Our predictions for the CBCA winners

Tomorrow is the big day when the Children’s Book Council of Australia announces the winners of the Book of the Year awards. Wild Things staff have chosen the titles they think deserve to appear in the list of winning books.


FIONA:

My pick for Book of the Year: Early Childhood is The Cow Tripped Over the Moon. Combining a fractured nursery rhyme, counting book and a lovely tale about perseverance, I loved the unique story by Tony Wilson and the retro graphics of Laura Wood.

For Book of the Year: Older Readers I am torn between the book which I have a sweet spot for, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, and the book I think will win because all my colleagues have loved, which is A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray stole my heart and I think it will have cast a spell over the judges as well so it should certainly win The Book of the Year: Younger Readers. Otherwise I will turn the judges into trees!

I thought The White Mouse: Story of Nancy Wake was an excellent example of illustrated narrative non-fiction, especially as it is the story of a remarkably brave young Australian woman. But I am so over the glorification of war in children’s picture books (see The Picture Book of the Year shortlist)  I am hoping that Clare Wright’s highly readable, thoroughly researched and fascinating history of the forgotten women and men of Eureka, We Are the Rebels will be the rightful winner.

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GEN:

I do hope the Older Reader winner is A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. It’s what a dystopian novel should be. It’s fascinating, searches for truths and has a quiet, firm and strong female main character.

I am actually a big fan of Star of Deltora by Emily Rodda in the Younger Readers section. I have to admit, I don’t think the Book Council will give Emily Rodda her 6th award for it. A young girl struggles with her family’s history and strikes out on her own, searching for a quest and adventure on the seas. It’s my favourite Rodda.

I have no idea how to compare Flight by Armin Greder and My Dead Bunny by James Foley. Flight is poetic, muted and affecting. My Dead Bunny is ridiculous and gruesomely appealing.

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Sally:

My pick for Early Childhood is Piranhas Don’t Bananas by Aaron Blabey, and Flight by Armin Greder for Picture Book of the Year.

Jodie:

Like most Wild Things staff, I suspect (and hope) that Meg McKinlay’s A Single Stone will be chosen as the Book of the Year for Older Readers. Most of us also agree that Chris Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow deserved a spot among the shortlist (yes, we’re bringing that up again and no, we’re not biased!).

My pick for Early Childhood is The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, another Wild Things favourite, and for Picture Book, I love the illustrations in Suri’s Wall.

I find the Younger Readers category the most bewildering; it covers such a broad age range and a wide spectrum of reading levels and themes. It’s hard to compare Libby Gleeson’s Cleo Stories to Morris Gleitzman’s Soon! I like Molly and Pim as the book most appropriate for what I’d call “younger readers”.

 

#LoveYourBookshop

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Tomorrow is National Bookshop Day, a time to celebrate bookshops but also to show us some love. Because we need it!

We have lots of fun planned for the day: Canine Dress Up, book matching, story time, a visit from Grug, and the Great Bookish Bakeoff with a special junior prize. But the one competition we’re really looking forward to is the one where you tell us why you love Where the Wild Things Are.

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Do you love that we have an amazing range of books for kids and teens? Do you love our treehouse? Do you love that we have events and workshops where kids can meet real live authors and illustrators? Do you love that we have book clubs for young readers, middle readers and teens?

We’re not needy. Honest. But some days, knowing that there are people out there who don’t visit bookshops, who do all their book-shopping at one of the online bookselling giants, it can be just, well, a little bit heart-breaking.

We love our customers. We love spending time with you, helping you choose the right book for you or your children. That’s why we’ve included a Book Matching session as one of Saturday’s events. The wonderful Natalie Jane Prior, author of The Fairy Dancers, will chat with you or your child and help them find their perfect book match.

Book-matching is one of the things we love about our job. And we love it even more when you come back and tell us that your son absolutely loved the book we recommended, or that your granddaughter thinks you’re the best Grandad in the world because you gave her the best book ever for her birthday. Those recommendations we make come from our knowledge of books; we read them and discuss them with each other. They also come from our knowledge of you, our customer. Our recommendations aren’t based on an algorithm or this week’s bestsellers list.

We believe that’s what’s kept us going, despite the threat from eBooks and online buying. We understand that it’s tempting to buy from an online source where the prices are cheaper. But do they really love finding your perfect book match as much as we do?

And something to consider: those big overseas online booksellers don’t pay any GST to the Australian government, and the revenue collected by GST is used to fund, among other things, our schools.

So, tomorrow, show us you still love us.

If you’re one of our regular customers, come in, join the celebration, enter some competitions, maybe win a prize.

If you’re a not-so-regular customer, perhaps even someone who only buys books online, come and visit us, experience our book-matching skills, and buy just one book to show us you still love bookshops.

#loveyourbookshop #justonebook #booksellersneedthelove

 

 

 

What we’re reading

What are Wild Things staff recommending at the moment?

Anna loves All My Treasures: A Book Of Joy, the new release from Jo Witek whose gorgeous books In My Heart and Brave As Can Be are hugely popular with Wild Things staff and customers.

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I am always on the lookout for books that inspire joy, appreciation and contemplation, therefore I am excited to announce that I have struck gold with Jo Witek’s new book ‘All My Treasures’! A young girl’s Grandmother has given her a beautiful porcelain box to hold all of her ‘treasures’. As the young girl starts to think of things that she loves, she realises treasures are often a moment or a memory. The illustrations are quirky, the lift-the-flap sections are full of unexpected delight and this book will bring Grandparents and their Grandchildren together to contemplate the most meaningful thing of all: time together.

Sally has just finished reading Wolf by Wolf, a YA title by Ryan Graudin.

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Wolf by Wolf is set in an alternate world where Nazi Germany never fell and Hitler never died. Every year, to commemorate their victory, a motorcycle race is held that spans several countries—and the winner gets to meet Adolf Hitler. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, is part of the resistance. Her mission is to win the race, at whatever cost, and kill Hitler. Yael must battle her traumatic past, vindictive contestants, and the dangers of the road. Worst of all, the people who care about her are asking too many questions. Add in some shape-shifting and you have a fast-paced alternate history sci-fi novel. Yael is dedicated, vulnerable, tough, and ruthless—but is she ruthless enough to do what it takes to win? And if so, does that make her as bad as the Nazis? This is a gripping read suitable for readers aged 14 and over.

Kasia is enjoying Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Julia Rothman.

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This book makes me hungry! A wonderful and whimsical picture book that encourages and entertains curiosity about food and other cultures. Bold and vibrant images are accompanied by text that asks funny and practical questions, shares information, challenges our perspectives and plays with language to make you want to further explore the tastes, textures and stories behind what we eat. For ages 2+.

Books about books

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There are books about everything—dinosaurs, princesses, feelings, the environment, and more—but bookloving parents (and booksellers!) have a special love for books about books.

Here are some of the ones we love; books that explain why books are so special, and others that have fun with characters who break through the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader.

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We love Lane Smith’s It’s A Book, which sings the praises of books and why they’re better than any form of technology. The jackass in the story first ridicules the monkey because his “book” can’t scroll or text or tweet, but once the book is in his hands and he starts to read, he becomes immersed in the story for so long that the monkey has to go to the library to find another book.

Similarly, Book by David Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes, shows with its beautiful illustrations how a book, “the most quiet, ordinary thing that could be”, that has no bonus levels or sounds or passwords, can be anything, or take you anywhere, you can imagine.

This is not a picture book by Sergio Ruzzier is actually a picture book, one that gently shows young readers how words can create pictures in your imagination.

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The family in Peter Carnavas’ The Children Who Loved Books doesn’t have much—no television, no car, and a caravan for a house, but that caravan is full of books. Getting rid of the books to make space seems like a good idea, until the family realises how bare their life is without them.

Someone who really loves books is Nibbles the Book Monster; the only problem is that Nibbles loves to eat books! In this funny book by Emma Yarlett, Nibbles eats his way through several classic tales, cleverly included as books within the book.

Characters from classic tales also appear in The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O’Byrne. The narrator and the characters from the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood, debate which book should be the last book before bedtime, in a story that meshes all three stories into one humorous tale.

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Many of those characters also appear in Hrefna Bragadottir’s Baxter’s Book, lining up for their turn at the Storybook Audition. Baxter, an “unusual creature”, auditions to appear in a book about him, but after watching the auditions of other, more experienced characters, fears that he’s not good enough. They all offer advice to Baxter, encouraging him to be scary, or silly, or brave like them. But Baxter finds that being himself is the best way to be.

Mo Willems’ wonderful Elephant & Piggie ham it up in We Are in a Book!, talking to the reader, flicking through pages, and rolling around in laughter when they discover the power to make the reader say “banana”. They get to be the stars of the book, unlike young Nicholas Ickle in Nick Bland’s The Wrong Book.

Poor Nicholas tries to tell the reader that the book is all about him, but on every page an array of characters, from an elephant to a queen and her retinue, arrive to steal the show. Nicholas tries to tell them they’re in the wrong book, but will anyone listen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild picks for the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize

The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize longlist for 2016 has just been announced, and Wild Things staff have reviewed their favourites from the list.

Jennifer reviews The Marvels by Brian Selznick

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I read The Marvels some time ago but the beauty of the illustrations, their detail and the way they wordlessly convey so much of this dark and entrancing story, has stayed very much with me. This story seeps in to you, much as great poetry does, as an experience of ongoing revelation. This creation by Brian Selznick, who also gave us The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is two thirds wordless graphic novel and one third prose, and tells a tale of generations of one family, of madness, of the theatre and of love. I recommend it to creative readers from 14 to 104.

Jodie reviews The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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This wonderful book tells the story of four teens in Alaska in 1970, living in different family circumstances but with lives that end up entwined. Ruth is the one who loves the smell of other people’s houses, breathing in the aromas of love and acceptance that she doesn’t find growing up an orphan in her grandmother’s house. Dora is hard and mean; Alyce wants to pursue a career in ballet but sacrifices her chance at this to appease her separated parents; and Hank, like Dora, is trying to escape a bad family situation, but while Dora escapes to her friend’s home, Hank takes his brothers on a perilous stowaway adventure. Love and some slightly mystical forces bring these four young lives together in this beautiful and evocative story.

Jodie also reviews Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

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The proof copy of this debut novel arrived with a cover listing comparisons of Riverkeep to, among others, Moby Dick, Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and Charles Dickens. And it’s true there is a feel of all of these influences in this story, set in a world where all is slightly familiar but creepily different. To save his father, who has been possessed by a strange creature, Wulliam must travel away from his duties as Riverkeep and his simple home on the river to join the hunt for the mormorach, a giant Moby-Dick-like creature terrorising the coast. Along the way, he gathers a band of interesting characters, including Tillinghast, the man made of straw. The language is rich, the writing is gently captivating, and the story ends with the possibility of more to come.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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The story of Subhi, a refugee born in an Australian detention centre, was featured on our last blog.

Other longlisted titles are: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman; Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle; Sweet Pizza by G R Gemin (will be released in Australia in October); and Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman.

chasing the stars  crongton knights  sweet pizza hell and high water

You can read some of the judges’ comments on these books on the Guardian website.

(And just BTW, has anyone else noticed the prevalence of blue covers on this longlist?!)

 

 

Refugee stories

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Asylum seekers and detention centres have been a constant topic in the news and public debate for some time in Australia, and are also appearing as the subject of some recent releases in children’s fiction.

One title that tells a sweet story while dealing with some hard issues is When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah. This YA book is a Romeo and Juliet style romance, with “Juliet” being Mina, an Afghanistani-born former detention centre resident, and “Romeo” being Michael, son of the founders of the new Aussie Values political party. The star-crossed lovers first encounter each other from opposing sides at a rally for refugees.

All sides of the debate on asylum seekers, border control and assimilation are covered in this very political story, with a spectrum of views presented sometimes in a thoughtful way, sometimes with humour (“They should shut the hell up and respect the fact they have free speech in this country.”).

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Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, recently longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016, tells the story of Subhi, born in an Australian detention centre to a Rohingya refugee. He has known nothing of life except the detention centre, and dreams of what life is like outside. One night Jimmy, a girl from the outside, sneaks in through the wires to find out what life is really like there. The two children develop a friendship that gives them strength and courage.

Putting a familiar and popular face on asylum seekers is The Little Refugee, Anh Do’s picture book story of his family’s perilous escape by boat from Vietnam in 1980. The book was released in 2011, and was nominated for numerous awards. It’s simple text and emotional illustrations capture the fear and danger of their trip, with the pages becoming colourful to match the relief the Dho family feels when they find safety and a chance to build a new life in Australia.

 

It wasn’t me, honest!

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Children learn to lie from around the age of two, and any parent knows those little lies are usually all about “I didn’t break that toy/eat that chocolate/make that mess”. It’s such a common occurrence in young children that it’s no surprise there are plenty of picture books that deal with this topic, often in very humorous ways.

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The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood & David Tazzyman is a funny book about fibbing, that depicts Truth as a character and illustrates the way Arthur stretches, hides and bends the truth when he scrapes his mother’s car while riding his older brother’s bike. Arthur realises that the only way to make sure Mum isn’t too angry is to actually tell the truth.

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Shannon Horsfall’s Was Not Me tells of a young boy who believes he has a twin, Not Me, who does lots of naughty things and gets away with it. In the end he has to admit that Not Me is actually Me.

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Unfortunately, one character who doesn’t seem to learn anything until he’s received some painful justice is Pig the Pug, Aaron Blabey’s well known dog who doesn’t like to share. In Pig the Fibber, we learn that Pig doesn’t like to tell the truth either, and poor, long-suffering Trevor gets the blame for breaking the vase, ripping the dress and making a grim stink.

While Arthur and the boy from Was Not Me realise by themselves that honesty is the best policy, it takes a bowling ball on the head to make Pig the Pug understand that karma happens when you tell one too many fibs!

Note: You can hear Shannon Horsfall read Was Not Me this Sunday, July 3, at Wild Things from 11:30am, with activities and cupcakes! Then on Thursday, July 7, Shannon returns for more storytelling and activities for under-6s.

 

 

Offscreen and unplugged holiday activities

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It’s hard to switch off from screens, online games and social media, but you can encourage your kids to be offscreen and unplugged for at least some of these school holidays by bringing them to Wild Things to join in our planned activities or find activity books and kits.

On Wednesday, June 29, kids can join Kasia’s workshop to make a magical leaf through mixed media collage. (Suitable for 8-12s)

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Budding writers can join a workshop on Thursday, June 30, where the wonderful Samantha Wheeler (author of Smooch & Rose and Mister Cassowary, and a popular visitor at Wild Things!) will show them how to create a story that starts with a boom, races across the page towards the finish, and comes to a rounded, satisfying end. (Suitable for 8+)

Members of The Wonder Club will get together for their holiday meeting on Friday at 4pm to discuss Madeleine L’Engle’s classic sci-fi A Wrinkle in Time. (The Wonder Club is full, but you can email us at books@wherethewildthingsare.com.au to put your child’s name on the waiting list.)

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Author Shannon Horsfall will read from her new book Was Not Me! on Sunday, July 3. Along with the reading, there will be activities and CUPCAKES. (Suitable for 2+)

Our literary crushes

Do you remember your first literary crush? That first book character who made your teen heart flutter? Some Wild Things staff members share the secrets of the literary crushes from their teenage years, and who they would be crushing on if they were 16 now and reading some of the current YA titles.

Anna confesses:

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THEN: When I was 15 I had a literary crush on Ponyboy Curtis from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Maybe I liked that a boy character was so conflicted and felt so keenly how unfair life can be as I did (I was fifteen after all!). Or maybe I identified with being the youngest member of a gang who was babied by his older friends and brothers (okay so I wasn’t in a gang, but I was the 7th child in my family). Ultimately though it was probably because I thought C. Thomas Howell who played Ponyboy in the 1983 movie was… OMG SO CUTE. Whatever the reason it is still one of my all-time favourite books.

NOW: I have just read all the books on the CBCA 2016 Shortlist for older readers. Even though I loved all the books, and they all had a lot of boy characters girls could fall for, I felt most of them were entitled, arrogant and described as way too good-looking! There was one character though that I had a bit of a crush on; Jeremiah from Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield. He was literally the boy next door who went away to college and came back still very much in love with his neighbour Jack. Although Jack has had a rough few years without any parental guidance (currently living with her distant older sister who has her own secrets). So we meet Jack at a time when she is using anything and anyone to fill the ‘inbetween’ days. Then as she starts maturing and realising her own potential and that there could be a life for her outside her sleepy hometown, she starts to think maybe she does deserve Jeremiah’s love too (and hopefully he can finally leave the friendzone!). A poignant coming-of-age novel for strictly 16+ readers.

Jodie confesses:

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I fell in love with Will in K M Peyton’s Flambards series (classic series). Growing up in the decaying rural mansion of Flambards in the pre-WWI years, Will hates his family’s cruel ways and just wants to build and fly planes. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the story now, but I always remember Will and Flambards, and how kind Will was to the orphaned Christina when she arrived at Flambards and their romance blossomed.

I also remember that my friends and I swooned over the wild and seemingly romantic Heathcliff when we had to read Wuthering Heights for English, although reading the story again as an adult, I found him to be cruel and controlling rather than romantic!

I think today’s teenage readers are lucky in the range of relationships depicted in so many great YA books, and the healthy relationship models in those books. I’m very happy my 16-year-old daughter has models such as Park in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, the boy who loves Eleanor for who she is, and who doesn’t rescue her, but gives her the strength to rescue herself. Or The Hunger Games‘ steadfast Peeta Mellark, who knows that if you cross the line and do anything to fight the oppressors, you become as bad as the oppressors (Gale might be cute, but he doesn’t understand this!).

But I have to confess, if I was 16 now I’d probably be crushing on Jace Wayland in the Mortal Instruments series, or James Mycroft in the wonderful Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Both are intelligent young men, struggling with some trauma in their past; an echo of my teenage crush on Heathcliff perhaps?

What’s hot at Wild Things

These were our best-selling books last week:

The YA title disappearing off the shelf was the final in the Fifth Wave trilogy, The Last Star by Rick Yancey. Don’t judge the book by the movie! If you haven’t read the first two books, The Fifth Wave and The Infinite Sea, you’ve got some catching up to do. There’s plenty of action, but be prepared for some tears at the end.

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Our tween readers (10-13) or their parents were most interested in The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Members of the Wonder Club book club will be reading this moving story for their August meeting.

Do they expect they’ll find themselves in the story, or do they think the title applies to other kids? The World’s Worst Children by David Walliams was the top-selling book for younger children last week.

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The most popular picture book, and our number one bestseller overall, was Jeannie Baker’s Circle. You can still add this beautiful book to your home library at the special price of $25.19. And kids, come in and create your own paper bird (a godwit) to hang in our window display.

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