Apr 09

An Explanation (of sorts)

I’ve always loved words – books, reading, writing, conversations. Words in all forms have always fascinated me. Words have been my entertainment, my way of exploring the world, my comfort and my way of connecting. I’ve read widely, eclectically and voraciously. I’ve written professionally and for my own enjoyment. I’ve enjoyed conversations about a range of issues and topics, loving the way people use words to express their thoughts and emotions.

Words have been my solace in tough times and my constant companion. It’s been a rare occasion that I haven’t had a notepad or book (usually both) within easy access. It’s been an even rarer day when I haven’t read or written something. It has always been easy to find the words I need to express myself.

Until April last year.

At the end of April last year, after 22 year of an unhappy and extremely dysfunctional marriage, I left my husband.

I never expected the breakdown of my marriage and the horrible emotional trauma of the past 12 months to impact my relationship with words. My ex-husband rarely showed any interest in my writing. He read hardly anything that I wrote, he didn’t ask questions about the progress of my latest manuscript, he showed no interest in meeting the people who were part of my writing world. He rarely read books. He disliked engaging in conversations about topics that involved the sharing of opinions or any form of debate. Words were not significant to him. Including my words.

In a world characterised by silence and unspoken judgement, words were where I found my validation and value. They offered comfort and escape. They were engaging and inspiring and helped me to believe that there was life and hope beyond what I was experiencing. They helped me to feel like I was making a contribution, achieving something worthwhile, even though I felt so isolated and purposeless.

So, I expected words to fall firmly on my side in the his stuff/her stuff division that is a necessary part of separating two lives. Words are an intrinsic part of who I am and I assumed they would come with me as my ex-husband and I parted ways.

Instead, one of the fundamental relationships of my life has faltered and all but stopped. I’ve barely read a book since the separation. I have a collection of manuscripts that I haven’t looked at in just as long. My blog has been ignored. I’m struggling to engage in conversations that relate to anything beyond the most superficial topics or the heartbreaking experiences of my marriage and the past 12 months. After 22 years of suppressing my emotions and using books, writing and words to get me through each day, the emotions are surging and the words have retreated.

With everything else I’ve lost, and the numerous emotional and logistical challenges I’ve faced over the past 12 months, it seems absurd that losing my connection with words would feel so significant, but it does. It hurts. I feel betrayed. And abandoned. I’ve longed to write to help clear the swirling thoughts, but the words refused to flow. I’ve struggled to find ways to express what I’m feeling and experiencing clearly. The words have felt awkward and clumsy and chaotic as I’ve tried to explain my marriage and all the reasons it made me feel insignificant and invisible. It’s been incredibly hard to find the words to explain how I feel after so many years of using words to hide what was really happening.

For so many years, words have been my refuge and retreat – my safe place. And now, when I need a safe place more than ever, I can’t read, I can’t write, and I can’t express myself clearly. I feel vulnerable and disconnected.

And anxious.

The thought of trying to read a novel or open up my folder of half written stories makes my chest ache. This weekend is the Newcastle Writers Festival – an event I’ve spoken at for the past two years – and just the thought of attending made my chest ache. I couldn’t even open the program. I feel incapable of chatting about books and reading, topics that previously gave me so much pleasure and helped define my place in the world.

I’ve started writing again in the past few weeks, but the words refuse to flow the way they used to. The picture book manuscripts remain untouched. There have been no book reviews, no interviews, no chatty and (hopefully) entertaining blog posts. The thought of writing these things triggers the anxious ache in my chest and a strong sense of resistance in my brain. After 22 years of forcing myself to focus on the surface because what was happening below the surface made me feel so achingly lonely and insignificant, it seems that the words have decided it’s time to dig deeper.

After 12 months of silence, the words are returning and they are raw and intense, which triggers a different type of anxiety. I loved what I wrote before. I loved the community I was part of because of what I wrote. Am I ready to write something different, something harder and more honest and intense? It’s not just about cathartic, emotional writing. I want to reactivate this blog, but my focus has shifted and my writing here needs to shift too. Or I need to close this down and let Reading Upside Down become part of the list of things I’ve lost in the divorce. I feel like I’ve had to redefine so much of myself because of the separation and now it seems I will also have to redefine who I am as a writer. What if I discover that I can’t write anymore. Who will I be then?

This blog, my writing, and my life are a work in progress currently undergoing an intense period of change. As much as I long for and need the change after so many stagnant and damaging years, I can’t help but be anxious about what lies ahead and the possibility that words will be part of the collateral damage as I redefine myself. I hope not, because I’m really not sure who I am without them.

[Note: This post is an explanation, of sorts, to someone who loves me and wants me to find a way to reconnect with the words that mean so much to me. It feels clumsy and incomplete, but hopefully it offers some explanation for my anxious thoughts and the mental paralysis that has stopped the flow of words for so long.]

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Jan 30

Dear Son Starting High School

When my older son started high school, I wrote a letter to him that was published on Happy Child. Two years later my daughter started Year 7 and I shared a letter to her here on my blog. Today, my younger son starts high school and I have once again been thinking about what words of advice and encouragement I would give if he were to ask:

Dear Son,

First and foremost, I want to tell you how overwhelmingly proud I am of all that you are. You bless me every day with your wonderful sense of humour, your cheeky smile, your wit, your generous spirit, your warmth and compassion, and your enthusiasm. The past year has been challenging in so many ways, but you have been brave, caring, and mature well beyond your years. I have been inspired by your resilience and your positive attitude.

In some ways, it seems incredible to me that you are here, on the threshold of high school and teenage years. The last (almost) thirteen years have passed so quickly. In other ways, it makes sense that you are moving into this next stage. I know you are ready for more challenges, more independence, and more opportunities to make decisions and carve your own path. I am excited for you and look forward to seeing what is ahead but I know you will have moments of doubt and uncertainty, so I want you to remember these things:

You are more than the marks you achieve in tests and assessments.

You are an intelligent boy who loves to learn new things, but you are so much more than the marks on your test papers, which only measure one aspect of who you are. You have gifts and abilities that will never translate into a grade or assignment mark, yet they are a very real indication of the man you will become one day. You are thoughtful, insightful, intuitive, perceptive, creative, generous and funny. Your test results show what you can do, but your character is who you are.

You are not alone.

Teenage years, and high school in particular, can sometimes leave you feeling isolated and disconnected, but even if you feel alone, you aren’t. You are surrounded by friends and family who love you. We’re a bit dorky at times and not always as funny as we think we are. We miss the point, misunderstand and make mistakes, but we will always have your back and be willing to hold your hand, both literally and figuratively. Always.

And when you look at others who seem so happy and connected and carefree, remember that some of them are looking at you, wondering how you can be so happy, connected and carefree when they are feeling isolated and discouraged. I was astounded to discover at my high school reunion that many of the ‘popular’ kids struggled with the same feelings of being an outsider and not fitting in that I did at school. Your friends and classmates are working through the same issues you are, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside.

I understand.

I know I seem hopelessly old and outdated. I don’t know about the ‘cool’ music, fashion or words (see, I still think it’s okay to call things ‘cool’). Believe it or not, I was young once and I do remember what it was like. My parents’ rules frustrated me; I felt both annoyed at the childish limitations they imposed and nervous about my new freedoms. I worried about physical changes and struggled with an ever changing rollercoaster of emotions. I felt confused, frustrated and uncertain at times.

I remember and I understand.

Cherish good friends.

I know you’re sad about leaving so many friends behind as you change schools. I know their friendship and your shared memories are special to you. For some of these friends, taking a step away will make your friendship stronger. You will have new things to talk about, new ideas to share and your time together will seem more special because it takes some effort. Sadly, for some of these friends the time apart will change things in a less positive way, but this may well have happened anyway. The coming years will bring lots of changes, in you and your friends. You would naturally move in different directions even if you stayed at the same school and that’s okay. Your memories of these friendships will still be precious.

You’ll make lots of new friends at high school. Some will be friends for a few weeks or a term, some for a year, others for longer. People will let you down sometimes, you’ll misjudge some people and you’ll be disappointed by others, but at the end of the day, the true friends will still be with you and the trials you’ve gone through with others will be worth the treasure you discover in those few who remain. I’m still friends with someone I met on my first day of Year 7. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

You get to choose.

You can’t opt out of writing essays and assignments in subjects that don’t interest you (sorry about that), but when it comes to what you say, wear, eat and do, who you hang around with and who you allow to influence your actions and your thoughts, you get to choose. You have such a wonderful confidence in who you are and get so much joy from the things that interest you and your quirky sense of humour. Don’t let others undermine that because of their own insecurities, jealousy and other issues. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you are unable to simply be yourself.

Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.

The next six years will be amazing. Embrace the opportunities that come your way. Try new things, meet new people, think new thoughts. Be brave enough to reach beyond what is familiar to discover all that the world has to offer you.

Know that you can achieve amazing things. While you reach for the stars, we’ll be here cheering you on, keeping you connected for those times when you need to temporarily backtrack so that you can follow a different path.

Mistakes are okay.

In fact, they’re kind of inevitable. Everyone makes them, even parents and teachers. (Don’t tell anyone, but I might even make a mistake or two myself occasionally.) Your friends will make them and so will you. Learn from them and then move on. No-one expects you to be perfect. We love you exactly the way you are.

Everyone changes at a different pace.

It’s really hard to not compare yourself physically with other boys, but no-one can control when hormones will kick in. You will grow and develop at the time that is right for you and ultimately everyone catches up. Trust me, when you are 40, no-one will care who started shaving first.

Summary for a busy pre-teen.

I love you, I believe in you and I’m proud of you. Work hard, have fun, enjoy the moment. Cherish the good times, learn from the tough times and continue to be the amazing person you already are.

Love Mum xx

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Jul 01

Books Read – April, May and June 2016

Books read in May 2016. Links in titles take you to reviews either here on Reading Upside Down or on Kids’ Book Review.

It’s been a chaotic couple of months for me at home and my reading time has been all but non-existent. I’ve really struggled to concentrate when I’m reading, so I’ve concentrated on picture books. I’m hopeful that I’ll get back on track reading regularly soon. There are so many amazing new releases that I want to read, plus a huge backlog of older titles. Hopefully I’ll get back into a better reading routine in July.



Picture Books

  1. Let’s Play by Herve Tullet (Allen & Unwin)
  2. No Way Yirrikipayi! by children from Milikapiti School, Melville Island, with Alison Lester (ILF)
  3. Frankencrayon by Michael Hall (Greenwillow)
  4. I Love Me by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina (Fremantle Press)
  5. This is a Circle by Chrissie Krebs (Random House)
  6. The Playground is like the Jungle (A Big Hug Book) by Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs (The Five Mile Press)
  7. A Family is like a Cake (A Big Hug Book) by Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs (The Five Mile Press)
  8. Love is like a Tree (A Big Hug Book) by Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs (The Five Mile Press)
  9. Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn and Gaye Chapman (Little Hare)
  10. Desert Lake: The story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli (Walker Books)
  11. Meet Don Bradman by Coral Vass and Brad Howe (Random House)
  12. What Else Could It Be? by Sally Fawcett (EK Books)
  13. Steve Goes to Carnival by Joshua Button and Robyn Wells (Magabala Books)
  14. This Hungry Dragon by Heath McKenzie (Scholastic)
  15. River Riddle by Jim Dewar and Anil Tortop (Scholastic)
  16. My Dog Dash by Nicki Greenberg (Allen & Unwin)
  17. Marvin and Marigold: The Big Sneeze by Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott (New Frontier Publishing)
  18. Secrets of Animal Camouflage by Carron Brown and Wesley Robins (Ivy Kids)
  19. Wolfish Stew by Suzi Moore and Erica Salcedo (Bloomsbury)
  20. Snow Bear by Tony Mitton and Alison Brown (Bloomsbury)
  21. Milo’s Dog says Moo! by Catalina Echeverri (Bloomsbury)
  22. Elephant Kitten by Margaret Evans and Sophie Norsa (Little Steps Publishing)
  23. Hope by Matt Lumb and Kiara Mucci (AIM High Program, University of Newcastle)
  24. The Wombats at the Zoo by Roland Harvey (Allen & Unwin)
  25. On the Train by Carron Brown and Bee Johnson (Ivy Kids)
  26. Lenny & Lucy by Philip C Stead and Erin E Stead (Allen & Unwin)
  27. The Perilous Adventure of the Pilfered Penguin by Class 2H at Newcastle East Public School (Katinka Press)
  28. My Sister is a Superhero by Damon Young and Peter Carnavas (UQP)
  29. Tinyville Town gets to Work by Brian Biggs (Abrams Appleseed)
  30. Virgil and Owen Stick Together by Paulette Bogan (Bloomsbury)
  31. Grandpa’s Big Adventure by Paul Newman and Tom Jellett (Penguin Viking)
  32. Blue, the Builder’s Dog by Jen Storer and Andrew Joyner (Penguin Viking)
  33. Oh, Albert! by Davina Bell and Sara Acton (Penguin Viking)
  34. My Perfect Pup by Sue Walker and Anil Tortop (New Frontier Publishing)
  35. The Whole Caboodle by Lisa Shanahan and Leila Rudge (Scholastic)
  36. Take Ted Instead by Cassandra WEbb and Amanda Francey (New Frontier Publishing)
  37. Blue and Bertie by Kristyna Litten (Scholastic)
  38. Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley (Walker Books)
  39. Was Not Me! by Shannon Horsfall (HarperCollins)
  40. Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum by Gordon Winch and Stephen Pym (New Frontier Publishing)


Junior Fiction

  1. Ruby Wishfingers: Skydancer’s Escape by Deborah Kelly (Random House)


Young Adult Fiction

  1. The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
  2. Bro by Helen Chebatte
  3. The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub



  1. Lemons in the Chicken Wire by Alison Whittaker


General Fiction

April, May + June Total:  45 books

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Jun 01

It’s All About Perspective

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was around 13 years old. Beyond the impact of the story, the book was a revelation about the power of narrative. It not only presented a story that raised questions about ethical and social issues, it also showed me that stories can challenge the way you see the world and yourself. That words, and stories, are powerful.

At the time, I photocopied the final chapter of the book (6 pages) and kept them in my folder. I read and re-read Scout’s summary of how the events in their town would have appeared to Boo Radley as he looked out his window. It was a lesson in perspective and understanding and empathy that has stayed with me through the years.

My life is chaotic at the moment. There are some major changes underway and I’m feeling very fragile. The changes are ultimately positive, but I seem to be working through all the emotions each day, sometimes simultaneously. It’s been exhausting. It’s also been a reminder about the importance of considering perspective and more than once I’ve recalled Scout’s observations from the Radley porch.

I’ve received a lot of support from friends and colleagues over the past month or so. I’ve felt loved and encouraged and cared for in a way I really didn’t expect when I set the wheels in motion for this change. Without seeking details or asking me to justify myself, they have simply let me know that I am valued and offered encouragement. I’ve felt humbled and overwhelmed at times and I’ve felt incredibly blessed to be part of a community filled with so much love and compassion.

Of course, not everyone has agreed with my decisions. There has been judgement and anger and questions asking me to justify the decisions I’ve made and the emotions I’m experiencing. It has been tempting to feel hurt and betrayed by these reactions. To wonder why these people don’t trust that I wouldn’t make such a major decision without just cause and without considering the implications for myself, my children and others I care about.

Through it all, I keep thinking of Scout standing on the porch reflecting on the events in her community as Boo would have seen them. I try to step outside my situation and look at it as someone else would – someone who has only seen what has happened on the surface. Someone who has only known the facade I created for my life; who only saw the smiles and laughter and confidence. Someone whose own personal history means they view my actions and decisions through the filter of their own experiences and emotions.

My heart is breaking at the moment – for things past, for things lost, for hurt caused. While I know that I’ve made decisions that will result in a more hopeful and hope-filled future, I also acknowledge that my actions impact a wide circle of people and they are entitled to feel hurt, angry, confused and betrayed. My heart is breaking for them too, as I try to stand in their shoes and view my actions from their perspective.

Why am I sharing this? I’m not quite sure.

Partly because after months and months and months of feeling barren and dry, the words suddenly want to get out. There is a compulsion to write that I haven’t experienced for some time.

But mostly because my current situation has reminded me of the lesson Harper Lee taught me all those years ago about the importance of perspective, both when we look at our own life and when we consider (and judge) the lives of others. Be gentle with yourself and with others. Stand in someone else’s shoes and walk around in them before you presume to understand them.

Our lives are complex and our emotions are fragile. Be the kind of person who gives others room to be broken and encourages them to find the strength to heal. Always remember that the world looks different when viewed from someone else’s perspective.

Broken pottery

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Apr 01

Books Read – March 2016

Books read in March 2016. Links in titles take you to reviews either here on Reading Upside Down or on Kids’ Book Review.



Picture Books

  1. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell (Little Brown & Company)
  2. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (HarperCollins)
  3. In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
  4. Reflection by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg and Robin Cowcher (Walker Books)
  5. There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith (Two Hoots)
  6. You Have My Heart by Corinne Fenton (Five Mile Press)
  7. Worries are Like Clouds (A Big Hug Book) by Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs (Five Mile Press)
  8. You are Like You (A Big Hug Book) by Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs (Five Mile Press)
  9. Gary by Leila Rudge (Walker Books)
  10. The Grumpy Lighthouse Keeper by Terrizita Corpus and Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books)
  11. Crabbing with Dad by Paul Seden (Magabala Books)
  12. Blue & Other Colours with Henri Matisse (Phaidon Press)
  13. Arthur and the Curiosity by Lucinda Gifford (The Five Mile Press)
  14. Archie: No Ordinary Sloth by Heath McKenzie (The Five Mile Press)


Junior Fiction

  1. Johnny Danger: Lie Another Day by Peter Millett (Puffin Books)
  2. Matty’s Comeback by Anita Heiss (Scholastic)
  3. The Scroll of Alexandria (A Lottie Lipton Adventure) by Dan Metcalf (Bloomsbury)
  4. Nick’s Fabulous Footy Cards by Greg Fish (Hip & Shoulder Books)


General Fiction

  1. Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns (Harlequin Mira)
  2. Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue (A Cynster Novel) by Stephanie Laurens (Avon)
  3. Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James (Bantam Dell)
  4. A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna Campbell (Harlequin Mira)


March Total:  22 books

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Mar 01

Books Read – February 2016

Books read in February 2016. Links in titles take you to reviews either here on Reading Upside Down or on Kids’ Book Review.



Picture Books

  1. Stanley the Amazing Knitting Cat by Emily MacKenzie (Bloomsbury)
  2. Echidna Jim Went for a Swim by Phil Cummings and Laura Wood (Scholastic)
  3. Smile Cry by Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft (EK Books)
  4. My First Day at School by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whatley (Scholastic)
  5. The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten by Margaret Wild and Stephen Michael King (Scholastic)
  6. I’ll Never Let You Go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Alison Brown (Bloomsbury)
  7. A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy by Libby Hathorn and Phil Lesnie (Lothian)
  8. Me, Teddy by Chris McKimmie (Allen & Unwin)
  9. Cyclone by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (Scholastic)
  10. Space Alien at Planet Dad by Lucinda Gifford (Scholastic)
  11. My Family is a Zoo by K A Gerrard and Emma Dodd (Bloomsbury)
  12. Hattie Helps Out by Jane Godwin, Davina Bell and Freya Blackwood (Allen & Unwin)
  13. What Pet Should I Get by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins)
  14. We’re Going on an Egg Hunt by Laura Hughes (Bloomsbury)
  15. Skip to the Loo, My Darling! by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Anita Jeram (Walker Books)
  16. New Year Surprise! by Christopher Cheng and Di Wu (NLA)
  17. The Dreaming Tree by Jo Oliver (New Frontier Publishing) [poetry]
  18. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and APril Chu (Creston) [narrative non-fiction]


Activity Book

  1. 3, 2, 1… Draw! by Serge Bloch (Wide Eyed)


Junior Fiction

  1. Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret (Jinny & Cooper #1) by Tania Ingram (Penguin)
  2. Jinny & Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch (Jinny & Cooper #2) by Tania Ingram (Penguin)
  3. Squishy Taylor and a Question of Trust (Squishy Taylor #2) by Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood (illustrator) (Hardie Grant)
  4. I Can Be… Belinda Clark (I Can Be #1) by Phil Kettle and David Dunstan (Illustrator) (Affirm Press)


Young Adult Fiction

  1. Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie (Text Publishing)
  2. Yellow by Megan Jacobson (Penguin)
  3. When I was Me by Hilary Freeman (Hot Key Books)
  4. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom (HarperCollins)


February Total: 27 books (18 picture books, 1 activity book, 4 junior fiction, 4 YA fiction)

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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.


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


  • 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



  • 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)



  • 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



  • 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



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



  • 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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