in which they look after their children.

I love the way the pictures and the text work together in this book. Each double page spread has a simple line of text and one of Bruce’s beautiful illustrations.

Kids will relate to Rosie’s text and to the events of school, feeding time, dancing, playtime, bedtime etc – all activities from their daily lives.

Every single page of this book was a work of pictorial and word art, but my favourite would have to be the bats hanging upside down at bedtime with baby tucked under its mother’s wing.

As the blurb on the back says,

Whether big or small, feathered or furry, mums always know how to make us feel special.

My Mum’s The Best is also a great book for discussion because it encourages kids to think about their own family lives and the things that are special about their mum.

It’s an easy read and great for play or bedtime.

My Mum’s The Best is published by Scholastic.

I LOVE MY MUM

Written and illustrated by Anna Walker, I Love My Mum is another great picture book for Mother’s Day. It’s all about Ollie the Zebra’s loving relationship with his mum,

Ollie is an appealing and distinctive character; a lively zebra who loves to play with his mum and do all sorts of things that kids love doing like chasing butterflies and playing hide and seek.

I Love My Mum goes through Ollie and Mum’s regular activities and explores the fun of their relationship.

The Ollie books are Anna Walker’s first books as author-illustrator and in them she captures the bond between mother and child as they spend special time together doing everyday things.

The I Love Ollie books are a series of books for every occasion and include I Love to Dance, I Love to Sing, I Love Holidays, I Love Birthdays, I Love Christmas, I Love My Dad, I Love My Grandpa, I Love My Grandma, I Love Easter, I Love My Baby Brother and I Love My Baby Sister.

The rhyming text is simple and easy to read and will engage young children aged 2+. They’ll also enjoy the simple but expressive full colour pictures.

I Love My Mum is published by Scholastic Australia.