Heaps better than a fake spider on your door frame – ‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’

Olivia'sSecretScribblesMNBF.jpgWhat’s more awesome than your kid not wanting to go to sleep because they’re reading a great book?

Having them wake up the next morning and keep reading! And almost be late for school because they love the book so much! And then talk about it all the way to school!

‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’ by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald is the first “big kid” book my daughter read by herself, cover to cover. In less than 24 hours, too.

That’s not reading, people, that’s devouring.

So, what was so inviting in this book?

  • Easy to read font with lots of enticing illustrations
  • A couple of mysteries to solve
  • Some hidden lessons

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Even better than a hug from a dingo cat – ‘Cyclones and Shadows’

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I used to work up in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Red dirt, indomitable spinifex and awe-inspiring mountain ranges.

I’m miffed that I never got to experience a cyclone, though. (‘You don’t want to,’ said everyone who ever had.) Still, I would’ve loved to really feel WHY. The wind and the pressure and the bunkering down…

Now, thanks to modern storytelling, I’m halfway there :). ‘Cyclones and Shadows’ is a collection of four fab stories all based around the north of Australia, including one in a cyclone.

I’m in love with them all. I’d love a Shadow of my very own!

And his mango tree too, please!

What made me grin reading this book?

These stories, by Laura Dudgeon, Pat Dudgeon, Sabrina Dudgeon-Swift and Darlene Oxenham, are full of humour, empathy, insight and adventure. There are strong female main characters, zero gender stereotypes (when was the last time you read about a girl fixing up a car in Junior Fiction? Yeah, I thought so…), and vibrant themes of family and friendshipContinue reading

The inconsiderate window

When you’ve shimmied through as many windows as I have, you develop a strong appreciation for why doors were invented. This one’s a prime example. Clearly not designed for ease of entry.

To be honest, I’m kind of wedged.

My butt is stuck out in no-man’s-land, legs dangling Humpty-style. It’s starting to rain back there. If this wasn’t so serious it’d be funny. If it was funny I could laugh. If I laughed it might just help me wriggle all the way through.

I brace my arms against the chill inner wall, empty my lungs, and push. Eyes bulge with pressure, fabric rips, then I slither headfirst to the floor with a boom that resounds through the whole damn place. I hate floorboards.

As I groan to my feet lights are appearing out in the hallway, voices raised and alert. But there’s no way I’m heading back out that curse of a window.

No. I’m going to get what I came here for.

 

windowBecause it’s fun (and seriously, who needs a better reason?) I’ve instigated a Fiction Friday post, where I pop up something short and (not always) sweet from my recent writing efforts. 

This one is from the #scbwiwestchallenge, which encourages us SCBWI West Aussies to #createeveryday. The prompt for this piece was ‘window’

Check out Instagram to see other creations of awesome from myself and SCBWI Aus West!

Poking around perfection with a bird-tipped umbrella: ‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’

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When you hear of a children’s book exploding onto the scene like those whizz-bang fireworks that keep on sparkling (complete with everyone going ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’) what you absolutely want to find out is HOW DID THEY DO IT?

‘Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend is one such delightful explosion. It’s surrounded by stories of bidding wars and movie rights that make me happy-sigh, because stuff like that is still possible, and books are still awesome and kids still love reading, and more will love it after reading this book.

And that’s all awesome!

So, how did Townsend do it?

What is so delightfully scrumptious about her book?

  • A huggable world you get immersed in
  • The laughs and clever whimsy
  • The intricate extras in the story.

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Crafting a great story: deconstructing ‘These Broken Stars’

TheseBrokenStars.jpgHello beautiful cover. I think I’ll read you…

It started with the gorgeous cover, but this is a clever and crisp novel that followed through on expectations.  ‘These Broken Stars’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner was a fab accompaniment to a great holiday.

And it only got better on my second read, because it was so crafty I didn’t notice some of the cool things the authors were weaving into it until I started analysing.

‘These Broken Stars’ is the first in the successful The Starbound Trilogy. We have society girl, Lilac, and low-born army hero Tarver. Sparks fly, their spaceship fails to, and they find themselves stranded together on a planet with too many mysteries.

I loved the clues and suspense, and the gentle beauty that came from two people hiking and learning about themselves as they went. I also love hiking, but I don’t think that’s a prerequisite to enjoying this fab book.

So, what was great about it?

Let’s do some deconstruction… and beware the occasional (read: frequent) blatant spoiler… Here are three areas I’m going to focus on for this novel.

  1. Multiple plot themes = ongoing interest
  2. Characters and POV (I know, I sound like a broken record…)
  3. Subtle introduction of ideas so you don’t even notice you’re noticing them

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Superb book-hug: ‘Take Three Girls’

TakeThreeGirls.jpgWhen I finished reading this book, I hugged it. Arms. Book. Chest. Smile.

‘Take Three Girls’ by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood is a raw and sometimes confronting book that is also funny, heartfelt and inspiring.

The friendship is fab, the character arcs super, the characters themselves so realistic. I ache for them, I cheer for them, I worry for them.

The book is chock-full of positive ways for teens (especially girls) to learn to feel good about who they are, but without that terrible feeling you’re getting a super-side-serve of preaching with your fiction. It’s simply a beautifully masterful, exciting and enlightening book.

I find I don’t want to dissect ‘Take Three Girls’ like I normally would.

No. I want to hug it.

Again.

I think it’s because I’m now a teacher, and I’ve seen both ends of these character arcs, and that’s why this book hit me so deep. I’ve seen the terrible sadness and missed opportunity of kids who can only deal with hate by hating on others. A dreadful spiral.

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Fist-pump book quote – ‘Dragonkeeper’

Dragonkeeper pablo

‘Dragonkeeper’ p 264… made by me using pablo

DragonKeeper1.jpegThis super book has won heaps of awards and admirers since it was published. ‘Dragonkeeper’ by Carole Wilkinson is the first in a series that splices history and fantasy.

I enjoyed this book on many levels. It is intricate, reserved, rich, and beautiful.

And I had to chuckle at Ping’s utter belief that there is no need for bathing more that once every summer or so…

Wit, world-building and wow! – ‘The Luck Uglies’

TheLuckUglies.pngThe cover of this book drew my eye. A girl, a gargoyle, a rooftop race. I grabbed it for my library bag. So glad I did!!

What a ripper of a yarn!

I really enjoyed ‘The Luck Uglies’ by Paul Durham. It’s a fab piece of middle-grade fantasy, with a crafty and strong female lead.

I often read books to figure out what they did to become popular, win awards or fans. That doesn’t always mean they connect with me. But sometimes, like now, I don’t just read – I LOVE. I get absorbed. I chuckle. I smile.

Seriously, this has to be one of the best first sentences I’ve read in a while:

Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from The Angry Poet – they’d just hoped to read it.

So, without further ado, what was fabularytastic?

  • The narration and humour
  • The world-building
  • The House Rules

It’s hard to just pick three, but these encompass why I enjoyed the book so much.

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A great brew of friendship and fun – ‘Ivy + Bean’

Ivy+BeanBook1I’m always on the look out for cute chapter books to read with my daughter, especially a series. I mean, what’s the one thing better than finding a fun book?

Finding out it’s only the first of many!

‘Ivy + Bean’ by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, just calls out to be read and enjoyed. Look at the cover! So cute! And the size is nice and wee, making it supremely approachable for kids starting out on chapter books.

I really enjoyed this story of two girls, who know they aren’t going to be friends until the day they each realise the other is more fun than they’d thought. As a mum it made me giggle to see how the more their mums told them to play with each other, the more they didn’t want to.  Continue reading

Fun and daring make for an ideal combo – ‘To the Lighthouse’

ToTheLighthouseIt’s rare to read a book that looks at childhood and growing up with such clever balance. ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Cristy Burne does that, and all with a vivid sense of humour and love of adventure.

Take risks. Eat jelly snakes. Make new friends. Laugh. Lots.

I really enjoyed this junior fiction book. It was vivid and honest, exciting and funny, and I recommend it for all 7-10 year olds.

But I almost didn’t write it up. ‘Why, oh why?’ I hear you ask.

Because I know the author. Really well. And I didn’t want to be seen as false or having conflicting interests or whatever it could be.

But then I figured… it’s my blog! And it was such a fab book, I’d write it up anyway :). Ha!

Yeah? And what was so fab?

  • Diverse characters
  • Boy and girl friendship without any complications
  • Parents are around
  • Encourages risk-taking

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