Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 3 – Junior Novels

Do you have an emerging confident reader keen to fill their newly acquired ravenous literary appetite? Youngsters between 5 – 9 years are discovering at this age that stories can occur in the most wildly absurd wonderful places and that junior novels, like these, are their invitations to new words and new adventures. By feeding them regular healthy doses of junior fiction, you will nourish their love for reading and keep them satisfied well into the holidays. Here are some suggestions:

Younger Junior Novels 5 – 7 years

D-Bot Squad Series by Mac Park and James Hunt

Bold, bright and busting with high-action adventure, this series is brilliant for early readers. Controlled use of vocabulary, illustrations and diagrams all contribute to wicked reads with Books 1 – 6 released this year and more to follow in 2018. Kids will love following Hunter Marks on his dino hunting missions after he wins a computer game and becomes a member of D-Bot Squad. High-energy fun.

Allen & Unwin July 2107

Sally Rippin presents…Super Moopers Series by Fiona Harris and Scott Edgar

This whacky series is decidedly visual with full colour illustrations dominating each page. Text is minimal but enhanced with varying font sizes for emphasis and wow factor. Each book examines a particular Mooper character of Moopertown, the first being Dramatic Dom. The stories encourage kids to get to know each individual better and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. The notion that everyone is special in his or her own special way is the theme that meanders throughout this collection.

Five Mile Bonnier Publishing 2017

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog by Peter Meisel and Paul Meisel

This jolly attractive little hardcover book is part of the Read & Bloom Books series, which invite youngsters on wondrous adventures with lovable wily characters, like Stinky Spike, using mindfully sparse narrative and beguiling illustrations. Colourful and merry, these are the type of stories that really do plant the love of reading!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2017

Junior Novels 6 – 9 years

Little Paws Series by Jess Black and Gabriel Evans

Who could resist a golden puffball of fluff with a tail? This heart-warming series is about puppies that train to become Guide Dogs. Each story is about a puppy, like Harley in the first book, and the families that train them. Lightly illustrated with Evan’s charming drawings and full of puppy pranks and incidents, this series is sure to sate your cuteness quota.  Buying these books also helps puppies like Harley become fully fledged Guide Dogs. Win win!

Penguin Random House 2017

Sage Cookson’s Series by Sally Murphy and Celeste Hulme

I love this quirky cooking orientated series about 10-year-old Sage, daughter of celebrity chef parents with an insatiable passion for…wait for it…food! Together they travel the globe encountering more than their fair share of not so nice-tasting situations and characters. Murphy cleverly combines every day normal with generous dollops of extraordinary. The latest titles include a sojourn to Singapore and a Literary Launch for this delectable character.  Delicious fun for girls and culinary creators alike. And the best bit? A recipe in each book. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

New Frontier Publishing 2016 – 2017

Squishy Taylor Series by Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood

Squishy is the instantly likeable, utterly loveable heroine of this spirited series about dysfunctional blended families and all the glorious ‘normal’ zany events that occur within their orbits. Fast paced, age-clinching narrative is interspersed with illustrations that induce drama and humour.  The first book, Bonus Sisters, introduces us to Squishy’s family members and her unquenchable need to question – everything! Creative, curious, charmingly optimistic and just a touch naive, Squishy is just the type of hero little girls will love to emulate.

HGE February 2016

Saurus Street Series by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

I’m not sure what the scientific explanation is for the fascination kids of this age possess for all things dinosaurs but my little miss did, too. Palaeophiliacs (lovers of dinosaurs and pre-historic thingies) will revel in this series, a few years old now but young in comparison to a Diplodocus, when you think about it. Stomping-mad fun made all the more believable by Flowers’ hilarious illustrations. Pletosaurauses in the bathtub, Diplodocuses in the tepees – Jack and Toby have all these and heaps more dino dilemmas to cope with on Saurus Street. It’s like the age of the dinosaurs never ended.

Random House September 2013

Ella Diaries Series by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald

Definitely one for the girls, this series is Tom Gates meets Dork Diaries for young girls. Interwoven with themes of friendship, teamwork, ponies, dancing, fashion, bullies and a whole year of diaries’ worth more, these stories will appeal to girls and their BFFs. Ella is utterly addictive thanks McDonald’s fantastic illustrations, just the sort of wiggles and pics and notations young girls are wont to scribble alongside their deepest most inner thoughts.  Fun, airy and tots on the money. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Australia 2015

Jake in Space Series by Candice Lemon-Scott and Celeste Hulme

Stunning spacey foil covers give way to equally scintillating storylines centring on space probing, Jake and his whacky team of mates and robots.

This series features galaxies of intergalactic fun sporting space-aged adventures mid-primary school kids can really get carried away with – providing they have their space suits on. There are six in the series, which gives young readers plenty of time and incentive to explore the entire universe! Did I mention the covers are truly out of this world!

New Frontier Publishing September 2014

Junior Novels Advanced Readers 8 years +

Countdown to Danger You Choose the Path To Survive! Series by Jack Heath

I LOVE an exciting pick-a-path-you-choose-the-path story! Having written one myself, I know how tricky it can be producing a convincing multi-ending story. It can also be colossal fun! Heath’s series adds a new dimension to 30 possible adventure storylines – a countdown. YOU the reader only have 30 minutes to choose the right path to survive. These stories are humming with danger, ethical decisions, survival dilemmas and plenty of problem solving, ideal for the inquisitive, questing mind.  Written in second person, as most choose your own adventure stories are, this series plants you smack bang in the middle of the action and you only have yourself to blame if things go horribly wrong. What’s not to love! Highly recommended for grip-the-edge-of-your-seat reading.

Scholastic Australia February 2016

You Choose… Series by George Ivanoff and James Hart

This expansive series is another choose your own adventure styled collection, which I just can’t get enough of. Ivanoff has created an amazing array of stories, each pulsing with high levels of interactivity. Again, YOU the reader must decide which options to take when faced with a dizzying selection of alternatives. Despite the choice, each chapter is concise enough to follow and complete within a relatively short timeframe, or even, to read aloud without confusion. Coupled with Hart’s explosive illustrations, it’s all very brilliant and, at times, just a little on the dark scary side. Pack some in your Christmas stockings this season – there’s a new release nearly every month!

Random House May 2014 – 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launching a book

YouChoose_cover01A book launch is a common way of celebrating the publication of a new book. As well as being an excuse for the author’s friends and relatives to get together for a bit of congratulating, it can also be a good way to kick start the book’s promotions. Sometimes they are organised by publishers, sometimes by the author and sometimes by third parties. Oh yeah… and they’re usually a heap of fun!

It’s traditional, at a launch, to have a guest do the launch speech — another author, a celebrity relevant to the book, maybe even a politician. There’s often food and drink. And there’s always book selling and signing.

I’ve been to lots of book launches over the years — as author, guest launcher and spectator — and they’ve always been fun. Over the course of this and two other posts, I’m going to focus on a few particular launches. At two of those launches I was the guest speaker, and in the subsequent posts I’ll write up my launch speeches for those books — Michael Pryor’s Machine Wars and LynC’s Nil by Mouth. But in this post it’s my own launches that I’m going to write about.

April 2014 saw the publication of the first two books in my You Choose series — The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and Mayhem at Magic School (there are more of them, now). Two launches were held to herald the arrival of these books. The first was organised by a bookstore. This is the one that my friends and family came along to. The second I organised myself to coincide with my author visit to Yarra Road Primary School. Since I was going to be at the school doing a series of writing workshops, the school offered to host a You Choose launch at their assembly. A launch in front of a massive audience — an entire school full of kids and teachers. Very cool!

At both events, fellow author Michael Pryor delivered the launch speech.

So, what actually happens at a launch? What does the guest speaker say? What does the author do? Well, I can show you. I have a vid of the launch at Yarra Road Primary School…

And, just in case you haven’t had enough, here are the launch vids for two of my three Gamers books. Carole Wilkinson launched Gamers’ Quest in 2009, but I neglected to video the event. 🙁 I made sure I was better prepared for the subsequent launches.

Michael Pryor (hmm… him again) launched Gamers’ Challenge in 2011…

And Meredith Costain launched Gamers’ Rebellion 2013…

Okay, so you’ve been overloaded with videos of my book launches. You can relax now… the next two launch-related blog posts will be about other people’s books. 🙂

Tune next time to read about the launch of Michael Pryor’s Machine Wars.

Catch ya later,  George

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Choose your own interactive adventure

YouChoose_cover01Interactive books! Remember reading them as a kid? Choose Your Own Adventure and Pick-a-Path are the two series I remember best. But there were lots of others, including Fighting Fantasy and Twistaplot. Although they’ve never completely gone out of vogue, they seem to be having a bit of a resurgence at the moment with series such as Lost in…, Choose Your Own Ever After and my own series, You Choose.

Interactive books (or game books, or branching path books) are often referred to as Choose Your Own Adventure books (or CYOA books). But Choose Your Own Adventure is actually the trade-marked name of the series which popularised this style of storytelling. Contrary to popular belief, these books did not invent the concept. It was predated by a series called The Adventures of You, and there are other earlier examples of individual stories playing around with this format.

The basic concept is that the story branches at various key points, where the reader gets to decide which path to follow. The other defining feature of this style of storytelling, is that they are written as second person narrative, placing the reader into the story.

I read the Choose Your Own Adventure series rather obsessively back in the 1980s. I loved the fact that decisions I made influenced the outcome of the story. As a kid, it gave me a sense of control and power that ordinary books did not provide. It was exciting! And I got to re-read the books… but with a different outcome each time. I got very good at marking pages with my fingers as I read — often reaching the end of a path with every available finger wedged between the pages — so that I could backtrack and rethink my decisions. A little awkward, but oh so much fun!

9781742977744Over the years, nothing has rivalled the popularly of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. But new books have continued to pop up every now and then, from interactive versions of RL Stine’s Goosebumps (Give Yourself Goosebumps), to those set in the Doctor Who universe (Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny), from a history education series, to a couple of books written by John Marsden in the 1990s (Cool School and Creep Street).

Now, all of a sudden, there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the format. In the UK, Bloomsbury have released the first two books in a new series with a survival twist — Lost in… the Desert of Dread and Lost in… the Jungle of Doom. Meanwhile here in Australia, Hardie Grant have released a romance themed series called Choose Your Own Ever After.

And then there’s my new series — You Choose. 🙂

The first two books were released on 1 May — The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and Mayhem at Magic School. The next two will be released on 1 July — Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House.

YouChoose_cover02   YouChoose_book3   YouChoose_book4

My writing of this series has pretty much been an excuse for me to relive my childhood. And I cannot express just how much fun it has been plotting out all the different story paths for each of the books. I write each plot point onto a card, then stick it up onto a white board — lots of arrows and shifting around ensues, until things finally make sense. Here’s what the final plan of The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove looks like…

DeadMansCove_sm

The You Choose series is being marketed for middle to upper primary… but I reckon they’re fun for ‘kids’ of all ages. 😉 I’ve spoken to many parents who grew up reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and who are now excited about having a new interactive series to read to their kids. And that’s pretty cool!

Catch ya later,  George

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