I Don’t Believe it’s a Picture Book! Astonishing reads for all ages Part 1

Picture books are a unique marriage of art and words. Occasionally, not even the words are needed. A picture book can evoke emotions so intense, you’ll wonder how so few images and words managed to resonate such an immense amount of feeling in such a short space of time. This is what I find so utterly attractive and astonishing in well-written picture books. Today, we reveal a few that not only take my breath away, but also astound me with their cleverness, humanity and sheer depth. Enjoy. Continue reading I Don’t Believe it’s a Picture Book! Astonishing reads for all ages Part 1

8 Books With Bees on the Cover

I follow a number of book reviewers on YouTube and one of them recently mentioned their affection for books with bees on the cover. This captured my attention immediately, because I have the same bias for books with keys on the front, so I decided to keep my eyes open for bee-themed book covers and group them together.

Here’s a list of 8 books with bees on the cover.

1. The Beekeeper’s Secret by Josephine Moon
This book seems to be everywhere at the moment, and I guess it’s no surprise given it was published on 1 April 2016. It’s a mystery novel about families and secrets.

2. The Bees by Laline Paull  Bees by Laline Paull
The Bees is being pitched as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Watership Down and given that the main character Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, and this is the story of her life, I can totally see why. I loved Watership Down this year, so I might give this one a go.

3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Most Arthur Conan Doyle fans know about Sherlock’s love of bees and fans of TV shows Sherlock and Elementary might enjoy reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Published in 1994, it’s the first in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Homes series, which now has 14 books in the series.

4. The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau World Without Us Mireille Juchau
I think this is my favourite cover on the list. The World Without Us is a story of secrets and survival, family and community, loss and renewal.

5. Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar
This is a coming-of-age story featuring Carol and her mentally ill Grandfather.

6. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
I’m a huge fan of the Penguin clothbound classic series, and they offer a beautiful edition of Far From the Madding Crowd in their collection. Having said that, here’s another stunning edition with bees on the cover.

7. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Probably the most well known book on the list, The Secret Life of Bees is a bestselling novel that was made into a film starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys.

8. The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy The Bees Carol Ann Duffy #2
This is a poetry collection and here’s an excerpt from the blurb: Woven and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem, or hovers at its edge. In the end, Duffy’s point is clear: the bee symbolizes what we have left of grace in the world, and what is most precious and necessary for us to protect. Check out the stunning blue hardcover edition.

Hope you enjoyed this collection of books. If you can’t go past a good book list, check out my list of 14 Books With Keys on the Cover.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Queensland Literary Awards 2015 – still time to vote

After its recent tumultuous history, the Qld Literary Awards are growing from strength to strength under the banner of the State Library of Queensland and a bevy of eminent sponsors.

The 2015 shortlists have just been announced and the winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony on Friday 9th October in Brisbane.

Some categories showcase Queensland authors. These include the Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance

Shortlisted authors are:Heat and light

The impressive Ellen van Neerven  for Heat and Light  (University of Queensland Press)

Zoe Boccabella  Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Mark Bahnisch  Queensland; Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask  (NewSouth Publishing)

Anna Bligh  Through the Wall: Reflections on Leadership, Love and Survival  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Libby Connors  Warrior  (Allen & Unwin)

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award

Imogen Smith  Araluen

Elizabeth Kasmer  Aurora

W. George Sargasso

Kate Elkington  Wool Spin Burn

 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards

Andrew McMillen

Megan McGrath, Program Coordinator at the Brisbane Writers Festival

Michelle Law

Rebecca Jessen

Sam George-Allen

It is impressive how these state awards nurture and promote Qld authors.

The Qld Literary Awards are also notable for their support of Indigenous authors with the David Unaipon Award for Unpublished Indigenous Writer –

Andrew Booth  The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child

Mayrah Yarragah Dreise  Social Consciousness Series

Patricia Lees with Adam C. Lees  A Question of Colour

Other categories celebrate the finest Australian writers (and some illustrators) across the country.

These include the

Griffith University Children’s Book AwardNew Boy

Meg McKinlay  A Single Stone  (Walker Books Australia)

Tasmin Janu  Figgy in the World  (Omnibus Books)

David Mackintosh  Lucky  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Nick Earls New Boy (Penguin)

Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley Teacup (Scholastic Australia)

There was a strong selection of novels, picture books and others to whittle down into a shortlist this year.

Griffith University Young Adult Book AwardAre You Seeing Me

Darren Groth  Are You Seeing Me?  (Random House Australia)

Justine Larbalestier  Razorhurst  (Allen & Unwin) This won the Aurealis spec fiction award for Horror Novel.

Diana Sweeney  The Minnow  (Text Publishing) This was a CBCA Honour Book.

John Larkin  The Pause  (Random House Australia)

Jeri Kroll  Vanishing Point  (Puncher and Wattman)

I have read these except for Vanishing Point and so am now keen to read this also. It’s great to see a publisher I know for its poetry publishing YA.

University of Queensland Fiction Book AwardSnow Kimono

Amanda Lohrey  A Short History of Richard Kline  (Black Inc)

Joan London  The Golden Age  (Random House Australia) Reviewed here

Mark Henshaw  The Snow Kimono  (Text Publishing) Reviewed here

Malcolm Knox  The Wonder Lover  (Allen & Unwin)

Rohan Wilson  To Name Those Lost  (Allen & Unwin)

University of Queensland Non-fiction Book Award

Brenda Niall  Mannix  (Text Publishing)

Don Watson  The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia  (Penguin)

Anne Manne  The Life of I: The New Culture of Narcissism  (Melbourne University Press)

Annabel Crabb  The Wife Drought  (Random House Australia)

Karen Lamb  Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather  (University of Queensland Press)

University of Southern Queensland History Book AwardCyclone

Carolyn Holbrook  ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography  (NewSouth Publishing)

Angela Woollacott  Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture  (Oxford University Press)

Christine Kenneally  The Invisible History of the Human Race  (Black Inc)

Agnieszka Sobocinska  Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia  (NewSouth Publishing)

Sophie Cunningham  Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy  (Text Publishing)

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award

Nic Low  Arms Race and Other Stories  (Text Publishing)

Nick Jose  Bapo  (Giramondo)

Ellen van Neerven  Heat and Light  (University of Queensland Press)

Christos Tsiolkas  Merciless Gods  (Allen & Unwin)

J.M. Coetzee  Three Stories  (Text Publishing

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Susan Bradley Smith  Beds for All Who Come  (Five Islands Press)

Robert Adamson  Net Needle  (Black Inc)

David Brooks  Open House  (University of Queensland Press)

Lucy Dougan  The Guardians  (Giramondo)

Les Murray  Waiting for the Past  (Black Inc)

Thanks to the State Library of Queensland and supporters, including those who sponsor and give their names to specific awards.

And vote now until 5pm Friday 18 September 2015 for

The Courier-Mail 2015 People’s Choice Queensland Book of the YearNavigatio

 Nick Earls Analogue Men

Patrick Holland Navigatio

Inga Simpson Nest

Kari Gislason The Ash Burner

Zoe Boccabella Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

John Ahern On the Road…With the Kids

David Murray The Murder of Allison Baden-Clay

Mary Lou Simpson From Convict to Politician

Guest Blog Post: On the writing of ‘Celebrating Australia, a year in poetry’ by Lorraine Marwood

Celebrating_Australia_CVR-HRIntro: This is my sixth book with Walker books Australia and all the books are either poetry collections or verse novels. They are written for children (and always adults too)

What does it take to write a whole collection of poems about the word ‘Celebration’?

Well it takes lots of research, remembering, collecting ideas, words, customs, traditions and finding an immediate way into a topic that brings that child and adult reader right into the middle of a special time.

It also took a year of writing and reflecting and rewriting. Seventy two poems star in this collection, but many more were written but just didn’t make it to the final cut.

My editor Mary, encouraged and suggested and thoroughly went through each poem for balance, word choice and overall appeal. Thanks Mary.

Some celebrations made the backbone of the collection like: Australia day, Easter, Valentine’s day, Anzac day, Christmas. I wanted the seasons included as a demarcation of changes and progression in the book. Once the autumn poem was written (which incidentally was the first poem I wrote for the collection) then I used the same beat, word count and line break for the other seasonal poems.

My poetry shows that I love concrete details, sound words, sensory images and a unique patterning for each poem. I also love unexpected surprises and poetry is a great format for this.

Each poem is a little universe, with a beginning, a middle and end that spins you around to the beginning again.

I love embracing all the multi-cultural high points of the year like: Harmony day, Chinese New Year, Bastille day, Ramadan, Hanukkah, to name a few.

Throw in some quirky celebrations like talk like a pirate day and International dot day and there’s a poem to read for every Australian milestone in the year.

Lorraine Marwood lives in central Victoria and loves writing, reading, gardening crafting , writing and has a big family and even bigger collection of grandchildren. Her verse novel ‘Star Jumps’ won the children’s section of the Prime Minster’s literary prize. www.lorrainemarwood.com

Celebrating_Au_pp40-41

The Forgotten Works of Australian Poet C. J. Dennis

I recently stumbled across the works of Australian poet C. J. Dennis (1876 – 1938) and have been enjoying his poetry and writing from The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson. You may have come across his most well known work, a humorous verse novel called The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, first published in 1915. Selling an astonishing 65,000 copies in the first year of release, Dennis was the most prosperous poet in Australian history.The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke cover C. J. Dennis

In 1922, he began writing for the Herald in Melbourne, and wrote daily pieces until his death in 1938. He wrote about the bush, farming, small towns, cricket, horse racing, football, local crime and of course politics. Dennis wrote a prolific variety of poems and prose, many of them about ordinary Australians and which included slang and phrases of the day.

Reading his work now, it does take a little while to acclimatise to his phonetic spelling, particularly his work through the character Ben Bowyang, “rural filosofer and spelin reformer… from the bush.” (Page 5 of The C.J. Dennis Collection edited by Garrie Hutchinson). Having said that, once you adapt your reading to his writing style, you’ll no doubt find his rhyming verse addictive.

Dennis clearly had a love of words and language and was an impressive storyteller, capturing every day characters with humour and precision. His work around the ANZACs and ANZAC Day (such as A Song of Anzac and A Message) is touching and really captures a time gone by.

C. J. Dennis also wrote for kids, including A Book For Kids and A Bush Christmas, still funny today.

During his career, Dennis worked with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, and despite being just as successful, his name isn’t as well known as his two contemporaries. If like me, you’d like to re-discover the works of this legendary Australian, you can begin with The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (click here to purchase), or with his children’s books mentioned above (each in print and available for purchase).

For some of his more obscure writings though, you might need to do some digging. I managed to source The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson (published in 1987) through my local library. Your efforts will be well rewarded, I guarantee.

Do you remember reading books by C.J. Dennis as a kid? Do you have any of his books on your bookshelf at home? Let me know if you have your own connection to this ‘lost’ Australian poet.

More about the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

PureheartIt is commendable that recent Prime Ministers have continued the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards even though, as with some other literary prizes, its future has often seemed under threat. It is a prestigious national award amongst the also-important state and other literary prizes. And it is lucrative, with winners receiving $80 000 and shortlisted authors $5 000 – the latter amount equal to winners’ prize money in some other awards.

The complete shortlist is listed here: http://www.pm.gov.au/media/2014-10-19/2014-prime-ministers-literary-awards-shortlists-0

I’d like to make some additional comments on some categories and specific titles.

It is excellent to see that poetry has its own category here, as in other awards. There is a thriving Australian poetry community and publishing output that readers might not be aware of. As a starting point, explore the Thomas Shapcott Prize, an annual award for emerging Qld poets, which reminds us of the exquisite poetry and prose of venerable Shapcott himself.

The fiction category includes the delightful Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest (Penguin: Hamish Hamilton), which may have been shortlisted for as many recent awards as Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage). Australian writers and readers are still celebrating his well-deserved Man Booker Prize win, almost as though we won it ourselves. Moving Among Strangers

Gabrielle Carey’s Moving Among Strangers (UQP) about Randolph Stow and her family appears in the non-fiction category. I chaired a session with Gabrielle at the BWF several years ago and was interested then to hear about her research on this important Australian poet and novelist.

Merry Go Round in the Sea

Shortlisted in the history category, Clare Wright has been scooping awards for The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text Publishing). She is also a knowledgeable and entertaining conversationalist.

The Young Adult fiction shortlist deservedly emulates some other YA awards, affirming Melissa Keil’s debut, Life in Outer Space (Hardie Grant Egmont), The First Third by Will Kostakis (Penguin) and The Incredible Here and Now by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo). It is great to see Simmone Howell’s edgy Girl Defective (Pan Macmillan) and Cassandra Golds’ groundbreaking Pureheart (Penguin) included. But where is Fiona Wood’s Wildlife (Pan Macmillan), which won this year’s CBCA award for Older Readers?

I have blogged about some of these books here: http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/what-will-win-ya-book-of-the-year/2014/07

Most State Awards have a children’s category, although it is inexplicably missing in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Children’s books are the foundation of our publishing industry – and keep it afloat. If our children are not encouraged to read, who will buy and read books in the future? How literate will Australia be? Most of the PM children’s shortlist has been appearing on shortlists across the country this year, reinforcing the quality of these books. Barry Jonsberg’s My Life as an Alphabet (Allen & Unwin) has been straddling both the children’s and YA categories. This, as well as Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester (Puffin) and Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette) have already won notable awards. It is great to see Julie Hunt’s original fantasy, Song for a Scarlet Runner (Allen & Unwin) appearing on yet another shortlist and Bob Graham, Australia’s world-class author-illustrator, has done it again with his latest picture book, Silver Buttons (Walker Books).Song for a Scarlet Runner

Review – The Billy That Died with its Boots On

Grade Four Brief: fill an entire exercise book with a collection of poetry based on the theme ‘Don’t’. ‘I hear don’t much more than do. I think that’s sad, how about you?’ was my interpretation of the theme. It featured on every page.

TBTDWIBOOutcome: I filled the book, each page boasting original arrangements of strangled rhyming verse duly supported by hand drawn illustrations. A masterpiece in my mind and possibly the last time I wrangled poetic devices into meaningful arrangements. Picture book writers like me, are advised to avoid them at all cost unless your name is Julia Donaldson.

So when The Billy That Died with its Boots On and other Australian Verse slid into sight, I immediately baulked. How does one comment on something she professes no expertise in? Am I even entitled to opinion? Could I appreciate this oral and written art form of storytelling despite my long absence from it?

Answer: Well, of course I am and I do, very much as it turns out because poetry above all else can cut straight to the heart and I’ve definitely got one of those.

Stephen WhitesideI’ve long known of Stephen Whiteside but had never had the pleasure of reading his work, hearing his recitals or understanding the man, until our recent encounter at the SCBWI Sydney Conference earlier this year.

From beneath his trademark straw sun hat, which incidentally is equally at home in a frosty marquee or crowded suburban watering hole, radiates a man of admirable intellect, quiet charm and palpable talent.

He’s been rhyming verse for over thirty years, sustained by the inspirational works of his childhood influences, poets; Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and CJ Dennis – all remarkable pens of the bush.C J Dennis

Whiteside’s work captures the essence of an eclectic variety of subject matter but harnessing the unique tenor and spirit of our Aussie bush and life style is what anchors him most firmly to his art and maintains his involvement with various folk-art festivals throughout the land such as the Toolangi CJ Dennis Poetry Festival.

Adults enjoy his poems but he has found his true metier writing and performing for children, particularly primary-aged youngsters. The Billy That Died with Its Boots On represents his first collection of poems for children garnered over the years and embodying our iconic outdoors, sporting life and flora and fauna, with the obligatory alien thrown in for good measure. It’s an absolute joy to read.

Much but not all of Whiteside’s rhyming verse favours a pleasant anapaestic metre, which he comfortably mixes up with longer, lyrical story lines and short snappy four-liners. Nearly all of them raise a smile; some will have you chuckling out loud. Occasional paper cutout illustrations by Lauren Merrick add pep and character. Enjoy them all with a cuppa in one session or better, at random, one or two at a time whenever your fancy calls. Great for tapping into the short term attention spans of young minds.

Personal favourites are; Dad Meets the Martians, The Saucing of the Pies (in time for the footy finals), The Ice cream that Hurt and Eating Vegies; all adroit mirth filled mirrorings of minute slices of everyday life. Other titles, Two Little Raindrops and The Mane of a Horse for example, are sensitive metaphoric masterpieces written from the point of view of their inanimate subject matter; a raindrop, a puff of wind… quite lovely.

Stephen Whiteside 2It’s poetic magic that should be gobbled up by young readers while their creative hearts and minds are still open to this style of sustenance. The Billy That Died with its Boots On and other Australian Verse would make a beautiful addition to primary class room book shelves too. Only one thing could improve this collection – to have Stephen Whiteside himself read each poem out loud, as intended. Now that would be worth sitting through Grade Four all over again.

To loosely quote French poet Charles Baudelaire: ‘It is the hour to be drunken! To escape being the martyred slaves of time, be ceaselessly drunk. On wine, on poetry, or on virtue, as you wish.’ For readers under 18, I recommend you begin with this, poetry.

Find this book here.
Walker Books Australia May 2014

 

What Is It? Haiku

Launch of new series: What Is It?
I’d like to introduce a new series of posts I’m going to be writing called: What Is It?  I’ll be exploring topics related to the world of books and reading as well as taking suggestions from you.

What Is It? Haiku
To kick things off, I’ve decided the first topic in this new series is going to be haiku.  Haiku is a mystery to many devotees of the written word – myself included – so, I’ve gone out into the world to learn more about the mysteriously clever art of haiku and share my findings with you.

Haiku - The Sacred Art by Margaret D. McGee book cover

At a glance:
– Haiku is a word for a specific type of poem and is originally from Japan
– A haiku (poem) contains a specific number of syllables (like a limerick contains a defined number of lines)
– A haiku contains a total of 17 syllables divided into 3 lines
– The first line has 5 syllables, the second has 7, and the third and final line contains 5 syllables
– A haiku doesn’t have to rhyme and most of the time they don’t
– Popular haiku subjects include elements from nature (seasons, animals, plants)

Now that you know a little bit more about what a haiku is, the next step is probably reading some existing work.  A good place to start is by reading Haiku – The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines by Margaret D. McGee (pictured above).

Another book to consider is Haiku Mind – 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan. It’s a collection of haiku poems with themes such as honesty, transience and compassion and has a wonderful calming cover just begging the reader to dive in.

If you’ve been inspired by reading some haiku by other authors and feel ready to try your hand at writing one yourself, then Writing and Enjoying Haiku: a Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold seems like a good a place as any to start.  You’ll read how haiku can bring a: “centered, calming atmosphere into one’s life, by focusing on the outer realities of life instead of the naggings of the inner mind.”  Sounds perfect doesn’t it?Nerd Haiju by Rob Pearlman book cover

There’s a fantastic sub culture of haiku for nerds, and this one looks like a great collection: Nerd Haiku by author Robb Pearlman.  It contains 200 poems that speak to “core elements of the nerd universe: science fiction, fantasy, comic books, super heroes, big-budget movies, role-playing games, technology, TV series, animation, cosplay, and video games.”

Let me know if you already enjoy haiku, or if you’re delving into this subject matter for the first time.  Have you written a haiku about your love of books? If so, we’d love to read it.  Here’s my attempt, although with much help:

Boomerang Books blog
Prose and opinion combine
Best explored with friends

Suggestions Welcome
Hopefully this new series will cover some interesting topics and inspire you to explore new areas in literature.  Suggestions are very welcome, so please comment below and tell us what you’d like to know more about in the great world of books.

Review – Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Power

9781444780819When I received a copy of Kevin Powers’ collection of poetry I was quite apprehensive. I definitely wanted to read the collection as The Yellow Birds was beyond amazing. It still resonates very strongly with me everytime I think about it and Powers’ poetry background really comes through in his writing. But I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to have the same feelings and get the intensity from his poems, and if I did, I wasn’t confident in being able to review or talk about the poetry collection in the same way I am comfortable in doing so with prose.

Kevin Powers first poetry collection is divided into four parts. The first part I definitely enjoyed the most which helped me greatly. The first two parts of the collection deal mainly with his experience as a soldier in Iraq and for the most part are quite short and sharp. The title piece is amazing but the other poems are all powerful in their own different ways. Part two is made of up of slightly longer pieces and begin to move away from the war, although not completely. Improvised Explosive Device that ends part two is probably the most emotionally charged piece in the book and my favourite line ends After Leaving McGuire Veterans Hospital for the Last Time:

You came home
with nothing, and you still
have most of it left.

The rest of the collection varies in form and subject and my lack of poetry experience, understanding and confidence began to disadvantage me.

There is no doubt Kevin Powers is an extraordinary talented writer. War brings out the best and worst in humanity and Powers writing is able to funnel that into beautiful words and devastating emotions. The war poets of World War One were the only ones who could truly convey the horrors of the trenches to those who were not there. Since then other forms of words and pictures have taken over showing those at home what happens during war. However there are more sides to war than the battles and there are more casualties of war than those who are physically wounded or killed. To be able to convey these many sides in a succinct form with strong emotional intensity is rare a precious gift indeed.

Buy the book here…