Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

If you haven’t already consumed your friends or scared the pants off yourself after reading Romi’s recommended Halloween reads,  then whip out your witch’s hat and strap on your bat wings; here are a few more scary reads guaranteed to bring out the ghoul in your little monsters.

Scream! series by Jack Heath (Dimity’s perennial Halloween favourite)

This is a seriously spooky series of stories for middle grade readers. All types of whacky scary and wonderful; youngsters will devour these offbeat tales beginning with The Human Flytrap, progressing to The Spider Army, The Haunted Book and finally slithering to The Squid Slayer. This series gets better and better the more involved you get. Spine chilling tension focuses on a different member of a team of four young sleuths and erstwhile mystery magnets who live in the creepy town of Axe Falls, a place teeming with unusual, nightmarish realties and reoccurring reasons to scream, often.

Josh, his sister and their friends encounter weird creatures and endless dubious going-ons, which they have to battle violently against in order to survive.  This series promises un-put-downable excitement and thrills guaranteed to increase the heart rate of 8 – 14-year-olds. The first book will have you screaming well into the night! Highly recommended.

Scholastic July 2015

Continue reading Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

Future Father’s Day Fun – More Picture Books for the Family

The ties and monogramed mugs might already be tucked away but here a ute-full of picture books littlies will love sharing with dad, any day of the year. After you’ve checked out Romi’s Father’s Day round up, check out these, sometimes cheeky, titles too.

Funniest Dad in the World by Ed Allen and Louis Shea

This is an outrageous take on one-up-man-ship. Explosively colourful illustrations collaborate with a text that increasingly becomes more and more hilarious and unbelievable as various animal youngsters try to ‘out describe’ just how funny their dad is. Winners get to construct the super cool shiny Funniest Dad in the World trophy included in the back. Pre-schoolers will get a thrill out of second-guessing the riotous attempts at bragging rights. Top marks for Dad’s Day.

Scholastic Australia August 2017

Continue reading Future Father’s Day Fun – More Picture Books for the Family

The Magic of Music – musicality in picture books

Deploy music to tell a story and joy results. You need only to think about your favourite song to understand this. Unite the magic of music with the unique creation of a picture book story and the result is something very special indeed. These next few picture books combine a passion for music and story and the exceptional ability of both to bring people together. They’re also a whole concert-full of fun.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! By Mark Carthew and Anil Tortop

Not only is the word hullabaloo an absolute hoot to roll off your tongue, it implies mayhem of the most exuberant manic kind. This is exactly what The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! delivers.

Lively, liberating adventure is what Jack and Jess encounter one morning upon entering a zoo that is ‘strangely deserted.’ Even the new roo seems to have bunked. Unable to find a single real-life occupant, they begin a quest to track down the missing residents with little more than a trail of feathers, footprints, and poos, aka scats, to guide them.

Their bush tracking efforts eventually lead them to a party to end all parties. Every animal is hooting and tooting, and hopping and bopping a right hullabaloo! There’s cake, a surprise appearance and enough revelry to fill a pirate ship. For whom is this euphonious shindig, though? Well, you will have to come to the party yourself to find that out.

Tunefully rhythmic and exploding with joviality, this is classic Carthew and Tortop. Great musical verse (with a lovely reference to the Silvery Moon) and animated illustrations make The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! worth getting vocal about! Make sure you read Romi Sharp’s full rhapsodic review, here.

New Frontier Publishing May 2017

Baby Band by Diane Jackson Hill and Giuseppe Poli

Life for the residents of Level 8 in their apartment block is rather subdued and unexciting. They coexist placidly with very little interaction despite their close proximity, so artfully portrayed in the very first pages by Poli. Then one day, The Baby arrives. And, as babies are wont to do, that changes everything.

Baby’s persistent refusal to sleep wears his mother to distraction. His cries are heard and felt by each resident of Level 8, again shown by Poli’s brilliant vignettes that provide telling glimpses into the lives of Baby’s neighbours.

Then, Baby’s chance discovery of the pots and pans cupboard sets off another chain of cacophonous chaos. Each clamorous clang, squeak, squawk and stomp, vibrates throughout Level 8 and awakens a melodious joy in all who dwell there. Slowly, each of the residents is drawn to the rooftop to rejoice in all things musical, with one noticeable difference. They are celebrating, together. But, can you guess what happened to Baby amidst all this musical mayhem?

Hill has composed her palpable passion for music into an elegantly told tale that truly does rise ones soul an octave higher. Poli’s illustrations resonate charm with very few brush strokes. The linear use of images and variation of perspectives, rather like notes on a musical stave, sweeps the reader along the corridors of Level 8, in and out of the apartments and finally to their common park area, which the residents now utilise to play together in their newly formed Baby Band.

Baby Band is a symphonic story pre-schoolers will love having read to them, incongruously gentle in appearance and sound yet magnificently entertaining. This story elicits plenty of opportunity for musical interaction and discussion about all manner of instruments, pots and pans notwithstanding. I adored the cleverness of it all and the irony of young children being able to find solace and slumber in sound. Bravo!

New Frontier Publishing March 2017

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

Sometimes, finding yourself only occurs because of some other serendipitous discovery. This is what happens to a young bear cub one day after he happens upon a piano in the middle of his forest home. At first, the sound Bear is able to procure from the piano is so awful, he abandons it but after several seasons not only does he mature so too does his ability to produce beautiful sounds from this strange thing.

Playing the piano transports Bear far beyond the wooded boundaries of his forest and fills his heart with melodious joy. Night after night, crowds gather around bear and his piano entranced by the magic he evokes from its ivory keys, until one night Bear is given an opportunity he is unable to say no to, to see the world and share his music with it. And so, he leaves his home and friends behind.

Bear’s tale of yearning for brighter lights and attempting to make better of himself is not unique but Litchfield’s personification of a bear embarking on a journey of self-discovery is both touching and purposeful. Bear’s successful debut in the big lonely city and then consequent tug to return to his old friends and home draws the reader in with cinematic magnitude. When he does return to the forest, he is deeply dismayed to find no one and nothing as he left them. He worries his desertion has made them angry or worse that they have forgotten him. However, he is mistaken as the heart-melting ending reveals.

The Bear and the Piano is a picture book that quietly moves you to the core as an operatic aria would. Bear is tragic yet infinitely loveable. His desire to share his love (of music) and taste the bittersweet reality of his dreams is one many of us may harbour and thus relate to easily. It is easy to like and admire his courage and equally as easy to feel his heartache and despair in spite of his successes. It can be lonely at the top. Luckily, for Bear, and us being at the top is not the be all and end all.

This book is an arresting mixture of loud and strong – forte piano as it were and is beautifully supported by Litchfield’s sumptuous illustrations. A pleasure for lower to upper primary students.

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books Quarto Group UK March 2017

 

 

Under the Christmas Tree Part 3 – Self-help for kids

Self-help titles are normally in high demand following the glut of Christmas overindulgence we adults tend to experience at this time of year. Children, thankfully do not time their greed or any other dilemmas for that matter so predictably. Therefore, it’s comforting to know there is an ever-available selection of fantastic kids’ books allowing little ones to explore their emotions, temper their fears, and make themselves feel a whole lot better about themselves and the world they live in. Here a few in picture book form.

Pickle & Bree Guide to Good Deeds by Alison Reynolds and Mikki Butterley

This is a divine picture book series featuring two unlikely companions, Pickle and Bree that centres around sound values and the importance of friendship. Romi Sharp discusses thethe-decortating-disaster various nuances and inspirations behind these demonstrative tales with author, Alison Reynolds, here. Visually exuberant, each title is crammed with subtle etiquette, positive attitude and enough storyline to keep kids tuned in and listening to the messages behind Bree and Pickle’s occasional the-big-snow-adventuredisagreements. How this delicious sounding pair work their way through The Decorating Disaster and decorating The Birthday Party Cake are the first two in the series and reviewed, here. The Playground Meanies and The Big Snow Adventure follow early next year. Supportive, fun learning for 5 – 8-year-olds.

The Five Mile Press October 2015

dingo-in-the-darkDingo in the Dark by Sally Morgan and Tania Erzinger

I adore Erzinger’s playful organically hued illustrations in Morgan’s timeless tale of overcoming your fears, in this case, of the dark. It’s impossible for Dingo to sleep because of his aversion to nigdingo-in-the-dark-illos-dingoht. In desperation, he believes that if he can catch the Sun who watches over him by day and keep it with him by night, he will be safe. His nocturnal bushland friends are quick to come to his aid, gently helping him discover another guardian angel, one who watches over him each night. The value of listening to your friends in times of trouble and doubt are gingerly brought home in this simple and enjoyable tale. Great for frightened pre-schoolers.

Omnibus Books November 2016

agatha-in-the-darkAgatha and the dark by Anna Pignataro

Agatha is one little lassie who also finds it hard to face her dread of the dark. When her fellow pre-schoolers tease and taunt her about it, her imagination threatens to spill into her real world until she realises with a little bit of help from the adults around her, that everyone has doubts and fears about something and that it is all right to admit this. Once Agatha allows her fear of monsters a bit of free reign, she discovers they are something she actually enjoys spending time with, sharing tea parties and sprinkle biscuits with them. Pignataro’s delicate narrative and soft, welcoming illustrations invite calm and help alleviate those pesky fears that follow us about. Highly recommended for shared pre-school reading.

The Five Mile Press 2016

the-fabulous-friend-machineThe Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Move over Cranky Bear, there’s a new gal in town and her name is Popcorn. Popcorn is ‘quite simply, the friendliest chicken at Fiddlesticks Farm’. She’s your consummate over-sharer, adjective exploiter, and spreader of good cheer tonic, whose heart of gold is bigger than the henhouse. Every circle of friends has a Popcorn.

One day, Popcorn happens upon a fabulous friend machine, known in human circles as the cursed smart mobile phone. Popcorn is so enamoured by its captive glow and entreating way of connecting to others, that she becomes  obsessed with messaging and soon completely forgets about all her old friends. It turns out her new cyber friends are chicken lovers too but for reasons more sinister than friendship. Will Popcorn’s true friends stand by her and save the day? Or is Popcorn’s goose cooked?

This is my pick of the bunch cautionary tale. Bland deals with cyber-safety and social media mindfulness in a comical yet completely relatable way that is sure to make little kids squirt with laughter and understanding. Highly recommended as an engaging read for 4-year-olds and above and primary schoolers who may be toting their own fabulous friend machines about.

Scholastic Press October 2016

Find more fab reads for your kids this Christmas, here.

kids-reading-guide-2016-2017

 

 

 

It’s a Zoo out there! – Animal inspired picture book reviews

I’ve just returned from a farm-animal infested camping holiday, which wasn’t as reprehensible as the smell of the boar’s pen suggested. In fact, it made me re-realise just how important and beneficial interaction with all critters great and small is.

Whether the focus is on an animal for all its prickly, cuddly, bizarre glory or relaying the story from an anthropological point of view, animals in picture books continue to be a massive draw card. Here are some of my standouts from recent times.

Must have Mammals

Adelaide's Secret WorldThe ethereal quality and charm of Elise Hurst’s fine art and narrative are undeniable. She suffuses both once again into Adelaide’s Secret World, an anthropologic tale featuring a rabbit named Adelaide and her foray through fear, loneliness, and introspective alteration. This picture book is an imaginative and beautifully presented convolution of two characters for whom friendship would normally be isolated and foreign but through twists of fate and circumstance, a connection is found and a musical friendship forged. Marvellous for nudging little ones with quiet voices out of the shadows. Read Romi Sharp’s detailed review and interview with the author illustrator, here.

Allen & Unwin October 2015

Clementine's BathNot many dogs or kids leap at the mention of bath time with relish. Clementine is no exception. Following her long walk, Clementine steadfastly refuses to take a cleansing plunge after rolling in some pretty offensive odours. Annie White’s Clementine’s Bath is the second picture book to feature the shaggy loveable mutt, Clementine. With lots of robust bouncy-dog small people appeal, Clementine leads her family on a right merry chase until she finally succumbs to the suds. Perky, poetic, frolicsome fun and perfect for pre-schoolers to early primary doggy devotees.

New Frontier Publishing October 2015

Something Fishy

Blue Whale BluesLooking for a picture book swimming with leviathan humour and meaning that swells the heart. Look no further than Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas. Whale is one seriously doleful dude who is feeling very blue given he is swamped with bike trouble. His chipper little mate, Penguin is there to lend a flipper, however repeatedly pulling Whale back from the doldrums. It isn’t until Turtle forces a frank and funny realisation that Whale is finally able to forget about his ‘blue whale blues’. This is one of Carnavas’s best offerings for pre and primary schoolers I’ve encountered. His skill in creating just the right amount of turn-the-page suspense and hilarity is quietly sublime. Nothing about a Carnavas picture book is forced, yet everything is rich and meaningful. His first illustrative crack at collage is winning, as well. Whopping good fun teaching kids not to take themselves or life too seriously.

New Frontier Publishing September 2015

Piranhas don't eat BananasThe Pi-ra-nha by definition is a freshwater fish of South America known for its razor sharp teeth and voracious appetite for meat including guinea pigs, puppies, naughty children, and professional tennis players, so Aaron Blabey informs us. Sadly, Brian, a piranha sporting a generous jaw of said teeth, loves bananas which immediately blackballs him from his piranha buddies. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas is a priceless look at one individual’s attempt to persuade the masses. Blabey is at his uproarious rhyming best as Brian assumes every ounce of his inner Carmen Miranda in a gallant effort to convert his meat loving mates to fruit. Alas, not everyone is as vegan-minded as Brian. This snappy read-aloud story has Eric Carle Hungry Caterpillar appeal for younger readers with plenty of slapstick, tongue in cheek humour for the older ones (and some suggestive comedy for us adults!). Ideal for busting stereotypical ideals and encouraging small minds to try new things. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Press September 2015

Avian wonder

SeagullSome picture books offer more than just entertainment between two covers. Seagull, written and illustrated by Danny Snell, exemplifies how story and art can elevate meaning to levels that make you giddy with wonderment. Seagull represents her often-maligned species as she scavenges on a windswept beach (that reminds me intensely of the Coorong region in SA). She becomes entangled in thoughtlessly abandoned fishing line and tries repeatedly to free herself with no success so that readers feel a growing compassion and distress not usually associated with birds of her creed. As it sometimes occurs in life, help comes from an expected source and eventually, Seagull is free to soar the wide blue skies again. Snell’s shrewd use of collage and acrylic paintings beautifully capture Seagull’s demise, fading hope, and then singing spirit. The message behind Seagull’s near destruction is powerful and clear unlocking early primary discussion on topics concerning conservation, wildlife preservation and community outreach. Visit Romi’s review on Seagull, here.

Working Title Press September 2015

Robin''s Winter SongI was quite taken by Suzanne Barton’s, The Dawn Chorus so was delighted to hear Robin sing again in Robin’s Winter Song. The fact that Robin is experiencing a more Northern Hemisphere climate as he attempts to grasp the idea of ‘winter’ creates a refreshing reading stimulus for us enduring our typical southern summers. Robin’s first encounter with winter snows is unforgettable, replicating the magic many young and old alike experience when discovering something new and wondrous for the first time. Whilst not as moving for me as the award-winning Dawn Chorus, Barton’s sweet multi-media illustrations fill ones heart with warmth and joy.

Bloomsbury Children’s November 2015

‘Bearly’ there

Where's JessieBertie is a bear who has been there and done that…at least in the Australian outback. Janeen Brian’s fictional reminiscing of a real life character, Bertie, in Where’s Jessie? is a tale of separation, courage, fear, loss and reunion, rendered in the most spellbinding way by illustrator Anne Spudvilas. As Bertie’s family move townships across the desert, the outback cameleers or removalists of the day are enlisted to transport their belongings including their daughter, Jessie’s teddy bear. He is dislodged from the trek along the way, lost and abandoned in a desert that is less desolate than it first appears until by kind chance and good fortune he is finally reunited with his Jessie. Brian’s practical use of evocative and lively vocabulary paint as strong a narrative picture as Spudvilas’s breathtaking outback spreads. Possessing more than a fair share of animals and absorbing historical drama, Where’s Jessie? is a happy-ending adventure worth experiencing.

National Library Australia November 2015

Being AgathaAgatha was born ‘just as the leaves were falling. She had her mother’s ears and her father’s nose’, which I can relate to in many ways. Quite simply, Agatha is unique and very special however, it doesn’t feel like that to her, especially at family gatherings. By the time Agatha hits kindergarten, her sense of self are put to the test for it becomes plain to her that she is different to everyone else. She begins to lose sight of what makes her special so creeps away to hide much to the distress of her classmates. With a little patience and persuasion, Agatha’s friends help her realise that being herself is the best part of being Agatha. I love how small children naturally look past superficial differences and are able to find true value and worth in another’s personality and actions. I wish more adults could retain this quality. Being Agatha by Anna Pignataro, is a book that reminds us all to look for the good within others and ourselves at all times. Bravo! A solid story about the specialness of difference sure to elicit smiles of acceptance and understanding in pre and early primary schoolers.

The Five Mile Press September 2015

 

 

‘When I see Grandma’; A Compelling Account with Author, Debra Tidball

I love the way award-winning author Debra Tidball describes her view on valuing connectedness across the generations. I also love the sentiment in celebrating people’s personal histories and appreciating who they are now, and then. Having had a grandmother with whom I had a strong bond, ‘When I see Grandma’ really resonated in my heart. It is the perfect book to share with young and old, and what better time to do so than Christmas time.  

high resDebra Tidball’s ‘When I see Grandma’ is a beautiful, poignant story of life, love, family and compassion. It will make you smile. It will make you teary. It will touch your heart in many ways. So thoughtfully and delicately illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom, the images evoke an array of emotions, and tie in magically with Debra’s gentle phrasing.

When the children visit their sick and elderly grandmother in the aged care home, it is their glowing presence that elicits grandma’s fond memories of her past.

”I’m sometimes sad to see her but I’m always glad that I can brighten her dreams.”

The little girl and her brother bring joy to the elderly through elements of music, ”for her dreams to dance on”, through their laughter and their youthful innocence. She nurtures her grandmother with a little pampering and cuddling, which strengthens the love in her heart. The story ends with a kiss for Daddy until he returns from work, and a kiss for Grandma, to say goodbye. The final image of the family sharing grandma’s old photos, which can be viewed in the endpapers, give the book the perfect uplifting conclusion.Wombat Books 2014.  

debra tidballDebra, congratulations on winning the CALEB Prize, and for being shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards for ‘When I see Grandma’! What wonderful achievements!  
Thanks Romi.  

How did you feel when you heard the exciting news of your nomination and win?  
To be short listed for the same award category as the legendary (and our family favourite, Bob Graham) blew me away – he won the Speech Pathology award, but I certainly get bragging rights! And winning the CALEB prize was more quietly and personally gratifying.  

All the royalties of ‘When I see Grandma’ will be donated to the Hazel Hawke Alzheimer’s Research and Care fund, which is amazing. What does this connection mean to you personally?  
My mum had dementia and the book is dedicated to her: it is based on visiting her with my two daughters when she was in an aged care home – so it seemed appropriate to donate my royalties to an organisation working in the dementia area. Hazel Hawke was a courageous and warmly regarded public personality and this fund seemed to be the right fit. The fund is administered via Alzheimer’s Australia who have been very supportive.  

Do you have any special childhood memories of your own Grandma?  
It’s interesting you ask that, Romi, because the only contact I had with my grandparents as a child was receiving birthday and Christmas presents from them (which my mother actually bought with money sent from overseas) and writing ‘thank you’ letters in return.  My mum was a ‘£10 pom’ and left her family in London in the 1950’s, so I didn’t meet my grandparents until, at a very elderly age, they came for a visit to Australia when I was a teenager, and it was actually very awkward. Having grown up without that grandparent connection, I was keen for my children to have an ongoing relationship with theirs, and for them them to know my parents as people with full and amazing lives.  

The illustrations in your book, by Leigh Hedstrom, are just beautiful, and instrumental in guiding the story. How involved did you need to be to create these specific images, and how much did you leave to Leigh?  
violin dream openingLeigh felt the story for the start and captured its essence with creativity and with some goose-bump  moments of serendipity. The first sketch she sent through was of grandma by the water hole in her swimmers – and I knew from that moment she would be perfect. The manuscript I sent to her had illustrative ideas which she took on board but the dream sequences were not an easy concept to illustrate. The idea I initially had didn’t work, and I loved the way Leigh wrestled with how to portray these pages – she sent a number of rough ideas, through the publisher, to me for comment – I appreciated the way I was consulted through the whole process and how Leigh valued feedback. I was thrilled with how it ended up – particularly the symbolic trail of flowers, laughter, hearts etc that link the bedroom scenes to the dreams. And I love the cartoon like characters and the vibrant colours which I wouldn’t have imagined but engage children so very well, adding fun and vibrancy to the narrative and giving the story it’s uplifting feel.  
I wrote the visual narrative of the young boy and his interactions with the residents into the story but Leigh was initially unsure that she could squeeze that onto the page – I’m so glad she managed it as it adds another layer to the story, about community, that I think is so important.  
As for serendipity, the little touches that had a huge emotional impact for me were Leigh having grandma dancing with grandpa in uniform – unbeknown to her, my father was in the Air Force and my parents started going out dancing when Mum started nursing; and the father in the story, both as a little boy and an adult, is a replica of my husband (glasses, hair colour, build, musical interest) whom Leigh had never met.  
It has Leigh’s personal touches too – the toys on the page where the grandmother is playing with her child are an expression of Leigh’s love of Disney, and she sneakily made the book that the mother reads with the class another of her collaborations (Marty’s Nut Free Party). The use of the endpapers to replicate an old photo album and to recognise some of these photos on pages throughout the book is an inspired way to weave a thread that wraps the whole together. I could go on….  

When I see Grandma’ is a lovely tribute to all Grandparents, but also fosters an appreciation for family connectedness. What message do you hope for readers, young and old, to gain from reading your story?  
I hope that readers get a sense that people are so much more than they seem at any one point in time, that everyone has a history and personal stories that are rich and vibrant and make up who they are – even when they are handicapped by age or illness. I hope, too that readers understand the importance for everyone to include children in an aged care community, and that a sense of connection can be made across generations despite apparent barriers.  

What does the festive season mean for you and your family?  
Christmas is a time for reflection and recharging after a busy year. We love to spend quiet family days and attend church. It’s also a nice time to catch up with extended family and friends who’ve been neglected during the year. Having spent last Christmas in the northern hemisphere, I realised I’m very much an Aussie girl – nothing says Christmas to me like summer – sleepy reading days relaxing outdoors with the smell of sunscreen and smoke (only from the BBQ hopefully!)  

Do you have any special traditions that you follow every year?  
As my children have grown up a lot these past few years (they are now adults) it is interesting to see what traditions have stood the test of time. We like to go to choral services at our local church together, beginning the with advent service of lessons and carols. We are excited to exchange presents on Christmas Day and Peter Combe’s Christmas album is still the album of choice to accompany this ritual. We may have a feast or famine of decorations – the gloss goes off glamming up the house or Christmas tree when the children realise that the pulling out the bling is always easier than packing it away. But remembering Christmas past is always part of the fun! I’m not a fruit cake fan, but I look forward to my Ice Cream Christmas Cake all year.    

What is your favourite Christmas children’s book?  
One with many happy memories from my younger years is a beautiful pop-up book of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ by Clement C Moore and Tom Patrick – it was marvellously interactive both physically and narratively. More recently, it would be a tie between The Nativity by Julie Vivas and Wombat Divine by Mem Fox.  

endpaper when i see grandma You’ve had great success with your writing in 2014. What do you aim to achieve in 2015?
I have a few other manuscripts out to publishers as well as some other writing projects, so next year it would be great to have something accepted for publication – fingers crossed! I will also continue to search avenues to promote ‘When I see Grandma’ because it is such a pertinent and topical story, and it has the potential to be enduring.  

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Debra! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season with your friends and family!  
Thanks Romi 🙂  

Connect with Debra Tidball:
http://www.debratidball.com/
https://www.facebook.com/debratidballpage  

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Hey Corinne Fenton, What’s Your Christmas Wish?

Corinne's Launch of Little Dog-5842Corinne Fenton is established as one of Australia’s treasured authors of beautiful picture books. They often contain an element of social history, and her knowledge and passion for writing is regularly shared in schools, libraries and workshops.  
This Christmas, there are TWO Corinne Fenton picture books that are unmissable and will have children from birth to eight feeling enriched and cherished for all of the holiday season; Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and Hey Baby, It’s Christmas! Let’s find out a little more about Corinne Fenton and her books!  

What do you love about writing children’s books?
I love being taken away with the words, those times when in my head I’m spinning and flying on a carousel horse, but really I’m at my desk staring into space.  

queenieMuch of your writing involves a great significance to social history. Is there an element of personal meaning when incorporating these topics?
Yes, in a way I believe I write about animals whose stories must be told – for me there’s a certain responsibility to tell them. When I visit students in schools it gives me a great feeling to share information with them through my stories. I strongly believe that children are learning this information in an enjoyable and almost effortless way. This is another reason why I feel so strongly about picture books.
Queenie: One Elephant’s Story came about by accident (I was actually writing a story about sparrows) but when I found her I knew immediately her story had to be told. Her story raises many issues about animals in zoos today, compared to what zoos were like back when elephants were giving rides not only here in the Melbourne Zoo but in zoos all over the world. Queenie walked for almost 40 years through the depression and through two world wars carrying up to 500 people a day.
The Dog on the Tuckerbox tells of a dog called Lady and her loyalty to her master, but there is also a host of information about bullockies, bullocks, wagons and pioneers and what it was like to live in the days when it took a bullock team up to 4 months to travel a journey which today takes a truck only 4 hours!
Flame Stands Waiting is a fictional story about a carousel horse called Flame, set in a real place – on the carousel at Melbourne’s Luna Park. This story takes place in the years of the depression, the bright lights and happiness of the carousel contrasted strongly with the drab clothing worn by the children. The discussion about this story centres on being different but students can take it further by comparing carousels throughout the world and their differences and by studying further about the depression.  

little-dog-and-the-christmas-wish[Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a truly charming book. It is a story of loyalty, love and family belonging. This gentle, beautifully written tale is set in 1957, with Corinne Fenton’s own nostalgic memories evident, as is her love of dogs!
Little Dog, a white West Highland Terrier, escapes from home in a thunderstorm on Christmas Eve and finds himself in the heart of the city. He passes familiar Melbourne landmarks, scouring through the tall buildings, watching people bustling around, searching for his best friend and owner, Jonathan. With the hope of finding his way back home, will Little Dog get his Christmas wish? With stunning drawings by illustrator Robin Cowcher, appropriate for this setting and era, readers will enjoy the soft watercolours, smooth lines and textures of every scene.
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish is a heartwarming, engaging story that will have children from aged three, as well as older generations, in anticipation of the ending’s reveal and for future readings every Christmas.
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Your current story, ‘Little Dog and the Christmas Wish’ is set in Melbourne in the 1950s. What does this time and place mean to you? What was your inspiration behind the story?  
This book is special to me for many reasons. A child of the 50’s, it was actually nice to know, first hand, what I was writing about – to remember the enormous Foy’s Santa on the corner of Swanston and Bourke Streets, calling children toward him like this . . .. (finger) and to remember coming into the city on the green and cream rattly trams to marvel at the Myer windows every year – and walking under the portico of the Melbourne Town Hall. I also remember the clip-clopping of the Clydesdale horses as they delivered milk or bread to our front gate.
I believe I am privileged to have such precious Christmas memories and to be able to tie that in with a lovable ‘Little Dog’ character was a special Christmas gift for myself.  

The illustrations by Robin Cowcher are simply stunning. How much of the artistic content is based on your own ideas, and how much came from Robin?
As with all of my books I did a lot of research on this particular book, which Robin was able to refer to. The story is set in 1957 so the Myer windows that year displayed The Nutcracker Suite and on Christmas Eve that year the Regent Theatre were screening An Affair to Remember (one of my favourite old movies) so I imagined all of this when I was writing. Yes, Robin did a magical job on telling the other half of the story with her superb illustrations.  

hey-baby-it-s-christmasA love letter became ‘Hey Baby!’, dedicated to her own babies. ‘Hey Mum, I Love You’ was written for her own special mum. ‘Hey Dad, You’re Great’ was released in time for Father’s Day and is dedicated to her ”dad, grandpa, pop, great grandpa, all of whom I was privileged to know, and to my husband for being such a great dad.”
”This final book (‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’) is dedicated to my sister and brother who shared with me wonderful and precious childhood Christmases, which are printed on our hearts.” – Corinne Fenton.
Hey Baby, It’s Christmas includes an adorable array of animal images, accompanied by equally beautiful text by Corinne Fenton about enjoying the exciting lead up to Christmas.
”Hey Baby. Hang on tight, count the sleeps. Christmas is coming.”
This book touches the heart with tender moments between mother and baby, with cute, cuddly ducklings and a ‘quiet as dreaming’ sleeping puppy. There are also moments that make you giggle. Hey Baby, It’s Christmas is perfect for those calm, soothing times, when you can steal plenty of sneaky kisses and cuddles with your little one, whilst teaching them the true meaning of Christmas… Love!
Black Dog Books 2014]  

Congratulations on the release of your most recent book, ‘Hey Baby, It’s Christmas’! How did you celebrate the launch?
This launch was celebrated on Sunday November 9 at the Watsonia Pre-school with readings, books, babies, small children, cake, Christmas crafts, face painting and lots of laughter. It was the perfect place to launch such a book.  

What has been your favourite part of creating this book, and all the ‘Hey Baby!’ books in the series?
In all picture books I believe each word must earn the right to be there and in these short books (the original Hey Baby is only 53 words long) it’s even more important that each word is as perfect as it can be and that’s my favourite part, finding that perfect word, no matter how long it takes.  

Did you have a long term plan to publish all your titles in the series when writing the first ‘Hey Baby!’ book?
Not at all. I actually wrote the first one, Hey Baby! as a dedication in another book, which is not yet published. It was one of those happy accidents that grew.  

What is your favourite thing about the festive season?
Christmas memories and making more and being with the people I love. This Christmas will be special writing-wise as I have many book signings and readings in the lead up to Christmas (see my website under events – and my regular Wednesday blog post.) http://corinnefenton.com/blog    

Thank you so much for sharing, Corinne! Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season!  
And the same to you Romi. Thank you for this opportunity. Corinne  

Connect with Corinne:
http://corinnefenton.com/  
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Corinne-Fenton-Author/

Book it in! Sunday 30 November  – 11.00 a.m. –
Little Dog and the Christmas Wish Window Launch Event at The Little Bookroom, 5 Degraves Street, Melbourne –

Check dates for other appearances by Corinne Fenton on her blog: http://corinnefenton.com/blog  

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Alex Field’s ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ is a Real Treat

1330-20120419211614-sophiaAlex Field‘s talents as an author, publisher and speaker, her love of Christmas pudding, and her overt enthusiasm for Jane Austen all cleverly amalgamate in the latest of her series, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding. Having previously featured her beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in Mr Darcy and Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck, Alex Field, together with the ingenuity of illustrator Peter Carnavas, bring back the haughty but loveable duck in this Christmas tale about love and goodwill.

You may have already read Dimity Powell‘s fabulous review! Here’s some further promotion of this endearing book!

Mr Collins makes his debut appearance by pouncing on an innocent Maria, intended as a delicious ‘mousy’ feast. As punishment, Mr Darcy snatches her away and leaves poor Mr Collins out in the cold. It is Mr Darcy’s charitable friends that, after enjoying their pudding-bake time together on Stir-up Sunday, show concern for the cat’s wellbeing. Sweet Lizzy’s compassionate nature is finally rewarded on Christmas Day when she gets her wish under the mistletoe.

In true, delectable style, Peter Carnavas creates expression, a sense of warmth and focus with the perfect variation of colour, plain backgrounds and page layouts.

Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding is a fun and charming story about friendship and kindness, is a seasonable reminder that Christmas is a time of giving, with a beautiful sentiment of family traditions.

New Frontier Publishing November 2014.  

856-20141023120845-Cover_Mr-Darcy-and-the-Christmas-Pudding_R Alex Field shares her Yuletide joys and her inspiration behind ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ in this engaging interview. Thank you, Alex!  

Your books in the Mr Darcy series are all based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters. What do you love about Austen’s stories?
The first Austen book I read as a teenager was Northanger Abbey. It is her one title that has a dark, gothic twist, something all teenagers gravitate towards. From there I was hooked. I read every one of her books and go back to them often. It is her characters I adore. In two lines she tells us everything we need to know about Mr Collins. “Mr. Collins had only to change from Jane to Elizabeth — and it was soon done — done while Mrs. Bennet was stirring the fire.” I was very keen to include Mr Collins in one of the Mr Darcy picture books. At last he makes an appearance in Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding!  

How did this inspiration turn into the development of your own picture books?
One of my friends named her family duck Mr Darcy. Sadly, much to the distress of the children, he died soon after he arrived in the family garden. I started thinking about the possibility of creating a character for children based on Pride and Prejudice. Romantically I thought I could put this character on the page and the children in the family, who had lost their beloved duck, would see he lived on in a book. Of course by the time the book was published the children were all too old for picture books!  

What challenges have you found referencing Pride and Prejudice in your Mr Darcy books when considering suitability for children?
The language was a little tricky. I wanted to ensure that Mr Darcy’s pompous manner came across in the story. He is a very polite duck.
The challenge I set myself for Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding was to create a Christmas scene true to the Regency era. This meant doing away with the usual trappings of Christmas such as a Christmas tree and Santa. However the Christmas pudding was around in Regency times as was mistletoe so both these make an appearance.  

Congratulations on your latest book ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’! How did you celebrate its’ release?
Thank you! I was in London at the time visiting my daughter who is currently studying there. We went to Selfridges, looked at the gorgeous Paddington Bear windows and indulged ourselves in the Food Hall. As Paddington was a favourite growing up I couldn’t resist also buying a jar of marmalade.  

What did you find the most rewarding part of creating ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’?
I enjoyed the research leading up to writing the book. It was fascinating to discover more about the Christmas traditions we all take for granted today.  

The story includes the characters coming together to celebrate the tradition of Stir-up Sunday. How is this event meaningful to you?
My sister and I always used to celebrate Stir-up Sunday with our nan. She lived in the countryside in Hampshire, very close to Jane Austen’s home. Every year we made the puddings with Nan and she then used to give them out to all the family to share on Christmas Day.  

mr darcy and the christmas pudding_page The illustrations have been consistently adorable throughout the Mr Darcy series by the talented Peter Carnavas. How do you find working with him? With ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’, how much of the illustrative detail did you specify and how much is left to Peter’s imagination?
I love working with Peter. Early on when he was creating Mr Darcy he watched the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth lots of times to ensure he got the hat right. When he was creating Mr Collins he sent me a few rough sketches before finalising the character. Most of it is left up to Peter. He is a genius.  

Besides understanding the meaning of Stir-up Sunday, what special message do you want your readers to gain from reading ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’?
When I was doing my research I discovered that charity was at the heart of a Regency Christmas. I hope this comes across in the book. I still think it is an important part of Christmas.  

What can all your ‘Mr Darcy’ fans look forward to seeing from him (and you) in the near future?
I have a few ideas for upcoming books in the series. Jane Austen has given me a wonderful array of characters to work with.
For the moment I am going to enjoy the festive season with my children. This weekend we begin making the puddings!  
(Stir-up Sunday falls on November 23rd).

Thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books, Alex! Wishing you and your family a safe and enjoyable Christmas!
My pleasure. I wish you and all your readers a Happy Christmas.  

Follow Alex Field via her facebook page:  
www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Field

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Christmas Classics you’ve read to you kids – Christine Bongers

Little Golden Books The Night Before ChristmasFellow Boomerang Blogger, Romi Sharp recently congratulated me on hitting my first century. Gob smacked! I mean I don’t even own a cricket bat, let alone know how to hold one. She meant blogs of course. I hardly noticed. They rack up and slip by like birthdays these days. Nonetheless, even numbers deserve celebration (especially ones with many zeros), so while I wait for Boomerang to deliver the gold-embossed book prize and bubbly, I thought I’d pass the time with another lady who knows how to rack em up with infinite style and humour.Chris Bongers 2

Celebrated Brisbane YA and kids’ author, Christine Bongers is no stranger to bedtime reads, having indulged in this past time with her own four children over the years. Today we discover some of the classics the Bongers family pulled out to share together at this time of year. (I’ll go the extra Christmas Bon Bon please Christine – I think it might be a while before the bubbly arrives!)

Christine’s Christmas Classics

Hubba huMother Goosebby and I read to our four kids from the time they were babies: nursery rhymes, Mother Goose, and truck loads of Little Golden Books that we had left over from our own childhoods. I loved picture books – Edwina the Emu and Wilfrid Gordon Macdonald Partridge stand out in my memory – but have to say that our kids were making their own reading decisions by the time they could talk and we had precious little say in the matter!

Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg* celebrateWacky Wednesday

It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall . . . ? Shouldn’t be there at all!
Then I looked up. And I said, “Oh, MAN!”
And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began.

After twenty-odd years, I can still recite those opening lines from memory. That’s how many times I read this madcap romp to our eldest. Preschoolers love pandemonium and spotting the twenty wacky moments captured in New Yorker cartoonist George Booth’s illustrations never got old for the wacky funster in our family.Wacky Wednesday illo

[*A bonus Christmas bonbon for anyone who recognised author Theo LeSieg as a wacky version of Theodore Geisel – or as he is more commonly known, Dr Seuss!)

 The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Our youngeCaptain Underpants 2st adored Captain Underpants, so good old Santa could be relied on to pop the latest offering into his Christmas stocking each year. By the time he was in Grade Three he had eight volumes jockeying for position on his shelf and I swear by all I hold holy that we read each and every one of them at least one hundred times before he moved on to Harry Potter.

 The BFG by Roald Dahl

Our youngest daughter revelled in Dahl’s subversive tales (particularly Matilda with the eye-wateringly awful headmistress The Trunchbull), but it was the simple giant with the deep insights, dream collecting and jumbled and inventive turn of phrase that she returned to again and again. And why not, I say. What’s not to love about little girls doing great things in league with a giant?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Lion Witch and Wardrobe

This was our big girl’s favourite childhood read ever (along with The Hobbit). Narnia has provided a magical escape, not only for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, but for children everywhere for more than half a century and its appeal hasn’t diminished with BFG illothe years. As a matter of fact, I’ve just got my hands on a beautiful boxed set – a happy Christmas present for a certain little Lucy in my own extended family. So what books will be in your Christmas stocking this year? 

Good question Christine. How big is my Christmas stocking allowed to be?

I’ll be asking the same thing to other inspiring authors in the next few weeks. Get ready to flex your reading memory muscles.

Add more of Christine’s entertaining work including the recently released gripping YA read, Intruder to your new classics lists by visiting here.

 

Renée Treml Reveals Answers About Her Picture Book, ‘The Great Garden Mystery’

meRenée Treml is a talented artist and author, originally from the States, now residing in Melbourne. She creates her stunning illustrations primarily using the scratchboard technique, setting her work apart with its unique qualities. Her artwork can also be seen at design markets and art exhibits through a range of gorgeous products. Renée has three equally delightful picture books published with Random House Australia; One Very Tired Wombat, Colour for Curlews, and her most recent, The Great Garden Mystery.  

Review – The Great Garden Mystery
thegreatgardenmystery9780857984166Those curious curlews are back, and already set on the trail to solving a most mysterious problem. A menagerie of suspects are called to order. Who is stealing all the beetroots? What a conundrum!

In playful rhyming prose, Renée Treml and her exquisitely drawn animals take us on a journey to decipher each clue as they add up to solve the case.

First, hare finds a sign. It’s a poo that is square. Clearly, he is not guilty. As they discover a hole under the fence, some snagged fur, a wide trail, and a dislike to beetroots, each animal gleefully asserts their innocence. But when the roo bounds away, humorously, those suspicious creatures believe the puzzle has been pieced together.

And when all is calm and quiet, in the dark of night, who emerges to fill his belly once more? Who could have guessed? Think back to the first clue and you will have your culprit!

I love the playfulness and adventure of The Great Garden Mystery, as well as Renée’s black and white scratchboard drawings against the soft, pastel background colours. Kids from aged three will delight in this curiously intriguing animal tale, too.  

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about Renée Treml’s fascinating journey to creating her books, including her joys and challenges with illustrating The Great Garden Mystery.  

Your books all include a common theme featuring the adorable, sleepy wombat, a range of native birds and other creatures. What is the appeal of these Australian animals?  
I grew up in the States where I commonly saw little songbirds, woodpeckers, squirrels and deer – animals which probably sound very interesting to someone who is not from North America.  When we moved to Australia at the end of 2007, I was immediately smitten with the wildlife – here we have huge noisy parrots, sleepy koalas hiding in gum trees, teeny little pademelons and big bouncy kangaroos.    
The wombat that is featured in all of my stories is based on the very first wombat I ever encountered.  He was at a wildlife sanctuary in Brisbane and managed to sleep soundly despite being surrounded by noisy children, adults, cockatoos and kookaburras. Every time I went to visit the sanctuary, that wombat was having a good snooze.  I only wish I could sleep like that too.    

What do you love about creating children’s books?  
For many years I was unknowingly creating characters through my artwork – I kept drawing the same animals over and over and discovering their unique personalities.  When I wrote my first story it felt like I was rewarding my favourite characters.  It was so much fun.  I still maintain a sketchbook full of (mostly) patient characters that are waiting for their turn in a story.  

You have a unique, beautiful style of illustrating. How did you develop your style?  
Thank you, but I think it is fair to say that my style found me.  My style developed from practicing, experimenting and attempting to master new mediums and subjects. Over the years my style has evolved into what it is now, but I am always looking out for new ideas, subjects and materials so I can continue growing and changing.    

What is your favourite medium to use?  
I love working with inks and paint on clayboard, although lately I have been trying to bring mixed media and collage into my illustrations.      

Who is your favourite artist/s?
Sorry – I can’t just pick one and if I tried to make a list I would worry and fret for ages trying to narrow down the list.    

the great garden mystery koalaWhat was your favourite part of The Great Garden Mystery to illustrate?  
My favourite scene to illustrate is where koala accuses the fox of stealing the beetroots.  I loved that koala – he was so sassy and never once thought he could be a suspect.  Trying to capture his brashness, the fox’s slyness and the roo’s discomfort was just good fun.  

What was the hardest part?  
To be honest, this book was a hard one to illustrate. This is the first time I have worked digitally to create my illustrations.  I had to teach myself how to make my digital artwork look indistinguishable from my scratchboard illustrations – that was so hard!  Also, drawing the garden without cluttering up the compositions and illustrations, proved to be a very big challenge for me.  Thankfully, I have wonderful editors, publishers and very honest friends who had excellent suggestions all along the way.  

What was the reason for the change in your process from the last two books?  
I created all of the illustrations for my first two books using clayboard. Clayboard is a masonite board that has been coated with a thin layer of clay. They are beautiful to work on, but only come in limited sizes, are a lot more expensive than paper or canvas, and aren’t really reusable (unless you paint over them completely). I squeezed as many drawings as I could onto each board, then sent the very heavy box to my publisher for scanning. A month later I received the digital images, which then required cutting and pasting each illustration back into my page spread. Working on clayboard added at least 2 months to our timeline and in the end was not the most environmentally friendly process.
I still prefer to work on clayboard when I’m creating art for galleries or shows, but for books digital scratchboard has its benefits:
(1) I can create artwork that looks very similar to my scratchboard drawings; (2) we skip the shipping, scanning and editing phase, which saves 1-2 months; and (3) I can add or change things quite easily, even after we are theoretically finished the book.  

How long did the process take you to complete all the illustrations for The Great Garden Mystery?  
Working part-time, the illustration part probably added up to about 3 months. I had a huge learning curve trying to master the software and we also experimented a lot with different styles. I am so happy with how it turned out that I have almost forgotten how hard it was to illustrate!  

renee treml owlWhich animal is your favourite to draw? Why?  
I am totally obsessed with owls – they have so much personality.  I am just waiting for the inspiration to strike for an owl story…    

What special message do you want your readers to take away from The Great Garden Mystery?  
As a scientist and wildlife lover, I would love kids (and adults) to become aware of all the clues animals leave behind.  Take the time to look at the ground for broken eggshells, scat or footprints – you might find yourself a little mystery (even in the city).      

What was the highlight for you in 2014?  
The highlights for me this year were the TGGM-events where everyone got to try their hand at scratchboard and we got to talk a lot about wombat poo.    

Are there any special milestones or events that you are looking forward to in 2015?
This year I am really looking forward to organizing a few primary school-visits. I love teaching and interacting with children and have some fun writing and illustrating workshops to present.  

Thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books, Renée!
Thank you for the opportunity!

Enjoy Renée’s stunning website at:
http://www.reneesartwork.com
http://www.facebook.com/ReneeTremlAuthorIllustrator

Interview by Romi Sharp
http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
http://www.twitter.com/mylilstorycrner

Kim Fleming Draws on Her Experience as Illustrator of ‘Mummy, You’re Special To Me’

Kim_Fleming_2010Kim Fleming knows how to tell a great story. She tells stories through pictures. Kim’s art creates a sense of affection, warmth and joy. Born in Canada, this now Melbournite has found her calling in illustrating children’s books. She has previously illustrated such picture books as the gorgeous True Blue Santa written by Anne Mangan, Cherish Your Skin by Amy and Jenifer Kuykendall, and Surprise! by Karen Andrews.

Her latest creation is the absolutely lovely Mummy, You’re Special To Me (Scholastic Australia) written by Laine Mitchell. Although released early this year for Mother’s Day, this book is on my gift list for Christmas.  

9781742839813Throughout the book, we meet a range of animal babies who give a sweet example of their extraordinary mummy. And each rhyming verse ends with the same ode, ”Mummy, you’re special to me.”  

”My mummy is kind. She makes hurts alright.
My mummy is brave. She’s as strong as a knight!
Mummy, you’re special to me.”
 

As we follow the little giraffe on its’ journey around the world, we encounter varied species of super-mums who are patient, entertaining, playful, artistic, smart, teachers, jokers and nurturers.
Kim Fleming so lovingly captures all the care and adoration between mother and child. From soft watercolour tones to gentle brush strokes, dabs and flicks, to the cutest of animal drawings, Kim’s illustrations are just magical.  

I’ve had the pleasure to be able to find out her perspective on being an illustrator; the talented artist behind Mummy, You’re Special To Me – Kim Fleming.     

You have illustrated many texts from picture books to chapter books, as well as educational resources. What do you love about illustrating children’s books? Which book type do you find the most rewarding, and why?
The majority of the books I have illustrated are picture books, which I definitely find the most rewarding as an illustrator. Whereas in chapter books or educational books the illustrations are adding to the story, in picture books the illustrations ARE the story. Building a visual narrative which augments the text, or subverts the text, or adds in a sub story not even mentioned in the text is incredibly fun and exciting to conceptualise. I love it when I can really sink my teeth into a project.        

Your illustrations are simply beautiful. Do you have a specific style or subjects that you prefer? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
First of all, thank you so much! I’d have to say that I most enjoy illustrating animals and themes stemming from nature and our surrounds. I also really enjoy travel in my own life so illustrations of different cultures where I need to do some “research” into different environments is always stimulating. Inspiration comes from all over – my collection of ephemera from travels and magazine flipping, a particular collage paper, an interesting billboard, a unique window display, and of course fellow artists and illustrators. Pinterest is dangerous!  

What is your favourite medium to use?
Definitely watercolours. I also add into that coloured pencils, collage, sometimes acrylics, and occasionally hand-carved stamps as well!  

Who is your favourite artist/s?  
I find it very difficult to come to a decision on my ‘all-time favourite’ artist, so instead I talk about my CURRENT favourite artists, because they are always changing:  
I love Pamela Zagarenski’s beautiful textures and evocative compositions.
I find Catherine Rayner’s fabulous characters and style are so charming.  
Fabulous surface designer (and friend) Rebecca Jones has a wonderful style and sense of colour, and her characters are so sweet.  

Octo-mama_cropWhat was your favourite part of ‘Mummy, You’re Special to Me’ to illustrate?  
The editors came to me with the idea of having a different animal mother and child for each page, so I think the best part was coming up with all of the different animals to illustrate each verse. The octopus mother enacting a stage play with puppets on each tentacle was a particular favourite. I also really enjoyed coming up with all the cheeky actions for the giraffe in the background.    

What was the hardest part?
This will sound trite, but there really was no hard part. Normally a book will have SOME challenge in creation, but this one truthfully flowed from start to finish and was a real joy to work on. I wish every book was like this one!  

Mummy-You-are-Special-to-Me_24_giraffeWhich animal is your favourite to draw? Why?  
Funnily, I do love a giraffe. The giraffe has been a mascot of mine for many years, he appears on my business card and website and always has. So the fact that Mummy You’re Special To Me’s main character was a giraffe was perfect. I think they are just such funny animals. Natural selection is a curious thing!  

What was the highlight for you in 2014?  
The release of Mummy You’re Special To Me was definitely a highlight. I have also been getting back into animation for the first time in years, animating a children’s app which has been loads of fun!    

Are there any special milestones or events that you are looking forward to in 2015?
The announcement that Mummy You’re Special To Me will be released as a board book version in English and French by Scholastic Canada next year is such a joy for me, because I was born in Canada and speak French!   I’m also working on another book for Scholastic Australia at the moment, and I’m looking forward to the launch of the app I mentioned, with hopefully another app in the pipeline.  

That’s great! I look forward to seeing more from you! Thank you for your time, Kim! I really appreciate you talking with Boomerang Books!  
Thanks so much to you Romi and to Boomerang Books!

Have a look at Kim’s stunning website at:
http://www.kimflemingillustration.com
Follow Kim Fleming at:
https://www.facebook.com/KimFlemingIllustration
twitter: @lilkimfleming

Interview by Romi Sharp
http://www.romisharp.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner
twitter: @mylilstorycrner

The Highlights of a Professional Life: An Interview With Ursula Dubosarsky

Ursula_Dubosarsky_publicity_photo_A_2011Ursula Dubosarsky has written over 40 books for children and young adults. Some of which include The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants in This House, Tim and Ed (Tim and Ed Review), The Carousel, The Word Spy series, and The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta series.

She is a multi-award winner of many national and international literary prizes including The Premier’s and State Literary Awards, The Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, The Children’s Choice Awards, The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and The Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

Ursula’s books have been characterised as timeless classics with universal accessibility, always heartwarming, funny and indelible. Her picture books, in particular, emanate energy and delight, wit and ingenuity. She has worked with some legendary illustrators who have brought Ursula’s playful words to life, including Terry Denton, Tohby Riddle and Andrew Joyner.    

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have had this opportunity to discover more about Ursula Dubosarsky’s writerly mind, joys, achievements and plans for the future, and she has been so gracious in sharing her views with our readers.

Where do you get your creativity from? Were you born into a creative family?
Well I was born into a family of writers, although they are more non-fiction writers than fiction writers. But non-fiction demands plenty of creativity, as I discovered when I tried to write non-fiction myself (my “Word Spy” books.) My mother also had an amazingly vivid dream-life -I sometimes wonder if that’s where the story ideas come from…  

What or who are your biggest motivators?
For some reason I find this a very confronting question! and I don’t know how to answer it. Perhaps it’s one of the biggest mysteries of creative acts – why do it? It feels like a compulsion.  

Which age group do you most prefer to write for, younger or older children?
I love the succinctness that is demanded of you in writing for younger children – I love throwing out all the words until you have just that bare minimum. The other nice thing about writing for younger children is you get to work with illustrators, which has been such a pleasure in my life. But of course as anyone would say, each form has its particular rewards (and hardships.)  

the-word-spyWhat has been the greatest response / fan mail to you and your books?
That would be my three “Word Spy” books – non-fiction books about language, particularly the English language. I think one reason they get the most fan mail is that the books are written in character. They are narrated by a mysterious person called The Word Spy. So I think children really enjoy the fantasy of writing to an imaginary person – I enjoy the fantasy of writing back as a character! The Word Spy even has her own blog “Dear Word Spy” where you can see lots of the letters children have written to her – and her answers! http://wordsnoop.blogspot.com.au/

What is your working relationship like with illustrator, Andrew Joyner? Do you or the publisher choose to pair you together?
Oh I love working with Andrew.The pairing came about quite naturally. At the time I was working for the NSW Department of Education’s School Magazine, which is a monthly literary magazine for primary school children. I was doing some editing there, and Andrew happened to send in some illustrations. I just so responded to his work, immediately. Anyway then when I had written the text for “The Terrible Plop” he was a natural person to suggest to Penguin, the publisher, as an illustrator for the book.

Cover_0What was your reaction when ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ was selected for this year’s ALIA’s National Simultaneous Storytime? How were you involved in the lead up and on the day?
That was truly the most thrilling and touching experience. We were just delighted to hear it had been chosen, and I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to see children (and adults!) all over Australia reading our book. ALIA did a brilliant job of organising and promoting the event – we hardly had to do a thing. On the actual day Andrew and I read the book aloud at the Customs House branch of the City of Sydney library down at Circular Quay. I can truly say the National Simultaneous Storytime was one of the great highlights of my professional life.  

IMG_6741You’ve had two of your picture books turned into successful stage productions; ‘The Terrible Plop’ (2009-2012) and ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ (2014). How were you approached / told about the news? What creative input did you (and Andrew Joyner) have in the productions?
In both cases it was a matter of the theatre company (Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre for “The Terrible Plop” and NIDA for “Too Many Elephants”) seeing the book and then approaching the publisher to see if we’d be willing to have the book staged. We were very willing! In neither case did we have a lot of input into the production. The writer/director at NIDA did keep us informed and sent us draft scripts -but I think we both felt it was better to stand back and let her and the actors and the rest of the creative team follow their own instincts. Again, for me and Andrew it was a tremendous experience to see the books transformed and re-imagined.  

What are you currently working on? What can your fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Well Andrew and I will be working together on an illustrated novel, so much longer than and very different to our picture book collaborations. It’s called “Brindabella” and is about a kangaroo. I have written the text already – and am now looking forward enormously to seeing what Andrew does with it.  

What other hobbies do you enjoy besides writing?
I wish I could say something strange and unexpected but it’s just walking! I love to walk the dog, but I also just like walking altogether. And I do like looking for very unusual cake recipes, researching their history and then having a go at baking them. I’m not much of a cook but I enjoy it!

the-terrible-plopFan Question –
Katharine: In The Terrible Plop, where did the bear run to? Did he ever find out what the Terrible Plop really was?

(This question is) something I’ve never been asked before and never thought about! I guess the bear would run home to all his brother and sister and mother and father and granny and grandpa and uncle and auntie bears, who listen to his story and tell him that’s what comes of sitting in folding chairs and that in future he should stay safely inside their big dark cave. So I don’t think he OR any of the others ever find out what the Terrible Plop really is – in fact over time it becomes part of the Great Bear Mythology…

Ursula, thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

Find out more about Ursula Dubosarsky:
www.ursuladubosarsky.com
http://wordsnoop.blogspot.com.au/

Interview by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

Ready to Play: Peter Carnavas bears all on ‘Oliver and George’

peter carnavas picturePeter Carnavas is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator, some of his titles including The Children Who Loved Books, Last Tree in the City, The Great Expedition, The Boy on the Page, The Important Things and Jonathan!.  

Peter’s books consistently provide both children and adults with heartwarming, humorous and thought-provoking experiences that leave a lasting impression. His illustrations always showcase his talent in portraying beautiful expression and sensitivity. He also balances a perfect mix between detail and playfulness, and spreads that make a simple yet dramatic statement.  

oliverToday I present you with Peter’s latest adorable read-aloud story, Oliver and George, and I am lucky enough to have had the talented author / illustrator himself answer some behind-the-scenes questions!  

Short Review: Oliver and George

I love how we are introduced to the characters. Immediately, they capture our attention.
Oliver sure is ready to play. He’s dressed in a multitude of outfits; he’s a swashbuckling, sword- and hook-bearing pirate with a rollerskate on one foot and a flipper on the other, with a box for a hat and a superhero suit and cape. Then there’s George. George is a serious, spectacle-wearing bear. He’s busy… reading.           
Oliver can’t wait for George to finish his book.
”’In a minute,’ said George.”
Oliver tries to be patient, but that doesn’t last very long. So he throws a paper plane at George, and breaks his chair, and tips porridge on his head, until George got so mad that he… didn’t do anything.
Oliver continues to pester George until at last he gets some attention. But is it the attention he wanted? And are both Oliver and George finally ready to play?
With adorable illustrations showcasing the parent-child-like relationship between the characters, simple yet effective page layouts with white backgrounds and sizeable text, Peter Carnavas’ Oliver and George is a delightful, cheeky and charming story about patience (and sometimes losing it) for young readers to giggle through from start to finish.  

10626774_765837733476621_2094984753388497762_nHow did the idea for Oliver and George come about?
I was on the plane to Perth, scribbling away in my sketchbook.  I had been thinking about a bear character for a while – I guess almost every children’s author has done it – and finally thought of creating a bear character that really didn’t behave the way in which the reader expected or wanted.  I think I had the wonderful No Bears (Meg McKinlay/Leila Rudge) floating around my head as inspiration.  I decided to add the cheeky Oliver character and, together with George, the two of them form a bit of a sibling relationship or, more likely, a parent-child relationship – the child bugging the parent to play, but the parent is always too busy.    

Are these characters based on anyone you know?
No, I didn’t base them on anybody.  However, since I’ve made the book, I’ve noticed members of my family behaving very much like Oliver and George.  We bug each other for attention, or tell each other, “In a minute”, when asked to do something.  

Have you ever broken someone’s chair?
I have!  When I was ten, I remember drawing a picture that didn’t meet my expectations and I kicked one of our dining chairs out of frustration.  I was a quiet kid but very occasionally I snapped – much like George.  Dad made me pay for the chair out of my pocket money.  
I also punched a boy in Grade One for snatching a book from me. My teacher smacked me and I never punched anyone again (apart from my brother).

So, you are more like George than Oliver?
I realise I am quite like George the bear.  Tolerant… until somebody snatches a book from me.  

How long did it take you to write and illustrate Oliver and George?
It didn’t take me too long to write the first draft but then I rewrote it many times, swapping ideas with my editor, changing the bear to a crocodile at one stage (didn’t last), and playing around with the ending a lot. I received some advice from some teacher-librarians about the ending, which helped a lot. So it’s hard to put a timeline on the writing process – it tends to happen in-between everything else. The illustrations probably took a few months, over the summer.

What’s your favourite animal to illustrate? Why?
It changes all the time.  At the moment I love drawing whales and penguins.  My favourite part of drawing any animal is dressing them up a little and giving them human expressions with the slightest details – small eyebrows and things like that.  

What can us Peter Carnavas fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
You mean there’s more than one of you?!  I’ve written a really fun book called What’s In My Lunchbox?, illustrated by Kat Chadwick.  It’s a fun, read-aloud book aimed at a young audience, much like Oliver and George. It will be out in early 2015.  
I look forward to its release!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Pete!
You’re welcome!  

Peter Carnavas, with the help of Pat Flynn, will be launching his new book, Oliver and George, on October 25th at Maleny Library, Queensland.
See http://www.newfrontier.com.au/events/oliver-and-george-book-launch/850.html for more details.
http://www.petercarnavas.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Carnavas-AuthorIllustrator

Article by Romi Sharp
www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner

Aaron Blabey’s Lessons With a Twist

Aaron Blabey Aaron Blabey is an actor-turned children’s author and illustrator, having great success with award-winning books including Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon, and Pig the Pug, which is becoming one of Australia’s best selling picture books.

Fortunate to have Sunday Chutney as the chosen book to be read in schools for Read for Australia during National Literacy and Numeracy Week this year, Blabey’s fortune continues with an estimated 500,000 children simultaneously reading The Brothers Quibble for National Simultaneous Storytime in May 2015!

His books are frequently becoming more welcomed into our household, with their strong sense of morality, sick sense of humour, a touch of darkness and bold, energetic illustrations that leave us wanting more! Here are a few titles to consider adding to your reading list.

the-brothers-quibble The Brothers Quibble
When baby Bunny is introduced is when Spalding’s world falls apart. With a hint of delirium and eyes as big as saucers, the oldest boy feels something called ‘utter and complete jealousy’ creep up from somewhere deep inside. And a WAR has erupted in the Quibble household!

Spalding goes on to cause absolute havoc, only to be sentenced to Time Out in his room. And as baby Bunny starts to grow up, he learns valuable lessons in self defense. But behind every taunt, quabble, whack and scuffle, Bunny still has nothing but love to give.
Eventually, Spalding’s frozen heart is melted and the brothers begin to actually like each other. Even if it’s not always sunny!

Delightfully dramatic illustrations are cleverly depicted through accentuated, crazed facial expressions and moody dark backgrounds. But at the same time there is a nice softness in the colour palette during those ‘loving’ moments.

The Brothers Quibble, a story of relationships, acceptance and jealousy, contains just the perfect amount of humour, touching moments and wickedness through its flowing, rhyming text that will capture all readers from age four, and particularly for those who understand the complexity that is sibling rivalry.

22735715 Pig the Pug
You can’t go past this eye-bulging, squashed nose little pug that graces the front cover of Aaron’s Blabey’s Pig the Pug.

From the onset, we learn just how greedy and selfish this dog is, as he has already claimed the book as his own on the ‘This book belongs to…’ label. True to classic tantrum behaviour, Pig blatantly refuses to share anything with friendly sausage dog, Trevor. A kind gesture by Trevor sees Pig the Pug completely ”flip his wig”.

Just like in The Brothers Quibble, Pig goes delirious and maniacal, showing that same crazed expression and shameful, immature temper as Spalding Quibble.
Pig doesn’t learn his lesson gently. Should we laugh at his misfortune? Ashamedly, yes. With a distinguishable reference to the phrase, ‘When pigs can fly’, Pig the Pug cannot and receives his just deserts, which only turns out to be sweet for one… Trevor!

Pig the Pug is delightfully told in fun, exuberant rhyme, with vivid, amusing illustrations.  A wildly funny read and a clear lesson in learning to share, suitable for all ages.

9780670075997 The Dreadful Fluff
This book is absolutely terrifying! But once again, Aaron Blabey has been able to leave us deeply affected by the experience, yet still wanting to relive it over and over.

Belly button fluff… absolutely dreadful! Serenity Strainer, who is little miss perfect, has found some… in her own belly button!

” ‘That can’t possibly be mine!’ she said.”

Sounds pretty harmless so far? Wrong!
The tiny fluffball turns into a horrific, teeth-gnashing monster, taunting Serenity, creating havoc and threatening her family. As each member of the family encounter the ball of lint, they are instantly engulfed and the evil thing grows larger and fluffier and even more dreadful. Finally, with some smart thinking by Serenity, the fluff monster is sucked into oblivion and everyone is saved.

Characteristically Blabey, his illustration style is amusing, quirky and bold, whilst delightfully and cleverly incorporating a clear moral. Lots of devastingly frightening fun for all ages.  

www.romisharp.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/mylittlestorycorner