612ABC: ‘Bookworms’


This evening I will be chatting with Sarah Howells on the 612ABC show, Bookworms. Once a month on a Tuesday I am let loose on a radio microphone (me…live…seriously) and allowed to talk books. ABC-612-Brisbane1

Tonight I’m going to be talking about some of my favourite new books in the world of children’s and YA publishing and the full list is below. EDIT: if you missed the show, the soundcloud link is heremy-pictures1

Click on title links or cover images to purchase any of these titles. 

‘Oh, Albert!’ by Davina Bell and Sara Acton

I do so love a good dog book and this one is just one of the most beautiful I’ve come across in a long time. ‘Oh Albert!’ could just as easily be ‘Oh, Tyson!’ or ‘Oh, Pepper!’ as is the case with our family dogs. ‘Oh, Albert!’ follows a week in the life of a busy family and the story as much a celebration of contemporary Australian domestic life as it is the story of a chewing, but loveable, family pet. Writing the text for a picture book is an incredibly difficult task, because, despite their seeming simplicity, each and every word must be perfectly positioned and purposeful and the text and illustrations must support and extend each other. With ‘Oh, Albert!’, author Davina Bell has, quite simply, nailed it. Her text reads aloud beautifully, has plenty of repetition for young readers to cling onto and is authentic, contemporary and heartfelt. The illustrations by Sara Acton are an equal match for the text. Albert has particularly expressive eyes and the costumes on the young children at the family birthday party are pretty cool. A must-have for dog lovers!xoh-albert-how-could-you-jpg-pagespeed-ic-fkjlpkomq

‘My Perfect Pup’ by Sue Walker and Anil Tortop

This one is a bit of a personal favourite in our house as we have a dog in our family (my parents dog) who’s life pretty much mirrors this story! In ‘My Perfect Pup’, twins Millie and Max choose their new puppy from the pet shop based on the fact that he is teeny tiny, well behaved and potentially good at tricks. And then that perfect pup keeps on growing and growing and growing and turns out not to be the perfect pup for them at all. In our lives, my mum decided after Flint died (see here for our beautiful, much missed, boys), she decided it was time for a smaller dog – something of a lap dog. Pepper was super cute and teeny tiny and would be the perfect lap dog – said the breeder. Well Pepper is now the size of a lion, in fact we call him the baby lion. He is HUGE and has no idea he is huge. He is the dog who grew and grew and grew in real life…much to the horror of the breeder, and my parents – good thing he is utterly divine (but not well behaved at all and tall enough to just eat food off the dinner table without even jumping up). xmy-perfect-pup-jpg-pagespeed-ic-q1nr2kuw9d


‘Mr Chicken Arriva a Roma’ by Leigh Hobbs

You either adore Mr Chicken or just don’t GET IT. I am in the first category and think Mr Chicken is a genius little character from the mind of one of Australia’s most outstanding author/illustrators, Leigh Hobbs. Leigh is also our current Australian Children’s Laureate.

Mr Chicken has been to Paris and London, but his taste for travel is insatiable – now it’s time to visit Rome, a city of ancient wonders and delicious things to eat. 

‘Welcome to Rome,’ says Mr Chicken’s guide, Federica.

‘Climb aboard my Vespa and hold on to your hat.’

Mr Chicken’s childhood dream is about to begin…

‘The Sisters Saint-Claire’ by Carlie Gibson and Tamsin Ainslie
The most gorgeous rhyming tale of five mouse sisters, set in a French food market and involving gorgeous baked tarts and pies…wins all round. Sometimes I just want a book that is utterly delightful and delicious; ‘The Sisters Saint-Claire’ fits this bill beautifully. My eight year old, five year old and eighty-something year old nan have all loved reading this book many times over now and it’s going on the gift list for cousins this Christmas. We are a house of ‘Ruby Red Shoes’ and ‘The Fairy Dancers’ lovers and ‘The Sisters Saint-Claire’ holds its own against these gorgeous titles in both text and illustrations and  in production quality. It is, of course, hard to go wrong with Tamsin Ainslie as illustrator – uber-talented and one of my favourites.

This is the tale of the sisters Saint-Claire,..Who lived with their parents Odette and Pierre…Harriet, Violet, Beatrice, Minette,..And little Cecile, we must not forget!..A delightful rhyming tale about five fabulous French mice who love food, fashion and family, and a story about how greatness can come in any size.the-sisters-saint-claire

‘Mechanica’ by Lance Balchin

I am not often wowed by innovation in books these days – I see new books every single day (my job sucks right?!), so to really stand out from the crowd, a book needs to be pretty darned special. ‘Mechanica’ has wowed me and more – in fact it’s blown my little mind. I’ve interviewed the author/illustrator here and am running workshops in December/January for Brisbane City Council Libraries based on this book. It’s just superb.

Welcome to future Earth. Despite repeated warnings, the environment has become polluted to such an extent that many areas of the globe have become uninhabitable, and wildlife is now extinct. From the ashes, a new style of ‘wildlife’ is created. Wildlife that will not remain harnessed by humankind. Welcome to the world of Mechanica.mechanica

‘Botanicum’ by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

The latest in the stunning  ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series is ‘Botanicum’ and it’s at coffee table worthy as the others in this series, ‘Historium’ and ‘Animalium’. This series allows readers young and old to step inside museums, contained within a book, and what beautiful books they are. The production quality of these books is outstanding and I love when publishers pull out all stops to provide books of this standard to our youngest readers.

This is no ordinary museum. Imagine if you could wander through every field, wood, tropical rainforest and flower glade in the world. Think what it would be like if you could see the most beautiful, exotic and weird plants all at once. Have you ever wondered what you would see if you could stroll back in time, to the beginnings of life on Earth? You can, in the pages of ‘Botanicum’. Enter Botanicum and discover the strange and wonderful kingdom of plants, in all its colourful, surprising majesty. botanicumhistorium animalium

‘Fabish: the horse that braved a bushfire’ by Neridah McMullin and Andrew McLean

An incredibly moving and beautifully illustrated picture books for older readers based on the true story of a heroic horse during the Black Saturday bushfires. Books such as these provide young readers with an insight into nation and wold events and allow them to walk in the shoes of others – in this case the shoes of a horse.

This is the true story of a brave horse called Fabish. In his racing days, he always tried his hardest. And when he retired, Fabish took care of the flighty young horses. One hot summer day, a wild wind blew up and the yearlings were restless. Fire was coming, fast. The trainer threw open the gate and said, ‘Go now!’ Fabish neighed to the young ones and they galloped away. What would become of Fabish and the yearlings?fabish

‘The Leopard Princess’ by Rosanne Hawke

I spoke about the first book in the ‘The Tales of Jahani’ series, ‘Daughter of Nomads’ in my last 612ABC Bookworms show and enjoyed the second book so much that the series needs another mention. I’ve never read a Rosanne Hawke book I have not enjoyed: they are carefully researched; the sense of setting (often Asian) is always exceptional; she effortlessly melds fantasy with reality and her writing is masterful. This series takes young readers on a journey to the 17th Century Mughal Empire where we met fourteen year old Jahani, a red-haired, blue-eyed girl whose simple village life is about to become anything but simple. Jahani is an authentic and relatable character and young readers will feel genuine concern for her as she embarks on a quest through treacherous terrain and majestic mountains to discover her destiny. The first book ends on a cliffhanger and having the second book, ‘The Leopard Princess’, is an absolute must as the sense of deceit and danger is imminent. ‘The Leopard Princess’ continues the story of Jahani and her search for truth and her destiny, surrounded by a supporting cast of well developed characters. This series is fast becoming one that I am recommending to a wide range of 10+ readers: historical fiction buffs; fantasy aficionados; lovers of Asian literature and those who enjoy an edge-of-seat adventure.

‘Everything is Changed’ by Nova Weetman

Nova Weetman is yet to put a foot wrong in the world of middle grade fiction or young adult fiction. ‘Everything is Changed’ cost me a nights sleep, but it was so worth it and I could not possibly have stopped myself from turning pages into the wee hours of the night (then morning). Having recently read her, ‘The Secrets We Keep’, I was interested that she was exploring similar topics of grief, friendship, truth and lies.

‘If only we could all go back to the way it was before . . . ‘

Jake and Alex. Best mates. One terrible mistake. Two lives that will never be the same.

Told in reverse, this powerful and gritty novel moves through the wreckage of a broken friendship, back to the moment when everything changed.

It is only a skilled writer who can start a novel by telling the reader the ending, then using several voices to tell the story backwards to the beginning, when everything changed. ‘Everything is Changed’ explores the age-old question of ‘what would you do if you could go back in time?’ from the perspective of teenage boys – who are renowned for making some spectacularly wrong split-second decisions. I wept for these boys and their lifelong friendship in tatters and I wanted to yell at them and sit them down and give them a good talking to. The skate culture throughout is authentic and this is a book that I’ll passing on to my twenty-something skater/surfer brother, who recently loved Claire Zorn’s stunning, ‘One Would Think the Deep’. Highly recommended for young adult readers and keep an eye out for this title on literary award shortlists in the future.


The titles of each book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. You can also compare prices on Fishpond and Bookworld for Australian purchases.If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here. Purchases clicked through from the Children’s Books Daily site result in a small commission. Commission is used in part to maintain Children’s Books Daily and to support community groups which connect children with books.


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