Caroline Magerl – A Journey of the Heart Part 2

In last week’s part of the interview we delved into the history and imagination of the brilliant Caroline Magerl. Today she generously shares how ‘Hasel and Rose’ (‘Rose and the Wish Thing’) became the magical book that we all adore.

With reference back to ‘Hasel and Rose’, this beautiful story of displacement and friendship emerged out of great significance to your own past experiences. Can you tell us how this book is meaningful to you and what you hope readers will gain from it?

imageAs I was writing this story, I remembered how as a child I drew much strength when holding a particular toy. It had somehow been nominated to provide protection and courage. This is something I have seen many other children do and is heart-warming to watch, but also deeply intriguing. It occurred to me that there is something significant to be learnt from these fleeting relationships.

During the years of writing Rose and the Wish Thing, I happened to see a boy tenderly carry a kitten in the hood of his jacket. We were on a Melbourne tram and he kept his composure by gently stroking the whiskered face at his shoulder, all the while under slander from other boys sitting nearby. This incident was instrumental in shaping a part of the story, that of Rose carrying the Wish Thing in her hood.

Finding the Wish Thing was just the start for Rose, her courage was there all along, but now it was engaged. The world outside her door is after all the object and desirable end to the tale of finding the Wish Thing. It is the friendship that happens once a Rose finds her place in the world, which is the less obvious but true focus of this story.

‘Hasel and Rose’ is soon to be released in the U.S. with the title ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’. Congratulations! How did this publication come about? How much input did you have in this international release? Besides the titles do the books differ at all?

Thanks.

imageThe good people at Penguin Australia took ‘Hasel and Rose’ to the Bologna Book fair before it was released. While there a publisher at Double Day (Random House) noticed it and bought the North American rights. It was somewhat surreal to have an overseas contract signed before the book was printed.  They requested a small number of changes such as the title. Double Day felt that changing Hasel into ‘the wish thing’ clarified the intention and had the added purpose of being less gender specific.

Over the years I have come to appreciate that published works are a collaboration of editors, publishers, marketing, art editors, designers and the list goes on. Most have years of experience and genuinely want to add to the success of the book. As the creator I will always fight for the intregity of my work but equally I would be foolish not to acknowledge professional direction when offered. All of this is an art more than science or perhaps it is better described as an awkward dance.

I will be travelling to America when the book is released in March to present at places such as the Mazza Museum, Eric Carle Museum and a selected number of bookshops. I must also mention Dr Belle Alderman of the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature. Belle was kind enough to introduce my work to the Eric Carle Museum staff recently during her vacation in America. Once again, I find myself personally indebted and very grateful to know there are people such as Belle, in the Australian Children’s book industry freely giving so much of their time, effort and expertise.

Your illustrations are so gorgeously fluid and energetic, soulful and emotive. Do you have a favourite image from ‘Rose and the Wish Thing’? What was your creative thought process while illustrating the book? How does the watercolour medium reflect the story’s underlying themes?

I don’t have a favourite image as such. Each has a specific reason for existing. For example, if I start at the beginning;

imageRose was a new face in a new street; her feet are not on the ground, she is in a space that is not hers. You are looking up at her in a large building… in a sense she is hanging onto the window sill, a floating feeling between a window in and a window out. There she hangs onto something, but it is not what she needs. To give the impression of loneliness, of being somewhere that was not home, I had a strong intuition to create a vignette as a floating image; a window into the story. It’s fleeting and you aren’t meant to dwell, its intention is to lead you in.

Watercolour was the obvious choice of medium. It was the first medium I saw in books as a child. I was fascinated by the simultaneous impression of overall harmony, and yet it was plain to see that that the image was built up in films and layers of colour. It had the ability to be evocative and loose, but also describe things in minute details. I didn’t know how it was done, only that it could be done and that there was great skill in doing so. I became obsessed with it and eventually taught myself.

This picture as with the rest of the story has a consistent palette which helped to maintain an underlying harmony. A very pale yellow was applied beneath all the images, which provided a sense of warmth throughout. The yellow is a very clear colour which manages to glow through the many layers which were laid over. I had great delight in floating the opaque bricks in mid air against the wall, where they sit almost magically against the building. The blue sky and red bricks are reminiscent of my early impressions of Sydney, where as a child; I was a new face in a new street. Leaving Europe where the sky covered as a blanket over the world, my new town appeared with a sense of blue immensity. For me, red and blue are emotionally charged colours.

Part of the visual narrative in this picture is the distant streetscape. This created a neighborhood atmosphere which is a major part of the story; there was something to be gained out there, something for Rose to gain, a promise of something. It wasn’t just Rose in a window; it was also an overlay of meaning and an unspoken agenda. Pictures have a very powerful role in telling the unspoken aspects of a story. Its language is in the colour, tonal value, perspective, proportions, expression, and in this case an understated yet obvious element, ‘a new street’.

Loose line work creates a spontaneous joy. There is a sense of exploration as the strokes create new vegetation, random birds, etc. They spring forward in the most charming way, but do come with the enormous risk of irreversibility. Line work reads beautifully and you can feel the energy of the person who drew it.

Equally but differently; Through a glass.

Some of the images in the story were defined as much from my frustration at not being able to pin the story down as the narrative itself.

imageIn this image with views through Rose’s cardboard telescope, there is a series of tantalizing views before Rose sees the wish thing arriving in a box. This was engendered by a memory of watching the Sydney harbor pass by in a dizzying smudge, through the porthole of the yacht that was my childhood home. Nothing was still as the vessel swung on its mooring, things endlessly slipped by. These memories underpinned much of the illustration and in this case even the design.

Getting around your own habitual thinking is one of the hardest things in trying to create something new. I now use cardboard telescopes as a matter of course.

Are there any artists or other people in your life that have been your greatest influences in becoming the successful author / illustrator you are today?

In 2013 I was giving a presentation of my fine art at Debut Contemporary in Notting Hill, London.  I took time out to visit some of the wonderful establishments around London.

imageOne in particular was Chris Beetles gallery, a highly prestigious private gallery featuring illustrators past and present; Sir Quentin Blake, Arthur Rackham to name just a couple, so it was a definite must see for me. When I arrived the gallery’s large and somewhat impressive door was shut.  I contemplated knocking and at that moment it swung open for a lady with an appointment (unlike me) breezed in. I sort of rode her slipstream through the entry.

It really is a jaw dropping place with so many extraordinary framed illustrations. To see some of the original works that I have loved since childhood, neatly stacked on the floor and crowding the walls was just unforgettable. I didn’t have time to take it all in, when in a slightly dazed moment Chris Beetles himself pleasantly materialized before me. After a short and somewhat nervous conversation, I found myself showing him some diary drawings from my yet to be published book, Hasel and Rose. To my great delight, he suggested that I send the gallery a copy of the published work.

In time, it came to pass that the originals of Hasel and Rose featured in the gallery’s 2014 ‘The Illustrators’ exhibition and I had the good fortune to attend the opening night.

It was magical to walk down the alleys of St James in the evening gloom and then turn the corner to see my illustrations brightly lit through the gallery window. A sort of Harry Potter comes true moment. It was a wonderful night where I met some fabulous artists and well known figures such as author Lord Jeffery Archer. I still consider this to be the most outlandish and wonderful good fortune to find my work in this exceptional gallery.

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?

I am happy to say that I have signed with an agent, Ronnie Herman who is now touting my latest texts to American publishers. The hope and aim is to have a book with simultaneous release in Australia and America, but as you can image that is easier said than done.

I have my fingers and toes crossed at the moment.

All the best with what sounds to be an exciting year ahead!

Thank you so much, Caroline for this wonderful opportunity to get to know more about you and your fascinating work!

It was my pleasure and many thanks for reading.

Visit Caroline Magerl at her website and facebook page.

Taking Action – Fun Books to Get Kids Moving

The beauty of children’s books is that they lend themselves to so many further experiences beyond the reading of the words. These three books contain just the right mix of language and animation to have you and your little ones practicing a few moves of your own.  

imagePuddles are for Jumping, Kylie Dunstan (author, illus.), Windy Hollow Books, 2015.  

The first thing you’ll notice upon picking up this book are the awesome illustrations. Each spread is entirely created with bright, cut and pasted paper characters and scenes in primary colours, suiting its wet weather theme and straightforward storyline.

Kylie Dunstan cleverly takes her early primary-aged audience on this rainy adventure through the park, market, the neighbourhood and back home again to bed, simply by stating the actions in the words and demonstrating them in the pictures. Written in present tense, the short sentences are relatable and encourage young readers to focus on how different objects can be utilised in the most enjoyable way possible.

“Bottoms are for wriggling, Sisters are for laughing!” /
“Beds are for BOUNCING, Books are for sharing”.

‘Puddles are for Jumping’ is both visually and actively entertaining. This truly playful and joyous book is perfect for promoting experiences in the creative arts and movement areas, as well as supporting themes of friendship and citizenship.  

imageConga Dance, Amanda Tarlau (author), Jane Chapman (illus.), Koala Books, 2015.

Another book to get you on your feet is ‘Conga Dance’. As the title suggests, this euphoric story sashays from start to end with a toe-tapping, bounding, shaking and strutting line up of Aussie animals, progressively joining in the dance. I love how the language matches each of the characters’ traits and encourages dramatic play.

“Wombat’s next, whiskers shaking” /
“Cockatoo struts and squawks with laughter.”

Emu leads the rhythmic chant with six lively friends following on, until…someone gets in the way!
To match the rollicking, rhyming verse, the watercolour illustrations are gorgeously textured, soft and expressive, perfectly representing the warm and jovial atmosphere of these adorable, fun-loving creatures in the Australian bush.

‘Conga Dance’ exudes warmth, excitement and a totally care-free attitude that will have preschoolers shuffling, bopping and giggling along in repeated succession.  

imageOnce I Heard a Little Wombat, Renée Treml (author, illus.), Random House, 2015.

Inspired by the classic 19th century nursery rhyme ‘Once I Saw a Little Bird’ is Renée Treml‘s adorable Australian version, ‘Once I Heard a Little Wombat’.

This particularly sweet board book for toddlers is a beautiful read aloud story that will no doubt have your little one joining in the action. Cleverly interactive, the tale talks in first person, immediately connecting the reader with the audience. And it’s only at the very end that the mystery of the narrator is revealed. Great for fostering prediction skills!  

Energetic rhyme and repetitive verbs in clumps of three hook the listener in for the ride as an array of animals display their typical behavioural characteristics. Sugar gliders bump and jump, bilbies scratch, snatch and hop, and puggles splish, splash and plop. Attempts are made to convince each one to stay and play, but the little creatures have their own agendas. Until a little stomping wombat comes around and is ready to play and romp, and then it is time for the pair to stop and flop together for a nap. But who is this mystery animal friend? Read it to find out!

In her characteristically unique and stunning style, Renée Treml‘s artwork is soothing, yet playful with her adorable black and white scratch-art fauna, each assigned a different pastel-coloured background.

‘Once I Heard a Little Wombat’ is a delightful board book of perfect size and shape for little hands. With its exhibition of charming Australian animals and their habitats this lively romp has great learning potential, and is the perfect excuse for repeated read-alongs and role play action for all its early childhood readers.

YA Review – Steal My Sunshine

The reading audience of YA yarns is ticklish to quantify by age and intangible by definition. Yet its common trait is the desire to be shocked, entertained and moved in the briefest possible time. I no longer have the rush of youth but do suffer the impatience of age so I love that YA reads can take me on a tour of emotions and conflicts, show me succinct snap shots of life, and have me safely home in time for dinner. It’s a bit like being a teenager again. So many issues, duelling emotions, and desperate questions that need answering – like yesterday.

Steal my sunshineSteal My Sunshine, Emily Gale’s first Australian release, is a bit of a circular re-visitation of one’s past. It centres around 15 year old Hannah, a girl with mostly pure intentions who is often at bitter odds with her mother Sarah, and older brother, Sam. She dwells on the fringe of true friendship and romance and feels most kindred to Essie, her eccentric, gin-swilling grandmother.

This story drew me in from the start. How could someone’s sunshine be stolen? It is easy to find fault with Hannah’s acerbic, confused mother, her pusillanimous father, her self-absorbed brother, and her seen-it-all-before best friend. But the key to surviving a crisis is not always about attributing blame. Sometimes it just makes more sense to acknowledge your true-self and accept how it fits in with life.

Hannah’s acknowledgment occurs when her world begins to dissolve during an oppressive Melbourne heatwave. Normality is slipping through her fingers faster than sand from St Kilda beach and she’s at a loss as to how to hang onto it. Enter Essie; the one person Hannah feels holds the answers, whose past can help Hannah make sense of her future. But Essie harbours a shameful secret of her own.

Hannah’s wild, enigmatic misfit of a best friend, Chloe, complicates the mix further. She is as intimate as a bestie should be but is not quite the right fit for the more straight-shooting Hannah. It doesn’t help that Hannah has a burning desire for Evan, Chloe’s older brother.

The disintegration of Hannah’s parents’ marriage and subsequent polarisation between Sam, her mother and herself, forces Hannah to spend more and more time with her grandmother until Essie at last, reveals the shocking truth. And this is where it gets interesting.

Essie takes us back sixty years after an ill-fated attraction leads to her expulsion from her family in the UK to Australia and the subsequent ‘cruel, immoral and shameful’ forced adoption of her baby. It is this theme of abandonment, involuntary confinement, and coercion that Gale portrays so poignantly through Essie’s heart-wrenching, personal recounts.

Though astounded, Hannah eventually finds solace and an understanding of where she belongs within her family and in doing so, reconciles with those she has been at odds with.

Touted as a coming of age novel, Steal My Sunshine summons us to acknowledge the abominable practise of forced adoption in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the realisation that not all broken things can be fixed back to perfect. But as Hannah discovers, the pieces can be saved and remodelled into something else just as special.

Emily GaleGale successfully evokes all the discomfiture of living in St Kilda during a heatwave whilst confronting one’s burning personal issues. Her narrative is gripping yet fluid, and although I would have liked to have seen more emotional development between Hanna and Evan (because I’m a hopeless romantic), it would have been superfluous to the story. The ending seemed a little too convenient after the gritty intrigue created mid-novel but these are minor niggles in a book that offered a satisfying YA mix of confronting pasts, contemporary anguish and reclaiming one’s self. A YA read that shines.

Woolshed Press imprint of Random House Australia May 2013

 

 

Review – Meet…Ned Kelly

I have never felt so exposed by a picture book as I did when I first laid eyes on Meet…Ned Kelly. The piercing stare of Australia’s most infamous bush ranger peering from the slit of his armoured headgear sliced through to the very marrow of my bones, anchoring the outlaw’s stare there as if to say, Want to find out more? I did.Meet Ned Kelly

I’m not one to wallow in history for too long; but I do find it compelling discovering new threads that help me appreciate how the fabric of a nation, its people and their culture is woven together.

Random House’s new Meet…series allows young readers to be similarly fascinated by picture books that tell exciting true stories of the real women and men of Australia’s past. And what more exciting a character than Ned Kelly?

Prolific children’s author, Janeen Brian, introduces children to one of the best known, ill-understood, and extraordinary tales of early Australian history, that of Ned Kelly. The sometimes misleading mystic and romance of bushranging is forsaken in favour of a straight forward, chronological telling of the facts of Ned’s life beginning with his not-so-easy childhood and ending with his untimely death in the Old Melbourne Goal in 1880.

However the story is anything but dull and lifeless. Brian leads us through Ned’s brief life with an objective clarity told in simple and effective bush ballad style verse. Each stanza is suffused with sufficient detail to allow us to develop a strong sense of Ned’s character and the treacherous times he occupied, featuring often unbalanced and corrupt systems of justice.

Ned is portrayed as a fair, brave young man but one who often found himself on the wrong side of the law mostly by misfortune, poor judgement, and ill-luck. His recurring stints in goal and unpopularity with the police ensured he and his family were regular targets for prosecution. The gaoling of his mother in 1878 was the catalyst for the birth of the Kelly Gang.

The gang escaped capture numerous times thanks to Ned’s long standing reputation amongst good friends, but following betrayal and the final calamitous showdown at Glenrowan Inn in 1880, not even Ned’s genius iron-clad armour could protect him from his ultimate fate.Ned Kelly poster

It’s a stirring tale brought to life with the help of Matt Adam’s almost surreal illustrations that echo the lines and textures of a number of classic Australian painters and therefore add a rich authenticity to each scene. The font used throughout and for the timeline on the end pages reflects the feel of a wanted poster, many on which Ned’s name no doubt appeared.

I feel I better understand this young man, so vilified by the injustice of the day, after meeting him ‘face to face’ in Brian’s historic picture book. And I cannot imagine a more brilliant nor dynamic way for primary aged readers to explore our rich historic past.

Keep an eye out for my next post where we meet author Janeen Brian face to face and explore more about the author behind Meet Ned Kelly.

Random House Books Australia March 2013

Random Romance Part 2: Bloom

{A1F44EA0-4FE8-4BD8-A186-90C403554B09}Img200This review follows on from Random Romance Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Rules.

In Bloom, 36-year-old married mother of three Emma Eddington feels fat, forgotten, and all-round frumpy. Her husband works all the time and her children see her as their housekeeper meets taxi driver. She’s also frustrated because the misbehaving family dog has become her sole responsibility and regularly humiliates her in public:

The dog yanked her inelegantly from one side of the track to the other, tangling the lead around her legs. She rued the day the kids talked her into getting a dog. Getting fit would be so much easier without this powerhouse rodent-sized pet dragging her all over the bushy parkland.

The one upside is the handsome runner she sees in the park each night, a man she fantasises about as an escape from her daily mundanities. Murphy’s Law would have it that the personal trainer running bootcamps Emma’s yummy mummy friend encourages her to sign up for also happens to be the runner from the park.

Ramon, as the runner’s name turns out to be, asks if anyone has any injuries that might prevent them from participating fully in the class. Emma considers if she should say that she is ‘almost disabled from lack of exercise’, but doesn’t want to embarrass herself further. Of course her lack of fitness warrants Ramon paying Emma more attention, something her friend Lisa comments on: ‘Emma smirked. “You’re joking. The man feels sorry for me. I’m thirty-six and have the muscle tone of cooked spaghetti.”’

Things go the way romance novels do, despite Emma considering herself ‘suburban sludge’ and unworthy of Ramon’s affections. There are some reasonably clever, entirely-recognisable-to-mums exchanges in Bloom, including the following recognisably long-suffering conversation between Emma and her children:

Emma, still trying to catch her breath, groaned inwardly. The last thing she needed was to take that badly behaved dog into a classroom full of Prep kids.
‘Darling, that’s not a good idea.’
‘But Daddy said yes.’
‘Did he? I better have a talk with Daddy then.’
‘Yay! Thanks, Mummy.’

Another time, she hears the following chorus: ‘MUM! Where’s my singlet?’ Jack’s high voice rang up the stairs. Sally’s voice followed. ‘MU-UM, Elias says I’m too little to use the toaster.’

I have to admit that I was less able to suspend my disbelief for Belle’s second novella than for her first. Second time around, Ramon seemed too convenient, too confident, too nice (and I mean nice in its blandest sense), and too ready to perform a community service by giving women pleasure. Really? I found myself thinking at various stages, before reminding myself that romance as a genre is fantasy and largely divorced from reality. For a light escape, and particularly when read some time apart from the first Ramon instalment, the novella’s fine. Besides, it arguably makes it a good fit with the ‘random romance’ theme.

Strangely, the text’s greatest, most outrageous flaw for me was the fact that the character leaves the dog locked in her car while she goes to meet her friend for coffee. I realise it’s a fictional character leaving a fictional dog in there, but nothing about it is ok. ‘Dogs die in hot cars’ is the RSPCA’s awareness-raising tagline. It takes just six minutes—less than the time it takes to order and drink a takeaway coffee—for dogs to overheat in cars and die. It was, for me, an inexcusable and unnecessary error (and one I hope can be rectified given that the text is digital and, therefore, easily adjustable). Belle could have had the character perfunctorily set the dog up with a bowl of water at the table with her and moved on with the story.

Still, that’s a small detail and not one that affects the book as a whole. Bloom is a decent read and one many married mums will relate to and enjoy.

Bloom is available now. You can find out more about Belle and her books on the Random Romance page.

Thanks to Random House for the opportunity to review this title.

Random Romance Part 1: Breaking the Rules

{0AFED444-0DB7-4CFD-B467-4CFC0A7F16E6}Img200The merger between Random House and Penguin sparked much speculation about what the new company’s title would be, with ‘Random Penguin’ a clear, outlying favourite. That the company opted for the less fun ‘Penguin Random’ was a slight disappointment to us all, and we’ve all continued to run with ‘Random Penguin’ instead.

Random House Australia and its romance arm have shown they have a fabulous sense of humour, though, releasing their newly created ‘Random Romance’ series (and in the nick of time for Valentine’s Day, no less). Random Romance is an all-digital list of romance titles by Australian authors. It includes some rural romance (or, as I’ve heard it dubbed, ‘ru-ro’) titles, romcoms, and two erotic novellas.

I dipped in to the two novellas, Bloom and Breaking the Rules, which are both by Melbourne-based writer Kate Belle. Though standalone stories, they feature different women whose lives are changed by one man: accomplished lover Ramon Mendez. Both books are 100-ish page novellas, so speedy reading and, thanks to digital technology that now conceals a book’s identity from the rest of the passengers on public transport, surreptitious reading too …

Part 1 of 2: Breaking the Rules

Grace Kingston is a career-driven, slightly obsessive-compulsive academic who’s closed her heart off to love. Ramon is a cocky, tardy PhD student studying contemporary female eroticism and sexuality who specifically requested Grace to be his supervisor. Cue the couple getting off to a bad start:

She was instantly suspicious. What kind of man in his early thirties would choose to student that particular topic? It was the domain of women, her domain, not something men dabbled in—unless they were perverts.

Ramon gives Grace a book to read (purportedly one that inspired his studies). It’s entitled Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, and Ramon has been its dutiful student now turned teacher. It goes without saying that teacher–student relationships are rather frowned upon, but Grace (who’s technically the teacher but who is quickly becoming the student) finds herself falling for Ramon after their initial bad start: His handsome features were difficult to look at without feeling drawn to him, and the last thing she wanted was to be attracted to this presumptuous upstart she was to supervise.

Grace had always ‘prided herself on her immunity to attractive men. That was an affliction other women suffered from, not her.’ But, unable to offload supervision duties to her male counterparts, Grace begins to appreciate Ramon’s charms.

Breaking the Rules is the first in Belle’s novella series, and it’s an accomplished, engaging read. One gets the sense that Belle has (or still does) work in academia—the setting and the story elements ring lived-reality true. At the same time, Belle delivers a book that’s anything but focused on stuffy academia. She has a light touch and injects wit into serious moments. She also employs the word—now a new favourite of mine—‘unsnibbed’ in reference to undoing a lock.

Breaking the Rules is out now. You can find out more about Belle and her books on the Random Romance page.

Thanks to Random House for the opportunity to review this title.

Review – Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations

Love a good inventions book, me, and this wonderful compilation of fascinating info had my heart racing. If it can do that to a comparably jaded adult, just imagine what it would to for kids.

Chris Cheng and Linsay Knight have put together an impressive catalogue of uniquely Aussie creations, sorted into categories like Communications and IT, Health, Household and Office, Leisure, Transport and Research. Each entry within these categories is introduced by way of a ‘problem’.

Problem: How to enable a profoundly deaf person to hear everyday sounds when hearing aids don’t work for them.

Solution: Cochlear Implant

Kids are then treated to a fascinating serve of info, explaining the inspiration behind each creation, its history, its function, who creates them, how they are made and how they benefit mankind. Diagrams and photographs add depth to the text, and give readers a unique view that may not have been seen before. I know I had never seen a chochlear implant up close and personal.

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations is a beautifully designed and well-laid-out book with colourful typeface and gorgeous design elements. It will attract both the young and jaded alike, and would make for a fascinating addition to both libraries – and the Christmas stocking.

Australia’s Greatest Inventions and Innovations was produced in association with the Powerhouse Museum and is published by Random House.

Review – Mortal Combat: Time’s Running Out

What do Adolf Hitler, HG Wells, Leonardo da Vinci, Genghis Khan and dinosaurs have in common? They all find themselves in a rather precarious situation in this hoot of a book from the masterful Martin Chatterton.

Mortimer DeVere and his sister Agnetha are 10,000 years old. Residents of Unk Island, the duo are tasked with some serious fast-forward living, not to mention the coolest capability of returning to the past in Retro, their time-travelling machine.

In this sequel to Mort, our young heroes find themselves stranded in the midst of World War II, along with Trish Molyneux and her assistant Nigel from the Unk Shire Education Department (who are both intent on dragging Mort and his sister back into the schooling system). Confronted by machine-gun wielding Nazis, the team are aghast to find themselves facing a divinely camped-up version of Adolph Hitler.

When Hitler insists on taking a ride in Retro, no one could have predicted the time-machine would end up in dino territory – let alone the most gruesome fate that unfolds for the notorious Nazi leader. Let’s just say the dinosaurs are hungry! But what does this mean for the linear properties of time?

Kids will delight in the chaos that ensues from Mort’s ‘messing with the past’.

I love the clever combination of fiction and history Martin Chatterton uses in this hilarious series of books for kids aged 8 – 12. The author uses a fine balance of action that would suit both girl and boy readers (naturally, Agnetha is the smart, rational one who ends up saving the day) and I simply adore his ‘voice’ and witty use of dialogue and kooky settings.

The author’s fabulous ink drawings add priceless visuals to the storyline, and only add to the dry humour.

Mortal Combat: Time’s Running Out is published by Random House.

 

Review – Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor

As a fan of Jacqueline Harvey’s Alice-Miranda books, I was delighted to see a new little poppet land in my mail box – Clementine Rose – a precious and adorable 5-year-old who is delivered, as a baby, to the door of her heiress mother in a basket of dinner rolls. No one knows where young Clementine came from, but Lady Clarissa Appleby fell in love with her on sight, and Penberthy House quite soon became the young girls’ home.

Containing sixty rooms in an increasing state of disrepair, Lady Clarissa is forced to open a bed and breakfast in the home of her ancestors, in order to maintain upkeep of the house. It’s not easy but, with help, the mother and daughter team get by.

In this first Clementine adventure, Clarissa’s prickly Aunt Violet comes to Penberthy House, nursing a sordid secret. After gazing at her great aunt’s portrait in the halls of Penberthy House for years, Clementine is quite disarmed by her aunt’s cold, real life disposition – not to mention her bizarre hairless cat, Pharaoh. Demanding and difficult, Violet makes for a testy addition to the household. Clementine patiently attempts to befriend her aunt, but what is this secretive fashionista hiding?

It’s a delight to follow young Clemmie and her teacup pig Lavender along on this adventure with Aunt Violet. Harvey once again writes with a classic storyteller voice, painting an eccentric cast of characters and a charming storyline with the merest dusting of fairytale magic. A gorgeous new series best suited to children aged 5 to 9.

Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor is published by Random House.

Random House launches National Seniors Literary Prize

From: Random House

Random House Australia Announces New Literary Prize

We are delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring the National Seniors Literary Prize for 2012. Already in its second year, the prize is awarded to a writer over fifty who has not been previously published. In sponsoring the prize, Random House is hoping to discover a new bestselling author as many famous writers started their careers later in life.

Mary Wesley’s first novel was published when she was 70. Richard Adam’s first novel, Watership Down was published when he was 51 and Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t write the Little House series until she was in her sixties. Jean Rhys wrote the famous Wide Sargasso Sea when she was 76 and Frank McCourt didn’t publish the Pulitzer winning, Angela’s Ashes until he was 66.  The famous Australian author, Elizabeth Jolley published her first book when she was in her fifties

The winner of the prize will have their book published by Random House along with a cash prize of $2000.  For more information on the prize or entry details, please go to www.nationalseniors.com.au/literaryprize

Review – Moonlight and Ashes

Selena’s mother died some time ago. She lives with her father, a nobleman of deep emotional weakness, in a grand old house with her wicked stepmother and two self-absorbed stepsisters. She is virtually enslaved to her stepmother, spending her days cleaning, sewing, running errands and copping the humiliation of a life bound with emotional and physical slavery.

Sound familiar?

Moonlight and Ashes is indeed inspired by Cinderella, but the belly of this story not only touches on fairytales, it writhes in evil magic, steeps in human deception, glimmers with enchantment, and in matters of love – transcends life itself. Set in several towns and villages of the Faustine Empire (which author Sophie Masson says is based, in part, on the late 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire), it follows the journey of Selena and a magical cast of characters – in search of freedom from oppression.

When Selena learns she is the last of the Moon Sister blood line – a line virtually wiped out by the all-powerful order of the Mancers, she knows she may now finally find the power to escape the misery of her life. Upon the announcement that the King of Ashberg will soon be holding a grand ball in honour of Crown Prince Leopold, Selena sets about finding her way to the ball where she meets not only the Prince but his bestie Maximilian von Gildenstein – a young man she is oddly drawn to.

The Prince, however, unnerves Selena, and there sets in motion an astonishing series of events that lead Selena to a Mancer prison, a magical escape, a kidnapping, a werewolf, a giant boatman, a magical hazel tree, a long journey, a timely meeting and a plot stuffed with sophisticated turns and twists and alleyways that gather up the reader and carry them forward to an uncertain end.

I adored the opening to this book. Masson paints a visual world so evocatively with her words, and indeed, as the book unfolds, this world becomes richer and more woven, as the plot careens towards an ending that will both surprise and delight. Faced with deceit, confusion, haunting memories – even murder – can Selena set herself and her friends free? And will she snag the prince and live happily ever after?

Moonlight and Ashes is published by Random House

 

 

 

Review – Alice-Miranda in New York

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones may live in a hoity toity world of mega wealth and out-of-our-league boarding schools, but this down-to-earth seven-year-old (seven and three-quarters, actually) has the wisdom and clarity of a Buddhist monk. This sweet little girl is daughter to Hugh and Cecelia, owners of the stunning Highton department store – a luxurious establishment about to undergo a refurbishment and relaunch in that most desirable of cities – the Big Apple.

Alice-Miranda and her parents are spending a month in New York, overseeing the re-opening of the store, and Alice-Miranda is delighted to be attending Mrs Kimmel’s School for Girls, headed by her mother’s dear friend, Miss Jilly Hobbs. There, she quickly makes friends with two very ‘ordinary’ girls – Ava and Quincy – and also the monumentally wealthy Lucinda, daughter to Morrie Finkelstein, owner of a rival luxury department store. Continue reading Review – Alice-Miranda in New York

Review – Tin Toys by Bruce Whatley

It’s nearly Christmas Eve at the toyshop and every toy is hopeful they will be snaffled for the festive stocking. All the shiny new toys are the most popular, of course . . . they come and go quickly, and never last long enough to make friends of the other toys.

At the very back of the toyshop, covered in a layer of dust, an old fashioned wind-up toy sits forgotten – its glory days long past. The older toys well remember Space Ride and its fabulous whirling glee – but alas, this vintage toy needs a key to get whirling, and that key is long gone.

The older toys try to get Space Ride working again. They try Annie’s pretty golden key. They try Chirpy Chick’s small silver key and Doris the Dial-Up Typewriter’s key – to no avail.

The new toys just don’t understand. They don’t need keys to light up their whiz bang special features! So, how can the older toys recover Space Ride and show the new toys just how fabulous a vintage toy can be? There’s one key left to try . . . can the toys recover it without scaring the pants off the elderly shop keeper?

The highlight of this book is the lustrous Pixar-style animation – so realistic, you can imagine it popping to life on a movie screen. From the endpapers to the divine characters and typefacing, this latest book by the masterful Bruce Whatley is a true delight in retro design. Co-written with Whatley’s son Ben, this is a simple, sweet story with a strong illustration focus.

Tin Toys is published by Random House.

Review – Sounds Spooky

What’s that noise in the deep dark night? Something spooky? That’s for sure. Creaking, whispering, something dropping. Could there be a stranger creeping through the house?

When three little kids explore a creepy old mansion with torchlight and eyeballs wide with fright, they can never imagine their tentative meanderings may just be as scary – if not more so – for a resident ghost, happily minding her own business with her pet be-tentacled creature that lives under the bed.

Who could possibly be more afraid? The invading children? The ethereal little girl? Or the reader?

Using suspense-driven repetition, peppered with palpitating onomatopoeia, author Chris Cheng has penned a spooky tale that will delight children. A charming twist on typical ‘bump in the night’ fear lends whimsy and unexpected emotion to Sounds Spooky – especially when we learn about the death of our little ghost girl via newspaper clippings found in the house, and we can’t help but wonder where her parents are – and why she is all so sadly alone.

But not for long.

The illustrations in this extraordinary book are a feat in construction. Sarah Davis has created a palette that defies and tricks the eye. Has she used oil paint? Clay? Computer-generated art? Photography?

After spending considerable time examining the images in wonder, I raced to the back of the book, hoping for more information – and there it was … Davis has not only created models of each of the book’s characters, she even created an entire haunted house from cardboard and plaster! Combining photography, illustration and computer whizzbangery, the end result is an eye-fest that will entrance all ages. The fine detail is also extraordinary – from the detailed tiles in the kitchen to the gossamer ghost of a girl – this is beautifully-crafted work.

Although Sounds Spooky is an all-round delight, I must admit, the highlight of the book for me was the faces on the children (and the ghost) when they finally meet. Sarah Davis has admitted this is also her favourite page – and it’s no wonder. I doubt the face of a real child could capture more priceless emotion.

A breathtakingly book that’s at once laugh-out loud funny … and frightfully good fun.

Sounds Spooky is published by Random House. Be sure to check out www.sounds-spooky.com!

 

Whilst reading through this extraordinary new book, I found myself asking lots of questions (of no one in particular):

 

Paintings? Computer-generated art? Models? A blend? What the?

 

Already completely enamoured with the superlative talents of multi-tasking artist Sarah Davis, I was simply quite boggled as to how this picture book was put together.

 

It wasn’t until the end of the book that all was revealed (I love it when books reveal the artist’s medium!) 0 and quite astonishingly, Davis has not only created models of each of the book’s characters, she even created an entire haunted house from cardboard and plaster.


 

You will be boggled by the astonishing detail, from tiles on the floor to dishes and torchlight and the most incredible gossamer ghost of a girl, who floats through the rooms of the house, trying to not ‘be scared’ by the strange noises in the dark… noises created by three cute and very brave little ‘invaders’ keen to explore a local haunted house.

 

Yes, it seems Sarah Davis has scored the motherlode of artistic talent. Her sculptures in Sounds Spooky are extraordinary alright, but the highlight is the children’s faces, especially at the climax of the book – the emotion is breathtakingly good and laugh-out loud funny.

 

Chris Cheng has penned a suspense-driven tale that will delight children, using a clutch of divine and inspirational onomatopoeia that really sets the spooky mood as our dear little ghost girls navigates her fears and those bumps in the night. Repetitive story elements will keep kids guessing, and really effectively build the drama.

 

Spooky, charming and frightfully good fun.

 

Check out www.sounds-spooky.com!

Teen Book Video Awards

Random House currently running the “Teen Book Video Awards”, a competition which challenges student filmmakers to create 90-second video trailers based on 16 children’s and young adult novels published by Random House Australia. There is a total cash prize of $1,000 for the winning entry and also $1,000 worth of books for the winner’s nominated school.

See Teen Book Video Awards Information (PDF) for more info.

Here is the trailer for the comp:

July Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway. July’s is Ashes-tinged and filled to the brim for cricket fans and avid readers alike, so be sure to register HERE for your chance to win copies of:

Cricket Kings by William McInnes  SIGNED
Step into the lives of a team of regular middle-aged men who meet each week to play cricket in their local park. With these characters William will make us laugh and cry. And never again will we think that someone is just a regular bloke – everyone can be a king or a queen in their own suburb.

 

Glenn McGrath: Line and Strength by Glen McGrath SIGNED
From working the land in Narromine to winning cricket’s World Cup three times, Glenn McGrath has always faced life with fierce determination and an unerring will to succeed despite the odds. Now, following his retirement from international cricket, McGrath shares the story of his life – in cricket and off the field.
 

The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh SIGNED
It was the end of cricket as we knew it – and the beginning of cricket as we know it. In May 1977, the cricket world woke to discover that a businessman called Kerry Packer had signed 35 elite international players for his own televised World Series Cricket. The Cricket War is the definitive account of the split that changed the game on the field and on the screen. In helmets, under lights, with white balls, and in coloured clothes, the outlaw armies of Ian Chappell, Toney Greig and Clive Lloyd fought a daily battle of survival. In boardrooms and courtrooms Packer and cricket’s rulers fought a bitter war of nerves. A compelling account of the top-class sporting life, The Cricket War also gives a unique insight into the motives and methods of Australia’s richest man.

The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas SIGNED
A novel about the relationships between children and adults, and the new Australian multicultural middle-class from the controversial cult author of Loaded and Dead Europe.

 

 

 

Starting An Online Business For Dummies by Melissa Norfolk
Turn your dreams into profitable reality with this straightforward guide to setting up and running an online business. Including strategies to help you identify your market, set up a website and promote your business online.

 
Just Macbeth by Andy Griffiths
Take one Shakespearean tragedy: Macbeth, add Andy, Danny and Lisa the Just trio, whose madcap exploits have already delighted hundreds of thousands of readers for the last ten years. Mix them all together to create one of the most hilarious, most dramatic, moving stories of love, Whizz Fizz, witches, murder and madness. Ages 9+.

 

Brief Encounters: Literary travellers in Australia 1836-1939 by Susannah Fullerton
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, countless distinguished writers made the long and arduous voyage across the seas to Australia. They came on lecture tours and to make money, to sort out difficult children sent here to be out of the way for health, for science, to escape demanding spouses back home, or simply to satisfy a sense of adventure. In 1890, for example, Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, arrived at Circular Quay after a dramatic sea voyage only to be refused entry at the Victoria, one of Sydney’s most elegant hotels. Stevenson threw a tantrum, but was forced to go to a cheaper, less fussy establishment. Next day, the Victoria’s manager, recognising the famous author from a picture in the paper, rushed to find Stevenson and beg him to return. He did not. In Brief Encounters, Susannah Fullerton examines a diverse array of writers, including Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HG Wells, Agatha Christie and Jack London, to discover what they did when they got here, what their opinion was of Australia and Australians, how the public and media reacted to them, and how their future works were shaped or influenced by this country.

Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark
This is the modern traveller’s bible. Travellers and pilgrims seeking a unique experience can now uncover the ancient secrets of convents and monasteries around Europe. We reveal these atmospheric and affordable places that accommodate tourists or those pursuing a pilgrimage or spiritual retreat. Convents, monasteries and abbeys have always been places which generously welcome weary travellers. That tradition continues today and Goodnight & God Bless takes you on a tour of religious hideaways offering tourist and pilgrimage accommodation throughout Europe. Suitable for the traveller, the pious and the curious alike, this user-friendly travel guide provides invaluable information, travel tit-bits and anecdotes against a fascinating backdrop of history and religion.

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit SIGNED
Enchanted by Bella, the Fairy of Pure Heart, Prince Arthur follows her into the immortal world. Angered by this, the powerful dragon Nemesis captures Arthur. To rescue her prince, Bella must complete the Great Dragon’s Hunt, and collect five magical tokens. As Bella and her butterfly friend Teague carry out her quest, they meet many mystical creatures, including a witch and a werewolf, elfins and leprechauns, and two very forgetful goblins.

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Random House, Melbourne University Press, John Wiley & Sons, Dragon Publishing and Paratus Press for supporting our monthly giveaway.

To go into the draw to win this month’s prize, complete the entry form HERE. Entries close 31 July, 2009. Don’t forget, it’s a monthly giveaway, so be sure to favourite that link and keep visiting every month. Please note, entrants will be automatically subscribed to our fortnightly Boomerang Books Bulletin e-newsletter.

… A bonus for our Facebook Friends

Need an incentive to join one of Australia’s largest book group on Facebook? Well, we have a great pack of books to give away to one of our Facebook Group members this month, which includes copies of Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart by Ashley Du Toit (SIGNED), Mascot Madness! by Andy Griffiths and Good Night & God Bless: Volume One by Trish Clark.