Doodles and Drafts – Mark Carthew

Mark CarthewQuiet achievers are those I admire most. Mark Carthew is one of those quiet achievers, except when he’s strumming out a tune on his guitar and reading one of his crazy verse orientated picture books aloud. With more projects on the draft table than you can wobble a pencil at, I thought it was high time we got to know one of Australia’s most consistent and talented children’s authors.

His recent release, Marvin and Marigold  The Big Sneeze with Simon Prescott, exemplifies all that we’ve come to expect of a Mark Carthew picture book: clear, engaging story, lyrical text, and kid friendly pictures guaranteed to spark repeated readings. The Big Sneeze is the first in this mouse inspired cute critter series, ably introducing Marigold to her new neighbour, Marvin, who’s in a pretty woeful way with the flu to begin with. Their friendship begins in a rather slow, fractured way until with a dash of empathy and a slathering of kindness, Marigold comes to accept the true mouse behind all the sneezes, snorts and snuffles. A little classic in the making (which are what The Gobbling Tree and The Moose is Loose! are to me). Let’s find out how he does it.

Welcome to the Draft Table, Mark!

Q: Who is Mark Carthew? Describe your writerly-self.

I am passionate about words, pictures and music… and how each of these things resonates in its own special way to make images. The rhythm of language and the power of alliterative words and phrases shared out loud is something reflected in my stories, verse and songs.

MARK-CARTHEW-FOOTER-2-LOWRES-72DPIQ: A hefty percentage of your children’s titles are picture books. What draws you to creating this genre of children’s literature?

Working with and seeing wonderfully talented illustrators bring your ideas to life is one of the great pleasures of being children’s picture book / illustrated text author. Each book is literally a birth; a special creation and much anticipated result of both vision and passion. Illustrator’s weave their own skills and magic into this creative process, making the genre a unique blend of two imaginations. I also enjoy working with editors, publishers and designers — and they need to get due credit; as they can bring significant (emotionally detached) insights and ideas to picture book projects.

Q: What style of writing do you identify most strongly with; children’s, poetry, song writing? Which style excites you the most to create?

Hard question, as many of my works involve combinations of all three! My picture books, anthologies and plays regularly revolve around narratives with a strong sense of the poetic, alliterative and rhythmic; and more often than not they have a musical or song element that dovetails naturally.

Marvin and Marigold_Cover_frontQ: Marvin and Marigold: The Big Sneeze, is the first in a new series of picture books featuring two new fun characters. Please tell us a bit about it. Why mice? Was this your original intention or is it a product of your collaboration with illustrator, Simon Prescott?

At a meeting in Frenchs Forest Sydney, my Publisher at New Frontier Sophia Whitfield, suggested she would be interested in me developing a manuscript around two animal characters. Reflecting on this while returning on the Manly Ferry, some verses started to flow; and the Marvin & Marigold series began that very day. Some of the key alliterative and rhyming stanzas based around their names, ‘mice’ and ‘mouse houses’ were written on the way back to Circular Quay. New Frontier had just set up a UK office in London and it was Sophia who made the UK connection to Simon Prescott, based on his whimsical style and expertise in illustrating mice.

Q: How did the concept of Marvin and Marigold come to being? What do you hope to portray in your stories about them?

Children’s publishers in Australia and around the world have had great success with picture books concerning cute and endearing animal characters; interestingly quite often with titles featuring ‘two names’.  As mentioned, New Frontier was keen to see if I could pen something original and engaging along similar lines with potential for a series.

While still involving word play and strong rhyme; these narratives also explore some deeper thinking around familiar life scenarios, situations and personal challenges — as well as important themes such as family, relationships, kindness and empathy. A series with two next door neighbours and friends, a boy and a girl, provides the perfect vehicle.      

Q: You mentioned that you ‘enjoy making books that encourage play with language, words and images’. Do you find it easier to ‘tell stories in song’ when developing a picture book as opposed to writing in prose? Describe the process for us.

My creativity seems to flow when I write in a lyrical, rhyming style and I think my love of verse texts, poetry and song writing has influenced my desire to share stories in sympathetic mediums. Poetic stanzas often bounce around in my head like a ‘third eye’ or voice. However, I am also very keen to extend my writing into a more prose based, graphic narrative style for the older primary readership and I have a couple of projects on the draft table in that regard.

The Gobbling Tree with awardQ: Your picture books in particular have strong appeal for lower primary and pre-primary aged readers, providing plenty of predictive reading possibilities and moments of fun to crow over again and again. What is the attraction for writing for this age group?

 Younger audiences respond naturally to call and response, alliteration and the use of strong rhyming, onomatopoeic phrases that are part of my writing style. That natural early childhood interest in shared language and interaction excites me as a writer and allows me the privilege and space to enjoy the fun of word play mixed with drama, music, movement and spoken words.

 Q: What’s on the draft table for Mark?

 2017 will be a big year with three picture books as well as various other poetry and writing projects in production or development.

My long long term illustrator friend Mike Spoor (UK) and I will be releasing a speciality art style picture book Six Little Ducks (with song), a project which evolved from our 2013 Australian tour. The second book in the Marvin and Marigold series, Marvin & Marigold: A Christmas Surprise will be released in the lead-up to Christmas 2017 and The Great Zoo Hullabaloo illustrated by Anil Tortop (Qld) will be out in April 2017. That project was developed during my May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship and is in essence the sequel to The Moose is Loose!— but with a different publisher, illustrator and a new twist!

The Five Little OwlsWith the assistance of Karen Small from Small but Mighty Productions, I am planning to produce a 10th Anniversary Edition of my CBCA Honour Book and anthology, Can you keep a Secret? Timeless rhymes to share and treasure. I hope to do that in both eBook & hard copy.

I am also working on some new poetry anthologies and a graphic novel / crossover text for older primary readers.

Q: When not scribbling stories for children, who / what do you like to read?

I enjoy magical realism, folkloric and action / fantasy novels… and reading other writer’s illustrated books!

Q: Just for fun question (there’s always one): If you had to choose to be one of your picture book characters for a week, whom would you choose and why?

 The Zoo HullabalooMmmm… most of my current characters are animals, so that is a tricky question! I’d probably be Jack in my upcoming title – The Great Zoo Hullabaloo. He’s a zookeeper who enjoys being around animals, as well as playing the drums!

PS: Mark has lots of information, activities and free material on his wonderful website — www.markcarthew.com.au

Thanks, Mark!

Marvin and Marigold The Big Sneeze is available, here.

New Frontier Publishing

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

 

Recently Released 2016 Aussie Books You Need To Read

So far, 2016 has already been an incredible year for new releases! And huzzah for Australian authors adding some fabulous titles for us to devour. I basically can’t read fast enough to keep up with all this genius, oh gosh.

Don’t know where to start? LUCKY FOR YOU — I AM HERE. I’m listing some recently published 2016 Australian home-grown YA novels that you need to get your clammy paws on. Like right now.

 

2 0 1 6     Y A   A U S S I E    R E L E A S E S   


 

my sister rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbelestier ~ purchase

This is a psychological thriller about Che who believes his 10-year-old sister, Rosa, is a psychopath. It’s absolutely brilliant. Like I-can’t-stop-reading-this-book-everyone-go-away-and-leave-me-to-shriek sort of brilliant.

It’s mostly set in New York, but Che and his family ARE Australian. Che is also a boxer, although he spends like 90% of his time freaking out over what evil Rosa is going to commit next. And the ending? OH YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING. But it will hurt.

 

9781743315897The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard ~ purchase

Although this book wasn’t my favourite, I am definitely going to sit here and shriek “THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL.” It’s partially written in verse, so if you’re a poetry lover? This book calls to you.

It’s basically about Alice, who’s suffered a brain injury and is trying to express herself through writing/poetry because her words don’t come out so well. It’s a very different book because we are seeing the world through an entirely new perspective. I can imagine it’d be absolutely gorgeous read out loud, too, by the way.

 

28798707The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor ~ purchase

Okay so this isn’t set in Australia, but it’s by an Aussie author who’s recounting stories inspired by her Jewish grandmother in the 1940s! It’s all about this huge Jewish family and their culture and lives and it’s absolutely endearing and adorable.

It’s best for a middle-grade audience, by the way. And it’s also best on a full stomach because you’re basically guaranteed to be hungry after reading pages of food-prep for the Sabbath.

 

25535What I Saw by Beck Nicholas ~ purchase

This is a slightly thriller-y contemporary about a girl who witnesses a Fatal Punch and has to decide whether she’s going to confess who did it.

It features an unlikely romance between straight-A-in-school-perfect-girl, Callie, and the bad-boy Rhett (who is actually just a big ol’ burnt marshmallow who loves puppies and his family and only acts like a tough dude).

 

 

9781925240795Iris And the Tiger by Leanne Hall ~ purchase

This is, again, more of a middle-grade story, but so adorable and full of magical whimsy that totally reminded me of Alice in Wonderland! It was fantastic! It’s also all about paintings and art and magical feet-shoes…oh and it’s set in Spain. Did I mention that? Add in a zany great-aunt and a very serious 12-year-old girl (Iris, obviously) who’s determined to solve mysteries and figure out WHAT IS GOING ON in this crazy house.

 

 

R E L E A S E S   O N   M Y   T O – B E – R E A D   P I L E


 

9781925266924 8d6c45bd0241cbcd9b73da8cc3d7e790

  • Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar ~ purchase ~ I haven’t read this one yet, but I super luckily won a copy and all I hear is good things! I AM EXCITED. Apparently this is on the upper side of YA, heading into New Adult territory.
  • Yellow by Megan Jacobson ~ purchase ~ This is about a 14-year-old girl who gets a ghost to promise to make her popular if she finds his killer. IT SOUNDS AMAZING AND I NEED IT IMMEDIATELY.

 

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

 

The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in June

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief.

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Fiction Books

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Set in Zagreb, 1991. A city once part of Yugoslavia which is about to become the capital of Croatia as civil war erupts. Ana Jurić is ten years-old and the story is told through her eyes as the collapse of communism soon turns to a confusing and violent war. This is a coming-of-age story which happens far too early. It is about how history defines us and haunts us. It is about trying to make sense of an unexplainable conflict and how in war innocence is so easily lost. In the beautiful tradition of The Tiger’s Wife and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Jon

The Blue Between SKy and Water by Susan Abulhawa

A novel set in Gaza, a novel which gives us another side of the story. Heartbreaking, passionate, magical, all these words and more create a truly inspiring novel. By the author of Mornings in Jenin which has been an international success.  Chris

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

T C Boyle is a favourite author of mine, he uses a large landscape to write about one family. He slowly drip feeds us about violence in America through the damaged son and his friendship with a woman equally unstable. The tension builds and builds until it erupts with no easy ending. Part thriller, part social commetary this is a book that you will love to hate. Chris

Tightrope by Simon Mawer

I love a good spy novel. Marion Sutro, a British spy was captured by the Gestapo in 1943. She was interrogated and ended up in Ravensbruck concentration camp for a while. When she escaped and returned to England she was revered as a heroine of the resistance. She is broken and begins to doubt her role in the war. During her return to health she starts to miss the adventure and intrigue of her previous life. Still the idealist she turns to peace and her answer she thinks is with communism. Simon Mawer reminds me of William Boyd so quite a treat. Chris

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

An historical novel set in China and India during the Opuim Wars. A novel which will want you to learn more about that time and the East India Company. Full of characters whose paths cross between Bengal and mainland China. Lots of detail about the times. If you like your historical novels epic and sweeping this will carry you away. Chris

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Scandals abound in this engaging new work from the author of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. When the inquisitive young Willa Romeyn, beautifully reminiscent of Harper Lee’s Scout, encounters the sophisticated Miss Layla Beck, her litany of questions are answered. Recently arrived in Macedonia, West Virginia, for the Federal Writers Project, Miss Beck is tasked with unearthing the town’s history, but not everyone in Macedonia wants the truth to be heard, including some of Willa’s nearest and dearest. A wonderfully immersive story about secrets and their significance. Sally

Forever Young by Steven Carroll

Set against the tumultuous period of change and uncertainty that was Australia in 1977. Whitlam is about to lose the federal election, and things will never be the same again. The times they are a’changing. Radicals have become conservatives, idealism is giving way to realism, relationships are falling apart. A powerfully moving work.

Non-Fiction Books

Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor

On 16 December, 1944, Hitler launched his ‘last gamble’ in the snow-covered forests and gorges of the Ardennes. He believed he could split the Allies by driving all the way to Antwerp, then force the Canadians and the British out of the war. The Ardennes offensive, with more than a million men involved, became the greatest battle of the war in Western Europe. 

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

South African born Elon Musk is the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. Musk wants to save our planet; he wants to send citizens into space, to form a colony on Mars; he wants to make money while doing these things; and he wants us all to know about it.

The Simple Act of Reading by Debra Adelaide

A collection of essays and memoir pieces on the topic of reading, in particular what it means for writers to be readers and how that has shaped their life. The Simple Act of Reading will support Sydney Story Factory by emphasising the importance of reading in shaping an individual’s future.

Gittins by Ross Gittins

With four decades of printers’ ink in his veins, he dissects the newspaper game, remembers the great editors and journalists who have sharpened our minds and his, and lays down some hard facts about a hard future…Honest, robust and intelligent, Gittins is as insightful and entertaining as the man himself.

My Paris Dream by Kate Betts

Former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar recalls her time in Paris – falling in love, finding herself, and beign initiated into the world of high fashion. Rife with insider information about restaurants, shopping, travel, and food, Betts’s memoir brings the enchantment of France to life — from the nightclubs of Paris where she learned to dance Le Rock, to the lavender fields of Provence and the forests of le Bretagne — in an unforgettable memoir of coming-of-age…

How The French Won Waterloo (Or Think They Did) by Stephen Clarke

Two centuries after the Battle of Waterloo, the French are still in denial. If Napoleon lost on 18 June 1815 (and that’s a big ‘if’), then whoever rules the universe got it wrong. As soon as the cannons stopped firing, French historians began re-writing history. Stephen Clarke has studied the French version of Waterloo, as told by battle veterans, novelists, historians – right up to today’s politicians, and he has uncovered a story of pain, patriotism and sheer perversion.

Musing from the Inner Duck by Michael Leunig

Michael Leunig’s poignantly hilarious new cartoon collection, ranges from Curly Flat to the global positioning sausage, accompanied by the direction-finding duck. This collection of 138 cartoons tilts towards the whimsical, the wise and the sublimely misaligned; it’s less heavily political than previous collections, although the political system cops a serve here and there.

Childrens’ Picture Books

There’s A Bear On My Chair by Ross Collins

Bear settles into poor Mouse’s chair! Mouse tries all the ideas he can think of to get him to move – the chair is not big enough to share. Mouse gives up and decides to leave but who does Bear find when he gets home. Is there a Mouse in Bear’s house? Such fantastic illustrations with a great story to share. Jan

Line Up, Please! by Tomoko Ohmura

Standing in line can be fun when you are with a giraffe, skunk, pig, monkey and many more animals. A cleverly illustrated picture book written with humour and clues as to where the line is going. Jan

Books for Young Readers

The Milkshake Detectives by Heather Butler

Charlie and Julia are certain that the sleepy village of Peddle-Worth must contain some mysteries for their brand new agency – The Milkshake Detectives – to solve. All they need to do is find them! All they need to do is find them! So when somebody called ‘The Bear’ starts leaving strange clues, they can’t wait to put their spy skills to use. The only problem? Everyone else wants to join in the bear hunt too!

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard by Geoffrey McSkimming

We are all very excited about the third instalment of this very popular Australian series. Phyllis is part brilliant magician and part sleuth. This is her hardest mystery to solve yet! Can she uncover the truth about one of magic’s most mysterious figures and at the same time save the world form the ‘Great Whimpering” doom that threatens us all. Read it and find out!

Books for Young Adults

The Traitor by Allen Zadoff

The Boy Nobody trilogy comes to an adrenaline-fueled conclusion in Traitor, which sees the Program’s elite soldier now their number one target. Packed with the series’ trademark action and suspense, this series is perfect for readers who’ve outgrown Alex Rider and CHERUB. Simon

Pieces of Sky by Trinity Doyle

Lucy’s life has turned upside down after the death of her brother. She was state backstroke champion, had  friends, had a life but now all she feels is lost. A great debut novel dealing with isolation, communication, community and love. Jan