Animal World Problems – Laugh-Out-Loud Picture Books

Simply put, the following three picture books contain high degrees of absurdity, personality and fervour that turn logic on its head. But these animals with major problems will make you laugh til your cheeks hurt. You have been warned!

imagePandamonia, Chris Owen (author), Chris Nixon (illus.), Fremantle Press, 2016.

‘Pandemonium’: Wild and noisy uproar, rumpus, commotion, bedlam.
‘PANDAMONIA’: complete and utter chaos, often following the disturbance of a blissfully sleeping panda.

Beware! Take heed! This is a pre-empted cautionary tale about the absolute madness that is sure to erupt in the animal kingdom should you ignore the warnings to leave the peaceful panda be.

All is calm and tranquil when we enter the zoo with the introduction of the single, sleeping panda. Slowly but surely, page colours become bolder and more intense, and spreads grow thicker and fuller with an increasing number of creatures rampaging before our eyes. A fast-paced, rollicking rhythm escalates the chaos as a grumpy panda would undoubtedly hype up hippos, torment the toes of elephants, cause bottoms to jiggle and gibbons to giggle, jabirus to jabber, bats to swing and raccoons to sing, and generally create a deafening din. With every specie on the planet predicted to be in a raucous spin, the last thing you want to do is wake the panda. Oops…

Pandamonia is as good as having a wild party in your own bedroom, where the music, rhythm and crazy shenanigans come alive. Absolute fun, hilarity and joy exude from this book, preschoolers will be warning their parents to never put it down.

imageDo Not Open This Book, Andy Lee (author), Heath McKenzie (illus.), Lake Press, 2016.

Another fun book of precautions!
Children are so good at falling on deaf ears, rebelling, generally not doing what they’re told! So naturally, this book perfectly taps into the mischievous side of our little, cheeky ones. Television and radio personality, Andy Lee, together with master illustrator of all things comedy, Heath McKenzie, brilliantly entertain with this wise-cracking, hysterical imploration that is sure to leave its readers demanding more.

This character has a problem. The blue, long-legged creature continues to plead with us not to turn the page, and we just can’t help ourselves. So, all kinds of manic mayhem break loose. We get yelled at, lied to, ignored, threatened, begged, bribed and taunted. The enlarged and scattered text work a treat, as do the vivid, overly dramatic illustrations to keep us eagerly engaged in this theatrical pantomime. If you want to know the creature’s logical reasoning behind his lunacy, you’ll have to read the book…or don’t, your choice!

Do Not Open This Book will literally be a hit for pre-and early primary school kids. Extreme in all manners of impolite and inappropriate ways to resolve problems, it’s a fine example of literary perfection in promoting strong values, reading enthusiasm and lots of laugh-out-loud moments. Highly recommended.

imagePenguin Problems, Jory John (author), Lane Smith (illus.), Walker Books UK, 2016.

I love the cynical sarcasm emanating from this book. I love the not-so-likeable-he’s-actually-likeable character grumbling across the pages. That’s what makes this book so endearing. That’s why we are hooked from start to end.

One penguin, who looks and acts the same as every other penguin on the ice, has his own unique and individual perspective of the world. It is one of complete and utter pessimism and apathy. It’s too cold, the ocean is too salty, leopard seals, sharks and orcas want to eat him, he looks silly when he waddles, he is totally confused by the identity of his peers. Until one day, a wise, philosophical, rambling walrus enables the penguin to change his views… for a while.

From two bestselling creators, the text is sharp, witty and full of personality, and the illustrations express the same verve and panache with their speckled texture, cooling tones and diverse perspectives of this busy character.

Penguin Problems allows for a glimpse of optimistic light to shine amongst the gloominess, even if only a glimpse. Preschool and early primary children will find a punch of humour in this book about individuality and enjoying (or not) the simple pleasures in life.

For more great gift ideas check out The Kids’ Reading Guide 2016.

Everybody Loves Cheeky Animals in Picture Books

What is it about mischievous, strong-minded animals that make them so irresistible? Is it because they are so entertaining, or that we can see ourselves in them, or both? Here are some of the latest picture books that fit the bill in the ‘cheeky-animal’ category. Get your paws on them now!

imageHeath McKenzie whets our appetites with the introduction of his sweet little rumbly-tummy dragon. But ‘This Hungry Dragon’ doesn’t stay little or sweet for long! Each page turn will have you in stitches as the red beast grows hungrier, and rounder, with every humungous gulp. Now bigger than a house, perhaps there’s room for one last little mouse, and a doctor to make him feel better! But it’s the dragon’s undoing when the doctor comes up with a ‘rockin” plan to escape from the animal-gorged belly.
This fabulously hilarious, rhyming read-aloud story encapsulates all the goodness of a buffet feast, from its choice vocabulary to its rollicking rhythm and exuberantly playful line and watercolour illustrations. Delightfully delicious for preschool-aged children.

Scholastic Press, May 2016.

imageI love the child-like energy in the whimsical pictures by disabled Indigenous illustrator Dion Beasley that accompany the satirical, first-person perspective written by Johanna Bell in Go Home, Cheeky Animals!’ (sequel to highly acclaimed ‘Too Many Cheeky Dogs’). Arms are a-flapping when goats, donkeys, horses, buffaloes and camels invade the property at Canteen Creek, but the naughty canines simply stretch and go back to sleep. When the family have finally had enough, the lazy dogs come to the rescue and growl in their loudest, angriest voices, “GO HOME, CHEEKY ANIMALS!” And they do…or do they?
This author and illustrator combo marvellously bring a sense of familiarity and understanding to a most inconvenient, yet comical situation based in the Northern Territory. Recommended to all lazy dog lovers out there.

The amazing story of the collaboration between the creators can be read here.

Allen & Unwin, May 2016.

imagePuppies are adorable, aren’t they?! If you could pick any breed what would you pick? In ‘My Perfect Pup’, it’s all about the puppy selection process, with a twist. Sue Walker and Anil Tortop brilliantly pair up to produce a heartwarming story that every child, and dog it seems, dreams of. When Milly and Max decide that Tiny will be their perfectly pampered and proficient pup, they don’t quite get what they planned for, and promptly return the hairy, not-so-tiny pooch to the pet shop. Which is actually to the delight of Tiny, because he needs a chance to make his own ‘friend selection’. And that’s when Joe arrives…
With all the fun of caring for a new pet, with the added bonus of humour, what makes a real friendship, and adorably energetic illustrations, ‘My Perfect Pup’ is the perfect book to select for your young reader.

New Frontier Publishing, June 2016.

imageNow here’s a pet with personality; it’s the red cat in ‘I Am Doodle Cat’ by Kat Patrick and Lauren Marriott. Doodle Cat, seen full-focus in a series of animated positions on plain backgrounds, is not shy to let us know about all the things he loves. Dancing, the ocean, farts, friends, maths, lentils, fractals, difference and doodling are some, to name a few. But most importantly, Doodle Cat loves himself, in the best way possible.
Simple, visually friendly red and black on white illustrations suitably marries with the message of loving the simple things in life. ‘I Am Doodle Cat’ is also witty, candid and thought-provoking, making it a engaging read for preschoolers and beyond.

Scribble / Scribe Publications, March 2016.  

imageIt’s cuteness overload in Susannah Chambers and Mark Jackson’s The Snow Wombat’. Wombats are well-known for their cheeky, playful personalities, and this one is no different. Fun, rhyming couplets allow its preschool readers to make predictions and interact with the story. The wombat ventures through the ice-laiden countryside, lapping up all snowy goodness around him, and ‘on’ him. Finally, he finds a dry, warm place to snuggle in for a snow-free sleep.
The illustrations portray breathtakingly beautiful scenes and precisely depicted human and animal characteristics. ‘The Snow Wombat’ captures a wonderful preview of recreational fun in the snow and an Australiana feel.

Allen & Unwin, June 2016.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

DINO-MITE! Dinosaur picture books with bite

If dinosaurs had any inkling as to how popular they’d end up, I’m sure they would have stuck around longer to enjoy their fame and fortune. Here are a few more new titles to add to your prehistoric, dino-inspired picture book collection, some serious, some silly. All fun.

dino-daddy Dino-Daddy by Mark Sperring and Sam Lloyd is a gentle, non-taxing dino analogy highlighting the worth and value of dads. Dino-dad is sometimes over-worked, not ultra-vigilant, but always super caring and fun! Pre-schoolers will think it fun too. One to save for Father’s Day.

Bloomsbury May 2015

 I wanna by a Great Big Dinosaur (who doesn’t) by author illustrator, Heath McKenzie takes up where I wanna be a Pretty Princess left off. This time, there’s not a scrap of pink in sight, which is great news for McKenzie’s boy fan base and all those little girls who prefer scales, teeth, and claws to tiaras and tea parties.

I wanna be a great big dinosaur McKenzie follows a familiar formula however the perfect pouting princess tutor is replaced with with a meat-loving, liberal minded T-Rex who eventually succumbs to the selfless friendship of his little boy. Be sure to study the end pages, which reveal more of McKenzie’s easy to digest humour.

Scholastic Press May 2015

Ten Tricky DinosaursCounting picture books never lose their flavour. However, keeping them bright and engaging requires imagination, a good dash of silliness, and a sharp eye for detail. Amanda Tarlau and Karen Mounsey-Smith display all these in Ten Tricky Dinosaurs. Simple, kid friendly statements set up each numerical situation providing pre-schoolers with pages of visual exploration and rapture. It’s the illustrative details and visual challenges that I enjoy most about these books; ‘spot the ladybugs’ for instance. Makes you wonder if this really was how the countdown of the dinos’ great demise occurred.

Koala Books May 2015

Jurassic FartsPerhaps my favourite of the pickings today is Jurassic Farts A spotter’s guide. (Please, no judgement) For the dinosaur enthusiast, this is the penultimate, non-fiction (and I use that term loosely) guide book to complete their paleontological board book collection.

P. U. Rippley, the ‘author’ of this unique and oddly informative text, invites young palentologists on a tour of the Ordovician, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, stopping along the way to spend time with ten intriguing prehistoric reptiles and sea creatures. Some are instantly familiar, others require a second look. However, one thing is for sure, not one of us would be able to recognise these creatures from their farts…until now.

Jurassic Farts illo spreadThanks to Rippley’s short and sassy explanations and Evan Palmer’s wind assisted illustrations PLUS an easy to use, number referenced audio recording of each dinosaur discussed, now everyone can appreciate the deadly long-range stink of the Mamenchisaurus.

Sublime, silly slapstick humour with enough fact and fart sounds to hold the interest of 3 – 6 year-olds and perhaps their fathers for hours.

And the best part? You can change the batteries in the sound device. Unlike the common bottom burp, this promises to be a gift that lingers on and on and on…

Scholastic Australia May 2015

Doodles and Drafts – A Blog Tour with Alison Reynolds

Alison ReynoldsA couple of years ago a diminutive orange cat sprang into our hearts and homes courtesy of picture book creators, Alison Reynolds and Heath McKenzie. That cat was, Marmalade. He caused quite a sensation around our home, so when we heard he was on tour with Alison Reynolds, purrs of satisfaction reverberated throughout the house once more.

Alison Reynolds is no stranger to children’s fiction, but when she teams with illustrator, Heath McKenzie, her work is picture book paean.Heath McKenzie 2

A New Friend for Marmalade, sequel to the hugely successful, A Year with Marmalade, is a simple story about making new friends. But as we all know, the art of forming and maintaining friendships is seldom that straightforward. Hierarchy and the delicate differences between boys and girls all begin to surface in early primary years, making social interplay more of a challenge.

A new friend for MarmaladeWhen Toby, the boy across the road attempts to join BFFs, Ella, Maddy and Marmalade, things go instantly awry. Toby’s endeavours to fit in are not particularly successful nor welcomed by Ella and Maddy. He is over-exuberant, clumsy and dresses funny. Marmalade, however, sees him differently.

In Marmalade’s moment of crisis, his gamble on Toby pays off and beautiful new friendships are forged all round.

I love the snappy, clean layout of this picture book. Swirling text works effectively against plenty of white space, giving readers the sensation of floating seamlessly along with the story.

The narrative itself is succinct and character driven, with enough repeating phraseology to prompt even the most modest beginner reader to join in the fun.

McKenzie’s soft smudges of pastel colour highlight significant aspects and emotions of the story: the girls’ cubby house and sand castle city, Toby’s cap and scooter, and of course, our little orange hero, Marmalade.A NFM illos

Acceptance, tolerance and making that leap of faith permeate appealingly through this dreamy picture book, resulting in a fine example of ‘less is more’. It certainly stacks up for me.

Uncover why sand-castle-city builders from the age of 4 years and up will treasure A New Friend for Marmalade, here.

Stick around with Alison and Marmalade for the rest of their tour and participate in the fantastic competitions listed below. You never know, you might just make few new friends along the way!

The Five Mile Press 2013

Alison Reynolds Blog Tour Dates

March 2014

11th Dee White – review and post http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

11th Chris Bell – post http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

12th Angela Sunde – interview with Heath http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

12th KBR – book giveaway http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

13th Boomerang Books – Post with Dimity Powell http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/author/dpowell

14th KBR Guest post http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th KBR Review http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

14th Sally Murphy – Meet my book http://aussiereviews.com/reviews/blog/

15th Buzz Words – Interview http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

17th Ask the Bean Counter – Mr X http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

17th Pass-it-on Post and Review- Jackie Hosking

18th Ask the Publisher – Kay Scarlett http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/

Pet contest for all ages!

Marmalade the cat is full of personality. Do you have a pet with personality? Win a piece of artwork by Heath McKenzie. Send along a photo of your personality-plus pet to www.alisonreynolds.com.au, [email protected] or upload to

Random book giveaways!

Just leave a comment on one of the posts in the blog tour, comment on Facebook or even email Alison that you want to enter competition to win A New Friend for Marmalade.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Children’s editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials CB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Jump the Slush Pile!

Win a free pass to a Non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win an assessment of Chapter One of a chapter book by the fabulous mentor extraordinaire Dee White. http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/ Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials DW. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

Win a free picture book assessment by Alison! Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the A New Friend for Marmalade blog tour and add the initials PB. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.

 

Review – I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess

OK, the child is back at school. It’s still primary school but we’re at the senior end now – the business end. No more coaxing along or mincing words.

Fortunately she still adores being read to, so every day we still share glorious minutes together in worlds garnished extravagantly with pictures. Yes, I am a staunch believer of there being no age limit for the enjoyment of picture books.

However the scope and theme of picture books that excite a mid-primary schooler are vastly different from those suitable for 0 – 5 year olds. I don’t often come across those types these days so discovering this little cutie is a real treasure.

Pretty Princess 2I admit I’m a bit of a Heath McKenzie fan. His illustrations are fairy floss for one’s eyes; sweet, adorable and dangerously moreish. I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is the second picture book McKenzie has both written and illustrated and from the impossibly pink, love-heart festooned cover to the cuter than cute twist at the end, it exudes palace-loads of playful wit and charm.

6b416c0c0eef3ae8-PrettyPrincess04-05Our brown-eyed heroine wants to be a princess more than anything else in the world. Who doesn’t when they’re three-something?

Her dreams and imaginings overlay her everydayness as show by McKenzie’s clever pencilled outline illustrations.

Her wishes are soon answered by none other than a real-life pretty princess, who immediately embarks on the transformation of our heroine, aka, pretty princess wanna-be.

In a somewhat Pygmalion fashion, the haughty real princess pulls, primps and perfects Miss Wanna-be into a bonsai version of, well, herself.

b3b995b5165e4bee-PrettyPrincess12-13But what is the point of wearing so much make-up just to look perfectly ordinary? What is the point of pretty dresses if you cannot frolic and flounce about in them? What fun is a tea party if you cannot enjoy feasting with your friends? And shouldn’t you be allowed to dance like no one’s watching at all times?

Our little princess wanna-be also discovers handsome princes are not all they are cracked up to be so re-writes her own list of rules for being a pretty princess.

Heath McKenzie 2What I wanna know is how McKenzie taps so succinctly into the female pre-schoolers’ psyche. He draws and writes ‘little girl’ with blinding accuracy and has created a narrative that smacks with comical imperialistic overtones. Perhaps he has secret pretty princess yearnings too.

I Wanna Be a Pretty Princess is a slightly precocious, very pink, fabulously frothy, floaty picture book that any self-respecting young 3 year old (girl especially) will simply fawn over.

Perfect for sharing with pre-schoolers and those who really do want to know what it takes to be a princess.

You can find out first here.

Scholastic Press February 2014

 

Doodles and Drafts – A Blog Tour Adventure with The Littlest Bushranger

I was one of those horsey girls as a kid. Loved them. Couldn’t accept parents’ refusal to keep one of them in our backyard. So I transformed my trusty bike – the one with the chopper-style handlebars – and the dog’s leather lead into the best little mare you could imagine. I actually steered the bike around for months using those ‘reins’; through pitted canons and deeply wooded forests (our backyard was large and varied in landscape).

The Littlest bushranger_FRONT COVERImagination. It’s every kid’s greatest gift and most alluring asset. And Alison Reynolds’s and Heath McKenzie’s latest picture book, The Littlest Bushranger, celebrates it in style.

The Reynolds’ / McKenzie team, with over 150 titles between them, are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with and one of my favourite picture book artist combinations.

The Littlest Bushranger is a snap shot of Jack’s first day alone without his older sister Lil, who has just started school. His day becomes anything but ordinary as he is forced to navigate through frightening terrain and outwit the crafty Outlaw in pursuit of Lil’s prized treasure.

The Littlest BushrangerThis adrenaline-charged adventure is slightly more robust and male orientated than Reynolds’s and McKenzie’s previous book, A Year with Marmalade, however it is bounding with exhilarating movement and irrepressible charm. I especially love the tactile cover and the intelligent use of perspective and colour to accentuate the drama and action of Jack’s pursuit. His steely-eyed companions; his spirited steed and ‘gang member’ Hector, are as impressively heroic as Jack who valiantly earns his title as The Littlest Bushranger.

Ideal for 3 – 6 year olds and anyone who believed their bike was the best horse ever, like me.

Alison ReynoldsTo celebrate this thrilling new release, I am joining the adventure with Alison on her Blog Tour of The Littlest Bushranger. Mount up and see what she has to say…

Q Alison, you have written dozens of books for small children and younger readers. Do you enjoy creating picture books?

I love writing picture books. The connection between words and illustrations really interests me, and how you can use both to convey ideas.

What makes them harder or easier than other genres you like to write in?

It’s harder as every word is crucial. It’s easier because picture books are shorter than some other genres.

Q What was your inspiration for this story?

I saw a bird hopping on a railing near our dog, Molly and then my imagination rambled.

Q I love the choice of Jack’s imagery persona – a fearless bushranger. Why bushranger vs. your usual sword-wielding pirate or knight?

My publisher, The Five Mile Press, suggested a bushranger book. Maybe the next books could be pirates and knights.

Q Does Jack’s situation parallel your life as a child in anyway?

I started school a year later than my friends and neighbours because my birthday was after the magic cut-off point. I can remember playing at home, until they returned. I used to spend a lot of time running around on my hobby horse.

Have you ever had to reclaim a stolen treasure and face your direst fear?

Think I was more likely to purloin the treasure myself. Once when visiting my mother’s friend I spied a very special embroidered hand towel, apparently there was a flush and no more hand towel.

Q What was the most memorable imaginary world you visited when you were Jack’s age?

My friends and I played a game called boots. This consisted of us wearing my big sisters’ much too big boots and racing around the backyard playing chasey and I think spies were involved. In our backyard my dad cut the branches of the plum tree so they supported a plank. This became at different times a stage coach, flying saucer and police car. We were very versatile!

Q What was the hardest part of bringing The Littlest Bushranger to reality?

Coming up with a story of a bushranger for that age group. I didn’t want guns but decided a sword/broom was okay.

What was the easiest?

Having Heath McKenzie as an illustrator makes everything easier. If there’s a bit of writing that won’t work, I’ve realised that I probably don’t need it and Heath will illustrate it instead!

Q What advice would you give anyone else wanting to write a picture book?

Play with words, cut, revise, cut. And do illustrations that no one need ever see, but by doing this you can check that each page can be illustrated and it can clarify what you are trying to say.

Heath McKenzieQ Was the choice to involve the uber-talented Heath McKenzie again to illustrate this book yours or just an unbelievably marvellous strike of good fortune (and decision making)?

The Five Mile Press matched me with Heath again and I feel very lucky!

Q Do Heath’s illustrations represent what was originally in your head when you first conceived the idea for The Littlest Bushranger?

Heath somehow captured what was in my head, and created something even better by adding his own ideas. When it came to the outlaw/monster I wrote in the illustration brief, “Heath go wild” – and he did! I would never have come up with such a wonderful creation!

TLB spread 2How do you think they have helped bring the story to life?

I think they work in direct partnership with the words and tease them out into something very special. I especially love Hector the dog!

Q Other than writing, what other past times do you like to indulge in – say like horse-riding?

I have a rocking horse from when I was Jack, the littlest bushranger’s, age. That’s the extent of my riding apart from my hobby horse that I loved. I’ve watched a whip cracking contest, but haven’t tried it. And I don’t really like Irish jigs and Scottish reels. So think I would be a very bad bushranger!

Thanks Alison for inviting me along on this fantastic, white-knuckle quest!

Thanks, Dimity for having me!!!

Join the gang and continue to be part of the adventure. Here are the rest of the dates for Alison’s Tour. Don’t forget the competition either. There are some wicked prizes on offer. Thanks for riding with us.

June 11 Kat Apel

http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/blog/

June 12 Chris Bell

http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/

June 13 Angela Sunde

http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/

June 17 Interview with Melinda Beaumont

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

June 18 Dee White

http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

June 19 Kids Book Review

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/

June 20 Interview with Melissa Keil.

www.alisonreynolds.com.au

June 21 Heath McKenzie and Alison Reynolds interviewed by Juliet Chan, Marketing & Publicity Executive.

www.fivemilepress.com.au

Monster Competition Watch out for prizes – so good they should be outlawed! These include a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork from The Littlest Bushranger.

There are a couple of monsters in The Littlest Bushranger. One’s a bunyip, and the other an outlaw/monster who steals Lil’s telescope.

What sort of monster do you like? Send along a painting/drawing/model of a monster and you could win a piece of Heath McKenzie’s amazing artwork for The Littlest Bushranger.

Upload your best monster to https://www.facebook.com/alison.reynolds.524 or email it as a low res jpeg file to [email protected]  and we’ll upload it. If you don’t have a scanner, take a photo on a smart phone and email that!

Two categories. Under 12 and 12 plus including grown-ups. Entries close 25th June!

Jump the Slush Pile!
Win a free pass to an adult non-fiction commissioning editor’s desk. Just comment on this blog post or any other blog during the Littlest Bushranger book tour and add the initials NF. The more you comment, the more chances you have to win the draw.
Keep you eyes peeled for other prizes along the ride including a picture book assessment by Alison Reynolds, 2 free passes direct to an editor’s desk (you get to skip the slush pile), and copies of The Littlest Bushranger. Just comment on the posts. Simple!

The Five Mile Press June 2013

 

Review – The Emu That Laid the Golden Egg

lamingtonsAs I smack down some lamingtons over the Straya Day long weekend, I am reminded of how my first encounter with half of the Aussie Coat of Arms filled me with unaccountable terror. A bristling periscopic neck thrust its way deep into our car’s interior in search of edible morsels as I shrank deep into the rear seat. Being young and unacquainted with the ways our largest flightless bird, I convinced myself their diet must include the tender noses of young innocents. Thankfully I was wrong. And thankfully, the talented team who brought us Town Possum, Outback Possum, Yvonne Morrison and Heath McKenzie, have created a version of Aesop’s well-known fable, The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, entertaining enough to salve my terrifying first impression of – the emu.Emu Gold 4

But are all emus as undiscerning and bold enough to lunge for any old scrap? Apparently not, for Emma’s taste requires greater stimulation than the mere leftovers the rest of her flock dines on. Her insatiable appetite leads her far from home until exhausted and starving; she gorges on what she mistakes for kernels of corn. You’d think laying a golden egg would stem your starvation somewhat but it does little to abate her hunger and she soon abandons the glimmering egg.

Enter stage right, the baddies; two rotten scoundrels, keen on stealing whatever they can get their grubby little, pink paws on. Before long, Emma is trapped by their devious plot to become the richest possums this side of the goldfields. Their crafty plan soon unravels thanks to Emma’s gluttony and a certain black beetle. Jammy Emma escapes to reunite with her flock and the realisation that greed gains nothing, and leftovers taste far better than, ‘brass, glass and gold!’ (Which I hasten to point out; is why it is paramount to keep your windows up when driving through wild life reserves featuring roving emus. Tourists confined in cars are nearly always a better option for them than running down bugs.)

This charismatic picture book portraits our oft times misunderstood emu as a hugely likeable misfit who is just after a good feed. I adore Morrison’s trade-mark lilting verse, and really relish a picture book which dares to include vibrant snappy vocabulary; vital for enabling young children to strengthen their literacy muscle. Unforced, clever and chock-full of interesting and evocative words and images, the swaying rhyme is a delight to read out loud.

McKenzie’s bold illustrations bounce off the page with as much zeal and fervour as a hungry emu bounding towards a car full of tourists with an open bag of CCs. Brilliant and fun.Emus

I still harbour one or two reservations about emus. Hard not to when they stalk up close and stare you down with those Delphic, ember-coloured eyes. But I have absolutely no reservations in recommending The Emu That Laid the Golden Egg to anyone who loves a true-blue Aussie yarn, iconic Aussie characters and the odd blowfly or two.

Oi! Oi! Oi!

Published by Little Hare Books 2012

 

Review – I Love You Book

I totally empathise with the characters in this book by well-loved author Libby Hathorn. Yes, I too love the paper smell and consistently fight the desire to take a bite from a book I truly adore. Yes books are delicious. And yes, they are lovable.

The rustle of the pages. The sound as the book shuts tight. The dreams they conjure, the magical places they take us, the short, hippety-hoppety words and the laughter and the commas, dots and question marks. Libby expresses it all in this book – so perfectly, the reader will nod in appreciation the whole way through.

Told in rhyming text, the book’s illustrations are bright, dynamic, Seussy, delight. Heath McKenzie’s divine talent shines through and he takes a flying leap into the imaginative possibility Libby has penned – and comes up with page after page of beautiful imagery both kids and adults will adore.

I love you, book.

I Love You Book is published by IP Kidz.

iHARRY REVIEW

iHarry is a hilarious new children’s book by Australian author, Laurine Croasdale.

It hardly seems fair. Harry’s dad designs mobile phones and Harry must be the only kid on the planet who’s not allowed to have one.

So when Dad is bedridden for a week after an accident on Harry’s skateboard, Harry makes the most of it. Dad has invented an amazing new phone. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to borrow it and take it to school just for one day would it?

At first things start out great! The phone seems like the best invention ever.

“It does his exam, plays his favourite songlist and orders pizza – but it has one MAJOR flaw. He can’t take it off. And that’s when the trouble starts…

When the school principal is sent a text saying her stories are boring, Harry is not going to admit that his super phone was responsible.

Then when the school bully, Bozo steals the phone, it seems things can’t get any worse.

Finally, Harry gets the phone back but it has been ground into the dirt by Bozo. How is Harry going to explain this one to Dad?

iHarry has plenty of tension and excitement to keep readers turning the page. The subject matter is topical and imaginative and the first person point of view brings the reader into the heart of the story.

I’m sure that lots of young readers will relate to Harry’s situation where doing something a bit risky turns badly wrong. They will enjoy the fun technology and what kid wouldn’t dream about having a phone that does their exams and pretty much anything they want it to do – even ask their class ‘crush’ out on a date?

iHarry is a fast-paced, easy to read contemporary story. The characters are well developed and believable and the Harry’s dilemma will appeal to its upper primary school readers; many of whom are desperate to have their own mobile phone.

The colourful and quirky cover illustration is by Heath McKenzie. iHarry is published by Penguin Group’s Puffin Books in their Aussie Chomp series.

 

MEET LAURINE CROASDALE

Today at Kids’ book Capers, we’re talking with Australian Children’s author, Laurine Croasdale, about her writing journey and the inspiration behind her new Aussie Chomp, iHarry Laurine has published around fifteen books in a range of genres and topics.

ABOUT LAURINE *

Laurine started by selling ideas for non-fiction for kids, such as game books and activity books like the Play School Party Book and then she started writing fiction.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The moment when you have a great idea and you can’t wait to start getting words on the page.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Making yourself write when you really don’t want to. Usually that’s the editing/rewriting process on very little sleep.

What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?

I’d love to think that I was a painter.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Writing a book about bushfires that swept through the street where I grew up. Half the street got burnt down and the whole street was devastated. In the months after I collected everyone’s stories and put them into my book Red Golf Balls. My ‘street family’ loved it and over the years have always given me lots of support. They also put the book in the street ‘archive’ with some other key memorabilia they collected. It is wonderful being able to give people a voice.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have three projects on the go and am writing like an ipod on shuffle.

(Love that description, Laurine. That’s pretty much how I work.)

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Have fun, take heart – there is always room for a good story.

Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?

I often write about people who are outsiders and people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. I like writing books that make me laugh and hopefully make the readers laugh too. Laughter is such a gift!

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

Writing has been a brilliant part of my life. Not only has it presented me with a puzzle that I have spent most of my life trying to unravel but it has brought me into contact with some amazing people, places and situations. Publication is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rewards and benefits of putting pen to paper.

ABOUT iHarry

What inspired you to write this book?

My son. He never gets off his mobile phone!

What’s it about?

iHarry is about a boy who ‘borrows’ his Dad’s futuristic prototype mobile phone and takes it to school. For a while it’s a dream come true but one day he discovers that it is stuck to his ear and his life goes into freefall.

What age groups is it for?

Upper primary.

Why will kids like it?

The kids I know who have read iHarry think it is fun and funny. It’s about the age group when most kids are desperate to have a mobile phone but have to wait until high school so it taps into their wish list and makes them think ‘what if’.

I did a virtual launch via a Literature Live! video conference to 450 kids and we had a lot of fun coming up with ideas for phones and phone apps and what we could do with them.

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

Harry is the main character. He is a decent guy and normally never does anything wrong so when he is tempted by the phone and takes it to school it goes against his moral code. He stuffs up, gets in trouble, fights with his friends and Dad, and bumbles his way through trying to sort it all out. He is like most kids you meet, a mix of fun, good will, mischief and WHOAAARH! Moments. It’s the WHOAARH! moment that brings him undone!

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

Yes, I have some brilliant teacher’s notes and am happy to send them to teachers if they want to email me l_croasdale*at*hotmail*dot*com. There are things to make and invent as well as questions about the social etiquette of mobile phones and their place in the public arena. In 2016 everyone on the planet will have access to a mobile phone network. The use and reliance on mobile phones has grown like lantana but there seem to be no parameters on how to use them appropriately. I hope iHarry makes kids and teachers start talking about that.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

iHarry is a fun adventure for both girls and boys, asks a few moral and social questions and provides a few laughs along the way.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I had fun dreaming up a mobile phone and apps that hadn’t been invented yet. It made me laugh when I wrote it and that’s always a bonus.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

There wasn’t really a hard part to it. I know, pathetic isn’t it? It would be much better to say I bled from the eyeballs but sometimes stories go your way and this is one of them.

(I’m really glad this story didn’t make you bleed from the eyeballs, Laurine:)

Laurine is available for classroom workshops and visits and more about her is available from the Literature Live website

Laurine also has her own website at www.laurinecroasdale.com

The pic is of Laurine at Berkelouw Books.

A friend told me that iHarry was No4 on their top ten selling books and I had to go and check that my mother had been in buying them all!

For a review of iHarry, come back to Kids’ Book Capers on Friday. Look forward to seeing you here.

 

I LOVE YOU BOOK – A REVIEW

I Love You Book is the new picture book from Libby Hathorn and Heath McKenzie.

In an age when e-books have become a focus for teachers, librarians, parents and readers, I Love You Book celebrates the joys of the traditional book.

It is about the empowerment of reading and the joy that it can bring.

Libby Hathorn, the author of more than 50 books for children and young adults uses evocative language like ‘rustle bustle of pages’ and skin going ‘ting-a-ling to bring the joy of books to life.

In I Love You Book the main character is taken into a world of fun and imagination where kids can climb trees and find a “land brimful of things” and share them in the sky.

Libby Hathorn’s text captures the author’s passion for books and it’s clear from the pictures that illustrator, Heath McKenzie is celebrating his own love for what he does. His vibrant illustrations are full of life and humour.

This is a book that readers can dive into and be taken into a world of imagination. It allows adults to reflect on the books we have loved – the ones that stand out and mean the most to us, that have taken us in

I Love You Book is published by IP Kidz. You can view the book trailer at http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/LoveBook.htm

I LOVE YOU BOOK – MEET THE ILLUSTRATOR, HEATH McKENZIE

Heath McKenzie is the popular illustrator of the enchanting new I Love You Book being featured this week at Kids’ Book Capers.

He became an illustrator through…

hard work, perseverance, minor ignorance and lots and lots of practice. Since then he has worked on hundreds of projects.

Heath says he loves being his own boss, but it’s also one of the pitfalls of the job. Before becoming an illustrator, he was a student and worked in a shop.

“Getting published – every time” is his greatest illustrating achievement according to Heath and he has a number of works in progress at the moment.

Heath’s tip for new illustrators is to become known.

If no one know you exist and what you can do – no one will hire you – so get out there and show yourself and your work off!

Heath doesn’t have common themes in his books but he says

I tend to default to converse runners on feet and four fingered hands.

You can find out more about Heath at his website  – www.heathmck.com

ILLUSTRATING I LOVE YOU BOOK

When he was illustrating this book, Heath was inspired by the chance to let his imagination run wild.

I Love You Book is for all ages and celebrates the joy of books. Heath says,

Kids will like this book because of the escapism and adventure it presents and promotes beyond just this book.

The unique concept and imagery set this book apart.

An illustrator’s role is to bring the words to life and Heath says that the hardest thing about illustrating I Love You Book was
reigning in the visual potential presented by the text.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers, we’re reviewing I Love You Book.

 

I LOVE YOU BOOK – MEET THE AUTHOR, LIBBY HATHORN

Libby Hathorn, author of I Love You Book has  been writing stories since she could hold a pencil and spell out words. She has published more than 50 books for children.  Libby says,

It’s a life-long love affair with story and the way in which thoughts and words are able to be put down and then make meaning on a page.

ON BEING A WRITER

I have a portable profession and one that is always absorbing. Wherever I am my thoughts and dreams go too- and the fun of being a writer is making these ideas into meanings , weaving new stories or creating new poems for someone else- the reader!

According to Libby, the hardest thing about writing can sometimes be letting go of characters and settings you’ve been immersed in for months even years on end, can be difficult.

When I first began writing books I liked ‘singing up’ Australian families (Thunderwith a YA novel  which Hallmark made into a movie, and is still in print after 21 years); and  Australian settings The Tram to Bondi Beach (still in print after 30 years)as there were not so many  Oz books available. then And even now my latest YA novel is set in the Blue Mountains though my picture books could be anywhere in the world eg I Love You Book.

Before she became a writer, Libby says she had the best job in the world for someone who loves books and stories. Libby was a teacher-librarian.

I who loved the job of bringing kids and books together. But better still is being a fuull-time writer.

At the moment she is working on a beautiful picture storybook, a book of poetry and a novel which is a timeslip story.

I love poetry and many of my thoughts and inspiration on come directly from poetry. I’ve been really pleased to compile The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: a treasury for young people last year and I’m working on more poetry this year.

LIBBY’S TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS

Read a lot and of course  write a lot- every day of your life if you can. There are my Golden Rules  for Writing which can be read at www.libbyhathorn.com

HOW LIBBY WROTE “I LOVE YOU BOOK”

I was inspired by a trip to Papua New Guinea some years ago when I was lucky enough to take part in a high school assembly of a few hundred boys in their school in Goroka. Some of the mothers of the boys had been coming to school so that they could learn to read themselves and luckily for me today was the day they were putting on a play that sounded like a poem to me. They told the audience the way that books and learning to read had changed their lives. I love you book, they said because you take me to places and you open up my world. I was so moved  by that little play that I vowed to make a picture storybook for kids celebrating the book itself one day. And I Love You Book is the result.

What’s it about?

The book tells of the way in which books can transport us making us fly! It’s also about the sensuous response to the book as an object in our lives- taste, touch smell and sound as well as the sight of a book. It’s an absolute celebration of the book.

What age groups is it for?

Little kids and their parents.

Why will kids like it?

Heath’s lively illustrations follow a little girl and her brother as they literally dive into the world of books and have their adventures.

THE CHARACTERS

Though the character is not named the book is dedicated to my granddaughter Ruby and it is through her eyes that the action happens as she and her little brother experience all the delights of being read to, or  reading themselves and being carried away by the ideas in books.

It is unique in its lively celebration of the book as an artefact, part and parcel of our lives through a text that swoops and dives, and through Heath Mackenzie’s lively and most appropriate illustrations.  As a writer in  all the excitement of  e-books and lots of imaginative developments online, I also  wanted to celebrate what is special about the book as object, as a tactile and collectible and rewarding object in our lives.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Remembering the wonderful ways books inspired me all my life  and the way they continue to inspire  me and lots of others, particularly children

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Finding the illustrator who could do it justice in the way Heath has. I feel very lucky to have found his work and then to have  had his imaginative input.

Tomorrow, Heath Mackenzie is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how his work and how he illustrated this wonderful book.

TRISTAN BANCKS – Behind the scenes of the new NIT BOY trailer

As an author, I’m extremely interested in seeing how publishers use the Internet to promote books for children (and obviously, I’m making notes on what works and what doesn’t). Lots of publishers have tried to tackle Youtube trailers, and honestly, a lot of them involve a swirling book cover and a really horrible voiceover. After watching them, I feel less inclined to hunt down the book. That said, someone recently pointed me in the direction of the new Nit Boy trailer, and it is, hands down, the best original trailer for a book I’ve ever seen. It’s fun, it’s 3D. So, I tapped Tristan Bancks on the shoulder and invited him around to talk about how the trailer was put together.

TRISTAN BANCKS
Click here to visit his official site

I write quite visually. I see a movie unravelling in my head as I type, so I think book trailers are an amazing way to bring that motion picture alive for the audience.

The two books in the series, Lift Off and Bug Out tell the story of blood brothers – Lewis, a kid with the worst case of nits in world history, and Ned, a nit that lives on Lewis’s head. They’re a great way to have a laugh about our favourite blood-sucking mini-beasts. And there’s a nit quiz in the back of each book.

With the trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed the animator, Peter Leary, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie.

I then wrote a script. The animator cut the script down, did a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (‘wire’ frames in a computer).

I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer and then a final. I was amazed by how much of the animation comes together in the final render. And, when it was done, it was even better than what I’d seen in my mind’s eye as I wrote the books.

A producer has now optioned the Nit Boy books for television and my next visual-literary adventure will be a live-action trailer for the US release of the first Mac Slater book in April next year. Wish me luck!