The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)

the giant and the seaTitle: The Giant and the Sea
Author: Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)
Genre: Fiction, Eco-themes
Publisher: Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $26.99
Synopsis: A stunningly beautiful and powerful take on climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope. With lyrical text by acclaimed author Trent Jamieson and illustrations by CBCA Award-winner Rovina Cai that will resonate long after reading. For fans of Shaun Tan and Armin Greder.
A giant stands on the shore, watching the sea. She never moves, never speaks, until the day she turns to a little girl and says, ‘The sea is rising.’
The brave girl takes the message to the town. But when the people refuse to listen, the giant must find another way to save them.
Perfect for the children of the Climate Strike, this is a lyrical and deeply moving story about climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope.

~*~

A giant stares out at the sea – she can see something is wrong – the sea is rising. The young girl she meets tries to pass on the message – but the townsfolk ignore it – can the giant save them before it is too late? Climate change is a big topic now and has been for many years. Over the past few years, there have been many and varied books about climate change, how to reduce waste and various strategies on how to help. One of the latest books in this genre is The Giant and the Sea – which combines the real world issues of climate change and unwillingness to listen and act with a fantasy, far off world to illustrate what climate change is to younger readers and readers of all ages.

Trent Jamieson’s story gently and quietly tells the story of a world under threat from a rising sea. It can be read on several levels – the simplicity of needing to find safety, and as readers gain confidence or deeper understanding – what the rising sea and dark machine mean and how they are connected to climate change. From there, readers can work out that action must be taken. Trent’s simple yet complex and layered cyclical narrative is combined effectively with Rovina Cai’s illustrations, which are in shades of darker colours – browns and greys, black and muddied shades to show the despondency of the giant and the characters. At times it does feel hopeless – and this reflects the reality of the climate change issue that Trent is writing about.

It is one of those books that feels like it stays with you long after you read it, and it will. It is one that can be revisited over and over, taught in class and used as an example at all levels of education to teach about climate change or how to deal with climate change in literature and make it an accessible topic for all ages. This will be ideal to teach in classes across the board, and to open up discussions about climate change as well as differences of opinion, and how to talk about these issues with people who might not be as receptive to some issues.

This story really brought the issues to life, and because it ends the way it starts, it has a cyclical feel – that this is an ongoing issue and discussion that will always be talked about, always get attention. However, this book is also a warning that we need to act – and act soon.

Ideal for children aged four and over, this is a sensitive way to teach them about climate change and open up discussions about what is going on in the world today.

 

Books and Bites Book Bingo Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

books and bites game card

 

A travel memoir is one area I wasn’t sure what I would find – but as with all my challenges, I have been finding fun and inventive ways to interpret the categories I thought I might struggle with. This time I am marking off my thirteenth square and gaining a BINGO for the first row. I have checked off travel memoir but done something a little different and bent a fictional book with travel in it to work here.

 

books and bites game card

I used The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski – the review went live on the 28th of April. When Flick discovers a travel agency unlike any other and is invited to join the Strangeworlds Society. With all the travelling Flick and Jonathon Mercator do, it feels and reads like it could be a travel memoir – as we experience the journeys as they do. In this way, it has a sense of travel memoir, even if told in third person and the action takes place as we’re reading and isn’t described after the facts as one typically finds with a travel memoir.

strangeworlds

 

It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but in the current isolation climate, I’m finding I could be doing that a lot over the next few months – and I’m trying to use new reads as much as possible, and will slot re-reads in where I need to.

 

Books and Bites Bingo Progress Report One – First Bingo

I should be doing this for each bingo line I hit – with the regular book bingo, it is being included in the relevant post. For this one with Monique, I am trying to update as I complete a line.

books and bites game card

 

My first BINGO of the sheet is the top lime – which I actually completed last month but have only just managed to find time to write this brief post. This was possibly the easiest line – some squares I am still finding books, or waiting for a release, or am, not sure what I will use. Luckily, these are fairly broad categories and I can go with anything for many of them, so when I find something that fits, that is what I will use. This is my overall challenge strategy and I am finding it less stressful as it allows me to read what I have and if it fits, that’s a good thing.

This was a challenge I signed up for later than the others, but am having fun with it nonetheless. Of the books I used in this challenge, I loved them all and there were so many others that could have worked here. I admit to stretching the travel memoir category – using a fictional book with travel that felt like it could be a travel memoir – I expand on this more in the post, however.

I look forward to filling the rest of the squares and reporting on them in the coming months.

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

April 2020 Round Up

In April, we found ourselves amidst a pandemic – and I found myself with an influx of review books, some quite long, and some not so long. As I usually do, I aim to read ahead in my review stack, to get things cleared, and posted or scheduled to save time. I’m still a bit behind, reading some books that should be on this list on the day of writing and posting. However, this is the case due to the fact that the books may have arrived after or a day before publication date due to the current overload of deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis we’re facing.

I’ve also been doing an Isolation Publicity series with Australian authors – which by the looks of things will take me into mid – late August at this stage, a month short of the planned lockdown. Some of these interviews are really exciting and make me wish I could share them now, but the schedule means everyone gets a special day for their interview. Many authors have had launches cancelled, festivals and appearance cancelled or moved online – which has meant a loss of income and has been detrimental to the arts sector. These authors need the love and publicity the book blogging community can give them so their work can get into the hands of readers.

I read 19 books this month, and all except The Austen Girls and The Unadoptables have a live review at this stage. The Austen Girls will be appearing around the 19th of May with several other reviews and posts. The latter is appearing in June. I also ticked off a few challenge categories – not as many as I had hoped, however, I am getting there and should hopefully have filled them all in by the end of the year.

April – 19

Book Author Challenge
The Deceptions Suzanne Leal AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue Yvette Poshoglian AWW2020, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
The Octopus and I Erin Hortle AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Big Trouble R.A. Spratt AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy
The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

 

L.D. Lapinski Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
Inheritance of Secrets Sonya Bates Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jane in Love Rachel Givney Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily
Persuasion Jane Austen Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
The Austen Girls Lucy Worsley Reading Challenge
The Unadoptables Hana Tooke Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: No Rules R.A. Spratt Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King Kate Simpson and Hess Racklyeft Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery Renée Treml Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Modern Mrs Darcy (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)
Shortlisted Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020 AU; Shortlisted Speech Pathology Award, Eight to Ten Years 2019 AU 
Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge
Ribbit Rabbit Robot Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Nim at Sea Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Rescue on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge

Books and Bites Bingo – Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

books and bites game card

Choosing a scary book was hard for me – I tend not to read much horror fiction that most people would classify as scary. So I always knew I would struggle with this square and how I would interpret it. As I move through this bingo, some squares have been open to interpretation, others not so much, and so I have been filling it as books fall across my path, whilst others, I have books planned – I just need to read them.

Scary, much like a book with bad reviews, is going to be subjective. With the book with a bad review – I chose that one because other people had given it a bad review, but it turned out that I didn’t want to continue with the series, especially after being inundated recently, and I do have one that I am putting off that will fit that square.

During this challenge, and all my reading challenges, I’ve been prioritising books based on release date, request or whether or not the author is taking part in my isolation publicity series – at least, that has been and remains, my goal.

Back to scary – what I find scary might not be what others find scary, yet at the same time, I recently read a book that I didn’t find scary all the time, but there were one or two scenes that gave me the shivers, and that sensitive readers might find scary and troubling. This is a book that is to be released on the 19th of May, and my review will be going live that day.

monstrous devices

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love has elements of scariness in it, or it did for me. The idea that a robot could come to life through magical or other means is a bit scary, because then it means the robot can think and act of its own volition and the consequences could be dire. This is why it fits here, because sometimes, it gets a bit frightening yet at the same time is still engrossing. It may not be as scary as traditional horror but there are some things that I just cannot bring myself to read, and that is one of them. Luckily, this one was also on my review pile so I’ve killed two birds with one stone to get this post done.

Isolation Publicity with Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

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.

SnowWhiteCover copy

Kate Forsyth has written over forty books for all ages. Lorena Carrington is an illustrator, who works with photographic mediums and digitally to create her fabulous illustrations for the Lost Fairy Tale series, published by Serenity Press. The third book, Snow White and Rose Red, is published today, the first of May 2020. I decided I wanted this interview to appear on release day, and will be posting my review as close to it as possible. Kate and Lorena, like many authors, had launches, bookstore appearances, art gallery appearances and other events cancelled in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, much of this publicity is moving online at this time. I’ve read Kate and Lorena’s previous books and have a special edition of Lorena’s art – and they are much treasured books.   Kate and Lorena have appeared together for this interview.

Hi Kate and Lorena, and welcome to the Book Muse!

 

  1. First of all, how did you two meet each other and was Vasilisa the Wise the first project you collaborated on?

 

KATE: We first met when I wanted to buy myself a piece of fairy tale art as a present to myself for having completed my doctorate in fairy tales. A writer friend of mine Allison Tait sent me a message on Twitter with a link to Lorena’s website, essentially saying ‘Kate, have you seen this? I think you’d like it’. It was a complete coincidence – Allison didn’t know I was actively looking to buy some art, she just thought I’d like what Lorena creates. And I did! I loved it! I bought one of her pieces at once, and we began to communicate via social media, and just found we had so much in common. After a while, we realised that we were both working on very similar projects, quite independently of each other, and we decided to collaborate. We worked in secret for quite a long time, exchanging stories and images, and slowly Vasilisa the Wise came together.

LORENA: I think our serendipitous meeting is an example of the good that social media can do. At its best, social media create communities in which extraordinary connections can be made. Without that one tweet from Allison to Kate, my work life today would be completely different, and I’m so grateful for it!

 

  1. Snow White and Rose Red comes out at the end of April – did you have any launches or events planned for this book, and if so, what were they?

 

KATE: Lorena and I have done a tour together with every book so far, and we had so much fun planned for this book! A launch, art gallery showings, school visits, and so on. It was heart-breaking that everything had to be cancelled. Apart from anything else, it means we won’t get to see each other! We live so far away from each other, our launch tours were always a lovely excuse to get together, drink champagne, throw around ideas, and talk for hours. Now we shall just have to do it all virtually.

LORENA: I desperately miss the chance to sit on Kate’s balcony with a glass of champagne this year! But that time will come again, and for now we’re having a fabulous time putting together videos and plotting our online book launch on May 1st. There will be champagne involved.

 

  1. Are there any future Lost Fairy Tale anthologies planned for the two of you, and will the series hit the magic fairy tale number of seven?

 

KATE: We are working on Book 4 right now! We chose the stories together, and I have re-written them, and now Lorena is creating the art for them. The book will be called ‘The Gardener’s Son, the Golden Bird & Other Tales of Gentle Young Men.’ And, yes, we like to imagine seven …

LORENA: At least seven! I just started work on The Gardener’s Son this week, and I’m reminded (as I always am) of how much fun it is working with Kate, and with her incredible words.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite tale that you have worked on?

 

KATE: All of them! We don’t retell a story if we don’t love it. Though of course (speaking very quietly) some are more beloved than others. It’s made me very happy to bring the beautiful stories of Mary de Morgan to a wider audience, and I particularly love the Grimm stories ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, ‘Six Swans’ and ‘Snow White & Rose Red’. ‘Tam Lin’ is one of my favourite stories to retell in an oral performance, while ‘Katie Crackernuts’ is another old Scottish tale I just adore.

LORENA: I’m with Kate. Every story I’m reading or illustrating at the time is my favourite. I do have a soft spot for some too though: ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘A Mother’s Yarn’ and ‘Strawberries in the Snow’… And ‘The Pot Who Went to the Laird’s Castle’ is so much fun to read aloud.

  1. Lorena, when did you start illustrating, and what was the first medium you experimented with?

 

LORENA: Before I moved into illustration, I was a photographer and photographic artist. I began as an absolutely purist to the photographic form: I formulated my own photographic chemistry, printed from large format negatives onto fibre-based paper, and only in black and white of course… This all came crashing down when I had children! I suddenly couldn’t justify locking myself in the darkroom for days at a time. So, I moved slowly into digital, but if I was going to adapt to this new medium, I wanted to take full advantage of it. I began montaging photographs together in Photoshop, and having young children inspired me to start thinking more deeply about fairy tales and the stories we tell them. It. was a natural progression then to move into illustration.

 

  1. When did you decide the photographic layering method you have used in Vasilisa the Wise, The Buried Moon, Wiser than Everything and Snow White and Rose Red was the most effective method for this series of books?

           

LORENA: The layering method works so well because I’m working with a world reflected in but different to our own. Photography captures what is it front of the camera, but with digital montage I can build something new from it. I can create lions and griffins out of sticks and leaves. A girl can sprout a mermaid’s tail, or tight rope walk over a single hair. I can make a forest from blades of grass, and the ocean from a fish tank. It feels magical, even as I sit at my messy desk with a rapidly cooling cup of tea.

 

  1. Of all the illustrations you have created so far, Lorena, which have you had the most fun with?

 

LORENA: The most fun are probably the illustrations where I have to build a creature from scratch. I really enjoyed creating the goblin getting tangled in a fishing line for Snow White and Rose Red. He’s just so delightfully wicked and cranky! I had a fantastic time finding tangles of hair and wigs to make his ridiculous beard.

SWRR3
The goblin Lorena created
  1. Kate, you’ve loved fairy tales for a long time – your whole life. What was it about fairy tales that attracted you to them, and was there one in particular that you loved?

 

KATE: I spent quite a lot of time in hospital when I was a little girl, and so books and stories were enormously important to me, offering me an escape from the physical constraints of being so sick and afraid and alone. My mother bought me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy tales when I was seven, and I read it to absolute tatters. There was something about the darkness in the tales that spoke very powerfully to me. The heroes of fairy tales have to face profound dangers – being turned into toads, being fattened up to be eaten – and that sense of peril resonated with me in a way that most sugary-sweet children’s stories did not. I too was in danger. I too was facing insurmountable odds. Fairy tales gave me hope that I too could triumph, just like the young men and women who defeated the witches and ogres and dragons of their world.

Of all the tales I read, ‘Rapunzel’ was the one that resonated with me most powerfully. This is because my lonely hospital ward was a metaphorical tower, I realise now; and also, because Rapunzel’s tears had magical healing powers, while I was in hospital because I had lost my tear duct in a savage dog attack. I ended up writing a whole novel inspired by ‘Rapunzel’, and a poem, and did my doctorate on the history of the tale, so you can say a great deal of my life has been shaped by seeking to understand this one story’s magnetic pull on my imagination.

 

 

  1. Your love of fairy tales is evident in your novels – whether it is the themes or tropes, or the use of a particular fairy tale infusion to tell a story from history – such as the Singing, Springing Lark in The Beast’s Garden – how do you go about choosing which fairy tales work with which historical events?

 

KATE: That is a very hard question to answer, Ashleigh, because it’s never as mechanical as that. Each book comes to life in my imagination in a different way, and sometimes it’s the fairy tale that inspires the historical events. For example, the idea for The Beast’s Garden came to me in a kind of dream, as I was awakening from sleep. The dream showed me a girl in a golden dress singing to a room full of SS soldiers as she tried to save the man she loved. The setting and the fairy tale were fused together from the start (a golden dress is a key motif in ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’.) I draw upon a number of different fairy tales in The Wild Girl, but all of them were tales told to the Grimm brothers by Dortchen Wild, a real-life woman who was my protagonist in that book. What tales she told, and where and when, became the thematic structure of the book, and revealed to me her story. The Blue Rose is the only book of mine where I went out actively searching for a fairy tale to fit my story, and even then, I stumbled upon it most serendipitously and when I was not actually looking for it.

 

 

  1. Can you tell my readers anything about your next fairy tale infused historical fiction, Kate?

 

KATE: I’m working with an ancient Greek myth this time! The book I am writing is set in Crete, in contemporary times and during the Nazi occupation of 1941-1945, and it draws upon the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur. The novel will be called The Crimson Thread, which is a reference to the ball of red thread that Ariadne gives to Theseus, so that he may find his way out of the labyrinth after he has slaughtered the Minotaur. I’m only in the early stages, but I’m very much loving the writing of it!

 

  1. This is for both of you – do you have a favourite artist or style of art, and why?

 

KATE: I am a passionate lover of art, and artists feature in quite a few of my books. The Venetian artist Titian in Bitter Greens, for example, or the Pre-Raphaelite artists at the heart of Beauty in Thorns. I particularly love figurative art which has a story at its core – which is probably why I love the Pre-Raphaelites so much as they were inspired by myth, poetry and fairy tales, just like me.

LORENA: My early work was inspired a lot by modernist photographers like Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti and Edward Western, and I think I still keep a lot of those sensibilities, though it may not be immediately obvious in my work! I think they taught me that so much can be found in a single object, yet you can still hold onto its essence. More obviously, I adore the work of illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edmund Dulac, and Virginia Frances Sterret. The use of silhouettes and broadly coloured and textured backgrounds in Golden Age fairy tale illustrations were a launching point for my own illustration style.

  1. You both work in the arts sector – with recent events and the cancellation of launches and festivals, and booksellers closing temporarily or changing the way they operate for the next few months, how do you think the arts industry overall might be impacted?

 

KATE: Oh, Ashleigh, this is a terrible time for our creative artists! Our government does not value their work, and does not understand how variable and difficult our income is anyway. The sign of a rich and vibrant culture is always its art, and yet it seems as if we are to live on nothing – creating out of a void. I am so afraid for the young artists, and those that are working outside the norm, and those that come from Indigenous or migrant backgrounds, and those who have staked everything on their creative work. Stories and art are so important! We are not human without them.

 

  1. Supporting the arts, and in this series, Australian authors and illustrators across the board is something I am passionate about. What is the most important thing about the arts for both of you, and how should Australians support the arts and local bookstores in these times?

 

KATE: Thank you, Ashleigh, it’s so heartening to know that there are people like you in the world, working tirelessly to help and support our creative artists. What can I say? We should all read more Australian authors, and listen to home-grown music more, and watch more Australian-made films and dramas and dance and theatre and buy Australian art to make our homes beautiful. I do my best, particularly with Australian authors. I buy them, I read them, I post pictures of their book covers on social media, I review them on my blog and for Booktopia, I began a light-hearted book show on YouTube with one of my best friends, I like and share the posts of as many writers as I can, and when they are overcome with hurt and despair, I try and send them loving support and reassurance. I do all this every single day, because it’s all I can do.

LORENA: I second everything Kate says in the last two questions. We need art and books more than ever, and those who make them it haven’t been properly supported, certainly not in our lifetimes, and far less so in times of crisis like these. Our industry will survive: it’s a many faceted thing, but we need to remember that the industry wouldn’t exist without the many individuals that make it. We can all support the arts: by buying a book, chipping in a few dollars a month to an artist on Patreon, purchasing handmade locally made gifts… and by constantly reminding those with money and power that the society they profit from would not exist without the arts.

 

 

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and how are they getting books to customers at this time?

 

KATE: My local booksellers are Berkelouw Books at Balgowlah, in Sydney, and they have very sadly closed down for the moment.  However, The Constant Reader at Mosman are struggling on, having click-and-collect services available – no browsing in the shop allowed but they have a great website (and all of my books are available!)

LORENA: We have a fabulous bookshop in Castlemaine (Victoria), Stoneman’s Bookroom. The staff there are extraordinarily supports of local authors and illustrators. They are taking order for pick-up at the moment, and I hope it’s enough to get them through. I can’t answer this question without also giving a massive shout-out to Blarney Books in Port Fairy. Jo is brilliantly engaged with the Australian book and art community, and works passionately to promote their work. She’s extraordinary.

  1. Favourite author, series or genre to read?

 

KATE: My favourites genres are historical fiction, crime, fantasy, memoir and – of course! – fairy tale retellings. I have a page on my website that I call ‘Kate’s Favourite Writers’ – I think there’s more than 110 there! https://kateforsyth.com.au/favourite-writers-adult

 

Lorena: I can’t resist an Australian-written YA or middle grade book. I’m currently reading Alison Croggon’s The Threads of Magic, and loving it. I also have a soft spot for literary fiction by women, classic crime novels, artist memoirs, and historical fiction. I prefer historical novels that deal with the every day, rather than big war adventures. Kate’s Beauty in Thorns and Hannah Kent’s The Good People are two of my favourites from the past couple years.

 

  1. Best writing companion – cat, dog or both?

 

KATE: My beautiful dog spends most of the day curled on a chair in my study. My cat wanders home when it gets dark, eats, then wanders off again!

LORENA: I love this question! Once upon a time I would have said cat (warm lap, comforting purrs) but I’m afraid I’ve been converted into a dog person. And there’s nothing like a dog to remind you to get away from the desk for an hour to walk in the fresh air, which is vital to work like ours!

 

  1. Kate – do you prefer writing by hand, or on the computer, or a combination of both?

 

I write in my diary every morning long-hand – and scribble down ideas and inspirations long-hand – and write poetry long-hand – and sometimes I do writing sprints long-hand. Everything else I write via my computer. Unless I’m stuck. Then I’ll try writing long-hand to see if it unsticks me.

 

  1. Lorena – is there a medium you love when it comes to illustrating that you haven’t used in a long time?

 

LORENA: I still miss the darkroom… And every now and then I like to pick up a pencil and remind my hand how to make marks on a page. Lately I’ve been playing with cyanotypes again and using them to teach illustration workshops. It’s a fantastic way of combining photography, montage and painting. You paint a light sensitive solution onto paper, in any shape you like, lay objects over the top to create a silhouette, and expose it in the sun. You then rinse it to set the solution. It’s (relatively) safe to use, and great fun for students. I’ve even started incorporating it into my work, with a board cover design for a novel coming out through Swan River Press in Ireland, where I combined cyanotype and photography in a digital montage.

  1. What new releases are you both looking forward to in the next six to twelve months?

KATE: Oh my gosh, so many! On my to-be-read shelf I have new releases from Natasha Lester, Kelly Rimmer, Dervla McTiernan, Kayte Nunn, Julia Baird, Alexandra Joel, Melissa Ashley, JoJo Moyes, and Michelle Paver – I want to read them all. So many books, so little time.

LORENA: I recently received a review copy of Shakespeare and the Folktale, edited by Charlotte Artese. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it looks like a fascinating exploration of the tales that inspired some of his plays. I’m also looking forward to Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, Hollowpox, the third Nevermoor book by Jessica Townsend, A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and Vesper Flights by Helen McDonald.

 

 

  1. Finally, are there any stories you’d both like to explore in future works?

 

 

KATE: I’d like to retell ‘Katie Crackernuts’ and the Psyche myth in novel form. And Lorena and I are toying with the idea of doing a collection of transformation tales next, which means I could do the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd which has long haunted my imagination.

LORENA: I’m very much looking forward to the transformation tales! I also love the idea of exploring some strange and interesting folktales – it would be fun to make some ghosts and monsters.

 

Anything further?

 

 

KATE:  The theme of ‘Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women’ is, of course, kindness. We chose it because we think kindness is the most crucial of all human actions. We are living through dark and difficult times. These stories can help us and inspire us to be more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, more kind. We hope you all read them and are inspired.

 

 

Thank you both for appearing here! I can’t wait to read Snow White and Rose Red!

Ribbit Rabbit Robot by Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina (illustrator)

ribbit rabbit robot high res-minTitle: Ribbit Rabbit Robot

Author: Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina (illustrator)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st April 2020

Format: Hardcover Picture Book

Pages: 32

Price: $17.99

Synopsis:

This lamp is enchanted and I am the genie. I will grant all your wishes, but don’t be a meanie… When a friendly frog, a greedy rabbit and a robot with a short fuse discover a magic lamp, chaos follows…and friendship is found.

  • A hilarious tale about kindness and always reading the fine print

  • Stunningly detailed illustrations paired with simple alliterative text – perfect to read aloud

  • Themes include selfishness, greed, and friendship and the importance of paying attention.

~*~

Frog, Rabbit and Robot find a lamp with a genie who grants them wishes – but they’re warned not to be selfish. As Frog ribbits and tries to work out the rhyming riddle, his friends, Rabbit and Robot make wishes that are what they want and don’t seem to pay attention – they just want their wishes! But Frog is more thoughtful – and through Frog, we learn that rushing into something like Rabbit and Robot did isn’t always the way to go.

Frog teaches patience and the art of paying attention to young children through alliteration and rhyming, and the wonderful illustrations by Sofya Karmazina – it is truly a book that cannot be read without appreciating these beautiful pictures, as they contribute immaculately and perfectly to the story. Scholastic did a fantastic job pairing Sofya with Victoria’s story – Victoria talks about the process of working with Sofya in an interview here as part of Isolation Publicity.

AWW2020Picture books often result in shorter reviews – I’m not quite sure why, but perhaps it is because it is much easier to be succinct about picture books. They are something that needs to be experienced hands-on, and in person – you need to interact with them and absorb the images with the story, as they tell just as much of the story as the words do.

This is a great book for early readers and younger children who are not quite at the stage of learning to read yet. It can be read to all ages as well, as there is something magical about the rhyming that is evocative and soothing, and allows the reader or person being read to feel the rhythm of words, and discover the joy of what language and words can do. It is a lovely book, and captures the magic of reading and words.

 

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

strangeworldsTitle: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency
Author: L.D. Lapinski
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orion/Hachette Australia
Published: 28th April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 380
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of THE TRAIN TO IMPOSSIBLE PLACES and THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS’ CLUB.
At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .
Pack your suitcase for a magical adventure! Perfect for fans of THE TRAIN TO IMPOSSIBLE PLACES and THE POLAR BEAR EXPLORERS’ CLUB.
At the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, each suitcase transports you to a different world. All you have to do is step inside . . .
When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours. All you have to do to visit them is jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds.
But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening, she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it.
A magical adventure for 9+ readers that will take you to whole new worlds.

~*~

A suitcase is an ordinary object – something you pack to take on holiday. Not so in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency in Little Wyvern. When twelve-year-old Flick and her family move from the large city to the smaller town of Little Wyvern, exploring her new town during the summer has Flick stumbling across an old shop called Strangeworlds Travel Agency – which to most people, might just seem like a travel agency you can book holidays with. But to Jonathon Mercator, the Custodian of the agency, and Flick Hudson, it is something else. It is a place of portals to new worlds, traversed by members of the secret Strangeworlds Society, a multiverse that is in trouble when Flick uncovers something that Jonathon says nobody has been able to do for generations.

So begins Flick’s adventures, jumping in and out of suitcases with Jonathon as she learns about her gift, the multiverse and Strangeworlds, until she discovers why Jonathon really needs her – and it has to do with something she’s able to see in the suitcases that he can’t. When Flick begins to break the rules to find out what is going on, she finds out she needs to fix things before every world including hers, vanishes.

This was a fantastic read, taking the idea of portals into new worlds, and creating something new. In every chapter, Flick travels, so it is also almost like a fictional travel memoir of the journeys Flick and Jonathon take into various worlds, a log of their quest and journeys. It all seems impossible, but in the world of Little Wyvern, anything is possible, and the consequences of staying in a world longer then you should – for time moves differently in each world, and you need to be mindful of this. L.D. Lapinski has taken all those classic elements – magic, portals and a new town, and a child who is either an orphan, or has parents who are always away, and brought them together into something fresh and new. I’m curious to see whether this is a standalone, or the beginning of a new series – either way, it works for both, and allows the reader scope to imagine what could happen next. It is the perfect middle grade book, and I think anyone who wishes to read it. It has that sense of magic that books like Narnia have, in its ability to enchant and transport readers to worlds beyond what they’re living and experiencing.

This was a great middle grade book, and works well as a stand-alone, but equally well as the start of a new series. I loved escaping to Little Wyvern, and visiting again would be fun.

World Book Day 2020

Happy WORLD BOOK DAY

Today, the 23rd of April, we celebrate World Book Day, and William Shakespeare’s birthday. It is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day, and the National Library of Australia notes that it also marks the deaths of William Shakespeare (I know, he died the same day he was born, about fifty-two years later), and Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I’ve done the tour of three of the historic houses linked to the playwright.

World Book Day celebrates a love of reading, and this year, they are encouraging people to share the love of reading from home – while we’re all in isolation and unable to head out. I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment – mostly for review and working on a series called Isolation Publicity series which is highlighting as many Australian authors as possible, especially those impacted by the cancellation of events, festivals and launches of their upcoming releases – some are debut authors, and some have had many works published. Yet they all need love at the moment and blogging about books and sharing books is a small way we can #StayAtHome during #WorldBookDay and share the love of reading.

So on World Book Day, grab a good book if you can and read!

Today, I have several books on the go:

The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive (out 28th of April 2020)

Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love (Out 19th May 2020)

The Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

All four will be reviewed on my blog in the coming days or weeks, and I have many more to get through – the scheduling tool is super helpful here. You can follow progress of readers in this time via the hashtag #AustraliaReadsAtHome as well.

In relation to World Book Day, in September, The Australian Reading Hour with Australia Reads  is coming up in September, but instead of one hour, there are seventeen days of fun leading up to the main event on the 17th of September, where the aim is to have one million people reading the same book at the same time. Each year there is a different book for National Simultaneous Story Time. Your own individual hour can take place whenever and wherever you wish.

I linked these two events in today’s post because they both highlight the importance of books, reading and literacy, and so you can prepare for the September event! More information will come about this event later, about what will be happening during the first two weeks of September.

Isolation Publicity with Victoria Mackinlay

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.

ribbit rabbit robot high res-min

Victoria MacKinlay is a debut author with Scholastic Australia. Her first book, RIBBIT RABBIT ROBOT came out earlier this month. Like many authors in the Australian book community, she has had various events, appearances and launches cancelled due to the pandemic. In the wake of the pandemic, the book community has come together to try to promote these books, and support authors – as my participants have been discussing through out these interviews

Hi Victoria and welcome to The Book Muse!

1. RIBBIT RABBIT ROBOT came out with Scholastic at the start of April – what is the book about?

It’s the tongue-twisting tale of a friendly Frog, a greedy Rabbit and a Robot with a short fuse, and their chaotic adventures with a magic lamp.

It has themes of friendship, greed, kindness and a gentle message about the importance of paying attention. There’s also an ethical dilemma and an act of altruism. So, basically, a LOT packed into a picture book of only 172 words!

2. Where did the idea come from?

My 3-year-old daughter and I were playing with a frog sponge in the bath saying: “Ribbit” and “Rub it” as we were washing. The repetition of those words was so funny and we quickly added a Rabbit and a Robot. The game stuck with both of us. My daughter kept asking for it and I started writing down lists of words that followed the “R*b*t” formation in various notebooks. I challenged myself to tell a fully rounded story using only those words … and that is how Ribbit Rabbit Robot came into being.

3. It is also your debut picture book – prior to becoming an author, what was your job, and what was it that made you take the leap from this into writing?

I have always written stories but before being published I worked at Google for 9 years which was an incredible experience – being part of a start-up that grew into something which has changed the way the world works. I studied French and Italian at University which has allowed me to travel a lot and have a very varied career, but I’ve always dreamed of being a published author.

4. Due to the current pandemic, many authors have had launches, events and festival appearances cancelled – what events have you had to cancel, and is it possible these might be rescheduled?

The launch, various story times and my Sydney Writers Festival appearance were all cancelled, but I have to say the outreach of support and love from the book community has been incredible (including this interview!). I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me, and I’ve enjoyed moving events online (like the Facebook live story time I recently did for Harry Hartog). I hope the SWF will be rescheduled and can’t wait to read to kids in person but can’t complain about the opportunities that have been offered to me since the pandemic. Thank you everyone!

5. The title of your book is alliterative, and the text has some rhyming in it – what do you think these two aspects of literature do for kids who are learning to read?

I love to write in rhyme and read a lot of rhyme and poetry to my daughter. I studied poetry as part of my degree (I actually took the same degree at the same University as Julia Donaldson). RIBBIT RABBIT ROBOT happened organically – it was created from the pure joy of playing with my daughter and my love of playing with words – but I am delighted to hear from speech pathologist friends who have described it as “gold” for working with children who struggle with the /r/ sound. I could pretend that that was my masterplan all along but it’s a very happy consequence.

6. As a debut author, how did you get published by Scholastic/what was the submission process like?

I’d seen Clare Hallifax speak at various writers’ festivals and events and booked a manuscript assessment with her at the Creative Kids Tales Festival in 2018. Unbelievably this was my first ever manuscript assessment and she was the very first publisher to read the manuscript. I was in a dream-like state when she said she liked it and asked me to submit it to her. That story will be my second published book. I sent her RIBBIT RABBIT ROBOT after she had contracted my first story.

7. Why did you choose a rabbit, a robot and a frog?

Because they all follow the R*b*t sound pattern (or make a sound that does).

8. How were you paired with Scholastic book designer, Sofya Karmazina, as an illustrator for the book?

My publisher paired us together and I am so lucky that they did! Not many people know that in traditional picture book publishing the illustrator and author are kept very separate (I believe so the author doesn’t influence/dominate the illustrator and to give the illustrator space to add their own magic to the story). Essentially, once Scholastic aquired my text, my work was done. When I saw Sofya’s roughs I was blown away, almost intimidated, by how brilliant they were. I had left the text very open and she created the world in which the characters live. She added so many special and fun touches to the story. She’s an amazing talent.

9. How long have you worked in the book industry?

I got serious about writing picture books in January 2017 and signed my first book contract in June 2018. I must say that the kidlit community is made up of some of the most fun, generous and kind people I’ve ever met.

10. The arts are an important sector in society – what does it mean for you to work within this sector?

It’s a great honour and a privilege. I feel lucky every day to be able to do what I do – write for children. And I do hope during ‘the great pause’ this pandemic has afforded us, people will reflect upon the joy and comfort the arts bring to our lives.

11. With the arts becoming so important and significant for everyone during isolation, what stores are you trying to support locally?

I have a massive soft spot for Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt. They have such a beautiful book community and were going to host the launch. And I was thrilled Harry Hartog invited me to do an online story time. I am very keen to get down to Melbourne and visit all the gorgeous bookstores I’ve been stalking online.

12. What is your favourite writing snack?

Chocolate. British Dairy Milk with Turkish Delight is la creme de la creme if I can get it. Otherwise KitKat Chunkies, Kinder Buenos, Daim bars and Reese’s pieces.

13. Pen and paper or tapping away at a keyboard – which do you prefer?

Pen and paper. I am a paper lover – when I lived in Florence, I used to spend hours browsing the paper shops and have also got stacks of paper I collected on work trips to Japan. I write on the squared notepads you get from Daiso for $2.80 (they remind me of the notepads we used in French schools on exchanges). Despite my vast collection of notepads, I still find that stories invariably come at inconvenient times and several have been written on crumpled receipts from the bottom of my handbag.

14. Cats or dogs – or both?

I have two beautiful rescue cats but I’m also a dog lover who grew up with a black labrador.

15. Finally, is there another book in the works?

Yes. My second picture book (which is based on the true story of my 8 year old grandfather being gifted a lion cub by a Maharajah) has been pushed back due to the pandemic and is now scheduled for May 2021. I am in the process of signing my third contract and have many more manuscripts on the go.

Thank you, Victoria,