TROPICAL TROUBLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UNICORN RIDERS REVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

Book 1

Quinn’s Riddles

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

Book 2

Willow’s Challenge

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

Book 3

Krystal’s Choice

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

Book 4

Ellabeth’s Test

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

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

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

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

 

ALEESAH DARLISON & UNICORNS

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

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

What inspired you to write this series?

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

What’s it about?

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

What age groups is it for?

The series is for girls aged 8 years and over.

Why will kids like it?

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

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

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

Is there something that sets this series apart from others?

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

What did you enjoy most about writing this series?

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

What was the hardest thing about writing these books?

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

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

 

WARAMBI TELLS TWO STORIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warambi is published by Working Title Press.

 

 

 

HOLIDAY READING – Totally Twins Totally New Adventure

Model Mania is the second book in the popular Totally Twins series written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes.

One of the things I love about these books is that they are so true to life; reflecting the ups and downs and trials of being ‘almost eleven’.

Despite the fact that Portia and Persephone are identical twins, Aleesah Darlison manages to differentiate between them through strong character development revealing individual traits and characteristics.

Persephone is the quieter, more serious twin and in Model Mania she is again taken along for the ride by the more outgoing Portia.

This time, Portia has her sights set on becoming the next super model so Persephone is dragged along to fashion parades and film sets to offer Portia moral support. Persephone shuns the limelight but more than that, she hates what the pursuit of fame is doing to Portia and to their friendship group.

Portia preening and pouting her way to fame is hilarious, especially as told through Persephone’s quiet wit. Model Mania handles real dilemmas faced by girls this age but the humour and charm of the book stop it from being too intense.

Once again, Persephone tells the story through her diary and she has plenty more tips and lists for readers.

Amidst the turmoil of Portia’s newfound fame, the twins also have to deal with a new man in their mother’s life and an increase in the demands of her work schedule. As usual, Persephone feels as if she is being dragged along by the demands of everyone else’s needs and plans.

In true sisterly style, Portia and Persephone always seem to sort things out in the end despite their differences.

The Totally Twins series is ideal for girls aged 9+ years. Readers will also want to check out Persephone’s new blog at www.totally-twins.blogspot.com

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – TWICE THE FUN – “TOTALLY TWINS

Totally Twins is the new fun series for readers aged 9+ from New Frontier. The books that follow the life of twins Persephone and Portia are written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes. Both Aleesah and Serena have been at Kids’ Book Capers this week talking about their career journeys.

Aleesah is back to today to talk about the creative process behind Totally Twins. I asked Aleesah why readers will enjoy the series.

Perse has a unique way of looking at things, which I think readers will connect with. Even though she’s shy, she doesn’t hold back in her diary. She lets readers know exactly how she feels. There’s also lots of zany characters in the books. For instance, Perse’s mum, Skye, is a yoga teacher and a laughter therapist. Her gran is a travel writer who goes bungee jumping. Her annoying next-door neighbor, Dillon Pickleton (aka Dill Pickle) is obsessed with Perse and Portia’s ‘twin-ness’ and runs around the yard playing knights and dragons with his dog, Camelot.

The series is written in diary format by Persephone (she’s the sensible twin) and the first book, Musical Mayhem is about a school musical.

Portia is the outgoing twin who loves to sing. Persephone (or Perse for short) is the shy twin who is often overshadowed by her super-confident sister and who is also a terrible singer. Perse can’t bear the idea of having to get up on stage in front of people. But everyone in class must play a part on stage…

Serena Geddes illustrations feature on every page and kids will connect with these books because they will relate to the characters and the problems that are faced by Persephone and poured out in her diary.

Aleesah says she is loving writing Totally Twins.

I love writing as Perse. I find it so easy to slip into her character and express her feelings about whatever challenge, or whatever joy, she’s facing. I think her sense of humour and her sensitivity may be similar to mine and she’s a Gemini like me, too. I also love writing about the other characters in the book. They’re always good for a laugh.

Working with an illustrator and seeing my characters breathed into life has been a very special and joyful experience, too.

Readers won’t have to wait long for the second book in the Totally Twins series. Model Behaviour is due out next month.

MY REVIEW OF MUSICAL MAYHEM

Just like Aleesah Darlison, I always thought it would be great to be a twin. I imagined how it would be to have someone who understands how you think and feel. And the idea of being able to switch identities seemed so appealing.

But as Aleesah conveys in Musical Mayhem, there’s also a downside. It can be easy for one twin to overshadow the other, for one or both to lose their individual identities.

Musical Mayhem is the first book in the Totally Twins series about ‘nearly eleven’ year-old twins Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. In a fun and engaging way, it raises issues of the ups and downs of being a twin.

The book is written in diary form from the point of view of Persephone, the ‘quiet’ twin. Her talented twin, Portia is trying out for the lead role in the school musical and it’s compulsory for every student to audition. The problem for Persephone is that she’s a really bad singer.

The thing that really came through in this book was the strong voice of the main character. Although she is the quiet one of the pair, Persephone has a lot to say in her diaries and she really lets the reader feel as if they are part of her world.

Persephone has a humour and perspective on life that will resonate with young readers. Her everyday problems with friends and family and how she handles them give us great insights into her character and make her likeable. Not so likeable is her twin sister Portia, although she shows remorse and reconciles with Persephone in the end.

I enjoyed reading about Persephone and was pleased to see her problems resolved, although it looks like she has plenty more to come (Book 2, Model Behaviour is due out in October). The relaxed format of this book and the great illustrations by Serena Geddes compliment the text and help to make Musical Mayhem a fun read for readers aged 9+.

Musical Mayhem is published by New Frontier Publishing.

FROM DISNEY TO TOTALLY TWINS – Meet Illustrator, Serena Geddes

Illustrator, Serena Geddes has always enjoyed drawing, scribbling and creating spot cartoons of fellow work colleagues.

In 1996 she was accepted as a Trainee In-betweener for Walt Disney Animation Australia, a career path she never knew existed.

Disney offered an intensive 3-month training program to become an In-betweener, and once through, areas such as life-drawing, animal and human anatomy were all part of our learning. Though very hard work, it was brilliant opportunity to learn the fundamentals of animation and illustration.

In March 2009, Serena found herself at the crossroads of her career. She felt this would be a great opportunity to try her hand at illustrating for children’s books and educational book publishers.

Serena decided to invest 3 to 6 months creating new artwork to send to publishers in Australia and the UK. Within 3 months she had landed her first contract and has not looked back since.

I am back to doing what I love (drawing all day) and have four books due for release this year! decided to invest 3 to 6 months creating new artwork to send to publishers in Australia and the UK. Within 3 months I had landed my first contract and have not looked back since.

Serena is at Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about her work and the release of Totally Twins, a series by Aleesah Darlison that she is illustrating.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It can vary from people watching in a café to trudging through books at the local library or bookstore. I sometimes find meeting with the author can give me a better insight into the style or characters for their books.

What inspired you most about illustrating Totally Twins?

I’m one of four children, my little sister is sixteen months younger than I am so I could completely relate to the frustrations Persephone had with her over confident twin sister Portia. Writing in my diary was my escape and I’d find myself retreating to places my little sister could not find me. The irony of this all, as an adult, my little kid sister is now one of my best friends.

Who is your favourite character and why?

I guess it would be Persephone. I was never a very confident child so if there was a school performance coming up, I tried to avoid being on stage in the spotlight. Persephone has a lot of characteristics I could relate to, even though she can be a little disgruntled at times her heart is in the right place once she learns to relax a little.

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

I had drawn up some characters, one of which was based on my niece who lives in New Zealand. This character Aleesah (the author of Totally Twins) was instantly drawn to, so I used her as a base to create Persephone and Portia.

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

This is my first Junior Novel so I learnt that the editing process can mess up the initial layout of a book. Once the manuscript was finalised I designed the front cover and sat with the publisher to go over the manuscript discussing the illustrations. Once that was done I tried a few different styles and showed the author to see if it was what she had in mind. Once I was happy with the style I begun illustrating the book.

What was your favourite part of the illustration process?

Adding in something quirky or something humorous to the character’s personalities or the situation they maybe in.

What was the hardest part of the illustration process?

Trying not to over work an illustration, as an artist you can find yourself picking at niggly things that no one else will see or notice. It’s so easy to spend a day on something that should have taken you 15 minutes to do!

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

I have worked closely with Aleesah on the Totally Twins series. This was a perfect example of meeting to gain a snap shot of how she saw the style of the book and her feed back on the characters I was creating. Aleesah has been great to work with especially because she liked anything I drew for her, which is always positive.

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

For the front cover, I drew some of the images by hand then scanned and coloured them on the computer. I created the bulk of the cover on the computer but all internals were drawn by hand in black ink.

How long did it take to illustrate?

Including the two weeks of artist block… about four to five weeks. Once I found a style I was happy with it just flowed so in this particular instance not very long.

How many books have you illustrated?

I have four books in total all due for release this year.

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

Keep an open mind when it comes to sending out samples to publishers, a rejection does not necessarily mean you’re not good enough. Keep creating wherever you can and find a style that makes you a little different from everyone else.

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

I attended a Children’s Book Illustration course a few years ago through the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Sydney http://www.cce.usyd.edu.au/course/CBIL.

At the time I was not sure how it would help as I was not practicing to be a book illustrator, but once I started looking into the publishing industry, all my course notes and the information notes were more valuable than ever.

More of Serena’s beautiful illustrations are available from her website www.reeni.com.au.

MAKING THE DREAM A REALITY – MEET ALEESAH DARLISON – PART ONE

Four years ago Aleesah Darlison realized she could awaken her dreams of being a published author by writing when the kids were asleep and still be a mum.

I could have the best of both worlds! I also realized I wanted to write for children so I started learning ‘the craft’ properly for the first time in my life.

I attended workshops, networked, read stacks of kids’ books, wrote in every spare second that I could, entered every competition that came my way, sent my work away to publishers. I got loads and loads of rejections, but I also started to get acceptances. Slowly, I began to make the unattainable dream a reality.

Aleesah has always been an avid reader and says that somewhere deep inside she has always been a writer, too. She won a writing competition when she was a teenager, and started dabbling in writing then, but she never properly embraced the challenge – or dared to dream that she could be a real, published author – until much later in life.

I think it was never letting go, and always working hard to achieve that dream that finally made me believe I was a writer. I’ve doubted myself often, but thankfully I’ve had others close to me who have believed in me.

This month Aleesah celebrates the release of Musical Mayhem, the first book in her Totally Twins series about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. As a child, Aleesah always wanted an identical twin.

I’d read stories about identical twins playing tricks on people and sharing things no one else could. In times when I felt unfairly treated by my parents, I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a twin, a soul mate, who would feel as miserable as I do right now, or who would cheer me up?’. So, when I came to write this book, I drew on those memories and that desire to have a soulmate to share everything with. I also realized that sometimes things wouldn’t be perfect between twins and that I could draw on that fact to create loads of drama.

The Totally Twins series (for girls aged 9 +) is written in diary format by Persephone, and Magical Mayhem is about a school musical. Portia is the outgoing twin who loves to sing. Persephone (or Perse for short) is the shy twin who is often overshadowed by her super-confident sister and who is also a terrible singer. Perse can’t bear the idea of having to get up on stage in front of people. But everyone in class must play a part on stage…

Readers can find out more about Persephone or get in touch with  Aleesah by visiting her website at: www.aleesahdarlison.com.  And for more information about Serena Geddes and her work, they can visit her website at: www.reeni.com.au. Aleesah says,

Serena and I are embarking on a national tour to promote the Persephone series in schools and libraries as a ‘Dynamic Creative Duo’ and to give the inside scoop on Persephone and her sister, Portia. We’re really looking forward to it. We hope to meet lots of Perse fans, and lots of Kids’ Book Capers readers, over the next few months.

On Wednesday, Serena will visit Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her journey and her wonderful illustrations, and on Friday, we’ll go ‘under to cover’ of  “Totally Twins” and find out more about Persephone and Portia Pinchgut and their story.

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – KIDS’ BOOK CHARACTERS WITH A ZEST FOR DISCOVERY

Today I wanted to talk about two beautiful new books for younger readers where the main characters go out to explore the world and in the process, discover new things about themselves.

Both are baby animals, each with unique physical characteristics and the inquisitiveness and innocence of the very young.

Puggle, the echidna from Puggle’s Problem is missing his spikes and goes out seeking advice from other members of the animal kingdom to see if he can find a way to make them grow quicker.

Leon in Look Out Leon is a chameleon learning all about the advantages of changing colour.

Here’s a closer look at these unique, vibrant and appealing books.

PUGGLE‘S PROBLEM

Pipp is a baby echidna who is the same as every other echidna his age…except that he doesn’t yet have his spikes.

Koala thinks that eating lots of gum leaves might make them grow. Wombat advises that digging is the solution. Puggle even tries hopping like a kangaroo, but nothing seems to work.

In Puggle’s Problem, Pipp learns the importance of patience and perseverance, and that every problem has its up side.

Puggle’s Problem is the work of talented new writer, Aleesah Darlison who has six books being released in the next six months. Award-winning wildlife artist, Sandra Temple has stunningly illustrated this feel good tale which show-cases some of Australia’s best-loved native animals and their unique characteristics.

This books is beautifully illustrated and I loved the gentle humour reflected in both the text and the pictures.

Puggle’s Problem is published by Wombat Books.

LOOK OUT LEON

A vibrant and simple novelty book about Leon, the chameleon who can’t go out exploring until he learns how to blend into his surroundings and hide from hungry eyes.

There are crocodiles, hippos, snakes and other creatures who look at Leon as a possible source of food so which colour should he blend in with?

This is a delightful interactive book in which young readers can pull the tabs to change the pictures…as if by magic.

The simple repetitive text and vibrant illustrations are bound to appeal to young readers.

Jez Alborough is a hugely popular author and illustrator of books for children, well known for his stories about Bobo the chimp, star of Hug & Yes.

Look Out Leon is published by Walker Books.

What I enjoyed about both these books was that as well as being thoroughly entertaining, they provide plenty of opportunity for young readers to learn, and explore.