PS Mum, this is for you – Mother’s Day picture book reviews

Unconditional love, tolerance and understanding; all qualities most mothers possess in spades. They warrant gratitude every single day, not just on Mother’s Day. So this year, before you load up mum with a bed full of toast crumbs and good intentions snuggle up to her with one of your favourite ‘I love you’ reads. Here are a few picture books to get you in the mood (or for you to help your little ones on their way to a blissful Mother’s Day!)

Our Love GrowsOur Love Grows by Anna Pignataro has a sublime que sera sera flavour to it created by Panda Pip’s repeated question, ‘When will I be big?’. His wise Mama calmly explains that with the passing of time, he is growing as surely as the world around him that is also continuously altering. Petals fall, seasons change, footsteps grow bigger in the snow, and babies that once fit snuggly into a mother’s embrace become too large for arms to hold but never hearts. A beautiful poignant reminder that the passing of time never diminishes a mother’s love, rather it augments it. Pignataro’s illustrations will melt your heart.

Scholastic Press March 2015

Blow Me a KissFirst published in 2010, Blow Me a Kiss by Karen Collum and Serena Geddes, captures the spirit of innocence and belief that the very young enjoy sharing so vicariously. Samuel shares his kisses with a range of unsuspecting rather grumpy individuals as he and his mother go about their daily tasks, unwittingly infecting all those around him with joy and happiness. Playful text springs alive with Geddes’ bouncing illustrations. A love fest for the soul.

New Frontier Publishing paperback March 2015

Grandma the Baby and MeNew additions to any family can result in times of turbulence and tribulations. In Grandma, the Baby and Me, Grandma understands this better than anyone does, especially when Henry’s new sibling joins them. Life skids off kilter for Henry as he adjusts to new family dynamics and the feelings they stir up. Fortunately, Grandma’s special little hand squeezes help reinstate Henry’s tolerance and love. Emma AGrandma the baby and me illo spreadllen tells Henry’s tale with expressive warmth and adroit pre-schooler perception enhanced by Hannah Sommerville’s beautiful watercolour illustrations. A touching portrayal of the significance of secondary carers and grandparents in a child’s life.

Omnibus Books September 2014

Hooray It's a New Royal BabyHaving lived through the birth of baby George in Shh! Don’t Wake the Royal Baby! and his first birthday in Happy Birthday Royal Baby!, the Cambridgeshire corgis are about to have their world rejigged once again. Announcing the new picture book by Martha Mumford and Ada Grey, commemorating the imminent second arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Hooray! It’s a New Royal Baby!

While the titles may not invigorate the imagination, this series of books provides royal lovers and young families alike with enough colour and laughs to tie them over from one headline to the next. This book shows everyone in the palace experiencing unmeasurable pomp and excitement as Royal baby No. 2 makes his way into the palace.

George however is not as amused. The Duke attempts to appease his royal first born with a new pet goldfish, which is brilliant at first but quickly Shh Don't Wake the Royal Babybecomes boring.

Fortunately, George discovers that babies are anything but boring and ‘much more fun than having a new goldfish’. He and the new Royal baby soon develop an unbreakable bond of sibling love, but is it enough to convince the Royal couple to have more children?

Bubbling with cheek and gaiety, Grey’s illustrations capture the Royal family verve with incredible likeness and a right royal jolliness that reflects this cute, family-orientated narrative.

Bloomsbury March 2015

 

Review – Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon

Memories of school holidays for me involved curling up in a cool corner somewhere in the backyard with my friends. I was pretty tight with Trixie Beldon in those days but always had more of an affiliation with animals than solving mysteries. If Lulu Bell had been around some 38 years ago, she would have definitely been in my inner circle of companions.

She’s extremely likeable, has long plaitable hair, a smile wider than a banana and best of all adores animals. She’s also the central character in the enchanting Lulu Bell series by Belinda Murrell and Serena Geddes. And now, finally, my seven year old past-self is able to befriend her.

Lulu Bell Cubby and Moon Dragon Lulu Bell and the Cubby Fort and Lulu Bell and the Moon Dragon are the third and fourth books in this series about the Bell family and their menagerie of friends, many of them of the furred or feathered kind. Each generously illustrated book centres on a new adventure or incident young Lulu encounters, often arising from her experiences at home and around her father’s work as a vet.

These books are ideal to read in succession or as stand-alone chapter books and are perfect fodder for the insatiable new reader.

L Bell Cubby Fort The Cubby Fort invites us to spend the Easter holidays with Lulu on her Uncle’s farm. The Bell family load up kids, dogs and tents and experience an eventful weekend surrounded by country, cows, cousins and mud. Lots and lots of mud. But when baby brother, Gus, goes missing, fun turns to fear and Lulu is forced to assume the role of Trixie Beldon to solve his disappearance.

L Bell Moon Dragon The Moon Dragon is an illuminating look at friendships and celebrating shared passions and different cultures. Lulu’s best friend, Molly, welcomes her to help with preparations for the Moon Festival. Together, they make dragon costumes, paper lanterns and mouth-watering moon cakes. Excitement grows faster than a full moon, swelling into a colourful parade involving the whole community and the two girls of course.

The language used throughout these books is bouncy and basic enough for young readers to digest whilst cleverly touching on gentle, non-invasive sub-themes such as Molly overcoming her social shyness. I also appreciated Murrell’s lovely sensitivity regarding ‘alternative’ views and thinking depicted by Molly’s mum who fills this year’s moon cakes with jam instead of the traditional red bean paste and salty eggs.

Belinda Murrell Belinda Murrell is a respected author for children with an impressive and solid stable of books including the Sun Sword fantasies and her fascinating historic time-slip tales, like The River Charm. Her convincing narratives draw discerning readers in from the start and in the case of Lulu Bell, have upbeat satisfying conclusions.

The Lulu Bell series draws on Murrell’s own experiences from growing up in a vet hospital and is wickedly good, old-fashioned fun for younger kids, whilst also tapping directly into one of the most keenly pursued topics of vocational interest for girls aged between 6 and 9.

Serena Geddes Serena Geddes’s lively black and white line drawings reflect each adventure perfectly, prompting readers as young as 5 and 6 to keep page flicking.

So I may not have fulfilled my dream of becoming a vet. At least I have made a new friend in Lulu Bell and am happy to see how her dreams pan out.

Fill up your child’s memories these school holidays with Lulu too. Two new enticing titles are due out early January 2014: Lulu Bell and the Circus Pup and Lulu Bell and the Sea Turtle, both available hereL Bell Circus Pup

Random House for Children 2013

 

Launching Gracie and Josh

On Saturday I went to Richmond Library for the launch of a rather amazing new picture book, Gracie and Josh. It was a launch that had everything — lots of people, a fabulous book, a chocolate cake and even Hazel Edwards. What more could you want?

Gracie and Josh

Gracie and Josh is written by Susanne Gervay and illustrated by Serena Geddes. The book was ably launched by Hazel Edwards, no stranger to picture books herself, having written the classic There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. She paid tribute not only to the author and illustrator, but also to the publisher, Ford Street Publishing, for taking a risk on such book. Also speaking at the launch was a representative of Variety: The Children’s Charity, which has endorsed this book.

Hazel conducts the launch

Gracie and Josh is about a little girl and her older brother. Josh has cancer and sometimes has to go to hospital and sometimes has bad weeks when he can’t get out of bed. Despite this, the book is not at all a downer. It is joyful and hopeful and fun and utterly delightful. It focusses on the relationship between Josh and Gracie rather than on Josh’s illness — in fact, the word ‘cancer’ is never actually used in the text.

The illustrations are beautiful. They complement the text and ‘say’ things that are not said with the words. Josh’s lack of hair makes his illness obvious without the need for using the word ‘cancer’. Gracie’s expression when Josh’s beanie falls off, says so much about her feelings for her brother without the need to specify them with words. This book is a perfect combination of words and pictures, each working with the other rather than just mirroring.

This book works on a couple of different levels, very aptly demonstrated by my daughters. While at the launch, my elder daughter read the book to her younger sister. Lexi is four years old, and although she understood that Josh was sick, she didn’t really understand the gravity of that situation. She just enjoyed the fun aspects of the story and the relationship between the siblings. Nykita is almost ten, and she did understand the implications of Josh’s illness. But still, the joy in the story is what she took away from it.

Nykita and Lexi

Gracie and Josh is a really lovely book. I heard much talk at the launch about how it would make a good gift for kids who have ill family members. And yes, that is true. But I think it has much wider appeal. As I wrote earlier, it is the love shared by siblings that is the focus of the story. And love is universal.

Catch ya later,  George

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TROPICAL TROUBLE

Tropical Trouble is the third book in the Totally Twins series written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes.

Persephone and Portia Pinchgut are going on holidays to Fiji with Grandma. The only problem is they have been forced to take their annoying 7 year-old neighbour, Dillon Pickleton with them.

Things don’t start out well when they land in Fiji and the twin’s luggage is missing. And that means buying new clothes in Fiji that aren’t to Perse’s fashion taste at all.

Almost as soon as they arrive at the Coconut Cover Resort, the outgoing Portia makes friends with Rushani and Gigi, two girls their age. But Persephone, being the shy twin feels left out again.

I love the way author, Aleesah Darlison gets into the head of Portia and Perse and even though they are twins, they are clearly, very different.

The story is told through Perse’s eyes as she writes down everything that happens in her ‘Fabulous Diary’. Once again, Perse’s voice is very strong and her humour and self-honesty endear her to the reader. She admits her own faults and this makes her real and allows the reader to empathise with her.

We also empathise with Perse because we can see that she cares about others, and she’s the one who looks after Dillon, who is feeling homesick. It’s also Perse’s kind nature that attracts the interest of Ashton whose parents manage the resort where they are staying.

The relationship between the twins is realistic and even though they have their differences, there is clearly a strong bond between them.

Travel writing Grandma who has taken them to Fiji is a great character who never takes sides.

The Pinchguts are a quirky but loveable family and I like the way author, Aleesah Darlison has created such authentic relationships between the various members.

Tropical Trouble is another entertaining and engrossing book in the Totally Twins series written by Aleesah.

Complimenting the text are the hilarious illustrations of Serena Geddes who accurately captures these characters and their personalities with simplicity and wit.

The Totally Twins series is published by New Frontier Publishing and there are more titles coming in 2012.

 

WHY I LOVE MY DAD, WHY I LOVE MY GRANDPA

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday so we thought we’d pay a tribute to all dads and grandads this week at Kids’ Book Capers by featuring some great books about these very special people.

Today we’re looking at Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa.

These gorgeous new books are in the popular Why I love my… series by Alison Reynolds and Serena Geddes.

They’re perfect partners for Why I love my mum and Why I love my grandma released earlier this year from The Five Mile Press.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa are written in an appealing style with fun illustrations.

They’re also books that can be personalised for the reader, allowing them to insert a photo of their own dad/grandpa on the front cover.

Alison Reynolds’ quirky text is full of warmth and humour, and Serena Geddes’ illustrations capture the hilarious antics of Dad and Grandpa.

Why I love my dad

Young readers will relate to all the antics of this scooting, hulahooping, kite flying dad. They’ll love him for the way he’s prepared to give just about anything a go, even if it’s not something he’s good at.

Why I love my grandpa

Who could not love a stilt-walking, hand shaking, VERY flexible Grandpa? This Grandpa clearly enjoys spending time with his granddaughter doing the things that make her happy even if they’re not the kind of activity he might normally do.

My grandpa can’t wear a ponytail and My grandpa can’t climb trees were the pages that gave me the biggest giggle but I’m sure young readers will enjoy every single one of the double page spread.

I enjoyed these books for their ‘have a go’ Dad and Grandpa and their warmth and colour.

Why I love my dad and Why I love my grandpa come in a durable hardback format that can be slipped easily into a nappy or other carry bag – and they’re the kind of books to encourage discussion about what family truly means.

They even have space at the back for the reader to fill in with favourite things they like about or like to do with Dad or Grandpa.

Tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers we’re featuring Nick Bland’s, Some Dads.

WHY I LOVE MY GRANDMA

On Monday, we looked at Alison Reynolds and Serena Geddes’ new book, Why I love my mum. Today at Kid’s Book Capers we feature their companion book, Why I love my grandma.

Alison talks about how her grandma inspired this book.

I never knew my father’s parents, but I was lucky enough to grow up with my mum’s parents. Granny said you should never ask a lady her age, so I’ll just say she was born in the 1890s on a farm in Victoria.

She was a teacher in country Victoria, and rode to school on a horse. She used to read on the way, and if the horse stopped suddenly, Granny flew over its head. She must have been a popular teacher as she once declared a school holiday so she could attend the local races, and another time when my grandfather, her fiancé, arrived back from WW1.

Granny was a keen golfer. She practised her golf swing at home and one time she whacked a poor hen. Confronted with a decidedly sick fowl, Granny promptly wrung its neck and served it up for dinner. She didn’t like waste.

Granny was always creative. She painted, beaded and crocheted. I still use the beautiful crocheted tablecloth she gave my mother for a wedding present.

When I was little our family had lots of fun times in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast where my grandparents had a flat. This was before all the high-rises and Burleigh was a very sleepy town. I can’t remember my grandmother swimming or even venturing on the beach, but she always made us devilled fish paste toast when we came back dripping. Every day she had a spoonful of molasses and as she lived to 91 with no big health problems I always think I should do that. But have you tasted molasses?

My granny loved me and even thinking of her now makes me smile. Once when I was ill and off work, Granny arrived in a taxi to look after me. She lay beside me on my bed and the two of us talked and took in turns to get the cup of tea.

Another time we were looking at display homes and Granny rushed up to the husband and me and said, “We have to get out. Now.” In the car Granny explained that she was caught short and unfortunately the plumbing hadn’t been connected.

Whenever Granny went out, she came home and went to bed. She always claimed nothing made her more tired than being nice. My children tease me that I’m a bit the same. I have been known to take off the jewellery, make-up and put on the nightie within five minutes of walking in the front door.

A close friend recently told me that I was resilient and I can cope with anything. I’ve been thinking about that and wonder if that’s one way I take after my grandmother. Granny lost her thirteen year old son, and even though every single day of her life she felt a gaping Jack-shaped hole, she was still full of joy and love. She kept walking forward.

I was lucky to have Granny as such a huge part of my life. When she died my husband and I had a huge gap every Saturday. Granny was an artist and sold quite a few paintings. It’s strange but nice to think that other people have a little bit of her hanging on their walls. I feel the same way about my books. I feel privileged that other people want to share some of my creations.

Ps. If anyone has a B.M. Dickinson on their walls, I would love to hear from them.

WHY I LOVE MY GRANDMA

I had a grandmother who gave up snow skiing at 86 so I could really relate to the energetic granny in Alison and Serena’s new book, Why I love my grandma.

This sword wielding, bike riding, face painting grandma is full of fun and not at all stereotypical. She’s the kind of grandma who does lots of special things with you and doesn’t worry too much about convention, which is why she will appeal to the modern reader and their parents.

Once again, Serena Geddes humorous illustrations add to the charm of this book. It’s also one that readers can personalise by adding their cover pic and lists at the end of the book of the special things they do with grandma and which of those activities are their favourites.

It’s a fun way for kids to contribute to their Mother’s/Grandmother’s day present.

Why I love my grandma and Why I love my Mum are published by The Five Mile Press.

 

 

WHY I LOVE MY MUM

Mother’s Day is next Sunday, so this week at Kids’ Book Capers we’re looking at books that would make great Mother’s or Grandmother’s Day presents.

Today’s featured picture book is Why I love my mum, written  by  Alison Reynold and illustrated by Serena Geddes.

Alison has generously agreed to share her experiences of the woman who inspired this book – her Mum. The author has also shared this gorgeous picture of herself at kindergarten.

My mum was born in Box Hill Hospital, centuries ago she tells me. Her father was a headmaster so she lived all over Victoria growing up.

She was always fascinated by rocks, so Mum studied Geology at Melbourne Uni during WW2. She claims that we’re lucky to have her because she thinks she was approached by Edward Leonski, the US soldier and murderer. Mum was living in college and all female students were instructed not to go out after nightfall. My impatient mum decided she needed to go to the library and on the way a US soldier emerged from the shadows and offered her a cigarette. Mum ran away, but she was terrified. It may well have been him as all the soldiers had been instructed not to approach lady students and curfews were in place.

When Mum married she had to resign as government departments wouldn’t employ married women, but she started teaching once I began kinder.  She had the teacher voice down pat at home.

Mum is very practical. An ant trail? Mum nuked the area with DDT. Have a flood in the laundry? Mum cut a hole in the floor to drain out the water. Find out what sex a kitten is? Mum dangled a needle over the kitten’s head. She was infallible until we received a phone call that Timmy had just had five kittens.

Mum always says how she doesn’t know how I can make things up. I don’t understand how, even now, with dementia she is still a whizz at arithmetic. Mum always believed woman deserved the same rights as men. Her great-grandmother was caught in the Eureka Stockade, and harboured miners in her tent and rescued Peter Lalor by rolling him down a hill. I can imagine Mum doing this, but she probably would have amputated Peter Lalor’s arm herself as she’s always considered herself to be a bit of a doctor and then told him that he should be home with his wife.

I inherited my love of the water from Mum. My dad was the strictly minding the clothes type while Mum would be jumping among the waves. When the water splashed on her perm, she soon looked like a poodle with her tight curls. .

Mum has been a wonderful grandmother to my children, and even now her memory is fast fading she always remembers them. Recently, she told me that as long as I remember you, the two kids and the tubby, short bloke (my husband is slim and tall, but that’s Mum being funny), it doesn’t matter what else I forget. And I’ll never forget my mum.

WHY I LOVE MY MUM

Why I love my mum is a heartwarming picture book that looks at what makes a mum special.

The mum in this book is good at mowing lawns, but cutting hair is not her talent. She can’t bake a cake but she can build a cubby house.

There are so many fun things this mum can do that it really doesn’t matter about the things she can’t. What I enjoyed most about Why I love my mum is that it showed mum’s are human. Just like kids, they are not perfect – there are the things they are good at and the things they aren’t.

None of that really matters because what’s really important is that mums are individual and special and that they love their children and are loved in return.

Serena Geddes beautiful illustrations clearly express the fun of Why I love my mum and the unconditional love that flows between mother and child.

Readers can personalise their book by slipping a picture of their own mum inside the front cover. They can also personalise the pages at the end and attach their favourite photo or drawing for mum.

Why I love my mum is published by The Five Mile Press.

On Wednesday at Kid’s Book Capers, we’re featuring Why I love my grandma – the companion book to Why I love my mum. Hope you can join us then.

 

 

 

 

PERFECT PICTURE BOOKS FOR BEDTIME

I know from watching my own kids growing up that there are definitely books for different occasions.

There are books full of fun and action to start the day and there are books that are more mellow, that leave small readers feeling warm and snuggly and ready for sleep – the perfect bedtime stories.

These are the books that gently lead them into the land of nod – books like Samuel’s Kisses and the runaway Hug. Both are tender funny stories for young readers about family and being loved.

Samuel’s Kisses

Written by Karen Collum and illustrated by Serena Geddes

Published by New Frontier publishing

Samuel loves going shopping but he notices that the people around him don’t share his happiness and sense of fun.

He decides to brighten up their lives by blowing them kisses.

This is a beautiful book depicting how a small child can find a simple solution to adult grumpiness.

There is movement and a gentle rhythm in this story as the kisses find their way around all sorts of obstacles to reach their mark.

Serena Geddes expressive and colourful illustrations show the affection and happiness that surrounds little Samuel and how he makes such a positive difference to the world around him.

This uplifting story is full of light-hearted fun but has a strong message and a satisfying ending for the reader.

the Runaway Hug

Written by Nick Bland and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Published by Scholastic

This book is a collaboration between two of Australia’s favourite picture book creators, Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood.

‘Mummy’, said Lucy. ‘Can I have a hug before I go to bed? I promise I’ll give it back.’

As Lucy discovers, a hug can go a very long way. It can be shared with Mummy and Daddy, it can be shared with the twins, it can even be shared with Annie the dog. The secret to sharing a hug is for it to be given back.

This hug seems to go especially far and along the way it becomes softer, sleepier, bigger and even peanut-buttery.

But when the hug runs away, Lucy doesn’t know what to do. How will she keep her promise to Mummy?

the Runaway Hug is a gentle, charming story with a perfect ending for bedtime reading.

Freya Blackwood’s beautiful illustrations are full of action and the sort of telling detail that young readers love.

Samuel’s Kisses and the runaway Hug will leave readers feeling snug, safe and ready for sleep.

HOLIDAY READING – Totally Twins Totally New Adventure

Model Mania is the second book in the popular Totally Twins series written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes.

One of the things I love about these books is that they are so true to life; reflecting the ups and downs and trials of being ‘almost eleven’.

Despite the fact that Portia and Persephone are identical twins, Aleesah Darlison manages to differentiate between them through strong character development revealing individual traits and characteristics.

Persephone is the quieter, more serious twin and in Model Mania she is again taken along for the ride by the more outgoing Portia.

This time, Portia has her sights set on becoming the next super model so Persephone is dragged along to fashion parades and film sets to offer Portia moral support. Persephone shuns the limelight but more than that, she hates what the pursuit of fame is doing to Portia and to their friendship group.

Portia preening and pouting her way to fame is hilarious, especially as told through Persephone’s quiet wit. Model Mania handles real dilemmas faced by girls this age but the humour and charm of the book stop it from being too intense.

Once again, Persephone tells the story through her diary and she has plenty more tips and lists for readers.

Amidst the turmoil of Portia’s newfound fame, the twins also have to deal with a new man in their mother’s life and an increase in the demands of her work schedule. As usual, Persephone feels as if she is being dragged along by the demands of everyone else’s needs and plans.

In true sisterly style, Portia and Persephone always seem to sort things out in the end despite their differences.

The Totally Twins series is ideal for girls aged 9+ years. Readers will also want to check out Persephone’s new blog at www.totally-twins.blogspot.com

SAMUEL’S KISSES – A STORY OF COLOUR AND HOPE

I was immediately drawn to Samuel’s Kisses and it wasn’t just because I have a son called Sam.

The title and the vibrant cover illustration by Serena Geddes told me that this was going to be a happy book – something that celebrated life and captured a child’s optimism.

When I opened the cover, I wasn’t disappointed. Karen Collum’s book, Samuel’s Kisses is about a little boy who contributes one small thing to the world that makes a big impact people’s lives.

Samuel is a small boy who blows kisses to everyone he meets. His genuine, heartfelt kisses have the ability to transform people who have sadness, worry and pain.

This book gives such a positive message and not just to kids. It reflects that everyone can make a difference to the world just by sharing something as simple as a smile or in Samuel’s case, a kiss.

Samuel’s Kisses has been written for preschoolers but there are messages there that could be understood and appreciated by much older children.

Little Samuel has the power to transform his world and make readers believe that anything is possible.  I loved the ending of this book which also reflects how as parents we pass our values and beliefs on to our children.

Young readers will enjoy following the path of each kiss as it twirls and swirls up and over, under and around objects until it reaches its target with a SPLAT!

Karen Collum has used interesting, descriptive language to engage the reader and assist with vocabulary development.

The lively and upbeat mood of the book is beautifully captured by the full colour illustrations by Serena Geddes www.reeni.com.au/.

Author Karen Collum www.karencollum.com.au/ is a strong believer in teaching children to be optimistic and it shines through in her book.

Published by New Frontier, Samuel’s Kisses comes in a sturdy hard cover format that is the perfect size for small hands to flick through.

Parents, teachers, librarians and children will enjoy this charming story full of humour, colour and hope.

A PICTURE BOOK WRITTEN FROM LIFE – SAMUEL’S KISSES

Karen Collum is mother to three beautiful boys, with a baby girl joining the family later this month. She’s passionate about developing optimism in children and empowering them to make a difference in the world.

Karen is visiting Kids’ Book Capers on her blog tour to celebrate the release of her new picture book, Samuel’s Kisses based on real life experiences with her own son, Sam.

Karen, can you tell us what Samuel’s Kisses is about and what age group it’s for?

Samuel’s Kisses is aimed at the pre-school age group (ages 2-5) and captures the beauty and power of a simple act of kindness. When a toddler blows kisses to people he meets, they are transformed in the very best way possible.

What  inspired the story of Samuel’s Kisses?

When my eldest son was two, he had the most delightful habit of blowing kisses to complete strangers while I did the shopping. It always struck me how powerful those kisses were. People who had previously been frowning and cranky would suddenly begin to smile and interact with him. I thought it would make a great story one day…and it did!

You have a son called Samuel (Sam). Can you tell us how you incorporated his story into your book?

Sam is very much the inspiration for the book. Although unlike Samuel in the book, he never actually had anyone juggle or dance because of the kisses he blew, he did have people play peek-a-boo with him or blow him a kiss in return.

How does Sam feel about being involved in the creation of your book?

He is very excited. For a long time he’d ask me to read the text to him but
then ask me when it was going to become a ‘real’ book with pictures.

When I got the final version of the book to look over, I sat down on the couch with
him and read it to him properly for the first time. He was so overjoyed that
it finally had pictures! I’m holding a book launch at his Kinder and he can’t wait for me to read his book to his friends. I think he’s looking forward to being the star of the show for a few minutes.

Apart from the story, does he have any other involvement in the book?

The beautiful little blonde boy in the story is based on my Sam. I was
fortunate enough to be able to send a photo of him when he was two to the
illustrator, Serena Geddes, and she kindly used that as a starting point for
the illustrations.

Do you have any tips for other writers wanting to incorporate real
life into works of fiction?

Anyone who is a parent experiences the joy of their children doing cute things. I think the trick is to work out which of those things hold universal appeal for many people and which ones are unique to your family. Not every cute thing my kids have done would make a good book, but sometimes I have to write the story before I come to that realisation.

Can you tell us how old Sam was when you started writing this story and how old he is now?

I first wrote the story in 2008 when Sam had just turned 2. He’s now 5 1/2
(that half is very important) and is so very grown up. I’m glad I’ve been able to capture him as a toddler in the book.

Have you written or do you have plans to write any books about other family members?

I’d love to write a book for each of my kids and have got a few ideas that are in various stages of development. I have identical twins who are 2 1/2 years old and I’m working on a concept for a picture book at the moment that revolves around the joys and trials of being an identical twin.

I’m also about to have a baby girl and I’d love to write a book for her one day too,
but I think I’ll have to get to know her a little better first. I want the books to reflect the character and nature of my children. I consider it areal privilege to be able to say to Sam, “I wrote this book about you and for you” and I hope I get to do the same with my other kids.

I also have written a picture book that I’m passionate about that deals with
open-heart surgery. Sam had open-heart surgery last year to correct a
congenital heart defect and I’d love to help other children in his situation
to understand what is going to happen to them and why. I think my family
might just be my greatest source of inspiration.

Karen is visiting these great blogs on her tour to talk more about Samuel’s Kisses.

Blog tour dates:
Dec 1: Kathryn Apel http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/
Dec 2: Kids’ Book Capers
Dec 3: Sheryl Gwyther http://sherylgwyther4kids.wordpress.com/
Dec 4: Serena Geddes http://www.reeni.com.au/books/
Dec 5: Rebecca Newman http://soupblog.wordpress.com/
Dec 6: Susan Stephenson http://www.thebookchook.com/
Dec 7: Katrina Germein http://www.katrinagermein.com/blog/

To read more about Karen’s work visit her website at http://www.karencollum.com.au.

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – TWICE THE FUN – “TOTALLY TWINS

Totally Twins is the new fun series for readers aged 9+ from New Frontier. The books that follow the life of twins Persephone and Portia are written by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Serena Geddes. Both Aleesah and Serena have been at Kids’ Book Capers this week talking about their career journeys.

Aleesah is back to today to talk about the creative process behind Totally Twins. I asked Aleesah why readers will enjoy the series.

Perse has a unique way of looking at things, which I think readers will connect with. Even though she’s shy, she doesn’t hold back in her diary. She lets readers know exactly how she feels. There’s also lots of zany characters in the books. For instance, Perse’s mum, Skye, is a yoga teacher and a laughter therapist. Her gran is a travel writer who goes bungee jumping. Her annoying next-door neighbor, Dillon Pickleton (aka Dill Pickle) is obsessed with Perse and Portia’s ‘twin-ness’ and runs around the yard playing knights and dragons with his dog, Camelot.

The series is written in diary format by Persephone (she’s the sensible twin) and the first book, Musical Mayhem is about a school musical.

Portia is the outgoing twin who loves to sing. Persephone (or Perse for short) is the shy twin who is often overshadowed by her super-confident sister and who is also a terrible singer. Perse can’t bear the idea of having to get up on stage in front of people. But everyone in class must play a part on stage…

Serena Geddes illustrations feature on every page and kids will connect with these books because they will relate to the characters and the problems that are faced by Persephone and poured out in her diary.

Aleesah says she is loving writing Totally Twins.

I love writing as Perse. I find it so easy to slip into her character and express her feelings about whatever challenge, or whatever joy, she’s facing. I think her sense of humour and her sensitivity may be similar to mine and she’s a Gemini like me, too. I also love writing about the other characters in the book. They’re always good for a laugh.

Working with an illustrator and seeing my characters breathed into life has been a very special and joyful experience, too.

Readers won’t have to wait long for the second book in the Totally Twins series. Model Behaviour is due out next month.

MY REVIEW OF MUSICAL MAYHEM

Just like Aleesah Darlison, I always thought it would be great to be a twin. I imagined how it would be to have someone who understands how you think and feel. And the idea of being able to switch identities seemed so appealing.

But as Aleesah conveys in Musical Mayhem, there’s also a downside. It can be easy for one twin to overshadow the other, for one or both to lose their individual identities.

Musical Mayhem is the first book in the Totally Twins series about ‘nearly eleven’ year-old twins Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. In a fun and engaging way, it raises issues of the ups and downs of being a twin.

The book is written in diary form from the point of view of Persephone, the ‘quiet’ twin. Her talented twin, Portia is trying out for the lead role in the school musical and it’s compulsory for every student to audition. The problem for Persephone is that she’s a really bad singer.

The thing that really came through in this book was the strong voice of the main character. Although she is the quiet one of the pair, Persephone has a lot to say in her diaries and she really lets the reader feel as if they are part of her world.

Persephone has a humour and perspective on life that will resonate with young readers. Her everyday problems with friends and family and how she handles them give us great insights into her character and make her likeable. Not so likeable is her twin sister Portia, although she shows remorse and reconciles with Persephone in the end.

I enjoyed reading about Persephone and was pleased to see her problems resolved, although it looks like she has plenty more to come (Book 2, Model Behaviour is due out in October). The relaxed format of this book and the great illustrations by Serena Geddes compliment the text and help to make Musical Mayhem a fun read for readers aged 9+.

Musical Mayhem is published by New Frontier Publishing.

MAKING THE DREAM A REALITY – MEET ALEESAH DARLISON – PART ONE

Four years ago Aleesah Darlison realized she could awaken her dreams of being a published author by writing when the kids were asleep and still be a mum.

I could have the best of both worlds! I also realized I wanted to write for children so I started learning ‘the craft’ properly for the first time in my life.

I attended workshops, networked, read stacks of kids’ books, wrote in every spare second that I could, entered every competition that came my way, sent my work away to publishers. I got loads and loads of rejections, but I also started to get acceptances. Slowly, I began to make the unattainable dream a reality.

Aleesah has always been an avid reader and says that somewhere deep inside she has always been a writer, too. She won a writing competition when she was a teenager, and started dabbling in writing then, but she never properly embraced the challenge – or dared to dream that she could be a real, published author – until much later in life.

I think it was never letting go, and always working hard to achieve that dream that finally made me believe I was a writer. I’ve doubted myself often, but thankfully I’ve had others close to me who have believed in me.

This month Aleesah celebrates the release of Musical Mayhem, the first book in her Totally Twins series about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. As a child, Aleesah always wanted an identical twin.

I’d read stories about identical twins playing tricks on people and sharing things no one else could. In times when I felt unfairly treated by my parents, I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a twin, a soul mate, who would feel as miserable as I do right now, or who would cheer me up?’. So, when I came to write this book, I drew on those memories and that desire to have a soulmate to share everything with. I also realized that sometimes things wouldn’t be perfect between twins and that I could draw on that fact to create loads of drama.

The Totally Twins series (for girls aged 9 +) is written in diary format by Persephone, and Magical Mayhem is about a school musical. Portia is the outgoing twin who loves to sing. Persephone (or Perse for short) is the shy twin who is often overshadowed by her super-confident sister and who is also a terrible singer. Perse can’t bear the idea of having to get up on stage in front of people. But everyone in class must play a part on stage…

Readers can find out more about Persephone or get in touch with  Aleesah by visiting her website at: www.aleesahdarlison.com.  And for more information about Serena Geddes and her work, they can visit her website at: www.reeni.com.au. Aleesah says,

Serena and I are embarking on a national tour to promote the Persephone series in schools and libraries as a ‘Dynamic Creative Duo’ and to give the inside scoop on Persephone and her sister, Portia. We’re really looking forward to it. We hope to meet lots of Perse fans, and lots of Kids’ Book Capers readers, over the next few months.

On Wednesday, Serena will visit Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her journey and her wonderful illustrations, and on Friday, we’ll go ‘under to cover’ of  “Totally Twins” and find out more about Persephone and Portia Pinchgut and their story.