All creatures great and small – animal inspired picture books

Animal antics, you can’t beat them. Creatures great and small, they make us laugh, cry, and ponder. As characters in picture books, they are culturally neutral, globally recognisable conduits for expressing a range of emotions that small children (and adults) are readily able to relate to. In short, their appeal is universal. Today we get up close and personal with a few new animal orientated picture books bound to stir up the David Attenborough in you.

mopokeMopoke by Philip Bunting

Hot new author illustrator, Philip Bunting has produced a veritable winner. Mopoke’s cultivated, impossibly restrained colour palette and fierce economy of words positively exudes brilliance. It’s the genius absence of colour and preamble that snaps readers into full alert, squaring their attention on the one and only character, a small southern boobook owl, aka Mopoke (although there is an incongruous cameo appearance by a certain nocturnal marsupial, as well).

Mopoke is quiet and unassuming, clearly one who relishes peace and tranquillity. The Australian bush at night, however is rife with annoyances forcing Mopoke to assume various airs of tolerance until finally, he makes a dramatic move.

Covertly comical and clever, one could interpret this picture book as a subtle poke, pardon the pun, at our social media addictions and the intrusive way they interrupt our daily lives. Of course, none of this will matter to readers under seven or so. They will simply be enthralled by Mopoke’s milk chocolate coloured marvellousness. An experience to be savoured.

Omnibus Books February 2017

my-friend-tertiusMy Friend Tertius by Corinne Fenton and Owen Swan

Until I’d open the sepia hued covers of My Friend Tertius, I had no clue this zoo/war time story even existed. Fenton has, however not just written an historical, fact based picture book. She has encased the true-life story of a British Intelligence covert living in pre-war Hong Kong with that of Tertius, a small-orphaned gibbon into a kind of love story.

Told from Arthur Cooper’s point of view, Tertius soon becomes an inextricable part of Cooper’s life. Together they work and savour the steamy tropical pastimes of Singapore and Hong Kong until the onset of World War II finally forces Cooper to evacuate to Australia. He is loath to leave his best mate behind, though so smuggles him into the country before having to surrender him to the Melbourne Zoo.

This is a story of turbulent times, separation, and unconventional friendships that somehow endure. Despite Tertius’ imperfect circumstances, one cannot help but feel a certain warmth for his relationship with Cooper. A fascinating picture book for older readers revealing yet more amazing wartime alliances thoughtfully illustrated by Swan.

Allen & Unwin February 2017

one-keen-koalaOne Keen Koala by Margaret Wild and Bruce Whatley

Not since One Woolly Wombat have I come across an animal counting book that is so full of bounce and spirit, I thought I might have to a lie down after reading it. Wild’s wondrous way with words is so pleasing to read, you’ll wish this continues beyond the count of 12 happy possums. Light, breezy, and bristling with Australiana, her verse escorts young readers from numbers one to twelve whilst gently stimulating them with the notion that new beginnings are indeed enjoyable. The appeal for new pre-schoolers or primary schoolers is therefore ten out of ten.

Whatley’s illustrations are soft and unobtrusive albeit awfully cute and fun. He even manages to inject new life into an old favourite, the perennial wombat.

One Keen Koala is a counting / back to school book that almost makes me want to troop back off to Kindy. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Press February 2017

Stay posted for another instalment of animal inspired reads, soon.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Fun for Fathers – Picture books to share with Dad

One of the most joyful pleasures a child can enjoy is Daddy-time. There can never be too much of it. Here’s a new selection of picture books you can share with your special little someones on Father’s Day or indeed, at any time at all.

The Ballad of Henry HoplingseaThe Ballad of Henry Hoplingsea by Julia Hubery Illustrated by Lucia Masciullo

I love the look and feel of this jolly little tale. It is less about dads and more about appreciating what you have rather than agonising over what you do not have but it makes such entertaining reading that it is sure to give dads, daughters and sons sufficient enough excuses to stay snuggled together in reading harmony for many lovely moments.

Humble farmer Henry is besotted with Carmelita and begs her hand in marriage. In spite of their solid and long standing friendship, she refuses succumbing instead to her princess inspired yearnings to live in silks, eat oysters and one day be whisked off her feet by a shiny brave knight. Henry can supply none of these things so forsakes he is farmer origins and sets off for Knight School.

Henry’s proactive tenacity is admirable however; his kind heart is bigger than his knightly ambitions and abilities. Which of these though will be enough to win over Carmelita? Humorous rhyming text and bewitching illustrations full of colour and captivating detail ensure this is one ballad readers will want to relive again and again.

Little Hare Books (HEG imprint) August 2016

Counting on YouCounting on You by Corinne Fenton Illustrated by Robin Cowcher

Part of the You Have my Heart series, this padded hard cover picture book is the ideal size to slide into any Father’s Day gift bag. The text is sublimely simple but saturated with exquisite moving emotion. Readers are taken through a flowing collection of days, many of them recognisable to young children, those: ‘I can’t-find-my-socks days, my tummy-is-too-full days’ until they are reassured of the presence of a loved one who can hug them closer ,squeeze them tighter and ‘make things better’ than anyone else; in other words, the adult they can count on.

Counting on You examines the 6 primary emotions formerly identified under the Parrot’s classification. Cowcher’s restrained colour use is heavenly, truly evoking movement and feeling. Highly recommended.

The Five Mile Press August 2016

I spy Dad JBI Spy Dad! By Janeen Brian Illustrated by Chantal Stewart

No two dads are ever quite the same; they are as diverse and individual as pebbles on a beach. I love how kids love their particular version of dad no matter what he does, what he looks like or how he acts. One little girl wonders which dad belongs specifically to her and searches for him among dashing, splashing dads; sewing, mowing dads; and creeping, leaping dads enjoying the cheeky chase until she finds the one who’s just for her.

Brian’s gifted way with rhyming words ensures every beat of this search is on point while Stewart’s illustrations are playful and bright. A sure favourite for under sixes.

New Frontier Publishing August 2016

Where's Dad HidingWhere’s Dad Hiding? By Ed Allen Illustrated by Anil Tortop

Never a dad around when you need one? Prolong your search and fun with this colour-saturated picture book promoting games and play, Aussie animals and relationships. Where’s Dad Hiding? encourages young pre-school aged readers to carefully examine every one of Tortop’s vibrantly illustrated page spreads for Baby Wombat’s missing dad.

Daddy Wombat is cunningly secreted on each page among a glorious collection of colourful Aussie inspired landscapes and situations. I get the feeling Daddy Wombat enjoys being cheeky and slightly irreverent just like real life human daddies as he leads Baby Wombat on a teasing search. This picture book pulses with verve and character making it a delight for dads to share with their kids.

Scholastic Australia August 2016

Grandpa is GreatGrandpa is Great by Laine Mitchell Illustrated by Alison Edgson

No matter what mantle they fall under grandad, pop, Nonno, opa, gramps, there is no mistaking the greatness of grandpas. This cute rhyming story reinforces the many moments and things grandfathers make memorable for their grandchildren. Whether it is playing games together, making mess, rocketing to the moon or simply watching the tellie together, Mitchell’s engaging text and Edgson’s bold use of baby animals to depict the grandpa-grandchild bond is both entertaining and heart-warming.

Scholastic Australia August 2016

The Greatest Fathers Day of AllThe Greatest Father’s Day of All by Anne Mangan Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

It’s the witty parallels I enjoy in this rhyming picture book about a dad eagerly anticipating his Father’s Day but like so many mere males, gets it mixed up a little. His blow-by-blow expectations take readers through some typical and well-loved Father’s Day morning rituals as his excitement mounts then crumbles into disappointment.  Children eager to plan their own Father’s Day surprises for dad will value the familiar similarities and the divine pencil and gauche watercolours used by Ainslie.  Her illustrations are vaguely reminiscent of Anna Pignataro’s; her characters exuding the same sort of charm in their sweet alluring faces. A nice way to mark the occasion of Dad’s Day.

Harper Collins Publishers first published 2013

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Life – Picture Book Reviews

If you’re anything like me you’ll love a good dog story, especially those feel-good ones of friendship, courage and love. Typically known as our best mates, the canine variety so often teach us about loyalty, responsibility and maintaining a zest for life, and these three picture books certainly contain these elements in their own gorgeous ways.  

imageBob the Railway Dog, Corinne Fenton (author), Andrew McLean (illus.), Walker Books, 2015.

Based on a true, moving story, Corinne Fenton uses a beautiful, poetic tone to tell of the history of the progress of railway tracks across vast Australian landscapes dating back to 1884.

Bound to be rabbit hunters in outback South Australia, a cargo of homeless dogs enter the station. It is Guard Will Ferry who spots a smiling, irresistible pup amongst them – Bob. Bob becomes the Guard’s travelling companion, covering areas from wheat fields through to mining towns, all the way from Oodnadatta to Kalangadoo. For years he’d spring on and out many a train; his experiences expanded along with the tracks being laid. Bob was a part of it all. He befriended many, and even attended a range of special events like the opening of the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge in New South Wales. Bob was a wanderer. He had spirit and gusto. He was the railway dog that everyone knew and loved, and his photograph remains at the Adelaide Station still to this day.

A fascinating, delightfully written retell of an important part of Australia’s importing / exporting and travel network development, with the focal element being the adorable four-legged adventurer that brings life and excitement to this momentous tale. Matching the lively nature of the story are the watercolour, charcoal and black pencil illustrations with their fine details, movement and energy. Andrew McLean uses suitably muted colours with an almost sepia-tone representing this era with class and perfection.

‘Bob the Railway Dog’ features a strong, loveable character with extraordinary audacity. It is a great addition to any home or early years classroom with a wonderful Australian historical and social background.  

imageDog and the Lost Leg, Carlee Yardley (author, illus.), Walker Books, 2015.

With its charming sewn cotton and fabric characters, ‘Dog and the Lost Leg’ is a story with plenty of humour, interactivity and warmth.

It is always difficult to cope with the loss of something you’ve become quite attached to, particularly when it happens to be one of your legs! When Fox notices that Dog’s problem is caused by his missing leg, they embark on a mission to find it. Meeting other animals at their places of work, each one tries to help by offering a leg from the lost-and-found. Unfortunately, a motorbike boot from Bruno’s shop doesn’t quite fit, nor does a clawed foot from Harriet’s fruit market, and an assortment of tails from Pete the Peacock’s barber shop is definitely not right. A few giggles and some tears later, they finally approach Pip at her fabric shop. The leg that she sews looks a bit out of place, but it is perfect and puts the jiggle back in Dog’s tail.

A simple storyline with simple-looking yet adorable pictures (although I’m sure they would have been a lot of work to create) contains the perfect mix of laugh-out-loud moments and those of compassion from its preschool-aged readers. I can just hear those excitable shouts of “NO!” from the audience as they are questioned, “Is that Dog’s leg?”.

This book is an animated, engaging story of the case of a missing leg. With elements of problem solving, creativity, acceptance and wit, ‘Dog and the Lost Leg’ is a testament to the power of friendship and charity between diverse characters.  

imageThe Complete Guide to a Dog’s Best Friend, Felicity Gardner (author), David West (illus.), Lothian Children’s Books, 2015.

Here is another adorably funny book about dogs but with the inverse view of taking care of your best pet friend; the human.

Contrary to most picture books, this one is written for dogs. As an explanatory, informative text, the canine narrator describes all the important things there are to be known about ‘Best Friends’. But it is the way the pictures and words work together that capture humour and depth, and truly provide an eye-opening experience into the dog’s perspective. For example, apparently it’s alright to sit on the Best Friend’s face while they sleep because it is the dog’s job to wake them up if they sleep too long. Helpful gestures include taking out the rubbish, gardening, bringing in the washing and cleaning the toilet! All depicted with those cheeky, rascally behaviours that humans get annoyed about. But those astute pooches have perfect manipulation skills – the slight head tilt and the puppy dog eyes – works every time! And, dogs, even when the Best Friends do things that make no sense (such as strange haircuts and outfits), it’s your loyalty, protection, affection and love that will always get them on side.  

With vivacious, colourful illustrations that feature a mixture of media including watercolour, pencil and scanned newspapers and fabrics, this book captures a real sense of warmth, familiarity and truth. It contains the best elements about welcoming and loving a pet in your family, complete with all their accompanying antics.

‘A Complete Guide to a Dog’s Best Friend’ fosters an appreciation for our pets in a heartwarming, refreshing and ‘waggish’ way, sure to be adored by anyone from age three.

Hey Corinne Fenton, What’s Your Christmas Wish?

Corinne's Launch of Little Dog-5842Corinne Fenton is established as one of Australia’s treasured authors of beautiful picture books. They often contain an element of social history, and her knowledge and passion for writing is regularly shared in schools, libraries and workshops.  
This Christmas, there are TWO Corinne Fenton picture books that are unmissable and will have children from birth to eight feeling enriched and cherished for all of the holiday season; Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and Hey Baby, It’s Christmas! Let’s find out a little more about Corinne Fenton and her books!  

What do you love about writing children’s books?
I love being taken away with the words, those times when in my head I’m spinning and flying on a carousel horse, but really I’m at my desk staring into space.  

queenieMuch of your writing involves a great significance to social history. Is there an element of personal meaning when incorporating these topics?
Yes, in a way I believe I write about animals whose stories must be told – for me there’s a certain responsibility to tell them. When I visit students in schools it gives me a great feeling to share information with them through my stories. I strongly believe that children are learning this information in an enjoyable and almost effortless way. This is another reason why I feel so strongly about picture books.
Queenie: One Elephant’s Story came about by accident (I was actually writing a story about sparrows) but when I found her I knew immediately her story had to be told. Her story raises many issues about animals in zoos today, compared to what zoos were like back when elephants were giving rides not only here in the Melbourne Zoo but in zoos all over the world. Queenie walked for almost 40 years through the depression and through two world wars carrying up to 500 people a day.
The Dog on the Tuckerbox tells of a dog called Lady and her loyalty to her master, but there is also a host of information about bullockies, bullocks, wagons and pioneers and what it was like to live in the days when it took a bullock team up to 4 months to travel a journey which today takes a truck only 4 hours!
Flame Stands Waiting is a fictional story about a carousel horse called Flame, set in a real place – on the carousel at Melbourne’s Luna Park. This story takes place in the years of the depression, the bright lights and happiness of the carousel contrasted strongly with the drab clothing worn by the children. The discussion about this story centres on being different but students can take it further by comparing carousels throughout the world and their differences and by studying further about the depression.  

little-dog-and-the-christmas-wish[Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a truly charming book. It is a story of loyalty, love and family belonging. This gentle, beautifully written tale is set in 1957, with Corinne Fenton’s own nostalgic memories evident, as is her love of dogs!
Little Dog, a white West Highland Terrier, escapes from home in a thunderstorm on Christmas Eve and finds himself in the heart of the city. He passes familiar Melbourne landmarks, scouring through the tall buildings, watching people bustling around, searching for his best friend and owner, Jonathan. With the hope of finding his way back home, will Little Dog get his Christmas wish? With stunning drawings by illustrator Robin Cowcher, appropriate for this setting and era, readers will enjoy the soft watercolours, smooth lines and textures of every scene.
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a heartwarming, engaging story that will have children from aged three, as well as older generations, in anticipation of the ending’s reveal and for future readings every Christmas.
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Your current story, ‘Little Dog and the Christmas Wish’ is set in Melbourne in the 1950s. What does this time and place mean to you? What was your inspiration behind the story?  
This book is special to me for many reasons. A child of the 50’s, it was actually nice to know, first hand, what I was writing about – to remember the enormous Foy’s Santa on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets, calling children toward him like this . . .. (finger) and to remember coming into the city on the green and cream rattly trams to marvel at the Myer windows every year – and walking under the portico of the Melbourne Town Hall. I also remember the clip-clopping of the Clydesdale horses as they delivered milk or bread to our front gate.
I believe I am privileged to have such precious Christmas memories and to be able to tie that in with a lovable ‘Little Dog’ character was a special Christmas gift for myself.  

The illustrations by Robin Cowcher are simply stunning. How much of the artistic content is based on your own ideas, and how much came from Robin?
As with all of my books I did a lot of research on this particular book, which Robin was able to refer to. The story is set in 1957 so the Myer windows that year displayed The Nutcracker Suite and on Christmas Eve that year the Regent Theatre were screening An Affair to Remember (one of my favourite old movies) so I imagined all of this when I was writing. Yes, Robin did a magical job on telling the other half of the story with her superb illustrations.  

hey-baby-it-s-christmasA love letter became ‘Hey Baby!’, dedicated to her own babies. ‘Hey Mum, I Love You’ was written for her own special mum. ‘Hey Dad, You’re Great’ was released in time for Father’s Day and is dedicated to her ”dad, grandpa, pop, great grandpa, all of whom I was privileged to know, and to my husband for being such a great dad.”
”This final book (‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’) is dedicated to my sister and brother who shared with me wonderful and precious childhood Christmases, which are printed on our hearts.” – Corinne Fenton.
Hey Baby, It’s Christmas includes an adorable array of animal images, accompanied by equally beautiful text by Corinne Fenton about enjoying the exciting lead up to Christmas.
”Hey Baby. Hang on tight, count the sleeps. Christmas is coming.”
This book touches the heart with tender moments between mother and baby, with cute, cuddly ducklings and a ‘quiet as dreaming’ sleeping puppy. There are also moments that make you giggle. Hey Baby, It’s Christmas is perfect for those calm, soothing times, when you can steal plenty of sneaky kisses and cuddles with your little one, whilst teaching them the true meaning of Christmas… Love!
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Congratulations on the release of your most recent book, ‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’! How did you celebrate the launch?
This launch was celebrated on Sunday November 9 at the Watsonia Pre-school with readings, books, babies, small children, cake, Christmas crafts, face painting and lots of laughter. It was the perfect place to launch such a book.  

What has been your favourite part of creating this book, and all the ‘Hey Baby!’ books in the series?
In all picture books I believe each word must earn the right to be there and in these short books (the original Hey Baby is only 53 words long) it’s even more important that each word is as perfect as it can be and that’s my favourite part, finding that perfect word, no matter how long it takes.  

Did you have a long term plan to publish all your titles in the series when writing the first ‘Hey Baby!’ book?
Not at all. I actually wrote the first one, Hey Baby! as a dedication in another book, which is not yet published. It was one of those happy accidents that grew.  

What is your favourite thing about the festive season?
Christmas memories and making more and being with the people I love. This Christmas will be special writing-wise as I have many book signings and readings in the lead up to Christmas (see my website under events – and my regular Wednesday blog post.) http://corinnefenton.com/blog    

Thank you so much for sharing, Corinne! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season!  
And the same to you Romi. Thank you for this opportunity. Corinne  

Connect with Corinne:
http://corinnefenton.com/  
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Corinne-Fenton-Author/

Book it in! Sunday 30 November  – 11.00 a.m. –
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish Window Launch Event at The Little Bookroom, 5 Degraves Street, Melbourne –

Check dates for other appearances by Corinne Fenton on her blog: http://corinnefenton.com/blog  

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

Hey Baby!

Hey BabyCombine some adorably cute animal photos with some lovely, heartfelt, poetic text. What do you get? Corinne Fenton’s new picture book, Hey Baby!. Actually, it came out late last year… I’m just a little behind the times. 😉

My review copy arrived last year and I immediately read the book to my then three-year-old daughter (now four), Lexi. She loved it! And the book promptly disappeared into her collection. So, when I sat down to write the review… I couldn’t find the book. But a couple of days ago, when I asked Lexi what she wanted as her bed-time story that evening, she came running up to me with Hey Baby!. I read it to her and we enjoyed it all over again. But this time I made sure to take it with me.

Corinne Fenton (author of books such as Flame Stands Waiting and Queenie) has written a delightful message to a newborn baby. It is only two sentences long — but what absolutely perfect sentences they are. Each word is just right. And together they convey such emotion. I defy any parent to read this book and not connect with these words. Writing such a short book is by no means an easy task. Words must be chosen oh so carefully. So hats off to Corinne for the words she chose.

I’m not normally a fan of picture books that throw together a bunch of stock photos. But this book pulls it off. They are well chosen photos. Lexi certainly loved them. She made sure that I didn’t turn the pages too fast, as she wanted to name each of the animals and talk about what they were doing.

My only negative comment is the presentation of four of the photos. Most of the photos, including those on the front and back cover, have the animals on a white background. No distractions — the reader’s attention focussed directly onto the animals. But four of the photos are presented differently, with animals in situ. They are a bit jarring and lack the impact of the other photos. The graphic designer’s choice, perhaps? (OW! My graphic designer wife just hit me.) But this is a minor quibble. It’s still a pretty awesome book.

Okay… now that I’ve finished the review I can give the book back to Lexi. 🙂

Catch ya later,  George

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QUEENIE – One Elephant’s Story

There was a time when for tuppence you could ride on the back of an elephant at a zoo. Queenie was one such elephant.

In Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, award-winning team of author Corinne Fenton and illustrator, Peter Gouldthorpe tell the remarkable true story of this special elephant.

Until her death in 1945 Queenie carried up to 500 passengers a day. She trod the Trail of Elephants around the Melbourne Zoo, and many visitors came to see, touch and ride this famous elephant.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story tells the story of the elephant’s birth in a jungle in India more than one hundered years ago and how she became an icon at the Melbourne Zoo.

Clearly a huge amount of research has gone into this book and the sensitive telling of Queenie’s story reflects how much she touched author, Corinne Fenton’s heart.

In her dedication at the start of the book, Corinne says,

Why did the life of one majestic elephant keep drawing me back to investigate the story further?

Perhaps the answer is simple, in that Queenie gave of her heart, performing a tireless task for almost 40 years. She was loved and remembered by generations of children and adults and was an icon in the days when a visit to the zoo was often the most important event in a child’s social calendar.

Queenie, One Elephant’s Story has just been released in paperback and this authentic Australian story was an Honour Book, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, CBCA Awards in 2007.

What’s extraordinary about this book is that it’s not just a historical account. It’s a moving story about a real animal who clearly found her way into the hearts of both Corinne Fenton and the illustrator of Queenie, One Elephant’s Story, Peter Gouldthorpe.

Between them, Corinne and Peter have poignantly brought Queenie’s story and her place in history to life.

The beautifully illustrated picture book is for readers aged 5+ but it can be enjoyed by adults and older readers too. It is published by Black Dog Books, an imprint of Walker Books

Migrants and carousels

I read LOTS of picture books! My youngest is not quite three and she loves picture books. She’ll spend ages flipping through pages and pointing things out to me. But most of all, she loves it when we sit down together, and I read them to her. So we do it every day.

You know, there are lots of really ordinary picture books out there. Some aren’t very well written. Some aren’t very well illustrated. Sometimes both text and visuals are just fine… but the overall book is missing a spark. So, when a really good picture book crosses my path, I stand up and take notice. And I’ve encountered two such books this week.

The first of these is a brand new book, scheduled for publication in February. Ships in the Field is written by Susanne Gervay and illustrated by Anna Pignataro.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the title. Ships in the field? What could that possibly mean? It’s actually a mis-pronunciation of “sheep in the field”, very common among European migrants in Australia. And once I realised this, it immediately brought up a host of memories. You see, my parents are migrants. They did, and still do, pronounce certain English words in an odd way, often adding an extraneous ‘s’ to pluralise a word that is already plural. And so we have “ships” instead of “sheep”.

Ships in the Field is a story about migrants escaping war; a story about making a new life in a new country; and the story of a little girl who wants a puppy. It is both simple and complex at the same time. A simple story about a girl, for a small child to follow and enjoy. And behind that, the story of her parents. In this book there are no country names, there are no dates, there is no specific setting, giving the story a universality and timeless quality.

“Papa grew up in a village in the old country, before it was broken. Ma grew up in a city in the old country, before it was broken.”

The illustrations are beautiful! They are filled with the same humour, warmth and subtlety as the text. There is so much to discover on every page.

Both Gervay and Pignataro are children of migrants. Perhaps that is why they’ve produced such a heartfelt and ‘real’ story.

The second book is from a couple of years ago, although I’ve only just read it. Flame Stands Waiting is written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione. Set in what looks like Melbourne’s Luna Park, this is the story of Flame, one of the horses on the carousel.

Flame is the horse that doesn’t move up and down. Flame is the horse that stands completely still. Flame is the horse that the kids are least interested in. Flame is the horse that always stands waiting…

Until one day, a girl named Clara chooses to ride on Flame and teaches Flame that although he can’t move up and down, in his heart, he can do anything and go anywhere.

“And now, whenever the carousel turns and the other horses dance, Flame dances too… in his heart.”

This is such a lovely book — a heart-warming story with gorgeous illustrations. Although it was published in 2010 it is still widely available and highly recommended.

If only there were more picture books as good as these two.

Catch ya later,  George

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The Art of Self-Promotion

Authors need to promote their books! A few weeks ago, at a meeting of the Victorian branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a panel of writers (Pauline Luke, Edel Wignell and myself) discussed the topic of promotion. What was evident from the discussion, is that different writers promote in different ways. Some have embraced social media and all forms of electronic promotion, others prefer to stick to more traditional forms such as signings and appearances. Some, like myself, have become promotional sluts, grabbing every conceivable opportunity. But the one thing that everyone agreed on, is how important promotion is to an author’s career.

Inspired by this discussion, I thought a post with some promotion was in order. Relax, I’m not about to try and sell you my books. Instead, I’ve invited five authors to promote themselves in 100 words or less. And so, in alphabetical order, here they are…

Corinne Fenton

Sometimes I think I have this disease called ‘writing’ and no matter what else is going on in my life, I can still get lost in words, words that talk to one another.  A review in Bookseller and Publisher last year said, ‘Corinne Fenton has established a reputation for writing beautiful picture-book histories of animals whose lives have become legendary.’ I hope to keep doing that forever. My next favourite thing is speaking to children and adults about the writing and research behind my books at schools, libraries and bookshops. I have a website, a blog and I use twitter.

[Corinne Fenton’s new website, including blog, was not yet live when this blog was posted. Keep an eye on it as it will be up very soon… www.corinnefenton.com]

Bren MacDibble

“Angsty, wacky, thoughtful and with a lovely sense of black humour” are words that have been used to describe the stories of Bren MacDibble. She has had ten books for children published as well as lots of short stories for all ages. She likes to write accessible science fiction and finds no end to the new and unusual story ideas offered by futuristic themes. Bren’s a Clarion graduate and her passion is YA novels. Thanks to many fine writerly affiliations, Bren’s creativity thrives in Melbourne. You can find her on twitter or visit her website.

Julie Murphy

To date, my books have all been for the education market. The publishers promote those, so I tend to promote myself. I focus on the www — it’s relatively quick, it’s global, and it’s free. In addition to my own website, I keep author pages on Goodreads, JacketFlap, AuthorsDen, Amazon and LinkedIn. The Australian Society of Authors and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators feature links to my website. Also, whenever I write articles for parents’ or children’s magazines, or my column for the children’s literacy e-mag, Bug News, my web address appears in the byline.

Claire Saxby

I write fiction, non-fiction and poetry for children. My most recent picture book is There Was an Old Sailor, illustrated by Cassandra Allen (Walker Books Australia). I also write for education publishers and have written for Hardie Grant Egmont’s Go Girl! series. Visit my website for more details.

Book promotion is an integral part of my writing and can take many forms. Bookshop and school visits are probably my most common activities, but online promotion is increasing. Websites, blogs, virtual booktours all help to promote my books and me as a writer.

Gabrielle Wang

As a writer I feel it is important to promote yourself. However there is a fine line between having a quiet presence and blatant self-promotion. I have a website that has been set up so I can maintain it myself. This is important. I don’t want to have to wait for my web designer. I have a blog page on my website and write posts fairly regularly. And I have two Facebook pages – one personal, the other public. I’m also on Twitter but I don’t use it as much as FB. All are linked to my website.

George’s bit at the end

So there you have it… a little bit of insight into the promotional activities of five Australian authors. If there are any other authors out there reading this post, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your website, blog or Twitter account.

Tune in next time for an interview with bestselling fantasy author Trudi Canavan.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll promote at ya.

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FLAME STANDS WAITING

Flame Stands Waiting is a beautiful new picture book written by Corinne Fenton and illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione.

This moving story is for four-year-olds and upwards. It’s about Flame, a golden carousel horse with a sad heart.

Unlike the other horses, who are designed to move up and down, Flame was built to stand still. The children choose to ride on the turning, dancing horses and Flame is left waiting. Until one day, a little girl who has always dreamed of riding the beautiful horses comes to ride the carousel…

Author, Corinne Fenton says, Flame Stands Waiting is about wanting something enough to make it real – and believing in your dreams.

She hopes that Flame Stands Waiting will

help younger readers see the power of imagination and grandparents will be reminded of their own childhoods and be caught up in the magic.

I asked Corinne to tell me about the writing process.

Where did the inspiration for Flame Stands Waiting come from?

Way before I ever had Queenie published and certainly before The Dog on the Tuckerbox, I had started Flame. One day my mother said to me, ‘You know the first thing your grandmother wanted to do when she moved to Melbourne (from Tasmania) was to ride the carousel at Luna Park.’  So, Flame began.

Why is Flame unique?

Flame is different from the other horses because he cannot move – but although his heart is sad, it is strong.

What did you enjoy most about writing Flame Stands Waiting?

I enjoyed finding the most perfect words.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

The rewrites and the waiting.

“Wanting something enough to make it real – and believing in your dreams” is what turns would-be writers into authors according to Corinne.

I became an author through sheer dogged, persistence – and some luck thrown in as well. The hardest part is continuing to believe in yourself, against all odds.

Corinne’s tip for new writers is

Believe in yourself and if you be persistent you’ll get where you want to go.

If you love writing, just get on with it. If you have something to say, a story to tell, you’ll find a way to do it, no matter what you’re up against.

Corinne is also the author of Queenie-One Elephant’s Story and The Dog on the Tuckerbox. Her books are a blend of social history and beautiful storytelling.

Flame Stands Waiting is published by Black Dog Books, and readers who enjoy Corinne’s books will be pleased to know that she has another five picture books and a junior novel in progress.