My latest Book Review for Writing NSW/ Horatio Squeak by Karen Foxlee

“Horatio Squeak is about giving unlikely friends a chance and being brave despite your fears. It’s not enough to listen to your true feelings — one needs to voice those thoughts, even if it is just a squeak!” – Michelle Wanasundera reviews Horatio Squeak by Karen Foxlee.


Horatio Squeak is Karen Foxlee’s debut picture book, about a meek little mouse who is invited to a party. Not just any party — a party hosted by kittens!

When a nervous Horatio Squeak takes a thimble of crumbs from his encouraging Mum – ‘Head up! Whiskers out!’ – and sets off on an adventure to the party upstairs, he shows us that while it might help to appear brave, you don’t necessarily need to be big or strong to be brave. Horatio musters a quiet bravery in order to get to the top of the stairs. In doing so, he discovers the rewards of stepping out of his comfort zone — navigating and admiring the grand old house (reminiscent of the house in Mary Norton’s The Borrowers), and eventually making it to the green attic door where games, crackers and cheese await with his new and unexpected kitten friends.

That’s quite an achievement for one meek little mouse, but when a poor robin becomes just another game for the kittens, Horatio is challenged to listen and voice his feelings (‘It’s cruel!’) to his new friends. In speaking up for the helpless bird, his safety and new friendships are at risk.

Foxlee gently points out the importance of speaking up for those treated unjustly, and as Horatio does so, politely. Perhaps in Horatio’s next adventure, strategies on speaking up for ourselves when faced with unkindness or bullying can be touched upon.

The ending is satisfying as Horatio retraces his steps back down the stairs of the grand house, feeling a lot less small than he did on the way up, and feeling proud as he spies out the window his feathered friend flying free.

Foxlee’s rhymes scan well; they are charming and remind me of Julia Copus’ Hog in the Fog, a read aloud favourite of mine and my daughter’s.

This is illustrator Evie Barrow’s first picture book. Her gouache and pencil illustrations are bright, textured and very, very sweet. While Horatio certainly appears timid, Barrow also captures his quiet, inquisitive and thoughtful nature. The warm and cosy colour palette has a timeless feel to it and the bright red pops of colour give it a modern and vibrant touch.

Horatio Squeak is about giving unlikely friends a chance and being brave despite your fears. It’s not enough to listen to your true feelings — one needs to voice those thoughts, even if it is just a squeak! With its gorgeous illustrations, generous size and pretty endpapers, the book is beautifully presented — certainly one to keep. I’ll end the review with my 6-year-old daughter’s thoughts, ‘Read it again!’ We’re hoping there are more of Horatio Squeak’s adventures to come.

Michelle Wanasundera is a children’s book reviewer and writer based in the Blue Mountains. She has recently self-published her first picture book, Bubbles and Puddles. You can view Michelle’s reviews on her blog. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.



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Book Review: ‘In the Bush I See’ by Kiara Honeychurch.

‘In the Bush I See’ is the fourth release in the Young Art Board Book Series showcasing Indigenous artists.

Talented teenager, Kiara Honeychurch, has created gorgeously coloured illustrations of Australian bush animals, inspired by her rural town in Tasmania.

While the colours she’s used don’t always depict the animals’ natural colours, children will love the multi-coloured highlights that accentuate each animal’s features. What’s not to love about a rainbow bandicoot or rainbow-pawed echidna?

The text is simple, but aptly describes each of the eight Australian animals, making it a great read-aloud resource for parents, teachers, and librarians, who will enjoy encouraging children to ‘screech’ like a cockatoo, ‘waddle’ like a wombat, and ‘slither’ like a snake.

I particularly enjoyed how Honeychurch captures the personalities of the animals, in their eyes.

Magabala has produced a quality shiny board book, small, durable, lightweight – perfect for little hands. A lovely addition to any 3-6 year old’s library.

See my original review here at Writing NSW: https://writingnsw.org.au/in-the-bush-i-see-kiara-honeychurch/

Creative Kids Tales Festival – Deborah Abela

‘Hard, painful, brilliant and intoxicating: why, how, and what you need to invest in to be a successful writer.’

This was the second time I heard Deborah Abela speak, and she was just as energetic, humble, and generous with her tips on all things writing.

Deborah Abela has written 26 books, including the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, ‘Teresa a New Australian,’ – based on the true story of her father being born in a cave during WW2 – actually launched by the president of Malta in, a palace!

Deborah shared with us a video of her fascinating research journey to Malta, see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gll0DfCil8

And, her first picture book – ‘Wolfie, An Unlikely Hero’, was chosen by Dolly Parton to be a part of her ‘Imagination Library.’

She is a proud ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge, Room to Read, and Books in Homes.

Deborah describes herself as a bumbling, stumbling, tripping author. But puts in the hard work when at times, she still feels like a fraud – even after working on her 26th book!

She quotes George Orwell:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

‘So why we do this writing thing?! Because surprising things happen, because it’s intoxicatingly, wonderfully brilliant.’

Deborah stresses that not all ideas are stories.

3 Main Ingredients of Story

Character: When characters pop up, see and hear them. The character has to want something.

What is it your character truly wants? Whatever it is, it’s your job to make it hard for them to get.

Setting: Make it interesting, enticing, immerse yourself fully before beginning – physically, or with photos, or in your mind.

Problems – What are the problems? What is the thing that drives your story forward, pushing your reader to turn the page. Action comes from how the characters are going to solve those series of problems.

2nd draft: major architectural work.

Deborah’s Drafting Process:

1st draft: all about plot, the hard work, OK if it’s terrible.

3rd draft: fine tuning plot, characters come to life.

4-6th drafts: finessing characters, minor moments, dialogue, sentences.

7th draft onwards: copy edit and proofreading.

Deborah’s Tips:

Try not to compare yourself to others.

When wondering why do I do this? – go back to ‘why did I have this idea in the first place?’

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, keep going.

Deborah often quotes Jackie French, ‘Write your book, then trash it. Then trash it again.’

Invest in you the writer – make connections, network, writing courses, keep learning,conferences (CKT, KidLitVic, CYA, SCBWI), podcasts, read kids books, have updated website, create your own marketing (bookmarks, cards, social media, canva, wikipedia entry.)

Be ruthless about protecting writing days. Do whatever it takes.

Protect yourself -a few free things here and there are OK, but value your time – you’re ‘teaching’

Celebrate the highs – lovely, lovely things happen.

The lows – that’s when you need your writer friends, who remind her – ‘You’ve gotta hang in there, we’ve ALL been through it.’

Your words must work hard to be there.

What is important for our readers to know from the very start of your book?

Research – get the facts right and done before begin.

Deborah says you know when it’s not good enough, but as Jackie French says, you also know when it is and get that tingling feeling.

The brilliant part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike say, a brain surgeon!

But most importantly of all: Don’t forget to Play.

Recommends reading:

‘The Mindful Writer’ by Dinty W Moore

‘On Writing’ by Stephen King

#cktfest2109 G

Book Review: The Book Chook, by Amelia McInerney.

I was lucky to see Amelia McInerney’s first reading of her debut rhyming book, ‘The Book Chook’ at The Children’s Bookshop, in Beecroft. It was a full house, and Amelia had all us booky types laughing the way through. The Book Chook sold out that afternoon, and I missed out!

Not to worry, I got my copy at the official launch in the Blue Mountains. Once again, lots of laughs, this time by an engrossed bunch of kiddies. The Book Chook really is made to be read aloud – the listeners excited when Ray realises he is not a real chook in the book, and is flown over their heads as he attempts to fly out, followed by being prompted to to help Ray out of the book, by calling, ‘Come OUT RAAAAAAAAY.’ In the end though, the Book Chook decides that staying IN the book, is a pretty good option.

Details of the quirky and colourful illustrations by Connah Brecon add to the humour, and even though the chook in the book is not alive, he certainly comes as alive as he possibly can, on these pages.

The Book Chook is hilarious, but ultimately a charming story about accepting who you are, – and as Janine wisely points out to Ray, ‘At least you’ll never be somebody’s dinner.’

You can get your copy here:

https://shop.scholastic.com.au/Search/Mcinerney

https://www.ameliamcinerney.com/?fbclid=IwAR02-JnhnYXnF1dlzgyh5joXphfJe4xZKuDst-t0rTiS4c-JtEO7XcDzeSs

Instagram: Amelia McInerney Author

Facebook: Amelia McInerney Author

Book Review: Evangeline’s Moon, by Laura Hockley

Capturing a child’s fascination, and obsession with the magic and magnetism of the moon, is no easy task, but Laura Hockley has managed it well, in ‘Evangeline’s Moon.’


The story of a young girl’s love of the moon, is based on Laura’s own daughter, Evangeline. Laura understands her daughter well – and readers will relate easily to Evangeline’s determination to get close to the moon, gorgeously mixed with the innocence of believing a ladder might get her just close enough. 


Change is difficult for little ones to grasp, and yet the moon keeps on changing, ‘Sometimes it was full and fat, other times it looked tiny – like a bite had been taken from it.’ For a long time, it was always there, wherever Evangeline went, till one day, it disappeared. Luckily for Evangeline, her determination is stronger than her disappointment, and she hatches a plan that takes her on an adventure to find her beloved moon.


Not only can Laura write, but she can draw! The cover is particularly striking with its deep blue background, highlighting the luminous moon. I love the sketchy look of the illustrations that simply and sweetly hold movement and emotion.
Ages 3+

You can get your copy here:

https://www.laurahockley.com/product-page/evangeline-s-moon?fbclid=IwAR3V3N5ZMGaeGWLWJ0H1bRKONofdSK_R2d71iZeC5zS30NOvnESrMXVkcp0

www.laurahockley.com

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Do you Haiku?

Back when Amali was a bub, I didn’t have much time to write. But I did enjoy making up little haikus here and there, mostly coming to me when trying to get her to sleep, gosh these brings back memories!

Thought I’d share a few with you:

Fresh eyes view the world,

what was dull polished anew,

when seen through her eyes.

I feel her heartbeat,

the tiny chest puffs in and out,

I gave life to her!

A sip of fresh air,

sunshine lifts my face to her,

a moment alone.

Wooden floorboards sing,

Pitter patter pitter PAT,

Songs of tiny feet.

Lying in bubs cot,

her origami mobile,

hypnotises me!

To browse old bookshops!

But now is bubs time to read,

beautiful bub books.

Frustration fills me!

She gently flicks my eyelashes,

Some things trump sleep.

No cuddly teddy,

she sleeps with her milk bottle,

rolled up in her arms.

Soft monitor glow,

moonlight on an empty beach,

sitting by the cot.

Curled up in the cot,

my feet peeking out the end,

with my poor sick bub.

Wake doze wake doze WAKE

In bed out bed in bed OUT

My baby needs me.


Her eyes wide with love,

she kisses me instantly,

hearts locked forever.










Review: ‘In the Shadow of an Elephant’ by Georgie Donaghey

What a beautiful story is Georgie Donaghey’s, ‘In the Shadow of an Elephant.’ A gentle study of the circle of life, ‘In the Shadow of an Elephant’ will help children not only understand the inevitable ageing, and passing of our animal and human friends, but celebrate the joy of living and loving.
I absolutely loved the striking colour palette of the illustrations, the soft grey of the delicately drawn elephants, of which my daughter appreciated, ‘Mum, can you see her little eyelashes?’, accentuated with subtle aqua, red, black and white, highlighting African patterns, culture and warmth. Movement and emotion fill each page. I see this book being a wonderful addition to family and school libraries – for comfort and clarification during a child’s own experiences of the loss of a loved one, as well in in classrooms discussing the need to protect our precious wildlife. As Khalil Gibran famously wrote: ‘When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.’ Yes, my heart ached, and sang, In The Shadow of the Elephant.

Little Pink Dog Books https://littlepinkdogbooks.com/