Monday, 30 September 2013

Just Joking

Just Joking illustrated by Dan McGuiness (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $6.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-735-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

         Why did the bicycle fall over?
         Because it was two-tyred.

Just Joking, brought out by Scholastic for Camp Quality, is a new joke book jam packed with over 300 jokes. In the forward, Simon Rountree, the Camp Quality CEO, explains just why laughter is the best medicine. Camp Quality assists children living with cancer and the organisation lives and breathes this motto. Also important is the money raised by the joke books which goes towards funding important programs for Camp Quality.

         When does the alphabet only have 24 letters?
         When U and I aren’t there.

The black and white illustrations do more than just decorate the pages; they often form part of the joke. Just Joking is an attractive and well-laid out book, easy to read cover to cover or to flick through.

This is an inexpensive, affordable book, and includes joke donated by Aussie kids. Children can also donate their favourite jokes at Sprinkled throughout the book, amongst the jokes and riddles, are activity pages to keep kids busy. There are mazes, word searches and mad libs (where you can make up small, mad, funny stories). So grab the book, pick up a pen and get ready to laugh.

        What do you call two banana peels?
        A pair of slippers.

‘Camp Quality is committed to bringing hope and happiness to children living with cancer, their families and communities, through ongoing quality recreations, educational and financial support programs. Scholastic Australia is proud to donate all royalties from sales to this worthy cause.’

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Good Morning Possum

Good Morning Possum by Coral Vass, illustrations by Sona Babajanyan (Koala Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-050-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

From the front cover illustration’s, and incredibly cute possum with huge eyes hugging a plum, Good Morning Possum is a very sweet book about sharing with friends. Blossom the possum is hungry one morning and goes out to find herself a plum. But when she brings it home, other creatures in the tree ask for a bite.

   Out on the branch
   Came a rum, rumble tum.
   Tree Mouse was hoping
   To share Blossom’s plum.

So Blossom shares with all her friends - except Dingo as Blossom knows he would rather eat her than the plum – until there is nothing left for poor Blossom’s rumbling tum. Then Grandma Possum arrives with a basket of plums to share.

This is a great book to read out loud to the very young. The soft, gentle rhythm is consistent and the rhyme works. The verses are repetitive throughout the story which is perfect for young children and the text is filled with lots of sounds – ‘ratter, tap, tap,’ ‘nip, nibble, nip!’ and ‘rum, rumble rum’.

The story ‘builds up to’ the dingo but by then all the animals are safe in the tree nibbling on the plum. The illustrations glow with warm light. And the many Australian animals that are pictured so sweetly in Good Morning Possum commonly live in our trees.

This is a delightful happy story, perfect for sharing with preschool children.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Freak Street : Meet the Werewolfsons

Freak Street : Meet the Werewolfsons by Knife and Packer (Scholastic UK)
PB RRP $10.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-671-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Freak Street is a street like any other. Families live, work and play together here. And it is on this street the Werewolfsons live. In Meet the Werewolfsons we are introduced to the life of this happy and hairy family, Mr and Mrs Werewolfson, Wilf, Winny, Wally and their pet Lambada.

On the night of the full moon, Mr Werewolfson throws a disco party. And with Deathfang, the largest werewolf in town, come ...fleas! This is the start of flea trouble which follows the family to the annual city pet show, where Mr Werewolfson’s pet grooming saloon is in high demand... until the fleas threaten to shut them down. Can Wilf and Winnie solve the flea problem? And what is going on at the planetarium?

Meet the Werewolfsons is an entertaining story about a family with a twist. Attractively set out in full glossy colour, this illustrated chapter book will be enjoyed by readers in the younger primary age as well as by reluctant readers.

Supported by a popular website, where kids can ‘join the freaks’ or learn more about the all the families on the street, Freak Street is a humour-based readable and accessible series for six to nine year olds. There are fifteen books to collect.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Blog Tour: Tania McCartney and Caroline Chisholm

Caroline Chisholm was one of Australia's earliest campaigners for women's rights and author Tania McCartney has written a new book for kids exploring the life of this amazing lady. Buzz Words is thrilled to be involved in Tania's upcoming virtual tour and she will be dropping by our way on October 2.  The tour starts on 30 September and for the entire schedule go to 

If You’re Cheeky and You Know It

If You’re Cheeky and You Know It by P.Crumble, illustrations by Chris Kennett (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $13.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-647-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands... Most young children will recognise these lyrics. They know and love them, happy to spend time playing with the sounds, actions and echoes the song creates. And I’m sure they will love the twist that If You’re Cheeky and You Know It provides.

Each page encourages the young reader to become a different animal - If you’re a penguin and you know it waddle around – and is accompanied by glorious pictures of the animals themselves. As each animal is introduced, it follows the others on the next page so the group gets larger as the book moves on.

And what fabulous animals they are. The illustrator, Chris Kennett, draws very cute, funny and loveable animals who dominate the pages with humour, personality and movement. This is just what young children are attracted to.

If You’re Cheeky and You Know It is a book children can become involved in. It cleverly takes a feature of each animal, such as the giraffe’s neck, and turns it into an action which can be echoed. This book deserves to be wildly popular and will have toddlers chasing their tails, staring like meerkats or wiggling their rumps, like hippopotamuses.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Omar the Strongman

Omar the Strongman by Gregory Rogers (Scholastic Press)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-436-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Omar is the odd jobs man at Circus La Fleur. He is very busy - there is always plenty to do in a circus - and happy. His favourite job is looking after Mavis the elephant, a good friend. But Omar starts to wonder what it would be like to be in the spotlight. Then one day, by accident, he discovers he does have a special talent of his own after all.

Omar the Strongman is full of fabulous circus characters: Ringmaster Rosie; Cobber and Clonkers the clowns; and of course Mavis the elephant. With pencil and watercolour in pastel colours, Rogers has created delightfully warm illustrations, full of life and emotion. One look at the picture of Omar sitting among the empty seats, his magnificent moustache spread across the seat tops and a sorrowful expression in his eyes and you can imagine his feelings.

With only a small amount of text, so much is conveyed through well chosen words and soft illustrations. Omar the Strongman is a story about discovering hidden strengths - a gentle story with a powerful message.

Heart-warming, humorous and encouraging, this is a beautiful book for all children to enjoy.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

An Aussie Year – Sneak Peek at July and Win a copy of Buzz Words

Buzz Words is thrilled to be celebrating the upcoming release of An Aussie Year, with a fantastic prize—a year’s subscription to Buzz Words, valued at $48. To win, just leave a comment on the Buzz Words' post on 13 November. Posts must be 40 words or less, telling us your favourite month as a child, and why. Competition closes 21 November.


Superkid by Claire Freedman, illustration by Sarah McIntyre (Scholastic UK)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-407124-06-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Children often dream of being superheroes. In this fun story, Superkid’s tasks range from the everyday – saving classmates from bullies and eating the ‘dreaded broccoli... And horrid mushy peas’ which Auntie serves – to the more imaginative, rescuing other kids from pirates.

Whatever the mission, Superkid rises to the challenge and saves the day with style and inventiveness. Superkid’s lively nature fits perfectly with the central theme of superheroes. Written in rhyme, with lots of active words – Wheee, Puff, Zapp - it is a delight to read aloud and young children will love the energy this story throws out.

The illustrations are wonderfully strong, bold, bright and entertaining. Tomato sauce and mess play a large part in them as well as a sense of humour perfect for the preschool age. This humour reflects beautifully the words in the text, but the pictures move the story into the fantastic with aliens, broccoli trees and a supercat. The pages cleverly echo the feeling of a superhero comic without using a comic book format. I especially love the drawings of the author and illustrator in their superhero disguises which appear at the end of the story.

Superkid may make children look around at their friends and wonder... just for a minute.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Fox Swift

Fox Swift by David Lawrence with Cyril Rioli, illustrations by Jo Gill (Slattery Media Group)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-0-9874205-3-4
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

First I must confess, I am a massive Aussie Rules football fan. So when this book hit my desk it was one I leapt into as soon as two of my kids were done with it. Fortunately that didn't take long as Fox Swift combines a fast and funny story with all things footy. An added bonus for us, as Hawthorn Football Club fans, is that the Hawks genius Cyril Rioli features in the story (and on the cover).  

In the tradition of Specky Magee, footy fans will love how the story revolves around all things footy. Eleven-year old footy fanatic and star player Fox Swift moves to the small country town of Davinal with his parents and brother Chase. Fox quickly discovers there is a great divide in Davinal. Two football clubs exist but with vastly different fortunes. The Dragons are well funded and successful while the Diggers have rundown facilities, a useless coach and little chance of fielding a team, let alone win a match. Fox soon makes friends and enemies and this leads him to the hapless Diggers. Through enthusiasm and persistence, he and his new friends stand up to the local bullies and in the process rejuvenates the Diggers. They also have the helping hand of Cyril Rioli (and a visit from Buddy Franklin too!).

Fox Swift is full of footy but there is more than that. Other issues in society are woven throughout. Fox's parents are lawyers advocating for refugees. Themes of inclusiveness, not giving up, persistence and friendship run through the book.  For the Aussie Rules uninitiated there is a glossary of terms and Cyril's tips on handballing, kicking and marking are at the end of the book for everyone to follow. Jo Gill's black-and-white illustrations throughout add to the humour of the story.

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos by David Ridyard, illustrations by Doreen Gristwood (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-872-4
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos is a beautifully simple alphabet book for the very young. With only a few words on each page, children can find pictures to match in the softly painted pages, filled with Australian animals having fun.

The illustrations are beautiful. Their gentle nature encourages slow contemplation. Each illustration is a complete scene which highlights two letters of the alphabet. Parts of these pictures spill out over the constructed borders which hold the words - they cannot be contained - bringing the animals to life. There are a few extra pictures to be spotted on some pages (there is a list at the end of the story), but these are kept to a minimum and the book is not overwhelming for young children.

The words chosen to illustrate each letter are ones which can be easily understood and visualised by young children, moon, vegemite, footprint, quilt, and are printed in large clear writing.

Subtitled An Australian Alphabet Book, Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos is thoughtfully and attractively laid out. There is a verse filled with really fun alliteration at the start, enticing the reader to begin the alphabet journey. Then another to close the book which creates a sense of completion (even though it invites the reader to look at the pages again) which alphabet books rarely do.

Koalas, Kites and Kangaroos is a very enjoyable alphabet book.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Bus Called Heaven

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406343717
Reviews by Anastasia Gonis

A Bus Called Heaven is a superbly detailed book with strong messages on the importance of unity and community. Its story will move readers of all ages, as will the intricate illustrations in watercolour and pen that speak volumes.

An abandoned bus with the name Heaven taped to it above the front windows mysteriously appears in Stella’s street. Stella claims it for her neighbourhood and a transformation of incredible proportions begins. The word ours initiates friendships, togetherness, ideas and community spirit within the till now isolated people that lived close to, and beyond, Stella’s house.

The bus is pushed into Stella’s house but still protrudes onto the pavement. The word ‘regulations’ is scoffed at by Stella, for she has created her own regulations. With the contribution of the entire neighbourhood, the bus is turned into a leisure area. Even the graffiti gang switch style to decorate the bus with impressive artwork instead of defacing it.

The word ‘regulations’ reappears, this time in the form of a threat when the bus is towed to the Boneyard. Will Stella’s challenge to the Boneyard Boss win the neighbourhood back their bus?

New life and new beginnings are portrayed by the chicks that are discovered in a nest beneath the bonnet of Heaven.

‘This book is endorsed by Amnesty International UK as contributing to a better understanding of Human Rights and the values that underpin them’.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Monster Sale

The Monster Sale: Poems by Brian Moses (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781847803665
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Brian Moses’ interesting collection opens with the title poem, and continues with equally exciting and gut-wrenching things that children love to drool about. But the collection isn’t only about monsters and ghoulish things. It has a tremendous variety of extremely clever, word-bending poems about animals, inanimate objects and crazy things like hiccups and school poems.

Writing poetry for children is a challenge. For some it appears to come naturally, but when they appear easy that is when construction has been worked hard on.  Moses’ poems are witty, lively and interesting, and they are sure to encourage children to read poetry due to the clever use of words and sound.

There’s always a favourite in every collection, and the clever word play in Tyres ‘Do tyres get tired of the road?’ is an example of how words can be used and re-used in various contexts. A lot of that happens in this book.

The 43 poems in this creative list of rhyming and free verse are thought-provoking and entertaining, and certainly the stuff that children thirst after. Ideal for the 4-100 age group.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Blog Tour: Stephen Axelsen and The Nelly Gang

Buzz Words welcomes author and illustrator Stephen Axelsen to explain why history really is important and to talk about his new graphic novel series, The Adventures of Nelly Nolan. Plus there is the chance to win a signed copy of book one in the series, The Nelly Gang.

Take it away, Steve!

Mad Dan Morgan did not wear an Akubra (and how to stop Days of Yore becoming Days of Yawn)

While illustrating The Nelly Gang I became more and more interested in getting the hats right. Not just hats of course – costumes in general, and tents, wagons, bric-a-brac; anything and everything used in September 1860.

For the record, bushrangers of the mid 19th century wore hats like these:

Tough guys liked to wear straw hats with jaunty ribbons, apparently.

If we disrespect the hats of days of yore, we disrespect our ancestors, which is why this viking helmet should offend me since 12.5 % of my ancestors were Scandinavian. They did NOT have horns on their helmets (but I turn a blind eye to the horns in How to Train Your Dragon).

We who are currently alive need to respect our ancestors. They lived real, anxious, and short lives, often with the sole purpose of making the place less horrendous for their offspring – us.

I love history, possibly as a place in which to take refuge from the puzzling present, but also as a place to exercise the imagination:

  • What WAS it like not to have to bathe all the time, or floss ever?
  • Were constant toothaches a bother?
  • Did it get hot wearing three piece woollen suits to the beach in summer?

I take great pleasure in researching and drawing the past. This is why there is a paddle steamer episode in The Nelly Gang. I wrote this bit so that I could drive to Echuca and have a ride on one. Bliss. But first I made sure that there were paddle steamers working on the Murray River in 1860 (there were, just).

The importance of teaching history to children has been much discussed in all sorts of worthy places by intelligent educators. I won’t embarrass myself here by trying to add to this discourse. Let us all assume that we all know why a love of history needs to be bludgeoned into the children in our care, in a nice way; an entertaining and engaging way.

This is where I come in, I hope, with books like The Nelly Gang. It is not a historical document. It is full of improbable coincidences, plot holes I haven’t discovered yet (that’s your job, dear reader) and wild exaggerations BUT I got the hats right and the police uniforms and lots of other things. The hope is that children, once the concussion wears off, will enjoy a taste, a sampler, of life 150 years ago in Australia.

The Nelly Gang first appeared in The School Magazine as a ten-part cartoon series in 2009. I’m ashamed to say that the first time around I got the police uniform for 1860 wrong. I corrected this in the graphic novel version.

The graphic novel excels as a vehicle for teaching history to children with no interest in history. Here I will hand you over to Robin Brenner (writing in The Horn Book Magazine, March/April edition of 2006) about the value of graphic novels.

 “… the combination of less text, narrative support from images, and a feeling of reading outside the expected canon often relieves the tension of reading expectations for kids who are not natural readers, and lets them learn to be confident and engaged consumers of great stories ...
That being said, graphic novels are not only for reluctant readers  — they’re for everyone!”

Robin is speaking about the value of graphic novels in general, but we can easily expand this argument to encompass the teaching of history to children.

Happy reading, writing and drawing.

Steve Axelsen

For what Buzz Words thinks about The Nelly Gang read on for Anastasia's review. And for your chance to win a signed copy of The Nelly Gang and a poster send me an email at vicki {at} stanton {dot} id {dot} au answering this question: What do you think is the biggest moment in Australian history? 

Answers may be posted on this site (according to my discretion) and must be received by 5pm 2 October 2013. 

The Adventures of Nelly Nolan BK1: The Nelly Gang by Stephen Axelsen (Walker Books)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9781921977916
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It is Christmastown, Victoria, 1860; a time when everyone is greedy for gold. Posters nailed to trees advertise rewards for Captain Sunbeam and other lost things such as horn-rimmed glasses, a lost wife and a beloved rabbit. It is also the time when Nelly’s pa strikes it rich on the goldfields. They make plans to travel on the mail coach to Wodonga to do all the things they can now afford to do. Most importantly, to find Nelly’s mum.

Nelly is a child full of fun and adventure; fearless and daring, who knows every person on the dig by name, and whose best friends are Queenie the goat, the Chinese boy Jin, and Miro an Aboriginal boy.  But she is always late for school and gets punished by the crabby Miss Pinchnose.

With great wealth comes those who want to take it from you. The coach is robbed and although Nelly, Queenie and Jin get away, pa is taken by the thieves as hostage.  Nelly decides to swap the money for her pa. but things get complicated.

Amidst lots of fighting, escaping, mix-ups with bushrangers, and attempts at disguise, Nelly and her gang uncover the true identity of Captain Sunbeam, save pa and get the reward. Miro ends up with the most for his mob get their land back as the gold runs out and the diggers move on to better pickings.

This is a terrific Australian historical fiction story in cartoon form with illustrations created with pen and ink lines, using digital colouring.  Clever captions accompany the lively and vibrant characters across the page as they move from scene to scene with joy and enthusiasm through their exploits and victories.

This is the first book in a series about Nelly and her gang which will easily win over readers of the 6+ age group, and any others that love cartoon style stories of adventure and daring in an Australian setting.


Friday, 20 September 2013

Literary Lunch: Society of Women Writers NSW

The next meeting of the Society of Women Writers NSW will be Wednesday, 9 October

Venue: Dixson Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St
Workshop (10 am – 11.50) Presenter:  Dr Noeline Kyle- Writing Family History - Women in Focus.

Literary Lunch:   (12.30- 1pm)

Short Story Awards Judge’s comments: Cat Sparks

Guest Speaker: Libby Hathorn Women’s Work – an anthology

Cost: $50 for members or $55 non-members. Workshop only:  $20 members or $30.00 non-members.

Special lunch &workshop price: $65/$80. NB Please note new prices and earlier booking time.

Bookings required by 10am Thurs. 3rd October:

Contact Name: SWW Lunch Booking
Email address:  
Mobile phone: Text message to 0403 177 208

Your text message should be addressed to swwlunchbooking or swwlunch and should contain: date, your name and number.

That Boy Jack

That Boy Jack by Janeen Brian (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Jack and Gilbert have been mates from the age of six. They are miners’ sons and have made a promise to follow in their fathers’ footsteps when they reach the age of fourteen. Jack’s mother has other dreams for her bright and promising son. 

When Gilbert’s father is badly injured at work and there’s no income to feed their large family, Gilbert begins work at the picky-table. He reminds Jack of his promise. Jack, regardless of other dreams but tightly bound to his childhood promise, reluctantly leaves school at the age of twelve and joins Gilbert. Jack believed that he and Gilbert were the same. When he goes down a shaft and sees how miners work with the pick, and experiences the fear of the darkness, he realises they are different.

Gilbert’s father’s legs are amputated after infection sets in and his family are forced to accept a new proposition in Adelaide. The friends are separated and Jack returns to school. But things have changed there too. The new school master subjects him to brutal punishment daily. The class bully shows no mercy, and his life without word from Gilbert grows more complex each day as he suffers degradation without being able to tell his parents what is going on.

‘There is nothing so terrible that you can’t speak of it’, the doctor tells him. Jack’s greatest challenge is to find the courage to reshape his life, beginning by sharing his problems with the people who love him most.

This is a moving coming of age story set in Moonta, South Australia, 1874. It shows an in-depth view of life in the mines and the prefiguring of boys’ lives to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Australian Flags and Emblems

Our Stories: Australian Flags and Emblems by Karen Tayleur (Walker Books)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9781742031095
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Vexillology is the study of flags, and comes from the Latin word vexillum meaning banner or flag. What a wonderful word to describe this fascinating subject.

This offering from the outstanding Our Stories series covers a great deal of information surrounding Flags and Emblems, Coats of Arms and Heraldry. The flag section represents the Australian flag, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Union Jack Flags, all the Australian States’ flags, plus how and why the flags were chosen.

For the Coats of Arms of each flag there is a complete breakdown of the six parts, Crest, Wreath or Torse, Supporter, Compartment, Motto or Name, and Shield or Escutcheon. There is also brief and interesting history of the settlement of each State.

The simple and clear design of the entire book is geared towards easy learning and understanding about the history of our country, its Flags and Emblems. It’s a gold mine of information with wonderful images to complement the excellent text.

At the end, there is a list of eight other Australian flags such as the Defence Force, the Eureka Flag etc., accompanied by information, plus a section concerning Flag Protocol, winding up with a valuable Glossary and Index.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Zabee Zabee Doo

Zabee Zabee Doo by Jim Baghdadi,  illustrated by Emma Stuart (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN – 9781921928963
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

When Adam and his brother Ryan, “the adventurous of the pair” search for a lost football, they pull an old plaque off the wall in the park in Coogee. Not only does half the wall crumble but reading the words on the plaque opens a portal. Ryan suddenly becomes less adventurous and it’s Adam who drags a trembling Ryan into the other side. Once in a new world Adam is the adventurous one and Ryan takes a little time to enjoy the journey that Adam seems delighted to be on. Why the change? Adam’s fallen for a Princess!

Adam introduces himself and Ryan as princes and Cassandra, the princess, says her people have been waiting for them to save them from the Brunkies, zombies formed by a wicked wizard. Learning that the words on the plaque give him power, Ryan is brave again, and is sure he can save Cassandra’s people. Stakes rise when they learn that the town’s people are now being turned into Brunkies. And the magic powers are tricky. They don’t let Ryan simply transport the three of them across the crocodile infested river.

Fortunately they happen to come along two boys, Theodore and Christopher, and the power does let Ryan turn them into giants. Putting his bottom in the water Theodore “then farted” putting so much wind in the water that huge waves wash the crocodiles onto the banks and the characters can continue. Not wishing to miss footy training, or cause their father any worry, Adam urges Ryan to hurry on and use the power to turn the “townies” back into their proper form, thereby saving their kingdom.

A further rise in tension comes when Brunkies begin to overrun the place but the magic words, from the plaque, Zabee Zabee Doo, are enough to transform the townies back and Ryan is the hero. At story’s end the boys return to Coogee to kick the football around the park. Each of the nine chapters begins with a full page colour picture that helps readers visualise the setting. Told over forty-seven pages the story moves very quickly and is suited to primary school ages 7-11 finding their feet with chapter books.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Papa and the Olden Days

Papa and the Olden Days by Ian Edwards and Rachel Tonkin (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922179272
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Another welcome and outstanding book by Rachel Tonkin, this time co-authored with Ian Edwards, on times past, covering early 1900s. Papa and the Olden Days was awarded Honour Book, Book of the Year for Younger Readers, Children s Book Council of Australia Awards, 1990.

The illustrations project a visual history while complementing the text perfectly. I can never tell which is the most valuable, the text or illustrations. They seem to become a whole so that one without the other seems impossible.

Tonkin reflects on memories and experiences from her life, her family’s lives and stories. In fact, all the people around her appear to contribute in some way, whether they are animals, humans or objects. Each page is a story taken from these memories and retold with clarity and humour.

This series of historical books are a valuable resource for libraries, schools, and home bookshelves.  Each book will be revisited again and again for they present a strong sense of time and place, and reproduce the fashions, food, and social habits. The strongest message seems to be the sense of community which was the most powerful contributor to people’s survival in difficult times. All this is visible in every wordless picture portrayed in all Tonkin’s books.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Lines Upon the Skin

Lines Upon the Skin by Julie Haydon (Feather in Cap Publishing)
ebook RRP $4.99
ISBN 9780987544902
Reviewed by Beverley Boorer

If you read the title of this book and thought it was about old age, think again. This fantasy world is described in great detail by the main character of the story, a young cartographer who has recently finished her apprenticeship and with a few friends sets out on an exciting journey of both self discovery and to map various regions and cities. You will be surprised at how a world with absolutely no gender inequalities operates; where soldiers, lords, fishermen, priests and kings are just as likely to be female as male.

You won’t find any maidens waiting for a romantic hero to save them in this novel; instead, the strong maidens save themselves and each other when they get into trouble or danger. Some readers may find that there is too much detail in the story, but what can you expect when it is told from the point of view of a map-maker who loves to create her maps with the utmost detail and precision?

In any case, the details certainly make this ancient setting very real and sets the atmosphere of the cities, be it brooding and evil, or lighthearted and generous. In this all-girl group of intrepid map makers each one has different skills and a specific role to play in the process of getting cartography work and inscribing the skins upon which the maps are drawn. They are five in number, although some do not join from the outset, but are picked up along the way.

As with all good fantasy fiction there are plenty of baddies, but the most dangerous ones are found in the last city as warring factions of a religious sect try to take over and gain power from those that hold it. Although the girls had all decided to stay out of the battle, they become involved when one of them is kidnapped. 

Her rescue is planned and executed by the other four and leads them to the brink of death, but again they show themselves strong enough to fight back without any help – or rather, with only a little help right at the end. The story leaves me wanting for my own one of those amazing mla that only the Lakiya possess. And if you want to know what that is, you will have to read Lines Upon the Skin to find out. 

The Sky So Heavy

The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN  978 0 7022 4976 1
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Life as we know it has ended. Nuclear war has broken out. Although Australia was not attacked, the survivors face a brutal nuclear winter.

Zorn has convincingly portrayed a dark, claustrophobic world. Fin, a typical 17 year-old, stumbles though a new landscape with no power or communications, looted stores, limited fuel and a crumbling infrastructure. It soon becomes apparent that the survivors have been left to their own devices as the institutions which are meant to help are overwhelmed.  

At first, Fin and his younger brother Max are content to wait for the return of their father and ration their supplies in their quiet street in a Blue Mountains town. But as the days grind on and their needs grow increasingly desperate, the pair are forced to act and fight for anything that helps them survive. The world is now a dog-eat-dog place. Yet within the ruthlessness where otherwise mild-mannered residents turn against each other, Zorn introduces some surprising acts of generosity. Small gestures, handled lightly and without sentimentality, shine a light in an otherwise bleak environment.

Fin is not perfect; he colluded in the bullying of Noll, the outsider, back when life had been ‘normal’. Now, his victim shows himself to be the better person, and shares his meagre supplies with the brothers. Together with Noll and Fin’s crush Lucy, the four teenagers make their way to Sydney in search for Max and Fin’s mother. But the journey was not entirely motivated by filial loyalty; their mother was a big-wig in the government and they hope she might provide the means to their survival – if they are allowed close enough to the seat of power.

I liked that Zorn’s post-apocalyptic world was zombie-free. The acts perpetrated by those motivated by greed and fear outstrip any horrors of the undead. Written as a metaphor for the plight of asylum seekers, this is a page-turner. The police and army have betrayed the general population, and now exist to protect an elite core – the only ones with access to the limited supply of necessities. Our four teenagers, accustomed to a well-fed, safe lifestyle, have become the ones on the wrong side of the line that separates the haves from the have-nots.

As the narrative progresses, the characters grow in their resilience, resourcefulness and sense of responsibility, so the counter-intuitive choices made at the end of the novel were completely consistent with the inner journey.

Comparisons to Marsden are inevitable, and I would love to read the sequel.

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Sisters by Amy Laizans,  illustrated by Sophie Scahill (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN – 9781921928895
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

The simple message brought to young readers in this book is that, although they have some differences, people are very much the same at the core. The first half of the story, told in first person, introduces readers to the narrator’s best friend Jane and shows their friendship and shared love of playing chasings outside, blowing and popping bubbles, reading, baking and doing craft.

Once the relationship has been established for readers we see the happiness disturbed, when … ”a schoolmate asked Jane if she speaks English”. Jane’s response, ”Of course I do! I was born here like you.” The issue then becomes greater as Jane then introduces the schoolmate to the narrator saying, “This is my best mate and my sister.’” Sadly Jane’s words see the schoolmate tell her this is not possible, because they have different skin colour.

Fortunately the narrator comforts Jane, telling her they are sisters at heart. As readers ponder this, the story winds up to reveal something previously unknown; that it is, in fact, Jane who was born in this country and speaks only English but the narrator speaks two languages and moved here from overseas. To round things off, the final line reinforces the story’s sentiment by repeating the refrain, “We will always be sisters in our hearts.”

Scahill’s hand-drawn digital compositions lend a sense of simplicity that matches the text while bringing emotion to the reader as they see the two friends sharing a beautiful bond, becoming unsettled by the inconsiderate intrusion of another, and then reaffirming their closeness as they turn their back on such a misguided view. The work will certainly suit its target audience of 5-8 year olds.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Flight of the Honey Bee

Flight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber, illustrated by Brian Lovelock (Walker Books)
HC RRP $27.95
ISBN 9781921529665
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

From the Nature Storybook series from Walker Books, the beautifully produced Flight of the Honey Bee reflects on the intimate life and habits of one the most precious food producing species on our planet. The illustrations are created in gentle shades of watercolour, acrylic and coloured pencil upon a powerful background of gold.

There are 50,000 female bees in a hive, with very few males. Detailed are the types of honey bees and the different roles they undertake, and the hard work they put into producing honey. ‘Bees need to harvest nectar from over two million flowers to make enough honey to fill a jar’. The focus here is on the Scout, who is also the leading character in the book, and whom we follow from page to page as he guides us through the honey bees’ life.

There is narrative, then statistic; black markings on an extraordinary landscape of full page colour. The statistics are amazing. They open our minds to the tremendous fact that the world is more than we know. The vibrant yet delicately intricate depictions of the bees by Brian Lovelock upon splattered backgrounds, compliments his shift from a scientist who painted all his life, to illustrator of children’s books.

This is a worthwhile collector’s treasure which can be revisited, used as a reference in libraries and schools, or simply enjoyed for the sheer beauty of its contents, both illustrative and verbal.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Our Stories: Eureka Stockade

Our Stories: Eureka Stockade by Marion Littlejohn (Walker Books)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9781922179111
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The rich history of the Eureka Stockade and the revolt of the miners for their rights was a battle that lasted twenty minutes but marked ‘the birth of democracy in Australia’.

Welcome to another outstanding history from the Our Stories collection. It opens from the Guttenberg Press and the birth of knowledge and learning opening up for more than the select few. The chapters flow through the French Revolution, the poverty and slums of Britain’s poor as people moved into the overcrowded cities, on to the Irish Potato Famine which initiated the migration of countless people to Australia.

All these former things with many that are unmentioned, follow a common thread of the downtrodden  rising up, demanding rights to join the changes that were brought on by  the ‘People’s Charter’ that was drafted by William Lovett which, having failed in Britain, would succeed on the Ballarat goldfields.

There is so much information packed into this book which is comprised of 30 pages (not including glossary and references) on the subjects of settlement, political, cultural, social and economical history of Australia, a history of immigration ranging from poverty to opportunity, and the tremendous change that occurred during these historical times.

These books are educational while entertaining. They’re written in a sparse but precise style with supporting archival pictures which visually reinforce the text. This series comes highly recommended for the 8+ age group.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I Love Football

I Love Football by Matt Zurbo (Windy Hollow Books)
HC RRP $25.95
ISBN 9781922081179
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

I Love Footy is a book full of fun and energy, optimism and encouragement, self confidence and assurance, and all the other positive emotions children should feel. When playing footy our unnamed character feels ‘safe from his problems’. He has a sense of power, energy and freedom when he’s running with the ball. He imagines he can do anything when he touches a footy. Weather is no obstacle. He takes it all in his stride with that inexhaustible energy that children own. And there are other feelings and emotions he experiences as well – good and bad.

It is obvious these wonderful feelings have been experienced by the author through the game. It is well and truly visible in the joy and enthusiasm of the boy at play; through the eloquence of the prose. The author transmits his passion through pictures full of vibrant colour and movement, and through words of pleasure.

This is a terrific book that teaches the freedom and joy that sport, especially footy, can bring to children. It encourages activity and movement, and promises a freedom that many children may never experience in any other form. Highly recommended.

Infinity Ring: The Trap Door

Infinity Ring: The Trap Door by Lisa McMann (Scholastic Inc)
HB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-0-545–38698-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Dak, Sera and Riq are still travelling through time and around the world trying to patch up glitches in history before their world of the future falls apart. In The Trap Door they are stranded in the United States in 1850, and caught up in the slavery wars.

Falling into a trap, they are captured and Riq is to be sold as a slave in the markets where he meets some of his ancestors. Dak and Sera escape but sensing that he is close to solving his ‘remnants’ (the horrible waves of despair that overcome the children sometimes), Riq chooses to stay to help his ancestor avoid the destiny he knows awaits them.

In this time period, the children have difficulty telling the evil SQ apart from the freedom fighters who trying to wrench the underground railway back from SQ control. Not knowing who to trust makes their work even more dangerous than ever.

The Trap Door continues the multi-platformed adventure series, Infinity Ring. Following the formula of the popular 39 Clues series, each book is written by a different author and continues the adventure undertaken by three children in an effort to save the world. The top secret clue to be opened at the conclusion of the story gives access to a new adventure on which the reader may then embark upon while waiting for the next instalment of the series.

This is a thrilling adventure ride for eight to fourteen year olds which promises many more journeys to come.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Little Election

A Little Election by Danny Katz, illustrated by Mitch Vane (Black Dog Books)
PB RRP $ 16.95
ISBN 9781922179654
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Do children ever understand anything about elections and election campaigns? Probably not! This story, another published to coincide with our Federal Elections, will give them some basic points about this complex procedure.

Rory is a boy who wants to be Prime Minister so he can do what he likes, which is mostly being naughty. His teacher takes hold of the situation and sets up a mock election campaign with Rory and Debra-Jo as candidates. She aims to teach her class, and Rory, that the role of PM is not one of freedom and self-indulgence, but one of great responsibility. They work through a little election covering voters, electoral seats, speechmaking/campaigning, voting and the Leader of the Opposition.

This is a subtle breakdown on what elections are and how they are carried out disguised within funny and cheeky childhood antics. This story will give young children some basic points with a lot of laughs along the way.

Mitch Vane’s free-spirited illustrations break loose again to unite perfectly with the superbly clever Danny Katz’s highly entertaining text.

The Big Beet

The Big Beet by Lynn Ward, illustrated by Adam Carruthers (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-966-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Bertie Magee and his wife Thelma are hankering for a burger. Bertie goes into the vegetable garden to choose a nice sized beetroot to add to their bun. But as hard as he tugs the beet, it will not move.

   But the beet wouldn’t budge.   
  ‘Thel, we’ll have to have canned.’
  ‘No, we’ll get it out. I’ll give you a hand.’

Many passersbys stop to help including Shazza, Daz, Jase, an elegant doctor ‘who’d missed her last bus’ and Anna and Li who ‘put down their Pavlova’ to help. But still the beet will not budge. So will the tiny wee girl in her ballet skirt be any help at all?

This familiar tale of pulling together to make a difference is a delight to read. It has a catchy rhythm and the rhyme feels natural and unforced. And there is so much going on in the pictures. So many stories, untold by the text, are crammed onto every page. Readers can follow the main action, or the rooster, or the dog through the pages, or the insects and animals who lurk beneath the soil in the wonderful underground views as the beet is wrenched from its home.

The Big Beet is very Australian, eye-catching and tons of fun for all ages.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

So You Want to be Prime Minister?

So You Want to be Prime Minister? by Nicholas Brasch, illustrated by David Rowe (Black Dog Books)
PB RRP $ 18.95
ISBN 9781922179258
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

What an interesting, revealing book this is, published to coincide with the elections. It gets right into the nitty-gritty of the lives of Australia’s Prime Ministers with information about them that surpasses a trivia contest, and includes the history of Kirribilli House.  There are statistics: on the PMs’ names with John being the most popular name, which State the most popular PMs came from, nicknames and why they were given them, and how many were former lawyers along with other tasty morsels that one would not expect to  learn. We discover their foibles, preferences in clothes and food and lots of other areas, and who died while in office.

Also revealed are the former occupations of the PMs. So if any reader aspires after the top job and thinks they are too poor, too uneducated, too anything, this book will give them the encouragement they need, for it disproves all notions of impossibility regarding credentials for becoming PM.

This book is highly entertaining with remarkable statistics, told with such humour that the reader laughs all the way through the book. Nicholas Brasch, who has written over 350 books for children and YA, has excelled again in another of the Our Stories series, making politics simple for children and adults.

The illustrations by political cartoonist David Rowe are clever and imaginative
 His caricatures of the PMs are priceless images in literal translation of the text.

The book ends with a Timeline. Each era is accompanied by an original photo of the relevant PM and the world events that took place while each was in office.

Spooky House

Spooky House written by Sally Rippin & illustrated by Aki Fukuoka (Hardie Grant Egmont)
ISBN 978-174297651-8
PB RRP $9.95 
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

The readers of Billie B Brown are now a little older, and Billie B is growing up with them. The first in a new Billie B Mystery series, Spooky House is a chapter book, suitable for readers around eight or nine years old. Quirky illustrations accompany the text which is more mature than the previous Billie B books, containing longer sentences and decreased print size. Interesting words are highlighted in bold.

The story begins in the playground with Billie B and her gang of friends: Alex, Mika and Billie's best friend from next door, Jack. With Jack's dog Scrap, they make up the Secret Mystery Club, SMC for short (a younger, Aussie version of the Famous Five). Keen to find a spooky mystery to solve, Billie B doesn't let the truth get in her way. She invents a story about a witch who lives in an old house in her street. In doing this she scares her friends, particularly Jack.

Like all good stories, things are never as they seem. Billie B is shocked when she knocks on the door of the spooky house, to find a woman who really looks like a witch. She then must use all her courage to return to the house and 'save' her friend Jack. An admirable main character, Billie B is a gutsy girl. Even if she makes mistakes sometimes, she does the right thing in the end.

This lively story starts the series with aplomb. Full page black and white illustrations help the story along, effectively showing Billie B's feelings. The last couple of pages of the book introduce the sequel, involving a mystery code. Readers can look forward to seeing what Billie B and her friends do next. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Marlo Can Fly

Marlo Can Fly by Robert Vescio, illustrated by Sandra Temple (Wombat Books)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-921632-41-9
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

On first impressions this book invites you to pick it up and have a read. I was not disappointed when I did. It is not only beautifully illustrated but beautifully written. It is the story of Marlo a young magpie that doesn’t want to fly. Instead she tries to copy the movements of various animals with humorous results.

The author Robert Vescio has managed to tell a story of this young magpie’s fear of failure, and the overcoming of this fear in a way that is not at all didactic and one children will enjoy.

Sandra Temple, the illustrator, is an award-winning artist with a love of conservation. Her illustrations are beautiful; they are soft but show the strength of the Australian bush and animals with the use of clean and crisp coloured pencils. This softness adds to the sensitivity of Marlo not wanting to fly and discovering it is something she can and should do.
With all of these positive elements rolled into one hard cover, this story shared by parent and child will make this book a favourite.
Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Stephen Axelsen and The Nelly Gang

We love history here at Buzz Words so it's no wonder we're super-excited to be involved in Stephen Axelsen's blog tour for The Nelly Gang, his new graphic novel series for younger kids set in the 1860s Victorian gold fields.

There will also be prizes to win including a signed book and poster through Buzz Words Books. Stephen will be here on 21 September chatting with us about the value of history to today's kids.

The Nelly Gang will be launched on Saturday September 14 by teacher-librarian Megan Daley at Woodlands of Marburg during the The Story Arts Festival, Ipswich.

Some of Australia's top kids' book sites will be involved in the tour:

Monday September 16 – Children’s Books Daily 
Review and book launch update, giveaway

Tuesday 17 September –  DeeScribe Writing
Review, five tips on graphic novel making

Wednesday 18 September - Kids Book Review
Review, giveaway

Thursday 19 September - Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog
Writing and Illustrating Graphic Novels

Friday 20th September - Soup Blog
Review and Interview

Saturday 21 September - Buzz Words
The Value of History, plus review and giveaway

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Boondaburra by Natalie Lonsdale, illustrated by Shannon Melville (Even Before Publishing)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-1-922074-55-3
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy

This book is suitable for independent readers and will encourage young minds to ask more questions regarding their environment. The difficult subject of being different and acceptance is tackled within a story filled with a sense of urgency. The author has managed to weave ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘Christian’ beliefs in a subtle, believable way.

Boondarburra has feelings of inadequacy. He overhears other animals making fun of his appearance and feels like an outcast because he is so different. After a devastating bushfire, Boondaburra uses his unique characteristics to help other animals who in turn learn to appreciate and accept him. Children who have laughed at others for being different will certainly resonate with this story.

An information page about the platypus is in the back of the book and is written for the children by the platypus. For me there was a little too much ‘bible study’ in the platypus information page but if the book were to be in a Christian School library it wouldn’t be out of place.

Shannon Melville the illustrator is also a graphic designer based in Perth. She manages to bring her illustrations to life through her use of colour and energetic style.

This book is not just for children, it could also be a lovely gift for a visitor to Australia as it details how special our unique Australian animals are.

Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the series ‘That’s not a …” learn to read books used in all Queensland State Primary Schools and one local history coffee table book.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Hannah Shaw (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-710-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Granny is moving in with Elmo and his family and they need to find a bigger home. Mr Crocodile shows them many houses and Elmo and his sister fall in love with a rundown house surrounded by a large, scruffy jungle garden. But Mum and Dad fall for the house next door, neater, tidier and much more practical. Still, Elmo and his sister can play in the jungle garden and empty house next door. Until one day, a moving van arrives and mean old Mr Birdsnest moves in. The jungle garden becomes out of bounds. However, when granny goes missing and the children spy her through a window next door, they must risk everything to get her back.

Mr Birdsnest and the House Next Door is full of lovely characters. Elmo’s nicknames for people are wonderfully descriptive and the children have fabulous curiosity, imagination and a love for exploration. Donaldson writes really well, with an intriguing plot and fun characters, including two cats, Tiger and Panther, which keeps a reader hooked.

The great black and white illustrations throughout the story break up the pages of words, easing the reading and populate the pages with birds, insects and animals creating the jungle atmosphere. There are instructions for drawing jungle birds inside the back cover and masses of birds and butterflies crowd the endpapers.

This is an entertaining story to read aloud to children of five plus and would also be perfect as a read alone for confident early readers.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Pony Problem

Ella and Olivia: Pony Problem by Yvette Poshoglian, illustrated by Danielle McDonald (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $7.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-798-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Seven-year-old Ella and her younger sister Olivia are a little teeny bit jealous of Ella’s friend Zoe. Zoe has a horse, Hattie, and Ella would love to have her own horse too. So when Zoe invites the two sisters to come and watch her equestrian competition they are very excited.

But when Ella is accidentally entered into the competition on a pony called Jett, she learns there is more to riding a horse than she thought. Zoe has to sacrifice her own entry in the competition to save her frightened best friend.

Ella, Olivia, Max and Zoe are sweet characters. Aimed at beginning readers, this series is a great one for young girls. Themes of friendships, family, and in this book, horse riding, are popular and universal.
The large clear font and delightful illustrations make this an attractive series for early readers from five years up.

Pony Problem is an entertaining read and there are many more in the series to be enjoyed. This book also comes with a pony necklace.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

10 Hooting Owls

10 Hooting Owls by Ed Allen, illustrated by Simon Williams (Scholastic Press)
PB RRP $13.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-698-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

I really enjoy these counting books based on the Ten Green Bottles song. 10 Hooting Owls is yet another enjoyable and amusing version, perfect to read aloud to young children.

The rhyme works well and is consistent throughout and each owl has an amusing reason for leaving the flock. In nine the owls are in disguise and the poor owl dressed as a magpie is being shuffled off by other magpies who don’t seem to notice the difference. In seven, one of the skating owls becomes a champion.

I love the illustrations. Williams’ owls are fabulous, especially their facial expressions and body language. In six, the fluffy pink owl gets chicken pox and is all droopy while the other owls have moved to the far end of the branch and watch him out of the corner of their eyes as they knit.

This is a vibrant, joyful book. One in which the pictures tell as much of the story as the creative and rhythmic text. And as an added bonus the relevant number is hidden on each page and is not always easy to find. 10 Hooting Owls is a really fun backwards counting book which will be enjoyed by adult readers and the young children they read it to.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Vocal Violet

Vocal Violet (Little Mates) by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Lachlan Creagh (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-788-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Violet is an adorable vampire bat. But she is also the most vocal vampire bat in the whole of Victoria. Her volume causes problems among the other vampire bats. For example, when Vince takes his turn in a vaulting competition, Violets ‘veeeep!’ sends hem veering off into the veggie patch.

Everyone has ideas about how to fix Violet’s volume, but the vet suggests that rather than change, she go where her volume is valued. So Violet becomes a commentator at the V8 car racing.

Once again, the moral of Vocal Violet is incorporated well in a hilarious story with fabulous alliteration, great detailed illustrations, and an entertaining colony of vampire bats.

Lachlan Creagh is a very talented illustrator when it comes to Australian animals and his pictures are loaded with detail and humour. And the way the author manages to get so many V words into the story is extremely clever.

With only four letters in the alphabet to go, the series is getting close to the end. An while I am a little sad about this, I am looking forward to seeing how some of the harder letters at the end of the alphabet are approached!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Eco Warrior: Writing for the National Library of Australia

Buzz Words is thrilled to welcome children's books writer and advocate-extraordinaire Tania McCartney to chat about her new release from NLA Publishing Eco Warriors to the Rescue!. The multi-talented Tania researched and wrote the book as well as contributing the photography and the layout/design concept. Tania and the National Library of Australia have collaborated on a number of titles recently and Tania tells us how it all began (and check out my review of Eco Warriors in a separate post today, too!).

Writing for the National Library of Australia
Someone once said to me this: ‘Ask five people something you’ll be absolutely certain they’ll say no to—and see what they say.’

So I did.

And one of those people was Susan Hall, publisher at the National Library of Australia. Basically, I asked her if I could show her some book ideas. And guess what? She said yes.

Fast forward around two years and my fourth NLA book is now in production. It’s kind of hard to believe. My grandfather and literary idol—Wilfred Winter—was an historian, author, journalist and photographer, and following in his footsteps in even the smallest way, while simultaneously fulfilling my love of history and book production, is a major life achievement on a deeply personal level.

The NLA’s general publications are renowned for their significance, excellence and beauty. Their children’s department is relatively new to the organisation, yet its book list is already award-winning and well-respected.

NLA Publishing believes that their books will contribute to the organisation's aims of nourishing the nation’s memory, of supporting the vitality of Australian culture and heritage, and demonstrate a strong national focus contributin to an understanding of our country and peoples. The Library believes their publications are a wonderful way to ensure its striking collections are widely used and disseminated, and that they contribute to an understanding of our country and peoples.

Writing for the National Library has become more than a personal achievement for me. It’s allowed me to contribute to our country’s historical references—something I feel passionately about.

As I live relatively close to the NLA in a geographical sense, I’ve been able to develop a warm working relationship with the children’s publishing team, particularly Susan Hall and Manager, Publications Sales and Promotion, Maureen Brooks. Along with their highly creative and dedicated team, they work hard to produce books that not only showcase the Library’s impressive collections, but that delight and entrance children.

All NLA Publishing books need to feature the Library’s collection in some way. My second NLA book——does just that, showcasing eleven early botanical paintings within its pages, along with ‘cuttings’ from other collection paintings. In Eco Warriors, three children—our young eco warriors—enter the pages of their favourite book in search of ways to save our native flora. Along the way, they meet up with the featured plants, who offer them tips on how to be more ‘green’.

At the back of the book, as with most NLA publications, references to Collection images are provided, as well as addendum information such as plant facts, native birth flowers, and Australian floral emblems.

Researching Eco Warriors and imparting an ecological message into its pages was a lot of fun. I love creating books that teach adults something new, too. But I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to become even more involved in the production of this book.

An early draft, illustrating the concept of
 plants speaking to readers.  This image
 was not used in the final draft of the book.
As the Library is a relatively small team and are so open to working closely with their authors, I took much delight in designing and laying this book, including the photography and image-creation. Along with the wonderful NLA designer Amy Cullen, who put together the cover and addendum pages (and finessed the entire look of the book), it was amazing to be so involved in the production and layout; something I truly love to do.

The end result is a picture book teeming with input from a group of dedicated, talented people, including research and fact-checkers, early childhood teachers, and botanical specialists like the wonderful Barrie Hadlow. I’m hoping Australian kids will take as much joy from the book as I did in putting it together—and hopefully, somewhere up there, my dear grandfather would be proud.

And to think, this all came about because I was brave enough to ‘ask’. I highly recommend it.

Learn more about National Library Publishing.

Join Tania McCartney and her three real-life eco warriors—Banjo (Riley), Ned (Andrew) and Matilda (Claire)—as they launch Eco Warriors to the Rescue! at Canberra’s National Arboretum Gift Shop, Saturday 5 October 2013, at 11am. 

Tania McCartney is an author of both children’s and adult books. An experienced magazine writer and editor, she also founded respected literary site Kids’ Book Review. She is passionate about literacy, and loves to speak on reading, books and writing. Her latest books include Eco Warriors to the Rescue! (National Library Publishing), Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra (Ford Street), Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend (New Frontier) and An Aussie Year: Twelve months in the life of Australian Kids (EK Publishing). Tania adores books, travel and photography. She lives in Canberra with her family, in a paper house at the base of a book mountain.;

Go to Tania's site for the full blog tour schedule

Eco Warriors to the Rescue!

Eco Warriors to the Rescue! by Tania McCartney (NLA Publishing)
PB RRP $17.99
ISBN 9780642277800
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

It's no secret I'm a fan of NLA Publishing and I can add Eco Warriors to the list. The multi-talented Tania McCartney has written, designed and contributed the photography for this delightful book which also delves into the archives of the National Library of Australia.

Readers follow the three eco warriors Banjo, Matilda, and Ned (what names could be more Australian?) into their favourite and far from ordinary book where they discover ways to help save Australia's native flora from extinction, learning from the plants as they go.

The book is a visual treat with glossy pages showing off the botanical artworks to their very best. However, through their interactions with each other, the landscape and the plants, the children really get the message of this book across about caring for Australia's unique plant life. There is also a green butterfly to look for on each double spread.

With plenty of facts about plants at the back including Australia's Floral Emblem, Native Birth Flowers and more, plus a full list of illustrations for lovers of botanical art, this book is full of information. As a tactile person, I also loved the quality and weight of the paper and the embossed cover. A top notch production with such an important message that will be appreciated by young and old.