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1. Children’s Book of the Year

It is the time to celebrate the CBCA Books of the Year: a plethora of excellent books. No one will be be surprised that Shaun Tan’s inimitable Rules of Summer has won Picture Book of the Year. From a visual literacy perspective, it excels in composition – what is put where and how distance and […]

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2. Artfully Yours – Connecting with Picture Book art

Today officially heralds the start of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week 2014. This year’s theme: Connect to Reading – Reading to Connect can be interpreted in many ways just as ones connection with art can take place on several levels. I have long purported that the humble picture book is one […]

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3. Planting Seeds of Change Around the World

Guest bloggerThis is a guest post by Jen Cullerton Johnson, author of Seeds of ChangeJohnson is a writer, educator, and environmentalist who teachers at an inner-city elementary school in Chicago.

Ashley Howey is the literacy coordinator at Briar Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last school year, she contacted me about my picture book Seeds of Change, a nonfiction biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya. Brier Creek Elementary school wanted to do something different, something no other school in their district had done before.

The school community wanted to adopt the themes within Seeds of Change to be the deep focus for student growth, teacher extended learning, and administration professional development. In other words, everyone at Briar Creek Elementary wanted to be involved in change. They wanted the book Seeds of Change to guide them because they felt it showed how people tackled big problems and worked together, and most importantly how change brings out each person’s inner potential.

Brier Creek Elementary School hosts diverse learners from various socio-economic and multicultural backgrounds. The school is supported by Title I and is a year around school. Their curriculum mission is to “cultivate culturally ambitious citizens.”

“We want everyone in our school to own a copy,” Ashley Howey said. “Teachers, students, cafeteria workers, administration, parents. Everyone.”

“How many is everyone?” I asked.

“1,200.”

1,200 copies is a lofty goal, a ton of books, an enormous number, I thought.

“What makes this project so special?” I asked.

“Every student in the school is united by reading the book and using it as a springboard for collective change,” she said.

I remembered that goals are all about teamwork, goodwill, and sharing our resources. I was on board.

In September 2013, I sent video message to their teachers. In October 2014, we skyped with the whole school where a storyteller enacted Wangari’s life. By March 2014 the school had purchased close to 300 copies, one for each teacher and one for each family unit in the school. They were not able to give all students a copy. Nonetheless with the copies they had, the school began their Seeds of Change project.

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers

Brier Creek Elementary Teachers with copies of Seeds of Change

The music teacher, Adam Hall wrote an anthem for the whole school. Young people sang lyrics like: Plant our roots/ Let us grow/ Water us love/To watch us bloom!

Children in different classrooms started thinking about how to be the best they could.

One student said: “At our school we are working together to make things better like Wangari did!”

Teachers felt the pull of the whole school learning focus. Enthusiasm was contagious!

One teacher said, “Seeds of Change has given our school a common language of character. We have integrated these powerful message of persistence, patience and respect for our surroundings and others, into our conversations throughout the school.”

But by June 2014, Brier Creek Elementary School still had not been able to give a copy of the book to each student. In fact, since March, many, many had to share. What Ashley Howey wanted when she first started this big school community project was for everyone to have a copy of the book, and so far they still need 700 copies of Seeds of Change.

Then something happened. They started giving away some of their books.

“We wanted the children to sign the book here in North Carolina and give them to the children in Kenya. And the Kenyan children would sign a copy and we would keep a copy it in North Carolina.”

When students decided to share their resources, they were given even more opportunities to learn, grow and be proud of who they are.

The exchange was a success. Students in North Carolina saw a digital video of Kenyan students reading the book. Kenyan students saw North Carolina students dancing and singing to the song they created called Seeds of Change.

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Students in Kenya with their copies of Seeds of Change

Their special project is unique and is rooted in changing the mindset and actions of a school community. With this first year over, Brier Creek Elementary now wants to continue to connect and share what they learned.

The school is now is involved in a sister project with a school in Kenya. Teachers in North Carolina are sharing lesson plans and learning activities with Kenyan teachers and their students.

“We plan on Skyping with the Kenya teachers and students about Seeds of Change,” Ashley said. “In August we will fundraise with a Seeds of Change Walk-a-Thon and the money will go to buying more copies of the book for us and for Kenya.” They want to raise enough funds to buy 200 copies to send to Kenya.

What you can do

Together with your help, we can continue to plant and honor our seeds of change. If you are inspired by Brier Creek Elementary School’s project, get involved! I have started a Seeds of Change Campaign where young people around the country can help other young people at Brier Creek Elementary and their sister school in Kenya by donating copies of Seeds of Change to help them reach their goal of 700 copies for their school and 200 copies for their sister school in Kenya.

If a young person donates, I will donate an Author’s Skype visit to your home or school. In my Author’s visit, we will read parts of the book and do a seed planting together. I will also create a section on my website where your school will be honored as a donor.

Please contact publicity@leeandlow.com or jencullertonjohnson@gmail.com for scheduling and further information.

Book donations can be sent to the following address:

Ashley Howey, NBCT

Brier Creek Elementary School
9801 Brier Creek Parkway
Raleigh, North Carolina 27617
http://www.briercreekes.net


Filed under: Book News, Educator Resources, Interviews with Authors and Illustrators Tagged: African/African American Interest, author visits, Seeds of change

1 Comments on Planting Seeds of Change Around the World, last added: 8/14/2014
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4. Call for Book-length Fiction on the Jewish Experience: Fig Tree Books

Fig Tree Books is a new press focused on publishing original high quality and mainstream fiction and reviving classics that speak strongly to the American Jewish experience. (AJE) 

Fig Tree is passionate about discovering new voices as well as expanding the audience for established authors. They accept agented and unrepresented manuscripts and pay competitive advances and standard royalties.

All of their books will be available in print and e-format, backed by PGW and Constellations to both retail and online accounts, and promoted using a combination of traditional and social media approaches.

Their first titles will be published in the spring/summer of 2015. You will find them listed on our website soon.

Please submit a query, manuscript as PDF, synopsis and bio directly to the editor-in-chief Michelle Caplan:


MCaplanATFigTreeBooksDOTnet (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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5. Review – Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood

Banjo and Ruby Red has been shortlisted for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Early Childhood Book of the Year Award, and rightfully so. It is an emotive story that tugs on the heart strings, created by the dynamic duo, Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, who also collaborated on award-winning Amy and Louis, Half […]

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6. Congratulations, Betsy & Jules!

From Booklist, who knows good literature, a star for WILD THINGS: ACTS OF MISCHIEF IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE. Congratulations, you guys! May this be the first of many accolades. Haven't got your copy yet? For a most EXCELLENT review from Kelly, pop... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Congratulations, Betsy & Jules! as of 8/12/2014 6:38:00 PM
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7. Competition Winner Is Announced

The competition to WIN a copy of Betrothed and Allegiance by Wanda Wiltshire as well as a handmade bookmark made by the author recently closed.  Fans and would be fans of the Betrothed series had some moving entries and pledges to very worthy causes. Wanda and I discussed each of the entries before declaring Ashlee […]

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8. The Call of the Wild

Some things demand to be written about. For me, it’s orangutans. I first encountered them twenty years ago. I was holidaying on the island of Borneo and came across a sanctuary where young orphaned orangutans were being returned to the wild. The Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre is now a well-organised stop on the tourist trail, but at the […]

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9. Player Profile: K.T. Medina, author of White Crocodile

Katie Medina, author of White Crocodile Tell us about your latest creation: The name of this novel, my debut, is White Crocodile.White Crocodile is a thriller set in the land mine fields of northern Cambodia.  Teenaged mothers are disappearing from villages around the minefields, while others are being found mutilated and murdered, their babies abandoned.  And there are whispers about […]

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10. August – celebrating children’s books

Pig the PugAugust is an important month for Australian children’s books because the CBCA Book of the Year is announced on 15th and National Literacy and Numeracy Week is held from 25-31 August.

The aim of NLNW website, as stated on their website is:

National Literacy and Numeracy Week represents a collaborative approach by the Australian Government and school communities to highlight the importance of literacy and numeracy skills for all children and young people, with a specific focus on school-aged children.

The Week gives schools the opportunity to be involved in a range of literacy and numeracy activities. The Week aims to recognise locally the achievements of students and the work of teachers, parents and members of the community who support young people to develop stronger literacy and numeracy skills.

One of the literacy activities is Read for Australia. This is a simultaneous read where groups from around Australia read the same book on Friday 29th August at 2pm EST. A video of the book with Auslan for the hearing impaired, captions and a transcript will be released a week before the read.

The book selected for 2014 is Sunday Chutney, a picture book by Aaron Blabey. This book looks at friendship and what it’s like to be different. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Australian Book Industry Awards as well as the CBCA Picture Book of the Year. I was Queensland CBCA judge at that time – and thrilled that it was shortlisted.

Sunday Chutney

Teacher Notes for a range of ages is available on the NLNW website.

I’ve written notes for Years 5-6, which include a focus on the ‘panelling’ (a feature of graphic novels and some picture books) in the illustrations.

The author of Sunday Chutney, Aaron Blabey is a talented man. Some may remember him as the award-winning TV star of the political satire The Damnation of Harvey McHugh. He is a visual artist (much of his work is strictly for adults not children, though!) as well as a respected and popular writer and illustrator of a plethora of children’s picture books.

His most recent release (July 2014)  Pig the Pug is published by Scholastic Press. This is a very funny rhyming story about a selfish pug called Pig who won’t share his toys with his flatmate Trevor the sausage dog. This leads to a dire but hilarious comeuppance. Blabey’s illustrations have a distinctive style. His characters frequently have wide, puppet-like faces with popping eyes. He often uses a predominately brown palette, which sets his books apart from the pack – and works! He is a fitting ambassador for NLNW.

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11. Get a book gift wrapped in August and we will donate the money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation

fdayilfFather’s Day is fast approaching and we have heaps of books to choose from for your Dad. We also have a fantastic gift wrapping service to take all the hassle out of buying a gift for Fathers Day. We can even ship it directly to your Dad wherever he is in Australia or the world.

Boomerang Books offers colourful gift wrapping for $3.50 per book in a single order, as well as the opportunity to send a personal message with your gift.

For the month of August Boomerang Books will donate the $3.50 from all gift wrapping to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation provides books and literacy resources for Indigenous kids and families in remote communities.

So this Fathers Day grab Dad a book, get it gift wrapped and not only will your Dad get a great book to read but you will also help someone else develop a lifelong love of reading.

To use gift wrapping, select the drop down box on the payment page, choose your desired wrapping pattern and type your personal message.

Boomerang Books will then donate all the money spent on gift wrapping in August  to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation on Indigenous Literacy Day – Wednesday September 3.

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12. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in August

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief
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Fiction Books

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Life or Death by Michael Robotham

Audie Palmer has spent the last ten years in prison for an armed robbery that netted 7 million dollars. Money that has never been recovered. Everybody wants to know where the money is; other prisoners, guards and various law enforcement. Audie has survived beatings, stabbings and other assaults and is finally due to be released from prison tomorrow. Except he has just escaped. And so begins an epic thriller. Jon

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The Heist by Daniel Silva

Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is in Venice repairing an altarpiece by Veronese when he receives an urgent summons from the Italian police. The eccentric London art dealer Julian Isherwood has stumbled upon a chilling murder scene in Lake Como, and is being held as a suspect. To save his friend, Gabriel must track down the real killers and then perform one simple task: find the most famous missing painting in the world.

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Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

A remarkable piece of fiction following proudly in the footsteps of the The Yellow Birds. Wars never truly end for everyone involved and this is the territory Michael Pitre explores in his impressive debut novel. On the eve on the Arab Spring in Tunisia three men are grappling with their futures now that their war has supposedly finished. Each is scarred and tainted by what they have witnessed and the decisions they have made. They are changed men returning to a changing world not sure if they achieved what they were fighting for. And if they possibly did whether it was worth the price. Jon

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The Sun Is God by Adrian McKinty

This is a seemingly dramatic departure from Adrian McKinty’s usual books but he pulls it off marvelously. Based on a true story McKinty heads to the South Pacific circa 1906 to tell a tale of mad Germans, sun worship and possible murder. There is a real 19th century flare to McKinty’s writing and characters in this novel and he has had obvious fun writing it. This may not appeal to all the Adrian McKinty fans but I think it is going to win him a few new ones. Jon

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The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Huraki Murakami

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it. One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again. Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

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The Golden Age by Joan London

Frank, a young boy is learning to walk again after contracting polio. His family have just arrived in Perth, survivors of Nazi -occupied Hungary.  The family struggle with settling in Australia while mourning who and what they have lost in Budapest. Polio is another cross for them to bear. An amazing novel of people looking for connection and finding it eventually and in unexpected ways.  I loved the way Joan London evoked a time gone by but made it so relevant to today. The writing takes your breath away. Chris

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

Just when Jack Lennon thinks things couldn’t get any worse an ex-girlfriend contacts him. She has just inherited a house from her uncle and has found a journal detailing murders going back two decades. It appears there are links to her father, a prominent Belfast politician so she has turned to Jack for help, who can’t even help himself at this point. Stuart Neville doesn’t take his foot off the pedal once in this gripping thriller and once again demonstrates why he is the crime writer everybody is and should be talking about at the moment. Jon

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Liane Moriarty’s new novel is funny and heartbreaking, challenging and compassionate. The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author turns her unique gaze on parenting and playground politics, showing us what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

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Non-Fiction Books

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The Climb by Geraldine Doogue

Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son. But too often they put them off – or don’t have them at all – because they simply don’t know where to start. Internationally recognised in the field of raising and educating boys, Dr Tim Hawkes provides practical, accessible and invaluable about how to get these discussions started.

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Hey, True Blue by John Williamson

The long-awaited life story of John Williamson: an Australian icon, a much-loved veteran of the music industry and man of the land. Williamson takes us through his life, from growing up on the land in the Mallee and Moree in a family of five boys, to being the voice of Australia.

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Favourites by Gary Mehigan

This book is the result of Gary’s ongoing food obsession: a collection of his most favourite recipes garnered from thirty years in the industry. It includes treasured treats from his childhood in England, diverse dishes inspired by MasterChef Australia, as well as the comforting family meals he cooks for his wife and daughter at home.

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Hell-Bent by Douglas Newton

Most histories of Australia’s Great War rush their readers into the trenches. This history is very different. For the first time, it examines events closely, even hour-by-hour, in both Britain and Australia during the last days of peace in July–August 1914.

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He Who Must Be Obeid by Kate McClymont & Linton Besser

This is the story of how Eddie Obeid controlled (and then brought down) the NSW Labor party. It seems if there has been something on the nose in NSW, Eddie Obeid probably had at least a finger in it. Uncovering new stories daily, this will be up-to-the-minute and mind-boggling. Written by two of the country’s most prominent, respected and award-winning journalists, this story will make your hair curl.

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The Fights of My Life by Greg Combet

Greg Combet has been central to some of the biggest public struggles of our time on the waterfront, the collapse of an airline, compensation for asbestos victims, the campaign against unfair workplace laws and then climate change. His latest target is the labour movement, arguing that the Labor Party and the trade unions must democratise to engage the next generation of activists to fight the good fight: to achieve a more fair and just Australia.

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Childrens’ Picture Books

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The Skunk With No Funk by Rebecca Young

Woody is not what his family expected. He is a skunk with NO funk. A failure. A flop. An odourless plop. Poor Woody! What is he going to do? A funny read that the whole family will love! Jan & Danica

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Lucky by David Mackintosh

Mum announces that there will be a surprise at dinner tonight, but what could it be? Two brothers spend the whole day at school in anticipation, creating more and more elaborate guesses, until they’re convinced it is the best surprise of all time! A book about what family really means and how lucky we are to have each other. Danica & Jan

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Books for First Readers

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Wild Moose Chase by Siobhan Rowden

Twins Burt and Camilla are in competition with each other about everything. So they jump at the chance when they hear about the ultimate competition that will guarantee just one person eternal glory. The Queen wants moose cheese. Moose cheese is scrumptiously delicious, worth an absolute fortune and  near-impossible to make. It’ll require a dangerous world-wide adventure to collect the ingredients for the Queen – but nothing will stop the twins.

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Ciao EJ! by Susannah McFarlane

Strange things are happening in some of Italy’s most famous cities. What is evil agency SHADOW up to? Team Leader Agent EJ12 and the SHINE STARS split up to find the clues. But will EJ12 be able to piece them all together in time to stop SHADOW?

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Books for Young Readers

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Plenty by Amanda Braxton-Smith

Maddy’s home has always been in Jermyn Street, ALWAYS.  Now her Mum and Dad are doing the unthinkable – making her move from the city to a place called Plenty. Nobody understands how she feels, how can she survive without everything and everyone she knows. Then she meets the mysterious classmate, Grace Wek, the girl from the refugee camp. Maybe Grace will understand! Jan

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Emperor Pickletine Rides The Bus by Tom Angleberger

Make sure you don’t miss the last of the Origami series! The gang is off to Washington DC for a school trip, but horror of horrors, Principal Rabbski decrees the field trip an “origami-free zone.” Dwight secretly folds a Yoda from a Fruit Roll-Up, but will Fruitigami Yoda be up to scratch?! Ian

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Books for Young Adults

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Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Surry Hills in 1932 was not a pretty place to be, and no one knew this better than Kelpie and Dymphna. These two very unlikely friends share a most extraordinary day hiding from the coppers, rival mob bosses, and the danger that awaits them around every street corner. Will they both make it out alive? Have a read and find out. Danica

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful family. A private island. Summer after summer spent …  It is not long before the cracks start to appear, and nothing is what it seems. This book will keep you guessing until the very end! Jan & Danica

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13. Aussie New Releases To Look Forward To

There are several books by Australian authors being published in the last six months of the year that I’m really looking forward to, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is already out, and it’s Kate Forsyth‘s Dancing With Knives.  Set on a farm outside Narooma in NSW, Dancing With Knives is a rural murder mystery and a story about love and family secrets.

Rebecca James (author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage) is gearing up for the launch of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead in early October.  Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a psychological thriller centred around the death of Cooper Bartholomew, and his group of friends, one of which is keeping a dangerous secret.

Kate Morton (author of The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper) is releasing her fifth novel in October this year and I’m so excited about it.  Untitled and simply called Book 5 for now, we don’t know what’s it’s about yet, but given she’s one of my favourite Australian authors, I’m sure it’s going to be a delicious page-turner.Matthew Reilly book cover The Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is releasing a block-buster action monster-movie of a novel (his words) called The Great Zoo of China on 10 November.  China has discovered a new species of animal and is preparing to unveil their amazing find in the form of the largest zoo in human history.  The Chinese re-assure a media contingent invited to tour the zoo that it’s perfectly safe; however if Matthew Reilly is involved, you know that nothing’s ever safe.  You can click here to watch a short video of Matthew Reilly telling us about The Great Zoo of China, or pre-order it now and receive 30% off.

Candice Fox (author of Hades) featured here on the blog in January this year, and her latest book in the Bennett/Archer series Eden, is due out later this year.  Click here to read the Player Profile with Candice conducted by Jon Page.

Australian music personality Molly Meldrum has written a memoir called The Never Ever Ending Story, and is said to contain plenty of stories about some of the many rock and pop stars he interviewed throughout his career.  The Never Ever Ending Story is due to be released in November.

Another iconic member of the Australian music industry has to be John Williamson.  In the aptly named Hey, True Blue, John Williamson takes readers through his life story and his success as a singer.

So, that’s it from me, but what new Australian books are you looking forward to?

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14. Review – Once a Creepy Crocodile

Once a Creepy CrocodilePicture books featuring native Australian flora and fauna aren’t new. Picture books including natty little extras like accompanying CDs aren’t exactly ground breaking either. However, picture books told with the kind of original verve and swagger like Once a Creepy Crocodile is will have you and the kids laughing and applauding with fresh wild abandon.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is the debut picture book for Queensland author Peter Taylor, a gifted calligrapher and just as skilful picture book creator. His partnership with illustrator Nina Rycroft Peter Taylorhas produced a corker of a picture book teaming with exuberant Australiana and bouncing rhyme. It is set to the rhyming metre of the well-loved song, Waltzing Matilda and once you recognise this, it is virtually impossible not to read it (aloud) along to the melody.

It all starts one dreamy afternoon by the riverbank, as creepy old Croc approaches baby Brolga with an invitation to join him for afternoon tea. Brolga, being prone to a bit of a party, is very tempted but is repeatedly dissuaded by his bushland buddies who fear Crocodile’s intentions are deceptively malign.

Croc persists with a seduction of scrumptious sweeties and sly smiles. Once again, Brolga’s friends intervene until Spotty Snake slithers in with an offer of his own. Will Brolga ever learn?

Croc eventually hosts his magnificent afternoon tea but you will have to sing your way through this yourself to find out just who survived to enjoy it with him.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is an entertaining Aussie mash-up of The Gruffalo meets the best of billabong bush lore. Taylor’s attention to metre makes each verse a cinch to read even if you are not ‘singing’ the tune, although I prefer the latter. He also gives plenty of airplay to some of the less well-known bush critters including the boo book owl and blossom bat, creating a large but colourful and endearing cast of characters.

Nina Rycroft Nina Rycroft’s full page, smack-in-you-in-the-face illustrations are a pure joy to behold. They trace the insidious attempts of both Creepy Croc and Spotty Snake to lure in naïve Brolga with bright, bold abandon, which younger readers will swoon over. Teabags splish and cupcakes hurtle across placid watercolour backdrops, which feature vivid pops of accentuating colour; the bright green bumps of Croc, the indigo waters of the creek, and Spotty’s deep amethyst coils for example.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is a feast for the eyes and a treat for your soul and above all, plain good old fashioned fun.

Creepy Croc illoI have just returned from the National Conference of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2014 in Sydney where Peter Taylor launched his new book. Like all fine things, the project was a long labour of love, taking him many moons to perfect. Thankfully, it won’t take you as long to read, but once you do reach the end, you will want to read it again and again and again. A book with sustained readability that sounds good and has lots of Aussie heart. What more could you ask for. Tea anyone?

The Five Mile Press Out now and available here soon!

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15. Call for Book-length Fiction: Luminis Books

Luminis Books is an independent publisher of 'Meaningful Fiction.' We are seeking submissions of thought-provoking adult literary fiction, new adult, young adult and middle grade fiction that explores the intricacies of human relationships. We look for beautifully crafted prose above all—writing that is compelling and stories that are thought-provoking. 

For consideration, please submit a synopsis telling us about your book including the beginning, middle and end. We want to know exactly what the book is about. Also include a 10-page sample of the manuscript. We only accept online submissions. 

Email your submission to:

editorATluminisbooksDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . ) 

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16. A Little of This, A Little of That...

I haven't done a links roundup in a while. That's mainly because I'm so far behind on my e-newsletters and other online reading that I've got an enormous backlog to go through. I put all that stuff in a separate email folder and instead of making me... Read the rest of this post

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17. What is the Eve Pownall Award?

Meet Capt CookThe CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) shortlist is Australia’s most important award for children’s and YA literature. These books are celebrated in Book Week.

The CBCA shortlist generates most sales of awarded books – for children’s books, although perhaps not for YA books – in Australia. The shortlist is used as a buying guide for parents, grandparents and community members. Schools (especially primary schools) use it extensively for the build-up and culmination of Book Week.

These awards are unusual because there is such a long lead-time between the announcement of the 30 shortlisted books (around April) and the announcement of the winning and honour books in Book Week in August – this year on August 15th. The shortlist is possibly even more important than the winners. http://cbca.org.au/ShortList-2014.htm

There are five categories of shortlisted books, each with six books. Four of the categories are fiction and judged by a panel of 8 judges, 1 from each state and territory, who have a two-year judging term. The fiction books are judged on literary merit.

So, what is the Eve Pownall Award? This is not the place to look into the background of the award but its purpose is to judge non-fiction – Information Books. A panel of judges from the one state, as distinct from the fiction judging panel, selects the Eve Pownall shortlist.

The 2014 shortlist is generally aimed at primary age children and has a focus on our Indigenous people:

Jandamarra

Jandamarra is in picture book form. It is written by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton ((Allen & Unwin) and looks at the conflicted Aboriginal hero or villain, Jandamarra. Welcome to My Country is written by Laklak Burrarrwanga and family (A&U) and is aimed at upper primary and secondary students. We are given an insight into NE Arnhem Land, particularly into ‘Yothu Yindi’ – the relationship between mother and child, people and land, land and land… Meet … Captain Cook by Rae Murdie, illustrated by Chris Nixon (Random House) naturally touches on Australia’s first people. It is an outstanding book in this series for younger readers. The design and stylised illustrations are excellent and the writing is understated and enhanced with humour.

Jeremy

Jeremywritten by Christopher Faille, illustrated by Danny Snell (Working Title Press) is for the youngest readers here. In picture book format it shows what could happen to a baby kookaburra. Ice, Wind, Rock by Peter Gouldthorpe (Lothian) is an evocative picture book about our Antarctica hero, Douglas Mawson. And finally, Yoko’s Diary: The Life of a Young Girl in Hiroshima, edited by Paul Ham (ABC Books) is a heart-breaking first-hand account of Japan in WWII by a twelve-year-old girl.

Which Information Book do you think will win the Eve Pownall award on 15th August?

Ice, Wind, Rock

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18. Hong Kong for beginners

 

From the outside Hong Kong is a shimmering enclave of mirrored high-rise towers, a former British outpost and a gateway to China – the ultimate fusion of East and West. But beyond the swanky shopping malls and five-star hotels, the city is a heady mix of contradictions – of urban cacophony and tranquil country parks, of staggering wealth and grinding poverty, a city that worships money but still respects tradition, an exotic place that has been inspiring writers for decades.

Countefeit Love by Julie FisonAmong the many books to put Hong Kong at centre stage are James Clavell’s Asian sagas: Tai-Pan and Noble House and John le Carré’s thriller The Honourable Schoolboy. Travel writer Jan Morris explored the city’s complex past and future in Hong Kong, a manual for Hong Kong newbies. Other celebrated novels set in the city include Han Suyin’s post-war love story – A Many-Splendoured Thing, John Lancaster’s epic, Fragrant Harbour, and Janice Y K Lee’s sumptuous historical novel, The Piano Teacher.

My new title for young adults is one of the latest novels to use Hong Kong’s vibrant skyline as its backdrop. Counterfeit Love is a thoroughly contemporary tale of a young television reporter who is trying to make a name for herself in Hong Kong. Lucy Yang’s skills and character are tested as she tries to get to the bottom of a big story. And when the gorgeous, but mysterious, Byron Lloyd starts turning up in unexpected places, she wonders if her perfect man is a sinister part of the story she’s chasing.

Counterfeit Love is a cocktail of ambition, intrigue and romance, and was inspired by my years as a news reporter with a Hong Kong television station. The story is definitely not autobiographical, but in writing it, I drew on my knowledge of Hong Kong, my experience in a newsroom and my memories of starting out in a city that was totally alien to me.

Noble HouseI spent five crazy years in Hong Kong and still vividly recall so much about it – the chaotic newsroom, the crowded MTR, the smell of frying garlic and the pong of fermented bean curd, the white-knuckle ride into the old Kai Tak airport, junk trips to the outlying islands and the sampan ride home at the end of a long night in the office. In my neighbourhood, old Hakka ladies shelled prawns in the sun, while young professionals belted out love songs on their karaoke machines. I had a colleague who often rode home from a night club on the roof of a taxi, just because he could, and a British friend who circled the Hongkong Bank anti clockwise twice every morning before going to work – on the advice of a feng shui master. He still endured his share of bad luck, but was never game to change the habit in case his fortune worsened.

Hong Kong was many things to me, but it was never boring!

Thanks for joining me for my first Boomerang Books Blog post. I will be returning regularly with more bookish news. In the meantime you can visit my website here or you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Happy reading,

Julie.

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19. M.K. Hutchins Blog Tour: On Mythology, Maya Culture, & More!

To celebrate the release of her debut novel Drift last week, author M.K. Hutchins has been stopping by blogs throughout the week to talk about her writing process, Maya culture, and more.

drift, m.k. hutchins

Here’s a bit about Drift:

There’s no place for love on the shores of hell.

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Tenjat is poor as poor gets: poor enough, even, to condescend to the shame of marriage, so his children can help support him one day.

But Tenjat has a plan to avoid this fate. He will join the Handlers, those who defend and rule the island. Handlers never marry, and they can even provide for an additional family member. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. And just in time: the Handlers are ramping up for a dangerous battle against the naga monsters, and they need every fighter they can get.

As the naga battle approaches, Tenjat’s training intensifies, but a long-hidden family secret—not to mention his own growing feelings for Avi—put his plans in jeopardy, and might threaten the very survival of his island.

You can read sample chapters from Drift online hereKirkus Reviews has called it “totally fresh” and Sarah Beth Durst, author of Vessel and Conjured, has called it “a fantastic adventure set in a stunning, original world. . . . Some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever read.”

M.K. Hutchins’ tour schedule is below, so if you haven’t picked up Drift or you have and loved it, check out the following blogs for some great insight and conversation into this fantastic world!

June 19: John Scalzi’s Whatever BlogM.K. Hutchins on worldbuilding and cultural ecology here

June 20: Supernatural Snark – M.K. Hutchins on being inspired by Maya mythology here.

June 23: It’s All About Books – M.K. Hutchins’ top 5 most influential books here.

June 25: Read Now Sleep Later - Check back for the link!

June 26: The Brain Lair - Check back for the link!

Still want to learn more about M.K. Hutchins and Drift? Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!


Filed under: Book News, Diversity in YA, New Releases, Tu Books Tagged: blog tour, debut author, drift, fantasy, m.k. hutchins

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20. The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in July

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief
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Fiction Books

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The Lie by Kestin Hesh

A complex political thriller full of suspense, set within the Israel security organisation. A rescue operation that will have you on the edge of your seats. So many lies, so many rationalisations for twisting the truth. But in the end what wins: love of country or family? Terror seems to have a certain equality. Chris

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Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice, but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one. Jon

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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

A Swedish crime book with a difference. Martha wants to rob a bank to escape her care home. Her team, the League of Pensioners want to get caught because they feel conditions are better in prison than where they are now. Very reminiscent of the wonderful One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Of course everything does not go to plan, a delightful and immensely entertaining novel which should be read with a glass of cloudberry wine. Chris

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Close Call by Stella Rimington

Liz Carlyle and her Counter Terrorism unit in MI5 have been charged with the task of watching the international under-the-counter arms trade. With the Arabic region in such a volatile state, the British Intelligence forces have become increasing concerned that extremist Al-Qaeda jihads are building their power base ready to launch another attack. As the pressure mounts, Liz and her team must intercept illegal weapons before they get into the wrong hands.

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The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

An absolutely hilarious romp, like a farce but instead of walking in and out of rooms the main character does the same with wardrobes. A fakir is on a journey to pick up a bed of nails from IKEA but ends up on a tour to many countries. However it wasn’t until I had finished that I realised the more serious side of the story as the Fakir meets many people seeking a better life but instead were shunted from country to country. Extremely entertaining but with an edge. Chris

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Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant

A story about an experimental university in the North of England which wanted to educate thinkers to prevent totalitarianism and future wars. Oh but they were just young people thinking about sex and parties. The experiment goes wrong with some awful consequences. A wonderful read about post war Britain that nobody would recognise now! No mobiles no internet. How did they communicate and it really wasn’t that long ago! Chris

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Non-Fiction Books

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Ten Conversations You Must Have With Your Son by Dr Tim Hawkes

Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son. But too often they put them off – or don’t have them at all – because they simply don’t know where to start. Internationally recognised in the field of raising and educating boys, Dr Tim Hawkes provides practical, accessible and invaluable about how to get these discussions started.

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City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

Reading this book reminded me of Stasiland and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, both wonderful examples of narrative non-fiction where the idea is conveyed to the reader in the style of personal stories. We get an understanding of modern Iran through the stories of young people living under repressive regimes. Reads like fiction, in fact at times I thought I was reading a really riveting crime novel! Chris

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Asia’s Cauldron by Robert D. Kaplan

For anyone interested in our region you will find this a very interesting read. Kaplan has been named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. He looks at the shift of power from Europe to Asia, particularly the South China Sea. He looks at the booming cities and the slums from Vietnam, to Malaysia, Singapore to the Philippines and of course China.  One of the questions that intrigued me was the contention that the conflicts of the future in this area will be driven by power and economics rather than humanitarian or ideological ideas. Intensely readable. Chris

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Last Days of the Bus Club by Chris Stewart

In this latest, typically hilarious dispatch from El Valero we find Chris, now a local literary celebrity, using his fame to help his old sheep-shearing partner find work on a raucous road trip; cooking a TV lunch for visiting British chef, Rick Stein; discovering the pitfalls of Spanish public speaking; and, most movingly, visiting famine-stricken Niger for Oxfam.

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Australian History in 7 Questions by John Hirst

From the author of The Shortest History of Europe, acclaimed historian John Hirst, comes this fresh and stimulating approach to understanding Australia’s past and present. Hirst asks and answers questions that get to the heart of Australia’s history. Engaging and enjoyable, and written for the novice and the expert alike, Australian History in Seven Questions explains how we became the nation we are today.

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Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant by Owen Beddall

Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

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Pink Sari Revolution by Amana Fontanella-Khan

This is the story of Sampat Pal and the Pink Gang’s fight against injustice and oppression in India. Amana Fontanella-Khan delivers a riveting, inspiring portrait of women grabbing fate with their own hands – and winning back their lives.

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Childrens’ Picture Books

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Mr Chicken Lands on London by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Chicken is excited! He can’t wait to get on the plane  and go to London. Join Mr Chicken as he takes a unique look at the sights of London. A great new picture  book from one our favourite authors. Ian

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Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

You may be surprised to hear that Pig is a pug not a pig, and he is the greediest pug in the world. MINE is his favourite word and he won’t share his toys with anyone. One day that all changes. Has Pig learned his lesson? Have a read and find out! Danica

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Books for First Readers

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Do You Dare? Fighting Bones by Sophie Laguna

Danny and Duncan are two young convict brothers, who are in jail in Tasmania in 1836. As if life is not tough enough, a new boy arrives who is a terrible bully. Is escape their only option? Will they dare? A great action series full of history for boys. Ian & Danica

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Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key by Jane O’Connor

The ever popular super sleuth Nancy Clancy returns in her fourth adventure. Nancy finds an old desk at a garage sale that leads her and Bree into another mystery that proves to much harder to solve than they expected. Ian

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Books for Young Readers

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Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

If you loved ‘Wonder’ and ‘Out of My Mind’, then you have to read this book! Willow is a character unlike any other and she will capture your heart and not let go! We could not put it down! Danica & Jan

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Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt

Friday Barnes – girl detective, 11 years old. When Friday solves a bank robbery she decides to put herself through boarding school with the reward money. What surprises her is that Highcrest Academy has a high crime problem. While trying to solve these mysteries Friday also has to deal with Ian, the most gorgeous boy in school, who hates her and loves nasty pranks. What is the point of high school? Jan

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Books for Young Adults

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Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Set in Germany during the rise of Hitlers power, seventeen year old Gretchen Muller starts to question why Uncle Dolf (Hitler) has become her protector, father figure and taken her family under his wing. Desperate for answers and why her father took a bullet for Hitler, Gretchen embarks on a mission to uncover the truth. A mother who is very timid, a brother who can be cruel, and a forbidden love this book is an excellent historical fiction novel for young adults. Jan

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Spark by Rachael Craw

One day she’s an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she’s a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer. The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death. Jan

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21. Review – Silence Once Begun by Jesse Bell

9780307908483This is one of those great novels that blends up truth and imagination so well that the lines between fact and fiction are so blurred you don’t even know where to begin trying to unravel it. It also doubles the intrigue especially the way Jesse Ball structures the story to unfurl piece by piece, layer by layer in such a way you are taken by surprise after surprise.

The story concerns the “Narito Disappearances”. A crime that baffled local authorities in Osaka where eight people had gone missing seemingly without a trace until one day a signed confession is handed in to police. The man who has made the confession is quickly arrested and doesn’t say another word. But this is not a whodunit because as the story goes on we see there is a much bigger and more important question that who.

“I am looking for this mystery. Not the mystery of what happened but the mystery of how”

One one level this is an ingenious crime novel. By telling the story in a different order the facts and “truth” aren’t revealed to us until we get to the beginning of the story. Rather than telling the story in chronological order we follow the path Jesse Ball’s investigation follows like a trail of breadcrumbs. Ball recounts his investigation through interview transcripts and internal notes as well as letters and other documents he is given along the way.  Each interview shines a little more light onto the story and leads Jesse to another piece of the puzzle.

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one.

Buy the book here…

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22. From Communism to Capitalism

Just out from Bloomsbury, Michel Henry's From Communism to Capitalism: Theory of a Catastrophe (translated by Scott Davidson):

Both a unique witness of transformative events in the late 20th century, and a prescient analysis of our present economic crises from a major French philosopher, Michel Henry's From Communism to Capitalism adds an important economic dimension to his earlier social critique. It begins by tracing the collapse of communist regimes back to their failure to implement Marx's original insights into the irreplaceable value of the living individual. Henry goes on to apply this same criticism to the surviving capitalist economic systems, portending their eventual and inevitable collapse.

The influence of Michel Henry's radical revision of phenomenological thought is only now beginning to be felt in full force, and this edition is the first English translation of his major engagement with socio-economic questions. From Communism to Capitalism reinterprets politics and economics in light of the failure of socialism and the pervasiveness of global capitalism, and Henry subjects both to critique on the basis of his own philosophy of life. His notion of the individual is one that, as subjective affect, subtends both Marxist collectivism and liberalism simultaneously. In addition to providing a crucial economic elaboration of Henry's influential social critiques, this work provides a context for understanding the 2008 financial shock and offers important insights into the political motivations behind the 'Arab spring'.

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23. A Snapshot of Australian YA and Fiction in the USA

I’ve just returned from visiting some major cities in the USA. It was illuminating to see which Australian literature is stocked in their (mostly) indie bookstores. This is anecdotal but shows which Australian books browsers are seeing, raising the profile of our literature.

Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief was the most prominent Australian book. I didn’t go to one shop where it wasn’t stocked.

The Book Thief

The ABIA (Australian Book Industry) 2014 overall award winner, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was also popular. And a close third was Shaun Tan’s inimical Rules of Summer, which has recently won a prestigious Boston Globe-Horn Book picture book honour award. Some stores had copies in stacks.

http://www.hbook.com/2014/05/news/boston-globe-horn-book-awards/picture-book-reviews-2014-boston-globe-horn-book-award-winner-honor-books/#_

I noticed a few other Tans shelved in ‘graphic novels’, including his seminal work, The Arrival – which is newly available in paperback.

All the birds singing

One large store had an Oceania section, where Eleanor Catton’s Man-Booker winner, The Luminaries rubbed shoulders with an up-to-date selection of Australian novels. These included hot-off-the-press Miles Franklin winner All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld and Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, plus expected big-names – Tim Winton with Eyrie, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and works by Thomas Keneally and David Malouf. Less expected but very welcome was Patrick Holland.I chaired a session with Patrick at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival a few years ago and particularly like his short stories Riding the Trains in Japan.

Australian literary fiction I found in other stores included Kirsten Tranter’s A Common Loss, Patrick White’s The Hanging Garden and some Peter Carey.

One NY children’s/YA specialist was particularly enthusiastic about Australian writers. Her store had hosted Gus Gordon to promote his picture book, Herman and Rosie, a CBCA honour book, which is set in New York City. They also stocked Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca, John Marsden, David McRobbie’s Wayne series (also a TV series), Catherine Jinks’ Genius Squad (How to Catch a Bogle was available elsewhere) and some of Jaclyn Moriarty’s YA. One of my three top YA books for 2013, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee was available in HB with a stunning cover and Foxlee’s children’s novel Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy was promoted as part of the Summer Holidays Reading Guide.

The children of the king

Elsewhere I spied Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island, published as Sea Hearts here (the Australian edition has the best cover); Lian Tanner’s Keepers trilogy; John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice and Sonya Hartnett’s The Children of the King. These are excellent books that we are proud to claim as Australian.

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24. Five/Dime Friday: From Suck to Smiles

You know it's a bad week when a friend writes you a condolence note and includes a link from the paper... Sir Terry cancelling his appearance at the UK Discworld Convention, due to his ongoing (since 2007) embuggerance, Alzheimer's, has just gutted... Read the rest of this post

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25. Continuum X post-con report

In June this year I excitedly went off to attend Continuum X, the 10th in a series of Melbourne-based science fiction and pop culture conventions. But this year was special. This year, Continuum doubled as the 53rd Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

International Guest of Honour was Jim C Hines, author of, amongst other books, Goblin Quest, Libriomancer and Codex Born. He is also known for a series of photographs in which he attempted to place himself into the ridiculous poses that female characters are often put in on genre book covers. Check it out. Australian Guest of Honour was Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of the The Tribe series of novels (The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf and The Disappearance of Ember Crow).

Lib     Ashala

Both guests were friendly, eloquent and well worth the price of admission. And they both delivered extraordinary Guest of Honour speeches — you can check out Jim’s here and Ambelin’s here.

But there was lots more to Continuum X. There were panel discussions on an amazing range of topics, from early science fiction cinema to The Big Bang Theory; from technology for writers to religion in science fiction. Perhaps the most extraordinary of these was “We Do This Stuff… Gets Personal”. The programme description was as follows: “Based loosely on the “living library” idea, this is a chance for people to talk about their experiences of being an othered gender, sexuality, race, physical, mental or sensory disability or otherwise other, with questions from the audience. Open to writers who want to write better characters and anyone who just wants a better understanding of what it’s like in someone else’s head.” Not only did this panel provide the opportunity for writers to learn, it promoted understanding, which is a starting point for a more inclusive community.

There were readings and signings from an array of authors including Alan Baxter, Sue Bursztynski, Michael Pryor and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. There were numerous book launches including:

9780992460129I was particularly excited about Nil By Mouth, which I had the great pleasure of launching myself. I was also honoured to co-host the Continuum X awards night with fellow-author Narrelle M Harris. Awards presented that evening included the Ditmars (for excellence in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror), the Chronos Awards (for excellence in Victorian science fiction, fantasy and horror), as well as a number of special awards.

Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead by Robert Hood, picked up the Best Novel Ditmar.

“The Home for Broken Dolls” by Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts, picked up the Ditmar for Best Novella or Novelette.

The Bride Price by Cat Sparks got two Ditmars — one for Best Collected Work and one for Best Short Story for “Scarp”.

9780734410672Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan got both the Ditmar and the Chronos for Best Artwork.

And my own Gamers’ Rebellion got the Chronos for Best Long Fiction. :-)

You can check out a complete list of nominees and winners on the Continuum website.

All up Continuum X was a great experience for genre book fans — so many authors, editors and publishers just wandering around, as well as speaking on panels, reading from their works and taking part in question and answer sessions. I picked up a bunch of books to add to my ever-growing to-be-read mountain, as well as adding to my really, really long list of books I must purchaser in the near future. :-)

A HUGE thank you to the organisers, panellists and attendees for making this such an enjoyable event. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Continuum.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

mrsmuir01Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

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