Celebrating Mal Peet

Mal PeetMal Peet was a delight to read and meet. I can’t describe him as a YA author because he would loathe that description, refusing to see his writing pigeonholed into age categories. But clearly both young adults and adults appreciated his novels, and children his picture books.

He has left a legacy of memorable books (published by Walker Books) and is an author I collect, beginning with Keeper (2003), which won the Branford Boase Award in the UK and was shortlisted for the Deutscher Jungendliteraturpreis in Germany. Although I recall him saying that he never played the role of keeper/goalie in football, Mal created a vivid picture set against the backdrop of an imaginary South American jungle.Keeper

Tamar (2005) is one of his two books set around war and spying. It won the Carnegie medal and, like most of his novels, is for mature readers.

The Penalty (2006) and Exposure (2008) re-introduce journalist Paul Faustino, first met in Keeper. Exposure is a bold re-interpretation of Othello. It won the prestigious Guardian Award and was shortlisted for the Australian Inky Awards. This trilogy of sports novels achieves the distinction of having literary merit and also being interesting.

Life an Exploded DiagramLife: An Exploded Diagram (2011) is the partly biographical story of Clem who grew up in the 1960s in Norfolk, England. He outgrows his home, his parents and his place. He also outgrows his social status by falling for rich landowner’s daughter, Frankie.

At the same time that Clem is growing up, the Cold War, a time where the two superpowers, the USSR representing the Communist Eastern bloc and the USA, representing the Capitalist West, are playing a game of cat and mouse for high stakes – the safety or decimation of the world.

There are a number of explosions – actual and anticipated – while President John F Kennedy tries to stop his war chiefs from retaliating against the Russians and destroying Cuba.

When I first spoke about Life: An Exploded Diagram amongst other books, senior English teachers burned with curiosity. That was the book they wanted to talk about afterwards. I was incredibly fortunate to later chair Mal at the Sydney Writers’ Festival with the brilliant Ursula Dubosarsky. We explored rites of passage in the 1960s through Mal’s Exploded Diagram and Ursula’s The Golden Day. Mal described Ursula’s writing style as ‘elliptical economy’ and his own writing as ‘verbose’ but ‘generous’ may be a better description. He was a raconteur, sitting forward in delight at the questions and I treasure one email to me, which begins, I do so like using the phrase ‘Hello, Joy’. The opportunities are none too common.

Cloud Tea MonkeysMy favourite of Mal’s other books is Cloud Tea Monkeys, co-written with his wife, Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard and shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. It’s a poignant tale about a young girl who has to take her ill mother’s place working in the tea plantations.

Mal Peet was an ebullient, intellectually active and curious man. He wrote with a broad sweep, across WWII and the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Football World Cup – but still with intimacy by telling personal stories. He was an inimitable writer.

 

Books of Australia – For Kids

January 26th marks the date in which Australians reflect upon our cultural history and celebrate the accomplishments since the first fleet landed on Sydney’s shores in 1788. Here are a select few picture books aimed at providing children with some background knowledge of our beautiful land, flora, fauna and multicultural diversity. There is plenty of scope for teaching and learning opportunities under the Australian curriculum, and respectful inclusions of Aboriginal traditions.  

9781921966248An Aussie Year; Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids, Tania McCartney (author), Tina Snerling (illus.), EK Books, 2013.  

What a joyous celebration of all things Australiana, all encompassed in one gorgeous book; An Aussie Year. From January through to December, with every season in between, from Melbourne to Sydney’s City to Surf and the Great Barrier Reef, we get a taste of Australian life for five young individual children of different cultural backgrounds. Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda provide us with snippets of their typical ethnic traditions, seasonal activities, food, terminology and special events that occur throughout the year. From icy poles, cricket, swimming and Australia Day in January, to back-to-school, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year in February. April brings Easter, Anzac Day and the Antipodes Festival, and creepy-crawlies and Mother’s Day breakfast are common occurrences in May.
Tania McCartney’s Aussie culmination continues with plenty more fun and interesting experiences as told by the kids, beautifully capturing our wonderful multicultural nation. The pictures by Tina Snerling illustrate that diversity perfectly; they are colourful, creative, rich and varied in what they portray, and very sweet.
An Aussie Year is a wonderful learning resource for primary aged children, as well as an engaging and delightful book just to peruse and reflect upon for both young and old.  

9781921504402Jeremy, Chris Faille (author), Danny Snell (illus.), Working Title Press, 2013.  

One of the wonderful elements of Australia is our exotic and amazing wildlife. The king of the bush is no exception. In ‘Jeremy’, a heartwarming story is brought to reality with the events of a growing baby kookaburra over the course of several weeks. Starting out as an ugly, featherless chick, Jeremy is brought in by the family cat and cared for by its loving family. Descriptive language allows the reader to learn his behavioural traits and aesthetic characteristics. As the story develops, we also become familiar with his personality; as an endearing and cheeky little bird, who loves to watch television and spy the goldfish for lunch. Stumbles and crashes are all part of learning to fly. But once established, a final kiss goodbye sees Jeremy reunited with his kookaburra family as they fly away into the sunset together.
Based on a true story, ‘Jeremy’ is a beautifully written and engaging information story by author Chris Faille. Illustrator Danny Snell has provided equally soft and detailed acrylic paintings. Preschoolers will adore learning about the kookaburra’s development and fascinating facts, as seen in the endpapers, as well as showing them the need to care for defenceless creatures.  

9780763670757Big Red Kangaroo, Claire Saxby (author), Graham Byrne (illus.), Walker Books, 2013.  

Another native animal to Australia is the symbolic kangaroo, and in ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ by Claire Saxby (author of other Aussie themed books including Meet the Anzacs and Emu), the typical behaviours of these large marsupials is explored in both a storytale and informative format.
‘Red’ is surrounded by his mob, and at nightfall they bound off in search of grasses. Did you know that kangaroos sometimes regurgitate their food to help with digestion? The mob are met by other creatures looking for water in the middle of the dry season. But they cannot settle when other male kangaroos are nearby. Red is the male leader, but is soon challenged by another to take over his mob. A brief fight for dominance sees Red retain his role as king, and he takes his followers to the safe shelter amongst the trees.
A compelling account, written with sophisticated, descriptive language, and enlightening charcoal and digital media illustrations to match. Equipped with an index and plenty of information, ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ is the perfect learning tool for primary school aged children.  

9781922081322Calpepper’s Place, Trudie Trewin (author), Donna Gynell (illus.), Windy Hollow Books, 2014.  

In ‘Calpepper’s Place’ we are taken on a journey with a range of Australian animals around our beautiful continent. It is an adorable story of acceptance, and trying new adventures.
Calpepper is a camel who decides one day that trudging through the hot desert just isn’t exciting enough. He jumps aboard a bus named ‘Adventure Tours to the Unknown’, and in a trialing series of experiences, Calpepper discovers these places are not the places for him after all. Whooshing down chilly ski slopes, being trampled by an avalanche of shoes in the concrete jungle, and tumbling off a wave onto the beach shore are not camely sorts of places. Finally, a little ray of sunshine gives him the comfort he needed and he returns back to plod along with the camel train once again.
A rhythmic story with fun, varied text and expressive language, gorgeously fluid and whimsical watercolour illustrations, make ‘Calpepper’s Place’ a truly engaging way to explore our scenic country and appreciate your own special place to call home.  

9781922179760A is for Australia, Frané Lessac (author / illus.), Walker Books, 2015. (See also Midnight and Ned Kelly and the Green Sash). 

Described as a ”factastic tour of Australia” and a ”celebration of Australian people, places and culture.” Exactly that, Frané Lessac’s ‘A is for Australia’ is a colourful, informative and truly engaging book visiting various locations around our amazing country. With each letter of the alphabet, we are introduced to many of Australia’s fascinating and iconic landmarks, covering every state and territory. From our beautiful beaches, to the dry outback, busy major cities and temperate rainforests, this book provides ample opportunity to get to know more about geographical places and the flora, fauna, people and structures that can be found there. Riveting facts accompany each location, including indigenous and cultural history. For example, the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, took 16 years to build and opened in 1973.
There is plenty to experience with this bright, aesthetically pleasing and engrossing information book about our special continent. It is perfect for families to share (and create) their own memories and experiences, and for primary school children to utilise for their Australian studies.  

So, after travelling through the alphabet, the seasons and across Australia, you’ll be able to say, ‘I’ve been everywhere, man. Here, there, everywhere, man!’

Happy Australia Day, Australia!

Books of Summer – For Kids

In Australia we’re in the midst of Summer, although here in Melbourne we’ve already had all four seasons in one, sometimes even in one day! A great way to familiarise children with all that the season encompasses is through engaging language experiences. That means providing children opportunities to see, do, touch, listen, read and think about different activities (going to outdoor places like the beach, pool, etc), and then talk, write and create about them.   
I’ll suggest a few fantastic picture books to get stuck into following your outdoor Summer adventures, as well as some fun learning tasks to enrich and reinforce what your child has discovered.  

rules-of-summerRules of Summer, Shaun Tan (author / illustrator), Lothian, 2013. CBCA Winner 2014, Queensland Literary Awards Winner 2014.

Wow. Just wow! Shaun Tan has brought a truly fantastical, mysterious and somewhat dark version of what Summer means to a pair of young brothers. Amazingly thought-provoking and surreal, with spectacular, Van-Gogh-like paintings, this book promotes analytical skills in deciphering its’ content; both the text and the images.
Exploring the complicated relationship between the boys, each spread states a new rule to obide by. But failing to comply results in harsh consequences, particularly for the younger brother. In the end the pair join forces in an imaginatively delightful celebration of summer fruits and a beautiful sunset. And after all the emotion, conflict, darkness and out-of-this-world imagery, there’s still room for a little chuckle as seen in the endpaper.
Suited to primary school aged children who will enjoy adding their own interpretation to the depth and meaning that Shaun Tan has conveyed.  

2015-01-07-15-06-02--1990215886Granny Grommet and Me, Dianne Wolfer (author), Karen Blair (illustrator), Walker Books, 2013, CBCA Shortlist 2014.

An enchanting book about a boy narrator who delights at the sea’s wonders, with his Granny and her elderly, grommet friends (a grommet is a young or beginner surfer). There is much humour in watching old ladies twisting, turning, zooming through dumpers and riding a curler wave to the shore! However, the boy feels nervous about what he doesn’t know, but Granny reassures and shows him safe and friendly things in the sea.
Lovely, gentle text by Wolfer, from the perspective of a child, beach safety tips, and fun, colourful paint and pencil drawings by Blair, make Granny Grommet and Me an engaging and reassuring story to be read many times over.  

noni-the-pony-goes-to-the-beachNoni the Pony Goes to the Beach, Alison Lester (author / illustrator), Allen & Unwin, 2014.

Following the original Noni the Pony, the loveable pony is back and ready to set off to the beach with her companions; Coco the cat and Dave the dog. As far as cats go, Coco prefers to be nonchalant and stay dry. But like any typical energetic dog, Dave bounds off through the waves to find a whale, only to become stranded in the middle of the ocean. In her true heroic, caring manner, Noni is there to fish him out and return to the safety of the shore.
With Alison Lester’s characteristically gorgeous, endearing illustrations, and gentle, rhythmic wording, Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach is a fun, positive tale of friendship and all things magical about visiting the beach.  

a-swim-in-the-sea-1A Swim in the Sea, Sue Whiting (author), Meredith Thomas (illustrator), Walker Books, 2013. Speech Pathology Australia Winner 2014.

A gorgeous story of an excitable young Bruno who can’t wait to experience the big blue sea for the first time. Wildly eager to dive right in, Bruno suddenly halters at the loud, thumping, pounding waves, which frighten him. As his family introduce him to other fun beach activities, like rockpools and sand cities, Bruno eventually discovers that the big blue sea is far from scary.
Sue Whiting’s text is beautifully descriptive and engaging. I love the way she talks about the sea; ”wobbling like a sparkly blue jelly”. And Meredith Thomas’ illustrations are equally expressive, bold and moving with bright, complimentary colours that almost literally wash over the pages.
A delightfully sunny story about first-time experiences at the beach, and facing one’s fears.  

seadogSeadog, Claire Saxby (author), Tom Jellett (illustrator), Random House Australia, 2013. Speech Pathology Australia Winner 2013.

An adorably funny story about a dog who is not like other working, well-trained dogs that fetch sticks, sit still then roll over and stay clean. Their dog is a Seadog, a run-and-scatter-gulls, crunch-and-munch, jump-and-chase Seadog. And although he is not a bath dog, there comes a time to sit-still-till-it’s-done, until…
With Jellett’s characteristically boisterous and comical illustrations, Seadog is a great read-aloud book perfect for little ones who enjoy romping with their dogs at the beach.  

9781925161168_ONASMALLISLAND_WEBOn a Small Island, Kyle Hughes-Odgers (author / illustrator), Fremantle Press, 2014.

‘On a small island, in a gigantic sea, lives Ari.’ Ari lives alone, collecting objects and watching the large ships pass by. One day a captain visits and tells Ari of the wonderful and intriguing people, buildings and exceptional artefacts of a great land on the horizon. Ari longs for a place like this and feels alone on his island. Until he has a brilliant, creative idea which eventually attracts the footsteps of many, and he is finally able to appreciate his surroundings and frequenting company.
Exotic, Mediterranean-style paintings, packed with mosaics, pattern and texture, artist and author Kyle Hughes-Odgers has created a magnificent flowing story exploring isolation, friendship, creativity and recycling that is both sophisticated and unique.  

With a few more weeks of Summer school holidays left, there’s plenty of time to head outdoors and enjoy the sunshine with your little ones (and furry ones, too!). Then find a cool, shady spot like Coco the cat for some relaxing summertime reading!  
And for some fun teaching and learning activities related to the Summer theme, head to www.pinterest.com/mylilstorycrner.
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What I’m reading this Christmas: Claire Smith, Walker Books

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Claire Smith. Spark

You’re the marketing assistant at Walker Books, Australia, and you’re going to share your Christmas picks with us. But first let’s find out about you and some books you’ve been working with.

Walker Books  (based in Sydney)  is known for its children’s and YA books. Which do you work on/prefer?

Being in marketing and publicity, I’m lucky enough to get to work on most books that we publish. Children’s publishing is one of those great industries where you really do see a variety of work from a wide variety of people. We often have to stop in meetings and ask “Are we really having this intense discussion about a book on the history of poo?” It really does make for some good stories when people ask what you do. From a reading perspective, I really get into our dystopian YA like Rachael Craw’s Spark, but I also love a beautiful picture book and am a big Jon Klassen fan.

This is not my HatYou’re a marketing assistant – what does a marketing assistant do?

A marketing assistant is really a team all-rounder. I get to liaise with our international offices in London and Boston which allows me a sneak peek at some of the great international titles we sell. I’m also lucky enough to work on our community partnerships and get to donate our books to amazing causes and help to get our authors out to smaller community festivals and charity events. The children’s book industry is so incredible and supportive, it is amazing to be a part of and to keep meeting so many great people in the industry.

How did you get this job?

In 2012 I completed a Masters of Publishing at Sydney Uni. This involved getting to know the business and allowed me to complete an internship as part of my studies. I interned for a few months in the publicity department at Hachette and fell in love with the hustle and bustle of being part of a marketing and publicity team. That experience helped me get the job at Walker, which I am incredibly grateful for. For anyone looking to work in publishing, an internship really is the way to get your foot in the door and find out if this industry is one you can see yourself in.

I suspect you love all the books you promote, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of.

I do love all the books we promote! I am especially proud of Spark by Rachael Craw. It was one we all loved as soon as we got our hands on the manuscript. After some incredible work by our editorial team, it was even more spectacular. And my friend Amy did an amazing cover for it that everyone raves about. We met with Rachael and talked about what we can do for her marketing wise, but also what she can do for herself. She took like a duck to water with social media and has been winning fans left, right and centre. We are all really proud of how well Spark and Rachael have done, and so excited for the next book in the series!

What is different/special about Walker Books? 

Where to start with what is special about Walker?!? It is honestly one of the most inclusive and joyous places to be. The people are hard-working, funny, kind and above all so passionate about what they do and the children’s book industry. It is these wonderful people that really help to make the books what they are – their creativity, their eye for quality and their drive to produce the best children’s books available. We are all grateful for the opportunity to work and learn at Walker, and even if we sometimes feel tired or busy, we will all strive to do the best work we can. It really is an awesome place to work, especially for someone just starting out in the industry – getting to learn from these people every day is so wonderful. And getting to be friends with them? Cherry on top!

What are some awards Walker has won that have particular significance for you?

I recently got to attend the KOALA Awards with Bob Graham who won Honour Book for A Bus Called Heaven. It was so A Bus Called Heavenexciting to attend an awards ceremony in a hall full of kids who had been reading all year and who had voted for their favourite books. That really is why we do what we do – so kids can continue to read quality books. It was also really exciting to get to spend time with Bob Graham – who is an absolute master at what he does and one of the sweetest people you will ever meet.

What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?

I think the book industry – especially the children’s industry – has a bright future ahead. Seeing how hard authors, illustrators and publishers work can only mean good things for the industry in general and great things for readers. The children’s industry is also so well connected that everyone who is a part of it is constantly doing their part to make it vibrant, inclusive and fun to be a part of.

What are some must-reads over Christmas?

Christmas reading for me is always those big tomes that were a little too daunting earlier in the year. Last Christmas I managed to get through The Luminaries before the new year started – it’s great to be able to give all your attention to a book without anything else getting in the way.

The LuminariesWhat is your secret reading pleasure?

At the moment I’ve become a little obsessed with crime fiction. I flew through all three Gillian Flynn novels, including Gone Girl, and am now reading anything I can get my hands on by the wonderful Irish author Tana French. Her prose is fantastic and I love anything with a good twist at the end. I don’t know that much about Ireland, but her novels are great regardless.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Claire. The Secret Place

 

 

 

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
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More about the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Go Round in the Sea

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

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

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

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

Vanguard of Debut Children’s Authors

Tiger StoneA surge of debut novels by talented Australians for children and young adults may be on the way. Deryn Mansell’s Tiger Stone  (Black Dog Books), an original, intricate mystery set in fourteenth century Java for upper primary and junior secondary readers and Caro Was Here by Elizabeth Farrelly (Walker Books) are some forerunners.

Caro Was Here is also aimed at upper primary school children. Rather than a historical mystery, it is a cool, contemporary mystery adventure. It’s an addictive, pacey read and is today’s equivalent of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five but better written and with more depth of characterisation (not to detract from Blyton, whose books I, and practically everyone else, relished as a child).

Caro is a fascinating character – a bit over-confident, a bit opinionated and a rule-breaker. The novel begins just before the Easter break when twelve-year-old Caro inadvertently sticks up for ‘poached-egg glasses’-wearing nerd, Nigel Numbnuts on the bus. She’s not sure that it will help her chances of becoming Year Six Winter Captain but she has to do it. Her election speech is eclipsed by new American girl, Ellen Aurelia Dufresne, who later becomes part of the group who wag the last afternoon of term.

Ned, Caro’s younger half-brother, Nigel and Ellen, as well as one of her best friends, Tattie, follow Caro to Sydney Harbour. After Caro makes them put their phones in a locker at Circular Quay to enhance the adventure of their afternoon, they miss the ferry to Cockatoo Island and have to catch the boat to Goat Island instead. Some of the history of the island interests them but is convict Charles Anderson’s fate a foretaste of what might be lying in wait for them? Goat Island

When they miss the last ferry and have to spend the night on the dark island in the rain, they realise that they’re not alone. The author continues in the vein of contemporary adventure to create a deliberately uber-thrilling situation, while adding backstories and depth to the main characters.

The cover is perhaps the only downfall of the book. I assumed it signalled introspective realism because of the stylised images of a hand and matchstick, but these components do make sense when you read the story.

Overall, Caro Was Here, Tiger Stone, and other current works by debut writers, seem to be the vanguard in an exciting new era for children’s literature. And thanks also to the farsighted publishers who are delivering works by new authors.

 

Review – Vanilla Icecream

Vanilla Icecream 2You might as well know my weakness. It’s ice cream. Any flavour, most kinds, regardless of country of origin. I am extremely ice cream tolerant and I wonder if Bob Graham had similar thoughts when he penned his latest picture book masterpiece, Vanilla Icecream.

Vanilla Icecream is an eloquently articulated tale about a young curious sparrow whose world revolves around a dusty truck stop in the heart of India. He enjoys his existence and relishes his freedom with the blithe objectivity of all wild things until one day his pluck and appetite hook up with fate, which escorts him south across rough seas and through dark nights, eventually delivering him ‘into a bright new day’.

Unperturbed by his new environment in a different land, the truck stop sparrow chances upon a new eating hole and Edie Irvine, a toddler whose young life is inextricably changed forever because of him.

Bob Graham Graham’s dramatic narration of the little sparrow’s epic journey stuns you with its beautiful brevity and makes you want to follow the courageous new immigrant and know if Edie’s and his paths will ever cross again. This is a largely self-indulgent desire on my part as I get quite caught up in Graham’s snapshots of life, wanting them to never end. Nonetheless, end they must and this one’s delicious denouement is as immeasurably satisfying as a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla Icecream EdieThere are numerous wordless pages in this picture book as Graham shapes much of the narration visually with his splendid, slightly sassy, culturally sensitive illustrations. Graham has the unique, unaffected knack of suffusing modern day nuances with old-fashioned appeal into his pictures that draw the eye of young and old alike deep into the story in spite of the apparent simplicity on shown on the page.

This story allowed me to sift through memories, mostly glorious of my own ‘firsts’ and it reminded me of my daughter’s wonderment when discovering her first time, life-changing tastes, notions, and realisations. What Vanilla Icecream evokes in you depends entirely on your own memories and attitude towards new people and new experiences, and your fondness for ice cream of course. However, you will be hard pressed to find a better way to introduce the complex ideals of human rights, fate, and immigration to young ones where a lightness of touch is more readily comprehended than harsh dry facts. As Amnesty International UK proclaims through its endorsement of Vanilla Icecream;

‘…we should all enjoy life, freedom, and safety. These are some of our human rights.’

Vanilla Icecream is quite simply a stunning picture book. Quiet and unassuming in its appearance. Complex and multi-layered enough to warrant spirited discussion with 3 to 103 year olds.

The perfect scoop.

Walker Books UK  2014

Bob Graham fans in our southern states should not miss the ACT Museum+Gallery Exhibition: A Bird in the Hand! Bob Graham: A Retrospective on now until 24th August 2014, in Canberra. A must see.bobgraham_banner

Meet Suzy Zail, author of Alexander Altmann A10567

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Suzy.

Alexander Altmann

Your second novel for young adults, Alexander Altmann A10567 Black Dog Books (Walker Books)  is a candid account of a Hungarian boy’s experience in the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In spite of the horrific events, you have crafted a story of human indomitability and hope. Was this a deliberate strategy?

Yes.   There’s no episode more grim than the Holocaust. Alexander Altmann A10567 doesn’t shy away from the fact that the world can be a bleak and crushing place, but I also wanted to remind readers that we’re capable of great things, that we can help – in big and small ways – and that our capacity for friendship can powerful.

 Why are you interested in the holocaust?

My father inspired me to write the book. I was a litigation lawyer when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1998. My father had survived Auschwitz as a thirteen-year-old, but had never talked about his experiences. Once he was diagnosed he wanted to tell us everything. He didn’t want us to be victims or victimise others.

I left the law and spent the next 5 years writing his story, promising him, on the day he died, that I’d get it published. Writing The Wrong Boy and Alexander Altmann allowed me to remember him and pass on his warning never to forget.

Alexander Altmann was inspired by the true experiences of Fred Steiner, who worked in the elite horse commando at Auschwitz. What was the most disturbing thing he told you? The most hopeful?

The most disturbing episode was when he was forced to throw his baby cousin over a barbed wire fence hoping his aunt would catch him. (She did and that cousin is now living in San Francisco in her 60s.) The most hopeful was when Fred was severely whipped by the Commander but his wife called him by name and fed him cake.

How has the 2013 CBCA short-listing of The Wrong Boy changed your writing life?

wrong boy

 I came to writing fiction through non-fiction. It was a steep learning curve: from interviewing people to imagining them into existence. The short-listing allowed me to believe that my writing could touch people and I could master the craft of storytelling.

Why are you writing YA?

I didn’t pick YA. My stories did. Young adults are the next generation of leaders. They’re our future and the perfect audience for a story set in Auschwitz. The only way to prevent something like the Holocaust recurring is by trying to understand it and the best way to help kids do that is giving them a character to care about. Not millions of Jews – just one – a girl or boy their age with the same fears, dreams and insecurities.

I knew teenagers would relate to the stories because their lives, like Hanna and Alexander’s, can also involve betrayal, abandonment, loneliness and shame. They’re also discovering their identity, so a book that encourages them to examine intolerance and question how they want to live is powerful.

 

 

Five Faves (Picture Books) for Book Week

Here are 5 fantastic favourites you should reach out and grab onto with both hands – FAST!

Silver Buttons Silver Buttons by Bob Graham, Walker Books UK August 2013

Jodie draws a duck just as her baby brother, Jonathon, takes his first steps. An exquisite and poetic glimpse at a speck in time overflowing with life; beginnings and farewells, dramas and insignificances. Brimming with Bob Graham magic.

Banjo and Ruby Red Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, Little Hero Books, August 2013 Antagonistic Ruby the chook is teasing, taunting, stubborn and disregarding. Old Border Collie, Banjo, is determined, loyal and equally as strong-willed. A sometimes smiling, sometimes heart faltering look at the love and friendship that ties two seemingly opposites together.

Omar the Strongman Omar the Strongman, by Gregory Rogers, Scholastic Australia, July 2013 A tender tale of a big man with an even bigger heart who eventually finds his perfect sense of place and value in the circus of all places. Sensitively and sublimely depicted as only Gregory Rogers can.

Davy and the Duckling Davy and the Duckling, Margaret Wild and Julie Vivas, Penguin/Viking Australia, July 2013 Perfectly orchestrated story of a duckling who imprints on a boy who becomes his everything even after the boy becomes an actual human father years later. A gorgeous cyclical life tale of enduring relationships and the power of the bond of love.

The Nelly Gang The Nelly Gang, The Adventures of Nelly Nolan, by Stephen Axelsen, Walker Books Australia, August 2013 Rousing adventure yarn presented as graphic picture book, set in the 1850’s and chock full of bushrangers, gold, and unlikely heroes.

Why are these books all worth a look? Because they are supremely strong tales, gently told by phenomenal story tellers and harmoniously illustrated by renowned illustrators.

There is something for every taste. View and buy any of these picture books simply by clicking on the title.

Happy Reading!

 

 

5 Faves from Afar

The volume of literary genius Australia possesses is staggering. Distill this down further to talented kids’ authors and illustrators and you’d still fill oceans, which is why I love showcasing our home grown children’s books.

But it’s impossible to ignore the magnitude of offerings from overseas too. So every now and then I’ll give you 5 Faves from overseas.

Here is the first fistful – all picture books this time round.

Waiting for Later1. Waiting for Later by Tina Matthews Walker Books Australia (OK published here but Tina is from NZ so sneaks in on this list). Nancy’s family are too busy to play with her. Each time she appeals for their attention, the reply is ‘later’. Nancy holds out for ‘later’ in a grand old tree in her garden with surprising results. An evocative cautionary tale reminding us of the precious brevity of childhood told in captivating book-end style.

2. Too Many Girls by Jonty Lees Eight Books Limited UK. Fun, frivolous and very pink in parts. Any Dad outnumbered by females will immediately sympathise with this poor fellow who is subject to an appalling lack of privacy, regular nail painting and indiscriminate hairstyling thanks to the females in his household. The crisis erupts in a ‘brush war’ resulting in some happy compromises and a lovely shade of purple. A lesson in the art of acceptance (and why men will never rule the world)Too many Girls

Fantastic Flying Books3. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore by W E Joyce and Joe Bluhm. Simon & Schuster UK, originally by Athenum Books for Young Readers NY, USA. Immediately captivating. Glowing illustrations exude a burnished charm and warmth that complement the touching tale of Mr Morris Lessmore, a man who loved books and reading his whole life long. It’s a genuine never-ending story. Magnificently magic.

4. Blue Gnu by Kyle Mewburn and Daron Parton Scholastic NZ. Boo is not your average gnu. He’s blue for a start. And oscillates wildly betweenBlue Gnu yearning to fit in with the rest of the heard and being his own unique self. A warm and witty look a colours, patterns, differences and friendship.

This Moose belongs to Me5. This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers Harper Collins Children’s Books UK. Oliver Jeffers – enough said. One of my favourites of his. Illustrations divine enough to frame and hang on the wall plus a mockingly humorous story that questions the audacious assumption that we can really ever own anything outright in this world, equals pure genius. In the end, nature triumphs as does this must read picture book.

Do you have a favourite, unforgettable picture book? Let me know and it could make it onto 5 Faves.

Review – Gorilla

Hannah simply adores gorillas. She begs her father to take her to the zoo to see her favourite animal, but Dad is always too busy. During the week he is too busy. On the weekends, he is too busy.

The night before Hannah’s birthday, she asks her father for a gorilla and when she wakes, she does indeed find a gorilla on the end of her bed. A toy gorilla. Hannah is disappointed, but that night, something magical happens.

The gorilla becomes Dad-sized.

And he dons Dad’s coat and he takes Hannah on a nighttime adventure – to the zoo – to see the gorillas and all the other primates encased behind bars – so beautiful and yet so utterly sad. And then to the cinema and then for cake and ice cream and then dancing on the lawn.

Hannah has never been so happy. Until the next morning . . .

Anthony Browne’s iconic illustrations beautifully highlight the inherent magic in making wishes come true. Gorilla is subtle, tender, whimsical and engagingly beautiful.

Gorilla is published by Walker Books.

Review – Belonging


Next to Mirror, this is possibly my favourite of Jeannie Baker’s incredibly beautiful picture books. Not only is the imagery stunning, but the power of its wordless form is something Jeannie does with consummate style.

Belonging is deceptive in its simplicity. It features repeat double page spreads of a square window, showing an outdoor scene that truly affects the heart.

In the first double page spread, we see a young couple in the backyard with a new baby. There are lacy knickers on the line and a neighbour is planting in his garden next door. Behind the fence line of the house, we see an inner city scene, complete with a Smash Repair and a Pizza Hut.

As time goes by, the grass grows and so does the child and so does the city skyline behind the house. The weather changes, the toys in the window change. The hand-drawn height chart on the wall next to the window gets higher and higher as our young baby turns into a fine girl and then young woman, who one day has a child of her own.

So much changes over time – and our emotions change, too. We grow and feel and move with each and every page.

I love the cyclical nature of this book. I love the iconic detail which is truly astonishing in its variety, from a Picnic chocolate bar wrapper on the windowsill to the updated buses on the street. This 2008 version of the book – originally published in 2004 – has even been updated with some sky writing . . . the word SORRY appears in the sky on one page.

I most especially love the fact that as the story goes along, the streetscapes become more and more ‘green’.

This is a book of change, growth and hope. It is a wordless book but it speaks volumes about life and all its idiosyncratic beauty. It is a celebration of Australian life, of all life  – and it can be viewed and reviewed over and over – and each time the eyes are filled with more.

If you haven’t Jeannie-Bakered your life yet, start with this book. You won’t regret it.

Belonging is published by Walker Books.

Review – The Queen’s Maid

It may be a relatively low text book but this junior fiction title by June Crebbin ticked all the boxes for me. Sophisticated writing that is totally appropriate for the book’s 7- to 12-year-old target market, this is a fabulous read, least of all for its balanced, beautifully-written and edited prose, but especially for its rollicking storyline.

Crebbin has a real knack for creating luscious imagery with her words – and yes, children also deserve such clever writing – a clarity and sophistication that is normally reserved for adults. I love how she doesn’t talk down to her readers, but uses full, glorious wording and dialogue perfectly suited to the times – that of Queen Elizabeth I and the young Will Shakespeare.

Lady Jane Hargrave is thrilled to bits when none other than Elizabeth I pays visit to their family home in Dorsetshire, England. Astride her steed, Delphine, she waits at the top of the hill for the royal procession, which descends too quickly upon the house. Panicked, Jane flees back to the courtyard where she arrives just in time to greet the Queen.

Elizabeth I takes immediately to young Jane – and wants to learn more about her languages and horse riding and interests. Jane obliges in her candidly youthful way. Little does she know her candour is something the Queen covets and – much to her horror, at the end of her visit, Elizabeth asks Jane to become her sixth maid of honour. Of course, being so young, Jane is not ready to leave her mother, but her mother gently insists, for this is not an honour anyone could turn down.

Life at court is very different for young Jane, but she soon settles in and begins many a fascinating adventure. She even befriends a young stable lad who introduces her to William Shakespeare! Jane is fascinated with theatre life and manages to accidentally take part in a play at the Globe Theatre, much to her delight.

On her way back to court from visiting her ailing mother, Jane also finds herself aboard a ship in the midst of the approach of the Spanish Armada. So much excitement for such a young lass, and such a joy to be part of her adventures – and to feel first-hand the hot breath of history through Crebbin’s work.

Warm, clever, approachable and packed with superb line drawings that will keep more reluctant readers engaged, this is one of my favourite rapid reads this year.

The Queen’s Maid is published by Walker Books and is part of their Racing Reads series.

Review: The Greatest Liar on Earth

From tramp to world explorer extraordinaire, with adventurous tales to boggle the mind and cause the eyes to pop wide like saucers? Is it possible? Who was this man? Swiss-born footman, butler and jack-of-all-trades Henri Louis Grin – or world traveller Louis de Rougemont? Or both?

When an impoverished Henri began studying the diaries and tales of some of the world’s greatest explorers and travellers at the British Museum, an entire world formed in his imagination. Soon after, he began writing illustrated tales – The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont – for Wide World magazine, and soon became a sensation, attracting the attention of both the enraptured and the sceptical.

Claiming to have lived with Aborigines in the outback for 30 years, to have travelled to New Guinea in search of pearls and gold, to have seen monsters arise from the deepest oceans, flying wombats and fish falling from the sky, this formidable man even claimed to have the knack for riding sea turtles and wrestling crocodiles.

But was it all an elaborate hoax – or did he indeed pay witness to these stunning events?

Author Mark Greenwood explores the life of Henri Louis Grin with a gentle humour but moreover an innate sense of curiosity – a bit like the man himself. At the end of the book, he poses questions to the reader, allowing them to form their own opinion on truth v reality. I really enjoyed Greenwood’s use of sophisticated language and evocative wording, that not only help illustrate the complexity of Grin’s world, but stretch the reader.

Frané Lessac’s gorgeous, folksy illustrations similarly open Grin’s world to the reader and take them on a fantastical ride where the border between fact and fiction begin to blur. This combination of word and illustration by an award winning husband and wife team makes for a book that draws you in as effectively as the highfalutin tales of this masterful Swiss storyteller, who both delighted and appalled a rapt world audience.

“Truth is stranger than fiction but De Rougemont is stranger than both.” – The Wide World Magazine, June 1899

A curious, enriching and entertaining picture book for older readers.

The Greatest Liar on Earth is published by Walker Books Australia.

Truth is stranger than fiction
But De Rougemont is stranger than both

The Wide World Magazine, June 1899, No. 14

BLOOD RUNNER – The long race to freedom

Blood Runner is a thought provoking new novel by James Riordan about courage, hope and the strength of the human spirit.

Samuel’s parents and sister die in a bloody massacre. His brothers retaliate by joining the anti-Apartheid movement, with guns and terrorism as their weapons. But Sam decided to fight prejudice in his own way – as a runner.  Against all odds – from a poor township childhood to the Bantu homelands, from work in a gold-mine to competition for gold – he focuses his mind, body and heart on the long hard race to freedom…

Blood Runne is the story of a boy growing up in South Africa during Apartheid. Samuel’s idol is Nelson Mandela, and he is running for his president and his country. Samuel is determined to run faster than any white man.

Although Blood Runner is a story of much sadness and tragedy, Samuel’s character is compelling with his honesty, humbleness and hope. It’s about pride and how far one man can go to follow his heart, his talent and the courage of his convictions.

It chronicles an important piece of history, and will engage and inform young readers.

Blood Runner is historical fiction for readers 12+ and is published in Australia by Walker Books.

ROSIE BLACK – EQUINOX – Book 2

FIVE HUNDRED YEARS INTO THE FUTURE

the world is a different place. The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the ‘Centrals’; the have-nots, the Bankers; and the fringe dwellers, the ‘Ferals’.

Rosie Black is a courageous but vulnerable 16 year-old who lives in a futuristic world where it’s hard to know who to trust and bad choices can prove fatal.

After losing her mother and her best friend, Rosie’s world has been turned upside down and her priorities have changed.

Rosie is hell bent on helping develop a cure for the disease that killed her mother and almost claimed her father’s life. The disease has been manufactured by the Helios regime. They are intent on taking over the world, but Rosie Black is equally determined to bring them down.

Equinox, by Lara Morgan is the second book in The Rosie Black Chronicles. It’s just as action-packed as the first book, Genesis. If you loved Genesis, you’ll love Equinox and like me, you’ll be hanging out for the third Rosie Black Chronicle.

Equinox has great characters, non-stop action and a fascinating world where space travel and all sorts of things are possible.

Lara Morgan creates such a vivid place for her characters to inhabit that I found myself totally believing in it.

Rosie is placed in life threatening situations but she still faces normal teen dilemmas like being torn between her first love, the Feral, Pip and  Dalton, the ‘Central’ who appears to have everything.

Her attraction for the charming Dalton is tempered with mistrust. Why would someone from a privileged background like Dalton be interested in helping her and ‘the cause’.

Riley, who’s in charge of operations isn’t telling Rosie the full story and when he puts an implant in her brain it turns out to be more than routine and when it malfunctions, it puts her life in jeopardy.

Rosie is reluctantly forced to see the help of Cassie, Riley’s gorgeous but unfriendly sister.

And just when Rosie, Pip and Dalton seem to have everything under control, Rosie is double crossed by Agent Sulawayo and might be forced to make a deal to save them all.

Equinox is tightly written and although the fast-pace draws the reader forward, we still feel connected to the characters as if we know them.

Equinox is written by Lara Morgan and published by Walker Books.

 

 

 

 

 

PAN’S WHISPER REVIEW – A BOOK BLOG TOUR

Today, Kids’ Book Capers is one of the stops on author Sue Lawson’s blog tour to celebrate the release of her new YA novel, Pan’s Whisper.

Pan’s Whisper is a deeply moving book about a damaged girl trying to move on from her past and build a new life with strangers who seem to want to get close to her no matter how much she fights against it.

Pan Harper is brash, loud and damaged. Ordered into foster care, Pan is full of anger at her mother and older sister and is certain that she knows the reality of her past – until she meets Hunter, the boy who understands her story better than anyone else, and who just may be the key to unlocking the truth of Pan’s memories.

But are some memories best left forgotten? And is Hunter worth Pan breaking her most important rule? Never. Trust. Anyone.

Pan is a sensitively drawn character who has faults and does things that make the reader cringe, but her honesty and vulnerability make us forgive her in the same way as the characters in the story do.

Pan’s Whisper is told in first person from Pan’s point of view and third person from her sister, Morgan’s and this helps to clearly differentiate the two characters. It also foreshadows for the reader that for some reason, Morgan can no longer become completely involved in Pan’s world.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it’s such an authentic representation of the vulnerability of small children and the fact that what they remember or think they remember can be different from a reality they can’t remember or don’t want to face.

Pan’s first instinct is always to flee from reality, but through the love and support of her newfound family and friends she learns to confront the things she fears most and find a way to acceptance within herself.

This poignant book is beautifully written with the scene clearly set and the characters full of qualities and foibles that endear them to the reader.

There are strong themes and issues handled with such sensitivity that the reader is aware of them throughout but they have not been allowed to take over the story of Pan’s Whisper.

Things will never be the same again for Pan but there is hope at the end of the book as the reader sees her turning her life around.

Tissue box warning for this one but it will leave you feeling uplifted and optimistic about Pan’s future.

Pan’s Whisper is published by Black Dog (an imprint of Walker Books) for Young Adult readers.

Follow the Pan’s Whisper blog tour at these great blogs:

Blog tour stops:

Monday 12 December Claire Saxby Let’s Have Words
Tuesday 13 December Emma McCleary Booksellers New Zealand
Wednesday 14 December Dee White Dee Scribe Writing
Thursday 15 December Shirley Marr Life on Marrs
Friday 16 December Steph Bowe Hey Teenager
Monday 19 December Michael Earp Little Elf Man’s Random Thoughts
Tuesday 20 December Sue Whiting All in the Telling
Wednesday 21 December Anna Dolin Cherry Banana Split

 

 

 

 

 

ALEESAH DARLISON & UNICORNS

Aleesah Darlison is the author of the new Unicorn Riders series from Walker Books for readers aged 8+.

Books 1-4 have just been released and Aleesah is currently working on books 5 & 6 in the series. Today she visits Kids’ Book Capers to talk to us about her magical unicorn journey.

What inspired you to write this series?

I was always fascinated by the beauty, majesty and magic of unicorns as a child. I don’t think I’m the only one who has wished they were real! I used to collect unicorn figurines, stickers, paintings, pens – anything to do with unicorns, I kept. Often when I’m writing for children, I look back to my own childhood for inspiration. It’s the old adage: Write about what you know. Write about what you love. I’ve always loved unicorns so it seemed natural for me to write stories about them.

What’s it about?

Unicorn Riders is set within the make-believe kingdom of Avamay where anything can happen. Avamay is a magical yet dangerous place where the Riders and their unicorns serve as peacekeepers, rescuers and protectors. With the help of their magical unicorns, Riders face challenges and enemies that threaten to undermine the Queen and destroy peace within the realm. There are four Unicorn Riders: Willow (Head Rider), Quinn, Krystal and Ellabeth and four unicorns: Obecky, Ula, Estrella and Fayza. Each unicorn has their own unique magical ability. You can find out more about the characters in the Unicorn Riders series here:

What age groups is it for?

The series is for girls aged 8 years and over.

Why will kids like it?

It’s full of action, adventure, laughs and strong characters. Oh, and unicorns too!

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

There are four main characters: Willow, Quinn, Krystal and Ellabeth and I love them all. There are tiny pieces of me, and tiny pieces of people in my life, in each of the characters. Willow is the capable and fair leader, everyone loves and respects her, but sometimes she faces challenges she fears she can’t overcome. Quinn is small for her age and has had a tough upbringing, but she’s clever and gentle and generous despite it all. Ellabeth is feisty and courageous, but sometimes she rushes in or says things she shouldn’t. Krystal is beautiful and intelligent, but can occasionally be a self-absorbed. The girls are all courageous but are still fallible. They’re just like real people.

Is there something that sets this series apart from others?

The Unicorn Riders books aren’t your typical cute and fluffy or benign unicorn and fairies stories – they’re about strong, independent girls protecting their kingdom and their people from evil threats. The characters are strong role models and I think they have a lot to offer modern readers.

What did you enjoy most about writing this series?

The whole process has been a blast. In terms of writing the stories, the elements that most excite me are the planning of the action sequences, throwing challenges in the way for my characters to overcome, cooking up cliffhangers, creating new fantasy creatures (which are then brought to life by Jill Brailsford’s illustrations) and developing the relationships between the Unicorn Riders themselves.

What was the hardest thing about writing these books?

Meeting all the deadlines! To launch four books at once often Mary Verney, the editor for the series, and I were working on several books at once, writing or checking text and illustrations, of which there are quite a few in each book. There’s a lot to keep track of – and make sure it’s all done in time. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Friday, The Unicorn Riders series is reviewed here at Kids’ Book Capers.

 

REVIEW – VIOLET MACKEREL’S BRILLIANT PLOT

VIOLET MACKEREL  thinks she would QUITE LIKE to own the blue china bird at the Saturday markets.

This is not just a SILLY WISH.

It is instead the start of a VERY IMPORTANT idea.

But what she needs is a PLOT.

A BRILLIANT plot.

I wasn’t surprised to see Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot win an honour book at this year’s CBCA awards.

Written by Anna Branford and illustrated by Sarah Davis, this book is one that I can see kids keeping on their bookshelves and handing down to future generations. (Yes I have faith that print books will be around for many years to come).

Violet Mackerel, the central character has a small goal, to own a small china blue bird she has seen at the market where her mother has a knitting stall on a Saturday morning.

But this blue bird is special and it’s going to take a brilliant plot to make it hers.

Violet believes that collecting small things can lead to something big, even brilliant. In fact she has a Theory of finding small things and hopes that this will help her get her blue china bird.

Anna Branford really gets inside the head of a small child in this endearing story. I remember being Violet’s age and wanting a horse. There was one I particularly liked and I used to plan and dream about how I could get it to follow me home.

I think that every small child had goals and dreams that even their parents don’t know about and this is depicted so authentically in Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot.

Violet is very endearing in that she is fiesty, determined, but honest in her goals and how she goes about achieving them. And just as small children do, she becomes totally distracted by another project and forgets about her original goal.

In the end it’s through her kind nature and generosity of spirit that Violet gets what she wants in the story.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is a sensitively told tale that kids will enjoy reading or having read to them.

Sarah Davis’s beautiful black and white illustrations bring Violet’s story to life, showing her character and the emotions and turmoil she is going through. They are lively and sensitive illustrations with a touch of humour and bring the reality of Violet’s emotions closer to the reader.

There are even instructions at the end of the book showing the reader how to make their very own Box of Small Things.

Check out Violet’s website, violetmackerel.com.au to find out more about her adventures.

Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot is published by Walker Books.

 

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE INSPIRES “CAMP CROC”

Today, we welcome Queensland author, Trudie Trewin to Kids’ Book Capers. She’s here to talk about her writing adventures and her hilarious new children’s book for readers aged 9-13, Camp Croc.

Writing is something that Trudie says she always thought she’d have a go at “one day”.

But I had imagined I would write for adults. A random comment about children’s stories by a co-worker when I left for maternity leave got me thinking. Eventually, the thinking turned to doing, and I found that writing for kids was something I loved.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Having an excuse to daydream! The freedom of being able to work anywhere, anytime.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Convincing my family that lazing by the pool is how I mull over and fix up a plot I’m having trouble with!

What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?

In reality, I worked in finance, but if I could have my choice of any career…I’ve always thought being an astronaut would be pretty cool.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

Okay, this is pretty hard to admit, but I’m naturally lazy – so every time I move from just thinking about a story and jotting down notes, to the moment I have to actually sit down and write it all out is quite an achievement for me!

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read lots, write lots, talk to other writers lots, accept constructive criticism, and follow your heart.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

I love to sing, but I am truly terrible at it. When my boys were babies I used to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ to them at bedtime, and without fail they would always put their hand over my mouth, and as soon as they could talk, they would say ‘stop’ as well. Now I sing just to embarrass them!

ABOUT CAMP CROC

It’s about four mates who sneak away from a school camp, only to find themselves getting into hairy situations, or should I say, scaly situations, with both local wildlife and some wildlife smugglers.

What inspired you to write this book?

I read a newspaper article about a woman who went for a swim in one of our local beaches, and really did bump into a crocodile – and lived to tell the tale. I couldn’t stop thinking about what must have gone through her head when she realised that she was face to face with a croc – so I wrote a scene where a boy swims into a crocodile, and Daks was the character that bolted out of the water. I knew then that any character that had been through that ordeal deserved a whole story, not just a scene!

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about him/her?

Daks has a somewhat dry sense of humour, enjoys the company of his mates, and has an adventurous streak – but like all kids his age, his taste for adventure grows considerably in the presence of his mates. He can be hesitant to make new friends, but once he has he’s very loyal.

Are there any teacher’s notes, associated activities with the book?

Yes, on the Lightning Strikes website.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

Probably the humorous observations Daks and his friends make. Even in the face of danger they manage to find something funny to comment on.

What did you enjoy most about writing Camp Croc?

The action in it. There were times when my heart hammered faster than the keyboard as the boys lurched from one dangerous situation to the next!

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Trying to work out how the boys were going to get free when they were tied up to the trees. I even tied my boys up to trees to see if what I described was possible! Oh that reminds me…. better go and untie them now…

Camp Croc lovers will be pleased to know that Trudie is currently working on another story involving Daks and his mates.

On Friday we’re reviewing the hilarious Camp Croc here at Kids’ Book Capers.

Pics for this post were supplied from Trudie’s blog.



SCORPIA RISING – ALEX RIDER’S FINAL ADVENTURE

Scorpia Rising is the latest Alex Rider book by Anthony Horowitz. It’s the last book in the series and as far as red hot action goes, it doesn’t disappoint.

“Alex Rider wants his life back. But when you’re the world’s most successful spy, there’s only one way out. Alex’s final mission will be the deadliest of them all.”

In Scorpia Rising, Alex encounters some old foes. The crime syndicate Scorpia, who Alex has defeated twice already, has set a trap for MI6 where it plans to use Alex and lure him to his death.

Alex is also confronted with his old enemy the psychopathic Julius Grief who hates Alex with a passion because of past encounters. Julius is looking forward to being witness to Alex’s slow painful torture and eventual death.

Alex, who is well and truly ‘over’ being a teenage super spy is drawn back into this dangerous world and this time he might not escape with his life.

Scorpia Rising is fast-paced and full of gadgets to appeal to the techno head. As usual there’s never a dull moment, and people and situations are not what they seem.

It’s hard enough to end a book well, let alone a series, but Anthony Horowitz manages to tie up all the loose ends in a believable way that will leave readers feeling that things have reached their conclusion.

Like all the Alex Rider books, Scorpia Rising drags the reader in right from the start and doesn’t let them go till the last page.

Although the characters aren’t people that teen readers would encounter in their normal everyday world, they have flaws and feelings that make them credible. Despite his unusual talents, Alex is presented as a boy who makes mistakes and has flaws – these things make him real to the reader.

The Alex Rider books are full of suspense and all the elements to engage teen readers – particularly boys.

Every piece of action has been well researched and well thought out and in Scorpia Rising, the odds of Alex surviving seem more impossible than ever before.

There are more fascinating locations and exotic settings as Alex super spies his way across the globe, and places like Egypt provide a backdrop for new action and adventure.

In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, author Anthony Horowitz conveys his sadness that the Alex Rider series has come to an end with Scorpia Rising. There are many readers who will feel this way too.

Scorpia Rising is a great read for teens and is published by Walker Books.

 

“DEAD CERTAIN” WILL KILL A BAD MOOD

Sally Gould’s new novel, Dead Certain is a hilarious new addition to Walker Books’ Lightning Strikes series and although it has a funeral setting there is plenty to laugh about.

Max’s Uncle Jack has died from a heart condition and Max is the only person who knows Jack’s last wish was to be buried next to his father, not cremated. It’s a race against time for Max to convince people this is what Jack really wanted.

Max is determined to help his uncle out one last time,  even if that means he has to steal the body to stop the cremation from happening.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect to laugh so much over a story set at a funeral. But Max’s dilemma is so real and his antics are so desperate that they make for complete chaos that readers 9-13 will love.

Max is a great character with a strong voice and readers will easily engage with him and his predicament.

This fast-paced story will keep readers entertained. In a non confronting way, it also encourages discussion on what happens to you after you die, as well as issues of burial and cremation.

There’s also room for discussion about the generations and the dynamics of families and events that affect them.

HOW DEAD CERTAIN WAS CREATED

Author, Sally Gould says that the inspiration for this story came from the real life story of a relative who died.

He was a great bloke and loved by everyone who knew him. Earlier I’d arranged for Andy Griffiths to come and speak to my writing class. While I was at the funeral I thought, I wonder what Andy would do with this setting. The story idea followed. Max and Charlie are based on my sons. The oldest is logical and responsible like Charlie and the youngest is mischievous like Max.

Max is based on Sally’s youngest son when he was that age, so she says. “Of course I love everything about him.”

Particularly at that age he was determined that the world should be fair and the right thing should be done. What I like most about the character of Max is that I captured my son’s unique voice.

At the time I wrote this story, I’d take chapters to my writing class and the writers in my workshop group would be laughing themselves silly about Max’s antics and the things he’d think and say.

Sally says that the hardest part about writing the book was the editing process.

Max had many more crazy thoughts and lines, but of course my editor pared them down so the action wasn’t held up. Having to delete lines I loved was hard.

Teacher notes for Dead Certain are available from  www.walkerbooks.com.au/teachers. There is also a dedicated Walker Books Lightning Strikes website coming soon.


DEAD CERTAIN – A NEW LIGHTNING STRIKE FROM WALKER BOOKS

A funeral is an unusual setting for a children’s book, but Sally Gould has turned it into a riot that kids will find hilarious in her new novel, Dead Certain published by Walker Books Australia as part of their Lightning Strikes series.

Sally is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to talk about her writing and her new book. Before she became a writer, Sally was a corporate lawyer. She says,

Strangely, I see a similarity between taking complex areas of law and making them understandable and accessible to, for example, company directors and taking complex ideas and making them accessible to readers though a story.

After she decided to focus on her writing, Sally enrolled in a Professional Writing & Editing Class and took Rachel Flynn’s writing for Children subjects. Sally was the first of Rachel’s students in eleven years to have a picture book published (Charlotte and Me – Windy Hollow Books).

Sally says that her favourite part of writing is starting a new story.

I love when the seed of a story idea drops down from the heavens and into my head. Especially when I’m not looking for an idea and it’s a wonderful unexpected surprise.

But she finds the first draft hard.

While I love nurturing the initial story idea into a fully formed plan, I find writing the first draft hard. I know I shouldn’t self edit as I’m writing, but I often do and so I don’t enjoy the process of the first draft. The last set of drafts make up for it though.

At the moment she is working on a paranormal series for 9-13 year olds and it’s the first time she has attempted this genre.

SALLY’S TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS

I think one of the most important things to do is to form a writing group where you read and critique each other’s work. The feedback needs to be honest and constructive and I think a group works best if the members are at about the same level.

CONSISTENT THEMES IN SALLY’S WORK

Jumping to conclusions is a favourite theme of mine, probably because I have a tendency to do just that. Two educational books I’ve written contain that theme. And I have written a number of stories in locations where we’ve been on family holidays. Chase through Venice is a picture book I have coming out in April with Windy Hollow Books. While we were in Venice, I wanted to buy a picture book that showed off the sights, but I couldn’t find one so I wrote that story.

Join us back here on Wednesday when Sally will be talking about how she wrote Dead Certain and we’ll be reviewing this hilarious new book.

VALUE ADDING TO PICTURE BOOKS

I’ve noticed recently that there seems to be an increasing trend to attach giveaways and merchandise to picture books. Harvey the Boy who Couldn’t Fart (Walker Books) came with it’s very own fart machine and I have seen books sold with stuffed toys, jewellery and other paraphernalia.

From a marketing point of view, this probably works otherwise publishers wouldn’t do it. I’m not sure if I like this trend or not, but then I guess I’ve never been the sort of person who buys something because of the free steak knives, or onion peelers.

To me, a well written and illustrated picture book will stand on it’s own. It doesn’t need anything else except strong words, vivid illustrations and a great story.

But there are exceptions to every rule. Some stories come with accessories that perfectly complement the kind of books that they are. New Frontier recently released The Sorcerer’s Apprentice based on the  poem by Goethe and the famous piece of classical music composed by Paul Abraham Dukas.

Written by Tom Skinner and illustrated by Annie White. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice picture book comes with it’s own CD and seeing as the book introduces young children to classical music, it seems to be a perfect fit.

It is a timeless coming of age story where the main character Rizwan battles temptation and laziness in order to learn patience. The CD fits with the story and offers the added benefit of familiarising children with classical music.

Another picture book that combines words, illustration and music in a seamless way is Never Smile at a Crocodile written by Jack Lawrence & Frank Churchill.

Published by Scholastic, Never Smile at a Crocodile is also based on a timeless story. It is beautifully illustrated by  Shane Devries and comes with an instrumental version of the story on CD.

For me, music and audio storytelling seem to be the exceptions to the ‘freebie’ rule. With picture books like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Never Smile at a Crocodile, the CDs not only add value to the books, they add a whole new experience for the reader.

I’d be interested in your comments. Have you noticed the trend to include freebies with picture books? What do you think of it?

ROBYN OPIE AND THE BLACK BARON

When Robyn Opie was fifteen, her English teacher gave her an ‘A’ for every essay she wrote. One day, as he handed back her essay, he said, ‘You should be a writer’.

I was stunned. I hadn’t thought about being a writer. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about people writing books. I mean, I read plenty of books, all the time, but it hadn’t occurred to me that people wrote the books I loved. People, like me? I went home and began work on my ‘Nancy Drew’ mystery.

Robyn’s ‘Nancy Drew’ mystery was rejected for being ‘too similar’ but she has gone on to become the author of more than eighty books including her fast-paced Black Baron, which is part of Walker Books Lightning Strikes series.

Black Baron, Jake’s champion racing cockroach, hasn’t lost a race and Jake is on top of the world. But then his mum decides to clean up his bedroom and discovers Black Baron in a shoebox under Jake’s bed. Mum is aghast — how could Jake keep such a filthy pest? But Black Baron escapes and Jake’s Mum calls the pest exterminator and a humorous slapstick tale ensues. (Blurb courtesy of Walker Books Australia website)

Black Baron is for readers aged 8 to 12, but I must admit that this particular cockroach managed to get under my skin, and I know I’m not the only adult who has been charmed by his scuttling ways. The story  is action packed and full of great humour.

The main character Jake is a normal boy who isn’t good at cleaning his bedroom and would rather spend time with his mates,  which is why his mum ends up cleaning his room and finding Black Baron.

What Robyn likes most about her main character, Jake is that, to him, Black Baron isn’t an ordinary cockroach to be stomped on or exterminated. Jake has a friendship and bond with Black Baron.

He refers to himself as Black Baron’s manager, as well as Black Baron’s mate. He cares so much that Black Baron’s possible demise is devastating. He struggles with the guilt that Black Baron’s imminent death is his fault. He feels responsible for his champion and mate. His relationship with Black Baron is special.

Robyn says that the thing she enjoyed most about writing this book was falling in love with Black Baron.

Warming to a cockroach wasn’t easy for me either. Most of us have our prejudices against cockroaches. They’re not cute and cuddly. Jake taught me to care and respect Black Baron. Cockroaches are misunderstood. As Jake says, ‘Cockroaches get a bad rap.’

Robyn loves animals and says that they often feature in her stories. She also confesses to being a ‘greenie’ and this affinity for the environment comes through in a number of her works.

My latest manuscript has the environment as a theme and includes an ancient mystical symbol. You’ll have to wait to find out more. I’m hoping the environment and natural forces will become even more of a focus in my writing.

In my own way, Black Baron is a protest about hunting and killing animals. I don’t understand how people can hunt and kill animals for pleasure or profit.

Yes, a cockroach is an unlikely hero in a protest against hunting and killing animals. People will have to read the book to understand. I’ll get off my high horse now and leave you with one thought – Long live the champ!

Walker Books has prepared a page of classroom ideas and this sheet can also be downloaded from Robyn’s website: http://www.robynopie.com/dl/BlackBaronSheet.pdf


FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – TWO VERY DIFFERENT BOOKS BY SALLY MURPHY – “Toppling” and “Pemberthy Bear”

TOPPLING

Like many of Sally Murphy’s stories, Toppling started with a character. John is a boy with the slightly nerdy hobby of domino toppling. He has a very stable, happy home life, and a good strong friendship group at school. But Sally started to wonder what would happen if something went wrong in John’s life.

Using the metaphor of  toppling, Sally decided that John’s best friend is in danger of toppling. He has cancer, and John and his other friends need to figure out how best to support Dominic  while still carrying on with their own lives.

John is a year six boy who is pretty normal. He isn’t a big fan of school, but likes the chance to hang out with his mates. He has a big sister who rubs him up the wrong way.

John is honest and he is a first person narrator who can be self-deprecating, and admits to insecurities.

Toppling is for middle and upper primary aged children but is also being used in secondary schools because of the subject matter and the verse form.

It covers a tough topic, but kids will enjoy that it is a positive story, which offers hope. Also, it has humour,  and lots of slice of life scenes. The verse novel format makes it very accessible to readers.

I found the verse format of Toppling very easy to read and engaging and as Sally says,

When I see how kids love this format I wonder why there aren’t more verse novels made available to them.

WHAT SALLY ENJOYED MOST ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK

I  had fun weaving domino toppling through the book, and trying to weave just a little humour into what was, by necessity, a fairly serious tale. The humour helps to ease the tension.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK

Writing on such a heart-wrenching topic – childhood cancer – can make the process very emotional. I cried when I wrote it and still get teary when I read certain scenes.

Toppling is published by Walker Books

PEMBERTHY BEAR

This book sprang from two words – fluff and gruff – which ended up being the first two end rhymes in the story, which is told in rhyme. Sally wrote the first two lines when they sprang to mind, then had to sit down and plan the rest of the story.

It’s about a teddy bear – Pemberthy – who doesn’t know how to have fun, and a doll, primula, who is determined to get him to join in her games.

It’s mainly for kids aged 2 to 6, although Sally says she has  shared it with much older kids (even high school boys).

It’s a feel-good book, with beautiful pictures by talented illustrator Jacqui Grantford. And, because it is written in rhyme, it makes a good read-aloud for story sessions.

Kids are amazed when they realise that the bear on the cover is an illustration, not a photo. The artist is so clever!

Pemberthy Bear is covered in fluff but, as the opening page reveals, he is mean and gruff.  But really, he isn’t so tough – he’s just shy and a little insecure, and he learns to be braver.

Sally says that the hardest thing about writing Pemberthy Bear was getting the rhyme and rhythm just right. Writing in rhyme is far more difficult than many people think.

I wrote many, many drafts of this story to get it just right.

Pemberthy Bear is published by New Frontier.

FRIDAY BOOK FEATURE – THE UNINVITED

A magical place, Marc had said. It wasn’t the kind of word he used very often. A place to get your thoughts together.

Mimi Shapiro is fleeing New York and a possessive ex-lover. So when her estranged father offers her the use of his Canadian cottage, it seems like an ideal retreat.

That’s until she discovers someone is already living there. Jay, a young musician who has taken up residence in the snye accuses Mimi of leaving threatening tokens around the house.

When it becomes clear that neither Mimi or Jay is responsible for what’s happening, the two form a pact agains the intruder.

Could all this be linked back to Mimi’s father’s devious past. Or is some local madman responsible for all the strange goings on at the house?

Things become even more complicated when Mimi’s ex-lover threatens to show up. The Uninvited is a fast-paced novel; part thriller, part family drama depicting the streetwise YA Mimi, who’s not as tough as she first thought.

The Uninvited has been nominated for the Indigo Teen Reads awards. One of the things I enjoyed most about it was the pacing. At times it meandered gently like the cottage driveway winding through the meadow, at others, it built up a sense of comfort then launched the reader into “full on” action.

The Uninvited is the latest YA novel from Tim Wynne-Jones who is the author of more than twenty books for children and young adults.  This one is a real page turner full of well developed characters and great dialogue. There’s also plenty of suspense and plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

The Uninvited is published by Walker Books UK.

FORD STREET PUBLISHING NEWS

If you miss them in the morning, you can catch these great authors at

Angus & Robertson

Shop F11, Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre in Richmond between 3pm and 5pm. For enquiries, phone 9421 8817

ALEX RIDER PROMOTION STARTS TODAY!

Today at Kids’ Book Capers we start three weeks of celebrations for super spy Alex Rider’s ten years in print.

Thanks to our friends at Walker Books we have some fabulous prizes to give away.

From now until 11th June, we’ve got some great posts happening here.

Learn about Alex Rider’s life saving gadgets, and the villains who are out to destroy him. Find out about Anthony Horowitz, the man behind the Alex Rider phenomenon.

We’re also talking with literacy expert, The Book Chook on how Alex Rider got boys reading, and we’ve got some interviews and reviews with Alex Rider fans.

Here’s what to expect:

24th May 2010 ANTHONY HOROWITZ – The story behind the stories – where the inspiration for the Alex Rider books came from.
26th May 2010 Interview with Tom 13 about the Alex Rider Books
31st May 2010 ABOUT THE ALEX RIDER PHENOMENON – The villains and the technology
2nd June 2010 LITERACY AND ALEX RIDER PART 1 – MEET THE BOOK CHOOK
7th June 2010 LITERACY AND ALEX RIDER PART 2 – WHY ALEX RIDER GETS BOYS READING

A review of Crocodile Tears by Lachlan aged 12

9th June 2010 Interview with George 15 about the Alex Rider Books and review of Stormbreaker by John 14

*  *  *  TOMORROW AT KIDS’ BOOK CAPERS WE LOOK AT ANTHONY HOROWITZ – THE MAN BEHIND THE ALEX RIDER PHENOMENON!

TO ENTER OUR ALEX RIDER COMPETITION AND WIN FABULOUS PRIZES GO TO  http://content.boomerangbooks.com.au/content/main/anthony-horowitz-promotion.shtml.

TWO COMPLETE SETS OF THE ALEX RIDER BOOKS TO BE WON!

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! August Book Giveaway

This month, Boomerang Books are giving you more chances to win! Alongside our regular monthly giveaway and our Facebook-exclusive giveaway, to celebrate August being the month of the Children’s Book Council Australia’s Book Week, we have a special children’s prize pack to giveaway.

AUGUST MAJOR GIVEAWAY

This month’s prize pack is an eclectic mix set to capture your imagination, touch your heart and tickle your tastebuds. While Judith McNeil paints an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s, Angela Valamanesh’s art inspires, and Ben O’Donoghue and Mary Taylor Simeti share recipes that plot you on the path to becoming the Masterchef of your household. The pack includes:

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED
Here is Plum Coyle, on the threshold of adolescence, striving to be new. Her fourteenth birthday is approaching: her old life and her old body will fall away, and she will become graceful, powerful, at ease. The strength in the objects she stores in a briefcase under her bed – a crystal lamb, a yoyo, an antique watch, a penny – will make sure of it.
Over the next couple of weeks, Plum’s life will change. Her beautiful neighbour Maureen will begin to show her how she might fly. The older brothers she adores – the charismatic Justin, the enigmatic Cydar – will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends – her worst enemies – will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.
Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen?
Butterfly is a gripping, disquieting, beautifully observed novel that confirms Hartnett as one of Australia’s finest writers.

Outdoor by Ben O’Donoghue (Hardcover) SIGNED
In his first-ever cookbook, Ben brings the wide-sweeping world of barbecuing to your backyard via one of the most stunningly designed books around. No need to walk over hot coals to impress your BBQ guests, these divine recipes will leave a lasting taste in everyone’s mouth.
Try Grilled Lobsters from Norfolk, or Pork Loin With Bay And Balsamic from Italy or even a Thai-inspired dessert of Grilled Pineapple With Rum Ginger And Lemongrass Syrup. Yum! And while you grill, serve guests a Southern Cross Pimm’s barbecue-side. Fresh in every way, this cookbook is a summer staple.

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White
On his fifteenth birthday, Matt receives a card from his mother – the mother he grew up believing was deceased. Feeling betrayed by both his parents, Matt’s identity is in disarray and he begins writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci as a way to sort out the ‘mess’ in his head. Through the connections he makes between his own life and that of Leonardo, Matt unravels the mystery that his life has become and discovers his mother’s secrets and the reasons behind his abandonment.
A unique and powerful story about a fifteen year old boy who tries to deal with his mother’s mental illness by writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci. Ages 12+. 

A True History of the Hula Hoop by Judith Lanigan
A beguiling and utterly original debut novel about two women born centuries apart but joined by the spirit of adventure and a quest for true love.
Catherine is a hula-hooping performance artist, a talented and independent individual plying her trade on the international burlesque stage. Columbina meanwhile is a feisty female clown and a principal in a 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte troupe.
As Catherine and Columbina struggle to make sense of an increasingly nonsensical world – and to assert their rights as performers and women during times of profound change – their lives, as if by magic, seem to interact.

No One’s Child by Judith McNeil
Judith takes you on a journey back to her childhood – as a ‘railway brat’, growing up in small towns along the tracks while her father worked on the lines. Judith’s life was one of hardship and poverty. The eldest of six children, she soon took on the role of provider and carer, while desperately craving affection from a mother too tired to give it and a father who resented her because she wasn’t a son. Yet there was still joy to be found: in the vibrant Gypsy camp, full of laughter and love in the eyes of Tom, the engine driver who believed in her and fed her thirst for knowledge and in the friendship of Billy, the boy who could see into her soul. No One’s Child is an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s. With a vivid cast of characters and set against the backdrop of the ever-changing outback landscape, it will leave you marvelling at the indomitable spirit of one little girl who was determined to forge her own destiny.

Angela Valamanesha: About Being Here by Cath Kenneally (Hardcover)

Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle by Mary Taylor Simeti

Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close August 31, 2009.

AUGUST FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

As always, we have a great prize pack to give away to one of our Facebook Group members, which includes: Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man In London by Tony Thompson, Third Transmission by Jack Heath, A Tale of Two Women by Christina Slade, Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger by Sandy Fussell, Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule.

Shakespeare Third Transmission A Tale of Two Women Shaolin Tiger

Boomerang Books is fast becoming one of Australia’s biggest book groups on Facebook, so what are you waiting for? Join Now!

BONUS AUGUST CHILDREN’S GIVEAWAY

Entering this bonus giveaway is easy enough. All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? It has to be in 20 words or less. When entering, mention which prize pack you’d like to be in the running for – picture book or fiction for ages 10+. Entries close August 31, 2009.

Section A: ‘Book Safari’-Themed Picture Books: The Little One: The Story of a Red-Tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield, The Gorilla Book: Born To Be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits by Dr Mark Norman, The Antarctica Book: Living In The Freezer by Dr Mark Norman, The Great Barrier Reef Book: Solar Powered by Dr Mark Norman, When No-one’s Looking: On The Farm by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo, When No-one’s Looking: At the Zoo by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo.

The Little One The Chimpanzee Book Penguin Book At The Zoo

Section B: Fiction 10+

Samurai Kids: White Crane (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Monkey Fist, Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring.

White Crane Owl Ninja Letters to Leonardo The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures

A big thanks to our friends at Acorn Press, Black Dog Books, Exisle Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Picador, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.