Katherine Rundell, Wisher & Explorer

London-based writer Katherine Rundell has sprung into prominence with her children’s novels in recent times. She has just written two more books and one is a sumptuous Christmas picture book, One Christmas Wish, illustrated by Emily Sutton (Bloomsbury). It draws on many nostalgic and loved Christmas images, such as being with family and decorating the tree.

One Christmas Wish begins on Christmas Eve with Theo sorting out the Christmas decorations. He finds four unexpected and dilapidated pieces: a rocking horse, a robin, a tin soldier and an angel. His parents are out working and his new babysitter has fallen asleep with her phone but Theo sees a shooting star and wishes to not be alone. The four decorations seem to come to life and offer to help Theo with whatever he needs. However, the decorations all need something themselves, such as the robin remembering how to sing and the soldier needing someone to love and protect. The heart of Christmas is reached when they find a nativity scene in the town square and Theo’s Christmas wish comes true soon after.

The illustrations invite you into the scenes, particularly those with full bleeds to the pages’ edges such as in Mrs Goodyere’s cosy room where she teaches the robin to sing Away in a Manger and the snowy wood where Theo and the others search for feathers to replenish the angel’s wings.

The Explorer (illustrated by Hannah Horn; published by Bloomsbury) is Katherine Rundell’s other new book and it is a rollicking adventure for primary children set in the Amazon after Fred’s small plane crashes. Two girls about his age, Con and Lila, and five-year-old Max also survive. They rescue a baby sloth, raid a bee-hive, make a raft and find a map. They resolve to venture to where the X on the map is located. Disconcertingly, there are signs that someone else has lived in the jungle too.

There is some depth in the narrative, particularly as the children undergo rites of passage. Even though their existence is difficult, at times Fred seems pleased not to be living a humdrum life: “At school, it’s the same thing, every day. I liked that it might be all right to believe in large, mad, wild things.”

The Explorer is inspired by Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, and these two novels do share a similar sense of adventure and freedom.

Katherine Rundell also wrote Rooftoppers, which was one of my top novels for children in 2013 (along with Kirsty Murray’s The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie). Rundell has published a couple of other junior novels, including the acclaimed The Wolf Wilder (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Under the Christmas Tree Part 6 – Tis better to give than receive

It’s almost time to step away from the desk and wrap up the year. What a year it’s been, brimful of incredible stories and pictures, all of which have been a delight to share with you. It is, as they say; better to give than receive, so here are some final last minute helpful hints for something worth tucking under the Christmas tree.

was-not-me Was Not Me! by Shannon Horsfall

This fits the Naught but Nice list. Perfect for the school holidays, this picture book by talented newcomer, Shannon Horsfall will have kids swinging from the chandeliers and surging through the high seas with her calamitous Not Me character. He is cheeky and illusive and always hangs the blame for the mess on the carpet or the floods in the bathroom on his twin brother, Me. Mum suspects foul play and is not so easily fooled.

was-not-me-illos-spreadKids and mischief is a mix that portends all sorts of hilarious possibilities. Horsfall has managed to bottle that common go-to-get-out-of-jail card-catch-cry that kids so frequently use, ‘Was not me!’ with lightly rhyming humour and very likeable illustrations. Something fun for bored would-be house wreckers these holidays aged four to eight.

Harper Collins Children’s Books July 2016

twigTwig by Aura Parker

Another author illustrator production this time by Aura Parker whose unique organically inspired illustrations turn this gentle story about making friends and starting school into an obvious holiday choice for four to six-year-olds.

Heidi is a stick insect. She is tall and slender and blends in incredibly well with her surroundings so much so that she goes virtually unnoticed by all those around her. Such anonymity does not bode well for a creature as unassuming as Heidi and she fails to make an impact on her new classmates or even her energetic teacher, Mrs Orb. Dejected and miserable, it is not until Scarlett inadvertently unearths Heidi’s indignation that the rest see Heidi for who and what she is for the first time. From then on, the webs of friendship begin to spin.

twig-and-aura-parkerTwig is a sweet tale about finding the confidence to embark on new adventures. It is also a glorious detailed experience of visual discovery. Each of the end papers is crawling with critters and bugs of every description with prompts to seek them out. Twig is a marvellous way of getting real with bugs with a captivating nod to counting, species classification, biology, and colour. A picture book to truly pour over.

Scholastic Press November 2016

elephants-have-wingsElephants Have Wings by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro

We have reviewed this one before (read Julie Fison’s encounter with Susanne Gervay, here) but it’s worth special mention and a prime place under the Christmas tree.

At a time in our history when there should be no child that suffers comes this powerful picture book by the accomplished team of Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro. Based partly on the ancient parable the Blind Men and the Elephant, this outstanding work is suffused with elegance, immense spirit and a beauty that young children will recognise and draw from even if they are not able to comprehend the complexities that lie within each page.

My daughter was nine when she first read it and stated, ‘It is great out of the box thinking isn’t it? I mean, who would have thought that elephants could fly.’ Indeed, capturing the essence of the blind men and the elephant in a picture book is one thing. Exhibiting it with such exquisite heart and sensitivity as the team of Gervay and Pignataro do is higher than commendable.

The journey of discovery begins one night as two young siblings beg their father for a bedtime tale. This particular night he tells their grandfather’s story, thus spanning the generations. From his recount, we learn of a group of children from varying cultural backgrounds intent on going out one dark night in search of a secret. They each find part of something, each certain they are right in their assumption of what it is, each unwilling to accept that their interpretation of their discovery whilst subjectively correct in one instance could also be part some bigger picture. They ‘argued until everyone was angry’ – my favourite line in the book, also one of the most disparagingly accurate of observations. It is not until grandfather appears with his candlelight that the children discover that each of them ‘was right, but also wrong’ and the magnificent elephant is revealed.

But what of the secret? As brother and sister embark upon the elephant’s sturdy back and soar with him over the many glorious fabrics of their world, they come to appreciate not only the beauty that surrounds them but also the cracks that threaten that beauty, until finally they arrive home, conscious now of their differences and sameness.

elephants-have-wings-illos-spreadThe subtle nuances so intricately and delicately woven into this creation are numerous. Pignataro’s textured, collaged illustrations, lift and transport, defying gravity and borders. They convey a rich tapestry of multiculturalism, religion, and ultimately, Nirvana – a divine realisation of self and the ability to see past fear, a call to reach out for harmony. The use of the colours of the Chakra, of pages drained of any pigment and then restored, provide reasons to clutch tightly to life, ride out derision, to hope – to forge forward.

Gervay’s impossibly expressive narrative articulates confusion, disaccord, reconciliation, and understanding, prompting young readers to ponder and question all that which they see (and hear) around them. To paraphrase the words of George R R Martin ‘Just open your eyes… is all that is needing. The eyes see true…then comes the thinking and in that knowing the truth.’

Supremely brave, eloquent and masterful, Elephants Have Wings will initiate discussion over many shared readings; it is one to treasure and grow with.

Ford Street Publishing October 2014

Find your elephant within as soon as you possibly can.

Cherish your Christmas moments. Give a Book. Read lots!

See you in 2017!

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Reading goals and challenges

Do you set reading goals or participate in reading challenges? Participating in a reading challenge can encourage you to read books you wouldn’t ordinarily come across. I also love the sense of achievement when I can tick off my goals as I accomplish them. With my reading year close to wrapping up (see what I did there?), I’m taking stock of my reading challenges and goals for 2016 and looking ahead to next year.

At the beginning of the year I made a goal to read 60 books and 20,000 pages and I track my progress using GoodReads. At the time of writing I’ve read 59 books and 19,640 pages, so I think I can safely say I’ll achieve these two goals before the year is out.

Two reading challenges I participate in every year are the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the Aussie Author Challenge.

Australian Women Writers Challenge

The Australian Women Writers Challenge has been running for five years now and aims to encourage avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women. In 2016 I committed to reading 10 books by female Australian authors and to date I’ve read 11, so I can tick that one off.

Registrations are now open for 2017, so if you want to participate next year, just click here for the challenge details.

Aussie Author Challenge2017-aussie-author-challenge

Naturally I love to support Aussie authors wherever I can, and one way I do this is by participating in the Aussie Author Challenge. This reading challenge has been running for seven years now and the objective is to showcase the diversity of work being produced by Australian authors. In 2016 I signed up for the Kangaroo level to read 12 books by Australian authors. I had to read 4 male authors, 4 female authors, 4 new-to-me authors and at least 3 different genres. I’ve blitzed this challenge by meeting the criteria and reading 17 books in total and had a great time along the way.

Registrations are now open for 2017. If you want to join me on the challenge next year, click here for the details.

2017 Plans

Do you have any reading goals or plans for 2017? I’m going to participate in the two reading challenges above and am considering whether to increase my reading goal back up to 65. If you have any book related new year resolutions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

I hope you all have something great to read over Christmas and perhaps a book or two under the Christmas tree.

Under the Christmas Tree – Part 1

Okay, with just over a month and a half to go, it’s time to get serious about Christmas. For the next 42 days or so,  I’ll attempt to fill your Christmas lists with some nifty literary ideas for kids to go under the Christmas tree this year. Today we look at some terrific non-fiction titles guaranteed to raise a few oohs and aahs on Christmas Day.

cheeky-animalsCheeky Animals – Shane Morgan

The classic 20-year-old picture book, Look & See, inspired Shane Morgan’s hard cover board book, Cheeky Animals. Clean, smile-inducing text compliments simple yet strong illustrations of some of our most cheeky cherished Aussie animals.  A great stocking stuffer for 2 + year olds.

Magabala Books October 2016

funny-facesFunny Faces – Dr Mark Norman

Just as funny but using expressive real life images of a variety of animals and their amazing anatomy to accompany concise, information-laden narrative is Dr Mark Norman’s, Funny Faces. This soft cover version is a close up, informative, extraordinary (did you know a Dragonfish has teeth on its tongue!)  look at the funny face bits of a planet of animals, birds, invertebrates and reptiles. The fact file and images are sure to keep budding biologists absorbed for years. Super handy and an easy to reference guide book for early primary project makers. Check out other titles in this funny series, here.

Black Dog Books June 2014

animaliumAnimalium – Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

Curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, Animalium is a cloth bound, pocket-sized gem of a book that invites fledging Attenboroughs to enter a literary museum of the animal kingdom. I felt as though I was wondering through the astonishing exhibits of the London Natural History Museum, exploring the world of mammals, invertebrates, fish and more. This is a biologist’s nirvana: insightful, knowledgeable text, and clear, detailed illustrated plates. Excellent go to book that is a work of art unto itself for mid to upper primary.

The Five Mile Press October 2016

amazing-animals-of-australian-national-parksAmazing Animals of Australian’s National Parks – Gina M. Newton

Gina M. Newton’s Amazing Animals is an environmental triumph. This large, soft cover book leaves no leaf or stone unturned as Newton guides inquisitive minds through a plethora of our national parks and their fascinating individual habitats. From the Tropical Rainforests in the north to the Mallee Woodlands of the arid south, Amazing Animals focuses on the species that inhabit these places with detailed Q & A, fast facts, and a ‘did you know’ kind of narrative. Diagrams and close up photos completes this brilliant compendium of who what and where along with a comprehensive ‘how to use this book’ guide that even includes a Conservation Status indicator. Young readers may be familiar with some of the species highlighted; they may have even spotted a few of them in their own neighbourhoods. What is nifty about this guidebook is that they can now actively get out and explore more of the native parklands in their locale and become more wildlife aware by doing so. Superb. Highly recommended for classroom to bedroom bookshelves of primary and above readers.

NLA Publishing October 2016

awesome-animals-horse-fun-factsAwesome Animals – Horses Fun Facts and Amazing Stories – Dianne Bates and Sophie Scahill

I was your typical horsey-obsessed little girl. That kind of passion never real dissipates, merely dims with neglect. Dianne Bates and Sophie Scahill have produced a handy, bookshelf friendly series of Awesome Animal books that present eager young readers with a mindboggling array of facts, figures, trivia, and fun stories for a menagerie of animals. This one, about Horses is incredible. Layered with more information about horses than I have ever encountered, Horse Fun Facts is comprehensive, breezy, easy to navigate and utterly captivating. I guarantee readers will learn something new each time they delve into these books. Horses is an awesome mix of entertainment and information that will fuel those pony club passions forever more. A brilliant, value-laden gift idea if ever there was one.

Big Sky Publishing September 2016

fantastically-great-women-who-changed-the-worldFantastically Great Women Who Changed the World – Kate Pankhurst

History, whilst fascinating can be a tiresome thing to wade through at times. Not so anymore thanks to Kate Pankhurst’s illustrated explorative journey with some of our planets most noted, daring, and incredible women. Great Women Who Changed the World covers such heroines as Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Marie Curie, and Anne Frank. Others like, Sacagawea and Amelia Earhart are also featured, each with their own two-page spread festooned with detailed trivia type tip bits all gorgeously illustrated to create a visual wonderland of facts and figures. By the time young readers have swam the English Channel with Gertrude Ederle or uncovered the first Pterosaur skeleton with Mary Anning, they will be hundreds of years wiser and no wiser for it! This awesome picture book ends on a note of great inspiration, namely for young misses but the message is universal: never give up, believe in yourself, back yourself, and dare to be different! Truly fantastic and a must have in your Christmas stockings!

Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing October 2016

For more great gift ideas, visit The Kids’ Reading Guide – Information Titles and stay tuned for my next instalment of Under the Christmas Tree.

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5 Naughty and Nice Christmas Gift Ideas

With Christmas fast approaching, here are 5 great naughty and nice Christmas gift ideas for those you love or those you had to put up with this year:Crap Colouring In

  1. A colouring book
    Let’s face it, the colouring book craze isn’t going away any time soon, and for those ready to admit it, colouring books for adults can be a lot of fun. The Adult Colouring Kaleidoscope by Beverley Lawson is a good one, as is The Magical City and The Magical Christmas, both by the talented Lizzie Mary Cullen.
    But for the relative you don’t get along with, try Crap Colouring-In – Mindless Art Therapy for Modern Life by Joe Sumner. It’s bound to get your point across.
  2. A self-help book for the jerk of the family
    If you have a classic jerk in the family, who thinks he always knows best then you need to buy him a copy of I Know You Think You Know it All book by Chris Black. A self-help book full of advice and observations on how to stand apart from others and become an influencer, this could change someone’s life.
  3. A naughty bookThe Elf Off The Shelf
    If you’ve heard of the Christmas toy Elf on the Shelf, then you’ll know he/she brings a lot of joy to children and parents around Christmas time.  The Elf Off The Shelf by Horace the Elf is a parody of the ever popular The Elf on the Shelf and is definitely for parent’s eyes only. If you’d like to give a naughty or inappropriate gift to someone this year, then this is it.
  4. A book to give you peace
    If you’re tired of hearing the same old stories from Great Aunt Beryl or sick of listening to your brother-in-law talk about how important his job is, then you need a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir on stand by. One of the best books out at the moment, (and a favourite of mine) it’s bound to keep them occupied so you can get on with having a good time. (Or you could just read it and escape to Mars in the pages).
  5. Sticker bookThe Ultimate Dinosaur Glow In The Dark Sticker Book
    If you’re visiting nieces and nephews and want to give them a fun gift, then you can’t go wrong with a sticker book. Added advantage is that you can help them put the stickers into the book, or on the fridge, bathroom mirror etc. Check these out: The Cat In The Hat Sticker Book, Star Wars Classic Ultimate Sticker Book, Ultimate Disney Sticker Book and my favourite, the Ultimate Dinosaur Glow In The Dark Sticker Book.
    I wish you all a fabulous Christmas filled with books and laughter.

 

Christmas is Still Coming – Picture Books this Season

Need more Christmas-themed books to keep your little ones entertained this season? Between my previous list, those featured on the Kids’ Reading Guide, and the Boomerang Bloggers fantastic suggestions, you won’t be short for choice of top quality reads to cover all your festive needs.  

imageSanta’s Busy Reindeer, Ed Allen (author), Nathaniel Eckstrom (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2014.

In a similar style to some of his other titles including 10 Cheeky Possums and 10 Funny Sheep, Ed Allen teams up with illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom to sing us a reindeer tune just like the 10 Green Bottles one. Readers journey with ten fun-loving, and at times obstinate reindeers, with each page turn subtracting one poor deer from the equation. Carrying out all their favourite Christmas pastimes, like ice skating, hanging fairy lights, organising gifts, carolling, baking and decorating the tree, unfortunate (but oh-so-humorous) mishaps lead us down to one, until they all regroup with Santa’s call and they’re off on their merry way.

Bursting with energy, cheekiness and Eckstrom’s witty illustrations, it’s so much fun to see the reindeers’ attempts at productivity the night before Christmas! Santa’s Busy Reindeer will have your preschoolers in fits of giggles and lots of sing-along action.  

imageThe Naughtiest Reindeer, Nicki Greenberg (author, illus.), Allen & Unwin, 2013.

Poor Rudolf is bed-ridden on the night before Christmas. How will the other reindeer manage to pull the sleigh without him? Never fear! Ruby is here! But Ruby isn’t exactly the most obedient of reindeers. Her over-enthusiasm and impetuous nature lead her to all sorts of mischief. Too much for Santa to bear, he heads back to his Mrs, mistakingly dismissing one visited home, and Ruby! How will those children react when they discover their absent presents? Who will make up for the night-time disasters? You will see, a little compassion goes a long way!

You’ll be lolloping along with Ruby’s antics in this gorgeously comical and engaging rhyming story. Young readers will fall in love with this delightful and zealous character, and no doubt will relish the sequel out this Christmas, The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo.  

imageThere is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, Tim Miller (author), Matt Stanton (illus.), ABC Books, 2014.

From naughty reindeer to naughty monster. This one’s exploding with naughtiness and cheek! With foul language and foul smells, a young boy’s Christmas is ruined by the gaseous fumes that pervade his every move. As told in first person in an explanatory style, we learn how the wrapping of presents ritual is infused with bauble bombs, a photo with Santa captures nothing but cloudiness, and Mum and Dad can’t get past his cracking noises and putrid whiffs. But will Santa believe the young boy’s innocence, or will the monster’s true identity be revealed at just the right moment?

If you’re into toilet humour, you’ll love it! There is a Monster Under my Christmas Tree who Farts, with its animated, digital cartoons, is certainly not a ‘pleasant’ read, but early primary children will certainly be tooting for more.

What’s On Your Christmas Wishlist This Year?

We bookworms have a wonderful advantage when it comes to Christmas time. When humans say, “Soooo, what do you want for Christmas?” the only answer to screech at them is “BOOKS! BOOKS!” The only real agony comes when writing the perfect Bookish Christmas List. Because you don’t want to forget any excellent ones, right?!

Today I have a list of YA books that should probably definitely be on your list too. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you’re most excited about, too!

 

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1. HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE (ILLUSTRATED EDITION)

Because how really can one exist without this glorious novel in their hands?!? Illustrations, peoples! Don’t ever think you’re too old. I dearly wish this edition had been around when I first read Harry Potter.

2. SOUNDLESS (Released Nov 2015)

A new book by Richelle Mead! OH HUZZAH! And this one is set in a Chinese-esque fantasy world were everyone is deaf. Intrigued? I think yes.

3. ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (Released Oct 2015)

This is the most beautiful version of Lewis Carroll’s famous Wonderland ever. I’m entirely sure it is. I believe it even has a few illustrations inside (!!) which I am so up for.

 

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4. WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Released Mar 2015)

Cover love aside (but not too far aside because let’s face it, this book is gorgeous) I really want to read this one because its about a Pakastani girl who is being forced into an arranged marriage. It’s about destiny and it sounds like an incredible story.

5. THE NEST (Released Oct 2015)

All I heard was “for fans of Coraline” and then it was on my list immediately. Although I did deign to go back and read the blurb later. The back cover promises wasp queens and brothers saving brothers and explores disabilities and dreams and fears. Does that not sound entirely compelling to you? Me = need this book.

6. UNDER A PAINTED SKY (Released Mar 2015)

I was mildly obsessed with the Gold Rush era when I was a small human…and I haven’t quite left the infatuation behind. So naturally I’m dying for this book set in 1849 about a Chinese girl who wants to be a musician, but ends up on the Oregon Trail bound for gold. Plus runaway slaves and cowboys. Say no more. This book needs me.

 

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7. LOCK & MORI (Released Nov 2015)

Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite things of ever and I’ve read countless retellings! So naturally I want to read more. Plus this version is by the point of “Mori” (Moriarty!) who is also genderbent and a girl! IS THIS REAL LIFE!? I’m so keen for this book!

8. IT’S A WONDERFUL DEATH (Released Oct 2015)

An absent minded Grim Reaper? An overzealous angel? DEATH PERSONIFIED?!? This book has my name written all over it basically. After the marvellousness that is The Book Thief and The Game of Love and Death, I’m all for games where supernatural eternities are personified.

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9. CARRY ON (Released Oct 2015)

And of course I’m eager to read Rainbow Rowell’s latest book! Remember the fabulousness that is Fangirl?! Well, the fanfic that the protagonist of Fangirl wrote…is now its own book! So it’s like a book from inside a book?!

10.  5 TO 1 (Released June, 2015)

I love fantasy and dystopian…but have I ever read one set in India? Negatory. So! I’m absolutely dying for this beautiful looking book!

 

 

For more Bookish Christmas Wishlist inspiration, head over to Boomerang Book’s Christmas guides!

Stocking Stuffer Suggestion # 5 – New beaut picture books

Okay, it’s only a couple more sleeps until December, which means we’re dipping into dangerous waters now. Christmas wish lists should be full and those letters to Santa should be in the post – pronto! If you are after a new Christmassy picture book to line your stockings with, try some of these fun ones on for size.

 Santa Baby Santa Baby by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ada Grey promises to be the ‘most magical Christmas picture book of the year’ and it does have a touch of special about it. Reminiscent of the movie Arthur Christmas and the evergreen, The Night Before Christmas, Santa Baby tells the quest of Santa’s small progeny and his best mate, Roo who are upsettingly too young to accompany Dad on his worldwide mission on Christmas Eve. Grounded and miserable the two friends discover two abandoned presents and set out on a mercy mission to deliver the gifts themselves.

In spite of several distractions, they almost reach their target when they recklessly decide to undertake a ‘midnight loop-the-loop’, a sleighing manoeuvre hitherto only attempted by accomplished flyers, read Santa Claus. Their execution is, as you guessed, less than successful but just as it is all about to end in tears, Santa scoots up and rescues the rescuers. Santa Baby then realises that being Father Christmas is not as easy as sucking on a candy cane and that the two remaining presenThe Night Before Christmasts were actually for him and Roo and hold the answers to their dreams come true.

The child-friendly verse and super cute real knitted beanies and scarves illustrator Ada Grey dresses Santa Baby and Roo in adds to this merry feel-good story about the merit of patience and persistence. Magic for under-fives.

Bloomsbury Children’s November 2015Christmas at Grandma's Beach House

Swapping snowballs for sand dunes, head to Christmas at Grandma’s Beach House by the winning picture book team of Claire Saxby and Janine Dawson. Following their 2013 release of Christmas on Grandad’s Farm (reviewed here), this gorgeous new Christmas holiday expose adopts the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol and is bursting with more Aussie flavour than a kangaroo sausage on a hot barbie. This sing-a-long picture book will have you counting down the days to your next seaside escape and fruit mince pie. From the very first page Dawson’s illustrations, plunge us into the briny seaside environment of Grandma’s beach house. Nearly all of us must have some childhood memory of visiting such a relative’s place; I do, right down to the ‘holiday’ tree jammed in the corner, seagrass matting, and shell mobile!

Claire Saxby Saxby guides us through family introductions and new friendships with the days of Christmas countdown as we picnic on the beach, body surf and frolic under a very Aussie sun. Grandma’s beachside locale is soon swelling with a radiant assortment of kids and buzzy holidaymakers.

Chock-a-block with thongs, seagulls and sunhats, it doesn’t get any more Aussie or better than this. High on my list of sing-a-long picture books to jingle my bells to because I love a good excuse to belt out a carol, even if I don’t need a reason.

The Five Mile Press September 2015

Don’t go far, there’s a couple more hot-off Santa’s-press picture books on the way. Meantime, check out other titles for kids from the Boomerang Kids’ Reading Guide 2015 / 2016.

 

 

 

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.

Would You Like To Win A $2000+ Book Pack This Christmas?

We’ve got a MASSIVE sack full of books worth over $2000 to give away to one lucky customer!

And we’re not talking about a pile of slow-moving titles; we’re talking 40+ new release, best-selling titles, including books by Ian Rankin, Geraldine Brooks, Donna Hay, Jo Nesbo, Tom Keneally, Shaun Tan, Bill Bryson, Peter FitzSimons, Adam Spencer, Robert Harris, Kate Atkinson and Don Winslow.

Imagine landing this fantastic sack of books in time for Christmas!

How do I enter?  It’s easy!

1. Order a book from Boomerang Books between now and 5pm AEST on Friday 18 December 2015.

2. At the checkout, enter and activate the promotional code santassack (or any of the other qualifying promotional codes that we publicise between now and Christmas).

3. Using the promotional code on your order will give you an entry in the Santa’s Sack draw PLUS you’ll get free shipping on your order (a saving of $6.95).  The more orders you place, the more entries you get in the draw!

PS. We’ll also throw in a soccer ball and a signed Tim Cahill shirt 🙂

VISIT BOOMERANG BOOKS RIGHT NOW TO ENTER THE DRAW…

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Christmas is Coming – Picture Books this Season

What does Christmas mean to you? Is it the sound of excited squeals on Christmas morning? Is it the smell of freshly baked cookies? Is it the sight of twinkling fairy lights around your Christmas tree? Or perhaps that satifying feel of a bloated belly after you’ve tasted every gourmet delight! Here are a few picture books for this coming Christmas to help elicit all those fond memories, create new ones, and enrapture all the senses.  

imageWhat Do You Wish For?, Jane Godwin (author), Anna Walker (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2015.

This one is a little bit special. Perhaps even more so for me because I attended the book launch, and met the superlative duo, Jane Godwin and Anna Walker, whose winning books always put a smile on every face and a glow in every heart. And ‘What Do You Wish For?’ is no different. It’s that all kinds of fuzzy warmth, peace and togetherness that Christmas time really represents. As Jane Godwin said herself, a ‘wish’ signifies more of a statement of fear of loss or of something that will not happen, and her intention for this book is for readers to understand that this time of year is, and should be, one of gratitude.

There is an excited buzz in the air every Christmas. Ruby and her friends always put on a special show in the park, and write a wish to hang on the tree. This year, all the children imagine the most wonderful sentiments, including hopeful dreams of teachers getting married and lego coming to life! But Ruby’s wish is too big to write on a little piece of paper. Her wish is of spirit; it’s made of smells of baking, candlelight amongst the dark, wonderful surprises and quality family time. But most of all, her Christmas wish is one of complete serenity, and a warm sparkle in the sky.   
                                                                                            
imageThe combination of Godwin’s inspiring, tender words, and Anna Walker’s beautifully dreamy illustrations is simply divine. I adore the gentle features and cool colour palette with touches of red, and the intricacy of the individually cut paper, watercolour and print spreads. (See Anna’s process here).

‘What Do You Wish For?’ is the most magical treasure for any young reader and their family to cherish this Christmas.  

imageSanta Claus is Coming to Town, Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots (authors), Nathaniel Eckstrom (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

The Christmas song ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, written by Haven Gillespie and John Frederick Coots became an instant hit in 1934. Still widely played to this day, it is a tune that families know and love. Including a CD track performed by our Aussie talent, Human Nature, and the retro tones and classic-look illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom, this is a warm book reminiscent of the good old times, and just being good.

Five cheeky jungle animals are getting ready for Christmas Day. Organising cards and presents for one another isn’t always so simple. Neither is riding their bikes to the jubilee. But if the young ones can remain cool, calm and happy, and remember the all-important event, Santa Claus will come to town and distribute gifts to those most deserving.  

Parents will definitely appreciate this timely reminder to their kids, but particularly will enjoy the lyrical melody and smooth voices of Human Nature. And the humorous, playful illustrations will certainly be absorbed by any preschool-aged child. ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ is a must-have for your stocking this Christmas!  

imageWe’re Going on a Santa Hunt, Laine Mitchell (author), Louis Shea (illus.), Jay Laga’aia (performer), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

A sure-fire way to get kids engaged in a story is to add a dash of jingle, a splash of rhyme and the ‘presence’ of familiarity. In this jolly Christmas adventure, the bonus music CD with the voice of Play School’s Jay Laga’aia, and the structure of Michael Rosen’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, (see similar titles by Laine Mitchell), all mixed with the gaiety of the festive season makes for a guaranteed hit with its readers / listeners.

‘We’re Going on a Santa Hunt’ takes five adorable arctic animals on a mission to deliver their letters to the ‘jolly one’. They bound through dark train tunnels, tinsel and swishing trees, herds of reindeer, the elves workshop, and sooty chimneys, because of course they couldn’t go over or under them! But upon catching a glimpse of the figure in black, white and red, it’s a frantic bolt back through the elements and straight into bed!

Energetic, vivacious, fun and full of thrill, ‘We’re Going on a Santa Hunt’ is a preschooler’s literary and musical delight that is bound to create excitement (and perhaps some havoc) this Christmas time.  

imageChristmas For Greta and Gracie, Yasmeen Ismail (author, illus.), Nosy Crow UK, 2015.

Greta is Gracie’s older (and bigger) bunny sister. She is also extremely chatty, a little bit bossy and a lot impatient. The girls love everything about Christmas, but especially Santa. Gracie is meticulous, quiet and little, but she has a big curiosity. When she asks her sister all about Santa, Greta always has the answer (or so she thinks!). On Christmas Eve, whilst Greta catches zzz’s, Gracie creeps out of the room – slowly, quietly, sneakily. Who does she find busily working in her living room? And how does she silence her normally loud, talkative sister?

I love the casual, quirky feel with its watercolours and rough edges, and the handwritten dialogue in pink and yellow speech bubbles to represent each character. I also love how the language used clearly identifies the ages of these children; being curious in nature, with an element of egocentricity and brutal honesty.

‘Christmas For Greta and Gracie’ is gorgeously engaging, witty and sincere, perfect for young readers from age three. There are clear themes of sibling relationships, self expression, differences and acceptance, all the while including the magic and imagination of Christmas and its related traditions.  

For more great titles to explore this Christmas, check out Boomerang’s Kids’ Reading Guide 2015 – 2016, and Dimity’s Stocking Stuffer Suggestions.

Stocking Stuffer Suggestion # 2

Do you bite off more than you can chew? One’s tendency for this disparity amplifies at Christmas time, at least, mine does. However, it’s not just at the festive table that choice and over-indulgence can be paralysing. The lead-up to my favourite time of the year is where many choke. The solution? Planning. Break needs, wants, and to-dos down into meaningful, chewable mouthfuls, starting with my Stocking Stuffer Suggestion List. Over the next month or so, I’ll continue to add some Kids’ literary suggestions that you can fill your lists with and have plenty of time to organise before Christmas.

Here is Suggestion # 2 ( # 1 was Sam Wheeler’s mid-grade reader, Mister Cassowary)

SING-A-SONG-OF-SIXPENCE –Sing a long picture books

Flashbacks are curious things. I didn’t feel confident enough to risk the Nutbush but the rush of the wind through my hair as I slid effortlessly albeit awarkedly across a wooden floor so highly polished you’d sworn it was wet, was nothing short of confidence boosting. I am doing this! I am 14 again. I am burning up the roller-skating rink! Turns out, roller-skating is a lot like riding a bike; you don’t really lose the knack as you age, just a bit of grace.

For flashbacks of a more literary sensation, there is plenty to choose from. The offerings are endless and provide buckets of visual and audial stimuli to keep you and your little ones grooving away for hours. Here are some favourites:

Hush Little Possum Hush Little Possum is a gorgeous adaptation of the classic lullaby, Hush Little Baby. Mama sugar glider and her baby are caught in a sudden outback storm, but brave Mama does everything she can to keep her babe warm and dry. Divine illustrations by WA artist Wendy Binks introduce readers to a myriad of Australian flora and fauna while Deborah Mailman sings along in the accompanying CD. Quite special for three to five year-olds.

Juicy Juciy Gren GrassRemember Peter Combe? I do. His advice is to, ‘stay in touch with your inner child.’ Well you can with this CD release picture book featuring his favourites in, Juicy Juicy Green Grass and other fun songs. Blindingly bright, bold and bonkers enough to be loved by the very young and old. I like the Silly Postman best, I just do.

Hokey PokeyYou may have spent many long energetic hours swinging, stamping, and shaking your Hokey Pokey in playgroup and kinder sessions – I know I have, but never like this. Join an Australian cast with Sarah Hardy and Colin Buchanan (on CD) as they jump and shake their uniquely Aussie ways through this beloved children’s song (there’s tongue poking and ear flopping aplenty!) High energy and playful cues to get everyone involved and learning. Love this one.

The Farmer in the DellFollowing a string of popular tune-based picture books, the hilarious Topp Twins, and Jenny Cooper team up again for The Farmer in the Dell. Read, sing, play, live it. These renditions breathe exhilarating new life into beloved old gems. Cooper’s detailed and goofy illustrations capture the verve of each of these classic tunes based on accumulative and comic repetition. Others include, There’s a Hole in my Bucket, Do Your Ears Hang Low and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain. Oooh, I feel another flashback coming on. High Ho!

Square Eyes coverKiwi singer, songwriter, Craig Smith creates laugh out loud songs that translate superbly into fun and funky picture books. Square Eyes is his latest, illustrated by Scott Tulloch. If you thought The Wonky Donkey was full of character and sass, wait until you meet Mr Square Eyes – a panda with a serious addiction to the old goggle box. An excellent, hi-energy comical attempt to discourage kids from doing less by convincing them to do something more.

10 Clumsy EmusThere are several entertaining remakes of the evergreen song, Ten Green Bottles featuring a billabong of interesting critters designed to get kids counting, moving, and grooving. Well move over silly wombats because here come the 10 Clumsy Emus. Emu fanatic, Wendy Binks illustrates this one with fabulous effect. Laden with astonishing detail, I struggled to find the hidden numbers in every scene, but maybe that’s because I was so hilariously distracted by the emusing (ha ha) antics and expressions of our esteemed friends. No CD needed with this one. Ten out of ten, no less.

The Tortoise and the HairP. Crumble and Louis Shea are known for their perennial favourites in the, There was an Old Lady series. The Tortoise and the Hair is a jaw-splitting departure from these and although not based on a song or nursery rhythm but rather a classic fable, it conjured up all sorts of imagery and tenuous connections to the musical, Hair that I just had to include it. Saturated with satire, animal characters and hidden detail with a punchy little twist at the end, tortoise will have you rocking and rolling over and over again.

The Cow Tripped Over the MoonLovers of classic nursery rhymes will adore Tony Wilson’s recently released, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon. Cow is beset with a high-flying ambition; to jump over the moon but she is plagued with difficulty. Repeated attempts end in disappointment and near failure until her friends remind her, it’s now or never; she will be remembered forever – if she can just get this right. A left of field reimagining coupled with the strong quirky imagery of Laura Wood, makes this a winner.

Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot BinikiDeborah Mailman makes a tantalising reappearance in Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini. If you think little ones might find that a mouthful, just watch them cha cha cha and sing along to this 1960’s classic by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. A beguiling cast of creatures is perfectly painted by acclaimed illustrator, Kerry Argent including one very brave polka-dot wearing hippo! Suitably capturing all the fun and warmth of a day at the beach.

Silly SquidWithout straying too far from the seaside, children’s author extraordinaire, Janeen Brian, takes us through a rhyming underwater odyssey to rival Homer’s adventure with Silly Squid! Poems about the Sea. Along the way, we meet giant squid, clever octopus, lumbering whales, delicate sea stars, adorable seals and so many more sublime sea-creatures, each showcased in sweet rhyming couplets and accompanied by fun facts. Informative, visually enchanting thanks to Cheryll Johns’ luscious full-page illustrations and utterly delightful. Definitely one to treasure.

Omnibus Books and Scholastic Australia all released 2015

Check out Boomerang’s Kids Reading Guide 2015 – 2016 for more great titles to whet your Christmas appetite.

 

Get Free Shipping on the Boomerang Books Christmas Catalogue

Looking for great Christmas gifts to buy for your loved ones? Books make fantastic gifts at Christmas time! And to make your job easier, we’ve released our annual Christmas Catalogue.

If you order from our Christmas Catalogue before midnight on Sunday 15 November, you’ll get FREE shipping on your order when you use the promotional code xmascat at the checkout.

PLUS, by using the promo code, you’ll also go into the draw to win a huge book pack in our Santa’s Sack competition (which will be announced later this week!).

Follow the links below to order your books from Boomerang Books today:

 

  
   

  

   

  
   

  
   

  


 

Zac & Mia & Willow – YA for your soul

Here in SE Queensland, just before Christmas, an unusual thing happened. It began to rain. I’d almost forgotten the scent of a wet garden and the sensation of damp. It was perfect cosy reading weather.

Alas, the week before Christmas with a house full of family and several menus and trips away to plan for proved anything but conducive to curling up with a good book. Thus, I’ve had a short sabbatical from children’s texts over the holidays. However, one or two did manage to sneak in under the radar and just like Santa, they really delivered.

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I saved this read, as I save my favourite parts of a roast dinner (the spuds) till last; knowing once I’d tasted it, it would be gobbled down fast. And it was. Counting by 7s is the story of twelve-year old Willow Chance who lives in Bakersfield, California and comes home from school one day to the news that her parents have been killed in a car accident.

This slap-in-the-face realisation is based on a real life occurrence of American author Holly Goldberg Sloan, as are many of the references in this novel. Willow’s loss is tragic but it is merely one of the inspired background colours used by Sloan to paint her story.

What follows is a journey of soul searching and discovery, not always by Willow; she is too pragmatic for that sort of thing. It’s a story about accepting different viewpoints, of moving on and allowing unexpected change to help you find ‘connectedness’ in life.

Holly Goldsberg SloanWillow could read as a prickly, hard to love character. Conversely, it could be easy to over sympathise with her plight. However, Sloan’s intelligent narrative is completely free of mawkishness. Her characters shine with pristine clarity and likeability.

I cannot fault this sophisticated tween / teen novel. Artful, moving, witty, and intensely humble. Sure, I cried in parts, but do not expect to be swept away by sentimentality. Willow, the higher thinking, twice-orphaned ‘problem’ everyone grows to cherish simply doesn’t allow it. Instead, she becomes the unexpected catalyst that sparks relationships and lives back to life. An astoundingly clarifying look at the complicated world of human relationships and emotions. Uplifting indeed and possibly better than roast potatoes.

Scholastic Australia May 2014

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

This is another YA read I’ve been hording. Once you read it, you will understand why. It’s almost too good to consume; over within minutes of starting. In other words, unputdownable.

Zac & MiaZac and Mia is not just a novel for young readers although A. J. Betts does a magnificent job of harnessing teenage nuances. With such broad appeal, Betts confidently tackles the despairingly familiar topic of cancer in young people. Zac and Mia however is not a maudlin account of people affected by cancer. It is a marvellous tapestry of conflicting emotions, characters fuelled by fear and love, confronting moments of self-discovery, and above all hope. Love and despair parry with equally matched determination between teenagers Zac and Mia with a rawness that makes you weep and humour that maintains a smile on your face as the tears fall.

A J BettsSimilar to John Green’s, A Fault in our Stars which I’ve yet to read so cannot make a direct comparison to, Zac and Mia is too splendid for words and a marvellous example of pure undiluted Aussie talent with one of the most endearing endings I’ve read, ever. Eloquent, ballsy, poignant, and beautifully told. A must read.

Text Publishing Australia July 2013

True, YA novels take on the tough stuff, unashamedly ramming readers head on into topics and themes often fraught with complicated innuendo, evolving emotions, damaged personalities and questionable social situations, but with writers like these doling out these tales with such sensitivity and sincerity, one can’t help but feel beautifully satisfied.

 

 

 

Your Last Minute Gift Solution

Boomerang Books Gift Vouchers make awesome Christmas Gifts. Here are 9 reasons why you need to buy a Boomerang Books Gift Voucher right now…

1. Ok, admit it…you’ve left your Christmas shopping until the last minute, haven’t you? And now you need to buy something quick smart! Boomerang Books Gift Vouchers are the answer. Guaranteed to arrive before Christmas morning via email.

2.  Ever had to force a smile when presented with a gift that you don’t really want at Christmas?  No fear with our Gift Vouchers! Everyone loves books and your gift recipient can choose what they want from our extensive range of titles.  Let them have the fun of choosing, rather than making the wrong choice on their behalf.

3.  Could you really be bothered battling the crowds at your local shopping centre on Christmas Eve?  No thank you.

4.  Our Gift Vouchers are sent via email, so we guarantee that yourGift Voucher will be delivered to you or directly to your gift recipient by Christmas morning (as long as you order by midnight Christmas Eve).

5.  Take the ‘green’ approach and save on postage and packaging by sending your Gift Voucher directly to the recipient via email. They’ll receive it via their email address, and you’ll get a ‘drop copy’ as proof of delivery. How convenient!

6.  Alternatively, you can opt to have the Gift Voucher sent to your own email address, and then you can print off the voucher and present it to your gift recipient in person on Christmas Day. How personal!

7.  Boomerang Books Gift Vouchers don’t have to be used in one hit — Gift Vouchers work over multiple transactions from our online bookstore, so your gift recipient can space out their purchases as they see fit.

8.  Boomerang Books Gift Vouchers are valid for 12 months from purchase, so your gift recipient has plenty of time to redeem their voucher.

9.  When you buy Boomerang Books Gift Vouchers, you are supporting a small Australian business, not that big American online bookstore beginning with an ‘A’.

Buy a Boomerang Books Gift Voucher right now…

The Twelve Books of Christmas

You may have noticed, with Christmas fast approaching, that the Boomerang Books bloggers have been writing about the festive season — recommending books for Chrissy presents; sharing festive reads; reminiscing about Christmas-themed books; etc. I was originally planning to recommend some Christmas reads… but then I changed my mind. I thought I’d do something a little different. And so (cue music), may I present for your entertainment and amusement, The Twelve Books of Christmas

 

9780140564976On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A kids’ book about a pear tree

The Pear in the Pear Tree by Pamela Allen

 

two-turtle-dovesOn the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

Two Turtle Doves: A Memoir of Making Things by Alex Monroe

 

redhenOn the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The Little Red Hen by Diane Muldrow

 

AngryBirdsOn the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The World of Angry Birds: Official Guide

 

9780261103207On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

 

BestLaidPlansOn the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon

 

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

Swim, Little Wombat, Swim by Charles Fuge

 

milkOn the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Fortunate milking
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

Fortunately, the Milk … by Neil Gaiman

 

DeadGirlsDanceOn the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Dead girls a dancing
Fortunate milking
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine

 

leapingOn the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Tom Fletcher’s Leaping
Dead girls a dancing
Fortunate milking
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

The Leaping by Tom Fletcher

 

holmesOn the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A smart detective Piping
Tom Fletcher’s Leaping
Dead girls a dancing
Fortunate milking
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, edited by Alex Werner

 

drumsOn the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Some Base-ic drumming
A smart detective Piping
Tom Fletcher’s Leaping
Dead girls a dancing
Fortunate milking
Little wombat swimming
Some plans a laying
Lord of the Rings
Some Angry birds
Little Red Hen
Two Turtle Doves
And a kids’ book about a pear tree

Jungle Drums by Graeme Base

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! And Happy Reading!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

halCheck out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — HAL

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Christmas Classics You’ve Read to your Kids – Gabrielle Wang

Gabrielle WangNot everyone may have kids, but all of us unavoidably were kids, once. A fair chunk of my childhood centered around books; reading them and collecting them. Certain stories only ever experienced one reading over 30 years ago, but for reasons inexplicable, remain unforgettably potent and as vivid to me as if I’d read them yesterday. They may not be defined as classics but they remain with me, stuck on my classic-memories-bookshelf for all time and that makes them special. Romancing stories and treasuring them is a habit that started long before I had children of my own, and one, amongst many other multi-cultural traits, I share with shockingly talented children’s author, Gabrielle Wang. The Wish Bird

Today we invite Gabrielle to revisit her bookshelf memories as she unveils some of her ‘classic’ favourites. Perhaps you know some already. Visit Gabrielle’s tremendous selection of books here. There is something beautiful for every child in your life or child still in your heart. Picture books, early readers, YA; it’s cornucopia for the literary soul.

A moment with Gabrielle

I began collecting picture books in my early twenties well before my children were born. I was a graphic designer then and bought the books for their beautiful illustrations. I’m glad I did as many of the titles later became my children’s favourites.

Paddy Porks Holiday Shrewbettina’s Birthday and Paddy Pork’s Holiday by John S Goodall. These wordless picture books with their lovely old-fashioned illustrations were much loved by my daughter when she was learning to speak. They are perfect for that age. In fact they are perfect for any age.

IMG_3209 There’s a Dinosaur in the Park by Rodney Martin, illustrated by John Siow is a picture book about a boy with a big imagination. The illustrations are glorious and it’s a great read-aloud book with very simple text.

Harry the Dirty Dog Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham is a classic and one of my children’s all time favourites. Who can resist the loveable Harry series?

Pig Tale by Helen Oxenbury is a picture book written in verse about Bertha and Briggs who are two bored little pigs. One day they dig up treasure, leaving the peace of the countryside to head to the big city.

World Tales World Tales subtitled The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places is a book of 65 folk tales collected by Idries Shah from around the world. The collection shows how different cultures had remarkably similar folk stories. For example the Algonquin Native American Indian Cinderella story.

The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek by Jenny Wagner, illustrated by Ron Brooks is another timeless picture book. Ron Brooks is an illustrator who always surprises me with his art by pushing the boundaries. After each read my children would sing out, ‘What am I? What am I? What do I look like?’ And I would call back, ‘You look just like me.’

Because deep down we all do… Thanks Gabrielle!

Stay tuned for more Christmas Classics, from the boys next time.

‘When I see Grandma’; A Compelling Account with Author, Debra Tidball

I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. It is the perfect book to share with young and old, and what better time to do so than Christmas time.  

high resDebra Tidball’s ‘When I see Grandma’ is a beautiful, poignant story of life, love, family and compassion. It will make you smile. It will make you teary. It will touch your heart in many ways. So thoughtfully and delicately illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom, the images evoke an array of emotions, and tie in magically with Debra’s gentle phrasing.

When the children visit their sick and elderly grandmother in the aged care home, it is their glowing presence that elicits grandma’s fond memories of her past.

”I’m sometimes sad to see her but I’m always glad that I can brighten her dreams.”

The little girl and her brother bring joy to the elderly through elements of music, ”for her dreams to dance on”, through their laughter and their youthful innocence. She nurtures her grandmother with a little pampering and cuddling, which strengthens the love in her heart. The story ends with a kiss for Daddy until he returns from work, and a kiss for Grandma, to say goodbye. The final image of the family sharing grandma’s old photos, which can be viewed in the endpapers, give the book the perfect uplifting conclusion.Wombat Books 2014.  

debra tidballDebra, congratulations on winning the CALEB Prize, and for being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards for ‘When I see Grandma’! What wonderful achievements!  
Thanks Romi.  

How did you feel when you heard the exciting news of your nomination and win?  
To be short listed for the same award category as the legendary (and our family favourite, Bob Graham) blew me away – he won the Speech Pathology award, but I certainly get bragging rights! And winning the CALEB prize was more quietly and personally gratifying.  

All the royalties of ‘When I see Grandma’ will be donated to the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care fund, which is amazing. What does this connection mean to you personally?  
My mum had dementia and the book is dedicated to her: it is based on visiting her with my two daughters when she was in an aged care home – so it seemed appropriate to donate my royalties to an organisation working in the dementia area. Hazel Hawke was a courageous and warmly regarded public personality and this fund seemed to be the right fit. The fund is administered via Alzheimer’s Australia who have been very supportive.  

Do you have any special childhood memories of your own Grandma?  
It’s interesting you ask that, Romi, because the only contact I had with my grandparents as a child was receiving birthday and Christmas presents from them (which my mother actually bought with money sent from overseas) and writing ‘thank you’ letters in return.  My mum was a ‘£10 pom’ and left her family in London in the 1950’s, so I didn’t meet my grandparents until, at a very elderly age, they came for a visit to Australia when I was a teenager, and it was actually very awkward. Having grown up without that grandparent connection, I was keen for my children to have an ongoing relationship with theirs, and for them them to know my parents as people with full and amazing lives.  

The illustrations in your book, by Leigh Hedstrom, are just beautiful, and instrumental in guiding the story. How involved did you need to be to create these specific images, and how much did you leave to Leigh?  
violin dream openingLeigh felt the story for the start and captured its essence with creativity and with some goose-bump  moments of serendipity. The first sketch she sent through was of grandma by the water hole in her swimmers – and I knew from that moment she would be perfect. The manuscript I sent to her had illustrative ideas which she took on board but the dream sequences were not an easy concept to illustrate. The idea I initially had didn’t work, and I loved the way Leigh wrestled with how to portray these pages – she sent a number of rough ideas, through the publisher, to me for comment – I appreciated the way I was consulted through the whole process and how Leigh valued feedback. I was thrilled with how it ended up – particularly the symbolic trail of flowers, laughter, hearts etc that link the bedroom scenes to the dreams. And I love the cartoon like characters and the vibrant colours which I wouldn’t have imagined but engage children so very well, adding fun and vibrancy to the narrative and giving the story it’s uplifting feel.  
I wrote the visual narrative of the young boy and his interactions with the residents into the story but Leigh was initially unsure that she could squeeze that onto the page – I’m so glad she managed it as it adds another layer to the story, about community, that I think is so important.  
As for serendipity, the little touches that had a huge emotional impact for me were Leigh having grandma dancing with grandpa in uniform – unbeknown to her, my father was in the Air Force and my parents started going out dancing when Mum started nursing; and the father in the story, both as a little boy and an adult, is a replica of my husband (glasses, hair colour, build, musical interest) whom Leigh had never met.  
It has Leigh’s personal touches too – the toys on the page where the grandmother is playing with her child are an expression of Leigh’s love of Disney, and she sneakily made the book that the mother reads with the class another of her collaborations (Marty’s Nut Free Party). The use of the endpapers to replicate an old photo album and to recognise some of these photos on pages throughout the book is an inspired way to weave a thread that wraps the whole together. I could go on….  

When I see Grandma’ is a lovely tribute to all Grandparents, but also fosters an appreciation for family connectedness. What message do you hope for readers, young and old, to gain from reading your story?  
I hope that readers get a sense that people are so much more than they seem at any one point in time, that everyone has a history and personal stories that are rich and vibrant and make up who they are – even when they are handicapped by age or illness. I hope, too that readers understand the importance for everyone to include children in an aged care community, and that a sense of connection can be made across generations despite apparent barriers.  

What does the festive season mean for you and your family?  
Christmas is a time for reflection and recharging after a busy year. We love to spend quiet family days and attend church. It’s also a nice time to catch up with extended family and friends who’ve been neglected during the year. Having spent last Christmas in the northern hemisphere, I realised I’m very much an Aussie girl – nothing says Christmas to me like summer – sleepy reading days relaxing outdoors with the smell of sunscreen and smoke (only from the BBQ hopefully!)  

Do you have any special traditions that you follow every year?  
As my children have grown up a lot these past few years (they are now adults) it is interesting to see what traditions have stood the test of time. We like to go to choral services at our local church together, beginning the with advent service of lessons and carols. We are excited to exchange presents on Christmas Day and Peter Combe’s Christmas album is still the album of choice to accompany this ritual. We may have a feast or famine of decorations – the gloss goes off glamming up the house or Christmas tree when the children realise that the pulling out the bling is always easier than packing it away. But remembering Christmas past is always part of the fun! I’m not a fruit cake fan, but I look forward to my Ice Cream Christmas Cake all year.    

What is your favourite Christmas children’s book?  
One with many happy memories from my younger years is a beautiful pop-up book of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement C Moore and Tom Patrick – it was marvellously interactive both physically and narratively. More recently, it would be a tie between The Nativity by Julie Vivas and Wombat Divine by Mem Fox.  

endpaper when i see grandma You’ve had great success with your writing in 2014. What do you aim to achieve in 2015?
I have a few other manuscripts out to publishers as well as some other writing projects, so next year it would be great to have something accepted for publication – fingers crossed! I will also continue to search avenues to promote ‘When I see Grandma’ because it is such a pertinent and topical story, and it has the potential to be enduring.  

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Debra! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season with your friends and family!  
Thanks Romi 🙂  

Connect with Debra Tidball:
http://www.debratidball.com/
https://www.facebook.com/debratidballpage  

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Dim’s Top 25 Cracking Christmas Reads for Kids

All righty, you’ve noted what others are reading this Christmas. You are possibly getting a little woozy from a department store diet of flashy titles and quick fixes but you still haven’t managed to locate that special literary treasure for the younger person or young at heart person in your life.

The following list is by no means definitive or complete but it includes some of the past year’s most inspiring, evocative and memorable reads for me. It’s a composition of glorious, emotion packed picture books, laugh-out-loud midgrade readers, and heart stopping YA thrillers. In short, a real mixed bag of goodies, mostly Australian, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to review this year. Use it as a reminder of some of the more notable releases of 2014 (and beyond) and a springboard into the vast, ever expanding reservoir of Kids’ Lit. Here we go:

Top 25 Cracking Reads (in no particular order)

  1. The Art of Racing in the Rain The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein –  An extraordinary uniquely told story of good versus evil, the essence of power and knowledge and the meaning of true conviction. It’s ultimately also a tale about the strength of love at  every level; portrayed through the eyes and thoughts of Enzo, the family dog, with exceptional reality and heart. Written with uncompromising warmth and wit, this is a novel I could easily pick up and start all over again for the sheer sense of freedom it stirred up and the wonderful realities it forced me, as a mere human, to take stock of.
  2. Figgy in the World by Tamsin JanuGorgeous tale of courage, tenacity and humility and an outstanding example of simplicity that truly impacts, set in Africa’s heartland. Ideal for idealistic 7 + year olds.
  3. The Duck and the Darklings by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King – A whimsical journey of despair, discovery, renewal and hope that is indeed a little bit strange, a little bit dark and a little bit different. It is also a lot of wonderful. Click on the title for full review of this devastatingly brilliant picture book.
  4. Are You Seeing Me Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth – Utterly utterly utterly deserving of the investment of your time and heart. Searingly beautiful and funny and sad and real. Like life itself.
  5. Smooch and Rose by Samantha Wheeler – A tale of one girl’s courageous and staunch attempt to stand up to the big guns of development in hope of keeping at least part of a local koalas’ habitat intact told with moving conviction.
  6. Weir Do series by Anh Do – A heavily illustrated cartoon-like, side-splittingly humorous series of novels that will cause kids to smash open their piggy banks. A real rib tickling and surprisingly tender look at today’s social diversity, family make-up, and how little kids with unfortunate names fit into the mix.
  7. Oliver by Judith Rossell – Superb. Clear, clever clarity. Oliver is everyone’s younger brother, kid next door, beguiling 6 year old, and he is perfect. I wanna go jet packing with him for ever. Because every one wants to fly.
  8. Word Hunters Word Hunters Trilogy by Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne – Ingenious, action packed trilogy oddly but most effectively centering on the etymology of English. A tour of history clothed in modern day witticism. Loved it.  Exhilarating and gripping. Lovers of words, history and adventure will revere this series.
  9. Eric Vale Series by Michael Gerard Bauer – Mr Bauer’s books are never ever short on style, wit or substance. A definite epic WIN for Eric. Kids can prolong their enjoyment with the spinoff series, Derek Danger Dale.
  10. Once a Creepy Crocodile by Peter Taylor and Nina Rycroft – An entertaining Aussie mash-up of The Gruffalo meets the best of billabong bush lore. Absolutely adored this easy to sing-a-long with picture book rendition of Walting Matilda.
  11. The Croc and the Platypus by Jackie Hosking and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall – An ingenious retelling of a childhood classic, The Owl and the Pussycat however, much more loose and flowing and bizarrely, even easier to read than the original. A great picture book to include on your classics shelf with heavy accent on Australiana.
  12. My Mum Says the Strangest Things My Mum Says the Strangest Things by Katrina Germein – The Katrina Germein and Tom Jellet team that gave us My Dad Thinks he’s Funny and My Dad Still Thinks he’s Funny, train their humorous cross-hairs on mum’s idiosyncratic refrains this time, with deadly accuracy. For adult readers, the sweet irony of mum’s idiomatic expressions is difficult to ignore and impossible not to relate to. This books cracks me up every single time.
  13. Awesome Aussie Things to Do with Mum by Ed Allen and Simon Williams – A lovely little (hardcover) book full of lovely little things to share with mum, especially if you are in need of a creative, recreational past-time other than looming. Some old fashioned fun favourites to share with your kids (like Knuckle Bones!) with the underlying message that the most awesome thing of all that you can do for mum is…’to let her do absolutely nothing at all.’ There’s a Dads’ version too.
  14. 12 10 front cover PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? by Dimity Powell (How did that get in here?) Quite possibly the dinkiest little Christmas mystery you’ll find this side of the Christmas tree packed with more laughs than you’ll find raisons in your fruit mince pies. A must for your stockings!
  15. Jake in Space Series banner Jake in Space Series by Candice Lemon-Scott and Celeste Hulme – Galaxies of intergalactic fun. Space-aged adventures mid-primary school kids can really get carried away with – providing they have their space suits on. And there’s six in the series which gives young readers plenty of time and incentive to explore the entire universe!  The covers are truly out of this world.
  16. monster chef Monster Chef by Nick Bland – Nick Bland has moved on from bears to monsters in this spicy little offering about challenging ones fears and striving to stand out with delicious rhyming verse and illustrations. A kind of Master Chef meets master storyteller.
  17. The Nights before Christmas illustrated by Tony Ross – The penultimate Advent Calendar for bibliophiles and true lovers of Christmas. Click on title for full review. My Christmas pick of the season.
  18. Edward and the Great Discovery by Rebecca McRitchie and Celeste Hulme – A picture book tale about hope and daring gently exposing young readers to the wonders of natural history.  Both exciting and touching and a wondrous introduction to scientific discovery whilst fostering a deeper understanding of true friendship.
  19. Vanilla Icecream by Bob Graham – Any list would be incomplete without a Bob Graham offering. Click on title for full review. You will be hard pressed to find a better way to introduce the complex ideals of human rights, fate, and immigration to young ones where a lightness of touch is more readily comprehended than harsh dry facts than with this beautiful picture book.
  20. Violet Mackerel Series by Anna Branford and Sarah Davis Impossibly brilliant seven book series, exquisitely illustrated and divinely humorous and touching. My primary schooler soaks up Violets’ stories with infinite delight. Highly recommended.
  21. Bully on the Bus Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Apel / Roses are Blue by Sally Murphy Simply must include two in this verse novel listing. Both incredibly poignant and beautifully crafted novels dealing with bullying and loss respectively from two of the best verse authors in the biz. Sustained, moving storytelling that will leave you with wet eyes and an overflowing heart.
  22. Little Chef Big Curse by Tilney Cotton – Possibly one of the most exuberant reads I’ve enjoyed in ages. I’m not sure if it’s because of the foodie in me or the zealous, ribaldry with which Cotton writes but Little Chef, BIG Curse is utterly delectable and insanely moreish. Click on title for full review.
  23. The Boy on the Page by Peter Carnavas – An exceptionally good picture book about a small boy’s life journey as he attempts to fathom that most ponderous of human dilemmas: the meaning of life. Existentialism stripped bare and very beautiful.
  24. Midnight by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac / The Horses Didn’t Come Home by Pamela Rushby – Again I must include two titles, one a picture book, one a YA novel, that each focus on the the great First World War campaigns involving the Australian light horse regiments. Each of these books deals with the campaign in the Sinai desert in a way that young readers will resonate with even though the story is over 90 years old. Heart-wrenchingly evocative with strong patriotic and historic appeal.
  25. The Simple Things The Simple Things by Bill Condon In a world that I find increasingly more and more complicated, The Simple Things is a refreshing and realistic breath of fresh air. Click on title for full review. Easy to read and easy to like, it’s ‘smiley face perfect’.

There you have it. Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the beauty these words and sounds and images create for our children’s worlds. Nurture their imaginations, enrich their knowledge, and embolden their dreams with as many books as you can get your hands on for them this Christmas!

 

Christmas Classics you’ve read to you kids – Christine Bongers

Little Golden Books The Night Before ChristmasFellow Boomerang Blogger, Romi Sharp recently congratulated me on hitting my first century. Gob smacked! I mean I don’t even own a cricket bat, let alone know how to hold one. She meant blogs of course. I hardly noticed. They rack up and slip by like birthdays these days. Nonetheless, even numbers deserve celebration (especially ones with many zeros), so while I wait for Boomerang to deliver the gold-embossed book prize and bubbly, I thought I’d pass the time with another lady who knows how to rack em up with infinite style and humour.Chris Bongers 2

Celebrated Brisbane YA and kids’ author, Christine Bongers is no stranger to bedtime reads, having indulged in this past time with her own four children over the years. Today we discover some of the classics the Bongers family pulled out to share together at this time of year. (I’ll go the extra Christmas Bon Bon please Christine – I think it might be a while before the bubbly arrives!)

Christine’s Christmas Classics

Hubba huMother Goosebby and I read to our four kids from the time they were babies: nursery rhymes, Mother Goose, and truck loads of Little Golden Books that we had left over from our own childhoods. I loved picture books – Edwina the Emu and Wilfrid Gordon Macdonald Partridge stand out in my memory – but have to say that our kids were making their own reading decisions by the time they could talk and we had precious little say in the matter!

Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg* celebrateWacky Wednesday

It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall . . . ? Shouldn’t be there at all!
Then I looked up. And I said, “Oh, MAN!”
And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began.

After twenty-odd years, I can still recite those opening lines from memory. That’s how many times I read this madcap romp to our eldest. Preschoolers love pandemonium and spotting the twenty wacky moments captured in New Yorker cartoonist George Booth’s illustrations never got old for the wacky funster in our family.Wacky Wednesday illo

[*A bonus Christmas bonbon for anyone who recognised author Theo LeSieg as a wacky version of Theodore Geisel – or as he is more commonly known, Dr Seuss!)

 The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Our youngeCaptain Underpants 2st adored Captain Underpants, so good old Santa could be relied on to pop the latest offering into his Christmas stocking each year. By the time he was in Grade Three he had eight volumes jockeying for position on his shelf and I swear by all I hold holy that we read each and every one of them at least one hundred times before he moved on to Harry Potter.

 The BFG by Roald Dahl

Our youngest daughter revelled in Dahl’s subversive tales (particularly Matilda with the eye-wateringly awful headmistress The Trunchbull), but it was the simple giant with the deep insights, dream collecting and jumbled and inventive turn of phrase that she returned to again and again. And why not, I say. What’s not to love about little girls doing great things in league with a giant?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Lion Witch and Wardrobe

This was our big girl’s favourite childhood read ever (along with The Hobbit). Narnia has provided a magical escape, not only for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, but for children everywhere for more than half a century and its appeal hasn’t diminished with BFG illothe years. As a matter of fact, I’ve just got my hands on a beautiful boxed set – a happy Christmas present for a certain little Lucy in my own extended family. So what books will be in your Christmas stocking this year? 

Good question Christine. How big is my Christmas stocking allowed to be?

I’ll be asking the same thing to other inspiring authors in the next few weeks. Get ready to flex your reading memory muscles.

Add more of Christine’s entertaining work including the recently released gripping YA read, Intruder to your new classics lists by visiting here.

 

What I’m reading this Christmas: Amanda Diaz, HarperCollins Publishers

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Amanda Diaz.

Thank you for having me!

You’re a publicist at HarperCollins Publishers and you’re going to share your Christmas picks with us. But first let’s find out about you and some books you’ve been working on.

HarperCollins Australia (based in Sydney) is known for its children’s/YA books as well as its adult list. Which do you work on/prefer?

I’m the publicity manager for HarperCollins Children’s Books, which for me is a dream job as I absolutely love kids and YA books.

You’re a publicist – what does a publicist do? AD pic

Basically the job is about creating exposure for books in order to drive awareness and sales. That’s not a very sexy way to put it, but that’s the bare bones. It requires being very calm, patient and organised.

A publicist works to get attention for books through social media, blogs and websites, festivals, signings, conventions and school visits as well as newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Media exposure can come in a number of forms – from giveaways and extracts to reviews and interviews.

How did you get this job?

While I was interning in the HarperCollins editorial department during my last semester of uni, I was in the right place at the right time to be hired for an admin assistant role in publishing operations. My dream was to work in the children’s team though, so when the publicist role came up, I went for it.

I suspect you love all the books you promote, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of.

I’m very proud to have worked with Children’s Laureate Jackie French on ten books so far. All her work is so excellent, it’s a privilege to be involved in a small way. It’s also been very exciting to work on Veronica Roth’s Divergent series – especially with the recent release of the movie.

Touring with George RR Martin in November last year was also absolutely unforgettable. He is a literary rockstar and so lovely and gracious to boot.

What is different/special about HarperCollins? 

In a business-sense, we have a fantastic mix of commercial and literary stories. There’s truly something for every reader. On a personal level, I’m lucky enough to work with the best team ever at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Everyone is so smart, passionate, hilarious, open and creative. Sometimes we have to pretend not to be having as much fun as we really are, lest others think we’re not actually working.

All the truth that's in meWhat are some awards HarperCollins has won that have particular significance for you?

The Australian Centre for Youth Literature runs the annual Inky Awards – where teen judges and readers decide on their favourite local and international YA titles – and this year, the Silver Inky was won by All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry. This is a book that was very special to everyone in house and to see it receive such fantastic recognition from readers was so wonderful and affirming.

What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?

We have to work smarter in competing for people’s attention spans, but the key to doing this is always going to be finding really excellent stories.

If you’re in a book club, what book have you enjoyed discussing?

I’m not in a book club – I’ve tried it out a couple of times, but I always get too impatient with how long it takes for the other members to finish reading the book! But I do run our YA Twitter account – @HarperCollinsYA and love talking to our followers but the books we’re all reading.

Once Upon an AlphabetWhat are some must-reads over Christmas?

Young kids – and their parents and grandparents – will absolutely fall in love with both Once Upon an Alphabet and Count my Christmas Kisses, while cheeky youngsters will adore There is a Monster Under my Christmas Tree Who Farts.

Withering-by-Sea is a fantastic middle-grade Victorian fantasy adventure that young girls will NEED. (It’s the prettiest book you’ve ever seen.)

(See my post on it here)

My YA summer favourites are A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and Jessica Shirvington’s Disruption duology. You can’t go past these picks for action-packed reads with a dash of swoonworthy romance.

The ultimate must-read though is Jackie French’s stunning WWII epic To Love a Sunburnt Country (available 1st December). This is the best thing Jackie has ever written. You won’t be able to put it down, you’ll probably cry and you’ll certainly never forget it.

What is your secret reading pleasure?

My secret reading pleasure is definitely re-reading. You’d be embarrassed for me if I revealed how many times I’ve re-read favourite books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Pride and Prejudice.Disruption

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Amanda.

It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Withering-by-Sea

 

 

Rounding up the Reindeers – Frivolous Fun Reads

Okay, so the countdown is on: Chrissy pudding curing away; Christmas turkey ordered; extra chairs stacked ready for those visiting hoards. Santa’s list might even already be on its way to the North Pole but you realise you have a few more stockings to stuff. Here are a bunch of playful festive reads that may be a little low on literary beef but will deck your halls with seasonal joy and verve. They are guaranteed to keep anyone up to six years-old thoroughly amused for at least as long as it takes to roast your Christmas turkey. And the best part? You can sing-a-long to just about every one of them!

One NightExcept this one,…One Night by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King is perhaps the least frivolous of the bunch being a heart-warming retelling about the legend of talking animals who magically relive the night Jesus was born every Christmas Eve at midnight. The conversational narrative paired with Stephen Michael King’s divine watercolour illustrations is so dreamlike, you’ll want to wish upon a star and listen out for the animals at midnight too.

Omnibus Books October 2014

Santa's Busy ReindeerForget about ten green bottles – Santa’s Busy Reindeer means red, as in Rudolph’s nose, is the new green. Ed Allen teams up with Sydney illustrator, Nathaniel Eckstrom as ten of Santa’s reindeer scramble madly to get a sleigh load of pressies delivered on time. Trouble is, they are too easily distracted for their own good. A jolly read-aloud counting book that embraces the sillier bits of the silly season.

Scholastic Australia October 2014

Keep an eye on your Christmas tree and everything under it because that bloke’s back and his Christmas appetite is bigger than a five year-old’s wish list to Santa.

There was an Old Bloke who Swallowed a PresentThere was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present is bigger, brighter and even more ludicrous than previous Old Bloke and Old Lady books by P. Crumble and Louis Shea. Brimming with batty brilliance, this is visual gravy for your festive fare. It left me wondering though, how much that Old Bloke looks like someone I know. Possibly one of the best titles I’ve read in this series.

Scholastic Australia October 2014
The Twelve Days of ChristmasTake it down a gear or two with The Twelve Days of Christmas. Alison Jay’s distinctive fine art work gives this well-known song an almost vintage feel. The sumptuous illustrations are visually stimulating yet instil a genteel tranquillity in contrast to the frenetic rising tempo of the song, suggesting that you can have too much of a good thing. Merry makers be warned!

Koala Books October 2014

Amelie and Nanette SnowflakesFor little girls who want a bit more of a bedtime story to fall into dreams with, try Amelie and Nanette: Snowflakes and Fairy Wishes by Sophie Tilley. It’s all things soft and sugary just like the tops of the girls’ fairy cakes and just as sickly sweet in parts but then Christmas is the time to allow a bit of self-indulgence. Shimmering tinsel stars, enduring friendships and fairy wings are de rigueur for these two this Christmas.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books October 2014

Yikes Santa ClawsNeed something for the mini male monster masters in your life then whack Yikes, Santa Claws! by Pamela Butchart and Sam Lloyd on your list. It has dinosaurs, Santa, the word ‘poo’ in it and a nice lilting rhythm. Winner!

Bloomsbury Publishing November 2014

Ella and Olivia Christmas CountdownEJ Hide and PeekLet your slightly older readers snuggle up with these early reader chapter books as you digest the last of the fruit mince pies. Fans and followers of Ella and Olivia will be in raptures with their Christmas instalment of Christmas Wonderland, while EJ 10 recruits can join Emma Jacks as she discovers why Christmas can be full of surprises in Hide and Peek.

Scholastic October 2014

Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle Glen Singleton’s illustrations just scream Australiana for me, which may explain why I tried to scream this picture book aloud to my family with such unbridled enthusiasm. Perhaps I should have relied more on the bonus CD thoughtfully included. Happy to report my rendition of this popular Chrissy carol did nothing to diminish their enjoyment of Colin Buchanan’s (along with Greg Champion) and Glen Singleton’s Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle.

Syd Echidna is in the throes of sprucing up his shed for Christmas when a wretched willy-willy ‘undecorates’ all his hard work. Exasperated beyond exhaustion, Syd slips into a deep sleep while a troop of his best mates set to work on a bonza Christmas surprise for him.

Leg thumping, sing-along jocularity that will be getting lots of airplay around these parts this season. Because who doesn’t love a bit of song and dance at Christmas time? Make sure your kids are part of the fun.

Scholastic Australia October 2014

These aren’t even the tip of the iceberg, more a small bump somewhere near the top a North Pole-sized mountain of cool Chrissy reads available this season. Be sure to look around our other posts for more great kids’ titles.

If you’re looking for gifts with less focus on Christmas flavour but equal heart and soul, keep an eye out for my next post: Dim’s Top 25 Cracking Christmas Reads for Kids.

 

 

Kim Fleming Draws on Her Experience as Illustrator of ‘Mummy, You’re Special To Me’

Kim_Fleming_2010Kim Fleming knows how to tell a great story. She tells stories through pictures. Kim’s art creates a sense of affection, warmth and joy. Born in Canada, this now Melbournite has found her calling in illustrating children’s books. She has previously illustrated such picture books as the gorgeous True Blue Santa written by Anne Mangan, Cherish Your Skin by Amy and Jenifer Kuykendall, and Surprise! by Karen Andrews.

Her latest creation is the absolutely lovely Mummy, You’re Special To Me (Scholastic Australia) written by Laine Mitchell. Although released early this year for Mother’s Day, this book is on my gift list for Christmas.  

9781742839813Throughout the book, we meet a range of animal babies who give a sweet example of their extraordinary mummy. And each rhyming verse ends with the same ode, ”Mummy, you’re special to me.”  

”My mummy is kind. She makes hurts alright.
My mummy is brave. She’s as strong as a knight!
Mummy, you’re special to me.”
 

As we follow the little giraffe on its’ journey around the world, we encounter varied species of super-mums who are patient, entertaining, playful, artistic, smart, teachers, jokers and nurturers.
Kim Fleming so lovingly captures all the care and adoration between mother and child. From soft watercolour tones to gentle brush strokes, dabs and flicks, to the cutest of animal drawings, Kim’s illustrations are just magical.  

I’ve had the pleasure to be able to find out her perspective on being an illustrator; the talented artist behind Mummy, You’re Special To Me – Kim Fleming.     

You have illustrated many texts from picture books to chapter books, as well as educational resources. What do you love about illustrating children’s books? Which book type do you find the most rewarding, and why?
The majority of the books I have illustrated are picture books, which I definitely find the most rewarding as an illustrator. Whereas in chapter books or educational books the illustrations are adding to the story, in picture books the illustrations ARE the story. Building a visual narrative which augments the text, or subverts the text, or adds in a sub story not even mentioned in the text is incredibly fun and exciting to conceptualise. I love it when I can really sink my teeth into a project.        

Your illustrations are simply beautiful. Do you have a specific style or subjects that you prefer? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
First of all, thank you so much! I’d have to say that I most enjoy illustrating animals and themes stemming from nature and our surrounds. I also really enjoy travel in my own life so illustrations of different cultures where I need to do some “research” into different environments is always stimulating. Inspiration comes from all over – my collection of ephemera from travels and magazine flipping, a particular collage paper, an interesting billboard, a unique window display, and of course fellow artists and illustrators. Pinterest is dangerous!  

What is your favourite medium to use?
Definitely watercolours. I also add into that coloured pencils, collage, sometimes acrylics, and occasionally hand-carved stamps as well!  

Who is your favourite artist/s?  
I find it very difficult to come to a decision on my ‘all-time favourite’ artist, so instead I talk about my CURRENT favourite artists, because they are always changing:  
I love Pamela Zagarenski’s beautiful textures and evocative compositions.
I find Catherine Rayner’s fabulous characters and style are so charming.  
Fabulous surface designer (and friend) Rebecca Jones has a wonderful style and sense of colour, and her characters are so sweet.  

Octo-mama_cropWhat was your favourite part of ‘Mummy, You’re Special to Me’ to illustrate?  
The editors came to me with the idea of having a different animal mother and child for each page, so I think the best part was coming up with all of the different animals to illustrate each verse. The octopus mother enacting a stage play with puppets on each tentacle was a particular favourite. I also really enjoyed coming up with all the cheeky actions for the giraffe in the background.    

What was the hardest part?
This will sound trite, but there really was no hard part. Normally a book will have SOME challenge in creation, but this one truthfully flowed from start to finish and was a real joy to work on. I wish every book was like this one!  

Mummy-You-are-Special-to-Me_24_giraffeWhich animal is your favourite to draw? Why?  
Funnily, I do love a giraffe. The giraffe has been a mascot of mine for many years, he appears on my business card and website and always has. So the fact that Mummy You’re Special To Me’s main character was a giraffe was perfect. I think they are just such funny animals. Natural selection is a curious thing!  

What was the highlight for you in 2014?  
The release of Mummy You’re Special To Me was definitely a highlight. I have also been getting back into animation for the first time in years, animating a children’s app which has been loads of fun!    

Are there any special milestones or events that you are looking forward to in 2015?
The announcement that Mummy You’re Special To Me will be released as a board book version in English and French by Scholastic Canada next year is such a joy for me, because I was born in Canada and speak French!   I’m also working on another book for Scholastic Australia at the moment, and I’m looking forward to the launch of the app I mentioned, with hopefully another app in the pipeline.  

That’s great! I look forward to seeing more from you! Thank you for your time, Kim! I really appreciate you talking with Boomerang Books!  
Thanks so much to you Romi and to Boomerang Books!

Have a look at Kim’s stunning website at:
http://www.kimflemingillustration.com
Follow Kim Fleming at:
https://www.facebook.com/KimFlemingIllustration
twitter: @lilkimfleming

Interview by Romi Sharp
http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
twitter: @mylilstorycrner

Christmas (Back Catalogue Of) Book Ideas

Vampire AcademyIt’s that time of year when we turn our thoughts to what the heck we are going to source for our loved ones without having to set foot in a physical, upselling store amid millions of similarly harried customers who may or may not have experienced or dished out some carpark rage on their way in.

The problem is that I’ve read few books of my choice this year, and I’m acutely feeling the results of that as I now wrack my brain for book gift ideas. (I only ever give books as presents and my friends and family have come to expect this. As a writer, I’m the one who’s most supposed to be across new releases and quirky finds. Rightly or wrongly, they’re happy to leave the reading recommendations and book buying to me.)

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to read. I have mini mountains of books waiting to be read not so ferreted away in my tiny, one-bedroom apartment. And it’s not that I haven’t been reading. But I’m midway through my PhD (something I rarely talk about because the mere mention of it makes me sound like a pretentious prat) and the workload and the wading through unnecessarily dense journal articles has left me little brain space and even less time for reading for pleasure.

So instead, this year’s gift collection is increasingly looking like a Christmas back catalogue of books I’ve liked and would heartily endorse. Even this is not an exhaustive list (see aforementioned note re: lack of requisite brainspace). What’s clear is that with the exception of a left-of-field reading bomb to give my brain a break (think Twilight and Vampire Academy), my reading and gift-giving preferences skew strongly to the end-of-the-world-meets-saving-the-world creative non-fiction.

Race of a LifetimeI’ve blogged about most (if not all) of the books here before, so if you’re super keen you’re welcome to seek those blogs out and get a more detailed perspective. But the books are also listed because they’re one that haunt me, even through a study-induced brain fog. That’s surely a sign of a good book, right?

Suffice to say, if you’re looking for some Christmas present ideas I’d urge you towards any and/or all of the below. And if you have any suggestions for books I should be both gifting now and adding to my pile of books to be read once uni’s over (a pile that I can’t feasibly ever imagine myself getting through, but that’s an altogether different issue), feel free to mention them in the comments field below.

So, in no particular order and knowing I’ve forgotten more than a few, I suggest*:

Yes PleaseBooks I would most likely recommend had I had the time to read them would include:

  • Yes Please (which it seems like everyone is reading right now. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your verdict)
  • Grave Mercy (it’s about young-adult book a girl who runs away from an arranged marriage to a convent where she becomes an assassin. Or something. It had me at the tagline: Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?).

*As a side note, I also think most of those books would be appropriate reading for the politicians and media and more descending on Australia for the G20.

Gothic Tales for Christmas

Withering-by-SeaThree gothic novels by Australian authors will intrigue primary-school aged (and slightly older) readers who enjoy reading about danger cloaked in mystique and how children can overcome this.

Withering-by-Sea (ABC Books) is written and illustrated by Judith Rossell, whose talent is really taking wings. She has also illustrated picture books, which include Ten Little Circus Mice and Too Tight, Benito and she wrote and illustrated Ruby and Leonard. Withering-by-Sea is the first of the ‘A Stella Montgomery Intrigue’ series – what a fascinating name for a series. Stella lives in the Hotel Majestic at Withering-by-Sea with her formidable aunts. The scene is set for skullduggery when Stella witnesses new guest, Mr Filbert, bury something in the conservatory, the lush garden Stella regards as her Amazon playground. She is thrown into a diabolical situation when she witnesses a burglary and murder.

Another atmospheric gothic tale is Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee (Hot Key Books). Foxlee’s debut was a novel for adults, The Anatomy of Wings. She followed that with The Midnight Dress (one of my 2013 best books for young adults) and now she has triumphed with an original story set in a snowy city’s museum. With a countdown to Christmas Eve, Ophelia’s father is Ophelia and the Marvellous Boypreparing a sword exhibition. The museum where he works is a fantastic maze of exhibits and displays: the exhibition of elephants, the pavilion of wolves, an arcade of mirrors, a room full of telephones, a gallery of teaspoons, a checkerboard floor, paintings of girls in party dresses and, most importantly, The Wintertide Clock. The whole building is like an enormous cabinet of curiosities and this is where Ophelia discovers the Marvellous Boy, whose story intersects with that of the evil Snow Queen. Ophelia must race time and winter to save those she loves from the Snow Queen but she is invested with the power to be the defender of goodness and happiness and hope.

N.J. Gemmell’s sequel to The Kensington Reptilarium for both girls and boys, The Icicle Illuminarium, is also structured loosely around Christmas. The Australian Caddy children, who are living in England, are preparing an extravaganza for the Twelfth Night of Christmas when the story begins. But when their father’s health declines, they set off to find the mother who is presumed dead but may actually be alive. Their quest takes them to the mysterious, moth-eaten Icicle Illuminarium.

See more about this book at http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/meet-n-j-gemmell-author-of-the-icicle-illuminarium/2014/10.

These three stories are well written and imaginative, with elements of the macabre, but they ultimately reward hope, love and goodness over evil in true Christmas spirit.

Icicle Illuminarium

 

Christmas Collectibles

One NightA plethora of picture books about Christmas are published each year. Some are froth and bubble, as unsatisfying as cheap tinsel. Others are excellent, and should be shared with children and families in the lead-up to Christmas Day or join the collections of  avid Christmas book collectors.

Some standouts for 2014 that are already available are One Night by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King (Omnibus Books, Scholastic) and The Christmas Rose by Wendy Blaxland and Lucy Hennessy (Walker Books Australia). One Night is an Australian retelling of the birth of Jesus. Stephen Michael King’s illustrations illuminate this miraculous event. The Christmas Rose is a beautiful piece of art and writing which tells the story of a girl who follows the shepherds and the star to the stable to give the Saviour a gift.

Christmas Rose

 

A fun Australiana addition to Christmas this year is Colin Buchanan, Greg Champion and Glenn Singleton’s Deck the Shed with Bits of Wattle (Scholastic). It comes with a bonus CD. Effervescent musician and writer, Buchanan, is accumulating a significant body of work for children. Seek him out.

Some older titles for Christmas book collectors and aficionados that are worth a look if you haven’t already come across them are –

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King (who also illustrated One Night), a very Australian story which achieved the distinction of being a CBCA shortlisted book, rare for a ‘seasonal’ book.

The ABC Book of Christmas is distinctive because it features art by Australian illustrators, including Stephen Michael King (the king of Australian Christmas illustration), Ann James, Judith Rossell, Wayne Harris, Greg Rogers and Anna Walker.

Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan, is a very funny account of the birth of Jesus, told from the grumpy innkeeper’s point of view. For those scratching their heads for Christmas play ideas, this book can easily be adapted as a performance or readers’ theatre. The Nativity Play by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen would also be helpful to read during the festive season. And Mem Fox and Kerry Argent continue the nativity play theme with the Australian contemporary classic, Wombat Divine.

jesus' christmas partyA Christmas Story by eminent UK illustrator, Brian Wildsmith, tells the Christmas story from the point of view of a girl and donkey. Other high-quality picture books told from animals’ perspectives are On This Special Night by Claire Freedman and Simon Mendez; and the original, humorous, The Lion, the Unicorn and Me by esteemed author Jeanette Winterson, illustrated by Rosalind MacCurrach.

British artist, Christian Birmingham has illustrated some sumptuous Christmas books including The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. P.J. Lynch has also illustrated Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol exquisitely.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and is a contemporary Christmas parable.

Newbery medal winner, Kate DiCamillo has crafted a profoundly moving story of a girl who cares for a stranger at Christmas time in Great Joy. It is superbly illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

And The Tale of the Three Trees, retold by Angela Elwell Hunt and illustrated by Tim Jonke, beautifully combines the Christmas and Easter stories.

Tale of the Three Trees

Does anyone actually read on the beach?

With summer well on the way in Australia, I’ve noticed our thoughts have begun to shift away from snuggling down or curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. Instead we start talking and thinking about lying on the grass with our favourite book, reclining in the sunshine and enjoying a good ‘beach read’.

What is a beach book anyway? I always understood it to be an easy breezy read that didn’t require any brain power in a ‘check your brain at the door’ kind of way. The more I think about it though, the more I disagree. If you’re on holiday and your everyday stresses are out of your mind, wouldn’t this be the best time to tackle a more challenging read? Wouldn’t it be easier to tackle War and Peace while on holiday than during a busy work week?

I recently voted in the Classic Beach Books competition currently featured on The ABC’s Book Club website and found myself wondering if anyone actually reads their book on the beach. I don’t go to the beach much these days, but when I do I love to watch the rhythmic rolling of the waves, the slow movement of the tide, swimmers and surfers frolicking in the water, distant ships and the calming effect of the horizon. I enjoy all of this too much to think of ignoring the scene in front of me and whipping my book out for a sneaky chapter.Beach Read

Even if I could ignore the scene before me, the idea of sunscreen-smeared fingers, squealing kids, squinting in the sunshine, and sand between the pages just doesn’t inspire a relaxing reading environment for me. What about you? Do you read at the beach? Do you enjoy a ‘beach read’ in the summer or any time of the year?

I found this quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh from Gift From The Sea: “The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.”

I think I agree with her that the beach isn’t a place to read or work, but I think it’s the perfect place to think. There’s nothing better than taking a long walk along the beach and analysing a problem, turning a question over in your mind, or calming down after an argument. The sea and salt water are often cathartic and healing, although I can never still my mind enough to read my book there.

I’d love to know where you enjoy reading over summer and if anyone actually reads on the beach or if this is just a bookish myth.

 

Doodles and Drafts – A visit from Santa and Glen Singleton

Santa's Magic BeardIs there anybody else out there who, like me, thinks it can’t possibly be only 5 weeks until Christmas? Just 37 days left to sort the cards, deck the halls, knock back a cup or two of good cheer and squeeze in a few book signings, never mind about drafting a list for Santa.

Thankfully the crafty, creative critters at Macadamia House have been working harder than a workshop full of elves and come up with a sensational gift solution sure to lessen your pre-Christmas planning predicaments.

Santa’s Magic Beard hits the shelves this month and is a glorious celebration of the real magic and meaning of Christmas. Author, Em Horsfield and illustrator, Glen Singleton, successfully team up again for a third time in the Nutmobile series, delivering a veritable feast of words in rhyme and visual scintillation.

Santa’s Magic Beard is possibly my favourite book in the series to date. This could in part be due to my colossal obsession with all things Christmassy or simply because this tale is told with sincere warmth and respect for the season with just enough magic stirred in to make it fun and unique.

Santa's Magic Beard.jpg NoshIt’s Christmas Eve and all the characters of Macadamia farm work hard on their Christmas wish-lists before snuggling down to await the big man’s arrival. However, Nosh the Nutmobile’s wish is of a less tangible quality. He wants to know how the reindeer actually fly. Is it really just a case of magical elf dust sprinkled liberally on their pre-flight carrots as we’ve been led to believe?

Thanks to some typical seasonal over-indulgence on behalf of Rudolph and the team, Nosh not only receives his gift but is treated to the night of his life, with Santa. As with all things ‘magical, marvellous, woolly and weird’, the rest is best left for you to discover yourself.

Santa’s Magic Beard is as memorable as sinking your teeth into the first fruit mince pie of the season and will have you yearning for more, therefore making it a delight to read over and over. It is crammed full with the very essence of Christmas in a way many young lovers of Christmas will relate to (awakening on Christmas morning to a mountain of gifts for instance) yet happily reminds us of the old adage that giving is ultimately far better than receiving.

Primary aged children will soak up this cheery picture book either as a lead-up read to Christmas or as a special treat in their Christmas stockings this year.

And because it’s the season to be jolly and admittedly excess a little, this week we’re featuring not one but two interviews with the creators of Santa’s Magic Beard.

Glen SingletonToday, Glen Singleton, quiet achiever and talented artist behind the Nutmobile picture books reveals how he differs from Santa and likes drawing animals in clothes.

Q Who is Glen Singleton? Describe the illustrator in you and what sets your work apart from other Aussie illustrators.

I was born in Brisbane and have lived and worked here all of my life. After leaving High School I studied Illustration and Animation at QLD College of Art graduating with a Diploma Of Art (Visual Communications) in 1979 . Only making up my mind in the last few days of High School to enrol. Obviously I had always had a love for drawing and spent most of my spare time squirrelled away drawing intricate pen and ink line drawings with some old Rapidiograph pens my Dad gave me. I chose a complicated cross-hatched style for some reason to try to master. Very slow and labourious with every drawing like an etching. After leaving college I decided to take the big scary step to go to working freelance. Having no choice really as no one employed illustrators full time. So have been on that rollercoaster ride ever since. Sometimes stuck at the bottom of that big tower the rollercoaster climbs…creeping to the top…before it rushes down the other side again.

In that time back in the early 90’s I met the late (great) illustrator Greg Rogers through illustration work I was commissioned to do for a Government department he worked for. We often talked of the idea of illustrating childrens books. Greg heard of a weekend workshop Scholastic were putting on and we both went off to attend and learn about the joys and love you need to illustrate them. I don’t recall a lot of what they said at the time. But there were a few words that have stuck with me over the years. They said you will probably need to draw them ‘for the love of it’. How right they were . If only we were paid for the time we really put into each book. It certainly takes a lot of love!

But cant think of anything better than sitting at my drawing board working on illustrations for a book (preferably on a bleak rainy day) listening to music in my own little world.

What sets me apart..? I don’t know. I’ve probably made a name for myself drawing mostly typical Australian stuff. A lot of it based on animals. Hopefully not too stereotyped . Suppose you have to follow the text that’s given to you really. One book leads to another sometimes . Most of the animals I draw are wearing clothes too. Don’t they all..? A throw back to growing up having Beatrix Potter’s -The Tales of Peter Rabbit read to me possibly and sticking somewhere in the back of my mind. But funnily I always thought I would love to have a crack at illustrating something like The Wind In The Willows ..love all things British and would love to live and work there. That….may never happen. I might have to be happy with just having been there a few times for holidays. But have written some stories of my own that are aimed at the market in that part of the world. Illustrating them is something else. I’ll let you know if it ever happens!

Q When did the desire to draw and create manifest itself in you?

I can remember drawing way back to when I was little. My parents always encouraged me to draw. At school I recall having more drawings in the back half of my Maths pad…than Maths in the front. I still passed Maths…just. But hopefully the drawings in the back paid off in some way. Being paid to doodle now.

Glen S illo 3Q Santa’s favourite colour is red. What’s yours and how does it influence or restrict what you illustrate?

Yes ..Santa likes his red. I like cyan blue myself. And violet. But don’t tell anyone. I do use both of those colours here and there in all of my illustrations .Squeezing them out of little bottles of acrylic colour and onto my watercolour paper. Get as many of those clashing cartoony colours on the paper as I can.

Q Describe how you develop your illustrations?

Glen S at workThe illustrations for children’s picture books start as you would expect. Reading the manuscript. That’s usually in an email from the publishers . Like most people I see little flashes or pictures of what’s happening in the story as I read it..jotting down little scribbles on the side of the sheet as I go.

Then it’s to a storyboard layout for the whole book from cover to cover so everyone can see at a glance what’s happening through the whole book in a few A4 pages . After approval from the editors it’s on to the final larger pencil roughs where all the details are pencilled in. That’s ALL of the details. Probably a little too tight for some illustrators who like to be a little more spontaneous. But this way…they see all of the expressions and details so they know what they are getting before it all goes to ink and colour where it’s way harder to change if they don’t like something.

Glen at work 3Q What is your favourite medium to work in? Pen, ink and watercolour has always been my preferred medium. Nothing digital at this stage…apart from a little PhotoShop in other commercial illustrations .

Q You are an artist of prolific variation Glen. Where has your work appeared?

Since the early 1990’s I’ve put out illustrations for books ranging from black line illustrations for joke books to full colour picture books and commercial illustrations as well.

The Golden Kangaroo– Illustrated books- FATHER KOALA’S NUSRERY RHYMES- Kel Richards—- FATHER KOALA’S FAIRY TALES- Kel Richards—FATHER KOALA’S FABLES- Kel Richards—THE GOLDEN KANGAROO- Garrison Valentine/ John Williamson—JOHN WILLIAMSON’S CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA- John Williamson AND KANGAROO PLAYED HIS DIDGERIDOO- Nigel Gray CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion THE LAMINGTON MAN- Kel Richards SANTA KOALA- Colin Buchanan THE TWELVE DAYS OF AUSSIE CHRISTMAS- Colin Buchanan ALL ABOARD THE NUTMOBILE- Em HorsfieldMacadamia House THE HARVEST RACE- Em Horsfield –Macadamia House SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD- Em Horsfield– Macadamia House

– Art shows / exhibitions—Not as yet. Might get around to it someday….perhaps! If someone wants to pay for all the framing!

– Other media—I’ve produced illustrations over the years for advertising agencies and art studios and direct with clients . But styles and fashions change as things do , so mainly childrens books now these days.

Q You seem to have an affinity for Christmas themed picture books. What other children’s books have you illustrated? Do you have a favourite?

It’s probably not that I have an affinity with Christmas books. I just seem to have been asked to do a lot of them. Hopefully it’s because they’ve sold enough to lead on to another…and another. Infact I’m working on one right now ..for Christmas next year… 2014. Nothing like getting in early for Christmas. And have SANTA’S MAGIC BEARD –Macadamia House out this Christmas.

Lamington ManBut my favourite book is probably THE LAMINGTON MAN-Kel Richards and/or CINDY ELLA- Tom Champion.

Q Some might say, competency improves output? How long, on average does it take you to complete illustrations for a picture book?

Most of the colour picture books take anywhere from 8 weeks (at a real push) to about 3 months from first reading the text to couriering off the artwork. There is a LOT of work in every one.

Q What was the hardest thing about illustrating the Nosh Nutmobile Series? What was the most enjoyable?

The Nutmobile series for Macadamia House . Three books illustrated in total to date. There was nothing exceptionally hard about drawing the books for the team. It’s been pretty enjoyable really. When they came to sit at the drawing board to talk over the possibility of drawing the books for them, there were plenty of visual images that popped out of the text at first glance. So always a good sign or indicator of how illustrating a book may go.

Q Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your illustrating career thus far.

Twelve Days of Aussie ChristmasProbably the day the editor I was working with at Scholastic in Sydney phoned me to say the artwork for my ‘Twelve Days of Aussie Christmas’ children’s picture book had been delivered by the courier to their office……(then there was a long pause)…then there was a …BUT … The artwork was damaged she said. It was bent and had holes in it . It was either driven over by a forklift or jammed in the hydraulic cargo door of the plane (that’s my theory anyway)..on its way down to Sydney and had creases across all of the illustrations and a hole punched through about a half of the illustrations. Three months work with creases and holes!

Thankfully as bad as it was, the artwork was salvageable…I had seen myself having to re-draw things…But I didn’t have re-draw anything. With some skilful handy work from the graphic designer (and PhotoShop) the book went to print without anyone knowing of any of the drama.

Q What is on the storyboard for Glen?

Another Christmas book for next Christmas 2014 that I’m working on…. A Dinosaur book already illustrated and another Nutmobile book ready to start.

Just for fun question: If you had an unlimited supply of macadamia nuts, what would you do with them?

I’d have no use for them other than a handful now and then. So I’d send them by the truckload to Macadamia House for them to sell to fund the next dozen books in their series they have planned for me to illustrate. You can only eat so many nuts……..(unlike reindeers apparently!)

Thankyou Glen!

Keep your reindeer antenna tuned in for the next visitor to the Draft table – Em Horsfield.

Find out more about any of the books mentioned in this post or purchase a copy here.

Little Steps Publishing November 2013

 

A festive feast

I couldn’t resist taking a break from my Christmas duties to squeeze this post in. At this time of year, there’s a veritable sleigh-load of children’s Christmas books on offer; exciting new titles and plenty of old chestnuts too. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle is one of the latter, which if not already part of your Christmas hamper, is destined to become so.

Brimming with rural Aussie flavour, this CBCA short-listed picture book is a sensitive juxtaposition of a pig, ironically named Applesauce, who feels hopelessly bereft after a bushfire sweeps away life as she knew it in her valley. Unable to come to terms with the loss, she succumbs to abject depression, certain there will be no Christmas this year for her and her beloved Joe and Marigold; the people she shares her life with.

Sage Owl consoles Applesauce, advising her that ‘Christmas comes from the heart’ not from what you have or have not got. But surrounded by such a bleak, scarred world, Applesauce is unable to feel anything but glum.

Meanwhile, others from the neighbouring bush are making their way through the empty landscape to see Joe and Marigold. We are still not sure why, although a glimpse at the book’s cover gives us a clue. The arrivals of the Shepard family and Marigold’s three slightly eccentric looking, elderly aunties all go unnoticed by Applesauce, that is until, she is finally introduced to Joe and Marigold’s new baby.

Suddenly, all that was miserable and desolate becomes cheery and meaningful. Cockatoos swirl like snowflakes. New red leaves blaze like fairy lights in the fierce sunlight, and it is amongst these simple and symbolic celebrations of new life that Applesauce lets ‘Christmas fill her heart again’.

Author Glenda Millard
Author Glenda Millard

From the first line, award-winning author, Glenda Millard, draws us almost imperceptibly into Applesauce’s pining for better days; days before drought and bushfire desecrated her world. Even without the exquisite illustrations of Stephen Michael King, Millard’s descriptions are deliciously seasoned with enough sensory detail to enable the reader to smell and feel the arid emptiness of the land; ‘night fell as dark as burnt toast’ is one image that lingers on long after being read and is thoughtfully followed by a text-less spread of night, star flecked sky.

King’s illustrations compliment the poignant text perfectly; never impinging on the tale, always filling each page with delicate, imaginative colour. I adore King’s quirky illustrative style and sense of fancy.  Both work well to retell a tale as old as Christmas itself. Adults sharing this picture book with young children will recognise the clever parallels to the nativity story. Young readers will enjoy the gorgeous imagery, magically told tale and simple yet strong Christmas message. Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle is guaranteed to fill your heart with the spirit of Christmas.

Recommended for pre-school age (3) and above.

10 Things you (wished you) didn’t know about Dimity Powell – Children’s author

Welcome to my first post at Boomerang Books.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit my hands are trembling just a little. Taking hold of the reins that my colleague and dear friend Tania McCartney used to steer her posts so aptly and smoothly with for the past year or so, is by no means an easy feat. My heartfelt thanks and best wishes to you Tania!

So who is Dimity S Powell? DSP? Well, I’m often accused of my Debatable Sensory Perception on life; that is to say, the description ~ dim but nice ~ suits my persona well. But is there more to being Dim? You’re about to find out…

1.       The first short story I ever submitted was accepted by the School Magazine in NSW. It gave me immense hope and slightly unreal expectations.

2.       I once had a close encounter of the lost-in-a-triangular-kind-of way off the island of Bermuda whilst crossing the Atlantic, in a vintage Camper and Nicholson motor yacht. Fortunately, I was not transported off this planet, at least I don’t remember if I was.

3.       I used to play the flute – well. Now I just polish it – a lot. It’s shinier than some of my manuscripts.

4.       My first epiphany was at six years of age. I was standing in the girls’ toilets of my new primary school when I realised all of my friends were books. But this didn’t faze me in the slightest. I had the most profound thought: through books one could acquire anything, go anywhere and learn absolutely everything. It was a powerful realisation, and a conviction that I still carry today.

5.       At some point in my life, hanging one load of nappies (yes I used cloth ones) on the line was considered a herculean achievement. Now if I’m not juggling at least 15 balls, with my left toes whilst in an inverted yoga position, it’s just not a normal day.

6.       I considered living in Istanbul, twice, but never learnt to count over 1000 in Turkish. The cost of a loaf of bread would inflate a thousand Lira every three days. That’s ridiculously more fingers than I had to count with.

7.       I got wrinkly in a spa of George Harrison’s one time, but have never met him face to face.

8.       I read every Trixie Beldon mystery novel as a kid but have never ever felt the need to ‘solve’ anything; especially mathematical equations.

9.       I’ve eaten sea cucumber and alligator. Neither tasted like chicken. Both are infinitely more palatable than black boned chicken.

10.   I am a children’s author because I write for kids. I write for kids simply because it is so much fun.

I look forward to sharing my passion of all things Kids’ Lit with you in the weeks to come. Please excuse me though for a small while; my sleigh is about to depart and I’m due on board for the launch of my new Christmas kids’ novel, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? Keep an eye out for me as I soar by.

And to all a good night (whatever you’re celebratin’)

‘Tis the night before Christmas here in Europe and all through the house everyone is stirring in a desperate effort to get closer to the fireplace. It’s really, really cold, especially for those of us who have acclimatised to the Southern Hemisphere and are now being called wusses by all our Northern Hemisphere friends and family.

It’s the morning of Christmas for all of you in Australia and I suspect – I certainly hope – you are all a good deal warmer than me. Most of you are probably still in bed (funny how getting up at 5am to open presents seems less reasonable as you get older) and this message will reach you at some stage over a few lazy days spent relaxing and doing whatever you most enjoy in this lull at the end of 2011.

The business of the year is near wrapped up; the last of 2011’s books have been released, the bookshops are taking a well-deserved break and Possum Magic has topped the Boomerang Annual Advent Poll as our readers’ favourite Australian Children’s Book. Soon my email will be over-flowing again with announcements from publishers about 2012’s shiny new books but right now, with most businesses taking a few days off, it’s peaceful and – like the Christmas eve house in the poem – my inbox isn’t stirring.

I’d like to mark the occasion of this unusual and welcome time of peace and goodwill even if, like many others, I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional Christian sense. Whether it’s a holiday for Horus, Mithra, Bacchus or Dionysus, whether it’s the Festival of Lights or the winter or summer solstice or just a couple of well-deserved days off work with your nearest and dearest, I hope you enjoy it.

Damien Kelly, a Northern Irish writer (who just released a Christmas-themed set of horror and suspense short stories this year called The Christmas Gifts, with plenty of ghoulish and creepy festive fare) blogs over at christmasmacabre.com has this greeting for everyone, and it’s so perfect for the occasion that I just have to share.

Because you’re great, it bears relatin’
Happy What-You’re-Celebratin’
From me to you, it’s worth restatin’
Happy What-You’re-Celebratin’
Raise a glass, invite your mate in
Whether or not the date’s worth ratin’
Take a break from What-You’re-Hatin’
Happy What-You’re-Celebratin’.

Have a wonderful few days, whatever you are celebrating. I wish you a fantastic new year, filled with great releases from all your favourite authors, discoveries of awesome new authors and books and, of course, plenty of cash to pay for them all. A happy holidays to you all.

Who wants books for Christmas?

I always loved getting books for Christmas as a kid (in fact, I once got in trouble for burgling my books out from under the tree to read before the big day) but not every kid instantly embraces the concept of books as gifts. Here is a reaction that you don’t want to get; after opening a whole bunch of toys this three year old comes across a present packed with books and only books.

As you can see, little Michael is not delighted by the books. The books are, in fact, “a poo”.  While it certainly seems the child is less than impressed, his parents (who shot and uploaded the video) wanted to assure viewers that he’s not a budding book-hater but just a small kid over-excited by the day.

“Keep in mind that this was kinda like his first “real” Christmas and he’s only three years old and that he could just about understand and get the concept of the whole gift getting thing. I guess he was  under the perception that you only get “toys” for christmas. To him books are the fun time we spend reading every night before he goes to bed. He really does love books but I’m guessing he was overwhelmed after opening way gifts and I think he felt “tricked” when he opened the books.”

While his reaction was amusing, the family wanted to make sure that he realised that books could be great gifts the next time present season rolled around. The next year they gave him a few more books to unwrap and the reaction was definitely better this time around. “Just to make sure Michael understood that books for Christmas is perfectly OK to get, we wrapped up a few more books from Santa and waited to see how he reacted. To say I wasn’t a little nervous would be a lie but all went well and smooth!”

And, while he may have learned that books make good gifts his family also reminded viewers that the most disappointing gift you can give a small child had yet to make an appearance – clothes. “On a side note, the wife and I realized he has yet to get any clothes from Santa, like socks or a tacky sweater… we decided to not push it and wait till next year. One hurdle at a time!”

Thanks to the Writing Bar blog of the Sydney Writers’ Centre that put me on to this one.

If you want to gift books to kids this year but would like a few tips to avoiding this reaction, head over to the Kids’ Reading Guide 2010-2011 to the Perfect Present hosted on the Boomerang site (it’s in the left side-bar, just under the categories and above the annual Boomerang Books Survey).

You’ll find a thirty page guide packed with some of the best recent books for kids, including recommendations of books for toddlers, an extensive range of picture books and the top picks in for fiction for the various age groups right up until Young Adult. And it’s not just fiction you’ll find; there are Information and Stuff to Do sections with everything from gardening to art to building a robot in there.

Definitely better that a pair of socks any day. If any one is thinking of buying me socks or a jumper with an amusingly deformed reindeer on it this year please be informed that I would much rather instructions to build my own robot. That and my poor plants would probably thank you for sending on a beginner’s guide to gardening, even if that beginner is assumed to be under the age of ten.

 

Not-So-Trivial Christmas Pursuits

It’s something of a Christmas Day tradition in my family to do three things:

1.      Play backyard cricket

And I allow this, for although I normally loathe and despise what I officially term ‘stupid cricket’, with modified rules that you must swing at everything and it’s tips and run, it’s bearable. If I manage to bowl my brother out, I might even term it fun.

2.      Have a water fight

Admittedly, this tradition comes from an era where water was in greater supply and restrictions didn’t exist and has, due to draconian but necessary Queensland water restrictions, been phased out. For the record (and before you send me chastising emails), there was often more bomb than water, and it was the anticipation of the event and the squealing-fun, hide-and-seek chase that was more important than actually water bombing anyone.

3.      Read the books you received from Santa

This has always been my favourite part of the day. The body’s need to recline and digest the mountains of food it’s ingested lends itself to my two favourite activities: reading and sleeping. The snooze is optional, and there have been plenty of years where I’ve powered through sans nap because the book I’ve obtained is too good to put down.

It’s also the part of the day where I no longer appear rude to be off reading a book—my socialising with the extended family has been fully fulfilled and everyone else is doing the same thing. It’s not that I don’t like my family, of course. It’s just that Christmas invariably brings with it some excellent and often highly anticipated (or simply regularly hinted for) books, and it’s difficult for me to tear my eyes away from them once they’re in my hands.

But the afternoon reward of reading and napping in turn leads itself to my second favourite part of Christmas Day.

4.      Battle the relos in Trivial Pursuit

Reinvigorated by the afternoon nap and keen to engage in some more friendly banter and competition, Christmas Day ends with the obligatory and fiercely contested game of Trivial Pursuit. It starts with much discussion about who’s on which team. (For the record, you want to be on my father’s. The man’s a freak. We put it down to the fact that he’s and insomniac and bookworm and that he does, as a result, read an almost unparalleled number and variety of books.)

It ends with much good-natured debate about the answers to questions, whether something is ‘your final answer’, someone giving hints for those who are struggling, those of us younger ones bemoaning that we weren’t alive when an event happened and that we’re disadvantaged, giving ridiculous responses like ‘Hitler’ when we have no idea, and someone putting the piece of the pie in the wrong way and someone else having to employ surgical-like procedure to dislodge and correctly re-lodge it before the game can continue.

In all, it’s a lovely and relaxed way to spend Christmas Day and one that indulges my main interests. It’s also inspires me to read more books to improve my Trivial Pursuit skills. Currently, as the youngest child with fewer years of reading under her belt, I’m the team’s weakest link. This means I’m often paired with my father as a kind of handicap to even out the brainpower. Fortunately, he often still manages to carry me over the trivia line, which means that even though I might contribute the fewest correct answers, I’m more often than not on the winning team.

I’ve threatened in recent years to buy a newer, more Gen Y version of Trivial Pursuit (I can’t help but think the reason there are now a variety of themes of the game is because youngest siblings like me got jack of being useless or out of the question loop), but in a lot of ways I’d prefer to read more and expand my general knowledge so I can answer the questions in our existing and fairly old version.

So, here’s to a food-, family, stupid cricket-, reading-, napping-, and Trivial Pursuit-filled Christmas, where I will delight in great books and may contribute the odd useful and correct answer. I hope you have a great Christmas too.

Merry Christmas

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Well, actually… No! There is stirring happening. I’ve just been making the egg nog, so definitely lots of stirring. And more to come, as I make the last lot of fudge. And as for mice — my computer mouse is getting a workout today as I get in a last pre-Christmas burst of writing.

Each Christmas, I watch at least one film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This time around I ended up reviewing DVDs of two versions — the Muppets version and the new Robert Zemeckis motion-capture, animated one. Feel free to check out my 2-in-1 review. But if you haven’t got the inclination, let me give you a quick summary — the Muppets film is BRILLIANT; the Zemeckis film is CRAP.

Despite having seen many versions of A Christmas Carol over the years, I am sad to report that I have never actually read the book. Each year I think to myself that I really should get a copy and read it. And each year, as the lead up to Christmas gets more and more frantic, I run out of time. But I plan on engaging in a big post-Christmas book buying frenzy during Boomerang’s upcoming 20% off sale, so I have vowed to buy a copy. I figure that if I buy it now and put it on my must-read-soon pile, I may actually get around to it just before next Christmas.

And speaking of A Christmas Carol… I am VERY excited (in a nerdy fanboyish way) about the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special. Aside from the fact that the ABC is screening it here in Australia on Boxing Day (mere hours after it’s UK showing), this year’s special is called “A Christmas Carol” and the trailer certainly makes it look like it is, at least in part, based on the Dickens novel. I am intrigued by the idea of a Doctor Who Christmas Carol. Can’t wait!

Now, as Literary Clutter is a bookish blog, I feel I should bring the conversation back to books…

There is one Christmas book that I have read, which I would really like to mention — Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer. I love Falconer’s Olivia picture books, about a family of anthropomorphised pigs, and particularly about the daughter, Olivia. They are filled with a gentle humour and a surprising feel of reality. And if you’ve seen the television series, take note — the books are way better. The series loses the lovely, hand illustrated style of the books, and doesn’t quite get the humour right. My eldest daughter has all of the books. And this year, she’s been able to read Olivia Helps with Christmas to her younger sister. Magic!

Well, that’s it from me for today. As I said, I still have a batch of fudge to make before the extended family begin to arrive this afternoon. So, allow me to raise a figurative glass and wish you all, dear readers, a very merry Christmas.

And don’t forget to tune in next time for an end of year wrap-up.

Catch ya later,  George

PS Follow me on Twitter… Ho, ho ho! Or is it bad form to use the word ‘ho’ these days? 😉

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It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

It’s barely October, but it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Or at least, shopping centres are decking themselves out to make us feel like it is to cash in early on (or even extend) our credit card buying frenzy.

I have to admit, though, that I’m someone whom the Christmas spending frenzies and stresses have largely passed by. I have friends who have copious lists and plans of action for which shops to hit when, but my Christmas shopping is simple, straightforward, and involves visiting only one place: the bookshop.

I’ve only recently realised that this is an unusual Christmas shopping effort, especially because not only do I only buy books for friends and family, I only buy them ones I’d like to read. Yeah, I know, Indian-giver actions. If there’s a specific book that anyone particularly wants, they can tell me and I’ll pick it up for them. But they more often than not leave the book recommending to me, which invariably means that I buy books that I: a) want to read; followed by b) think they’ll also happen to enjoy.

I can’t remember specifically when this Christmas tradition started, and it’s more likely more a Christmas resignation on my family members’ part than one to which they’ve willingly subscribed. I do vaguely recall my father once unwrapping a present and saying, tongue in cheek, ‘Oh look, another book you want to read’. I also vaguely recall, for the record, that it’s one he subsequently enjoyed.

In my defence, my family tends to like the books I pick and I’ve become increasingly disciplined (or perhaps simply time poor) in recent years. It’s rare now for me to pre-read the presents and squash them down with phonebooks to give the illusion of an un-cracked spine. I’d also like to point out that while the books might boomerang back to me, my family can hardly complain—as a writer, reviewer, and compulsive book buyer, I single-handedly keep them in steady supply of top-notch books year-round. My questions are:

–        Is buying along my own reading taste lines such a bad thing?

–        Am I the only one who operates this way?

–        And surely pre-reading is simply a form of quality control?

Christmas Catalogue now available

The Boomerang Books Christmas Catalogue is now online.  Take a look at it here:

Christmas Gifts – Biography Books

Christmas Gifts – Books for Her

Christmas Gifts – Books for Him

Christmas Gifts – Childrens Books

Christmas Gifts – Cookbooks

Christmas Gifts – Crime Books

Christmas Gifts – Military & History Books

Christmas Gifts – Politics Books

Christmas Gifts – Sports Books

Christmas Gifts – Travel Books

Christmas Gifts – Young Adult Books