July has been a relatively relaxing month for me, having had the opportunity to take not one, but two mini-breaks – one in warm, sub-tropical Queensland, and the other in freezing Canberra. Both infused with warm emotions, despite the differences in outside temperatures.
Noosa is one of my favourite places in the whole world. It was a joy to read a grown-up book by the beach (The Nancys by RWR McDonald – fun and a little bit scary - I loved it), sip hot chocolates in cafes and sample fine food from a different restaurant each night. My husband and I didn’t want to come home. It did, however, mean I missed the CYA conference in Brisbane on the same weekend we were away – so close and yet so far! By all accounts it was amazing, as usual, with some new and innovative segments like author ‘boot camps’ on the Friday.
In Canberra I went to see the Monet exhibition (wonderful) and have a tour and a wander around the galleries at the National Library (photo of pencil mobile in the bookshop). What a treasure the library is! (My kidlit buddies who live in the nation’s capital already know this.) The library’s latest exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons, is really thought provoking and I was amazed at how many children’s authors have also contributed to the social and political discourse over the years via cartoons, including May Gibbs. It was so good, I bought the book! Photo below of Judy Horacek (Where is the Green Sheep and many, many more, illustrator)
I managed to get to two amazing book launches this month. The first (technically the end of June) was Amelia McInerney’s almost wordless picture book with Philip Bunting as illustrator – Bad Crab. This book is a delight. How Philip Bunting emits emotion from a crustacean has to be seen to be believed - it is picture book magic at its best! The story by Amelia is delightfully fresh and oh-so pertinent to little people who might find it hard to keep their ‘nippers’ to themselves, but also just plain funny on its own. You can check out my recent interview with Amelia, HERE, if you haven't already.
The second launch was for a picture book illustrated by Beth McDonald, of The Children’s Bookshop fame. Paperboy is a thoughtful, reflective evocative book written by Danny Parker and published by Dirt Lane Press. Paul McDonald describes it (and many of the books published by this publisher) as open-ended, with the story going beyond the ending of the book, inviting thought and discussion. This book is worth reading for Beth’s exquisite collage alone. At the launch, it was fascinating to hear her talk about the process of illustration, and if you look closely, you will see that Paperboy is clothed in his own story – quite literally, his clothes are cut from the manuscript. So much love and consideration has gone into this book, It is really quite remarkable.
Talking about The Children’s Bookshop, I’m interviewing Paul and Beth MacDonald on the Just Write For Kids blog this Friday, about their picture book collaboration, The Hole Idea, that I mentioned last month, so look out for that. I also chatted to Katrina Roe about the book on Hope 103.2 radio, along with Real Pigeons Eat Danger from the Junior Fiction Real Pigeons series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood.
Plus, last night I had the pleasure of speaking to the emerging writers group that meets monthly at the bookshop. It’s always a joy to speak about kids books and the children’s literature community to an enthusiastic group of writers and illustrators. (Thanks to Paul and Beth for the photo below),
I was asked recently to write an article for the Students Need School Libraries campaign, and after speaking with a Teacher Librarian friend of mine about the state of her school library, I was inspired to write The Mystery of Shrinking School Libraries. I’ve been stunned at how this post has resonated and generated discussion in online forums. I’ve never had so many 'shares' of a Facebook post in my life! Do check out the website and get informed about this important issue.
On my radar:
Congratulations to Aura Parker who launched Meerkat Splash this month. I wasn’t able to make the launch but the book looks joyous.
Brydie Wright has started a fabulous community radio program on Radio Northern Beaches called By the Book about all things related to children's literature. It's on Saturday afternoons from 3-4 pm. I loved listening to Lesley Gibbes on the show recently, and finding out about her inventive 'googling!'. This Saturday's show has a music theme -nursery rhymes and music from kid's movies.
I finished Nat Amoore’s MG Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire this month. It’s great fun. Brydie Wright likened it to the movie Home Alone, and I’d have to agree, but with lashings of heart and wisdom.
I loved Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth - do yourself a favour and read this MG novel, if only for Lisa Nicol's brilliant use of language. I constantly marvelled at her metaphors and similes - they were so captivating I couldn't let them go - I had to write them down to marvel at again and again, and try and work out how she does it! And the story is divine - full of all the feels.
Both these books are so eloquently reviewed on the Middle Grade Mavens Podcast, with bonus interviews with the authors, so I highly recommend tuning in (I even get a mention in one :-) The photos below are Instagram sensation, @storyhound Archie with the books.
I am in the middle of reading Don't follow Vee by Oliver Phommavanh. I love Oliver’s characters and his humour and heart, and the way he nails playground politics – perfect!
I’ve also got myself a copy of Raising Readers by Megan Daley of Children’s Books Daily fame – teacher librarian extraordinaire! I was bummed to see that I missed Megan speaking in Sydney recently (don’t know how I missed that one) but she is a fount of bookish wisdom and her book is infused with it.
Lastly, I’m a bit late to the party with Wonder, but I finally caught up with what all the hype is about!
Out and About
My daughter and I went to a lego fair this month and met Henry, one of the winners of Lego Masters, and Marielle, one of the other contestants. It was so inspiring seeing some amazing lego creations and hearing Henry and Marielle talk about developing their Lego skills and it was fun to hear the behind-the-scenes stories from the show. My daughter bought me these fabulous Lego flowers from a trip to the new LEGO shop in Bondi recently.
What I’m Looking forward to:
Tonight is the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub branch dinner with Margaret Wild and David Legge. I’ll have a few books tucked under my arm for Margaret to sign, and I’m in the market for a copy of David’s Bamboozled – it was a strong favourite in our house when the kids were little, and I see that it’s actually 25 years old!
August means Book Week, and the month when authors and illustrators become stars! I’m one of the stars’ at Lunch with the Stars for both the Illawarra CBCA sub branch on the 14th August, and Northern Sydney sub branch, at Manly on the 3rd September, PLUS I’ll be popping into a few schools and preschools to share bookish fun with the kids.
Launches, launches, launches! I’m hoping to get along to a few book launches this month:
Susanne Gervay is launching her book illustrated by Marjory Crosby-Fairall, The Boy in the Big, Blue Glasses on Tuesday 6th August at Waverley library.
Kate Simpson is launching her second picture book, Dear Grandpa, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh, on the 10th August at Miranda Harry Hartog. Unfortunately I can't make it, but do get along to support Kate, if you can. This is also Love Your Bookshop Day, so pop into any bookshop and show them love! Quite a few bookstores are holding events – I know my ‘local’ The Children’s Bookshop, has a day packed with things to see and do.
Tim Harris’ new series Toffle Towers is launching at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft on the 17th August. I hope to be there.
Wai Chim is launching her YA The Surprising Power of a Dim Sim at Kinokonyia in Sydney on the 22nd August. I've been following her Instagram posts and they are very intriguing and inviting. Story Hound Archie is hoping I’ll bring some dim sims home for him! EDITED UPDATE: the launch has been moved to Wednesday 21st and I don't know if I can make that now :-( .
Robert Vescio is launching yet another picture book, this time with illustrator Nicky Johnston, Under the Same Sky, on the 31st August at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft.
And if August couldn’t get any better, I’m celebrating my own birthday at the end of the month – I’m sure books will be involved!
So much to do and celebrate this month. I hope I’ll see some of you at these events.
I’ll leave with the fave Story Hound Insta posts this month (did you notice I sneakily snuck a few others in this blog post? Because you can't have enough of a French bulldog with books) :-)