A fab message in a package kids will love: ‘All The Lost Things’

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Not all Picture Books are created equal…

There are books you hate your kids to love. Ones that tell them beauty is everything and they need to wait for someone else (probably a handsome prince) to rescue them from their problems.

I change the words when reading some of these (eg the beautiful girl becomes a smiling girl) but that doesn’t fix the stupendous plot and morality issues. Besides, now my daughter is starting to read and she’s figuring out my subterfuge…

So, on to picture books you love your kids to love! ‘All The Lost Things’ by SCBWI Aus West author/illustrator Kelly Canby, is one of these. I don’t need to change anything when my daughter and I read this book together.

What does Olive, the main character, care about most? Her family, her community, and hope. She’s funky. She’s happy. She’s inquisitive.

Go Olive!

A wonderful book with a great message and engaging illustrations. And not a handsome prince in sight.

 

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A sporty Hero’s Journey – ‘Pocket Rocket’

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Brilliant! Talk about filling a Jupiter-sized kidlit hole. Awesome girl playing non-traditionally-female sports and acing it? Bring it on! ‘Pocket Rocket‘, by Ellyse Perry and Sherryl Clark, is the first in the Ellyse Perry series, and it rocks.

Perry is up there with Australia’s top sportswomen, having represented our country in both Cricket and Soccer (football for you non-Aussies). I think she rocks as well!

This book, aimed at primary-school-aged girls, covers Perry’s first few weeks at high school as she tries to get on the school cricket team and win the Club Cricket grand final. It covers issues like changing friendships, settling in, and sticking to your dreams.

 I love that her Dad is the parent we hear most about – their relationship is really positive. And diverse characters are throughout – just like in a real life Aussie school.

The Basic Ingredients for this Junior Fiction book

  • 141 pages
  • ~25,000 words
  • 15 Chapters
  • Humour, friendship, self-belief
  • Swift publishing of Book 2
  • Books 3 and 4 coming out within months

If you’re not scared of the occasional blatant spoiler or ten (okay, it’s all spoilers), read on for my deconstruction… Continue reading

A brilliant breath of fresh air: ‘The Lost Sapphire’

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Family. History. A girl-meets-boy story with <all out cheering> no romantic angle… (yes, that’s right, boys and girls can actually be teenagers and be good friends)…

I’m calling it!

If you’re looking for some truly sweet kid lit, then The Lost Sapphire is for you. I’d hazard a guess the entire of Belinda Murrell’s time slip series would be too. It was a relief for me to read something interesting, exciting and fascinating, that wasn’t peppered with swearing or murdering or shooting or shagging.

A breath of fresh air. Continue reading

Breaking free from the circling wolves – ‘Jenna’s Truth’

jennastruthcoverPicture the scene. It’s 2.47pm on a Wednesday. I have to leave to pick my daughter up from kindy in three minutes, except I’m awash with hot silent tears. I’ve been reading a great book again…

Sometimes there are stories that talk to me, change me, teach me. ‘Jenna’s Truth’ by Nadia L King is one of them. It takes the tough issues of bullying and teen suicide, and fights for a positive outcome.

Never relax around the popular kids; they lure you in like wolves circling their prey – I just hadn’t realised yet that I was the prey. (p30)

King was inspired to write this book by the moving story of Amanda Todd. Straight after I finished reading ‘Jenna’s Truth’ I googled Amanda’s You Tube video. Cue more tears on a Wednesday afternoon. Because Amanda didn’t deserve the treatment she got. Jenna doesn’t either. The difference between these two is that Jenna is saved.

‘Jenna’s Truth’ aims to save many more. Continue reading

Alcohol and social media and the desire to conform: ‘Saving Jazz’

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Mate, after reading this I’m glad I’ve finished High School. Compelling and chest-huggingly confronting. Sickening actions with terrible repercussions. This book isn’t shy. It’s on a mission. But fear not – it also has the poise to end positively without a whiff of cheddar or colby. And it absorbed me.

‘Saving Jazz’ by Kate McCaffrey tells the tale of a drunken party gone wrong and its painful aftermath. It has a level of clarity that only comes from a combo of great writing and clever and careful editing – bravo Fremantle Press. The part of me that’s a mum was rocking in the corner muttering, ‘Home-schooling, home-schooling.’ The part of me that’s planning to be a Science teacher was setting her jaw, more determined to take the path already chosen, but also a little terrified.

Continue reading

Ten things I fist-pumpingly love about ‘Ten things I hate about me’

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‘Ten things I hate about me’ by Randa Abdel-Fattah is a fab and supremely recommended read. I couldn’t resist making a list of ten things I loved about it!

So here goes…

1. This book is all about believing in yourself and being true to who you are.

2. It’s dealing with race relations in the wake of the Cronulla riots in 2005, but the message is (sadly) still very relevant today. The Main Character, Jamilah or Jamie, is a Lebanese Muslim. That’s a fist-pump for diversity!

3. The email chat between Jamilah and ‘John’ is funny and caring and a great way to show the other side of Jamilah just bursting to come out. Continue reading

How to balance hot YA Book Boyfriends with positive self-esteem – the electric ‘Obsidian’

Beautiful face. Beautiful body. Horrible attitude. It was the holy trinity of hot boys.

obsidian_coverThis is Katy’s p27 take on Daemon Black, one of the most entertaining Love Interests I’ve met in a while. I’ve been reading ‘Obsidian’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and it’s got me thinking about how to create the perfect YA Book Boyfriend.

Adding romance elements to YA can make your book HOT. But this isn’t just about book sales – if you’re writing for teens you need to be considering their self-esteem, and modelling positive relationships.

I also see three elements to a great YA Book Boyfriend, but I think Katy got them wrong. As a character, she’s supposed to get it wrong. We, the readers, are the ones who need to see it right.

Elements of a hot-dayam Love Interest:

  1. Instant (mutual) attraction
  2. He acts like a jerk most of the time
  3. There is a good reason why, and we readers get hints about this early.

I’m not saying this is the only recipe for romantic tension, but it’s one that’s worked time and again. But don’t miss the important fourth element – your MC’s self-esteem.

Continue reading