Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda

Monty's Island 2Title: Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Monty lives on a perfect island in the middle of a magical sea. Sometimes the sea throws up something interesting … and Monty goes on an amazing adventure!
On a tiny island far away, in a sea that ripples with magic, Monty never knows what he might find…

Everyone loves Bring-and-Buy Day, when Trader Jolly visits the Island with all the supplies Monty and his friends need.

But this Bring-and-Buy day is different. Instead of Trader Jolly, there’s a sneaky new trader called Beady Bold. And he’s arrived with a boatload of trouble. The yum-yams are yummy, but they’re hiding a very scary secret.

All seems lost until Monty comes up with a daring plan.

A charming and exciting series from beloved author Emily Rodda.

~*~

Bring-and-Buy Day is coming! Monty and his friends are excited – they have their list, their Jinglebeads and a list ready for Trader Jolly and his crew. But when a new trader arrives, Beady Bold, everything starts to go wrong! He won’t give them what they need, won’t accept their Jinglebeads and will only offer them the mysterious yum-yams – yummy food with a danger behind it. So Monty comes up with a clever plan to save the day.

AWW2020The second book in the Monty’s Island series bring back the same characters from the first, with a few additions – the Weavers and Trader Jolly – to build the world and expand upon it in a way that is relevant to the story being told. This series allows children to go on adventure safely and face the world in a way they can access and relate to.

Much like the first book, the characters are diverse – Marigold and Monty are the only human characters, the rest are animals – and they each have their own personalities that make them fun and relatable for readers, both young and old. From Bunchy the elephant to Clink the parrot who acts like a pirate. Each character brings something unique to the story, which enriches it and shows children that it is okay to be different and need, or want, different things whilst working to the same common goal, and working together to achieve these goals.

Much like the first story, it is the little details in the story are what makes the story work, and with each story its own contained adventure, that is linked by characters and setting rather than plot, like Deltora Quest, which is aimed at readers aged nine and older, and a good step up from the new Monty’s Island books. Monty’s Island is perfect for early readers, just venturing into longer books, and it lots of fun for all readers as well of any age. There is something in it for every reader, and I hope readers will fall in love with this series by one of Australia’s best loved authors.

It is a wonderful addition to the series, and I looked forward to more.

 

A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

a clue for claraTitle: A Clue for Clara
Author: Lian Tanner
Genre: Mystery, Humour, Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Can a scruffy chicken crack a crime? Perhaps, if she’s a genius like Clara. An egg-cellent novel about a small chook and a big crime by the highly acclaimed author of Ella and the Ocean
‘GREETINGS. AM LOOKING FOR A MAJOR CRIME TO SOLVE. PLEASE INFORM ME OF ANY RECENT MURDERS, KIDNAPPINGS OR JEWEL HEISTS IN THIS AREA.’

Clara wants to be a famous detective with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore.

There’s just one problem. She’s a small scruffy chook, and no one takes her seriously.

But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal.

A puzzling and hilarious mystery from bestselling author, Lian Tanner.

~*~

Scruffy-looking chook Clara loves solving mysteries and watching detectives on television. The rest of the chooks at the farm she lives on with the Boss aren’t very impressed with Clara or her eggs, so when the local police constable and his daughter stop by to talk about a rash of stock thefts, Clara hops into their car, and heads home with them, where she begins to investigate with Olive’s help, to save their town, Little Dismal. But as Clara and Olive investigate, they will discover that there is more to the case than everyone can see.

Told in alternating perspectives through diary entries by Clara – a day-by-day run down using certain times of the day, and letters from Olive to her mother, the novel is fun and engaging, and gives as much joy and story as a traditional narrative – and for these characters, it works very well to get across who they are, and how they operate in the world, with each other and with everyone around them.

Clara’s diary entries are entertaining – the human world seen through the eyes of a chicken, who needs to find a way to get the humans to believe her. But how can Clara communicate with Olive and Digby, and get them to believe her?

As the story reveals clues and ideas, Clara has her mind set on one suspect – Jubilee Crystal Simpson – and using a phone to communicate with Olive, is determined to solve the case for Olive and her father, and prove her theory correct, whilst Olive finds a way to deal with her mother’s death, and the way she is now treated around town and at school.

 

AWW2020

A Clue for Clara explores crime in an entertaining and light-hearted way for younger readers whilst still managing to communicate how serious the stock thefts are in a small country town. It is a fun read that explores friendship, death, acceptance and secrets in an accessible way through the eyes of a most unlikely hero and her human sidekick. Animals as main characters in books for younger readers is something, I have been noticing a lot of, especially in Australian middle grade and junior fiction – llamas, chickens, pigeons and many more, and others to come. I don’t know what they will be, but the opportunities are endless, and I look forward to seeing what comes up next. Animals make for fun characters, and Clara is no exception.

We mostly heard from Clara, but through her observations that take place hour to hour, and Olive’s letters, we learn about the town, and the people who live there, and what they do to get by. It is a funny, and charming book that is filled with great lines such as ‘You are not a duck,’ (read the book to understand this), and Clara’s love of Inspector Garcia and Amelia X, and many other things that make this a lot of fun, and a joy to read for all ages and readers.

 

Isolation Publicity with Jacqueline Harvey

 

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

 

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Jacqueline Harvey is the best-selling author of three wonderful series of books for children and readers of all ages – Clementine-Rose, Alice-Miranda and Kensy and Max. Jacqueline also has a background in teaching and works with several reading charities and is an Australia Reads ambassador for 2020, which has had its major events moved to November. Much like other authors, Jacqueline has had events and launches cancelled – and below, she discusses Clemmie, Alice-Miranda and the wonderful spy twins, Kensy and Max, as well as the reading and writing industry and how her educational career has complemented her writing career.

 

Hi Jacqueline and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. I first came to your books through Kensy and Max two years ago – but you got started in the writing industry elsewhere – what was the very first thing that you had published?

 

I’ve been writing for quite a while now. The first book I had published was Code Name Mr Right with Lothian Books in Melbourne. There were three books in that series and I also had a picture book called The Sound of the Sea. They were all published between 2003 and 2005 then nothing for five years until the first Alice-Miranda book was released in 2010.

 

  1. Where did the idea for Clemmie (Clementine -Rose) come from, and how many books do you have planned for that series?

 

I wanted to write a shorter book than Alice-Miranda and loved the idea of a little girl who lives in a rather ramshackle country house hotel. The first line came to me quite out of the blue and was the start of the Clemmie back story (she was a foundling delivered to her adoptive mother in the back of the local baker’s van). Her full story is revealed throughout the series. She also had to have an interesting pet and Lavender the teacup pig was perfect. I’ve written 15 books in the series with the final book, Clementine Rose and the Best News Yet published in November 2019 (I think the title is a tad ironic given it’s the last book so it’s not the best news in some ways but it is for Clemmie).

 

  1. Similarly, where did the idea for Alice-Miranda come from – and after she heads to the outback later this year – where will she head next?

 

I originally thought Alice-Miranda would be a picture book – how wrong I was about that! In the beginning she was based on three little girls I used to teach but over time she grew to have the best characteristics of many children I’ve worked with over the years (boys and girls). Having worked in schools for a long time it just seemed natural that I would write a school story. I love the outback adventure – there are some really funny new characters and lots of challenges for Alice-Miranda and her friends. At this point I’m not sure where I’ll take her next but the second animated film is currently in production so I’m excited to see that towards the end of the year. It’s called Alice-Miranda: A Royal Christmas Ball and follows on from last year’s film, Alice-Miranda Friends Forever, which is now airing on STAN and Nine Now. You can also download it from iTunes.

  1. Onto my absolute favourite of your series – Kensy and Max – where did this idea come from, and how many other places do you think you’ll take the twins?

 

Kensy and Max grew out of my curiosity about all things spies. I also wanted to create a series to make the reader think – hence the chapter headings are written in code and the whole name of the spy organisation, Pharos is linked to the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria (also the name of Granny Cordelia’s country estate). A beacon is a light in a lighthouse and also the name of the newspaper which provides the ‘front’ for the spies. We had been doing a lot of travelling in the UK and on several occasions visited a pub called The Morpeth Arms which is right on The Thames opposite the Mi6 building. Upstairs the pub had a restaurant called The Spying Room and when you sat at the tables with a view, there were binoculars available and a sign that said, ‘Can you spy on the spies?’ I had a conversation with the publican about whether he’d seen anything interesting over there and he told me (and he could have been pulling my leg but that didn’t matter) that he’d worked in the pub for 16 years and in that time he’d seen the lights go on and off, computer screens flicker and occasionally someone on the balcony but that he’d never seen a person in the building. True or not it got me thinking – what if Mi6 was more like a publicity company and the real spies were somewhere close by that you’d never think to find them. Hence Kensy and Max was born. We have also visited some interesting places like Scotland’s Secret Bunker – a war time hideout just south of St Andrew’s and another hotel north of London which had been used for spy activities during the war.

I’m currently signed to write 8 books in the series though hopefully if children love them I’ll be able to write more. Kensy and Max have been on adventures in London, Rome, Sydney, Paris, New York and I’m in the middle of writing Kensy and Max: Full Speed which begins in London but will head to the Swiss Alps. I have plenty of ideas for more stories and had actually been planning a trip to Russia later this year – that’s currently off the agenda for me but definitely not for them!

 

  1. What 2020 releases, launches and author events have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

I had a huge tour planned for March and April but we only managed to get three days of bookshop and school visits and our Sydney High Tea Celebration for 10 years of Alice-Miranda before everything went pear shaped. My Melbourne and Perth tours were cancelled and I’ve had lots of festivals cancelled too including one in Tasmania in September and touring in New Zealand in June. So far pretty much all of my school events have been postponed or are in state of flux although I do have some online bookings that are set to go ahead. I’m still writing and none of my release dates have been impacted as yet.

 

  1. When it comes to Kensy and Max, what sort of research have you had to do into spies, ciphers and codes, and all the locations they visit across the world?

 

Kensy and Max requires a considerable amount of research from all angles. Just this week I’ve been taking virtual tours of the Palace of Westminster and the British Houses of Parliament and I also wrote to the London Fire Brigade to ask them some specific questions on their uniforms. It was lovely to receive a very comprehensive reply on Friday morning. I have to research all the codes and ciphers and my husband loves that sort of thing (and is something of a maths genius) so his help has been invaluable. Location wise, I’ve been to all of the places they’ve been so far but some, not for a while, so Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View are always on my other screen when I’m in a city that I need extra reminders of. For example in Italy I took myself on loads of walking tours of Rome on Street View and it jogged my memory for the small details like the fabulous door knockers and the cobbled streets.

 

  1. Is there a favourite place in the world you haven’t taken any of your characters in any series yet, but that you would love to send them to?

 

Well I’m not sure if it’s going to be a favourite place as I haven’t been there yet but I am desperate to send them to Russia and I am very keen to go there. I could also set a full story in New Zealand as we spend a lot of time in Queenstown.

 

  1. Does Ballypuss help with your writing, or hinder it?

 

He’s a great help most of the time because he’s the world’s best sleeper. Although when he’s out roaming in the garden he often demands that I let him back inside (he sits on the wall outside my office and meows to tell me he’s ready to come home). Lately that has turned into a game of ‘follow me around the garden’ and he has this bizarre habit of needing someone to watch him while he eats.

 

  1. Did your teaching career help you when it came to writing?

 

Absolutely as I spent a lot of time testing early material on a captive audience. I have always loved visiting schools and talking to children and teachers. It also helps when it comes to classroom management and being able to speak to groups of all sizes. My raised left eyebrow has an excellent effect on a rowdy audience 😊.

 

  1. You are one of Australia’s most popular authors – what kind of reception do you get from readers – and do you find that some of your books might be read more by a certain readership than another?

 

I am so grateful to my readers. I get lots of beautiful messages from children and adults about my books. I think it’s tricky when you write books with girls as the central characters to convince some boys that they too, can read the stories – they seem to cop a bit of pressure at times not to. Both Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose have plenty of boys in the stories and I am a strong proponent of the idea that there are no books for girls or books for boys – just books. Kensy and Max has definitely opened the market to a lot more boys (though thankfully I get plenty of parents telling me their boys love Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose too).

 

  1. Your books are not aimed at boys or girls specifically – how have you managed to capture readers across the board with all your series?

 

I have a lot of loyal boy readers who have loved Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose but I still struggle with adults who will sometimes steer boys away from those stories. I’ve heard horrible comments at times – one story that was heartbreaking when a boy whose school I had visited that week saw me signing books outside a shop and he ran up and was very enthusiastically telling his dad, ‘That’s her – the lady who came to our school. I really want that book.’ He pointed at Alice-Miranda to the Rescue – which has a green cover and a picture of Alice-Miranda holding a puppy. It’s not especially feminine or overly ‘girly’. The father growled at the boy, ‘Maaaate, you don’t want that book – it’s got a girl on the cover.’ I was mortified and asked the fellow if he’d heard what had just come out of his mouth. He muttered some choice words and quickly ushered his son away. The little boy was upset and I was too. I find it hard to believe that in 2020 attitudes are still quite archaic at times. Only last year I visited a school where the librarian told me I was talking to the Year 3 and 4 girls. I asked what the boys were doing because unless it was flying on a rocket to the moon I didn’t imagine it was anything more exciting than listening to my talk. She told me that the ‘powers that be’ had decided ‘you only write books for girls.’ I was aghast and said (politely) that if the powers that be didn’t let the boys come I was not planning to stay. Suffice to say the boys arrived and that afternoon I had an email from a mum whose son had begged to go into town and get some of my books. She said that he never read but he couldn’t stop talking about all the stories I had told them. She was so grateful and I was really pleased that I made a fuss and the boys were allowed to come to the talk.

 

  1. You’ve worked in the arts and teaching – like a few other participants – how do you think these two roles complement each other?

 

Quite a few authors and illustrators have backgrounds in education – and I think the two occupations are very complementary. I spent year’s trialling stories on my captive audiences and I also read so many books to the children – it was wonderful training to see what worked well. I’ve had quite a diverse school career from classroom teacher to deputy head to director of development and find that many of the skills I needed back then have stood me in good stead now – presenting, organising events, communicating with children and adults, writing – both creatively and non-fiction.

 

  1. As a writer with an education background, how do you think both industries will be affected by the pandemic?

 

Education has been turned on its head. Teaching remotely has created a huge additional workload for teachers, many of whom are just getting to grips with the technology they are required to use. One of my sisters is a high school teacher and she has been overwhelmed with extra work as well as trying to monitor her own four children who are studying from home. I guess the one good thing is that most teachers have secure incomes (casuals aside) and that’s an area where the arts have been hugely impacted. For me personally almost all of my festival gigs have been cancelled for the year and while schools are beginning to book authors for online events, it’s very different to being there in person and interacting with the students. Obviously the rates of pay are much lower too. Royalties for book sales are paid twice a year so it’s difficult to know how they will be impacted in the long term. Some of my author friends have been tutoring to help make up the shortfall in income while others have been creating online content – though there is some concern about ongoing intellectual property issues particularly ensuring that once we do come out of lockdown schools will once again book authors and illustrators to do ‘in person’ gigs.

 

  1. You’re also an ambassador for Dymocks Children’s Charities – what sort of programs does the charity support, and what work do you do for them?

 

Dymocks Children’s Charities have wonderful programs including Book Bank and Library Regeneration, and have recently run a fantastic fundraiser for bushfire affected schools. They have introduced ‘Books for Homes’ to ensure that disadvantaged children who have been isolated by the pandemic are still getting books to read. I’ve recorded some short videos for their new You Tube channel which we hope will be viewed and used by schools and in homes. Under normal circumstances I would do a couple of Library Regen or Book Bank presentations a year and I also promote their campaigns via social media and an awareness page in all of my books. The past couple of years, Ambassadors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have edited a fabulous book called Total Quack Up and Total Quack Up Again and I’ve contributed to both of those as well.

 

  1. Has any of this work been affected by the pandemic or can you do it remotely?

 

Unfortunately a lot of the charity’s work has been impacted by Covid 19. The first thing to go was the annual Great Debate which is a huge charity fundraising event – and their largest source of income. Initially it was postponed until later in the year but with things so up in the air they have decided to move it to 2021. Obviously they have had to adapt so the Books for Homes program was born and the You Tube channel was developed to help spread awareness.

 

  1. Favourite writing snack?

 

A cup of white tea and a handful of raw cashews.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite place to write?

 

Anywhere with a view – especially of water or mountains.

 

  1. What would you like to see in terms of support for the arts, and how can people support the arts and authors in these difficult times?

 

I wrote an article for Reading Time –  http://readingtime.com.au/supporting-childrens-authors-during-the-corona-crisis/ about ways people can support authors and illustrators during this time. Certainly buying books (if you can afford to) but also giving recommendations – there are some wonderful sites like Your Kids’ Next Read on Facebook where parents can comment and support authors. It has been good to see some additional grants offered by organisations like the Copyright Agency and the City of Sydney, though I know not everyone is able to access these.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller you’ll be trying to support during the pandemic?

 

So far I have ordered books online from Dymocks and when I get through that reading pile I will definitely be supporting my local shops including Novella at Wahroonga and Book Review St Ives. My second last public event before we went into lockdown was at Book Review and I can’t wait to get back out and do more events once it’s safe to do so.

 

  1. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

 

I’m writing the sixth book in the Kensy and Max series. It’s called Kensy and Max: Full Speed and will be out in October. I’ve just finished writing a short book, Kensy and Max: Spy Games for the Australia Reads Campaign which will be out in November and I’m also working on some other exciting secret projects.

 

Anything further?

 

 

I think that just about covers everything – well except I’d love to give a big shoutout to all of the school and municipal librarians across Australia who have been working hard to keep kids supplied with books and resources. They’ve had to adapt in record time and I know they’re doing a brilliant job. So a huge thanks from me!

 

Thank you Jacqueline!

 

 

July 2020 Wrap Up

In July, I read twenty-two books, and have managed to complete my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – which I am still going with, and my Book Bingo Challenge. All those posts are written and scheduled, as are several others for reviews and my isolation publicity series, which ends on the twenty-first of this month. I’ve been doing a lot of reading since lockdown and restrictions began, and it has allowed me to get on top of my review list finally. Below are my July numbers and reviews.

 

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12

AWW2020 – 78/25

Book Bingo – 12/12

The Nerd Daily Challenge 47/52

Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25

Books and Bites Bingo 19/25

STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12

General Goal –130/165

July – 22

Book Author Challenge
Finding Eadie Caroline Beecham Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Emma Jane Austen Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Beyond Belief

 

Dee White Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Evie and Pog: Party Perfect Tania McCartney Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Wild Way Home Sophie Kirtley Reading Challenge
The Schoolmaster’s Daughter Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear Jess Black Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out Jess Black Reading Challenge, AWW2020
A Clue for Clara Lian Tanner AWWW2020, Reading Challenge
Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale Dominique Valente Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Tuesday Melina Marchetta Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Battle of Book Week Kate and Jol Temple AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams Emily Rodda AWW2020, Reading Challenge
The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum James Gardner Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo,
The Adventures of Princess Peony Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal Laura Sieveking AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser 

 

Kate Bailey Reading Challenge
Toffle Towers: The Great River Race Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome Katrina Nannestad AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, Books and Bites Bingo
Toffle Towers: Order in the Court Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge
The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: A Treasure of poems for young people Compiled by Libby Hathorn Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge
Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze Reading Challenge
 

Reading Log

 

  1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
  2. Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  3. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  4. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
  5. The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
  6. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  7. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  8. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  9. The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
  10. The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
  12. Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
  13. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  14. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  16. Dragon Masters: Future of the Time Dragon by Tracey West
  17. The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s First Serial Murderer by Tanya Bretherton
  18. Dolphin Island: A Daring Rescue by Catherine Hapka
  19. The River Home by Hannah Richell
  20. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  21. Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen App)
  22. Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  23. Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  24. Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  25. The Story Puppy by Holly Webb
  26. Trails of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  27. The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting
  28. The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter
  29. The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller
  30. Captain Marvel Hero Storybook by Steve Behling
  31. Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  32. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  33. The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom by Katrina Charman
  34. Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5) by Jackie French
  35. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley
  36. The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  37. Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor by Holly Webb
  38. Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner
  39. The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning
  40. The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn
  41. Ninjago: Back in Action by Tracey West
  42. Layla and the Bots: Happy Paws by Vicky Fang
  43. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  44. Daring Delly: Going for Gold by Matthew Dellavedova and Zanni Louise
  45. Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach by Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo
  46. Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
  47. The Besties Make A Splash by Felice Arena and Tom Jellett
  48. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling/Newt Scamander
  49. Liberation by Imogen Kealey
  50. The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
  51. The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal
  52. Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian
  53. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  54. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt
  55. The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski
  56. The Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates
  57. Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore
  58. Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  59. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  60. The Austen Girls by Lucy Worsley
  61. The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke
  62. Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt
  63. Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice-Ross King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft
  64. Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml
  65. Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  66. Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina
  67. Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr
  68. Rescue on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  69. The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  70. The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love
  71. An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip
  72. Daisy Runs Wild by Caz Goodwin and Ashley King
  73. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley
  74. Her Perilous Mansion by Sean Williams
  75. What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  76. Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) by Petra Hunt
  77. The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  78. Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends by Charlotte Barkla
  79. Alice-Miranda at School (10th anniversary edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  80. Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey
  81. The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai
  82. Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman
  83. Orla and the Serpent’s Curse by C.J. Halsam
  84. A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink
  85. Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  86. Eloise and the Bucket of Stars by Janeen Brian
  87. Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  88. Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
  89. On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick
  90. Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  91. Lilies, Lies and Love (Miss Lily #4) by Jackie French
  92. Kid Normal and the Final Five by Greg James and Chris Smith
  93. Toffle Towers: Fully Booked by Tim Harris and James Foley
  94. Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell by Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford
  95. Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell
  96. When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin
  97. League of Llamas: Undercover Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  98. League of Llamas: Rogue Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  99. Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey
  100. The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
  1. The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce
  2. Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up by Angela Woolfe
  3. Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by Monique Mulligan and Kat Fox (Illustrator)
  4. Meet Mia by the Jetty by Janeen Brian and Danny Snell
  5. Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna
  6. Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup
  7. Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla
  8. Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham
  9. Emma by Jane Auste
  10. Beyond Belief by Dee White
  1. Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney
  2. The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
  3. The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by Jackie French
  4. Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black
  5. Kitty is Not a Cat: Lights Out by Jess Black
  6. A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner
  7. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale by Dominique Valente
  8. What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta
  9. The Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie) by Kate and Jol Temple
  1. Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda
  2. The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum by James Gardner
  3. The Adventures of Princess Peony by Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford
  4. Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal by Laura Sieveking
  5. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser by Kate Bailey
  6. Toffle Towers: The Great River Race by Tim Harris and James Foley
  1. The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  2. Toffle Towers: Order in the Court by Tim Harris
  3. The ABC Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Libby Hathorn
  1. Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze
  2. Lapse by Sarah Thornton
  3. A Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

Books and Bites Bingo

 

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

 

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

 

Fairy Tale Collection: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

A Book with a door on the cover: The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valour by Ally Carter

Written by someone called Jane: Persuasion by Jane Austen

An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Wherever you go:

 

Eco-themes: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

A Neil Gaiman book:

Short story collection: Radio National Fictions (various short stories on ABC Listen app

Published the year you were born:

Makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

 

 

That book you keep putting off: The Louvre by James Gardiner

A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

Has “the girl” in the title: The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn

A book with bad reviews: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

 

Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

Someone you love’s fave book:

Made into a TV Series:

A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Fave childhood book:

 

STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge

  1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

  1. An Australian classic
  1. A book by an Indigenous Australian author

Meet Sam by the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna

  1. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction] 

Fiction: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte, The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai

Non-Fiction:

  1. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author

Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner

  1. A #LoveOzYA book

The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

  1. A memoir by an Australian woman

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

  1. A poetry collection

The ABC Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Libby Hathorn

 

 

  1. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize

* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.

* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020 –

The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020 –

Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020 –

Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes

  1. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT

Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author

ACT: On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick

NT: An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip, Between Us by Claire Atkins

  1. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr (21st anniversary edition)

  1. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author 

Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

THE MODERN MRS. DARCY

2020 Reading Challenge

a book published the decade you were born:

a debut novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

a book recommended by a source you trust: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Amanda Barrett

a book by a local author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim – literary fiction

a book in translation: The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

a book nominated for an award in 2020: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)

a re-read:  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)

a classic you didn’t read in school: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

three books by the same author:

  1. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  2. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  3. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt

The Nerd Daily 2020 Challenge

  1. Author Starting with A: Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
  2. Female Author: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  3. Purchased on Holidays: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  4. 2020 Film Adaptation: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. Fantasy or SciFi: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
  6. Recommended by Us: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  7. Under 200 pages: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  8. Six Word Title: The Binder of Doom: Speedah Cheetah by Troy Cummins, Death at the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  9. Written by two authors: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  10. Mystery/thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  11. Green Cover: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  12. Recommended by a friend: Any Ordinary Day be Leigh Sales
  13. Set in the past: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  14. 2019 Goodreads Choice Winner:
  15. A book you never finished: The Louvre by James Gardiner (Never finished in time to review for release date, managed to finish after)
  16. Protagonist starting with H: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally, Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  17. Reread: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  18. Non-fiction: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
  19. Released in February: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking, The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
  20. Part of a duology: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley
  21. New York times best seller:
  22. Recommended by family:
  23. Over 500 pages:
  24. An award-winning book: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award 2019
  25. Orange cover: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  26. Bookstore recommended: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  27. A number in the title: Alice-Miranda at School (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  28. An audiobook: Radio National Fictions (various short stories)
  29. Debut author: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  30. Inspired my mythology/folklore: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr,
  31. A retelling: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  32. A one-word title: Liberation by Imogen Kealey
  33. Bought based on cover: Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  34. Author that starts with M: What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  35. Start a new series: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  36. A book released in 2019: The Last Firehawk: The Cloud Kingdom by Katrina Charman
  37. Male author: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale
  38. 2020 TV Adaptation:
  39. A book gifted to you: Captain Marvel Hero Storybook by Steve Behling
  40. Author with a hyphenated name: Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  41. Released in September: The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley
  42. Purchased years ago:
  43. A standalone: The River Home by Hannah Richell
  44. Author with the same initials:
  45. Told from two perspectives: The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  46. Romance or thriller: Liberation by Imogen Kealey, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  47. A protagonist starting with S: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell (Stella Montgomery)
  48. Two-word title: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr, Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  49. Set in a foreign country: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn, The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  50. Animal featured in cover: Dolphin Island: A Daring Rescue by Catherine Hapka
  51. Written by your favourite author: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  52. Based or inspired by a true story: Museum Kittens: The Midnight Visitor by Holly Webb, The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning

Dymocks Reading Challenge

  1. A book by an Australian author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  2. A book by an Indigenous author: On A Barbarous Coast by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick, Meet Sam by the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna
  3. A book from our Top 101:
  4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51: Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell, Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month’:
  6. Re-read your favourite book of all time: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  7. Ask a friend for a recommendation: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
  8. A book featuring your favourite country: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)
  9. A book from your TBR pile: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  10. An award-winning book: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr – CBCA Honour Book, Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2017 – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
    WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
    HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017
  11. A Mystery/Thriller: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One), A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill
  12. A memoir:
  13. A book outside your usual genre: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
  14. A book of short stories: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  15. A self-help/motivation: Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
  16. A fairytale/fable adaptation: Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  17. Book one in a fantasy series: Trials of Apollo – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  18. A book that teaches you something new: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  19. A book with a red cover: Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  20. A book with a colour in the title: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  21. A book you can read in a day: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell, Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  22. A book about books: Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  23. A book that made you laugh: Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian, The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  24. A book published this year: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t: Emma by Jane Austen

Australian Women Writers Challenge – 25

 

  1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
  2. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
  3. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
  4. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
  5. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
  6. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
  7. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
  8. The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
  9. The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s First Serial Murderer by Tanya Bretherton
  10. The River Home by Hannah Richell
  11. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
  12. Withering-by-Sea (A Stella Montgomery Intrigue) by Judith Rossell
  13. Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James (House of Heroes)
  14. The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller
  15. Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster
  16. Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt
  17. Christmas in Paris (Miss Lily 3.5) by Jackie French
  18. The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester
  19. Firewatcher Chronicles: Phoenix by Kelly Gardiner
  20. The Lost Jewels by Kirsty Manning
  21. The Girl She Was by Rebecca Freeborn
  22. Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R.A. Spratt
  23. Aussie Kids: Meet Katie at the Beach by Rebecca Johnson and Lucia Masciullo
  24. Aussie Kids: Meet Eve in the Outback by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
  25. The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks
  26. The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal
  27. Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue by Yvette Poshoglian
  28. The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle
  29. Friday Barnes: Big Trouble by R.A. Spratt
  30. The Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates
  31. Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore
  32. Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
  33. Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt
  34. Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft
  35. Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)
  36. Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  37. Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina
  38. Nim at Sea by Wendy Orr
  39. Rescue on Nim’s Island
  40. The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
  41. An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip
  42. Daisy Runs Wild by Caz Goodwin and Ashley King
  43. Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley
  44. What Zola did on Monday by Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson
  45. Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) by Petra Hunt
  46. The Power of Positive Pranking by Nat Amoore
  47. Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends by Charlotte Barkla
  48. Alice-Miranda at School (10th Anniversary Edition) by Jacqueline Harvey
  49. Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey
  50. Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman
  51. Eloise and the Bucket of Stars by Janeen Brian
  52. A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink
  53. Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
  54. Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition by Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
  55. Elementals: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman
  56. Lilies, Lies and Love (Miss Lily #4) Lilies by Jackie French
  57. Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell by Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford
  58. When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin
  59. League of Llamas: Undercover Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  60. League of Llamas: Rogue Llama by Aleesah Darlison
  61. Kensy and Max: Freefall by Jacqueline Harvey
  62. The Silk House by Kayte Nunn
  63. The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle by Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce
  64. Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by Monique Mulligan and Kate Fox (Illustrator)
  65. Meet Mia by the Jetty by Janeen Brian and Danny Snell
  66. Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best by Charlotte Barkla
  67. Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham
  68. Beyond Belief by Dee White
  69. Evie and Pog: Party Perfect by Tania McCartney
  70. The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by Jackie French
  71. Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black
  72. Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out by Jess Black
  73. A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner
  74. What Zola did on Tuesday by Melina Marchetta
  75. The Battle of Book Week (Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie) by Kate and Jol Temple
  76. Monty’s Island: Beady Hold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda
  77. The Adventures of Princess Peony by Nette Hilton and Lucinda Gifford
  78. Ella at Eden: The Secret Journal by Laura Sieveking
  79. The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad
  80. Lapse by Sarah Thornton
  81. A Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

 

Book Bingo – BINGO

 

Themes of culture – The Republic of Birds by Jessica Miller

Themes of inequality – The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Themes of Crime and Justice – A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Themes of politics and power – The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte

About the environment – The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson and Rovina Cai

Prize winning book – Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award

Friendship, family and love – Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Coming of age – Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

Set in a time of war – The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

Set in a place you dream of visiting – The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)

Set in an era you’d love to travel back in time to – Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (Minoan Times)

A classic you’ve never read before – Emma by Jane Austen

 

 

 

Books and Bites Book Bingo – makes you blush: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

books and bites game card

Welcome to another round of Books and Bites bingo. I’m starting to get to the squares that are trickier – whether that’s because it’s a specific author or title I must track down, or wait for, or the square hints at a genre I may not always read. A book that makes you blush is one of those squares that suggests certain elements of a book that might not be for everyone. On the other hand, it is one that can possibly be widely interpreted. I had been struggling with this one, as I don’t read many books that have cause to make me blush. Unless it is second-hand embarrassment for the characters, or embarrassment on behalf of the character.

 

the girl the dog and the writer in rome

One of these characters is Tobias Appleby from The Girl, The Dog and The Writer by Katrina Nannestad. He’s not in the least bit embarrassed by what he does, but Freja – and the reader – whilst entertained, are also slightly embarrassed and end up blushing on his behalf. It is one small scene in this book that did this, however, as this was one, I’ve been struggling to fill, I went with the first one I found myself blushing a little, even if was only momentary.

As this is the first in a series, I am sure there are more moments where the reader feels embarrassed for Tobias. I’m sure there are many other books out there that might cause people to blush – what are ones that you’ve found that do this to you?

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome by Katrina Nannestad

the girl the dog and the writer in romeTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome
Author: Katrina Nannestad
Genre: Fiction/Travel
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 23rd October 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: For the first ten years of Freja’s life, she and her mother Clementine have roamed the Arctic in search of zoological wonders. Happy, content, together. Freja and Clem. Clem and Freja.
But now, everything is changing, and Clementine must send Freja away to live with her old friend Tobias, a bestselling crime writer and, quite possibly, the most absent-minded man on earth.
Tobias isn’t used to life with a child, and Freja isn’t used to people at all, but together they’ll stumble into an Italian adventure so big that it will change things forever …
Award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad returns with a delicious new series about family, friendship and finding yourself.

AWARDS
Notable Book – CBCA Book of the Year Awards
Shortlisted – 2018 Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards
~*~

When Freja’s mother, Clementine, must go away to Switzerland, she asks her old friend, Tobias to look after Freja. Freja isn’t very good with people or making friends – she wears a tag that says ‘This Child Bites’ when she meets Tobias, Tobias is absent-minded – neither are used to people in their lives. Yet as they stumble into an Italian adventure, they’ll find that everything changes and that making friends and having people you can rely on isn’t that bad after all.

AWW2020An adventure to Rome, or anywhere for that matter, is something that many of us can only dream about in these hard lockdown, isolation and pandemic times. Perhaps that’s why everyone is getting a lot of reading done, and why bookstores seem to be doing well, even if they’ve had to adjust operations to get books to people over the past few months. Books can take us on adventures when we have to stay at home, and this is exactly what The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome does.

From eating raspberry gelato, to cooking lessons with Nonna Rosa, and eating at Café Vivi whilst making friends with the locals and evading three mysterious priests who seem to have taken to following Freja and Tobias, opening a mystery that follows them around Rome. While they travel, Freja and Tobias find that family and friends are found in the least likely places, and she beings to investigate the secret that Tobias and Clementine are keeping – who is Tobias, really, and what does he mean to Clementine?

This is a charming story that pulls the reader in and makes you feel like you are in Rome with the characters. The gelato is tasty and smooth, and the world they inhabit is rich, vibrant. You feel like you are there with them, watching as Finnegan eats everything in sight. These characters came to life on the page, and made the story into something special that readers of all ages will love. There is a bit of Freja and Tobias in all of us, and together, they are family and friends, and I’m looking forward to the next two books in the series.

Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out by Jess Black

Kitty is not a cat lights outTitle: Kitty is Not a Cat: Light’s Out

Author: Jess Black

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 28th July 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 60

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human. A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat.

A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat. When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human.

Some children hate going to bed. Not Kitty! Kitty falls asleep every night curled up snug as a bug in a bed box. That is, until one spooky night when Kitty’s night-light goes missing and her fear of the dark comes creeping out. The cats, unfamiliar with the concept, try to settle her down but to no avail. In the end, it won’t be a night-light that saves the day.

Based on the Australian TV series that is enjoyed by kids the whole world over.

~*~

In another Kitty is Not a Cat story, the family of cats are kept awake one night by Kitty, who is having trouble sleeping. Just as they all get settled, Kitty starts crying out – and the cats spend their evening trying to find out what is keeping Kitty from sleeping – uncovering a fear of the dark – which the cats do not understand. Yet they all come together to help Kitty.

AWW2020

In a house filled with music-loving cats, Kitty finds herself quite at home. Before it became a series of books, Kitty started life as an Australian television series for children. The series of books is a companion to the series, that fans of the series and new readers can enjoy, as a summary of the basic premise is given at the front of each  book, accompanied by a list of characters at the front to introduce new readers who have not seen the show to them, and to refresh the memories of those who have watched the show. Each medium will bring something different to the audience and readers and will hopefully make these stories accessible to as many readers and viewers as possible.

Light’s Out is about confronting your fears and overcoming them. It is about learning to share, and trust in yourself, and understand that other people might need to borrow your night-light. Kitty learns that sometimes helping others is the best thing to do, and that she can sleep on spooky nights. And that sometimes, you just need to try and you’ll achieve your goals.

Great for early readers, and readers of all ages to explore its themes and characters, to build confidence in themselves and with their reading and vocabulary. A great series for all ages and readers.

 

Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear by Jess Black

Kitty is not a cat teddys bearTitle: Kitty is Not a Cat: Teddy’s Bear
Author: Jess Black
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lothian/Hachette Australia
Published: 28th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 60
Price: $9.99
Synopsis: What could be better than a cuddly teddy bear? How about a real-life grizzly bear! A warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat.
What could be better that a cuddly teddy bear? How about a real-life grizzly bear! Kitty and the bear spend a fun-filled afternoon together, but it doesn’t take long for Kitty to realise that having a grizzly bear for a playmate may be a little more trouble that she thought.
Kitty is Not a Cat is a warmly funny junior-fiction series about Kitty, a little girl who believes she can be anything she dreams – even a cat. When Kitty arrives on the doorstep of a house full of music-mad felines, their lives are turned upside down as they attempt to teach her how to be human.
Based on the Australian TV series that is enjoyed by kids the whole world over.

~*~

Kitty lives with a family of cats, who are trying to convince her that she is human. Kitty believes she is a cat, however, and will only communicate in meows. As winter sets in, the cats – The Nazz, Petal, Timmy Tom, Last Chance, King Tubby, Mr Clean and Cheeta – decide Kitty needs something to play with over winter. They hatch a plan to find a teddy bear for Kitty, and the results are surprising, amusing and when Cheeta brings a real grizzly bear into the house for Kitty, but will one of the other cats have an even better solution for Kitty?

AWW2020

In a house filled with music-loving cats, Kitty finds herself quite at home. Before it became a series of books, Kitty started life as an Australian television series for children. The series of books is a companion to the series, that fans of the series and new readers can enjoy, as a summary of the basic premise is given at the front of each book, accompanied by a list of characters at the front to introduce new readers who have not seen the show to them, and to refresh the memories of those who have watched the show.

Teddy’s Bear is one of four adorable stories about Kitty and her cat family, and is a great book for early readers, with themes of family, friendship and kindness at its heart, as well as acceptance and discovering who you are and what you like.

These short stories are ideal for growing the confidence of early readers in a fun and engaging way, and the illustrations in black, white and orange are also engaging, and add to the joy and fun of the story. Early readers will love these books as they build on their vocabulary and engaging with the way a story works.

This fabulous new series will charm readers of all ages.

 

Isolation Publicity with Andrew McDonald

unnamed (1)

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Andrew MacDonald is the author of many books for younger readers but is perhaps most well-known for his Real Pigeons series about crime fighting pigeons. Because this is what most people associate with him, he has become known as ‘the pigeon man’. Below, he discusses writing, where the idea for Real Pigeons came from, other crime fighting animals and gets to answer a question from the son of a friend who is a big fan of the books.

Hi Andrew, and welcome to The Book Muse!

  1. Your series Real Pigeons looks and sounds like fun – where did the idea for crime solving pigeons come from?

The idea first occurred to me when I was travelling overseas and realised that pigeons are one of the constants that you see, from country to country. They’re everywhere!

I started wondering what hidden agenda pigeons might have and it made sense that they would be selfless creatures protecting the world from evil. Plus, pigeons look hilarious. The way they waddle around always makes me laugh. The idea for a series of stories about funny, loveable and brave crime-fighting pigeons really took hold from there.

And it all came together when illustrator Ben Wood began drawing the world of the Real Pigeons.

  1. How many books do you have planned for the series?

We initially signed up to do six books in the series – and we’ve just agreed to do a further four with our publisher, Hardie Grant Egmont. As long as kids are reading and enjoying the books, I’m very happy to stay in that wacky pigeon world and keep telling birdie stories.

  1. Have you written other work, or do you find that people mostly recognise you as the author of real pigeons?

 

I wrote a couple of middle-grade novels a few years ago, but I’m definitely best known for Real Pigeons now. Some people now call me ‘Pigeon Man’ and ‘That Pigeon Guy’ and ‘Why does he like pigeons so much?’ I don’t mind though. At this stage, I find being associated with pigeons is a positive thing. They’re a lot smarter than people give them credit for.

  1. Anthropomorphic animals are always fun to read and write – what other animals do you think would be crime solvers like your pigeons?

Animals are ideal for crime-fighting and mystery solving because we – the human race – tend to overlook them so frequently.

I’ll bet cats are online trying to solve cold murder cases when their owners aren’t home.

I’ll bet the flying foxes that zoom over Melbourne at night know exactly where the crime is happening below (I assume crime has a distinct sonar-y feeling they pick up on).

And who knows how many dirt-level crimes are being stopped by cicadas beneath our feet. Unless the cicadas themselves are committing the crimes. I’ve never been sure about cicadas. They could go either way.

  1. With book five out in May 2020, did you have to cancel any launches or events due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

Yes, everything we had planned to celebrate the new book – Real Pigeons Peck Punches – got cancelled. Bookshop events, library workshops, bookseller visits – and an appearance at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Ben and I still wanted to do something special to mark the release of the new book. Something that would also let us connect with readers. So we’ve worked with Hardie Grant Egmont and launched a special YouTube series called The Super Coo Club.

Basically, The Super Coo Club features weekly videos of Ben and I chatting about Real Pigeons, talking about our creative processes and sharing some writing and drawing tips – while also mucking around and making complete fools of ourselves. That’s what we normally do at events, so that’s what we have done in these videos.

We’ve also asked Real Pigeons fans to send video questions to us. We’ll be answering those questions in the Super Coo Club videos. It’s going to be awesome having some interactivity with young readers, despite everyone being stuck at home

Oh – and each episode comes with writing ideas, drawing prompts and downloadable activity sheets so that kids can get creative themselves after watching the videos. We’re really hoping they enjoy what we’ve made and have fun – from the safety of home!

  1. Which of these events, or appearances were you the keenest for, and why? (It’s okay if you want to talk about all of them)

 

We did have a special event lined up for our appearance at the Sydney Writers Festival – a Real Pigeons Live Mystery with live storytelling, drawing and a mystery for the audience to solve. That would have been really fun. But it’s always about the kids. When you meet a young reader who has connected with something you’ve written, it doesn’t matter if you’re at a big festival or at a library in a town most people have never heard of. What matters is that you get to be a part of a child’s reading journey. And that’s the best thing in the world.

  1. What made you choose the age group you write for, and what are the challenges and joys in writing for this age group?

 

I don’t think I ever consciously chose an age group to write for – the humour and silliness that you see in the Real Pigeons books is just me. That’s what I’m like. Some might say I haven’t evolved much since I was at primary school. But I like to think that I’ve just retained – or at least remembered – the feeling of being that age.

The challenge is that you have strict parameters to work within when writing for a young reader, depending on their age. For example, the language and vocabulary need to be perfectly pitched and the stories can’t be too simple nor too complex. It’s a balancing act. But when it works, it’s so rewarding. Because kids can be very discerning readers – they’ll throw away a book quickly if it doesn’t click for them. But if they take to a book, they’ll often take to it passionately. And you can’t have passionate adult readers without first having passionate kid readers.

 

  1. You do many school visits – what kind of questions do the kids ask, and what is it like presenting to a junior school audience?

 

Presenting to a young audience isn’t without its challenges, but I find it really fun and rewarding.

If you’ve got a good story to tell and you can speak to kids on their level, then you’re bound to have a good time. Personally, I make lots of dumb jokes to get to ‘their level’. But there are lots of ways to do it.

And kids always ask smart questions. They want to know where you get your ideas from, which is essentially a question about how to facilitate and control creativity. They ask about characters and story choices. And they ask about the business of writing.

One question I get all the time is, ‘How much money do you make?’ That question can sound rude, at first, but it’s actually a great way to talk about how making books is a team effort. Authors are important but so are illustrators and editors and publishers and agents and printers and designers and marketing staff – among many others. It’s important that everyone gets paid for their work on a book.

  1. When on a school visit, what sort of things do you plan to include in your presentations and book talks?

 

I’ll always explain what drives me to write stories, how I went from being a kid who really loved writing stories to a published author as an adult. And I’ll explain my creative process. You can never tell anyone the best way to write their story with 100% authority. It’s different for everyone. What works for one person will not work for another. But I can model a creative process by demonstrating mine.

And, of course, I want to inspire kids to write and draw and read and be interested in the world around them. I love demonstrating how passionate I am about stories and reading, so they can see the effect these things have had on my life. A book can tell a great story. But it can also change your life. That’s a very powerful messag.

 

10. What sparked your love for the written word, and when did you decide you wanted to write books?

 

The spark came when I was a kid. I was so young I don’t even remember a sparky moment. I just always loved writing stories, drawing pictures and reading books. I often hung out in my school library just to help the librarian shelve books and sort book orders. What a book nerd!

As I got older, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I studied journalism at university, but around the same time I (re)started writing fiction. And so after I’d completed my degree, instead of getting a cadetship somewhere, I enrolled in RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing course. That course was amazing and it showed me how to write a book and how to go about the business of books too.

 

  1. How were you paired with illustrator, Ben Wood?

 

Ben and I didn’t know each other until Real Pigeons. I had already sold the manuscript to Hardie Grant Egmont, and they set out to find an illustrator. They had a pre-existing relationship with Ben, who had been illustrating Ailsa Wild’s very excellent Squishy Taylor series.

While I wasn’t actually involved in selecting an illustrator for the series, I remember saying to Hardie Grant Egmont that whoever they choose must be able to draw a hilarious-looking pigeon. Ben met that criterion straight away – and has since gone way beyond, illustrating an amazing universe of birds, animals and other absurdities.

 

12. Do you have any other series planned, or are you focused on Real Pigeons right now?

 

Right now we’re very much focused on Real Pigeons. We’ve just signed up to do books 7, 8, 9 and 10 in the series with Hardie Grant Egmont, which is really exciting. I still love spending time in our ridiculous pigeon world and I’m so honoured that kids are enjoying that world too.

 

13. I have a question from a young friend, Jarvis, who adores your books. He has asked if there will be a bin chicken and a wolf who will be best friends in future books?

 

Hello Jarvis! Nice to hear from you in the middle of this interview! Thanks for asking such a great question.

Have you met Straw Neck yet? She’s an ibis who makes her first appearance in the second book, Real Pigeons Eat Danger, when the pigeons meet her in a dumpster as she’s making inventions out of rubbish. I can imagine that Straw Neck would get along quite well with a wolf. She’s a straight talker and wouldn’t put up with any hijinks a wolf might try on.

You’ll definitely be seeing more of Straw Neck in the future. As for a wolf … you’ll have to wait and see, hehe!

 

14. Following on from that, would the pigeons ever team up with a cassowary or a kangaroo?

I especially like the thought of the Real Pigeons coming across a cassowary. Cassowaries are such beautiful, strong and dangerous birds. They’re like ninja emus that have dressed up in colourful party clothes. And I can just imagine the pigeons talking to a kangaroo who is convinced that hopping is better than flying. Who knows, maybe one of these ideas will show up in future books!

15. Working in the arts, you provide great entertainment for kids. For you, what does working in the arts sector mean, and what more can be done to support it?

 

It’s quite simply a privilege to write for kids and make a living working in the arts in this country. Being a white, middle-class man definitely put me in a good position to attempt a creative freelance career. I’m lucky. I think about that all the time. And it makes me determined to work hard and try to make the best art I possibly can, while I’m in this position.

But the arts industry in Australia is seriously underfunded. The industry is worth $15 billion yet federal arts funding keeps being reduced. And writers and literature organisations traditionally get a pretty small cut of whatever funding there is anyway. That makes it very hard for book writers and creators to establish themselves and maintain a career once they’re established. Australians are great readers. We buy lots of books, we read heaps. But there needs to be more support for emerging and established book creators, so that Australian readers can read Australian books. I don’t think that point can be overstated.

 

16. Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and which one do you find yourself always going back to?

 

I worked at Readings for many years, and they will always be one of my favourites. Their kids’ shop in Carlton is heavenly. But we’re lucky to have so many great bookshops in Australia.

The Little Bookroom in Carlton North is great. Avid Reader in Brisbane is awesome (as is its kids’ shop, Where the Wild Things Are). The Avenue bookshops are all amazing. And I actually think we’re lucky to have lots of bookshops in shopping centres, thanks to the likes of Robinsons, Dymocks, QBD and Harry Hartog. And I haven’t even mentioned some of the great regional bookshops like Squishy Minnie in Kyneton and Blarney Books in Port Fairy.

I could go on but if I wrote about every bookshop in Australia that I like, I’d use up all of the internet’s storage space.

 

  1. Did working as a bookseller help you work out what you wanted to write?

 

Working in bookshops reinforced my love for children’s literature more than anything. But it also exposed me to lot that has helped me on my author journey.

You’re obviously exposed to a lot of reading material when you’re in a bookshop every day. There are always ARCs to read. You get a good taste of what customers like (and don’t like). It’s interesting to chat to publishers who walk in to see how their books – and their competitors’ books – are tracking.

One of the things that I always think about, having worked in a couple of bookshops, is: how is a bookseller going to recommend a book to a customer?

In my experience as a bookseller, you get less than 30 seconds to pitch a book to a customer who has asked for help. That might not sound like much, but whenever I was asked for a kids’ book recommendations, I would throw a handful of books at the customer – with a few lines of recommendations for each one – then let the customer choose.

I think about this all the time because it reinforces just how straightforward the initial pitch for a book needs to be. Because if a bookseller can’t quickly summarise a book – or speak to a cultural reference point to help explain it – then there might be a problem.

 

18. What do you love about children’s and Young Adult literature?

 

I love that the books I read when I was young are the ones that mean the most to me today. I recently read and adored Normal People by Sally Rooney, but I’m not going to carry that book in my heart forever the way I carry Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harriet the Spy. I loved those books as a kid and they’re part of who I am in a very deep and integral way. That’s the power of children’s literature.

 

19. What is it like judging for an award such as the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award?

 

 

It was an amazing experience actually. I was judging the Young Adult category of the prize. There was a lot of reading involved, as you can imagine, but getting paid to read YA books and debate them with other people was a total joy.

It was also interesting reading an entire year’s worth of YA publishing in a small amount of time. It gave me a great overview of Australian YA that year. You could see the trends of that year – in terms of the styles and genres of books getting published. But it also impressed on me the quality and depth of local YA publishing programs.

 

20. Finally, do you have recommendations for good reads during isolation?

 

I struggled to read books when the pandemic first took hold. It was a stressful time and my brain was busy on other matters (reading the Guardian live blog compulsively, looking up value-for-money casserole recipes, etc).

But after a few weeks, things settled down and I resumed reading again. I’ve been reading Comet in Moominland as the Moomins are always a calming read in anxious times.

I’ve also been rereading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (in preparation to read the new Book of Dust volumes) and am about to read Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Clearly, I’m taking comfort in fantasy that takes me far away from my #isolife.

Any further comments?

 

Nothing except to say thank you for having me. And please say hi to Jarvis for me and thank him for the questions!

Thanks Andrew, and good luck with Real Pigeons!

 

Isolation Publicity with Tim Cope

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

tim cope
Tim Cope

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

tim and tigon

Tim Cope is an adventurer, film maker and author who has travelled the world, and conducts treks all over the world. On one trek, he met his beloved travel companion, Tigon, and has recently released their story for younger readers. Whilst the book came out last year. Tim had author appearances and treks postponed. He talks about those here, and what he plans to do during the pandemic. The map and headshot in this post were provided by Tim.

 

tim map
Map of Tim’s journey.

Hi Tim, and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. You’re an author, an adventurer and a film maker – which did you start with, and how did you get into all three?

  
It all started with a writing project I did in year nine English in which I chose to describe what it was like to come out of a coma (at age ten I had contracted encephalitis). My teacher told me that I could be a writer one day. I’ve always loved writing, particularly the way in which it can harmonise and express the complexities of perception, allowing for the synthesis of thought, feeling and of the senses.

Parallel to that, I grew up in the countryside with a father in the outdoors. I began dreaming of adventure in my teens and by the time I finished school decided to delay university and pursue travel. During a year of working and travelling on a shoe-string budget travel in the UK and Europe I decided that writing and adventure fitted hand in glove for me.

 

 

  1. Of all the places you’ve been to on your adventures, do you have a favourite, and why?

I’ve been travelling to Mongolia just about every year since the year 2000. It is an extraordinary country where traditional life still holds sway. It’s a place where we can reflect on the many alternative systems available to us as societies. In regional areas Mongolians are still predominantly nomadic, private property is almost unheard of, and people mostly only own as many possessions as they can fit on the back of their camels, or on their trucks.

 

  1. Tim and Tigon – your new book – is aimed at middle grade to early young adult readers and comes out in September. What is Tim and Tigon about, and where did the inspiration come from?

 

My inspiration originally came from Tigon himself – my Kazakh dog. A few months  into the trip a man who accompanied on horse back for a couple of weeks gave me his small puppy. “In Kazakhstan dogs choose their owners. He is yours” he had told me. I looked down at this scrawny six month old pup, named Tigon, and wasn’t sure he would make it more than two weeks through the perilous winter of Kazakhstan (where it regularly drops below -40 degrees). I would soon learn, however,  that his spirit was much larger than his tiny frame. As we travelled together for three years across the Eurasian steppe to Europe, I watched Tigon grow into an adult, and live through untold challenges and scrapes. His sense of humour, his bravery, his curiosity and ability to appeal to the better side of human beings inspired me and lifted my spirits every day. And somehow, across all cultures, young people could immediately relate to Tigon.

Back here in Australia I visited hundreds of schools and organisations with my story, and the feedback from parents and teachers was always that it was hard to find engaging non-fiction for young people. Eventually I was able to fulfil the dream of writing about Tigon in this new book.

 

 

  1. Have you had to cancel any author events, launches or appearances due to COVID-19 yet, and if so, what were they? If not, what are you looking forward to?

  

2020 for me was a slated as a year in which I would do three main things:

1.Tour schools nationally with my book.

2.Run expeditions to Mongolia

3.Buy a house.

By mid March, all three of these had been more or less wiped out. Like for many my life has been turned upside down.

In terms of book events I had schools scheduled across Victoria, NSW, WA and Queensland that have all been indefinitely postponed or cancelled. I am in the process of trying to convert these to virtual appearances but it is a very fast changing landscape as everyone knows.

 

 

  1. What other books have you had published, and what audience do you primarily write for?

 

I’ve published three books: Off the Rails (Penguin), On the Trail of Genghis Khan (Bloomsbury), and Tim & Tigon (Pan Macmillan). I write for a wide audience including those interested in adventure, travel, history, culture, and more recently animals.

 

 

  1. Most of your books are non-fiction or memoir – any plans for a fiction book, either based on your experiences or in another genre?

 

My COVID lockdown project is to fulfil another dream, which is to complete an illustrated picture story book about Tigon. I don’t intend to write fiction at this stage although that idea has always been brewing in the back of my mind.

 

  1. You present to schools a lot – what are some of the things you love about doing this, and what sort of things do you speak to students about?

 

In my talks to students I talk about the adventures I’ve been on, and the lessons I’ve learned – primarily from the people and lands I travel through. These lessons revolve around resilience, patience, friendship, grief, risk taking, and learning to embrace the unfamiliar.  I think it’s  crucial for young people to look at the wide variety of options that exist for pathways in life. By looking into cultures, lands, and people who are different from ourselves we can extend ourselves and our understanding of the world – and of course assess our place in it. I enjoy the type of questions and reactions that young people have. They don’t self-limit their imagination, or aspirations, and have a natural curiosity about the great unknown. For adults sometimes adventures can seem like crazy, dangerous projects for which there are untold reasons not to undertake in the first place.

 

 

  1. Your adventure dog is Tigon – where did you meet Tigon, and what sort of writing and adventure companion is he?

 

Tigon was born in a small village called Zhana Zhol (‘new road’) in Eastern Kazakhstan. (Rest of this question more or less answered in question 3).

 

 

  1. You’re also a film maker – what sort of films have you made in the past, and what do you have planned for the future?

 

 

I made a documentary for the ABC about my journey by recumbent bicycle across Russia to China. It was called ‘Off the Rails: On the Back Roads to Beijing.’ Following on from that I rowed a wooden boat through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean with three mates. We sold the footage to National Geographic who made a documentary film. In 2010 I directed and co-produced a three hour TV series for the ABC and for ARTE in Europe. It was called ‘On the Trail of Genghis Khan.’

All of my films to date have been based on my adventures with a focus on the people, culture, and lands that I travel through.

 

 

  1. Was there a certain book or film that you read or watched as a child that sparked your interest in taking on big adventures across the world?

 

 

When I was a teenager I watched Sea to Summit, a film about Tim Macartney Snape walking from the bay of Bengal to the summit of Everest. I later read classic adventure stories such as Arabian Sands (Wilfred Thesiger), and the iconic mountaineering book Into the Void (Joe Simpson). I knew then that adventure was what I wanted to pursue in life.

 

 

  1. When you’re not on treks or adventures and at home, what do you enjoy doing during these down times?

 

 

I love reading, spending time with family and friends, hiking, walking, cycling, and surfing. I follow politics closely, and try to study to improve my language skills (Mongolian and Russian).

 

 

  1. In all three fields you work in, which authors, explorers and film makers were your inspiration?

 

In terms of authors, my inspiration were both fiction and non-fiction. As an 18 year old I loved reading Tolstoy classics, as well as the above mentioned author Wilfred Thesiger. In terms of adventurers, Mountaineer Tim Macartney Snape was definitely a big inspiration, as were Australian modern adventurers Eric Phillip and John Muir. My passion was adventure filmography. Michael Dillon, who made Sea to Summit was someone I looked up to. Amazingly many years later Mike joined me briefly as a videographer on my trek by horse from Mongolia to Hungary.

 

 

  1. Adventuring, like writing, is often a solitary and isolated quest – do you feel that the impacts and feelings that come with each intersect, or are there differences in how isolated you are writing versus heading off on an adventure?

 

It’s a really good question. I think I’m a naturally introverted person. For me both writing and adventure offer time to reflect and digest in solitude. On an adventure I love being out there in new environments, meeting new people, then retreating to the wilds and the inner of my tent where I have solitude and my diary. I think the difference between writing from the confines of a house, and being on an adventure is that the adventure offers more of a rich sensory experience. Adventure for me is about seeking new experiences, and writing is about reflecting on them and learning from those experiences, and preparing myself for new ones.

 

  1. You also run group treks with World Expeditions – which of these treks are the most popular, and have any of these stories made it into your writing?

 

My most popular trek takes us through the Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia. The route roughly follows the trail I took in 2004 during the early phases of my trek from Mongolia to Hungary. I love returning there. People still live a life mostly free from mechanical transport. They live with the seasons, closely tied to the land.

  1. When you’re at home, which local booksellers do you enjoy visiting?

 

Well until recently I lived in North-East Victoria in a small village called mount beauty. So the nearest place for new books was the local library. I think libraries are an underestimated resource these days.

Having said that, I am now in Melbourne, and I do enjoy going down to Readings in Carlton from time to time. 

 

  1. Exploring and adventuring feels as far from the arts as it can get sometimes, but do you find that there is some intersection between the two industries?

 

Most adventurers that I have admired are people, like artists, who challenge society to think critically, and who have chosen an unconventional path in life. Adventure can take on so many meanings, but for me it is largely about the creative concept of that adventure. One I have come up with a theme, and driving question, I assess everything through that prism, much in the way that many kinds of art projects might be driven.  Yes I believe there is a very strong intersection between the arts and exploration.

 

  1. Once travel is open again, where do you hope to do your next trek?

 

I had a trek in New Zealand all planned before COVID came along, so I will probably be headed to the South Island as soon as its possible. I also look forward to getting back to some of my favourite local hunting grounds in the Victorian Alps and Wilsons Promontory.

 

  1. Have nomadic people always been an area of interest – and where did this interest first come from?

 

When I was a kid growing up in rural Gippsland, I often used to try to imagine the landscape pre-colonial times. My Dad had a book about indigenous Australian cultures and I spent untold hours gazing at the photos. I wanted to know what it was like to live more in rhythm with nature, rather than locked in to human constructs of time, space, and land. those same elements drew me to Nomadic culture in Mongolia many years later.

 

 

  1. Finally, what is next in terms of writing? Are you working on anything while you’re at home?

My upcoming project is to complete a picture story book for 4-6 year olds about Tigon.

Beyond that I would love to write a book about living in Mongolia for a year with nomads, or perhaps following the trail of the Roma people (Gypsies) from India to Europe.

 

 

Anything further?

 

Thanks Tim!