Review – Home of the Cuckoo Clock

‘There’s a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple too. And up in the nursery, an absurd little bird is popping up to say, “Cuckoo, cuckoo!”’

So marks the passing of time as decreed by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Time, we often complain about its restraints and resist its ravages but to ignore it completely results in chaos. At least it does for the village of Schoenwald in Home of the Cuckoo Clock.

Home of the Cuckoo Clock is Robert Favretto’s first venture into the picture book world, one he makes with considerable assuredness and aptitude along with illustrator, David Eustace. Together they navigate the difficult yet supreme landscape of telling stories in pictures against the stunning backdrop of Germany’s Black Forest region.

Schoenwald is caught in a peculiar metaphysical time warp, in other words, frozen in time. It’s not a bad thing ignoring the passing of time however complete deprivation of any time keeping results in some devastating situations for the villagers: children are late for school, the shops do not open on time, and cows are not milked. The problem? No clocks.

Continue reading Review – Home of the Cuckoo Clock

There’s no place like home – Aussie flavoured picture books

During my short sabbatical from all things digital over the festive season, I visited some exotic, mesmerising places, supped on mouth-watering local fare, and immersed myself in numerous colourful cultural experiences. It was invigorating and fun but like always after a hard stint abroad, it is great to be home, because for me, there is no place like home. Therefore, to kick off the New Year and in readiness for our annual Aussie Day celebrations, here are a few picture books to stir up your patriotism.

shearing-timeShearing Time by Allison Paterson & Shane McGrath

Nothing shouts Australia louder than sheep, blowies, and working dogs on bikes. I envy the ability the picture book team of Paterson and McGrath has at capturing the essence of the Aussie outback with such bold open sky appeal.

Colourful and engaging, Shearing Time begins during the school holidays with one farm girl’s exclamation, ‘I love shearing time!’ She goes on to explain why, inviting readers to share her shearing experiences from sunrise to sunset. Every aspect including herding cantankerous sheep, the arrival of the rowdy seasonal shearers, the racket and rumble of shearing time right up to the feeding of workers is ably depicted giving youngsters a realistic, close-up look of how wool is procured from paddock to jumper. The glossary of well-loved shearing terms is especially useful.

A great focus on rural life and one of our most significant primary industries for 4 – 8 year-olds.

Big Sky Publishing March 2017

gus-dog-goes-to-workGus Dog Goes to Work by Rachel Flynn & Craig Smith

Here is another picture book duo whose combination of imaginative images and engaging text I adore. Once again, there are strong visual and verbal connections with regional Australian life. Chock-a-block full of colloquial language and ribald observation, Gus Dog Goes to Work is an excellent read-aloud picture book allowing carers to inject plenty of iconic Aussie swagger in their rendering of it. Gus is your typical sheepdog who exists only to work and please his owner, Tom.  When he awakes one morning to find Tom and his Ute missing however, Gus decides to venture out on his own to work. His meanderings steer him a little off track and into some stinky, hilarious, quintessentially doggy dilemmas until finally he and Tom are reunited.

Dog lovers aged five and above will get a massive kick out of this entertaining expose of country life from a pooch’s point-view. Bursting with more Aussie flavour than a barbie full of beef sangers, Gus comes highly recommended.

Working Title Press February 2017

fabishFabish the horse that braved a bushfire by Neridah McMullin & Andrew McLean

This is a gem of a book that evokes considerable emotion; warm tears spring forth unbidden each time I read it. Based on the true story of the vicious bushfires that ripped through the Victorian bush in February 2009, this picture book introduces us to ex-thoroughbred racer, Fabish and his retired role as mentor to the younger flighty yearlings.

McMullin faithfully recreates the mood and atmosphere of that scorching summer’s day when fire menaced the region. Fabish’s trainer, Alan Evett released the yearlings and Fabish fatalistically to find their own way while he huddled with the remaining stock in the stone stables. Outside a firestorm blazed out of control. He never thought he would see Fabish and the yearlings again.

The next morning dawned charred and desolate. Not a single living thing remained and yet miraculously, through the choking smoky haze Fabish appeared leading his yearlings home. McLean’s raw rustic palette coupled with McMullin’s poignant interpretation of the tale is a beautiful tribute to human resilience, loyalty, the power of nature and a truly unforgettable horse.

Strongly recommended for 6 – 9 year-olds

Allen & Unwin July 2016

sparkSpark by Adam Wallace & Andrew Plant

I grew up in the Adelaide foothills and witnessed the horrors of several summer infernos like Ash Wednesday but never experienced one first hand as author Adam Wallace did. Spark is a fascinating picture book depicting Australia’s most recent and devastating bushfire event, Black Saturday but ostensibly describing the catastrophic destructiveness and formidable beauty of any firestorm. And, along with Plant, he does so indescribably well.

Wallace succeeds with what no other has attempted before, to give fire a voice.  From the uniquely omnipotent point-of-view of a tiny spark, Wallace characterises the burgeoning flame with an almost child-like persona, suggesting a helpless naivety that encourages an instant empathy. Together, with the growing flame, we are borne along with a capricious and irascible wind, intent it seems after at first befriending the flame, to cause as much upset as possible until all control is lost.

Exhilarating and wild, terrifying and violent, Spark rips through your emotions with a mere sprinkling of words but with the force of an atomic bomb. Soul serrating language is not the only draw card. Plant’s monochrome illustrations will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Textural and scented with the acrid bitterness of the aftermath of pure destruction, Spark ends on the same quiet unassuming note as it begins; with teardrops from above, a flash of light and glimmer of green hope, simply brilliant.

A potent and compelling picture book useful for prompting discussions on natural disasters, Australian history,  and looking at things unconventionally for older primary aged readers.

Ford Street Publishing imprint of Hybrid Publishing October 2016

Stick around for the next swag-load of Aussie titles coming soon.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

Chasing the Legend

Ford Street Publishing has recently revised and re-issued ‘The Legend Series’ by Michael Panckridge. I remember how appealing it was for primary age children when I read it in 2003 and so was keen to re-read it. chasing-the-break-cover-e1474516051991

The Legends sports competition is held over the course of the year, beginning with surfing in February. The scoring for the winning Legend in each sport is based on skills, knowledge and a game or competitive session.

The first book in the series is Chasing the Break and it’s about surfing. Mitchell Grady is a new student and is immediately targeted by vindictive bully Travis Fisk. A strong (dirty) athlete like Travis is the perfect antagonist in a series like this.

Camp at the beginning of the year is dedicated to surfing, with the ironman and ironwoman competition held at the end of the week. The descriptions of surfing will capture the attention of young sports’ lovers, with an added thrill from Travis’s underhanded tactics.

Mitchell and his new friends work out a ploy to help Mitchell ‘find the flag’ in the traditional Aussie Nippers’ beach race. Jack tries to sacrifice his own chances of winning to help Mitchell in the race itself. Non-sporty readers may find an affinity with Bryce, who is skilled in using technology.

Mitchell is probably the best male surfer in the group but Travis is a strong swimmer and sprinter, so the ironman race is up for grabs. As a surfer, Mitchell knows the ocean, and uses it to his advantage.

Girls don’t miss out. Some of the best athletes are girls. Their talent in both surfing (such as Penny who has just returned from a surfing competition in Sydney) and cricket (the featured sport in Against the Spin, the second book in the series) can supersede the boys’ skill. The competition between the girls is also intense, particularly between Mia Tompkins, Katie Chan and Luci Rankin at the start. against-the-spin-500-h-cover

There is a hint of beginning romance between Mitchell and Luci, who shows an interest in Mitchell by talking to him and watching him surf. Mitchell has probably never spoken more than a few words to a girl before but he enjoys her attention.

Tennis follows cricket. Then there are some winter team sports before concluding with athletics and swimming. Each book has a slightly different feel because of the focal sport. There is a quiz about the sport at the end of each book.

Reading the series is fun with the points being added up not just in each book but also cumulatively throughout the series to find out who will become the Legend of Sport.

Picture Books with World Dementia Month in Mind

image

September is Dementia Awareness Month, an important initiative providing Australians with further knowledge and understanding of how dementia affects individuals, their families and carers. The theme for this year is ‘You are not alone’; a sentiment that aims to help those impacted to feel supported and empowered even in difficult circumstances.

Dedicating their time and energy to raising awareness of the topic of ageing grandparents or other family members is a passionate group of Australian children’s authors and illustrators. Their personal, heartfelt stories of hope and compassion continue to provide encouragement, optimism and inspiration to many children and families confronting change and illness in the ones they love.

imageDebra Tidball‘s When I see Grandma fits perfectly with the theme of ‘You are not alone’ on several levels. It is a poignant story of a little girl who brightens the dreams of her grandmother in an Aged Care Home. With gorgeously illuminating illustrations by Leigh Hedstrom, this book includes both heartwarming and practical strategies for creating, and rekindling fond memories.

Debra states, “When I see Grandma shows children interacting in a space that is not usually thought of as child-friendly – an aged care home. If parents of young children can see beyond the sadness of their own experiences and take their children to visit aged relatives in this setting, it can provide an enriching experience for all.”

She further relays, “Research shows that people with dementia and their carers are significantly lonelier than the general population. The children in When I See Grandma share very simple things they enjoy with their gran and the other residents – like reading, singing, and playing peek-a-boo, all giving the message, in a very natural, easy way, that their grandma is not alone.” Debra wrote the book to “let families know that they are not alone in their experiences and to encourage families to keep connections with elderly and ailing relatives so that they too, know that they are not alone.”

More on the book and a Boomerang Books interview with Debra Tidball can be found here.

In a recent article, Debra provides enlightening guidance for children and parents on reading to grandparents. Find it on the Wombat Books blog here.

Wombat Books, February 2014.

imageLucas and Jack focuses on the power of memory to establish close bonds between a boy and his Grandpop. Divinely illustrated by Andrew McLean, and gently written by Ellie Royce, this book is a fantastic medium “to start conversation, memories and stories flowing.”

Ellie explains the power of listening. “As a picture book about older people’s stories, it [Lucas and Jack] encourages the listening which often leads to such enriching connections being formed.” Read the full article here.

More on Ellie Royce’s book and a Boomerang Books interview is here.

Working Title Press, June 2014.

imageVictoria Lane (Thieberger) is the author of Celia and Nonna, with timeless illustrations by Kayleen West. This gentle book embraces the hard realities of dementia and adapting to change, but at the same time highlights strength, togetherness and faith in the ones we love.

Victoria encourages readers to find ways to accept and manage these often confusing times. “It is so important to keep children involved and informed, whatever changes are happening in the family… Celia finds her own delightful way(s). I hope that Celia and Nonna will help to start a conversation with children when a loved one is affected by dementia or old age.”

The full review and Boomerang Books interview with Victoria Lane is here.

Ford Street Publishing, September 2014.

imageDo You Remember? by Kelly O’Gara and Anna McNeil is a comforting, poignant story of memory and togetherness of a mouse and her grandmother. The celebration and the gradual fading of those memories are gently portrayed using the child’s artwork as a medium to remind her grandmother of her own rich and wonderful stories. This book shows a beautiful way to support and encourage children and their elderly grandparents to preserve and strengthen their bonds.

Wombat Books, February 2015.

imageHarry Helps Grandpa Remember, authored by Karen Tyrrell, and illustrated by Aaron Pocock, is a story of compassion, humour and hope. Young Harry provides a forgetful, confused and lost Grandpa with cleverly integrated coping and memory skills. Here is a book that gently introduces “children to the realities of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.” Find out more about the book here.

Digital Future Press, April 2015.


Alzheimer’s Australia also has resources to help provide reassurance to families. Another website to explore is Dementia in my Family, where you can find most of the above picture books listed in the resources section. Click here for more information on dementia and loneliness.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

Hippity Hoppity – Easter’s on its way!

You may be surprised as I to learn that Easter is just two and a half weeks away. Well, maybe not with all those buns and eggs on the shop shelves to remind you. If filling your Easter break with more than just chocolate and egg hunts and spiritual appreciation is important to you, then perhaps these new picture book releases will appease the persnickety Peter Rabbit within (and entertain your younglings to boot!)

We're Going on an Egg Hunt Laura HugesWe’re going on an Egg Hunt, by Laura Hughes amply satisfies young tastes with easy-to-read, boldly laid out text that echoes the perennial favourite, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt verse. Being instantly recognisable means small eyes can concentrate on Hughes’ foxy little illustrations, only there is not a fox in sight, thank goodness. The Bunny Family are the ones on the hunt…for eggs naturally, and they are super excited about it, too.

As they traverse their way through woods and across farmyards, they encounter obstacles at every twist and bend. Armed with nothing more than an egg-swiping net and a barrow-load of perseverance, they figure out the best course of action until they hit the jackpot and a whole lot of trouble. Did I mention there were no foxes?! Perfect Easter action-based fun for pre-schoolers demonstrating positive rewards follow tenacious effort with dinky flaps to lift and treasures to accumulate.

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2016

The Wonderful Habits of RabbitsEver wondered what rabbits get up to when they are not fighting off wolves and hunting for eggs? Well, wonder no more for The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits will delight every lover of lapins and addresses all those tricky rabbit questions. Written in gently loping verse, author, Douglas Florian invites us to spend a day with a colony of rabbits (otherwise known as a fluffle) as they leap and laze The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits illos spreadabout the meadows. Actually, life with this family of cottontails stretches poetically across several seasons until it’s time to snuggle down with a goodnight kiss. Sonia Sanchez’s winsome pencil line drawings bound with colour and charm depicting the energetic spirit of bunny in the most Watership Down-dream-like way. The end papers are particularly appealing, especially for kids who love to quantify and establish ownership (of things) with plenty of rabbits to choose a favourite from. The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits is a fetching addition to your Easter reading.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

George BilbyIf Easter equals a chance to chillax with your loved ones and whip up a few dozen hot cross buns as it can for me, then you’ll appreciate George, the Bilby Chef and his insatiable quest to cook. This sweet new character hailing from the pens and paintbrushes of Jedda Robaard features in the first of a new picture book series about enterprising epicurean marsupial, George and because bilbies like George are Australia’s preferred kind of egg-delivering icon, he fits snuggly into any Easter basket. In this debut instalment, The Raspberry Surprise, George is intent on surprising his best friend, Betty Echidna on her birthday with a special sweet treat. Raspberry muffinsGeorge Bilby illos spread are his dessert of choice but locating and then harvesting said raspberries proves to be near impossible until George enlists the services of some of his very obliging and thoughtful friends. By the time Betty arrives, the cakes have been baked and readers are gently aware of the benefits of working together towards a shared goal. Robaard’s soft easy to digest illustrations compensate for a slightly longer text but one that young readers will enthuse over thanks to the lovely sense of expectation and logical explanation. Best of all; a handy Bilby Chef Recipe card is included to keep and use. I wonder what other scrumdelicious adventures George will encounter. Ideal for three-year-olds and above and budding junior Masterchefs everywhere.

The Five Mile Press February 2016

Dance Bilby DanceFor many, Easter is a time of reflection, renewed hope and of life moving forward. For most of us, dreams represent the impetus to continue. In Tricia Oktober’s latest picture book, Dance, Bilby, Dance, our favourite Easter marsupial, Bilby is no different; ‘he wishes he could dance.’ In what appears to initially be a one-man show, Bilby is surrounded by white space, alone with his desires while all those in the world around him appear to revel in what he regards is unobtainable, until one day, after closely observing his dancing shadow, his innermost yearnings leap into existence. But, has Bilby unleashed a passion too big and scary to control? Oktober’s bright expressive illustrations are king in a quietly impressive picture book that imaginatively introduces readers five years old and above to some curious critters, stirring language, and the possibilities that can lead to new friendships. I especially appreciated the gentle notion that overcoming ones fears can free one for moments of ecstatic expression and reward; an approach to life that should never be underestimated. And perhaps one of the soundest Easter messages of all.

Ford Street Publishing March 2016

Aussie Easter Hat ParadeNow it just wouldn’t be a notable time of year without a cheer-filled, colourful contribution by Colin Buchanan and Simon Williams, and if you have primary aged children you will instantly sympathise with the Easter Hat Parade tradition performed at many schools. What I love about Aussie Easter Hat Parade is the outrageous tribute to not only a swag of Aussie creatures but also the brilliant flora that constitutes their homeland (and ours). From the bright red desert pea that Billy Bullant crowns himself with to Wombat’s Gymea lily lid, each little mate adorns themselves with feathers, flowers, gum nuts and more resulting in a fantastic Easter bonnet brouhaha and the very first Aussie Easter Hat parade (just in case you were wondering how all this craziness started). Sensational fun, bewitching illustrations and a singalong CD to boot, with a neat little ending reminding us that sometimes the biggest brightest ideas can originate from the most minute situations…or ants.

Scholastic Australia March 2016

 

 

Books with Bite – YA and MG reviews

Young Adult and Mid-grade novels are being gobbled up by kids and young adults almost faster than they can be cooked up. The exhilarating storylines and make-you-laugh-hate-cry predicaments I discover between the covers of YA and junior novels are repeatedly rewarding, and contrary to the views of some of my adult-only reading friends, capable of imparting deep satisfaction with tales of intense emotion and believable fantasy. These novels tell it like it is, with a no hold bars attitude and formidable spunk that instantly cements our dislike or admiration for the heroes within. They are quick and honest reads to invest in, which is why they are so perennially popular. Here are some you might like to eat up, if you can wrest them off your teenager’s bookshelf.

Mid-Upper Primary Reads

The Vanilla Slice KidThe Vanilla Slice Kid takes the custard-pie-in-the-face gag to a death defying new level. Chockers with slap stick humour and oozing with more pink spew than you can catch in a wheelbarrow, this midgrade novel is sure to crack a smile on the dials of 6 – 11 year-olds. Archie is a kid with envious abilities; he can shoot sweet sticky treats from the palms of his hands. Only trouble is he hates cakes and has a set of parents and one hysterically insane General bent on exploiting his super talent. As the General’s domination of the world draws closer and Archie’s own life hangs in a gooey mess of trifle and fruitcake, Archie must rapidly decide who to trust and what to eat. Deliciously good fun, Adam Wallace and Jack Wodhams know how to whet young appetites. Liberally sprinkled with wacky line drawings by Tom Gittus, The Vanilla Slice Kid is one satisfying read.

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

CrossingCrossing by Catherine Norton had me engrossed from start to finish. This softly dystopian drama is an interesting reflective exploration of the corruption and discord that can develop in human society no matter how long we spend on this planet and an interesting suggestion that history is ever capable of repeating itself. Echoes of WWII communistic control reverberate throughout with the most obvious similarity being the Wall, which separates 12 year-old Cara’s reality from a future she has never dared think about before let alone attempt to strive for. Norton’s gripping narrative echoes with prophetic what ifs, encourages individualism, and reminds us to never ‘let them wall your mind.’

Omnibus Books May 2014

Upper Primary – 14+ Reads

Talk UnderwaterTalk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer is a breezy light-hearted read about a couple of teenagers facing not so breezy light-hearted experiences. Seems talking under water is easier than you think (especially if you are deaf), but talking above it about your innermost desires and trepidations is not quite as smooth sailing.  Life in the teenage world can be ‘as simple and as complicated as that’ accordingly to Will who is wrest from his mainland home to Tasmania on the whim of his disillusioned divorced dad. When he meets Summer, his world begins to brighten, however her reluctance to share her deafness with him for fear of thwarting their budding relationship creates confusion and misunderstanding deeper than the Bass Strait. Written in an expository and introspective style, Talk Under Water is a beautiful observation of being young and being deaf, literally giving diversity a face and voice.

UQP August 2015

OneOne by Sarah Crossan is searingly beautiful. I’m almost lost for words. Poignant, painful and playful, Crossan invites us to spend the end of summer and beyond with conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace. It’s an experience you are not likely to forget in a hurry. Explicit yet elegant, this verse novel has the power to move you effortlessly from mirth to heartbreak with a solitary syllable. Written with sensitivity and extraordinary candour, One is one of the more ‘grown up’ verse novels I’ve read yet possesses all the succinct expressive precision I’ve come to expect and enjoy of them. Crossan examines the one question: what does it mean to want and have a soul mate? Is the battle for identity and dignity worth the loss of sisterhood love? Unequivocally compelling and wrenching and highly recommended.

Bloomsbury Children’s September 2015

YA – New Adult Reads

The FlywheelFurther embracing the notion of diversity is Erin Gough’s *The Flywheel. This upper high school read is LOL funny and tummy turning cringe-worthy (Not because of the writing – Gough’s narrative is prose perfect. More because of the excruciatingly embarrassing and difficult situations 17 year-old Delilah must struggle her way through.)       I had not expected The Flywheel to delve head first into the impenetrable tangles of unwanted responsibility, sexual identity, social expectations and love with such wild abandon nor so entertainingly. Thoroughly absorbing characters, snappy wordplay and enough fraught situations coupled with realistic downers kept me guessing how life was ever going to pan out for Dancing Queen Del. The Flywheel (café) is the type of place I’d like to return to. Definitely worth a visit.

Hardie Grant Egmont February 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live HereIt is near impossible to put into words just how ingenious Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here is. Ness writes with such acerbic wit and abandon in such an incredibly controlled, dagger-precise way, it actually becomes a sheer joy to be caught in the swirling angst of so many pre-grad teenagers. This is the penultimate tale of the underdog finessed with consummate care and at times an irreverence you cannot help but admire. Ness’s mixed posse of Unchosen Ones led by Mr McOrdinary, Mikey barely have to whisper for attention yet are heard with stinging clarity. They banally attempt to get on with their lives and graduate however, the Chosen Ones’ inability to deal with the Big Bad continually claims their attention. Explosively wicked, you must experience this (Ness) for yourself.

Walker Books August 2015

*You’ll note a fair whack of these terrific reads are by Aussie authors and for some, this is their first novel, made possible by such incentives as The Ampersand Project. When you purchase and read an Aussie title, you are not only supporting the further creation of more awesome stories but you are in no small way ensuring the survival of a distinctly unique and vital Australian industry. Read all about Boomerang Books commitment to #ByAustralianBuyAustralian here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Story – Festivals and anthologies in review

Rich and RareEditor, publisher, author, and all round busy guy, Paul Collins describes his latest anthology as ‘a sumptuous literary feast’ in which ‘no one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.’ If that doesn’t whet your appetite for the collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork that is, Rich and Rare, then spend a few moments ingesting Julie Fison’s interview with him as they dissect the intricacies of this collection.

His description, I feel also encapsulates the essence of our Australian literary landscape, so admirably showcased a couple of weeks ago at the 19th Story Arts Festival of Children’s Literature iPaul Collinsn Ipswich. This biennial Queensland festival is for adults and young adults be they teachers, librarians, or emerging writers and illustrators aiming to heighten awareness in the creative arts of writing and illustration and help build and maintain increased audiences for children’s literature. The school kids involved really loved it too.

I found the Story Arts Festival nothing short of inspirational and one of the most relaxed, enriching and informative conferences I have experienced. Like the anthology, Rich and Rare, it treated participating creators to a vast and delicious array of art, insight, and entertainment. Many of the contributors to this anthology participated at this year’s Story Arts. Many more are past presenting veterans of the festival. Here is but a sampler of some of the tantalising talent served up; the guest list is stupendously long and illustrious with the likes of Shaun Tan, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath, Tania McCartney, Gabrielle Wang, and Tracey Hawkins to drop just a few.

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur Janeen Brian award winning multi-genre children’s author whose Rich and Rare story, The Art of Illusion inspires wonder and magic in young minds. With illustrators, Ann James, Matt Ottley, Terry Denton and fellow authors, Mark Greenwood and Tony Palmer, she revealed the fun and frustrations behind creations such as her phenomenally successful I’m a Dinosaur picture book series, whilst striving to increase literacy in children through entertaining literary content.

 Oliver Phommavanh is another such entertainer dishing up platefuls sensitive story lines liberally garnished with loads of laughs. What kid can resist temptations like those? Following his riotous expose of being an Aussie kid with Thai parents in suburban Australia with Thai-riffic! and Thai-no-mite, Phommavanh continues to slap out the humour with Stuff Happens: Ethan and Con-nerd. His short Rich and Rare tale, My Brother’s Keeper displays Phommavanh’s trademark observational wit in a devastatingly touching, contemporary way.

Veiled Secrets Archimede Fussillo is another first-generation Australian this time sporting an Italian heritage. His impressive range of mid-grade readers and YA novels further enriches the diverse reading fodder of Australian’s youth. He appeared at the festival with Josie Montano to launch their co-authored collaborative novel, Veiled Secrets, published by US Solstice. He penned the poignant and heart-tugging, The Bravest Person I Know for Rich and Rare.

Just a Dog Michael Gerard Bauer is a Queensland author equally at home with humour. His series include the Ishmael trilogy, Eric Vale and Derek ‘Danger’ Dale stories running from the sublime to the snort-out-loud-ridiculous. Eric Vale Epic Fail was adapted into a stage play by THAT Production Company this year and played for the first time to Festival audiences with rousing success. His standout works include Just a Dog and The Running Man, which was CBCA Book of the Year in 2004. Both are stories of achingly plaintive prose embedded with incredible heart and soul. He returns to hilarity in Rich and Rare with the short story, The Knitting Needle Ninja.

Hunter's Moon Sophie Masson’s repertoire of fantasy, mystery, thriller, and even graphic novels stretches further than a giant’s smorgasbord. She is master of coping with change following a fluctuating home base as a child (her parents alternated between France and Australia to live) and now the necessity of author adaption in the digital age, the subject she addressed at Story Arts. Her dark and treacherous reimagined Snow White novel, Hunter’s Moon appeared earlier this year. She compares the Rich and Rare anthology to an intricately fashioned patchwork quilt, ‘a strikingly unusual and complex yet satisfying and simple thing’.

Amply satisfying it is too, and like the Story Arts festival, ably fulfils its objective to capture and preserve the attention of a wider reading audience. Anthologies may not be widely popular to publish but when they showcase talent such as that embodied in Rich and Rare and are able to sustain readers with stories of such exquisite delectableness, they really are too good to pass up. Stack your plate high and celebrate the art of story.

Rich & rare InviteSoutherners are invited to meet many of the contributors at Ford Street Publishing’s exciting launch of Rich and Rare next Friday, 23rd October, Abbotsford, Victoria.

Ford Street Publishing October 2015

 

A beauty – Rich and Rare

RIch and Rare cover Med ResThere really is something for everyone in Ford Street Publishing’s latest collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork for teens – Rich and Rare. With pieces from almost 50 fab authors and illustrators, including Shaun Tan, Judith Rossell, Susanne Gervay, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath and Michael Gerard Bauer (to mention a few), the anthology delivers tantalizing morsels to suit every reading taste. There’s an alien invasion, a Dickensian-style thriller, a warrior adventure in old Japan, a bushranger tale, intrigue in the cane fields of northern Queensland and much, much more.

Editor Paul Collins joins me ahead of next month’s book launch to take us inside Rich and Rare and to reflect on his own prolific and successful career as a writer, editor and publisher. Paul is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles which include The Jelindel ChroniclesThe Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor, and The Warlock’s Child, done in collaboration with Sean McMullen. He also runs Ford Street Publishing and the Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

JF: Congratulations, on Rich and Rare, Paul. What a line-up of Australian talent! What can readers expect from this collection?

PC: I’d like to think a sumptuous literary feast. No one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.

JF: How does it compare to others anthologies you’ve edited?

PC: Anthologies aren’t as easy to put together as they might seem. An editor starts off with a list of potential contributors. I’ve been lucky in as much that most of my list this time around contributed illustrations, stories or poems. Across the three anthologies I’ve edited lately, I think everyone I’ve approached is represented. But not one of the collections has everyone. So too people reading Rich and Rare will be happy to see some contributors lacking in the other anthologies, but on the reverse mystified that others are missing. This collection is more illustrative and has longer and more varied works. This will please some, and perhaps disappoint others. So in answer to your question, it’s very subjective. A creator’s latest work is always their “best” work.

JF: What are the challenges of editing such a large collection of stories, poems and artwork?

PAUL-COLLINS-PC: Most contributors aren’t precious about their stories being edited. Those who are can be difficult. Working with up to fifty creatives can be challenging – remembering of course I’m working with many others at the same time. And because an editor says a story should follow this or that path, doesn’t necessarily mean the editor is right. It can be subjective. Stories especially vary in quality, and it’s the editor’s job to get some rough stones and polish them to gem standard. Hopefully, and with the help of several others here at Ford Street, I’ve managed to do this.

JF: You’re a writer, editor and publisher – how do you fit it all in? 

PC: I think I’ve edited around a dozen anthologies. This doesn’t include 45 collections Meredith Costain and I edited for Pearson (Spinouts and Thrillogies). I’ve published around 100 + books over the years, and written around 150. Running Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and the seminars/festivals does keep me busy!

JF: What are you currently working on? 

PC: Right now I have three plays and two short story collections (the latter in collaboration with Meredith Costain) coming out from other publishers. This year I published around 16 books. I have my first 2016 title, Dance, Bilby, Dance, by Tricia Oktober, ready to go to the printer.

JF: How did you get started as a writer and what led you to publishing?

PC: I self-published my first novel at the age of nineteen. Realising it wasn’t good enough, I figured I’d move into publishing other people’s work. I published Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels in the early 80s. I also published science fiction books. Losing distribution I returned to writing. My first book was published by HarperCollins in 1995.

JF: You’re best known for your fantasy and science fiction writing – what appeals about those genres?

PC: They’re as far away from contemporary as you can get. I think we live the lives of those people we read in contemporary novels, so why read about them? I can’t imagine why people watch TV shows like East Enders and Coronation Street, or the spate of reality TV shows. Big Brother for example must have been one of the most boring shows anyone could watch. And that’s what I feel about contemporary fiction.

JF: Does your personal passion affect your publishing decisions?

PC: No. I have published contemporary fiction, for example. I don’t just stick to fantasy and science fiction. If I think something has quality and there’s a market for it, I have to make a commercial decision.

JF: What do you wish you’d known when you started?

PC: The massive database I’ve built up over the years, contacts with book clubs and others who buy bulk books. Basically, knowledge that you need to be successful. Alas, unless someone sits down and gives you a list, you need to find all this stuff out yourself. And that takes years.

JF: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

PC: Persistence is the key. The Wizard’s Torment was my first book – that’s the one that sold to HarperCollins. I had written it in the early 80s. It took me around twelve years to get it published. I wrote another book at the same time called The Earthborn. That was rejected by just about every publisher in Australia. An agent sent it to TOR in the US and sold sold the trilogy over there. I mentally thanked every Australian publisher that had rejected it. Just never give up.

JF: Thanks Paul, and good luck with Rich and Rare!

PC: Thanks, Julie.

Paul Collins has edited many anthologies including Trust Me!, Metaworlds and Australia’s first fantasy anthology, Dream Weavers. He also edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian SF&F. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara and the A Bertram Chandler awards, both of which were for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and the Aurealis and William Atheling awards. His book, Slaves of Quentaris, features in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Die (UK, 2009).

Paul Collins website.

Ford Street Publishing website. 

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults. Her latest short story – Sugar is Sweet is in Rich and Rare.  

 

Getting serious about Series # 2 – The Warlock’s Child – Guest post with Sean McMullen

Book 1 - BURNING SEA - front coverBy now, the last of those cleverly crafted Book Week costumes are washed and tucked away. Authors and illustrators all over Australia are reaching for mugs of hot lemon and honey tea to soothe raw throats, and children are undoubtedly curling up with pen and paper or else reading a brand new story, inspired by their last week of close encounters of a literary kind. It’s why we as (children’s) authors write, to be read and to in doing so open vistas, create possibilities and share adventures.

Fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk author, Sean McMullen subscribes to this notion with the same fervor he injects into his trillions of fantastical tales. Together with well-known fantasy author, Paul Collins, he has penned yet another epic fantasy series, The Warlock’s Child. I have yet to complete the adventure with Dantar and Velza but if the hackle-raising cover by Marc McBride (he is the illustrator of the Deltora Quest series) is anything to go by, then I cannot wait to jump on that ship with them!

Sean was kind enough to share his thoughts on how reading fantasy can seriously hone a child’s reading skills.

FANTASTIC READING

Sean McMullen

What is the The Warlock's Child Bk 2most powerful tool that can be used to boost literacy in kids? In my opinion, it is persuading them to read voluntarily, and fantasy has a lot going for it when it comes to alluring, rather than forcing, students to open books.

While studying medieval literature for my PhD I discovered the origins of fantasy’s powerful combination of adventure, action and excitement, romance and magic. Around 1140 the old-style chanson de geste was being shouldered aside by the newly invented roman courtoise. The chansons were dominated by men fighting, but the romans had a good balance between male and female characters, and included romance. There were still quests and battles to maintain the excitement, but warriors generally did their great deeds for their ladies, rather than some boring king.

The roman courtoise was a sensation, and soon you were not cool if you did not read. In many tournaments, real knights dressed up and fought knights from books, and real kings and queens presided as King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. Medieval kings and queens pretending to be medieval kings and queens? It happened.

Warlock #1 launch photo
Marc McBride, Paul Collins, Sean McMullen

What worked for medieval readers still applies today’s schools, but accessibility is now the issue. When Paul Collins and I were planning The Warlock’s Child series we were careful to keep it reader friendly. Instead of hundred thousand-word doorstopper, the story is spread over six less daunting books. The first five end on cliff-hangers, encouraging kids to keep reading. The perspective is shared between two teens, Dantar and his sister Velza, avoiding gender bias.

Book One, The Burning Sea, opens with a dragon attacking a ship, and in the first five thousand words we also witness a court martial for cowardice, learn that there are spies on the ship, and discover the importance of fire prevention at sea – the hard way. In short, it’s fast and exciBooks 1-6 - THE WARLOCK'S CHILD - all coversting.

Thus readers are encouraged to begin the series and to keep reading, yet it is fantasy, which is often criticized for being escapist. Is this bad? When asked this question on a teen literacy panel my daughter – then twelve – replied, “If the real world follows you into all your reading, then you might as well not bother reading.” Fantasy can provide much needed respite from the real world, and when kids return to this world their reading skills are always sharper.

The Warlock’s Child is out now with new titles being released throughout 2015 by Ford Street Publishing imprint Hybrid Publishers.

 

 

 

Ellie Royce makes History with ‘Lucas and Jack’

Along with a staunch group of Australian literary professionals, Ellie Royce is a strong advocate for promoting encouragement for families to connect with older generations, share love and facilitate the power of memory. Her latest picture book is one in a line up, not only involved in initiatives to create awareness of ageing people and dementia (Dementia Awareness Month), but also as a nominee for a prestigious award. Find out more about her gorgeous book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ and her significant contribution to the community in our captivating interview!  

I love Ellie Royce‘s passion for writing and the power of words. Combined with her absolute dedication to working with the elderly, her first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ is a notable example of an award-winning piece of literature.
imageWith its delicate, picturesque style charcoal and watercolour illustrations by Andrew McLean, and gentle, endearing story, ‘Lucas and Jack’ represents connection, value and affection. The intergenerational bond between a young boy and his Great Grandpop is tightened after forming a relationship with another resident at the nursing home; Jack. When Lucas waits alone for the visit to end, it is Jack’s presence that ultimately gives Lucas the gifts of perspective, curiosity and appreciation. Jack is able to open Lucas’s eyes to the once beautiful and intriguing pasts of other elderly people, including detective Leo, ballerina star, Evelyn, and himself as a young farmer. His Pop may be wrinkled, old and frail, but with Lucas’s newfound regard he sees a once hard-working ice delivery boy. Now Lucas will have to wait until his next visit to find out more about Pop’s childhood adventures.
‘Lucas and Jack’ drives home the importance of engaging with and being empathetic to our ageing loved ones, particularly at difficult and confusing times. Royce cleverly integrates charming dialogue with prompts for readers to investigate the life stories of, and form further attachments with their own grandparents and great-grandparents. This heartfelt tale is a valuable addition to any home or classroom setting. A sincere delight!
     

imageCongratulations on your first picture book, ‘Lucas and Jack’ being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards! What does this honour mean to you?  
Thank you! I was so excited to hear that “Lucas and Jack” was a shortlisted book for this award. I am thrilled to have been able to collaborate with a gifted illustrator like Andrew McLean and I understand that a “picture” book is very much like a jigsaw puzzle as in all the pieces both text and illustrations are vital in telling the story so neither one is more important or works without the other BUT…. I have to admit I am a word geek. I adore words, I adore learning new and old words, making up words, reading and writing with them, sharing them, playing with them. So for me, having a story shortlisted which promotes literacy and speech is a massive honour, a truly magical experience.  

Who or what inspired you to write this story?
As an author who works in an aged care facility I was inspired by the fascinating life stories of my residents. I see their photos of them as dashing young things and hear their stories on a daily basis and it really fires my imagination! So often we make a presumption about people based on what they look like – in the case of “Lucas and Jack” it’s older people but this also applies to people with disabilities and people of other ethnic backgrounds- the list goes on. I would often see residents’ younger visitors hanging around outside, not engaging or interacting with their relatives because all they could see was what was on the outside, the wrinkles, the hearing aid, the wheelchair and the gap seemingly too wide to be able to connect. “Lucas and Jack” simply shows that each of us has at least ONE thing in common- we were all young once. Also that if we share our stories we can find connection with each other.
The characters in “Lucas and Jack” were inspired by real residents, some of whom have now passed away.  It’s been a real thrill for their families to have this book to share with their grandchildren and great grandchildren, keeping family history and family stories alive. It’s been a real thrill for me to be able to create that opportunity for them.  

You are an active member in the aged care community. Can you tell us a bit about the work you do for the elderly?
I’ve worked in aged care for almost ten years. For five of them I was the person who received that first phone call “I need help to find out about aged care, Mum/Dad/I have been told I can’t stay at home anymore” or variations on that theme. What a privilege to have a job where you can help people who are confused, frightened, grieving and  feeling so many other emotions! My day was made when someone left my office saying “Thank you, now I understand how it all works. I’m so relieved.” As a communicator, there’s almost nothing better. When I say almost though, I have to say that the role I have now which is Communications Coordinator and engagement officer where I run our newsletter, website and social media outlets and liaise closely with our Lifestyle team to source and develop projects which allow our residents to connect with community, participate in arts and creative experiences that engage and inspire like storytelling (funny about that!), art exhibitions and intergenerational groups as well as running arts based programmes for our dementia specific residents to find out which strategies enhance their quality of life is the “dream job.” The only thing that could top it is if I were a full time author. But even then, I think I’d miss the day job, it’s such a rewarding and exciting area to be involved in.
A tiny vignette of my day springs to mind where recently I was able to facilitate access to audio downloads of classic books for a very academic and bright lady who is confined to bed, unable to move or verbally communicate  easily.  When she heard the first words of “Pride and Prejudice” the look of pleasure on her face brought tears to my eyes. It’s a small thing to us, but to her it is her whole world. Again, what a privilege!    

image‘Lucas and Jack’ emanates a beautiful message of celebrating and cherishing the ‘stories’ of elderly people and forming bonds with grandparents. What do you intend your readers to gain from engaging with your book?
I would love to see “Lucas and Jack” of course offering a good read, an enjoyable experience. But also I hope that the book will pave the way for the readers to share their own stories. I would love to think that after reading “Lucas and Jack” a young person will look at an older person, frown, wonder and ask the question “What did YOU do before you were old?” or “What was it like when you were a kid? Did you do the same stuff as me? What games did you like? What was school like?” and the floodgates of sharing, laughing, crying, remembering, honouring and connecting will open.
Because stories aren’t just stories are they? They’re bridges to things and ideas like empathy, literacy,  resilience, imagination and perhaps most important of all in today’s world they are bridges BETWEEN things and people who think they are too different to ever be able to connect.
There’s a great quote by Roslyn Bresnick-Perry “It’s hard to hate anyone whose story you know.”  I hope “Lucas and Jack” builds bridges between people.  

The sense of nostalgia and livelihood in ‘Lucas and Jack’ are expertly and gently portrayed in the illustrations by award winning illustrator Andrew McLean. How do feel his pictures best compliment your words? What was it like to collaborate with him?
Oh my goodness how does one express what a magical experience it is for your words to inspire such incredible responses from an illustrator? It really did feel like magic, watching the development from his roughs (ha, roughs? I couldn’t believe he called them roughs; they were gorgeous!) Perhaps that’s another reason why I love the picture book form so much. They are such evocative and beautiful images that resonate so much with everyone who sees the book. I was incredibly lucky to work with Andrew.  

World Dementia Awareness Month is held throughout September. Please explain the purpose of this initiative and how you are participating in raising its awareness to the public.
This year’s theme is “I Remember”. I’m excited to be collaborating with a fabulous group of Australian creators, both authors and illustrators to showcase their books about ageing and dementia for September’s World Dementia Month. The helplessness and confusion a growing number of children face when confronted with the decline of an elderly relative prompted these local literary professionals to create stories to provide encouragement and hope to families. Each of the unique and beautifully illustrated stories is based on personal experience and offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances. The power of memory and remembering as a way to sustain a loving connection is a common thread and ties in perfectly with the “I Remember” theme for 2015.
imageAlong with “Lucas and Jack” we have Celia and Nonna (Victoria Lane and Kayleen West, Ford Street Publishing) where Celia brings memories of happy times spent together with her grandmother into Nonna’s new aged care home by making pictures and paintings to fill the walls. The grandchild mouse in Do You Remember? (Kelly O’ Gara and Anna Mc Neil, Wombat Books) uses artwork to honour Grandma’s memories. In When I See Grandma (Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom, Wombat Books) Grandma’s memories are brought to life through her dreams as the granddaughter shares with her everyday things she enjoys doing and in Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, (Karen Tyrrell and Aaron Pocock) Harry shares coping skills to help his grandpa boost his memory and confidence.
These stories are humorous, at times poignant and always heartfelt. Our hope is that they will inspire and encourage children and families who are grappling with change and illness in those they love.    

You write in a range of genres, including children’s and young adult books. Do you have a preferred genre? What do you love about writing for younger children?
I would have to say that I really, really love the picture book art form. I believe stories can change the world, I truly believe this and one of the most marvellous manifestations of story for me is the picture book. It can encompass any concept no matter how complex in a simple way. It is possibly the purest essence of story and if you want o know why, try telling a really good story in 495 words!
It also speaks to both sides of our brain, with text and illustration. I have two daughters, one who is a language child and one who is a visual. Picture books were the bridge between their learning styles which gave us the opportunity to share so many wonderful experiences as a family. Because it speaks symbolically through pictures as well as through words, a picture book resonates within our souls, speaks to our conscious and unconscious mind and stays with us in ways that other forms of story don’t. Younger children really ‘get’ this. They enter into the storytelling experience and totally become one with the story. It’s a beautiful thing!  

Besides writing, what other pastimes do you enjoy?
I love art and photography, to read, listen to music, work in my vegie garden, cook (then eat), sit around and yak with my daughters, spend time at the beach, to rummage for vintage treasures and to laugh. Laughing is good.  

What were your favourite books to read as a child? Any that have influenced you as a writer?
I find that everything I have ever read sometimes pops up to surprise me as a writer!  I suppose the most important influence is that I aspire to create the same magic for my readers that I experienced (and still do). 
One of my favourite books was and still is “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. In fact I recently read it again and every word still fills me with pure crystalline joy. It is an exemplary, beautiful piece of writing. It’s delicious and joyous and fun.   
I was an Enid Blyton child from day dot. I loved Pip the Pixie, Mister Pinkwhistle , The Magic Faraway Tree (er yes I am rather old hahaha!) followed by Famous Five, Secret Seven and then the boarding school books. I also loved everything Roald Dahl wrote and CS Lewis’ “Narnia” series. How can I pick just one? Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, Peter Pan! I also loved “The Railway Children” by Edith Nesbit, “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” by Margaret Sidney and the “Seven Little Australians” by Ethel Turner. I grew up with “Anne of Green Gables” and “Little Women” and here I fear I must stop because I’ll go on for hours. I was very lucky to have been encouraged to range widely and omnivorously with my reading as a child.  

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I have a lot of half- finished work badgering me to get on with it at the moment! A couple of picture book texts are doing the rounds of publishers, a few stories are on their way to The School Magazine, two middle grade novels are yelling at me for attention right now, phew! I would love to not have to sleep; it would really increase my writing time. I admire those writers who get up at 3 am to write before they start their day and I may yet become one of them when my need to write becomes stronger than my need to sleep, probably in summer. In winter I hibernate a bit. So stay tuned…..  

Thank you for answering my questions, Ellie! It has been a pleasure getting to know more about you and your work!  
Thank you for having me :).

‘Lucas and Jack’ (available for purchase here), published by Working Title Press, 2014. Teacher notes available here.

Visit Ellie Royce’s website and facebook pages.

Visit Alzheimer’s Australia and World Dementia Month Aged Care Online, or World Alzheimer’s Month for more information on this initiative.

”A Tapestry of Experiences Folded into Fiction”; Victoria Lane Talks About ‘Celia and Nonna’

author pic jul 14 WEBVictoria Lane has made a successful career from writing; as an award-winning financial journalist for many years, editor and correspondent for many leading media publications, and of course, as a picture and chapter book writer for children. Today, we delve into Victoria’s writerly mind as she shares her inspirations behind her touching picture book, Celia and Nonna.  


Review – Celia and Nonna
There is something so precious about children spending quality time with their grandparents. Every word and every image, beautifully interwoven by author Victoria Lane and illustrator Kayleen West, pour warmth and affection out of this book and into the hearts of its’ readers.

”Celia loves sleepovers at Nonna’s house.” And Nonna just cherishes the moments they spend together; baking cakes and biscotti, cuddling and reading bedtime stories. But one day Nonna begins to forget things, and she moves to an aged care home where she will get the appropriate support. At first Celia struggles to grapple with the new arrangement, but her resilience, sensitivity and love allow her to accept the change, strengthen their bond, and bring joy and ease to Nonna. Gorgeous sentiments in Celia’s drawings help us, the reader, to remember and appreciate that no matter where we are, all we need are the ones we love.

Celia-&-Nonna-Cover-WEBKayleen West’s illustrations are soft, timeless and emotive. I love the meaning attached to the realistic children’s artwork that are significant to both Nonna, and to Victoria Lane. I also love the clever connection between Celia and the swallows who follow Nonna and stick by her on her life journey.

Celia and Nonna; a message of embracing hard realities, finding strength and faith, an uplifting and important tale to share, all packaged perfectly in a delightful picture book. Ford Street Publishing. 

Interview – Victoria Lane
Congratulations, Victoria, on the release of your first picture book, Celia and Nonna! How did you celebrate its’ launch?
Thanks Romi! We had a lovely launch at the Ivanhoe Library filled with friends, as well as some lovely contributions via social media of people’s memories of their grandparents. We brought biscotti and played ”Guess how many borlotti beans in the jar”.  

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What do you love about writing children’s books?
It’s true, I started writing stories when I was a kid, mainly mash-ups of fairytales inspired by my older brother’s satirical Mad magazines. And I’ve been lucky enough to have made a career out of writing and editing, as a journalist and foreign correspondent. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve had the time to devote to writing fiction again and I love it.
What appeals to me the most about writing for children is the need to condense meaning into a picture book of limited word count. It is a challenge and a delight.  

Celia and Nonna is a warm story of togetherness across the generations, and adapting to change. What special message would you like your audience to gain from reading your story?
It’s so important to keep children involved and informed, whatever changes are happening in the family. If a grandparent is in an aged care home, make sure the grandkids still get to visit rather than leaving them at home. Kids are very adaptable and accepting of change; we should give them credit for it. There are many ways to adapt to these changes, and Celia finds her own delightful way to navigate this confusing time. I hope that Celia and Nonna will help to start a conversation with children when a loved one is affected by dementia, old age, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.  

Does Celia and Nonna have a personal significance to you? What was your inspiration behind this story?
It certainly does. This story has two inspirations. The first was when my eldest daughter could no longer enjoy her treasured sleepovers at my Mum’s, due to her own illness. The second part was the experience of visiting my Dad in a nursing home and trying to explain the situation to my daughter. It was a very foreign place. For those few years, I was part of the sandwich generation, with caring responsibilities for both my parents and my children – I had a new baby at the time. It was an incredibly difficult period. So the story really became a tapestry of my experiences, folded into fiction. I felt it was really important to create a positive story with a positive outlook. I also wanted to keep the Italian flavour because it’s so important to show diversity in Australian children’s literature.  

The illustrations by Kayleen West are beautiful, and provide plenty of elements that add to the meaning of the story. What was it like working with Kayleen? How much input did you have in the artistic design?
I think publishers generally like to keep the authors out of the illustrator’s way, and I think that does give the illustrator the freedom to interpret the words as they like. Kayleen’s work is just gorgeous, full of warmth and love, and I think they are perfect for the story.
castle 1 I did get to ask for a few little touches, and one of the pictures that Celia draws is the castle in her Nonna’s home town in Italy. That meant a huge amount to me. It is still so emotional to see the image of the massive 12th Century castle (which was rebuilt after being heavily bombed in the First World War) that is a symbol of my mother’s home town. There is also a strong element of art and creativity in the way Celia responds to the family’s changes, and Kayleen managed that delicate balance in showing a realistic portrayal of a child’s artwork. And the beautiful endpapers are a little inspiration for kids to create their own art for a loved one after reading the story.  

What was the most rewarding part about creating Celia and Nonna?
For me, it has really been seeing the heartfelt response from parents and children. The story really seems to have struck an emotional chord for many readers and that is so thrilling. The response has been fantastic.  

One of the lovely past times the characters enjoy together is baking. Do you have any special traditions with family members that you follow each year during the holidays?
Not really – it’s hard to live up to the sumptuous five-course meals that my Mum used to prepare for any occasion! Her apple strudel was famous in our family, but it takes hours to prepare and it’s very hard to get the pastry right. We tried to write out the recipe together, but it was just ”add a bit of this, a bit more of that”…  

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I have a few other stories on the go at the moment, and I have also been busy with some junior fiction. I’m writing a series of early chapter books all set a fictional primary school in Melbourne’s north. Some of these are out on submission with publishers, so stay tuned! I would also like to find more time to introduce Celia and Nonna to aged care home and libraries, where it may reach more families.  

Victoria, thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
Thanks for having me, Romi! Same to you and all the readers at Boomerang Books.  

Connect with Victoria Lane:
http://www.victorialanebooks.com
http://www.facebook.com/VictoriaLaneBooks
http://www.twitter.com/vthieberger  

Well, that’s it for the author interviews this year! I hope you have enjoyed meeting them as much as I have!
Thank you all for welcoming me into the Boomerang Books world of blogging, and I look forward to sharing more wonderful news, reviews and author insights with you in 2015!

Have a booktacularly festive holiday, and really treasure those moments with your loved ones!

Happy reading,
Romi Sharp

http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
http://www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Doodles and Drafts – A Very Jumpy Tour with Tania McCartney

The most spectacular thing about a plain old butter cake is often its layers. Colour them, stack them and then you have a thing of unique beauty and depth. This is exactly what makes a stand out picture book for me: its multiple layers. And today I am honoured to share the latest delectable offering from a children’s author and reviewer who needs no introduction to the readers of Boomerang Blog, Tania McCartney.

Riley the Jumpy Kangaroo cover MEDIUM Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra, is the fifth in the adventure-laced Riley Aviator series by McCartney and illustrator Kieron Pratt. Its timely release coincides with the Centennial celebrations of our nation’s capital.

There’s been some pretty dubious and extraordinary thumping and going ons in Parliament House of late. I’m not sure if Jumpy Roo is responsible for all of them but on the occasion Riley and his colourful collection of mates from previous sojourns visit Canberra, they discover that Jumpy Roo is crazy mad jumpy about something and spring smartly after her to find out exactly what.

Riley Little AviatorRiley’ little red plane is filling up as he and his faithful league pursue Jumpy Roo all around and in and out of some of Canberra’s most iconic attractions plus some less-well known ones. Until, after a near disastrous caffeine fix, Jumpy finally comes to rest in the resplendent gardens of Commonwealth Park to literally stop and ‘smell the flowers’ and thankfully find what she was so frantically looking for.

The previous Riley journeys whetted my appetite for travel and adventure. This one truly satisfies my hunger for that exquisite multi-layering; of ingenious artwork, clever concepts, humour and subtle sensitivity.

Young readers will hardly be aware that they are absorbing the unique heart of Australia’s Capital city as they are transported through McCartney’s economical yet colourful descriptions of place-names and locations. The pace is fast and furious and thanks to McCartney’s unique sense of style and design, the pages are a vivid three dimensional feast of movement and humour. Black and white images spiked with contrasting colour work seamlessly with Kieron Pratt’s charming, cartoonesque illustrations.

Whether you have ever set foot on the ‘grassy lawns of Parliament House’ before or not, this picture book is packed with enough reasons to entice (another) visit. And enough kid appeal to ensure that youngsters from 3 – 10 at least will not let the Canberra Centennial go unnoticed.

Tania McCartneyTo commemorate the imminent release of Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo, we’re taking off right now with Tania herself. So grab your goggles and hop on board for a blog tour, that’s sure to be as zany as riding with Riley himself and guaranteed more fun than a Federal election.

Q Tania you have dedicated a great deal of your life to writing for children and practised it in several parts of the world. How long have you called Canberra home? How much do you feel the place you reside and write in influences what and how you write?

We’ve been in Canberra four-and-a-half years, which is one of the longest periods I’ve spent anywhere. Before that, my family and I were in Beijing for four years and before that, I’d moved over sixty times, living in various places from Hobart to Paris. When I met my husband, we moved every 18 months, so this time in Canberra is a record!

The place I call home enormously influences what and how I write. I think travel expands the mind, heart and soul in ways nothing else can, so I do hope my work has evolved and improved as I’ve moved around the globe. Travel is high on our family’s priority list and I love to write it into my books—the Riley the Little Aviator series a case in point!

Q This is the fifth book in the Riley Aviator series of adventures. Why did it take so long to get around to Canberra? Was it your intention to coincide Riley’s 5th adventure with the 100th Anniversary of our nation’s capital?

I had released a Riley book every year, and yes, this fifth book took two years—mainly because I’ve been so busy with other book contracts. The Riley books also take a lot of time and energy, as they comprise photos, illustrations and text, but I also design and layout the books.

I had intended to release the Canberra book at the end of last year, in time for the first Centenary celebrations, but I’m glad it was delayed … it’s nice to bring something new to this glorious year, and the best part is that I get to launch the book at Floriade. I’m very excited about that.

Q When did the original concept for Riley the Aviator take off? Tell us what are you trying to convey with this picture book series?

I was working in Beijing as an expat magazine editor and columnist for several English language magazines and had access to a large audience. I’d been writing children’s picture books for a very long time but had never subbed them; I thought it might be fun to publish my own picture book, as printing is so cheap in China and I’ve always adored book design.

So, I set out on a self-publishing journey—because I could—and it worked out very well for me. The first book was Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing, which followed the series’ photographic format, with and a little boy flying around in a little red plane, in this case looking for a sleeping dragon.

It was very much a home-made production. I took photos of a little tin plane I found at Panjiayuan antiques market, sourced an illustrator online and set about creating this book, which was hugely successful in the capital. I was in my third print run by the time we came home in 2009.

Essentially my goal was to take kids on a journey around that amazing city, but also give them subtle clues and reminders about the cultural aspects that comprise the city. The dragon, for example, ends up morphing from the Great Wall, ‘waking up to the world’, and so he was a metaphor for this strong, powerful, ancient country, opening its doors to the world during a momentous time in history (the 2008 Olympic Games).

In my mind, this first book was a personal memento for my own kids—and other expat kids—but it became much more than that, and you can imagine my surprise and delight when the book did well back home. The way this book was embraced was the kick-starter for a series of Riley books.

IMG_6554Q Riley’s journeys allow us to explore a number of fascinating locations with some suitably exotic characters including a splendid dragon and dazzling lion. Was it difficult deciding on the star of your latest book?

It was the easiest yet! Canberra residents enjoy the surreal reality of kangaroos hopping around their urban neighbourhoods—a reality we spend so much time trying to quash in the eyes of the rest of the world! So a kangaroo was, without question, the perfect animal for Riley to trail.

I had SO much fun with this character. She really is a hoot and I love how frantic she becomes while searching for something she’s lost. I also love the poignancy of the story’s ending. In this way, it’s the most emotional Riley book I’ve done.

Kieron PrattQ Did the character choices in Jumpy Kangaroo come first in this instance or the location where Riley’s adventure takes place?

The locations always come first. I do this because I want to choose locations that are famous but also interest children. I then take the character and place them in those locations, and—essentially—the characters are the ones who *show me/tell me what they’ll get up to at each stop. Roo’s reactions were brilliant, and I think kids will really relate to her high energy and kooky nature. (*via Kieron, the illustrator)

Q How important was it (for you) to include as much of Canberra’s sights, attractions and significant monuments in this book? Did you have to leave much out? I noticed there are no petrol stations featured in this tour. I never seem to notice any petrol stations in Canberra! Why is that? (Not a compulsory question)

Oh petrol stations—don’t start me. I only know of two. Thankfully, one is close-by but we’ve had to take diversions to Kingston on many an occasion. I’m guessing that’s because the capital is so teensy (anywhere in 25 minutes or less) so we don’t need to refill our tanks often??

The thing about Canberra, other than its petrol stations, is that it has so very, very much to see and do. I adore the city for that reason. So yes, much was left out of the book. I tried to include the Big Guns—Parliament, War Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin—but also sites that attract kids, like Questacon and the Zoo. I love the aerial shot in the book because that encompasses much that had to be left out!

 Q Amongst a myriad of other scintillating past times, you have a particular talent and penchant for photography. How many of the photographs used in the Riley series are yours? Was satisfying two loves at once, writing and shutter-bugging, a tricky thing to pull off?

I do love photography, and most photos in the Riley series are mine, though I had to source a few for Riley and the Grumpy Wombat because I couldn’t get to Melbourne to flesh out my catalogue of images. The Victorian Tourism Board helped in that regard.

My Handmade Living book was filled with my photography and my next book with the National Library features my photographs of children. I’m also working on some new picture book concepts which include photos. I love it and it’s never a chore!

RQ I love the occasional quirky references you include in the Jumpy Kangaroo along with the imaginative use of language. Confuddled had me chuckling from page one. Is your reference to R U OK ? a deliberate inclusion, subtly reminding us of the importance of checking in with friends and being mindful of their problems or just a lovely play on the vernacular for kids?

The R U OK? part in the book was a conscious addition … Riley is a rampant adventurer but hisunderlying modus operandi is that he really genuinely cares about each animal he seeks. Roo is indeed frantic in this book, and it’s his concern that forces him to trail her and attempt to help her out.

This caring nature is also reflected in the animal characters that come along for the ride (along with lots of quirk and humour). I think modern kids are so gorgeous and so talented but as the world gets smaller and smaller, they become more and more desensitised. I hope my books help them understand how important it is to care.

 T MC with friends Q Finally, if you could jump into Riley’s little red biplane and fly anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

This changes all the time but right now it would be Boston or Ireland. Hmm … must be experiencing an Irish fetish. Not sure why. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time indoors at this computer and am desperate for a slice of green. I’ve also never visited either place, and I do love experiencing the new.

Q Additional bonus question: Is the blonde lady touting too many shopping bags along City Walk who I think it is?!

Yes! And the kids on the bench are my kids—the Real Riley and my ever-patient daughter Ella. My next series will feature her!

Thank you for sharing Riley, Roo and best of all Canberra with us Tania! Hope your blog tour is as thrilling a journey as the one you’ve given us with Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo.

But wait, there’s even more!

Jumpy Roo Blog Tour The Jumpy Roo book launch is being held at Floriade this year! Anyone living in or visiting Canberra on 15 September is invited along, but RSVPs are essential if you want a goodie bag and balloon! You can find out more here. Can’t make the launch and want to read more? Then check out all of Tania’s great books available for purchase here.

You can also visit the Riley the Little Aviator website to see updates, learn more about the places Riley visits, and see behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.

Learn more about Tania at her website.

And don’t forget check out the Blog Tour Schedule for the rest of Riley’s exciting touch downs.

For full Blog Tour Schedule, head here.

Ford Street Publishing, an imprint of Hybrid Publishing August 2013

 

 

NATIONAL YEAR OF READING – FORD STREET PUBLISHER PROFILE

2012 is the National Year of Reading.

So at Kids’ Book Capers we’ve decided to profile the people who make the books we love to read – the publishers.

Our first profile is Ford Street Publishing and today we welcome Paul Collins.

What kind of books do you publish?

Picture books through to young adult and crossover.

What do you love most about your work?

One has to be reasonably passionate about books, of course. I love working for myself. The more you put into your work, the more you get out. This means working seven days a week. When you work from home you never leave work! When I was a room service waiter back in the 70s a supervisor said to me, “You don’t like authority, do you?” And I guess she was right. I’ve worked for myself ever since.

What is the hardest thing about promoting books?

Promoting books is easy. It’s getting people to pay attention to what you’re promoting that’s the hard part. It’s a long and laborious job harvesting email addresses, building up databases, and hoping the people you’re adding to them actually want to be told about what you’re doing. There’s always the unsubscribe icon, of course, and sometimes I’m a little disappointed to see certain people unsubscribe from my newsletters. Of course, we all get unsolicited material via emails. I usually simply delete. No hard feelings that way, and it only takes a second. Paying for ads is also easy, but I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you bulk promote a product with ads, then you’re simply wasting money. Because books are a low ticket item, many forms of advertising are out of the question — TV, radio, billboards, etc.

2012 is The National Year of Reading. Why do you think reading is important for both children and adults?

There’s a hulking manuscript of an answer here, but suffice to say reading opens one’s mind to other people’s thoughts. It educates and expands the imagination. If nothing else, dare I say people who read are more successful in life than those who don’t.

Where do you see the children’s book market in five years’ time?

Kids will still be reading, but more online or via devices than printed books. A hardcore readership of print books will exist for a long time. But economically, the print books won’t be mass produced, more they’ll only be available via print on demand. This is itself might prove a hassle in the long run, so even those sales will dwindle. Once that happens, it won’t be feasible to have POD technology, so kiosks will fade away to be replaced with new technology.

My main problem with ebooks is that there’s no way to actually “show” them to people. Go to amazon and unless you know what you’re after, you’ll never find a good book, unless you have hours to trawl. I don’t see online booksellers ever competing with brick and mortar shops, although they will dominate. Much like VHS beat Beta. Beta was the better product by all accounts, but VHS had better marketing. Mac are better than PCs, but PCs won over, sales wise.

What is your current submissions process for authors and illustrators?

We’re closed to submissions. I’m still trying to get through the unsolicited material submitted last year.

What were some of your favourite PUBLISHING HOUSE book titles from 2011?

Tania McCartney’s Riley and the Grumpy Wombat was fun to work on. I’m also pleased with the way The Key to Starvelt by Foz Meadows turned out. We worked on Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s Ships in the Field. Although this book was published in February, I think of it as a 2011 title since all the work on it was done during 2011.

What titles do you have coming up in 2012 that you’re really excited about?

I’m excited by everything Ford Street publishes. I’ve contracted the next Toocool and Marcy books from Phil Kettle and Susan Halliday; a picture book from Michael Salmon; a YA book from a new author called Michelle Heeter; my own Dyson’s Drop which is a sequel to Mole Hunt.

I think Ford Street’s best selling title this year will be Trust Me Too, an anthology comprising 58 contributors including Shaun Tan, Leigh Hobbs, James Roy and Michael Gerard Bauer.

 

SHIPS IN THE FIELD

Ships in the  Field is Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro’s beautiful new picture book about a little girl whose dearest wish is to have a dog. But it’s not just about a dog. This dog symbolises hope, peace and security.

Ships in the  Field is a story of  many layers and Anna Pignataro’s illustrations are a perfect compliment for the text, and add so much to this poignant story. Her centre page spread of the refugees filing onto the boat that will take them to safety is a moving illustration that needs no words.

Just like many refugees, the little girl in this story has no name, no identity in her new country.

Underlying the little girl’s dream of having her own dog is the story of refugees; of what it’s like to find yourself in a new land, having survived the ravages of war and left your home behind.

Award-winning author, Susanne Gervay and award-winning illustrator, Anna Pignataro are part of that immigrant and refugee story.

Susanne’s parents were post-war Hungarian refugees who migrated to Australia and Anna’s parents were post-war Italian refugees facing the same kind of displacement.

So it’s not surprising that this book is so authentic in its joy and sadness.

You’ll have to read this amazing story for yourself. I’m not going to tell you why this book is called Ships in the  Field, but it’s the perfect title.

The text is heartwarming and full of hope and Anna Pignataro’s evocative watercolours will make you feel as if you are reading this story from inside the book. Look for the little details that tell a big story.

I loved the strength of the relationships in Ships in the  Field, and the hope and love woven through this story.

This is a brave and important book with a strong message told in a gentle and thought provoking way.

Ships in the  Field is for readers 7+ and is published by Ford Street Publishing.

THE KEY TO STARVELDT

The Key to Starveldt is book two in The Rare series by Foz Meadows and it’s a gripping read.

Solace Morgan was born a vampire.

The castle of Starveldt is waiting. Having escaped once from Sanguisdera, Solace and her friends are in desperate need of guidance.

Seeking to unravel a cryptic prophecy, they travel to the Rookery, an otherworldly place governed by the enigmatic Liluye. Magical and wiild, the Rookery tests them all in preparation for the crossing to Starveldt. But the group is starting to fracture.

The threat of Lord Grief continues to grow; old betrayals, lies and secrets boil to the surface – with startling consequences.

As danger closes in, can they make their peace before everything falls apart? Or will the Bloodkin triumph?

I love the twists and turns of the plot in this book and the way the setting is so integral to the story and has been given so many dimensions and nuances that it becomes like another character.

Foz Meadows uses humour to make the characters more real and it also helps build the suspense.

There are plenty of surprises and characters who are not who or what you think they are. The Key to Starveldt has disappointing betrayals and unflinchingly loyal characters prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.

I enjoyed the unique world of this story. Foz Meadows makes these unfamiliar places seem believable and enables you to picture yourself there side by side with Solace as she battles terrible foes on her quest.

Although there are a number of characters central to the story, each has a unique voice that sets them apart. The third person omniscient point of view allows the reader to get inside each character’s head and experience their thoughts and emotions.

Each character has rare and unique qualities that make them an asset to the group and help them combat ongoing danger.

The Key to Starveldt is a compelling novel for young adult readers with strong themes of friendship, loyalty and belonging. It is published by Ford Street Publishing and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Falling into Midnight.

 

 

NEW HAZARD RIVER ADVENTURES

The Hazard River series, by J.E. Fison continues with two new action-packed stories, Toads’ Revenge and Blood Money. Julie started the series after a family holiday on the Noosa River, but she looked to another waterway, a little further south for inspiration for one of her latest adventures.

Author, J E Fison says,

Kids, adventure and money – it’s a heady combination, so I couldn’t help getting excited when I picked up the Sunday newspaper one weekend and found a story about two teenage brothers who were fishing in a quiet creek west of Lismore and found a bag containing one hundred thousand dollars! The bag of cash had apparently been washed into the creek during a flood. The boys agonized for two weeks about what to do with the cash before handing it in to police.

The news story went straight into my journal (which is more of a plastic folder than a journal) and emerged a year later on the banks of Hazard River, in the latest adventure, Blood Money.

Just like the boys in the real story, the kids at Hazard River find a bag of cash and just like the real boys they face a moral dilemma about what to do with the money. Add to this a few snakes, some troublesome meatballs and a nasty neighbour and everything is in place for a rough ride for the newly cashed-up kids of Hazard River.

In Toads’ Revenge the kids of Hazard River find themselves thrown into a dystopian toad-infested new world when they accidently fire themselves into the future. Although it’s a bit of a departure from the usual Hazard River story line, it’s not too far from the real world.

Cane toads, once confined to northern Queensland have advanced as far south as Sydney and into Western Australia, threatening native animals and fragile wilderness areas along the way. These super-resilient, poisonous reptiles are incredible breeders. Females lay up to 35,000 eggs at a time and the toads’ march across the continent is proving impossible to stop. Recent media coverage of the toads’ march inspired me to make them the bad guys of Toads’ Revenge.

For more information on J.E. Fison and the Hazard River series you can visit her website at www.hazardriver.com or read her blog at www.juliefisonwriter.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

SPOTLIGHT ON RILEY

Today, Riley, the star of Tania McCartney’s beautiful new book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his latest adventure. He’s touring with Tania to celebrate the release of his latest adventure and you can find out more about where he’s going if you click here.

Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy?

Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers, Riley. It’s lovely to meet you and thanks for answering questions about your new book.

Can you tell us about your nanny’s garden? what does it look like? Is it a fun place to hang out?

Nanny’s garden is like heaven. I love it best because it has the coolest mud patch down the far right hand corner, tucked right into the fence. Right near it is a fish pond with those super bright coloured fish, and I’ve seen lots of frogs there, too. There are lots of trees and bushes in Nanny’s garden. Most of them are natives – there are banksia and wattle and some eucalypts, too. Koala likes hanging out there because of the gum trees. The only problem is, when he nibbles on the leaves, he drifts off to sleep. Dragon also likes to sleep, so they curl up together. Panda and Lion love the mud – they dance and play in it – in fact, Lion never stops dancing. Have you ever seen a lion tap dancing in the mud? It gets very messy.

Have you ever been to Melbourne before?

Yes, I’ve been heaps. My Nanny lives there and my Granny and Granda, too. I also have cousins there but they’re all girls, every single one of them. Groan. My sister is a girl, too. So is Wombat, actually. But she’s cool.

What was the thing you liked most about Melbourne?

I like Melbourne because it has all these really amazing things to see and do. There were so many extra places I wanted to see during our hunt for Wombat, but you know – I have to get back to school so can’t stay anywhere too long. Mum gets the irrits, otherwise (and I must admit, I do like school). The thing I liked the best of all about Melbourne… well, there are three things. First – the goodies at the cafes on Lygon Street – oh man, they are delicious. I love the Italian pastries and Mum and Dad go bananas over the coffee (as usual). The other thing I like is the Great Ocean Road just south-west of Melbourne – it’s awesome and it was so cool to fly my plane over the Twelve Apostles. Have you seen these? They are AWESOME! The last thing I loved was digging all over St Kilda beach with my low-frequency robotic burrowing machine. It was the first time I’d tested him out and he did a great job, although I couldn’t get Dragon out of the holes for ages. It was funny, though. We laughed a lot.

What’s it like having books written about you?

It’s fun. I don’t know if you know, but my mum actually writes the books. My sister isn’t happy. Well, she’s ok about it. She’s really patient, as Mum says all the time. Ella wants a book about her and horses but Mum is allergic to horses, so it may not happen. Anyway, back to me – yeah, having a book series written about you is pretty cool. At first, when I was really little, it was kind of embarrassing because everyone would look at me at book launches. We were living in China and people would want to pat me on the head. That was kind of annoying. But since coming home to Australia, it’s ok now – and I’m used to all the attention. I really like having an excuse to visit other countries and other cities and places, too. We’ve always travelled with Mum and Dad – they love to travel and I really like it now. At first it was annoying but now I love it. I really want to set the next book in America because I want to play NFL, but Mum says we need to do more Australian places first. I kind of agree – in a way – because Australia is pretty amazing.

Do your friends like being in books too?

They love it! They think they are superstars! Lion particularly loves it because he’s an extrovert and loves to perform. Dragon spends a lot of time sleeping and Koala acts kind of strange sometimes (it’s all that eucalyptus oil) but they really enjoy it. The one who loves it best of all would have to be Panda, though. He’s been with me from the beginning and he’s a seasoned traveller. He’s my co-pilot, really – and he was really – what do you call it… ‘instrumental’ in helping me create my series of wombat-seeking contraptions for the Melbourne book. He may be small and fluffy and he may eat far too many jam sandwiches, but he’s very clever.

What does a wombat look like close up?

She’s seriously fuzzy. And did you know wombats are super strong? She’s, like, really strong. She could crush me if she wanted to, but she won’t because she’s a cool wombat. You should see what she makes at the end of the Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – I mean – it’s really mind-blowing. Hardly any animal could do that, but Wombat did it. She’s a bit gobsmacking.

Are all wombats grumpy or was this one just having a bad hair day?

I think most wombats are pretty grumpy. I haven’t met many happy-go-lucky wombats. They like to put their head down/backside up and get on with things. They’re not very airy-fairy – they’re practical, strong, no-nonsense animals and spend most of their time alone, digging burrows, living in the dark. Come to think of it, no wonder they’re grumpy. But the best thing about wombats is this… they may take a long time to accept you as a friend, but once you’re in their heart – they’re not letting you go in a hurry. They would do anything for you.

How did you get around Melbourne?

I have this really amazing red tine plane. Mum found it in an antiques market in Beijing. It’s a pretty magical plane. China is a magical place, and some of it rubbed off on that plane. I’ve spent a lot of time adapting the plane – and my greatest achievement has been the contraptions we built into it (with the help of supersonic illustrator Kieron Pratt) for Grumpy Wombat. As each new journey unfolds, another animal joins me for the next book in the series, so pretty soon we’re going to need to swap the plane for a double decker bus or something. Or a jumbo jet. Kieron is working busily on how we can accommodate all these extra critters… we were just talking about it yesterday, and we were thinking of attaching a hot air balloon to the back of the plane and pulling it along. We’ll see…

Where are you off to next?

Canberra! I can’t wait! It’s a great place and I don’t think many kids know how fantastic it really is. The city is going to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2013 – so the book will be released just in time for that. And I’m going to be tracking down a very common animal to the Canberra scene – it’s found frequently on suburban streets, hopping around. My friend even saw one at the end of his driveway the other day. A big one! This particular animal is going to be another girl – and she has a little surprise, too. It’s going to be really great.

Thanks for having me, Dee! I think Kids’ Book Capers is cool, and you’re cool, too. You’re not even grumpy, either.

Thanks for visiting us Riley and good luck with your tour for Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.

Later on today, at 2.00 pm, we’ll be reviewing  Riley’s latest adventure, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat.


 

RILEY AND THE GRUMPY WOMBAT REVIEWED

Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Riley sets off to investigate why the wombat is so unhappy.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is the fourth book in the popular Riley series written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Kieron Pratt.

Riley’s latest adventure takes readers on a tour through some of Melbourne and Victoria’s best-loved places – and some of mine, too.

Riley and his friends visit Lygon Street, Bourke Street, Flinders Street Station, Sovereign Hill and many other iconic sights in search of the Grumpy Wombat which seems to need their help.

Although they are full of wonderful black and white photos and vibrant illustrations, the Riley books are not your standard picture books.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is a travelogue with clear educational benefits, but it also features endearing characters and an engaging story line. I really enjoyed the language in this book and the way the author imparts knowledge, but doesn’t talk down to readers.

Riley’s amazing array of gadgets will appeal to young readers. Some of his equipment includes exceptional wombat seeking telescopes, a grumpy wombat search net and automated whiz-bang ground hugging projectiles – and that’s not to mention his cute red plane.

The illustrations by illustrator and cartoonist, Kieron Pratt are humorous and vibrant and will also help engage young readers. I found the smiling wombats skiing on Mount Hotham irresistible.

Riley and the Grumpy Wombat is published by Ford Street Publishing. Other books in the Riley series include Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, Riley and the Dancing Lion and Riley and the Curious Koala.

Riley has toured around Beijing, Hong Kong, Sydney and now Melbourne – next stop, Canberra. I can see Riley and his friends injecting life into a geography lesson.

The Riley books are written for readers aged 6 to 10 years.

 

 

GAMERS’ CHALLENGE

Gamers’ Challenge is the action-packed sequel to Gamers’ Quest by George Ivanoff.

Zyra and Tark are shocked to learn that they are not the only Zyra and Tark in the game…and in fact, Zyra has a daughter, Hope.

Now that Zyra and Tark have broken the rules, they can no longer play the game, but how will they find their way out of it? Now they have a new mission, to find The Ultimate Gamer who just might have the key to solving their problems.

For Tark and Zyra, life was literally just a game, controlled by the all-powerful Designers. But then they broke the rules and life got a whole lot more complicated…and deadly.

Pursued by a powerful computer virus they must locate the Ultimate Gamer with the help of some unexpected allies, and face their greatest challenge – finding a way out of the game.

And with the VIs hot on their trail it’s going to take all their stealth and ingenuity to escape. According to Professor Palimpsest, the VIs are some sort of virus and they’re not going to be easy to defeat.

Gamers’ Challenge has everything – dragons and knights (the sort of players you’d expect to find in a quest), and even zombies and unicorns.

Zyra and Hope whirled back to the doorway. As the row of zombies stumbled along, one of them stepped out of line towards Zyra. It held a dismembered human in its hand, blood still dripping from the end. And it was looking straight at her.

It soon becomes clear to Zyra and Hope that the zombies and other creatures in the game can see them, even though they’re not playing anymore – and this makes their attempted escape a lot more dangerous.

Gamers’ Challenge offers another thrilling ride for readers. It’s fast and fun and full of the same complex detail, and twists and turns that kids enjoy in a computer game.

There are all sorts of quirky challenges for the characters to face like the game of Sudden Death Pinball where you get hit by the ball and you die,

And once they find the Ultimate Gamer he’s not what they expected – and he has no interest in leaving the game because he says it offers him all the freedom he wants.

“The freedom to play. The freedom to win. The freedom to be whoever I want to be.”

But he’s not going to let them out of the game either unless they fight him and win. And what will that really mean for the victor?

Readers who enjoyed Gamers’ Quest will love Gamers’ Challenge and the new action-packed adventures of Tark and Zyra.

Gamers’ Challenge is to be released by Ford Street publishing on 1st September, and there’s an official Gamers’ Quest website at: www.gamersquestbook.com

Gamers’ Challenge is written by my fellow Boomerang Books’ blogger, George Ivanoff who blogs at Literary Clutter.

 

CHANGING YESTERDAY

Changing Yesterday is the sequel to the highly acclaimed, Before the Storm and is the work of one of Australia’s leading SF and Fantasy authors, Sean McMullen.

It’s 1901, and Battle Commander Liore has travelled back in time to stop a war that will rage for over a hundred years. But time itself is against her. Whenever she changes history, a new beginning to the war emerges and the world once again teeters on the brink of disaster.

To make matters worse, Barry the Bag has stolen Liore’s plasma rifle, the most dangerous weapon in the world. The owner is on his trail, and she doesn’t take prisoners.

One of the things I loved about Changing Yesterday is that it’s a novel that breaks rules. It spreads across so many genres. Action, adventure, science fiction, dystopian, romance, humour – it has pretty much everything. This is a novel that cannot be put in a labelled box and for this reason it will appeal to readers with a diverse range of tastes and interests.

I also enjoyed the eclectic mix of characters – the pathetic unlucky in love Daniel who is stronger than he thinks, the unscrupulous but hopeless Barry the Bag, the treacherous Muriel Baker who the reader gets to know mainly through hearsay, the invincible Liore and the feisty and clever Madeline who I have a feeling may feature in Daniel’s affections in later books. Every one of these characters has their own distinct voice and individual traits that will endear them to readers.

I was very familiar with some of the towns in which the book was set so that was also something else I enjoyed.

Changing Yesterday is one of those rare books you read where you don’t get the feeling it’s the result of blood, sweat and tears. You come away with a sense that this is a book the author really enjoyed writing.

It’s a coming of age story in which the teen characters fight to save the world and find their own path into adulthood. They leave behind family and familiarity, take risks, live by their wits and make choices that will affect their futures. There are also themes of friendship, loyalty and trust. There’s a lot of travel happening in this book – through time – on boats – on trains – by horse – pretty much every mode of transport except planes but this is hardly surprising as the story is set in 1901.

There are plenty of references for the history lover and fascinating detail that kids will love.

Changing Yesterday is published by Ford Street.

 

MOLE HUNT

I’ll admit that Mole Hunt, Paul Collin’s action packed new sci fi adventure isn’t the sort of book I normally read.

It’s set in a world I have no experience of, with rules and customs quite foreign to the way I live. Needless to say, I couldn’t put Mole Hunt down.

Maximus Black and his ruthless intentions had me hooked from the first page. I can’t say I liked Max as a person, but he is a very compelling character and I really wanted to know whether he would succeed with his mission.

Maximus is the classic action hero in terms of his intelligence and abilities, but he’s more of a Dexter than a James Bond. In fact, he’s a devious pyschopath, but that ‘living on the edge, take big risks quality’ is what keeps the reader riveted.

Max is RIM spy agency’s star cadet, but he’s also a mole, using the organisation for his own devious purposes. In the Mole Hunt world, unless you’re dead, you can pretty much be repaired so people take big risks and there’s a lot at stake.

Paul Collins gives the reader just enough information to hint that life has not always been kind to Maximus. This suggests a vulnerability that redeems Max to some extent for the reader, but also foreshadows that this could lead to his downfall.

Max has his own agenda – to get his hands on a cache of Old Empire weapons, giving him control of the galaxy and allowing him to extract revenge for the murder of his parents when he was six.

He pits his wits against Anneke Longshadow, one of RIM’s  best agents and someone who also harbours a difficult past. But Anneke’s on the good guy’s side and when her Uncle is murdered, the hunt for The Mole becomes personal.

World building is one of the things that Collins does best and in spite of the unfamiliar names and customs, I found myself totally immersed in the world of Mole Hunt.

Every detail has been meticulously thought out and intertwined with the action to draw the reader into the world of the story. The technological information is authentic and it’s almost as though the setting is another living, breathing character.

The action is non-stop and the dilemma for the reader is who to barrack for – the ruthless but damaged Maximus Black or the equally scarred but righteous Anneke Longshadow. Both character’s points of view are presented to us and like the protagonists, we have choices to make.

I’m looking forward to seeing the tussle between these Max and Anneke in the next book in the Maximus Black trilogy, Dyson’s Drop.

Mole Hunt has strong themes of good and evil, loyalty and identity. It gives the reader plenty to think about including how circumstances and background contribute to who we are, but it’s the choices we make that shape our lives.

This book is recommended for readers 12+, but would also be enjoyed by adults who love the sci-fi genre.

Mole Hunt is published by Ford Street and is due for release in June 2011. Teacher’s notes are available from the Ford Street website

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – MORE GREAT HAZARD RIVER ADVENTURES

J E Fison’s Hazard River adventures (published by Ford Street) just keep getting better and better.

TIGER TERROR

I was completely hooked in by the start of this book.

It was probably my mother’s screaming that frightened the cat. It’s just a guess. No one knows for sure why a cat fell from a ten-storey building onto my head.

So who is this cat and where does it come from and what does it have to do with tigers?

Everyone knows that tigers are on the verge of extinction, so what’s a tiger’s paw doing in a medicine shop in Chinatown?

Jack, his brother Ben and friends, Mimi and Lachlan become junior spies and set out to solve the mystery. But having a cat fall on his head is just the beginning of Jack’s problems. There’s also the embarrassment of Thomas the Tank engine pyjamas and the fact that he has missed the Chinese Circus.

None of these are life threatening, but Scarface and One Finger the crooks they are trailing, certainly are. The kids from Hazard River are going to need all their wits about them to survive this one.

Tiger Terror is the third book in the Hazard River series is packed with more great humour and action.

BAT ATTACK

Jack and his friends are getting ready for a night of New Year’s Eve fun at the local disco but then a mad driver almost runs them over and things start to go wrong.

Jack has always fancied himself as a dancer and is determined to win one of the two  iPods on offer at the disco, but success doesn’t taste as good as he expected – especially when a bully with green hair thinks he should have been the rightful winner.

In this adventure, the kids also have to contend with quicksand and a vicious dog.

And when they encounter the mad driver again, they discover that he has a plan to blow up the old mine and this will lead to the destruction of an entire colony of endangered ghost bats living there.

Jack, Ben, Lachlan and Mimi are determined to do whatever it takes to save the bats.

Bat Attack is the fourth Hazard River book and I am enjoying seeing these four characters develop across the series and emerge in their individual ways.

The Hazard River books are fast-paced easy reads, even for reluctant readers. They have likeable characters, humour and action to keep kids turning the pages.

They deal with issues of endangered animals without giving kids a ‘lesson’ and the fabulous cover illustrations  have all been done by the talented Marc McBride.

A Hazard River book trailer can be viewed at the Hazard River website

A Celebration of Books at the Ford Street Literary Festival

Last week I attended the Ford Street Literary Festival at Scotch College in Hawthorn and I really wanted to blog about this inspiring example of kids having fun with books and their creators.

(Pictured below are Jo Thompson, Meredith Costain and David Miller who got down to the bare bones of writing and illustrating at the Ford Street Literary Festival.)

What better way for an author to spend a day than in the company of other authors and illustrators and 175 enthusiastic kids and their dedicated teachers?

Graham Davey (champion of children’s literature in Australia) was the MC for the day and he kept the kids entertained and the day moving along smoothly.

Students from schools across Victoria from Years 5 to 10 gathered to talk books and writing with Paul Collins, Meredith Costain, Justin D’Ath, Hazel Edwards, George Ivanoff, , Phil Kettle, Doug MacLeod, Felicity Marshall, Foz Meadows, JE Fison, Liz Flaherty, Sean McMullen, David Miller, Michael Salmon, Jo Thompson and me.

It was fantastic to see kids enthralled by books and coming to an event like this prepared with enthusiastic and informed questions for authors and illustrators.

A book quiz challenged the kids to work together and share their book knowledge to win a box full of books for their school – and all competitors attacked the task with enthusiasm.

Then Michael Salmon (pictured right with Phil Kettle) did an illustration demonstration that kept the kids mesmerised until it was time for JE Fison’s launch of her exciting new Hazard River Series.

It was great for me to catch up with fellow Boomerang Books Blogger, George Ivanoff from Literary Clutter – and of course the entire group of inspiring Children’s  authors and illustrators.

After the quiz and author chats with students, we all moved to the auditorium to watch Michael Salmon work his magic.

Then there was the sales and signings where students could buy their favourite Ford Street titles.

The Ford Street Literary Festival was a reminder that there are so many great ways to celebrate books and what they can bring to a child’s life.

GREAT READS FOR YOUNG ADVENTURERS

The new Hazard River books are full of adventure, great characters and plenty of humour.

10 year old, Jack Wilde and 6 year old brother, Ben like to spend time at Hazard River, but it always seems to lead to trouble. Jack thinks of himself as a bit of a boy genius and is always trying to come up with the most ‘brilliant plan ever’, like in Shark Frenzy when he decides to find out who is killing the Hazard River sharks. He spends a lot of time saving his brother and eating Pancakes with maple syrup, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, caramel sauce and sprinkles whenever he gets the chance.

Jack’s bossy friend, Lachlan is 12 years old and he likes to play practical jokes on his friends and this can lead to some tense moments like the time he pretends to be a shark in Shark Frenzy. His nickname is the Master of Disaster and when you read Shark Frenzy, you’ll understand why he gets called this a lot.

The other character in the gang is 12 year-old Mimi, sometimes called Professor Bigbrains because she seems to know everything about everything.

With Jack’s brilliant plans, Ben’s habit of collecting smelly dead things, Lachlan’s ability to find disaster and Mimi’s brains, it’s no wonder there’s plenty of conflict at Hazard River.

In Shark Frenzy, the four set out to find out who has been killing sharks and cutting off their fins. If they don’t catch the culprits soon, the Grey Nurse colony in the area could become even more endangered.

There are plenty of tense moments in this adventure, but it’s also full of humour and typical kid behaviour, like when the kids drink all the soft drink out of the baddy’s fridge.

Snake Surprise is the second book in the Hazard River series and Jack’s boring wet day soon turns to adventure when he finds a note on an abandoned boat with the words ‘Help Me’.

The gang must find out who needs help and why, but it soon becomes clear that they could be the ones in the most danger.

Snake Surprise is another page-turner from start to finish.

As well as being full of the humour and adventure that kids love, the Hazard River books are a manageable length and have amazing colour cover illustrations created by Deltora cover illustrator, Marc McBride.

The Hazard River series also features themes of friendship, loyalty and the environment; making them great for classroom discussions.

These books have great characters and readers will enjoy the unique voice of author, JE Fison who admits to being an international adventurer who has come face-to-face with a lion, shaken hands with an orang-utan and eaten wok-fried grasshoppers.

Book trailer URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZP4wqrSQSk

The Hazard River Series is published by Ford Street.

THE WILD LIFE OF A WRITER – MEET JE FISON

Today at Kids’ Book Capers we’re talking with JE Fison, author of the new hugely popular Hazard River series published by Ford Street; books packed full of fun and adventure.

How did you become a writer?

I started my career as a television news reporter for a regional television station in Albury in 1986. I guess I’ve been writing ever since. I was a television reporter and presenter in Hong Kong for Asia Television, then a reporter and producer in London for Worldwide Television News. Since moving back to Australia, six years ago, I have written travel stories for newspapers and magazines. I started writing fiction a few years ago during a family trip to the Noosa River. My two sons teamed up with some friends and spent the summer holidays building camps, pulling down camps, setting up new camps, building rafts, discovering sand banks, dodging snakes, avoiding sting rays, jumping off jetties and generally having a Boys Versus Wild adventure. I was inspired! I decided to write a series of children’s adventure books about three boys and a girl  on an endless summer holiday adventure. I set out to make them fast-paced and fun, easy work for reluctant readers. I also added an environmental theme to each story so readers don’t just get a fun story, they can also discover a little bit more about the world they live in.

What did you enjoy most about writing the Hazard River books?

I had a lot of fun writing the Hazard River books. I live in Brisbane, but I do most of my writing when I’m on the Noosa River. I have a desk overlooking the river. In between boat trips on the river, visits to the beach and bike rides through the bush, I write. The part about writing I enjoy most is my sons’ involvement. My twelve and nine year old sons’ adventures provide the basis for some of the action in the stories. Oliver and Max are also astute critics. One of my sons reads my manuscripts at bedtime with a red pen in one hand. The boys, along with my husband, are also my greatest supporters. The path to publication has been very much a family affair.

What was the hardest thing about writing the Hazard River book?

I don’t find writing hard. Once I have a story idea in mind, it’s just a matter of getting it down, then reworking it, until everyone is happy with it. The biggest challenge, of course, was finding a publisher. Luckily Ford Street Publishing loved the stories. Paul Collins saw their potential for reluctant readers and liked the fact that the series had an environmental theme, so it appeals to kids and the parents and schools that actually buy the books.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

I’d say the most important thing about writing is having a complete package to offer to a publisher. I went to Ford Street Publishing with four stories (rather than one book and a few ideas for more). I had a clear idea about my market. I knew a gap existed for my series and I was confident that the Hazard River stories would be popular in my chosen market. New writers need a great story or series of stories and a good marketing strategy.

Is it true you shook hands with an Orangutan? What did it feel like?

I visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) when it was little more than a boardwalk through the jungle. Each morning a park ranger put out food for orphaned orangutans and they would come out of the jungle to eat. On the morning I was there, a youngish male was misbehaving. He stole a tourist’s scarf and wiped his bottom with it, then took an interest in a friend’s money belt. He unzipped it and ate a handful of cash before something else caught his eye. I thought this was all very funny until I was leaving the sanctuary. The same orangutan took an interest in me. He grabbed my hand as I walked along the boardwalk and wouldn’t let go. My friend tried to distract him with pens and other shiny objects. He just grabbed them with his spare hand or foot and continued to cling on to my hand. It must have been half an hour that I spent trying to talk the orangutan into letting me go. He was too strong to push off and the park rangers and other tourists had disappeared. I was beginning to think I’d be spending the day on the boardwalk when the orangutan got bored. He let go of my hand and disappeared into the jungle to find some other hapless individual to taunt. I understand the Sanctuary now has viewing platforms and supervision. I’d like to go back there, but I’ll be keeping my hands to myself.

I hear you have eaten Wok-fried grasshoppers. Can you tell us about the experience?

I had an amazing trip through Laos when the country was just opening up to visitors. I travelled with my brother from the capital Vien Tien to the old imperial city of Luang Prabang by plane and then took a boat on the Mekong further north. We disembarked and headed into the local village in the back of a ute, along with everyone else. When we arrived we found the only guest house in the village was full. Our driver, very generously, offered to put us up for the night at his house. He invited some friends to his house, in our honour, and there was music, singing, laughing and flash-fried grasshoppers in garlic and chilli. My brother spoke a smattering of Thai (similar to Lao) and our host spoke a handful of English words which seemed to be enough to get up through the evening. Later on that trip we took a river barge to the Thai border. The trip was supposed to take a few hours. But possibly we had misunderstood our captain. The trip took two days and we dined on rat and river-weed soup and slept on salt sacks. Another memorable experience.

Is Hazard River based on an actual place?

Hazard River is inspired by the Noosa River in Queensland. It’s really a stunning place and it’s impossible not to be inspired. Most people who visit Noosa see the Main Beach, Hastings Street and the National Park. But the Noosa River is every bit as beautiful. And the north shore of the river, which is accessible only by car ferry, is really special. It’s largely undeveloped and there are endless opportunities there for adventures. You won’t find rogue fishermen, smugglers, nasty developers or too many nasty sharks there, but you’ll find a lot of other things from the books.

Where is your favourite place to go for a holiday?

I love holidaying in Noosa. I love the beaches, the bushland, the river and the restaurants. I also love to explore a new city or country on holidays, but I spent a long time away from Australia, exploring other people’s countries and cities. Now I’m enjoying exploring Australia. I recently had a family holiday driving around the centre of Australia. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Do you try out Jack’s adventures before you write about them or have these things happened to you already?

Many of the incidents in the Hazard River series have taken place – a dead shark (a small one) washed up on the riverbank, so did an old houseboat and a lot of thongs and other things. And the themes in the books are all based on real issues. But the main action is fictitious. I have warned my children that these books aren’t manuals for misadventure and there’ll be serious consequences, if they try to copy the adventures of Jack, Ben, Lachlan and Mimi.

Has your curiosity or sense of adventure ever got you into trouble? Can you tell us how?

I’d say naivety or just plain stupidity has got me into more trouble than curiosity. I can remember being very scared when I was camping in Kenya one night when two male elephants started fighting outside the tent. It was lucky we weren’t trampled, but staying in the tent was safer than making a run for the car. Generally, though, I’ve been in more trouble in cities than in remote places – getting hopelessly lost in Beijing, ripped off in Bangkok, robbed in Hong Kong, robbed in London, robbed in Seville and in Phuket. I didn’t have a good track record!

What’s the wildest thing you ever did as a child?

I wanted to be an explorer in Africa when I was young. I’m not sure I knew what that meant, but I did a lot of exploring on family holidays to prepare myself and read a lot of wildlife magazines. I led my brother and cousins on many intrepid bush expeditions and rowed them around Moreton Bay on marine excursions. Nothing too wild, though. It was my parents who packed up and sailed around the world in a 40ft yacht. That was pretty wild. I joined them when I could. I’d given up on becoming an explorer by then and had become a television news reporter. A newsroom – that’s also a pretty wild place to be!

On Friday at Kids’ Book Capers, we’ll be reviewing the Hazard River books.

What’s new at Ford St

Ford Street Publishing is a small Australian publisher specialising in books for kids and teens. Set up by author Paul Collins, it is an imprint of Hybrid Publishers. In just three years they have published over 20 books from established authors such as Hazel Edwards and Gary Crew through to newcomers like Foz Meadows and Chrissie Michaels. Hell… they’ve even published me! I’ve blogged about some of their books before (particularly my own), but I thought it was time I did so again. So let’s check out their latest titles and see what the future holds.

The latest release is a gorgeous picture book called The Glasshouse, written by Paul Collins and illustrated by Jo Thompson. Thompson’s haunting style of illustration works well with this story of obsessive perfection and paranoia. A girl named Clara lives in a glasshouse and grows perfect pumpkins… but her pursuit of perfection becomes an obsession, as her fear of the outside world turns to paranoia. But everything changes with the arrival of a young boy. This book has been getting some pretty great reviews so far — check out the reviews at Buzz Words Books and Kids Book Review.

Paul Collins and Jo Thompson signing copies of The Glasshouse.

Next month sees the release of the first two books in the Hazard River series by JE Fison. With colourful, eye-catching covers from Marc McBride, these adventure books are bound to be a hit with kids of about 8 and up. Jack Wilde and his gang of resourceful friends, on holiday with their families at Hazard River, are faced with a series of dangerous and humorous adventures. In Shark Frenzy! dead sharks with missing fins are being washed up on the river’s shores. In Snake Surprise! they find an abandoned houseboat with a snake and a message for HELP. Fast-paced and fun, these books also have a strong environmental angle. As with The Glasshouse, the great reviews have already started — check out the Bug in a Book reviews for Shark Frenzy! and Snake Surprise!.

And in March next year the next two books in the series will be released — Bat Attack! and Tiger Terror!. For more info about the Hazard River books, check out the official website.

There’s loads more books coming from Ford Street in the near future, including Into the Beech Forest by Gary Crew and Den Scheer; The Key to Starveldt (sequel to Solace and Grief) by Foz Meadows and Ships in the Field by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro. For more info about Ford Street Publishing, check out their website.

And tune in next time as I have a little rant about Ralph Lauren’s foray into kids’ books.

Catch ya later,  George

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FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – THE UNINVITED

A magical place, Marc had said. It wasn’t the kind of word he used very often. A place to get your thoughts together.

Mimi Shapiro is fleeing New York and a possessive ex-lover. So when her estranged father offers her the use of his Canadian cottage, it seems like an ideal retreat.

That’s until she discovers someone is already living there. Jay, a young musician who has taken up residence in the snye accuses Mimi of leaving threatening tokens around the house.

When it becomes clear that neither Mimi or Jay is responsible for what’s happening, the two form a pact agains the intruder.

Could all this be linked back to Mimi’s father’s devious past. Or is some local madman responsible for all the strange goings on at the house?

Things become even more complicated when Mimi’s ex-lover threatens to show up. The Uninvited is a fast-paced novel; part thriller, part family drama depicting the streetwise YA Mimi, who’s not as tough as she first thought.

The Uninvited has been nominated for the Indigo Teen Reads awards. One of the things I enjoyed most about it was the pacing. At times it meandered gently like the cottage driveway winding through the meadow, at others, it built up a sense of comfort then launched the reader into “full on” action.

The Uninvited is the latest YA novel from Tim Wynne-Jones who is the author of more than twenty books for children and young adults.  This one is a real page turner full of well developed characters and great dialogue. There’s also plenty of suspense and plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

The Uninvited is published by Walker Books UK.

FORD STREET PUBLISHING NEWS

If you miss them in the morning, you can catch these great authors at

Angus & Robertson

Shop F11, Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre in Richmond between 3pm and 5pm. For enquiries, phone 9421 8817