Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Buzz Words Long List

There were 209 entries in the inaugural Buzz Words short story Prize which has prize-money of $1,500. The following stories have been long-listed by Dianne Bates and Bill Condon and sent to judge Cathie Tasker who has the task of creating a short-list of ten to be sent to finalist judge, Jackie French.  

We hope to announce the winner and runner-up of the Prize in our 15 February issue, along with an article titled ‘How to Win a Short Story Competition for Children’ and a suggested scoring list.

Congratulations to: 

'Morgan’s Night, Stef Gemmill 
‘A Kind of Christmas Story’, Arna Radovich 
‘Abruptly’, Kesta Flemming 
‘Cyber Parents’, Jo Mularczyk 
‘Defeating the Trolls’, Carly Taylor 
‘Finding the Magic’, Alys Jackson 
‘Hester’s Egg’, Suzsi Mandeville 
‘Mad About Metaphors and Other Poetic Problems’, Zoe Gaetjens 
‘Miss Um’, Leigh Roswen 
‘Mummy in the Water’, Kathleen Smart Smart 
‘The Money Pouch’, Steve Heron 
‘Secrets’, Carolyn Floyd 
‘The Potato Orphan’, Kaye Baillie 
‘The Wild Dog,’ Elissa Moss 
‘To the City’, Joanne Eather 
‘Just Good Friends,’ Donna Gibbs 
‘Uncle Barney’s Gadget’, David McRobbie 
‘Gone Into the Gloaming’, Janine O’Dwyer 
‘Frog-Viking’, Geraldine Borella 
'Empty Orchestra,’ Jemma van de Nes 

Buzz Words will offer its second Short Story Prize later in 2019. 

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius

Matilda’s How to Be a Genius by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake (Penguin Random House) PP RRP $16.99 ISBN 9780241371183

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ultra-popular children’s author, the late Englishman Roald Dahl lives on, thanks to the UK marketing department of his publisher. As well as the books on writing recently released, now comes this book which was inspired by Dahl’s novel, Matilda. It’s a colourful book with the sub-title ‘Brilliant tricks to bamboozle grown-ups’ and with lots of visual interest which ought to appeal to readers aged 8 to 12 years.

After the bright fly and title pages, there’s a double-page spread introducing, with drawings and descriptions, all the main characters in Matilda, including the ‘extra-ordinary child genius looking for revenge’ (Matilda herself), Mr and Mrs Wormwood, her ‘stupid and despicable parents’, Miss Honey, the kind teacher, Miss Trunchball (‘hulking and horrifying’) and Bruce Bogtrotter (read the book to find out about Bruce!)

In this book readers will discover mental marvels, amazing tricks, puzzles and games to train the brain. They will also learn how to stun others with the powers of mind-reading (guessing shoe size, for instance), how to add massive numbers sans calculator and how to write fiendish riddles, including secret messages using invisible ink. They will even learn how to poke skewers through balloons without popping them, and how to make exploding cakes.

No doubt this is a book which will entertain and occupy curious kids. It’s chock-a-block full of amazing material. No doubt Dahl would have approved!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables: On the Lookout by Tim Harris, illustrated by James Hart (PenguinRandom House) PP RRP $14.99 ISBN9780143793144

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the fourth book in Australia Harris’ book series about Australia’s favourite literary teacher, Mr Bambuckle who oversees students of room 12 B. The book begins with a roll call of those 14 students, which includes their names, pictures of them and their likes and dislikes. One of the students is Vex Vron who likes cars and dislikes almost everything apart from cars.

The story begins at camp which has Mr Bambuckle and the stern assistant principal Miss Frost, both very different. Mr Bambuckle values learning, individuality and fun while Miss Frost is far more concerned with discipline, procedures and efficiency. Student Vex has left a note to indicate he is running away so the hunt is on to find him before his parents and school realise he is missing. This involves everyone, including new twin sisters, Grace and Gabby Wu.

As in the previous books in this series, Harris makes use of visual page ‘tricks’ such as phone calls, conversations (with cranky canteen Carol), notes (passed from students to one another) and ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. The book, also like the others, is full of witty asides, jokes and sparkling dialogue. Sentences are generally short and there are snappy, fast-paced actions that lead to a happy conclusion. All of these devices make this book another to be enjoyed by readers aged 9 to 12 years.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

A Lot of Stuff Happens

A Lot of Stuff Happens by Adrian Beck, Oliver Phommavanh, Will Kostakis and Andrew Daddo (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143794752

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a collection of four books in one from some of Australia’s best-known contemporary males writing for children. The book is divided into four sections titled, ‘Dale’, ‘Ned’, ‘Sean’ and ‘Ethan’. Dale, for example, is written by TV producer Adrian Beck and begins with the words, ‘Press-studs are evil’. When you read the sentence below which contains the words ‘I once had a pair of pants with an unreliable press-stud fly’, you know to prepare for something humorous to happen.
Each of the four boys attend Monvale Primary where everyday stuff happens, such as friendships, ghost stories, the school play, disappearing hamburgers, new teachers, singing monkeys and lions, the first day at school, flags made of underwear, living up to older brothers and sisters, warring dinosaurs. Stuff that happens all the time!
The stories are related in first-person and are written in easy-to-access, informal language that demonstrates lots of wit and good humour. There’s action a-plenty in this fast-paced book which is sure to be a hit with readers aged 8 to 11 years.

Monday, 7 January 2019


Misrule by Jodi McAlister (Penguin Books, 2019) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN9780143793465

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is the third book in McAlister’s Valentine series, the other two being Valentine and Ironheart. With the words ‘This is not a fairytale’ on the front cover, the book is nevertheless filled with magic and could best be described as paranormal.

Pearl Langford’s boyfriend Finn, who is a magical fairy prince, is kidnapped by his older brother and whisked away to fulfil his destiny in their fairy kingdom. Of course, Pearl is not impressed and decides on a boyfriend rescue mission, as would any girl in love. She has told Finn she would come to get him, and she will not allow anyone to stand in her way. This involves tearing a hole in the universe and possible deaths of others, and, the question is, does Finn want to be saved?

The opening sentence is memorable: ‘One thing I never knew about grief is that it was exhausting.’ This is narrated by Pearl who has undergone the deaths of her mother, her grandmother and her friend Marie ‘killed and eaten by carnivorous water monsters’, the after-effects she has witnessed. 

Here are words from the book: ‘...she’s lying on the kitchen floor, covered in horrible rivers of blood, splatters and streams of red all over the cabinets like the most horrifying children’s painting ever, and a gash in her neck so deep I’m amazed her head is even still attached to her body.’ 

Yes, McAliser writes extremely well, but be prepared for vivid descriptions such as this one!

Described as ‘unputdownable’, Misrule is an adventure story, a mix of action, romance and wit, and is highly suitable for a YA readership.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story by Sam Thaidy and James Colley (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN9780143790149

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Born in Sydney but known as a Queenslander, Sam Thaidy is the son of a native Torres Strait islander. To a keen supporter, Sam has entertained Brisbane Broncos, Queensland State of Origin and Australian fans for sixteen years both on and off the field. This book for readers aged 8 to 12 years tells, with his trademark humour and honesty, of Sam’s roots as a Townsville boy and a die-hard Cowboys fan and of how his mum Julie taught him to pass and tackle.

In simple, easy-to-read language, the book also tells of the ups and downs of the game Sam loves including coping with injury and visiting places such as Darwin and Papua New Guinea. Sam says, ‘Papua New Guinea is the only nation on earth that has rugby league as its national sport.’ He tells of his feelings towards his trainers who ‘were picking on me’, but how, as an older more experienced player, he can see they were only trying to get him to better himself.

The book has a section of coloured photos of Sam and highlights of his career and of his family with wife and two small children. Young readers will find information in Sam’s book for setting and reaching goals, handling setbacks and finding things in life that really matter.

Rise: The Sam Thaidy Story is a must-read for any young league fan, regardless of who they barrack for.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing

Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP $9.99 9780241384565
Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with the BFG (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP 9780241384572
Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Matilda (Puffin Books, 2019) PB RRP 9780241384589

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Capitalising on the popularity of the late Roahl Dahl, here are three 28-page books with coloured illustrations and plenty of exercises for the budding young writer. ‘How to write tremendous characters’ is the aim of Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with the BFG focuses on how to write splendid settings and how to write spellbinding
speech is the focus of Roald Dahl’s Creative Writing with Matilda.

In the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the exercises listed in the content’s page include backstory, heroes and villains, speech and dialogue, caring about characters and through each other’s eyes. Thus, the young person attempting the many exercises in this attractively presented book with fill-in boxed spaces, is told such this as how to give opinions and write news reports, how to create likable characters or what speech can reveal about a character.

In this book’s section on words and pictures, the reader is asked to look at illustrations and to use adjectives to create a picture. Some exercises relate to characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (matching adjectives with Charlie Bucket, Veruca
Salt, Augustus Gloop, etc), while there is also an exercise in creating a character (Choose a title, such as Dr or Lord), think of a first name and choose or invent a surname). The reader is then asked to make up full names for characters, such as a rich woman, a funny teacher and an elegant king. Then the reader is asked to make up names for Oompa-Loompas and to create dangerous beasts that might live in Loompaland. (An accompanying Ideas Box provides a vocabulary list such as ‘weasel’, ‘swoop’ and ‘pilfer’.

Thus, for each of the books, the young reader is asked to know the contents of Dahl’s book and to use this information creatively. And, too, there are exercises which rely on the reader’s imagination as Dahl certainly did.

These books are recommended to inspire and help budding young writer (teachers might also get some terrific ideas as well!)