Review: Tim & Tigon

A few dozen moons ago, this little black duck backpacked around Europe and the Middle East. It was the era of reverse-charges communications, before the advent of free Wi-Fi or even the Internet for that matter. The sensation of roaming freely through unknown countries and soaking up new cultures with nothing more than a well-thumbed travel guide, three pairs of gaily coloured socks and the budget of a nine-year-old was inexplicably fulfilling. Our packs contained our whole existence yet the horizon possessed everything else we really needed – or wanted.

I suspect author, film-maker, adventurer extraordinaire, Tim Cope’s feelings about his incredible expeditions replicate those I had some 26 years ago – only, a thousandfold.

Fast forward 12 or so years and I find myself watching this remarkable young man on the tellie, forging through extreme weather conditions on horseback across the impossibly remote Eurasian Steppes. His aim: to travel 10,000 kilometres from Mongolia to the Danube…

Festival Fun: StoryArts Ipswich 2019

This author has been fortunate to be involved with the biennial StoryArts festival in Ipswich for a number of years now, as a panel host, session reporter, delegate and fan of Kids' Lit. This year, however I had the joy of presenting to the school children, who each festival, are bused in from around SE Queensland to enjoy a host of story and drawing orientated sessions performed by a stellar lineup of children's authors and illustrators from around Australia.

The school and family programs make up the bulk of the Festival operating out of Marburg near Ipswich, which concludes with a brief Adults' program, this year running in Brisbane. Lucky primary school children and their families are still enjoying events (I was only able to do one day) but my memories of the marvellous location at Woodlands of Marburg, lingering over lattes with industry mates and presenting in one of the haunted rooms of the magnificent Woodlands mansion remain sharp and colourful. 
The pics say it…

Review: Lizard's Tale

The heady scent of tropical blooms and odorous perfume of food street vendors waft deliciously throughout this action-packed middle grade read by debut author, Weng Wai Chan. Set in the turbulent early 1940s in pre-war Singapore,Lizard's Taleis an exotic dim sum steamer full of mystery, dubious characters, spies and espionage that barely takes a breath.

Lizard is an all but orphaned boy eking out an existence in Singapore's Chinatown. Home is a windowless cubicle above a tailor's shop and survival means he has to resort to charging money for writing other people's letters and petty theft. It's an unsavoury childhood at best and one he is keen to abandon.

He yearns to return to his home by the sea at Changi, which he shared with his enigmatic Uncle Archie, who has been his guardian since his parents died but after Uncle Archie mysteriously disappears and fails to return home one day, Lizard is left alone and vulnerable. So when he is coerced into a job for the cor…

Review: This Is My Song

Perhaps the greatest expression of song is Yaxley's exceptionally lyrical prose. This is My Song is a sweeping story told in three parts across three continents, embracing three monumental periods of time. The story of young Rafael Ullmann's rising love for music amidst the growing tensions of the 1940s is chocked with heartbreak and wrenching disappointment.

He survives the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp but at the cost of losing his passion for the thing he loved most, music. His song lies withered, abandoned and forgotten like a childhood pet that died long ago. By the time his daughter, Annie arrives, Rafi has accepted his world of silence and regret.

Annie is a child of the sweeping isolation of the Canadian prairie lands, yet she is a bird eager to fly and seeks a freedom she cannot enjoy with her parents. It is her son, Joe, an uncertain modern-day Aussie youth seeking a solid sense of self from a history he knows nothing about, that eventually helps them all reu…

Review: Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire

It's a premise that most kids regardless of entrepreneurial motivation will find irresistible, having a zillion (read: million) dollars virtually thrown into their laps to spend with unrestricted abandon and no adult involvement.

This is the princely predicament young Tess finds herself struggling through along with her best mate, Toby. Struggling, because despite their best efforts, spending a gazillion (read: million) dollars as 10-year-olds is not as straightforward as walking into a candy store. It takes more cunning than a weasel and a whole lot of guts especially as said million is the former spoil of her no-good, recently arrested, criminal backyard neighbour.

As Tess and Toby endeavour to right wrongs, distribute funds multifariously and maintain a low profile (which is difficult to uphold thanks to their philanthropic habit of doling out free lollipops and wearing sunglasses indoors - because that's what millionaires do), they encounter more and more moral hurdles an…

Natural Disasters: Fire Fire

This cluster of picture books and middle grade novels has been on my desk since last summer, the advent of winter extinguishing the heat of urgency to share them. It’s hard to feel the desperation of draught and the destructive fear of fire when it’s eight degrees outside and rain is pummelling against the window panes like it will never end. But it has ended and here, in Queensland like many other parts of Australia, the draught which never ended has ignited more anguish and despair. The beauty of these titles though is their ability to transcend sadness and instil hope. Natural disasters will always be a major part of Australian life. Giving kids the ability to understand and manage this is paramount to survival. These commemorative releases do so with candour and compassion.

Ella and the Ocean
Bentley's absolutely captivating illustrations will stir heartstrings into dust-devils of delight as they depict Ella's story of isolation and wonder.

Ella lives in the red-dirt coun…

Sojourns and Celebrations: Pippa Takes Off

Pippa pigeon has certainly been clocking up her flying hours the last month or so. In case you haven't been able to keep up with her feathered fiascoes, here's a pictorial collage from the first couple of Book Launches for Pippa's self-titled story, PIPPA! Enjoy. 
If you want to meet the real Pippa and her amazing chaperon, aka me, Dimity Powell, please do not ignore your urge to get in touch. We'd both love the chance to visit your school, library, care centre, bookshop or event. Assurance Pledge: Pippa is 100% house-trained and exemplary in confined spaces with small humans.
If you can't be bothered scrolling through these book launch happy snaps, check out the mini-movie below for a few of our best moments. (Photo credits to all and sundry who attended, Maria Parenti-Baldey, and George Ivanoff) Pippa Book Launches August 2019