Showing posts from April, 2020

Review: Azaria: A True History

Maree Coote's picture books are sublime works of art; dramatic, visually arresting, evocative. Published by Melbourne Style Books, they are expressions of history, culture, art and design. Perfect conduits for conveying accounts and incidents in non-fictional settings in ways young children can enthuse over and understand.

When a tiny new born baby disappeared one fateful evening some 40 years ago, an entire nation was instantly polarised. Questions clotted in every lounge room, staff room and playground, quickly congealing into unsubstantiated opinions. Like many, I remember the exact moment I first heard the awful news report on the family television. It's a recollection indelibly inscribed on my memory. And yes, even in our humble household, assumptions were immediately made. You either believed a mother murdered her baby or a dingo committed a crime against nature.

Four decades on, several court hearings and a life time of attrition later, this simple picture book provide…

Review: The Happiness Box: A Wartime Book of Hope

The story pages of The Happiness Box are encased in slouch-hat-felt-beige, giving nothing away until you open this picture book and chance inside where you'll discover a beautiful story within a story.

The Happiness Box was created in the middle of World War II, in the throat of a torrid jungle strangled by war. For Sergeant David 'Griff' Griffins, Changi Prison on the east coast of Singapore was home. He and the other prisoners of war including women and children endured the rigors of imprisonment, disease and starvation for years, each fearful of being hauled off into the jungle to work for the Japanese as slaves building railways and bridges.

To pass the time and maintain morale, Griff ran literary competitions and penned theatrical productions which the prisoners performed, desperate to preserve normality and boost spirits. He encouraged reading among his men but his thoughts always returned to the children cooped up in Changi prison who had no toys or books to escape…

Review: Vognox The Viking and The Island of Skeletons

This graphic junior novel is a tactile and visual pleasure. Kids will hoot with pleasure at the antics of our seriously flawed, emotionally fragile main character, Vognox and his ever faithful fearless side kick, Drax, the Arctic fox.
Despite his Viking heritage and rocking Viking helmet, Vognox has a strong aversion for adventure. He detests it and wants to avoid it at all costs because adventure makes you sick in the tummy with fear and dread and could get you killed! He'd much rather stay home for tea and retire early to bed. Despite Drax's diminutive size, he is the cleverest fox in all of Midgard and devotes his life to bailing Vognox out of tricky situations. Life wouldn't be so tricky if it wasn't for Awful Awfa, the surreptitious hand who repeatedly causes mayhem and madness by sketching Vognox and Drax in increasingly desperate situations as they pursue the Awfa's missing pencil. Without it, they may cease to exist. And if that happens, there'll be no…

Get Jiggy With It - Virtual Puzzle Pandemonium

They've been around for a while, jigsaw puzzles that is, since the 17th Century in fact. I reckon there is nothing more frustrating and fun, challenging and rewarding nor consuming and relaxing as completing a humble puzzle.

It's oddly addictive; you can't just fit one piece and walk away to feed the cat. I don't have a cat but if I did, it would be starving by now because like thousands of others around the world at the moment, we are 'puzzle people'. There's something intensely therapeutic about persisting with such a simple yet complex situation. It's an outcome we should be able to control (unless your cat eats a piece) and that gives one a sense of tenacious purpose; to finish it, for me at least. For others it might be the absolute joy of recreating something so utterly pretty and spectacular.

Perhaps that's why so many confined to their homes right now are dragging out old favourites and spending more money than they would on an overseas tri…

Review: Unmasked

The thing that screams most impressively in this tale about the real Turia Pitt, is her raw honesty and dogged determination, a stubbornness to not just never give in but to always push further. True grit is often bandied about as a commodity easily sourced from the self-help section of our bookshops, but this account of someone who has literally been to hell and back, presents life in all its glory, normality and of course horror with unashamed frankness.

Having survived the awful fire event in 2011 whilst competing in an outback marathon, Pitt allows the reader to relive her fear, pain and frustrations, before, immediately after being engulfed by flames and then beyond, down the long arduous road of recovery.

Along the way she bears more and more layers of herself, some relating to the 'old Turia', others glimpses of the new improved Turia. Improved because as she asserts, if she had not experienced such trauma, her life and future convictions may not have evolved as resolu…

Good Fun Friday - Puppet Making!

For practically every single one of us, this Easter will be some sort of departure from the norm.

We are normally on the road somewhere, camping in the Kombi with the pooches - together. Or else we'd be spending long lazy days on the bank of a river fishing with mates - together. Often this special weekend is spent hosting a colossal barbie with family - together. It's a time for rebirth and celebration. This year, of course, will be slightly different.

Crazy as it sounds, my little family pod are not entirely sure what to do with themselves or each other away from the usual external stimuli. I suspect many others are experiencing this odd 'What now?' sensation on some level, too. One thing is for certain, it's a fantastic time to reconnect, reinvigorate old family fun rituals, invent new ones and...drag out the camping games for lounge room use.

Before you get suckered into a five hour Monopoly marathon though, why not continue to explore the plethora of kids'…

Story City Social Impact Projects: EOIs Open

Are you a not-for-profit, academic with social research, or other type of social enterprise trying to do good in the world?

On behalf of Story City, I'm super excited to announce the launch of the Story City Social Impact Projects. Their award-winning platform and team are volunteering their time and resources to bring your stories and the stories of those you help to life via interactive experiences, providing you with the ability to literally put the public in the shoes of your cause.

Whether you help homeless veterans, residents of a region in historic conflict, a countryside newly ravished by fire, or refugees without access to education, if you’re looking to help marginalised people and those in need to have their voice heard, Story City can help.

Find out more about the unique Story City Social Impacts Projects offer and its community mentors available by visiting their website.

Applications are now open to projects across the world and close May 17th 2020.
Story City want to…

Clever Kookie!

Does anyone remember the old Jinty, Penny, and Misty Annuals? They ran from the mid 70s until around 1986. These collections of comic print strips, stories, recipes and profile features used to entertain and mystify me as a young teen for months and months. I still have my original copies, yellowed and redolent of a childhood faded by not forgotten.

Last year I was super lucky to be recommended to contribute to theKookie magazine. My short story, Perfect Prue a perfect fit for their mandate of supplying young pre-teen girls with a rounded and optimistic sense of who they are and what they could become. It featured in Issue 6 in March 2019.

Since receiving my own precious copies and experiencing first hand the countless stimulating, educational and entertaining articles and activities stashed within its 100% ad-free pages, I have been a massive fan; my thirst for eclectic bright, sassy yet meaningful content reignited.

I recommendKookie magazine with all my heart not just because it i…

Dim's Favourites: The Duck and The Darklings

Of all the years I reviewed Kids' Lit for Boomerang Books, occasionally a gem was unearthed. A gem that shone so fiercely I barely knew how to describe its beauty. Here is one of those enigmatic gems whose sparkle continues to dazzle.

From beneath a mountain of brightly coloured picture books all screaming for review, I spied the oddly unassuming cover of The Duck and the Darklings. Odd because apart from Peterboy’s candle-hat, there was little that was not sombre looking about this picture book. Even the title sounded desolate, quirky. Surely though something fantastical had to be dwelling between those black covers because this was the new creation of two of Australia’s most revered story tellers, Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King.

The Duck and the Darklings is less of a blasé five minute read and more of a whimsical journey of despair, discovery, renewal and hope. It opens bleakly in the land of Dark and is about a small child named, Peterboy and his Grandpa, who share ev…

Goodness Me - It's Virtual Dimity!

Last time I checked, the world is still spinning. It's just some days, it feels like everything is a little off centre, topsy-turvy even. Life can be like that; like an out-of-control fun park ride that threatens to make you a bit sick. But it can also be the opportunity to make the most out of a new experience. It just depends on how you look at it, doesn't it?

In recent times, we've all been forced to look at things a bit differently, including we authors. For the time being, we are not able to reach out and share with you all in person via school visits and festivals but of course that doesn't mean we want to stop sharing! So, like many of my clever colleagues, I have made a few life changes and adaptations in an effort to remain accessible and available for you.
I've revamped my YouTube channel which was already chock-a-block full of book launches, book trailers, behind-the-scene sneek peeks, author-life shares and more. Here, take a look...

Now you will find …

Especially For You: Attention Teachers Librarians & Home schoolers!

When I was a few decades younger, I dreamed of being a librarian, such was my love of books. To be the custodian of so many fictional worlds was an honor I wanted to live. To be on the safe side, I also practiced teaching as a youngster. I mean what better way to share my love for stories than with roomfuls of attentive stuffed toy animals, aka my students.

Needless to say, neither of these occupations really took off.  Seems being the creator rather than the curator was my destiny. Ironically, one of the best things about being a children's author is being allowed to produce detailed teachers' notes and additional activities supporting your book that enhance and enrich the reading experience.

All of my picture books include detailed Teachers' Notes annexed to Australian Curriculum links as well as accompanying worksheets and activities that focus on a range of fun things to make and do and even eat! They are all on my website. They are generally included on the publisher…