Review – Ella Saw The Tree by Robert Vescio

Ella Saw The Tree, Robert Vescio (author), Cheri Hughes (illus.), Big Sky Publishing, May 2017.

The value of mindfulness is not to be underestimated. For reasons of improving one’s stress levels, resilience, empathy, curiosity, decision making skills and self-awareness, practicing mindfulness is beneficial for positive wellbeing and mental health. In his latest book, Ella Saw The Tree, Robert Vescio addresses these themes with thoughtful consideration. Here is a story that joyfully taps into children’s innately inquiring minds. It reminds them that slowing down, focusing on the inner self, and appreciating their environment will offer them surprising discoveries and a sense of calm.

Ella is a free-spirit by nature. She has a keen imagination when it comes to pretend play. But as her mind is constantly brimming with fantasy and busy pursuits, it is the first time she notices the shedding tree in her backyard. A conversation with her mother helps Ella realise the tree’s natural cycle, the beauty of her surroundings, and the power of living in the moment. She becomes attune to her emotions, breathing and senses, finally allowing herself to respect life’s tranquil moments.

Vescio’s elegant and sensatory language is beautifully articulated to connect readers with the aspects of mindfulness highlighted in the story. His words are delicate and carefully chosen, and pleasantly supported by the luscious illustrations by Cheri Hughes. The images emanate a feeling of warmth, soul and attention. Synonymous to the reflective nature of the book, Hughes has chosen to contrast the fluidity of the subtle background watercolours with the prominence of the vivacious character, as well as including varying viewpoints.

Ella Saw The Tree is a warm, entertaining and important story that invites children, and adults alike, to opt in to the skilful technique of being ‘at one with oneself’ and with nature. I love that this book prompts us to celebrate the simplicity, beauty and surprises of life that induce the most happiness.

Read Dimity’s guest post with Robert Vescio from his blog tour.

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Doodles and Drafts – Blog Tour with Robert Vescio

To an infant child, the world is full of unbelievable marvels. Every new discovery is cause for celebration and intense scrutiny. They inherently know how to appreciate the most minuscule details of life because for them, these are the ones that count the most.

Robert Vescio’s latest picture book, Ella Saw The Tree invites young readers to pause for thought and cherish the finer details of life, ones they are often forced to abandon or forget about as they deal with the daily need to ‘grow up’.

Today, we welcome Robert back to the draft table to discuss how his book about mindfulness can help us all slow down whilst catching up with the things that really matter.

Welcome Robert! Tell us a bit more about Ella Saw The Tree.

Continue reading Doodles and Drafts – Blog Tour with Robert Vescio

Doodles and Drafts – Blog Tour with Alison Reynolds

Writing a book about bullying or indeed, attempting to instill relevant social life issues into an entertaining format for kids, is always tricky to perfect. Alison Reynolds has managed to pull off this feat of meaningful storytelling with her captivating picture book series, Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds. You can read Romi’s review of these two new titles, here.

Today she joins us briefly at the Draft Table to discuss just how she tackled the dicey subject of bullying with The Playground Meanies. This episode with Pickle and Bree is one of my favourites as we are reintroduced to Jason, the big footed, kind-hearted panda whose good deed not only saves the day but opens the pathways to friendship in a way very young children can’t help but connect with. Continue reading Doodles and Drafts – Blog Tour with Alison Reynolds

Doodles and Drafts – All of Us Together with Bill Condon

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

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

Here’s what Bill has to say:

On Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We hope so too, Bill!

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

About Kids Books November 2016

BLOG TOUR DATES

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

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

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

20 November Sandy Fussell www.sandyfussell.com/blog

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

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

#ByAustralinaBuyAustralian

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – In conversation with Tania McCartney over tea!

Tania McCartney March 2016 cropTania McCartney is no stranger to the world of Kids’ Literature. Her knowledge and ability to produce entertaining, endearing and enduring picture books is nothing short of remarkable and now sitting comfortably in her enviable arsenal of accreditations, is a re-discovered gift – illustration.

Sumptuously rich in detail and stuffed with enough iconic charm to make both Banjo Paterson and Con the Fruiterer feel at home, her first self-illustrated picture book, Australia: Illustrated delivers a (very satisfying) slice of all things Aussie to an audience who might still remember what a frog cake is as well as those young enough to regard the Wheel of Brisbane as their first Ferris wheel ride.

Australia IllustratedIt is a magnificent compendium of facts, landmarks, foods, cultures, flora, fauna, natural wonders, celebrities and attractions playfully illustrated in Tania’s unique, considered hand. Her drawings do more than just tell a story and describe a caption. They fill my visual soul. New South Wales’s Snowy Mountain region is resplendent with wild silver Brumbies (skiiing, horse riding and snowboarding as it were!) for example, revealing Tania’s cheeky take on life and no doubt, her own personal reflections of a land she clearly adores.

Her affection is contagious. From the divinely cloth-bound cover and very first end pages, clean and devoid of the congestion of civilization (a nod to the pre-settlement days of Australia perhaps), to each State and Territories’ four to five page expose of their specific peculiarities, Australia: Illustrated draws the reader in and, sublimely, educates and entertains along the way. The final end pages, a testament to the diversity and wonder that fills this wide brown land (with green bits, girt by sapphire seas) we call, home.

Today, we leave the draft table for a pair of comfy armchairs, a delicious cup of tea and a few precious moments with the gifted creator behind EK Book’s newest non-fiction picture book release, Australia: Illustrated.

Welcome, Tania. It’s great to finally spend some ‘virtual’ time with you.

So lovely to visit, Dim!

Your very first self-illustrated picture book, Australia Illustrated, is out any moment. Has this been a dream come true?

In a word: yes!

Have you been suffering heart palpitations? I know I’d be more anxious that than

Yes. How did you know??

I could hear them all the way up here in Brisbane.

I’m not surprised. They’re pretty thunderous.

Has this book been a bucket-list kind of thing?

Yes and no. It was more of a meant-to-be than a bucket-list-thing, though now it’s been ticked off my bucket-list, I’m happy it got onto that list!

It has actually just been a long-buried seed of an idea but it may not have even grown if the circumstances hadn’t been right. There was a grant I wanted to apply for, I needed a contract to do so, my publisher just happened to think the idea was fabulous at the time (this changes, as you know!) and I got a contract the next day.

You’re kidding?!

I know! If only all contracts were like that! This was a little scary, though, because the idea was quite ethereal at the time. I mean, I knew it would unfold okay… and it did. But I did it all the wrong way.

What do you mean?

I basically winged it. I had an outline, of course, but the content was pretty much an organic process. I was SO lucky to have this kind of opportunity. And I did the cover first. I mean, who does the cover first?

I don’t much about the illustrative process, but that does sound a little dotty.

SO dotty. But it worked because that cover was one of my favourite things to create, and it set the scene for the style and layout of the entire book. I highly recommend up-ending processes!

Are you proud of thi047 qld daintrees book?

I am for the fact that I finished it. It took a year and contains over 1000 hand-drawn images over 96 pages. Half of the finished pages are digitally illustrated, too, so it was a lot of work and I was also in learning mode at the time (re-learning my illustration skills and also learning digital skills—I basically learned as I went).

I’m also proud of it because it’s my first self-illustrated book and I think first self-illustrated books take a lot of courage. Like, a lot. It’s scary because I’ve had years to get used to writing criticism, but illustration criticism is a whole other colour on the palette.

So, my nerves are on standby, for sure—and I have to consistently tell myself I created this book for me, no one else—and that if kids and adults happen to take pleasure in it, that will please me very, very much. In fact, ALL creators should create books for themselves first and foremost. If we created them for other people, we’d never enjoy it as much or do our best work. And once our books are published, they become someone else’s anyway, so it’s nice to hang onto ownership during production!

Oh gosh, Dim, this tea is so good.

Thanks! Isn’t it divine? You’ve written several books about Australia. Will there be more?

Probably not. I do have ideas for books about Australian people (biographic), plants and animals but they won’t be Australia-centric, if that makes sense.

I don’t know why I’ve written so many books on Australia. It’s not a conscious decision. Perhaps it’s because the world is full of so much negativity right now—I fully realise and accept that our country (any country) is far from perfect, but it just feels so nice to celebrate what’s good here sometimes. And there’s so much that’s good. Australia Illustrated is a celebration of w007 au beautifulhat’s good.

Hear hear! What brought you the greatest pleasure when creating Australia Illustrated?

So much. The creative freedom. The ability to play and allow things to unfold. I know it’s not realistic, but it would be incredible if all books could be created in this way! It’s just so much fun. I loved relearning skills and meeting my characters and learning so much about this country that I never knew.

I loved the digital illustration and the layout and design. I also loved doing the finishing art in Photoshop. Creating the fonts was fun.

How did you do that?

With an app called iFontMaker. It’s fabulous. You can get so creative. You can even create fonts for your kids, using their handwriting.

Sounds fascinating, I’d love to give it a go.

You must. I also loved pulling the pages together. It’s so satisfying.

So, hang on, you did quite a bit for this book. Not just writing and illustrating?

027 nsw sydney ferriesI did heaps. I researched, wrote, fact-checked, drew, painted, did digital illustration and mono-printing, scanning, touching up, photography, fonts, layout, design, typography, cover layout and design—all to print-ready PDF. I LOVE doing all this. It’s so satisfying and skills-building. Then I had the wonderful Mark Thacker from Big Cat Design take all the PDFs and whack them in InDesign for the printer.

And my gorgeous publisher Anouska Jones was my editor and second eyes and ears, and I had a group of other eyes and ears, too, and then there was the team at Exisle and our printing coordinator Carol and publicist Alison and all the fabulous book reps and all the wonderful friends and colleagues who helped me authenticate things and help me out with research.

I have an entire page dedicated to thank yous! I also had the backing of the ACT Government—artsACT—for their grant to help produce this book.

So while I did a lot, I certainly didn’t do it alone. No one ever does it alone.

Gosh, we have an amazing bunch of people in this industry.

We do. I feel privileged to be part of it. This really is great tea, Dim.

Of course it is, it’s from Queensland! What’s next for you, Tania?

Well, I’ve just come out of a long rest! I took a lot of winter off, other than ongoing obligations and a little bit of production on some upcoming titles.

 Oooh – can you share them with us?

COVER FINAL smilecryfullcover-smallWell, one is a sequel to Smile Cry with Jess Racklyeft. The other is a follow-up to This is Captain Cook with Christina Booth—and we’re also in the middle of another picture book for the National Library. Tina Snerling and I have been working on books 6 and 7 for the A Kids’ Year series.

I’ve been planning my illustration style for my first illustration commission with the National Library and I’ve been working on a non-fiction pitch for them, too, which I’ll illustrate. And I’ve been finalising a junior fiction manuscript after talks with a gorgeous publisher. Oh—and just like you would, I have several thousand other little bits and ideas floating around.

Yes, something I can relate 100% to! But would you have it any other way?

No! Well, yes—I really needed that time out after Australia Illustrated. It was an enormous amount of work. 96 pages!! So happy to have my energy and mojo back now, though.

Mojo back is good! Tania, thanks so much for stopping by today. I’ve really enjoyed the chat.

Me, too, Dim! And thanks for the tea!

The kettle is always on…

This is more than a picture book, more than a resource; Australia Illustrated is a meaningful, beautiful, thoughtful, piece of art.

Order Tania’s, Australia: Illustrated, here.

Australia Illustrated Launch PosterFollow all the excitement of her Virtual Launch this week with reveals, sneak peeks, more interviews and giveaways, here.

EK Books November 2016

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Review – Who is Fitzy Fox?

imageWho is Fitzy Fox?, Amelia Trompf (author), Jennifer Bruce (illus.), Little Steps Publishing, September 2016.

Sweetly wrapped up in red and white this little treasure arrived at my door, keenly searching for a place to belong. Upon entering the world of this furry friend, I soon realised just how important his mission was to solve his ‘existential crisis’ of ‘Who is Fitzy Fox?’.

Gently written in a child-friendly tone, first-time picture book author Amelia Trompf narrates a soul-satisfying tale of self-discovery, reassurance, the value of family, and a bit of adventure. The beautiful textures, detail and muted watercolours and pencil illustrations by Scottish-born, Jennifer Bruce equally provide an aura of warmth, comfort and familiarity that highlight the story’s sense of the affection of loved ones and the kindness of strangers.

imageSet in Melbourne’s eclectic suburb of Fitzroy, Fitzy Fox sets off on a path to determine whether his true identity is fox, or whether it is hound. Greeted with delicious cuisine, including veggie burgers and gelati, by the local occupants of busy Brunswick Street somehow doesn’t give Fitzy the satisfaction he is looking for. A trip to the State Library provides a glimmer of hope as the poor lost soul decides to embark on a trip to London. Fitzy Fox searches for his answer in such fascinating landmarks as Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Notting Hill, but to no avail. Has his journey across the other side of the world been all for nothing? Has the truth been under his snout the entire time?

Targeted at early primary school-aged children, ‘Who is Fitzy Fox?’ explores some deep, philosophical questions that may be extended to discussing cultural, religious, or gender-specific identities. But the playful and endearing tone of the book allows readers to enjoy it for its life and purity, and the comfort in knowing they are loved for who they are. Perfect for locals and visitors to Melbourne to soak up those vibrant street vibes.

Amelia Trompf has prepared wonderful teaching notes and activities on the Fitzy Fox website.

Who is Fitzy Fox? is on blog tour! Check out the schedule here.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Review – Noisy Nights – on tour with Fleur McDonald

Noisy NightsIf you like novels of the rolling outback variety with plenty of page-turning drama, a sprinkle of bucolic romance and a good dose of dust and hardship, then you are likely familiar with one of Australia’s leading rural writers, Fleur McDonald. Her litany of outback, female orientated sagas constitute engrossing adult reads. However, not content with being a bestselling author of adult fiction, McDonald has now set her sights on the fickle world of writing for children. Noisy Nights is the first picture book penned by McDonald and illustrated by Annie White depicting farmyard fun for pre-schoolers.

The premise is simple; Farmer Hayden is desperate for a good night’s sleep. Little wonder after working hard on his property all day long. Tucked under his cosy doona, beneath a darken sky and shining stars, everything appears ideal for sound slumber, except it is ‘so noisy outside his window.’

Apparently, the animals of Farmer Hayden’s farm are very vocal night. Now anyone who has ever spent a night in the country or even just camped in his or her own back yard will agree nights are not so silent. The cold stillness of a night bereft of the noisy pollution of city living seems to magnify each and every sound made by unseen creatures, as is the case for poor old Farmer Hayden.

Night after night, dogs bark, cows moo, horses nicker, and crickets chirp. Frequent pleas for quiet fall on deaf ears until defeated and fatigued, Farmer Hayden submits to his insomnia and spends the next night sitting outside on the veranda. He’d rather watch the noisy choir rather than suffer the torture of listening to them.

As predicted, thFleur McDonalde dogs bark, the cows moo, the crickets chirp and so on but the sheep dance to a different song this night, or rather, they jump to it. Finally, mesmerised by them, something amazing happens. Could this be the beginning of no more noisy nights?

McDonald pulls off her first attempt at writing for children with uncomplicated honesty. Predictive, repetitive text creates many opportune moments for young readers to not only bolster their vocabulary base but for them to indulge in interactive story telling with whomever they are reading with, as well. The narrative is enjoyable and supports common barnyard and animal connections as well as the old familiar maxim that ‘counting sheep to get to sleep’ really does work.NoisyNightsBlog Tour[1]

In addition, White’s well-loved illustrations emphasise the farmyard fun making this common dilemma instantly recognisable for even the most citified child.

Noisy Nights is soft-hued and gentle in its appearance and content making it a beautiful picture book to curl up with when your little one is ready for a good night’s sleep.

For more reviews and information about Fleur McDonald, visit her other Blog Tour stops.

Noisy Nights is available for purchase now, here.

New Frontier Publishing August 2016

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Review – Dragonfly Song

Wendy Orr’s latest novel has the sweeping majesty of an epic novel and the thrill of a mid-grade fantasy that will win leagues of young new fans. Powerful, eloquent and moving, Dragonfly Song is a story you will never want to leave.

Dragonfly SongAt first glance, Dragonfly Song is not for the faint hearted, weighing in at nearly four hundred pages, however do not be disheartened for from the moment Aissa slips into existence, you will be enthralled and the pages will float effortlessly by. Aissa is the first-born daughter of the high priestess of an ancient island nation. She is however, imperfect and so is abandoned, thus determining not only her destiny but the fate of her island home and all its inhabitants, as well.

Aissa’s people are emerging from the time of flint and spears into the mythical Bronze Age. Her world possesses a strong Byzantine period feel for me at least, where hierarchy, occupation, and bloodline dictate survival. Having endured a childhood of servitude and persecution, Aissa is unaware of her own ancestry and link to the goddesses or even her true name until she is twelve years old. Her fellow islanders consider her the bad-luck child, a curse to all who cross her, and abhor her. Yet she is resourceful, curious, and oddly revered by the island’s animals (snakes, cats, bulls) and although mute from the age of four, she slowly begins to grasp the power she has to sing them to her biding.

It is this power that both exalts and alienates her to the Bull King and his Lady wife, the Mother. At the age of thirteen, Aissa finds herself in the land of the great Bull King, interned as a bull dancer, eventually dancing for her life and the freedom of further tributes (aka human sacrifices) against her island home.

Aissa is manOrr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gouldy things: of pure blood, a priestess in the making, a talented bull dancer, spirited, obedient, loyal, a privy cleaner, displaced but above all, resilient. It is hard not to fret over her emotional well-being and want to call out encouragement for her. Her story is both bleak and horrifying at times but ultimately her tale of rising out of the quagmire of the downtrodden soars with optimism and promise.

Orr masters this with incredible ease. Her artistry with language is unforced and sublime. Part prose and part verse novel, I was utterly swept away by the beauty and tragedy of Aissa’s plight. The use of verse to relay Aissa’s internal dialogue and inner most dread and desires is genius and executed with such finesse I wished it never ended.

Dragonfly Song is an adventure story, a tale of daring and hope and a quest for love and acceptance that will have you weeping and cheering. Gripping, artful, and exciting, this novel has broad appeal for both male and female readers aged twelve and above.

03To discover the heart and soul behind the writing of this novel, see my Doodles and Drafts post with Wendy Orr, here.

Allen & Unwin June 2016

DOODLES AND DRAFTS with Wendy Orr on the inspiration behind Dragonfly Song

Dragonfly SongHang onto to your bronze daggers as you are in for ‘a riveting, mythic Bronze Age adventure’ –  we have the remarkable Wendy Orr at the draft table today, escorting us on her Blog Tour for her stunning new novel, Dragonfly Song. And like all terrific stories, there is usually an even more fascinating story behind it; how it came to light, what energies and events conspired to motivate its first heartbeat. Today, Wendy shares her inspiration with us.

Orr Wendy, preferred author photo, credit Roger Gould

 

Welcome Wendy! Tell us, what was the inspiration for Dragonfly Song?

Sometimes it’s easy to see where an idea’s inspiration has come from. Sometimes it’s not – and sometimes some of the things that inspire it don’t end up in the story. Dragonfly Song is one of those mysteries.

Certainly one thread comes from childhood and teenage reading of Greek myths and Mary Renault’s retelling of the Theseus myth, The King Must Die. (There are many stories about Theseus, a king of Athens with a typically complicated hero life. However he is best known for being one of seven youths and seven maidens sent as a tribute to King Minos of Crete. Minos sent them into a labyrinth to be devoured by the half-man, half-bull monster, the Minotaur – but luckily, Theseus defeated the Minotaur instead of being eaten.)

04Then, about twenty-five years ago, I dreamed about a white robed priestess leading a long torchlight procession up a steep green volcanic mountain.  As a story grew around the dream, I started reading up on the intriging civilization that flourished in Crete around four thousand years ago.  The Minoans seem to have worshipped a mother goddess and been ruled by a priestess until they were taken over by the warlike Mycenaeans of mainland Greece. Their palaces had grand court02yards and stairways, flushing toilets, lightwells, and painted frescoes on walls, ceilings and floors. They had beautiful art, gold and jewellery; images of priestesses holding snakes and of young men and women leaping over the backs of giant bulls. What if these bull-leaping games had inspired the original myth of Theseus?

Although the rather melodramatic novel I wrote then was, luckily, never published, the images of that world never left me. Eventually I started playing with the idea of a completely new story set in the same era.

It started to take shape on a 2010 visit to New Delhi. Culture shock can be a great inspiration: new sounds and smells; beautiful buildings and overwhelming poverty. Home again, doodling with a fingerpaint app, I sketched a girl with a sad twisted mouth and tangled black curls. This wasn’t the direction I’d expected, but one evening in my tai chi class, the form of the story appeared in a luminescent blue bubble –  and no, I can’t explain it exactly what I mean by that, but it was powerful enough to bring me to tears. The next day I saw a dragonfly, the exact same colour as the bubble.

And dragonflies kept on appearing whenever I made a significant decision or saw something that helped to shape the story:  finding an offcut of chipped flint on a Danish island; visiting the mysterious deep blue source of a French river that would have seemed even more mysterious and holy in ancient timeDragonflySongBlogTourGraphics…

Ah the synchronicity of life…Thank you, Wendy!

Watch Wendy explain more, here. Catch up with her again as she continues her DragonFly Song Adventure and tour.

Stick around for my full review of Dragonfly Song coming soon. Meantime you can get it now, here, if you can’t wait to read it first!

Allen & Uwin June 2016

 

 

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – A bewitching encounter with Angela Sunde

Hold on to your brooSM.cover.119KBmsticks because today we have someone special visiting. She’s a bit of a drafter and doodler, a fellow resident of the magical Gold Coast and a wickedly wonderful conjurer of stories. Snap Magic is her latest light-hearted, fairy tale inspired fantasy novel about friendship and young girls approaching the precipitous edge of puberty.

She has a predilection for kissing princes, sipping champagne and pumpkin soup, and looks ridiculously cool in witches’ britches.

So grab a goblet of pumpkin juice, sit back and meet Angela Sunde, author of just released Snap Magic and its predecessor, Pond Magic.

Who is Angela Sunde? Describe your writerly / illustrator-self.ASunde.1d.WEB

I aim to be professional in all that I do. If I don’t feel my work is up to industry standard, then it is shelved and I move on to the next project. I am not too precious about my writing and receive feedback and critique with interest and a positive motivation to improve. I am constantly setting myself challenges that are just beyond my comfort zone and experiences. This means I may sometimes undertake more than I should, and then I’m working into the wee hours of the night. I enjoy volunteer work, which supports children’s access to reading, and other writers and illustrators on their creative journey. As an experienced teacher I enjoy mentoring and being mentored.

How do you wish to be perceived by your reading audience; as primarily an author; mostly an illustrator or a happy combination of both?

Angela Sunde ArtMy readers consider me primarily to be an author and engage with me thus. Illustrating is a passion of mine from childhood. I am always returning to it and the urge cannot be ignored. I enjoy small projects, especially illustrating children, and offer ‘Picture Book Children’s Portrait’ commissions. Clients can have their child illustrated as a picture book character to frame. It’s a lot of fun. I’m also working on the storyboard for a new picture book manuscript I just love; it’s very personal to me. Five years in the future I would like to be considered a combination of author/illustrator.

In a past life you were a high school linguistics teacher. How did this shape or influence your writing career? Have you always written? When did you begin drawing?

I taught German from Year 5 to Year 12 for decades. My broad understanding of how we develop language, whether it be our first or our second, has enabled me to write with a clarity, simplicity and efficiency of words. One reviewer of my first book, Pond Magic, called it ‘deceptively uncomplicated writing.’ I wrote poetry and songs when I was young, but I drew from the moment I could hold a crayon. I think it was a picture of my dad on the tractor and trailer, driving through the orchard with a load of fruit on the back.

Snap Magic features Lily Padd, a character we met in your first book, Pond Magic. Can kids read Snap Magic without having read the first one?

Pond Magic 2Yes, nothing is given away. Snap Magic is a stand-alone sequel. Rainier has gone back to France and Lily and her best friend, Maureen, have a new set of problems to face, although the ultra-annoying Rick Bastek is still there.

How long had the idea of Snap Magic been brewing for? What finally ignited its creation?

It hadn’t really brewed. It ignited suddenly when I decided to use a short story I had written called Snap as the springboard for a new Lily Padd story. Snap had been shortlisted for the Charlotte Duncan Award in 2009 and I’d been itching to place it somewhere. Then it was just a matter of brainstorming a plot.

What was the hardest thing to get right in Snap Magic? What aspect of the story’s creation did you most enjoy?

I can’t actually remember anything being too difficult. It’s based on my own experiences in intermediate school in New Zealand. It’s a mid-grade school system where all the students are between ten and twelve – perfect tweens. I did base the mean girl, Ellen, on someone I knew in high school, so I most enjoyed making life difficult for that character. Mwa ha ha… (*evil author laugh.)

I found Maureen particularly endearing. Is she based on a childhood friendship you may have had or one you wished you had? Was there any particular message you set out to convey in Snap Magic to girls of this age?

Maureen is partly me and partly my best friend – strong-willed and determined. She won’t let anyone push her around and she’s staunchly loyal to Lily. That’s how we were.

Messages find their way into books naturally. They can’t be forced. If you are true to the characters, their motivations and goals, the message will float to the top. In Snap Magic Lily learns that trust in others must be carefully placed. Can she trust Ellen? Can she tell Maureen her secret? The other message is that bullying has consequences for the perpetrators, very bad consequences… Mwa ha ha…

Is Lily Padd likely to be involved in any more magical adventures?

I’m thinking, will she ever be quiet in my head? I write Lily’s stories for my own enjoyment and there is a full length novel in progress.

What is your favourite colour? What does this choice reflect about you?

As a child it was yellow. Years ago I went through a low period with my health. I asked my husband to paint our family room yellow and I felt happier straight away. I also find blue so soothing. But I almost never wear either colour. I like to wear red and black because they give me confidence.

Did you ever dress-up and go trick-or-treating as a kid? With your own children? Now? If so, what is your favourite Halloween character and why?

No, I didn’t. But we did throw my daughter a Harry Potter party when the first book came out. Her teacher had read it to the entire class and we had a bunch of very excited little witches sitting on the ‘sorting chair’ desperately hoping the ‘sorting hat’ would call out Gryffindor! The hat’s voice was on a hidden recording made by a radio announcer friend of my sister’s with a very deep and scary voice. Of course he called Gryffindor! Every time.

What’s on the drawing board and or draft table for Angela?

I’m flying down to Sydney at the end of the month for a week’s residency at Pinerolo Children’s Book Cottage as Illustrator in Residence to work on a storyboard for a picture book that is very dear to me. And next year will see me in New Zealand researching a historical fiction novel based on my grandparents’ migrant experiences.

Just for fun question: If you possessed magical powers, which trick or spell would you relish using every day? Why?

Flying. The closest I’ve come to it would be snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, just that feeling of weightlessness, of floating above looking down, so calming. Of course I am scared of heights.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog today. I really enjoyed the questions!

Thank you Angela. It’s been spookily sensational!

Delve into more enticing facts, articles and reviews about Angela and her books here as she brooms about her Snap Magic Blog Tour. Just click on this banner for full dates and details. Snap Magic Banner

Red Pedal Press October 2014

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – Roses are Blue Blog Tour with Sally Murphy

Roses are BlueI promised myself I wouldn’t cry. Well, maybe a few tears towards the end might be acceptable, but of course, I was dealing with another verse novel by Sally Murphy, so dry eyes were definitely no guarantee.

Sally Murphy with gabriel evans croppedIt’s not just the subject matter of Roses are Blue that tugs at ones heartstrings. Murphy is simply master at massaging sensitive issues into refined, understated yet terrifically moving poetic verse. Her words whisper across the pages with the soft intensity of a mountain breeze. They are beautiful and arresting; a joy to read.

There are no chapters in this novel. The story ebbs and flows organically in a pleasing natural rhythm. Gabriel Evans’ tender ink and painted illustrations cushion the gravity of the story even more allowing the reader to connect with Amber and her world visually as well as emotionally. Youngsters cultivating their reading confidence will appreciate this generous visual reinforcement on nearly every page.

Amber Rose’s world is turned upside down when tragedy strikes her family leaving her mother devastatingly ‘different’. Overnight, everything is altered: there’s a new school, new friends, new home, new secrets and perhaps hardest of all, a new mum to get used to. Amber vacillates between wanting to fit in and appear normal, aching for how things ‘used to be’ and trying to reconnect with her damaged mum.

As Amber’s mother struggles to free herself from her new entrapment, so too does Amber fight to hang onto to their special shared love until, like springtime roses, hope eventually blooms. Roses are Blue addresses the complex issues of normality, family ties, friendships and maternal bonds with gentle emphasis on how all these relationships can span any ethnicity or physical situation.

To celebrate Amber’s story, Sally Murphy joins me at the draft table with a box of tissues and a few more fascinating insights on Roses are Blue. Welcome Sally!

Q. Who is Sally Murphy? Please describe your writerly self.

My writely self? I try hard to think of myself as writerly – but often fail miserably because I think of other writers as amazingly productive, clever , creative people, and myself as someone slightly manic who manages to snatch time to write and is always surprised when it’s good enough to get published.

But seriously, I suppose what I am is someone who writes because it’s my passion and I can’t not do it. I’ve been writing all my life, pretty much always for children, and my first book was published about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve written picture books, chapter books, reading books, educational resource books and, of course, poetry and verse novels.

Q. I find verse novels profoundly powerful. How different are they to write compared to writing in prose? Do you find them more or less difficult to develop?

I think they’re very powerful too. It was the power of the first ones I read (by Margaret Wild) that made me fall in love with the form. But it’s this very power that can make them hard to get right – you have to tap into core emotions and get them on the page whilst still developing a story arc, characters, setting, dialogue and so on.

Are they more or less difficult? I’m not sure. For me I’ve been more successful with verse novels than with prose novels, so maybe they’re easier for me. But it is difficult to write a verse novel that a publisher will publish – because they can be difficult to sell.

Q. How do you think verse novels enhance the appeal and impact of a story for younger readers?

I think they work wonderfully with young readers for a few reasons, which makes them a wonderful classroom tool. The fact that they are poetry gives them white space and also, room for illustration and even sometimes text adornments.

What this means is that for a struggling reader or even a reluctant reader, the verse novel can draw them in because it looks easier, and gives them cues as to where to pause when reading, where the emphasis might be and so on. They will also feel that a verse novel is less challenging because it is shorter – there are less words on the same number of pages because of that white space.

But the verse novel can also attract more advanced readers who recognise it as poetry and thus expect to be challenged, and who can also see the layers of meaning, the poetic techniques and so on. Of course, once they’ve started reading it, the reluctant and struggling reader will also see those things, meaning there is a wonderful opportunity for all the class to feel involved and connected when it’s a class novel, or for peers of different abilities to appreciate a book they share.

Sally & Pearl & TopplingQ. Judging by some of your previous verse titles, Pearl Verses the World and Toppling, you are not afraid to tackle the heftier and occasionally heartbreaking issues children encounter. What compels you to write about these topics and why do so in verse? Do you think a verse novel can convey emotion more convincingly than prose alone?

Afraid? Hah – I laugh in the face of danger! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). But seriously no, I’m not afraid, because I think these are issues kids want to read about. All kids experience tough times – sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one, or illness, or a tragedy like Mum being sick/injured/absent. Other times it’s a beloved pet dying, or a best friend who suddenly doesn’t want to be friends. Either way, these tough times can feel like the end of the world. I think when children read about tough topics they connect with empathy or sympathy, and thus have the opportunity to experience vicariously something which they may not have. And if they have been through those really tragic tough times, or they do in the future, I hope they’re getting the message that life can be tough but you can get through it. Terrible things happen in the world – but good things do too. It’s really important to me that my stories have happy times too, and even laughs.

For me the verse novel form enables me to convey that emotion, but I don’t think it’s the only way it can be done. If you look at the Kingdom of Silk books by Glenda Millard, for example, you’ll see how brilliantly prose can be used to explore emotional situations.

Q. Many verse novels I have read are in first person. Is this a crucial element of ensuring stories in verse work well or is it something that you fall into naturally?

Off the top of my head I can’t think of any verse novels written solely in third person. There’s no rule that they have to be in first, but I do feel they work best that way for me, although I’m looking forward to experimenting with point of view in a verse novel I’m planning. I think first works so well because it creates an intimacy which the poetic form enhances.

Q. I particularly loved your reference to the Bobby Vinton 1962 hit, Roses are Red. What inspired you to use these lines in Amber’s story?

It’s actually a bit of a nod to Pearl, from Pearl Verses the World, who writes a roses are red poem about her nemesis Prue – but surprisingly no one has asked me about the connection before. I was looking for something for Mum to sing, and there it was. Of course the fact that Mum loves to garden, and their surname is rose means it all ties together nicely.

Gabriel EvansQ. Gabriel Evans’ illustrations are very endearing. How important do you think it is for illustrations to accompany verse stories?

For younger readers, some visual element is essential, and I am delighted with the way Gabriel has interpreted the story. Who couldn’t love his work? Again, the illustrations can help struggling readers connect with the story, but they are also important for all levels of reading ability. Some people are much more visual learners and thinkers than others, and seeing the story really enhances the experience. And gosh, they’re so gorgeous!

Q. What’s on the draft table for Sally Murphy?

A few things. I’m working on a historical novel (prose), several picture books and lots of poetry. I’m also in the early stages of a PhD project in Creative Writing and, as part of this, plan to produce three new works, all poetry of some form, as well as writing about why/how poetry is important.

Just for fun Question, (there is always one!): If you were named after a gem or colour like Amber and her friends, which would you choose and why?

I can choose a name for myself? That IS fun. I was nearly called Imelda when I was born, and (with apologies to the Imeldas of the world) have been forever grateful that my parents changed their minds. Sorry, that doesn’t answer your question. I think if I could name myself after a colour I’d be silly about it and say Aquamarine, because surely then no one else would ever have the same name as me. It’s also a lovely colour, so maybe some of that loveliness would rub off on me and make me lovely too.

Thanks so much for having me visit, Dimity. It’s been fun, and you’ve kept me on my toes!

An absolute pleasure Sally (aka Aquamarine!)

Be sure to discover the magic behind Roses are Blue, available  here now.

Walker Books Australia July 2014

Stick around for the rest of Sally’s beautiful blog tour. Here are some places you can visit.

Tuesday, July 22nd Karen Tyrrell
Wednesday, July 23 Alphabet Soup
Thursday, July 24 Kids’ Book Review
Friday, July 25 Write and read with Dale
Saturday, July 26 Diva Booknerd
Sunday, July 27 Children’s Books Daily
Monday, July 28 Boomerang Books Blog
Tuesday, July 29 Australian Children’s Poetry
Wednesday, July 30 Sally Murphy

 

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – How to Get to Rio with Julie Fison

The choices kids are offered in life are often not worth writing about, at least not in their books. ‘Eat your brussel sprouts or go to bed hungry.’ Hardly welcome decision making. Yet understanding action and consequence is vital for building character, strengthening confidence and learning that ‘choice, not chance, determines ones future. Opportunities might come our way by chance, but it’s what we choose to do with them that is important,’ so believes author, Julie Fison.Julie Fison

This sentiment is the crux of a new series of choose-your-own-adventure books providing tween-aged girls with the heady liberation of ‘choice’. I remember books like these from my youth; the thrill of remaining within the book for up to eight stories and the omnipotent joy of choosing my own endings. Happily, they are making a powerful resurgence. This contemporary series is aimed selectively for girls aged 10 – 14 who are farewelling simple chapter books in favour of more complicated life themes about boys, crushes, and friendships.

Today we welcome versatile writer, Julie Fison to the draft table to uncover more about her and her newest release from the Choose Your Own Ever After series, How to Get to Rio.

How to get to Rio from coverKitty MacLean is crushing hopelessly on possibly the cutest boy in the world, Rio Sanchez. She is torn between camping with her besties or pursuing a friendship with popular-girl Persephone at a swanky beachside resort. What she decides to do and whether she ever manages to link up with Rio is all up to the reader!

This story bore all the buzz of a pick-your-own-path book that I expected (and previously enjoyed), but with more modern girlie-smartphone threads woven through it. I especially appreciated the descriptive arrows at the bottom of each page reminding readers which path they are currently following. Without these, I’m not sure where I would have ended up with Kitty! Let’s see how Julie managed it.

Q. Who is Julie Fison? Describe your writerly-self.

I am the author of nine books for children and young adults. These include the Hazard River series – fast-paced adventure stories with an environmental twist, two titles in the Smitten series for teens, and How To Get To Rio – part of the new Choose Your Own Ever After series. I also write travel and parenting stories and offer copious amounts of unsolicited advice to my two teenage sons.

Q. What is the most appealing aspect about writing for children for you?

Blood Money coverI started writing fiction for my own children. We were on holidays on the Noosa River and they teamed up with friends and spent their time exploring sandbanks, dodging stingrays, building bush camps and avoiding snakes. I turned their adventures into the Hazard River series. My sons loved the stories – probably because they were in them! It was very rewarding to have the boys involved in the writing process. They didn’t just inspire me; they also helped with the editing and gave me encouragement along the way. I still borrow snippets of their lives for my stories and value their editorial input.

Q. You’ve covered a variety of genres in kids’ writing. Which one (if any) did you least enjoy writing? Why?

!cid_14F12706-950E-49D5-938C-C08D95DED070I really enjoy the variety of writing for different age groups. A 10,000-word adventure story for 10 year olds, like Shark Frenzy (Hazard River series), and a 50,000-word young adult romance like Tall, Dark and Distant, are very different projects – in terms of plotting, character development, voice and themes. But there is definitely a common thread in my work. They are all essentially a fun read. The characters face danger, but the stories ultimately all end happily. Holiday adventures feature heavily in my stories, and there is a boat scene in virtually everything I write. I spent a lot of time on boats when I was a girl, so they just seem to be an integral part of a story to me.

Q. Do you have any favourites from the titles you’ve written, if so which ones?

That’s a tough question. I like them all for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I’d say Blood Money from the Hazard River series, the young adult romance, Lust and Found, and How To Get To Rio from the Choose Your Own Ever After series.

Blood Money is about a gang of kids who discover a bag of money in the mangroves at Hazard River and have to decide what to do with the cash – leave it where it is, keep it, or take it to the police. I particularly like this one because it’s a fun adventure and a great moral dilemma for the characters. It was inspired by a story I spotted in the newspaper. Two boys found a bag of money while fishing in a quiet creek in northern NSW. They handed the money to the police and when no one claimed it, they got to keep it! When I talk to students about this story the room always goes crazy with excitement. It’s a story that really engages kids.

Lust and Found is another one of my favourites. It’s the story of a uni student, who goes on a physical and personal journey as she travels through Cambodia looking for her lost brother. Sienna is a bit of a princess, and can’t stand Cambodia when she first arrives. But she warms to the place as she explores it with her brother’s flatmate, the maddeningly cute Guillaume. I had a lot of fun writing the story. Sienna’s personality meant there was plenty of scope for tantrums, misadventure and transformation.

My other favourite has to be my newest story, How To Get To Rio. I love the whole premise of this pick-a-path series – that every decision has consequences, and that choice not chance determines our future. In this story, Kitty’s first choice is between going camping with her best friends or going to a beach resort with popular-girl Persephone. Kitty is really torn and I would be too!

Q. Choose Your Own Ever After books have a Ctrl Z / Reset quality about them. Do you think this adds to their likeability or befuddles readers? How does the format enhance the story and characters?

I think kids will love having the chance to make choices throughout the story. It definitely adds to the books’ appeal. I often read a story and think – I’m not sure I would have done that. In the Choose Your Own Ever After series, the reader gets to decide every time there’s an important decision to be made.

Q. Did you find writing Rio, more difficult than writing a straightforward, beginning to ending story?

How To Get To Rio definitely had its challenges. I am not a great planner, but I spent a lot of time working on the pathways and endings with my editor, before I got started on this story. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to come up with enough different threads to offer the reader genuine choices. But once I got writing, the characters took over (as they always do). Pathways evolved, choices emerged and the story came together.

Q. Discuss your approach and process used when writing a-choose-your-own-path adventure.

The key to writing a choose-your-own-path story is getting the set-up chapters right. The threads for all of the pathways start from here. That means the characters have to be established very early – their motivations and the potential for conflict have to be revealed right from the beginning. It’s what I would try to do in any story, but the challenge in How To Get To Rio was to get the threads of seven different stories into the opening chapter! From there I wrote the pathways as I would read them – taking one thread all the way to the end and then going back to the last choice and writing another ending. As there are a series of choices to be made throughout the book, I kept going back to the previous choice and following that to its conclusion. (It was actually easier to write than to explain!) There was a big advantage to writing this style of book. When I got stuck on one storyline, I just moved on to another one.

Q. What’s on the draft table for Julie?

I am working on another book in the Choose Your Own Ever After series that comes out in July. In The Call of The Wild, the main character, nature-loving Phoebe has to choose between going to a party with her best friends or helping at a save-the-orang-utan fundraiser. I am very concerned about the plight of orang-utans in the wild, so that story is close to my heart.

Counterfeit LoveThe other story on my desk is a young adult novel – Counterfeit Love. Lucy Yang is an ambitious television reporter, who gets more than she bargains for as she hunts down a big story in Hong Kong. That book comes out in July, too.

I have a head full of ideas for other stories all fighting for attention, including a travel memoir. But that’s something for the future when I have more time to travel!

Just for fun Q. If you could Ctrl Z one thing in your writing career thus far, what would it be?

I wish I had started writing fiction earlier. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. On the other hand, I don’t produce my best work when I try to force a story. So, I am glad I had that holiday on the Noosa River when I did, otherwise I might still be wondering if I should write a book!

Thank you for having me, Dimity. I look forward to visiting again soon.

Always a pleasure Julie! Stick around and help us trek down more interesting facts on Rio.

Hardie Grant Egmont Books April 2014

Follow Julie’s Blog Tour on How to Get to Rio, here.

Book tour details:

1 April: Sherryl Caulfield http://www.sherrylcaulfield.com/

9 April: Kids’ Book Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

15 April: DeeScribewriting http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

23 April: Cereal Readers http://www.cerealreaders.blogspot.com.au/

28 April: Boomerang Blog with Dimity Powell

Bug in a Book http://buginabook.org/

Buzz Words http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

The Book Chook http://www.thebookchook.com/

 

Doodles and Drafts – A Blog Tour with Alison Reynolds

Alison ReynoldsA couple of years ago a diminutive orange cat sprang into our hearts and homes courtesy of picture book creators, Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie. That cat was, Marmalade. He caused quite a sensation around our home, so when we heard he was on tour with Alison Reynolds, purrs of satisfaction reverberated throughout the house once more.

Alison Reynolds is no stranger to children’s fiction, but when she teams with illustrator, Heath McKenzie, her work is picture book paean.Heath McKenzie 2

A New Friend for Marmalade, sequel to the hugely successful, A Year with Marmalade, is a simple story about making new friends. But as we all know, the art of forming and maintaining friendships is seldom that straightforward. Hierarchy and the delicate differences between boys and girls all begin to surface in early primary years, making social interplay more of a challenge.

A new friend for MarmaladeWhen Toby, the boy across the road attempts to join BFFs, Ella, Maddy and Marmalade, things go instantly awry. Toby’s endeavours to fit in are not particularly successful nor welcomed by Ella and Maddy. He is over-exuberant, clumsy and dresses funny. Marmalade, however, sees him differently.

In Marmalade’s moment of crisis, his gamble on Toby pays off and beautiful new friendships are forged all round.

I love the snappy, clean layout of this picture book. Swirling text works effectively against plenty of white space, giving readers the sensation of floating seamlessly along with the story.

The narrative itself is succinct and character driven, with enough repeating phraseology to prompt even the most modest beginner reader to join in the fun.

McKenzie’s soft smudges of pastel colour highlight significant aspects and emotions of the story: the girls’ cubby house and sand castle city, Toby’s cap and scooter, and of course, our little orange hero, Marmalade.A NFM illos

Acceptance, tolerance and making that leap of faith permeate appealingly through this dreamy picture book, resulting in a fine example of ‘less is more’. It certainly stacks up for me.

Uncover why sand-castle-city builders from the age of 4 years and up will treasure A New Friend for Marmalade, here.

Stick around with Alison and Marmalade for the rest of their tour and participate in the fantastic competitions listed below. You never know, you might just make few new friends along the way!

The Five Mile Press 2013

Alison Reynolds Blog Tour Dates

March 2014

11th Dee White – review and post http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

11th Chris Bell – post http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

12th KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog/

15th Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking

18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

Pet contest for all ages!

Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to www.alisonreynolds.com.au, [email protected] or upload to

Random book giveaways!

Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on Facebook or even email Alison that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White. http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/ Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

 

Doodles and Drafts – A not-so-BLAH Blog Tour with Karen Tyrrell

In the time I spent crewing at sea, I endured several disabling bouts of seasickness. Once established, it’s a difficult malaise to throw off. The one thing that helped (besides boxes of seasick tablets) was knowing that others were suffering as well, often far worse than I. Have you ever encountered that? Symptoms (of nausea) miraculously evaporate in the presence of one who is experiencing worse than you. It’s empowering in a uniquely weird human kind of way.

Bailey Beats the BlahA similar change of physical and mental state occurs in the young protagonist in Karen Tyrrell’s debut picture book, Bailey Beats the BLAH.

Tyrrell noted for her work on speaking up and out for mental health awareness, is keen to tackle the issues surrounding the mental well-being of our young people. Depression and its associated ills can plague children as young as six, undermining their self-esteem, confidence and emotional security.

Karen TyrrellNobody readily embraces the discord change and upheaval produces and being friendless at school can be a catalyst for such dread. Bailey experiences not only this but a myriad of other anxieties and fears accumulating in a colossal feeling of BLAH.

‘Sad days’ become his norm. Self-dislike, apathy, paranoia and discontent appear his closest companions, even after Fuzzy, his dog, tries to intervene. We eventually learn that all Bailey really wants is a friend, someone to share his solitude and banish his despair. Turns out, the new kid, Tom, is more prone to ‘seasickness’ so to speak, than Bailey. Forgetting his own discomforts or perhaps recognising the need to help Tom overcome his, Bailey allows Tom into his world. Together they find a common link and forge a salving friendship.

‘Dramatically speaking, intent is everything’* and Tyrrell’s unabashed use of force-filled verbs leaves no doubt as to the degree of sadness weighing so heavily on Bailey. The leaden seriousness of Bailey’s situation is thankfully beautifully balanced by the cartoonisque illustrations of Aaron Pocock.

Aaron Pocock at work
Aaron Pocock at work

His upbeat portrayal of Bailey has busloads of eye-popping kiddie appeal while the use of bright colours and thoughtful visual detail allows us to feel all of Bailey’s glumness and pain without being overwhelmed by it.

Bailey Beats the BLAH’s no frills approach and design ensures there is no ambiguity in its message to young readers and carers: that we can all suffer bad, sad days no matter whom or how old we are, but we need never suffer alone.

Perfect for 4 – 8 year olds, this picture book will be useful as a discussion tool in counselling and early education situations.

Digital Future Press October 2013

*The Art of Racing in the Rain-Garth Stein

Bailey Beats the Blah launch Oct 2013Embracing the cause to share important life messages through the medium of picture books, I was honoured to officially launch Bailey Beats the BLAH with Karen Tyrrell and a colourful cast of characters at the Black Cat Book Shop recently and managed to pull her aside to answer a few quick questions. Here’s what she had to say…

Q Karen, this is your first picture book. What prompted you to focus on the mental well-being of children as its topic?

When I was a teacher, parents at my school harassed me until breaking point. Luckily I recovered, becoming a mental health advocate, passionate about teaching resilience skills. After the success of my breakthrough memoirs, ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness and ME & HIM: A Guide to Recovery I wanted to create a picture book to empower kids with bounce-back-ability.

Q You’ve worked for many years as an educator of children. Is Bailey’s character, based on anyone you know personally or from you own experiences as a child?

I’ve taught many kids like Bailey. Sad, stressed-out or withdrawn kids are becoming far too common in our over-stressful and pressurized world.

Q Is Bailey a character you see tackling other kid issues in future picture book stories? What’s next for Bailey?

I’m developing MORE picture books to empower children to live happier, healthier and more functional lives.

Q What’s on the draft table for Karen Tyrell? More self-help, another picture book?

I’m working on two mental health books: A chapter book for mid-graders plus a fiction novel for teenagers. Both books encourage young people to deal with their mental health issues they encounter at home and at school.

Q If you could pass on one golden piece of advice to kids like Bailey who are suffering BLAH days, what would it be?

Don’t suffer alone. Reach out to others: your friends, your family, your teacher to help you overcome those BLAH days.

Kids, you hold within yourselves all the POWER you need to stamp out the BLAH.

Q What’s one thing on your non-writing wish list you’d like to tick off?

My dream is to return to school as an author-teacher, to share Bailey Beats the BLAH, helping children and their families to turn their BLAH into ha-ha-ha!

Thanks Karen for sharing your dreams and passion with Boomerang.

Why not join Karen as she bops around the cyberphere on tour with Bailey. Scroll down for a chance to win a great prize or two. Simply leave a comment and you are in the draw to win!

Bailey Blog Tour & Book Giveaway

3rd Nov http://www.creativekidstales.com.au/authors/pitch-ya-book/pitch-ya-book.html

4th Nov http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

5th Nov http://diannedibates.blogspot.com.au

6th Nov http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

7th Nov http://www.robinadolphs.com/blog/

8th Nov

9th Nov www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au

10th Nov

11th Nov http://squigglemum.com

12th Nov http://www.nickyjohnston.com.au/blog/

13th Nov http://nccparentsplace.wordpress.com/

14th Nov http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/

15th Nov http://natashatracy.com/topic/bipolar-blog/

16th Nov http://buginabook.org/category/childrens-books/

17th Nov http://www.writeawaywithme.com/blog/

18th Nov http://angelasunde.blogspot.com

Bailey Beats the Blah Book Giveaway

WIN: Copies of Bailey Beats the Blah, a signed Bailey artwork by illustrator Aaron Pocock and a picture book assessment with chief editor at Book Cover Café.

Leave a comment on any of the 16 hops on the Bailey Beats the Blah tour Nov 3rd -18th. The more comments you leave the MORE chances to WIN.

WINNERS announced on Nov 20th at www. karentyrrell.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doodles and Drafts – Searching for magic with Donna Smith and Jazmine Montgomery – The Magic Glasses Blog Tour

Jazmine Toy DectiveI’m not sure if it is the sleek, bug-eyed appearance of the title character, her sleuth-full occupation or just her name that appeals so forcibly to me, but there’s something about this new Literacy Ladder Reading Series title, Jazmine Montgomery Toy Detective, by Donna M Smith, that I just love.

Aimed squarely at 6 – 8 year old emergent and confident readers, this chapter book is brimming with mystery, mushroom elves and magic.

Jazmine Montgomery is a girl with a passion for solving dilemmas and is regularly called upon by her school and friends to locate missing toys. Operating from her backyard office (aka the cubby house), Jazmine has a litany of devices she uses to deduce the whereabouts of toys missing in action, but perhaps her most useful is her set of magic glasses, after which the first book in this series is titled.

When she is unable to find an errant iPad borrowed from school, Jazmine and her trusty side-kick, Yap (aka the shaggy pet dog) must use the glasses to relocate the iPad in time for school. If she doesn’t, she not only risks detention but her reputation as a detective as well. Who hasn’t gone through this kind of trauma just minutes before the first school bell of a morning?

The Magic Glasses illosYoung readers, especially those of the little-girls-with-large-aspirations variety, are sure to get a kick out of the first in this series. It might even have a few checking under their fruit trees for the tiny villages of  mushroom elves, like I did!

Each book includes super sleuthing tips and (elf) character descriptions which are perfect for coaxing fledging readers into the magical world of reading alone with confidence.

Donna M SmithTo celebrate Jazmine’s awesome success as a Toy Detective, today I welcome her creator to the draft table, author and publisher, Donna Smith. So grab a big bag of jelly beans, settle back and get comfy.

Q: You have published a varied selection of work for children Donna, including short stories, picture books and Haiku poetry. Name a stand out piece that you are most proud of and why?

HopscotchYes Dimity, some of my work is varied. Thank you for asking about the various genres I have written. I have also been fortunate enough to have had several text books published and course content for the Adult Education sector. Choosing one piece is difficult as I love them dearly for various reasons. Mr Bumblebottom which appears in the ‘Hopscotch’ anthology holds special significance, not only was it one of the first stories I wrote but it evolved over the course of two years whilst my eldest son Timothy, was at three and four year old kindy. This took place about seven years ago. Timothy really did not want to go to kindy and so I told him there was a magical dragon that would sit in his pocket throughout the day and he would take special care of him while he was a kindy. Over time, Timothy named him and told me what colour he was and lots of stories about how he felt happy at kindy when Mr Bumblebottom was there too. So over the two years while Timothy attended kindy, Mr B as he was known became an important part of the family. When Timothy started school, I whispered to him as he went into class for the first time that Mr B was in his pocket and he replied, ‘Mum, I am a big boy now shhh.’ I will say he did appear from time to time in need. So this story is quite special and at present I am working on it to be launched as a picture book.

Shadow at Cape naturalisteA Shadow of Cape Naturaliste, also holds special significance as it was the first story accepted by a publisher. At that time, I replied to an ad for stories at least 2500 words which must be historical fiction and a ghost story. I relished in the research process and found the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse on the Western Australian coast line has quite a haunted past. So, I wrote Harry’s Lighthouse (as the title was back then). It was published in Australian Chillers’ anthology in 2009. A few years later I decided to re-tweak it for a slightly younger audience and it became A Shadow at Cape Naturaliste. I love this book, the cover is perfect. The photograph depicts what I had imaged it to be exactly and the size is a perfect companion. This book has done well in grade three- six classrooms and is also available it the lighthouse gift shop.

Billy cart race derbyBilly Cart Derby is a really exciting, fast paced, giggle of book starring Jaz, TJ and Ben who participate in a billy cart race at school as a fundraiser. Jaz, TJ and Ben are based on my three children Jazmine, Timothy and Benjamin. What is interesting Dimity is that I wrote this book when Jazmine was in grade 1 (now grade 6) before Ben was even born. I wrote a draft based on a dress up day I attended at school where I saw a grade 6 girl wearing a billy cart. I thought it was fantastically inventive. So the story started to take shape about a billy cart race at school which was based on fundraising but during the race they had lots of mishaps. After the initial draft a couple of years later, I was pregnant with Benjamin and I decided to wait until he was born (to see if he was going to be a boy or a girl) before I completed the final draft so I could include all three children. I ended up waiting until Benny was in kindy and developed his own little personality and character so as I could make teh characters true to their real personalities. I just love the story so much. Children just find it hysterical. Billy Cart Derby is currently used in classrooms grade prep through to about four. Actually a grade three class used it last year during their narrative study. Billy Cart Derby has coloured glossy billy cart race track maps in the front of the book along with character illustrations. This book is currently undergoing production to be made into an interactive picture book, which is illustrated of course. I plan to write more about Jaz, TJ and Ben’s school adventures in the future.

Delightfully Haiku is also very special as it was my first poetry collection but, more importantly it was also a dedication to my nephew Marshall who was born sleeping in August 2010. It has received wonderfully positive reviews over the past couple of years which lead to being invited to participate in the Japanese Festival since it began in 2010. I have attended each year since and enjoy holding haiku poetry workshops throughout the day.

A Christmas TaleA Christmas Tail was born several years ago when my daughter’s Victorian doll house (which stands 1.2 metres tall) became home to a beautiful family of wooden dolls which my daughter still loves to play with. Over time we furnished the doll house, put lighting in, pictures on the wall, even a tiny grand piano sits in the living room. The idea of a story evolved. A Christmas Tail was co –written with Helen Ross, a very talented children’s writer and former primary school teacher. This beautiful picture book was illustrated by Aaron Pocock, a well known Brisbane artist who did a fantastic job bringing the story to life. A Christmas Tail kicks off a book launch tour in November so keep your eyes peeled for more information regarding that.

Jazmine Montgomery – Toy Detective series is based on my daughter Jazmine. Jaz tends to see magic in everything even at almost 12 (in a few weeks). I love the idea that not everything can be seen and just because we can’t see it on the surface doesn’t mean that it’s not real or it’s not there. Jazmine Montgomery has many case files that she will be sharing in the future. The Magic Glasses is book one in this new series.

It is really hard to pick just one book. My books hold special meaning and significance for myself and my family.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the character Jazmine Montgomery?

JM is based on my daughter Jazmine, who possesses a beautiful innocence and ability to see magic in everything. Jaz will be 12 in a few weeks and is still very much a little princess.

Q:What was the best thing about writing Jazmine Montgomery and the most difficult?

The Magic Glasses illos 2I think the most difficult aspect of writing the first of this series was the evolution that took place. I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago and after editing with Sally Odgers, it was discussed the possibility that an aspect of the story could outdate quickly. The original story was about a red scooter that was lost. Once it was decided that this may not work as well as something which was just flooding the market and being implemented in schools (such as the iPad), I had to re-write many sections to fall in line with iPad concept. Therefore this story evolved and underwent many visits for ms assessment by Sally before the final story was complete and Sally began the editing process. We worked on this story for quite some time before it was just perfect. I then contact Sharon Madder and was just delighted with her illustrations. Sharyn was wonderful to work with and I am really happy with the final result. Another difficult aspect of this particular book was the layout. I really wanted to incorporate the stars which appear around the pages, I had to create each individual star and place each one exactly where I wanted it to appear, this was very time consuming. Then my design team headed by Sylvie Blair, converted this in InDesign to make each star digital and keep the placement the same. This process was quite tricky, time consuming and expensive however, I am really happy that we kept at it as it turning out really well. It really sets the book off, particularly for the target age group. So this book has taken quite some time to produce and get just perfect. But well worth it. I must credit Sally Odgers as it was her idea of the stars on the page! Thank you again Sally.

Q:You have aimed this chapter book series for younger primary aged children, what motivates you to write for this age group?

My children I think Dimity. My children Jazmine 11 (she reminds daily that there are not many sleeps until she is 12!), Timothy 10 and Benjamin 7, inspire me every day. Our library at home is a favourite room in the house, it contains many, many picture books, early chapter books and novelettes. We read these sorts of books most often. I have had a few funny looks after purchasing an arm full of children’s books and then nestling down to read them in a cafe. I have surrounded myself with these sorts of books primarily because of the ages of my children, therefore it just happened that way. I am excited however about my next book, Benjamin and the Castle of Tomorrow which I have been writing since 2009. It started as a 2500 chapter book, and just became longer and longer. Sally said to me ‘don’t worry just keep writing.’ The book now some 25000 words has visited Sally’s desk more times than I can remember and has been a journey in its self.

Two trips to England to study castles and medieval culture, I took medieval literature electives during my Arts degree and submitted a draft as part of my final portfolio assessment in my children’s literature unit. I have also studied endless waterfall locations and waterfall photography, dragon myths and written under Sally’s guidance for the past four years. The story is metafictional and something I am very excited about. I am very happy to say- the story is complete and the editing process is now underway. So, I guess Dimity this will be a different genre again! Ben’s story, as Sally and I refer to it as, after all these years will be out next year.

Q: Have you or your children ever come across elves or fairies in your garden?

Of course Dimity, magic is everywhere. Just smile on the inside and out!

Q:What can we expect from Jazmine Montgomery in the future?

Jazmine Montgomery has an exciting collection of case files which has solved and worked on with her companion Yapps and the Mushroom Elves. Their next adventure sees them at school trying to solve the mysterious case the missing counting beads in the preps class.

Donna GraduationQ: What is on the storyboard for Donna Smith?

I graduated with my Arts degree in April this year. My main stream was Educational Psychology and Writing/ Literature. My youngest son has been struggling at school with a learning disability so I decided to attend Monash Uni earlier this year and complete their one semester course in Education Support/ Teacher Aide course with the aim to help Ben as much as I can. I have just completed PD training in Cued Articulation and really enjoy helping in his class two mornings a week. It has six years now that I have being doing classroom help with my children since they started school, however now I am helping in literacy intervention which I really enjoy. I was deciding whether to continue study in literature, however due to our circumstances with my son and recent further diagnosis, I have decided to continue study next year in the Masters of Special Education with a major in Literacy Support. As I also manage Jelli-Beanz Publishing, I am busy with a catalogue of titles which have approved contracts by various authors. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to become a team leader at the Victorian College of Literary Arts which will see me working literacy invention programs, which is exciting. And my writing? Helen and I are currently brainstorming Peter’s next adventure, Jazmine Montgomery’s next case file will emerge and Benjamin and the Castle of Tomorrow will be released next year. Mr Bumblebottom will take flight as a picture book and Billy Cart Derby will be skidding into the interactive app world! Gee wizz, a cup of tea somewhere in there would be nice too!

Q: Just for fun, do you have a favourite Jelly bean? What is it?

Oh yes, I love Jelly beanz, my favourite is black! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a rainbow jelly bean?

Mug of beanz(Oh yes! But black is my favourite too!) Thanks Donna and good luck with EVERYTHING including nabbing that cup of tea some time soon.

Jelli-Beanz Publishing Blog August 2013

Check out the Book Trailer for The Magic Glasses. Buy the book here.

Be sure to visit Jazmine as she zips around on the rest of her Blog Tour with Donna Smith.Jazmine Toy Dective Launch and blog dates Aug 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the warpath with Tania McCartney and her Eco Warriors – Blog Tour Review

eco warriors coverStep outside into your garden or even local parkland. What do you see? Is it a verdant, vibrant paradise or neglected virtual wasteland? Today I am ecstatic to be on the war path with fellow lover of nature, kids and books, the luminous Tania McCartney. With more books blooming to life this year than a golden wattle in spring time, Eco Warriors to the Rescue!, stands tall and proud amongst them encapsulating the best of backyard adventure, magic and the preservation of our astonishing native flora.

Quintessentially named school-kids, Banjo, Matilda and Ned, are on a bit of a botanical mission. As self-appointed eco warriors with a goal to keep our native plants thriving for generations to come, they wisely consult their big book of Aussie flora and fauna. They become magically entwined within its pages smothered with splendiferous botanical paintings.

Eco Flame treesTheirs is a journey of enlightenment, discovery and wonder as they interact with such native gems as the kangaroo paw, blue quandong and my favourite, the flame tree. Each encounter reveals a basic fact, crucial to the long term survival of not only that species but our native environment as a whole. Young readers are introduced to the holistic ideology that plants, like animals, need much more than just clean water to flourish. Things like polluted bushland, introduced animal species, unregulated development and even unthoughtful behaviour like picking native flowers can dramatically affect the existence of our wild-flora.

This might seem like a heavy message to impart on young children but it is carefully implied with the clever use of real life images; our little warriors are visually shown as real people with beating hearts and souls and thus are completely believable as the executers and educators of the tips and tricks offered to us (and thoughtfully numbered throughout). Most resplendent in this joyful showering of information is the final notion that the ultimate thing we can do for our native plants is to ‘enjoy!’ them. So we should and so we can with Eco Warriors.

Tania McC McCartney considerately includes plenty of ways to think about and embrace our native plants with the inclusion of maps, links, explanations and even a list of native birth flowers. Her fertile, design-bejewelled mind  beautifully harmonises crisp, clear dialogue with the multi-media used throughout this picture book. I’m no expert in this field but recognise a good spread when I see one. (You can learn more about the design and layout behind this beautiful book at Angela Sunde’s blog).

Eco Warriors to the Rescue! packs a punch for all the right reasons. This book has a lovely ‘dirt girl’ feel and robust design with thick glossy pages (notably printed on paper from sustainable forest resources) and is more than suitable for repeated discussion, field trips and reads; outdoors perhaps, sprawled on the grass, gazing up through the branches of a flame tree aglow with carmine, campanula blooms. Botanical metaphors aside, McCartney has cultivated yet another work of art, which kids all over Australia and beyond will have fun reaping.

National Library of Australia August 2013

Join Tania McCartney and her three real-life eco warriors—Banjo (Riley), Ned (Andrew) and Matilda (Claire)—as they launch Eco Warriors to the Rescue! at Canberra’s National Arboretum Gift Shop, Saturday 5 October 2013, at 11am.

Can’t wait till then? Then stick around and visit some more of her exciting blog tour stops where you can learn more about the book and how to become an Eco Warrior.

Eco Warriors Blog Tour FINAL

View this book and purchase on line here.

Blog Tour Dates and Places

Sunday 1 September

Sneak Peek

Tania McCartney’s Blog

taniamccartney.blogspot.com

 

Review

Boomerang Books Blog

blog.boomerangbooks.com.au

 

Giveaway

Pass It On

jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine

 

Mixed Media Illustrations for Picture Books

Angela Sunde

Under the Apple Tree

 

Monday 2 September

 

Book Review

Book Giveaway

Kids Book Review

kids-bookreview.com

 

Eco Tips for Little Readers

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog

sherylgwyther.wordpress.com

 

Bringing Up Eco Warriors

The Book Chook

www.thebookchook.com

 

Review

Books for Little Hands

booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com.au

 

Literature Supporting Sustainability

Children’s Books Daily

www.childrensbooksdaily.com

 

Author Interview

Alison Reynolds

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

 

Tuesday 3 September

 

Giveaway

My Little Bookcase

www.mylittlebookcase.com.au

 

Review

5 Multi-Media Writing Tips

DeeScribe

deescribewriting.wordpress.com

 

Review

Writing for the National Library of Australia

BuzzWords

buzzwordsmagazine.com

 

Review

Elaine Ouston Blog

elaineoustonauthor.com

 

Review

Giveaway

Soup Blog

soupblog.wordpress.com

 

Doodles and Drafts – A Blog Tour Adventure with The Littlest Bushranger

I was one of those horsey girls as a kid. Loved them. Couldn’t accept parents’ refusal to keep one of them in our backyard. So I transformed my trusty bike – the one with the chopper-style handlebars – and the dog’s leather lead into the best little mare you could imagine. I actually steered the bike around for months using those ‘reins’; through pitted canons and deeply wooded forests (our backyard was large and varied in landscape).

The Littlest bushranger_FRONT COVERImagination. It’s every kid’s greatest gift and most alluring asset. And Alison Reynolds’s and Heath McKenzie’s latest picture book, The Littlest Bushranger, celebrates it in style.

The Reynolds’ / McKenzie team, with over 150 titles between them, are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with and one of my favourite picture book artist combinations.

The Littlest Bushranger is a snap shot of Jack’s first day alone without his older sister Lil, who has just started school. His day becomes anything but ordinary as he is forced to navigate through frightening terrain and outwit the crafty Outlaw in pursuit of Lil’s prized treasure.

The Littlest BushrangerThis adrenaline-charged adventure is slightly more robust and male orientated than Reynolds’s and McKenzie’s previous book, A Year with Marmalade, however it is bounding with exhilarating movement and irrepressible charm. I especially love the tactile cover and the intelligent use of perspective and colour to accentuate the drama and action of Jack’s pursuit. His steely-eyed companions; his spirited steed and ‘gang member’ Hector, are as impressively heroic as Jack who valiantly earns his title as The Littlest Bushranger.

Ideal for 3 – 6 year olds and anyone who believed their bike was the best horse ever, like me.

Alison ReynoldsTo celebrate this thrilling new release, I am joining the adventure with Alison on her Blog Tour of The Littlest Bushranger. Mount up and see what she has to say…

Q Alison, you have written dozens of books for small children and younger readers. Do you enjoy creating picture books?

I love writing picture books. The connection between words and illustrations really interests me, and how you can use both to convey ideas.

What makes them harder or easier than other genres you like to write in?

It’s harder as every word is crucial. It’s easier because picture books are shorter than some other genres.

Q What was your inspiration for this story?

I saw a bird hopping on a railing near our dog, Molly and then my imagination rambled.

Q I love the choice of Jack’s imagery persona – a fearless bushranger. Why bushranger vs. your usual sword-wielding pirate or knight?

My publisher, The Five Mile Press, suggested a bushranger book. Maybe the next books could be pirates and knights.

Q Does Jack’s situation parallel your life as a child in anyway?

I started school a year later than my friends and neighbours because my birthday was after the magic cut-off point. I can remember playing at home, until they returned. I used to spend a lot of time running around on my hobby horse.

Have you ever had to reclaim a stolen treasure and face your direst fear?

Think I was more likely to purloin the treasure myself. Once when visiting my mother’s friend I spied a very special embroidered hand towel, apparently there was a flush and no more hand towel.

Q What was the most memorable imaginary world you visited when you were Jack’s age?

My friends and I played a game called boots. This consisted of us wearing my big sisters’ much too big boots and racing around the backyard playing chasey and I think spies were involved. In our backyard my dad cut the branches of the plum tree so they supported a plank. This became at different times a stage coach, flying saucer and police car. We were very versatile!

Q What was the hardest part of bringing The Littlest Bushranger to reality?

Coming up with a story of a bushranger for that age group. I didn’t want guns but decided a sword/broom was okay.

What was the easiest?

Having Heath McKenzie as an illustrator makes everything easier. If there’s a bit of writing that won’t work, I’ve realised that I probably don’t need it and Heath will illustrate it instead!

Q What advice would you give anyone else wanting to write a picture book?

Play with words, cut, revise, cut. And do illustrations that no one need ever see, but by doing this you can check that each page can be illustrated and it can clarify what you are trying to say.

Heath McKenzieQ Was the choice to involve the uber-talented Heath McKenzie again to illustrate this book yours or just an unbelievably marvellous strike of good fortune (and decision making)?

The Five Mile Press matched me with Heath again and I feel very lucky!

Q Do Heath’s illustrations represent what was originally in your head when you first conceived the idea for The Littlest Bushranger?

Heath somehow captured what was in my head, and created something even better by adding his own ideas. When it came to the outlaw/monster I wrote in the illustration brief, “Heath go wild” – and he did! I would never have come up with such a wonderful creation!

TLB spread 2How do you think they have helped bring the story to life?

I think they work in direct partnership with the words and tease them out into something very special. I especially love Hector the dog!

Q Other than writing, what other past times do you like to indulge in – say like horse-riding?

I have a rocking horse from when I was Jack, the littlest bushranger’s, age. That’s the extent of my riding apart from my hobby horse that I loved. I’ve watched a whip cracking contest, but haven’t tried it. And I don’t really like Irish jigs and Scottish reels. So think I would be a very bad bushranger!

Thanks Alison for inviting me along on this fantastic, white-knuckle quest!

Thanks, Dimity for having me!!!

Join the gang and continue to be part of the adventure. Here are the rest of the dates for Alison’s Tour. Don’t forget the competition either. There are some wicked prizes on offer. Thanks for riding with us.

June 11 Kat Apel

http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/blog/

June 12 Chris Bell

http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

June 13 Angela Sunde

http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

June 17 Interview with Melinda Beaumont

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

June 18 Dee White

http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

June 19 Kids Book Review

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

June 20 Interview with Melissa Keil.

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

June 21 Heath McKenzie and Alison Reynolds interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive.

www.fivemilepress.com.au

Monster Competition Watch out for prizes – so good they should be outlawed! These include a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork from The Littlest Bushranger.

There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.

What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.

Upload your best monster to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it as a low res jpeg file to [email protected]  and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!

Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!

Jump the Slush Pile!
Win a free pass to an adult non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the Littlest Bushranger book tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.
Keep you eyes peeled for other prizes along the ride including a picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds, 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile), and copies of The Littlest Bushranger. Just comment on the posts. Simple!

The Five Mile Press June 2013

 

PAN’S WHISPER REVIEW – A BOOK BLOG TOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog tour stops:

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