Hello fellow adventurers,
It’s a joy to share with you many excellent bookish adventures over the past months, and look forward to the extraordinary joy that we celebrate at Christmas.
Starting close to home first, I was so excited to be able to reveal the cover of my picture book, Anchored, with illustrations by the amazing Arielle Li and published by EK Books. I’ve now seen the whole book and it’s gorgeous! It’s already off to the printers for an April release. I’ve been excitedly ordering custom merch to promote it (I’m getting a bit carried away!) – magnetic business card, anyone??? You can pre-order your copy here.
As part of the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch Lunch With The Stars writing competition, I had the privilege of meeting one of the young winners and provide a writing workshop for her class. Ava’s story was about a monster cat, so it fit brilliantly with my workshop theme of creating a monster character. Congratulations Ava!
I’ve been lucky to win a couple of book give-aways recently – a fantastic Koala pack from Shae Millward with her funny Dr Suess-like Koalas Like to… (illustrated by Brent Wilson) and a MG novel, A Little Spark, by a favourite author, Barry Jonsberg. And I ran a give-away for a couple of my When I See Grandma for World Alzheimer’s Day in September – and I was thrilled that they went to a couple of wonderful librarians!
I’ve done a bit of historic adventuring these past few months. Firstly to Ethel Turner’s cottage in Lindfield as part of Historic Houses Open Sydney events. We had an informative tour guide in fellow children’s writer and Ethel Turner aficionado, Abbey Lane who looked the part for the day. And then to Nutcote, May Gibbs’ harbourside home for SCBWI ‘sketch and scribble’ day with sumptuous high tea. It’s been wonderful to spend time in the company of inspiring creatives and immersive experiences.
Talking about inspiring company, none is more so than SCBWI regional advisor, Susanne Gervay. Her latest YA novel, The Edge of Limits, was launched recently at Gleebooks by Melina Marchetta. This is a gripping page turner, with hard-hitting and important themes. I can’t do better than to point you to a review of this book here. Here’s a taster: ‘a searingly important book that addresses issues of connection, courage and consent with a visceral reality that is gripping from start to finish.’
I had the joy of judging the Just Write for Kids 'Pitch It' competition again this year. It’s always so fun to read the fabulous pitches, but so hard to pick a winner!! You can read the winner and runner's up here. Congratulations! And I’m gearing up for some more judging over January with the entries now closed for the Forevability award for books that relate to or include disability, illness, inclusion and diversity.
I managed a flying visit to Brisbane in September and was so happily surprised by the tea towel exhibition at the State Library: 'Queensland to a T.' It’s an art and story form that I’ve never given much thought to, except for collecting them as souvenirs and popping them in my bag to take home from holidays or at special events – like the My Fair Lady teacup tea towel – it makes me smile in remembrance every time I use it. I also recognised quite a few of the tea towels in the exhibition, from our many family trips to Queensland when I was a child. The exhibition was brilliantly curated and the information boards were so clever, funny and 'punny' - I hope you can get a taste of them in these shots:
I’ve been writing this news around corks popping off bottles of bubbly, the aromas of gingerbread and Advent Christmas tea, and the chatter of friends! Christmas is well and truly in the air! With events like my writers’ group Christmas party and the CBCA NSW Branch Northern Sydney Sub-branch dinner at Terrey Hills Tavern, and, of course, the discussion of books! Here are three latest releases we celebrated:
Two picture books that are a MUST for Christmas – both very different but stunning in their own way: A Christmas Rose by Wendy Blaxland and Lucy Hennessy (the soft-cover edition has just been published) is a quiet, heartfelt story about the first Christmas, and Meerkat Christmas by Aura Parker is fun and zany meerkat mayhem. And one picture book that is essential in any dentist surgery - The Fangs Visit the Dentist, by Jean Saxby and Ponyo Nguyen.
Another gorgeous picture book to pop in Christmas stockings is Ashling Kwok’ s A Star For Mamma. The beautiful, whimsical illustrations by Kathy Creamer sit softly on the page alongside the charming story about a child penguin’s love for his mother, and the lengths he will go to show her.
Don't forget to check out Story Hound Archie's recommendations for great books too - he's over on Instagram at @Story_Hound.
And now it’s time for the joy of Christmas preparation. Isn’t that often the best part? (Once the pressure of presents is sorted!) Here’s a photo of me prepping for Christmas in an apron designed by my talented SCBWI friend, Kristian Aus! You can find his website to browse his amazing illustrations here. I’m wearing his Reindeer design t-shirt in the photos above- can you see it peeking out between the books?
If you love reindeer and leaving carrots out for Rudolf, you'll love my present for you… I’m gifting all my subscribers a Christmas story for you to enjoy. You can download it from the email I sent. Didn’t get an email? Pop to my ‘home’ page and hit ‘subscribe!’
Wishing you all a joy-and-book-filled Christmas.
Until next year,
Spring is in the air! And it’s not just baby currawongs hatching in the tree outside my door or my orchids bursting to life – so many new books are springing from launches onto bookshelves and into my eager hands! Every weekend lately one or other of my friends is launching their new books – it seems like the publishing industry is making up for time lost over Covid! And I've been as busy as a bee flitting from one event to another this past month or so. What a delight!
But first, in my writing news, I am patiently waiting! I have a non-fiction article accepted by The School Magazine that I can't wait to see in print and illustrated! I'm thinking about ways to promote my next picture book, Anchored, when it comes out in July next year. And I’m liaising with my publisher at HarperCollins about an illustrator for my book with them due out a year later. I was thrilled with the outcome of my publisher assessments at the CYA Conference, despite my being a no-show due to catching rotten Covid! Undeterred, one generous publisher liked both my manuscripts so much that she is taking them to her team to discuss! How good is that?? Fingers crossed!!
Talking about the CYA conference, I was so pleased it was online again this year. I’m still looking forward to getting to a LIVE CYA conference, but online this year I was able to network and make some new friends, as well as catch up on the sessions I missed due to not feeling well. The most helpful session for me this year was Claire Thomas with School visits: How to primp and preen your presentation and was timely - I got to do a bit of primping and preening before heading back into schools for book week!
And what a hoot Book Week was! To be able to get back into schools and Preschools felt like a hit of oxygen into depleted lungs! Here are a few happy snaps from a preschool visit (I always find the school photos trickier to get!):
And for those who have yet to catch up on the Book of the Year news, you can find it all here. The announcement video is worth watching, as we get to see the reaction of the winners in real time! And remember to check out what the kids thought too, in the Sun Project, Shadow Judging section.
I was unable to get to the Kids and YA Festival at Writing NSW, but again, was able to catch up on some of the sessions I was keen to get to, via their podcast here.
My local CBCA NSW branch sub-branch had a fabulous evening exploring the latest exhibition at the State Library of NSW – Imagine… the Wonder of Picture Books, and then retiring to the Library Bar. I highly recommend both – the exhibition and the Bar (it has amazing sweeping views from the rooftop). It was fantastic to see books included by my friends, like Lisa Nicols and Bethany Macdonald.
The evening was also a time to celebrate the launch of our sub-branch previous president, wildlife photographer and author of children's True to Life books, Jan Latta's inspirational memoir, Doing it My Way. Pictured at right with me, Abbey Lane and Carla Fitzgerald.
Still on the subject of CBCA NSW Branch Sub-branch, our legendary Lunch With the Stars was back this year after two years of Covid hiatus - and what a delight it was! Catching up with a room full of authors/illustrators, chatting to kids and teachers, and hearing from amazing author guest speakers (this year it was Louise Park and Oliver Phommavanh) is always a highlight of the year! Photo below...
And now for a gallery of new book photos: some launches I got to...
And a few I didn't get to but got to catch up with the authors at Lunch With the Stars!
I’ve read two books from Kathryn Apel recently and they couldn’t be more different! What Snail Knows is an achingly beautiful story of a lonely girl with a pet snail and how she (and her father) start to come out of their shells. It’s sublime! Miss Understood is a riotous fractured fairy-tale picture book (illustrations by Beau Wiley) casting the wolf from the Three Little Pigs as a misunderstood hero and the pigs as, well – pigs! Told in Kat’s exquisite rapping rhyme and full of jokes and puns and great hilarity!
I’ve finished Oliver’s book, What About Thao? (above), which is warm and wise and just altogether wonderful! And I adore Carla's Keeping up with the Dachshunds (above) - it's funny with a great message and... dogs! I'm sharing this one around lots - it's one of Archie's favourites!
'Ya gotta be in to win it! I have been so fortunate to WIN TWO Books recently, from giveaways!
The first is from the ASA - A Little Spark, the latest from Barry Jonsberg - I love his books and I look forward to reading this one (photo to come)! The second is actually a whole package of goodies from Shae Millward including her adorable and fun picture book, Koala's Like to... which young children will delight to read over and over again (illustrated by Brent Wilson). I also received a book that I was the winning bid for in the Lismore Flood Relief auction earlier in the year - The Naked Sheep by Crystal Corocher and Rebel Challenger. This one is a rhyming romp of hilarity.
It was my birthday recently, and one of the treasured gifts I received was this totally loveable book with a gentle dual language story that captures the essence of donkey's personalities perfectly! The illustrations are so unique - hand woven sculptures by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, a social enterprise of indigenous women. There's also a gorgeous animated film clip you can view here. With my little donkey mate no longer with us, this will be a book I treasure forever <3
Looking forward to:
The Just Write for Kids Pitch It! Competition is back on for another year and I’m one of the picture book judges. This is such a fun competition to judge, and I’m looking forward to reading those entries! Find out more here.
Next week is Australian Dementia Awareness Week with World Alzheimer's Day on the 21st. Look out for my posts on socials - there might even be a give-away!
SCBWI is having a sketch and Scribble at may Gibbs' Nutcote in December - it should be great fun!
Until next time, or I see you somewhere in my KidLitLand adventures, I'll leave you with StoryHound Archie trying to keep up with the latest totally bow-wow trends, and the Dachshunds!
Dear fellow adventurer,
Winter has begun with an abundance this year – an abundance of freezing days!! But there have been many sunshiny moments to warm body and heart.
I can finally announce the news that I hinted at last time… I have a new contract for a picture book to be published by HarperCollins, probably in 2024 - I’m so thrilled! This manuscript has had a long and winding road to publication: A Tale of Many Publishers! It began with an idea from one publisher, but in the end didn’t get through acquisitions :-( I then took it to another publisher at an assessment at the CYA Conference last year, and they loved it but didn’t think their publishing house was quite the right fit for it. But super-kindly they sent it to their friend, a publisher at another company, HarperCollins, and they took it on! After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and ‘noodling,’ the contract was signed last week. I’m thrilled! And so are all the publishers who had a hand in it, and for whom I am thankful!
It's also been wonderful to get glimpses of my picture book with EK books (illustrated by Arielle Li) progressing! I have some cover art designs to comment on - they are all so good, it's so hard to choose!
I’m excited to be part of the State Library of NSW online Storytime, this week (It's actually tomorrow, 15th June, 11 am). I’ll be on zoom with a The Scared Book and a big bag full of toys for some MONSTERous fun! I’d love you to join me – you can register here. And a reminder - book week is coming up next term and I still have some availability for author visits. If you'd like to book me for your school or preschool, contact Creative Kids Tales Speaker's Agency here.
Talking about The Scared Book, it was lovely seeing photos of Wendy Fitzgerald reading my book at the Words on the Waves Festival – thanks Wendy! There are so many festivals and conferences at the moment - and I have a serious case of FOMO! Eg the CBCA Conference in Canberra looked like such a fun and fascinating program, and so many people I would have loved to meet and catch up with!! The Kids and YA Festival at Writing NSW is coming up in a couple of weeks – and the FOMO is intensified! Although I really can’t complain because it’s also wonderful celebrating special life events with family and friends!
I did get to drop in on the Sydney Writer’s Festival Family Fun day and bump into a few kidlit friends. I even got myself drawn into a pretty cool looking super-hero by Mike Barry and finally got my We Run Tomorrow book signed by both Mike and Nat Amoore! Doubly cool!
Another friend I bumped into recently was Paula Stevenson, doing the rounds of bookshops with her delightful new picture book, Buster Follows His Nose. You may remember I mentioned this book last time, as the illustrator is one of my writing group buddies, Jenny Hale. It’s so cool that I’m friends with both the author and illustrator of this gorgeous book!
On the subject of writing friends, I was thrilled to hear that our SCBWI Australia East and NZ leader, Susanne Gervay won this year’s SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for her novel, Heroes of the Secret Underground! Susanne is such a force for encouragement and good in the KidLit world, and she was recovering from an operation when the award was announced: I’m sure this news gave her a much-needed boost. I remember how meaningful it was for me to be honoured with this award for The Scared Book a few years ago. If you know Susanne and would like to send her warm wishes too, she’s made a fundraiser for helping those displaced by war in Ukraine (an issue close to her heart), in lieu of cards and flowers etc. It’s just another example of her big-hearted engagement with the world. You can donate here.
Talking about SCBWI, I got a lot out of one of their recent digital workshops - Marketing for Authors: From Self-Promotion to Getting the Most from Your Publisher with US author Margot Wood. It was such a helpful insight into the role of various people in the publishing house and schedules for publishing etc! I really recommend these free workshops to SCBWI members – I catch up on them after the event, but you have to be quick – they're usually only up on the website for a month.
Something else I've found insightful and helpful for my work is reading George Saunders’ A Swim In The Pond In The Rain: What Reading the Nineteenth-Century Russians Can Teach Us about Stories, Truth, and Transformation. I am loving this book – the gentle and wise insights given and the way Saunders interrogates and reflects on the writing of the Russian masters. The lessons are simultaneously wise, heart-warming and instructive.
Another heat-warming moment was reading an article in April’s The Literature Base Magazine (Part of the Magpies Magazine) by Allison Paterson, who mentioned When I See Grandma amongst many other beautiful recommended books about grandparents. It’s so gratifying to know that this book is still quietly working to bring love and compassion behind the scenes.
Whilst I miss chatting to Katrina Roe on the radio, it hasn’t stopped me reading some wonderful children’s books lately! A few junior fiction/Mid grade reads that have had me hooked recently are:
The Magic of Magnolia Moon – I couldn’t love this book more – gentle, wise and quirky - I adore Edwina Wyatt’s writing, and I didn’t think she could top her first Magnolia Moon book (The Secrets of Magnolia Moon), but I think this one was even more lovely than the first! the Magnolia Moon books sit on my most-cherished-books shelf!
The Callers is Kiah Thomas’ first mid grade novel and it’s a cracker! It’s a fresh, gripping adventure story set in a fantasy world that’s easy to read and keeps you guessing and glued to the last page! I loved it. I interviewed Kiah on the Just Write for Kids blog about her picture books, a while back. you can find the blog here.
Sue Whiting’s new series, Pearly and Pig is another great (albeit icy) Antarctic adventure story: with characters that are lively and quirky, and similes and metaphors that are fresh and fun along with many great puns! I’m in the middle of it at the moment, and loving every page.
Books on my radar:
Two books by Kathryn Apel - one picture book and one verse novel - Miss Understood (illustrated by Beau Wiley) and What Snail Knows. More on them next time...
Things I’m looking forward to:
SCBWI zoom about picture books on Sunday 26th June, details here.
CYA conference and assessments in July. Details here.
Something I’m sad to miss: Kids and YA Festival - but I hope some of you get there! It's on the 25th June. Details here.
Until next time, I'll leave you with a photo of a visitor I saw on a harbourside walk last week!
Dear fellow adventurer,
The jingle of Christmas bells is a distant memory and the Easter Bunny has hippity-hopped out of town (although my keyboard is still a bit sticky with chocolate!) and so much has happened in my corner of KidLitLand in the months in between! Here’s something I’ve discovered – the longer I’ve taken to start writing this news, the harder it is to start. It’s a bit like all those photos stacking up on my phone - the more there are, the more I’m putting off downloading or dealing with them! But here I am! I shall put this news off no more! You might like to grab a cuppa before we set off!
Whilst the weather is cooling down, my writing life is hotting up! I mentioned in my Cheers to Christmas that I have signed a contract with EK Books for a picture book to be illustrated by Arielle Li and released mid next year. And what a joy this is! I’ve already seen some initial artwork and the storyboard for the book – and I can’t stop sighing, it’s that beautiful! I can’t wait for you to see it too! But in the meantime, you can check out Arielle's latest picture book, just released, Get Ready, Mamma written by Sharon Giltrow and also published with EK Books. It is ‘touring’ with Books On Tour on the Just Write for Kids blog - you can read the review and follow along from here. Check out the cute trailer below. You could even WIN a copy! And, on a side note, congratulations to EK books for being shortlisted for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year (Oceana Region) at the Bologna Book Fair!
It was marvellous to back in front of kids, post Covid lockdowns, in the Easter Holidays, conducting a writing workshop with WestWords, at the Dundas library. I do love the energy and imagination of kids! PLUS most of them knew my play in The School Magazine published last year, and one of them had seen it performed by their class!! How incredible is that??!! I’m now represented for author visits by Creative Kids Tales Speakers Agency (check me out here) and I have some spaces left for book week if you’d like to book me up!
Talking about in-person events, I also had a bookstore appearance at Dymocks Neutral Bay for their VIP shopping night. And how fabulous to see families who already know and love my books, and to have booksellers who are so supportive.
Another thing that’s back in full swing is my writer’s group meeting in person again! Zoom’s been great for iso times, but there’s nothing like the energy of a group of writers in a room! And we’ve had such exciting news: several of us have had pieces picked up and published in The School Magazine, PLUS Jenny Hale has gloriously illustrated a new picture book, Buster Follows his Nose, written by Paula Stevenson and published by Little Pink Dog Books. It releases in May. AND group member Lisa Nicol’s MG book, Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who lost Her Laughter has been selected in the top 10 Children’s books for 2021 in China! Awarded at Shenzhen Reading Month, a large literary festival and also home to the world’s largest bookshop. How cool is that??
After a bit of an hiatus, I enjoyed blogging over at Just Write For Kids with an interview with author Martine Murray, who, despite being an award-winning traditionally published author, has chosen to establish her own publishing company (Parachute Press) in conjunction with Anna Read, to publish their own picture books. Find out why and about their latest book, The Owl Who was Left Behind, on the JWFK blog, here.
Sadly, as some things crank up, another winds down, and with Katrina Roe leaving Hope 103.2, our book chats will come to an end. Our Dec, Jan, and March final chat are of the books below (Feb was a CBCA Notables recap). You can find out more about the books by checking out my Facebook and Instagram posts.
I’m sure, like me, you watched in horror as the floods earlier in the year devastated many families and communities. Kid’s author Zanni Louise organised an auction of mainly literary prizes to help raise funds to help rebuild Lismore. The auction raised over $56,000 and I was the lucky winner of a soon-to-be-released picture book by Crystal Corocher The Naked Sheep, which looks like lots of fun!
A bit of industry news, in case you missed it:
CBCA Notables and Shortlist has been announced, and, as usual I am thrilled for my fiends who made the lists! You can find them here.
The inaugural Forevability Awards, celebrating books for kids with a theme of disability, illness and inclusion, were announced recently. It was a joy to be one of the judges and see what amazing books are being created dealing with these important topics. Congratulations to the winners and shortlisted creators, and to all creators who reflect a diversity of characters and situations and help readers stretch their empathy muscles by creating books with great artfulness, insight and sensitivity. You can see the winners on the awards Facebook page here.
On this theme (Blatant pug here): Wombat Books, has a fantastic value Empathy book pack with four 4 books for $55 – including my When I See Grandma and books from my friends, Katrina Roe, Penny Jaye and Heather Gallagher. It would be a fabulous resource for school libraries as well as for in the home. You can order the pack on their website here.
For those who’d like an insider’s guide to publishing for children, United Publishers of Armidale (UPA) have compiled Inside Story, a book with heaps of useful information about the publishing process, from writing and illustrating picture books, through MG and non-fiction, to editing, marketing and distribution and everything in between. I’ve got my copy and was excited to see some of Jenny Hale’s illustrations included, and CBCA friend, Jan Latta with a segment.
The new Australian Children’s Laureate has been announced for the next two years, and I think Gabrielle Wang is a marvellous choice! You can see a short video of her here.
If your inbox is anything like mine, it gets filled with an awful lot of junk (another thing that I put off auditing!), but a couple of author newsletters that are always welcome are Al Tait’s and Irma Gold’s. They always have some great book industry and/or writing news in them (Al’s is kidlit related and Irma’s is a broader audience). Both writers also have podcasts – Your Kid’s Next Read (Al with with Megan Daily), and Secrets from the Green Room (Irma with Craig Cormick).
Writing NSW also has a great newsletter with courses and opportunities (I’ve had a bit of success submitting to writing competitions found in them) and also the chance to WIN free books - recently I won a book that I was desperate to read –Kate Simpson’s Non-fiction picture book, Ouch! Tales of Gravity. Archie reviewed this one on his Story_hound Insta page (below - some stills from the video). Writing NSW also has free seminars for members, like the First Friday Club, which I zoomed into recently, and heard all about Panterra Press. These really are informative and helpful sessions for writers, especially if you want to be published. Children’s author and festival director of the next Kids and YA Festival in June, Belinda Murrell is speaking at the next one, on the first Friday (6th) of May.
Things I’m looking forward to:
Finding a contract in my inbox ;-)
Nat Amoore is launching her newest MG book – this time it’s a graphic novel with Mike Barry, We Run Tomorrow, which sounds amazing. You can meet her and Mike at Gleebooks on Saturday, 7th May between 1 and 5 pm.
Checking out a few sessions at the Sydney Writer's Festival 16-22 May.
Writing NSW Kids and YA Festival 25th June.
I’m booked in for the CYA conference again this year in July. It’s over three Saturdays (9, 16, 23) and online, like last year, and I’ve booked a couple of assessments with publishers/editors which I got a lot out of last year.
Until next time (and hopefully not so belated)
All the best,
Cheers to Christmas! It's been a crazy couple of years, and books have been the heroes for many of us, kids and adults alike, keeping us company when we were lonely, wrapping us in their cosy, comforting warmth like a hug, or helping us escape Covid constraints by going on an adventure. As wonderful as books are, I hope that you can spend this holiday time in the real life company of friends and family as well.
And the best early Christmas present I got this year, was a new picture book contract! I'm excited to bring into the world a couple of characters that I hope everyone will fall in love with, thanks to EK Books and illustrator Arielle Li. So cheers to that as well!
Wishing you a Happy Christmas and bright, sparkly New Year.
It’s so good to be out and about in Sydney again! I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some time with family and friends as restrictions ease. I'm looking forward to catching up with my writer's group in person, for an end of year celebration, FINALLY after nearly two years on zoom! SO exciting! Talking about writing...
I am super-thrilled to have my play Dancing with the Cars published in The School Magazine, ‘Touchdown’ edition, illustrated by the incredible Tohby Riddle! I can hardly believe it! I’ve taken happy snaps of all the pages and posted them here. I’m also excited to be talking to a publisher about a picture book manuscript. Things are progressing very nicely and I’m trying to be 'quietly' hopeful!
I had the privilege of doing a couple of manuscript assessments for Greenleaf Press recently. It was really gratifying helping others polish their stories, and also instructive to be on the other side of the pen!
I was honoured to part of launching Jean Saxby’s YA The Craving, on zoom. Jean is the minutes secretary of our CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch and I was chuffed that she asked me to interview her at the launch. The Craving is a fantasy romance with deep themes and steeped in allegory. I love Jean’s visceral way of writing, it pulls you right into the world she’s created. It’s a compelling read.
On the subject of launches, I enjoyed attending Libby Hathorn’s launch of her picture book, The Best Cat, the Est Cat, about the NSW State Library and its collections. The library has such a huge collection of artefacts, so I love how Libby decided what to include – the -est things, like the small-est, the old-est etc. Kids love -est!
Results of the Just Write For Kids Pitch It competition are in and you can see the winners here. I love judging this competition and I'm thrilled about the success of previous winner (and one of this year's judges), Stef Gemmill, whose pitched manuscript has now been turned into a real-life picture book- Toy Mountain is published by EK books and colourfully illustrated by Katharine Hall.
I'm also pleased to be one of the judges of the new Forevability Book Award, for books with themes of disability, illness and inclusion, and own voices creators. You can find out more about these children's book awards (entries closing today, I think) here, and more about Forevability and their aims here. I’m pleased to have both my picture books listed on this website.
On the subjects of awards, I was thrilled that one of my favourite recent picture books was among the winners of the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year awards. Congratulations to Kaye Baillie and Tracie Grimwood for Boo Loves Books (a story close to StoryHound Archie's heart!) You can see the winners here. I interviewed Kaye for the Just Write For Kids blog, and you can read the interview here.
Talking about Archie, he's been lying low for bit. He had an operation to amputate his dew claw due to a (benign) tumour :-( Thankfully he is getting back to being himself again now. It won't be long before he's back in front of the camera!
So many books! It was a pleasure to review some of them with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio recently (see picture below). Dinosaur Dads by two of my favourite authors/illustrators, Lesley Gibbes and Marjory Crosby-Fairall is a rhyming, rollicking, romping, stomping delight of a book. Full of playful fun between kids and dads.
Where's my Dinosaur? by Ashling Kwok and Jasmine Berry is a fun, sweet, charming book about expecting a new baby - perfect for growing families.
The Song of Lewis Carmichael, is a mid-grade novel by Sofie Laguna & Marc Mcbride. It's an atmospheric, whimsical, moving adventure through the Arctic in a hot air balloon, with a young boy and a talking bird with broken wing. It’s stunning and beautiful. I cried. Gave me all the feels of Charlottes Web.
I’ve also collected these books for Christmas presents:
The Lion Who Came to Stay by Victoria Mackinlay and Ronojoy Ghosh is the remarkable true story of Victoria’s Grandfather getting a lion cub for a present!
Mary Had a Little Lamb: What really Happened, by the hilarious picture book writer, Amelia McInerney and illustrated by Natashia Curtain. This is a wickedly funny fractured fairy-tale guaranteed to get the kids giggling, and maybe even raise a few eyebrows!
Tish and Magnolia Moon both Junior Fiction books by Edwina Wyatt with her trademark heartfelt delight and whimsy. With illustrations by Odette Barberousse and Katherine Quinn respectively.
The travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully, a new JF series by Katrina Nannestead and illustrated by Cheryl Ornsini
I’m also excited to see a new YA book by Sarah Epstein, Sugar Coated. If you sign up to her newsletter, you’ll get a free e-novella set in this world. I can’t wait to start reading mine!
Have you discovered Project ARI podcast yet? It’s written by One More Page podcaster and author Nat Amoore for NOVA FM and the government’s Stop it at the Start campaign about respect. It’s about 10-year-old Ari, who’s the world’s first artificial intelligence prototype, trying to wrap his ‘data brain’ around the human experience. This series is Nat’s trademark funny and silly, with plenty of heart, and has been designed as a tool to help start meaningful conversations with kids about respectful behaviour. And it’s been nominated for two Australian Podcast Awards! Congratulations Nat! Listen here.
I'm late to the party (as usual) but I am so loving Ted Lasso! (NB not for kids). It's such a feel-good, funny, heart-warming, wise show. I don't know what I'm going to do when I've binge-watched the lot! I love what I read in the paper on the weekend about the show: that there are two types of people in the world - those who love Ted Lasso and those who haven't watched it yet!
Looking forward to:
Catching up with my CBCA NSW Sub-branch committee in real life in December.
Catching up with my writer's group for a real life dinner in December!
SCBWI zoom Christmas festivities.
Hoping your December brings with it a chance to unwind a little and spend time in the company of family and friends.
Until next time, I'll leave you with a photo from the launch of The Best Cat, the Est Cat - can you see the small-est book in the library's collection?
August and September have been zooming – quite literally! Whilst I’ve been relatively unscathed from lockdown measures cocooned in Canberra for a while, inevitably Covid invaded Canberra and everything moved to zoom. Even book week was on zoom again this year. However, it has been lovely to join in events around the country, and support my writing friends on social media. I’ve also taken the opportunity to give my website a bit of a spring clean: you can check it out here.
September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and I wrote a guest post on the Wombat Books Blog for Alzheimer’s Awareness Day on the theme ‘A little support makes a big difference.’ You can read it here, and Story Hound Archie thought he'd help demonstrate the concept in the photo, left.
I was so thrilled to see The Scared Book in ‘double vision’ in the Braille House library, with braille tape attached, so children and parents who are blind or have low vision can enjoy it! How cool is that? I wrote a post about the amazing work Braille House does for the Just Write For Kids blog last year - you can read it here.
I made a little video teaser about my piece in the Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds anthology, and you can see it here. I’ve also seen lots of cool videos by other creators about their pieces in the anthology too.
I’m excited to once again be one of the judges for the Just Write For Kids Pitch it competition – picture book category, and I’ve been asked to judge the exciting new Forevability Book Award next year, for books with themes of disability, illness and inclusion, and own voices creators. I’m pleased to have both my picture books listed on this website. You can find out more about Forevability here.
I've caught up with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio to chat about these brilliant books. I’ve raved about all of these books in earlier newsletters, except Lisa Nicol’s hot off the press The What on Earth Institute Of Wonder. It’s an exquisite middle grade novel which explores the interconnectedness of all things and the wonder to be found in nature and the human heart. With a talking Kakapo and a jazz loving African Forrest Elephant, and some huggable humans, it's written with the humour of Roald Dahl and the sensitivity and insight of Kate DiCamillo, it’s funny and it’s heartfelt and it’s a must read. Lisa is one of my writing buddies and I am so proud to have had even a tiny role in helping bring this beautiful book into the world - it was a buzz to get a mention in the acknowledgements!
August is always book party time with Book Week. What a shame that so many celebrations had to be online. I hope it didn't stop kids dressing up - Archie certainly got in on the spirit (see photo at the end). On the plus side, everyone had the opportunity to watch the online events, and if you missed them you can catch up here. I was particularly thrilled to see Kate Gordon’s quiet, wise, deep novel Aster’s Good Right Things, by a small indie publisher, take out the younger readers category.
Talking about awards, I was thrilled that Lian Tanner’s A Clue for Clara won the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award (I love this book so much and I can’t wait for the companion book) and Nat Amoore’s The Power of Positive Pranking won the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s literature. So cool!
A new picture book out in time for Christmas is Star. I love a nativity book and Artelle Lenthall has written one from a unique perspective – the Christmas star! Star is a fable-like story with a lovely message about compassion and finding your ‘shine,’ and glowing illustrations on a vibrant blue backdrop, by Margaret Deware. I can see this delighting young children in the early school years.
Some gems I’ve taken away from recent events:
I’ve actioned a tip from Tina Clark’s CYA workshop and made a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word count! Tina said it’s about monitoring, not measuring, and it’s surprising how motivating such a little thing is, to want to put a number in the daily column instead of leaving it blank! I’ve made a very small and achievable target, but anything at all, even a few words, is moving the manuscript forward, and I’m encouraged to keep it up every day for a perfect record! Thanks Tina!
At the SCBWI QLD Bibliotherapy conference I was interested to hear from Claire Mansour about the importance of books from a speech pathologist’s perspective, that spark kid’s imagination and curiosity, because engaging a child will help them learn, encourage conversation and play with new words. I was also interested to hear from Anouska Jones about how EK books rose out of the health, wellbeing and self-help Exisle Publishing. They asked ‘what if kids were given the tools to not need self-help books in the future?’ And EK developed into that space. Anouska generously allowed participants to email her a picture book manuscript to jump the slush pile – so fingers crossed for something I sent in!
Also in Queensland, I got to hear the wonderful Claire Saxby talk about narrative non-fiction picture books at a Book Links event. She specifically talked about her stunning book, Iceberg and how she came to this subject through the remarkable, evocative language of ice, like ‘cheeky growlers’ and ‘old grandfather blues’ etc. The language and pictures in this book are truly stunning - if you haven't read it, you absolutely must! One of the more difficult things for this genre is working out what, of the amazing creatures and information, to leave out – does it belong in this story? Is there room? Will it detract? What I also found particularly helpful was thinking about the setting’s duration – eg Iceberg is set over a year in Antarctica, Big Red is from dusk to dawn over one day, Dingo is set over four dusk hours in winter.
Irma Gold at the SCBWI ACT event, echoed some of the comments Deb Abela made at the CKT event earlier in the year, about the different functions of each manuscript draft. Paraphrased: every book is about something and with each re-write you distil and refine the essence of that something. Irma also recommends not only putting the manuscript away for at least six weeks before editing, but also printing it out in a different font and size to help you read it like a reader rather than a writer. Irma also echoed Claire Saxby in that research must be in the service of the story, and often the hardest thing for authors is to let go of fascinating research as it slows the story down.
I also found this really helpful post on the Children’s Book Academy blogfish, about search engines for libraries. It has so many uses for authors! Find it here.
Looking forward to:
Reading all the amazing Pitch It comp pitches!
CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch zoom meeting on the 20th October with a showreel of authors presenting their 2021 new releases, and Paul MacDonald talking about the year from a bookseller's perspective. Find out more here.
Some easing of restrictions, now I am back in Sydney. Hooray!
Until next time, wishing you safe and well.
I’ll leave you with Archie’s Book Week costume, at left.
Caption: Archie has food allergies so he identifies with Zed. Although thankfully he CAN eat bread. But on a serious note - Archie hopes he hasn’t found Zed, dead, covered in bread! 😱😂 Did someone feed him bread, again?
P.S. Who knew Nike bags made such good dog dress ups?!
June started off with a book launch extravaganza which sadly fizzled to nothing by the end of July, with restrictions in Sydney and many other places. I’m writing this from Canberra (cue frosty seat and boardwalk pic) having narrowly escaped Sydney lock-down, and It’s been a joy to share book-baby sightings and encourage my Sydney friends whose new releases are arriving into the world without the deserved fanfare.
To that end, let me acknowledge some of them here (apologies to those I've missed):
Penny Jaye and Alicia Rogerson’s One Potoroo is a very special, beautiful and evocative picture book telling the story of the world's most endangered marsupial, the Gilbert's Potoroo. This is a moving story of survival with Penny Jaye's rich, poetic language and the stunning artwork by Alicia Rogerson. This book does it all: entertains, inspires and educates. I would have loved this book on my bookshelf as a child. You can read my full review on Goodreads.
Another picture book about the relationship between an animal and a human is Irma Gold’s Where the Heart Is, illustrated by Susannah Crispe. This did get a Canberra launch, but plans to go further afield were kyboshed by Covid. You can watch it being hilariously read by Fergie, Duchess of York, if you check out Irma’s blog, here.
Lesley Gibbes and Marjory Crosby-Fairall have a colourful rhyming dino-romp, Dinosaur Dads, which will be perfect for Father’s Day. I love the work of each these creators separately, so together, they're a fantastic combo!
Lisa Shanahan and Leila Rudge are a great picture book duo and they have another gorgeous book together, told through the eyes of a toddler, Hello World!
The book launch extravaganza I mentioned was of, course, Nat Amoore’s launch for her third mid-grade novel, The Right Way to Rock! What a super-star Nat is! Such a fabulous Broadway-style performance. It was a spectacular! And the book is fabulous too – it has some of THE MOST LIKEABLE characters in a book I’ve ever read! I love Mac and Flynn. I also really enjoyed listening to Nat’s interview with her sensitivity reader for the book, Jess Thom, on the One More Page Podcast. It was a really eye-opening and thought provoking, and I learnt a lot about Tourette’s syndrome and representation of people with disabilities in general. I highly recommend listening in here.
Whilst I feel like I’m in a bit of suspended reality in Canberra, it’s been fabulous to catch up with bookish friends here. I managed a real-life launch of Catherine Meatheringham’s new picture book, All Dogs Bark, which is a brilliantly simple, yet fascinating and sublimely illustrated book, by Deb Hudson, about dogs barking in different countries. The French patisserie page is adorable - of course it's Story Hound Archie's favourite, and he's learnt how to bark in French - Jappe! (see his Insta photos at the end of this post.) And yes, the way dogs bark in different countries is heard differently! Who knew?? Catherine, obviously! It's a delight! I went to the 'launch with dogs' - and caught up with some human friends too! Fun!
Something that brightened my little author's heart recently was some fan mail! I was sent this photo of a school assignment, to 'read a book and say why you relate to it' - and look what this young fan chose! The Scared Book! How amazing is it to write books that speak into children’s lives?? Thanks so much to the parent who sent this to me - you can’t get more encouraging than that!
I’ve taken advantage of things slowing down a bit by attending some great online conferences over June/July. I’ve got so much out of the CKT festival and CYA Conference and I’ve also been catching up on some of the wonderful workshops offered by SCBWI in the US. There’s been a lot to help me think through writing issues and see my works in progress with new eyes. Thank you to all the presenters – I’ve taken away some great stuff from each of you!
Of note for creators, I loved Kathryn Apel’s poem Perseverance, found on her website – the last line especially resonated: ‘Endurance sweetens success.’ You’ll find the poem at the end of her post about her gorgeous new rhyming picture book, with Renee Treml as illustrator, The Bird in the Herd, here. It’s a fun cumulative tale- I’ve got myself a copy and recommend you do to.
I took advantage of a publisher assessment in conjunction with the CYA conference, and got some really positive feedback! Fingers crossed that something comes of it!
I always love talking kids books with Katrina Roe at Hope 103.2 radio, and these are my latest reviews:
Amelia McInerney and Adam Nickel’s Who Fed Zed: A darkly humorous book with a subtly disguised message about food allergies and reading food labels. The fun mono-rhyme has a Dr Zeus feel and it has fabulous retro illustrations.
Pawcasso by Remi Lai. I can’t tell you how much I love this book! Warm and wise, covering deep themes of friendship and fitting in, family, love and loss, lies, misunderstandings, responsible dog ownership and more! I loved the multi-dimensional storytelling in this graphic novel, that adds layers of meaning, and left me with a warm, fuzzy afterglow! This book would delight any mid-grade reader – especially those who love dogs.
Found by Bruce Pasco and Charmaine Ledden-Lewis. Such a stunningly illustrated and evocative book about a calf whose family is taken away in a rumbling truck, with echoes of the Stolen Generations in this heart-tugging and yet hopeful picture book.
It’s great to see the CBCA anthology Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, getting some great coverage, despite now being unable to take it ‘on the road’ for book week. Here's an article in The Beast Magazine. And talking about book week, if kids are at school by then, I have some ideas about how to dress up in The Scared Book theme, from a blog post I did few years ago here, and check out the costumes kids came up with, below.
I also wanted to give a big SHOUT OUT to author Wai Chim who is a contestant on Australian Survivor! How amazing is that? I’ve raved about Wai’s books in prior posts (The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling was her latest YA novel). On Survivor, she’s on team Brains. I'm yet to tune in, but that doesn't stop me being amazed and cheering her on! And I know she survives because she lives to post on her Instagram account! GO Wai!
Things I'm looking forward to:
My second Covid vax and lockdown ending!
Book week (I'll be celebrating even if kids aren't at school!) and the 75th Book of the Year Awards - online at cbca.org.au 20th August at noon, Sydney time.
SCBWI Queensland Bibliotherapy Symposium, 29th August, online. Details here.
My birthday - I've asked for a KOBO e-reader this year. I reckon it's a great way to borrow books when I can't get to a library, as well as maybe buy a few. Thanks to Kate Simpson who started a twitter chat about e-readers a while ago - it was really helpful!.
Wishing you all safe and well.
I'll leave you with Archie's French lessons :-)
I wanted to start off this news with the most exciting part of the last couple of months, and give a BIG SHOUT OUT to the CBCA NSW Eastern Suburbs Sub-branch for the launch of their anthology, Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.
This is such a brilliant concept, and not just because I have a poem in it! It's a wonderful collection of bite-sized stories, poetry and plays, generously written and illustrated by some wonderfully talented creators, including a few famous faces, on this year's book week theme. It really has been community coming together! The book is perfect for kids to flick though before bed, or read with a parent, and a MUST for school libraries and classrooms. Check out #ownwow on social media to see some of the hype.
I must say I was a little daunted to read my piece at the launch in front of the Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, especially since my poem is titled 'Toilet Tales' and inevitably includes the P word! It consists of three discreet (or should that be indiscrete??) nine word stories, each set in a different world (Old, New, and Other) with a rhyme at the end of them. You can see me reading it on my YouTube channel here. It was inspired by my father's experiences as a boy using the outhouse at night.
Can I also say, what warm and wonderful patrons the Governor and her husband are. Her Excellency described the book as a ‘classic’ and a book “we wished we had read while in upper primary years.” They had also prepared a funny video to advertise the CBCA Collide Book trailer competition. In all they did, they left the guests under no illusion as to who the VIPs in the room were... the children!
Of course, launches are always highlights, and I got to celebrate another one recently - Shelly Unwin's Hello Baby (Jedda Robaard illustrator). I raved about this book last time! At the launch I had an amazing time catching up with many kidlit friends, and while zoom has its benefits, there’s nothing like a good in-person free-ranging natter about all things kidlit. It was so encouraging and inspiring, plus I picked up some great insider hints and tips. I also won an artwork from this gorgeous book!
While in town, Shelly was on the radio giving some great advice about reading to your baby, on Hope 103.2 radio with Katrina Roe. You can listen in here.
So many of my adventures these last two months have gone to the dogs! Archie and I have been overjoyed to see so many pooches in our KidLitLand adventures and even on our TV screen, and in our puzzles! Even the abovementioned anthology has dogs running through it - from green space puppies and Pixie the cavoodle, to graphically illustrated Treepy. There may be more, but I haven't read right through yet!
Apart from the anthology, I've also been reading:
Paws, by Kate Foster. It's a great mid-grade novel about a boy and his dog! Told with warmth, kindness and insight, an own voices, first person narrative about an 11 year old boy with autism and his quest to make friends. Kate celebrated publication day with a fabulous social media campaign, with pooches (including Archie, of course) flooding the internet!
Heroes of the Secret Underground. Susanne Gervay has written a heart-stopping timeslip adventure based on her family’s experience in Budapest, Hungary during the Holocaust. A book that needed to be written, by an author of great skill, sensitivity and insight, who brings the story to light and makes it relevant for today.
Kate Gordon is a master at writing achingly beautiful books, and CBCA notable, Aster’s Good, Right Things, is another of them. It’s a tender story from the perspective a child with anxiety, and is shortlisted for the CBCA book of the year award.
On a recent trip to Canberra, I listened to Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina and read by one of my favourite actresses, Miranda Tapsell. Set in a small country town, it was the perfect mystery, suspense story (albeit chillingly tragic) to read while driving through country NSW.
I always love chatting to Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 about kids and YA Books, and here is the selection over the past two months:
As you can see, pooches feature prominently (with a few farm animals thrown into the mix)! I've written about Walking Your Human and Future Girl before - I recommend them everywhere!
The four Junior Fiction books are all part of new series, which is exciting. Pepper Creek Ponies by Jess Black and illustrated by Serena Geddes is perfect for 8-10 y/o horse-loving children, like I was. On the younger end of the reading scale, Nerd Herd by Nathan Luff and illustrated by Chris Kennett has lots of slapstick humour reminiscent of old cartoons I used to watch as a kid, but with a kinder feel.
Puppy diary is the latest series from Yvette Poshoglian of Ella and Olivia fame, illustrated by Phil Judd
and is the diary of Archie (not to be confused with StoryHound) and his adventures in doggy day care. The Underdogs by Kate & Jol Temple and illustrated by Shiloh Gordon is a great madcap mystery that kids will giggle at as they try and piece together the clues, and adults will love the zany pop culture references (Dr Spots the gadget-girl Dalmatian is a wink to Q from James Bond, princess Leia, and Dr Spock!) Check out their Instagram account for more.
Talking about Instagram, Archie is barking mad over The Underdogs competition! Post a photo of your pet on Instagram and tag The Underdogs, and you could win your pet a place in their upcoming book! Archie is so excited, he's entered - check the moving image out at Story_hound. You can find more details on The_Underdogs_official Instagram account.
On the back of having a play accepted by The School Magazine, I've sent a couple of other stories to them, without the same success :-( So now I'll look elsewhere for placement. I've also sent out a few stories for adults, and had the pleasure of reading one, titled 'Pickles' to a flash fiction event in the Blue Mountains last weekend.
On my radar:
How good was the National Simultaneous Storytime read from space? How cool to see Philip Bunting’s book, Give Me Some Space, float in zero gravity! And what a brilliant reading by astronaut Shannon! You can watch it here.
The National centre for Australian Children's Literature in Canberra has a fantastically doggy exhibition on until 23rd June, Dog tales: Dogs in Australian Children's Literature. Featuring the works of Bob Graham, Alison Lester and Anne James. I do hope I can get to it before it closes.
Two doggish TV shows: the UK The Dog House, on 10 Play, which is a sigh-and-cry-fest for my daughter and I. The stories of rescue dogs and those who adopt them is both heart-breaking and heart-warming; and Top Jobs For Dogs on ABC i-view, where we've discovered some amazing working dogs.
Looking forward to:
The launch of Nat Amoore's latest mid-grade novel, The Right Way to Rock, on Friday. If you haven't seen Nat's unboxing video of this book, you simply must view it here.
Creative Kid's Tales Writer's Festival on this weekend (I'll be juggling between this and Nat's launch)
CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch next event at Gordon library on the 9th June, and our dinner with fantastic Great Debate by some of the funniest authors and illustrators from our sub-branch, on the 21st July. Find out more here.
CYA Conference in July. I have a couple of writing assessments I'm looking forward to.
Well, that's about all from me,
Until next time, stay safe,
PS I'll leave you with a pic of our doggie puzzle - perfect for winter!
I had such fun in Canberra recently, catching up with author friends Amelia McInerney and Shelly Unwin, to celebrate the CBCA Night of the Notables. Here’s us (at left) cheering on all the notable creators! You can see all the notable books here.
But the most exciting thing was seeing the advance author copies of Shelly and Amelia’s latest books. True to form, Amelia’s upcoming picture book is another fun, quirky, rhyming tale. It’s hilarious! Keep your eye out for it in July. I also got her to sign my copy of My Bird Bertie, (illustrated by Shane McG) which has the strongest rhyme and beat in a book I’ve read for ages – you’ll be guaranteed to be tapping along to the rhythm (for days later… be warned!).
Shelly’s new picture book (illustrated by Jedda Robaard) is a prequel to her You’re series and it’s a divine, rhyming celebration of a new born baby. The illustrations of baby and parent animals are absolutely gorgeous. Perfect for new parents and babies. I'm excited to get along to her Sydney 'drop-in' launch on the 24th April between 10.30-2.30 at the Lindfield Learning Hub. Shelly's also doing a roving book signing in Canberra on the 17th April. Find out more about the Canberra and Sydney events here.
While in Canberra, I also caught up with Instagram friend, Rhian Williams, and got to congratulate her on her picture book, Ten Little Figs (illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom) being included on the Notable list. I also met her Gidi-dog, an Insta-friend of StoryHound Archie.
Back in Sydney, it was so lovely to once again catch up with my CBCA NSW Northern Sydney sub-branch friends at a meeting IN REAL LIFE this month! Amazing sub-branch authors Belinda Murrell and Jacqueline Harvey talked about their recent books, and Wendy Blaxland inspired us with her poetry.
Another treat was getting along to the launch of Paul and Beth MacDonald’s Book Trail Press’ second picture book, this time written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Tohby Riddle, The March of the Ants. This is a delightful book about the power of story to help through hard times, and a message that couldn’t be more pertinent with all that the world has been through this past year.
I love a book launch and all the behind-the-scenes glimpses about breathing life into a book. Ursula and Tohby have a long friendship, formed during time they spent at The School Magazine. Ursula was inspired to write March of the Ants when a friend said ‘Books can give you something no-one else can give you.’ Then to bring the ants to life, Tohby had to look no further than his own kitchen where ants love to hang out! He was relieved to know that his illustrations got the tick of approval from not only child readers (a hard audience) but also Paul’s entomologist brother!
StoryHound Archie and I had a ball helping launch Liz Ledden's Walking Your Human, on Twitter. So much tail-wagging fun! (Photo at the end of the post.)
Talking about The School Magazine, I was thrilled to have two writing successes recently. One is a play I wrote that has been accepted by the iconic magazine, and the second is a flash fiction/poem I wrote being included in the Book Week anthology, put together by the amazing, energetic Eastern Suburbs CBCA NSW sub-branch. I can’t wait to see them both in print.
I’ve also sent some stories away to the CYA Competition and I’ve booked for the online conference this year. I've always wanted to go, but the timing has never worked. So this year, being online, I have no excuse! I’m also going to enter some stories into the Writer’s Unleashed Picture Book competition.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio about A Clue For Clara, (Lian Tanner/ Cheryl Orsini) a middle grade novel that I’ve written about previously, Ling Li’s Lantern, (Steve Heron/ Benjamin Johnston) a beautiful, philosophical Chinese Fable-like picture book, and All of the Factors Of Why I Love Tractors, (Davina Bell/ Jenny Lovlie) an hilarious rhyming romp of a picture book, as much about books and libraries as it is about kid’s obsessions (in this case, tractors).
With ANZAC day approaching, I recommend a book that came out last year in lockdown, and I’ve only just discovered - Red Day by Sandy Fussell. This is an amazing middle grade novel with so much that is fresh and new. The protagonist, Charlie, is in Year 7 and has synaesthesia. When a Japanese exchange student comes to stay, Charlie starts to relive events of the Japanese break out from the Cowra POW camp in WW2, as if she was there, and she and Kenichi are drawn into a mystery from the past. This is a great novel about a part of history that I really knew nothing about, with so many satisfying layers.
I finally got around to reading Nat Amoore's The Power of Positive Pranking. I loved her Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire, and didn't think it could get any better - but I was wrong! I adored this cheeky, fun midgrade novel with a whole lot of heart! It's even been shortlisted for the Readings Children's Book Prize. You can watch a star-studded reading of the hilarious first chapter here.
StoryHound Archie reviewed an exquisite picture book recently, Claudette, by Helene Magisson. This is a visually stunning book with an enchanting story about finding your place and the value of story. I fell in love with the sumptuous artwork with a French flair, and the adorable puppet, Claudette.
I've also been reading about reading, in this article on the TBR Blog recently, which is a great exploration of the value of re-reading books to children.
I was then fascinated to hear Louise Park, on a panel with Ursula Dubosarsky, hosted by The State Library of NSW, talking about getting children to read (the topic of her most recent book, Seven Steps to Get Your Child Reading). She said that a 20-year study over 27 nations found that the biggest predictor of how far a person goes with education is having 20 books in the home as children. Having books to re-read is that valuable! It made me think about how important a program like Books In Homes is. Ursula followed this up with saying that a good idea is to borrow books from a library and then buy the ones your kids love, to have at home.
I always find Easter a great time for reading, and if you’re interested in the what I think about the grown up books I've read recently, you can find me on Goodreads here.
The wonderful Belinda Murrell (who is getting around everywhere at the moment promoting her latest MG novel, The Golden Tower) sent me this snap of The Scared Book front and centre at Kinokuniya, Sydney. After doing some detective work, I discovered the clue as to why… the mural underneath is the key! Can you guess? The illustrator, Kim Siew, did the artwork for the All About Women Festival this year! Isn't it brilliant? Check it all out on her website here.
Looking forward to:
I'm excited to go to the Sydney launch of Shelly Unwin’s adorable new book, Hello Baby, 24TH April.
Chatting to Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 this week.
Seeing Kazuo Ishiguro at the Sydney Writer's Festival via video link on the 29th April.
Launch of the CBCA anthology on the 28th May.
Launch of Nat Amoore's new book, AND Creative Kids Tales conference (online) 5th June.
PLUS: Updating you with all the April events that have escaped this news!
Until next time,