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Review: Detention

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

#comeflywithme

Book Bites: Worlds of Pure Imagination

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Dreams and imagination go hand in hand, promoting and sustaining creativity, hope, and expectations; all crucial to developing young mind sets. The curious world of dreams was explored in picture book, Snoozettelast week. If you want to view paradise…visit this collection of picture books that applaud unfettered imagination.


My Real Friend
What I adore about this recently released picture book by David Hunt and Lucia Masciullo is the way both artists give imagination a real persona. His name is, Rupert and he plays the fartlephone. He also has many shared pursuits with his real life friend, William. Together they share sporting and artistic activities. They share the same dwelling and venture on the same quests. It’s an exciting and varied existence however sometimes, Rupert wishes he could do what he wants to do and not be at the mercy of William’s imagination. As the school holidays draw to a close, William announces he’d rather a real friend. It’s a devastating blow for Rupert – or …

Review: Snoozette

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Andy Griffiths once defined imagination as ‘image + nation’, meaning our creative ideas are essentially the result of images we’ve harvested from a variety of places, experiences, and times…nations. I like to think of these collections as memory troves. Either way the imagination is treasure. And no one it seems understands this better than, Snoozette, the latest beguiling character to emerge from the Red Paper Kite publishing house.

Snoozette is a picture book as big as a small scrape book. The size suits it well for the artwork that unfolds as you peel back each page is magnificent and worthy of the generous visual impact this slightly larger format allows.

Secreted within each page is, Snoozette, a contentedly cloistered, cat-loving, tea-drinking individual with a penchant for nodding off. Her days follow an ordered melancholic regularity that matches the dreary weather and given her susceptibility to snoozing, we begin to suspect she may be afflicted with the kind of malaise that i…

Review: Ruben

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Bruce Whatley is one of Australia's more exemplary Kids' Lit creators. He writes, he draws, he explores techniques across a spectrum of media. And he masters them all exceptionally well. Yet after decades of producing highly marketable, best selling children's books, Whatley had a tale of his own he wanted to tell, in his own unique, unapologetic way. Ruben was that tale and through it, Whatley manifests his true skill as an accomplished storyteller. Here is a reprisal of my review of Ruben originally published on the Boomerang Books Blog.


It took Bruce Whatley almost the same amount of time I have been plying my trade as an author to conceive and create this 96-page picture book (around 10 years that is). To call Ruben a masterpiece is a discredit to the complexity and intense beauty that harbours within each page. One might spend hours alone exploring the end pages, searching for clues and analysing the significances secreted within. This is not a picture book for the …

Pippa: Publication Month

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There's a fair bit of chest-puffing and feather ruffling going on around here. Why? Because a certain little birdie is about to spread her wings and take flight for the first time.

HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY - PIPPA!
Pippa and I can't wait to share her story. She'll be winging her way through all great bookshops from the 1 July 2019 or you can visit Ford Street Publications to order your copy. I also have a few copies tucked away here in the home loft, so feel free to get in touch any time, (messenger pigeon or email works best)
If you'd like to meet Pippa in real life, come along to her Brisbane Book Launch at Riverbend Books in August. Your invite is below! Just click on the image to register your attendance.

We can't wait to see you out there!  #comeflywithme 

July School Holidays Young Writers Workshop: Keep it Short!

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Short stories. I've been writing them since I first dunked a toe in this business of writing for children. In fact, one of my first ever publications was a short story, An Eggspensive Venture, that appeared in the Blast Off NSW School Magazine back in 2009. I was pretty chuffed to say the least. And the thing that kept me writing them? The enticement of competitions and the myriad of themes to write about.

The experience of entering my short stories in so many comps and awards (and even winning a few) and being commissioned to write them for magazines and anthologies not only kept my creative juices bubbling away, it also taught me volumes about submission guidelines and working to deadlines; not to mention what it takes to make a story compelling enough and succinct enough to  fill up the time it takes to suck a mugful of hot chocolate through a Tim Tam.

If you are or know a young person who loves making words sing (or Tim Tams) and needs help composing them into pithy short sto…

Book Bites: Environmental Empathy

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The subject of environmental awareness prevails more frequently now within school classrooms than ever before. Children’s stories allow discussions to rotate gently around this global concern. These next few picture books and novels encourage understanding and promote empathy in ways that young children are capable of embracing and actioning themselves.


Emily Green’s Garden

This winning play on words picture book is suffused with every hue of verdant. Lush greens, sandy browns and lilac blues tendril casually across the pages as author, Penny Harrison cultivates a story of change and mindfulness. In many ways, it reflects the engrossing tale, One Tree by Christopher Cheng; where a young child’s world is transformed by a simple discovery and subsequent drive to nurture life until a significant change takes place. In this case, it’s the greening of Emily’s entire suburban neighbourhood. Life was lovely before but radiates a better kind of lovely following Emily’s gardening exploits. An e…

Review: One Tree

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To pre-empt a roundup of nature-friendly children’s books, I thought I’d shine the spot light on One Tree, the latest creation by duo, Christopher Cheng and Bruce Whatley.

The first thing you notice about One Tree is its understated simplicity. There’s a certain duplicity afoot too, for this larger-sized hard cover edition sports a burnished red spine and textured illustration that entices the caress of fingers. However, the spine is not cloth bound as appears and the undulating fields depicted on the front cover are not course to the touch.

This enigmatic ruse continues once you slip inside this story. Text appears mostly on the left-hand side pages, framed pictures on the right, all set against a weathered hazelnut cream background giving the reader as sense of reading something ancient and revered, like a treasured fable. This effective set-up sagely escorts readers through a young boy’s story that begins long before he is born in a mountain village where his grandfather resided in…