Rat City

Everyone thinks Shannon was responsible for his best friend’s death, including Shannon.

Now he’s not letting anyone get close to him.rat-city-cover-600w

That’s until he meets the gorgeous Ally. But she has problems of her own.

Ally’s twin brother, Felix is sick and getting sicker and nobody seems to know why.

Ally’s sure that it has something to do with her crazy scientist Uncle Killian who not only has a fixation for rats, he’s also supplying dugs to thrill seeking youths, including Felix.

Will Shannon and Ally find out the truth in time to save Felix and what will this mean for their relationship.

Rat City is a compelling read from start to finish. The stakes are high and the book is a page turning mix of science and adventure.

The reader will empathise with Ally and Shannon right from the start. The more you read, the more you care about these characters.

I got to the end of Rat City and wanted more. So I was pleased to discover that Book 2, Rise of the Rat Generation is due for release in 2017.

Rat City is written by Ree Kimberley and is available here and through Amazon.

About the author

Ree Kimberley grew up in Melbourne and travelled Australia before living in tropical Cairns and then settling in Brisbane, in sunny Queensland. She’s always loved reading and wrote her first novel, Strike Up a Friendship with a Vampire, when she was 10 years old. Ree’s writerly obsessions include weird science and things that are bizarre, strange and a little bit gross. She also has a thing for circuses (she swears she is not scared of clowns!)me-at-sete

Ree says that if she wasn’t a writer, she’d love to be a teratologist (someone who studies monsters). Rat City is Ree’s first novel, and the first in a three-part series, Rat Generation.

You can find out more about Ree here.

Life in Other States – A Texas Year and A New York Year

It’s clear that meticulous research and care have gone into Tania McCartney‘s and Tina Snerling‘s colourful fun books, A Texas Year and A New York Year.

These well produced picture books cover a year in the life of kids living in Texas and New York.

One of the things I love most about them is their theme of diversity – the way they reflect the lives and cultures of the people living in these states.

A texas yearA Texas Year and A New York Year feature ethnically and culturally diverse characters and diverse experiences.

The lively text and illustrations make these books a fun read for anyone with an interest in finding out about Texas or New York.

A Texas Year and A New York Year are full of information about the lifestyles and aspirations of kids living in these locations.

Readers will enjoy poring over the text and illustrations, taking in the fascinating detail.

They will be taken through a month by month account of what it means to be a kid living in New York or Texas, learning about special occasions and customs.

There’s everything from food, sport and school, to dancing, language, holidays and special occasions.

A New York Year - Front coverA Texas Year and A New York Year present great opportunities for discussions in the classroom or home about cultural diversity.

Each book has a location map with information about the state including its nickname, state flower, song, animals, and popular foods found there.

The content in both books has been produced in consultation with native advisors from the state including teachers and children.

A Texas Year and A New York Year offer young readers a fun and entertaining way to explore their own environment and the world around them.


Little Mouse – A Toddler’s Day Out

UnknownLittle Mouse is a typical toddler. He has a very busy and fun-filled day, but it’s also full of things he’d rather not do.

He’s learning how to do lots of new tasks, but one thing he does competently already is say, “No”.

Little Mouse was so relatable for me as a parent, and I’m sure young readers will also be engaged by the humour and the authenticity of the situations Little Mouse encounters.

There’s getting dressed, skipping through puddles, not wanting to go in the pusher or brush his teeth or eat his broccoli.

Unknown-1The text is simple and age appropriate and the illustrations are adorable. They’re full of humour and warmth and detail for kids to pore over.

Little Mouse is the work of Helsinki-based author and illustrator, Riikka Jantti.

The book is published in hardback and has a fairytale like quality.

Unknown-2It’s a perfect size to fit in a nappy bag or hand bag and I can imagine Little Mouse finding his way to many picnics, appointments and family outings.

Although he can be a testing toddler, Little Mouse is totally charming. I can see his captivating story becoming a classic.

Little Mouse, for readers aged 0 to 4, is published by Scribble, the children’s imprint of Scribe.

Zelda’s Big Adventure – The First Chook in Space

9781925266382What’s not to love about a chook in space?

Zelda’s Big Adventure, written by Marie Alafaci and illustrated by Shane McG, is a charming story of a little chook with big dreams.

Zelda has big plans – she wants to be the first chook in space. She leaves nothing to chance and packs food, fuel and a cosy nesting box. But will she make it without the help of her friends?

One of the things I love about this book is that it introduces the concept to children that you can have big dreams and achieve them no matter what other people say.

Zelda is so determined in her quest that she is not deterred by lack of assistance or encouragement from others. Zelda’s Big Adventure teaches young readers about self-reliance and optimism.

I also really like the fact that Zelda has a plan. She doesn’t just expect things to fall in her lap. She works towards them.

Zelda shows great resilience and determination, and these are what get her there in the end.

She is funny, generous and forgiving and a thoroughly likeable character, and these characteristics are captured so well in Shane McG’s beautiful illustrations.

Zelda’s Big Adventure is an entertaining read that could also inspire discussion with young readers about following your dreams, and not being discouraged. There’s also plenty to engage them with the Shane’s humorous, detailed pictures.

Zelda’s Big Adventure is published by Allen & Unwin for readers aged 2-5.

It’s a book for chook lovers and for anyone who has ever had a dream.

Why “So Wrong” is So Right

With its short bites of text, humorous adventures, and hilarious graphics, So Wrong Uncensored is so right for readers aged 10-13, particularly reluctant ones.

MW 2011 PS

Michael Wagner

From the diabolically dangerous duo of author, Michael Wagner and artist Wayne Bryant, this book will engage young readers, but don’t expect it to be politically correct.

Former reluctant readers themselves, Michael and Wayne have created the book (and series) they wish had existed when they were kids.

Here Michael chats about how and why he created So Wrong.


How did this series come about and what prompted you to create it?

Over the years, I’ve written lots of little bits and pieces that I couldn’t find a home for. They were ideas for things like two-panel cartoons, satirical ads, parodies of picture books, etc. None of them were substantial enough for a book of their own or would sit easily in a book of short stories, but I liked them and really wanted to do something with them. So they became the spark for So Wrong. It started out as a place to put all these awkward little bits and pieces.

WB cu

Wayne Bryant

But once I started assembling them into a book, I got really excited. Not only was I having the most fun I’d ever had as an author (which is an important sign), but I felt like I was creating the exact thing I would have loved as a kid.

Instead of reading books when I was in later primary school, I preferred magazines like Mad and Cracked. So Wrong felt like that sort of publication but in a book form. It had the same hyperactive structure, and abundance of ideas, but short stories instead of comics, and rather than being cynical and worldly, it was more cheeky and absurdist, making it naturally more aimed at children than teens.

The big problem however (which kind of hung over me as I wrote) was how to get it illustrated. It really needed a lot of variety, so it felt like I was going to have to employ several illustrators and a flexible designer to make it work. But then I remembered working on an animated feature film many years ago with an artist called Wayne Bryant. I knew he could vary his style and while discussing the book with him I discovered he was an excellent designer and a fan of Mad and all sorts of other hilarious and beautiful retro comics. So, suddenly, the big illustration problem was solved.

Wot to Luv 01Why did you think it important to feature a narrator with spelling challenges?

The narrator in question, Mitey Mikey, is actually one of the book’s ‘sponsors’. He appears in 3-4 places throughout the book in order to convince you, the reader, to pay for his ‘Lyfe Coach for Kidz’ services. He’s a kid, but he’s a strident, overconfident little go-getter, who believes he’s headed for fame and fortune – except he’s not actually as clever as he thinks, which becomes immediately apparent when you realise he can’t even spell his very first lines: ‘HEY YOO! Wee need to tork.’ So the joke is that he thinks he’s brilliant (and is a little bit in some ways), but we know he’s not as smart as he thinks he is.

But we reckon his misspellings serve more than one purpose – depending on who’s reading the book.

In a funny sort of way, his inability to spell subtly validates the reluctant readers who are also poor spellers. In a quiet sort of way it says to them that being a poor speller is a known, common problem (even for kids with other strengths), and it’s not a life-and-death issue, so work on becoming a better speller, but don’t lose all your self-esteem if you’re not that great at it just yet. It’s not actually the end of the world – in fact it can be a source of a lot of fun.

But also, because it’s tricky to decode Mitey Mikey’s poor spelling, it really reinforces the value of consistent, uniform spelling. If we all spelled phonetically, the way he does, we’d spend all our lives decoding text.

Wot to Luv 02And then there’s the sheer fun of suddenly being able to read his text quite fluently. When that happens toward the end of the book, you feel a little bit like someone who’s just mastered a secret code.

Why are this book and the series important to kids?

We hope these books appeal to all kids, but most importantly to reluctant readers. We think it’s important to keep those kids reading just one more book … then one more series … and for one more year. Just to entrench the habit of reading a little more. And to help them make their own positive associations with books.

What did you hope to achieve when you created So Wrong?

All we wanted to achieve is a book/series that kids love – particularly reluctant readers. And a book that no one’s afraid to admit they like, no matter how ‘cool’ or tough or naughty they feel they have to be.

What will kids gain from picking up these books?

Hopefully, more positivity towards books themselves, a good laugh, and a little validation.

As a reluctant reader, what challenges did you face?

One of the biggest problems with being a reluctant reader (as a child, mind you, I’ve been an avid reader all my adult life) is that you can easily feel as if you’re not that smart. That kicks in especially when the topic turns to books. It’s embarrassing to admit you haven’t read this book or that book or, basically, many books at all.

But it’s more than just embarrassing, it’s downright frustrating. By reading fewer books, you naturally have a smaller and less effective vocabulary than many of the people you know. Despite being an intelligent child (according to my reports – well, some of them), I could barely explain anything if I was under any kind of pressure. I never had the words, while others did. That’s frustrating and bad for your self-esteem.

How does this book/series address these challenges for kids facing these challenges today?

The real competition for reluctant readers is with screen-based forms of entertainment. In order to improve on what they offer a child, you have to be super relevant, visually interesting, and highly validating. That’s what we’ve aimed for with So Wrong. If we’ve achieved it, then those kids won’t think books are quite so boring. And they’ll read one more … and then another … And they’ll start to benefit from reading in all those subtle ways people who love books do, without ever quite realising it.Wot to Luv 03


9780994251756What I like about this book apart from its non-stop entertainment value is that it offers achievable reading goals for kids who are reluctant to pick up a book. They can read a few pages at a time and still complete a story or segment.

As the book itself states, it’s 100% unboring guaranteed.

I think my favourite parts of this book were the highly suspect ‘life advice’ from supposed Life Coach for Kids, Mitey Mike, and the hilarious advertisements for useful products like The Parental Attitude Adjuster.

So Wrong Uncensored is as the name suggests, uncensored, so there are some references to bodily functions and ‘alternative education’ however it’s all clearly done in jest, and designed to tickle the reader’s funny bone.

The narrator’s spelling in some parts is a little suspect too, and these tales are full of naughtiness (including visual treats throughout), but the book is clearly written from the hearts of the creators to entertain the kids who read it.

If you have a reluctant reader in your home or classroom then So Wrong Uncensored could be so right for you.

So Wrong Uncensored is clever, funny and engaging. It’s the first book in the series and is published by Billy Goat Books.

So Wrong is available from great bookshops including:
The Little Bookroom
Tim’s Bookshop
and Michael’s own website, michaelwagner.com.au


The Pearl-shell Diver + Tips for Writing Indigenous Stories

Today, I’m pleased to welcome QLD writer, Kay Crabbe, author of the beautiful new novel, The Pearl-shell Diver.

The Pearl-shell Diver is a page turning adventure set in the wild waters of the Torres Strait.

I’ll be reviewing Kay’s book later on, but first she’s kindly agreed to share some tips on writing Indigenous stories.


Kay Crabbe began her writing career with feature articles for newspapers and magazines before moving into educational material for children. Her works include fiction and non-fiction books, comprehension texts, and school magazine articles which link to the Australian school curriculum.

image002KAY’S TIPS

The Pearl-shell Diver was a challenging book to write, straddling cultures and attitudes of colonial times with modern day thinking, but children should know the history, and we can’t change the past.

  1. Indigenous history is handed down orally and cannot always be confirmed. Check facts against as many government sources and trustworthy journals as possible. Ensure your research is sound.
  2. Approach traditions and customs with respect, follow documented protocol and don’t presume you can write freely about all aspects of a group. Re-telling of stories by outsiders may be considered culturally offensive.
  3. Memoirs and study literature may not be ‘for loan.’ Prepare to spend hours in libraries to turn up a story nugget. Reference all notes as you go, as you may be asked to produce an interpretation or source. Acknowledge indigenous advisors and their links to country.
  4. Interview questions should be clear and simple. Do your homework, English could be your subject’s second or third language and eye contact may be considered disrespectful.
  5. Have some awareness of sensitive issues, significant events and sacred places. Confirm use of material by seeking consent from elders or advisors. Names and images of deceased people may be offensive to cultural beliefs and require a note of warning.



a1deb6_ea67beefbcc1408b9b41821257d3d874.jpgInspired by historical events of 1898 and 1899, The Pearl-shell Diver tells the story of thirteen year-old swimming diver, Sario who yearns to be a pump diver.

Then he’ll have the money he needs to support family. His father has been coerced into joining a white trader on his pearl-lugger, and his mother is seriously ill and needs expensive medical attention.

It’s up to Sario to support his family now, but white traders are just waiting to take advantage of a young boy like Sario. And Hiroshi, a young Japanese diver is determined to see him fail.

Kay Crabbe sets this scene so well. I felt like I was there in the turbulent waters of the Torres Strait.

Sario is a determined and plucky young boy who endears himself to the reader because of his qualities but also because of his human foibles.

I really felt for Sario and the children exploited by ruthless and greedy adults in positions of power.

Yet for all the hardship in The Pearl-shell Diver there are some strong friendships and fun times, and hope for the future.

This historical novel for children aged 9+ would invite important discussions in the classroom or home about family, history, indigenous culture and relationships.

The Pearl-shell Diver is published by Allen & Unwin. Teachers notes are available here.


Rainbow Street Pets – A Kid’s Book for Animal Lovers of All Ages

UnknownI know that this week I said I’d talk about how to work out which writer’s festivals to attend.  But being an animal lover from way back, I’m afraid I’ve been side tracked by Wendy Orr’s gorgeous Rainbow Street Pets.

Rainbow Street Pets is a collection of six stories for kids about all sorts of animals from a guinea pig to a lion cub.

The stories include Lost Dog Bear, Nelly and the Dream Guinea Pig, Mona and the Lion Cub, Buster the Hero Cat, Stolen: A Pony Called Pebbles, and Bella the Bored Beagle.

Each animal is special. Each story is full of action, great characters and a happy outcome.

At the Rainbow Street Shelter a cockatoo will greet you and a little round dog will make you welcome. All the animals there need children to be their friends. Meet Bear the border collie, Buster the marmalade cat, and Bessy the goat, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs and mice. There’s even a pony called Pebbles, but where does a lion cub fit in?

When I was a kid, I always dreamed of finding a runaway horse, and that’s exactly what happens in Stolen: A Pony Called Pebbles.

IMAG4165I think one of the things that resonates about these stories is their authenticity – the fact that author Wendy Orr clearly loves animals and that she knows what it feels like to be a kid who’s desperate for a pet.

The stories also trace the lives of the pet’s young owners and the very real issues they face. There are strong friendships between them and these link the stories together seamlessly. There are also Mona, Bert, Gulliver and the other characters from Rainbow Street Animal Shelter who appear throughout.

Apart from being a great read, one of the most important things about this book is that it teaches kids about pet ownership and the responsibilities of having a pet, but in a non-didactic way.

IMAG3188Showing the feelings, experiences and emotions of the animals allows the reader to see their points of view and understand that they have special needs that must be met.

Rainbow Street Pets is a book that the whole family can enjoy together. If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll love these stories.

Rainbow Street Pets is written by Nim’s Island author, Wendy Orr and published by Allen & Unwin.

Next week, tune in for my promised post about Writer’s Festivals 🙂

Sally Snickers’ Knickers

Unknown-2There are so many things I love about Sally Snickers’ Knickers, a picture book cleverly written by Lynn Ward and beautifully illustrated by Anthea Stead.

Sally Snickers is an ordinary little girl who gets into trouble at school for wanting to be an individual, and wear her knickers on her head.

Sally’s teacher is quite put out by this quirk.

But the teacher says she shouldn’t have
her knickers on display
and unless she wears a proper hat,
she’s not allowed to play.

One of the things I liked about this story is that it’s so relatable for small children. I remember a friend’s son who never went to the supermarket without his underpants, worn proudly on his head. It’s a situation kids find humour in, and it’s a way of asserting their individuality.

Unknown-4I love the way Sally is helped out by her classmates who support her quirkiness and eventually convince the teacher that Sally is okay.

Sally Snickers’ Knickers is told in rollicking rhyme, and the hilarious illustrations rollick along too.

Unknown-3Anthea Stead’s riotously colourful pictures perfectly complement the text.

Sally Snickers’ Knickers is about being an individual, and about supporting your friends. But it’s also a playful, fun read, which makes it a great classroom book.

Sally Snickers’ Knickers is published by Walker Books for readers aged 4+

Jake In Space – Volcanoes of Venus

Jake In Space – Volcanoes of Venus by Candice Lemon-Scott is an action packed read with plenty of humour.

872-20150129144727-Jake-4-LRJake lives in the future. His home base is a space station on Earth but he travels throughout the solar system, solving mysteries and thwarting villains before they can carry out their evil plans.

In each story, the Central Intergalactic Agency (CIA) sends its cyborg, Henry, on a secret mission. Jake ends up helping his cyborg friend but things never seem to go according to plan.

Each Jake in Space book is a stand alone adventure, and Volcanoes of Venus is the fourth book in the series.

Jake is excited to be staying at the famous Floating Hotel of Venus, until his cyborg friend Henry sniffs out more than just garbage. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 9.14.59 amIn Volcanoes of Venus, Jack and Henry race against time to stop the Veno Volcano from erupting and wiping out the Floating Hotel. But the Floating Hotel’s hostess Valerie has other plans.

She captures Jack and his friends, and plans to toss them into the volcano. It will take all of Jack and Henry’s skills and daring to escape this time.

This fast paced adventure also has plenty of lighter moments. Humour is used to show us the authentic voice, of main character, Jake.

After they passed the fiftieth volcano, Jake thought he would rather have his eyes gouged out than listen to the robot go on any longer.

The language, descriptions and interaction between the characters will help young readers imagine themselves in this fun futuristic setting.

Jake In Space is published by New Frontier for readers aged 7+. The Jake In Space website has activities for kids and notes for teachers.

You can find out more about author Candice Lemon-Scott here.

Two new Jake In Space adventures are coming soon.

Once a Creepy Crocodile

Being a bush poet from way back, I’ve always been a big fan of Waltzing Matilda so I was really looking forward to reading Once a Creepy Crocodile, a picture book written to the same rhyming meter. I wasn’t disappointed.

Unknown-3Once a Creepy Crocodile, written by Peter Taylor and illustrated by Nina Rycroft is full of the things that young readers love; colour, humour and some scary bits.

9781743467282 It’s the story of a baby brolga who catches a lurking crocodile’s eye and is invited to join him for tea.

And his tail waggled and wiggled while he winked and grinned and giggled saying,
‘Please come and join me for afternoon tea’.

Luckily, the brolga is kept from harm by the animals of the billabong.

Afternoon tea has never been so dangerous! (Or fun!)

Once a Creepy Crocodile is a riot of colour that lends itself to being an entertaining classroom read or whole family fun.

Unknown-2It’s the kind of book that could also be performed in the classroom with different students taking on the different animal roles in the story.

There’s a cheeky twist at the end that will leave young readers giggling – and Nina Rycroft has illustrated the perfect afternoon tea.

Kids will love the engaging animals and the entertaining illustration detail in Once a Creepy Crocodile.

This book comes with its own singalong CD. Once a Creepy Crocodile is published by The Five Mile Press