Kids Book Review is a voluntary children’s literature and book review which works with authors, illustrators and publishers Australia-wide and internationally. We cover news, reviews, interviews, articles, guest posts, events, specialist literacy articles and much more, attracting readers from all over the world including teachers, librarians, industry professionals and parents and kids.
Kirsty Murray is a multi-award-winning author of more than 20 books for children and young adults.
Her works include eleven novels as well as non-fiction, junior fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction and picture books. She loves books, libraries, bookshops, readers, writers, and stories of every shape, size and manifestation.
Which children’s book are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished reading Carole Wilkinson’s Inheritance. I try and read a couple of children’s novels each week. Inheritance is definitely one of the most outstanding novels I’ve read this year.
Can you tell us in two sentences what the book is about?
Veronica Mitchell Gervase, or ‘Nic’, as her family call her, has been sent to live with her grandfather in a rambling and dilapidated, 30-room bluestone mansion in the Western Districts of Victoria. Left on her own for long tracts of time, Nic discovers that her family hides dark secrets and learns that the women of her family have an ancient gift – the ability to slip through time.
How much did you enjoy/are enjoying this title?
I loved it. It was an absolute page-turner as well as being rich in detail about Western Victoria and the indigenous history of the region.
What made you choose this title? Was it a review, advertising, the cover, the blurb, the author/illustrator, or the subject/genre?
It had been on my radar for a while because I think the subject matter – the frontier wars between European settlers and Indigenous people – is incredibly important. I also think Carole Wilkinson is a fabulous author of children’s books so I was interested to see how she’d handle such complicated material. I was astonished that Inheritance wasn’t chosen as a CBCA notable this year so was curious to see why it wasn’t listed. After reading it, I’m even more bewildered as to why it was overlooked. Not only is it a ripping read, but it’s also an extremely important work of fiction about Australia.
What other titles are on your bedside table /To Read Pile?
I just finished reading Carrie Tiffany’s very dark and elegant novel Exploded View which is definitely an adult read. I’m halfway through Thea Astley’s A Descant for Gossips – an Australian classic – and I’m looking forward to diving into Jacyln Moriarty’s The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone and Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s Catching Teller Crow.
How did you come by these titles: personal choice/request, publisher’s review copy, or other?
All are personal choices. Some bought and some are borrowed. I do occasionally get sent books but my appetite for books is voracious so I am constantly buying new books or borrowing from my local library. It’s a serious vice.
Do you have a favourite genre? If so, what is it, and why do you prefer it?
No. I love trying everything, no matter who the intended audience or what the subject matter. I think horror is the only genre I avoid these days but if it comes highly recommended, I’ll take a deep breath and dive into the pages.
Do you read from printed books or some other medium? Please expand a little on the why of your choice.
I prefer the printed book. I like the physical experience of reading a physical book, turning the pages and holding it in my hands. I spend a lot of my day on the computer writing so when it comes to reading, I don’t want to stare at another screen. I also find my eye moves differently on the page to the screen and that my comprehension is better when reading a printed book. I do read on a mix of devices when travelling and I don’t mind reading newspapers and journals online but for long form, the printed page is always my preference.
If you (or someone you know) is a little wary of monsters lurking beneath the bed, you need to get your hands on a copy of the Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed.
Have you ever really given much thought to monster problems?
Completed any testing? Come up with any theories?
Well lucky for you, now you don’t have to, because Goodnight Labs has done all the hard work for you.
Goodnight Labs take monster problems very, very seriously, and they’ve come up with guaranteed steps to solve all your monster-under-the-bed problems.
There is a lot I really didn’t know about under-the-bed-monsters. For instance, did you know a clean room will keep them away? There’s simply nowhere for them to hide! They also don’t like minty fresh breath or crowds (hooray for soft toy sleepovers!). They’re afraid of hissing snake sounds, and some are even more scared of you than you are of them.
This truly is the ultimate survival guide to under-the-bed monsters! With step-by-step instructions, hilarious jokes, a monster-keeper-away bonus and a handy poster (it’s the dust cover is disguise), you’ll be safe from monsters under the bed forever.
Debut author Mitch Frost brings comedy to a topic that sometimes makes knees knock in this fantastic and funny picture book. Packed with real strategies to extinguish night time fears, it’s a book that helps while it entertains.
Daron Parton’s illustrations are funky and bold. Brilliantly bright colours fill every page and his monster creations are just divine. I want to collect toy versions of them all!
For a fun and entertaining lesson on how to deal with monsters, make sure you check out The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed.
Title: The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under the Bed
Author: Mitch Frost
Illustrator: Daron Parton
Publisher: Affirm Press, $19.99
Publication Date: 28 May 2019
Format: Hard Cover with Dust Jacket (and poster)
ISBN: 9781925712933 For ages: 3 - 6 Type: Picture Book
Make and Play: Space is a fabulously fun and intergalactic activity book, perfect for keeping young space fans happy for hours.
This novelty board book focuses on following instructions and interactive learning with activities including Press-out play pieces, Make a fruit rocket, Sing a space song, Make alien models and more. The main feature is the press-out play pieces intended for making a space scene; some of them slide together to stand, others have a hole to hang with string. After playing with them, my five-year-old and I turned our pieces into a mobile for her bedroom which is still providing fun and prompting space related discussions weeks later.
The bright, bold colours and design, thick cover with foil printed elements and spiral binding give this book a high quality feel. The illustrations are undeniably cute, with adorable, big eyed aliens and cute space puppies it makes space look like a fun place to be and sets the scene for imaginative craft and play.
Make and Play: Space would make an excellent gift, it encourages learning, creativity and interactive play and could be enjoyed by individuals or small groups.
Joey Chou is the creator of a long list of books in the Make and Play series including Make and Play: Easter.
Title: Make and Play: Space Author/Illustrator: Joey Chou Publisher: Nosy Crow Ltd , $14.99 Publication Date: 3 June 2019 Format: Board Book ISBN: 9781788004435 For ages: 1+ Type: Activity Book
A beautiful tale about love and family, Kisses in your Heart will warm your insides and have kids feelings all kinds of special as you read it to them.
The story explores a parent's love and how kisses carry the magic of comfort. No matter where you go, a kiss from a loved one stays with you.
Mum, she gently makes a start, placing kisses on my heart.
This is a beautiful and gentle story about love. It shows children that loved ones are never gone, even when they are not right by your side.
I love how the story has so much meaning in so few words. Depending on the reader and their circumstances and life experiences, it provides a message of support for so many different situations: kids afraid of the dark, kids nervous about going to school or kids who have lost a loved one.
The message is the same. Your loved ones never leave you. Their kisses — their love — stay with you wherever you go.
I close my eyes, and always know, these kisses follow where I go.
With gorgeous illustrations in beautiful soft colours and flowing rhyming text, this picture book is a giant hug. A beautiful story and lovely reminder to kids that they are always loved.
Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage is a gorgeous graphic novel about naturalist Charles Darwin's five-year voyage across the world.
An adventure grounded in history.
From 1831-1836, Darwin travelled the world on the HMS Beagle, his enthusiasum and experiences enabling his research and recording of discoveries and his early scientific theories.
Darwin's story is told with each of the five legs of his journey acting like chapters.
His trip begins with sailing from England to Cape Verdi and Brazil; then Argentina, Uruguay and Patagonia; Tierra Del Fuego and Chile; to the Galapagos Islands and the Pacific; ending in Oceania and South Africa, before heading home to England. The voyage is bookended with scenes from his later life, and at the conclusion of the story, there is also a summary of some key facts from Darwin's life, explorations and research.
Created by the award-winning partnership of Fabien Grolleau and Jeremie Royer, Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage is an excellent introduction to exploration, scientific theory and history. It should prompt questions and curiosity, and perhaps further research.
Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage is a somewhat romanticised account of Darwin's experiences, meaning it is not competely accurate, however it definitely captures a sense of adventure and exploration, the ups and downs, challenges and opporrtunities, in a time of great change and advancement.
A great book for anyone who enjoys reading about history or science, or for use in classrooms, as an alternative to the more traditional text books.
Title: Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage Author: Fabien Grolleau Illustrator: Jeremie Royer Publisher: Walker Books, $32.99 Publication Date: May 2019 Format: Hardcover ISBN: 9781910620502 For ages: 13+ Type: Graphic novel
It is evident from the stunning cover that great thought has gone into the design and presentation of this outstanding production.
Black, ochre, and the rich reddish colour of earth have been used as background for the emu, fish, yam daisy, and a settler riding a horse which indicate the content.
These colours that continue throughout the book reflect the Indigenous people, their culture, and powerful bond with Country.
‘Dark Emu is a shape in the dark areas between the stars of the Milky Way.’
Young Dark Emu has been taken from Bruce Pascoe’s award-winning book for older readers and made accessible to the younger generation. First-hand accounts from the diaries of settlers and explorers allow readers to experience ‘a different way of seeing’ the history of Australia’s early settlement.
Pascoe argues and gives evidence of how structured the lives of Australia’s Aborigines were before the Europeans arrived, contradicting the belief that they were nomads. The first Australians were organized, inventive, resourceful and ingenious in their approach to caring for the land and providing food for their families and communities. They had grain storages, and preserved food. Their knowledge of agriculture and aquaculture was beyond belief with fishing systems offering all they needed for food while allowing for breeding to maintain their supply. Homes were well-built structures in villages with incredible designs. This is confirmed by the explorers who documented what they saw through words and images.
This book will give birth to many questions about the history offered to us surrounding the type of people Indigenous Australians were before the settlers came. Set under eight headings, the text is accompanied by images from The SketchbookScenes from Aboriginal Life by Kwat Kwat artist, Tommy McCrae, and other beautifully presented illustrations whose information is listed in detail on the Picture Credits page at the end.
Here is a superior work of art in many forms. Its content is valuable and important. It presents readers with a significant and different point from which to examine what we have been told and taught, and the opportunity to make our own decision about what is true.
Describe your illustration style in ten words or less. Colourful, layered and slightly quirky
What items are an essential part of your creative space? Good light, a cup of coffee, plenty of paper and room to spread it all out.
Do you have a favourite artistic medium? It doesn’t get much better than pencil on paper, but when I’m not illustrating on paper I LOVE to make ‘illustrations’ with fabric and stitch. I do this by stitching together lots of little pieces of fabric, and incorporating some dyeing and screen-printing.
Name three artists whose work inspires you. Shirley Hughes, Freya Blackwood and Leon Pericles. Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
As far as illustration goes, we live in a pretty amazing period right now, with the new possibilities that digital drawing opens up. Looking back, though, I am intrigued by life and work of the illustrators that worked before photography to capture and record scientific specimens. I’m sure life was difficult, but I would love to be a fly on the wall to observe how they worked.
Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? I spent many happy hours writing and illustrating books as a child, but only seriously revisited illustrating after many years of drawing for my textile artworks. In my textile art I love to capture children discovering and enjoying this wonderful world, which has led to a regular practice of drawing children and the spaces they inhabit. Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it. I have a large upstairs studio that overlooks our living and dining room. I’m a stay-at-home Mum to six children, and need to be able to monitor family life from my studio. It is also large enough to accommodate the children’s activities, if they want to be nearby. That’s where all the messy stuff happens (printing, cutting out fabric, sewing, planning). In addition, I have a beautiful vintage mess hall table in our lounge, which serves as my drawing table. I love having a space so close to the centre of the home, for drawing every day. The light is beautiful there, as are the views across the valley. I especially love to sit here and draw in the evenings right after dinner, while my husband is reading bedtime stories to the children. On my drawing table there is a set of metal drawers (to keep the mess out of sight) a beautiful wooden box containing pens, pencils and brushes, and a couple of extra pots with all my colour pencils. My sketchbook sits open on the table at all times, enticing me to come and draw.
What is your favourite part of the illustration process? I love making my characters move and do whatever they need to do to tell the story. Often this means getting my kids to pose so that I can capture a bunch of reference photos!
What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator? Keep a sketchbook and draw in it everyday. There is no substitute for showing up whether or not you feel like it, or for a regular creative habit.
Ruth de Vos’ illustration work has grown out of a career as a internationally recognised textile artist. Ruth combines traditional (pencil, gouache, collage, screen printing) and digital techniques to create fun scenes and worlds. As a mother of six young children, she is an avid and discerning consumer of children’s literature, and she also has a ready source of drawing inspiration right in her home.
Have you ever wondered why onions bring tears to our eyes? Or why popcorn actually pops? How about the mysteries of the world's smelliest fruit or how to make edible slime? Well, wonder no more. In this exciting and informative new book, Science You Can Eat, you will find all these answers and more!
Author, Stefan Gates, is a well known television presenter in the UK who has written many books and presented many programs on science and food. In his clear and humorous style, readers can learn fun facts and try some of the experiments at home to prove or disprove their scientific hypotheses. Sections on unusual foods,cooking without heat and exploding foods are particularly unique. The design, photography and illustrations ensure this book is constantly engaging, with appeal to children mostly aged 8-12, but also to anyone who loves science and food, tow of the best things in the world.
Title: Science You Can Eat Author: Stefan Gates Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Limited, $24.99 Publication Date: 4 June 2019 Format: Hardback ISBN: 9780241301838 For ages: 8+ Type: Junior non-fiction
Explore the joys of painting and creating in this charming, rhyming picture book from Sandi Wootan and Pat Kan.
When a child finds a box with the label ‘Paint with Magic’ on it, they discover the power to bring their paintings to life on the page.
But when the characters created by the young protagonist aren’t satisfied with the picture and demand corrections, scenery and more and more friends to play with, something must be done.
This is a fun and joyful story about creativity and imagination. With delightful and colourful illustrations, each page is eye-catching and fun to explore. The characters are big, bold and bright, and I love that kids can use the book as an easy reference to create their own illustrations.
The simple rhyming text flows beautifully throughout the story, and with heaps of suspenseful page turns, it’s also great to read to a crowd.
I love books that spark creativity in kids, and this is definitely one of them. I can see kids running off to create their own magical paintings immediately after hearing this story and playing pretend with their own magic paintbrushes.
For kids who love to create, and for those who maybe just need a little inspiration, Paint with Magic is a magical picture book and a whole lot of fun.
Bestselling Australian author, Kate Mayes teams up again with illustrator, Sara Acton in the follow up book to Daddy Cuddle with this beautiful story that highlights the bond between mother and baby.
Sara’s ink and watercolour sketches depict body language and facial expressions.
Coupled together with Kate’s story, her minimalist approach to words, creates a story that allows for imagination and interpretation by the reader, as well as highlighting that words are not always necessary to convey a message.
The story centres on one little bunny who should be fast asleep, but like most children, would rather play. Bunny tries everything to avoid going to bed and falling asleep – he doesn’t want to miss out on anything.
His mummy is there with him every step of the way; playing with his trucks, talking through bananas, reading stories, singing songs and naturally sharing lots of cuddles and snuggles – any activity that might wear little bunny out and entice him to go back to bed. This story will resonate with every mother who has ever tried to get their little one to sleep.
But who will fall asleep first?
This beautiful story is the perfect bedtime story. It showcases the nurturing aspect of Mothers and babies and the sheer joy, happiness and adoration that comes with that special bond.
Title: Mummy Cuddle
Author: Kate Mayes
Illustrator: Sara Acton
Publisher: ABC Books, $19.99 Publication Date: 18 March 2019
Format: Hardback ISBN:9780733339431 For ages: 0 – 2 Type: Picture Book