Freya Blackwood’s Books Make the Perfect Gift

It’s true. You can’t deny it. Freya Blackwood‘s art is so exquisite that whether it’s for a Christmas or birthday gift, or a ‘just because I want it’ gift, every household should own a piece of her talent. And of course, coupling with superb artists of writing makes purchasing decisions all that much easier. Two of the many books on this year’s Kids’ Reading Guide list are ‘The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet’ and ‘Perfect’, both illustrated by Freya Blackwood.  

imageThe collaboration between Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson continuously impresses, with previous winning titles including ‘Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House’, ‘Banjo and Ruby Red’ and ‘Amy and Louis’. Also on the awards list is ‘The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present’ (review) with its success for Younger Readers in the 2015 Children’s Book Council Awards. Following on with another beauty is the second in the series; ‘The Cleo Stories: A Friend and a Pet’.  

Text and illustrations once again work harmoniously, beautifully connecting emotion, energy, playfulness and a sense of familiarity and everyday life. The colourful, pencil sketches throughout this hardback chapter book are delightfully engaging and appealing to its intended audience; perfectly relatable as a read-alone or read-aloud experience.  

In A Friend, Cleo has nothing to do on a rainy day, and cleaning her room just doesn’t appeal. But her parents’ patience with her food-splattering, mascara-splashing ways are wearing thin. Cleo is a fun-loving, creative and resourceful little girl with a big imagination. How will she overcome her boredom? In A Pet, Cleo’s friend Nick, and the rest of her class (almost) have a pet. But not Cleo, and she is desperate to have one. When her parents refuse Cleo is disappointed, but her inquisitive and rational nature leads to a win-win solution for all.  

imageThe authenticity of the conversations and actions in the stories effectively translate through Freya’s illustrations. When Peanuts the puppy pees on Cleo’s dress, you can see that real shift from gentle comforting to true frustration (and the puppy’s confusion), all drawn with spot-on body language and perfect line placement. Genius!

‘A Friend and a Pet’ is a book packed with genuinely heartfelt, and humorous moments, encouraging readers from age six to explore their own imaginative and creative sides, just like the loveable Cleo.  

Allen & Unwin 2015.  

image‘Perfect’, written by Danny Parker, explores a wonderfully carefree Summer day for three little children and their cat. This picture book, aimed at the early childhood age group, oozes beauty and tranquility, radiance and tenderness.  

With Danny Parker‘s expressive, poetic verse, accompanied by Freya Blackwood‘s soothing, soft shades of blues and yellows, you can’t help but feel a sense of transcendence wash over you with each page turn. Sunshine and baking, construction and balancing, fresh air and cool shade, windy skies and ‘one great big day’. We are taken on this joyous path as the children wander and explore the beautiful seaside beside their lush green country town, and then settle for a snuggle and a night-time dream.  

imageI adore Freya’s magical pencil and acrylic illustrations that enlighten all the senses, and her beautiful way of capturing light and movement through sequences, texture, depth and perspective.

A ‘Perfect’ resemblance of the spirit of childhood, the warmth of togetherness and the refreshment of a cool breeze on a balmy Summer’s day.    

Little Hare Books 2015.

Player Profile: Kaylene Hobson, author of Isaac’s Dragon

kaylene hobson pic Kaylene Hobson decided at the age of ten that she wanted to be a writer. But it took her till she was ”much older” to act on it, she claims. Writing was always just for pleasure.  

Now she has released her first chapter book, Isaac’s Dragon, an amusing and captivating story about a boy who hatches a wonderfully clever and imaginative plan to catch his own dragon (Review here).  

Isaac’s Dragon is based on Hobson’s son Isaac, who has autism.  ”It is meant to be the world from his perspective. He spends a lot of his time in a wonderfully magical place that the rest of us don’t understand. It was originally meant as a way for him to know that I understand him, but now it can help the world to understand him and other kids like him better too…..while reading an entertaining tale at the same time.”  

received_m_mid_1409371748082_1b95137c0d750e2993_0 She wants readers to enjoy the story. To be entertained, amused and even inspired. ”But they should also feel a connection with the character – and experience happiness, sadness, joy and disappointment along with Isaac.” Hobson goes on to say, ”Even at a children’s book level – a good book is fun to read but a great book makes you feel. If along the way it also helps children gain self-confidence and helps parents to see the world through the eyes of their children, even for a little while, then it becomes an amazing book.”  

As an author, Hobson has an end goal in mind; a beautiful sentiment in leaving a legacy for future generations of readers. She aims to have written ”the classics of the future, that stay with children long after the story ends and influences them enough to want to share with their children and grandchildren”.  

Whilst running a social skills group for autistic kids, Kaylene met illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn. ”The idea was for the kids to make some friends but it’s the adults who bonded. The kids have had to become friends now whether they like it or not!” Out of a growing friendship, came the business partnership. With encouragement from Ann-Marie, Kaylene published her story through her own publishing company, which she established earlier this year.  

Kaylene explains, ”Dragon Tales has arisen from a desire to publish our own work but professionally and with a distinction from the hit and miss quality associated with ‘self publishers’. I have a background in business and marketing and Ann-Marie is the creative side and together we wish to give the opportunity to other skilled and talented artists to realize their own dreams and share their talents with children.”  

When asked to share advice for new writers wanting to get published, Hobson relates back to the idea behind Dragon Tales Publishing; ”be true to yourself while having some professional backup for the stuff you don’t know.”  

So, what’s in store for Kaylene Hobson and Dragon Tales Publishing?
”Big things!!” she claims. With another installment of Isaac’s Dragon to come, as well as some ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) specific books that Ann-Marie and Kaylene are teaming up on, life is pretty exciting. Dragon Tales will be releasing a new book by Jo Emery soon; My Dad is a FIFO Dad, which is already gaining a lot of attention prior to release.  

Contact Kaylene Hobson and Dragon Tales Publishing here:
Mobile –Kaylene 0421 706 369
Email – [email protected]
www.dragontalespublishing.com.au
www.facebook.com/dragontalespublishingaustralia

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Review – Isaac’s Dragon by Kaylene Hobson

received_m_mid_1409371748082_1b95137c0d750e2993_0 From first time author, Kaylene Hobson, who has sweetly dedicated this book to her own sons, is the wonderfully imaginative tale, Isaac’s Dragon. Including gorgeous pictures by Ann-Marie Finn, author / illustrator of books including A Trip to the Moon and Captain Kieron.   

An extraordinary young boy, Isaac, is introduced to us as a dragon fanatic who spends every possible moment dreaming of owning one for himself. He has difficulty concentrating at home and at school. But if only other people would understand why… he’s hatching a plan to find his dragon, of course!  

Every night he visits his pet dragon in his dreams where they are free to fly over the land, but only to be disappointed to wake up and realise his dragon is not there.  

With studious research, skills practise and a brilliant plan, Isaac is a very determined boy and is certain that he will have his dragon by his upcoming birthday. Confronting the unknown and other magical creatures, remembering valuable parental lessons on manners and compliments, and making negotiations with his little brother, Isaac finally has his dreams realised. But the pet dragon he had longed for didn’t exactly live up to all of his expectations.  

Isaac’s Dragon is an endearing book that addresses real life concepts beautifully. Kaylene Hobson’s main purpose successfully manifests in every part of the story, ”… they (the reader) should also feel a connection with the character – and experience happiness, sadness, joy and disappointment along with Isaac.”  Her own voice is evident, too; the one of the loving, caring and compassionate mother.  

Children will relish the power of imagination, and getting lost in Isaac’s mythical world, while they attempt to determine between fantasy and reality. Isaac’s Dragon is a delightfully told, timeless tale of suspense and adventure over eleven chapters. With adorable sketches by talented Ann-Marie Finn throughout, both boys and girls from ages four to ten will enjoy this creative, engaging and insightful story. Looking forward to more excitement in the second installment of Isaac’s Dragon!  

Read about the story behind the story in a fascinating author profile of Kaylene Hobson to follow.  

Title: Isaac’s Dragon
Author: Kaylene Hobson
Illustrator: Ann-Marie Finn
Publisher: Dragon Tales Publishing
ISBN:9780992523909  

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Review – Drongoes

I was never the highest jumper or the fastest sprinter at school, and standing in the middle of a netball court surrounded by a pack of short-nailed, indomitable girls with only a thin bib between them and my trembling heart filled me with terror. No, sport and I don’t really gel well. I lacked that flame of desire to cross the line first; unlike Jack, the newest hero of Scholastic’s Mates-Great Aussie Yarns series.Drongoes cover

Christine Bongers’ freshly released, Drongoes, is a magic little yarn about confronting fears, surmounting obstacles like Corby Park Hill, true grit and above all friendship, and is faintly reminiscent of the classic fable, the Hare and the Tortoise in so much as the unexpected outcome leaves us with an immense and satisfying sense of victor victorious.

Christine BongersIt’s Jack’s last year to beat ego-inflated Rocket Robson in the Year Five cross-country race at the athletics carnival. It’s also his best mate, asthma-stricken, Eric’s chance to simply finish the race. All of Eric’s previous attempts have been thwarted by over-anxious intentions and Eric’s inability to breathe.

Eric however excels at best-mateship and together, he and Jack embark on a determined training program consisting mostly of encouragement, patience and the ubiquitous presence of a flock of spangled drongoes.

In true slow and steady style, they compete against Rocket Robson against all odds, with surprisingly hilarious and touching results.

I’ve been a fan of this ripper series for some years now. The short, Aussie flavoured stories showcase some of Australia’s finest and funniest children’s writers. Christine Bongers’ contribution is no exception.

There are dozens of little things I liked about Drongoes: the title for one – the re-emergence of a classic slice of Aussie vernacular, the strong undercurrent of mateship, the timely message that pride (and too many pies) comes before a fall, and the subtle reference to Eric’s ethnicity and Jack’s personality through their nicknames; Puff the Magic Dragon and Drongo. But it was the ultimate act of selflessness on Jack’s part that made me want to stand up and whoop along with the cheering crowd in the end. I actually shed a tear or two instead!Spangled Drongo 2

What I love about this series is how each powerful storyline is supported by equally fabulous illustrations, in this case aptly provided by Dan McGuiness. Each page is smothered in pictures, with complimentarily themed page borders and interesting fonts; perfect for magnetising the interest of 6 – 8 year olds taking up chapter books for the first time. The explanatory text at the end is a Dan McGuiness illustratorlovely informative bonus.

I still don’t have much time or talent for sport. But I do adore spangled drongoes, who fortunately frequent my backyard too. What Drongoes did for me was to bring the two unexpectedly and effortlessly together so that the resulting spark almost ignited that flame to jump up and race off into the sunset – almost.

A genuine winner.

Scholastic Mates Series 2013