Monthly Archives: August 2015

Inside Out

Inside Out is Disney / Pixar’s big mid-year movie release.  This engaging story about a young girl and her five emotions (Joy, Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness) has been praised for its accurate portrayal of psychology, and its positive messages about the value of different emotions.

If the children in your life are interested in, or have enjoyed Inside Out, this can be an opportunity to discuss how to recognise and manage emotions.  Here are some additional resources, suitable for different ages, to help you further that conversation.

For the youngest children: 

When I’m Feeling Lonely by Trace Moroney (and other titles)
Trace Moroney has written a series of picture books, each focussing on a single emotion (such as anger, jealousy, kindness, love).  She uses a bunny character and lots of descriptive language to help children understand what each emotion means, and how to deal with it.    Each book also contains teaching notes written by child psychologists for carers / teachers.

My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson

My Big Shouting Day won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and it is easy to see why.  Bella is having a Big Shouting Day because nothing seems right – it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet and even too minty!  Luckily, her very patient mum reminds Bella that everyone has those days sometimes, and that things may be better tomorrow.  Parents and children alike may giggle at the all-too-familiar situations and the increasingly frazzled expression on Mum’s face (After reading this book, my friend laughed, then ruefully said “this is not comedy, it’s documentary”).  The ending, with a cuddle and a shy apology, is upbeat and reassuring.

For early- to middle-primary:

Inside Out Driven by Emotions by Elise Allen and the Disney Book Group
This is a novelisation of the movie, aimed at junior readers.  Each of its five chapters is a retelling of the Inside Out story from the perspective of a different emotion – Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust and Sadness.  A creative way to illustrate how different emotions can change our perception of events.

The Emotions’ Survival Guide
This non-fiction accompaniment to the Inside Out movie aims to be a survival guide for  school-aged children, with expert advice on how to recognise and deal with feelings.  Available for pre-order (to be published September 2015)

For pre-teens and teens:

Understanding Myself: a Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings by Mary C. Lamia

Understanding Myself is written by a clinical psychologist with over 30 years’ experience.  It defines and explores 18 feelings, including love, envy, shame, loneliness and anxiety, in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Not only can this book be used by young people to understand and manage their emotions, its vocabulary offers a framework to help them articulate and discuss their concerns with peers and adults.


Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens by Sheri Van Dijk

Teenagers often have to deal with new experiences and emotions that leave them feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. This is a workbook that uses a structured approach to guide teens on how to stay calm in difficult situations, reduce the pain of intense emotions, and manage overwhelming feelings.   The techniques are based on dialectical behaviour therapy, a clinical tool designed to help change unhelpful patterns of behaviour.

#LoveOzYA and great Aussie reads for teens

Today we round-off our spotlight on the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards by looking at winners in the Older Readers category.  One interesting fact is that all three honoured authors are first-time or early career novelists!

Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Winner:  The Protected by Claire Zorn

Hannah’s sister Katie has been dead nearly a year, irretrievably shattering her family’s lives.  Since then she has been shuttled from psychologist to psychologist – but who wouldn’t have problems when they have a depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister?  When she starts to connect with the school’s counsellor, the full tragedy of Hannah’s situation is finally revealed – she has been a victim of extended bullying, while her cool, beautiful sister stood by.  This is the story of how Hannah slowly deals with her grief, hurt and guilt, nurtured by the glimmerings of new friendships.

I was devastated by Hannah’s story, particularly the depictions of bullying, how poisonous but random these vicious acts can be.  The characters are complex – particularly the deceased Katie – and far removed from cliches.  The complexity of their feelings for each other is unexpected and riveting.

Claire Zorn is an exciting new author whose two novels have both received critical acclaim.  While her debut novel, The Sky so Heavy, was a CBCA Honour book last year, The Protected has done one better by winning the Older Readers Book of the Year.  The Protected has also won the Young Adult prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Honour book:  Nona and Me by Clare Atkins

 Rosie is a white girl living in the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala in Arnhem Land.  Her family was adopted into that community years ago; Rosie grew up with Nona, an Aboriginal girl who became her sister – Yapa.  They were inseparable until Nona went away at age nine.

Fast forward six years and Rosie is at the mainstream (i.e. mainly white) high school in the nearby mining town.  She is navigating through familiar teenage minefields – trying to conform, to fit in, crushing on a cute boy.  When Nona returns unexpectedly, Rosie’s Aboriginal links become a source of tension.  Will she risk prejudice and exclusion, in order to reconnect with Nona?

Nona & Me is a powerful story about friendship, community and being true to oneself.  It also presents an unusual take on being caught between two cultures.  Nona and Nick, both crucial to the story, remain somewhat elusive – I would like to get to know them better.  Clare Atkins is a first-time author with a background in screenwriting.  Nona & Me was written while Clare lived in the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala, and contains significant input from its Yolnu community.

Honour book:  The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

The Minnow is Diana Sweeney’s first novel.  It had already won an award as an unpublished manuscript (the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, in 2013) so it is no surprise that the published version is also a critical success.  Tom is a fourteen-year-old girl adjusting to life after her personal apocalypse – a massive flood that has killed the rest of her family and destroyed much of her town.  After leaving an abusive environment, a pregnant Tom seeks refuge by moving in with her best friend, Jonah. Tom’s bond with Jonah, her wise and vivacious Nana, and with The Minnow – her name for her unborn child – slowly allow her to process her grief and move on with her life.

The Minnow deals with some confronting topics – Death, grief and abuse – but it is not grim.  Instead it is melancholy, dreamlike and somewhat surreal, due to Tom’s regular conversations with her dead family, Oscar the pet carp, and Sarah the catfish (that just may be Tom’s dead sister).  Is Tom unhinged, or is she constructing an alternative reality in her mind? However you interpret this, it does not detract from Tom’s appeal – she is strong and steadfast and utterly admirable.  And mature – it is hard to remember she is only fourteen.

These prize winners represent only a tiny fraction of a diverse and vibrant local industry. Recently the Australian YA community – authors, teachers, librarians and booksellers – have used the #LoveOzYA hashtag to publicise the quality and range of Australian YA.  This is to counter the overwhelming attention given to blockbuster imports such as Hunger Games and Fault in Our Stars, supported by the significant marketing budgets of big publishers and film studios.

Search for “#LoveOzYA readalikes” on the internet and you will find many suggestions of great Aussie reads that explore similar territory to your favourite overseas authors.  Some of these readalikes include:

For fans of paranormal romance try Alexandra Adornetto’s Halo series







For stories with a multicultural perspective try Alice Pung’s Laurinda,






For fans of dark fantasy try Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts







For fans of John Green try Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts







For fans of morally ambiguous stories try Justine Larbalestier’s Liar

Book Week Picks for primary-aged readers

Children’s Book Week is an annual celebration of Australian children’s publishing, and the authors and illustrators who contribute to this vibrant industry.  Look out for activities, such as special story time sessions, offered by your local schools and public libraries as part of the celebrations.

Book Week also means the CBCA Children’s Book of the Year awards, whose winners were announced last Friday (August 21).  Last week we looked at shortlisted titles in the Early Childhood category.  This week, we spotlight the winning titles in two categories particularly suited to primary-aged children – the Younger Readers award and the Picture Book of the Year award.

Book of the Year (Younger Readers)

This year’s winners are diverse in both style and target ages.

Winner: The Cleo Stories by Libby Gleeson (illustrated by Freya Blackwood)

Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood have achieved outstanding results at this year’s awards, with two of their co-creations taking out top honours (the other title, Go to Sleep, Jessie! has won the Early Childhood Book of the Year). Once again, they demonstrate their skill at observing the minutiae of daily life, and at detailing the dramas of childhood with understanding and affection.

The Cleo Stories contain two short stories about Cleo, an imaginative six-year-old. The first thing you notice about this book is its beautiful design – thick silky pages packed with full-colour illustrations.  It is halfway between picture book and chapter book, and is perfect for early-to-middle-primary readers.

In the first story,’The Necklace’, Cleo desperately wants a necklace of her own, but she will only be given one on her birthday – which is so far away that Cleo decides to come up with a better solution.  Then in ‘The Present’, Cleo is trying to find the perfect present for her mum’s birthday – something that is just from her.  These stories show the enterprising Cleo solving her dilemmas with enthusiasm, creativity and humour.  A sequel is already in progress and will be available later this year.


Honour Book: Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks
This dark mystery-thriller is a departure for Tristan Bancks, previously known for sassy school stories for pre-teens and teens. Ben is a slightly-chubby, slightly-gawky boy who just loves the comfort and security of his bedroom.  Then the Police arrive at Ben’s house looking for his parents. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive and bundle Ben and his little sister Olive into their car to go on a “holiday”.  But Ben’s parents behave strangely – they are not using their credit-cards or mobile phones, they cut their hair and they lie to the police – what’s going on?  As Ben uses his amateur detective skills to gather evidence and understand the events, he realises that his parents are in serious trouble, and that he has some tough decisions to make.

First and foremost, Two Wolves is a tense, action-packed story.  Tristan Bancks’ background in acting and filmmaking is evident in his vivid descriptions, and dramatic opening – readers are thrown straight into the action, creating many questions that are slowly resolved as the story progresses.  The language has a terse rhythm that builds a sense of urgency and threat.

What lifts it out of the ordinary is the convincing portrayal of flawed characters, and of Ben’s personal growth – his developing resourcefulness, self-belief and ability to make difficult decisions.  Those moral and ethical dilemmas – about right and wrong, honesty and loyalty, also test us readers and hold our interest right to the last page.

Honour Book: Withering-by-Sea: a Stella Montgomery Intrigue by Judith Rossell
This Honour Book commendation caps off a successful year for Withering-by-Sea, which has already won two awards – the Indie Book Awards (Children’s and YA Book of the Year), and the Australian Book Industry Awards (Book of the Year for Older Children).

High on a cliff in the town of Withering-by-Sea stands the faded glory of the Hotel Majestic.  Here, Stella feels stifled by the strict and dull upbringing given her by three dreaded Aunts.  She is constantly getting in trouble for unladylike behaviour, because she prefers adventure to deportment and needlework.  One day, while hiding in the hotel’s Conservatory with her Atlas, she sees a man hiding a package in a potted fern.  Thereafter she is swept along in a mystery that is full of danger, black magic and even singing cats!

Judith Rossell has used period language and the conventions of the Victorian Gothic genre to great effect, resulting in a moody, spooky mystery.  The cold mist-wreathed setting seems quintessentially English and echoes the misery of Stella’s predicament.  The illustrations, similar in style to Edward Gorey, add great visual impact.  A subplot relating to Stella’s mysterious background and parentage is intriguing and paves the way for future instalments.

Picture Book of the Year

Books considered for the Picture Book of the Year award are typically aimed at older children but can be enjoyed by all ages (including adults!).  Compared to the Early Childhood category, these stories tend to be more complex, and may also include mature or challenging themes such as death or trauma.

Winner: My Two Blankets by Freya Blackwood and Irena Kobald

2015 is a great year for Freya Blackwood.  She has just won a hat-trick at the CBCA awards – each of her three shortlisted titles (Go to Sleep, Jessie!, The Cleo Stories and My Two Blankets) has won in its category.  In fact, she is the first creator in the awards’ 70-year history to have been honoured three times in the same year.  These wins add to her already impressive tally of past honours, including three previous CBCA wins, and the Kate Greenaway Medal, a prestigious international prize for illustrators.

My Two Blankets offers a child’s perspective on life as a refugee.  Cartwheel left her home to escape the war, and has sought safety in a new country.  Everything is strange in her new home, making Cartwheel feel isolated and lonely.  She seeks comfort in her own language – her “old blanket” of familiar words and sounds.  Then Cartwheel meets a friendly girl at the park. As their friendship grows, Cartwheel gains new words – words that she uses to weave a new blanket that is just as comfortable as her old one.

Irena Kobald’s heartwarming story of friendship and acceptance marries beautifully with Freya Blackwood’s gentle, dreamy illustrations. The use of colour and the creative depiction of the abstract concept of ”language” are particularly noteworthy.

Honour Book: One Minute’s Silence by Michael Camilleri and David Metzenthen

A roomful of bored modern-day students are led to imagine themselves in the midst of the Gallipoli campaign as they observe one minute’s silence.  One minute’s silence is enough to imagine the thousands of wild colonial boys  charging into relentless gunfire; it is also enough to imagine how the Turks felt, trying to defend their homes and their lives, as they watch slouch-hatted strangers run uphill towards them.

One Minute’s Silence is a heartbreaking story conveyed by considered, evocative language and intricate illustrations packed with meaning.  By showing the Battle of Gallipoli from both sides, the story extends beyond the history of a single battle, but instead reflects upon the senselessness and horror of all wars. It is a visually stunning, affecting addition to the range of books created to commemorate the centenary of World War One.  One Minute’s Silence deserves every one of the three honours it gained in this year’s CBCA Awards – winner of the Crichton Award for New Illustrators, Honour Book in the Picture Book category, as well as Notable Book in the Information Book category.

Honour Book: The Stone Lion by Ritva Voutila and Margaret Wild

Sometimes, stone animals get a chance to become warm, breathing creatures for a short time – if they desire it greatly with a generous heart.  The stone lion outside the library longs to become alive, to run free.  He is finally granted his wish one snowy day, but two young children desperately need his help – will he sacrifice his own desires for their sake?

The Stone Lion is a poignant story about compassion and selflessness, and also a celebration of libraries.
We see and rejoice in the lion’s transformation from heartless and indifferent – unable to comprehend human emotions – to humanity, with the ability to sympathise and the desire to help.

Margaret Wild is a well-loved author who has won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year award three times in a career of over thirty years.  The period setting used in Ritva Voutila’s drawings makes this story dreamy and timeless – a bittersweet fable reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince.

Book Week Picks – Early Childhood Book of the Year

Book Week is fast approaching – as advertisements spruiking dress-ups remind us. Book Week also means the CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book of the Year Awards, the most prestigious awards in Australian children’s publishing. This year’s winners will be announced on Friday 21st August, the day before Book Week, a week long celebration of children’s books, literacy and publishing, from August 22-28.

This year, CBCA celebrates its 70th anniversary with the theme “Books light up our World”. Here’s a run down of the different award categories and some titles to watch out for.

Book of the Year (Early Childhood)

The Early Childhood category was first awarded in 2001, to differentiate these works from ones judged under the general Picture Book of the Year category, that may contain more mature, challenging subject matter. The need for two separate awards in picture storybooks reflect a growth and diversification of this format away from the idea that “picture books are only for young children”. In fact, a picture is still worth a thousand words, and the combination of text and graphics offers a multi-layered, powerful approach to storytelling.

This year’s shortlist is dominated by established authors and illustrators, many of whom are past winners.

To further your reading experience, many of these titles come with teaching notes available from the publisher’s websites.

A House of her Own by Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley
Audrey is bigger than she was yesterday, so now she needs a bigger house – a house of her own. Luckily, Dad is there to help her build a wonderful house at the top of a tree, with a bathtub for snorkelling, a blue bed for hiding secrets under – everything that a girl could want. However, when it’s time to turn in, Audrey is not so sure that being big is such a good idea afterall…

Jenny Hughes and Jonathan Bentley have created a delightful heroine and an endearing story. The story, told almost entirely through dialogue, builds a vivid picture of a loving father-daughter relationship (with a single-parent subtext), and captures the essence of an almost-big girl who wants independence but who also longs for security.


Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King

Stephen Michael King is a prolific and versatile author/illustrator who has three works shortlisted for this year’s CBCA awards – two in the Early Childhood category, and The Duck and the Darklings competing for the Picture Book of the Year. In Scary Night, he illustrates the story of first-time author Lesley Gibbes.

Once upon a scary night, a hare, a cat and a pig set out on a journey. They must keep going, even though there are lots of dangers lurking! The story unfolds into a happy surprise as the friends finally reach their destination. The use of repetition and sound effects in the text ramps up the pace and fills it with tension; it is perfect for a dramatic read-aloud. The cute-but-spooky illustrations – I especially love the wide-eyed apprehension in the friends’ faces – will bring delicious shivers to the audience.

Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood

Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood are both multiple award-winners with formidable track-records at the CBCA awards. This year, two of their collaborations – Go to Sleep, Jessie! and The Cleo Stories – are shortlisted for the Early Childhood and the Younger Readers awards, respectively. Moreover, Freya Blackwood has also been shortlisted for the Picture Book of the Year Award, as illustrator for My Two Blankets.

Baby Jessie screams every night at bedtime. Mum, Dad and Jessie’s big sister try all sorts of tricks to help Jessie sleep but the peace and quiet never lasts. The big sister (narrator) grows increasingly frustrated and looks set to snap… fortunately an endearing twist gives the story a gentle, happy ending.

Go to Sleep, Jessie! is a charming, tender story reminiscent of the award-winning The Runaway Hug, that will resonate with many parents (and older siblings!). Once again Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood show their great skill in illuminating the drama of everyday life. The use of some comic strip-style layouts add visual flow to the illustrations that help to propel the action.

Other shortlisted titles are:

Snail and Turtle are Friends by Stephen Michael King

A very simple, gentle and cute story about Snail and Turtle, friends who love to spend time together even though they are different. The humour and cheerfulness is guaranteed to bring a smile to everyone’s face. This is the second of three works by Stephen Michael King in this year’s awards.

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

Pig the Pug is greedy and selfish in every way. When Pig refuses to share his toys, it starts a chain of events that leads to a nasty end for Pig! The rollicking rhymes and Aaron Blabey’s distinctive drawings will have children following the story with gleeful giggles. A sequel, Pig the Fibber, is just released and already a bestseller.

Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

Noni the Pony is friendly and funny. In this new adventure, Noni and her farmyard friends have lots of adventures on a fun day at the beach. It has the same musical rhymes and adorable illustrations of its predecessor and is a joyful story for even the youngest children.

Interview with an author: Michelle Hamer

shell copyMichelle Hamer is the author of eleven books including the best-selling Australian novel, Gucci Mamas, and its follow-ups, Versace Sisters, Chanel Sweethearts and Armani Angels (which she co-wrote under the name Cate Kendall). She is also a regular contributor to The Age newspaper where she was previously an editor. More recently, she has written the ‘Daisy’ series of children’s books. We were fortunate to speak with Michelle on the writing process: piece of writing are you most proud?

I would have to say the Daisy books, which were published by Penguin last year as part of the Our Australian Girl series. The journalist in me enjoyed the research necessary to write historical fiction, and the writer in me enjoyed creating the story that brought the history to life. I’d had seven books published before this series, but this was the first children’s fiction I had written, which fulfilled a lifelong dream to write for kids. I plan to continue writing in the children’s genre. I have a new book coming out next year and am working on a new series. you base any of your characters on people you know?

Mostly the characters come from my imagination and from bits and pieces of other people.

Do you have a process that you use to develop your characters?

I create characters that I like, who I’d like to hang out with and enjoy getting to know as the story develops. I’m often surprised by what they do and say, but once I start writing I try to just go with it and see what happens. It’s fun to create the nasty characters too, especially when I get to teach them a lesson during the story. background is journalism. Is it difficult to move between fiction and editorial content?

It’s a matter of shifting gears mentally and it’s really lovely to be able to have the opportunity to do both. I find I use different parts of my brain to write fiction, non-fiction or journalism in book form. It’s nice to have a smorgasbord of writing styles. Writing an article is so much faster than writing a book, so it’s possible to get a quicker sense of achievement and feedback, but then the satisfaction of finishing a long form work and seeing it on a bookshop or library shelf is huge. you use stream of consciousness as a method of writing? Or do you prefer other methods?

I start with a general plan and direction, I usually know the major plot points before I start, but once I get going I can find that the writing seems to happen without me thinking much about it, and that’s scary at times. I’ll be writing and writing, and thinking: “This is going to be drivel, I should stop,” but I try to silence those inner critics and keep writing, and mostly it turns out well. It’s a fascinating process. I try not to think about it too much in case it stops happening! sometimes think that I’ve lost the creativity I had when I was at school. What are your recommendations for getting that back?

Play, dance, sing, draw, read – immerse yourself in the creativity of others as much as possible. I think creativity can be contagious.
We tend to expect ourselves to always be doing something productive; but creativity needs space and time to flourish. Daydreaming is an excellent habit to foster. know some people that want to get their first book published. Do you have any advice for them? What is the process like?

The best advice I have is to be tenacious, develop a thick skin and keep trying. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to break into mainstream publishing, but technology has opened up lots of new forms of publishing, so in some ways it’s easier than ever to share your work with an audience.
Sometimes people say: “Oh but all the stories have been told, there’s nothing left to write”. I don’t agree. Your voice is unique, no one else can tell a story in your voice or from your perspective. That’s a valuable asset.

If you are interested in attending one of Michelle’s writing workshops, visit wordsmiths

Father’s Day picks

Hunting for that perfect gift for dad? Whether he’s a music buff or a sporting fan,we’ve got all the books to cover every dad’s taste this Father’s Day. Here are 5 different options from a wide variety of genres: The Godfather of Australian Rock ‘n’ Roll by Stuart Coupe

Known to many as GODinski, Michael Gudinski is unquestionably the most powerful and influential figure in the Australian rock’n’roll music business – and has been for the last four decades. Often referred to as ‘the father of the Australian music industry’, he has nurtured the careers of many artists – Kylie Minogue, Jimmy Barnes, Paul Kelly, Skyhooks, Split Enz, Yothu Yindi, to name just a few.

 Life and Football by Jonathon

AFL legend Jonathan Brown on footy, living life to the full and having what it takes to win three premierships.

 is Dead by James Lindsay

Dexter returns in an all-new, all-Australian, blood-soaked adventure written by his creator, Jeff Lindsay. Dexter Morgan isn’t just Miami’s #1 forensic blood splatter expert…he’s also a serial killer who targets other serial killers. But when Dexter travels down under, he quickly discovers that sharks aren’t Australia’s only deadly predator. Who is setting up illegal hunting safaris in the Outback – and are humans in the crosshairs? Dexter investigates as only he can, and that means only one thing…

 Mistborn Trilogy Boxed Set: The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

A boxed set of the landmark fantasy from Brandon Sanderson, the man credited with breathing fresh life into Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME. An epic fantasy set in a world where the Dark Lord has gained dominion over the world. A world of ash and pain. A world subjugated. But a world where magic can be drawn from metals. A world waiting for a new heroine, a new hope. A word of mouth bestseller in the USA Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy have become a massive hit in the UK, and now in Australia. The Ultimate Guide by Matteo Bruno

Meatballs make the perfect dish for a Monday night supper, a Saturday night dinner party or a Sunday feast. And here are 60 recipes for meatballs like you’ve never seen them before – Meatballs rustico, devoured with crusty bread to sop up the delectable sauce; Seared beef carpaccio meatballs, best eaten glass of Prosecco in hand; Pork, ginger and lemongrass meatballs; Lobster meatballs. Tuck in!

The Martian

The Martian‘ is the first published novel by Andy Weir.  It was originally self-published in 2011, after which Crown Publishing purchased the rights.  It was published in 2014 and the movie is scheduled to be released on October 2nd.  So you have the opportunity to read the book first!  It’s about a NASA astronaut Mark Watney, who is left stranded on Mars when the crew of the Ares 3 mission are forced to leave.  With no way to contact Earth, Watney must rely on his scientific and technical skills to survive, growing potatoes in the crew’s Martian habitat (or Hab) and burning hydrazine to make water. He begins to record his experiences so that they might prove useful for future explorers after his death. NASA discovers that Watney is alive when satellite images pick up human activity and they begin a plan to rescue him.  This book is the perfect Father’s day gift.

Here’s the film trailer.  It looks ah-mazing!

If that’s doesn’t get you interested, here’s Mythbuster Adam Savage interviewing author Andy Weir:



Books to read before their film versions arrive

Books continue to be a reliable source of inspiration for film studios. The film adaptations of these well-loved stories are arriving over the next two months.   It is always fun (and a great conversation starter) to compare books to their film versions, regardless of which you experience first.  Hopefully this advance warning will help you finish the original book before heading to the cinemas this time (finally!).

Paper Towns by John Green
(Released July/August 2015)

Although the film has already screened in the US, it was only released in Australia and New Zealand in late July, and the UK release will be in mid August – so there is still time to read the original before heading to the cinema.

Paper Towns is a coming-of-age story about Quentin (“Q”) and Margo, his neighbour and childhood crush.  A month before high school graduation, Margo re-enters Q’s life by inviting him to help her exact revenge on several people; they spend one heady night completing their mission.  Then Margo disappears; Q is convinced Margo is waiting for him to find her, and becomes obsessed with identifying clues to her whereabouts.  Q and his friends eventually find Margo in New York state after a frantic road trip, but…

The Paper Towns movie draws on the star power of Cara Delevigne, a British supermodel in her first lead role; and also of author John Green, who achieved enormous success with both the book- and film-versions of The Fault in Our Stars.
Paper Towns is the latest example of Young Adult (YA) fiction gaining prominence in mainstream popular culture  – following blockbusters such as Fault in Our Stars, Twilight and Hunger Games.

Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
(Expected release August 2015)

Fourteen reprints, an award-winning stage adaptation and now a film version are testament to the continuing high regard for Holding the Man.  This is a tender, honest, raw memoir about Conigrave’s first love – the Captain of their school football team – and their 15-year relationship.  It charts the highs and lows of their experiences as young gay men in the 70s and 80s – coming out, the hedonistic gay scene, the scourge of AIDS.  It is also distinctly Australian, set in Melbourne and Sydney, with Aussie Rules Football integral to the story.  Holding the Man is particularly poignant because it, Conigrave’s “big break”, came several months after his death due to AIDS-related illness.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
(Expected release September 2015)

Bill Bryson’s gentle humour and child-like curiosity has been charming readers for decades, on topics as diverse as roadside diners, the history of the sewing machine and even Vegemite.  In A Walk in the Woods, Bryson documents his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend.  There are plenty of trials and tribulations; the Trail is long (around 3500 kilometres) and challenging, and the two men soon find they are ill-prepared for the task.  Despite these difficulties, Bryson remains upbeat and is able to muse on the history and ecology of this scenic route as they go for their little “walk in the woods”.
The film version stars Robert Redford as Bill Bryson (I wonder if he’s flattered – who would you choose to play you on the big screen?) and Nick Nolte as Bryson’s friend.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
(Expected release September 2015)

The “Me” in this novel is Greg, an awkward highschooler who avoids becoming a social outcast by drifting over all the tribes at school.  His only close friend is Earl, a fellow cinephile; for years they have been making quirky film parodies together.  Greg’s and Earl’s lives change when they are guilt-tripped into spending time with Rachel, Greg’s childhood friend who has terminal cancer.
This, Jesse Andrews’ first novel, is a fresh, funny story with an authentic teen voice; it is uplifting without being sentimental, and deserves the wider attention that its film adaptation will surely bring.  The film received a standing ovation (and won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award) at this year’s Sundance Festival, and has become a commercial success in the US.  Coming to the rest of the world in September.

Top 5 gifts for Dad

There are lots of different types of dads: the sporty, the thrill seeker, and the foodie (amongst others). Whatever type of dad your dad is, we have the book for him.   Here are our top 5 picks for Father’s Day:

The New Dad baby’s first word will be Dada by Jimmy Fallon

Your baby’s first word will be . . . “Dada!” Right? Everyone knows that fathers wage a secret campaign to ensure that their babies’ first word is “Dada!” But how does it work? One of the most popular entertainers in the world and NBC’s The Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon, shows you how.


The Foodie:

From Venice to Istanbul by Rick

From the mythical heart of Greece to the fruits of the Black Sea coast; from Croatian and Albanian flavours to the spices and aromas of Turkey and beyond – the cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean is a vibrant melting pot brimming with character. Accompanying the major BBC Two series, Rick Stein: From Venice to Istanbul includes over 100 spectacular recipes discovered by Rick during his travels in the region.


The Thrill Seeker: Sydney by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

The world’s bestselling thriller writer teams up with Australia’s bestselling crime writer for the latest action-packed instalment of the PRIVATE series.

Even for Private Investigations, the world’s top detective agency, it’s tough to find a man who doesn’t exist . . .Craig Gisto has promised Eliza Moss that his elite team at Private Sydney will investigate the disappearance of her father. After all, as the CEO of a high-profile research company, Eric Moss shouldn’t be difficult to find. Except it’s not just the man who’s gone missing, all evidence he ever existed has vanished too. And there are powerful figures pulling the strings who want Moss to stay ‘lost’.  But when a woman is found brutally murdered and a baby is missing, Private is suddenly drawn into another frantic search. And this is a case Craig has to throw everything into, because he may well be responsible for sending the killer straight to the victim’s door . . .


 The Sporting Fan:

The Short Long Book: A Portrait of Michael Long, the man who changed the Australian game by Martin Flanagan

A portrait of Michael Long, the man who changed  the AFL. In 1995, Aboriginal footballer Michael Long gave the AFL its ‘Mandela moment’. He quietly revolutionised Australian sport by refusing to let a racial insult pass during the Anzac Day match between Essendon and Collingwood. When the majority white football public backed a black man against a white institution (the AFL), the culture of the game flipped and the AFL became a leader in Australian race relations.


The Quirky Dad:

Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow

The director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin presents a collection of uproarious and intimate conversations with some of today’s most popular comedians, drawing on his teenage radio hosting days to include pieces from the early years, in a book that includes interviews with such names as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Sandra Bernhard.

Big Fat Smile


At Booko, we’re hugely supportive of groups that inspire and promote reading. Big Fat Smile is a Community-owned, not-for-profit group who have served children and families since 2012. Big Fat Smile has supported refugee families, women and children fleeing from domestic violence and families who have been affected by drug abuse. All of the children in these families didn’t have any, or enough, appropriate clothing and nothing of their own to play with or read.

Big Fat Smile helps prepare children for the best start in life with packs that include a selection of clothing, a toy and always a book.

Booko has previously gifted a selection of new books to Big Fat Smile to form part of the packs given to children.

If you have new or pre-loved books to donate to Big Fat Smile, they would love to hear from you. All donations can be sent to:

Big Fat Smile
PO Box 190
Olinda VIC 3788

For more information on Big Fat Smile, visit their Facebook page