Monday, 29 November 2021

Amelia McInerney, Rhyme Addict


by Amelia McInerney

Like a lot of children’s writers out there, I like to write picture books. I know it makes more sense to write in any other genre, because it is easier to publish pretty much anything other than a picture book, and if I did, I’d probably make more money. But I really love the unique medium that is the picture book. The type of experience young readers have with picture books is special. But if I’m honest, the main problem is that I really love writing in rhyme, so I don’t have a choice! I do have plans to write chapter books and lower middle grade, but I just can’t seem to stick with those manuscripts long enough to finish them, because I keep— you guessed it— writing picture books!

This year, I was fortunate to have published three separate rhyming picture books. My latest book came out this month. It’s called Mary had a Little Lamb: What REALLY Happened (illustrated by Melbourne’s Natashia Curtin and published by Scholastic Australia). It’s an action-packed nursery rhyme mash-up, written in Common meter. It’s fairly hefty at around 500 words, because a lot happens in this funny, new narrative. Being the rhyme-lover I am, I’ve always liked nursery rhymes, but I wanted to re-write some of the well-known classics (that often seem to feature passive girls) and unveil them as unsung heroes.

In Mary had a Little Lamb: What REALLY Happened, young Mary is revealed as a sporty, kick-butt hero who didn’t merely ‘have a lamb’ but who was a brave and clever hero who saved the day. In the story, the old lady from There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly has absconded from her nursing home... and the town's animals are going missing. Meanwhile, Mary's BFF, Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep again... so it's a bit of a kid-friendly mystery/thriller and a race against time for Mary (you’ll have to read the book to find out What REALLY Happened!) Writing it was fabulous fun because I took facts and events from those three nursery rhymes to tell my own rhyming story.

In July, Allen and Unwin released Who Fed Zed? an off-the-wall story told completely in mono-rhyme: every line in it rhymes with ‘Zed’. It’s illustrated by Queenslander Adam Nickel. Here’s my first attempt at the blurb (which we didn’t end up using) but it does describe this story about Zed the goldfish pretty well: With Fred’s dog Jed out in the shed, four friends watch Fred’s fish instead.

Fred says Zed must not eat bread. Later, Zed is found half-dead.

Is it to do with what Fred said? Or is it something else instead?

There’s a couple of twists in the plot and I don’t want to give it away, but despite being funny, it’s a good one to read if any little ones or their friends have food allergies or intolerances. (My daughter’s nut allergy was the serious inspiration behind this zany tale. Spoiler: Zed makes it.)

 And in February, My Bird, Bertie hit the shelves! This book (illustrated by Melbourne’s Shane McG and published by Scholastic Australia) is for slightly younger kids, and features rhyme, word play and repetition. It’s a cumulative tale that can be read like a song as it has a refrain that also builds. It’s about two introverts (a bear and a bird) on a car trip, and what happens when their boisterous friends keep piling in. The gorgeously illustrated animal characters (besides the main two) include Giggling Gertie, Silly Billy Tilly, and Jiggy Wiggle Jack. Haven’t we all been on a car trip like that?!

But amongst all the rhyme, there might just be hope for me yet, because even though my next book is another humorous picture book, it is written…wait for it… in prose!

 Baby steps, right?!

 Baby steps.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

I Don’t Want to Read This Book by Max Greenfield & Mike Lowery


I Don’t Want to Read This Book
by Max Greenfield & Mike Lowery

(Scholastic Australia) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978 1 761202261

 Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

 Why would you read a book titled I Don’t Want to Read This Book? Because the title entices you to. Come and learn about those icky things in books like sentences, paragraphs and of course lots of words. Max Greenfield is a New York-born actor and his craft shines in this book.

 Greenfield has delivered a book that engages a young reader to read and have some hilarious fun. He uses strong statements that are super appealing to a child reader. I know it happens to be the title of this book but let me make myself very clear I really don’t want to read it. He also questions the reader and invites them into the book’s conversation.

First, we discover words. Greenfield magically plays with words, words a child likes and things they like. Look, most words are fine like cake, and You Tube but some words are just plain ridiculous. He knows kids are smart and he plays to this too. Kids like knowing big, long words like ‘infinitesimal’ which means small. How clever is that? We dive into sentences that are words smashed together with a full stop at the end. Then we move onto the dreaded paragraph which is exhausting when there are lots of them. Next, we meet chapters and the end. The voice is strong and works a treat in this book.

Mike Lowery is an author and New York Times bestselling illustrator who has worked on dozens of books for kids. His experience shows, and his knowledge of design and colour. The bright orange cover with pops of bright yellow and blue immediately catch the eye. The title page is loud with simple black text on white. Speech bubbles and blurbs are used with plain coloured backgrounds. He changes the sizing of text to emphasize messages. As the reader progresses through the book more colours come into play. It explodes into line, pattern, and colour when we reach the end. At times, the words are shaped to draw the eye to page turn. The endpapers feature a shade of egg blue with delicate bird and leaf patterning to great effect.

 I Don’t Want to Read This Book is a read aloud picture book for children aged 4-8 years old. It’s a book that just may encourage a reluctant reader to dive into books. I can see this book being a great resource for teachers as it’s a perfect book to share and is filled with information, too. Children like fun and this book is just that.

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Lion Is That You?


Lion Is That You? by Moira Court (Freemantle Press) ISBN 9781760991241 RRP $24.99 

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

Are there really lions in Australia? This delightful picture book answers this question with a clue on the first double page spread. A clever look and reveal story we see parts of Australian animals hidden in various landscapes all created from prints and/or collage techniques. Each animal is revealed on the next page with another clue hidden within.

There are so many great features in this picture book, children will love guessing the animals, looking for “bones” of ancient creatures and listening to the beautiful language. An introduction to the concept of camouflage, the reader seeks out and identifies the fauna of Australia which adds even more enjoyment to this title. The text is well developed with language that encourages intonation, using alliteration and rhyme which means adults will love reading aloud to one child or a group. This fabulous book will be enjoyed by families, in childcare centres, libraries and in the classroom. I loved Moira Court’s last picture book Dog Park: this title adds to her clever and creative body of work.

 As I finished my review reading with my 4-year-old granddaughter, she insisted that she MUST have this book at home to read again with her daddy tonight!

Highly recommended for ages 3-6 years.

Friday, 26 November 2021

The Boy and the Elephant

The Boy and the Elephant by Freya Blackwood (HarperCollins) RRP HB $24.99

ISBN 9781460759998

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

The Boy and the Elephant is a stunning wordless picture book from the multi-award-winning author/illustrator Freya Blackwood. The images tell a beautiful story of a little boy who lives in a bustling city, where everyone around him seems to be consumed by constant busyness. Fortunately, he finds a place of daily solace in the vacant lot next to his apartment where tall trees grow. Within this rare and quiet space in nature the boy finds peace and friendship. However, one day he discovers that the trees are earmarked for logging, and all could be lost.

The Boy and the Elephant includes exquisite artwork on every page, the high standard we have come to expect from Blackwood. The tactile cover and tranquil endpapers set the scene for this visual delight. The illustrations have been created using pencil and oil paints on watercolour paper. A predominately cool toned green and blue colour palette has been used, creating a beautiful sense of calm. The book comprises a variety of page layouts including: single and double-page spreads along with vignettes and picture sequences that create a reading path and convey a sense of time. Angles are used to create a sense of space, and at times fragility.

The Boy and the Elephant is a gorgeous story about mindfulness, imagination and the environment, highly recommended for readers aged 4 years and older. New details in the illustrations will be discovered each time the book is read and meaningful discussion is likely to stem from the variety of inferences that the audience makes. The Boy and the Elephant is a masterpiece in the promotion of visual literacy.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

The Midnight Girls

The Midnight Girls
by Alicia Jasinska (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781760894733

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

In a snow-covered kingdom, two wicked rivals secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover they might be falling for one another. Zosia and Marynka are drawn to each other the moment they meet – until they discover they both have their sights set on the same thing – to literally take the prince’s heart from his chest as part of a deed. If one consumes a pure heart, she’ll gain immeasurable power. Marynka plans to take the prince’s heart back to her patron to prove herself, while Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for itself.

Their ambition turns into a magical contest, even as their attraction to one another grows. But their attempts on the prince’s life draws the attention of the city that would die for him, and their escalating rivalry might cost them not only their love for each other, but both their lives.

The Midnight Girls is a stunningly, clearly written YA page-turner with unique Polish folktale elements draw from the author’s heritage, woven into a richly imagined story with strong female protagonists and friendships and a developing lesbian romance undercurrent to it all.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race

The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate (HarperCollins) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9780008491338

 Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

 In the seventh book of the bestselling The Last Kids on Earth series, Jack Sullivan and his friends are on their way to the strange Tower when a ginormous centipede called the Mallusc sucks them up. But rather than becoming monster food, they find themselves in the world’s biggest mall, which is attached to the centipede’s back. It is a city of sorts, populated by thousands of different monsters, which is ruled over by a giant rat and the kids’ nemesis, Evie Snark. Can Jack take on Evie and the rat to become mayor of Mallusc City, and save the residents when the terrifying Thrull attacks the Mallusc?

 Max Brallier’s story starts at full throttle, and barely takes its foot off the gas. Kids aged eight and over will be mesmerised by the thrills and spills, monsters and zombies, as Jack tackles the challenges of wresting leadership from his foes. Humour pings across the fast-paced pages, ensuring that even the most reluctant of readers will enjoy this energetic adventure. It is helpful if youngsters have read the previous books, as this will orientate them in the complex Last Kids universe.

 A freelance comic book artist, Douglas Holgate uses his exceptional drawing skill to add an extra layer of madcap mayhem to the story. The dynamic black-and-white illustrations are brimming with eye-catching detail, while speech bubbles pop up periodically to give the characters a strong voice at important moments.

 Featuring a brilliant blend of text and images whirling across the pages, The Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race is sure to be a favourite with middle-grade readers who adore action and absurdity. They’ll return to the book again and again, determined to catch every last joke and reference that speeds by on each spread.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021



Always by Morris Gleitzman (Penguin Random House) RRP PB $19.99
ISBN 9780143793243

Reviewed by Kylie Buckley

Always is the long-awaited seventh and final book in the Felix series. In the first book, Once, we met Felix Salinger, a 10-year-old Jewish orphan living in Poland during World War II. In this last book, Always, we connect with Felix as a retired 87-year-old doctor living in Australia.

Wassim, a 10-year-old orphan living in Eastern Europe, is left a book and a letter by his late grandfather, Amon. The note acknowledges that life will be tough for the young mixed-race boy and states what to do if he ever needs help. The compelling contents of this letter becomes the catalyst for Wassim reaching out to Felix and Felix finding himself back in Eastern Europe after a 73-year hiatus.

This engaging final narrative alternates between Wassim and Felix’s points of view and leaves the reader with a lovely sense of closure on the series.

The Felix series of middle grade books are highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction. The series titles, in order of Felix’s life story are: Once, Then, After, Soon, Maybe, Now and Always. Interestingly, this is not the same order as the dates of publication. Now was initially meant to be the final book in a trilogy. However, Gleitzman discovered he had much more to reveal about Felix’s journey and Now eventually became book six in this series of seven.