Review: Detention

Tristan Bancks signed my copy of Detention with a note hoping it kept me turning pages. This book lived up to that promise and then some. Packed with page-turning tension and relentless drama, this is one middle grade novel that may cause a few kids to miss their dinner call.

Yet despite the raw gritty urgency that suffuses nearly every page and the elevated sense of dread and desperation that keeps your heart in top gear, the pace is never too manic nor too hectic to enjoy the energising mix of edgy excitement and sincere emotion Bancks does so well.

Dan is an inner suburban boy living on the outer perimeters of life. He’s classified as trailer park trash because of his permanent residence at the social-economically deprived Midgenba caravan park. It’s a title that comes with an ineradicable smear of hopeless. Deep down though, Dan’s a good kid, a caring kid. The type of kid who’ll risk his own face to save a vicious dying dog, which he does one day after finding Rosco tied up and aba…

Review: Window Of Hope

Had the word disabled not featured in the blurbs, this story would have been even twice as impacting. The preclude to Max's situation however in no way diminishes the extreme beauty and elegance both author, Vescio and illustrator, Haughton demonstrate telling this exquisite tale about one little girl's seclusion and isolation from the rest of world.

The seasons parade relentlessly past Max's window of confinement as do her opportunities to play with others her own age. Yet Max never appears overtly forlorn. Her large liquid eyes reflect a subdued resignation, an acceptance of things as they are for they feel 'safe and comfortable, ...right'.

Then one day a visitor appears at Max's window, a small fragile thing with a vibrant red beak and perky nature. At first, because the small bird only has one leg, Max presumes it is broken, perhaps like her. But as is often the way with wild creatures, the bird spares little time or thought on its apparent deficiencies r…

Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

Wai Chim's latest YA is a tempting hot pot of teenage coming-of-age angst, family values, cultural cohesion, mental health oh and yes, dumplings! This is a hearty, satisfying read about Anna, the eldest child in a Chinese immigrant family who rely on the family restaurant to survive. That premise alone could have been redolent with cultural stereotypical clich├ęs however Chim has blended Anna's story with the careful addition of a host of interesting and authentic ingredients; characters like, Rory, who is the local delivery boy for the restaurant and also, ultimately Anna's first love and saviour.

As Anna trudges through her 11th year in High School, she is repeatedly put upon to keep the home fires burning for her younger tween sister, Lily and 6-year-old baby brother, Michael. Their overworked father is rarely at home, dossing in the restaurant storeroom under a cover of avoidance.

Perhaps the character that both disturbs and delights the most is Ma, Anna's mother w…

Shout Out: Maria Marshall A Picture Book Haven

Maria Marshall is a fellow SCBWI member hailing from North America. She's a seasoned traveller, avid wildlife photographer and passionate contributor to all things Kids' Lit who loves using picture and chapter books to make reading and nature fun for children. I might never have met her had our paths not crossed at the Sydney Australian East New Zealand SCBWI Conference last February, (thanks to Vivian Kirkfield who introduced us!) As Maria states, encounters like these spur inspiration and that special kind of camaraderie and admiration that lingers long after the flight home.

Maria impressed me immediately with her attentiveness and drive to absorb as much of my exuberant volley of picture book love as I could fire at her (rushed exchanges are often the norm at these events). We both knew we wanted to share more and after she allowed me to sign a very personal copy of At The End of Holyrood Lane for her, she invited me to be part of the wonderful sanctuary of picture book lo…

Review: The Boy In The Big Blue Glasses

Sammy is sad. His eyesight is not the best but worse is his dented sense of self-esteem and identity. Forced to wear big blue glasses to enable better sight, Sammy feels they now segregate him from the rest of the world: his peers and family. All he wants is to feel like his old-self again. He does everything he can to bypass wearing his glasses but they always find their way back to him.

Despite assurances from the grown-ups in his life that the glasses make him look more handsome and heroic than he's ever looked (their acclamations only serve to define his difference), Sam is unconvinced, feeling lost, alienated and alone, even more so when one disastrous school day, his best friend, George is away sick.

Then, after a few innocent digs from his classmates persuade him to clean his glasses, Sam discovers a whole different world within his classroom and his way of viewing his situation dramatically improves.

Gervay's considered story from a small boy's point of view is su…

Book Bites: Fun & Family

Contemporary en point junior and middle grade novels are undeniably making a solid comeback. The variety of subject matter is virtually infinite yet one element common to the most popular choices 7 – 13-year-olds make, is humour. These next few titles expertly embrace funny as a way of relaying serious storylines in the most entertaining ways.

Gorski’s Bitemare
Frightfully funny, this easy to read junior novel will have 6 - 10-year-olds snickering with delight at Gorski the vampire's dilemma following a run in with the recalcitrant fruit-loving bat, Nectar. After being bitten by Nectar, Gorski's erstwhile vampish traits disappear at an alarming rate. Horrified, his family rally to reverse his transformation before it's too late and he remains a blood-phobic, fruit eating vampire forever.

Cute twists, coffin-loads of pun-some fun (in nearly every paragraph which is choke-causing crazy for adult readers but which the intended audience should fine hilarious) plus plenty of gh…

Not Long Now: Pippa Book Launch Riverbend Books

Do you know what makes Pippa such a clever cooookie? She can predict the future.

She's an omen pigeon.

Pippa's predicting fair skies and good times next Saturday afternoon at Riverbend Books and Cafe. Flutter on by and join us as we launch her self-titled book, Pippa!