Less than a week ago, notable Aussie author / illustrator and prodigious writer for children, Rebecca Lim, release her latest action-packed middle grade series, Children of the Dragon. Book One: The Relic of the Blue Dragon promises magic, mystery and martial arts and I know for one already has young primary aged readers perched avidly on the edge of their seats.
Today we invite Robyn Osborne to the draft table. Robyn has a penchant for pooches and writing for kids. Fortunately when she combines the two, magic happens.
Her latest picture book release, My Dog Socks is a winning combination of pure doggy delight. Robyn’s lyrical prose works in perfect harmony with Sadami Konchi’s animated illustrations. Together they gambol and scarper through the book filling every page with barely suppressed energy and exuberant colour. Pleasing alliteration, satisfying rhythm and an enticing parallel visual narrative invite readers into Sock’s secret world, where he is anything and everything in the eyes (and imagination) of his young owner. Konchi’s representation of Socks suggests an Australian Shepard type breed, however Sock’s irrepressible benevolent doggy nature could be any little person’s best four-legged friend. My Dog Socks is a winsome celebration of young people, dogs, the ineffable attachments they make and the incredible joie de vivre they both possess.
Grab yourself a copy, soon – here (paperback available next week). Now grab a cuppa and settle back with Robyn.
To an infant child, the world is full of unbelievable marvels. Every new discovery is cause for celebration and intense scrutiny. They inherently know how to appreciate the most minuscule details of life because for them, these are the ones that count the most.
Robert Vescio’s latest picture book, Ella Saw The Tree invites young readers to pause for thought and cherish the finer details of life, ones they are often forced to abandon or forget about as they deal with the daily need to ‘grow up’.
Today, we welcome Robert back to the draft table to discuss how his book about mindfulness can help us all slow down whilst catching up with the things that really matter.
Jess Black, author of the new Little Paws series joins us at the draft table today to share her inspiration behind these heartwarming story lines. Puppies, chewed shoes and big responsibilities are all part of training a guide dog puppy. The Little Paws series has them all plus buckets of cute puppy appeal to boot. Here’s what Jess has to say:
Writing the Little Paws series was a very positive experience for me. The story lines are fun, there’s plenty of puppy mischief, it’s a family friendly story line but most importantly the kids in the stories are in charge and at the forefront of the story.
Of course, what’s at the heart of the stories is bringing a gorgeous little puppy into your home and committing to raising it on behalf of guide Dogs. This meant that the series involved my spending lots of time with puppies in training with Guide Dogs Australia, understanding what it takes to be a Guide Dog and the impact that having a dog has on the life of a client. This added depth and meaning to writing the stories.
Today, dedicated writer for children and father himself, Robert Vescio uncovers the story behind his latest picture book, Jack and Mia. In this special guest post, he reveals how his own family background influenced this story.
But first a little bit about Jack and Mia. I have to say I love the look and feel of this book. Claire Richards’ diversity aware illustrations make me want to reach out and stroke the cover and pages. They are vibrant, childlike and at the same time, visually satisfying, filling up the pages with joyful colour, kind of how I’d imagine kids would view their world. The pages themselves are thick and glossy, a delight to turn through. The generous finger feel somehow makes me want to start reading the story again immediately I get to the end which will put this book in good stead for those repeated read requests.
Vescio’s tale is reminiscent of other classic picture books addressing the friendship separation theme such as Amy and Louis by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood but flips the concept in that Mia does not move away at first, but rather into Jack’s life. By doing so, suddenly ‘his days were full of rainbows’. He experiences a deep, rewarding friendship with Mia, unlike any other he’s ever had. They share everything together even a case of chicken pox and become King and Queen of their kingdom, until suddenly, Mia has to move ‘far, far away’. It’s not exactly clear where Mia’s family are transferred to however Richards’ illustrations suggest that it’s because of her father’s military postings.
Jack’s kingdom is in tatters, his world in ruin as he worries that Mia will no longer remember him being so far away. Little does he suspect that she shares the same despair as him until he happens upon one of Mia’s books, left behind in his toy box. It is this simple keepsake coupled with a bit of modern day technology that reunite the pair once again and allow their kingdom to flourish and grow…across the oceans.
Jack and Mia is an ideal book to share with young readers who may be experiencing their own emotional lows caused by separation of a loved one, either family member away for work or friend who’s had to move even just to a new school. A great class room and bedside book and possibly one of the most sensitive and well penned by Vescio to date. Now, here’s more from Robert:
‘I wrote Jack and Mia to show how friendships (rich in imagination) can survive distance by finding creative ways to stay connected.
Jack and Mia do everything together. They stick together like paper and glue. Then, one day, Mia’s family moves away – not to another suburb but to another country on the other side of the world.
This is a story that will resonate with children who are about to move or have moved and miss their friends. Unlike other picture books about this subject, Jack and Mia illustrates how today kids are finding it easier to keep in touch with friends and loved ones who live far away.
“Growing up, I had friends that moved half the world away – common for working parents and military families – and the only way to connect with them was to write or call,” said Robert. “Today, technology is changing the way we stay connected. Everything you need is in the palm of your hands.”
Skype hangouts have become a common occurrence in today’s society. It’s as easy as grabbing a coffee with your computer screen. In fact, Skype has become so popular that people use ‘Skyping’ as a verb to connect with people.
Of course, social media has also revolutionised how people talk. Facebook connects over 1 billion worldwide every day.
But, of course, not everyone embraces high tech gadgets. Some people prefer the human touch – a hug, for instance. Jack and Mia is all about how kids can use their imaginations to play together, even when they’re an ocean apart.
Jack and Mia (illustrated by Claire Richards and published by Wombat Books) is a warm and entertaining tale about the power of a child’s imagination and to keep a friendship long and strong, regardless of distance.’
Robert Vescio picture books include, Barnaby and the Lost Treasure of Bunnyville (Big Sky Publishing), Marlo Can Fly (Wombat Books) listed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2015, No Matter Who We’re With (IP Kidz). He has more picture books due out in 2016 and 2017.
Wombat Books October 2016
Halloween is a time of frights and treats, tricks and magic, guises and remembrance – All Saints’ Day Eve. A fitting time to indulge in a little fantasy and fun. Karen Foxlee’s latest mid grade novel, A Most Magical Girl combines all of these things and will have primary aged readers biting their nails in delicious anticipation. Utterly charming, frightful in places and marvellously magic in others, this is an adventure both girls and boys will find spell binding.
Annabel Grey is a proper little lady of the Victorian times. She devoutly attempts to follow the sermons delivered by Miss Finch’s Little Blue Book, a bible of Victorian social etiquette and expectations but her good intentions derail after she is sent to live with her two aunts in London. They are Shoreditch witches and apart from being Annabel’s new guardians, unlock a heritage Annabel had no idea about, her ability to perform magic.
However, Annabel has no time to dispute their proclamations because her unusual abilities allow her to foresee a terrible future for London and all who dwell there. Mr Angel, evil warlock of the underworld has built a sinister device to use with his black magic to destroy all of the good magic in the world and those who practise it. Only a most magical girl can stop him.
Foxlee’s use of language is bewitching. Annabel’s adventure is fast paced and divinely otherworldly both in spirit and in setting. I thoroughly adored flying along on her desperate quest with Kitty and her strong-willed broomstick. I’m sure children will find A Most Magical Girl just as enchanting.
Today Karen joins us at the draft table to reveal the magical places A Most Magical Girl sprung from.
Welcome Karen! Tell us a bit about kids, authors and story ideas…
The Big Leap
I love to tell my young audiences that kids and authors are pretty much the same when it comes story ideas. They always look dubious at first. Authors surely have a special library of previously unused ideas I can see them thinking. It’s locked away somewhere at the top of a turret beside their quills and their perfect first drafts.
“It’s true,” I assure them. “You tell me where you get your ideas from and we’ll see if we’re the same.”
Their hands shoot up: from life experiences, from dreams, from things you see! From things you read, things that happened a long time ago, from things you hope for, from television! Story ideas start from things you overhear, from facts, from songs, from comic books, from movies, from computer games, from mixing your own life with the life of book characters that you love! From day-dreaming!
I always love hearing that one. It validates all my hours spent lying quietly day-dreaming. “Oh my goodness,” I cry, ticking off each one. ‘How weird! My ideas come from all these places too! They come from everywhere!”
Authors let ideas come, we day-dream, we are open to them. We store them away in our brain machine never knowing when we might need them. We put an idea from a year ago with an idea from today. We percolate ideas. We write them down without knowing what they mean.
But, I tell them, there’s also another way that authors and kids are the same when it comes to story ideas. Their dubious expressions return. I clamber up onto a table. Now they start to look down-right worried.
A Most Magical Girl came about as a combination of several ideas I explain.
- From an experience (a visit to a museum many years before)
- From a life-long love of history and from reading lots books with historical settings
- From a love of magic and heaps of little ideas about how magic works
- A good old-fashioned daydream.
I was lying on my sofa thinking about a museum I’d visited a decade before. This museum was in London and it contained a recreated Victorian era street, where I wandered for hours. Years later, on my sofa, I closed my eyes and day-dreamed a carriage arriving on that street. I imagined a girl stepping down. She was pretty and a bit posh and also, I knew as I watched her, the owner of a secret. She stood before a shop window and read the words printed there. Miss E & H Vine’s Magic Shop. Wow, I thought. Magic. I love Magic. This seems good. What’s going to happen here?
“What do you think authors do when they have some ideas that excite them?” I ask from my table top perch. “What do you do?”
A chorus of replies: Just start! Just start writing! Just start even if you don’t know the answer!
“Do you just LEAP into the story?” I ask.
“Yes!” they shout, because they really want to see an author jump off a table.
And so, because it is the absolute truth about authors and ideas and how they really are not much different to children, I LEAP!
Fastastical, thanks Karen.
Allen & Unwin September 2016
Thank you to Boomerang Books for inviting me to write a blog post to celebrate the launch of my latest action and conspiracy thriller, Devour. I’d like to share with you a little about the inspiration for Devour, which is primarily set in Antarctica.
‘Three kilometres beneath the camp, subglacial Lake Ellsworth, and whatever secret it may hold, is sealed inside a frozen tomb.’
Devour was inspired by real events in Antarctica, in December 2012. A British expedition, led by Professor Martin Siegert, set up camp on a remote ice sheet. Their mission? To drill down through three kilometres of ice to reach a subterranean lake, known as Lake Ellsworth. They believed that in that lake, cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, in total darkness, they would find life never before seen, known as extremophiles, because they can survive such hazardous conditions. Sadly, the team did not manage to reach the buried lake and called off the expedition. But, the question remains: what if there is ancient life down there? And, for me as an author, the big question is: what if bringing this life-form to the surface has unexpected and devastating consequences? This is the premise of my novel.
The central character of Devour, and future books in the series, is Olivia Wolfe, an investigative journalist who travels the world exposing crimes, conspiracies and corruption. This makes her unpopular with some powerful and dangerous people. But Wolfe is resourceful and resilient, and she knows how to defend herself, thanks to training from a retired detective and martial artist, Jerry Butcher. When Wolfe is sent to Antarctica by her editor to look into claims of sabotage and murder by scientists at Camp Ellsworth, she little realises she will become the target of an assassin and the ally of a man the Russian military wants dead.
I was inspired to create Olivia Wolfe by a real investigative journalist, Marie Colvin, who reported from war zones for The Sunday Times in London. Colvin was tragically killed in the bombardment of Homs in Syria in 2012. Whilst Wolfe bears no resemblance to Colvin, I hope my fictional character demonstrates some of the amazing courage shown by Colvin during her reporting career.
They say that life is often stranger than fiction. A few days ago, I read an online blog post on The Daily Beast, in which it seems that evidence has surfaced confirming journalists like Marie Colvin were deliberately targeted by the Syrian Government, which may indeed have been responsible for her death. So the conspiracy continues.
Devour is published by Constable / Hachette Australia.