My other home

4 06 2014

I’m having a little medium-sized break from this blog.

While you’re waiting for me to get back to it, come and visit me on my shiny new writer-and-poet site:


Bid on signed copies of books and more …

17 01 2011

If you’d like to bid on signed copies of books, manuscript appraisals, mentorships and/or heaps of other booky things, head on over to Authors For Queensland auction site. All money will go to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. Bidding ends 11pm (EST) Monday 24 January 2011.

(There are Alphabet Soup magazine subscriptions open to bidding too, but they’re still updating the site so those should be up soon.)

Happy bidding!

Free Literacy ezine

1 12 2010
"LitLava 7 cover"

Free Literacy ezine: Literacy Lava

Issue 7 of Literacy Lava is out now! As usual, Literacy Lava has great tips for parents, and suggestions for literacy activities to share with kids. This issue features a new writing tips column with author, Dee White. There’s loads of other stuff too, including an article from me about catering for your budding young writer. 🙂

Download your free ezine now, via The Book Chook’s website. Yay!

Interview with Aleesah Darlison

22 10 2010

Today I welcome children’s author, Aleesah Darlison, for the final stop on her blog tour celebrating the launch of Totally Twins. Aleesah is a huge inspiration—by November she’ll have three books published this year and more to come in 2011. Her first book, Puggle’s Problem, is a picture book about a baby echidna (a puggle) who is impatient for his spines to come through. She recently launched Musical Mayhem, the first book in her Totally Twins series, and the second book in the series—Model Mania—will be out at the end of the year.

"Musical Mayhem cover""Puggle's Problem, cover""Model Behaviour cover"

Totally Twins is a junior series about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut. Although they look the same, the girls have quite different personalities and the books are written in diary format, recorded by Persephone. Musical Mayhem was published in September 2010 and includes black and white illustrations by Serena Geddes.

Today I’m having a quick chat with Aleesah about her childhood. You can check out the other stops on her tour via the links at the end of this post.

So, it has to be asked—are you a twin?"Aleesah Darlison"

I’m not a twin, but boy did I wish I was one when I was a kid. I always thought it would be fun to have someone who looked, felt and thought exactly like me. A very naive view of twins, I know, but I was just a kid! And I thought it would be fun to play tricks on people.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?

I have one older brother and two younger sisters.

When you were ten, what did you think was unfair in your household?

Just about every decision made in the household that didn’t go my way. And especially me having to wash up and my brother not having to. Yuck!

Did you ever fight with your siblings about your bedroom/chores/borrowing stuff without asking etc?

I think my brother and I fought over just about everything. I’m sure we drove Mum mad, just like my kids now drive me mad! What goes around comes around, I guess. My little sisters used to get into my stuff all the time. They were quite a bit younger than me and so many of my toys, dolls and books, which I’d treasured and looked after for years, ended up destroyed or missing in action. Oh well! Looking back, I think my parents tried to deal fairly with all our complaints even if it didn’t seem fair at the time. As a perfect sister, I, of course, had no complaints lodged against me by my siblings. LOL. Oops, that sounds like something Portia would say.

Did you keep a diary?

I’ve kept various diaries throughout the years. Some I’ve kept. Others I’ve burned or shredded so no one could ever read them. None of my diaries have ever been read by anyone else (that I know of!) because they’re too intensely personal.

If you could go back to being your 10-year-old self again, what would your perfect day be?

A day at school (I adored school as a kid) writing stories, playing with my friends, being able to put a lunch order in for a meat pie and tomato sauce and maybe some cheese on SAOs. They were always big at my school. Earning a ‘Merit Certificate’ or two and finishing the day off with an athletics carnival where I’d compete in every event going. All the best memories of my primary school years rolled into one day – it doesn’t get better than that.

You can find out more about Aleesah Darlison at her website. Persephone also has her own blog where you can send her messages and download Totally Twins material.

But wait—there’s more! Check out the other stops on her blog tour and join in the celebrations for Totally Twins. Here’s where to go:

Sandy Fussell
Be a Fun Mum with Kellie Burstow
Kids Book Review with Tania McCartney
More Than Words Blogspot with Debbie Johansson
The Book Chook with Susan Stephenson
Book Blog with Dave Hibbins
Alphabet Soup Blog with Rebecca Newman
From the Mouths of Babes with Katrina Roe
Squiggle Mum with Catherine Oehlman
Let’s Have Words with Claire Saxby
Sally Murphy’s Writing For Children
Book Blog with Dave Hibbins
Read Plus with Pat Pledger
Boobook with Rebecca Newman [You’re here!]

The Princess and Her Panther

3 07 2010

The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer, published by Allen & Unwin

"The Princess and her Panther cover"I read my way through a lot of picture books, and it has been a while since I’ve read one that was up there with the old favourites of our household.

I was excited when The Princess and Her Panther arrived in the mail because I’d heard snippets about it via Wendy Orr on twitter (@wendyorr) and I was looking forward to reading it. I read it through by myself that night and loved it. It’s about two sisters—the big one (the princess) who is brave, and the little one (the panther), who tries to be brave. They have fantastic imaginations and get a bit spooked by the night-time noises when they camp out in their backyard. The story is convincing—I could have been reading about my own two girls—and the language is gorgeous, and perfect for reading aloud.

A favourite part:

Then they heard

a soft, slow shivering, a hiss-siss slippering

of leaf-snakes slithering across their tent in the night.

The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.

And I absolutely love Lauren Stringer’s luminous illustrations, which blend the imaginary and real world beautifully.

But the real joy came when I read it to my 4 year old the following evening as part of her bedtime story line up. She loved the cover and wanted to know what a panther was. When I explained it to her, she instantly understood that the little sister on the cover was the panther in the story and she was tickled about it because she loves pretend play herself (our dress-ups get a good workout). Clearly, she identified with the little sister, and she laughed and loved the title page (showing the princess drawing whiskers on the panther’s cheeks) and the first page with the panther creeping about on the grass with a rope tail.

She was absorbed in the story as it unfolded—I could tell because by the time ‘there was nothing but night’, she had started to mimic the expressions of the panther in the story. So when we got to the favourite part I mentioned above, she clutched at me and took a sharp breath and squeaked. She found the next few pages quite scary but she didn’t ask me to stop, and when the sisters leap out of the tent and discover what was really going on outside their tent, she laughed and was obviously relieved. She studied the last page for a long time where the sisters are asleep in the tent. And she talked about the endpapers at the back of the book (when the sun is up and we can’t see the girls). And as soon as I shut the book, she said ‘Read it again!’

Tonight I read it at bedtime and my 6 year old was also with us. He really enjoyed it too, and he ‘got’ that the leaf-snakes were the leaves scratching the tent and chuckled to himself. But the best bit about tonight’s reading was that the 4 year old jumped in every time, unprompted, with the refrain ‘The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.’

My son asked why the family cat was outside overnight (in WA that’s not encouraged because cats tend to hunt down wildlife at night). The cat pops up in the background on many of the pages, including the endpapers, and my 4 year old is rather fond of him. (Maybe it’s really a her, but she decided it was a him.)

This is the best new picture book I’ve read this year. And my resident panther agrees.

(Oh, and check out Wendy Orr’s site—there’s an activity guide, plus she shares some of  the book’s journey to publication.)

I received a review copy of The Princess and Her Panther from the publisher.

Kidlit heaven

22 06 2010

Well, am home from the NSW Children’s Book Council conference where I had an absolutely fabulous time.

HIGHLIGHTS (in no particular order):

Meeting/catching up with authors/illustrators/generally bookish folk

(Watch me name drop!) Sandy Fussell, Dee White, Trudie Trewin, Claire Saxby, Janeen Brian, Sally Murphy, David Murphy, Tania McCartney, Aleesah Darlison, Stephanie Owen Reeder, (and quite probably a few others that I’ll think of later and slip in here while you’re looking the other way).

Margaret Hamilton in conversation with Stephen Michael King and Glenda Millard about their collaboration on the Kingdom of Silk books.

When Stephen Michael King had done a bit of talking, he got up and started drawing at an easel that had been set up for him, while Glenda continued to talk. I swear all the children’s book geeks slid off their chairs in happiness.

"Stephen Michael King drawing Mutt Dog"

Stephen Michael King drawing Mutt Dog

"Stephen Michael King drawing The Man Who Loved Boxes"

Stephen Michael King with a drawing of The Man Who Loved Boxes

Hearing picture book authors and illustrators in pairs talking about how they collaborate on their books.

That session was responsible for a fair whack of my bookshop purchases afterwards. I bought a stack of books to bring home because I’m so short of books at home *cough cough *.

Hearing Shaun Tan speak and watching his short film of The Lost Thing.

He’s a Perth boy you know!

Hearing Sheryl Clark speak about children’s poetry.

The session that most surprised me was given by Paul MacDonald, owner of The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft NSW. He talked about graphic novels. I confess I haven’t read many graphic novels. I now have a list of graphic novels to seek out.

OK, so here are some of the books that came home in my suitcase:

"The ABC Book of Australian Poetry"

"How to Heal a Broken Wing cover"

"The Return of the Word Spy cover"

"The Great Bear"

There was so much more that I haven’t mentioned but I really do have to deal with my inbox before it explodes. Brilliant conference — many thanks to everyone who was involved in organising it.

Undercover Readers Club (a blatant plug!)

14 06 2010

Undercover Readers logoOver on the Alphabet Soup blog (where I wear my editor’s and publisher’s hats), we’re launching a kids book review club called Undercover Readers. As part of the cyberlaunch celebrations, we’ve invited a different children’s author/illustrator to visit every day from 14th to 27 June to tell us about what they liked to read as a child (under the covers with a torch!).

SHERYL GWYTHER is our first VIP author — and yes, she did sneak in some undercover reading when she was growing up.

And the excitement continues this week with Aleesah Darlison, Katrina Germein, The Book Chook, Sandy Fussell, Sue Walker and Dee White. (With even more next week!)

Huzzah! *throws streamers about in a jolly manner*