Review – All Aboard the Nutmobile!

Australia is well-known for its myriad of contrasts and tempestuous weather. Devastating bushfires, consuming floods, and cyclonic furies can weary even the staunchest of spirits. But, seldom ones to lie down in defeat, Aussies love to rise above a challenge; plucking inspiration, hope, and incredible optimism from the deepest of floods waters.

All Aboard the NutmobileThis is precisely how the team of Macadamia House reacted following the Queensland 2010/2011 floods. They rebuilt their farm and salvaged their business. And from this rescued kernel of a nut, grew the idea for their first picture book.

All Aboard the Nutmobile is a rollicking little adventure depicting the first encounter, Nosh the Nutmobile has with the inhabitants of Macadamia House. They’ve never seen a Nutmobile before and regard him with a mixture of awe and reservation. They are not particularly enamoured by his strange nutty, dome-shaped appearance and don’t care to make friends with him, preferring to argue and speculate amongst themselves as to what he really is. That is until, the weather turns foul.

Driving rains and ensuing floods threaten not only their sporting pursuits but soon their lives as well. Fortunately Nosh and his young driver Max, come to their rescue. And like all floods, the muddy waters eventually subside and it becomes clear that Nosh really is a very useful Nutmobile who’s earned his rightful place at the Home of the Nut.

Like the hundreds of Queenslanders who endured the floods, this creation is a valiant effort on behalf of the Macadamia House team. Launched late last year to coincide with the Year of the Farmer and the National Year of Reading, Nosh is the first in the Nutmobile series. The characters are straight out of the Fraser Coast hinterland; Boris, the maroon wearing cane toad is my personal favourite. (Although I am far less captivated by cane toads in real life)

The nutmobile spreadKids from three to eight will adore Glen Singleton’s bold, bouncy, and wonderfully Australiana inspired illustrations. You already know his work if you’ve ever been to one of Queensland’ theme parks and used their maps to find your way round. The Twelve Days of Christmas and Santa Koala are other well-known favourites.

Glen Singleton and Em HorsfieldNewcomer to the writing scene but not the world of nuts is Em Horsfield. Her simple rhyming verse chugs along as surely and cheerfully as Nosh himself. And she knows her subject inside out, residing and working on a macadamia farm herself. Sweet.

All Aboard the Nutmobile not only entertains with its colourful cast of Aussie characters and oodles of charm, it humorously introduces young readers to various real life situations and outcomes and provides a platform for discussion of events that have affected many of them either dramatically first hand or from afar.

The Harvest Race Nutmobile 2Watch out for the next instalment of Nosh, in The Harvest Race, August 2013 coinciding with harvest season. The third in the series should be released in time to fill your Christmas stockings. Perfect.

NutmobileYes I’m a fan of the delicious Queensland nut and the iconic Nutmobile (I’ve chugged around in one once or twice) but I admire good old Aussie benevolence and tenacity even more so. This picture book encapsulates both in bucket loads.

Little Steps Publishing, an imprint of New Frontier Publishing 2012



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.


National Year of Reading Launch at the National Library of Australia

Today I had the privilege of attending the national launch of the National Year of Reading 2012, held at the National Library of Australia, Canberra.

The National Library was abuzz with superstars from the literary world – but the NLA wasn’t the only literary hot spot. All around the country, at libraries and halls and schools and centres, a mass celebration took place – and all for an amazing cause.

Our right royal bonanza was held in NLA’s theatre. First we heard from Anne-Marie Schwirtlic, Director-General of the NLA, then glorious book-loving host Jennifer Byrne, First Tuesday Book Club patron, introduced us to the likes of the hilarious William McInnes (author, actor and NYR12 Patron), ministers Simon Crean and Peter Garrett (OMG, Midnight Oil concert flashbacks) and – drum roll, please – PM Julia Gillard herself.

After Julia’s inspiring speech, we heard from William McInnes and next it was the fabulous Boori Monty Pryor – children’s author, NYR12 ambassador and Children’s Laureate – who brought in a classroom of school kids. Monty knocked their socks off with a resounding tale about didgeridoo spit – and had everyone in serious stitches.

The event was also peppered with some wonderful short films and snippets, including a piece from co-Children’s Laureate Alison Lester. We also heard about the NYR12’s aims, upcoming events and initiatives, and the glorious news that Disney have paired with NYR12’s Reading Hour (25 August).

We also heard from Education Minister Peter Garrett, who asked the kids to make the NYR12’s official signing – LOVE 2 READ – with their hands.

Afterwards, there was time to meet up with new and old friends, nibble some delicious sandwiches and have a cup of tea. It was fabulous to meet so many amazing people, to finally meet the amazing Monty and to have a cuddle with William McInnes. But most of all, it was a thrill to see the passion and support that is driving this phenomenal national initiative.

This is a very exciting year ahead – make sure you check out the NYR12 website for more on how you can get involved!

Boori Monty Prior, Chris Cheng and me
ACT NYR12 ambassadors, including Jack Heath and Senator Kate Lundy (either side of me at centre) and local NYR12 organisers Rachel Davis and Vanessa Little (centre front)