The Inky Awards 2015: who will win?

Today we’ll take a look at the Inky Awards, whose winners will be announced next week (October 13).  The Inkys are an annual celebration of quality young adult (YA) literature, hosted by the State Library of Victoria.  Teen readers are actively involved throughout the judging process – from selecting the longlists and shortlists out of the nominations, to voting for the winners.  While shortlists are chosen for their quality, originality, readability and age-appropriateness, the winner is chosen by popular vote. Two prizes are awarded each year – the Gold Inky for an Australian book, and the Silver Inky for an international book.

This year’s Gold Inky looks set to be tightly contested.  The five shortlisted books are all compelling reads.   They are diverse in style and themes – there’s something for everyone.  I have found it hard to pick one standout book so I have highlighted a special quality of each one.  Enjoy!

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Why it’s good: so funny, you wish you were part of the gang

For Alba and her friends, high school is over, and Christmas and a leisurely summer beckon. However, their plans are interrupted by an obscure prediction for apocalypse, resulting in hundreds of “believers” descending on their sleepy little town. There’s nothing like imminent doom and an influx of strangers to focus the mind on big Life Decisions, such as: What do I want to do in life?, and: Is heading to the City for uni and a career inevitable?, and: How do I really feel about my best friend – is it friendship … or love?

Alba is an appealing heroine – bold, sassy, technicolored like her comic-book creations; but beneath that chutzpah there is angst and vulnerability.  The easy camaraderie between Alba and her wise-cracking gang is endearing and hilarious.  They may not be “conventionally cool” people, but they are having so much fun that you’ll wish you were one of them. The book’s cover art – in retro comic- book style – complements the story perfectly.

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Why it’s good: a tense page-turner that transcends the “YA” tag

Sydney, 1932: the inner suburbs are a hotbed of crime and poverty, such that the tabloids dub Darlinghurst and Surry Hills “Razorhurst” and “Sorrow Hills”.  Razor gangs rule these areas with violence, and everyone lives or dies by their wits.  When Dymphna and Kelpie discover the aftermath of a brutal murder, they realise they are in great danger. Over the next 24 hours, they run, plot, mask their fears, and constantly recalculate their best strategies for survival.  As the truce between rival gangs crumbles and power shifts, will they live till tomorrow?

Razorhurst is anchored by a pair of feisty, street-smart heroines: Kelpie, a street urchin who never misses small details; and Dymphna, beautiful, intelligent, a (literal) femme fatale nicknamed “Angel of Death”.  They may seem poles apart but they share similarly traumatic pasts and an ability to see and hear ghosts – a twist that adds unexpected richness to the plot.

Razorhurst is a tense noir thriller.  Larbalestier’s meticulous research shines through in the vivid evocation of that glamourous-yet-gritty era.  It definitely deserves a wider readership than the YA tag would suggest.

Laurinda by Alice Pung

Why it’s good: schoolyard intrigues that get under your skin

John Marsden praises Laurinda as “funny, horrifying, and sharp as a serpent’s fangs” and he is spot-on.  Laurinda’s depictions of the insular world of an exclusive girls’ school are likely to bring back memories – especially the uncomfortable ones – to anyone who has ever experienced the bitchiness and power plays of teenage girldom.

Lucy Lam, Asian and from a poor neighbourhood, wins a scholarship to Laurinda: “no ‘Ladies’ College’ after it, of course; the name was meant to speak for itself”.  Far out of her comfort zone, her confidence falters; she becomes a quiet but keen-eyed observer of the power dynamics of her new environment.  Her outsider status offers her the perspective to critique Laurindan society and see its rottenness – condescension, casual racism, bullying.  When the most powerful clique at Laurinda makes overtures to Lucy, she becomes torn between her aspirations for sophistication and middle-class values, and her disgust at the duplicity inherent in privilege and “good manners”.  Will she retain her identity and stand her ground, or will she join in, in order to leave the poverty and lack of opportunities of her current life?

Alice Pung’s first foray into fiction elaborates on the themes of identity and belonging prominent in her earlier work. She offers a valuable voice for immigrant youth everywhere, who are trying to navigate issues of race and class in their adopted homeland.

The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

Why it’s good: a breezy holiday read with important life lessons

Sweet, earnest, gawky Josie has tumbled into an internship at a top women’s magazine.  This isn’t her first choice – she wants to become a newspaper journalist – but a prize for the Best Intern keeps her motivated.   Each week, Josie’s internship offers a glimpse into an exciting and glamorous adult life – living in a big city, meeting celebrities – although it also shows its dark side, with body image issues and online bullying.  As she focuses more on her internship, she loses touch with her family and friends.  Soon she has to make tough decisions about what matters most, and how to maintain her integrity.

The Intern is a fun read with coming-of-age themes.   Josie is not perfect, but likeable and relatable.  Gabrielle Tozer uses her own experience in magazine publishing to create an authentic setting, with just the right touch of ridiculousness.  Josie’s fish-out-of-water story invites comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada; what sets them apart is the Intern’s background detail- the struggles of Josie’s mother and sister since her father left the family; the exploration of issues surrounding body image, eating disorders, the definition of success and cyberbullying. Many supporting characters are drawn with depth, and I look forward to meeting them again in the sequel, Faking It, which is now available.

The Protected by Claire Zorn

Why it’s good: a harrowing but un-putdownable read

The Protected has already won this year’s CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year, will it win an Inky as well?  The Protected is not “fun” or “entertaining”, but it is mesmerising and unforgettable.  It reads like a mystery – the events that lead to the current tragic situation are slowly revealed.  The Protected draws readers in, empathising with Hannah, hoping against hope that she will have a happy, or at least hopeful, ending.

Hannah is a quiet, withdrawn fifteen year old, who has been shuttled from psychologist to psychologist following the death of her sister Katie.  The accident that killed Katie also left Hannah’s father seriously injured, and her mother clinically depressed.  When Hannah starts to connect with the school’s counsellor, the full tragedy of her situation is finally revealed.  Hannah’s pain is caused by years of relentless bullying – while her cool, beautiful sister watches on. Katie’s death leads to a tangle of guilt and grief and anger that Hannah, nurtured by the glimmerings of new friendships, finally learns to deal with.  The Protected is a powerful story with complex characterisation, all the effective because it is quietly, gently told.

For more information, including the shortlist for the Silver Inkys, see

Guest Book Reviewer: Palace of Tears

Palace of Tears is the debut novel from Julian Leatherdale. It is an historical, generational story, centred on a luxury hotel in the fictional town of Meadow Springs in the Blue Mountains and has all the elements of family passion, secrets and tragedy.

 Department store entrepreneur Adam Fox built the lavish palace based on luxury spa resorts in Europe. The story of the hotel intertwines with the story of the family who live in a cottage next door – much less well off than the wealthy Foxes but, over generations, sharing tragedies as well as love, hate and jealousy.

Initially I was daunted by the size of this book at over 500 pages, however Leatherdale achieves a good balance between educating and entertaining readers about events in Australia during the 1900’s and early 20th Century.

I love that Leatherdale mixes fictitious elements with real events and actual people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, opera star Nellie Melba and Australian film makers and directors Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyall all visit Adam Fox’s luxurious resort.

The author’s historical research into some of the less familiar events of early 20th Century history made for very interesting reading and for me in particular, the internment of the Germans during the war years was fascinating due to my own family history. His references to events of that time and fictional activities surrounding it were amazing and his passion evident.

I think this book is well worth the read, and with summer coming and holidays, it would be one to put on the list.

I hope Julian Leatherdale writes more novels as I will be lining up to read them.



The 5 most beautiful children’s picture books of all time

Favourite picture books from childhood leave lasting memories.  Then there are the special ones, the books that are more like works of art.  These are the treasures that you keep long after you leave childhood.  If you are looking for a gift that  will leave lasting memories, here are our 5 top picks: Arrival by Shaun Tan

In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family.

 Garden of Abdul Gasazi, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg.

When the dog he is caring for runs away from Alan into the forbidden garden of a retired dog-hating magician, a spell seems to be cast over the contrary dog. Over There, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak

With Papa off to sea and Mama despondent, Ida must go outside over there to rescue her baby sister from goblins who steal her to be a goblin’s bride.


Snow-white and the Seven Dwarfs, written by Jacob and Willhelm Grimm, illustrated by Nancy E. Burkert

Retells the tale of the beautiful princess whose lips were red as blood, skin was white as snow, and hair was black as ebony.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales From the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen.

Featuring 15 Scandinavian fairy tales — including the popular “Billy Goat’s Gruff”– this is one of the most stunning children’s books ever produced. The text is lavished with 25 intricately detailed colour and numerous black-and-white images that glow with Nielsen’s phantasmagorical style.


Would you read a Banned Book?

Two recent news stories show that book censorship is alive and well, even in “open-minded” Western countries. Coincidentally, they occur just before Banned Books Week (Sept 27 – Oct 3). Organised annually by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week aims to galvanise the whole book community – librarians, teachers, authors, booksellers, journalists and readers – to defend our freedom to read and to access information.

Paradoxically, having your book banned may be an honour of sorts, since many beloved and revered books – including To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, and The Great Gatsby – have experienced bans. Is book-banning ever justified? Read these and see for yourself:

Into the River by Ted Dawe

Into the River is a young adult novel by New Zealand author Ted Dawe, about a Maori boy who won a scholarship to an elite boarding school. It won two New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, in the Best Young Adult Fiction and the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year categories. This raw, gritty story has been praised for its authentic rendering of teenage behaviour; however, its references to sex, drugs and racism has attracted complaints from Family First, a conservative lobby group. An interim ban now forbids the sale, distribution or display of this book in New Zealand. Ironically, the ban has generated global interest, and may result in greater availability of this book worldwide. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black farmer who died in 1951. Her life was unremarkable, but her death had extraordinary consequences – her cells, taken without her knowledge or consent, became the first “immortal cell line” to be successfully propagated, enabling a range of research and ultimately leading to important medical advances including polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and gene mapping. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is more than a simple biography or medical history, because it also raises challenging questions about race and ethics. This best-seller has won multiple awards and has been included in over 60 critics’ best of year lists. However, these accolades have not stopped a recent challenge from a Tennessee parent, who wants the book removed from her school district. Her claims of explicit language has led the author to argue that she is “confusing gynaecology with pornography”. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

On the one hand, this book received the most challenges (complaints/requests for removal) in the US in 2014; on the other, it is a multiple-award winner, and has been named on three ‘Best Books’ lists by the library industry. Based on Sherman Alexie’s own experiences, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a coming-of-age story about a Native American boy, who transfers to an all-white high school in search of a better education. His daily trips out of his home on an Indian Reservation, and his experiences at his new school, give him a new perspective on his culture, his family, and his own life. This book has been controversial for its references to bullying, sex, violence and drugs; however its humour and diary format is engaging and has particular appeal for reluctant readers. can’t read this book by Nick Cohen

The internet and social media has made more information available, and has offered more people the chance to be heard. This means free speech is safer than ever – right? In You Can’t Read This Book, Nick Cohen argues that, in fact, increased freedom is co-existing with increased censorship. He shows how the traditional opponents of free speech – religious fanaticism, plutocratic power and dictatorial states – remain powerful, with the ability to effect censorship by stealth, through influencing public discourse and legal development. Citing many examples, including the Satanic Verses, Julian Assange, evolution of libel laws and the murder of Theo Van Gogh, Nick Cohen challenges us to be complacent at their peril. Censor’s Library by Nicole Moore
In an archive seven storeys underground, Nicole Moore discovers 793 long-forgotten boxes of books – all banned by Australian authorities between the 1920s and 1980s. Her survey of “the books Australia is not allowed to read” reveals the history of censorship in Australia, and how it has shaped Australia’s intellectual and cultural landscape. The Censor’s Library also reflects upon the changing social, political and legal environment of twentieth century Australia. A fascinating and meticulously researched work. Wars by Kiiro Yumi, from the novels by Hiro Arikawa
In Japan in the near future, the government has enacted the Media Betterment Act, resulting in widespread censorship of books and media. Public Libraries have become the last bastion of free speech, and have formed their own military – the Library Defense Force – to protect their collections and literally fight for the freedom to read. Library Wars follows the story of Iku Kasahara, an idealistic rookie as she becomes an invaluable part of the Library Defense Force. True to its shoujo (girl’s manga) style, much of the story focuses on character development and romance; however, there’s still plenty of combat action and machinations thanks to its political-thriller plot.

City Guide: Bali

Bali is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, friendly people and sense of adventure. Whether you’ve travelled to Bali, have it on your bucket list or are happy to explore it through books, here are our recommended Bali reads: to Sleep, Gecko!: A Balinese Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald

The author of The Girl Who Wore Too Much retells the folktale of the gecko who complains to the village chief that the fireflies keep him awake at night but then learns that in nature all things are connected. – The Bali Diaries by Becky Wicks

She lifted the burqa on Dubai in Burqalicious. Now Becky Wicks turns her attention to Australia’s number one tourist destination: Bali. It seems to be the new in thing to find yourself these days even if you are not particularly lost. Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok by Lesley Reader

With full – colour throughout, clear maps and stunning photography, The Rough Guide to Bali & Lombok will ensure you make the most of these alluring islands, with insider tips on everything from indulgent spa retreats and fantastic shops, to the best hotels, restaurants and bars to suit every budget. House in Bali by Colin McPhee

In the 1930s a young American composer heard some gramophone records of music of the land that forever changed his life. As a result, Colin McPhee lived for the day when he could travel and study the beautiful island of Bali, its people, culture, and music. His classic text written in the 1940s still remains the only literary narrative of the island by a classically trained musician, and this unique perspective allowed him to immerse himself in the people, and music of his beloved Bali. And in the end, he only left the island in 1938 as the threat of the second World War loomed over the Pacific. McPhee’s work is a landmark look at Bali’s distinctive gamelan tradition, and is now available again more than 50 years after it was written. Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

After a long and eventful life Allan Karlsson is moved to a nursing home to await the inevitable. But his health refuses to fail and as his 100th birthday looms, a huge party is planned. Allan wants no part of it and decides to climb out the window… Charming and funny; a European publishing phenomenon.


Bringing Children’s books to life

When a story is lifted from the pages from a book to take life in another form (film, theatre production or a television show), I don’t know about you but I often hold my breath. Sometimes it can soar from the pages and sometimes….well, it can crash (let’s be honest).

With school holidays knocking on the door, we find two of our favourite childhood classics have been converted to film: Yet another Peter Pan adaptation is released in Pan and the all-time Australian favourite Blinky Bill.   If you are thinking of taking the kids to see either of these movies this school holidays, it’s a great opportunity to read the books first so you can discuss differences between the two.  We’re also super proud of Tim Minchin’s production of Matilda, showing to rave reviews!

Here are some other great book to movie adaptations:

The Adventures of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

We all know the story: a mischievous boy that never grows up and leads a band of ‘lost boys’ who have adventures battling pirates and occasionally meeting ordinary children when they venture outside of Neverland.  This publication from Boomer Books is specially designed and typeset for comfortable reading.




Pan, directed by Joe Wright

Set as the prequel to the Peter Pan story we all know, this is the story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny – to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan. (IMDB) Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall

Similar to Peter Pan, Blinky Bill is also a mischevious boy (just in the form of a koala). He is a national icon and one of Australia’s most well loved and best known characters. His friends are well known Australian animals such as his kangaroo friend Splodge, his platypus friend Flap, Marcia the marsupial mouse, and his mentor Mr Wombat or Wombo, as Blinky prefers to call him. In general throughout the stories he does things that are realistic for koalas as well as things that child readers would like to do. The author speaks directly to the reader through the stories.  Great for younger readers.

Blinky Bill: The Movie

Blinky Bill is a koala with a big imagination. An adventurer at heart, he dreams of leaving the little town of Green Patch and following in his explorer father’s footsteps. Mr Bill went missing in the Outback some time ago and Blinky is the only one who believes his father is still alive.

When Blinky discovers a mysterious marker that hints at his Dad’s whereabouts, he embarks on a journey that takes him beyond the boundary of Green Patch and into the wild and dangerous Outback. He quickly makes friends with Nutsy, a zoo koala, and Jacko, a nervous frill-necked lizard.

Pursued relentlessly by a vengeful feral cat who has a personal score to settle with Blinky, the trio must learn to work together if they ever want to survive the rugged Australian landscape and find Blinky’s father! Source:

Make sure you download the app so the kids can add Blinky Bill characters to their photos and movies! by Roald Dahl

Matilda Wormwood’s father is a mean crooked crook. And her mother’s just plain stupid. They think Matilda is a nuisance who should watch more TV and read fewer books! But her lovely teacher Miss Honey thinks Matilda is a genius. Matilda has a few extraordinary tricks up her sleeve, so her horrible parents and even more horrible headmistress had better watch out.


Matilda the Musical, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin

Matilda The Musical is the multi-award winning musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company, inspired by the twisted genius of Roald Dahl. With book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, Matilda The Musical is the story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

Winner of 50 major international awards, including 12 for Best Musical, Matilda continues to delight audiences both in London and on Broadway before arriving at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from July 2015.



Take 5: Books with adult and junior versions

Are you looking forward to the day when your kids will be old enough to share what you are reading, or to discuss issues you are passionate about?  That day may come sooner than you think.  Some great books are now available in junior versions aimed at 5-15 year olds.  While many teens will enjoy the original (adult) versions, these junior editions will allow new generations of readers to access these inspiring and thought-provoking works.
Ugly: My Memoir by Robert Hoge

One recent example is Ugly, the joyous and uplifting memoir of Robert Hoge.  Ugly follows Robert’s life from his birth to the birth of his daughter.  His childhood is suburban and familiar, filled with childhood pranks, school camps, bad haircuts, and siblings.  What makes his story extraordinary is that Robert was born significantly disfigured – a massive tumour distorted his facial features, and his legs were twisted and useless.  Despite this, Robert’s family is determined to give him an ordinary upbringing.  Lots of love and courage, as well as a series of groundbreaking operations, allow Robert to triumph over his difficult beginnings, and grow up to be a successful journalist, science communicator and political advisor.

Ugly by Robert Hoge

A younger readers’ version of Ugly was published in August this year, allowing 8-15 year olds to share in this inspirational story.  Ugly also offers a reflection on disability, beauty and ugliness – all important issues for this age group.  May have particular appeal for fans of R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.




The Happiest Refugee by Anh

The plight of refugees is in the spotlight once more, making this a great time to revisit this heart-warming book.  The Happiest Refugee is comedian Anh Do’s memoir, which begins with his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam.  During their journey in a leaky fishing boat, Anh and his family nearly die from disease, starvation, dehydration and pirate attacks.   Even when they are rescued and resettled in Australia, there is no simple Happy Ever After: Anh and his family face many hardships while they rebuild their lives.  Fortunately, hard work, determination, a loving family and a sense of humour help them to overcome many difficulties and pave the way to success.

The Happiest Refugee has won many awards, and was so popular that it became a live show that toured Australia.  What makes it so special is Anh’s irrepressible optimism – he can find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud.

The Little Refugee by Anh Do, illustrated by Bruce

The Little Refugee is a picture book adaptation of The Happiest Refugee, aimed at primary school students.  From young Anh’s point of view, we learn about Anh’s life from his birth in Vietnam to his early years in Australia.  Atmospheric illustrations by Bruce Whatley (of Diary of a Wombat fame) effectively contrast the Do Family’s frightening journey with the more humorous situations as they settle into Australian life, and emphasises how hard work, persistence and a sense of humour triumph over hardship. The Little Refugee was awarded CBCA Honour Book in the Information Book of the Year category in 2012. Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

The Weather Makers is the book that identifies Tim Flannery as an international authority on climate change.  It is an award-winning, best selling work that has been highly influential, with endorsements by policy makers, scientists, and writers worldwide.  The Weather Makers tells the climate change story – from its its history, to its current status, and onto potential future impact.  It also encourages its readers to start taking action to avert the imminent climate crisis.  The Weather Makers is widely admired for being authoritative and comprehensive while remaining readable and accessible to the general public. are the Weather Makers: the Story of Global Warming by Tim Flannery

Since Tim Flannery dedicated The Weather Makers to children, “to all of their generation who will have to live with the consequences of our decisions”, it makes sense to produce a version of the book that speaks to youth readers directly.  The result is called We are the Weather Makers.  It is underpinned by the same vigorous scholarship, but with updated data, and more streamlined, concise prose.  While it is aimed at 10-15 year olds, We are the Weather Makers will appeal to anyone who wants a succinct version of the original, important work., Shoots and Leaves: the Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

When Lynne Truss wrote her “small book on punctuation”, she had no idea that it would become a bestseller that reinvigorates interest in the niceties of the English language.  Eats, Shoots and Leaves is more than a guide to punctuation use – it is also a lament and a call-to-arms.  Through amusing anecdotes drawn from history, literature, and real signage, Lynne Truss discusses the origin and history of different punctuations and how they should be used. Eats, Shoots and Leaves manages to be witty, informative and compulsively readable, because it shows that misplaced or absent punctuation can change the meaning of sentences in dramatic and funny ways. Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes! by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

The adult version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves has inspired two picture books illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.  While Eats, Shoots and Leaves focusses on the use of commas, The Girl’s Like Spaghetti focusses on apostrophes.  Each book contains double spread pages that show how dramatically meanings can change when punctuations are placed differently.  For example, “the girl’s like spaghetti” may describe your best friend, while “the girls like spaghetti” sounds like a good meal!  The witty illustrations allow even young children to appreciate the quirkiness of the English language, and the importance of good punctuation.  Perfect for Ages 6-12. Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation is Eric Schlosser’s critique of the American fast food industry.  He shows how the rise of fast food has resulted in many societal problems including rising obesity rates, widening income gap, labour exploitation, and potential for mass outbreaks of serious diseases (such as BSE, aka “mad cow disease”).  It is also a warning for the future, as emerging economies embrace fast food as part of their yearning for a Western lifestyle.  Eric Schlosser is an investigative journalist who has used a compelling narrative to make serious topics – politics, economics, health, business strategy, psychology – interesting and accessible.  Fast Food Nation is a seminal work that has inspired other exposes into big businesses, such as Super Size Me and Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room. on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

Chew on This is an adaptation of Fast Food Nation aimed at 10-16 year olds.  Eric Schlosser teams up with fellow journalist Charles Wilson to refine the original text and make it more accessible to the age groups that most favour fast food.  Chew on This has retained the engaging narrative and the solid research (including footnotes) of Fast Food Nation, but is more concise and straightforward.

So you want to be a…. photographer

I have always loved and been interested in photography but it didn’t truly come alive for me until my son was born a few years ago. As a first time mum, I wanted so badly to capture every moment with my son while he was still young. I started to live and breathe photography. All my spare time was spent scouring the library for photography books, reading article after article online, and working on my skills to capture everything around me. I have also completed some basic photography courses and attended workshops which have been helpful in networking and sharing knowledge with other photographers.

This year I joined the AIPP (The Australian Institute of Professional Photography) and received accreditation. It was a big milestone for me. Since I didn’t have any formal training, I felt it really validated me as a Photographer! I still learn new things As a professional photographer you need to maintain up-to-date skills so I like to do one workshop a year and also participate in short courses here and there. I read photography books to find new ideas and techniques to try out. I like to set photography challenges for myself to try new things. I also follow some successful photographers on social media who kindly share their knowledge and skills. Currently I’m focused on learning how to run my business in a very competitive world and how to stand out in the sea of other family photographers. For this purpose I see a mentor once a month who helps me hone my business skills. It’s all about constant learning and having the courage to put yourself out there!

Here are a few of my favourite photography books: Family by Tamara Lackey



 to Photograph Absolutely Everything by Tom Ang

 Art of Photography: An approach to Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum


 Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman


 Everyday Photography: Awaken Your Vision to Create Stunning Images Wherever You Are by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwarin

5 activities for a non-boring school holiday

Only a few more weeks until the September school holidays!  The prospect of a slower pace (perhaps even a sleep-in!?) is attractive, but school holidays can also mean squabbles and excessive screen-time if the kids are at a loose end.  So here are some activities that can lure your young’uns from the couch / TV / e-devices while stretching their creativity and imagination!  They are also great resources for nurturing an existing interest.

These ideas have been inspired by the excellent programs run by our librarian friends around the country.  Many public libraries have free or low-cost events specially designed for children and youth – these can range from theatre shows, games tournaments, craft sessions, to how-to workshops.  Some libraries even have specialist equipment such as recording studios and 3D printers – and will teach you how to use them.  So do check out your local library to see what they are offering these school holidays!

For those who like drawing / cartooning:
Kids Draw Big Book of Everything Manga by Christopher Hart

Christopher Hart is a bestselling author of how-to-draw books.  He has guides catering to all ages from young children to adults, and to all skill levels.  Kids Draw Big Book of Everything Manga is a beginner’s guide for middle-primary students, just starting to develop their own characters.  It starts with basic style elements that define a manga-style drawing, then offers stepwise instructions on how to draw typical characters, poses and equipment for genres such as monsters, fantasy and shoujo.

For those who like computer games:
Scratch for Kids for Dummies by Derek Breen

If you love computer games, why not try to create your own?  Scratch is a visual programming language that is easy to learn, allowing users to quickly start creating their own stories, animations and games.  (Users build projects by joining chunks of ready-made code together, like virtual LEGO).  There is also a version for younger children called ScratchJr available as a tablet app.  It is available free of charge and has impeccable educational credentials – created at the MIT Media Lab specifically to help children learn computer programming.

Scratch for Kids for Dummies can be used as a troubleshooting guide as well as a complete beginner’s course in Scratch.  It is divided into three sections – character design, animation and games creation.  Like other For Dummies guides, it feels approachable – it is easy to read and has clear stepwise instructions with lots of illustrations. Each chapter also ends with ideas for extending your skills.  Available in both paperback and eBook formats.

For those who love the outdoors:
Cronin’s Key Guide to Australian Wildlife by Leonard Cronin

The September Holidays is a great opportunity to head outdoors and enjoy some long-awaited warmth and sunshine.  Some local councils and libraries run a Junior Rangers program during school holidays to encourage young people to visit local parks.  Junior Rangers learn about nature and conservation through activities such as guided walks, wildlife and plant identification, puzzles and games.

Create your own Junior Ranger activities using Cronin’s guides.  The Guide to Australian Wildlife offers a general introduction to plants and animals for a range of habitats including coral reefs, rain forests, woodlands and deserts.  Other titles in this series focus on specific topics such as trees, wildflowers, mammals, reptiles, and rainforest plants.  Each entry is beautifully illustrated and contains a detailed description including information on location, size, type of habitat, diet etc.  Cronin’s Guides can be useful whether you are travelling or even at home – there’s a surprising variety of birds and wildlife even in suburbia!

For anyone who loves LEGO:
LEGO Awesome Ideas by Daniel Lipkowitz

Hot off the press is this latest book of ideas to help LEGO builders extend their play and stretch their imagination.  Following from the success of the LEGO Ideas Book (2011) and LEGO Play Book (2013), Daniel Lipkowitz now shows builders how to create whole imaginary worlds starting from a single creation.

LEGO Awesome Ideas is arranged in themed chapters, such as Outer Space and The Wild West.  In each chapter, it offers suggestions on what to build, how to build and what else to build, to help fans go from a single creation to developing a complete LEGO world.  Each topic is richly illustrated, including with step-by-step instructions and visual break-downs for clear guidance.

For those who love cooking, science and/or getting messy:
Kitchen Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family friendly Experiments from around the House by Liz Lee Heinecke

Using everyday objects to demonstrate science is a great way to engage kids and facilitate their understanding.  Kitchen Science Lab for Kids contains 52 simple experiments based on common and inexpensive materials.  The experiments are grouped by type (such as acids and bases, sunny science and life science), and cover key principles in chemistry, physics, and biology.  Each experiment includes step-by-step instructions, safety tips, a discussion of the relevant scientific principles and an extension activity.  They are simple enough that young children can participate, while interesting enough to appeal to teens.

Children who like to cook will also enjoy these experiments – after all, the process of gathering ingredients then carefully following a set of instructions is common to both cooking and to science!

Segment Choice: Sport

Many of the world’s great writers have been drawn to writing about sport. They make for great reads: high drama, human tension, effort, payoff, win or lose. Here are our top 5 recommended reads for classic sports action: a Boundary by CLR James

In C. L. R. James’s classic Beyond a Boundary, the sport is cricket and the scene is the colonial West Indies. Always eloquent and provocative, James–the “black Plato,” (as coined by the London Times)–shows us how, in the rituals of performance and conflict on the field, we are watching not just prowess but politics and psychology at play. Part memoir of a boyhood in a black colony (by one of the founding fathers of African nationalism), part passionate celebration of an unusual and unexpected game, Beyond a Boundary raises, in a warm and witty voice, serious questions about race, class, politics, and the facts of colonial oppression. Originally published in England in 1963 and in the United States twenty years later (Pantheon, 1983), this second American edition brings back into print this prophetic statement on race and sport in society. Pitch by Nick Hornby

A famous account of growing up to be a fanatical football supporter. Told through a series of match reports, FEVER PITCH has enjoyed enormous critical and commercial success since it was first published in 1992. It has helped to create a new kind of sports writing, and established Hornby as one of the finest writers of his generation.




Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team & A by H G Bissinger

Return once again to the enduring account of the Permian Panthers of Odessa — the most successful high school football team in Texas history.






King of the World by David Remnick

Explores the transformation of a young boxer into an internationally renowned athlete, mythic hero, American icon, and central figure in the twentieth century’s social, cultural, and racial conflicts

 Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Follows Peekay, a white British boy in South Africa during World War II, between the ages of five and eleven, as he survives an abusive boarding school and goes on to succeed in life and in the boxing ring.