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Showing posts from 2020

Review: Bin Chicken

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What do meat pies, hot chips and the land of the Pharaohs have in common? As it turns out, quite a lot thanks to a curious looking, bald-headed bird with stilt-like legs and a beak that arcs like an oversized hairclip. The Straw-necked Ibis is an instantly recognisable suburban bird to even the youngest of humans thanks to its ungainly appearance and potent guano pong. Yet this hilarious tribute to one of our most misunderstood rubbish bin visitors, allows the humble Ibis to take on a glorious new role.Mother Ibis nests high above her suburban kingdom in a palm tree that is home to three adorable fluffy chicks. Despite the eclectic furnishings of their treetop home, the chicks learn from their mother not only how to survive in this modern world but gain a sense of their ancestry and history. For you see, their ancestors used to grace the banks of the Nile in Egypt and were once regarded regally rather than in distain. So when did it go so awry and Ibis became synomous with the term, B…

ABC Radio New England: School Holiday Reading Recommendations

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It would take me approximately the equivalent of six school holiday periods to get through every recommended reading title. There is simply an ocean of brilliant titles bobbing around at the moment or soon to be released. It's often the last thing you read that resounds most loudly in your head, so with that resolutely in mind, I refrained from 'going overboard' with Kristy Reading as she probed me for a list of children's books that will entertain both kids and their parents these holidays.
Click on the image below to listen to the ones featured on Monday 29 June 2020 for ABC New England NorthWest radio's breakfast show: Morning Book Club with Kristy Reading. 
Scroll forward to the 2 hour 50 minute mark to hear my segment or grab a comforting beverage and settle back to enjoy the whole show!

Here's the not-quite-full list (not full because there are a zillion other great titles to enjoy of course!). But hopefully this handful of fairly recent releases, several of…

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

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I don’t normally share adult fiction here but this recently read novel is pure magnificence and deserves  attention. I value stories that illuminate the dingier parts of history, especially histories that are not that old, like this one. Teens should therefore find A Gentleman in Moscow particularly fascinating. A Gentleman in Moscowis a story of grand proportions, immense character and infinite humor. And like all stories of colossal significance, those most successful and long remembered, it is utterly transformative. Therein lies the poetic essence of this tale; it’s essentially about the multitude of ways we are transformed by life as it itself yields to constant change.

Count Alexander Rostov's life is one of continual transformation despite the fact that his current habitat confined within the walls of the Hotel Metropol under house arrest remains static. The Count is a gentleman of former prestige and aristocratic bearing whose main occupation of the bourgeois is as observe…

Ready Set READ! Premier's Reading Challenge

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This sounds just the sort of race I'd love (being fairly average at most other sports!). 
There's no way I could run out of steam with so many exhilarating stories to fuel imagination and interest like the ones included in this year's QLD Premier's Reading Challenge
The Premier's Reading Challenge is an annual statewide initiative for Queensland state and non-state schools and home-educated students from Prep to Year 9, as well as children (aged up to 5 years) enrolled in an early childhood centre, that aims to improve literacy and encourage children to read for pleasure and learning. It's on right now, but there is still plenty of time to register. And the best part, for this little grey pigeon anyway...?

PIPPA is part of the amazing array of children's titles for 2020. You'll find Pippa's self-titled picture book in the Prep - Year 1 List. So what are you waiting for? 
Register, Get your Wall Chart, Get Ready, Set and READ!
For those of you NSW, you&…

Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

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At a glance, there is not much to this book. A brick wall is wedged in the gutter (middle) of the book with blank pages on each side of it. On closer examination, you'll notice a brick is missing on the left-hand-side of the wall. Supposedly, this is the better side of the book, so it's fortunate the wall is in the middle of the book, protecting it - so says the little knight, who armed with a suitably sized ladder, aims to replace the missing brick.

While all this is happening, we catch a glimpse of the other side of the book. It's full of predatory and fierce animals, rhinos, tigers and gorillas. They don't have ladders, just a natural curiosity to explore the other side of the wall, the safe side. They are not the most dangerous aspect of the right-hand-side side of the book though. The knight informs us that honour belongs to the ogre. Oh dear. Lucky for our knight there is a wall for if the ogre was on the other side, he would surely eat the knight.

Then a fright…

Review: Mindcull

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This is a curiously compelling thriller that sets your mind whirling with speculation. After an initial period of accustomization of where and why (and wrapping my head around a slew of acronyms I thought I had to remember), this YA thriller settled into a convincing mystery of deceit and apprehension.

Sixteen-year-old Eila is shortlisted to be the face of a global marketing campaign for a new virtual reality skinsuit, the kind never before seen in her futuristic world of VR and AR commonality. These skinsuits have the ability to adhere to their wearers' thoughts and emotions with action, surpassing conventional VR 'normality'. In short, they are uber high tech units.

K H Canobi has crafted an action imbued tale of suspenseful turmoil that crackles with tension and doubt. Once we are lured into Eila's world, one that is eerily easy to accept as our own; as it might be just a few years from now, we are swept along with her in a confusion of mind altering, sinister subpl…

Review: Hattie

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Hattie is six and has been waiting forever for school to start.
Interestingly, I picked up this novel, first published in Sweden in 2005, at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown when many a young pupil was itching to get back into their own classroom. Hattie however, an only child living on the edge of nowhere with just a dog and two outdoor cats for company, has never set foot in a real classroom and can't wait to exchange her wild, gloriously unstructured days spent among her mother's flowerbeds for the adventure of cutting and pasting and forming friendships.

Having survived the bus ride to school, Hattie attempts friendship with Linda, a girl with little blue eyes and a disposition so timid, Hattie initially mistakes her for a stuck-up angry girl instead of the sweet little princess she really is. Linda's cautious but caring personality is the perfect counterfoil to Hattie's torrent of unregulated candour and cheek. Barely a moment passes that Hattie isn't in s…

Review: Ribbit Rabbit Robot

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This is one of those picture books that is few on words but big on interpretation and thus possesses that wonderful read-again-and-again magic. Simple and seemingly unstructured, Ribbit Rabbit Robotis really a lesson in paying attention to the minutiae that make up our lives for when we do, magic is often revealed.

One day while hanging out in a fantastically congested shop of curious antiquities, three friends, Rabbit, Robot and Frog, happen upon an enchanted lamp. It's clever frog who rubs the lamp releasing a wish-granting genie of mythical proportions. The genie comes with a caveat that Rabbit and Robot overlook in their wishing-make zeal. They each conjure up companions suited to their desires but as they bicker for possession of the lamp, Frog, who has taken the time to read further, admonishes their greed and selfishness.

Rabbit and Robot employ stealth and subterfuge in an effort to second the lamp for themselves. Hot-headed robot appears to have outwitted his rivals havi…

Review: Beyond Belief

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Dee White's narrative is a compelling mix of poignancy and poise. From the very first line, we are condemned to the cellar with Ruben and his exiled family, huddled in the dark under a mantel of uncertainty and fear. His confusion and anxiety are palpable but we are helpless for it is 1942 and for Jews like young Ruben, there is no longer any safe place in Paris as long as the Nazi stronghold remains. Except one...

In desperation, Ruben's parents escort him to the Grand Mosque where dozens of other Jewish children take refuge. Ruben's parents hope he will be safe here while they search for his adult sister in Spain, for salvation. After his mother's rushed and tearful farewell, Ruben realises the only familiar thing that links him to his true identity is the tattered yellow Star of David he keeps hidden in his shoe. It's enough to condemn him yet he refuses to part with it. He is an alien in a strange but beautiful new world, one he must now call home to survive.

T…

Review: The Battle

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Edward's battle has begun. He's apprehensive and concerned how the day will unfold so he dons his sturdy suit of armour and helmet and hopes for the best. And although Edward is fond of hunting dragons and chasing ogres in his spare time, he is careful to sit in the back row of knights' school lest he bothers all the other creatures.

The king of knight school generously dispenses kindness and understanding but Edward is wary of the attention so ducks and weaves his way into obscurity, to the furthest side of the playground. It's hard though; there are giants, ogres and dragons everywhere! Despite his best efforts, he is approached by a grinning ogre at lunchtime. She proffers cake...with sprinkles. Is it a trick? He decides to ignore his knight training and accepts her gift. But just as the cracks in his amour begin to widen, in troop the dragons.

The first day of school or even returning to school after a long period of absence just as many children are currently exp…

Review: James Gong: The Big Hit

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This is so not my genre but the eye-snagging cover and jazzy back cover blurb hooked me as solidly as a jumping spinning side kick so I found myself spending some unexpected quality time with James Gong, Paul Collin's latest middle grade fiction offering.

It does not take long to settle into James Gong's high energy world. Edgy narrative and vibrant characters are driven by a seemingly implausible story line that evolves into a curiously involved teen tale.

James Gong is a teen on the precipice of stardom. He's OK at school, has a sister whose bestie seems bent on giving him nosebleeds, and two best mates, Jay and Ethan, who keep his fourteen-year-old world balanced. He is also pretty hot at taekwondo despite a slightly goofy veneer and shaved head.

James' prowess on the training floor means he is just a few poomse routines away from earning his black belt, but his reckless and uncontrolled rouge behaviour is not enough to convince Mr Choi, his martial arts instructor…

What Did You Wish You Knew Before Getting Published?

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To help achieve this, their Author Insights offer advice for aspiring writers from published authors ... like me! The Author Insights series looks at successful published authors from the Exisle and EK Books family, and asks them to share their advice and experience with the next generation of writers.
Visit their site and soak up my Author Interview for tonnes of helpful insights and real life anecdotes.

Review: Lizzie and Margaret Rose

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I often take a ridiculously long time to get around reading something I feel is going to be good. Rather like leaving the roast potatoes (my favourite part) to the very end of a roast dinner. Then suddenly a book will call to me, wanting to be read. I believe this way invites a more organic reading experience. And what a book at such a time!

Lizzie and Margaret Rose is a gripping middle grade novel by accomplished historic children's author, Pamela Rushby set in the early years of World War II. Rushby wastes no words on superlative mundane description rather chisels her supremely defined characters from the world in which they exist. From the shrapnel strewn streets of London to the balmy coastal suburbs of Townsville, Rushby's talent for honing emotion from action allows readers to engage head on with ten-year-old Margaret Rose and her eleven-year-old Australian cousin, at least this reader did in a way that required the occasional swiping away of tears.

When Margaret Rose…

Book Bites: Keep 'Em Counting!

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ABCs and 1 2 3s are not only the fundamental building blocks for learning and communicating, they establish connections with ourselves, our cultures and humanity as a whole. These next few picture books are perfect for exploring those connections, introducing sounds, letters and numbers to pre-schoolers whilst providing sound material for ever important reading time, during lockdown time or anytime!


B is For Baby
ABC books come in an infinite number of guises. This one is singularly different because it focuses on just one letter of the alphabet rather than all 26, in this case, the letter B. We begin with the obvious, Baby but as the story evolves, we and baby are introduced to a marvellous collection of other B words: beads, basket for example. But what is in the basket…? Bananas of course! Or is it something more? This spectacularly illustrated non-fiction picture book is really a cyclical visual journey of baby’s unplanned journey from her African village into town where she is reu…

Chocks Away - Paper Plane Making with Pippa!

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Cancelled holidays equates to cancelled fun and the destruction of expectations for kids and in this great period of change, represents just another significant adjustment they have been forced, not asked, to endure. Although remaining physically grounded may still be the case for many, it does not imply you can't go on adventures. Kids' authors, like me, take off on a daily basis thanks our imaginations. Imagination is one of the most powerful and sure-fired ways to enjoy the ride. Making stuff is another and together with Pippa as my inspiration for taking flight and getting out there, I've knocked up this little video that allows you to soar...by

 Making a Paper Plane!

This is a very simplified version of a basic paper plane but it flies extremely well, long and high! Pippa and I would love for you to experiment and modify your design to see if you can out-fly us. Send us a video or picture of your completed aeronautical master piece and I'll pop it on this blog!

Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began

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Admittedly, I'm a little late getting around to this one and although a staunch fan of Marsden, if I had read Tomorrow, When The War Began two decades earlier, the plausibility and impact no doubt would have been far more intense.

Despite that, this remains a telling story of tenacity, teen relationships and ingenuity - the kind kids had before they plugged themselves into mobile phones. Using one's wits under pressure is never a straightforward thing. Survival text books may help but chuck in generous dollops of distress, an alarming lack of adult assistance, huge clods of uncertainty, a ridiculous amount of gun-wielding marksmen and of course no app to advise you what to do or how to think and you've got yourself a situation a lot out of the normal and way out of control.

A handful of Wirrawee's rural youth led by Ellie return from a secluded weekend camping trip to find their world upturned, their town invaded and their families held captive by an unknown foreign f…

Watch: reading@homeTV Episode 2 with Pippa!

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Fly high with your favourite little book birdie! Yes, it's Pippa and together we were lucky enough to share the storytime couch with fellow picture book character, Glitch and Michelle Worthington on Channel 9Go's new children's educational show, reading@homeTV.
Reading@homeTV is one of three learning based programs devised by the Queensland Education Department's drive to deliver (shows to) support language and literacy development for children in kindergarten to Year 3. 
In collaboration with the Autism Hub and Reading Centre, the department partnered with Channel 9 and several well-loved local SE Queensland and interstate children's authors to read and share their favourite picture books. The program features reading coaches as well who read books aloud and facilitate interactive learning experiences to enhance every child's schooling-at-home experience. The show also encourages children to become involved with the Premier's Reading Challenge; you'll …

Review: The Night of the Hiding Moon

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The first thing that wowed me about this picture book was the gorgeous title font; simple yet elegant, a bit like the moon, which is the premise for this story.

Then, in contrast to the gold infused cover, promising and light, we are plunged into a world of speculative obscurity and thunderous roars. Felix is marooned in a night of storms. A night where the moon has slipped her moorings and has gone into hiding. At first afraid and conflicted by the storm's rage, Felix soon gathers his bedside buddies, takes his torch and embarks on an idea.

Rather than run from the shadows, he decides to make one into his friend, an ally who is brave and strong. His shadow friend is this and more. Her daring and beauty transform the night into a bold show of shadows, each as elegant and fearless as she. Each as restless to enter the tempestuous night and face it down.

Felix hesitates as you might expect; a thunderstorm is awfully confronting after all, but he eventually follows them with his tor…

Mothers' Day Magic

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Mothers' Day - an accumulation of so many things: the caress of a gentle hand when you’re feeling less than yourself; the comfort of a kind voice that understands your deepest thoughts; the knowledge that someone is always there for you no matter what. These are the attributes of motherhood that should be celebrated every day, by all those who administer them and receive them. Here are two picture books that exemplify the goodness of motherhood and its importance in the notion of family.


Isla’s Family Tree
Isla is a little girl with tangerine coloured hair and some serious worries. She is struggling with the realisation that any day now, her family is about to change. As we all know change can bring with it a suitcase full of concern and what ifs. We can only guess what Isla’s might be but as the firstborn it seems pretty obvious that she is anxious about the threat of her impending new sibling. ‘Our family is too full!’ she protests. And then her mother informs her, they are havin…

Review: The Tell

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Raze is a young teen with a pedigree heritage. His dad is a feared mafia boss and convicted felon. His older brother is keen to pursue an unlawful way of life; it pays tremendous dividends in the form of big booties after all. Being the son of such notoriety does not come without some major conflicts. For Raze, aka Rey Tanic, life is a continuous violent clash between his criminal family's expectations of him and his desire to break free from them and live a life less outlawed. An existence more normal and honest are Raze's simple dreams.

He tries his determined best to keep his head down at school and is fortunate to have mates like Ids and Candy on his team. They're a motley crew glued together by spray paint and an unspoken respect for each other. Each is battling their own struggle against an identity title they'd rather not have, except maybe Ids who is the brilliant cool comical chum throughout. One title they do revere is MCT - their graffiti tag. Despite the n…