Shortlist: Adelaide Festival Awards

The first major awards shortlist has been announced, with the shortlist for 2012 Adelaide Festival awards for literature announced this morning.

The list is as follows. Where a book has been reviewed here on Aussiereviews, I’ve linked to the review.

Children’s literature award
Aaron Blabey, The Ghost of Miss Annabel Spoon (Viking)
Kate Constable, Crow Country (Allen & Unwin)
Bob Graham, A Bus Called Heaven (Walker Books)
Rosanne Hawke, Taj and the Great Camel Trek (University of Queensland
Norman Jorgensen (illustrator James Foley), The Last Viking (Fremantle
Lian Tanner, The Keepers: Museum of Thieves (Allen & Unwin)
Young adult fiction award
Georgia Blain, Darkwater (Random House Australia)
D. M. Cornish, Monster Blood Tattoo Book Three: Factotum (Omnibus Books)
Ursula Dubosarsky, The Golden Day (Allen & Unwin)
Scot Gardner, The Dead I Know (Allen & Unwin)
Doug MacLeod, The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher (Penguin Books)
Vikki Wakefield, All I Ever Wanted (Text Publishing)
Fiction award
Anna Funder, All That I Am (Hamish Hamilton)
Gail Jones, Five Bells (Vintage)
Alex Miller, Autumn Laing (Allen & Unwin)
Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance (Picador Australia)
Dominic Smith, Bright and Distant Shores (Allen & Unwin)
Rohan Wilson, The Roving Party (Allen & Unwin)
John Bray poetry award
Jennifer Compton, Barefoot (Picaro Press)
Diane Fahey, The Wing Collection: New & Selected Poems (Puncher &
Wattmann Poetry)
Les Murray, Taller When Prone (Black Inc.)
David Musgrave, Phantom Limb (John Leonard Press)
Tracy Ryan, The Argument (Fremantle Press)
Petra White, The Simplified World (John Leonard Press)
Non-Fiction award
James Boyce, 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of
Australia (Black Inc.)
Fiona Capp, My Blood’s Country (Allen & Unwin)
Jim Davidson, A Three Cornered Life: The Historian W.K. Hancock (University
of New South Wales Press)
Mark McKenna, An Eye for Eternity, (The Miegunyah Press)
Hazel Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage (Melbourne
University Press) (deceased)
Brenda Walker, Reading By Moonlight: How Books Saved A Life (Penguin
Unpublished manuscript award
Henry Aybee, The Red Hat: An Australian Gothic Novel
Belinda Broughton, The Sparrow
Rachael Mead, The Sixth Creek
Margaret Merrilees, The First Week
Rob Walker, Tropeland
Jill Blewett playwright’s award
Nicki Bloom, A Cathedral
Elena Carapetis, Helen Back
Duncan Graham, Wolf Hunger
Barbara Hanrahan fellowship
Nicki Bloom, The Sun and the Other Stars
Carol Lefevre, A Maze in the Garden
David Sornig, You, Of All People

Every time one of these lists is announced I am pleased to see favourites on there – but am also reminded anew of how many wonderful books I seem to not get around to reading. Would love to be able to say I’ve read all of these – but I haven’t. So many books – so little time!

The winner of each category will be announced on March 3. Good luck to all the shortlisted authors and publishers

Best Ever Aussie Jokes

With jokes on a range of topics – there are chapters on sport, travel, school, animals and more – and of different types, including knock knock jokes, limericks, and silly book titles, there is plenty here to keep the child in your life laughing for ages.

What do you get when you touch an electric parrot?
A shockatoo
(Mitchell Johnson, Australian Cricketer)

What do you call a sewer that’s jammed with Aussie plumbers?
A bloked drain.
(Kate Ritchie, actress)

Which tree has teeth?
A gum tree.
(Manu Feildel, My Kitchen Rules)

There’s an old, oft-quoted adage which says “Laughter is the best medicine’, but did you also know that if you laugh 100 times a day it is the same amount of exercise as 15 minutes of rowing or jogging? SO you odn’t have to be sick to really benefit from a good laugh. Camp Quality is an organisation devoted to making people laugh – especially kids who are sick with cancer. Best Ever Aussie Jokesis the latest in their series of joke books published to help support their important work.

With jokes on a range of topics – there are chapters on sport, travel, school, animals and more – and of different types, including knock knock jokes, limericks, and silly book titles, there is plenty here to keep the child in your life laughing for ages. Cartoon-style illustrations by Louis Shea on most pages add tot he visual appeal.

Well worth buying both to support kids living with cancer and to give yourself, and your children, a laugh.

Best Ever Aussie Jokes! (Camp Quality)
Best Ever Aussie Jokes! (Camp Quality), illustrated by Louis Shea
Scholastic Australia, 2011

Available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Unicorn Riders Series, by Aleesah Darlison

‘Kidnapped!’ Ellabeth gasped. ‘When?’
Quinn was horrified. ‘Who would do this?’…
‘Like it or not, there are terrible people in our world,’ Jala said. ‘As much as we love the prince, others would wish to profit from his misfortune.’
Willow’s eyes narrowed. ‘I bet that horrid Lord Valerian is behind this.’

Unicorn Riders is a new series filled with lots of the things young female readers love – pretty colours, unicorns, and decorative layout. But, along with lots of ‘girly’ stuff there are also lots of deeper bits for readers to get their teeth into. Over the four books there is plenty of action, plot and character development and a range of settings.

There are four unicorn riders, magically chosen to ride the unicorns and protect the kingdom of Avamay. And, with four books in the series (so far), each girl is featured in one story, though all four appear in every book. The riders’ motto is We Ride as One, which suggests unity, but, as with any group of kids (adults, too, come to think of it) there are times of conflict. Each girl has her own stregths and foibles, and is paired with a unicorn which has magical powers. Together the girls and their unicorns must work to keep the kingdom safe.

In Quinn’s Riddles, the young prince has been kidnapped, and Quinn must use her abilities to figure out the riddles left by the kidnappers. In Willow’s Challenge, the Riders get a message from Willow’s uncle, begging them to bring him a magical elixir before he dies. Willow must help the uncle she believes once betrayed her family. In Krystal’s Choice, the Unicorn Riders head to Miramar to solve the mysterious disappearance of children. There Krystal is tempted to leave the riders. In Ellabeth’s Test, the final of the four books. Ellabeth has to take on the role of leader on a mission to collect diamond scales from the Dakkar Serpent.

Each book is illustrated, with illustrations on most spreads ranging from whole page illustrations to small pictures in the corners of pages, and there are also butterflies on either side of the page numbers, and other embellishments which add visual appeal. Each book bears a different coloured cover, but features a shield with Unicorns and the group’s motto.

Likely to appeal particularly to girls aged 7 to 10.

Quinn's Riddles (Unicorn Riders)

Quinn’s Riddles , ISBN 9781921529979

Willow's Challenge (Unicorn Riders)

Willow’s Challenge , ISBN 9781921529986

Krystal's Choice (Unicorn Riders)
Krystal’s Choice , ISBN 9781921529993

Ellabeth's Test (Unicorn Riders)
Ellabeth’s Test, ISBN 9781921720000&

All books by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Jill Brailsford and published by Walker Books, 2011

The Outcasts, by John Flanagan

‘Oars! Oars!’ shouted Hal. Even without the sail they still had plenty of momentum and the edge of the mole seemed to shoot by him. He ehard the clatter of wood on wood as the crew ran out the oars. Ahead of him Wolfwind loomed closer and closer. He thrust savagely on the steering oar and Heron’s bow began to swing…But he still wasn’t sure if it was turning fast enough.

Hal Mikkelson has always been a bit of an outcast. his mother was an Araluen slave, and his father, though Skandian, is dead. The only friends he has are Thorn – a recovering alcoholic who was his father’s best friend – and Stig, whose father is a thief. When it comes time for brotherband training Hal and Stigg find themselves grouped with other misfits. Together they must complete their warrior training and compete against two other brotherbands in a series of challenges. There can be only one winner, and no one expects it to be Hal’s group. But what the outcasts lack in strength and numbers, they compensate for in courage and ingenuity.

The Outcasts is the first title in the new Brotherband series from John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The new series is set in the same reality as the older one, and will  appeal to its fans. The two heroes also share similarities. Hal, like Ranger Will, is a misfit who is clever and brave. the pair also both have no father. But in spite f the similarities they are different characters – and the setting and storyline, too, are quite different, offering readers something new, yet still in Flanagan’s popular style. What is the same is the sense of lots of action, an absorbing and diverse cast, and plenty of tension.

Young readers – boys especially – will love the action and the viking village setting, and will wait eagerly for the next installment to see more of Hal and his friends’ adventures.

The Outcasts (Brotherband)

The Outcasts (Brotherband), by John Flanagn
Random House, 2011

This book can be pruchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Come Down, Cat! by Sonya Hartnett & Lucia Masciullo

Nicholas’ cat is on the roof and won’t come down. Night is coming, and Nicholas is worried. He climbs a rickety ladder to try to rescue the cat, but it runs away. In bed, Nicholas can’t sleep. He thinks of the strange things outside in the dark, creep is and crawlies and ghosts, and thinks the cat is very brave. But then he drifts to sleep, and it starts to rain.

Nicholas was dismayed. ‘Cat!’ he cried.
‘Don’t you want to come down?
Do you want to stay on the roof all night?’
‘Marl,’ said the cat, hop-skip-jumping away.

Nicholas’ cat is on the roof and won’t come down. Night is coming, and Nicholas is worried. He climbs a rickety ladder to try to rescue the cat, but it runs away. In bed, Nicholas can’t sleep. He thinks of the strange things outside in the dark, creep is and crawlies and ghosts, and thinks the cat is very brave. But then he drifts to sleep, and it starts to rain. Poor cat is stranded on the roof getting wet, until he is woken by the cat’s cry and bravelu goes ot to rescue her. Finally, both fall asleep in bed, each thinking how brave the other has been.

Come Down, Cat! is a beautiful tale of friendship and bravery, exemplified by the boy Nicolas and his cat, the only two characters in the story. The text, from award winning author Sonya Hartnett is simple yet finely crafted. There is no excess. For example, there is no extraneous explanation as o how the cat got onto the roof, the story opening simply with: It was nearly night time, and the cat was still on the roof. Later, when Nicholas imagines the terrors of the night, the reader gets the feeling that perhaps it is Nicholas who is scared of the howls and whispers, and scritchy scratchy sounds.

The illustrations, by up and coming illustrator Lucia Masciullo,  are whimsical acrylics. Nicolas’ two story house has turrets and chimneys and balconies which speak of mystery and adventure. Nicholas himself is sweet faced, but with tousled hair and little pointed nose that make him a delightful oddity. There are shadows and clouds and splotches of light, all giving light and dark and adding interest and general quirkiness.

Suitable for early childhood, but with appeal for primary aged readers too, Come Down, Cat! is, simply, beautiful.

Come Down, Cat!

Come Down, Cat!, by Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Lucia Masciullo
Penguin, 2011
ISBN 9780670074754

When the Reviewer Gets Reviewed

I’ve been reviewing books for more than ten years, mainly for my own book review site, aussiereviews. I love sharing the word about books with readers and, along the way, promoting the work of wonderful Australian creators and publishers. But it wasn’t until my own books were published and, subsequently, reviewed that I understood the impact of a review.
Reviews are important, in my opinion, for several reasons:
  • They help sell books. By reading reviews, people hear about the book and might go out and buy it (or, online, click through a link and order it).
  • They are free advertising for a book. (If they are positive reviews)
  • For potential readers/teachers/librarians and booksellers they inform them about new books, highlighting their appeal, strengths and weaknesses, so they can make informed purchasing decisions
  • For authors, they can make you feel good (if the review is positive) and (whether positive or negative) they provide feedback.

Note that I’ve put the benefits to the author last because, in the end, reviews are not written for authors – or, at least, they shouldn’t be. They should be written for potential buyers and readers.Along the way that means they help authors to sell books and to learn, but that’s really incidental.
So I knew all this, of course I did. But then, having written a couple of thousand reviews of other people’s books, I started to get reviewed. My earliest trade titles, Doggy Duo, Floatingest Frog and Pemberthy Bear garnered a few reviews. But when my first verse novel, Pearl Verses the World, was published, suddenly lots of reviews started coming in. My little book was reviewed in newspapers, magazines, on websites and on blogs. It is still being reviewed, almost three years after it was first published.

Before Pearl was released, I’d had lots of people tell me how good it was – my mum, my kids, my editor, my friends. But then it was released intot he big wide world and I had to face what people who DIDN’T know me would say. Waiting for those first reviews was scary.

But then they started coming. And reviewers seemed to like it. They said things like:
This slender little book is, like its heroine, a treasure.
                                    (Magpies, May 2009)  and
Expertly written.
                                    (Coast Kids, June 2009)  and
A poignancy that is truly touching.
(Reading Time, August 2009)

Reading these reviews made me feel pretty good. They stroked my ego and made me feel like a real author. I printed them out. I showed them to anyone who’d read them. I cried tears of joy when I read them.

But then…

I got a bad review.

And it  wasn’t just a little bit bad. The reviewer (in a big name newspaper) hated my book. She said the verse was clunky and that she just didn’t feel moved to care about Pearl.  Added to this, the title of the book was misspelled and I wasn’t attributed as the author. Instead, the poor illustrator copped the criticism for her writing skills. (Note, I’ve not named the paper or the reviewer because I do not wish either of them ill-will.)

It was not a good review. There was nothing nice said about the book. Interestingly, the first thing that happened after this review, was that no one wanted to tell me about it. I knew my book was being reviewed on that date, but being interstate couldn’t buy the paper. But friends saw it, and didn’t know whether they should show me it. Once I did see it, I had an email from my publicist trying to reassure me. And my Mum and Dad were very cross on my behalf!

But me? To be really honest, I was a little cross at the misspelling and the mix up over the author, but as for the comments, I was able to get over them pretty quickly. I guess I was lucky because there had been lots of nice reviews previously, so I was able to focus on those instead.

But did I learn anything from this bad review? Yep.

  1. Not everyone will like every one of my books – just as they may not like my new haircut, my new dress, or (shock horror) me.
  2. Clever titles get misspelled (and the verses/versus thing has been a recurrent problem for this book)
  3. Reviews matter to the person being reviewed – but they aren’t FOR that person.
  4. Stuff happens – and then you move on. I couldn’t change the review. I had no right of reply, so worrying about it wasn’t going to do a thing.

In the three years since then, I’ve had lots more reviews – for Pearl, for Snowy’s Christmas and for Toppling. There’s been lots more good ones and, I’ll admit, others that were not so good.  I read them, I smile (if they’re good) or feel a bit sad (if they’re bad) and then I try to move on. With a new book coming out next month, I know I’ll be waiting eagerly for those first few reviews especially which tell me how my book is being received, but then I’ll get busy with my next project.

Reviews do matter – but they can’t rule a writer’s life.

Want to see what two other Aussie authors think about getting reviewed? Head over to Meg McKinlay’s blog As In Egg and then to Anna Branford’s blog. As you can see, we’ve all got together and blogged about the same topic on the same day, so we’d love to hear what you think about our varying perspectives.

366 Books January Update

It’s a new month, which means one month of my National Year of Reading challenge has passed. If you haven’t been reading my posts, or following my updates on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll explain.

This year is the National year of Reading here in Australia. Hooray! A whole year of focus on one of life’s great treasures. All around the country there are events,promotions and challenges designed to get people of all ages, from all walks of life reading more – and loving it! You can see details of the goings on at the official website.

So, I woke up on the first of January and thought to myself – wow, it’s the Year of Reading. I wonder if I can really make it a year of reading, and read a book for every day of the year. And before I could stop and think about it, I’d told the world that that was what I was trying to do. And people have encouraged me,  so I’ve run with it.  You can see my original post which explains the parameters I’ve set for myself, here.

Anyway, it’s been a month, so I thought the end of the month (or, in fact, the first day of the new one) was a good time to check in and see how I’m doing – and, so far, I;m doing fine. 31 days of the year down, and I;ve read 33 books. Here’s the list so far, with links to the ones I’ve reviewed on Aussiereviews.


1 Straight Line to My Heart Bill Condon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
2 Only Ever Always Penni Russon Allen & Unwin Young Adult
3 Harry’s War John Heffernan Omnibus Children’s
4 Just Like That Janet Poole Mountain View Self Help
5 Shadrach Meindert Dejong Harper Trophy Chidlren’s
6 Nanberry Jackie French Angus&RObertson Young Adult
7 Extinction 2 Lizzie Wilcock Scholastic Young Adult
8 The Filth Licker Cristy Burne Frances Lincoln Children’s
9 Crow Country Kate Constable Allen & Unwin Young Adult
10 Note on the Door Lorraine Marwood Walker Children’s/Poetry
11 The Golden Door Emily Rodda Scholastic Children’s
12 Lily Gets Her Wings Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
13 Animal People Charlotte Wood Allen & Unwin Contemporary Adult
14 Lily Has a Secret Elizabeth Pulford Scholastic Children’s
15 Button Boy Rebecca Young & Sue deGennaro Scholastic Picture Book
16 I Heart You, You Haunt Me Lisa Schroeder Simon Pulse YA Verse Novel
17 Froi of the Exiles Melina Marchetta Penguin Young Adult
18 The Red Bridge Kylie Dunstan Windy Hollow Picture Book
19 Nog and the Land of Noses Bruce Whatley Scholastic Picture Book
20 How Now Brown Frau Merridy Eastman Allen & Unwin NonFiction – Memoir
21 Revenge Gabrielle Lord Scholastic Children’s
22 Selected Poems TS Eliot Faber and Faber Poetry
23 Lola’s Secret Monica McInerney Penguin Contemporary Adult
24 The Little Refugee Ahn Do Allen & Unwin Picture Book
25 Cooking the Books Kerry  Greenwood Allen & Unwin Adult
26 Flood Jackie French Scholastic Picture Book
27 City of Lies Lian Tanner Allen & Unwin Children’s
28 Bilby Secrets Edel Wignell Walker Picture Book
29 The Biggest Estate on Earth Bill Gammage Allen & Unwin NonFiction – Memoir
30 Selby Sprung Duncan Ball Angus&Robertson Children’s
31 For All Creatures Glenda Millard Walker Picture Book
32 Autumn Laing Alex Miller Allen & Unwin Adult – Literary Fiction
33 The Attractor Factor Joe Vitale Wiley Self Help


You can see I’ve read a real range of books – across age groups, formats and subject matter. So far 7 picture books (yes, I know these are short and help my total, which is why I’m only counting them if it’s the first time I;ve read them AND I review them), 10 children’s books, 7 young adult, 4 adult fiction, 4 adult nonfiction.  Lengthwise they’ve ranged from the picture books to  one of over 600 pages. Some have taken more than one day to read, and one of the challenges I’ve had is to not worry about the tally so much but to really enjoy each book. It’s not a race – it’s an adventure.

I must say that the big revelation for me has been that setting myself this challenge has helped me rediscover some of the fun of reading. Yes, I;ve always loved reading, but as a reviewer with an always-large review pile, sometimes it feels like a chore – especially when I feel guilt about the size of that pile. Suddenly, in January, my pile is going down and I’ve also allowed myself time to read things not in that pile.

Onto February. I’m halfway through two different books at the moment – because I’ve decided to read a chapter of a writing book every day. And, looking at my pile, I have some great reads ahead of me in the next 29 days. I’ll update you again soon.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about any challenges you are participating in this year.