Recent reads in kidlit land

 

Over the last few months I’ve discovered and read a bunch of truly extraordinary kids’ books – some are by favourite creators, others by first-timers. They include:

THE BRILLIANT IDEAS OF LILY GREEN by Lisa Siberry

This is a debut middle grade novel which also happened to win Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Prize. It was a standout read for me this year – fresh, intriguing, full of feeling and tinged with suspense and magic.

NOP by Caroline Magerl

This is absolutely gorgeous – an abandoned stuffed bear at the Dumporium gets a new chance, in the most unexpected of ways. Dreamy illustrations, a work of art.

TILLY by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

I was always going to love this. It’s Jane and Anna! The heartwarming story of a girl’s buried treasures under a staircase, and the bittersweet passing of time.

THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON by Edwina Wyatt

This is Edwina Wyatt’s junior fiction debut, starring a lyrical, literary, whimsical character who looks at the world in her own unique way. Such beautiful writing. A stunning cover too, with illustrations by Katherine Quinn.

MISS KRAKEN by Nicki Greenberg

Fun, wry and quirky, Miss Kraken (yes, an actual Kraken) is the fed up teacher of a rowdy, cheeky bunch of kids. Everything comes to a head on an excursion to the aquarium. Hilarious details in the illustrations!


A HOME FOR LUNA
by Stef Gemmill and Mel Armstrong

A debut PB about a lost cat, penguins and a search for home. I loved this gorgeous story and the illustrations are totally my kind of style. Lovely language throughout.

MONTY AND THE POODLES by Katie Harnett

An unlikely friendship story (hooray!) about some posh poodles and a street dog, by the creator of Franklin’s Flying Bookshop, Ivy and Lonely Raincloud and more. A Parisian feel to the illustrations (hello, cover crush), and a super satisfying ending.

A buzzy, buggy book launch!

Tulip and Brutus is officially launched! I was completely overwhelmed with the turnout and buzz at the Sydney launch – a weird and wonderful whirlwind of a morning.

Held upstairs at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt, with the amazing Rachel Robson at the organising helm, it was such a fun time. Think an overloaded table of buggish treats like strawberry, oreo and cupcake ladybugs, and cookie stinkbugs (promptly demolished), plus a truly spectacular rendition of ‘I Got You Bug’ (think I Got You Babe, on … a lot of sugar) by my giant buggy launchers – One More Page podcast co-hosts and writers’ group buddies, Kate and Nat. Totes brought the house down.

After a book reading, I ran a game where kids could spin a game show-ish wheel to win either a chocolate bug or a real bug, a crunchy cricket. The uptake for the crickets was far more enthusiastic than I anticipated. Yay! How delicious are bugs?!

There were so many awesome people in the room, from old friends and family members to my kids’ school friends to writerly people from all the kidlit places, like SCBWI. I had an epic book sign-a-thon which was *surreal*, a gazillion photos were taken, and it all went by in a dreamlike blur. And I get to do it all again soon in Melbourne with the book’s publisher Ford Street and illustrator Andrew Plant too, hooray! If you’re Melbourne-based and around on Saturday 9 November, I’d love to see you there (find the details over on my FB Author page).

Huge thanks to everyone who shared their snaps with me – my mum, Steve, Mali, Amelia, Amanda and probably more – thanks all!

What else?

An author talk
Soon after the Sydney launch, I visited Shellharbour Library for an author talk with the most lovely writers and illustrators group. It was a really fun morning complete with another book reading, signing and sales, and an extensive q&a type book chat about the writing and publication journey. And we ate more bugs! Local writer Karen Hendriks was a fab host, taking me on a tour of the town including a stunning beach viewpoint.

Some longlistings
I randomly entered the Lane Cove Literary Awards and found myself longlisted in the Travel Story category, woo hoo! I didn’t progress beyond the longlist, but it was nevertheless a bit of a boost and a reminder of my pre-kidlit love for non-fiction travel writing (and of course, travelling). I also entered a pitching contest via Just Write for Kids, and just found out I’m on the picture book longlist. Fingers crossed! But regardless of the outcome, it was a great way to pin down a pitch for that particular story anyway!!

A podcast interview
Along with getting to interview (aka fangirl over) amazing people for my kids’ book podcast with Nat and Kate, One More Page, I am now on the show as an interviewee! In Episode 39, we have none other than Newbery Medal-winning, New York Times bestselling author Kate DiCamillo on the show (!!!) which is surreal enough in itself. Then there’s a kid interviewer chatting with me about Tulip and Brutus and friendship in kids’ books in the same episode’s Kids Capers segment. Have I used the word surreal in this post already?! Yes. Yes, I have. You can listen to the episode here and subscribe to One More Page on whichever app you devour your podcasts.

A Twitter chat

I’ve found myself not only in a podcast interview but as the guest of a Twitter chat – happening next Thursday night! I’m a huge fan of Picture Book Book Club and love their monthly chats, so it’s pretty awesome to be a guest in one (vs usual groupie). Kidlit twitter peeps – feel free to find and join (#picbookbc).

Yet more book talk …

Find more Tulip and Brutus talk on Creative Kids Tales, Just Write for Kids, Kids Book Review (plus I popped up as one of their 12 Curly Questions posts), I wrote a piece on friendship and school libraries which is on the Ford Street blog, and if you subscribe to the Pass It On kidlit newsletter, you may have seen an interview with me there recently, too. Phew!

Ok, enough with all things me and my book. I will be back next time celebrating all the other books I’ve been reading and loving lately!

Tulip and Brutus: Picture book launch time!

Tulip and Brutus is now officially out! But the excitement is only beginning as there are a few launch events imminent.

First up, the Sydney launch at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt on 20 October, followed by a mini-launch/author talk for a dynamic group of kids’ book writers and illustrators down south coast way in Shellharbour (day trip time!) on 22 October, then a Melbourne launch at Ford Street HQ, the book’s publishers, on 9 November.

Here are the details, especially if you’re Sydney or Melbourne-based and would like to come along! As you can see, they’re both being launched by kidlit podcasters, too. The Sydney launch by my One More Page podcast co-hosts, Kate and Nat, and the Melbourne launch by Middle Grade Mavens hosts, Julie and Pamela!

 

SYDNEY LAUNCH:

 

You can RSVP to this one via the Facebook event – find it on the Berkelouw Books Leichhardt page or my author page.

 

MELBOURNE LAUNCH:

Time to get our buggish baking on …

Tulip and Brutus is on its way!

Tulip and Brutus

 

My picture book Tulip and Brutus is nearly here!

It’s about friendship, teamwork, differences … and bugs! Some pre-order links are live on my Books page. Looking forward to sharing this stinky little story soon!

These are a few of my favourite books

I love knowing people’s favourite kids’ books. I feel like it tells me a little bit about that person. Do they gravitate to humour, or are they drawn to the dark side? Literary or commercial? A bit of everything?

I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as only reading and liking a certain kind of book, but then again, perhaps there are some themes tying my favourites together. I do gravitate to realism in the kids’ books I read (and write), then a dose of mystery or magic will find its way into my reading pile, or my keyboard.

Here are some of my favourite kids’ reads, from picture books to middle grade:

Picture Books
Florette by Anna Walker
Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst
Maya & Cat by Caroline Magerl
The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade by Davina Bell & Alison Colpoys
Mr Huff by Anna Walker
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas

Junior Fiction
Ginger Green Playdate Queen by Kim Kane
Lemonade Jones by Davina Bell
Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster
Truly Tan by Jen Storer
Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford
Polly and Buster by Sally Rippin

Middle Grade
The Girl, The Dog and the Writer trilogy by Katrina Nannestad
Stella Montgomery trilogy by Judith Rossell
Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend
Missing by Sue Whiting
The Secrets We Share/Keep by Nova Weetman
Sickbay by Nova Weetman
The Other Christy (and many others) by Oliver Phommavanh
The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more, but this is the top line ‘Books I REALLY Love’ list. The ones that straightaway come to mind. (I’ve purposefully omitted my writers’ group’s books as it goes without saying I love them all, and I don’t want to accidentally miss one. Yeah, there’s starting to be a lot!). I realise there’s a bit of a female author bias, but hey, at least there’s Gus, Peter and Oliver! Other binding themes – feelings, friendship, heart, and that old cliché, a strong and authentic voice. In the middle grade list, there’s also adventure, mystery and suspense.

80s/90s me LOVED these reads. Hooray for book hoarding!

I can also see that my current taste reflects that of childhood me. Picture book favourites included There’s a Sea in my Bedroom by Margaret Wild (still love Margaret Wild), Meg and Mog, and lots of Dreamtime stories. A hefty dose of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl followed, then Selby’s Secret, Hating Alison Ashley, Harriet the Spy, the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry, everything Judy Blume (on constant repeat), Paula Danziger’s books and The Baby-Sitters Club.

I loved books set in boarding schools, too. And there were definitely supernatural stories among the mix, I loved things like poltergeists and seances and witchcraft as a kid! A standout memory is Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones (I so wanted to fly around on a broomstick by myself in the middle of the night). So, late-80s me was probably pretty similar to late 20-tens me – loving stories strong on feeling, with a side serve of mystery and magic.

Do you see any parallels between the books you loved most as a kid vs the ones you gravitate to now? I’d love to know what they are!

Top 5 surreal (but awesome) things about having a book

So I was book-stalking on Booktopia, as you do, when something compelled me to search for my *own* upcoming picture book. Oh, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the title yet? It’s called (drumroll …) TULIP AND BRUTUS and it’s illustrated by the stupendously talented Andrew Plant!

Anyway, maybe it was a moment of imagining what it would be like to look up your own book and magically see it there, on Australia’s mega-portal to *all the books*. I typed in the title and couldn’t believe it when IT WAS THERE! I swear I actually felt my heart skip a beat. I’m sure most authors and illustrators don’t bat an eyelid at such things after a while, but this being my first book, it felt like a momentous occasion – my first sighting of any mention of my book in the public domain. It then got me thinking, if seeing a not-out-yet book with a not-yet revealed cover listed on Booktopia is that exciting, what else will be heart palpitation-inducing?! Here are five more things …

1) Holding an actual physical copy in my hands for the first time.
There’s a reason for all those un-boxing videos circulating online. An actual book! On actual paper! It’s reeeeal!

2) First sighting ‘in the wild’.
This will be amazing (er, I think I’ve got something in my eye …). A book, on a shelf, in a shop. Something people can actually buy!

3) Spotting it in a library.
This might be even better? Not everyone can afford all the new releases, but there’s always borrowing! This will be super cool. Libraries are the actual best.

4) Reading a review. Or maybe not?
This will be surreal, that a book reviewer/blogger/lover has taken the time to read the book and share their thoughts with the world. Unless it’s one of those shocking Goodreads reviews that pop up from time to time, in which case I’ll see if Kate and Nat want to do a ‘celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves’ kind of skit and we can read them out on the podcast.

5) If anyone buys it or even shares it on social media and it’s someone I DON’T EVEN KNOW!
What??!! If this happens, I’ll be ridiculously grateful forever and ever.

So there you have it, my top 5 surreal (but awesome) things about having a book. Not sure if any of these things will ever feel old?! I hope not!

Events and books and … things

Kate, supportive superstar author Oliver P (with one of our mascots!), me and Nat at our CBCA talk

The other week, something exciting happened – our podcast team (One More Page) were invited to present at a CBCA event! It was a meeting of the Northern Sydney sub-branch, consisting of a fab crew including Wendy Fitzgerald, Jan Latta, Jules Faber, Brydie Wright and more. We talked setting up the podcast, highlights and heroes (a.k.a. every one of our interviewees! Cue Wind Beneath Our Wings …. yes, this happened). It was a lovely supportive crowd and a great venue, The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft. We also got an early look at The Hole Idea, the new picture book collaboration by the bookshop’s owners, Paul and Beth, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom. It’s brilliant!

More events …

Then not long after, it was time to attend the Creative Kids’ Tales Festival, a wonderful one-day event put on by Georgie Donaghey and the CKT team. I got so much out of the talks by Jackie French, Deb Abela, Jacqueline Harvey and Emma Quay, who all offered words of advice and encouragement, and shared their own journeys (and pitfalls – Emma reading aloud a less than flattering review of Rudie Nudie was a masterclass in developing a thick skin in the creative journey).

I also recently attended the SCBWI Sketch and Scribble event at the Art Gallery of NSW, viewing artworks to spark story ideas. There was also the launch of Cocoon by author/illustrator Aura Parker at Kinokuniya, complete with a live drawing session. The book is everything I imagined and more – warm, charming and bursting with character.

Searching for stories with the SCBWI crew

More books …

In other picture book reads – I’ve been reading (and re-reading …) Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker, A Quiet Girl by Peter Carnavas and Love, Z by Jessie Sima. As for what I’m anticipating – loads, but mostly Tilly by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker. You know when you *just know* you’ll love something? That.

Beyond the magical world of PBs, I’ve recently read CATCH A FALLING STAR by Meg McKinlay, a middle grade set in the 70s, that intertwines a historical space event with family and feelings. I really loved the voice in this. I’m currently mid-way through BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE, an award-scooping adult read (and feeling like the last person on earth to read it, but I’m enjoying the ride).

What else? Our podcast is careering towards 25k downloads (ahhh thank you, people who listen!), and we’re recording a new episode at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this weekend. We’ll be chatting to two stars of the SWF Family Day events, authors (and so much more) Adrian Beck and Sally Rippin. Can’t wait!

Current book stack …

 

More things …

Eating

There’s been many a new food find lately, with my kids discovering a newfound love of bubble tea (just find us at your nearest Gong Cha). We also had biang biang noodles and ‘Runaway Chicken’ (think fried chicken piled high with dried chillis and sichuan peppercorns) at Xian Eatery in Burwood, and the best massaman curry at Khao Pla in Chatswood – yes, will happily traipse all over Sydney (and beyond) for delicious eats.

Watching

It’s cooling down, it’s binge-watch weather, and there’s so much great viewing right now. Am currently addicted to Killing Eve – onto Season 2 now after a mega catchup-athon. And of course, Game of Thrones, and for some food-related wanderlust, Street Food on Netflix, which makes me want to hop a flight to check out the eat scene in Osaka.

Waiting

… to reveal more news (and the colourful cover!) of my own upcoming picture book release … sooooon!

Exciting Book News!

It’s happened!!! I officially have a picture book on its way!

Super excited to share that Melbourne-based publisher Ford Street will be bringing one of my favourite picture book manuscripts to life. I’ll share more about the book closer to time, but basically this came about due to a pitching session at CYA Conference with Meredith Costain (also the writerly brains behind huge kidlit hits like the Ella Diaries series, which I’ve long admired). Looking forward to working with publisher Paul Collins and my future mystery illustrator!

The CYA Conference has played a huge role in my writing journey so far – it was one of the very first writing events I ever attended, and has connected me with lots of great writers, illustrators and publishers over the last few years. AND it was even the subject of our podcast One More Page‘s first ever event special (you can listen to it here). I highly recommend it to anyone setting out on their kidlit journey.

Speaking of One More Page, we’ve just cracked 12,000 downloads and we’re recording the final couple of episodes of 2018. It’s been so much fun, and to top off a great first year of podcasting we’ve been invited to be guest speakers at the SCBWI Sydney Christmas party, woo hoo! If you’re a Sydney SCBWI-ite, hope to see you there!

Picture Book Love: Harriet Gets Carried Away

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima, Simon & Schuster US 2018

Harriet loved costumes. She loved them so much, she wore them all the time! On the day of her own dress-up party she went shopping for supplies with her dads (while dressed as a penguin, of course) and got carried away – *actually* carried away, by penguins!

This is an absolutely adorable story that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. It highlights the magic of getting ‘carried away’ and is ultimately about belonging. The purple-toned illustrations with their touches of yellow suit both the urban and Antarctic settings, and lend the book a unique feel. I love everything about the design of this book, from the hot-air balloon endpapers, to the different cover under the dust jacket (Harriet in all different costumes – cute!).

Aesthetics aside, the story is so well constructed and full of memorable one-liners, with a very satisfying ending. It also has one of my favourite lines discovered in recent picture book readings:

Harriet was almost out of ideas
when one emerged from the sea.

Perfection!