Jan 31

Books Read – January 2016

These are the books I read in January 2016. Links in titles take you to reviews either here on Reading Upside Down or on Kids’ Book Review.

READ IN JANUARY 2016

Picture Books (11)

Nellie Belle by Mem Fox and Mike Austen (Scholastic)

A Patch from Scratch by Megan Forward (Penguin Viking)

Dream Little One, Dream by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina (Penguin Viking)

Its a Little Baby by Julia Donaldson ad Rebecca Cobb (Macmillan)

The Big Fish by Pamela Allen (Penguin Viking)

Bear Make Den by Jane Godwin, Michael Wagner and Andrew Joyner (Allen & Unwin)

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley & Karen Blair (Penguin Viking)

No Place Like Home by Ronojoy Ghosh (Random House)

Old MacDonald’s Things That Go by Jane Clarke and Migy Blanco (Nosy Crow)

Lift and Look: Dinosaurs (Bloomsbury)

Lift and Look: Space (Bloomsbury)

 

Junior Fiction (1)

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf and Grandma’s Wardrobe by Diane and Christyan Fox (Quarto Group UK)

 

Young Adult Fiction (1)

The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney (Allen & Unwin)

 

Gift Books (1)

A Guinea Pig Pride and Prejudice by Alex Goodwin (based on the novel by Jane Austen) (Bloomsbury)

 

January Total: 14 books

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Dec 31

Books Read – December 2015

Instead of posting a TBR list at the beginning of each month, I’ve decided to simply share a list of books I’ve read in a post at the end of the month. Posting a regular TBR list helped to get me back into the habit of reading more diversely, but I’m trying to minimise the number of checklists I keep for myself (I have an unfortunate list obsession), so adjusting these posts to ‘have read’ instead of ‘want to read’ seems to be an easy way to get rid of one list. Due to various family and end of year commitments and a desire to clear a backlog of books I need to review for Kids’ Book Review, most of the books I’ve read in December were picture books.

Read in December

Picture Books (55)

  • A Box of Socks by Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri
  • Hedgehugs: Horace and Hattipillar by Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson
  • I Have a Dog (an inconvenient dog) by Charlotte Lance
  • All Aboard the Dinosaur Express by Timothy Knapman and Ed Eaves
  • Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley
  • Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and Mark Jackson
  • A Scarf and a Half by Amanda Brandon and Catalina Echeverri
  • Never Tickle a Tiger by Pamela Butchart and Marc Boutavant
  • Florentine and the Spooky Forest Adventure by Eva Katzler and Jess Mikhail
  • Heather has Two Mummies by Lesléa Newman and Laura Cornel
  • Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect by Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch (Non-Fiction)
  • Jenny the Jeep by Jack Townend
  • Ben by Jack Townend
  • The Hug by David Grossman and Michael Rovner
  • Yikes, Ticklysaurus by Pamela Butchard and Sam Lloyd
  • You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus by Patricia Cleveland-Pick and David Tazzyman
  • The Cloudspotter by Tom McLaughlin
  • The Very Noisy Bear by Nick Bland
  • Pirates Don’t Drive Diggers by Alex English and Duncan Beedie
  • Once a Shepherd by Glenda Millard and Phil Lesnie
  • Hush, Little Possum by P Crumble and Wendy Binks
  • A Gold Star for George by Alice Hemming and Kimberley Scott
  • Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat by Jason Hook and Ilaria Demonti
  • Our Baby by Margaret Wild and Karen Blair
  • Christmas for Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail
  • Alphabet Town by Bryan Evans and Kimberly Moon
  • Alice in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole by Lewis Carroll, retold by Joe Rhatigan, Charles Nurnberg and Eric Puybaret
  • A, You’re Adorable by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, Sidney Lippman and Nathaniel Ecktrom
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Haven Gillespie, J Fred Coots, and Nathaniel Eckstrom
  • We’re Going on a Santa Hunt by Laine Mitchell and Louis Shea
  • This & That by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
  • Our Dog Knows Words by Peter Gouldthorpe and Lucy Gouldthorpe
  • In the Evening by Edwina Wyatt and Gaye Chapman
  • Teddy Took the Train by Nicki Greenberg
  • Bogtrotter by Margaret WIld and Judith Rossell
  • Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood
  • Augustus and his Smile by Catherine Rayner
  • Yak and Gnu by Juliette MacIver and Cat Champan
  • Lottie and Pop at the Fairy Queen’s Ball by Shivaun Clifton and Kirilee West
  • Emilia Mouse by Elizabeth Hardy and Sophie Norsa
  • Dotty and the Magpie by Jackie Wells and Dana Brown
  • abc dreaming by Warren Brim
  • Messy Jellyfish by Ruth Galloway
  • Clementine’s Bath by Annie White
  • Dancing the Boom Cha Cha Boogie by Narelle Oliver
  • Goodnight Possum by Coral Vass and Sona Babajanyan
  • Good Enough for a Sheep Station by David Cox
  • Bridie’s Boots by Phil Cummings and Sara Acton
  • Our Love Grows by Anna Pignataro
  • When I See Grandma by Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom
  • Do You Remember? by Kelly O’Gara and Anna McNeil
  • Same by Katrina Roe and Jemima Trappel
  • Australia to Z by Armin Greder (For older readers)
  • I Need a Hug by Aaron Blabey
  • My First Day at School by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley

 

Junior Fiction (1)

  • Wolf Boy by Peter Sykes (JF)

 

Junior Non-Fiction (1)

  • Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe

December total: 57 books

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Dec 07

December TBR List

In an attempt at both organisation and motivation, at the start of each month I’m sharing a list of books I read during the previous month and a selection of titles from my TBR pile(s) that I would like to read during the coming month. November has been busy with school visits and other writing commitments as well as several family commitments as the end of the year approaches, so reading time has sadly been very limited. In addition to the books listed below, I have re-read a few favourite historical romances – my go to genre when I’m feeling tired/stressed. December will be another busy month, but I’m hoping to catch up on some of my backlog of picture books and junior fiction with the aim to get reviews scheduled through January.

Read in November

  1. In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker (YA Fiction)
  2. Sister Heart by Sally Morgan (Middle Fiction)
  3. Numerical Street by Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell (PB)
  4. The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo (PB)
  5. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems (PB)
  6. Penelope Perfect: Very Private List for Camp Success by Chrissie Perry (Junior Fiction)
  7. Please, Open this Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt and Matthew Forsythe (PB)
  8. Where’s Jessie? by Janeen Brian and Anne Spudvilas (PB)

November  total: 8 books (5 picture books, 1 junior fiction, 1 middle fiction, 1 young adult fiction)

 

December TBR List

PICTURE BOOKS

  • If… by David J. Smith and Steve Adams
  • The Perilous Adventure of the Pilfered Penguin by Class 2H at Newcastle East Public School
  • The Creatures of Dryden Gully by Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Sandi Harrold
  • In the Evening by Edwina Wyatt and Gaye Chapman
  • The Football’s Revolt by Lewitt-Him

 

JUNIOR FICTION

  • One Rule for Jack by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (ill. Craig Smith)
  • Wolves of the Witchwood (The Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth
  • Mystery & Mayhem (Alana Oakley #1) by Poppy Inkwell
  • Nonsense! Said the Tortoise by Margaret J Baker
  • Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler
  • Frank Einstein and the Electro-finger by Jon Scieszka (ill. Brian Biggs)
  • Emily’s Tiara Trouble (The Anti-Princess Club #1) by Samantha Turnbell (ill. Sarah Davis)

 

MIDDLE FICTION

  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
  • Voyage of the Moon Child (Empire of the Waves #1) by Christopher Richardson
  • Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French
  • The Grimstones Collection by Asphyxia
  • The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy) by Shannon Hale
  • Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman
  • Fearless (Hidden #3) by Marianne Curley
  • The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  • Stay with Me by Maureen McCarthy
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
  • The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and his Ex by Gabrielle Williams
  • Mein teuflisch glamouröses Praktikum by Gabrielle Tozer
  • Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie

 

GENERAL FICTION

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

 

NON-FICTION

  • The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas
  • Backyard Bees by Doug Purdie
  • From India with Love by Latika Bourke
  • Numbers are Forever by Liz Strachan
  • Very Good Lives by J K Rowling
  • Remembered by Heart by Various (foreword by Sally Morgan)
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Is This My Beautiful Life by Jessica Rowe
  • Authorpreneurship by Hazel Edwards
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Dec 04

Books Writers Read with Hazel Edwards

Author interview by Hazel Edwards

Hazel Edwards and Susan WhelanI am very pleased to welcome Hazel Edwards to Reading Upside Down. I have been delighted over the past couple of years to develop a friendship with Hazel via email and social media and more recently to have the opportunity to meet Hazel personally at the Writers in the Park festival in Sydney. Hazel’s There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof eating Cake was a favourite story with my children when they were younger.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
Nicole Hayes’s One True Thing, well sustained YA teen voice, and Leah Kaminsky’s The Waiting Room, powerful, poetic and disturbing. Plus Three Dragons for Christmas (Christmas Press) which includes Sophie Masson’s story. This is a beautifully produced book, which I am giving to my grandson.

I spoke at First Tuesday’s Bookclub at Camberwell’s Dymocks, which has the most well informed readers and met both Nicole and Leah on the panel. One of the privileges of being an author-speaker. You find new authors.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Mysteries with unusual settings where I learn about the real place and that society but also enjoy the sleuth’s problem-solving and care about the character.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
I rarely re-read. (Except for hippo books on request)

Where do you read most often? Why?
In bath. On Ipad when travelling. Audio books when driving.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
No. I read very widely. I finished a wall of Enid Blyton by age 11.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Because I meet many authors, I try to support them by buying their books. Usually I read by recommendation.

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake because it has been read by three generations to their children and the shared experience is part of their nostalgic history. The other book might have blank pages, so the future could write their own.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
My memoir or Questory (Quest + Story) Not Just a Piece of Cake; Being an Author (Brolga Publishing) is unlike my other books. Aimed at an adult audience, it goes behind the pages, to share the realistic details of the life of a long term author who also has a family.

As the back cover reveals:

Hazel Edwards has a cake-eating hippo on her roof , an OAM for Literature and thousands of book-children,as well as a real family. Plus a readership in thirteen languages.
Using ‘anecdultery’, Hazel explains why long term writing is risky but vital culturally. The hippocampus is where memories are kept, even those of Antarctica, where Hazel was an expeditioner. She shares her author work style, Hazelnuts mentoring and the quandary of how much to reveal. (OAM is not for Hippo as an Outsized, Awesome Myth.)

Hijabi Girl, a funny, junior chapter book is a co-written with OzgeAlkan, a YA /children’s librarian and illustrated by Serena Geddes. It will be available in early 2016.

There’s also a possibility of some of my work being performed. Children’s theatre is my greatest love. When a book goes into other media that is so satisfying for the original creator.

Not Just a Piece of Cake

 

Hazel Edwards is a well known and respected Australian author. Her work covers a range of genres and includes books for children, teens and adults and works of fiction and non-fiction. She is best known for the classic picture book There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, which celebrated it’s 35th birthday in 2015. Hazel’s latest book is the memoir Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author (Brolga Publishing) and her junior fiction title Hijabi Girl will be available in early 2016. Visit Hazel’s website for more information about her books and writer events. You can also find Hazel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Nov 01

November TBR List

In an attempt at both organisation and motivation, at the start of each month I’m sharing a list of books I read during the previous month and a selection of titles from my TBR pile(s) that I would like to read during the coming month. October was a hectic month and I tried to focus on YA and general fiction novels on my TBR, so I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked. I did manage to include some poetry and a couple of novels though, so I’m happy with the final tally.

Read in October

  1. The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns (General Fiction)
  2. The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (The Tribe #3) by Ambelin Kwaymullina (YA Fiction)
  3. The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (General Fiction)
  4. Harriet Clare: Boys Beware!!! by Louise Park (ill. Marlene Monterrubio) (Junior Fiction)
  5. Meet Sidney Nolan by Yvonne Mes and Sandra Eterovic (PB)
  6. Lola’s Toy Box: The Treasure Trove by Danny Parker (ill. Guy Shield) (Junior Fiction)
  7. The Christmas Peg by Cameron Williams and Matthew Martin (PB)
  8. Animal Architects by Daniel Nassar & Julio Antonia Blasco (Junior Non-Fiction)
  9. Alice’s Food A – Z by Alice Zaslavsky (Junior Non-Fiction)
  10. The White Rose (Lone City #2) by Amy Ewing (YA Fiction)
  11. The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts (Middle Fiction)
  12. Ten Thousand Skies Above You (YA Fiction)
  13. Haiku Journey by Deborah Kelly (Poetry)
  14. Pickle & Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds: The Birthday Party Cake by Alison Reynolds and Mikki Butterley (PB)
  15. The Callahan Split by Lisa Heidke (General Fiction)
  16. Where’s Jessie? by Janeen Brian and Anne Spudvilas (PB)
  17. Silly Squid by Janeen Brian & Cheryll Johns (PB – poetry)
  18. Happy by Pharrell Williams (PB)

 

October  total: 18 books (6 picture books, 2 junior fiction, 1 middle fiction, 3 young adult fiction, 3 general fiction, 2 junior non-fiction, 1 poetry)

 

November TBR List

PICTURE BOOKS

  • If… by David J. Smith and Steve Adams
  • The Perilous Adventure of the Pilfered Penguin by Class 2H at Newcastle East Public School
  • The Creatures of Dryden Gully by Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Sandi Harrold
  • In the Evening by Edwina Wyatt and Gaye Chapman
  • The Football’s Revolt by Lewitt-Him

 

JUNIOR FICTION

  • One Rule for Jack by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (ill. Craig Smith)
  • Wolves of the Witchwood (The Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth
  • Penelope Perfect: Very Private List for Camp Success by Chrissie Perry
  • Mystery & Mayhem (Alana Oakley #1) by Poppy Inkwell
  • Nonsense! Said the Tortoise by Margaret J Baker
  • Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler
  • Frank Einstein and the Electro-finger by Jon Scieszka (ill. Brian Biggs)
  • Emily’s Tiara Trouble (The Anti-Princess Club #1) by Samantha Turnbell (ill. Sarah Davis)

 

MIDDLE FICTION

  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
  • Voyage of the Moon Child (Empire of the Waves #1) by Christopher Richardson
  • Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French
  • The Grimstones Collection by Asphyxia
  • The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy) by Shannon Hale
  • Sister Heart by Sally Morgan
  • Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman
  • Fearless (Hidden #3) by Marianne Curley
  • The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  • In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
  • Stay with Me by Maureen McCarthy
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
  • The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and his Ex by Gabrielle Williams
  • Mein teuflisch glamouröses Praktikum by Gabrielle Tozer

 

GENERAL FICTION

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

 

NON-FICTION

  • The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas
  • Backyard Bees by Doug Purdie
  • From India with Love by Latika Bourke
  • Numbers are Forever by Liz Strachan
  • Very Good Lives by J K Rowling
  • Remembered by Heart by Various (foreword by Sally Morgan)
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Is This My Beautiful Life by Jessica Rowe
  • Authorpreneurship by Hazel Edwards
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Oct 11

Blog Tour: Sad the Dog – Meet the Team

Author interview by Sandy Fussell

Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell and Tull Suwannakit

 

Sandy Fussell and Tull Suwannakit are Team Sad, the author and illustrator behind the picture book, Sad the Dog. Today they answer a few questions about their shared work and each other.

Sandy Fussell

Sandy Fussell

What were your first thoughts when you saw the illustrations for Sad?
I almost didn’t recognise him. The Sad I knew (who was female and called Cassie) was a spaniel-type dog with thick grey-black fur and floppy ears. Sad was a little Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with pointy ears and an eye patch like a pirate. But it only took one read of the text alongside the illustrations to realise Tull had drawn the real Sad and the story now rightfully belonged to him, not Cassie.

Were there any parts of the text that required particular polishing?
It amazes me that a story with less than 400 words could have a plot hole – but I had one. My ever-wonderful editor,Sue Whiting, pointed out Sad accepted his new owners too readily, that an unloved dog like Sad would need to be coaxed and encouraged before he responded to gestures of friendship. So the scenes where Jack offers a walk, a comfy dog bed, crunchy biscuits and delicious sausage were added.

What is your favourite illustration?
It’s hard to go past the sheer loneliness and hopelessness of the scene where Sad sits beside his doghouse underneath a leafless tree – and howls –nose to the sky. The colours are glorious and the stark branches and fallen leaves emphasize how absolutely everything has been lost. When Sad becomes happy, I have a second favourite illustration, the one where Jack and Sad pretend to be pirates. It looks like so much fun.

Describe Tull in five words
Talented, generous, empathic, innovative, approachable.

 

Tull Suwannakit

Tull Suwannakit

What were your first thoughts when you read the manuscript?
When I read the story, I felt a sense of lost, sadness and loneliness through the eyes of Sad. The dog tries every possible way to please his owners but never quite being appreciated. Yet amidst the “sadness” surrounding the story, there is a heart-warming ending when Jack and his family moves in. Sandy’s use of simple but emotive driven words work so beautifully on many levels, drawing me into being a part of the narrative.

The contrasting tone in the narrative blends potent elements between abandonment and a sense of belonging, making it more than just a storybook, but serves as an underlying message of empathy and point of connection for me as the reader with Sad, the dog (or more appropriately, Lucky).

Did you receive much in the way of editorial direction from Walker Books?
I have been very fortunate to be working with a wonderful team of people at Walker Books including Sue Whiting and Gayna Murphy, who in many ways help bring the visuals together. It’s always good to have a second pair of keen eyes to determine the seamless flow in texts and illustrations.

What was your favourite section to illustrate?
I really enjoy illustrating the scene where Sad woke up in the morning to find Jack sitting next to him. It’s the first time we get to see a bond being made. To me, the scene is almost like the “new beginning” for Sad. He is no longer fearful, his tail starts to wag and best of all, he is happy to have a new found friend by his side. The tone of colours shift from dark, muddy blue to bright morning hues and the leaves blossoms with lush shades of green.

Describe Sandy in five words
Professional, down-to-earth, humble, talented, optimistic.

How to Draw Sad, the Dog

A touching look into the life of an unloved pet and the heart-warming journey towards finding your true home.

Sad, The Dog

by Sandy Fussell and illustrated by Tull Suwannakit.

Thursday 1st October, Kids’ Book Review
Friday 2nd October, Kirsty Eager’s Blog
Saturday 3rd October, Buzz Words
Sunday 4th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog
Monday 5th October, Susanne Gervay’s Blog
Tuesday 6th October, Boomerang Books Blog
Wednesday 7th October, The Book Chook
Thursday 8th October, Creative Kids Tales
Friday 9th October, Dee Scribe Writing
Saturday 10th October, Children’s Books Daily
Sunday 11th October, Reading Upside Down
Monday 12th October, Sandy Fussell’s Blog

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Oct 09

Books Writers Read with Dianne Bates

interview by Dianne Bates

Di BatesI am very pleased to welcome Di Bates to Reading Upside Down. I have been aware of Di’s work for some time. Di has published numerous books for children of all ages and she is also the editor of the children’s publishing industry ezine Buzzwords which is filled with fantastic information and opportunities for writers and illustrators.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
Hard Choices by Hilary Rodham Clinton, about her four years as Secretary of State to President Barack Obama; so clearly written and totally fascinating!

I’m hoping soon to read Silly Squid! by Janeen Brian (Omnibus Books), a collection of poems about the sea (I love reading poetry); also, based on an outstanding review and its subject matter, I plan to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oaks (HarperCollins) about a girl’s escape from a repressive cult.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Social-realism most interests me because I can often relate directly to characters negotiating the slippery slopes of a shared life. When I try to read most fantasy I generally become over-whelmed by so many characters and so many places.

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
There are quite a few, but the top three children’s books would have to be Ruby Hollow by Sharon Creech, Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy and, my all-time favourite children’s book, Where the Lilies Bloom by Bill and Vera Cleaver.

Where do you read most often? Why?
I love snuggling up in the warmth, security and softness of my bed with a great book.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
The only book I ever owned was Heidi which I re-ready many times. Why did only one adult in my life ever give me a book as a gift when it was obvious I was such a devout reader? I was constantly borrowing Enid Blyton books for Mortdale Public Library. Why didn’t the librarian help to develop my reading tastes? Adults can be so influential, which is why I always talk to children about great books, and often gift them, too.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Usually it’s the subject matter, then the blurb, and finally the first paragraph. I also investigate books which are highly recommended by friends or numerous reviewers whose opinions I trust. Of course there are favourite authors whose books I always read, for example, Katherine Patterson, Betsy Byars, Louis Sachar, Ruth Thomas, Ursula Dubosarsky, Margaret Wild, Scott Gardner, Bill Condon, Markus Zusak… so many others!

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
The Shape (Allen & Unwin) is based on the death of my younger daughter, Kathleen Julia and is probably my best written book. Confessions of A Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God by my very talented husband, Bill Condon, which is so good it was awarded the inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Youth Literature in 2010; the (generous) prize money changed both our lives.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
The Awesome Animals’ series (Big Sky Publishing) is an entertaining new non-fiction animal series for kids – a Guinness Book of Records meets Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Each beautifully styled book contains true stories and amazing facts about our best-loved pets: dogs, cats & horses (due out in March 2016). They also feature lots of gorgeous illustrations combined with photographs of adorable dogs and cats from Best Friends Rescue and Little Legs Cat Rescue.

The series is aimed at children8 to 12 years of age, with an average reading age of 10, It is sure to provide children with the entertaining combination of interesting and bizarre facts and stories as well as wacky jokes, verse and recommended novels about cats and dogs.

Awesome Animals: Dogs by Dianne Bates

Australian author Dianne (Di) Bates has published more than 120 books for the education and trade markets. Her works include award winning titles and she is a recipient of the Lady Cutler Prize for distinguished services to children’s literature. Di also edits the children’s publishing industry ezine Buzzwords Magazine, a very useful resource for children’s authors and illustrators. Her latest titles are the first two books in the Awesome Animals series, Awesome Animals:Cats and Awesome Animals:Dogs. Visit Di’s website, blog and Facebook page for more information about her books and writing projects.Awesome Animals: Cats by Dianne Bates

 

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Oct 08

Review: The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns

Review: The Patterson Girls by Rachael JohnsThe Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns
Published by Harlequin Mira on October 2015
Genres: contemporary, romance & chicklit
Source: Purchased

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them?

When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mother’s death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.

The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.

Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions doesn’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew.

A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

I read my first Rachael Johns’ novel about a year ago and I’ve read several since, enjoying the interesting characters, engaging dialogue and rural Australian setting.

Rachael’s latest title, the newly released The Patterson Girls, is a slight change of pace from her previous ‘rural romance’ books like Outback Blaze. While many of the familiar factors are there – remote, rural setting, entertaining banter between characters, romantic entanglements – this novel is more contemporary fiction than rural romance (for those who find such distinctions important).

With all four Patterson sisters introduced in the opening chapter, it did take me a little while to get the characters straight in my own mind, which made the first couple of chapters seem a little slow. Once I managed to work out which sister connected with which occupation, town, and relationship, things moved along much faster and I was drawn into the unfolding family drama.

I enjoyed the interactions between the sisters. Their relationships were a combination of love, childhood grudges and frustrations, tenderness and tension, just like so many real-life sibling relationships. There family gathering also highlighted the pros and cons of small town life where everyone knows everyone else and privacy is hard to find. It was also good to see diverse viewpoints shared on the topic of motherhood, with the four sisters and also several secondary characters used to add to the variety of perspectives.

As with Rachael’s other books, I enjoyed the humour in the dialogue, and the confident female characters, who despite their flaws and occasional missteps, are determined to play a central role in shaping their own futures. The relationships were interesting and the different approach of each sister to the various family challenges reflected the complexity of the real world.

With four central characters, at least one additional couple, and three older characters (two women and one man) with backstories of their own, I did find it hard to really connect with a particular storyline and there was a lot to keep track of in the final chapters as each storyline was resolved. The multiple characters did create a diverse range of personalities and perspectives on the various challenges, however, giving The Patterson Girls the warm feeling of a catch-up at a large family reunion rather than a more intense, meaningful one on one conversation.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Patterson Girls. It’s an entertaining novel about sisters, motherhood, family connections and love. A great weekend read.

There are reading group notes available for this book and you can read Rachael’s answers to my Books Writers Read questions here.

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Oct 03

October TBR List

In an attempt at both organisation and motivation, each month I aim to share a list of books I read during the previous month and a selection of titles from my TBR pile(s) that I would like to read during the coming month.

Read in September 

  1. Catherine the Great: An Art Book for Kids – National Gallery of Victoria with Kat Chadwick (Junior Non-Fiction)
  2. Two Birds on a Wire – Coral Vass and Heidi Cooper (PB)
  3. Sad, the Dog – Sandy Fussell and Tull Suwannakit (PB)
  4. An English Year – Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling (PB)
  5. A Scottish Year – Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling (PB)
  6. Dear Mum, I Love You – Ed Allen and Simon Williams (PB)
  7. Dear Dad, I Want to be Just Like You – Ed Allen and Simon Williams (PB)
  8. My Dad is a Giraffe – Stephen Michael King (PB)
  9. Daddy Cuddle – Kate Mayes and Sara Acton (PB)
  10. Daddy’s Sandwich – Pip Jones and Laura Hughes (PB)
  11. Pig Dude: He Can Do ANYTHING! by Michael Wagner and Adam Nickel (Junior Fiction)
  12. Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie (General Fiction)
  13. Tallie’s Knight by Anne Gracie (General Fiction)
  14. Remarkably Rexy by Craig Smith (PB)
  15. Lara of Newtown by Chris McKimmie (PB)
  16. What the Ladybird Heard Next by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks (PB)
  17. Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey (PB)
  18. Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Aaron Blabey (PB)
  19. As Big As You by Sara Acton (PB)
  20. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (PB)
  21. Belinda the Ninja Ballerina by Candida Baker and Mitch Vane (PB)
  22. A Moment with Monet by Sima Levy and Justin Morcillo (PB)
  23. Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld (PB)
  24. Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis (PB)
  25. Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas (PB)
  26. Dandelions by Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan (PB)
  27. The Visions of Ichabod X by Gary Crew and Paul O’Sullivan (PB)
  28. Kizmet and the Case of the Smashed Violin – Frank Woodley (Junior Fiction)
  29. Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling (PB)
  30. Kerenza: A New Australian by Rosanne Hawke (Middle Fiction)
  31. Herman’s Holiday by Tom Percival (PB)
  32. The Witches Britches by P Crumble and Lucinda Gifford (PB)
  33. Abigail by Catherine Rayner (PB)
  34. Box by Min Flyte and Rosalind Beardshaw (PB)
  35. Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni and Marco Trevisan (PB)
  36. George and the Ghost by Catriona Hoy and Cassia Thomas (PB)
  37. An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer and Cathie Felstead (PB)
  38. Lifetime by Lola M. Schaefer and Christopher Silas Neal (Junior Non-Fiction)
  39. See Inside Your Body by Katie Daynes and Colin King (Junior Non-Fiction)
  40. Australian Kids Through the Years by Tania McCartney and Andrew Joyner (Junior Non-Fiction)
  41. One Thing by Lauren Child (PB)
  42. Eye to Eye by Graeme Base (PB)
  43. Seagull by Danny Snell (PB)
  44. Ziggy the Zebra by Jan Latta (Junior Non-Fiction)
  45. Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (Junior Fiction/Poetry based on fact)
  46. Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (Junior Fiction based on fact)
  47. Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell (Middle Fiction)
  48. My Dead Bunny by Sigi Cohen and James Foley (PB)
  49. Float by Daniel Miyares (PB)
  50. Dinosaur Disco by Deborah Kelly and Daron Parton (PB)

 

September  total: 50 books (37 picture books, 4 junior fiction, 2 middle fiction, 2 general fiction, 5 junior non-fiction)

 

October TBR List

PICTURE BOOKS

  • Silly Squid by Janeen Brian & Cheryll Johns
  • If… by David J. Smith and Steve Adams
  • The Perilous Adventure of the Pilfered Penguin by Class 2H at Newcastle East Public School
  • The Creatures of Dryden Gully by Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Sandi Harrold
  • In the Evening by Edwina Wyatt and Gaye Chapman
  • Meet Sydney Nolan by Yvonne Mes and Sandra Eterovic

 

JUNIOR FICTION

  • One Rule for Jack by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (ill. Craig Smith)
  • Wolves of the Witchwood (The Impossible Quest #2) by Kate Forsyth
  • Penelope Perfect: Very Private List for Camp Success by Chrissie Perry
  • Mystery & Mayhem (Alana Oakley #1) by Poppy Inkwell
  • Kizmet and the Case of the Tassie Tiger by Frank Woodley
  • Nonsense! Said the Tortoise by Margaret J Baker
  • Harriet Clare: Boys Beware!!! by Louise Park (ill. Marlene Monterrubio)
  • Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler

 

MIDDLE FICTION

  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
  • Voyage of the Moon Child (Empire of the Waves #1) by Christopher Richardson
  • Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French
  • The Grimstones Collection by Asphyxia
  • The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy) by Shannon Hale
  • The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts
  • Sister Heart by Sally Morgan
  • Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray
  • The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • Off the Page by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman
  • Fearless (Hidden #3) by Marianne Curley
  • The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  • In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
  • The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (The Tribe #3) by Ambelin Kwaymullina
  • Stay with Me by Maureen McCarthy
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood
  • The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and his Ex by Gabrielle Williams
  • Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
  • The White Rose (Lone City #2) by Amy Ewing

 

GENERAL FICTION

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett
  • The Patterson Girls by Rachael Johns
  • The Callahan Split by Lisa Heidke

 

NON-FICTION

  • Animal Architects by Daniel Nassar & Julio Antonia Blasco
  • Alice’s Food A – Z by Alice Zaslavsky
  • The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made by Fiona Katauskas
  • Backyard Bees by Doug Purdie
  • From India with Love by Latika Bourke
  • Numbers are Forever by Liz Strachan
  • Very Good Lives by J K Rowling
  • Remembered by Heart by Various (foreword by Sally Morgan)
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Is This My Beautiful Life by Jessica Rowe
  • Authorpreneurship by Hazel Edwards
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Oct 02

HMRI Open Day 2015 – Science Story Time

HMRI Open Day 2015Last Friday, the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) held their annual Open Day. This is a fantastic community event where members of the community can visit the HMRI facility to find out about the various HMRI research projects and enjoy a variety of interactive science activities.

Activities covered topics as diverse as extracting DNA from strawberries, making models of bacteria, and ‘art and science’ workshops to laboratory tours and lectures about ‘The Science Behind Zombies’ and ‘The Genetics of Rare Abilities, Real Life X-Men’.

The day aimed to engage preschool and school aged children, teens and adults with science-based activities and discussions, emphasising the work done by HMRI researchers and encouraging students to consider science-based career paths.

I was delighted to be included in the HMRI Open Day program. I think story time sessions are a great addition to most community events and I’m very interested in engaging children with STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) themes through stories, so running a science-themed story time at the Open Day was the perfect fit for me.

HMRI Open Day Story Time CornerI took with me two boxes of books (picture books and junior non-fiction), which featured science themes or content, and/or an emphasis on critical thinking. The books were available for children and parents to browse and we had a steady flow of people throughout the day stopping to take a look at the books on display, listen to a story or take a copy of the list of STEM-themed books for children I had printed out for the day.

It was wonderful to see so many children and parents interested in the books. I read with several young children and was pleasantly surprised when many older children also chose to spend some time in our story corner reading by themselves. We also had numerous parents take some time out from the busy activities around us to sit with their children and read a story or two (or three).

HMRI Open Day 2015 - 2

Photo credit: HMRI

Throughout the day I had many conversations with parents and teachers about science-themed stories. With my own plans for a science-themed series of picture books underway, it was encouraging to have so many children and adults keen to read books promoting STEM themes and topics, and particularly encouraging to have many of the teachers actively seeking information about books that would be suitable for their classrooms.

I had so much fun on the day reading with the children and discussing the various books. The two Engibear titles (Engibear’s Dream and Engibear’s Bridge) were particular favourites and were rarely left on the table for more than 5 – 10 minutes before they were discovered by another excited child.

It was great to see the diversity of scientific study emphasised throughout the day and I feel that the inclusion of our story time corner was part of that diversity. The Open Day ran from 10am – 4pm and the hours just flew by. I was wonderfully supported on the day by Nancy, a volunteer who was just as excited as I was to see the children enjoying the various stories.

HMRI Open Day Story Time Books

Thanks so much to the organisers of the HMRI Open Day. I really did feel very privileged to be part of such a great event and I’m already looking for titles to expand my collection so that I can host a bigger and better story corner at the Open Day next year.

Part of the purpose of the Open Day is to raise awareness of the research work done at HMRI. Please visit the HMRI website to review their current research projects, career opportunities and donation options.

I have shared the book list I used at the Open Day in this post on STEM-themed books for children.

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