Under the Christmas Tree Part 5 – Festive boredom busters

For most of us, it is now officially school holiday time, the season of fraught mothers, constant interruptions, drained purses, and frazzled tempers. Or, if you’re clever, blissful moments spent with your darlings in between extended periods of boredom busting activity. Festive harmony is easy to achieve, you just need the right materials.  Here are a handful of books that entertain and instil serenity.

the-anti-boredom-christmas-bookThe Anti-Boredom Christmas Book by Andy Seed and Scott Garrett

The title speaks for itself but does this book hold the eggnog? Ecstatic to report, it does and some! If you love trivia, jokes, silliness, and just good old-fashioned fun quizzes this is the boredom-busting book for you (and your kids). Perfect for slipping into your carry-on luggage if you happen to be going away or tucking into the backpack for those incurably long family lunches, we force our children to endure over the holiday season, The Anti-Boredom Christmas Book is stuffed with things to do, think about and act out – no pencils required!  (Although there are plenty of arty / crafty options to get creative with.)

Seed’s zany laugh-out-loud facts and games challenge the curious reader: would you rather wear frozen undies or sleep in a bed of snow? You can even learn how to say snow in 18 languages – always good to know. Wacky and wonderful insanity to fill the holidays with whilst simultaneously inspiring sanity.

Bloomsbury Publishing December 2016

wonderful-world-colouring-bookWonderful World Colouring book by Alison Lester

For a more Australian flavoured boredom buster, sample Alison Lester’s Wonderful World kids’ colouring-in book. Whether you are a fan of colour-the- drawings type productions or not, this one is sure to please and entrance the budding artists in your home. Focusing on the art of illustration, Lester ingeniously includes dozens of helpful illustrative snippets and hints to nudge would be artists on their way. Suggestions like: ‘try drawing with your left hand’, ‘always leave a little bit of white in the eyes’, and ‘don’t try to make everything perfect’, are secreted away among her own iconic images on the end pages and in an introductory ‘Drawing Tips’ prologue.

wonderful-world-illo-spreadInside, there is a treasure trove of thick sturdy pages of assorted images and scenes just begging for colour and personalisation.  Exceedingly so much more than just a colouring in book, Wonderful World will inspire, occupy, and educate for days.

Allen & Unwin 2016

my-lovely-christmas-bookMy Lovely Christmas Book

While their creative juices are still flowing, consider this as a sweeter than sweet stocking filler. My Lovely Christmas Book is a quaint diary sized festive book, brimming with blank pages and cheery prompts that allows readers to fill it with their own lists, notes, poems, and wishes, in short, to create a lovely Christmas book for them by them. It ostensibly covers the 12 days of Christmas so could be substituted as a tooth-friendly form of advent calendar, as well.

There is space for photos, favourite listings, and recordings of all the best bits of Christmas a kid can have. Sublimely illustrated, this is an exquisite combination of meditative colouring in book, crafty hang out and personal journal, which subtly encourages youngsters to observe and cherish this most magical time of the year.

Bloomsbury Publishing November 2016

the-kids-survival-guideThe Kids’ Survival Guide – Avoiding ‘When I was young…’ and other brain-exploding lectures by Susan Berran

I’m not sure I should be recommending this but it is insidiously brilliant no matter how potentially detrimental it may prove for we struggling parental types just trying to do our jobs. The Kids’ Survival Guide, is a crafty (not in the arty sense) cheeky, wickedly funny and devilishly useful hand book for kids who’ve had a gutful of the lectures, rules and dumb sayings adults dole out to them day after day of their young lives.

Thoughtfully sectioned into handy parts, the Guide escorts and educates readers on how to remain calm and cope with brain exploding stupidities like ‘You can have a motorbike when you’re older’ -how much older? A day, a month, a minute? Or, what about, ‘You should know, I’ve told you a hundred times’. Berran could be right or at least her character Sam could be right; parents do say the lamest things. Apparently, it’s all in the manual Sam and his mate, Jared found. I just hope they don’t strike back too hard as he shares some of his ‘brain-blowing close encounters’ and teaches fellow sufferers how to ‘twist, flip and turn’ the rules around. Heaven help us. Essential and absorbing reading that is sure to occupy young minds for precious minutes this Silly Season. Warning: Adults should read first to allow time to come up with some witty counter-attacks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Big Sky Publishing October 2016

 

 

What I’m reading this Christmas: Alison Green, Pantera Press

Alison Green Pantera Press
Alison Green, Pantera Press

Thanks to Alison Green from Pantera Press for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out a little more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.

You’re the CEO & co-founder of Pantera Press, what does your job entail?
As a boutique publishing house, we have a small dedicated team. We are all extremely passionate, and often it is all hands on deck! On a day-to-day I work closely with our authors as well as the Pantera Press submissions, marketing, publicity, digital, editorial, design, financial and rights, teams and agencies. I also have a strong focus on our strategic development.

But I’d really say that my job is about making dreams come true. The dreams of our readers, storylovers – who love to get swept up into different fictional worlds. The dreams of our authors – our storytellers who live for writing fabulous tales and getting those stories to their fans. And the great philanthropic works we do in and around literacy and the joys of reading.

How did you get this job?
I co-founded the company in 2008. My background was in psychology and business strategy, and I have always been an avid reader. We created Pantera Press as a response to what we felt was a void in the industry – a home that not only welcomes but also actively seeks previously unpublished authors with best-seller writing potential.

What is different/special about Pantera Press?
Many things! Pantera Press introduced an innovative business model into the Australian publishing industry. We explicitly embraced a fresh strategy to be better support to Australia’s storytellers and storylovers, via an innovative, author-friendlier model with a strong curatorial culture. We designed this so that we could take a great, and longer-term risk in backing new authors. From day one, Pantera Press dedicated itself to discovering new, previously unpublished authors. Writers of great stories that are well written and would appeal to a wide audience of dedicated readers. We also have a strong ‘profits for philanthropy’ foundation that we call ‘good books doing good things’, where we invest in programs and projects around Australia that help close the literacy gap and encourage the joy of reading. If that’s not enough, I should mention that our boardroom table is actually a Ping-Pong table. So if you find yourself in the Pantera Press office, you may be up for a battle.

Killing Adonis J.M. Donellan(Brilliant, I love table tennis!) I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
Great question. I do LOVE all of the books that we publish, and in part… that is actually a set criteria for any story we consider for publication (seriously). Be it a latest story from one of our existing authors, or a story from a brand new author there are many things we will consider when choosing a story to publish. Our authors are talented writers who we have handpicked, because we think they are absolutely amazing and see big potential for them. One of the many criteria we have is “even if you are not the target audience for this story, did you love it? And did you want to keep reading”. So I do indeed love all of the books we work on.

Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan is a book I’m particularly proud of. It’s a really quirky ride, and we’ve had an overwhelming amount of media compare this story to the stylings of Wes Anderson (Writer and Director of The Grand Budapest Hotel). Donellan’s story is a tragicomic tale about love, delusion, corporate greed… and the hazards of using pineapple cutters while hallucinating. This story is for people who enjoy complex storylines that verge on the absurd, who love the scrumptious extravagance of Wes Anderson movies, and who marvel at the moral-driven layers of Roald Dahl. On top of being a GREAT story, the cover of the book is very unique and was created to mimic a leather bound book. It has the look and feel, and it’s certainly something special to hold onto, and to display on your bookshelf.

I also have to mention Sulari Gentill’s award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mystery series. Her series has been nominated and shortlisted for several awards, and won the Davitt Award for best crime fiction. Her latest novel in the series, A Murder Unmentioned has topped several Australia bookseller best-seller lists. And it’s a phenomally engaging and charming series that appeals to men and women of all ages. I’m thrilled that we discovered Sulari and have just released her 9th book in 4 years (yes, she is seriously impressive!).Betrothed Wanda Wiltshire

What is your secret reading pleasure?
As much as I might wish for it… I’m clearly no longer a young adult. However, I take secret joy in reading Young Adult fiction and finding myself in strange new worlds. Wanda Wiltshire’s Betrothed series is a favourite. Her writing is beautiful, and the first book in the series (Betrothed) had me dreaming every night about receiving my invitation to the Faery world of Faera. Wanda explores beautiful themes of friendship, self-discovery and finding ones place in the world. As well as romance, darkness… and how to fly!

I’d also love to tell you about a top-secret Pantera Press book (shhh), it is not yet released – but is coming really soon (February 2015). Akarnae by Lynette Noni, the first book in the 5 book Medoran Chronicles. Akarnae is Harry Potter, X-Men and Narnia rolled into one wonderful story. Believable characters, in an unbelievable world: with Akarnae you must embrace the wonder!

What are your must-reads over Christmas? (What’s on your bedside table to read over the holidays?)Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo
There are many. As you can imagine there is a big pile of books, awaiting me for my summer staycation (and I can’t wait). To mention a couple: Tempting Fate by Jane Green (not a relation). Most people seem to assume that my reading list would predominantly contain serious literary fiction, however in high school – fun and romantic stories were what made me the avid reader I am today. I would read 3-4 books a week, easily. And that voracious love of reading is partially what excited me about becoming involved in the book publishing industry. Jane Green was always a favourite. I’ve read every single one of her books at least once, so I’m looking forward to her latest summer read.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo by Luke Ryan. I recently met Luke and heard him speak with one of our own Pantera Press authors, J.M. Donellan, at the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle. He was hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading his memoir.

John M. Green you are co-founder of Pantera Press with Alison and author of Nowhere Man, The Trusted & Born To Run. What are your must-reads this Christmas?
I want to read Wally Lamb‘s latest novel We are Water over the holidays. He creates characters and relationships, especially difficult ones, so convincingly that I can cry – and often have.We Are Water Wally Lamb

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is also on my list. Not your typical Swedish novel, but a whimsical story my wife keeps putting at the top of my reading pile. If I don’t do what she says, there’s no chance I’ll ever make it to 100 myself.

Marty Green, you’re the Director & Head of Submissions at Pantera Press, what are your must-reads this Christmas?
The Buddha In Your Mirror: Practical Buddhism and the Search for the Self by Hochswender, Martin and Morino. This book came out in 2001 and comes with a foreword by Herbie Hancock. If you’re planning on judging a book by it’s cover, this one has everything. (That’s a little Buddhism joke). I assume that by reading this, I’ll be able to make a lot more jokes.

Here Come The Dogs Omar MusaMoney: Master the Game by Tony Robbins is a plain English book about money and investing that is 700 pages and costs $30 (with all profits going to Feeding America). Here’s my investment advice: read the book and you’ll probably make your $30 back.

Finally, I’ll be reading Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa over the holidays. Omar is a slam poet from Queanbeyan that did a Ted talk and I met him while he was doing promos for his debut novel and he’s a super cool guy.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Alison and Merry Christmas!

What I’m reading this Christmas: Anna O’Grady, Simon & Schuster

Anna O'Grady in front of her home library
Anna O’Grady in front of her home library

Thanks to Anna O’Grady for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.

You’re the Marketing and Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster. What does your job entail?
How much time do we have? I like describing it as ‘parenting’ a book and making sure that I find the best possible home for it. It all starts by understanding who would enjoy the particular title, and then the fun part of thinking of the best means of reaching that audience. Nowadays there are so many different ways that this can be achieved.

In the last few months I’ve worked on creating online trailers and ads, organized blog tours, pitched titles to festivals, events and media and talked to our book loving community over various social media channels.

How did you get this job?
I am the third generation working in the book world from a family of booksellers and publishers. For the better part of my life I have been lucky enough to continue our family tradition across six different countries. However, bookselling is rapidly changing and for a few years I have wanted to try my hand in a publishing house. All the stars aligned really well this year and I ended up with the amazing team at Simon & Schuster Australia. I have learnt a tremendous amount but it also has been a lot of fun.The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg

What is different/special about Simon & Schuster?
One of the things I really like about Simon & Schuster is that it is a small publishing house. There are just over 20 people in the office and that means that there are opportunities to try different things in different areas of the book business. For example, even though my official role is within the marketing and publicity department, I am also part of the acquisition team – so I have a chance to read new manuscripts and contribute to the decision on publishing these.

I also really love the staff’s passion for books we publish within the Simon & Schuster program. A lot of larger houses release so many books that it is physically impossible for everybody to be familiar with all titles. Our publishing program is small enough that almost everybody in-house can read all the books we publish and be able to meet all the authors in person. I really love being in an office where everybody reads and where books are celebrated every day.

I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
It has been quite a year for me, and I often feel in awe of the amazing authors that I have been taking care of. I will highlight two – only because they are so completely different. The first one was my campaign for debut author Ellie O’Neill’s book Reluctantly Charmed. Debuts are notoriously difficult to break out, but I felt special pressure on this one because everybody at Simon & Schuster loved this book. In the end we had a great campaign that was embraced by a major sponsor – Tourism Ireland – and also created a lot of buzz in the book blogging community. I am already looking forward to the second book from Ellie coming next year.A Thousand Shards of Glass cover by Michael Katakis

The other campaign that will probably stay in mind for a very long time was A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis. Although Michael is a world class photographer, an overseer of the intellectual property of Hemingway and an author of very thought provoking books, he is very little known in Australia. We decided to bring him here for a tour and I had the task of arranging events and media for his tour. This took several months and many, many phone calls and emails to organize. Because Michael is relatively unknown some event organizers took some persuasion and were hesitant to the last moment. In the end the response to Michael’s tour was exceptional and well worth all our efforts. I have never seen such an emotional reader–writer reaction, with many people moved to tears at events, and many readers calling and sending emails – and in one instance hand delivering a letter of thank you to our offices. There is nothing more special than seeing that connection in front of my eyes and knowing that I helped make it happen.This Changes Everything Naomi Klein

What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?
I have been watching the book industry very carefully for at least 20 years now and I find some changes painful, but I also see a lot of great things on the horizon. I think that we might be experiencing a new golden age of storytelling. There are more people reading than ever before, and they access books in many formats and ways. But what is even more exciting is that readers have more to say, and the means to say it, than ever before. The future of the publishing industry is in deepening the connection to readers and embracing new ways of telling and experiencing stories. I have no doubt that great books and storytellers will always find their audience.

What are your must-reads over Christmas?
I have been building my little Christmas stack for a while now – and as usual I am probably overambitious. Here are the titles that are currently sitting in my Christmas pile: The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg; The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel; In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower; The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber; and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein – but who knows what other gems I might find under my Christmas tree.In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower

What is your secret reading pleasure?
I really enjoy many YA novels, love a good mystery, and have a fascination with horror fiction. For me some of the great horror and crime writers are amongst the best at the craft of writing – although critics often disregard them.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Anna.
You’re most welcome, it’s been a pleasure.

Review – Eric Vale Epic Fail – Stocking stuffer suggestion

Kids aren’t always especially nice to each other. From the most tender of ages they are on the lookout for ways to demoralise, break-down and lord it over each other. It’s all part of your basic survival of the fittest mentality and the procurement of stupid nicknames is one small but powerful weapon in this on-going battle for supremacy.

Now, I’m of Asian descent with a skin type that deepens to ‘kalamata olive’ with repetitive sun exposure. My name is Dimity, habitually shortened to Dim. Put all three together as some enterprising class mates of mine did and you’ve got yourself a ‘burnt Dim Sim’. That little gem must have completely depleted their collective mental arsenal.

Eric Vale Epic FailMichael Gerard Bauer’s comic romp, Eric Vale Epic Fail, illustrates one kid’s classic demise, the misappropriation of a really stupid (but undeniably funny) nickname and his subsequent attempts to rid himself of it. This book did unintentionally throw me back amongst the dim sims but in a sinfully hilarious way.

Eric Vale is your normal Year Five kid who in spite of drifting off in class whenever his ‘brain goes on a hike’ which is quite a bit, manages to distil most of his creativity and genius into his action adventure stories.

He has an overactive imagination, a best mate whose idea of a bad day simply doesn’t exist, and a nemesis in the shape of one Martin Fassenbender; perfect components for a knock-me-down, tie-me-up and rescue-me-before-the-train-hits adventure. The kind of adventure in fact, that Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale encounters on an hourly basis.

Michael G Bauer Bauer deftly manoeuvres Eric through a series of epic fails with hilarious alacrity and style. Unlike the poetically funny tomato sauce incident, readers are not slathered with a thick morass of morals. Ethnicity, individualism, fitting in and good old fashioned mateship are all treated with a robust finesse but told with that in-your-face jocularity that midgrade readers find so addictive.

I really feel for Eric Fail – er Vale. Who wouldn’t? He’s the dreamer, the schemer and ultimately tenacious enough to score on many levels. And he represents at least fifty per cent of kids in the school yard with ludericous labels, like Dim Sim. But I love his best mate Chewy more. You could practically drown in Chewy’s irrepressible buoyancy. His glass is never just half full, it’s overflowing.

Joe Bauer illoIt took me a few pages to adjust to the relaxed layout and jaunty comic book style of Eric Vale Epic Fail, but Joe Bauer’s zany illustrations eased my transition into the graphic style chapter book (Grapter if you like) superbly. Outrageously daring and 100% reflective of his father’s humour, Joe’s talent is as delightfully deadly as a Big Bob head squeeze.

‘If you think you can, you WILL’ enjoy this epic read. Any 10 year olds undoubtedly will. And the best bit: Eric Vale lives on in two more books in this series, Eric Vale Super Male released April 2013 and Eric Vale Off the Rails released August 2013.Eric Vale OtR Eric Vale SM

And if that wasn’t enough, stay tuned for the spin off series featuring your favourite secret agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale. Destined to be another epic win.

Scholastic Australia November 2012

Stock up for Christmas with all of Michael Gerard Bauer’s books here.