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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Oct 01

Thank You Writers in the Park

Writers in the Park logo 2015Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Writers in the Park festival in Sydney. Not only did I attend the event, I was included on the program, just like a real writer! See, here’s my official name badge:

Writers in the Park badge

Writers in the Park was held at The Residences, Centennial Park, a wonderful setting which placed the event in an easily accessible location for the community where it was easy for passersby to wander in to find out what the excitement was all about.

For a detailed account of the day, visit Nicole Melanson’s Word Mothers, SCBWI Aust East/NZ and Writers in the Park websites.

Almost a week after the event, I’m still not quite able to put my thoughts together into a post. I met so many amazing people and had so many great conversations. I was inspired, challenged, encouraged, and taken aback by how enthusiastically I was welcomed into this amazing community of men and women who share stories, and in doing so share so much of themselves.

I’ve decided to share my account of the day in a series of thank yous:

Thank you Hazel Edwards for your wonderful encouragement and advice. It was so lovely to meet you in person after our many emails and conversations online. Thank you also for all that your shared during the memoir discussion panel. I’m looking forward to reading your memoir/questory Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author very soon.

Hazel Edwards and Susan Whelan

Thank you Joanne Fedler for your warm greeting and wonderful hug. It was so lovely to meet you. Thank you also for all that you shared in the panel on Love. As always, I found your perspective thoughtful and insightful and was inspired by your honesty and authenticity. (Joanne also read the ‘bonus’ chapter from her book Love in the Time of Contempt: Consolations for the Parents of Teenagers. The chapter is available from the Love in the Time of Contempt website).

Susan Whelan and Joanne Fedler

Thank you to Zanni Louise, Anna Pignataro, Edwina Wyatt, James Foley, Benjamin Johnston and Nicole Melanson for wonderful bookish conversations. It was so lovely to meet you all (and I’m still pondering that gift pack idea, James. I’m sure we can make it work!).

Thank you Pamela Allen for coming along to read to us all. As I watched babies, children, parents and grandparents enthralled by your reading of Alexander’s Outing, it was a very meaningful reminder of just how important picture books are. They connect generations, connect us with our childhood, and stir our imaginations.

Alexander's Outing by Pamela Allen

Thank you Jessica Rowe for sharing your very personal story in order to encourage others. I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable so that others can know they aren’t alone. I bought a copy of your book Is This My Beautiful Life the day after the event and I’m looking forward to reading it. Thank you, too, for allowing me to spend time with your beautiful daughter. Our time reading stories together was one of the highlights of my day.

Thank you Lisa Heidke and Wai Chim for greeting me like a long lost friend. Our brief connections at various literary gatherings are always a highlight for me. Lisa, your new book The Callahan Split is at the top of my bedside TBR pile.

Lisa Heidke and Susan Whelan

Thank you to the various friends who allowed me to take selfies. I always come away from these events with no photos and books unsigned and I was determined to do better this time. I still missed getting most of my book purchases signed and missed photos with several friends, but I did manage to take a few selfies to commemorate the day. Thank you Lisa, Joanne, Debra, Georgie and Gwynne for your patience with my selfie awkwardness.

Thank you so much to all of the lovely people who mentioned to me that you have enjoyed reading Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. It’s always exciting to hear that someone has connected with the story.

Thank you Susanne Gervay and your amazing SCBWI team (Deborah Abela, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, Sarah Davis, Margaret Roc and numerous wonderful volunteers on the day). Your hard work, enthusiasm and determination to create a wonderful community event paid off. Writers in the Park was amazing with such a wonderful, positive vibe. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to take part in the day. Your willingness to put so much time and effort into building a dynamic and supportive community of writers is inspiring.

And, finally, thank you to Gwynneth Jones, the amazing illustrator of Don’t Think About Purple Elephants. Gwynne knows how challenging it can be for me to get to events out of town and she made it so easy for me to get to Sydney and enjoy the day. She was very patient with my endless chatter in the car on the way home and my various quirks (ie annoying habits) overall. Thank you Gwynne. I never stop marvelling at how incredibly blessed I have been to connect with you through my first picture book.

Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones

The plan is for Writers in the Park to become an annual event and I would wholeheartedly recommend you attend in 2016 if you are able to. Keep an eye on the Writers in the Park Facebook page, Twitter account and website for updates.

 

 

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Sep 30

Book List: STEM Themed Books for Children

STEM Themed Books for KidsI recently hosted a story time corner at the Hunter Medical Research Institute Open Day. I took along a collection of picture books and junior non-fiction books featuring STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) related themes or content, and/or books that promote critical thinking.

Below is a list of the books I had with me, or recommended, on the day. I’ll add to this list as new titles come to my attention. I’ll create separate lists in the near future specifically for books about the human body and environmental issues, as there are more books available for these topics and they are generally easier to find than other themes covered under the STEM umbrella.

Links are to my reviews on Reading Upside Down or Kids’ Book Review.

Picture Books
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Engibear’s Dream by Andrew King and Benjamin Johnston
Engibear’s Bridge by Andrew King and Benjamin Johnston
Mr Archimedes Bath by Pamela Allen
How Big is Too Small? by Jane Godwin and Andrew Joyner
What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom
A Day with the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta
An Island Grows by Lola M Schaefer and Cathie Felstead
George and Ghost by Catriona Hoy and Cassia Thomas
Lifetime by Lola M Schaefer and Christopher Silas Neal
Anything is Possible by Giullia Belloni and Marco Trevisan
Charlie & Lola: One Thing by Lauren Child
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! A Mathematical Story by Marilyn Burns and Debbie Tilley
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi: A Math Adventure by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan
Rabbits Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale by Ann McCallum and Gideon Kendall
Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told with Tangrams by Ann Tompert and Robert Andrew Parker
Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
Young Frank, Architect by Frank Viva

Junior Fiction
Peter’s Railway series by Christopher Vine (illustrated by John Wardle)
Rescue from Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr (Illustrated by Glenda Millard)
Nick and Tesla series by Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steven Hockensmith
Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka and Brian Biggs

Junior Non-Fiction
Peter’s Railway series by Christopher Vine (illustrated by John Wardle)
What Makes Me, Me? by Robert Winston
What Goes on in my Head? by Robert Winston
If…: A Mind-bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Number – David J Smith and Steve Adams
See Inside How Things Work by Conrad Mason and Colin King
See Inside Inventions by Alex Frith and Colin King
See Inside Your Body by Katie Daynes, Katie King and Colin King
Can you Count to a Googol? by Robert E. Wells
Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect by Rohan Cleave and Coral Tulloch
Einstein and his Inflatable Universe (Horribly Famous series) by Dr Mike Goldsmith
What Body Part is That? by Andy Griffiths (illustrated by Terry Denton)
Professor Fred Hollows (Aussie Heroes series) by Hazel Edwards (illustrated by Pat Reynolds)
Murderous Maths series by Kjartan Poskitt
Horrible Science series by various authors, primarily Nick Arnold (illustrated by Tony De Saulles)
Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole (illustrated by Bruce Degen)
The Way Things Work by David Macaulay
The Way We Work: Explore the Human Body Head to Toe! by David Macaulay
30-second Elements by Eric Serri (editor)
Science Ideas in 30 Seconds by Dr Mike Goldsmith
What Makes Your Body Work? by Gill Arbuthnott
Eureka! The Most Amazing Scientific Discoveries of All Time by Dr Mike Goldsmith
My Body by Joelle Dreidemy (illustrator)
How to Build a Human Body: A Mind-bogglingly Brilliant Body Book by Tom Jackson
Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything by Theodore Gray

Activity Books
Maps Activity Book by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinkski
My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors by Andrew Rae and Lisa Regan
Dr Karl’s Even Bigger Book of Science Stuff and Nonsense by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Archi-Doodle by Steve Bowkett

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Sep 01

September 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.

August was a rather busy and chaotic month, so I really didn’t get through as many books as I usually would. Still, having a box of books set aside did help me quickly find something when I did have time to read, so I’m still considering this monthly TBR list worthwhile. I

Read in August 

  1. Stray (Spark Trilogy #2) by Rachael Craw
  2. Weightless by Sarah Bannan
  3. Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson
  4. The Cat with the Coloured Tail – Gillian Mears (ill. Dinalie Dabarera)
  5. Clementine Rose and the Movie Magic (Clementine Rose #9) – Jacqueline Harvey
  6. The Toast Tree by Corina Martin & Fern Martins
  7. Georgina and Dad the Dragon by Katrien Pickles & Lauren Merrick
  8. The Boy who loved the Moon by Rino Alaimo
  9. Book by David Miles and Natalie Hoopes
  10. In Your Dreams by Sally Morgan and Bronwyn Bancroft
  11. Magpie Learns a Lesson by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
  12. The Eagle Inside by Jack Manning Bancroft and Bronwyn Bancroft
  13. The Spotty Dotty Lady by Josie Boyle and Fern Martins
  14. Black Fella White Fella by Neil Murray, illustrated by students from schools around Australia
  15. Silly Birds by Gregg Dreise
  16. Stolen Girl by Trina Saffioti and Norman MacDonald
  17. Shake a Leg by Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod
  18. Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley
  19. Fool for Love by Eloisa James

August total: 19 books (3 young adult fiction, 2 junior fiction, 13 picture books, 1 general fiction)

 

September TBR List

PICTURE BOOKS

  • Silly Squid – Janeen Brian & Cheryll Johns
  • Float – Daniel Miyares
  • Two Birds on a Wire by Coral Vass and Heidi Cooper Smith
  • An English Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling
  • A Scottish Year by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling
  • The Visions of Ichabod X by Gary Crew and Paul O’Sullivan
  • Dandelions by Katrina McKelvey and Kirrili Lonergan
  • If… by David J. Smith and Steve Adams
  • The Perilous Adventure of the Pilfered Penguin by Class 2H at Newcastle East Public School
  • Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas
  • The Creatures of Dryden Gully by Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Sandi Harrold
  • Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld
  • Punctuation Mark by Belinda Ellis
  • A Moment with Monet by Sima Levy and Justin Morcillo
  • Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell and Tull Suwannakit

 

JUNIOR FICTION

  • One Rule for Jack – Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (ill. Craig Smith)
  • Wolves of the Witchwood (The Impossible Quest #2) – Kate Forsyth
  • Zombified – C M Gray
  • Penelope Perfect: Very Private List for Camp Success – Chrissie Perry
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E L Konigsburg
  • Mystery & Mayhem (Alana Oakley #1) – Poppy Inkwell
  • Kizmet and the Case of the Tassie Tiger – Frank Woodley
  • Kizmet and the Case of the Smashed Violin – Frank Woodley
  • Nonsense! Said the Tortoise – Margaret J Baker

 

MIDDLE FICTION

  • The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage – Sydney Padua
  • Kerenza: A New Australian – Rosanne Hawke
  • Voyage of the Moon Child (Empire of the Waves #1) – Christopher Richardson
  • Ophelia: Queen of Denmark – Jackie French
  • The Grimstones Collection – Asphyxia
  • The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy) – Shannon Hale
  • The Peony Lantern – Frances Watts
  • Sister Heart – Sally Morgan
  • Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars – Martine Murray
  • Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

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

 

GENERAL FICTION

  • The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

 

NON-FICTION

  • Animal Architects – Daniel Nassar & Julio Antonia Blasco
  • Alice’s Food A – Z – Alice Zaslavsky
  • The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made – Fiona Katauskas
  • Backyard Bees – Doug Purdie
  • From India with Love – Latika Bourke
  • Numbers are Forever – Liz Strachan
  • Very Good Lives – J K Rowling
  • Remembered by Heart – Various (foreword by Sally Morgan)
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Aug 04

August TBR List

My August TBR pile, now with added dog.

My August TBR pile, now with added dog.

Prompted by the #wintercomfortbookchallenge, I took a photo of my July TBR pile. It was a ridiculously ambitious pile of books that I aimed to read during the month of July. Not surprisingly, I didn’t read them all, but I did find that gathering a box full of books from the various piles scattered around my home did help to focus my reading efforts and I read more books as a result.

I’ve decided to put together a monthly TBR List update, listing books I’ve read during the previous month and books I’m hoping to read during the current month.

READ IN JULY

  1. Afterlight – Rebecca Lim
  2. Freedom Ride – Sue Lawson
  3. Risk – Fleur Ferris
  4. Becoming Kirrali Lewis – Jane Harrison
  5. A Week Without Tuesday (A Tuesday Macgillycuddy Adventure #2) – Angelica Banks
  6. Thirst – Lizzie Wilcock
  7. Tashi (Tashi #1) – Anna Fienberg
  8. Splosh for the Billabong – Ros Moriarty & Balarinji
  9. My Name is Lizzie Flynn – Claire Saxby & Lizzy Newcomb
  10. Alpha – Isabelle Arsenault
  11. Flight – Nadia Wheatley & Armin Greder
  12. Just the Way We Are – Jessica Shirvington
  13. Shine: A Story About Saying Goodbye – Trace Balla
  14. Tiz and Ott’s Big Draw – Marzo Bridget
  15. Where are My Books? – Debbie Ridpath Ohi
  16. The Lost Girl – Ambelin Kwaymullina & Leanne Tobin
  17. Newspaper Hats – Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
  18. On the Train – Carron Brown & bee Johnson
  19. Bob the Railway Dog – Corinne Fenton & Andrew McLean
  20. How the Sun Got to Coco’s House – Bob Graham
  21. The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: A Little Bonsai with a Big Story – Sandra Moore
  22. One Word from Sophia – Jim Averbeck & Yasmeen Ismail
  23. What Do You Do With An Idea? – Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom
  24. Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
  25. Time for Bed, Daddy – Dave Hackett
  26. Inside this Book (are three books) – Barney Saltzberg
  27. Footpath Flowers – Jon Arno Lawson
  28. Platypus – Sue Whiting & Mark Jackson
  29. Seasons of Love – Janet Parsons & Claire Richards
  30. My First Puppy – Lisa Chimes & Tina Burke
  31. My First Kitten – Lisa Chimes & Tina Burke
  32. The Red Feather – Ben Kitchin & Owen Swan
  33. Too Busy Sleeping – Zanni Louise & Anna Pignataro
  34. Hop Up! Wriggle Over! – Elizabeth Honey
  35. Puddles are for Jumping – Kylie Dunstan
  36. Summer Rain – Ros Moriarty & Balarinji
  37. Kookoo Kookaburra – Gregg Dreise
  38. Mate and Me – Jennifer Loakes & Belinda Elliott
  39. Small and BIG – Karen Collum & Ben Wood
  40. How Long is a Piece of String – Madeleine Meyer

July total: 40 books (4 young adult fiction, 2 middle fiction, 1 junior fiction, 33 picture books)

 

AUGUST TBR LIST

Picture Books

  • Silly Squid – Janeen Brian & Cheryll Johns
  • Float – Daniel Miyares
  • The Toast Tree – Corina Martin & Fern Martins
  • Georgina and Dad the Dragon – Katrien Pickles & Lauren Merrick
  • The Boy who loved the Moon by Rino Alaimo
  • Book by David Miles and Natalie Hoopes

Junior Fiction

  • One Rule for Jack – Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (ill. Craig Smith)
  • Wolves of the Witchwood (The Impossible Quest #2) – Kate Forsyth
  • Zombified – C M Gray
  • Penelope Perfect: Very Private List for Camp Success – Chrissie Perry
  • The Cat with the Coloured Tail – Gillian Mears (ill. Dinalie Dabarera)
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E L Konigsburg
  • Mystery & Mayhem (Alana Oakley #1) – Poppy Inkwell
  • Clementine Rose and the Movie Magic (Clementine Rose #9) – Jacqueline Harvey
  • Kizmet and the Case of the Tassie Tiger – Frank Woodley
  • Kizmet and the Case of the Smashed Violin – Frank Woodley
  • Nonsense! Said the Tortoise – Margaret J Baker

Middle Fiction

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

Young Adult Fiction

  • Off the Page – Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer
  • Frankie and Joely – Nova Weetman
  • Green Valentine – Lili Wilkinson
  • Stray (Spark Trilogy #2) – Rachael Craw
  • Fearless (Hidden #3) – Marianne Curley
  • The Truth About Alice – Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness
  • Weightless – Sarah Bannan
  • In the Skin of a Monster – Kathryn Barker
  • The Foretelling of Georgie Spider (The Tribe #3) – Ambelin Kwaymullina
  • Stay with Me – Maureen McCarthy
  • Cloudwish – Fiona Wood
  • The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and his Ex – Gabrielle Williams

General Fiction

  • The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

Non-Fiction

  • Animal Architects – Daniel Nassar & Julio Antonia Blasco
  • Alice’s Food A – Z – Alice Zaslavsky
  • The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made – Fiona Katauskas
  • Backyard Bees – Doug Purdie
  • From India with Love – Latika Bourke
  • Numbers are Forever – Liz Strachan
  • Very Good Lives – J K Rowling
  • Remembered by Heart – Various (foreword by Sally Morgan)
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