In June, I managed to read eighteen books in total, fourteen by Australian authors, and all but one of those were Australian women authors. Fifteen of the eighteen were by women authors from Australia and the United Kingdom, and my reading crossed all kinds of genres and audiences this month as I work towards my yearly reading goals.
Towards the end of the month, I participated in an Emma versus Pride and Prejudice read-along with some blogger friends – it seemed several of us went with Emma- perhaps because we had not read it yet and had already read Pride and Prejudice – and two of us found we could use it for a classics book bingo square.
I’m moving slowly through my stacks of books to read, and will hopefully be on top of all of them soon.
Title: Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes
Author: Monique Mulligan
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: May 2020
Synopsis: Alexandra Rose has ice-cold toes and she knows the best way to warm them up. But will her family like her foot-warming, wake-up-fast idea as much as she does?
Fergus the Farting Dragon and My Silly Mum author Monique Mulligan returns with another delightfully mischievous tale for children of all ages. Complemented by vibrant, funny illustrations, this cheeky story is perfect for reading aloud, with or without socks on.
Alexandra-Rose wakes up with icy cold toes one day – and finds her family is still asleep! So she comes up with a plan to wake them up – and warm her toes at the same time.
Monique emailed me earlier this year when we were all in lockdown, around the time we were sorting out our Isolation Publicity interview for the series due to end in mid-August. She asked me to review this book, and her upcoming novel in September, and I agreed as I love supporting Australian authors. I received this earlier this week and read it almost instantly. This is a delightful story about a family, and perfect for those cold, winter nights when you’re snuggled up, away from the cold.
It is also a very cheeky story, told in delightful and fun rhymes, accompanied by beautiful and bright illustrations that make the story and pages pop and come to life with a family filled with love and fun, and who are supportive and are always there for each other. Even the cat is quite the character, as many cats often are, and had a wonderful role in the story alongside Alexandra-Rose and her family.
The pictures tell the story just as much as the words, from Alexandra-Rose’s icy blue toes, to the final image of her family together, with her brother in a wheelchair, which is excellent disability representation, and the images have their own life beyond the words.
Monique’s book has also been read, and the reading recorded, by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. This shows how far Australian books, authors and publishers can reach – Monique’s book is a shining example of how Australian books and stories have a place in the world and beyond the audiences it will find in Australia.
Being able to support authors like Monique is one of my favourite things about this blog, and why I try to focus on Australian authors and authors that might not have as big a following as some very well-known authors worldwide.
Children of all ages will love this book, and it is perfect to read out loud with its rhyming and lilting tones and structure, and will be great for readers learning to read and confident readers – readers at all ages and levels will get enjoyment out of this delightful little book. I loved reading it and can’t wait to read Monique’s adult novel coming out in September.
In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.
The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165
Title: Elephant Me
Author: Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Publisher: Hachette/Orchard Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Synopsis: The empowering story of little elephant Num-Num, who discovers the importance of simply being YOU! From the creators of international bestseller and much-loved classic Giraffes Can’t Dance.
It’s time for the Elephant Games! One by one, the young elephants compete to impress King Elephant Mighty and earn their Elephant Name.
Nina is the strongest, so she becomes Elephant Strong.
Norcus is the loudest, so he becomes Elephant Noisy.
Little Elephant Num-Num thinks he will never discover his own special talent – until he learns that the very best thing you can be is YOU!
Elephant Num-Num has to show King Elephant Mighty a special talent to get his Elephant Name during the Elephant Games – every other elephant can, but Num-Num finds he doesn’t have a special talent – he’s just him. Driven away from the Elephants, Num-Num befriends the other animals, who see him for who he is and encourage him to be him – the best thing he can be! Discover how Num-Num encourages the other elephants to discover the best them and be who they are, not who they are expected to be.
Through a rhyming story that ebbs and flows, Giles Andreae tells the story of a young elephant searching for who he is, and in turn, teaches the other elephants to be who they are. Accompanied by delightfully fun and colourful illustrations of the elephants and the other animals by Guy Parker-Rees, the story really pops and comes to life beautifully. He brings the African bush to life, in a fun and accessible way, using colour and bright shades. The animals all being friends by the waterhole is a lovely image, and one of my favourites of the entire book. I loved that each elephant had its own personality through the words and images, and both of these elements worked together to show the beauty and individuality that we should all celebrate within ourselves.
The words and images capture what it is like to be you and not fall into line with what others expect, and what it means to face up to those who have tried to make you believe you shouldn’t fall into line. The bright images are fun, and engaging, and the rhyming, lyrical feel of the words is great for readers at all stages, whether learning to read, being read to or just looking for a fun read that teaches kids that being who they are is sometimes more important than following trends and trying to fit in for the sake of fitting in.
This would be great to be shared between parents and kids, in classes across the board, or just for people to read for themselves. It’s a fun little story with an important message, and best of all, it uses elephants to tell the story – and really, where can you go wrong with elephants in a story like this? It is truly a beautiful book and one with a lovely message that will always be treasured.
Title: 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
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.
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.
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
Publisher: Little Hare Publishing/Hardie Grant Egmont
Published: 1st March 2020
Synopsis: Daisy has gone bonkers! On her daily walk, she unexpectedly leaps into the air and takes off around the park. Confused and embarrassed, Jasper runs after Daisy – interrupting a yoga class, ruining a game of cricket and accidentally pushing poor posh Mrs Pallot into the pond! Can Jasper get to the bottom of Daisy’s behaviour amidst all of the hullabaloo?
With irresistible rhyme and loveable characters, Daisy and Jasper’s second adventure is even more hilarious than their first.
When Jasper takes his pet koala – Daisy – out for a walk, all havoc breaks loose, and she leaps from her rolling chair machine, and knocks into people, into games and into food. Jasper is at a loss as to what could be causing it – so he chases her around the park and around the town to help her.
Daisy Runs Wild is the second book in Caz Goodwin’s ‘Lazy Daisy’ series, and is told in a delightful poetic way – every page has two to four lines of rhyming text, which is fun to read, and will be engaging for children to read out loud or to themselves, and listen to as they engage with language, learn new words and understand the rhythms and lyrical nature of language and what it can do.
Caz is one of my isolation publicity authors and a SCWBI ARA, and her interview is appearing in the coming weeks. Some authors, like Caz, also requested a review, and it has been some of these interviews that has started my new addiction to beautiful and fun picture books. We have some amazing talent in Australia and illustrated works and picture books are an area where we have some really cool, interesting and amazingly done work. From the text of the story to the wonderfully complementary illustrations – and the Lazy Daisy series by Caz is definitely one to watch.
Most picture books are stand-alone stories, yet with a series like this, kids of all ages can follow and enjoy it, as it will be fun and suitable for all ages. This is a series to watch, with a uniquely Australian voice and story, filled with fun and humour.
As well as teaching children the fun of rhyming and language, it also has a message about caring and not judging someone – especially if they can’t tell you what is wrong. It is a beautiful book, and many thanks to Caz for the lovely signed copy she sent for me to review it.
Author: Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina (illustrator)
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st April 2020
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
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.
Picture 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.
Title: Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King
Author: Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: March 2020
Synopsis: The true story of Anzac girl Sister Alice Ross-King, who sailed to war in December 1914 and became the most decorated woman in Australia.
It was 1914 when Sister Alice Ross-King left Australia for the war. Nursing was her passion – all she had ever wanted to do. But Alice couldn’t have imagined what she would see. She served four long years and was brave, humble and endlessly compassionate.
Using extracts from Alice’s actual diaries kept in the Australian War Memorial, this true story captures the danger, the heartache and the history of the young nurse who would one day become the most decorated woman in Australia.
Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King is a picture book, based on the war diaries of the WW1 nurse, written by her great-granddaughter, author Kate Simpson, who is also the co-host of kids lit podcast, One More Page with Liz Leddon and Nat Amoore. This has been a book that has been on my shelf for a few weeks – and I thought Anzac Day was the perfect time to read it.
Like many authors who have released or will be releasing books in the next few months, Kate had the launch of her book cancelled. I hope my review can bring some publicity for this special book alongside my other reviews and Isolation Publicity series.
When Alice Ross-King sets off for war as a nurse, she isn’t prepared for what she will see and who she will meet. Kate has used extracts from her great-grandmother’s diary to tell the story, and the illustrations by Jess are combined with photos of the actual documents from the war and Alice’s time spent as a nurse across Gallipoli and Europe. Told simply for kids aged six and older, it is still very evocative and encapsulates the sense of what the war was like for Alice. It captures what the war was like in a time of war in a way that isn’t too confronting for younger readers. Readers feel Alice’s heartache, hope and despondence throughout. It is one of the most engrossing picture books I have read recently. It is a great book to read for history lessons or ANZAC Day or both. I would have loved to have had a story like this to study during history at school, and hopefully, it finds its way into future curriculums for all levels and ages.
An excellent picture book that captures the ANZAC spirit.
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 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.
Hazel Edwards has been in the industry for forty years, and has written for various age groups. But she is perhaps most well-known is There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. As a kid, I remember having this, and There’s A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Getting Sunburnt. Hazel decided to highlight her publisher, Margaret Hamilton, so there are fewer questions, but what is here is an interesting view on what it was like being involved in such a popular book for both author and publisher.
Hippo-Pot-A-musing in a Time of Pandemic
Hi Hazel, and welcome to The Book Muse
Q. There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake was your first picture book, (1980) – and now the 40th anniversary edition has been issued (2020) , amidst the Pandemic Lockdown. How is your situation different from those for whom their FIRST book is due out? Especially as there’s little chance of publicity due to lockdown of all services?
A muse inspires, and sustains so…I’d like to pay credit to the quiet ones behind our books.
Editors, publishers, designers…and readers. And that this is a LONG process.
A reader, not the writer is the owner of the book, once it is published.
Any book requires lots of support, long-term. In this weird Pandemic Isolationism, I feel SO much sympathy for those creators whose FIRST book was due to appear in this time. They’ve been robbed of the highly anticipated book baby birth and the associated launch euphoria. But their book still exists and can have a life beyond these restrictions. It is an idea traveller and may yet continue post-Pandemic.
At least with social and digital media there are still ways of sharing ideas which can be infectious in the best possible way… in a time when we must find new ways of problem-solving.
Because some characters can have lives of their own ( most people know the cake-eating hippo but don’t know me) I’d like to thank the three generational fans but also the original Hodder publisher Margaret Hamilton who took a BIG risk on an unknown writer. A few weeks ago she set me her ‘memories’ and gave permission for me to share.
HIPPO MEMORIES from original Hodder Publisher, Margaret Hamilton A.M.
Margaret Hamilton, Hippo illustrator with cushion
I have spent many decades working in publishing, specialising in children’s books, firstly at Hodder & Stoughton, then at my own company Margaret Hamilton Books. It makes me extremely proud to see that some of the books I originally published are still in print and being enjoyed by a whole new generation.
My special memories of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’:
• Opening the envelope from Hazel Edwards and immediately loving the story that she had sent and reading it to my colleagues at Hodder.
• Picturing in my mind illustrations by Deborah Niland, with the hippo being almost too big for the pages.
• Deborah wasn’t very keen but I talked her into doing the book, also to do the ‘hippo’ hand lettering of the title, which has been used for all subsequent titles.
• Receiving a letter from the Leipzig Book Fair, awarding Hippo the International Best Picture Book Bronze Medal in 1981.
• Being part of the audience at Garry Ginivan’s ‘Hippo, Hippo the Musical’, seeing so many children enjoying themselves. Thinking, who would have thought that simple story I found in an envelope would come this far?
• Visiting a restaurant at Lake Louise in Canada in 2017, having my phone with its hippo cover beside me on the table and the waiter saying, ‘Isn’t that the hippopotamus on the roof eating cake?’
• Receiving a copy of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Christmas Cake’ together with a recipe for gingerbread, a cookie cutter and a card which said, ‘to Margaret from Hippo’. The gingerbread was very good!
• It gives me special pleasure that Hippo is 40 years old. How proud I feel that so many Australian children have read the books and love them — and there are now six other titles in the series.
• I have huge pleasure sharing Hippo with children who visit me at Pinerolo, the children’s book cottage, especially families who have booked the cottage on Airbnb. It’s very satisfying to see them recognise Hippo, parents and children alike.
• It was a very special pleasure to receive a copy of the beautiful 40th anniversary edition with a special tactile cover.
• Happy 40th birthday Hippo and congratulations to Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland.
Margaret Hamilton AM. Also runs Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage http://www.pinerolo.com.au Visit post-Pandemic. And share YOUR book with her and other readers.
Q. Any hints for authors and Illustrators about publicising their NEW book during the lockdown?
A frequently updated author website is vital. It centralises resources like reviews, photos and links to social media like Twitter which is the most effective for solo creators short of time.
Use humour in anecdotes about your book. Never say “ Please buy my book’. Visuals are helpful, especially with the author and book and can be used several times with different captions.
Radio or podcasts have long term audiences and can be recorded from your home.
Building up a genuine, long term following is more important than a quick blitz of publicity.
Don’t despair that you didn’t have a launch. (Just a bit like missing a 21st birthday during the Lockdown as my grandson is doing.)
Don’t confuse with irrelevant answers. Or talk about your other books. Keep to the current one. Have a link to where it can be bought, easily.
While I’m considered a ‘vintage’ author with diverse genre books, today I’ve been asked to talk about the 40th anniversary edition of ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ (Penguin /Random House) being released in a time of Lockdown and the Pandemic. Few know I also write adult mysteries like ‘Celebrant Sleuth; I Do or Die’ (Audible) or the mini sequel ‘Wed, Then Dead on the Ghan’ (Kindle) . So I won’t talk about them now.
And congratulations to all the author and illustrators whose book babies are moving independently. They may travel places you had not envisaged because during the Lockdown people are READING more, in ALL formats.