Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 6 – Just For Fun

It’s so exciting – being on the cusp of Christmas. If you are still anxious about the book-sized gaps left in your children’s Christmas stockings though, worry no more. Here is my final list of cracking good Chrissy reads for the year. We’ve covered meaningful and moving, so here are some just for fun titles, to fill you with all the merriment the season entails. If they don’t quite make it to you in time, save them for next year; there’s nothing like getting ahead with Santa! I hope you’ve enjoyed our Kids’ Book Bests this year and can’t wait to share even more fabulous titles from the world of children’s books with you in 2018.

Junior Novels

Sage Cookson’s Christmas Ghost by Sally Murphy and Celeste Hulme

We’ve met Sage and her sassy cooking-based series before but this one takes the cake, or rather Pavlova! Frolicsome fun ensues after Sage and her celeb chef parents arrive in Western Australia to record a world-record attempt by Chef Myra to make the world’s largest ever pavlova. In spite of the fiercely debated origins of this quintessentially Christmassy summertime dessert and some irksome ghostly going ons, Sage eventually wades through gallons of meringue to save the day – and the record attempt. Best bit, of course – the delicious pav recipe in the back. A jolly addition to any Christmas stocking.

New Frontier Publishing November 2017

PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? by Dimity Powell

Well it wouldn’t be Christmas without mentioning this little ripper now, would it. Can Sam and Tobii save Santa’s reputation and Sam’s kidnapped little sister before the Delivery Book is closed for the year? This light-hearted Christmas mystery, chockers with elves, weird smells, stolen Christmas wishes, nasty rashes and disappearing mailboxes is a spirited stocking filler ideal for 7 – 10 year-olds that is guaranteed to sustain the magic of believing. Just ask the author if you don’t believe me!

Morris Publishing Australia October 2012

Fun Picture Books

I Went to See Santa by Paul Howard

This picture book is positively exploding with festive fun. Based on the popular memory game and akin to the Twelve Days of Christmas, this story begins with a young boy who, with his new glasses, spies an outlandish assortment of Christmassy things including penguins, reindeers and snowballs. With a faint acknowledgement of beloved Christmas pantomimes, this is a jolly crowd pleaser great for 4 – 7 year-olds.

Bloomsbury November 2017

Santa’s Gone Surfing by P. Crumble and Thomas Fitzpatrick

It’s gratifying see good old Santa in his boardies catching waves albeit a little unconventional. This is, after all, the way many Aussie kids picture Christmas. Crumble’s bonzer rhyming ditty starts with one hot grumpy Santa throwing a major wobbly. He abandons his red suit and boots for boardies and zinc cream leaving poor, barely qualified, emergency Santa, Trevor to recruit a new sleigh-pulling team (a flock of beady-eyed Emus if you don’t mind) and commission a new sleigh (obligatory rusty ute) with which to complete the Southern Hemisphere deliveries, which he does, brilliantly. It’s a jovial win win situation freeing up more surfing time for Santa every year. Littlies and surfers alike will warm to this chipper tale.

Koala Books imprint of Scholastic October 2017

The Naughtiest Reindeer Takes a Bow by Nicki Greenberg

Ruby is back in all her glorious glittery naughtiness. It’s not that she deliberately tries to derail Christmas; it’s just that Ruby’s intentions always end up a little askew. This year, she is determined to get a head start with the deliveries but inadvertently gets horribly, hilariously sidetracked. It’s not until she is centre stage in a school musical that she remembers there was something important left undone. Delightful mayhem for fans of this ruby red-nosed reindeer.

Allen & Unwin October 2017

Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey

Pig the pugnacious Pug is back, this time competing with his little mate Trevor for Santa’s affections. Actually is not affection Pig is after at all, but rather sackfuls of presents. His greed and overt excessive selfishness is what makes Pig so utterly unlikeable and yet so fantastically addictive. I have used this book in early childcare centres and Kindergartens where it has huge crowd appeal. An excellent example of naughty and nice and how you may only end up with ‘just desserts’ if you are too greedy. Obnoxious hilarity in the highest degree, recommended for pre-schoolers and above.

Scholastic September 2017

Anthology

A Christmas Menagerie Edited by Beattie Alvarez

This cheerful collection of predominantly animal inspired Christmas tales will make a gay addition under any Christmas tree. Popular children’s authors and illustrators have created stories that neighbour tales from not so well known writers yet are all redolent of that delicious Christmas spirit. From wombats to pudding making bears, turtles to curious sausage dogs, this anthology of short stories is lusciously illustrated and ideal to read aloud with younger readers or as a meaningful gift for more confident readers. Heartedly recommended reading.

Christmas Press November 2017

Activity Book

Create Your Own Christmas by Isabel Thomas and Katie Abey

This book declares that Christmas is far too important to leave in the hands of Santa and a bunch of elves. It urges you to ‘take control of your festive destiny’, and what better way to do so than to cut, colour and construct your OWN CHRISTMAS! I love the premise of this definitely-not-boring activity book. Every single colour-saturated page is packed with things to make and do. Advent calendars, decorations, Chrissy cards, Christmas crackers, party hats, gift tags, Santa launchers – it’s all here in with instructions to make mess and have FUN! Just what you need to keep them occupied for longer than it takes to baste a turkey. Have fun with it, this Christmas.

Bloomsbury November 2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY READING!

 

Review – That Stubborn Seed of Hope

Human beings can be a tenacious breed. Our stubborn ability to cling to optimism often overrides unsolicited fear, which I guess allows us to fit in with the rest of the world’s species and, in short, survive. Brian Falkner artfully cultivates that seed of hope in a choice collection of short stories ideal for mid-grade to YA readers and beyond.

That Stubborn Seed of Hope Stories heralds what I hope is the first of more anthologies for children, depicting concise, gripping stories linked in theme and flavour. The tone of this collection is at times dark and sobering, sorrowful and desperate yet somehow also manages to leave the reader with a yearning to read on, to venture further into their own swamp of fears and to face those disquietudes with the help of another’s story.

Falkner addresses a number of fearful situations and occasions to dread with these stories: the fear of death, embarrassment, rejection, heartbreak to name a few. At times the obvious theme is enshrouded by a veil of less certain anxieties which combine to form complex and rich narratives. Continue reading Review – That Stubborn Seed of Hope

Anthologies for Christmas

I love anthologies – books collecting together short stories from numerous authors. I love them as a reader. And I love them as a writer. Anthologies have a lot of things going for them…

Anthologies make great tasters. They are a wonderful way of trying out a whole batch of authors without having to commit to an entire novel. Then, when you click with the style of a particular author, you can go on to read their longer works.

Anthologies are great for reluctant readers. Bite-sized chunks are not as daunting as a massive tome. A person can read one story, rather than having to read an entire book. And a short story, finished off quickly, can give a reluctant reader a wonderful feeling of satisfaction… perhaps encouraging her/him to read some more.

Anthologies are great for time-poor readers. You can read individual stories in short bursts as time permits. Dip in and out of the book without losing track.

Anthologies make great presents. (Hey! Isn’t Christmas just around the corner?) Not sure of the recipient’s taste in authors? Then a book with multiple authors is the perfect solution.

I’ve got stories in three kids’ anthologies that have been released in the last few months. Each of these books also has tales from heaps of other great kids’ authors. Check these out…

 9780143780991Cat Stories
For kids who like felines, you can’t do better that this. Ten stories from the likes of Aleesah Darlison, Anne Mangan, Davina Bell, RA Spratt, Patrick Loughlin, Belinda Murrell, Martin Chatterton, Christina Briones and Bruce Dawe. I read this book with my seven-year-old daughter. Her favourite story was Spratt’s “Nanny Piggins and the Problem Cat”. In fact, she loved it so much that she desperately wanted more… and was delighted when I told her that there was a whole series of books about Nanny Piggins. We have now completed The Adventures of Nanny Piggins and are about to move on to Nanny Piggins: The Wicked Plan. See… I told you anthologies were great for discovering new favourite authors!

 

 9780143780977Dog Stories
So, if cats are not your thing there’s a companion volume about dogs. Lots of fun, slobbery stories from Nick Falk, Sofie Laguna, Tristan Bancks, Christina Briones, RA Spratt, Jacqueline Harvey, Martin Chatterton, Bronwyn O’Reilly, Rae Murdie and Aleesah Darlison.

 

 9780994234063A Toy Christmas [edited by Sophie Masson]
Now this is a perfect book for Christmas gift giving. Thirteen stories about the most magical time of year. It’s got everything from Santa Claus to nativity toys, from dragons to Christmas puddings… and even a story about the Jewish celebration of Chanukah. There are stories from Natalie Jane Prior, Kathy Creamer, Fiona McDonald, Michael Grey, Goldie Alexander, Rebecca Fung, Meredith Costain, Anna Bell, Ian Irvine, Juliet Marillier, Beattie Alvarez and David Allan. They are a wonderful bunch of tales, but my two favourites are, without a doubt, Michael Grey’s “An Unexpected Gift”, which defies gender stereotyping in a beautifully heart-felt story; and Goldie Alexander’s “ Avi and the Chanukah Surprise”, which shows how not all people celebrate Christmas.

And finally, I’d like to finish up by mentioning a book that I am looking forward to with much excitement…

 9781460752319Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology
No, I haven’t got a story in this one… but it’s got an amazing list of contributors, including Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer and Lili Wilkinson. Sounds like it’s going to be a brilliant collection of Young Adult goodness. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. [BTW… check out the #LoveOzYA website.]

Catch ya later, George

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The Art of Story – Festivals and anthologies in review

Rich and RareEditor, publisher, author, and all round busy guy, Paul Collins describes his latest anthology as ‘a sumptuous literary feast’ in which ‘no one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.’ If that doesn’t whet your appetite for the collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork that is, Rich and Rare, then spend a few moments ingesting Julie Fison’s interview with him as they dissect the intricacies of this collection.

His description, I feel also encapsulates the essence of our Australian literary landscape, so admirably showcased a couple of weeks ago at the 19th Story Arts Festival of Children’s Literature iPaul Collinsn Ipswich. This biennial Queensland festival is for adults and young adults be they teachers, librarians, or emerging writers and illustrators aiming to heighten awareness in the creative arts of writing and illustration and help build and maintain increased audiences for children’s literature. The school kids involved really loved it too.

I found the Story Arts Festival nothing short of inspirational and one of the most relaxed, enriching and informative conferences I have experienced. Like the anthology, Rich and Rare, it treated participating creators to a vast and delicious array of art, insight, and entertainment. Many of the contributors to this anthology participated at this year’s Story Arts. Many more are past presenting veterans of the festival. Here is but a sampler of some of the tantalising talent served up; the guest list is stupendously long and illustrious with the likes of Shaun Tan, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Tania McCartney, Gabrielle Wang, and Tracey Hawkins to drop just a few.

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur Janeen Brian award winning multi-genre children’s author whose Rich and Rare story, The Art of Illusion inspires wonder and magic in young minds. With illustrators, Ann James, Matt Ottley, Terry Denton and fellow authors, Mark Greenwood and Tony Palmer, she revealed the fun and frustrations behind creations such as her phenomenally successful I’m a Dinosaur picture book series, whilst striving to increase literacy in children through entertaining literary content.

 Oliver Phommavanh is another such entertainer dishing up platefuls sensitive story lines liberally garnished with loads of laughs. What kid can resist temptations like those? Following his riotous expose of being an Aussie kid with Thai parents in suburban Australia with Thai-riffic! and Thai-no-mite, Phommavanh continues to slap out the humour with Stuff Happens: Ethan and Con-nerd. His short Rich and Rare tale, My Brother’s Keeper displays Phommavanh’s trademark observational wit in a devastatingly touching, contemporary way.

Veiled Secrets Archimede Fussillo is another first-generation Australian this time sporting an Italian heritage. His impressive range of mid-grade readers and YA novels further enriches the diverse reading fodder of Australian’s youth. He appeared at the festival with Josie Montano to launch their co-authored collaborative novel, Veiled Secrets, published by US Solstice. He penned the poignant and heart-tugging, The Bravest Person I Know for Rich and Rare.

Just a Dog Michael Gerard Bauer is a Queensland author equally at home with humour. His series include the Ishmael trilogy, Eric Vale and Derek ‘Danger’ Dale stories running from the sublime to the snort-out-loud-ridiculous. Eric Vale Epic Fail was adapted into a stage play by THAT Production Company this year and played for the first time to Festival audiences with rousing success. His standout works include Just a Dog and The Running Man, which was CBCA Book of the Year in 2004. Both are stories of achingly plaintive prose embedded with incredible heart and soul. He returns to hilarity in Rich and Rare with the short story, The Knitting Needle Ninja.

Hunter's Moon Sophie Masson’s repertoire of fantasy, mystery, thriller, and even graphic novels stretches further than a giant’s smorgasbord. She is master of coping with change following a fluctuating home base as a child (her parents alternated between France and Australia to live) and now the necessity of author adaption in the digital age, the subject she addressed at Story Arts. Her dark and treacherous reimagined Snow White novel, Hunter’s Moon appeared earlier this year. She compares the Rich and Rare anthology to an intricately fashioned patchwork quilt, ‘a strikingly unusual and complex yet satisfying and simple thing’.

Amply satisfying it is too, and like the Story Arts festival, ably fulfils its objective to capture and preserve the attention of a wider reading audience. Anthologies may not be widely popular to publish but when they showcase talent such as that embodied in Rich and Rare and are able to sustain readers with stories of such exquisite delectableness, they really are too good to pass up. Stack your plate high and celebrate the art of story.

Rich & rare InviteSoutherners are invited to meet many of the contributors at Ford Street Publishing’s exciting launch of Rich and Rare next Friday, 23rd October, Abbotsford, Victoria.

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

 

Tony Bradman talks about anthologies

Hey folks… HAPPY NEW YEAR! I thought I’d start 2011 off with an interview. Last year I blogged about some kids’ anthologies including the wonderful Under the Weather: Stories About Climate Change edited by Tony Bradman. Tony has put together numerous anthologies over the years, on topics as diverse as asylum seekers (Give me Shelter) and primary school experiences (My Kind of School). As well as being an anthologist, he is also an accomplished author in his own right. Today it is my great pleasure to welcome Mr Bradman to Literary Clutter as he answers my questions about editing anthologies.

How did you get started as an anthologist?

It was when I first went freelance as a writer. A couple of publishers I wrote books for also did anthologies, and I realised that editing an anthology would add another string to my freelance bow and bring in some extra income – very important for the family breadwinner!

You’ve put together quite a few anthologies on a variety of topics, over the years. Do you have a favourite?

I’ve enjoyed them all, but I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Skin Deep, the collection about racism I did about seven or eight years ago. There are some great stories in it, including “The Pavee and the Buffer Girl” by Siobhan Dowd. I liked this story so much I sent it to my agent and told her she should meet Siobhan. My agent took Siobhan on as a client, whereupon Siobhan wrote four books in three years and won just about every award going. Sadly Siobhan died of breast cancer in 2007, but she left her royalties to set up The Siobhan Dowd Trust, of which I’m the chair – the Trust’s aims being to try and bring the joy of books to under-privileged kids. All from a single short story in a paperback anthology!

Has there ever been a topic for which you have had difficulty selecting an appropriate set of stories?

They’re always difficult, mostly because I’m a really picky editor! I worked out early on that a lot of anthologies aren’t that good – they often include stories that have been published a lot before, and sometimes editors settle for stories that aren’t very good, but which actually cover the theme. I decided I wasn’t going to do that. I have very high standards, and won’t take a story unless I think it’s very good indeed. So if you get into one of my anthologies you’re in with the best!

Is there a topic for which you would like to create an anthology but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

I’ve got two or three ideas with publishers at the moment. Will keep you posted…

My thanks to Tony Bradman for stopping by and answering my questions. But it’s not over yet. He’ll be back next week to chat about writing… So, stay tuned!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Why not start the new year by following me on Twitter?

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