Thursday, April 30, 2009
1 My laptop. This would be the sort of desert island that has a broadband connection.
2 A box of my five favourite books. Yes, that's one thing. 1 box = 1 thing (I did Maths at Uni!!!! And I'm creative too. *grin*)
3 A never ending sushi lunchbox because Sushi is the finest food ever. It's even better than chocolate.
5 Water. Because it's healthy, tastes good and is beautiful to look at especially in the desert island sunshine.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tonight I am working on the fifth book in the Samurai Kids series and I am in research mode. I love this part of the writing process. One of the things I try to do is immerse my self in the language culture of the times. The best way for me to do that is to find primary sources, texts written mid 17th century Japan. My personal favourite companion for The Samurai Kids series in general is Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings. Considered the best swordsman of all time, Musashi retired unbeaten to a cave on a hillside to write his philsophy of swordsmanship - a practical manual of warfare tactics still used in some military institutions today.
While it is a wonderful reference for all things sharp and samurai, it's much more than that. It's my compass. I read and re-read in cycles. The day doesn't begin at 7am for me. Musashi and I face the day together, in the first hour of the Dragon.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
By Kerrie O’Connor. Allen & Unwin. RRP $24.95
Mama and Papa Jingle are having a baby. Together, with taller Jingle and middle Jingle, they suggest baby names. But little Jingle hates them all! He has his own ideas.
Al, Adrian, Atticus, Aladdin, the family suggest.
‘No,” argues little Jingle. We’ll call him Blockhead!”
Not only is this book a fun read-aloud story, it has a secret. As the family proffer sensible names beginning with the same letter, Little Jingle suggests a silly one beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Once my son picked the pattern, he would loudly and enthusiastically suggest his own horrible baby name after I read the sensible ones.
This is a wonderful interactive book with eye-catching illustrations. Toddlers will love it and so will Year Ones and every child in between.
My review wouldn’t be complete without consulting an expert. “Bestest book ever,” six-year-old Cassidy said. And we read it again, and again… And the follow up report: “Bestest book ever Mum. I’ve already told you that!”
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
To some people this is all about cheaper books and authors are complaining simply to protect their own interests. That's incorrect. And it is equally incorrect to assume that all practices that restrict competition to any degree are bad or undesirable.
What is at issue here is the Australian publishing industry and the books it provides to the Australian reading public and education sysytem. I do have a vested interest as an author but I also have an equally vested interest as a member of the reading public and parent who wants to see Australian content in their children's reading material.
The Australian publishing industry is dynamic and healthy. It has nurtured the growth of many valuable exports from bestselling authors such as Matthew Reilly and Marcus Zusak to twice Booker award winner Peter Carey. You can find their personal submissions opposing the recommended changes along with almost 400 others, from various areas of the community, at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/books/submissions . And there's more to come as a number, including my own, are yet to be listed.
As a reader I currently have access to a wide range of choice of titles at competitive prices. I can easily find books for my children that feature culture, people and settings they find familar. These, among other benefits, are directly threatened by the proposed changes. I won't go into details here but you can find them in the submissions including those from the individual professional associations of Australian Booksellers, Australian Authors and Australian Publishers.
The largest publishing nations in the world, the UK and the US, have restrictions in place. Copyright and parallel importation restrictions are not inherently bad as the Commission would lead us to believe. They are a necessary feature of this marketplace. Any marketplace is an economic battlefield. At the moment we all have machine guns but the Productivity Commission, by reducing the protective restrictions to twelve months only, will leave the Australian publishing industry holding a big stick. It has been suggested the industry will then be encouraged to become smarter and more efficient in order to compete.
It doesn't take much imagination to work out what happens when the smart, efficient soldier with a big stick is met by a machine gun.
If you want speak out against the recommendations you can sign the Australians for Books petition on-line here http://www.ausbooks.com.au/index.php
Sunday, April 19, 2009
David and Caitlin don’t know it, but they are living their lives side by side. And what better way to show this than a narrative that switches between the protagonists’ points of view?
The story begins with David. His family life is falling apart. Mum bundles David and his sister Allie into the car and heads for grandmother’s house. Caitlin’s story quickly follows. Her parents are fighting too.
David’s father is careening headlong towards a breakdown, dragging David with him. Caitlin must decide whether she is willing to forgive her father and rebuild their relationship.
When two groups of friends bump into each other for the first time, the boys decide to accompany the girls to a play audition. As the relationship between Caitlin and David’s best friend Lanny develops, the reader becomes dimly aware of an even more subtle thread. Cleverly mirroring the way in which the story is told, Caitlin and David are tied together by a clandestine family connection.
Give Me Truth is an example what Bill Condon does best – serious themes with a healthy dose of humour – kept real from a teenage perspective. Too often the ending of such a book is disappointing but not so here. There is no neat, tie-it-all-up happy-ending sell-out. But neither is this a dark, gloomy book. Life can be very difficult. But Lanny makes us cringe and then laugh with him. Brothers and sisters stick together. Friends understand. Ultimately, there is always hope.
The telling of the story in tag team by David and Caitlin creates a completely gender-bias free narrative. This is a book that will be equally enjoyed by both girls and boys.
I’ll admit it. I’m a fan and so are a number of my teenage friends. Give Me Truth is Condon’s best yet.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
2 If it wasn't an Oz title, then the last Oz title Boofheads by Mo Johnson, and Crossing the Line by Dianne Bates. (Read them simultaneously – almost combusted! Great books.)
3 Name one favourite book from your childhood The 1965 Nude Photographic Annual.
4 Name one picture book that you love for the illustrations See above.
5 What is your personal favourite among the books you have authored/illustrated No Worries.
6 What book do you wish you had written - for love or money The Road, by Cormack McCarthy.
7 If you could be a character in a book, who (or what) would you be Maybe Forrest Gump – for the chocolates.
8 Do you have a favourite quote - from a book or life in general! Anything. ‘Nothing happens – you make it happen’.
Friday, April 17, 2009
This is a belly-laugh-out-loud picture book. Outrageously funny.
The fly decides to go for a swim, packing its bag, ball, towel and sunscreen. Unfortunately it decides to swim in the toilet. And we all know what can happen there!
Behind the funny story is a gentle message. No matter how much we prepare, unexpected things can still occur to change our plans.
The language is simple but engaging. Text is placed to complement the illustrations. When the toilet is flushed, the words swirl with the water.
Gusti is an international award winning illustrator and this is readily apparent in his artwork. There is a sense of humour in every brushstroke.
Images are striking, with the fly placed collage-like on bold, spacious backgrounds. The fly has a cartoon-like appearance which is an immediate attention grabber. Gusti cleverly uses a combination of background and the fly’s big round eyes to show emotions ranging from relaxed to fearful.
The fly is always a comic character, whether floating on his back in the toilet, spindly legs kicking, or peering nervously up from the bowl. Despite the fly’s terror, even the youngest reader will not be frightened.
Children, from 3 – 7 years, will love this book. Especially boys! And parents who read it aloud will find it hard not to laugh mid-sentence.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
In honour of my latest GKKR Crusade weapon, Nit Boy, I am looking for more great books on bugs. Here are my Top 5, excluding Nit Boy:
1 The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
2 Charlotte's Web - E B White
3 The Very Ordinary Caterpillar - Garry Fleming
4 Grasshopper on the Road - Arnold Lobel
5 It's True There are Bugs in Your Bed - Heather Catchpole & Vanessa Woods
Can anyone suggest more?
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Purinina, a Devil’s Tale tells the story of a Tasmanian Devil, one of our unique mammals younger children are often unfamiliar with.
Little Purinina lives with her family at the bottom of the world. She learns to play and search for food. She growls, snorts and snarls. Nowhere is safe from the reach of Man and eventually two men appear outside Purinina’s cave. But this is a gentle tale of hope and the human interlopers choose to leave the Devils alone. Purinina grows up to have a family of her own.
The language is simple and almost poetic. The illustrations are stunning, guaranteed to appeal to adult and child alike.
Author and illustrator Christina Booth grew up in Tasmania and hopes her book will draw attention to these often misunderstood animals. Purinina is their Tasmanian Aboriginal name. Early European settlers called them Devils when they heard their bloodcurdling cries coming from the bush at night.
The book includes a glossary of Devilish Details – information about habitat, habits and lifecycle. Did you know the Tasmanian Devil is a good swimmer? Or that its fur is soft like a cat?
Particularly suited to children 4 to 7 years, ‘Purinina, a Devil’s Tale’ would make a beautiful Aussie gift for an overseas relative or friend.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
But most of all I love the way my 8-year-old son's eyes lit up as he spirited them away to his room saying "I'm reviewing these." He knows the drill. Reviewers get to keep the boks they review. And he desperately wants these. I'm Nit Boy's newest fan.
Now to open the page... having been allowed to borrow back the first one... guess what... it's as good as the package promised. I'm starting the Nit Boy fanclub. Post a comment to sign up here!
Book 1: Lift Off Book 2: Bug Off By Tristan Bancks Illustrated by Heath MacKenzie.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
At the Joust is the third book in the Roland Wright series. I’ll admit my bias up front. I live with a young Roland Wright fan – and we love his books.
Roland Wright is a well crafted series with heroes, villains, Nudge the mouse, a lot of humour and the best sort of history of all – battles, swords, armour and castles. At the Joust is no exception. Three chapters in and my son and I were ready to try a few longsword moves. It’s great fun acting out a scene from Roland Wright.
The exploration of friendship and rivalry provides positive values and role models. The castle is not so different to the playground. With the help of his friends and his own self-belief, Roland triumphs over the bully, and senior page, Hector. Roland also learns that jousting is not all heroism and fun when his friend, the brave Sir Lucas, is seriously injured.
While this book is a complete read in itself, to start with the third book would deprive a younger reader of the full enjoyment of Roland’s adventures. And as a parent, I am always conscious of the role a good series can play in keeping an emerging reading interest alive.
Gregory Roger’s black and white cartoon style drawings add to the humour and are great visuals (especially when doing an after reading re-enactment!). The pictures of Nudge are favourites in my house.
Girls will enjoy this book but boys will love it. Parents who read it aloud to their kids will have heaps of fun. I know!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
But in our house he is mega-famous as the author of the much requested bedtime reading- the Roland Wright series. We love Roland and we love swordplay of any kind!
1 The last children's/YA book you read (fiction or non-fiction) Simon French's Where in the World, mainly because my eleven-year-old son was given it for his birthday, and partly because i thought anything with that many award stickers on it must be at the very least interesting.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Only grey walls and the smell of burning, dust and sweat...
...They drag him out - they throw him back.
Now he's staring at the air conditioner again.
Breathing in the smell of his own flesh.
Guantanamo Boy is the story of 15-year-old Khalid who goes with his parents to visit family in Pakistan and wakes into a nightmare. Guantanamo Bay.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Mending Lucille by J.R. Poulter and Sarah Davis. Hachette Children’s Books. Hardback rrp $28.99 Australian. Young Reader. Picture book.
Mending Lucille is a book to be treasured by all. It is the story of a young girl and how she copes with the loss of her mother.
The young girl relates her grief through her broken doll, Lucille. Her father can’t fix Lucille and suggests that maybe she should throw Lucille away and replace her with a new doll. Instead, the girl hides her beloved toy. She’s already lost her Mother and she’s not giving up anyone else she loves.
Then they meet Chrissie, a waitress who the little girl feels so comfortable with, she shows her Lucille. Chrissie looks after the doll while the girl and father have their tea. When Chrissie returns Lucille has been repaired. As good as new.
Mending Lucille is a story which will help any child coping with the loss of a loved one. It shows that time will heal but you never have to forget. The theme of grief is dealt with in a sensitive and age appropriate manner. The little girl is never given a name. She doesn’t need one. She is every child who has ever suffered the pain of losing someone they care about.
The illustrations are stunning and sensitive with a range of emotion so wide it sweeps off the page. Sadness and loss, hope and the warmth of a loving hug. Davis’ drawings will reach out and pull you into the story.
I loved this book.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
5 What is your personal favourite among the books you have authored/illustrated Of the ones that are already out, Mending Lucille by Jennifer Poulter. I have a few in progress at the moment that are shaping up all right...
8 Do you have a favourite quote - from a book or life in general! Anything. "Every day is a journey, and the journey is home". - Basho
Friday, April 3, 2009
To find this market is growing and gaining recognition doesn't surprise me. Although it's only natural as a children's author I am surrounded by adults who read children's literature, I have also been sneaking my favourite children's books into my friend reading stacks without them realising. Often they get offended if I am am caught (I'm not reading a children's book! they say)but so often, they can't tell the difference. Not a hope if it's YA and often not for certain junior books as well! And who could ever argue The Chronicle of Narnia were children's books only for kids!
So I thought I would make a list of my personal favourite children's books I think adults will enjoy. In no order. Just my favourite five.
1 The Chronicles of Narnia series - C S Lewis
2 The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo
3 The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series - Michelle Paver
4 A Certain Music - Celeste Walters
5 The Dragonkeeper series - Carole Wilkinson
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Boofheads by Mo Johnson Walker Books AustraliaYoung Adult Paperback rrp $18.95
This is a wonderful book. The sort that makes teenage boys want to read. It’s no surprise that Mo Johnson, a former English teacher at an all boy’s high school, knows her readers so well. But girls will enjoy Boofheads too and probably learn something about how their male peers think.
Boofheads begins with one of my all-time favourite first lines:
Change tiptoed into our lives with her eyes down, like a shy chick coming late to class.
And from there on, it just gets better.
Boofheads is the story of three life-long mates – Casey, Ed and Thommo. For the first time, they are stepping apart. Ed has been talent scouted by the Bombers and signed to the Youth Development Squad. He has a whole new gang of football friends. Casey is spending most of his time with girls – and not just his own girlfriend. Thommo finds he has more and more time on his own.
This is a book which not only explores male friendship with sense of humour, but also examines the darker side to coming of age. Teenage drinking, drugs, peer pressure, homosexuality and date rape are issues the boys must face and come to a decision about.
When the boys attend a party, things go terribly wrong. Mates no longer stand together. Casey walks away, Ed might not make it through the night and Thommo is left to play the hero.
Can three boofheads pull it back together after all that?
Give this book to a teenager and let them tell you.